That position is this, that the prophecies concerning Antichrist are as yet unfulfilled, and that the predicted enemy of the Church is yet to come. No one can deny the importance of such a view of the subject, if it be true. If dreadful scenes still await the Church, if they have been foretold, and foretold that Christians may be prepared for them, no calamity can be greater than a belief that they have already been fulfilled, and that there is nothing to look out for or to fear; no device of Satan can be more crafty than to make us think that they are not to come, that they have come to pass already,—nay, that they have been fulfilled in a branch of the Church herself, that Church which was ordained by her Divine Author ever to be one, all over the earth, and to live in internal peace, not in mutual revilings and accusations, in strife and hatred ...

 We consider that it is impossible to hold certain branches of the Church to be the communion of Antichrist, as it has long been the fashion with Protestants to maintain, without involving our own branch in the charge; if any part of the Church be anti-Christian, it will be found that all the Church is so, our own branch inclusive. We are much disposed to question whether any tests can be given to prove that the Roman communion is the Synagogue of Satan, which will not, in the judgment of the many, implicate the Church of England. This is a most serious consideration, in proportion as we believe it to hold good. In such case it will not be from any special leaning towards Romanism that we shall be eager to prove that Rome is not the seat of the Enemy of God; it will arise simply from prudential motives, if we have no other. As to Rome, we owe her of late years nothing at all, except indeed, according to the Scripture rule, love for hatred. Nothing that we can say will soften one whit that obdurate temper, or touch that secular political spirit, which at present is dominant among her children. Therefore we take up Dr. Todd's position, if we must give our reason, from nothing more or less than the mere instinct of self-preservation. It is very well for Sandemanian, Ranter, or Quaker to call Rome the seat of Antichrist. We cannot afford to do so; nostra res agitur: we come next. Members of our Church are entreated to consider this carefully. In thus assaulting Rome, they are using an argument which is with equal certainty, if not with equal fulness, available against their own religious position; an argument which, if they use it consistently, must drive them forward into some still more simple system of religion, nay, on and on they know not whither, till "tota jacet Babylon." If, indeed, it be a truth that the Bishop of Rome is Antichrist, let us of course boldly follow it out; but surely, considering the uncertain arguments on which prophetical interpretations must rest, and that clear evidence on which the Articles of the Creed and the principles of Christian ethics are received, it is necessarily no slight argument against a certain interpretation, that it is found legitimately to lead to the denial whether of Christian doctrine or of Christian duty. If we cannot consistently hold that the Pope is Antichrist, without holding that the principle of establishments, the Christian ministry, and the most sacred Catholic doctrines, are fruits of Antichrist, surely the lengths we must run are a reductio ad absurdum of the position with which we start. If we must deny either that Christian Rome is Babylon, or affirm that Socinus was right, it is not difficult to see which proposition must give way.

And another serious question is this, whether we ought not to be very sure before we assert that a branch of Christ's Church, not merely has evil extensively prevailing within it, but is actually the kingdom of evil, the kingdom of God's enemy; considering that, if it be not the {116} kingdom of darkness, it is the Church, the dwelling-place of the Most High. The question really lies, be it observed, between those two alternatives, eitherthe Church of Rome is the house of God or the house of Satan; there is no middle ground between them. Now, surely our Lord's strong language about the consequences of speaking against the Gracious Presence which inhabits the Church, or of ascribing the works of the Spirit to Beelzebub, is enough to make us very cautious of forming a judgment against particular branches of the Church, unless we are very certain what we are saying. If we are not "treading upon the adder," we are "kicking against the pricks.

Comment