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might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming : even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivablenes 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 believed a lie : that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The other is in 1 Tim. iv. 1-5: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils ;. [demons ;] speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
Here is a set of distinguishing marks which, wherever they are found, and so far as they are found, indicate the presence of Antichrist. I do not mean that some of them may not exist in particular churches without others; that there may not frequently be much good in their company; or that very many holy men may not have been partially under their influence. It is not for us to judge our brethren; but the spirit of creeds and systems we may judge, comparing them with the gospel, without any breach of humility or charity. Indeed we not only may but must judge them, if we would inquire out the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, to find rest for our souls ;' and obey the apostolic directions to “try the spirits whether they are of God;” and “prove all things,” that we may “hold fast that which is good.” The characteristics of the apostacy are dominion over conscience; alliance with temporal authority; mystery; idolatrous worship; blasphemy; hypocrisy, deceit and affected austerity; and persecution. Antichrist, therefore, is such a personification of evil in the church, as Satan is in the world. The predicted mischiefs, just enumerated, were at their greatest height, and in their completest combination, in Popery, a short time before the Reformation; but they had an embryo existence in the apostolic age; have contaminated the whole, or nearly, of the professed Christian church: wherever found, should be reprobated; and apparently are fated, at no
very distant period, to be abolished, preparatory to the conversion of the Jews, and the universal diffusion of genuine Christianity.
The great and leading evil, which may be considered as the source from which the rest flow, or the soul by which they are animated, is an usurped authority over faith and conscience. A voice from heaven proclaimed of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.” He is declared to be “the author and finisher of faith.” AU human authority in matters of religion, all dictation of what is to be believed or done by Christians, as such, is rebellion against his supremacy, and whenever admitted, has proved the fertile source of error, confusion, and persecution. The apostles were aware of this tendency, and pointedly disclaimed spiritual authority.” “We preach, not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord.” “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy." They reminded the elders of churches, that they were not “lords over God's heritage.”. The meek and lowly Jesus vindicated this supremacy as his peculiar dignity and right. “Ye. call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. Be not ye called rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your Father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Such precepts as these, which, far from being so unim
portant as they are sometimes considered, have a vital connexion with the authority of revealed religion, and its intellectual and moral influence, have been grossly and generally violated --by the powers which Councils, beginning with that of Nice, in the fourth century, have arrogated to themselves over the church; by the pretensions of the Patriarchs of the East, and the Bishops of Rome in the West, who assumed the title of Pope, or Father; by the English Episcopacy, in forgetting that Christ was the sole Head of the church, and bestowing that appellation, with correspondent powers, on the profligate, licentions, and tyrannical Henry VIII.; by the Presbyterian divines, in imposing their Confession and Catechism; and by the Diotrephes of the Meetinghouse, who, by making his own faith the standard: of Christianity, and its profession the term of communion, emulates, according to his station and ability, the possessor of the triple crown.
The primitive church was composed of persons united merely by the acknowledgement that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, a divinely-commissioned Teacher, whose instructions each was to interpret for himself. This allowed great room for diversity of opinion, and such diversity actually existed; but while they exercised mutual charity, and none attempted to set up their own faith as a standard, things went on very well. Their bishops and elders were designed, not
more for the purposes of instruction, than for those of worship and discipline, The first evil was the elevation of these officers into a separate, dignified, and endowed class. The wealth of the world, and the speculations of the philosophers, flowed into the church, destroying alike simplicity of manners, faith, and worship. Then came new doctrines, and new methods of stating and enforcing doctrine, by creeds, anathemas, and decisions of councils: ecclesiastical power reared its head : heretics (all who believed differently from the strongest party) were driven from communion, consigned to future and endless punishment, and the strong arm of imperial authority invoked to crush them: the Bible became a prohibited book: proud man sat in the temple of God, as God, and dispensed the pardon of sins, and fixed the terms of everlasting life. The Reformation left the principle of these enormities, though its extravagancies were pruned. Churches still tell you what you must find in the Bible, though you are allowed to read it. Even Dissenters play their little game of tyranny, and make Christians pass to the Lord's table through
the pool of baptism, or under the forks of the - Assembly's Catechism. (b) All this is not more unchristian than pernicious. Mental liberty is essential to mental strength. That a man does not think for himself in religion, not only keeps him ignorant, but it makes him slavish, bigoted,