Imágenes de páginas

frequently alluded to in the Holy. Scriptures, and denominated the Coming of Jesus Christ23." To fuppose; as bp. Newton and many others have done, that the coming of Christ is not the commencement of the millennium, but the day of judgment; is to suppose, that antichriftianism and ecclesiastical tyranny will continue to prevail till the end of the world. Contrary as this is to the most express prophecies, fome writers, having this passage in view, and perceiving that the latter conclusion would evidently follow from the admission of the for. mer, have avowed this melancholy and dispiriting opi. nion. The words of St. Paul, which have just been quoted,' signify,' says Slichtingius, ' that the man of sin * would remain till the coming of Christ, and : would be • destroyed by his coming. Now the coming of Chrif, , adds this celebrated commentator, is here to be explained of his advent on the day of Judgment.

At the same time I feel no hesitation in admitting, that the Thessalonian Chriftians, as well as those of other countries, in confequence of the coming of Christ being an equivocal, expreslion, and of their being uninstructed with respect to the millennium, probably did, in the time of St. Paul, understand it in a literal sense, and conceive it to signify the awful day of Christ's coming to Judgmenta. At that period the apocalypse was not published; and when published, its meaning, as well as that of Daniel, was destined, during many centuries, to be very imperfectly penetrated. Of what they foretold even the prophets themselves had sometimes a very imperfect idea. Thus in the xiith ch. of Daniel (v. 8), that prophet says, and I heard, but I understood not; and the angel of the vision is represented in v. 9 as saying unto him, go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and fealed till the time of the end. On this passage an intelligent commentator, who wrote 150 years since, has the following remarks. · Therefore the foresaid myfteries, especially those about the times of Antichrift, God intended to conceal and hide for a certain time, and only to reveal the same in the last time. • And unto this place our Saviour feemeth to have re• fpe&t when he faith, that no man knoweth the day and • hour, not so much as the angels of heaven, but the • Father only, Mat. xxiv. 15, 36. And when he saith, ' it is not for you to know the times, which the Father hath put in his own power. A&ts i. 7. Wherefore • Christ exhorteth the present age, that they would be



as Let. to Hạrd, p. 30.

** Nor is this misconception wonderful. • For the old prophets, for . the most part,' I am now quoting from Mede, speak of the coming of

Chris indefinitely and in general, without that distinction of Fitf-and Second coming, which the Gospel out of Daniel hath more clearly taugha

And so consequently they (pake of the things to be at Christ's coming indefinitely and altogether, which we, who are now more fully in. • formed by the revelation of the gospel of a two-fold coming, muft apply • cach of them to its proper time : those things which befit the state of his . forfe coming unto it; and such things as befit the state of his second coming, • unto his second,' p. 756.


watchful, because they knew not the time of the end : forasmuch as it was to be hidden from the former ages, left the long distance of the time being known should hinder the duty of watchfulness. But in the time of the end it seemeth that it is to be revealed: not unto the world, on whom the end shall come as a thief in the

night, especially the last part of the last time : but unto 'the saints25,' unto those that are genuine Christians and honeft inquirers after truth:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

5 Tho. Parker of New-England on Daniel, 1646, p. 132.






HAVE stated (and I know not whether the statement

may not have startled some of my readers), 26 that almost every kind of ecclesiastical usurpation was introduced, and almost every species of superstition encouraged, in the fourth century. The historic extracts, intended to confirm and to elucidate this assertion, are more nume. rous, than the nature of the present work would have authorized, had not a number of reasons, in this particu. lar case, concurred to recommend their insertion. This copiousness of citation I have been encouraged to intro. duce; because an assertion of such weight, on the very face of it, seemed to require for proof a long series of well attested particulars; because fa&ts of this description it was in my power to produce, from as high and as unex ceptionable authority, as can be appealed to on the subject; because the investigation of it will be hereafter serviceable in directing us to the true interpretation of one of the apocalyptic visions? ; because it respects a period, which constitutes one of the most interesting portions of ecclefiaftical history; and because persons in general are,

I believe, unapprized of the extent to which the assertion is

[ocr errors]

36 The reign of Constantine, and the fourth century in general, fome have represented in a highly favourable point of view. The Gospel was

enabled,' says bishop Hallifax, . at length, under the auspices of Con. • Itantine, to establith itself, in prosperity and PURITY, throughout the provinces of the Roman empire.' Serm. on Proph. p. 313. " particularly allude to all the latter part of ch. vii. of the Rev. O


true, and of the rapidity with which Christianity was changed and essentially debased. Nor are these all the reasons which may be alleged to justify the introduce tion of the present appendix. This inquiry is of great importance in ascertaining the period of the coming of the man of fin; in determining whether that prediction is to be exclusively applied to the Roman pontiffs; in qualifying us to judge whether the emperor Constantine does in truth stand convicted of the charge of notorious antichristianism; and in deciding a question, which must probably have sometimes arisen in the inquiring mind, did this celebrated prince render upon the whole a real service to the religion of Jesus, when he embraced the external profession of it, and accelerated its general diffufion; whilft at the same time he brought about an unnatural union between the church and the state, placed himself at the head of the former as well as the latter, and substantially aided the attempts of those, who laboured with such fatal success to paganize Christianity, by incorporating with it not à few of the speculative opinions, and many of the superstitious practices, which before belonged to heathenism?

It is from the judicious and learned Mosheim that the extracts are principally taken28. To him indeed it might have been sufficient to have barely referred the reader, had the facts, which are most decisive and throw the strongest light on tủe topics proposed, lain together, unin. termingled with other matter. But, besides that the greater part


readers would in all probability have omitted to consult Mofheim at all, it deserves to be no. ticed, that these facts are dispersed over his Internal History of the Church during the fourth century, which alone occupies upwards of 70 very closely printed octave


18 And from the ad edition of Dr. Maclaiae's Translation.


pages. To superadd fome particulars from other writers was also expedient. But that the reader may exa&tlý know, how much of the present appendix belongs to Mosheim, I have, through the greater part of it, made no addition in the text to the facts alleged by him; and when I have, intimation is given of it. Of the addi. tional observations some are transcribed from the accurate Lardner : and of the motes the greater part are taken from a writer, in whose commendation it is not easy to speak fufficiently high; I mean from Dr. Jortin, who, by introducing, in his Life of Erafmus, and in his Remarks on Ecclefiaftical History, quotations from various authors, often running to a considerable length, and scattered with great profufion, has annexed the stamp of his approbation to this mode of conducting a work.

It may be asked, why, in an account of the corruptions of the fourth century, is not an appeal directly made to ancient instead of modern authorities R why are not passages translated and trànscribed from such well known historians, as Socrates, Sozomen, and Eufebius? I an. fwer, that all the writers of that time were tinctured with prejudices; that they were far from having such enlarged views of things as a judicious and industrious modern is capable of acquiring; and that I know no writers of an. tiquity in whose statements the public could justly place so strong a confidence, as in those of Jortin, Lardner, and Mosheim. The reader will readily discern, where I have given only the sentiments, and where the words, of Mofheim; as in the former cafe I have omitted the use of inverted commas.

The first step of the bishops, in changing the ancient government of the church, says Molheim in his account of the Fourth Century, ''was an entire exclusion of the '.people from all part in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs; and afterwards they, by degrees, divested even


[ocr errors]

0 %

« AnteriorContinuar »