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- We may further observe, that the difference of opinion among Commentators upon particular paris of a Prophecy, does not invalidate their testimony as a proof of the truth of those great points, in which they agree; nor even the precision of the Prophecy itself in all its parts, though thất precision cannot be seen by us till the course of events presents it to our view. — For example, all agree that the corruption and distress of the church in the later ages of the world, and the final triumph of our Lord over all his enemies, have been clearly foretold in the Old and in the New Testament. But whether the reign of Antichrist bc the establishment of the Papal power, or of Mahometanism, or of Infidelity and Atheifm, or of all united, may be disputed tillrevents determine - the question ; according a's the different writers are influenced by fituation, course of study, ; turn of mind, and attention to paffing circumstances, or now perhaps, by political principles; for in no times was caution in interpretation ever more necessary than in these, when Party Spirit in religion and in politics is so prevalent as to mingle itself almost imperceptibly “ with the
thoughts thoughts of almost every man's heart.” If, however, the present are times of greater general distress and alarm than history can furnish any account of - if the series of Prophecies and their corresponding events that are past and generally acknowledged to be underfood, is brought down 'near enough to our own times to mark whereabouts we are in the Series of trumpets and vials - it will be surely difficult to deny that “ the Antichrist is come,” and that “ the judgments of God are" now " abroad in the earth," though the appropriation of the title of Antichrist to any particular power, or united powers, be left
undecided. “ If indeed it be true, as the - Romanists pretend, that this part of the Pro
phecy is not yet fulfilled, and that Antichrift will come only for a little time, before the general judgmento, it would be in vain to enquire who, or what he is; we thould split upon the fame rock as the Fathers have done ; it would better become us to say with Calmet, that, “ as the reign of Antichrift is still remote, we cannot shew the accomplishment of the Prophecies with regard to him:" but, if the system which I presume to offer concerning the power of Antichrif be right, it
will appear that these different opinions of the Protestants and Papists, derived from partial views of the subject, are not wholly incompatible with each other.
The PAPAL POWER one Branch or Form of
With respect to the commonly received opinion, that the Church of Rome is Antichrist, the Divines of the Church of Eng. land, as well as most of the Divines of the Protestant churches abroad, who have written upon the subject, concur in maintaining, that these Prophecies of Daniel, of St. Paul, and St. John, that have been quoted; point directly to the Church of Rome. And the members of that Church cannot complain, that the application of these Prophecies has been made by men incompetent, to the discussion of such a subject; for perhaps, in the whole compass of the learned world, it would be difficult to find those who possessed more candour, learning, diligence, acuteness, or zeal for the discovery of truth, than the writers who have turned their attention this way.
The subject has been examined and illustrated, and this important point has been determined by Mede and Newton, Warburton, Daubuz and Clarke, Lowman and Hurd, Jurieu, Vitringa, and many other illustrious members of the Protestant Churches.
The first Reformers likewise, in the most strong and explicit terms, charged the See of Rome with her Antichristian fpirit, and urged, in their own defence and vindication, the authority of those Prophetical warnings that encouraged all true Christians “ to depart out of her communion, that they might not be partakers of her plagues." This was the constant exhortation of Wickliff, of Luther, and of Jewell; and such was the language of their followers. They were sensible of the value of the arguments drawn from these Prophecies in favour of their secession and feparation from a corrupted and erroneous Church, and they failed not to oppose them to their adversaries with the greatest zeal and cnergy. . . .. . .
· That their conduct was highly justifiable, is clear from what we may collect from the most authentic records of Ecclesiastical Hifa tory; because we find that the very fame interpretation was given to these predictions, not only long before any controverfy was moved between the Papifts and the Protestants, but before any such distinctions of Christians were known to the world.
- It was the reigning opinion of the Chrif. tians of the earliest times, that Antichrift would appear foon after the fall of the Rom man Empire. They looked forward to this event as so replete with alarm and danger to the church, that it was a cuftom to introduce particular prayers in their liturgy for the con tinuance of the Empire of Pagan Rome, that the coming of Antichrift might be delayed. St. Jerom, who flourished in the fourth century, in his commentary upon the Prophecies of Daniel, delivers the general opinion of his age in these remarkable words; “ Let us affert, in conformity with the fentiments of all the Ecclefiaftical writers, that towards the end of the world, when the Roman Empire shall be destroyed, ten kings fhall come, and divide the Empire, and an eleventh king fhall arife, in whom Satan fhall dwell corpo: VOL. I.