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SECOND EPISTLE TO TIE THESSALONIANS--CHAP. XII.
riod, 4763. angels 38,
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
2 THESS. ii. 1-12.
to the speedy coming of Christ to Judgment—He warns
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.
things that were to take place in his Church till the second
It is not, however, against particular errors only, that we
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
THE GREAT APOSTACY PREDICTED-CHAP, XII.
Julian Pe- our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Corinth.
Jews who revolted from the Romans, and the Jewish converts
The unbelieving Jews could not have apostatized from thc
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
Julian Pe. 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled Corinth.
tween these two prophecies of Daniel and St. Paul is well given
2 Thess. ii. 3. And that man of sin be revealed, the son of per-
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
Ver. 25. And he shall speak great words against the Most
Dan. xi. 36. And the king shall do according to his will; and
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
THE GREAT APOSTACY PREDICTED--CHAP. XII.
Julian Pe- neither by spirit
, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, Corinth. riod, 4763. as that the day of Christ is at hand. Vulgar Æra,
power. As soon as Constantine became a Christian, the power
The apostle continues, by describing him as opposing and ex-
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