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christ of the last times. For it is the essential characteristic of the latter, that he denies the Father and the Son; denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.* The predictions noted in this Dissertation decide, that Antichrist was to be a terrible, atheistical Power, to arise in the last days, and to bring upon itself swift destruction. He ascendeth from the bottomless pit, and gocth into perdition. His judgment lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not. His ruin is nearly connected with his origin. His reign is thus to be of short continuance. But could this have been said of the Papal hierarchy? Surely not. That was to continue for many centuries; even 1260 years.
We shall find in the predictions to be noted, that it is the Roman beast, under his last head; and not the Papal beast; nor the little horn; nor the false prophet, that is to be found in battle array against Christ, at the time of the end, or of the seventh vial. Dan. vii, 11; I beheld then because of the voice of the great words, which the horn spake; I heheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning
flame. Here the great Power, predominant upon the ground, at the commencement of the battle of that great day of God Almighty, is the Roman beast, in distinction from the Papal power. This accords with the various descriptions of the same event in the Revelation to St. John.' There we find that the Powers, then in array against Christ, are the beast and false prophet; the Roman beast under his last head, and Popery. In the various passages, where these Powers are mentioned at
, that period, they are found in this connexion. The beast. is first, and predominant. In Rev. xvii, we shall find this terrible beast is bearing the Papal harlot to her execution; and is to be her executioner. These representations all imply, that Antichrist was to be another Power beside the Papal hierarchy.
The present state of this hierarchy utterly forbids, that she can be that vast terrific Power, in terrible array against Christ, in the last days. The Romish hierarchy
*1 John ii, 22.
has already fallen under the iron grasp of a far superior Power, who is inflicting the judgments of heaven upon her. And to whatever degree of mischief to the people of God, this hierarchy may be made an engine of policy and ambition in the hands of this superior Power, she will never more be predominant. She will be nothing more than a political puppet in the hands of an Imperial master. The latter is the terrible Power, the beast, whose body is to be destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
Antichrist, or the great Power predicted in Dan, xi, 36, is at, cr near, the time of the end, to be engaged in a war with the king of the north, and the king of the south; Dan. xi, 40. No such event as this was ever fulfilled with respect to the Papal power; nor can it ever be, according to any present probability. This one consideration must afford a full decision, that Antichrist, the terrible Power of the last days, is distinct from, and subsequent to, the Papal power. It will appear, I trust, in all the predictions to be noted in this Dissertation, that Antichrist is a distinct Power from Popery.
When the reformation under Luther, the art of printing, and the revival of learning in Europe, had unveiled the abominations of Popery, millions, whose pride of heart would not permit them to embrace the doctrines of the reformation, would easily be induced to deny God, and the Christian religion. This was a process very nat, ural in old, corrupt, Popish countries, after the mummery of their false system was exposed. And especially was this the case, among a people constitutionally licentious, volatile, haughty, and impatient of every moral restraint. Such a people would need only an association of subtle, Infidel philosophers, under the instigation of the old serpent, to institute a scheme which would give birth to the Antichrist of the last time. And such will appear to have been his origin.
Antichrist predicted by the Apostles.
In 1 John ii, 18, we read, Little children, it is the last time:. and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. This Epistle is supposed to have been written with a principal view to the Christian Jews. A principal object of the writer probably was, to exhibit the beauties of the Christian character, in contrast with the bitterness of the unbelieving Jews, and of the carnal heart; and to evince the great doctrine, that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah; in opposition to the infidelity of the Jews. *
This Epistle is supposed to have been written just before the destruction of Jerusalem; which was one çoming of Christ, or a lively type of the destruction of Antichrist at the battle of the great day. This circum- . stance may explain the writer's saying, it was the last time; in the original, the last hour. It was then, as it were, the last hour, previous to the coming of Christ, in the fatal catastrophe of the Jewish nation. There were at that time many violent opposers of the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ, especially among the Jews, and the Judaizing teachers;t from which event the Apostle infers, that it was the last hour with that unbe. lieving nation. And so it proved in fact. For wrath soon came upon them to the uttermost. * Eleven hun. dred thousand of the Jews perished by the sword, at the siege and taking of Jerusalem by the Romans. And more than fourteen hundred thousand were destroyed in that war. Their Temple was burnt; their city de. stroyed; and the small remnant of the Jews were sold for slaves to different nations. Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come. He alludes to predictions of an event, which was then far future. When he adds, even now are there many antuhrists, he could not 'mean, that these many antichrists constituted that Antichrist, who, they had heard, was to come. He distinguishes between that Power, then far future, and the petty, individual antichrists of his day, putting one in the singular, and the other in the plural. We may view the passage, as amounting to what is expressed in the following paraphrase: “Ye are assured in various predictions, that a terrible Power, which may properly be styled Antichrist, on account of his enmity against the Christian cause, shall arise in the last days; and shall bring upon
*It has been supposed by some, that St. John, in this Epistle, had his eye upon the heresies of the Gnostics and Ebionites. The Gnostics, a heretical, gentile sect, from Simon Magos, boasting of their knowledge sufficient to teach men the things of God, denied the humanity of Jesus Christ; and held that he suffered only ip appearance. The Ebionites, a heretical sect of Jewish Christians, denied the Divinity, and the miraculous conception of Jesus Christ; yet pretended to hold that he was sent of God. Possibly the sacred writer had his eye upon these heretics. They virtually denied the Father and the Son, and thus were anti. christs. But the infidelity and bitterness of his nation, the Jews, and the hordes of Judaizing teachers, whom Paul calls dogs, evil workers, and the concision, Philip. iii, 2, probably were one great occasion of his writing this Epistle.
+Titus i, 10, 11.
himself swift destruction. So that the appearance of that wicked Power shall be a certain token of its then being the last time, with the enemies of the Church. And even now are there many among our countrymen, of the same bitter, infidel spirit; by which we know it to be the last time with the Jewish polity.” Josephus informs, that in the last tremendous scenes, of the destruction of the Jews, it was common for them to make a jest of Divine things, and to deride, as so many senseless tales, and juggling impostures, the sacred oracles of their prophets.” They were given up to the most gross and barefaced infidelity; and thus they were the antichrists of that day. Or they may be viewed as a type of the great Antichrist of the last time. Who is a har, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son.t
*See Josephus on the destruction of Jerusalem.
+1 John ii, 22.
And every spirit, that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world.* Here it is the decided character and spirit of Antichrist, that he is a gross Infidel: Not merely loving to have pre-eminence; or corrupting the ordinances of Christ; as did the Romish hierarchy; but expressly denying Christ; having the very spirit, which the infidel Jews possessed. The Apostle in the above passages teaches, that the Antichristian spirit, then existing, indicated that it was the last hour with its subjects. But it was the last hour only with the Jews. It was their gross infidelity then, which he calls the spirit of Antichrist. His inference, that the spirit of Antichrist, then existing, indicated, that it was the last hour with its subjects, was deduced from this fact, which he understood to be a truth; viz. that the rise of Antichrist was to be but a short time, like an hour, before his utter destruction. The reasoning of the Apostle rests on this ground. For surely if Antichrist might exist many centuries, as did Popery, before he goeth into perdition, the Apostle could not have inferred from the existence of the spirit of Antichrist in his day, that it was the last hour with its subjects. We arrive then at this conclusion from the remarks of St. John, that Antichrist is another Power beside the Papal hierarchy; and that his rise was to be but a short time before the battle of the great day. And these ideas we find clearly exhibited in various prophecies.
The Apostles, Paul, Peter, and Jude, were express in predicting this terrible Power; and in describing the propagators of his Atheistical, licentious doctrines. Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, iv, 1, predicts the apostasy and superstition of the church of Rome; which, as he informs us, were to take place in the latter days. And in his second Epistle, iii, 1, he makes an advance, and predicts the rise of another, and later Power; and one of a different character. The prediction respects that vast influence of Infidelity in the
*1 John iv, 3.