« PreviousContinue »
shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end." (a) Other predictions of Daniel, though attended with greater difficulty, belong to the same subject. They are the foundations of those contained in the New Testament; but the latter are, to us at least, of a much more intelligible character. After the ascension of Jesus, at what precise time it is impossible to ascertain, but perhaps earlier than is generally supposed, he was commissioned by his Father to communicate to believers, through the apostle John, a prophetic history of his church, in a series of extraordinary visions recorded in the Revelation. Here we have a description (chap. xiii.) minutely corresponding with that of Daniel, and afterwards (chap. xvii.) a delineation of the apostacy, as "a Woman sitting upon a scarletcoloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns, and the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abomination and filthiness of her fornication, and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth." She is also described as "committing fornication with the kings of the earth; ruling over multitudes and nations; and drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs." These additions to the original prophecy of Daniel were,
probably, commonly known and discussed among Christians; for John writes of Antichrist as a familiar subject, and Paul refers, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, to earlier communications. The term itself only occurs in the epistles of John. It may mean, opposed to Christ, or instead of Christ. These meanings are indeed coincident, and lead us directly to the essence of the apostacy, which consisted in usurping the spiritual authority of Christ. He is the only Lord of faith and practice; and authority set up instead of his, is, in fact, in opposition. It first occurs in 1 John ii. 18, 19: "As ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us." It is also introduced in ver. 22: "Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son." In the text, (and in the second epistle,) it is applied to those who did "not confess Jesus Christ come in the flesh," with the remark, "Ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world." We learn from these texts that the term does not designate any particular church, or man, or set of men, but a spirit or system, which had its birth in the days of the apostles, and which, wherever it exists, corrupts the gospel in its doctrines, design, and influence. Many theologians have applied the term pecu
liarly and solely to the Church of Rome. This restriction is wholly unwarranted by, and inconsistent with, the New-Testament delineation of the apostacy. That church bears its marks, but not alone. In different degrees of vividness, they are visible on the eastern as well as western churches; before the existence of what is properly called Popery, as well as after; and in the national churches which have abandoned, as in those which have remained in that communion. There are two predictions by Paul, which it is necessary to quote at length, in addition to those already mentioned. The first is introduced to warn the Thessalonians against an erroneous notion, that the coming of Christ was at hand. 2 Thess ii. 1-12: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition : who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth, that he
might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivablenes of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believed a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." The other is in 1 Tim. iv. 1—5: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; [demons ;] speaking lies in hypocrisy ; having their conscience seared 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 believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."
Here is a set of distinguishing marks which, wherever they are found, and so far as they are
found, indicate the presence of Antichrist,