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SERMON is, in a high degree, curious and important;
but of no easy discussion: not so much on the account of any peculiar difficulty in the prophecies themselves, as from the prejudice of party in explaining them, and still more, from the general prejudice that lies against every attempt to explain them.
To make my way through all these obstruc-: tions, I shall begin with laying before you a clear. and distinct state of the question itself, which is chiefly agitated by inquirers into these prophęcies.'
It is admitted, that many predictions in the Old and New Testament, particularly in the book of Daniel, in St. Paul's Epistles, and in the Revelations of St. John, clearly point out a yery extraordinary power, which was to
, manifest itself in the latter times, that is, in the times subsequent to the introduction of Christianity. The characters, by which this power (acknowledged by all under the name of Antichrist) is chiefly distinguished, are those of Tyranny", Idolatry, and Intolerance. And,
Col1 Hurtis it a By the word Tyranny, here and elsewhere in these
, discourses, as applied to the Pope, I would be understood to mean, that super-eminent dominion, which he
to abridge our trouble in searching after this SERMOR three-headed monster, we are directed by the prophets to look for him within the boundaries of what was properly called, the Roman Empire, and even in the city of Rome itself.
Thus far there is no dispute. The only question is, To what. Roman power, exhibiting those chiaracters, the prophecies are to be applied. ' And even this question is reduced within narrow limits. For two Powers only have subsisted in Rome, from the Christian æra to the present times (within which period we are, again, allowed to expect the reign of Antichrist); the Roman Emperor, in the first place; and, afterwards, the Roman Pontifs. So that, on the whole, the single point in de bate is merely this, Whether Imperial, or Papa! Rome, be that Antichristian Power, which the prophets foretold. The church of Rome holds," for obvious reasons, that the Imperial power is the object of the prophecies a the Protestants hàve, on the contrary, their reasons for main-' taining, that Bapal Rome is that power, which
exercised, or claimed a right of exercising, over the princes and states of his communion, in all affairs both temporal and spiritual. — use the word (somewhat impi
improperly, perhaps) for the sake of brevity, as I know of other single term, that so well expresses my meaning:
SERMO the prophecies had in view, and in which alone
they are truly and properly verified.
This, then, is the meaning of that famous inquiry concerning Antichrist: and I must desire you to keep your attention steadily fixed on the question, as here stated; while I endeavour to furnish you with the proper means of deciding upon it.
The obvious method of doing this, would be, To lay before you, directly, the prophecies themselves, and to examine them by the light of sober criticism, and authentic history. But, because it is no new or difficult thing to misrepresent facts, and to misinterpret scripture, to pervert, in short, these two instruments of truth to any ends, which prejudice hath in view; and because I know how natural it is for you to suspect such management in the present case, where the zeal of party is supposed, on either side, to exclude, or over-power, the love of truth; for these reasons, it may be convenient
1 to take a larger compass, and, by a previous historical deduction of this controversy, to let you see in what light it has been regarded, through the several ages of the Christian Church.
1. THE FIRST ACCOUNT, we meet with in Sermos scripture, of the power in question, I mean, under his proper name of Antichrist, is in the first epistle of St. John, from which the text is taken. The whole passage runs thus - Little children, it is the last time : And, as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now
, there are many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
To understand these words, we must call to mind what liath been already, more than once, observed concerning the scriptural division of time into two great portions, The FORMER, and LATTER times. By the former, is meant the times preceding the Christian æra ; by the latter, the times subsequent to it. Coriespondent to this partition of time, is the double advent of Christ, of which I before gave a distinct idea. His first advent was, when he caine in the flesh at Jerusalem: his second advent is to be understood of his coming in his kingdom, through all the ages of the Christian Church.
» But though the latter times, in the general sense of scripture, be thus comprehensive, they are further subdivided into other constituent portions, in which some particular state of
SERMON Christ's kingdom is administered, and within
which it is completed. In reference to this subordinate division of time in the Christian dispensation, the coming of Christ is, also, proportionably multiplied. He comes in each division; that is, as oft as he thinks fit to interpose by any signal act of his
providence. The whole period, in which any distinct state of his kingdom is carrying on, is likewise called the latter time; and the concluding part of that period is distinguished by the name of the last hour : as if the whole of each period were considered as one day; and the close of each period, as the end, or last hour, of that day.
Thus, the time that elapsed from Christ's ascension to the destruction of Jerusalem, being one of the subdivisions, before mentioned, is called the latter times; and the eve of its destruction, is called the last hour. He was coming through the whole time: he came in the end of it. And the like use of these terms is to be made, in other instances. We are to apply them in the same manner to the reign of Antichrist — to the Millennium--to the day of judgment. Each of these states, into which the latter times, or the times of Christianity, are divided, is likewise spoken of