Page images




2 Thess. ii. 1-12. TŃ a former dissertation, the apostasy of intelligent creatures I from the kingdom of God was considered, in the most general view of it. At present, we are to enquire after an apoftafy, which (though not so general) is a most signal and remarkable one.

St. Paul planted the Christian church at Thessalonica. After he had left them, the Christians of that place fell into a mistake concerning the coming of the day of the Lord; imagining that the Apoftle thought it to be just at hand. He suspected the mistake to have arisen from some persons affirming that he had said so, misinterpreting his former Epistle, or forging an Epistle under his name. To rectify that mistake, seems to have been his principal view in writing his Second Epistle to them : in which he repeats what he had formerly taught them, concerning a grand apoftafy, which would, before that day, arise in the Christian church; and, therefore, that great day must be at some confiderable distance.

That this day of Christ cannot refer to his coming to the destruction of Jerufarem and of the Jewish nation, will be plain and evident, if we examine into the riie and progress of this affair, as it now appears in these two epiftles. I Theff. iv. 13, &c. the Apostle had admonished the Christians at Theffalonica, not to lament over their deceased friends as they had done, when they were Heathens. To prevent which, for the future, he puts them in mind of the Christian promise of a glorious resurrection to endless life and happiness. When that reiurrection will be, he also informed them; viz. at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then such of the Christians as shall be found alive on this earth, shall be transformed; the dead raised; and the righteous adınitted to complete and everlasting felicity. Having mentioned 6 that coming of the Lord,” or rs of the “ day of the Lord,” he goes on with his discourse, i Thess. v. 1. &c. afiuring them, that it would come suddenly and surprisingly. And, as the particular time is unknown, men ought always to be prepared.--Now, if that day," and the day (or coming) of the Lord," i Theff. iv. 13. &c. and v. 1, &c. ought to be understood of the day of judgment, that remarkable day, when Jesus Christ Thall de. icend from heaven, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet

of God; when the dead shall be raised, and the living transformed; I think it evident, that it ought to be founderstood in this place. For, of the same day, and of the same " coming of the Lord,” St. Paul appears plainly to be speaking in both these Epistles. And what may further confirm this is, that these phrases “[that day, " the day, or the coming of the Lord, ]” do, in other places of the New Testament, generally signify his coming to judge the world at the last day. TSee on 2 Theff. ii. 2.] As, therefore, this is the usual 'fignification of these phrases in other places of the New Testament, and the most evident meaning of them in these two Epistles to the Thessalonians, we have no occafion upon that account to look for 66 the man of fin,” and “the “grand apoftafy,” before the “ destruction of Jerusalem;" as they are obliged to do, who understand this coming of the Lord" to refer to his coming to the deitruction of that city and the Jewish nation.

None of the seven following interpretations of this prophecy appear to me to be well-grounded.

I. Grotius would persuade us, that Caius Caligula, the Roman emperor, was the man of fin” here prophesied of. Whereas, according to the best chronologers, this Epistle was written about twelve years after the death of that emperor. See the history prefixed to this Epistle.] This, therefore, could not be a prophecy of the folly and wickedness of Caligula*.

II. Dr. Hammond would have Simon Magus and the Gnoftics to be here intended.But Simon Magus had already shewed himself to be an enemy to Chriftianity at Samaria; and, therefore, was not yet to be revealed. And, as to his conflict with St. Peter at Rome, and many of the doctor's stories about the Gnoftics, they seem to be built upon too fandy a foundation to deferve much regard. Mr. Baxter, Dr. Whitby, Mr. Le Clerc, Dr. Wall, and Mr. John Alphonsus Turretin, have abundantly confuted that interpretation.

Grotius's introducing Simon Magus, ver. 8, 9. seems to be as groundless. For the Apostle does there evidently continue to speak of the same person which he had begun with, ver. 3, 4. And, if the whole prophecy could not agree, either to Caligula, or to Simon Magus and his deluded followers, Grotius ought not, in his interpretation, to have referred any part of it to either of them,

III. Others take the unbelieving Jews, who persecuted the Chriftians, before the destruction of Jerusalem, and made many of them apoftatize to judaism, to be as the man of fin,” &ct.

Answer.] Though the unbelieving Jews persecuted the Christians, yet they were not united under one single head or leader. They were never able to exalt themselves above all that is called a God, or

even * See this interpretation of Grotius more largely confuted in Dr. H. More's " Mystery of

iniquity," p. 44.5, &c. And by John Alphonfus Turretin, in his. “Commen .ary on chia : « Epistle," Bafil. 1739..

I See Mr. La Roche's New Memoirs of Literature for September, 1720,

vealed; neither did they apoftatize from Christianity, nor fit in the ternple of God, nor attempt to establish their power by miracles.

VII. Some of the Papists interpret this apostasy to be “the falling * away of the Protestants from the church of Rome.” And so, by a strange legerdemain, the Protestants are to be " the man of fin," or his forerunners at least. Whereas it does not appear that there was a Christian church at Rome, when St. Paul wrote this 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.-These and many other things plainly shew, that it is ridiculous to apply this prophecy to "the

Reformation from Popery."

As we have rejected these misinterpretations, the next thing is to point out the Apostle's meaniny. And, however difficult it may appear upon a transient reading, we may venture to say, “ that no proof phecy could have been more exactly accomplished, than this has “ been, in the bishop of Rome, and his adherents.” And therefore, as it describes them, and the whole of it suits them, and them alone, there is the greatest reason to think it was intended to represent them; especially as it is a remarkable and uncommon event, the like to which never happened before, and, most probably, never will happen again.

But let us go over the several parts of this prophecy.

Ver. 3. Before the coming of the day of the Lord, the Apostle foretold, that there would be a falling away,” or an apoftafy.And, accordingly, what an amazing apoftasy from the true Christian worship, doctrine, and practice, has happened in the church of Rome, and is to this day supported in and by that church! Instead of worshipping God in spirit and in truth, they have introduced external pomp and numberless ceremonies, which strike upon the senses, and serve for amusement, without making better the heart and the life.--Instead of worshipping God, through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man, they have substituted the doctrine of demons, that is, of the spirits of men departed out of this life; who, as they pretend, intercede with God for us. And they invoke the Virgin Mary, and their other saints, more frequently than God hiinfelf.-They have not only fucceeded Rome heathen, in the seat of empire, but have also apoftatized to her imagery and idolatry, though they have disguised it with new names and different pretensions*.

Instead of the Christian doctrine, they have apoftatized from the faith ; and, in many countries, have taken from the common people the free use of the Holy Scriptures, 'in their own mother-tongue; that they might with the more ease propagate their delusions. För


* See “ Dr. Middleton's Letter from Rome:" with which compare “ Roma antiqua.& “ recens : Or the Conformity of ancient and modern ceremonies; rewing, from indif« putable testimonies, that the ceremonies of the Church of Rome are borrowed from the « P gans. Written in French before 1666, tranílated into Engli n by James Du Pré. 55 Lond. 1732.”-See also “ Sir Isaac Newton's book on the Prophecie. of Daniel and the

pocalypie," p. 204.

and therefore might, in some sense, be said “ to fit in the temple of “God;" yet the Apostle could not foretell that, as a future event. They did so already; and, for some time, had done so. Indeed, Dr. Whitby alledges, that the Apostle does not here foretell what would be, but speaks of what was already, as to that particular, the man of fin's fitting in the temple of God. But the series of the prophecy will not bear that interpretation; for, though he fometimes Speaks in the present, he is all along to be understood in the future, tenfe: as we find the apostles and prophets often using the present for the future tense, in their predictions

V. As Mahomet did never profess the Christian religion, he could not be called an apoftate. However, as he caused many Christans to apoftatize, and built his religion parily upon the ruin and corruption of Christianity, dome have thought that he might, in some sense, be said " to fit in the temple of God.” He was likewise "a man of fin,” or a very wicked man. And, though he pretended to be a prophet, yet he shewed himself to be in reality no prophet, but a temporal potentate. And, finally, he arose after the downfall of the Roman empire, which I take to have been that which letted, or obstructed, the appearance of the man of fin. All these things may be said in favour of that interpretation which represents this as a prophecy of Mahomet. But then, on the other hand, I. Suppose St. John and St. Paul prophesied of the fame event (as, I think, they did), it is evident that Rome must be the seat of the grand impoftor ; that is, the city which stood upon seven bills. To this it is objected, “ Constantinople stands upon seven hills; and therefore Mahomet might be intended; for his fuccessor, the Grand Turk, resides at Constantinople.” To which it may be easily and justly answered, that, suppose Constantinople does stand upon leven huls, it is notorious that ancient Rome did fo likewile. And Constantinople is not the city which, in St. John's time,“ reigned over the kings of the earth.”. Whereas there two marks were both united in St. John's prophetic description of soiritual Babylon, the seat of that tyrannical power; where idolatry, persecution, and various forts of wickedness, should abound. Rev. XVI. 9. 18. 2. It is a sufficient argument against applying this prophecy to Mahenet, that as the man of fin” was 66. to come after the

working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders ;" that is, with open and great pretensions to miracles. Whereas. though several miracles are ascribed to him, by the fabulous and le gendary writers among the Mahometans, yet their learned men renounce them all. Nor does.Mahomet himself, in his Koran, lay any claim to miracles*.

VI. Though heathen Rome opposed Christianity very much, and the emperors exalted themselves above all the kings and potentates upon earth; yet this their exaltation was not a thing then to be re


* See Dr. Prideaux's ! Life of Mahomet, p. 31;" and Mr. Sale's " Tran Nation of A! * Koran," p. 203, 236, 473

The form of indulgences, a little before the Reformation, was fa ample, that rich men were unconcerned what fins they committed ; as knowing that they could, living or dead, purchase a pardon, For, suppose they neglected it during their lives, it was but leaving so much money, by their wills, after their deaths, for masses and in dulgences, and they were assured that all would be forgiven theni.Can such notorious wickedness always escape, without an eminent perdition?

so much money they were dineis always

Can fuchs and they their wills, during chreidead,


Banck, Laurence) hath given us the history of that remarkable book. In which there is a very particular account, how much money was paid into the Apostolic or Pope's chambers for almost all forts of vices. For instance; “ He who had becn guilty of incest with “ his mother, filter, or other relation, either in consanguinity or affinity, is taxed at 5 groe. « The absolution of him who has deflowered a virgin, 6 gros *. The absolution of him " who has murdered his father, mother, filter, wife,--5 or 7 gros.

“ The absolution and pardon of all acts of fornication committed by any of the clergy, 66 in what manner soever, whether it be with a nun, within or without the limits of the

nunnery, or with his relations in confanguinity or affinity, or with his god-daughter, " or with any other woman whatsoever ; and whether also the said absolution be given in the 66 name of the clergyman himself only, or of him jointly with his whores, with a dispenfa. « tion to enable him to take and bold his orders and ecclefiaftical benefices, and with a " clause also of inhibition, costs 36 tournois, and 9, or 3 ducats.--And if, besides the “ above, he receives absolution from fodomy, or bestiality, with the dispensation and clause as of inhibition, as before, he must pay go tournois, 12 ducats, and 6 carlins. But, if " he receives absolution from sodomy, or bestiality only, with the difpenfation or clause of “ inhibition, he pays only 36 tournois, and 9 ducats.

" A nun, having committed fornication several times, within and without the bounds of “ the nunnery, thall be absolved, and enabled to hold all the dignities of her order, even 66 that of Abbess, by paying 36 tournois and 9 ducats,

“ The absolution of him who kecps a concubine, with difpenfation to take and hold his «c orders and ecclesiastical benefices, costs 21 tournois, 5 ducats, and 6 carlins,”

This is a translation of the very words of the book itself; only the first articles to the * are wanting in one edition. However, these articles also are in the most perfect and correct editions.

This book has been several times printed, both in Papish and Protestant countries; and the Protestant Princes insertec it among the causes of their rejecting the Council of Trenta When the Papists saw what are the Proteftants made of it, they put it into the list of prohibited books. But then they condemned it, only upon the supposition of its having been corripted by the (Protestants, or) Heretics.-But, let them fuppofe, as much as they please, that it has been corrupted by heretics; the editions of it which have been published in Popish countries, and which the Papists cannot disown; as that of Rome, 1914, that of Cologn, 1515, those of Paris, 1520, 1545, and 1625, and thofe of Venice; one in the 6th volume of " Oceanus juris,” published 1523 ; the other in the fifteenth volume of the fame collection, reprinted 1584--these editions, I say, are more than sufficient to justify the reproaches of the Proteitants, and to cover the church of Rome with confufion. The Popish controvertists, who have not a word to say against the authority of the edition of Rome, or that of Paris, &c. are under great perplexity. However, since the Protestants have made so great a handle of this book, the Papists pretend that, though some of the Popes have been guilty of such infamous practices, and fuffered such books to appear, yet the church of Rome in general abhors them. (A fine proof of the infallibility of their Popes!) .

But the church of Rome has never shewn, by the suppression of these taxes, that fhe has had tliem in abhorrence. They have been printed, as has been already observed; thrice at Paris, twice at Cologn, and twice at Venice.' And fome of these editions have been pube Hished since Claude d'Espenca, a Popith doctor, exclaimed publicly against the enormities of this book.-- The Inquitition of Spain, and that of Rome, have condemned the book, only 35 shey (pretend) it to have been corrupted by heretics.

I must add, that the suppression of such a work is not a sure sign of disapproving the rules which it contains. This may only fignity that they repented of the publication of it, as it gave so fair a handle for the Protestants to reproach the court of Rome, and to wound the church of Rome through the sides of the Pope.---These ought to be esteemed mysteries of date, “ arcana imperii,” sot it to be divulged.

« PreviousContinue »