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shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion,
probably, commonly known and discussed among Christians; for John writes of Antichrist as a familiar subject, and Paul refers, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, to earlier communications. The term itself only occurs in the epistles of John. It may mean, opposed to Christ, or instead of Christ. These meanings are indeed coincident, and lead us directly to the essence of the apostacy, which consisted in usurping the spiritual authority of Christ. He is the only Lord of faith and practice; and authority set up instead of his, is, in fact, in opposition. It first occurs in 1 John ii. 18, 19: “As ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us.” It is also introduced in ver. 22: “Who is a liar, but hé that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son." In the text, (and in the second epistle,) it is applied to those who did “not confess Jesus Christ come in the flesh,” with the remark, “Ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world.” We learn from these texts that the term does not designate any particular church, or man, or set of men, but a spirit or system, which had its birth in the days of the apostles, and which, wherever it exists, corrupts the gospel in its doctrines, design, and influence. Many theologians have applied the term pecu
liarly and solely to the Church of Rome. This restriction is wholly unwarranted by, and inconsistent with, the New Testament delineation of the apostacy. That church bears its marks, but not alone. In different degrees of vividness, they are visible on the eastern as well as western churches; before the existence of what is properly called Popery, as well as after; and in the national churches which have abandoned, as in those which have remained in that communion. There are two predictions by Paul, which it is necessary to quote at length, in addition to those already mentioned. The first is introduced to warn the Thessalonians against an erroneous notion, that the coming of Christ was at hand. 2 Thess ii. 1-12: “Now we beseech
brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means : for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition : 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. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things ? And now ye know what withholdeth, that he
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, 1 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