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The classical mind will not contemplate such an object without remembering the golden, or the brazen age, so memorable with the muse of ancient paganism; and the coins of our own nation are sufficient to reconcile us to the custom of representing states and kingdoms by a human figure. The first of the four monarchies intended was the Babylonian, represented in the image by the head of gold; the second was the Medo-Persian, denoted by “ the breast and arms of silver;" the brass which composed the yet lower part of the figure, was the symbol of the Macedonian, or Greek Empire; and the iron and the clay, forming the feet and legs, bore the same relation to Rome. An attempt indeed has been made to introduce a fourth power, subsequent to the conquests of Alexander, and prior to those of the Romans. The result, however, has been something worse than a failure. To be convinced of this, it will be sufficient to remember that the fourth monarchy was not only to be diverse from those preceding it, but was to be stronger, more enduring, and to do greater things : predictions which cannot be applied with the shadow of probability to any political fabric beside that of the Cæsars.
The vision of the four beasts, subsequently vouchsafed to the same prophet, is explained by an angel as referring to this succession of monarchies or kingdoms. But on the head of the beast employed as the prophetic emblem of the fourththat is, of the Roman Empire-ten horns are said to appear, and to appear at the same time. These horns are also explained by the angel as meaning ten kings or kingdoms. It is then written, that while the prophet considered the horns, “ behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And, behold, in this horn were eyes, like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.” This peculiarity bespeaks a watchfulness, and policy, which should distinguish the eleventh horn from the ten which had appeared before it. This horn is again described as having " a look more stout than his fellows," as “ making war with the saints,” and as prevailing against them, until the coming of the ancient of days in his kingdom. Until then, this power shall be known, more or less, from the merely secular powers which are set forth under the same emblems, by “speaking great words against the Most High," and by “wearing out the saints of the Most High.”
To these predictions, the light of moral demonstration is supplied by the events of history. The time, it will presently appear, did arrive, when the Roman Empire should be broken down into ten sovereignties. At that time, also, the ecclesiastical state of Rome rose into importance, and the Pontiffs succeeded in displacing three of the states prefigured by the horns of the beast. As these events transpired, the character of the papal government became strikingly conformable to the predictions of the prophet concerning it. Every device that had favoured the ascendancy of despotic rulers, or pagan priests, was eagerly
resorted to. The ground-work was thus laid for the successor of St. Peter to assume a sovereignty over all other sovereigns, for his being addressed as “ our Lord God the Pope," and for his employing the powers of this world, and the terrors of the next, to crush the many or the few who should dare to resist the authority " of God upon earth.” We wonder not that the horn denoting such a power, should be spoken of as “having eyes like a man,” as looking “ more stout than his fellows," as speaking “ great words against the Most High, and as “ making war with the saints." All this is true, pre-eminently true, of the ecclesiastical state of Rome; but history supplies us with no other state to which it may be exclusively applied at all—and still less, through an interval so extended as that allotted in the chronology of prophecy, to the reign of the western Antichrist.
Thus the visions of Daniel present a sublime outline of this world's history, from his own time to the consummation of all things. But let us descend from them, to a consideration of the passage with which our text is connected. It reads thus:
“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 deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."*
In his former epistle, the Apostle had spoken of the coming of Christ; “ to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe, and to take vengeance on those who obey not the Gospel.” From what he had written, or from what he had said, on this subject, it appears, that not a few of the Thessalonians had considered the end of the world as an event that should be hourly anticipated, and which was certainly near at hand. The Apostle entreats them to discard every such apprehension, and to aid them in doing so, assures them, in the spirit of prophecy, that an evil power, called “ the Man of Sin," and the “ Wicked One," must be revealed in the church, before that day of the Lord of which he had spoken could arrive. During sixteen centuries, but one opinion appears to have obtained among commentators respecting the general import of this passage. They agreed to refer it to the power elsewhere described as Antichrist; but while the Protestant was confident as to its connexion with Rome, the Catholic was concerned to show its relation to the imposture of Mahomet, or to point it towards some evil agency yet to be disclosed. In the seventeenth century, the learned Grotius attempted to explain the passage, as relating to persons and events connected with the apostolic age. Dr. Hammond, Dr. Whitby, Professor Wetstein, and Le Clerc, have since attempted the same thing: but it is worthy of observation, that in pursuing their common object, they have, each of them, found it necessary to. invent an hypothesis of his own. In adverting to what I conceive to be mistakes in such men, I would not forget the respect due to their high character. But their errors appear to have arisen from two sources. Not only, as Bishop Newton suggests, from their regarding the coming of Christ, to which the Apostle alludes, as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, instead of what is denominated his second advent; but from an unmindfulness of the fact, that the deepest stain in the guilt of the predicted « Evil One," was to be that of apostacy. Now the coming of Christ, of which the Apostle writes
* 2 Thess. ii. 1-10.