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What may be the future fate of my Work, neither Mr. Whitaker nor myself can tell. My humble desire is to leave it in the hands of God; and
my hearty prayer is, that, if it be likely to promote his glory, he will deign to accept and preserve it as an instrument; but that, if it be calculated only to disseminate error, it may speedily sink into peaceful oblivion. Mr. Whitaker's own work on the Apocalypse I hope will not be an ephemeron. I consider it as one of the best dissuasives from Popery that ever was written, and particularly calculated to be useful in the present times, when that apostate religion begins once more to rear its head in England, and when its wretched high-priest is become the mere tool of an implacable tyrant. And this I believe to be the chief value of his work.
According to Mr. Whitaker, my unfortunate Dissertation is indeed a most formidably mischievous production. In the height of his zeal for discovering the Pope in almost every symbol connected with the latter and the last days, and in a tone of infallibility little less than papal, he pronounces that my Work is full of the grossest transgressions both of chronology and geograpby; and that those unhappy persons, whom its dangerous sophisms induce to trample down these two barriers of prophecy, “must wander into the wide and ever
varying plains of fancy and the dark and decli
ning lanes of error, where they can collect “ nought but disappointment, discouragement and " at length despair."* This whole-length portrait
* Letter, p. 81.
of my Dissertation is doubtless very highly coloured: but I am willing to hope, that it is more nearly allied to that ingenious mode of painting usually denominated caricature, than to any other. If I *have disappointed my readers, I fear the disappointment will be most lamentably general, inasmuch as my bookseller informs me that nearly the whole of a very large edition has already been sold: and, with regard to my having so far discouraged them as to drive them to despair, I will not, indeed venture positively to affirm that none of them have experienced these very disagreeable effects from the perusal of my book; but this I can say with a safe conscience, that I have at least not yet beard that any such truly deplorable consequences have resulted from it.
Mr: Whitaker says, that my system is not only so weakly founded, but so contrary to many decla. rations of sacred writers, that he cannot but think, that, when its inconsistency with them is pointed out, the candour of my own mind, and my love of truth, will lead me to give it up as untenable. * All this I am very ready to do, so soon as Mr. Whitaker shall have performed bis part: but that as yet remains to be done; and, though I presume not to say that my system is impregnable, I scruple not to assert, that no arguments, which he has bitberto brought forward against it, can much endanger its safety. It is time however that I begin to come to the point. * Letter, p. 36, 37,
1. What we have first to discuss is, Whether the papal power be the Antichrist mentioned by St. John* Mr. Whitaker's translation of the passage, wherein his character is described, is I believe, more strictly accurate than our common version: but the passage in question may, I think, be rendered yet more accurately; as thus. " Who is the liar, 6 but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? " This (notorious liar) is the Antichrist who denieth * the Father and the Son”t. But what does Mr. Whitaker gain by this alteration, which (as he justly observes) the Greek pronoun here used requires ? It appears to me, I must confess, to leave matters just as it found them: for how does the new version prove the Papacy to be the great Antichrist any more than the old one? The statement of the whole question is simply this. St. John assures his disciples, that, at the very moment when he was writing, there were many Antichrists already in the world I: and he afterwards speaks singularly of one Antichrist, whom by way of eminence he styles the liar, and whose leading characteristic should be a denial of the Father and the Son|l. Here then we have many antichrists and the Antichrist: and the former are declared to be contemporary with the Apostle. Now we know, that, when St. John lived, there was not in existence any embodied power, either the papal or any other power, that could in its corporate capacity be styled the Anticbrist. Hence we may conclude, that his contemporaries, the many antichrists, were detached individuals professing some characteristic opinion
* Letter, p. 2, + 1 John, ii. 22. # ver. 18. || ver. 22.
which was the cause of their being so named; and, on the other hand, that the Antichrist is no individual, but a collective body of individuals*: for of course Mr. Whitaker will not maintain with the Papists, that the Antichrist is a single man. The question then is, What was the opinion of the many Antichrists?
Was it the same, or was it not the same, as that of the Antichrist, according to St. John's description of it? Does the Apostle give us any clue to ascertain this point? Let us hear him. He explicitly declares then, as if to prevent the possibility of error, that "every spirit, “ which confesseth not that Jesus Christ'is come in “ the flesh, is not of God; and this is that very antichrists were men animated by the spirit of the Antichrist or the liar, which we are unequivocally told is a denial of the Son and thence by implication a denial of the Father also. Accordingly St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, all concur in asserting, that men, possessed by such a spirit as St. John calls the spirit of the Anticbrist, even the very spirit which we have seen embodied in these last days, had at that early period insinuated themselves into the Church*. How then, "in the names of truth and common sense” (to adopt one of Mr. Whitaker's phrases), can any thing that St. John here says prove the Pope to be the Antichrist, namely the Antichrist whose spirit was then in the world? Yet does Mr. Whitaker take upon himself to say, that I “convert a well-connected piece of “ close reasoning into a string of disjointed propo“ sitions; that I wire-draw Scripture in a most “ lamentable manner,” merely to support a new hypothesis.
essence or spirit of the Antichrist which ye have “ heard shall come, and indeed even now is in the “ world”t. Thus it is plain, that, what St. John calls the spirit of the Antichrist, is a denial that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiab manifested in the flesh. But, if this spirit which is the spirit of the Antichrist, were in the world when St. John wrote, and if many individual antichrists were likewise in the world at the same time; I know not what we can conclude but that these individual
* This colle&tive body and succession of individuals, Mr. Potter supposes to be properly the Pope and the College of Cardinals. (Interp. Num. 666. p. 121) Did I believe the Antichrist to be the Papacy, I uld think it more reasonable to extend the character to the whole body of false prophets, or the papal hierarchy, which I conceive to be symbolized by the second apocalyptic beast. Such is the opinion of Heidegger, who maintains the great spiritual Babylon to be the whole Romish hierarchy. Myst. Bab. Mag. passim. + 1 John, iv. 3.
But, says Mr. Whitaker,“ St. John tells us, that " the last time is that of Antichrist. On the
appearance of this character, therefore, must depend the time of the end. Now, if the Papal power be Antichrist (which Mr. Faber has not
yet disproved) the time of the end or last time “ must be the whole 1260 years”t. Mr. Whitaker must surely have quoted St. John from memory: at least I can account for this most singular train of
* See the prophecies relative to the last days of Antichrist, collected together in the 3d chapter of my Dissertation.
+ Letter, p. 46.