Lastly, that Antichrist is one individual man, not a power,—not a mere ethical spirit, or a political system, not a dynasty, or succession of rulers,—was the universal tradition of the early Church. "We must say," writes St. Jerome upon Daniel, "what has been handed down to us by all ecclesiastical writers, that, in the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there will be ten kings, to divide the Roman territory between them, and that an eleventh will rise up, a small king, who will subdue three of the ten, and thereupon receive the submission of the other seven. It is said that 'the Horn had eyes, as the eyes of a man,' lest we should, as some have thought, suppose him to be the evil spirit, or a demon, whereas he is one man, in whom Satan shall dwell bodily. 'And a mouth speaking great things;' for he is the man of sin, the son of perdition, so that he dares to 'sit in the Temple of God, making himself as if God.' 'The beast has been slain, and his carcase has perished;' since Antichrist blasphemes in that united Roman Empire, all its kingdoms are at one and the same time to be abolished, and there shall be no earthly kingdom, but the society of the saints, and the coming of the triumphant Son of God." And Theodoret: "Having spoken of Antiochus Epiphanes, the prophet passes from the figure to the Antitype; for the Antitype of Antiochus is Antichrist, and the figure of Antichrist is Antiochus. As Antiochus compelled the Jews to act impiously, so the Man of Sin, the son of perdition, will make every effort for the seduction of the pious, by false miracles, and by force, and by persecution. As the Lord says, 'Then will be great tribulation, such as never was from the beginning of the world till this time, nor ever shall be." 

What I have said upon this subject may be summed up as follows:—that the coming of Christ will be immediately preceded by a very awful and unparalleled outbreak of evil, called by St. Paul an Apostasy, a falling away, in the midst of which a certain terrible Man of sin and Child of perdition, the special and singular enemy of Christ, or Antichrist, will appear; that this will be when revolutions prevail, and the present framework of society breaks to pieces; and that at present the spirit which he will embody and represent is kept under by "the powers that be," but that on their dissolution, he will rise out of their bosom and knit them together again in his own evil way, under his own rule, to the exclusion of the Church.

It would be out of place to say more than this at present. I will but insist on one particular circumstance contained in St. Paul's announcement which I have already in part commented on.

It is said there will "come a falling away, and the man of sin will be revealed." In other words, the Man of Sin is born of an Apostasy, or at least comes into power through an apostasy, or is preceded by an apostasy, or would not be except for an apostasy. So says the inspired text: now observe, how remarkably the course of Providence, as seen in history, has commented on this prediction.

First, we have a comment in the instance of Antiochus previous to the actual events contemplated in the prophecy. The Israelites, or at least great numbers of them, put off their own sacred religion, and then the enemy was allowed to come in.

Next the apostate emperor Julian, who attempted to overthrow the Church by craft, and introduce paganism back again: it is observable that he was preceded, nay, he was nurtured, by heresy; by that first great heresy which disturbed the peace and purity of the Church. About forty years before he became emperor, arose the pestilent Arian heresy which denied that Christ was God. It ate its way among the rulers of the Church like a canker, and what with the treachery of some, and the mistakes of others, at one time it was all but dominant throughout Christendom. The few holy and faithful men, who witnessed for the Truth, cried out, with awe and terror at the apostasy, that Antichrist was coming. They called it the "forerunner of Antichrist." And true, his Shadow came. Julian was educated in the bosom of Arianism by some of its principal upholders. His tutor was that Eusebius from whom its partizans took their name; and in due time he fell away to paganism, became a hater and persecutor of the Church, and was cut off before he had reigned out the brief period which will be the real Antichrist's duration.

And thirdly, another heresy arose, a heresy in its consequences far more lasting and far-spreading; it was of a twofold character; with two heads, as I may call them, Nestorianism and Eutychianism, apparently opposed to each other, yet acting towards a common end: both in one way or other denied the truth of Christ's gracious incarnation, and tended to destroy the faith of Christians not less certainly, though more insidiously, than the heresy of Arius. It spread through the East and through Egypt, corrupting and poisoning those Churches which had once, alas! been the most flourishing, the earliest abodes and strongholds of revealed truth. Out of this heresy, or at least by means of it, the impostor Mahomet sprang, and formed his creed. Here is another especial Shadow of Antichrist. 

These instances give us warning:—Is the enemy of Christ, and His Church, to arise out of a certain special falling away from GOD? And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter for each man's own conscience?—which is all one with saying that we may let the Truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it in and on after our time. Is there not a vigorous and united movement in all countries to cast down the Church of Christ from power and place? Is there not a feverish and ever-busy endeavour to get rid of the necessity of Religion in public transactions? for example, an attempt to get rid of oaths, under a pretence that they are too sacred for affairs of common life, instead of providing that they be taken more reverently and more suitably? an attempt to educate without Religion?—that is, by putting all forms of Religion together, which comes to the same thing;—an attempt to enforce temperance, and the virtues which flow from it, without Religion, by means of Societies which are built on mere principles of utility? an attempt to make expedience, and not truth, the end and the rule of measures of State and the enactments of Law? an attempt to make numbers, and not the Truth, the ground of maintaining, or not maintaining, this or that creed, as if we had any reason whatever in Scripture for thinking that the many will be in the right, and the few in the wrong? An attempt to deprive the Bible of its one meaning to the exclusion of all other, to make people think that it may have an hundred meanings all equally good, or, in other words, that it has no meaning at all, is a dead letter, and may be put aside? an attempt to supersede Religion altogether, as far as it is external or objective, as far as it is displayed in ordinances, or can be expressed by written words,—to confine it to our inward feelings, and thus, considering how variable, how evanescent our feelings are, an attempt, in fact, to destroy Religion?

Surely, there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, and preparing the way for a general Apostasy from it. Whether this very Apostasy is to give birth to Antichrist, or whether he is still to be delayed, as he has already been delayed so long, we cannot know; but at any rate this Apostasy, and all its tokens and instruments, are of the Evil One, and savour of death. Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison! Do you think he is so unskilful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform. This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination, {61}—he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his.

Shall we Christians allow ourselves to have lot or part in this matter? Shall we, even with our little finger, help on the Mystery of Iniquity, which is travailing for birth, and convulsing the earth with its pangs? "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united." "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate," … lest you be workers together with God's enemies, and be opening the way for the Man of Sin, the son of perdition.