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ON ST. PAUL'S PREDICTION OF THE MAN OF SIN.
EFORE I pass on to the confideration of the sixth
and seventh vials, or of any predi&tions which refpe&t Political events; I shall direct the attention of the reader to some of those prophecies, which have an immediate reference to the exercife and the extinction of Ecclesiastical tyranny. Of the two-horned Beast, the emblem of the antichristian priesthood, some account has already been given. But there are other prophecies, relating to the same subject, which, in a work like the present, ought not to be passed by unnoticed. Such are those by St. John respecting the symbolic Babylon, Daniel's description of the little horn of the Fourth Beast, and St. Paul's prophecy of the Man of Sin.
I begin with the last of these predi&tions. St. Paul, speaking of the coming of Christ, a phrase often applied in scripture to the commencement of the millennium, says, that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition ; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God fitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things ? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For 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, whom the Lord N 3
fhall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming'.
On this prophecy, which appears to foretell a general apostacy in the Christian church, a number of valuable observations occur in Mr. Evanson's able Letter to Bifhop Hurd; and I cannot, without transcribing liberally from it, do justice to what he has urged. “The
name of the man of fin, which is made use of in this • prophecy,' says Mr. Evanson, neither your Lordship,
nor any approved commentator, supposes to signify any * one particular man, but merely a human power, pof• sessed and actually exerted by a fucceflion of different
men. And it is not easy to conceive, how any one *hould have understood that phrase in a more limited - sense. As man of God evidently means not any par* ticular man, but every sincere and good Chriftian in all ages and nations of the world ; so the man of fin un
doubtedly signifies not any one man alone, but every * mano, or number of men, in all ages, and I must add, in all places too, (though there, perhaps, your Lord.
ship will not agree with me) whose peculiar station and • circumstances shall be found to correspond to the prophetic description here given us.' Mr. Evanson has also asked his lordship some embarrassing questions. • When our own eighth Henry, from motives of mere
· 11. Theff. ii. 3-8.
? Mr. Buan Herport, who was persecuted and imprisoned at Bern, (as quoted by Mr. Taylor of Portsmouth), in like manner says, " the man of $* Perdition, Antichrist, is to be found in all places. Whocver makes s himself judge over his brother, forcibly obtrudes on him his own imagi. s nations, and thus sets up himself in the temple of God; he usurps Christ's “ prerogative, burthens conscience with terrible oaths for the fake of hu.
man edicts, and persecutes the true disciples, the living members of the h church. Whoever docs these things, whether Pope or King, Sovereigo
or Magistrate, Clergy or Layman, is ANTICHRIST." See Farther Thoughts on the Grand Apoftacy, P. 31.
personal resentment, thought fit to transfer the very ' fame fupremacy from the person of the pope to him. • self, within the limits of his own dominions ; when the ' fame spiritual courts subsisted, the same ecclesiastical jurisdiction was continued under him, which had been established under the Roman pontiff; when, in the full
spirit of pápal tyranny, he burnt some of his subjects ' for not renouncing the authority of the pope, and * others for renouncing some of the groffest errors of
popery: had not he also every feature of the man of • fin ? Nay, even in the days of reformation, and the
reigns of proteftant princes, when, by virtue of the very fame assumed authority and supreme power
ligious affairs; and, by the fame mode of ecclefiaftical ' jurisdiction, nuinbers of conscientious persons were im
prisoned, fined, tortured, and even burned to death, • for not profèfling, or not conforming to, what they * were firmly persuaded was repugnant to the commands ' of God, were none of the distinguishing marks of this predicted, impious power to be discerned in our own
country? Or shall the same characters be allowed to • denote the man of God in England, which in Italy serve ' to point out the man of fin and son of perdition??'
The expreffion, the temple of God, is perfectly confistent with this general application of the prophecy. It 'must,' fays bp. Hurd,' be interpreted of the Christian • church, and could not, in the prophetic language, be • interpreted otherwise*.' • It is certain,' declares. bp. Newton, that the temple or house of God is the Chris• tian church in the usual style of the apostless.". When therefore the man of Sin is said to fit in the temple of God, it is, as both these dignitaries remark, the fame thing as if it had been said, he ruleth in the church of Chrift.
• P, 2023
4 Vol. II. p. 159.
s Vol. II. p. 347.
* There was,' says the bp. of Bristol,' some obstacle * that hindered his appearance, the apostle speaketh doubtfully whether thing or person 6.' By this prelate, and by most other writers, the Roman empire is conceived to have been this obstacle. But, in the opinion of Mr. Evanson, it was the paganism of the Roman ' emperors.' This, says he, so long as it continued, ' muft, in the very nature of things, prevent the civil 'power of the empire from being exerted to establish * and support any nominally Christian church.--. It is * true, this interpretation makes the civil magistrate the 'chief cause and supporter of the general confirmed • apostacy from true Christianity. And it appears to me • impossible, that it could have been effected by any other means.
Even within the precincts of the Holy See, the Romish fuperftition is maintained solely by * the power the pope pofsefseth as a civil potentate, not as an ecclesiastic: and within the dominions of other princes, when the authority and influence of the • church of Rome extended fartheft, it never did nor
could enforce obedience to its decrees and ordinances, 'but under the protection and by the aid of the civil government in each particular country?.'
St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the COMING of * this man of hin would be not only with all power, but * with signs and lying wonders. And if it be thought ' right to understand this circumstance as descriptive of * the appearance of the first man, who usurped a spiritual ' tyranny over the minds of his fellow-citizens, and im* piously arrogated to himself the power of ordaining ' articles of faith and religious doctrine, which are not * required of Christians in the gospel, it is most remarkably applicable to the person of Constantine; for his
6 Newton, vol. II. p. 349.
7 P. 25.
* conversion happened when he was at the head of a ' powerful army, and was pretended to have been occa. * fioned by the miraculous vision of a crucifix in the
clouds, whose celestial infcription promised him vic'tory, upon his adopting the profession signified by that
sign or emblem. But, from the application which the • Protestants uniformly make of this part of the pro• phecy to the fabulous legends of the Roman Catholics, • I conclude, there is something in the turn of expression of the whole sentence taken together, which is thought more adapted to the pastors of the apostate church, than to the temporal potentate, by whose power the apostacy was to be established. And, even in this sense, your Lordship well knows the prophecy will apply as • strongly to the ecclefiaftics of the fourth century, as to • those of the church of Rome. The pretended miracles * of that period are very numerous 8.'
The prophecy of the 'man of sin fitting in the temple of God, and shewing himself there as God, seemed,' says Dr. Creffener, to be in its first formation by the con• duct of some of the Roman emperors soon after the • advancement of Christianity upon the throne. The
very first-fruits of the imperial authority in the church, • in the days of Constantine, and even before the full * end of the Pagan persecution with Licinius, were the
depositions and banishments of the Arian bishops.-• The Roman councils began also at the same time to be * accounted the infallible oracles of God. Constantine * fays of the council of Nice, that it was inspired by the will of God himself. And that that which seemed good to them was to be taken for nothing less than the mind of God.-To pronounce the peremptory curses
• Let. to bp. Hurd, p. 26.