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CHURCH OF ROME THE APOSTASY,
Introductory observations. — General statement of the
subject. DURING the abode of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ upon earth, he solemnly warned his disciples that after his departure from the world, many false prophets would arise in his Church, who should deceive many. (Matth. xxiv. 11.)—In this prediction, it is probable that he alluded not only to individual impostors and false teachers, but also to those schemes of false religion which should be propagated by wicked men pretending to be his ministers. It certainly, therefore, is an inquiry of vital importance, whether there be reason to believe that any of those systems which are extensively prevalent among the nations professing to hold the faith of Christ, are chargeable with the guilt of having corrupted the pure fountain of Divine
truth, which first emanated from the Saviour and his inspired Apostles, by mingling with it false doctrines and human commandments, unprofitable and dangerous to the souls of men.
But if this inquiry be important to Christians in general, it is more peculiarly so to those who profess the Protestant dogmas. For it is well known that the separation of all the Protestant Churches from the communion of Rome was founded upon a direct charge of apostasy preferred against that church. If that charge be not substantiated, it is impossible to justify the Reformers; they become chargeable with the guilt either of schism or of heresy; and it seems as a necessary consequence to follow, that it is the duty of Protestant churches to make their peace with Rome, by again bowing their necks to her authority.
It is indeed in these days accounted a mark of a liberal and enlarged mind to soften down the points of difference between the Romish and the Reformed creeds; but if the Scriptures denounce either of these systems as an apostasy from the faith once delivered to the saints, such spurious liberality cannot be well-pleasing in the eyes of Him, who
has solemnly testified his displeasure against those who call evil good, and good evil.
It is evident from various other parts of the New Testament, that the general warnings given by our Lord himself as already mentioned, were not thought sufficient for the guidance of his church in future ages. A more particular prediction of a great Apostasy in the Church was therefore left on record by the Apostle of the Gentiles in two different passages of his epistles; and a detailed prophecy of the same event was afterwards delivered to the Apostle John in the book of Revelation.
It is my design in these pages to limit myself chiefly to the consideration of the prophecy contained in St. Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians, which describes the Apostasy in such language as to render it a matter of little difficulty to trace its accomplishment in the history of the professing Church of Christ.—The words of the prophecy are as follow:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.-Let no man deceive you by any means; for (that day shall not come) except there come a fulling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not that when I was yet with you I told you these things? And now ye 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, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (even him) whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they might believe a lie: That they all might be damned who