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This was a process very natural in old corrupt Popish countries, after the mummery of their false religion was exposed, and became ridiculous. Especially was this the case in a nation constitutionally licentious, volatile, haughty, and impatient of every restraint. Such a people would need only an association of infidel philosophers, under the instigation of the infernal dragon, to institute a scheme, which would give birth to the terrible Power of the last days. And such will appear to have been his origin.
A question now arises: Is this the Power, that was to be known by the name of Antichrist; The Papal hierarchy was indeed predicted to exist; a most abominable apostasy. But a posterior, and most terrible Power, raised up for the work of divine judgment, was also much more abundantly predicted to exist. And the apostle John speaks of Antichrist, who, they had heard, was to come. Now which of the two above noted Powers was to be that Antichrist of John?
Reply. A decision of this is not very material. The leading sentiment of my dissertation is not materially effected, be the question decided as it may. For it is that great Power of the last days, of which I treat; whether that prediction of John, relative to Antichrist, apply exclusively to this Power, or not. If it do not apply exclusively to it; still there are many predictions that do; and these contain the subject of my dissertation.
I have taken the liberty to apply to this Power, the name of Antichrist; being of opinion, that this Power is essentially included in the Antichrist of John, if not most immediately the very Power designed.
Several of my reasons for this opinion I will now
1. It is the express characteristic of John's Antichrist, that he is an Atheist; denying the Father and the Son; denying that Jesus is the Christ; denying that Christ is come in the flesh. And we find it to be the leading characteristics of the terrible Power of the last days, (as has appeared in Dan. xi, 36—, and as will appear in the next section, on the writings of the apos
tles,) that he denies God and Christ;-"privately bring ing in damnable heresies;-denying the Lord, who bought them; and bringing upon themselves swift destruction:"-"Denying the only Lord God; and our Lord Jesus Christ." Abundantly this Power is represented, as Antichrist is represented to be, a gross infidel.
But the papal hierarchy did not deny the Father, nor the Son. It did not deny the only Lord God; nor the Lord Jesus Christ. It did not deny that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. It professed the highest veneration for God, and Christ, and the Christian Religion. And though this profession was not gracious, but was abominable hypocrisy; yet this profession (uniformly constituting an essential part of their system from the beginning) is not to be blended with the personal wickedness of its subjects. It is in itself proper to profess a veneration for God and Christ, and the Christian Religion. And this profession lying at the foundation of a system, constitutes a feature in the basis of that system, very different from the atheism of Antichrist. Antichrist, at his developement, takes to himself the character of a gross atheist. Whatever "form of Godliness" (while he denies the power of it) he may afterward find it most convenient to his diabolical views, to adopt, yet he is a noted atheist.
2. Another argument in favor of the idea, that the terrible Power of the last days is the Antichrist in John's epistle, is as follows: This Power is abundantly represented as engaged in an actual war with Christ. This war is represented as carried on with such spirit and power, as to bring down the Captain of our salvation from heaven, with all his retinue and apparatus for the most terrible warfare. Christ is represented as engaging in this war, with unprecedented attention; and pursuing it to a final and most decisive victory over the Beast, and the false prophet, the kings of the earth, and all their armies.
In Dan. xii, 1, after the great infidel Power of the last days, described in the preceding chapter, has reached Palestine, to make war with God's ancient
covenant people there, "Michael (Christ) the great Prince, stands up for the children of his people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time." Here is a war greater than any ever before known, between this very Power, and Christ. In Rev. xiii, 7, we learn, that the great object of this healed head of the Roman Beast, (the great Power of the last days,) is war with the people of God." "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints." In Rev. xvii, 14, we find the same. Of the ten horns of this very Beast from the bottomless pit, it is said; "These shall make war with the Lamb." Of the same Beast it is said, relative to the witnesses, Rev. xi, 7, "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them." Rev. xii, 13, "And when the dragon saw, that he was cast out unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, that brought forth the man child." His floods of rage, falsehood and violence, now poured forth, to cause the church to be carried away; and the voice of wo, at the same time from heaven, against the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, because the devil had come, with great wrath, knowing he had but a short time, (or the Millennium was about to dawn) all indicate unprecedented war at that time against Christ. In Rev. xiv, 12- to the end, the same thing is indicated. After the missionary Angel had begun his flight through the midst of heaven, to preach the Gospel to all nations; after it was ascertained that Papal Babylon had fallen; and a third warning voice was heard, warning mankind, as they would escape inevitable damnation, to abstain from all affinity with the Beast, (the horrid blasphemous Power of the day,) solenn indications follow. This warning will not be taken in good part, by the powers implicated. And it follows; "Here is the patience of the saints: Here are they, that keep the commandments of God, and the, faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord, from hence
forth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." A signal war against the church is here implied. And what follows confirms the indication. For the Captain of her salvation immediately appears in arms. The next verse presents him upon the white cloud, with his sharp sickle. The harvest of the earth is reaped. The clusters of the vine of the earth, fully ripe, are gathered for the pressing. The wine-press is trodden; and a river of blood is emitted. All this implies, that the great Power of that day is in arms against heaven; häving instituted a most furious war with Christ.
The same is found in Rev. xiii, 13-. To prepare the way for the seventh vial, the agents of the dragon, the Beast, and the false prophet, (unclean spirits like frogs, called spirits of devils,) go out unto the people of the whole world, to gather them to the "BATTLE of that great day of God Almighty." War virtually against Christ, is the object. And the Beast (the great Power of the last days) next after the infernal dragon, is the great instigator of it, by his threefold diabolical influence. Christ upon this proclaims, that his coming should be sudden and dreadful. enemies are convened in battle array at Armageddon. There he comes upon them, and decides the contest.
A sublime description of this warfare, and of its final decision, we find in Rev. xix, 11-to the end. Christ, as a great triumphant general, upon a white horse, an ancient emblem of victory, rides forth. His eyes are as a flame of fire. Many crowns are upon his head. His vesture is already dipped in the blood of his enemies. All the armies of heaven follow him upon white horses. The war against him has become most serious. Out of his mouth goeth a sharp two edged sword, by which to smite the nations. He is now going to rule them with his rod of iron, and to tread the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. On his vesture and on his thigh his titles appear in capitals, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. The occasion of this tremendous order of battle, following verses unfold. "And I saw the Beast,
and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together, to make war against him, who sat upon the horse, and against his army. Here is the great Power of the last days, at the head of the coalition against heaven. This is the Power, concerning whom we have so many express predictions of his being in ar ray against Christ. Is he not then, the Antichrist? What is meant by Antichrist? The word signifies against Christ. Does the word of God inform of any other Power, as having been more expressly against Christ, than this Power of the last days? Can one third so much of war language be found in the word of God, relative to the Papal hierarchy, or any other power, as is found relative to the great Power of the last days? Let the analogy of Scripture then, decide who is the Antichrist of the New Testament.
3. Another argument, that the Antichrist in John is this great infidel Power, is this-John says, "Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come." He here refers his readers to an event well ascertained in prophecy. This was before his Revelation was written, or the books of the New Testament collected, or filled up. His reference then, must have been chiefly, if not wholly, to the Old Testament. This was their Bible. And it was there they had heard that Antichrist was to come. But in the Old Testament they had read but very little, and that in one or two obscure hints, relative to the Papal hierarchy:-While they had read much, very much, relative to the terrible Power of the last days. See section ii, and v, chap. iii, of this dissertation. This terrible Power, predicted Dan. xi, 36-to the end, we find, was a Power much predicted before by the prophets. Chap. x, 21, "But I will shew thee that, which is noted in the scriptures of truth." This Power had been the great subject of Eezekiel xxxviii, and xxxix chapters; Gog, the land of Magog;-and of other prophecies of the Old Testament. So that, when his destruction is predicted, Rev. x, 7, by the seventh trumpet, or third wo, it is there said to be, only "as God hath declared to his servants the prophets." And in Rev. xvi, 14, when the abominable, slippery and