Page images

vinces, towns and villages were laid waste, and utterly destroyed.”

When all that has been stated is considered ; and it is moreover recollected, that superstition, and profligacy, and spiritual tyranny, continued to gain ground, and to become yet more firmly established, during the 5th, the 6th, and the 7th centuries; the impartial and dispassionate inquirer cannot I think but be of opinion, that bp. Newtone, when he insinuated that the man of sin was not fully manifested before the 8th century, has given sanction to an error, which admits of the clearest confutation. That a prelate, of such sagacity and historic research, should have countenanced a statement so palpably erroneous, needs not however awaken surprise'; for he plainly perceived, that the admission of the contrary opinion would draw after it consequences, which prudence would recommend to be kept out of sight, as being unwelcome and inconvenient to every advocate of every hierarchy. If the prophecy of the man of sin be once admitted to be of general application ; if it can be satisfactorily proved from ecclesiastical history, that the terms of this prophecy correspond not only to the Roman pontiffs, but that it was also exactly fulfilled, prior to the acknowlegement of their supremacy8z, in many different places, and by many different persons; there will certainly be strong reasons for suspecting, that neither can those churches be unconcerned in the fulfilment of the apostolic prediction, which, in later times, have not only

80 Julian. Epistol. LII. p. 436. edit. Spanheim.

81 Himself an advocate and enforcer of persecution, bp. Newton was not likely to be much shocked by the intolerant practices of the 4th, the 5th, the 6th, and the 7th centuries. In proof of the charge which I here bring forward against the prelate, I appeal to his own Works (see his Life, p. 88), and to the conclusion of ch. xiv.

82 In the fourth century,' says Dr. Apthorp, 'the bishop of Rome had only the rank of a metropolitan over his own province within the limits of 100 miles from Rome : he derived his rank from the imperial city, but was not superior to other metropolitans, was not the patriarch of all the western churches, much less the monarch of the Christian world. Serm. vol. II.

[blocks in formation]

asserted the same impious claims over the conscience and the thoughts, as the churches of Rome and Antioch and Constantinople have done, but have likewise imitated in their established constitution the former of those apostate churches, and derived from her their articles and creeds, their discipline and ceremonies.

I shall conclude the appendix with some admirable observations of one of the most fair, candid, and unprejudiced writers that ever lived. When superadded to the facts already stated, they are, I think, sufficient to decide the question before proposed: Did that much applauded prince, Constantine the great, upon the whole render service to the cause of Christianity? If,' says Dr. Lardner, 'you make use of any methods, besides those of rational arguments, to induce men to profess and act as you desire, you do what lies in your power to make them lie and

pre. varicate. So did the council of Nice. This council * introduced authority and force in the church, and the affairs of religion. Or, if authority had been introduced before, they now openly countenanced it, and gave it a farther sanction. This way of acting may be supposed to have been the chief cause of the ruin of the Christian interest in the East. This and the like determinations of speculative doctrines, and the violent methods, by which they were enforced, may be reckoned to have paved the way for Mahometanism, more than any thing else. By these means ignorance, and hypocrisy, and tedious rituals, came to take place of honesty, true piety, and undissembled, spiritual and reasonable worship and devotion. In about 300 years after the ascension of Jesus, without the aids of secular power, or church authority, the Christian religion spread over a large part of Asia, Europe, and Africa: and at the accession of Constantine, and convening the council of Nice, it was almost every where, throughout those countries, in a flourishing condition: In the space of another 300 years, or a little more, the beauty of the Christian religion was greatly corrupted in a large part of that extent, its glory defaced, and its light almost extinguished.

What can this be so much owing to, as to the determinations and transactions of the council of Nice, and the measures then set on foot, and followed in succeeding times? These impositions poison the waters of the sanctuary at the very fountain. They require the ministers of Christ, the officers of his church, to subscribe certain articles upon pain of heavy forfeitures : and a subscription to these articles, whether believed or not, gives a right to preferment. If any subscribe what they are not satisfied about, and so enter into the service of the church (which is very likely to happen), they gain and hold their offices by the tenor of hypocrisy. How can religion flourish in this way? Will the persons, who have so subscribed (without conviction or against it), be sincere and upright ever afterwards ? Will they, upon all other occasions, speak the truth without fear or favor, who have once solemnly and deliberately prevaricated? And can others entirely confide in them; or can they heartily reverence them, as upright and disinterested men. ?



THE prophecies, which relate to the symbolic Baby. lon, constitute far too extensive a portion of the Apocalypse to be completely and minutely considered in the present work. To some of them, I am, however, induced to direct the attention of the reader, not only on account of their connection with the subject of the last chapter, but because I am persuaded, that attentively to examine all this class of St. John's predictions is to become possessed of a testimony to the truth of Christianity, which admits not of being

83 Lardner's Works, Vol. IV. p. 196.

undermined. Since the Apocalypse was mentioned by Irenæus, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr, by Theophilus of Antioch and Clement of Alexandria, writers who flourished in the second century; the infidel must confess, however reluctantly, that this work is a genuine production of the first or the second century. If then the book of Revelation does foretell (as in truth it does) a multitude of events, altogether unlike to what had hitherto happened among mankind, altogether inscrutable to human sagacity, but which have indisputably been accomplished since the expiration of the second century; if, though written when Rome was the capital of the heathen world, it does point out, amid a crowd of other circumstances, the luxury and splendor, the massacres and superstitions, of a prosperous and a persecuting church, which would extend its

usurpations over the countries of the European world, and, establishing its principal seat at Rome, would form an intimate alliance with their respective sovereigns; this part of the New Testament must of consequence be admitted to be of divine original, Jesus Christ must of consequence be acknowleged to have been commissioned from heaven.

That by Babylon Rome is particularly signified, though not Rome modern, is admitted even by the Romanists themselves, as by those learned jesuits, Alcasar, Ribera, and Cornelius a Lapide, and those yet more celebrated adherents of the papacy, the cardinals Bellarmine and Baronius. On the extent of signification, which belongs to the whore of Babylon, I am aware that commentators are not agreed. By all protestant interpreters it is, however, maintained, that the church of Rome is either solely intended, or is included in the prophetic description. To be convinced of this, it will be sufficient to read the xviith ch. of St. John, .whence the following striking passages are extracted.

And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored Beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and Ten Horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple, and scarlet color, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations.-Upon

her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the Beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and Ten Horns. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth. And the Ten Horns which thou sawest are Ten Kings, which have received no kingdom as yet. And the woman which thou sawest is that great City, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

Let the Christian, whose faith is sometimes clouded by doubt and embarrassed by objection, reflect on these words; and, when he reflects, no longer suffer his confidence in the divine original of his religion to be darkened with uncertainty. Let the most careless and the most credulous infidel ask himself, whilst he persues this prediction,' whether it be possible, that an enthusiast or impostor of the first or the second century, (for he must himself allow the Apocalypse to have been written at least within this period,) could have drawn, by mere chance, a portraiture, so exactly suitable to the church of Rome, although, in the two first centuries of the Christian æra, nothing had existed in the world, which bore to it the faintest resemblance.

• A nuntius, angel, or interpreter,' says Mr. Lowman, was a known part in the ancient drama. Here an angel is sent to interpret this part of the prophecy to us; and we may justly look upon the angel's interpretation as a sure

1 It is immediately added in the following verse, and there are seven kings, i. e. seven successive forms of government; for the seven heads, as Mede and bp. Hurd obserye, ' are a double type.'

2 · Words,' says bp. Hurd, cannot be more determinate than these.There is no possibility of evading the force of these terms.' Vol. II. p. 146. In the 14th century they were applied to papal Rome, closely and pointedly, by Petrarch. Opera, Bas, 1581, Epist. lib. sine titulo, Ep. xvi. p. 729.

« PreviousContinue »