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of God, and having entirely transformed the gospel of Jesus Christ, from its being the glad tidings of salvation, into the most oppressive form of despotism--from its being a pure and purifying religion, into a wretched, corrupt, debasing paganism, has baptized it with the name of Christianity.
The following brief account of this apostasy is taken from Gibbon. “ The Christians of the seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a SEMBLANCE OF PAGANISM. Their public and private vows were addressed to the relics and images that disgraced the temples of the East. The throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs and saints and angels, the objects of popular veneration : and the collydrian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the virgin Mary with the name and honors of a goddess. The devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint ; and the pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason or piety were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles : and the pictures, which speak and move and bleed, must be endowed with a divine energy, and may be considered as the proper object of religious adoration. The use and even the worship of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century: they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics: and the Pantheon and the Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a NEW SUPERSTITION. The worship of images had stolen into the church by insensible degrees : and each petty step was pleasing to the superstitious mind, as productive of comfort and innocent of sin. But in the beginning of the eighth century, in the full magnitude of the abuse, the more timorous Greeks were awakened
by an apprehension, that under the mask of Christianity they had restored the religion of their fathers.*
One essential branch of paganism was demonology, or the worship of canonised dead men and women, call. ed demons, a sort of subsidiary, subordinate and intercessory deities. The Roman Catholic adoration of saints, who are just the same,- mere canonised dead men and women,-is therefore paganism revived. Jupiter or Juno, Osiris or Adonis, Cronos, Astarte or Venus, are not indeed the names of their canonised saints and herces; but the adoration of Peter, of the Virgin Mary, and of the hosts of later canonised saints, whose names and days are noted in their calendar, as worthy of homage by all Roman Catholics, is in principle and essence the ancient paganism--the predicted apostasy.
Another feature of the Man of sin, is his supremacy to the civil magistrate, and in matters of religion. What Paul says is literally true; the Bishop of Rome opposes and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped. The word God denotes, not only the true object of adoration in Heaven, the Supreme Being, but also civil rulers, † those in authority who are justly deserving of respect. Now, that the Pope opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God in Heaven, is evident from the fact, that he has published his bulls, and undertaken to suppress the divine Word which God has given to men to make them wise unto salvation. He has set up his own decrees in opposition to the truths of God's revealed will, and insists upon obedience' to his counsels and will and traditions, in preference to the revealed will of God. He has denounced Bible Societies, and those who undertake to circulate the Sacred Scriptures; • Gibbon.
† Psalm 97. 7.
and in every way shown, that he accounts his will and canons, as of far more authority and importance to be known and observed, than the Bible which is the will and word of God.
Moreover he has exalted himself above all kings and governors, and those that are called gods' on earth ; for he has asserted that they derive their power from him, and claimed it as his prerogative to pull them down or set them up,-has excommunicated kings and emperors, and absolved their subjects from allegiance to them. And as to his sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself that he is a God, no clearer proof of this can be desired, than his arrogating to himself the titles of Supreme Pontiff or High Priest, Sanctissimus Dominus, or Most Holy Lord, which belong only to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ,-and the language he has held in many of his bulls. In that against Elizabeth, Queen of England, Pius V., speaking of his lordly and godlike power in the church and world, says, “ This one he hath constituted prince over all nations, and all kingdoms, that he might pluck up, destroy, dissipate, ruinate, plant and build.” The bull against Henry of Navarre and the prince of Condé begins as follows: “ The authority given to St. Peter and his successors, by the immense power of the eternal king, excels all the powers of earthly kings and princes. It passes uncontrollable sentence on them all. And if it find any of them resisting God's ordinance, it takes more severe vengeance on them, casting them down from their thrones, though never so puissant, and tumbling them down to the lowest parts of the earth, as the ministers of aspiring Lucifer."*
Barrow's Treatise on the Pope's Supremacy, p. 5.
Is is not our design to enter into a minute examination of the full prophetic description of Popery, given in the Scriptures. Our object is to exhibit and render intelligible the proof of the personal visible coming of Jesus Christ before the great day of the church's prosperity. In order to this, it becomes necessary to show, that the Man of sin and the son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks, is the Pope. Thus far the description suits.
In the following verses* the apostle alludes to the oral instruction he had given the Thessalonians, in reference to this subject, and gives a general chronological date, by which to ascertain the period of the rise and manifestation of the Man of sin. “Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you,
these things. And now you 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 shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
It is admitted, on all hands, both by Millenarians and Anti-millenarians, that the withholding power is the Roman Empire. The fathers did not expect the revelation of Antichrist, whom they identified with the Man of sin, during the continuance of the undivided Roman Empire; but they did expect that the disruption of the empire would be immediately followed by the manifestation of this terrible tyrannical power. Tertullian said, “There is also another and greater necessity for our praying for the emperors, even for every state of the empire and Roman affairs, because
2 Thess. 2. 5-7.
we know that the greatest power impending over the whole world, threatening the most horrid calamities, and the very end of the world, are delayed by the preservation of the empire.'
Lactantiust and Jerome express themselves strongly to the same purpose; the latter affirmning, that when the empire of the Romans is to be destroyed, there shall arise ten kings, who shall share the Roman world among themselves, and that an eleventh diminutive king shall come, who shall subdue three of those ten kings, and in him Satan shall dwell entirely and bodily. I The reference is obviously to the prophecy of Daniel. The papacy arose among the ten kingdoms,-and is as distinctly identified by Paul as by Daniel,-being the anti-Christian power
which should continue till, but be destroyed by, the coming of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Faber remarks on this point as follows: “ What St. Paul then told the Thessalonians was this : that a tyrannical and irreligious power, which he denominates the Man of sin and the lawless one, should assuredly be revealed in its own appointed time, AFTER
* Est et alia major necessitas nobis orandi pro Imperatoribus, etiam pro omni statu Imperii rebusque Romanis, quod vim maximam universo orbi imminentem, ipsam clausuram seculo acerbitatisque horrendas comminantem, Romani Imperii commeatu novimus retardari.—Tertul. Apol. adv. Gent. Oper. p. 869.
† Non imperii dignitas conservabitur, non militiæ disciplina; sed more latrocinii depredatio et vastatio fiet, regnum multiplicabitur; et decem viri occupabunt orbem, et partientur, et vorabunt, et existet longe potentior, ac nequior, qui tritris deletis Asiam possidebit; cæteris in potestati redactis et abscissis, vorabit omnem terram, leges novas statuet, veteres abrogabit ; rempublicam suam faciet, nomen imperii, sedemque mutabit. Tunc erit tempus infandum et execrabile, quo nemini libeat vivere.—Div. Instit. p. 516.
I Quoted by Mede, lib. iii. p. 811. 5th Ed. 1664.