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E common doctrine of the Christian Church, - grounded on the plain declarations of Scripture, has always been, that at some period or other, an Apostacy should take place, promoted and headed by some person, or power, who is variously described in the Scripture as the LITTLE HORN, the Beast, the MAN OF Sin, the Son of Perdition, and the Wicked One; and who has been commonly known to the Church under the title of ANTICHRIST.
Thus far, the early Church and the Protestant Church, in the present day, are agreed; but they differ in three very important particulars. It is perhaps impossible, where so many writers are concerned, to speak quite accurately; but I believe that the opinions which I here attribute to the early Church, were held by all Christian writers until the twelfth century; and that those which I ascribe to the Protestant Church, are, in fact, the sentiments which have been maintained by most Protestant divines, and which are held by most writers on Prophecy in the present day. The three points to which I refer are these
(1.) As to the Nature of the Apostacy.
The early Church conceived of it as an actual departure, not merely from the purity of the Christian faith by professed Christians but, from Christianity itself—a falling away from all profession of Christianity, into open, and blasphemous, and persecuting, infidelity.
The Protestant Church understands by the Apostacy, the impure Christianity of a corrupt part of the Christian Church, or a hypocritical profession of Christianity, by a Church pretending to be Christian.
(2.) As to the Duration of the Apostacy.
The early Church did not expect that the Apostacy would take place until a few years before the second Advent of our Lord ; or that the persecution of the saints arising out of it would last more than three years and a half. Protestant writers in general maintain, that the A postacy took place more than a thousand years ago; and that it has existed, or will, at its termination, have existed, 1260 years.
(3.) As to the Leader or Head of the Apostacy.
The early church expected an individual Antichrist, who should be an infidel blasphemer, giving honour to no God, suffering no religious worship to be paid except to himself, and requiring that worship from all men on pain of death.
Protestant writers suppose a succession of individuals, each in his turn becoming an integral part of an Antichrist, composed of the whole series; and that the leader or head of this body has been, and is, a Christian bishop, professing to be the vicar of Christ upon earth, and to act for his glory.
It is needless to say that these opinions are widely different; but it is not unimportant to consider which is right. For my own part, without repeating what I have elsewhere said on the absurdity of attempting to apply the predictions concerning Antichrist to the Pope, * I shall at once say, that the doctrine of the Primitive Church on the subject, so far as I have here stated it, appears to me to be correct, and scriptural.
I believe that much of the obscurity which rests upon the predictions of Daniel and St. John, arises from their having been considered as chronological prophecies; that is to say, prophecies giving an anticipatory history of the events which should take place in the Christian Church, from the time when they were delivered, until the consummation of all things. On the contrary, I believe that their chief object is to reveal things which are still future ; and their chief subject the HISTORY OF ANTICHRIST-his rise, progress, and destruction. It will be obvious therefore, that I do not find in the Scripture anything about the ten Gothic kingdoms, or the delusions of Mahomet, the overthrow of the French monarchy, or the Turkish empire. I believe that the prophetic Scriptures do not (unless it may be incidentally) throw any light on the state of things, either in the Church or in the world, previous to the breaking out of the Apostacy. The main subject I believe to be, the great and final struggle between the God of this world, and the God of Heavenbetween the Destroyer, and the Redeemer of man-be. tween Christ, and Antichrist.
As the Apocalypse is called the “ Revelation of Jesus Christ” so the book of Daniel appears to me to be (if I may use the expression) the Revelation of Antichrist, There is, to be sure, much revealed respecting Antichrist in the Apocalypse ; and his history, and proceedings, form one great subject (or rather, perhaps, are intimately con nected with that which does form the great subject) of that revelation; but the prediction of Antichrist, his rise, progress and destruction, appears to be the chief object of the book of Daniel, while the triumph of Messiah is more briefly stated. .
* Second Enquiry into the Grounds on which the Prophetic Period of Daniel and St. John has been supposed to consist of 1260 years. p. 90–136.
It appears to me, that the several visions recorded in the book of Daniel, which (for brevity's sake) I shall call those of the Image (ch. ii.), of the Four Beasts (ch. vii.), of the He-Goat (ch. viii.), and (adopting that title from Mr. Faber and other writers) of the INFIDEL King (ch. xi.), were intended to afford successive developements of the history of Antichrist; and in order to illustrate this opinion (I do not say to prove it-for I propose it as that of which I am not entirely certain) I proceed to make a few remarks on each of these visions.
...I. THE VISION OF THE IMAGE.
Daniel, chap. ii. 31–45.
? This vision was given to king Nebuchadnezzar, to make known unto him what should be 6 in the latter days.” Verse 28.
It is explained, that the king hiniself was symbolized by the head of gold, and that the other parts of the Image prefigured three kingdoms wbich should arise in succession, after that of which he was the ruler.
It seems, therefore, to admit of no doubt, that the first of these four empires was the Babylonian ; but whether the other three were, as is commonly supposed, the MedoPersian, the Grecian, and the Roman, empires, may be questioned. The arguments. of Lacunza, on this point, I know not how to answer. They may, perhaps, be briefly stated thus
. (1.) The Babylonian empire was not destroyed or essentially altered when Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian, shook off the yoke of Belsházzar and obtained possession of the capital. Daniel says (ch. v. 30), “ In that night was Belsbazzar the king of the Chaldæans slain, and Darius the Mede took the kingdom.” Darius taking the kingdom became king of the Chaldæans, as Belshazzar had been ; and so Daniel calls him (ch. ix. 1,) “ Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldæans."*
Babylon was not destroyed ; on the contrary, Darius, Cyrus, and their successors, continued it as the seat of government. In fact, Nehemiah, who was čup-bearer to the successor in this empire a hundred years after the time of Cyrus, calls him simply the “ king of Babylon." The empire remained, therefore, one and the same; and even the subsequent removal of the seat of government from Babylon, to Persia which had been one of the pro-, vinces, did not cause the empire to lose its identity.
(2.) If we make the second empire that of Persia, beginning with Cyrus, it did not answer the terms of the prediction, which announced, that the second empire should be “ inferior” to the first; for this Persian empire, never was less, but equal to, or greater than, the kingdom of the Chaldæans founded by Nebuchadnezzar.
(3.) If we view these, which have commonly been considered as two kingdoms, as forming only one, the Grecian empire, founded by Alexander, will come to be
* To illustrate this by a reference to the history of our own countrywe might say in language very like that of Daniel—" In that day was James the king of the Britons driven out, and William the Dutchman took the kingdom.” Whatever difference of opinion might exist as to his right to the throne, I believe there was never any doubt, that it was the throne of the British empire as much after he was seated upon it as it had been before.