Page images
PDF
EPUB

zans of the cause will not fcruple to lay hold on every popular topic, by which it may be promoted. But an ill name, is the readiest of all expedients, and generally the most effectual, for this service.

And as Heretic is the term in use, when the church of Rome would discredit the Reformation; fo, Antichrist serves just as well, in the mouth of a Protestant, to disgrace the Catholic party. Hence, the people are gratified in a low spite against the person of the Pope; the better fort are confirmed in their religious or politic averGon to the church of Rome; and Princes themselves are invited to came in aid of the prophecies, by turning their arms and councils against a godless antichriftian tyranny: and all this, to the ruin of public peace, and in defiance of Christian charity.”

When men declaim, instead of arguing, or, what is worse, when they argue from their suspicions only, it may not be easy to give them an anfwer to their

satis

satisfaction. Otherwise, one might reply,

First, That the question is not, what use has been, or may be, made of this doctrine concerning Antichrift; but whether there be reason to believe that sucha doctrine is really contained in facred fcripture. If there be, it will become us to treat it with respect, how much fuever it may have been misapplied, or perverted.

In the next place, one might observe that mo man, who understood the state of this controversy, ever applied the prophecies concerning Antichrist to the person of the Pope, but in general to the church of Rome, or rather to the Antichristian spirit, by which it is governed; or, if to the Pope, to him only as representing that fociety, of which he is the head : and so far only, as he acted in the spirit of it. And there is nothing strange or unusual in this use of the term. When Hobbes wrote his famous book, called LEVIATHAN (a word, now

at least, of almost as ill found, as Antichrist itself) no man supposes, that he meant to apply this character, exclusively, to the person of any prince, then living; but, in general, to civil government, according to the ideas he had formed of it. And this way of speaking, as I have before observed, is especially familiar to the sacred writers. Many of the Popes are said to have been, and, for any thing I know, may have been, Saints, in their private morals: so that when we apply the term, Antichrift, to them, we do not mean to stigmatize their persons, bụt merely to express the sense which the prophecies lead us to entertain of the contmunion, over which they preside; though they may not exemplify in their own conduct, or not in any remarkable degree, the avowed principles of thạt communion,

Conceive, therefore, with more respect of Protestant divines, when they explain and vindicate the prophecies concerning Antichrist, than to suppose, that they in

dulge

dulge in themselves, or would encourage in others, a low spite against the person of the Roman Pontif.

Thirdly, it is to be observed, that, although this prophetic language may tend to confirm Protestants in a religious, or, if you will, politic aversion to the church of Rome; yet it is not cherefore to be forborn, if the scriptures do, indeed, authorize the use of it; nor is there any, hurt done, if the principles of that church be not misrepresented; for then, such aversion becomes the wisdom and the duty of all Christians. Besides, this aversion proceeds no farther in well-informed Protestants, than to keep them at distance from the Romih communion, and to admonilh others of their obligation to forsake it. And, if the members, above all, if the fulers, of that communion would restrain their zeal within the fame bounds (though they would not, we say, be equally justified in this zeal) neither public peace, nor Christian charity, would suffer by it.

Laftly,

Lastly, it should be remembered, That, when the prophecies foretel the downfal of Antichrift, and even go so far as to point out to us the princes of that communion, as the destined instruments of such cataftrophe; yet neither is hereby any duty imposed on those princes to make war upon the Pope, nor any encouragement given to Proteftants themselves to concur in any fuch measures. For the prophets simply predict an event; and do not deliver in their prediction, or propose to deliver, rules for our conduct. Our Saviour him. self, speaking by the spirit, and in the language of prophecy, said--I come not to send peace on earth, but a sword. But will any man suppose that this prediction justifies, or was meant in any degree to justify, that state of things, which it describes, and which the author of it foresaw would too certainly come to pass ? Nor think, that the event predicted, I mean, the fall of Antichrift, will not take place, unless our inyectives, or hostile attempts, make way

for

« PreviousContinue »