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immediately. It appears, too, that the artful adversary was as forward in helping this delusion as he will be, in a future day, in keeping the world in secure forgetfulness of the day of the Lord. Pretended revelations, it seems, as well as feigned messages and epistles from the apostles, were produced to promote this untimely and hurtful expectation: but no, the day was not yet arrived when the kingdom of God could be likened to "ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom." Many ancient prophecies remained to be fulfilled before the coming of the Messiah in his kingdom :
3. "Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first," or rather, "unless THE APOSTASY come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
Dr. Macknight well observes, that the word apostasy 1 here is emphatical, denoting both that this was to be a great apostasy, the apostasy by way of eminence, and that the Thessalonians had been already apprized of its coming. "Remember ye not," continues the apostle in the next verse, 66 that when I was yet with you, I told you these things." So that the event of such an apostasy, to take place hereafter, was a fact well known in the church; and not only the apostasy in general, but the future development of an extraordinary character, whom St. Paul here denominates "the man of sin." This, from the circumstances of the case, can be no other than the great actor in the scenes of the latter days, denounced
1 Η αποστασία.
in the Psalms and in the ancient Prophets; especially under the symbol of "the little horn," in the vision of Daniel, which we have already seen to apply, almost without a possibility of doubt-history having interpreted prophecy-to the Papacy; and the reader will find, in Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, a very able and satisfactory dissertation on this prophecy of St. Paul; where the application of the symbol of " the man of sin" is clearly shown to belong to the papacy, and to the papacy alone.
This prophecy, then, asserts that the coming of Christ could not be looked for until after this "man of sin," the power symbolized by the little horn of Daniel, was revealed. He had not yet been revealed; the church and the world had never seen such a character: but the apostle refers to a conversation that he had had with the Thessalonians, in which he had explained to them what, in the present state of the world, prevented the appearance of this great corrupter and persecutor.
"And now ye know what withholdeth,"— or, “And ye know what now restraineth him,' that he might be revealed in his season. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth, will let until he be taken out of the way."
"The Christian fathers universally understood the restraining power to be the Roman empire; in which opinion, whether it was derived from tradition or from The conjecture, they seem to have been well founded.”1 situation of the empire, as it then stood, did not admit of the manifestation of this character in its relative position,
'Macknight. See also Bishop Newton.
described in prophecy. The empire, according to Daniel's vision, must first of all be divided into its ten sovereignties; because this proud blasphemer must come up, as an eleventh, after them.
The seventh verse is well explained by Dr. Macknight, "A mystery is something secret or undiscovered,”. "the mystery of iniquity, therefore, is a scheme of error not openly discovered, whose influence is to encourage iniquity."-" The hidden scheme of corrupt doctrine on which that wicked tyranny is founded, and the pride, ambition, and sensuality which are nourished thereby, already inwardly worketh among the false teachers," &c.*
"And then shall that wicked,"-" that lawless one,' "be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit""breath"-" of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."
If this applies to the same character, as many suppose, it plainly intimates that the corruptions of popery subsist to the very last, and will only be put an end to by the sentence of the Judge, when he shall appear in his glory," when he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall slay the wicked." But a question may certainly arise in the interpretation of this verse, whether by "the wicked," or "the lawless one,' ," the apostle means the same as "the man of sin" of the former verse, or whether a new character, in the ultimate state of the apostasy, be not designed at least, a new characteristic of that apostasy. If so, we shall couple "the man of sin" with Daniel's
* Compare Habakkuk, ii. 4, &c.
2 ’Ο ανομος.
3 Ο άνθρωπος της αμαρτίας.
little horn of the fourth beast, as joint symbols of the PAPACY, and “the wicked,” the emphatic“ lawless one,” with the king that doth according to his will ; the symbol of the “ possessors of sovereign authority,” or “political power,” in the fourth or Roman empire - as history has begun to explain. The apostasy that manifests itself among the professed Christians of the Roman world, first perverts the truths of the Gospel, and substitutes in their stead the demoniacal superstition and abominable idolatry of popery; but at length arrives at that further pitch of wickedness, that the rulers and governors of the earth throw off all disguise, and act on the avowed principles of infidelity; and, in the character of antichristian infidels, rather than in that of superstitious papists, shall, perhaps, in the last instance, make war with the Lamb,
“ Whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved : and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
“ Whose coming” has, by most commentators, been understood of the rise of this “ man of sin” or wicked one;" but the construction of the text seems regularly to confine the application to the coming of the Lord just mentioned. The sense will be: The coming of the Lord Jesus, which you erroneously suppose to be at hand, does not take place till after this' mighty struggle of the prince of darkness, opposing the right ways of the Lord, and, by various artifices, seducing the professed followers of Christ. “ The miracles and lying wonders" mentioned in the text, as the facts of history
have shown, strongly mark the rise of popery in past ages : and were we sure that mankind are now become so enlightened by philosophy, that they can no more be imposed upon by such pretended miracles, the “ deceivableness of unrighteousness” will be seen to exert its powers in some other different way. The subtilty of Satan has other resources, by which the boasting reasoner may become a dupe at last. It must be so. We read, To those who receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved, God will send a strong delusion, that they may believe a lie, that they all might be damned that believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Let us remember, then, in these last days, if superstition go out of fashion with mankind, the
energizing" 1 of Satan and “ of deceit" is not at an end :
An alarm, and a snare, and a pit,
shall fall into the pit,
What St. Paul says in the fourth chapter of his first epistle to Timothy, respecting the same apostasy, may, perhaps, with advantage, be advanced in this place :
“ Now, the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith.”
The Holy Ghost, in the revelations he made to the
* Isaiah, xvi, 17,