« PreviousContinue »
CHAPTER II. 4-10.
I WISH to prove, with greater fulness than my expository observations would allow, that the Apostasy here spoken of is Rome, and the “ Wicked One” the Pope of Rome. If I can shew that the Church of Rome is the predicted Apostasy, then all hopes of union or communion with it are swept away for ever. If it be a Church reformable, capable of being purified, elevated, inspired, and made holy, then let us approach it, and deal with it as an erring but a reformable Church (as the Greek Church is); but if it be not a corrupt Church capable of reformation, but “the Apostasy," with the doom of judgment sounding in its very depths, and the brand of its criminality and its character stamped upon its very brow, then, instead of throwing out bridges, as Dr. Pusey has done, and trying to connect the Church of England, or any other section of the Protestant Church, with the Church of Rome, we have but one duty—to resist its supremacy, to protest against its intrusion, and to call upon every unhappy victim in the midst of it, from Cardinal Wiseman downwards, to come out of her, that they partake not of her sin, and receive not of her impending plagues.
In speaking of the Pope as the Man of Sin, and the head of the Apostasy, I do not mean an individual person, whom I would receive as a gentleman, and to whom I would show the courtesy and respect due to his position ; it is not, in short, as I have said, Mastai Feretti that I pronounce the Man of Sin, but Pio Nono, his predecessors, and his successors, should he have any; it is not the monk that is the Man of Sin, or that I charge with offences, but the official called the Pope of Rome, the head of the Romish hierarchy; and with him in his official capacity, and in no other, I have to do.
The passage that describes him in our English Bible is contained in a very few words, and it is substantially the same in the Roman Catholic Bible : “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [or, literally, “the falling away”] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself [literally, “who lieth in wait," as a tiger, when about to pounce upon its prey] above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. * * * For the mystery of iniquity (that is another name) doth already work : only he who now letteth [or, according to its modern sense,“ prohibiteth"] will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Then it is added: “And then shall that Wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 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 received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this
cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”
From Paul's use of the definite article, it is plain that the predicted Apostasy had been the subject of his teaching at Thessalonica. His address to Timothy, after describing the same apostasy, “If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ,” is another proof of the duty of faithful ministers in reference to this subject. He also informs us (ver. 5), “Remember ye not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things ?” They refer to the period described in Acts xvii. 1, 2. Then to warn and prepare the minds of our flocks in quiet times against the errors of popery, is a part of the apostolic succession. The dumb dog gives no alarm when he sees the wolf at a distance. The apostolic shepherd not only feeds the sheep within the fold, but watches every aggression without, and gives warning, and makes preparation, and can afterwards appeal to their recollections if he did not do so.
It is needless to discuss the fact, that there are different interpretations of this passage. If I open the works of Roman Catholic commentators, I find they are at issue among themselves as to what is the true meaning of the passage, though few believe it refers to themselves; and if I appeal to Protestant commentators, they too express their doubts whether the Pope be yet the full embodiment of it. Some excellent Protestant clergymen whom I know—men who shrink with just horror from Romanism-believe that this passage describes what is yet future, and that while the Pope may be the rude elemental sketch, the outline remains to be filled up with intenser colours, and
charged with yet more terrific and awful criminality. But I believe, in common with the most eminent divines, that it describes the Apostasy, and that apostasy the Church of Rome ; and I think the materials I have here are so truly illustrative of it, that, when you hear them, you will own the truth of wbat I have already said, that if they were put into the Hue and Cry, any detective policeman in London, on being made acquainted with the case, would instantly pounce upon the Pope, and say, “ This is the man!” I may mention that I have the sanction of almost all the best authorities for my interpretation. The greatest force of the Reformation almost turned upon it. What says one of the homilies of the Church of England ?those vigorous and graphic sketches, which I do most earnestly wish that Dr. Pusey and the Bishop of Exeter would read carefully. If the Archbishop of Canterbury would condemn the Bishop of Exeter to read a homily in his church every Sunday, instead of a sermon, I think it would do great good ; at least it could do no harm. “The Pope," says the homily, “ought to be called the Antichrist, and the successor of the Scribes and Pharisees, not Christ's Vicar and St. Peter's successor.” “ The Popes are worthily accounted among the false prophets and the false Christs.” The Church of Scotland, in its Confession of Faith, which is adopted by the Presbyterian bodies that have separated from her, says, “The Pope is that man of sin and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and against all that is called God.” The Irish Church, never behindhand in its Protestantism, states most nobly in her ancient and unrepealed Confession the same great application.
“ The Bishop of Rome's work and doctrines plainly discover him to be that man of sin foretold in holy Scripture, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming.” (Art. 80), Usher says : “ As Christ is the head of his Church, which is his body, so Antichrist is the head of the Romish Church, which is his body.” Cranmer says: “As for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy and the Antichrist ;” and his words are echoed by Latimer, Hooper, Bradford, Philpott, and others, who perfectly concurred with him. Martin Luther, in his Epistle to the Galatians, very freely calls the Pope Antichrist. “ The Pope,” he says, “is Antichrist, and vicar of Satan.” “The Pope sits in God's temple, showing himself to be God; he is an enemy to God, and exalts himself above all that is called God."
The system is delineated in the passage I have read, as “the mystery of iniquity.” There was no system in the days of St. Paul, developed and consolidated, to which the name could well be given ; but there were many seeds and elements scattered over Judæa and among the Gentile Christian communities, likely enough to be developed into a portentous heresy. I heard from a friend, that among the Arabs there was a system of what was called jewel writing—a sort of hieroglyphics, by which one could read the meaning conveyed by the arrangement and colours of the jewels, as placed on a crown. I was told that the ancient tiara of the Popes had jewels upon it, signifying in that mode of writing (which a Jew who knew the secret.was able to read), “ Mystery ; Babylon the Great; the mother of harlots." The Jews, it is said, thus arranged the precious stones, because they hated