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`contributed not a little to promote the Reformation ; and wherefoever the one prevailed, the other prevailed alfo.
Such doctrin as this must neceffarily give great offense to the bigots and devotees of the church of Rome: and no wonder therefore that (3) in the last Lateran council the pope gave strait commandment to all preachers, that no man thould prefume once to speak of the coming of Antichrift. The king of France alfo (4) with the advice of his counfel interdicted, that any one fhould call the pope Antichrift: and Grotius, who was embaffador in France from the crown of Sweden, in a vain hope and expectation of reconciling the difputes and differences between papifts and proteftants, compofed his treatise concerning Antichrift, not wickedly, but weakly; with an honeft intention it may be prefumed, but it is certain with pernicious effect; more like an advocate for one party, than a moderator between both. At the fame time in England, though James the firft had written a treatife to prove the pope Antichrift, yet this doctrin was growing unfashionable during his reign, and more fo in that of his fon who married a bigotted popish princess; even while Mr. Mede was living, who had exerted more learning and fagacity in explaining the prophecies, and in fixing the true idea of Antichrift, than perhaps any writer in any age. But probably for this very reafon he was looked upon with an evil eye, and (to the difgrace of the times) obtained no preferment, tho' he was eminently deferving of the beft and greateft. He fays himfelf in one of his letters (Epift. 36.) that his notions about genuflexion towards the altar would have made "another man a dean, or a prebend, or fomething elfe
ere this: but the point of the pope's being Antichrift, "as a dead fly, 'marred the favor of that ointment." The abufe alfo that fome fanatics made of this doctrin greatly prejudiced the world against it. It was' efteemed a mark of a puritan, and was a certain obftacle to preferment, for
any man to preach that the pope was Antichrift: and Dr. Montague, a famous court-chaplain at that time, who endevored to prove that the power of the king was abfolute, (5) endevored alfo to prove that the notes and characters of Antichrift belonged to the Turk rather than to the Pope and herein he was followed by feveral divines, and by no lefs a man than Bithop Fell, if he was the compiler or approver, (as he is commonly faid to have been) of (6) the Paraphrafe and Annotations upon all St. Paul's Epifiles. There are fashions in divinity as well as in every thing elfe; and therefore the true doctrin of Antichrift was for fome time fufpended, and falle hypothefes were invented; and it may furprife any one, that fo little was faid upon, this fubject in the long controverfies concerning popery during the reigns of Charles and James the fecond. It is hoped that the truth is now emerging again. Some laudable (7) attempts have lately been made to revive and reftore it and if I have not proved that this interpretation is preferable to all others, I have taken pains and proved nothing.
But it hath been proved, as I conceive, that this is the genuin fenfe and meaning of the apoftle, that this only is entrely confiftent with the context, that every other interpretation is forced and unnatural, that this is liable to no material objection, that it coincides perfectly with Daniel, that it is agreeable to the tradition of the primitive church, and that it hath been exactly fulfilled in all particulars, which cannot be faid of any other interpretation whatsoever. Such a prophecy as this is at once an illuftrious proof of divine revelation, and an excellent antidote to the poifon of popery. It is like a two-edged fword, that will cut both ways, and wound the deift with one fide, and the papift with the other. The papifts are in fome refpect like the Jews. As the Jews believe not that Chrift is come according to the prophecies, but still live in expectation of him; fo neither do the papifts per
2 do..$1 (5) See his book intitled Appello, Caie 2. Chap. 5. at he Theatre in Oxford 1684, and faid to be publifhed under the direction of Bishop Fell,"
(7) Mr. Langford's Notes and Characters of the Man of Sin. Printed in 1746. Dr. Benfon's Differtation concerning the Man of Sin. &c. &c.
ceive that Antichrift is come according to the prophecies, but still maintain that he shall arife hereafter. The apoftle not only foretels this blindness and infatuation, but likewife affigns the reafon, because they received not the love of the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But to the proteftants, who believe and profefs that both the Chrift and Antichrift are come, we may fay with the apostle (ver. 13, 14.) We are bound to give thanks alway to God, for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath chofen you to fulvation, thro' fanctification of the fpirit, and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by the gofpel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jefus Chrift. The apoftle proceeds (ver. 15.) Therefore, brethren, ftand faft, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epiftle: and certainly there is not any oral tradition that hath a juster claim to be thought apoftolical, than this of the man of fin's fucceeding upon the decline of the Roman empire, and exalting himfelf over all. Wherefore to conclude, as the apoftle concludes the fubject, (ver. 16, 17.) Now our Lord Jefus Chrift himself, and God even our Father, who hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting confolation, and good hope, through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
ST. PAUL'S PROPHECY OF THE APOSTACY OF THE LATTER TIMES.
ST. Paul was a man of lively thought and strong imagination. None of apoftles had a warmer zeal for Chrift and the Chriftian religion. He was, as he faith himself, (2 Cor. XI. 23, 28, 29.) in labors more abundant, he had the care of all the churches, Who is weak, faith he, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? It was natural for fuch a mind to be deeply affected with the forefight of the great apoftafy of Chrif
tians from the true Chriftian faith and worship, and to lament it, and to forewarn his difciples of it, as often as there was occafion. He made this apoftafy one topic of his difcourfe to the Theffalonians, while he was yet with them and afterwards in his fecond Epiftle to them, he gave them to understand that the day of Chrift was not at handy as they apprehended; for there fhould come the apoftafy first; implying that it fhould be both extenfive and of long duration. He mentions this apoftafy again in his firft Epiftle to Timothy, and defcribes more particularly wherein it thould confift, and at what time, and by what means it thould be propagated and advanced in the world. (1 Tim. IV. 1, 2, (3.) Now the Spirit fpeaketh exprefly, that in the latter times fome fhall depart from the faith, giving heed to feducing fpirits, and doctrins of devils, Speaking lies in hypocrify, having their confcience feared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which beliece and know the truth. The paffage perhaps may better be tranflated thus, But the Spirit fpeaketh exprefly; He had been speaking before of the myftery of godliness, and now he proceeds to speak of the mystery of iniquity in oppofition to it, But the Spirit fpeaketh exprefly, that in the latter times fome fhall apoftatize from the faith, giving heed to erroneous fpirits and doctrins concerning demons, Through the hypocrify of liers, having their confcience feared with a hot iron, Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by the believers and them who know the truth. This tranflation will be juftified by the following confiderations, wherein it is propofed to fhow the true interpretation and exact completion of this prophecy. But this fubject hath been fo fully and learnedly difcuffed by the excellent (1) Mr. Mede, that we must be greatly obliged to him in the courfe of this differtation. The drefs and clothing may be fomewhat different, but the body and fubftance must be much the fame and they must be referred to his works, who are defirous of obtaining farther fatisfaction. Not that we would
(1) See Mede's Works, B. 3. p. rieu's Accomplishment of the Prophe623-693, See likewife Monf. Ju cies. Part 1. Chap. 18, 19, 20, 21.
make a tranfcript only of any writer; we fhould hope to enforce and improve the fubject by fome new arguments and new illustrations; as every scribe inftructed unto the kingdom of heaven (Matt. XIII. 52.) is like unto a man that is an houfholder, who bringeth forth out of his treafure things new as well as old.
I. The first thing to be confidered is the apoftafy here predicted, Some shall depart or rather hall apoftatize from the faith. The apoftle had predicted the fame thing before to the Theffalonians, The day of Chrift shall not come, except there come a falling away or rather the apoftafy first. In the original the words are of the fame import and derivation, αποςασία and αποςήσονται, and they fhould have been tranflated both alike, as the fame thing was intended in both places. An apoftafy from the faith may be total or partial, either when we renounce the whole, or when we deny fome principal and effential article of it. The writers of the New Teftament frequently derive their language as well as their ideas from the Old: and by confidering what was accounted apoftafy under the Mofaical economy, we may form the better notion of what it is under the Chriftian difpenfation. It doth not appear that the Jews or Ifraelites ever totally renounced and abandoned the living and true God; he never ceafed altogether to be their God, or they to be his people: but they revolted from their allegiance to God, when they worthipped him in an image, as in the golden calves, which was the fin and apoftafy of Jeroboam; and when they worthipped other gods befides him, as Baalim and the host of heaven, which was the fin and apoftafy of Ahab and Manaffeh : and for the fame reafon the idolatry of Ahaz is by the Greek interpreters called (2 Chron. XXIX. 19.) aπo5201α ale his apoftafy, and it is faid of him (XXVIII. 19.) that απεση αποφασει απο το Κυριο he apojtatized greatly from the Lord. Apoftafy therefore was idolatry in the Jewish Church, and it is the fame in the Chriftian. This argument may receive fome illuftratiou from a (2) fimilar paffage in St. Peter; (2 Pet. II. 1.) There were
(2) See Mede's Difcourfe XLIII. upon this text, p, 238, &c.