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262

SECOND EPISTLE TO TIE THESSALONIANS--CHAP. XII.

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Julian Pe. Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty Corinth. Vulgar Æra, 52.

8 In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ :

9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power:

10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our
God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all
the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith
with

power ;
12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may

be
glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of
our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 THESS. ii. 1-12.
The Apostle here begins to rectify their Error, with regard

to the speedy coming of Christ to JudgmentHe warns
them against any pretended Revelations or spurious Epis-
tles, and calls to their Memory what he had already told
them, that a grand Apostacy must first take place: the
Character of which he fully describes ».

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38 Dr. Macknight has very satisfactorily proved, against Grotius, Locke, and others, in his Preface to this Epistle, that St. Paul, and the other apostles, did not expect the day of judg. ment in their own age.

39 When the religious opinions of a large body of the community have become the subject of frequent discussion in the legislature of a country, the judgment which the theological student may either form or express, concerning those opinions, will unavoidably appear to connect itself with the political 'discussions of the day. In considering this passage of Scripture, and in adopting that interpretation which Benson and various other Protestant commentators have given of St. Paul's prophecy of the apostacy from the purity of the Church, and of the power of the Man of Sin, I have no wish to obtrude my opinion on the political question, whcther the state would be justified in granting legislatorial privileges to a certain class of subjects ; I confine myself to the roligious, or theological part of the question, as all Protestants ought in some measure to consider it, and cautiously avoid any further allusion to the political part of the subject.

The rapid increase of the grossest superstitions of popery within the last half century, has rendered it an imperious duty on all who are convinced of its fatal tendency, to examine its pretensions, and expose their danger and fallacy. This system of error has extended so widely among mankind-it has prevailed so many centuries-its characteristics are so opposite to those which distinguished the Church of Jerusalem, the perfect model of a Church, (as Churches ought to be established among every nation), that we may justly suppose the spirit of

Julian Pe i Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of Corinth.
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things that were to take place in his Church till the second
advent, would have related to them the principal features of
this chief corruption of Christianity. Many passages are to be
found which, in the opinion of the Protestant divines, and be-
fore them of the early opponents of the corruptions of the
Church of Rome, fully and satisfactorily confirm this opinion.
The objectors to the Protestant interpretation of the passages
in question, affirm that they are merely descriptive of the va-
rious sects and heresies which disgraced the Church of Christ
in the days of the apostles. But this solution would by no
mcans set the controversy at rest. Even if we suppose that
the apostle did not prophesy the rise and progress of the
Church of Rome, but merely of various sects of Gnostics, &c.
&c. his condemnation of the practices and opinions of those
sects, would be still our warning against similar customs and
errors wherever they prevail. If, for instance, St. Paul, in his
Epistle to Timothy, censures those teachers in a Church who
forbid to marry : the Gnostics, or other heretics, who taught
this absurdity, are not more certainly condemned on this ac-
count, than the Church of Rome, which still enforces the same
unrequired austerity: and the same mode of reasoning is appli-
cable to various false doctrines, which need not at present he
enumerated.

It is not, however, against particular errors only, that we
may thus anticipate the denunciations of the spirit of prophecy.
As the ancient is dark idolatries of alienated Judah” were de-
scribed and condemned as systems of delusion and falsehood;
so also has the same spirit of prophecy described the mass of
errors which characterise the corrupt and seducing supersti.
tions of the unaltered and unalterable Church of Rome. One
of the principal passages which delineates this Church, is this
second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,
which has been amply discussed by Dr. Benson. This laborious
writer has examined, with true liberality and candour, the va.
rious interpretations of the chapter, and concludes with em-
bracing the general opinion of the Protestant writers, that the
Church of Rome is described and condemned by the spirit of
prophecy, in the language of St. Paul. As the subject in the
present, and indeed in every age, till tho second coming of
Cbrist, is of so much importance to all Christians, I shall freely
subjoin a view of the principal topics of his admirable disser-
tation, with their corroboration from other authors.

He begins with examining the various interpretations which bave been given of this prophecy. Grotius would persuade us that Caius Caligula, the Roman emperor, was here predicted; whereas this epistle was written about twelve years after his timo.

Dr. Hammond would refer it to Simon Magus and the Gnostics; but the former had already appeared, and was therefore already revealed. Others suppose it foretells the persecution of the Christians by the unbelieving Jews, before the destruction of Jerusalem. But as the other parts of the prophecy do not agree with this interpretation; the unbelieving Jews never having been united under one head, or leader; or never having been able to exalt themselves even to'imperial dignity, much more above all that is called God, sitting in the temple of God, showing himself to be God;" this explanation entirely fails.

Dr. Whitby, and some others, would have the unbelieving

264

THE GREAT APOSTACY PREDICTED-CHAP, XII.

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Jews who revolted from the Romans, and the Jewish converts
who apostatized from the Jewish to the Christian religion, to be
here signified. Whereas it is evident that one sort of apostacy
is only here mentioned-an apostacy from the true religion -as
the word årosaoia implies in other parts of Scripture. The
apostle confines himself to this point, and intimates that this
apostacy would be carried on and supported by pretended mi-
racles, and all the deceit of unrighteousness, and it would pre-
vail among those persons “ who believed not the trutb,” but
preferred a lie, and “ had pleasure in unrighteousness."

The unbelieving Jews could not have apostatized from thc
Christian religion, because they had never embraced it-Ma-
homet never professed the Christian religion, he therefore could
not be called an apostate. This prediction, however, has been
considered as relating to him, as he was the cause of the apos.
tacy of many Christians, and his religion was partly built upon
the ruin and corruption of Christianity; on which account ho
is said by some “ to sit in the temple of God.” It is likewise
stated that Mahomet was also a man of sin—a propbet-(and in
allusion to the prophecy of St. John, which is considered the
same as that of St. Paul,) that Constantinople, the residence of
the Grand Turk, his successor, stands upon seven hills. To
this it is answered, that Rome also stood upon seven bills-and
that Constantinople is not the city which in St. John's time
reigned over the kings of the earth ; whereas these two marks are
both united in St. John's prophetic description of the spiritual
Babylon. (Rev. xvii. 9. xviii. 2.) The man of sin was also “ lo
came after the working of Satan, with all powers, and signs,
and lying wonders.” That is, with open and great pretensions
to miracles, whereas few miracles are ascribed to Mahomet,
which are entirely renounced by their learned men; and Maho-
met, in bis Koran, lays no claim to the power of working
miracles.

The writers in the communion of the Church of Rome would refer this propbecy to the reformation from popery, to the falling away of the Protestants from the Church of Rome; whereas it does not appear that there was a Christian Church at Rome, when St. Paul wrote his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, nor are the Protestants united under one common and visible head upon earth ; nor do they pretend to establish their doctrine by miracles.

As we have rejected these interpretations, the next thing is to point out the apostle's meaning; and I think it may be said, that no prophecy could be more exactly accomplished than this has been in the Bishop of Rome, and his adherents. This apostacy is plainly of a religious nature, and has been predicted by Daniel iu the old dispensation, by St. Paul in the new, and by St. John in the Revelations, (chap. xvii. 1.). In the original it is distinguished as the apostacy; the article being added to give it strength, on which account it is supposed to allude to some previous propbecy, and that St. Paul referred to the prediction of Daniel (chap. vii. 25, and ix. 36.) is clear, as he has adopted the same ideas and expressions. The article is also placed before "the man of sin," (or, as it may be rendered, the lawless one,) to give it a similar emphasis. This phrase may relate either to a single man, or a succession of men, but as it was used in Daniel in relation to the latter, there are good grounds for considering it in the samo sense bere. The comparison be

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tween these two prophecies of Daniel and St. Paul is well given
by Macknight in the following passages.

2 Thess. ii. 3. And that man of sin be revealed, the son of per-
dition.

2 Thess. ii. 4. Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, sbewing himself that he is God.

Dan. vii. 21. And the same horn made war with the saints, and
prevailed against them.

Ver. 25. And he shall speak great words against the Most
High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High.

Dan. xi. 36. And the king shall do according to his will; and
ho shall esalt himself above every god, and shall speak marvel-
Jous things against the God of gods.

Dan. viii. 25. He shall also stand up against the Prince of prinoes.

2 Thess. ii. 7. Only he who now letteth, will let, until he be taken out of the way.

2 Thess. ii. 8. And then shall that wicked one be revealed.

Dan. vii. 8. I considered the horns, and behold there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.

I Tim. iv. I. Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.

Ver. 3. Forbidding to marry:

Dan. vii. 25. And he shall think to change times and laws, and they shall be given into his hand. See Dan. viii. 24.

Dan. xi. 38. In his state he shall honour the God of forces (Mabuzzin), gods who are protectors, that is, tutelary angels and saints.

Dan. xi. 37. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women.

2 Thess. ii. 8. Wbom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

Dan. vii. 11. I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke, I beheld, even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame.

Ver. 26. And they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end.

Dan. viii, 25. He shall be broken without hand.

It will be now necessary to examine the particular clauses of this extraordinary prediction. The apostle first foretells, that before the coming of the Lord, there will be a falling away, or an apostacy: And accordingly we find the members of the Church of Rome, instead of relying on one Mediator between God and man, have substituted the doctrine of demons, that is, of the spirits of men, who have departed this life; and not considering the atonement and intercession of Christ all-sufficient, they make to themselves other mediators and other advo. cates--invoking the Virgin Mary and the saints, more frequently than God himself. They have succeeded Rome in the seat of empire, and have also apostatized to her imagery and idolatry. When the grand apostacy had arrived at its height, then was to be revealed one who should be deservedly called the man of sin, on account of his wickedness, and the son of perdition, because of the great and terrible punishment which should eventually be inflicted on him.

The man of sin bogan accordingly to be revealed as soon as the Roman Emperors, and the heallien magistrates, lost their

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THE GREAT APOSTACY PREDICTED--CHAP. XII.

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power. As soon as Constantine became a Christian, the power
of heathen Rome was restrained, and the Christians ceased to
be persecuted; then it was that the man of sin gradually ex-
alted himself; then it was that the worship of saints and angels
was introduced, robbing God of the honour due to his name.
Celibacy was recommended by feigned visions of angels, and
certain kinds of meats prohibited; miraculous cures were attri-
buted to the bones and relics of the martyrs; and departed
spirits returned to earth, in order to prescribe particular forms
and ceremonies for the relief or mitigation of their sufforings in
purgatory. By these decrecs, and by these artifices, the man of
sin was first revealed.

The apostle continues, by describing him as opposing and ex-
alting himself above all that is called God; sitting in the tem-
ple of God. The word Oeds, used here without an article, (in
opposition to o Deos, the supreme Deity), signifies a God (a namo
given in Scripture to princes and magistrates, Ps. Ixxxii. 6.)
and particularly to the Roman Emperors, whose title in the
time of the apostle was gebagroc, and who are here signified by
gebaoua, as God is by the word o£lov. If, then, we thus inter-
pret the word, St. Paul here declares that the man of sin would
exalt himself above all the great of the earth, and even above
the imperial dignity. And in this point of view all bistory bears
record of the signal fulfilment of this prophecy. The Bishop of
Rome has been styled a God, who ought not to be called to an
account; the supreme Deity upon earth, by whom princes
reign, and upon whom the right of kings depends. The Bi-
shops of Rome have dethroped princes, absolved subjects from
their allegiance, and made emperors their vassals; treading
upon the neck of one king, and kicking off the imperial crown
of another with his foot. He sits also in the temple of God,
shewing himself that he is God. The temple of God is here
supposed to signify the Christian Church, as it is not probable
it referred to the tomple of Jerusalem, whose approaching de-
struction was known to the apostle. By this prophetic intima-
tion we are taught to expect that the man of sin would profess
himself a Christian; and we consequently tind that the Bishops
of Rome exalted themselves above all other bishops, and cen-
tred in themselves all ecclesiastical authority and influence,
claiming infallibility, and anathematizing all those who did not
fall into their unprincipled plans and intrigues ; till at last they
succeeded in establishing a spiritual and civil tyranny over the
whole Christian world.

The obstacle that impeded the revealing of the man of sin is generally supposed by the ancient fathers to bo the Roman empire. (See also Rev. xiii. and xvii.). The cautious manner in which the apostle hints at it, avoiding even the mention of the restraining power in writing, although he had previously declared it to the Thessalonians, strengthens this suggestion. And it is a remarkable circumstance, that so much was this the general opinion of the primitive Christians, that they were accustomed to pray for the continuanco of the Roman empire, being well convinced that the moment the Roman empire was dissolved, the man of sin would be revealed. That this part of the prophecy was not misunderstood, is clear from the event ; for in proportion as the power of the empire decreased, the power of the Church increased, till at last the man of sin was fully revealed. The Roman empire, the obstructing power, began to

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