« السابقةمتابعة »
which in prophetic style signifies so many years. This period is also mentioned in five different predictions in the New Testament. This power is spoken of, verse 23, as a kingdom "different from all before it." And so indeed it is; being a religious tyranny, or secular kingdom founded on a pretence of religion. It is represented as a monster with "teeth of iron," and "claws of brass ;" and very properly; for it is the character of that merciless religion to destroy all who oppose it, and to endeavour (by driving those who are so unhappy as to fall under its tyranny to make shipwreck of conscience) to damn all whom it destroys. It is spoken of as "devouring, stamping in pieces," and laying waste the whole world, as "changing times and laws," and "speaking great words against the Most High." All which suit the blood-thirsty cruelty, the unequalled arrogance, and blasphemous impiety of the bishops and church of Rome to the greatest exactness. It is there said, that he should not "regard the desire of women:" which plainly points out the prohibition of marriage; that he should "honour gods-protectors," that is, tutelar saints, and "a god whom his fathers knew not," a wafer-god, of which god some thousands are made in one day by the priests, and eaten and digested by the people. See also, 1 Tim. iv.
In the Apocalypse, chap. xi, xii, &c. it is copiously described, where it is represented under the appearance of a monster, or "wild beast," whose "seven heads," sig nify, as afterwards explained, the seven hills upon which Rome was built, and "ten horns" the ten kingdoms, into which the Roman empire was divided, whose "blasphe mous names" are notorious, as of God's vicegerent, Our lord god the pope, vice-god, and the like, who "wars with the saints and overcomes them ;" who "receives power over the nations," and is "worshipped" by them. The same is also afterwards represented under the character of the "great harlot," or idolatress, with whom the "kings of the earth have committed fornication," that is, the idolatry of worshipping the images of saints, and kneeling to the Host. She is afterwards represented as "drunk with the blood" of the martyrs of Jesus. The kings of the earth are afterwards mentioned as 66 giving their power to the
monster," as it is notorious that most of the kings of Europe acknowledged the pope for their lord god, and held their crowns of him, as some of them do still. The same power is likewise held forth under the figure of a great city, the seat of wealth, luxury, pleasure, riches, and commerce; one article of which commerce, peculiar to Rome papal, is her trade in the souls of men.
And by the apostle Paul this fatal delusion is called The man of sin, or the very abstract and quintessence of iniqui ty, a character fit only for the popish religion, as it alone, of all religions, contains an assemblage of all that is most exquisitely wicked, beyond what could have been thought within the reach of human invention unassisted by dæmons. Of which the infernal court of inquisition is a pregnant proof; where cruelty, the disposition the most opposite to all good, is carried to that diabolical excess that few hearts are hard enough to bear the mere description of it in a book. The propriety of giving the appellation of The man of sin, to the Romish imposture, appears from consider. ing, that it has had the peculiar cursed art not only to turn the mildest of all religions into a scene of the most horrible barbarity, but to make the most pure and heavenly system of doctrines and laws, which ever were, or will be, given to men, an authority for establishing for points of faith the most hideous absurdities, and contradictions to common sense; and for licensing every abominable wickedness that has ever been thought of or practised. Insomuch, that the fixed rates of absolution for the most horrid and unnatural vices, stand appointed by their popes, and published in different editions. By which means, the great design of Christianity, which was to teach men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, is defeated among the deluded proselytes to that infamous religion. For instead of this, popery teaches, that any man, who pays handsomely, may have an indulgence for any number of years to live in all manner of abominable impiety, profaneness, and impurity. Is not this The man of sin?
Whoever would see how exactly the Scripture predictions are suited to represent this diabolical delusion, has only to read the histories of popery, and accounts of the
inquisition. There he will find what hideous ravages has. been made by it in different countries. Witness their infamous croisades; the massacres of the Waldensis, and Albigenses, of whom almost a million were reckoned to be slain.
thirty years from the founding of the order of the Jesuits, above eight hundred thousand protestants were put to death by the hand of the executioner only. The bloody butchering duke of Alva used to make it his boast of having cut off in a few years thirty thousand protestants in the Netherlands. The destruction of helpless victims, sacrificed to that infernal fury, the inquisition, in one period of thirty years, is reckoned at one hundred and fifty thousand. Is not this dreadful and wide-wasting mischief, this terror of human nature, this hell on earth, properly represented as a monster or wild beast, with iron teeth to devour and destroy, as drunk with blood, and aspiring to an authority above all that is called God, or is worshipped; that is, above all other power and government, challenging the privilege of the grand tyrant and destroyer?
These are only a few among many instances of the unequalled horrors of this fatal delusion, and of the exactness of the Scripture predictions, which can be applied to nothing else that ever was heard of upon earth. And if in the days of the authors of the above predictions, there was nothing known among mankind, which might give the hint of such a power as that of antichrist, or popery; and if no account of this power in our times, when it is so well known, can, in prophetic style, more clearly describe it, than we find it represented in the predictions of Scripture, let the opposers of prophecy account for this wonderful agreement between the prediction and the completion, as they best can.
These are a few, among almost innumerable predictions of future events, of which Holy Scripture is full. And as these show themselves clearly to be genuine revelations from God; the others contained in the same writings may in reason be supposed to be of the same original, though the times when they were given, and the exactness of their respective completions, should be more subject to cavil, than those here quoted. And the opposers of the revelation, in which these predictions are contained, are
in reason obliged to give some plausible account how they came there, if not by Divine inspiration.
Let Christianity have been introduced into the world when it would, it is impossible to give any rational or satisfying account of its prevalence and establishment, but its being a Divine institution. For supposing it forged in any age before or since the received date of about seventeen hundred years ago, it will be equally impossible to conceive how it should come to pass upon mankind if it was a fiction. The Christian religion has been established upon the ruins of the national religion of every country in which it has been received. It had therefore the united forces of regal power, sacerdotal craft, and the popular superstition to bear down, before it could get footing in the world. Its character is directly opposite to the sordid views and secular interests of mankind, and acceptable to none but virtuous and elevated minds, which in all ages and nations have ever been comparatively a very small number of the species, and not fit nor disposed to struggle with, much less likely to get the better of the majority, so as to cram a set of falsehoods down their throats.
All the false schemes of religion, which ever prevailed in the world, have come to be established either by the multitude's being led to embrace them by craft, or driven to it by force. That Christianity was established by craft, is on all accounts incredible, and particularly from considering its character, which is altogether separate from worldly views, or any kind of motives which might incline men to deceive; and especially from its setting up upon the foot of the most strict integrity, of commanding all its votaries to avoid even the least appearance of evil, and by no means to think of doing evil for the sake of any possible good consequence. Such precepts as these would by no means have suited a scheme calculated for deceiving mankind. On the contrary, we always find the great doctrine preached up by impostors is, zeal for the cause, rather than for the truth. This appears dreadfully conspicuous in the bloody catalogue of sufferers who have fallen a sacrifice to the Mahometan and popish delusions. The opposers of Christianity are obliged, if they will show themselves reasoners, to give some rational account of the
establishment of it, upon the supposition of its being false. They are obliged in reason to show how a religion requir ing the most strict purity of heart and severity of manners, the mortifying of inordinate lusts and inclinations, the avoiding every appearance of evil, and encountering all manner of difficulties, and even death itself, if required, in testimony for truth; they ought to show how such a religion could have been established in the world by such seemingly unpromising and inadequate means as those by which Christianity actually was propagated; and that all this might, in a way unaccountable by human reason, and suitable to the usual course of things, have come about in spite of universal opposition from all those in whose hands the secular power was then lodged; and in spite of that most unconquerable of all prejudices, which mankind have for the religion they were brought up in. The opposers of Christianity ought to show that there have been instances similar to this; and that a few artless, illiterate fishermen might reasonably be supposed equal to a design of outwitting all mankind, imposing a set of gross falsehoods upon them, and confounding their understandings with fictitious miracles, which they voluntarily, no one knows why, swallowed down without examination; and the consequence of which was the overturning all the national religions of a great part of the world, in spite of the power of princes, the zeal of the priests, and the bigotry of the people. If they cannot find some rational and probable way for accounting for this strange and unexampled phenomenon, upon the supposition of Christianity's being a fiction; if they cannot show that fraud was used, (for no one ever alleged force,) they must yield the point, and acquiesce in the account given in the New Testa ment, to wit: That it made its way into the world by the power of its own irresistible evidence.
The author of our religion must either have been, truly and indeed, what he declares himself, the Son of God, and Saviour of the world, and his religion a Divine appointment; or he must have been an impostor, or an enthusiast, or madman, and his religion either a secular scheme, an involuntary delusion, or a pious fraud.
That Jesus Christ was no impostor will plainly appear,