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(1260 years). Of that wicked one, who was to exalt himself, it is said, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming. And concerning the apocalyptic beast who was to blaspheme God, and make war with the saints, and have power given him over all kindreds, &c., it is written, that " power was given him to continue forty and two months,” (1260 years). The power of the monster is first described.
It is no secret in history what succession of potentates, exercising an authority diverse from that of all the kings of Europe, sprung up after the Roman cmpire became Christian, and, assuming a right of domination such as no earthly sovereign ever claimed, and maintaining an ascendancy such as was never else exercised, prospered during a period scarcely ever equalled by any dynasty of monarchs. It may not be superfluous to trace briefly, from history, the rise, progress, and prosperity of this “ mystery of iniquity.”
After the long-persecuted Christians were holpen by the civil power, and many did cleave to them by flatteries, or on false pretences, the office of bishop became an object of earthly ambition, when they who before were the first to be despoiled and to suffer, became the first, as acts of piety, to be enriched and honoured. In the fourth century, “ the bishop of Rome was the first in rank, and was distinguished by a sort of pre-eminence over all other prelates. Prejudices, arising from a great variety of causes, contributed to establish this superiority; but it was chiefly owing to certain circumstances of grandeur and opulence, by which mortals, for the most part, form their ideas of pre-eminence and dignity, and which they generally confounded with a just and legal authority. The bishop of Rome surpassed all his brethren in the magnificence and
splendour of the church over which he presided; in the riches of his · revenues and possessions ; in the number and variety of his ministers ; in his credit with the people ; and in his sumptuous and splendid manner of living. These dazzling marks of human power, these ambiguous proofs of true greatness and felicity, had such a mighty influence upon the minds of the multitude, that the see of Rome became, in this century, a most seducing object of sacerdotal ambition."* In reference. to the government of the church at that period, the celebrated ecclesiastical historian and critic, Du Pin, Doctor of the Sorbonne, thus shows the connexion, as if he had been purposely marking the sequence in the prophecy, between the previous long-continued persecution of the church, and the rise of the Roman hierarchy,—“ Before the fourth century, the church, which had been continually tossed and troubled with persecutions, could never settle one constant and uniform form of government, nor celebrate the mysteries with the pomp and splendour of ceremonies. But when once she was perfectly delivered from the yoke of tyranny, under which she had groaned before,” (they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil many days,) ► and established by the authority of a Christian emperor,” (they shall be holpen with a little help,) “ she made rules and laws for the government of herself," (began to do according to her will, “ and joined to the purity of faith the magnificence of ceremonies. It was in the fourth century that the body of the churches were perfected, and that certain rules were established for ecclesiastical decisions. The distinction, distribu
* Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, Book II. p. ii. c. 2. $.5. Ammianus Marcellinus gives a striking description of the luxury in which the bishops of Rome lived, even in the fourth century, Hist. lib. xxvii. c. iii.
tion, and subordination of churches were settled for the most part, according to the form of the civil government. The civil provinces formed the body of an ecclesiastical province. The bishop of the civil metropolis was looked upon as the first bishop of the province. Some rights and prerogatives were assigned to him, and unto him was committed the care of overseeing the whole province. In every province provincial councils were held twice a-year, which the metropolitans called together, and over which he presided. When a bishop died, all the bishops of the province were convened to ordain a successor in his stead. He was commonly chosen by. the clergy and people of the vacant church ; the metropolitan was to be present at his ordination, which could not be effected without the presence of two bishops of the province and the consent of the rest. As many civil provinces made one district, which was called a diocess; so many ecclesiastical provinces became one ecclesiastical diocess, of which the bishop of the principal city was the head. This bishop had the rights, prerogatives, privileges of honour and jurisdiction over the whole diocess; he enjoyed also the right of ordaining metropolitans, which before belonged to the bishops of the province. The bishop of the church of Rome was in possession of the primacy, which he received front Jesus Christ, as being successor to St. Peter, prince of the apostles. This primacy gave him great rights and prerogatives in the whole church, to maintain the faith, and cause the holy canons to be observed."*
A statement, now strange to Protestants, and held true by Papists, which occurs toward the close of the preceding extract, calls for, and may excuse, a slight digression. .'
* Du Pin's Hist. of Ecclesiastical Writers, vol. ii. p. 288.
The crosier of the apostle Peter, was a staff; his chair, a cross ; and his only crown, the glorious one of martyrdom. A right of succession to these is not the claim, nor is the possession of them the object of worldly ambition. And the primacy of the Pope, as exercised for ages, is not such a power as was given to the apostles by Jesus Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world ; nor did Peter, who, in his own words, was an elder, and charged his beloved brethren, as such, not to be lords over God's heritage, but to be ensamples to the flock (1 Pet. v. 3.), exercise the authority which his nominal successors have assumed and practised in his name. When the disciples of Jesus, at a time they knew not what manner of spirit they were of, disputed among themselves which of thems hould be greatest, their Lord and Master checked their pride by placing a little child in the midst of them, as a pattern of humility befitting the imitation of apostles : he showed them in what manner, or in what spirit alone, either they, or any besides them, could enter into the kingdom of heaven; he commanded them that it should not be so among them as among the princes of the Gentiles who exercised dominion and authority, Mat, xx, 25, 26. Never did Jesus rebuke any other disciple, not even the traitorous Judas, with half the severity with which he ordered Peter to get behind him, and called him by the name of Satan, or adversary, because he savoured not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Instead of being bishop of Rome, the apostleship of the circumcision, or of the Jews, was committed unto Peter, as the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto Paul; and both held but the right hand of fellowship with the other apostles. The first epistle of Peter is addressed to the strangers, (as the Jews in these countries were,) scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and
Bythinia. In neither of his epistles is the name of Rome mentioned ; nor does it appear from the epistle to the Romans, that the name of primate or prince was heard of, in the Christian church on earth, after its sole King had ascended into heaven. And instead of the apostle Peter having been the infallible head of the church, from whom a long train of successors were to draw their changeful yet sure infallibility, it is recorded of him again, in the epistles as well as in the gospels, as of no other apostle, that Paul withstood him to the face-before them all-because he was to be blamed, Gal. ii. 11, 14. It is not, then, in conformity with the precepts of Jesus, nor by authority derived from him, nor by any right of succession from the apostle Peter, that the primacy of the church was held in possession, as a rightful heritage, by the Pope, any more than that political right of sovereignty was valid, which was defended and maintained, for the first time in the eighth century, from the similarly pretended and forged decretals, and alleged donation of Constantine (to which farther allusion will be made)—“the two main pillars," as Gibbon justly terms them, "of the spiritual and temporal monarchy of the Popes." And, in returning to our subject, the actual progress of papal domination may be more clearly and faithfully traced.
By an edict of the emperors Gratian and Valentinian, in the end of the year 378 or the beginning of 379, the right of jurisdiction was conferred on the bishop of Rome over all the churches of Gaul and Italy. 's. The granting of this jurisdiction gave several bishops occasion to write to him for his resolutions upon doubtful cases, whereupon he answered by decretal epistles; and henceforth he gave laws to the western churches by such epistles."*
* Sir I. Newton's Observations on the Prophecies, p. 91.