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in his previous letter, was to be immediately connected with the resurrection of the dead, it could not therefore be the destruction of Jerusalem; and with respect to apostacy, no succession of men, no body of men, can be said to have deserted a faith which they have never embraced. This last circumstance is sufficient to show the weakness of attempting to make the language before us applicable to such persons as Caligula, Simon Magus, Titus, the insurgents of Jerusalem, or the impostor Mahomet. As these men never embraced “ the faith once delivered to the saints," they cannot be said to have incurred the guilt of abandoning it.*
The resemblance between the Man of sin in St. Paul, and the little horn of Daniel, must strike every attentive reader, not only as including the same general features, but as including them described almost in the same terms. According to both writers, this irreligious power was to appear amid the fading strength of the Roman empire—and who does not know that, as the throne of the Cæsars crumbled into ruin, the altar of the pontiffs rose in its magnificence ? According to both writers, feigned miracles were to be materially subservient to the advancement of this evil agency,- and who does not know that the power of working miracles, which is still claimed for the papacy by the most ac
See Bishop Newton, in loco. I am not ignorant of the reasoning employed to prove Mahomet an apostate, but it does not convince me.
complished of her advocates, has been asserted with the most marvellous success, in every nation where her authority has been admitted ? By both writers, the predicted tyranny is described as affecting an independence of laws, and as changing times and seasons and who does not perceive the application of this feature ? And while both agree in attributing to this authority the assumption of a religious character, and the assumption of that character to an extent involving the grossest impiety and blasphemywho does not know, that the very language of Daniel's little horn, and of St. Paul's Man of sin, has its place at this hour in those canons of the Romish Church which relate to the majesty of its head? According, indeed, to some of those canons, and to some who have commented upon them, the pontiff is not only “equal with God,” and “ very God," but has power to do what the Deity may not do!
From this passage, we shall proceed to another, evidently connected with the same painful subject. “ 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; 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.”*
* I Tim. iv. 1-3.
By the Spirit here named, it is certain the Apostle means the Holy Spirit, who guided the voice and the pen of the prophets in ancient time; under whose inspiration the Apostle had himself discoursed and written on this matter to the church at Thessalonica, and who had long since disclosed the same things to the prophet Daniel. The expression “ the latter times” is variously employed in Scripture, but always in reference to the times of the present dispensation. In these times, a memorable departure from the faith was to take place; for the word some, it has been shown, ought to be understood as referring not to a few, but to many, as when it is applied in the epistle to the Hebrews, to all the “ men whose carcasses fell in the wilderness.” With respect to this apostacy, we here learn something concerning its nature; the means that should conduce to it; and the effects that should be attendant on it. The evil was to arise from giving heed to seducing (or erroneous) spirits, and from doctrines concerning devils or demons. The word demon, here rendered “ devil,” does not always mean an evil agency, even in the Scriptures ; and by Gentile writers, it was commonly employed with respect to beings who were considered as a sort of subordinate divinities, especially as sustaining the character of mediators between the gods and men. It was to check some evident tendency to this plausible superstition among his converts, that St. Paul so strongly forbid the worshipping of angels -a prohibition which of course extended to departed
men. But, notwithstanding this, what the good demons of heathenism had long been, that the saints and martyrs of the church soon became. Eusebius, who it will be remembered wrote under the first Christian emperor, adverts with much approbation to the doctrine of Hesiod and Plato, as the friends of demon worship, and remarks,“ These things are befitting upon the decease of the favourites of God, whom you may properly call the champions of the true religion. Whence it is our custom to assemble at their sepulchres, and to make our prayers at them, and to honour their blessed souls." Here the martyr, or the confessor, glides into the place of the demon, or the subordinate divinity of the idolater. Theodoret, in the course of the same century, merely uttered the language which was but too common with his contemporaries, when he appealed, after the example of Eusebius, to the earliest poet of Greece, and to the most profound of her philosophers, as placing the shield of their sanction over the practice of saint worship, by defending the kindred custom of offering adoration to demons. And as the one kind of worship was so evidently designed to succeed the other, it was but fitting that the one should be conformed to the other. The progress of this pagan delusion is attributed to “ the hypocrisy of liars, and to men, having their consciences seared as with a hot iron.” We are at no loss to determine where that communion is to be found which has become distinguished from every other by the passion for creature-worship; and you will not need that I should remind you of the systematic fraud and falsehood, which have never failed to characterize the legends designed to encourage the adoration of saints and images. On such points conscience has been a dream, truth a jest, the end never failing to sanctify the means. Then as to the effects that should be attendant on this degeneracy of creed and of morals, namely, the forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, where do we find these marks of the apostacy as we find them in the church of Rome? The Gnostic, or the Manichean sects may have imbibed 'errors of this class; but the people here intended would naturally seem to be those who have enforced these maxims with the greatest rigour, over the widest surface, and through the longest interval, and in this view the passage connects itself irresistibly with papal Rome. *
The references to this subject in the Apocalypse it is not easy to place within a small compass; but we must attempt it. The symbolical language of Old Testament prophecy is frequently adopted in the New, but no where so frequently or so variously as in the Revelations. To the more ancient method of clothing prophecy in the dress of hieroglyphics, it adds a free use of symbols, taken from inatters relating to the Jewish polity and ritual. The epistles to the Asiatic churches, which occupy the first three chapters, are preliminary to the general design of
* See Bishop Newton, in loco.