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would even have taken him by force to make him king. This mistaken notion was not confined to those who were imperfectly instructed among the multitude; our Lord's disciples partook of it: and even after he was risen from the dead, and had for forty days taught them the things pertaining to his kingdom, the very last question they put to him was, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” To this their anxious inquiry, they received for answer, “ It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath kept in his own power; but ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
They were not wrong in their expectation, but only in looking for its immediate fulfilment; forgetting that our Lord had told them that the kingdom must begin“ within them, and that in the gift of the Holy Ghost they should be qualified for and impelled to their work of preaching the Gospel, to establish in the hearts of men that spiritual kingdom of the Lord which precedes his second advent to fill the throne of David : and, without giving them to know the times and the seasons, it was intimated they should have abundant encouragement in the success they would find in heralding the good news of that coming kingdom. We, who have seen centuries intervene, now know that it could not have been otherwise. Constant watchfulness and indefatigable exertion were both to be sustained; and these were both kept in full vigour by the continual expectation of their Lord's glorious advent to restore the kingdom to Israel. Had they known how distant was this object of their hope, exertion might have flagged, and carelessness crept in; but their perfect certainty of the fact of their Lord's return, combined with their uncertainty of its exact time, kept all their hopes and energies in full activity.
An error similar to this of the Jews respecting Christ, prevailed for some centuries in the Christian church respecting Antichrist. As Christ was spoken of in a twofold character, and came then to establish a spiritual, while he shall yet come to establish a literal kingdom; so Antichrist is spoken of as already at work in the Apostles' days, and the antichristian character elsewhere described with the utmost accuracy as it manifested itself in the Papacy; while in other places language is employed which can only apply to a person, who shall assume a literal sovereignty more ample than man has yet dared to usurp, and claims of Divinity more blasphemous than Satan or any of his agents have hitherto arrogated. And, according as Christ said, “ the kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation," and many of the most striking signs passed unobserved at the time, “but after He was risen from the dead then remembered they that they had done these things;” so the usurpations of Antichrist have hitherto been gradual, and unobserved
and as ye
at the time, though afterwards recognised : and we doubt not, that, when the last
personal Antichrist shall come forth, it shall be true of the commencement of his career that he “ cometh not with observation.” It is written, 1 John ii. 18, “ It is the last time;
have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time.” Paul declares, 1 Tim. iv. 1, “ Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,” &c. In all the later Epistles—as 2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, 2 Timothy--a falling away of the church and a manifestation of Antichrist are stated to be the signs immediately preceding the coming of the Lord. And, last of all, in the Apocalypse many details are given of the course of action of this oppressor of the church and enemy of the Lord, and the period is also stated during which the saints were to be given into his hand, under the different forms of forty-two months—twelve hundred and sixty days—three years and a half--and a time, times, and the dividing of time. Though the early fathers expected a principle of hostility to Christ, which they called Antichrist, to be manifested in a body of men and a system of things growing out of the corruption of the church, and under this expectation were constantly guarding against corruptions; yet they all interpreted the“ lawless king” of Dan. xi. 36-45, and the wicked one" of 2 Thess. ii. 8, of an individual, whose career should be one of only three years and a half; and they were continually endeavouring to recognise in the persecuting Emperors some features of “that man of sin, the son of perdition, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming.” Their view of the succession of events accompanying the manifestation of Antichrist, may be seen very distinctly given in the two treatises of Hypolitus, " On Antichrist,” and “On the end of the world,” as also in detached passages in Irenæus, Justin Martyr, and Lactantius; and Jerome, in his comment on Dan, xi., contends strongly, against Porphyry, that Antiochus and the other persecutors were but types of the personal Antichrist, whom the Lord himself shall come to destroy.
All the first Christians had been living in continual expectation of the second advent: three centuries rolled on, and still the Lord delayed his coming. These were times of almost uninterrupted persecution ; but this the church had been taught to expect, and therefore faithfully testified under it, and regarded the increase of persecution as only indicating the nearer approach of that time when their great Deliverer should appear. The conversion of Constantine introduced a change in the aspect of the church : the power of the empire, heretofore directed against her, was now ranged on her side. This she was not prepared for; and the same church which had boldly and faithfully adhered to the truth under persecution, was enervated and deteriorated by this patronage of the state. It suffered loss in general doctrine and discipline: but these it would be beside our present object to notice; the deterioration we have to do with is that which respects the one doctrine of the coming of the Lord. The church found itself unexpectedly courted, caressed, and loaded with favours, while accustomed to look for nothing but persecution from men. The Scriptures, it is true, promise a time of blessedness upon earth; but the day of vengeance, the day of the Lord, the coming of Christ, uniformly precede it. They now found themselves very much at ease, and were willing to persuade themselves that the time of blessedness promised in Scripture had already begun : they therefore lowered the prophetic announcements, calling them poetical and metaphorical, and exaggerated their own prosperity ; imagining that by this double process they made the prophecy and their own times accord: and a little ingenuity of the same kind made the day of vengeance already passed. Origen had before taken the same unwarrantable liberty with other doctrines of our faith : and from
sources no more worthy than these is the greater part of the modern system of spiritualizing to be derived. But the halcyon days of Constantine quickly passed, and these men of metaphor were driven to great straits. Some of the thorough-going spiritualizers were determined to maintain their interpretation at all hazards, and insisted that they were still living under the reign of peace which the Millennium denoted, and that Julian's persecutions did not materially alter its character of blessedness; which preposterous folly has been revived by Grotius and Hammond. Others declared that the Millennium was passed, and that Satan was again loosed from the bottomless pit. But the greater number abandoned part of their error, and still retained the other part: they re-asserted a personal Antichrist, to be revealed in the last times, whom the Lord would come in person to destroy; but they thought that this coming would be the end of the world, and that the Millennium was only a figurative expression for the joy of heaven. In this state of uncertainty, mingled with hope, the church remained till about the thirteenth century; with light enough to guide the elect in the course of their duty, and with knowledge enough to enable many individuals to protest against the errors and superstitions which were in these times heaped upon the true doctrines; but not with light or knowledge sufficient to enable them to detect and expose that Antichristian principle which had then grown up in the church. In the thirteenth century the Papal abuses had become so enormous, and these were so like the characteristics of Antichrist in Scripture, that all those who partook not of its plunder hesitated not in condemning and denouncing the Papacy. . They also began to think that the 1260 days of the beast's ascendancy might be understood as so many years; which having now run their course,
the downfall of this usurping power might be soon expected. The Pope, confident in the strength of that wellknit fabric of policy over which he presided, often disregarded these murmurings ; or when, from the station and character of the parties, they became too important to be passed by, he crushed them with the most unsparing rigour : and such was the compact strength of this stronghold of superstition, that it went on, accumulating abuses and defying the attacks of the champions of truth, for two centuries more; when the Reformers gave it a blow from which it has never wholly recovered. brief notice of these times is necessary, that we may see how light broke in upon that large portion of Scripture which foretells the tyranny and downfall of “ Babylon the Great, the Mother of abominations."
The authority of Christ being two-fold, as King and as Priest, political and ecclesiastical; the usurpations of Antichrist were also two-fold, and were gradually assumed by the Pope, one after another; till, in the plenitude of his pride, in the fourteenth century, he had blasphemously arrogated to himself all the dignities belonging solely to Christ. The nomination to the popedom, as to all other bishopricks, was originally in the Emperor, and was confirmed to the Emperor Charles V. by the 22d canon of the Synod of Rome, held under Adrian A. D. 773, one hundred and fifty-three bishops being present. The decree runs, “ ut ipse habeat jus et potestatem eligendi pontificem, et ordinandi sedem apostolicam ; denique ut archiepiscopi et episcopi per singulas provincias ab eo investituram accipiant. Refrangentes huic decreto anathematizat synodus.” This decree was often acted upon; insomuch that Otho I. deprived Pope John XIII. and substituted Leo VIII. in his place. But Gregory VII., Hildebrand, wrested this prerogative from the Emperors ; and though Henry IV. disputed it, and even deposed Hildebrand, putting Clement in his place, yet was he ultimately foiled, and excommunicated by the Pope, and forced to sue barefoot before Gregory to have the excommunication removed. These monstrous usurpations of the Pope, and the corresponding enormities in doctrine, had grown out of the vice and ignorance of the tenth century, probably the very darkest era of the church. Historians generally described this century as “ devoted to ignorance and debauchery." Caranza, Genebrard, and Baronius, describe it as “a monstrous age.
Ratherius, Bishop of Vicenza at that time, charges the whole clergy with being utterly corrupt and profligate ; and he says, the Italians were the most so of all, by reason of their greater proneness to debauchery and vice: that the doctors there neglected all discipline, insomuch as the clergy did in nothing differ from the laity but in their habits. And he says, such was the extreme ignorance in the priests of his diocese, that they could not so much as say the Apostles' Creed ; and he charges the priests, in his synodical epistle, that they learn to say it without book, together with that of St. Athanasius. The same testimony is borne by Atto, Bishop of Verceil in that time. These abominations went on with little check or hindrance, till the thirteenth century; at which time the exactions of the Pope, the pest of the begging friars, and the gross corruption and insolence of the whole body of the clergy, became intolerable to the people : but so compact and politic was the papal fabric, and so numerous were those who fattened upon its luxuries, that another century passed before it could be at all humbled, or the people obtain any mitigation of its exactions. About 1230 the Apocalypse came to be employed as the most powerful weapon against the Papal apostasy, and it is curious to observe, that Gregory IX. seems to have been the first to unsheath this sword whose point was afterwards turned with such tremendous effect against himself and his system. He put forth an edict against the Emperor, Frederic, beginning, “ Ascendit de mari bellica bestia, wherein he declareth the causes, wherefore he curseth, and giveth the Emperor to the divel of hell, and dejecteth him from all his princely dignity.” Frederic, in his reply, says: “The Lord Pope hath compared us to the beast rising out of the sea : to take the words in the true sense and interpretation, he is that great dragon, that hath deceived the whole world : he is that Antichrist, of whom he hath called us the forerunner.”—In 1240, God stirred up faithful teachers in sundry countries, many of whom are mentioned in Crantz. In 1250, Arnoldus de Nova Villa denounced the Papists for teaching only historical faith, which is the faith historia non fiducia, and their other abuses. Then also lived Gulielmus de Sancto Amore, denounced as an heretic by the Pope. In 1250, too, Grosthead, Bishop of Lincoln, refused to admit Frederic, the Pope's natural son, and a minor, as canon or prebendary of Lincoln. Writing to the Pope, he says: “Moreover, next after the sin of Lucifer (which shall be in the latter time, to wit, of Antichrist, the child of perdition, whom the Lord shall destroy with the breath of his mouth), there is not, nor can be, any kind of sin so repugnant and contrary to the doctrine of the Apostles and holy Scripture, and to our Saviour Christ himself more hateful, detestable, and abominable, than to destroy and kill men's souls, by defrauding them of the mystery of the pastoral office, which by the ministry of the pastoral cure ought to save and quicken the same. Hereby it is manifest that the inducers of such wicked destroyers of God's image and deifica