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Fifth Sermon on 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2


By Thomas Manton


Remember ye not, that, while I was with you, I told you these things? and now
you 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 till he be taken
out of the way.2 Thes. 2:5-7.

IN these words is:First, A digression, calling them to remembrance of what he
delivered by word of mouth,

Secondly, A progress in the further description of Antichrist. He had hitherto
been described by

1. His names and titles;

2. His nature and properties; now

3. By the time of his appearing, where take notice of three things:

I. That Antichrist was not then revealed, because there was an impediment
hindering his revelation.

II. That though he was not then revealed, yet that mystery of iniquity did begin
to work, but secretly.

III. That when that impediment shall be removed, then Antichrist shall be
revealed.

First, I begin with his putting them in mind of what he had told them, before by
word of mouth: 'Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these
things? 'This showeth the certainty and usefulness of this doctrine; for though
the event were not to be accomplished in their days, yet he taught them before
when present, and now repeateth it again when absent; he preached it in private,
and now writeth it for public good, and laboureth to confirm the truth of it,
and fasten it upon their memories.

Observe, then, that the doctrine of Antichrist is a profitable doctrine, and a
point very necessary to be preached and known.

1. It is a point very necessary to admonish and warn the faithful, that they be
not circumvented with these delusions, and be found in the opposite state to
Christ Jesus, and the interests of his kingdom. God hath blown his trumpet: Rev.
18:4, 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and
that ye receive not of her plagues; God calleth his people out of spiritual
Babylon; it is dangerous and unsafe being there. If we would escape Babylon's
punishments we must escape her sins, not live in that communion and society
where there are such temptations to idolatry and other detestable enormities. It
is disputable whether the errors of Popery be damnable, or there be any
possibility of salvation in that religion. Some deny all possibility; others,
abating from the rigour of that opinion, assert a very great difficulty: 1 Cor.
3:13, `Saved as by fire;' if so much Christianity left as to save them, it is
with much ado. But the question is not about our benefit, but our duty; not
whether possibly we may be saved? but what is the way the Lord will have us to
walk in? And if there were possibility or probability of salvation in the way,
in the general, yet there is very little or none for them that live in a known
sin, and especially in a sin of such a dangerous nature as abetting an opposite
faction to Christ, such as is that of Antichrist.

2. It is necessary to fortify and forewarn the people of God against a double
temptation. (1.) Against scandal; (2.) Against persecutions.

[1.] Against scandal. It is a dangerous temptation to atheism to see
Christianity so corrupted and debauched by a vile submission to serve worldly
ends, and turned into the pageantry of empty and ridiculous ceremonies, which
beget scorn and contempt of it in the minds of all considering beholders; and
therefore there are more atheists in Rome and Italy than in other countries.
Supernatural things, disguised with a vain pomp, lose their reverence, and do
not alarm the conscience, but harden the heart in a settled atheism and contempt
of Christ. Now it is a mighty stay to the heart to see that this degeneration
was foreseen and foretold: John 16:1, `These things have I spoken to you, that
you should not be offended;' Mat. 18:7, `Woe unto the world because of offences!
for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence
cometh!'

[2] Against persecutions; for the man of sin is also a son of perdition, a
destroyer of the saints, and maketh havoc of the people of God. Now it is
grievous when Christians suffer by Christians, and we may have many doubtings
and misgivings about our cause; but when Antichrist is clearly discovered, we
submit the more cheerfully to suffer the hardest things under his tyranny; for
suffering under antichristian persecution is martyrdom and suffering for Christ,
as much as suffering under Pagan persecution: Rev. 14:13, `And I heard a voice
from heaven saying unto me, write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
from henceforth,' &c. Not only the primitive martyrs, who were put to death by
heathens, but those that are condemned by Christians and burned for heretics,
those are martyrs also.

3. That we may the better understand true Christianity; gggkkkantikeimena
parallhleimena malista jainetai, opposites illustrate each other. The two
opposite states are Christianity and Antichristianity; the one is a 'mystery of
godliness,' l Tim. 3:16; the other, 'a mystery of iniquity.' The design of the
mystery of godliness is to recover men from the devil, the world, and the flesh,
unto God; the other, to seduce men from God to the devil, the world, and the
flesh again; and that by corrupting the former mystery, or the most excellent
institution that ever the world was acquainted with for the ennobling and
refining man's nature; so that Christ's religion is turned against himself, to
lull men's consciences asleep, whilst they gratify the lusts of the eyes, the
lusts of the flesh, or live in pride of life. The devil is gratified by all sin,
but especially he is gggkkkeidwlocarhV, as Synesius calleth him; one that
delighteth in idols, as knowing this is the best way to make men brutish, or to
live in an oblivion or neglect of God; for an idol is `a teacher of lies,' Hab.
2:18, doth imprint upon the mind carnal and false conceptions of a deity.
4. To confirm us in the truth of the Christian faith, when we see the prophecies
of it expressly fulfilled; for this is the Lord's direction to know a true
prophet, Deut. 18:22, if the thing come to pass, and the event doth punctually
answer the prediction; but when a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, and
the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath
not spoken. Now, the apostles did not only teach the church the doctrine of
Christianity, but by a prophetic spirit and divine revelation foretold things to
come; and among these, the great thing which is to happen and come to pass
before Christ's second coming is Antichrist, or the appearing of the man of sin.
Therefore, that we may not doubt of what is past, nor suspect what is further to
come, it is good to study these prophecies, and know they are to be fulfilled in
their time, that we may say that God, who hath kept touch with the world
hitherto in all the predictions of the word, will not fail at last.

Use 1. To reprove them that think this is a curious point not to be searched
into. Why then did God reveal it, and that so often by St Paul, by St John, in
so many prophetical representations of it? Surely it is not curiosity to search
into things revealed, but to intrude ourselves into things hidden, and which God
hath put under a veil of secrecy. It is true men must know their measure, and
not attempt to run before they can go, and venture upon obscure points before
well versed in plain; and it is true, in more abstruse points, men must not
rashly define, but soberly and modestly inquire, and compare predictions with
plain events; this is no way culpable.

2. To reprove those that are so impatient of giving a little attendance to such
doctrines for a while, and think at least matter more profitable should be
insisted on; they are persuaded enough already. It is well if it be so; but
those that stand should take heed lest they fall; and presumptuous confidence
soonest giveth out, and forsaketh Christ. I would but propound this argument to
them: If it were profitable for them that were to go out of the body long before
Antichrist was revealed to be taught these things again and again, and they be
charged to keep these things in remembrance, certainly it is more profitable for
others that live at the time when these things are in being, and the temptation
is at the next door, ready to break in upon them. Surely it is profitable to
discover Antichrist, to reduce those that are gone astray, much more to prevent
a revolt, that we may not return to this bondage after a deliverance from it.

Secondly, I come to consider the time of his appearing, and there to observe
three things:

I. That Antichrist was not then revealed because there was an impediment
hindering his revelation: `and now ye know what withholdeth that he might be
revealed in his time,' that is, what keeps him back for the present, until the
time that God had prefixed. The apostle doth not expressly mention what this
gggkkkkto katecov or impediment was, either because he thought it enough to
appeal to their memory and knowledgenow ye know what withholdeth; there was no
need of repeating that which was formerly mentioned, they sufficiently knew; or
partly because he would not give the heathen an occasion of raising a
persecution against the Christians, if they should come to understand that one
professing himself a Christian should erect a throne for himself at Rome, and
that the empire should be taken away to make way for him. The Romans were very
jealous, gggkkkoti basileian onomazomen (because of the kingdom of God)because
they talked of these innocent notions, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of
heaven; they were apt to accuse them llltttlaesae majestatis, as if they would
with open force and violence attack or assault the empire; therefore the apostle
had spoken that which he thought not fit to write in an epistle; or, lastly, he
leaveth it in this obscurity because all prophecies were but darkly uttered,
that their accomplishment be not hindered, since it is the will of God that such
events shall fall out in the world, and out of indulgence to his people he is
pleased to foretell this. It is not meet that the prediction should either be
too clear or too dark; if too clear, the event would not follow, nor God's
government of the world be carried in such a way as might suit with the liberty
of mankind; if too dark, the comfort and caution of God's people would not be
sufficiently provided for.

But what was this impediment? The ancients generally determined it to be the
Roman empire; for so Tertullianthe empire of Rome, which was to be divided into
ten kingdoms; and reason showeth it, because the man of sin could not rise to
his greatness as long as the Roman empire stood. Why? Because he that was to
exalt himself above all that is called God, and above all that is august, could
not bring his designs to pass as long as the Roman empire retained its majesty;
but when once that was eclipsed and removed, then he was to be revealed in his
time: all things have their time, and so the man of sin. Well, then, it was the
Roman empire that stayed the manifestation of Antichrist, he being to build his
tyranny on the ruins and wreck thereof; and therefore the primitive Christians
prayed llltttpro mora finis, that it would please God to defer the fall of this
empire, fearing worse things upon the dissolution thereof.

Now this impediment showeth both the time and place of Antichrist; and time and
place, next to the nature and state of things, are the best circumstances to
discover him. (1.) The place: Antichrist's seat and throne was to be there,
where the seat of the Roman empire was; and St John telleth us it was situated
on the city that had seven hills: Rev. 17:9, 'The seven heads are seven
mountains, on which the woman sitteth;' and that is Rome, which is famously
taken notice of to be seated on seven hills or mountains. Now Antichrist had not
room as long as the seat was filled with the Roman emperor, for this seat could
not be filled with two imperial powers at once, especially with such a
tyrannical power as that of Antichrist is, exalting itself not only above kings
and kingdoms, but gggkkkpan sebasma, the august state of the emperors
themselves; there was no exalting this chair, till there was a removal of the
throne; while the Roman emperor possessed Rome, the seat was full, and till it
was void it could not be the seat of Antichrist.

(2.) The next circumstance is the time when the impediment is taken away, when
the Roman empire is so weakened and removed from Rome that this power may grow
up; and that was when the Roman empire was divided into ten kingdoms, as
Tertullian saith, and is agreeable enough with the prophecy of St John, Rev.
17:12, `And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have not
received their kingdoms as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the
beast;' that is, near that time when the Roman empire was broken and divided,
which began near 600 years after Christ's birth.

II. The next observation is, that though he was not revealed in the apostle's
days, yet the mystery of iniquity did begin to work, but secretly; for it is
said, ver. 7, beginning, 'The mystery of iniquity doth already work.' This is
given as a reason why it would break out sooner; but it was kept back; there was
something a-brewing that would make way for Antichrist, some disposition of the
matter, some propensity thereunto, something begun, which would afterwards show
itself more eminently in the great Antichrist.

Here two things must be explained.--

1. What is the mystery of iniquity.

2. How it began to work in the apostles days.

1. What is the mystery of iniquity? I answerThe design of usurping Christ's
kingdom, and his dignities and prerogatives over the church, to countenance the
kingdom of sin and darkness, under the mask of piety and religion. Surely it is
something quite contrary to the gospel, which is the 'mystery of godliness,' 1
Tim. 3:16. So that this mystery is such a course and state design as doth
frustrate the true end and purpose of the gospel, and yet carried on under a
pretence of advancing and promoting it. So that to state it we must consider:

1. The mystery of godliness.

2. The mystery of ungodliness or iniquity.

[1.] The mystery of godliness is known by the ends of God in the gospel, and the
way he took to promote those ends.

(1.) The end of the gospel is to recover man out of a carnal, ungodly state,
into a state of holiness and reconciliation with God. (1.) The terminus a
quo:men are carnal, ungodly. (1st.) Carnal. When man fell from God, he fell to
himself; self interposed as the next heir, and that self was not the soul, but
the flesh. Many wrong their souls, but no man ever yet hated his own flesh; and
therefore men would rule themselves, and please themselves according to their
fleshly appetite and fancy: John 3:6, `That which is born of the flesh is
flesh,' and therefore love the pleasures, honours, and profits of the world, as
the necessary provision to satisfy the desire. of the flesh; and whosoever live
thus they live in a carnal state, as all do, till grace renew them, Rom. 8:5.
But this carnal estate doth break forth and bewray itself in various ways of
sinning: Titus 3:3, `For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient,
deceived,, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy,
hateful and hating one another.' All are not fornicators, drunkards,
persecutors, nor live in the same way of sinning; but all are turned from God to
the world, and have a `carnal mind, which is enmity to God,' Rom. 8:7. (2dly.)
The next word is ungodly. Men thus constituted live either in a denial of God:
Ps. 14:1, 'The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God'or a neglect of
God: Eph. 2:12, `Without God in the world;' without any acknowledgment or
worship of him: Ps. 9:17, `The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the
nations that forget God;'or if not deprived of all sense of a deity, they
worship false gods, as those, Acts 14:12,13, the men of Lycaonia, that called
Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker, and
would have sacrificed to them; and the apostle saith to the Galatians, Gal' 4:8,
`When ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods;' they
worshipped plurality of false gods; and though the wise men of the Gentiles had
some confused knowledge of the true God, Rom. 1:19-21, yet they glorified him
not as God, but committed idolatry by setting up a false medium of worship, an
idol, which begot a brutish conception of God in their mind; so that a false
religion is so far from showing a remedy of corrupt nature that it is a great
part of the disease itself. (2.) The llltttterminus ad quem, into a state of
holiness and reconciliation with God, in whom man alone can be happy. (1st.) For
holiness and obedience to God. The great design of the Christian religion is to
bring us back to God again. First, As we are carnal, by the denial of fleshly
and worldly lusts: Titus 2:12, `The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath
appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,'
&c.; 1 Peter 2:11, `Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims,
abstain from fleshy lusts that war against the soul;' and Gal. 5:24, `They that
are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.' Secondly,
As we are ungodly, to bring us to the knowledge, love, worship, and obedience of
the true God: Acts 14:15, 'We pray ye that you should turn from these vanities
to the living God, that hath made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things
therein;' and to seek after the Lord, from whom we have life, breath, and all
things, Acts 17:25-28; 1 Thes. 1:9, `How ye turned from idols to serve the
living and true God.' (2dly.) Reconciliation with God, that we might have
commerce with him for the present, and live forever with him hereafter: 2 Cor.
5:19, `God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their
trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation;' 1
Peter 1:18, 'Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,
from your vain conversation,' &c.; Heb. 7:25, 'He is able to save unto the
uttermost all that come unto God through him;' that whereas before they were
alienated from the life of God, they might live in his love, and in the
expectation of being admitted into his blessed presence, that they may see him
as he is, and be like him, 1 John 3:2.

(2.) The way it took to obtain these ends, how God may be satisfied, man renewed
and changed, God pacified by the sacrifice, merit, and intercession of Christ
Jesus, who came in our flesh and nature, not only to acquaint us with the will
of God and the unseen things of another world, but to suffer an accursed death
for our sins; therefore the mystery of godliness is chiefly seen in `God
manifested in our flesh,' 1 Tim. 3:16; and man must be renewed and changed, for
our misery showeth what is needful to our remedy and recovery: that we be not
only pardoned but sanctified, if ever we will be saved and glorified; for till
men have new and holy hearts they can never see God: Heb. 12:14, 'Without
holiness it is impossible to see God;' Mat. 5:8, 'Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God,' &c.; nor for the present love him and delight in him,
nor take him for their chief happiness. As none but Christ can satisfy justice
and reconcile such a rebel to God, so none but Christ's Spirit can sanctify and
renew our souls that we may live in obedience to him: 1 Cor. 6:11, 'Such were
some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in
the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.' This is the mystery
of godliness.

[2.] Now, for the mystery of ungodliness or iniquity: that is a quite opposite
state, but carried on plausibly, and with seeming respect to the mystery which
it opposeth. To know it, take these considerations:(1.) Where the carnal life
is had in request and honour, there certainly is the mystery of iniquity to be
found, whatever pretences be put upon it. Now, the carnal life is there had in
request and honour, (1.) Where all is referred to worldly gain and profit, and
the whole frame of the religion tendeth that way; for certainly they are
'enemies to the cross of Christ whose god is their belly, and who mind earthly
things,' Phil. 3:19. Now pardons, indulgences, purgatory, shrines of saints,
what do they all tend unto but to make a merchandise of religion? It was an old
byword, llltttOmnia Romae venaliaall things may be bought at Rome, even heaven
and God himself, &c. And these things are used, not only to open the people's
mouths in prayer, but their hands in oblations and offerings. The complexion of
their religion is but a gainful trade. But the papal exactions and traffickings
have been so much and so loudly insisted upon, and the evil runneth out into so
many branches, that I shall forbear. (2.) Where temporal greatness is looked
upon as the main prop of their religion. 'The king's daughter is glorious
within,' rich in gifts and graces, Ps. 45:13; Ps. 93:5, 'Holiness becometh thy
house, O Lord, for ever;' but the false church is known by pomp and external
splendour. It is easy to discern the true ministers of Christ, from the false;
the true are known by being much in labours, much in afflictions 2 Cor. 6:4-6,
'In all things approving ourselves the ministers of God, in much patience,
afflictions, necessities, distresses, in labours and watchings, and fastings; by
pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by
love unfeigned,' &c.; whereas the false ministers are known by the life of pomp
and ease. The rule is plain, because self-denial is one of the great lessons of
Christianity, and self-seeking the bane of it: therefore where men professedly
seek the greatness of the world, they serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their
own bellies.

(2.) Where men are turned from God to idols, though it be not the demons of the
Gentiles, but saints, as mediators of intercession, there godliness is destroyed
and the mystery of iniquity set up; for the great drift of the Christian
religion is to bring us to God, through Christ. So the great whore-(which
imports a breach of the fundamental article of the covenant, 'Thou shalt have no
other gods but me), it is said, Rev. 17:5, `Upon her forehead was a name
written, Mystery, Babylon, the mother of fornications and abominations upon
earth,'debaucheth nations with her idolatry, and so seduceth from God to the
worship of the creature, that the great intent of the gospel is lost.

(3.) Wherever power is usurped in Christ's name, and carried on under the
pretence of his authority, to the oppressing of Christ's sincere worshippers,
who hate the carnal life, and would by all means keep themselves from idols, or
bowing and worshipping before images, but excel in unquestionable duties, there
is the mystery of iniquity; for the beast, that hath a mouth like a dragon,
pusheth with the horns of a lamb, Rev. 13:11. The violence and persecution
against the sincere, pure worshippers of Christ is nothing else but the mystery
of iniquity, the enmity of the carnal seed against the holy seed, or the seed of
the serpent against the seed of the woman disguised.

(4.) Where there is a lessening of the merits of Christ and his satisfaction, as
if it were not sufficient for the expiation of sin without penal satisfactions
of our own, there is the mystery of iniquity: 'For by one offering he hath
perfected for ever them that are sanctified,' Heb. 10:14.

(5.) Where the new nature is little thought of, and all religion is made to
consist in some external rites and adorations or indifferences, there the
reducing of man to God is much hindered, and Christianity is adulterated, and
the religion that designedly countenanceth these things is but the mystery of
iniquityTo worship God, as the Papists do, with images, llltttagnus dei's,
crucifixes, crossings, spittle, oil, candles, holy water, kissing the pix,
dropping beads, praying to the Virgin Mary and other saints, repeating over the
name Jesus five times in a breath, repeating such and such sentences so often,
praying to God in an unknown tongue, and saying to him they know not what,
adoring the consecrated bread as no bread, but the very flesh of Christ himself,
fasting by feasting upon fish instead of flesh, choosing a tutelary saint whose
name they will invocate, offering sacrifices for quick and dead, praying for
souls in purgatory, purchasing indulgences for their deliverance, carrying the
bones and other relics of saints, going in pilgrimage to shrines or images, or
offering before them, with a multitude more of such trashy devotions, whereby
they greatly dishonour God and obstruct the motions of the heavenly life, yea,
quite kill it; for instead of the power and life of grace, there are introduced
beggarly rudiments or ritual observances in indifferent things, and vain
traditions by which Christian liberty is restrained, and these pressed with as
much severity as unquestionable duties established by God's known law for the
renewing and reforming mankind. We are to 'stand fast in the liberty wherewith
Christ hath made us free, and not to be entangled again with the yoke of
bondage,' Gal. 5:1; Col. 2:16, 'Let no man judge you in meat or drink, or in
respect of an holiday, or of the new moons, or of a sabbath-day.' These things
are left to arbitrament, to abstain or use them for edification. That physician
may be borne with who doth only burden the sick with some needless
prescriptions, if faithful in other things; but if he should tire out the
patient with prescriptions which are not only altogether needless, but
troublesome, costly, and nauseous, and doth extinguish and choke true religion
by thousands of things indifferent, making our bondage worse than the Jews',
this is the mystery of iniquity,to cheat us of the power of godliness by the
show of it, burdening of men with unnecessary observances.

2. How did this work in the apostle's time? Something there was then which did
give an advantage to Antichrist, and laid the foundation of his kingdom, and did
dispose men's minds to an apostasy from pure Christianity; as--

[1] Partly the idolising of pastors by an excess of reverence, such as was
prejudicial to the interests of the gospel, setting them up as heads of
factions: 1 Cor. 1:12, 'Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of
Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas; 1 Cor. 3:22, 'Glory not in men,
whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,' &c. This in time bred tyranny and slavery
in the church.

[2] The ambition of the pastors themselves, and the spirit of contention for
rule and precedency: Acts 20:29, 30, `There shall arise among you ravening
wolves, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them;' which within a
little time began to affect not only a primacy of order, but of jurisdiction and
authority; so that then Antichrist did not exist in his proper person, but in
spirit and predecessors.

[3.] The errors then set afoot corrupted the simplicity of the gospel 1 John
2:18, `Now there are many antichrists;' 1 John 4:3, 'Every spirit that
confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is
the spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard it should come, and even now
already is it in the world.' The spirit of Antichrist is even now in the world;
there was a spirit then working in the church to introduce this mystery of
iniquity, only the seat was not empty, but filled by another; the seeds of this
mystery were sown in ambition, avarice, haughtiness of teachers, and their
carnal and corrupt doctrines.

[4.] Some kept their Jewish, others their Gentile customs, so that the Christian
religion was secretly tainted and mingled with the seeds of heathenism and
Judaism, which afterwards produced the great apos tasy. Paul, in all his
epistles, complaineth of the Judaising brethren, and seeks to reduce them to the
simplicity of the gospel. In the Corinthians he complaineth of their resort to
idol temples, their com munion in idol-worship: 1 Cor. 10:14, `Wherefore, my
dearly be loved, flee from idolatry;' and ver. 20, `But I say, that the things
which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils and not to God, and I
would not that ye should have fellowship with devils,' and 2 Cor. 6:16. The
worship of angels, interdiction of certain meats, then will-worship, and shows
of humility: Col. 2:16, `Let no man judge you in meat and drink; or in respect
of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days;' and ver. 18, `Let no
man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of
angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up
with his fleshly mind;' and vers. 22, 23, `Why are ye subject to ordi nances
after the commandments and doctrines of men? which things have indeed a show of
wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body.' Contempt of
magistracy: 2 Peter 2:10, 'But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the
lust of uncleanness, and despise government; presumptuous are they, self-willed,
and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.' Thus you see how it began to
work, and that the devil from the beginning had sown these tares.
But was it, then, in the apostle's time that the mystery of iniquity did begin
to work? Then--

1. We see what need we have to withstand the beginnings, and not give way to a
further encroachment on the church of God; and

2. That the word of God should dwell richly in us, for we have to deal with
mystical iniquity.

III. Proposition: That when that impediment shall be removed, then Antichrist
shall be revealed; only he that now letteth will let till he be taken out of the
way. Where observe

1. It was before, gggkkkto katecon, that which letteth; now it is gggkkkko
katecon, he that letteththe empire and the emperor. And mark, a long succession
of empires is called gggkkko katecon: why not then a long succession of popes,
the man of sin, the son of perdition?

2. He that now letteth will let. Antichrist was but llltttin fieri, and that
secretly and in a mystery; there was desire of rule, some superstitious and
false doctrines, some mixture of human inventions, borrowed both from Jewish and
heathenish rites, mingled with the worship of God, some secret rising of
antichristian dominion, some playing at lesser game, as Victor took upon him to
excommunicate the Eastern churches for the matter of Easter. But before this
obstacle was removed, he could not fully appear and invade the empire of God and
men till the emperor was removed out of that city: while the heathen emperors
prevailed, there was no place for churchmen's ambition; their times were times
of persecution, and it is not persecution, but peace and plenty, that breedeth
corruption in the churches.

3. He, that is, the emperor, must be taken out of the way, that is, either by
the removal of his person and throne from the city of Rome, or till the Roman
empire be ruined, as it was in the East by the Turk, in the West by the
incursions of many barbarous nations, parting it into ten kingdoms, and then by
the translation of the empire to Charles the Great.

Well, then, note three things for the time of Antichrist:

1. Before the obstacle was removed he could not appear.

2. When this obstacle was removed, presently he appeared.

3. The degrees of the falling of the one are the degrees of the exaltation and
establishment of the other, for Antichrist did grow up upon it.

But they say, the Roman empire is not quite fallen, there being a Roman emperor
still. But (1.) the present empire is but inane nomen, or umbra imperiia mere
name, or a shadow of the empire. (2.) He that then let, in St Paul's time, was
the succession of the Roman emperors, but this is the German empire; now, if the
Roman empire were the only impediment (the apostle useth the word gggkkkmonon),
therefore as soon as that should be removed, Antichrist would infallibly be
revealed. (3.) Though this empire be not abolished, but removed out of Rome, it
is enough to make good Paul's prophecy. llltttDixit apostolus, imperium esse de
medic tollendum, non prorsus delendum.(Whitaker.) Well, then, since the seat is
left void, either the prophecy is not accomplished at the time, or else the Pope
is Antichrist, for the nations are long since fallen away from the Roman empire,
and the emperor hath no power nor authority at Rome.

Use. To give a new note to discover and descry the man of sin. Certainly
Antichrist is already revealed, and we may find him somewhere. I prove it by two
arguments:(l.) The mystery began to work in the apostle's days; therefore
surely it is completed by this time, and not reserved to a short space of time a
little before Christ's coming to judgment; (2.) This spiritual usurped power was
to break forth upon the fall of the empire; accordingly so it did, though it
grew to its monstrous excess and height by degrees, as to ecclesiastical
dominion, in Boniface III., who obtained from Phocas the title of universal
bishop; whereas Gregory the Great called John of Constantinople the forerunner
of Antichrist for arrogating the same title.

 

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