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Scriptural examples before us, of a single person being used to represent a large body of individuals, in their collective or corporate capacity, we must at once see that Mr. Calderbank reasons most inconclusively, when he takes it for granted, without proof, that St. Paul's Man of Sin was to be a single individual.
Mr. Calderbank next observes, that from the unanimous testimony of the Fathers, it appears that Antichrist " was to come into the world at some time, not very remote from the period of its general destruction.” It is not denied that such was the sentiment of the Fathers. , The Fathers, however, generally believed, that the division of the Roman empire into ten kingdoms, mentioned in the prophecies of Daniel, (Dan. vii. 7, 8, and 24,) was not to take place till near the end of the world, and as they conceived rightly, that the Man of Sin or Antichrist, was to spring up at the period of the above division of the empire, it necessarily followed that they also placed the rise of Antichrist near the end of the world. They likewise believed all the three events, the division of the empire, the rise of Antichrist, and the consummation of the world, to be near at hand.
The event has proved that they were wrong in the first and last of these opinions, for the empire was divided into ten kingdoms, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, as is admitted by Machiavel, a Popish historian, (Hist. of Florence, Book I.) and the world is not yet destroyed. Now, since their opinion that Antichrist was not to appear until the end of the world, was a necessary effect of their former mistake as to the period of the rise of the ten kingdoms, and is inseparable from it, we must conclude, that it is now entitled to no weight.
That the above is a true representation of the opinions of the Fathers, will appear from a passage in St. Jerome's commentary, on the 7th chapter of Daniel. “Let us therefore affirm, that which' all' ecclesiastical writers have delivered, that in the consummation of the world, when the empire of the Romans is to be destroyed, there shall arise ten kings who shall share the Roman world among themselves, and that an eleventh diminutive king shall come, who shall subdue three of those ten kings, and in him Sa
tan shall dwell entirely and bodily."* The same Father, when he heard of the taking of Rome by Alaric, wrote as follows, alluding to the general opinion of the first Christians, that the power which hindered the revelation of Antichrist, was the imperial dignity of Rome: “He who hindered is taken out of the way, and we consider not that Antichrist is at hand.”+
Lactantius, 'in the seventh Book of his Institutes, treats of the coming of Antichrist and the Day of Judgment, and has a passage respecting the near approach of these events, to the following effect :-" If any one ask when these things of which we have spoken are to happen, I have shown above, that this change is to take place at the end of the sixth millenary, and already that great day of the end is at hand. It is permitted to us to know the signs which have been predicted by the prophets, for 'they foretold the signs from which the end of time is both to be looked for and feared by us every day. How soon the whole number of years is to be completed, may be learned from those who have written on chronology, collecting from the sacred books and various histories, the length of time which has elapsed since the beginning of the world. And though they differ among themselves somewhat as to the total number of years, yet none seem to expect that more than two hundred years remain.—The thing itself also declares that the destruction of the universe is at hand; were it not that as long as the city of Rome is preserved, nothing of this kind' is to be feared. But when that head of the world shall fall, and begin to be a desolation according to the Sybilline prediction, who can doubt that at length the end of human affairs and of the world is come? That city it is which hitherto sustains all things and we ought to supplicate the God of Heaven, if his decrees and purposes can be delayed, lest that abominable tyrant* shall come, sooner than we think, who shall perpetrate so great a wickedness, and destroy that light with the extinction of which the world itself is to fall.”
* Quoted by Mede, Works, Book iii. p. 811. Edit. 1664. † Quoted by Mede, Works, p. 810.
* Meaning Antichrist or the Man of Sin, whose coming, Lactantius, with the whole of the primitive Church, believed was to be at the destruction of the Roman em. pire, and its division into ten kingdoms: “Reges decem pariter exsistant, qui orbem terræ non ad regendum sed ad consumendum partiantur." Lactant. Institut. Lib. vii.
From the above passage, it is evident that Lactantius thought, in like manner with Jerome, that the coming of Antichrist was to take place at the overthrow of the Roman empire, which he conceived was to be the immediate forerunner of the end of all things. We know from history, that the empire was overturned by the Goths and Vandals, in the fifth century, and divided into ten kingdoms. At this time, therefore, in conformity to the sentiments of the Fathers, we ought to look for the rise of Antichrist; their opinion that the destruction of the Roman empire, in its ancient form, was immediately to precede the consummation of all things, having been shown by the event to be completely erroneous.
Thus, when the sentiments of the Fathers are thoroughly examined, they are proved to be more agreeable to the opinion of Protestants, respecting Antichrist, than to that of the Papists. But we do not rest our interpretation on any human authority, and are therefore little disposed to dwell on this circumstance.
Before quitting this subject, I shall observe that it is manifest from the words of St. Paul, “the mystery of iniquity doth already