Page images

with the brightness of his coming," &c. II. Thess. ii. 3—9.

I do not know that this passage contains any thing concerning the Man of Sin which might not be gathered from the other visions, except the statement that there was at that time some impediment (known to the Christian Church--and therefore probably stated somewhere in the Scripture), which prevented his being revealed; and would continue to do so until it should be removed. There are however two points, which I would notice in connection with the statement of the Apostle, because, though they seem obvious and important, they are generally overlooked.

1. The Apostle seems to assume, that when the apostacy should take place, the Christian Church would know the fact. 'Tliis, to be sure, is natural enough; but it differs widely from the view which is taken by most modern expositors, who maintain that the apostacy had existed for several centuries before any body suspected it; and that during all that time, the Church of God mistook the Man of Sin, for the Vicar of Christ.

2. The destruction of the Man of Sin by the personal advent of Christ, is here stated in clear and express terms : This is not a symbolical prophecy in which expositors may indulge their imaginations; and the whole tenor of the two Epistles of the Apostle to the Thessalonians, shews that both parties referred to a literal, personal advent of Christ. This being the case, one of these two consequences scems inevitable--either the personal advent of Christ must precede the millennium; or the Man of Sin must live during the millennium.*

* Mr. Faber has noticed this argument in his Sacred Calendár of Prophecy, Vol. II1. 431, and it is curious to see the shift to which he is «lriven to evade the force of it. He suggests that the Apostle in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, is speaking of a personal advent of Christ, and in his second of a figurative coming; and he requires a demonstra

I began this Essay with a statement of the difference of opinion existing between the writers of the Protestant Church in the present day, and the Early Church on the subject of the prophecies concerning Antichrist; and my object in these pages is to lead the reader to enquire from the Scriptures, whether that interpretation which has the sanction of antiquity, is not in itself the most simple and natural. While I am surprised that any person should be satisfied with the current exposition of the prophecies which I have adduced, I am most of all astonished that those who believe the doctrine of the Primitive Church respecting the second advent, and the personal reign of Christ on earth, should (as it seems to me, in defiance of their own principles of interpretation), rest contented with the modern exposition of the prophecies concerning Antichrist. These ancient doctrines have been of late years revived ; and, I thank God, are spreading ; but I believe that they will never be consistently or convincingly maintained, until they who hold them shall have returned to something like the primitive doctrine concerning Antichrist. I do not mean by this to express a belief of all the opinions which have been broached by the early writers respecting Antichrist; or, on the present occasion, to maintain the doctrine of the early church farther than I have here stated it ;* but so far, it appears to me to be

tion that the advents spoken of in thc two Epistles are identical." There is however, in some cases, a higher degree of certainty attainable than any which can be obtained from logical, or even mathematical demonstration--a certainty arising from the conviction of common sense, respecting things which are self-evident; and this certainty (which is in fact the basis of all demonstration) I think the rcader will feel, who carefully reads the Epistles to the Thessalonians, and considers their language and their scope.

* The reader who wishes to know the opinions of the early church, on these points, and on some others relating to the period immediately preceding the second advent of our Lord, may find them in a small work entitled “A Treatise of the Three Evils of the Last Times,” originally

more worthy of reception than any of those systems which are built upon the idea of a period of 1260 years. These systems it is not my purpose here to oppose in detail; for I write now rather with a view to plain, and (if there be such) unprejudiced readers, than for the writers of those systems who, as far as I can find, are the only persons who can really be said to understand or believe them.

When, however, I doubt whether I shall meet with unprejudiced readers, I do not mean to use that epithet in an invidious sense ; but I believe the truth is, that most readers of the Scripture are so far prejudiced on the subject, as that they know that there are certain expositions of these prophecies in existence, of which they only farther know that they never fully understood them, or the controversies to which they bave given rise. On these grounds they have never once thought of forming an opinion for themselves, but have charitably (perhaps I should say indolently) concluded that expositions so large and laborious, and which their authors propounded so dogmatically, were most likely to be right. While, however, they yield this cold assent, they are not aware of the sacrifice of common sense which it requires them to make on points of which they are very competent judges. They know nothing perhaps about Justinian or Phocas—they are quite bewildered among the Ostrogoths and Wisigoths, the Sueves and Alanes, the Heruli and Turingi, the Huns and Lombards, and are glad to give them their ten kingdoms to get rid of them--with as little reserve they hand over the Turkish Sultanies to Ghelaluddaulas, Sadijduddaulas,

published anonymously in the year 1711. It is said to have been the production of Dr. Hildrop, and to have been published by Dr. Knight and Dr. Grabe; and it has been lately republished at Hatchard's; I am informed by the gentleman by whom I believe it was published, that there is another Edition of the year 1713, under the title of “God's Judg. ments on the Gentile Apostatized Church against the Modern Hypothesis of some eminent Apocalyptical Writers, in four parts," &c.; but this I have never seen.

cognomine Cutlumusus, Sjarfuddulas, and Tagjuddaulas.* These are to be sure points on wbich not one reader in a hundred has any knowledge whatever, or of which he would ever have heard at all but for books on the prophecies; but there are, as I have said, others on which any person of plain common sense is competent to form an opinion.

For instance, read Rev. vii. 12. " And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrowl when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man bid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains ; and said to the mountains and rocks - Fa!) on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand."

Can any unbiassed reader-nay, I will venture to say, any reader who is not devoted to some system of chronological interpretation,-doubt that this passage refers to the day of judgment? If it does not, may we not doubt whether there is any passage in the Scriptures about the day of judgment at all :

Yet Brightman, Henry More, Gill, Lowman, Bishop Newton, Doddridge, Faber, Holmes, Hales, and I know not how many other commentators tell us that this tremendous prediction was fulfilled in the days of Constantine. Does the reader doubt this ? and ask how any one came to think of such a thing? Bishop Newton will frankly tell

• Mede's Works, p. 472.

him-“ the SERIES of the Prophecy REQUIRES this application."*—Perhaps we may agree with him so far as to admit that his system cannot stand without this application; but it is rather too gross an insult to common sense to add, as he does, that “ All the phrases and expressions will EASILY admit of such a construction.” To be sure, if we may go so far away from the plain letter of scripture, it will easily admit of any construction; and therefore this language which appeared to all the writers whom I have mentioned, to predict the setting up of Christianity on the ruins of Paganism under Constantine, has appeared to Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Frere, Mr. Irving, and others, to predict the setting up of Atheism, on the ruins of Christianity, at the French revolution. The reader may chuse which he pleases,-one may, just as easily as the other, be made out to the “GREAT Day of the Wrath of the LAMB”—but to suppose that the prophecy refers to the Day of Judgment, however the language of Scripture may demand it, will violate chrono. logy, and is out of the question.

Surely if these Prophecies are Holy Scripture, and were “written for our learning,” it is high time that the common sense of the Christian Church should be aroused, to seek after some interpretation which may do less violence to the word of God,

Vol. III. p. 70.

« PreviousContinue »