Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][subsumed]

to the popish church. Their principal ministers of state have been cardinals or other ecclesiastics: the magistrate has been engaged to use his sword to enforce their decrees, or execute their sentences against heretics; and numberless bloody wars have been waged in support of their antichristian dominion. In short, the barbarous and tyrannical power with which the ecclesiastical beast was invested by the secular one, has been exercised, in various ways, in direct opposition to the religion of Christ. But, without doubt, it may be affirmed, that the horrible tribunal of the Inquisition has been one of the instruments by which this prophecy has been fulfilled. In return for the services received by the ecclesiastical beast from the secular power, he causeth the earth, “ and them which dwell therein, to worship the first “ beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” The support of the secular and ecclesiastical powers, in the Roman empire and church, have been mutual. They have assisted each other in upholding idolatry, superstition, tyranny, and cruelty.-The beast is next described by his pretended miracles; so that he maketh, or pretendeth to make, fire come down from heaven on the earth, in the sight of men. This part of his character answers to what was foretold by the Apostle of the man of sin in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians. This is that “ son of perdi“tion 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, “shewing himself that he is God. This is he, “whose coming is after the working of Satan with “ all power and signs and lying wonders, and with

all deceivableness of unrighteousness *.” The opposers of Moses, the servant of God, performed lying wonders in Egypt. This false prophet imitates these opposers; and, like them, attempts to perform mi

See 2 Thess, ü. 1-9.

racles. These wonders, whether they be human impostures, or wrought by the intervention of the devil, he performeth in the sight of men, to deceive them; and in the sight of the first beast, to serve him. But they are performed neither by the power nor for the glory of God. The fire may probably allude to the miracles wrought by Elijah, who called down fire from heaven to consume the enemies of God and his people. Some have considered the fire in this passage, as denoting the fiery indignation which this ecclesiastical beast would bring upon all those of the earth, or Latin world, who would rebel against his authority. By these false miracles, it is asserted, that those who dwell on the earth, many of the inhabitants of the Roman empire, would be deceived and led into errors. This prophecy of the great wonders by which men were to be deceived, is one proof, among many others, that the Romish church is the power here referred to. For the pretended miracles, which the advocates of Popery boast as certain marks of the true church, are here shewn to be the stigma of the antichristian beast.The two-horned beast having deceived the inhabitants of the earth by these lying and pretended miracles, at length persuaded them to make an image of the first beast, or secular Roman empire. This image has been variously interpreted by different commentators; but it is most generally supposed to represent the Pope. Is not the Pope, as a temporal prince, the very image of the ancient emperors? Is he not, as the pretended infallible head of the church, the great idol of all zealous Papists? And is he not in both respects the representative of the whole antichristian tyranny ? Does he not represent in himself the whole power of the beast ? and is he not the head of all authority? Can we then doubt who this image is? or can we help being amazed at this exact and circumstantial prediction of such improbable events so many years before they took place? The Pope is nothing more than a private person, without power or authority, till the two-horned beast, or corrupted church, with its secular and regular clergy, by electing and investing him with his office, puts life into him, and enables him to speak and utter his decrees, and to persecute even to death as many as refuse to submit to him and worship him. As soon as he is chosen Pope, he is clothed with the pontifical robes, and crowned and placed upon the altar, and the cardinals come and kiss his feet, which ceremony is called adoration. They first elect, and then they worship him. In a medal struck on the occasion of crowning Pope Martin V. two persons are represented as crowning him, and two kneeling before him with this inscription, “ Quem creant adorant;" whom they create they adore. The Pope is the principle of unity to the ten kingdoms of the beast; and causeth, as far as he is able, all who will not acknowledge his supremacy to be put to death. The great ascendancy which the popes have obtained over the kings of the Latin world by means of the Roman hierarchy, is sufficiently marked in the history of Europe. As long as the great body of the people were devoted to the popish idolatry, it was in vain for the kings of the Roman Catholic countries to oppose the usurpations of the popes. They ascended, in spite of all opposition, to the highest pinnacle of human greatness; for even the authority of the emperors themselves was established or annulled at their pleasure. The plenitude of the papal power was not confined to what was spiritual; the Roman bishops dethroned monarchs, disposed of crowns, absolved subjects from the allegiance due to their sovereigns, and laid kingdoms under interdicts. There was not a state in Europe which had not been disquieted by their ambition. There was not a throne which they had not shaken, nor a prince who did not tremble at their presence. One of the popes (Boniface VIII.) published, in one of his bulls, that the “ secular power is “ but an emanation from the ecclesiastical; and the “ double power of the Pope, founded upon holy “Scripture, is even an article of faith. God has confided to St. Peter and his successors, two swords, “ the one spiritual the other temporal. The first “ ought to be exercised by the church itself, and the “other by the secular powers for the service of the “church, and according to the will of the Pope. The “ latter, that is to say, the temporal sword, is in sub* jection to the former; and the temporal authority “ depends indispensably on the spiritual power which * judges it, while God alone can judge the spiritual power. Finally, it is necessary to salvation for

[graphic]
[graphic]

every human creature to be in subjection to the “ Roman pontiff*.” The Pope, says Bishop Newton, causeth, as far as he is able, all who will not acknowledge his supremacy to be put to death. In short, he is the most perfect resemblance of the ancient Roman emperors; is as great a tyrant in the Christian, as they were in the heathen world; presides in the same city, usurps the same powers, affects the same titles, and requires the same homage and adoration. So that the prophecy descends more and more into particulars, from the Roman state, or the ten kingdoms in general, to the Roman clergy in particular; and then to the Pope, the head of the state in some respects, and of the church in all; the king of kings, as well as the bishop of bishops.

Bull of Pope Boniface VIII. called Unan Sanctam, published Nov. 16, 1302.

† Some commentators explain the making of the image to mean the establishment of image-worship; and the various impostures, by which the deluded votaries were induced to suppose that the images lived, and moved, and spake. But there are many objections to this hypothesis; and the arguments of Bishop Newton, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Faber, who support the above interpretation, are in my opinion unanswerable. If a literal image, or literal images, be meant; and yet the beasts are not supposed to be literal beasts, or the horns to be literal horns; this mixing of the literal with the

« PreviousContinue »