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Third Sermon on 2 Thessalonians Chapter Two


by Thomas Manton


"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." 2 Thess. 2:3.

In these words we have these two things:

1. A caution against the error set afoot at that time concerning Christ's sudden
coming to judgment.

2. The refutation of it. It is disproved by two antecedents and forerunners of
his coming: (1.) A general apostasy, or a defection of the visible church from
the true state of Christianity; (2.) The revelation of Antichrist, described
here by his names and proper titles lst, That man of sin; and 2dly, Son of
perdition.

I. Let us speak of the general apostasy that must be before Christ's coming to
judgment: except there come a falling away first.

Now concerning it take these propositions:

1. That apostasy is any defection from him to whom we owe and have performed
subjection, or a failing from that Lord to whom we owe fealty. I am sure, in
religious matters, it importeth a defection from our right and proper Lord. Thus
the devil is an apostate, because he abode not in his first estate: Jude 6, 'And
the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he
hath reserved in everlasting chains,' &c.; 'abode not in the truth;' John 8:44,
'Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He
was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth;' that is, forsook
his obedience to God, and so became the ringleader of all rebellious creatures.
So it is true of our first parents. They were apostates, they did revolt from
God and their obedience to him. Therefore it is said, Rom. 5:19, 'By one man's
disobedience many were made sinners.' So of their posterity; their apostasy is
described by 'turning back from following the Lord,' Zeph. 1:6, and 'departing
from God,' that is, his worship and service; Isa. 59:13, 'In transgressing and
lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God.' Let us then be agreed
of this notion of apostasy, which is evident, that it is a falling off from the
obedience which we owe to our rightful Lord.

2. The apostasy mentioned in the text was not civil, the falling away of many
kingdoms from the Roman empire; but an apostasy of the visible church from him
who is Lord of the church. I prove it partly from the persons to whom the
apostle wrote, who did not intermingle themselves with state affairs, or were
not concerned in the interests of the Roman empire further than that they lived
within the bounds of it; and this apostasy must be understood as they would
conceive of apostasy with respect to the main cause wherein they were concerned
and engaged, which was the profession of Christianity. Partly from the use of
the word in the Christian doctrine; falling away there is certainly falling away
from the faith and purity of the gospel: Luke 8:13, 'Which for a while believe,
and in time of temptation fall away.' And partly because to them it was
expressly foretold that tineV aposthsontai, 'Some shall fall away or depart from
the faith,' I Tim. 4:1. Lastly, because those who are most concerned to maintain
the notion of the civil apostasy from the Roman empire are most notorious in
this defection. It is true the Roman empire lost Asia and the places adjacent by
the invasion of Eastern nations, but it was thrust out of Rome by the rebellion
of its subjects, and chiefly by the influence of the Pope there, as histories
manifest. So that this interpretation will not help them a jot, but hurt them
not a little. So that here is a defection from our proper Lord, and a spiritual
defection, not a civil.

3. The proper Lord of the Christian church is Jesus Christ, who hath purchased
it with his blood, and 'died, and rose again, and revived, that he might be Lord
of dead and living,' Rom. 14:9; and again, Eph. 5:23, 'Christ is the head of the
church, and the Saviour of the body.' He that sayeth and recovereth the church
out of the general apostasy of mankind, and restoreth them to their due
obedience and proper happiness, he only is fit to be head of the church; and
this only is Christ: we expect no opposition here.

4. The apostasy from the Lord will be determined chiefly by these two things:
(1.) By undermining his authority; (2.) Or destroying the interests of his
kingdom. By these two we may understand the falling away, which is to come
first.

[1.] By undermining his authority. Certainly his authority is undermined when
others presume to usurp his place without his leave. Therefore, to introduce a
new universal head of the visible church, which Christ never appointed, is
manifestly to usurp his authority; though the party so intruding should pretend
to hold his sovereignty from Christ, and under him, yet this is treason against
Christ, for here is an authority set up without, and therefore against, his
consent. Put the case in a temporal kingdom, and the thing will be clear. And
thus the Pope is the usurping head of a rebellion against Christ. Where did
Christ institute him to take this office? Tu es Petrus (you are Peter) is such a
stale pretence, so often baffled and defeated, and pretended upon so small
grounds; as that Christ hereby conveyed singular authority to Peter above the
rest of the disciples, that from Peter it descendeth to his successors, and to
those of Rome (if ever he were at Rome), and not those of Antioch; that it is
endless to pursue the absurdities of this impertinent allegation. The argument
holdeth the more strongly when the Pope condemneth all the churches that will
not be his subjects, how holy, good, and obedient to the laws of Christ soever
they be. Surely, if anything, this is an apostasy or a revolt from our rightful
Lord; and to consent to this rebellion and usurpation is to be drawn into a
conspiracy against Christ, to submit to thc head of the most pernicious schism
that did ever rend the church of Christ, and to betray the liberty of the people
of our Lord to a tyrannical usurpation.

[2.] Or corrupting and destroying the interests of his kingdom. Certainly,
wherever there is a degeneration from the purity and simplicity of the gospel,
the interests of Christ's kingdom are destroyed. 'I fear,' saith the apostle, 2
Cor. 11:3, 'lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty,
so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.' The
ancient, pure, apostolic Christianity doth only preserve the interests of
Christ's kingdom in the world; there is no way of safety but by keeping there;
for since godliness is a mystery, and we shall see afterwards the iniquity that
is contrary is a mystery also 2 Thes. 2:7, 'The mystery of iniquity doth
already work' we need to be exactly careful to keep close to the doctrine,
worship, and discipline of the first gospel church; for if these had remained
pure, Antichrist had never risen. Christ's institutions would have preserved his
interests in the world; but as these were corrupted, the apostasy prevailed.
When the faith of the gospel was turned into dead opinions and curious
questions, if not direct errors, and the worship of the gospel was corrupted by
giving divine honour to saints and angels, and turned into a theatrical pomp and
the pageantry of empty ceremonies, which eclipse the majesty and splendour of
it; and the discipline of the church into a temporal domination, and all is
carried in the world by sides and interests, that Christianity looketh like
another thing, a design calculated for the present world rather than a serious
preparation for the world to come; then certainly there is an apostasy and a
defection from Christ; however the corrupt manners of the church be varnished
over with the name of Christianity, there is a degeneration questionless; and
that is apostasy, in a mystery, such as this is, though not in open revolt from
Christ.

But to make this more evident to you, let us consider what the kingdom of Christ
is. The gospel kingdom is a kingdom of light, life, and love. Opposite to light
is ignorance and error; to life, a religion that consists of shows, dead rites,
and empty ceremonies; to love, uncharitableness, malice, and especially hatred
of the power of godliness. Now where these prevail eminently, there is an
opposite kingdom set up to the kingdom of Christ; certainly a falling off from
his kingdom: that is to say, where, in opposition to light, error is taught, and
ignorance is counted the mother of devotion, and people are restrained from the
means of knowledge, as if the height of Christian faith and obedience did
consist in an implicit believing what the church believeth; and where, instead
of life, men place their whole religion in superficial rites and ceremonies, and
some trifling acts of seeming devotion and exterior mortifications; and instead
of love to God and souls, all things are sacrificed to private ambition; and
forcing consciences with the highest penalties and persecutions to submit to
their corruptions there is a manifest subversion of the interests of Christ's
kingdom. In short, God's witnesses were 'slain in that city which spiritually is
called Sodom and Egypt, and where our Lord was crucified,' Rev. 11:8; that city
which answereth to Sodom for impurity, to Egypt for idolatry, and to Jerusalem
for persecution of the saints; there may you find the great apostasy.
5. This apostasy from our Lord's authority and the interests of his kingdom is
some notable and discernible apostasy, and the head patron thereof is
Antichrist. The defection is not of one, or a few, or many in divers churches;
there have always been backsliders from the faith: 1 John 2:19, 'They went out
from us, but they were not of us;' and the spirit of Antichrist wrought in the
apostles' days: 1 John 2:18, 'As you have heard that Antichrist shall come, even
now there are many Antichrists;' and again, I John 4:3, we are told of the
spirit of Antichrist: 'And this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof you have
heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world;' then
described to be afterwards (ver. 5) a worldly spirit: 'They are of the world,
and speak of the world, and the world heareth them.' Though they profess
Christianity, carnal, worldly hypocrites, which never conquered the fleshly mind
and interest, have the spirit of Antichrist; these obscure the light, and
obstruct the life and love of the gospel they that wholly affect a life of
pomp and ease in the church. Now, this hath always been in all the ages. The
false Christians forget their hopes are built upon a crucified Christ, and are
to be derived to them from a glorified Christ in the other world crucified in
this world and glorified in the next, which indeed are the two considerations
that keep Christianity pure and lively; that all was purchased by a crucified
Christ, and all is dispensed by a glorified Christ; and I wish you would oftener
think of it. But the great apostasy is eminently found in some external visible
church, where these corruptions are generally received and defended. For the
head of that church is Antichrist, where doctrine is corrupted, and the worship
mingled with idolatry, and the government a usurpation, and bent against the
holy seed that desire to worship God in spirit and in truth; there is this
manifest revolt from and rebellion against God and Christ, though they push with
the horns of the lamb.

That the Papists are a corrupt sect of Christians is beyond dispute to any that
will try their religion by the Scriptures; and that they are far more corrupt
than the Protestants or Reformed Churches, will also soon appear by the
comparison, or a view of both churches. But whether they are so corrupt as to
become the seat of Antichrist, is the matter under debate. Therefore, let any
one consider where the eminent apostasy is to be found. Who are they that invade
Christ's authority by setting up a universal head over all Christians? Who are
they that establish the doctrine of demons, or revive the worship of a middle
sort of powers between God and mortal men? 1 Tim. 4:1. Who through hypocrisy
invent so many lies to maintain it, and when Christians should keep themselves
from idols, I John 5:21, yet, in defiance of this, worship angels and other
creatures: Col. 2:18, 'Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary
humility, and worshipping of angels,' &c.; and erect the images of saints,
commanding and compelling men to adore them, and pray to them? Who are they that
are not contented with the one only Mediator: I Tim. 2:5, 'For there is one God,
and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ;' I Cor. 8:5, 'For
though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be
gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom
are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all
things, and we by him,' but set up other mediators of intercession? Who are
they that plead for indulgences and the supererogatory satisfactions of the
saints, as gathered into the treasury of the church, and so profitable for the
remission of sins, and condemn them who think' the contrary? Who are they that
keep believers from reading the Scriptures, when they are so expressly enjoined
to do it? John 5:39, and Ps. 1:2, 'But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.' That deny one part of the Lord's
Supper to his disciples, notwithstanding his institution to the contrary? I Cor.
11:25, 26, 'After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped,
saying, This is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink
it, in remembrance of me; for as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,
ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come.' It were endless to instance in
all: I shall speak more of it in the following verses.

6. This apostasy is not only forbidden, but foretold as a thing that would
certainly come to pass. This consideration is necessary for divers reasons.
[1.] Because the Papists ask how this can be consistent with Christ's care of
his church, that there should be a universal apostasy and decay of Christian
religion, who hath promised 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?'
Ans. That promise is made chiefly to the invisible church, or community of the
elect, not to all the visible societies of the Christians, against whom the
devil can and hath prevailed, and doth daily, to the destruction of many souls.
And we say not that the whole visible church did apostatise, though all are
faulty.

[2.] Because some require the time when this apostasy began to be particularly
assigned and noted to them, and by what persons these corruptions were first
introduced, or else deny that any such thing hath been. But the case is clear:
it began to work betimes, only it wrought in a mystery. But cannot we prove a
man to be old, unless we prove the first moment when his grey hairs began to
appear, or his natural force to be abated? Who can tell every step of the
progress of the corruption of the Jewish church? And why should the like be
required of the Christian? This dunghill of corruption was not raised in one
age: and suppose that in track of time authors be forgotten, matters of faith
are not to be contradicted because of the defect of history. And yet histories
are not altogether lacking in the case, only in things that came in by degrees
they are not necessary. In the introducing of the general apostasy, some erred
in the simplicity of their hearts, as the people followed Absalom, 2 Sam. 15:11.
But shall we deny a thing to be done because we cannot speak the particular
moments of time, and circumstances of them, when and how it was done? Shall we
say the pointer in the dial passeth not, because we do not see its motion? Might
not the priests judge of a leprosy, though they knew not how it was contracted?
Iniquity mystical did by degrees prevail.

[3.] Because some think, if we should grant such an apostasy, it would interrupt
the whole course of visible Christianity, and so deprive the world of a ministry
and ordinances, till Christ send some new nuncios from heaven, or by miracle, at
least, authorise a new ministry, that may be owned by the world, and received by
his people. A vain conceit! For though this apostasy is foretold that it should
come to pass, yet it is also foretold that Christ will be with the apostles and
their successors to the end of the world, Mat. 28:20; and prayed for all them
that should believe in him through their word, John 17:20; and though the church
was corrupted by degrees, yet all this while it ceased not to be a church, nor
the officers thereof to be Christ's ministers. When the ten tribes fell away,
yet God till their dissolution continued the spirit of prophecy amongst them;
and in the Christian church a ministry, though many had their calling from such
who consented to the encroachments of Antichrist. God had not so wholly cast off
his people, but that there was a ministry and ordinances; their ministry was a
true ministry, and the baptism a true baptism, to be owned in foro externo (to
the very end): for these things remain whilst anything of Christianity
remaineth. In a body mangled with wounds, or all overgrown with sores, there is
life remaining; and so some functions and offices of life. God called idolatrous
Israel his people, and was not angry with them for circumcising their children,
but for offering them to Moloch, Ezek. 16:20, 21. But of this in the next verse,
where Antichrist is said to sit in the church of God.

II. The revelation of Antichrist: and that man of sin shall be revealed, the son
of perdition; where two things are notable: (1.) His rise and appearing; (2.)
The names and titles given to him.

1. His rise and appearing, expressed in the word revealed; that is, that great
and chief Antichrist, upon that apostasy or falling away, shall be extant and
show himself to the world. A thing is said to be revealed two ways either when
it is in being, or when it is discovered; both ways are proper here. He shall
publicly appear, exercising a tyranny in the world, or cast off his veil, and
show himself in his colours. God by his providence permitteth him to be, and by
the doctrine of the gospel discovereth his impostures to all those who have no
mind to be deceived.

2. The names or titles given to him; they are two: (1.) 'The man of sin,'
wherein he is compared and likened to Antiochus; (2.) 'The son of perdition,'
wherein he is compared and likened to Judas.

[1.] For the first, the Jews called Antiochus 'the man of sin:' 1 Macch. 2:48,
'They gave not the power to the sinner;' in the Greek, to kepaV amartwlw, 'They
gave not the horn to the sinner.' The Syriac version hath it, 'They suffered not
the horn of the sinner to be lifted up;' and ver. 62, 'Fear not the words of the
man of sin,' apo logwn androV amartolou mh fobhqhte, 'From the words of the
man the sinner be not afraid.' Now why did they call Antiochus the man of sin?
Because he sought to alter the religion of the people, and by cruelty to
introduce a change of worship and idolatry, and such laws as he would set up.
Now, according to this pattern, Antichrist is a man of sin; that is, either a
man given up to all sin eminently, a sinner addicted unto sin, and a ringleader
of others unto sin, either by fraud and violence; or as he giveth encouragements
and encitements to sin; or as a special kind of sinner, a usurper and invader of
the empire of the Son of God. So was Antiochus. So was Antichrist. Now, how much
open sin is practised, allowed, and maintained in the Papacy, I do not wish to
proceed into; their own stories speak enough; the sodomy, blasphemy, incest,
adulteries, sorceries, murders, treasons, parricides, which they have authorised
and countenanced. Histories witness that hardly hath the world yielded a more
abominable sort of men, than have sat in that chair of pestilence. This I am
sure of, that a man can sin nowhere at so cheap a rate as in Popery, where, what
by dividing their sins into mortal and venial, and these expiated by a little
penance, accompanied with a single attrition, and bare grief and trouble,
because of the punishment; what by faculties, pardons, licenses, dispensations,
indulgences, sin is distinguished out of the conscience.

But because he is called the man of sin, here it cometh fitly to be inquired
whether Antichrist be an individual person? for 'that man of sin' would seem to
be some single person. No; he is put for a society and succession of men, that
make up the head of the apostate state. As one lion figured the whole kingdom of
the Babylonians, and one bear the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, and one
leopard the kingdom of the Grecians, Dan. 7, and there the fourth beast is the
fourth kingdom, so one person that succession of men that head the revolters
from Christ. So Dan. 8, a goat figured a succession of kings; so the Assyrian,
Isa. 10:5, several kings in that empire; so Isa. 14:9, the king of Babylon,
meaning not one but many. So this man of sin doth not note a single man, but a
succession of men, a body politic or corporate, under one opposite head to the
kingdom of Christ: so the 'man of God' is put for all faithful ministers, 2 Tim.
3:17; so 'honour the king,' I Peter 2:17, series regum. So o arciereus, Heb.
9:25, 'The high priest every year entereth into the holy place;' meaning not
one, but the succession of the order; and in reason it must needs be so here.
Because Antichrist, from his beginning to his end, from his rise and revelation,
till his ruin and destruction, will take up such a long track of time, as cannot
fall within the age of any one man, even from the time of the apostles till the
end of the world. Antichrist is the head of the apostasy; for here the apostasy
and the revelation of the man of sin are tied together; now the mysterious
apostasy could not be perfected in a short time.

[2.] The son of perdition, wherein he is likened to Judas: John 17:12, 'None of
them is lost but the son of perdition.' Him he resembleth in covetousness,
treachery, and final destruction. The term may be explained either passively, or
actively: (1.) Passively, as one condemned to everlasting destruction; as the
'son of death,' is one condemned to die: 2 Sam. 12:5, 'He shall be a son of
death;' we translate it, 'He shall surely die.' So 'children of wrath,' Eph.
2:3; so here, 'son of perdition.' (2.) Actively, bringing destruction upon
himself and others; one that shall destroy others, and so he is called
'Abaddon,' and 'Apollyon,' Rev. 9:11, and is opposite to Christ, who is 'the
author of salvation,' Heb. 5:9, but Antichrist of destruction. And let us see
the parallel between him and Judas; for the person is a type, as well as the
name hath a significancy. Antichrist then is like Judas in profession, a
disciple of Christ; in office, a governor of the church; but in practice, a
traitor. As they said of the blind man, John 9:9, 'Some said, This is he;
others, He is very like him.' The Pope boasteth that his seat is apostolical,
his chair is Peter's chair, and that he is the successor of the apostle. Grant
it, but there is an error of the person not of Peter, but of Judas. Let us see
the parallel:

(1.) Judas was not a stranger, but a pretended friend and apostle: Acts 1:17,
'He was numbered with us, and obtained part of this ministry.' Turks and
infidels are enemies to Christ, but Antichrist seeketh to undermine him, under a
pretence of friendship; anticristoV is one in show for, and in effect against
Christ, and the beast in the Revelation is said to 'push with the horns of the
lamb,' Rev. 13:11. If he were a professed enemy, what mystery were there in it?
But mystery was written upon the woman's forehead, Rev. 17:5; and here, ver. 7,
'The mystery of iniquity.' It is wisdom to discern the false prophet, Rev.
13:18, but there needeth no great wisdom to discover an open an professed
adversary.

(2.) He sold Christ for a small matter. Omnia Rom venalitas (In Rome everything
is for sale): pardons, indulgences, freedom from purgatory, all to be bought
with money; and it is a small matter, considering the things put to sale, the
pardon of sins, the souls of men redeemed with Christ's precious blood. The
antichristian state maketh a market of religion; truth is made to yield to
commerce and profit.

(3.) Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, under a pretence of honouring him: Luke
22:48, 'Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?'
Antichrist is a true adversary of Christ, though he pretend to adore him; as
those that murdered the present prophets would by all means beautify the tombs
of the prophets deceased, and bear a respect to their memories, Mat. 23:30. He
pretendeth to be his servant, yea, a servant of servants, but is really his
enemy. The apostle telleth us of some that were' enemies to the cross of
Christ,' Phil. 3:18. Who to appearance such friends to the cross as the rabble
of nominal Christians? But they are opposers of his spiritual kingdom, the
virtue and power of the cross. You have crucifixes everywhere, painted, carved,
gilded; they are ready to worship the cross with a holy worship; they set it in
their temples, altars, wear it in their bosoms, and wherever they meet it show
it reverence, adorn it with gold, silver, and precious stones. Their popes and
prelates have it carried before them; and are not these friends of the cross?
No; they live a worldly, sensual life, and all their religion tendeth thereunto;
therefore enemies of the cross of Christ, because they mind earthly things. This
is right antichrist-like, to betray Christ under a show of adoration.
(4.) Judas was a guide to them that came to take Christ; and one main work of
Antichrist is to be a ringleader in persecuting for religion. Christ is in
heaven, death hath no more power over him; his natural body is above abuse, but
his mystical body still suffereth: Acts 9:6, 'Why persecutest thou me?'
Antichrist is the head of the persecuting state, others are his emissaries and
agents, to take Christ in his members. It is a political religion, that must be
carried on with worldly artifices, with power and cruelty.

(5.) Lastly, The covetousness of Judas is set forth. He was a thief, and one
that carried the bag, John 12:6. England, to its bitter cost, knoweth the
polling exactions of the Papacy; all its dealings with us were to fill the bag
out of this puteus inexhaustus (bottomless pit). Now all these things should
open our eyes; we may behold the man of sin, the son of perdition; one egg is
not more like to another than Judas and Antichrist.

Use. Is to persuade us to a detestation of what is antichristian, and to that
end let us mark the progress of the text. (1.) The apostasy made was for
Antichrist; (2.) Antichrist, rising upon the apostasy, becometh a man of sin;
and (3.) The man of sin is also the son of perdition.

1. Let me begin first with the falling away. There is a twofold falling away
either from the power and practice of godliness, or from a true religion to a
false, particularly to Popery.

[1.] I begin with the falling away from the power and practice of godliness,
though the profession be not changed; and the rather, partly because this
disposeth to the entertainment of error. When a people that are carried with
great fervour and vigour of zeal for a while, lose their affections to good, and
return to a worldly, sensual life, then the bias of their hearts doth easily
prevail against the light of their understandings. And so unsanctified men may
the sooner be drawn to apostasy; they never felt the quickening virtue of faith,
and were never wrought by it to the true love of God, or an holy and heavenly
mind and life. And partly, also, because if a lively Christianity had been kept
up, Antichrist had never risen in the world; and it is the way to keep him out
still: 'When the servants slept, the enemy sowed tares,' Mat. 13:A sleepy
religion and corruption of manners made way for corruption of doctrine, worship,
and order. It was with the church according to the spouse's complaint: 'I sleep,
but my heart waketh,' Cant. 5:2. Some care there was, but much drowsiness and
deadness in religion; and that produced the great apostasy. Partly too, because
there is such a compliance between the nature of antichristianism and the temper
of a carnal heart; for superstition and profaneness grow both upon the same
root. A lothness to displease the flesh, the sensual nature of man, is such,
that it is loth to be crossed; and that breedeth profaneness. For wherefore do
men ingulf themselves in all manner of sensualities, but because they are loth
to deny their natural appetites and desires, and row against the stream of flesh
and blood, but will 'walk in the way of their own heart, and in the sight of
their own eyes'? Eccles. 11:9. Again, if nature be to be crossed, it is only a
little; it shall only be in some external actions, and observances, and dead
rudiments, which never kill our lusts, nor promote the divine life. And this
pleasing superstition shall make up a religion which is a fit pillow for a
carnal heart to sleep upon. Popery is the easiest religion for the flesh that
can be found out, for it never biteth nor disturbeth their lusts. The duties of
it are like the pharisees' fasting, which our Lord compareth to old wine, Mat.
9:17, fit for old, dried skin bottles. Well, take heed of falling away from a
lively godliness. No man entereth seriously upon religion but with some tasting
or rejoicing, Heb. 6; now as this decayeth, we fall off. The heavenly life is
obstructed, if not choked and quite lost. Now, to prevent this, observe two
things: (1.) Your coldness in duties; (2.) Your boldness in sinning.
(1.) Coldness in duties, when the will and affections grow more remiss, and the
worship of God, which keepeth up the remembrance of him, is either omitted or
performed perfunctorily, and in a careless and stupid manner: Jer. 2:32,' My
people have forgotten me days without number;' Job 27:10, 'Will he always call
upon God? will he delight himself in the Almighty?' God chargeth Israel with
growing weary of him; and it began in not calling upon him, Isa. 43:22. Now,
when you seldom think or speak of God, and do not keep up a delightful communion
with him, there is a falling away.

(2.) Boldness in sinning. When men lose their tenderness and strictness, and the
awe of God is lessened in their hearts, and they do not only sin freely in
thought, but freely in act, have not that hatred of sin and watchfulness as
formerly, but more abandon themselves to a carnal life, they are falling off
from God apace: 2 Peter 2:20, 'For if after they have escaped the pollutions of
the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are
again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than
the beginning.' At first the heart checked you for sin, but you did not kindly
come off, were not troubled about it, hoped God would pardon it; and then you
are bold to venture again, and so by degrees are entangled in the sensual and
worldly life. Now consider the causes of it: 1. Lack of faith in God: Heb.
3:12, 'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of
unbelief, in departing from the living God.' You have not a sound belief of his
being and presence. 2. Lack of love to God: Rev. 2:4, 5, 'Nevertheless I have
(somewhat) against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember,
therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works; or
else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its
place, except thou repent.' Your hearts decline from that love you had to him
and his ways, and then your work is intermitted. 3. Lack of a due sense of the
world to come: Heb. 10:39, 'But we are not of them who draw back to perdition,
but of them that believe, to the saving of the soul.' 4. The love of the present
world: 2 Tim. 4:10, 'For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present
world.' The more that is valued, the more your hearts are taken off from things
to come, and the care about them; you have too great a liking, either to the
profits of the world 1 Tim. 6:10, 'The love of money is the root of all evil,
which while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith' or else
the pleasures of the world: 2 Tim. 3:4, 'Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of
God.' As the inclination of the heart groweth stronger to sensual pleasures,
your thoughts of God are less serious and pleasing to you. Now look to these
things, lest you grow quite weary of God and the holy life, which once you had
an affection unto.

[2.] From a true religion to a false; which may be done two ways: (1.) Out of
corruption of mind; (2.) Out of vile affection.

(1.) Out of weakness of mind, as those do that were never well grounded in the
truth: Eph. 4:14, 'That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro,
and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;' 2 Peter 3:16, 'In
which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and
unstable, wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own
destruction.' Therefore we need to be established; but the forsaking of a truth
we were bred in usually cometh from some falseness of heart. Some errors are so
contrary to the new nature, that they discern them by the unction: I John 2:20,
'But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.'
(2.) Out of vile affection, when they forsake the truth for the advantages of a
fleshly, worldly life, some places to be gotten by it, &c., and as the whore of
Babylon hath a golden cup, riches, and preferments, wherewith it inviteth its
proselytes. Now these are worse than the former, for they sell the birthright:
Heb. 12:16, 'Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for
one morsel of meat sold his birthright.' O Christians! Take heed to yourselves.
Apostasy brought Antichrist into the church. Let it not be jure postliminio (a
return to your former citizenship), to bring him back again into the land, or
into your hearts.

2. The next step is the man of sin. As the first apostasy of Adam and Eve
brought sin into the world, so this great apostasy brought in a deluge of sin
into the church, and defiled the holy society which Christ had gathered out of
the world. Idolatry is often called adultery or fornication; spiritual
uncleanness disposeth to bodily, and bodily to spiritual. Usually a corrupt
state of religion and corrupt manners go together; otherwise the dance and the
fiddle would not suit. The world cannot lie quiet in a course of sin, if there
be not some libertine, atheistical doctrine, and carnal worship to countenance
it: Rev. 11:10, 'And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and
make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets
tormented them that dwelt on the earth.'

3. The man of sin is also the son of perdition (1.) Actively. False religions
strangely bubble up the mind: Jude 11, 'These go in the way of Cain;' and Hosea
5:2, 'Revolters are profound to make slaughter.' Men think no cruelty nor
dishonesty unlawful which serveth to promote the interests of their sect, and
lose all charity to those that are not of their way. (2.) Passively, shall be
destroyed. Sometimes grievous judgments come in this world for the corruptions
of religion; but in the world to come, dreadful is the end of apostates: 2 Peter
2:20, 21, 'For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through
the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled
therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; for
it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than
after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.'


 

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