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sufficient to satisfy the mind, which dwells with sorrow upon the trials which true religion is even now destined to endure; upon the clouds which rest upon so large a part of the Christian world; upon the darkness which overwhelms so large a portion of mankind, upon whom the light of the Gospel never shines. We desire to know, why it has pleased God to visit his Church, for so many ages, with such trials; from what causes they arose; for what reasons the Almighty Father, in his infinite wisdom, permits their continuance; and when these afflictions shall finally cease.
Such a view of the divine dispensations is contained in the preceding exposition of the prophecies of the Apocalypse ; which exhibits to us an interesting prospect of the Christian Church, both in its trials and its triumphs, from the time when the Redeemer left the eartir to the great consummation of all things; and in which we behold the great Redeemer himself leading forth his Church to triumph and to victory; and never forsaking it, under all its trials, till the great adversary of God and man, and all the enemies of his truth, shall be destroyed. And, in this view of the Apocalypse, we find it exhibiting a remarkable agreement with the prophecies of the former dispensations, and throwing a light over these dark and distant intimations of the future plan of Redemption, which connects them with the more clear and distinct revelations of later prophecy; and thus presents to the mind the whole scheme of prophecy in interesting and delightful harmony with that view of our Redeemer's character, in which we regard him as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
But the due consideration of those opinions, which would apply the greater part of the Apocalyptic prophecies to the earlier period of the Christian dispensation, is more especially important; inasmuch as they strike at the root of that important doctrine, which it has been the object of the preceding pages to establish, with regard to the period of the duration of the two great Apostasies. This doctrine, as far as it regards the Papal apostasy, has been shewn to be necessarily connected with the true interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel, which evidently have reference to a very distant period of the Church; and to be alone in harmony with the great object and scope of the Apocalyptic prophecies, which have reference not to temporal objects, but to the Redeemer and his everlasting kingdom. Indeed, the great object of these prophecies is so evident, that those who have rejected the received doctrine with regard to the period of the 1260 years, have looked for the fulfilment of them in Rome, either in its former state before the Imperial government was destroyed, or in some future condition of the Roman Church, in which they will have a more complete and accurate fulfilment'. But both these opinions appear to be destroyed by the terms of the prophecy itself, which appear to limit the time, in which this apostasy was to make its appearance, to the period immediately succeeding that in which the temporal power of Rome was destroyed.
1. In the first place, Anti-christ was to be a spiritual tyranny. Now no spiritual tyranny can be said to have existed at Rome, whilst its temporal power was flourishing. The oppression which Christ
1 See Maitland's Second Inquiry, pp. 129–31.
ianity experienced in its early period, was entirely from the persecuting power of Imperial Rome.
2. Secondly, this anti-christian power was to arise in Rome after its temporal head was destroyed. Now such a power, a spiritual tyranny, did arise upon the destruction of the power of Imperial Rome, which for a long season did continue to enslave the Christian world.
3. Thirdly, this power was not to arise till a certain let was removed out of the way. This let was the Imperial Roman Empire, for whose preservation we have the testimony of Tertullian and others of the Fathers, the early Christians were accustomed to pray; because, as long as it existed, they believed that Anti-christ could not be revealed; and that the greatest calamity which ever threatened the world was delayed by its preservation.
4. Lastly, it has been shewn, that all attempts to establish the fulfilment of the prophecy of the 1260 days, considered with reference to its literal interpretation, have signally and manifestly failed ; and that nothing but understanding this period in its symbolical meaning will enable us to reconcile it with the prophecies of Daniel, which evidently have in view a future and a distant fulfilment.
These marks, selected from different parts of Scripture, appear to fix the commencement of the 1260 years to that age at least, in which it has been fixed by the majority of Protestant commentators. And with regard to the fulfilment of these prophecies, we must not seek it, either in countries, where other causes have operated to neutralize or destroy what have been charged as enormities on the Church of Rome; or in those numerous individuals of every age, whose lives have been an honour to our common Christianity, and who have been amongst the foremost to renounce any participation in the tyrannical and persecuting dogmas of the Church of Rome. But we must behold it in the decrees of Popes and of Councils; in the practice of that Church in the darkest periods of its history, and when its power was exercised without controul; and in those parts of the history of modern times, which exhibit instances of a tyrannical and persecuting spirit, which are almost without a parallel in any age. It is true, that the Church of Rome maintains the great doctrines of Christianity. But who can deny that the corruptions, which have been introduced into them, are such as entirely to annihilate them in their great and fundamental principles; and to destroy the peculiar character, which belongs to them, considered in their connection with those views of the Gospel dispensation, which teach us to regard it as a scheme of mercy from God to fallen man?
It is evident, indeed, that the prophecies relating to Papal Rome,—which are so striking, when we view them as constituting a chain of prophecy, commencing with Daniel, as carried on by St Paul, and finally set forth by St John, in all their power, in the Apocalypse,—would lose much of their force, if we could believe, with some eminent writers, that the Papal apostasy is not in any way alluded to by St Paul. Amongst those persons who have taken this view of the subject, some have supposed Simon Magus to be pointed out under the description of the Man of Sin ; others, the Gnostics; others again, the Jewish people; which last is the opinion of Le Clerc, Lightfoot, Hammond, and Whitby. A
late learned writer', (who however agrees with the majority of the commentators, in the application of the vision contained in the seventh chapter of Daniel and the corresponding prophecies of the Apocalypse to Papal Rome,) is of opinion that the Man of Sin is intended to personify those false Christs and false prophets, predicted by our Saviour, who were to appear before the destruction of Jerusalem; and that the apostasy or falling away refers to that departure from the Christian faith, of which the Man of Sin was in part to be the occasion. This is in perfect agreement with the view which is taken by this writer of the prophecies contained in the Seals; which he supposes, with Grotius, Hammond, and Lightfoot, to have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem”. If, however, we compare these different opinions with the terms in which St Paul describes the character of the Man of Sin, we shall find that they fail in their application in almost every particular. Whereas, on the contrary, if we examine the prophecies of St Paul relative to the Man of Sin and the Apostasy of the latter times, in connection with the prophecies of Daniel, on the one hand, and with those of the Apocalypse, on the other, we shall find them distinguished by characters of agreement, which it is impossible to mistake? And when they are considered together in one view, they not only prove, what is evident from other passages", that, amongst his many other high spiritual endowments, the gift of prophecy was in an eminent degree
1 The late Dr Pearson, Master of Sidney College, Cambridge, and Christian Advocate. Warburtonian Lec. tures, Lect. VIII, pp. 351–61.
2 Warburtonian Lectures, Lect. x.