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believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. ii. 1–12.)
An erroneous notion had, it seems, gone forth among the Thessalonian Christians that the day of the Lord was very near at hand. This opinion was founded upon a misconception of certain expressions in the first epistle of St. Paul to the same Church. To correct the mistake, the Apostle in the above passage assures the Thessalonians that the Advent of the Lord and the Day of Judgment were to be preceded by a falling away or apostasy in the Church, and the appearance of the MAN OF Sin, whose character, and end, he describes in the context. In considering the whole passage, there are two things which obviously present themselves to our view as distinct objects of inquiry. The first is,- What is included in the term APOSTASY? and, are there any marks of such an apostasy in the Christian Church? and secondly,-What power was intended by the MAN OF Sin, and SON OF PERDITION.
I shall endeavour, in the following pages, to prosecute these different objects of research with as much succinctness as possible; and in concluding, I shall briefly review certain other passages of the prophetical writings relating to the same subject, whereby new light will be reflected upon the prophecy of St. Paul.
Thet erm apostasy ascertained to be synonymous with
idolatry - Two propositionslaid down charging the guilt of idolatry on the Church of Rome; First, in the worship of saints; and Secondly, of images. The worship of saints by the Church of Rome proved to be idolatry The arguments of the Rev. P. Gandolphy in defence of saint-worship considered and answered.
The first clause of the prophecy which is the subject of our investigation, declares, that that day shall not come, that is, the day of the second advent of Christ to judge the world, except there come A FALLING AWAY first. The word so translated is ardoradia, from which is derived our English noun “apostasy," signifying a defection from true religion.--Now it is easy to prove that in the Scriptures, apostasy is used synonymously with the sin of idolatry; so that when the children of Israel were guilty of that sin, we find that they are charged with apostasy against the Lord.
Thus when the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, built an altar by the river Jordan as recorded in the book of Joshua, the rest of the children of Israel conceiving that the altar was for idolatrous purposes, charged the tribes who had erected it with an intention to rebel or apostatize against the Lord their God;* and the tribes of Reuben, &c. in vindicating themselves from the charge, use the following words. The Lord God of gods, He knoweth, and Israel he shall know, if it be IN REBELLION, or (according to the Seventy) a rootaola, APOSTASY, that we have built us an altar to turn us from following the Lord.
In 2 Chron. xxviii. 22, the idolatry of Ahaz is described as rebellion or apostasy. And in the time of his distress, did he trespass or apostatize yet more against the Lord, και προσεθηκε του απoστηναι απο Κυριου. In Nehem. ix. 26, and Dan. ix. 9, the sin of Israel is confessed, as being rebellion or apostasy against the Lord.—Now we know that idolatry was their great national sin, and it therefore follows that their apostasy consisted in idolatry.
* Joshua xxii. 18. See the version of the seventy, who render the Hebrew 1990 Ons nyi, rok ETT SALV ATTOGTATE, and it shall be if we apostatize.
Having thus endeavoured to show that APOSTASY is the term used in the Old Testament to signify IDOLATRY, the conclusion to which we are naturally led by this circumstance, is that the apostasy in the Christian Church predicted in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, was to consist in the sin of idolatry.
Idolatry is either a transgression of the first commandment of the decalogue, by the worship of the creature; or it is the breach of the second commandment by the worship of images. Now there is a passage in the New Testament, which seems to determine the precise sense in which the Apostles of our Lord received and understood the first commandment. “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 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.” (1 Cor. viii. 5, 6.) In St. Paul's first epistle to Timothy, it is likewise said, " For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. ii. 5.)
The meaning of these passages is evident
ly this; that though other men worship a plurality of gods, and a multitude of lords; yet we Christians acknowledge but one God, to whom all our worship and services are directed, and one Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man.There is an allusion as Mede remarks, in the text first quoted, to the heathen mythology, which acknowledged a plurality of sovereign gods (Dii Cælestes,) and also a multitude of subordinate deities called Demons, who were conceived to be mediators between the gods and men.-Now as Christians acknowledge but one God, so according to St. Paul, they receive but one Lord; the sole mediator between God and man; and to this God, and this Lord, solely and exclusively, all religious worship and adoration were to be paid: nor is there the least hint of any subordinate mediators. This, which is the plain meaning of these passages, is further confirmed by our Lord's answer to Satan in the wilderness, “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve;" (Matt. iv. 10.) which word “only” absolutely excludes all creature worship.
Moreover, it is not necessary in order to constitute the sin of idolatry, that the object