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sparing the Flock: Also of their own SELVES jhould Men arise, speaking PERVERSE Things to draw away Disciples after them, profesing to KNOW God, but in Works DENYING him.
THIS is enlarged upon in several Parts of his Epistles, as will appear by the References,
ST. PETER foretels, that as there was false PROPHETS among the People of the Jews, so there should be false TEACHERS in the Christian Church ; who privily should bring in the DAMNABLE Heresy of denying the LORD that bought them, and bring upon themselves SWIFT DESTRUCTION.
THIS Prophecy was literally accomplished by the Rise of the Arian Heresy, which infected most of the Asian and African Churches which being propagated and supported by the cruel Persecution inflicted upon those who professed the Belief of our Blessed Saviour's Divia NITY, soon brought upon them the swift Destruction of Mahometism; as is more particularly represented in the Introduction to the AbAtract of the History of Old Testament, pag. 11,
IN the present Age, many attempts have been made to revive this Heresy; these being baffled by undeniable Proofs drawn from the Holy Scriptures, the modern Infidels have changed their Battery, and are now attacking the Divine Authority of the sacred Records; and in many of their Writings have endeavoured to expose Christianity under the Title of PriestCRAFT; as if it were only the CONTRIVANCE of an Order of Men, to advance their own Tem
poral poral Power and INTEREST ; but this is far from being any real Argument against the Divine Authority upon which the Holy Scriptures are founded: For can it be imagined, that Men, whose Views were only to acquire Riches, Grandeur, and Power, should form a Scheme of Doctrines and Precepts fo diametrically oppofite to that Avarice, Pride, and Ambition, with which their Enemies have charged them? If there have been, or now are such Persons, whose Practice contradict the Religion they profess, they verify the PREDICTIONS of Our Saviour and the Apostles: That Men should be Lovers of themselves, Coverous, PROUD, Lovers of Pleasure more than Lovers of God: Having a Form of GODLINESS, but DENYING the Power thereof.
WHAT these Endeavours to subvert the fundamental Articles of the Christian Religion have produced, is now too apparent ; for Men are arrived to that State of Pride and Vanity, that they have presumed to advance their own Reason in opposition to the Truths of the Gofpel, and impiously to prescribe Laws to their Maker ; abrogating his Justice, and extending the Divine Mercy even to the Indulgence of Mankind in the most enormous Vices. What these Maxims of Infidelity have produced, is too evident; for such a Diffoluteness of Manners, such a Luxury in all parts of Life, such a Contempt of the very Laws and Liberties of their Country, was never before known in this Nation.
NOW these very Impieries, are a Testimony of the Truth of that Religion, which
some with so much Zeal have endeavoured to confound. For if there had been no Herefies, nor other Impieries in the Christian Church, that Religion could not be true, which has ex prefly foretold that such should arise.
AS to the Antichristian Apostacy, it may be observed, That the first Christian Emperors, to express their Zeal for Christianity, bestowed great Estates and Immunities upon the Clergy; which soon infected that Order of Men with an unsatiable AVARICE, and restless Ambicion ; neglecting the Study of the Scriptures, and the proper Duties of their sacred Function ; and by degrees, brought into the Church many of the gross Superstitions of Paganism, which at last terminated in the Establishment of the Worship of IMAGES (although warmly opposed by several of the Greek Emperors.
THE Roman Empire in the Weft, being entirely broke by the Incursions of the Northern Nations, in the Year 476, and Ten Kingdoms being settled upon its Ruins, an Ecclesiastical Monarchy was introduced, which has assumed an absolute Supremacy over all Sovereign Princes, and by degrees, brought all these Ten Kingdoms to submit their Regal Authority to the controul of the Papacy.
THE Description given of the Antichrist in the Holy Scriptures, is as follows.
THAT before Christ's second Coming, there should be * a falling away; and that Man of Sin be REVEALED, the Son of PERDITION:
a Theft. q. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that be as God fitteth in the Temple of God, hewing bimself that He is God. Now ye know wbat withboldeth, that He might be revealed in his Time. For the Mystery Of INIQUITY doth already work, only He who now LETTETH will let, until be be taken out of the way. And then mall that wicked One be revealed, whom the Lord mall consume with the Spirit of his Mouth, and mall 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 Deceiveableness of Unrighteoufness in them that peris; because they received not the Love of the Truth, that they might be saved. And for this Cause
, God shall send them strong Delusions, that they should believe a LYE: That they all might be DAMNED whO BELIEVED NOT the Truth, but bad Pleafure in Unrighteousness.
NOW the * Spirit Speaketh expresly, That in the latter Times, fome Mall depart from the Faith, giving heed to seducing Spirits, and Docs trines of Devils; speaking Lies in Hypocrisy; having their conscience feared 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 bgLIEVE and know the Truth.
IF these Predictions relating to the Antichristian Empire, be compared with the Hiftories that describe the Rile and Establishment
i Timn. iv. 1, 2, 3.
of this Spiritual Monarchy, and the gross Superftitions and Idolatries that have been introduced, and are practised by that Hierarchy; it will appear, chat these PROPHECIES have been fully accomplished.
To which may be added, the Representam tions that are found in the Apocalypse of the ANTICHRISTIAN APOSTACY ; which is described by the Emblem of a Woman DRUNKEN with the BLOOD of the SAINTS and MARTYRS of Jesus.
THIS Prediction has been literally fulfilled: for as the Papacy have imicated the Pagans in their SUPERSTITIONs and IDOLATRIES, so have they outvied them in the cruel PERSECUTIONS, inflicted upon those that opposed them; whereby much more Christian Blood has been shed, than in the Ten first PersECUTIONS; and wherein the Martyrs, that suffered under the Papal Tyranny, have shewn a Divine FortiTUDE, in many respects EQUAL to what was so conspicuous in the first'Ages of Chistianity.
OF which the cruel SUFFERINGS, ConSTANCY, and PATIENCE of those who were doomed to the French Gallies, is a most illustrious Instance: Some of whom, who had there endured the greatest Miseries for above twenty Years, are now living; who were delivered by Queen ANNE, upon the Conclusion of the Peace; which ought to be remembred to the everlasting Honour of that excellent Princess.
AS to what relates to the Subversion of the Antichristian Empire: its DESTRUCTION is described to come when he leasts expects it, as it did upon the Chaldean Babylon.