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Still, brethren, I am bound to add, that seeing nothing of hypothesis in all this-believing it to be beyond controversy, that all the numbers we have mentioned refer to the one interval allotted to the one great conflict between Antichrist and the church; and considering it as no less certain, that in these numbers, a time should be taken for a year, and also a day for a year, it must still, I conceive, be beyond the skill of man to determine the precise period at which this struggle began, and consequently when it shall close. It is agreed that the period 1260 does not include the duration of the apostacy from its earliest disclosures, else it must have commenced with the age of the Apostles. It is also agreed, that this era is not to be deferred to the age when papal encroachment was matured, for that would lead us onward to the eleventh century. The question then is, what are the facts belonging to the centuries preceding the age of Hildebrand, that may enable us to say with probability, when the first of the memorable 1260 years had arrived ?
cannot be so many literal days, and must be so many prophetic years. 4. It is to be remembered, that the predictions of Daniel and St. John describe a power which is to obtain a complete sovereignty within the Roman empire--to make war upon the earth-to change times and laws—to secure an ascendancy over all kindreds, tongues, and nations—to ensnare the rulers and the inhabitants of the earth into the practice of idolatry—and to become drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. It is preposterous to ask, whether all this could be done in three years and a half. Three days and a half are also allotted the adversaries of the two witnesses to rejoice over them as fallen and slaughtered in the street, and during this interval the people of the earth are described as rejoicing over them, and making merry, and as sending congratulations to each other. But can it be meant that all this is done in the space of eighty-four hours? See Faber on the Prophecies relative to the Great Period of 1260 Years.-I. pp. 1–15.
It is part of the testimony of Scripture on this subject, that before this mystery could be revealed, the strength of the existing empire, which hindered it, must be taken out of the way, and that the parts of that empire must become so far dismembered as to include ten sovereignties. · Agreeably to this prediction, there was a gradual decline of the Roman name, until the incursions of the northern nations, the effect of which, as described by Machiavel, the most profound of Italian writers, was to divide the Latin empire into ten kingdoms, the names of which, without meaning to serve the cause of revelation, that historian has given us.* There is, however, but little chronological certainty to be derived from this fact. For the ten kingdoms, which were made out by no less an authority than Joseph Mede, so early as the year 456, may be made out at several periods during the next three hundred years, and, it is believed, must continue to exist, under some trivial modifications, until the predicted judgments shall fall upon the papacy. We are certain, indeed, from these facts, that the little horn of Daniel is not to be considered as appearing before the latter half of the fifth century; but as the ten kingdoms which appeared thus early were to continue so long, there is an extended space, in any portion of which, the antichristian tyranny might reveal itself in perfect consistency with the prophecies that relate to it. We must look, therefore, to some other point for the signs of its coming.
mit Hist. Florence. Lib. 1.
Of late, our attention has been much directed to the year 533, as to that which almost indubitably marks the revealing of this power. This conclusion is founded on a letter addressed to the pontiff in that year, by the emperor Justinian, in which the bishop of Rome is described as the head of all the churches. This letter has employed the ingenuity of canonists and civilians in almost every age, and through several generations it has been appealed to by the interpreters of prophecy, as illustrating the predicted advancement of the papacy. Perhaps the confidence with which it is now cited would have been less if its contents had been somewhat more calmly and impartially examined. Certain it is, that the document which speaks of the bishop of Rome as head of all the churches, refers, in that instance, to the churches of the West only, since it further recognizes the bishop of Constantinople as head of all the other churches, meaning the churches of the East. The reference, therefore, is merely to that kind of supremacy which constitutes the patriarchal power. Nor does the nominal precedence, really conferred on Rome, as compared with Constantinople, prove any thing, inasmuch as no appeal was allowed from one patriarch to another. The same independent authority was thus reserved to the ecclesiastical chieftains of the East and West. * That this
* See Cod. i. Lib. I. Tit. 1. 7, et Tit. 2. 24.
memorable letter had no further meaning, was, I believe, the opinion of the pontiff to whom it was addressed, and also of his successors. For, had it been otherwise, the politic Gregory the Great would not, almost a century later, have rejected the title of Universal Bishop, as suited only to the precursor of Antichrist. *
The grant of the emperor Phocas, immediately after the death of Gregory, was a very different matter, as it not only conferred the title of Universal Bishop on the successor of that pontiff, but forbid the Patriarch of Constantinople any longer to assume that contested designation. And though the prohibition of that odious usurper availed nothing when his brief reign had closed, his conduct rendered the year 606 a memorable period in ecclesiastical history, as being that in which the papal supremacy, properly understood, was first accredited by the civil power.f Even this event, however, will not perhaps be very confidently regarded as disclosing
See this subject amply discussed by the learned civilian, Dr. Brett, in his work entitled, “ The Independent Power of the Church not Romish," pp. 43-50.
+ Too much importance, however, would certainly seem to have been attached to this circumstance. Mr. Faber views the conferring of this title on Boniface the Third as the appointed surrender of the saints into the hand of the papal horn. But it is worthy of observation that, whether it arose from a remembrance of Gregory's protest against it, or of its disgraceful origin, the appellation was steadily discarded by the successors of that same Boniface, while, by their rivals of Constantinople, it was as steadily assumed. So notorious was this fact, that in the summary of the canon law published by the monk, Gratian, and which formed the chief guide of the western hierarchy, during many centuries, is the following passage : “ Nec etiam Romanus pontifex universalis appellatur."-Ed. 1591, p. 303.
the prophetic horn, when it is remembered that this hypothesis requires us to believe that, while the ten horns of the beast denote so many states strictly political, the eleventh denotes a state strictly ecclesiastical. Nor should it be forgotten, that it was not in the power of Phocas, or of his successors, to confer even an ecclesiastical supremacy on the bishop of Rome, with respect to any of the more important of the Western kingdoms. In those countries, even the laws of Justinian exerted but a feeble influence during his life, and within a few years of his decease they were almost unknown.*
Were I disposed to attempt the invention of an hypothesis on this subject, I should not despair of being able to construct one that should connect itself very plausibly with a period some thirty years earlier than the date of Justinian's epistle. At that time, the parties with whom it rested to elect the bishops of Rome, evidently included many of the most unprincipled and licentious of mankind; men who could descend to the worst of crimes in their zeal for an ecclesiastical favourite. Symmachus, the object of their choice in 498, appears to have conformed himself without difficulty to their vices; and when accused of delinquency, he did not hesitate to announce himself as superior to all earthly authority, and that not only with respect to articles of faith, but, equally, with respect to moral obligation. The clergy were his children, and were not to be
* See Harris's Brief Account of the Rise and Progress of the Roman Law.-pp. 14, 15.