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But, perhaps it may be asked, What arguments are , there which favour the conjecture of the 529th year of
Christ being that from which the power of the beast is to be dated? I own I have put this year down by accident, as the measurement back from 1789. To demonstrate, that in this year he came to such a state of maturity (for this mystery of iniquity was forming in the apostle's days,* and continued to grow for ages) as to constitute him a beast, is not essential to the making good our hypothesis. But though no man, from the history of past times, can determine the exact year from which God dates the kingdom of Antichrist, yet there are good reasons, from which a probable conjecture may be formed, that it was as early as the sixth century.
The apostle Paul, speaking of that which hindered the progress of this wicked one, says, (2 Thess. ii. 6.--12) The mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall that wicked one be revealed, &c. Our most approved commentators suppose, that by he who letteth, the imperial power is intended, and that we must not expect to find this wicked one arrived at maturity till the fall of the western empire. This took place A. D. 476. Soon after this, therefore, we may expect the ecclesiastical tyranny to be matured.
Some of our most able critics, as Bishop Newton and Mr. Lowman, are of opinion, that by the wound which the first beast received, chap. xiii. 3. we are to understand the blow which was given to the majesty and power of Rome, by subjecting it to the exarchate of Ravenna; and that by its being healed, is intended its restoration to its former dignity, by this exarchate being given to the Pope, by which he became a temporal prince. Now this wounding took place A. D. '568, and continued 206 years. If this be well considered, it tends much to strengthen our argument; for though, when the Pope was made a tempo, ral prince, at the time of this healing, the world wondered more than ever after the beast, (Rev. xiii. 3.) yet the Papal beast existed before, and this only gave him increasing eclat. But farther to confirm our hypothesis, consider the state of society, and particularly the state of what was called the church, in this sixth century. Now, magistrates were tyrants, and priests were wicked, supersti-,
* 2 Thess. ii. 7.
tious, and intolerant, beyond any former age.
Now, numberless laws and regulations were obtruded upon the church by human authority, which at once violated the authority of Christ, defaced Christianity, and robbed Christians of their dearest liberties. And in this very year 529, which we are looking for, the Justinian code was first published, by which those powers, privileges, and inmunities were secured to the clergy; that union perfected between things civil and ecclesiastical, and those laws imposed on the church which have proved so injurious to Christianity, and so calamitous to mankind. And which code, through the zeal of the clergy, has been received, more or less, as the foundation of the jurisprudence of almost every state in Christendom; and that not only in things croil but ecclesiastical; and by this means, as some anthor has observed, the old fancy of the Romans, about the eternity of their command, is thus far verified. We may add also, that this same Justinian, if not in 529, yet as early as 534, declared the Pope the head of all churches; all were to be subject to lis judgment, but himself to be judged by none. *
Now also it was that this emperor issued that impious Edict (the first law of the kind in the Roman empire) by which the imperial faith (having been first approved by the Roman pontiff) was imposed on all his christian subjects, and to impugn the doctrine of the trinity, as explained by his majesty, subjected the offender to loss of the most important civil rights, to confiscation of good and banishment, and which law has been copied into the statute books of all the states of the beast's empire, even that of Great Britain.
That this pamphlet, which is already larger than intended, may not be swelled into a volume, permit me to refer tó Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. Cent. VI. and especially part II. chap. 2d, 3d, and 4th. All sorts of absurdities were imposed; the grossest ignorance and wickedness prevailed among the clergy; the Bishop of Rome grasped at absolute authority over conscience, and unlimited supre
* Mr. Mann, explaining the heads of the Roman beast, writes, “Quis igitur rex septimus erit? Nimirum ipse Papa. Nam ex quo A. D. 534, cuin ecclesiarum omnium caput declaravit Justinianus, alii omnium judicem, ipsum a nullojudicandum, tanta reverentia & obsequio ab imp. ipsus cultus est, tanta authoritate ipsos subinde reprehendit, interdum etiam anathemate perculit, ut non ininus dicendus sit regnasse in spiria tualibus, quamvis se subditum semper servumque servorurn diceret, quam in temporalibus imperatores,” &c. See Bishop Newton's Dissertation, vol.ii. p. $33.
macy over the whole Christian church; and though he did not altogether succeed in the east, in this western part of the world, where the scene of John's visions chiefly lay, his dominion was acknowledged, and parasitical panegyrists, among other blasphemous assertions, maintained, that the Roman Pontiff was constituted judge in the place of God, which he filled as the vicegerent of the Most High, so that now was fulfilled that prediction of the apostle, 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4. As God he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Now, the wicked were taught that remission of sins was to be purchased by their liberalities to the church and its ministers; now those doctrines which taught men the worship of saints and images, the efficacy of observing human rites and institutions towards the attainment of salvation, the power lics, and a thousand more absurdities were brought to perfection. Now did monkery over-run the world, and marriage was forbidden, as unworthy of those who aspired to be saints.-And in this very year 529 also, a new order of monks, which in a manner absorbed all the others established in the west, was instituted by Benedict of Nursia. In process of time, this order having acquired immense riches, they sunk into luxury, intemperance, and sloth; abandoned themselves to all sorts of vices; extended their zeal and attention to worldly affairs; insinuated themselves into the cabinets of princes; took part in political cabals and court factions ; made a vast augmentation of superstitious rites; and, among other meritorious enterprizes, laboured most ardently to swell the arrogance, by enlarging the power and authority of the Roman tontitt. This and the other monastic orders, (sinks of ignorance, indolence, and vice!) were the fountains from whence issued all sorts of abominations, and the rivers which carried superstition, oppression, and violence, to all parts of the earth. They taught princes to tyrannize, and the people to cringe.
Was not the time of the publishing of the forementioned code of Justinian, and of the rising of this order of monks, &c. a period, in the history of the apostacy,in which we may suppose the Almighty, with distinguished propriety, to begin to reckon the 1260 years of the beast's power, and the treading down of the holy city? The conjecture is probable a priori; but, if present events, and these compared with other events, agree to recommend this date 529, the probability is much increased.
To say no more of this concurrence of several numbers, thus issuing from different periods, and these the most in teresting in the history of nations, and of the church, and yet harmonizing in their termination so conformable to what the prophets seem to point out, respecting the events of the last days; a concurrence which is not the effect of laboured contrivance, as some, at first sight may imagine, but the natural and necessary consequence of taking the French Revolution, in 1789, as the termination of the 1260 years of the prophets, and the point from which to measure all their other numbers, is a circumstance which gives great probability to the hypothesis, that the time is arrived for the downfal of the Antichristian tyranny, when God will rebuke the nations, and they shall learn war no more; when he reill consume the idolatrous and persecuting man of sin with the spirit of his mouth, and utterly destroy hiina with the brightness of his coming.