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nians to be under such consternation, to be maken in mind and to be troubled, that the wrath is come upon them to the uttermoft, as the apostle faith, (1 Theff. II. 15, 16.) who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have perfecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved. It was matter of consolation, rather than of trouble or terror to the Thessalonians; and as such the apostle mentions it in his former Epistle.
*5. But of all the applications of this prophecy none is more extraordinary than that of the late professor Wetstein, the learned and laborious editor of the New Testament with the various readings and copious annotations. “ By the man of fin and the wicked one he (1) understands Titus or the Flavian family. The mystery of ini· quity was then working, because at that time Vefpafian had borne the office of conful, had received the honors of a triumph, and even under Caligula had entert uned fome hopes of the empire. He who letteth was Nero, who was now adopted by the emperor.” One is really ashamed and grieved to see a scholar and critic fall into such absurdities. What! was Titus then, as well as the emperor Julian, an apostate? Was he, who was one of the best emperors, the love and delight of mankind, to be branded with the odious appellations of the man of fin and the wicked one? Even Domitian was not worse than several other emperors both before and after him. How did Titus and the Flavian family oppose and eralt thema felves above every God or emperor ? How did they as God fit in the temple of God, showing themselves that they were Gods? Why was Vespasian's hoping for the empire the mystery of iniquity, more than Galba's, or Otho's, or Vitellius's hoping for the same? When Nero was taken out of the way, were not these three emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, all revealed before the Flavian family? How was the coming of Titus and the Flavian family with all power, and signs, and lying wonders,
(1) Intelligo Titum five domum jam sub Caio in fpem imperii venerat. Flaviarm----μυςηριον της ανομιας, -ο κατεχων, Nero jam adoptatus erat, Eo tempore Vespasianus consulatum &c. Westenius in locum. jam gefferat, triumphalia acceperat, et
and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness? How were their adherents and followers such eminently as received not the love of truth that they might be fured, but believed a lie, that they might be damned, and had pleasure in unrighteousness? How were Titus and the Flavian family destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem, when they were themselves the destroyers of it, and reigned several years afterwards ? Was there an illustrious coming of Christ, when Titus or any of the Flavian family died ? Or how can the Lord be faid to consume them with the spirit of his mouth, and to destroy them with the brightness of his coming? It surpasseth all comprehenfion, how this learned profeffor could think of such an application, without asking himself fome such questions; or how he could ask himself any such questions, without clearly perceiving the impossibility of answering them. We cannot suppote that he would have made a compliment of his religion, but he hath certainly of his understanding,
to Cardinal Quirini, in this instance as well as in his com· ment upon the Revelation, which, (2) as he humbly
hopeth will not displease his eminency, and then he shall be transcendently happy.
It is a farthier objection to Wetstein, as also to Grotius, Hammond, Le Clerc, and Whitby, that they are fo fingular in their opinions; they differ as much from one another, as from the generality of interpreters; and as they diffent from all who went before them, fo they are followed by none who came after them. If this prophecy was fulfilled, as these critics conceive, before the destruc, tion of Jerusalem, it is surprising that none of the fathers should agree with any of them in the fame application, and that the discovery hould first be made lixteen or feventeen hundred years after the completion. The fathers might differ and be mistaken in the circumstances of a prophecy which was yet to be fulfilled ; but that a prophecy should be remarkably accomplished before their time, and they be totally ignorant of it, and fpcak of the accompliament as still future, is not very credible, and will always be a strong presumptive argument
(2) cui si, uti fpero, vel interpretationem Apocalypseos, vel cona. cum faltem meum non displicuisse in
tellexero, sublimi feriam fidera vertice. Idem de Interpret. Apoc. Tom. 2. p. 894.
against against any such interpretation. The foundation of all the mistakes of these learned men is their interpreting the coming of Christ, of the destruction of Jerusalein : whereas the context, as it hath been shown, plainly evinces, and they themselves at other times acknowledge, that it is to be understood of his coming to judge the world. They therefore bid fairer for the true interpretation, who apply this prophecy to events after the de. struction of Jerusalem. ,
6. Of those who apply this prophecy to events after the destruction of Jerusalem, fome papists, and some perfons who think like papists, contend that the character of the man of fin was drawn for the great impostor Mohammed: and it must be confessed, that the portrait resembles him in many respects. He was indeed a man of fin both in life and in doctrin. He might be faid to fit in the temple of God, when he converted the churches into inofques. He likewise rose upon the ruins of the Roman empire; and the Roman empire is generally thought to be what withholdeth. But though some features are alike, yet others are very much unlike, and demonstrate a manifest difference. He was not properly an apoftate, for he and his countrymen the Arabians were not Christians but Heathens, though he made many Christians afterwards apostatize from the faith. The mystery of iniquity, as we have seen, was working in the days of the apostles: but there were not then any indications of the rise and increase of Mohammedisin; it sprung up of a sudden like a mushroom, whose seeds the winds scattered over the face of the earth. The apostasy was to precede and introduce the man of fin, but this man of fin was the first author of this apostafy. And what is the most material, he never pretended to confirm his mission, or authorize his doctrin by miracles. His coming was not with all power, and signs, and lying wonders : on the contrary he (3) declared, that “God had “ fent Moses and Jesus with miracles, and yet men “ would not be obedient to their word; and therefore " he had now sent him in the last place without miracles, “ to force them by the power of the sword to do his (3) Sec Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 26 and 28. 8th Edit. 1723. ,
monftrae alike, yent withho. Roman pon the
“ will.” Some of his followers have ascribed miracles to him: but as Dr. Prideaux obferves, “those who “ relate them are only such wlio are reckoned among “ their fabulous and legendary writers. Their learned “ doctors renounce them all, as doth Mohammed him“ self, who in several places in his Koran owns that he or wrought no miracles.”
7. Others of the papists affirm, that the apostasy is the falling away from the church of Rome by the doctrins of the Reformation. But who then is the man of fin, Luther and his followers, or Calvin and his followers, or who? for the protestants are far from being united under any one head. Which of the protestant churches exa ts herself above every God and magistrate? Which of them arrogates to herself divine honors and titles ? Which of them pretends to establish her doctrin and difciplin by miracles? These things would be ridiculously and absurdly objected to the protestant churches, and more ridiculously and absurdly still by the members of the church of Rome.
8. The greater part of the Romish doctors, it must be confessed, give another interpretation, and acknowlege that (4) the fathers and the best interpreters understand this unanimously of Antichrist, who will appear in the world before the great day of judgment to combat religion and the faints. But then they conceive that Antichrist is not yet revealed, that he is only one man, and that he will continue only three years and a half,
But we have shown before, that the man of fin is not a · single man, any inore than the whore of Babylon is a
single woman. The one as well as the other is to be understood of a whole order and fucceffion of persons. The mystery of iniquity was working, and preparing the way for the man of fin even in the apostles days : and is it not very extraordinary, that 1700 years should elapse, and that he should not be yet revealed ? IVhut withholdeth, they say, wąs the Roman empire; and the Roman empire might be powerful enough to hinder his appearance at that time, but how hath it withheld and hindered all this while ? As this evil began in the apostles days, and was to continue in the world till the second coming of Christ in power and great glory; it neceffarily follows that it was to be carried on not by one man, but by a succession of men in several ages. It cannot be taking root and growing imperceptibly 1700 years and inore, and yet florish under its chief head only three years and a half. There needeth not surely so much preparation for so little effect. Neither are three vears and a half a period fufficient for Antichrist to act the parts and to fulfil the characters which are assigned him; unless he hath also this property of divinity, that one day is with him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
(4) Les Peres, et les meilleurs in- jugement, pour combattre la religion terprétes entendent unanimeinent ceci et les saints. Calmet Comment et de l'inte-Christ, qui dcit paroître Differtation sur l'Ante-Chrift, dans le monde ayant le grand jour du
III. The detection of falsehood is the next step towards the discovery of truth: and having seen how this passage hath been mistaken and misapplied by some famous commentators, we may be the better enabled to vindicate and establith what we conceive to be the only true and legitimate application. The Thessalonians, from some expressions in the former Epistle, were alarmed as if the end of the world was at hand, and Christ was coming to judgment. The apostle, to correct their mistakes and dislipate their fears, affures them, that the coming of Christ will not be yet awhile; there will be first a great apoftafy or defection of Christians from the true faith and worthip. This apostasy all the concurrent marks and characters will justify us in charging upon the church of Rome. The apostle mentions this apoftafy in another place, (1 Tim. IV. 1, &c.) and specifies fome articles, as doctrins of demons, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from ments, which will warrant the fame conclusion. The true Chriftian worship is the worship of the one only God through the only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jefus : and from this worThip the church of Rome hath notoriously departed by substituting other mediators, and invocating and adoring faints and angels. Nothing is apostasy, it idolatry be not; and the same kind of idolatry is practised in the church of Rome, that the prophcts and inspired writers
faints anong other mediume bath nos.