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PROPHECIES CONCERNING ANTICHRIST,
1 Ep. John ii. 18.
Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come
AMONG the more remarkable prophecies concerning the Christian church, there are several, which describe the rise, progress, and downfal of a certain Power, represented under various symbols or images, and distinguished by many appellations; but more especially known by the name of ANTICHRIST.
These prophecies come now, in the order of this Lecture, to be considered. The subject 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 obstructions, I shall begin with laying before you a clear and distinct state of the question itself, which is ehiefly agitated by inquirers into these prophecies.
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 very extraordinary power, which was to manifest itself in the latter times, that is, in the times subsequent to the intro. duction 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, to abridge our trouble in searching after this three"headed monster, we are directed by the prophets to
look for him within the boundaries of what was
sercised. is communior what improblem
* By thie word Tyranny, here and elsewhere in these discourses, as applied to the pope, I would be understood to mean, that supereminent dominion, which he exercised, or claimed a right of exercising, over the princes and states of his communion, in all affairs both temporal and spiritual.-I use the word (somewhat improperly, perhaps) for the sake of brevity, as I know of no other singleterm, that so well expresses my meaning,
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 characters, 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 era 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 debate is merely this, Whether imperial, or papal 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: the Protestants have, on the contrary, their reasons for maintaining, that papal Rome is that power, which 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 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.
I. THE FIRST ACCOUNT, we meet with in 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 hath been already, more than once, observed concerning the scriptural division of time