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"Lord of Hosts. But who shall abide the day "of his coming? and who shall stand when he "appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and "like fuller's soap*," &c. The remainder of the chapter is prophetic of the wicked state in which the generality of the world will continue, to the very day of the second coming of Christ; and of the incessant expostulations, and unwearied and earnest invitations of God to the wicked and ungodly part of mankind, to embrace the terms of his covenant through "Jesus Christ," and to turn from the evil of their ways. "Return. ." unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the "Lord of Hosts." But their answer is to be the answer of petuience, contempt, and wickedness. "Wherein shall we returnf?" From this wicked state of the world, in which it is to continue until Christ shall come to reform and reign in the hearts of men; he proceeds to describe the dreadful events of that awful day. "For behold," says he, " the day cometh that shall burn as an Oven: "and all the proud, yea, and all that do Wickedc* Ly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh "shall bum them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, "that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. "But unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun "Of Righteousness arise, with healing in his "wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow as calves "of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wick"ed; for they shall be ashes under the soles of "your feet, in the dav that I shall do this, saith .* the Lord of Hostsf."
* Chap. iii. 1, 2, 3, 4. f Ver. i. 7. \ Chap. iv. 1, 2,3.
1 John ii. 18.—" Little Children, it is u the last time: and as yet have heard that "Antichrist shall come, even now there are "many Antichrists* whereby we know it is *1 the /tf^time."
Ibi d. ver. 22.—" Who is a liar, but he "that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He "is Antichrist that denieth the Father and "the. Son."
1 John iv. 2, 3.—" Hereby know ye "the Spirit of God: every spirit that con"fesseth that JesusChrist is come in the flesh, "is of God; and every spirit that confesselh "not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh "is not of God: and this is that spirit of "Antichrist, whereof you have heard, that it "should come, and even now already is it "in the world."
2 John, ver. 7.—" For many deceivers "are entered into the world, who confess "not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: "this is a deceiver, and an Antichrist."
THERE is no subject of prophecy upon which so much has been written, and to so littie pi;rpose, as upon the great Antichrist. It seems to have been a favourite theme of the commentators upon the prophecies, from the age of the primitive fathers down to the present day. And yet, however bold it may sound to assert it, time and its events have now proved, that all of them have been mistaken. The amount of what the fathers have said is, that Antichrist would be a great and direct adversary to Christ, to come at the decline of the Roman empire, and in the last days. Had they rested there, they would not have been very distant from the truth: they would have said no more than Daniel had said before them, and John himself has predicted in the text. But taking upon themselves the office of prophets, and foretelling that he should come with certain marks and signs, unfortunately not to be found in holy writ, they conceived that he was to be a Jew, of the tribe of Dan, to come from Babylon, to reside at Jerusalem, and to conquer Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia. And these strange ideas of him, visionary as they really were, continued down to the asra of the Reformation. It now happened, that in this great controversy between protestantism and papal apostacy, resentment and passion gained so much the ascendant as to obscure, in some degree, the light of truth on both sides. The two parties did not hesitate to stigmatize each other, with the most opprobrious names to be found in the Scriptures. With the Roman Catholics all Protestants were Schismatics. On the other hand, the Reformers, forgetting the long-established opinion of the primitive fathers, that Antichrist was to come in the last day, charged the church of Rome with being the prototype of that most hateful enemy of Christ, The Great Antichrist. Nor were they, however mistaken as to truth, mistaken in their policy, for they brought over many proselytes by it, and the church of Rome remains branded with the opprobrious name to this day: and yet the Protestants did not deserve the name of Schismatics, nor was Antichrist the real type of the church of Rome, but of another more wicked and mischievous enemy of the church of Christ; as I hope to prove in the sequel of this commentary.
In the mean time, I shall examine into the validity of the argument, upon which the protestant commentators have built this misapplication of the great Antichrist to the church of Rome. And here, it would be inconsistent with the intended brevity of these commentaries, to traverse minutely all they have said upon it. Bishop Newton, that learned and unwearied seeker after the truth of prophecy, has, however, considered their princicipal argument, and given it his unreserved sanction, and therefore I shall confine my remarks to wh.it he has offered upon the subject.
The Bishop, whose mind was piously engaged to promote the Reformation, by continuing the stigma of Antichrist upon the church of Rome, begins his argument with rejecting the opinion of the primitive fathers, as containing *stfange and wild notions concerning this cc Antichrist." And yet, willing to apologize for their mistake, he adds, "But it is no wonder that the fathers, "nor indeed that any one, should mistake, inpar"ticularly applying the prophecies which had not "then received their completion." To this I cheerfully assent: for there is no truth more evident to my mind, than the impossibility of unfolding all the particular circumstances of a great prophetic event before its completion. Conscious of this impossibility, the great Lord Bacon advises us to "sort the prophecies;" that is, after we have sufficiently explored all that the prophets have said upon them, to separate those which have been fulfilled from those which have not: that thus, in respect to the first class, we may have in the books of prophecy the signs and marks, and in the histories of the times, the events predicted as it were before us; from which it will be easy, by comparing the signs of each prophecy with its appropriate event, to shew with certainty its completion, and to demonstrate the truth of prophecy. And in regard to the second, all that we ought, all that is intended that we should, and therefore all that we can know, is the general nature of the events foretold, and that they shall come to pass in the course of the providence of God in his own time. So much may be known by a serious and pious application of the mind to the study of the prophecies, and so