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Filtering by Tag: TM Sermons

Sermon One.-2 Thess. 2:1,2.

James Dodson


Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, that the day of Christ is at hand.—2 THES. II. 1, 2.

THE former chapter was spent in a consolation against troubles, this in a caution against error, or to rectify their judgments concerning the time of Christ’s second coming. In these two first verses, we have the manner of proposal, ver. 1; the matter proposed, ver. 2.

1. The manner of proposal is very pathetical, by way of adjuration or obtestation.

2. The matter. An error had crept in among the Thessalonians concerning the speedy and immediate coming of Christ to judgment, while they were yet alive; which error the devil set on foot to subvert their faith and expose the whole Christian doctrine to contempt.

First, The manner or obtestation falleth first under our consideration, in which two things are mentioned:—

1. The coming of Christ.

2. Their gathering together unto him. Obtestations are by those things which have great reverence and respect with us, as most likely to prevail. Now the two things are mentioned:—

[1.] As weighty: 2 Tim. iv. 1, ‘I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearance and his kingdom.’

[2.] This was the article mistaken and perverted as to one circumstance, the time; but the thing is taken for granted as an unquestionable truth, and the support of all their hopes: 2 Thes. i. 10, ‘When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.’

[3.] This was a famous Christian doctrine with which the apostles usually began, in planting religion in any place: 1 Thes. v. 1-3, ‘But of the times and the seasons ye have no reason that I write unto you, for ye yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night,’ &c.

[4.] It was of precious account with them: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto them also that love his appearing.’ So that the obtestation implieth both the certainty of their belief, and also their dear account of this article of faith; and therefore the sense is: As you do assuredly expect him, and love, and look, and long for this day, that it may go well with you, and Christ appear to your glory, so be not troubled.

Doct. 1. That the coming of Christ to the judgment is a truth well known, firmly believed, and earnestly desired by all true Christians.

Doct. 2. That when Christ shall come, all the saints shall be gathered together unto him.

Doct. 1. That the coming of Christ to the judgment is a truth well known, firmly believed, and earnestly desired by all the saints.

1. That it is well known, the apostle produceth the testimony of Enoch: Jude 14, ‘Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints.’ David often mentioneth it as a thing delighted in by believers; therefore, in a poetical, or rather prophetical strain, he calleth upon the heavens, earth, sea, and fields to rejoice ‘before the Lord, for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth,’ Ps. xcvi. 13; and again, Ps. xcviii. 9, he calleth upon the creatures to rejoice ‘before the Lord, for he cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity;’ passages which relate, not only to the kingdom of the Messiah, as it is exercised now in the world, but also to his final act of judging, till which time they are not fully verified. Solomon bindeth the whole duty of man upon him by this consideration: Eccles. xii. 13, 14, ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. And the apostles, when they went abroad to proselytise the world, usually began with this point.

2. That this is firmly believed by all true Christians. This must needs be so, because it is the grand inducement to all piety and godliness, and none ever disbelieved it but those the interest of whose lusts engaged them to question it: 2 Peter iii. 3-5, ‘Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of,’ &c. Willingly ignorant; their interest puts them upon it, rather than their conscience, because this doctrine filleth them with unquiet thoughts, that they cannot so securely follow their sinful practices till they blot out the fear of it, or banish the thoughts of it out of their hearts. But all that obey the teachings of grace (take it for objective or subjective grace), they firmly believe it: Titus ii. 11-13, ‘For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ The sound belief of it is not so much encountered with the doubts of the mind, as the inclinations of their perverse hearts. Now, the seeming reasons of partial men are not to be heard, especially as delivered in a scoffing, malicious way; and on the other side, godliness and mortification standeth upon such evident reason as man’s unquestionable duty, that it needeth not to be maintained by a lie and manifest falsehood. Certainly, they that deny it do not so much reason against this article of our Christian faith as scoff at it; and it is to be imputed to the malignity of their tempers, rather than the acuteness or sharpness of their reason that they do not believe it. Many things which they urge are a manifest token of the contrary; as the calamities of the good: 2 Thes. i. 4, 5, ‘So that we glory in you for your faith and patience in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God.’ The perversion of justice: Eccles. iii. 16, 17, ‘And moreover, I saw under the Sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there, and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there; I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. Things must be reviewed and judged over again. A state-engine to serve order and government. Doth the benefit of mankind need a lie to promote it? Doth carnal interest govern the world, or virtue? If mere carnal interest, what a confusion would there be of all things? Then men might commit all villainy, take away men’s lives and goods when it is their interest, or they could do it safely and secretly, without infringement of their interest; servants poison their masters, if they could do it without discovery, and there were no sin in it; men prey upon others, if it be in the power of their hands; and ‘catch he that catch can,’ without impunity, would be the truest wisdom. Clear it is, virtue cannot be supported without the thoughts of a world to come; and it is unreasonable to imagine that God would make a world which cannot be governed without falsehood and deceit.

3. That it is earnestly desired by all true Christians. That is of chief respect here; for the apostle conjureth them by all that is dear and sacred in their most holy faith; and upon this I will mainly spend the first part of this discourse. I shall prove it by these two choice pieces of scripture, which describe the communion of the church with Christ, or the dispensations of Christ to the church; the one concerneth God’s internal, the other his external government—the Canticles and Revelations. The book of Canticles is ended with this desire, vote, and wish: Cant. viii. 14, ‘Make haste my beloved, and be like a young hart or roe upon the mountains of spices.’ The bride’s last and great suit to the bridegroom is ‘make haste,’ as to his coming in glory to judge the world; not that Christ is slack, but the church’s affections are strong. They that go a-whoring after the world neither desire his coming, nor love his appearing; but the spouse would have all things hastened that he might return. He cannot come soon enough to set the world to rights and complete their happiness; it is that only that will perfect their consolation, and therefore would have the blessed and longed-for meeting hastened. In the other book, of the Revelations, see how it is closed: Rev. xxii. 20, Christ saith, ‘Surely I come quickly;’ and the church, like a quick echo, saith ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus; come quickly. It taketh the word out of Christ’s mouth, and presently improveth the promise into a prayer, and so Christ’s voice and the church’s voice are unisons. The acclamation of the saints answereth to his proclamation. Christ saith, ‘I come,’ as desiring to meet with us. The church answereth, ‘Even so, come,’ as desiring his fellowship and company. When once faith apprehendeth the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus to judgment, love presently desireth it, as the most comfortable thing which we can ask of him; that is the farewell suit of the church to Christ. If he will grant this, all complaints, and sorrow, and sighing will be no more.

Now I shall give you reasons why this is desired by all true Christians.

1. In respect of him who is to come: his person, that we may see him who is our great Lord and Saviour. All that believed anything of Christ desired to see him; those that lived before his coming in the flesh: John viii. 56, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad;’ and the same affection possesseth us that live after his coming in the flesh. We know him by hearsay, we have heard much of him; he wooeth us by a proxy, as Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, did Rebekah. Now, Christians would fain see him of whom they have heard, and whom they loved, and in whom they have believed: 1 Peter i. 8, ‘Whom having not seen, ye love, and in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.’ They do not see Christ, but they have a taste of his goodness: 1 Peter ii. 3, ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’ They have felt his comforts and live by his life; all that is wanting is but ocular vision, that they may see him face to face; therefore they long for his coming.

The excellency of Christ their head shall then be fully revealed; therefore it is comfortable to his saints to think of his second coming. It is called, ‘the revelation of Christ,’ 1 Peter i. 13. Christ is now under a veil, retired within the curtain of the heavens. The wicked often ask, Where is now your God? and our own unbelieving hearts are apt to question the glory of his person and the truth of his promises, when his most faithful servants are under disgrace. Christ is a glorious king, but little of his glory is seen in the world; therefore they desire that he may appear in glory and royalty; we pray that his kingdom may come.

2. The persons desiring; there is somewhat in them to move them to it.

[1.] The Spirit of Christ: Rev. xxii. 17, ‘The Spirit in the bride saith, Come;’ the Holy Ghost breedeth this desire in the church. Nature saith, It is good to be here; but this is a disposition above nature. The flesh saith, Depart; but the Spirit saith, Come. The great work of the Spirit is to bring us and Christ together; he cometh from the Father and the Son to bring us to the Father by the Son; his business is to marry us to Christ; the promise being passed, the spouse longeth to see her beloved. It is the Spirit kindleth a desire in us of his second coming, when the marriage that is now contracted shall be consummated; when the queen shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework, and shall enter into the palace with him, there to abide for ever. Well, then, though guilty sinners would have Christ stay away still, and if it might go by voices, the carnal world would never give their voice this way, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly;’ no, they are of the devils’ mind, ‘Why art thou come to torment us before the time?’ Mat. viii. 29. Thieves and malefactors, if they might have the liberty to choose, they would never look nor long for the day of assizes; but the Spirit in the bride is another thing, it giveth us other inclinations: the sooner Christ cometh the better; they can never be soon enough taken up to him, nor he come to them.

[2.] There are graces planted in us, faith, hope, and love, to move us earnestly to desire his coming.

(1.) Faith believeth Christ will be as good as his word: ‘I will come again; if it were not so, I would have told you,’ John xiv. 2. And if Christ saith in a way of promise, ‘I come,’ the church saith, ‘Amen,’ in a way of faith, ‘even so, come.’ If Christ had gone away in discontent, and with a threat in his mouth, Ye shall never see my face more, we should altogether despair of seeing him again; but he parted in love, and left a promise with us, which upholdeth the hearts of believers during his absence. Would Christ deceive us, and flatter us into a fools’ paradise? What need that? He can strike us dead in an instant if we do not please him, and we have hitherto found him true in all things, and will he fail us at last?

(2.) Hope, which is faith’s handmaid; it looketh for that which we do believe, it is the immediate effect of the new creature: 1 Peter i. 3, ‘Begotten to a lively hope;’ as soon as grace is infused, it discovereth itself by its tendency to its end and rest; it came from heaven, and carrieth the soul thither.

(3.) Love is an affection of union; it desireth to be with the party loved: Phil. i. 23, ‘I desire to depart, and to be with Christ;’ therefore its voice is, ‘Come, come.’ He hath communion with us in our houses of clay; therefore we desire presence with him in his palace of glory. His voice now is very sweet when he saith, ‘Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden,’ but much more will it be so when he saith, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you before the foundations of the world were laid.’ Reconciliation with God is comfortable, but what will fruition be!

[3.] Look upon a Christian’s privileges; believers then find the fruit of their interest in him, and have their reward adjudged to them: Rev. xxii. 12, ‘Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.’ Christ doth not come empty-handed: it is but maintenance we have from him now, but then wages; earnest now, but then the full sum; it is our pay-day, yea, rather, it is our crowning-day: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which God the righteous Judge will give me in that day;’ I Peter v. 4, ‘When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, which fadeth not away.’ Those that have been faithful and diligent in their duty shall not need to seek another paymaster; that which Christ giveth us in hand is worth all the pains that we lay out in his service; grace and inward peace: but then we shall have glory and honour; he will honour us in the sight of those that have opposed, contradicted, and despised us: our comfort is hidden, but our glory is sensible, and visible, and public before all the world.

Object. But how can true Christians earnestly desire it, when so many tremble at the thought of it, for want of assurance of God’s love?

Ans. We suppose a Christian in a right frame, and one that doth prepare for his coming; but—

1. The meanest saint hath some inclination this way. It was one of the points of the apostolical catechism: Heb. vi. 2, ‘The doctrine of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment:’ and the apostolical catechism was for the initiating or entering of Christians into the faith and profession of the gospel: when they laid the foundation, this was one truth which was never omitted, the coming of Christ to judgment. Now faith is a believing, not with the mind only, but the heart; they were to be affected with what they did believe—sapida scientia was the qualification—and not with trembling only, for that would deter them from Christianity; but with rejoicing of hope, which did invite them to the practice of it: Heb. iii. 6, ‘Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end;’ and indeed what other affection can become the thought of Christ’s rewards which he will bring with him?

2. Sometimes there may be a drowsiness and indisposition in the children of God when their lamps are not kept burning: Luke xii. 37, ‘Blessed are those servants whom, when the Lord cometh, he shall find watching;’ but the wise virgins slumbered as well as the foolish; and so for a season they may be unprepared for his coming by carelessness or remission of their watchfulness and neglect of preparation, yet the spirit and inclination this way beginneth with the new birth. A wife desireth her husband’s coming home after a long journey, but it may be all things are not ready and in so good order: sometimes all good Christians desire the coming of Christ, but sometimes they are not so exact and accurate in their walkings, and therefore their affections are not so lively; security breedeth deadness, and God is fain to rouse us up by sharp afflictions.

3. The church doth really and heartily desire Christ’s coming, though they tremble at some circumstances of his coming: there is a degree of bondage that hindereth much of our confidence and boldness: I John iv. 17, 18, ‘Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment; he that feareth is not made perfect in love.’ While we are imperfect there may be some fears how it shall go with us in the judgment. The day of judgment may be considered in esse rei, or in esse cognito,—the success of the day itself, that we may stand before Christ in the judgment, or in our apprehension of it, that we may think of it with boldness, confidence, and desire. All sincere persons shall speed well in the judgment; but while we are thus weak and imperfect, we have little confidence of our sincerity. Certainly the more holy we are, the more we are emboldened against judgment to come; therefore we must every day get a conscience soundly established against the fears of hell and damnation.

4. To be of such a temper as not at all to value, and prize, and delight in it, quencheth all sense of godliness and religion. Surely they are not touched with any fear of God who wish it would never come, who would be glad in their heart to hear such news; they have the spirit of the devil in them who count his coming their burden and torment; they cannot say the Lord’s Prayer without a fear to be heard, and pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ when they desire it may never be; the thought of it casts a damp on their carnal rejoicing; and he that is afraid lest his prayers prove true, can never pray heartily; no, not with a moral sincerity.

Use. To press us to keep up a firm belief and an earnest desire of Christ’s coming; this will make you heavenly-minded: Phil. iii. 20, 21, ‘For our conversation is in heaven, where we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It will engage you to fidelity in your duty; for every one of us must give an account of himself to God: 1 John ii. 28, ‘And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.’ To watchfulness as well as faithfulness: Luke xxi. 36, ‘Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.’ Yea, to diligence, that you may clear up your title and interest: Heb. ix. 28, ‘And to them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation;’ 2 Peter iii. 14, ‘Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.’ Oh, therefore, let this be a precious truth to you, which you would not forego for all the world; if others tremble at the mention of it, still carry it so that it may be your comfort and solace. In short, believe it strongly, think of it frequently, prepare for it diligently, improve it fruitfully, to all holy conversation and godliness, yea, to get oil not into your lamps only, but vessels,—grace in your hearts, as well as profess yourselves to be Christians.

Doct. 2. That when Christ shall come, all the saints shall be gathered together unto him.

For evidencing this, let me clear to you, that at the day of judgment there shall be:—1. A congregation. 2. A segregation. 3. An aggregation.

They are all intended, but principally the last.

1. A congregation: Mat. xxv. 32, ‘Before him shall be gathered all nations;’ and not only all nations, but all persons: 2 Cor. v. 10, ‘We must all (collective) appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one (distributive) may receive according to the things done in his body,’ &c. All that have lived from the beginning of the world unto that day shall, without exception of any one single person, from the least unto the greatest, appear before the tribunal of Christ; no age, no sex, or nation, or dignity, or greatness, can excuse us. In the world some are too high to be questioned, others too low to be taken notice of, but there all are brought forth to undergo their trial; there is no shifting or avoiding this day of appearance: Adam will there meet with all his posterity at once. Take all the distinctions of mankind, infants, and grown persons; I mean infants who die before they are in an ordinary way capable of the doctrine of life (the scriptures are written for grown persons, the case of infants is more obscure), those of them who are born within the church, God is their God: Gen. xvii. 7, ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.’ Good and bad is the next distinction,—both sorts come to receive their sentence; only the one come to the judgment of condemnation, the other to the judgment of absolution: John v. 28, 29, ‘Those that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation;’ Acts xxiv. 15, ‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead; both of the just and unjust.’ The next distinction is men of all callings,—apostles, ministers, private Christians. Apostles: Paul expected to be judged: 1 Cor. iv. 4, ‘I know nothing of myself, yet am I not thereby justified, but he that judgeth me is the Lord;’ he speaketh with respect to the execution of the apostolical office. Ordinary ministers: Heb. xiii. 17, ‘They watch for your souls, as those that must give an account.’ If souls miscarry through their negligence, they are answerable to God for it. Ordinary Christians: Rom. xiv. 12, ‘Every one must give an account of himself’ to God.’ Men of all conditions, poor or rich, weak or powerful, high and low: Rev. xx. 12, ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;’ I mean those that are so distinguished now; these distinctions do not outlive time, there all stand on the same level; the ruffling men of the world shall then be afraid, and ‘call upon the mountains to cover them from the wrath of him that sitteth upon the throne,’ Rev. vi. 16. The poor are not forgotten; they are God’s creatures, and must undergo his judgment. Thus shall all people that live scattered up and down in the world, how much soever they differ from one another in rites, tongues, customs of living, be brought together in one place.

2. There is a segregation: Mat. xxv. 32, 33, ‘He shall separate the one from the other, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left.’ There may be now a confusion and mixture of the godly and the wicked, as sheep and goats feed in the same pasture; and they may be all raised together according to the places where they lived and died; but then a perfect separation: good and bad are first gathered together, but the good are drawn into a company by themselves, but no pure company, till the great Shepherd will ‘judge between cattle and cattle,’ Ezek. xxxiv. 17; ‘He will gather his saints together, Ps. l. 5; Ps. i. 5, The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.’ So Mat. xiii. 49, ‘At the end of the world the angels shall come, and sever the wicked from among the just.’

3. An aggregation: believers are gathered together to him for several ends:—

[1.] To make up the number of Christ’s train and attendants to wait on him: Jude 14, ἐν ἁγίαις μυριάσιν, ‘with his holy ten thousands;’ Zech. xiv. 5,’And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with him;’ 1 Thes. iv. 17, ‘The dead in Christ shall rise first, and we which are alive shall be caught up together in the clouds with them, to meet the Lord in the air.’

[2.] That after judgment we may be solemnly presented to God by head and poll. We were given to Christ to be preserved unto the glory we were designed for: John xvii. 6, ‘I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me;’ not by way of alienation, but oppignoration [an act of pawning or pledging], recompense, and charge. Christ is to give an account: John vi. 40, ‘And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ The form of presentation is, Heb. ii. 13, ‘Behold I and the children which God hath given me.’

[3.] That in one troop we may be brought into his heavenly kingdom: John xiv. 3, ‘And if I go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ The whole flock shall then follow the great Shepherd of the sheep into the everlasting fold.

Use 1. Believe this gathering together to him. We are joined to the church of God’s elect now by faith only: Heb. xii. 22, 23, ‘Ye are come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven,’ &c. Πανήγυρις is a meeting made up of many different persons gathered together from several countries into one body and one place; as the meeting of all sorts of persons from all the corners of Greece to see the Olympic Games was called the πανήγυρις; people of all countries came to behold their ἀγῶνες; so the mystical state of the church of the gospel is a general assembly, because it is not confined to one nation, but extended to believers of all nations and ages; they are drawn into a body, or heavenly society, into one fold, under one Shepherd; but they never meet in an actual assembly until the last day, which is the great congregation or rendezvous of the saints, so that now it is matter of faith.

2. See you be of the number. When some are admitted, others are thrust out: Luke xiii. 28, ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and ye yourselves thrust out;’ the wicked shall not stand in this congregation. Oh, it is a blessed and a comfortable thing when we are made members of the mystical body of Christ, and have hopes that we shall be in the number of those that shall meet together in the great assembly and congregation of the righteous; that we are trained up in the church of Christ, which is the seminary of heaven; that we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints.

3. Let us improve it many ways.

[1.] To comfort us against the paucity of serious walkers and real Christians. Alas! now they are but like two or three berries upon the top of the uppermost bough; here one, and there another; in some places thinner, in others thicker, as God hath service for them; in appearance, μικρός ποίμνιον, ‘a little flock,’ Luke xii. 32. But take all together, they are a general assembly, that are ‘redeemed out of every kindred, tongue, and nation,’ Rev. v. 9; yea, Rev. vii. 9, ‘a great multitude, which none can number, of all kindreds, tongues, peoples, and nations.’ As few as we are, and as despised as the interest of the godly is, we shall not want company in heaven; we see few going to heaven, but when we are gathered together we shall see that our everlasting companions are many.

[2.] To comfort us against the distance of Christian friends. We are often separated from the society of good Christians whom we love dearly, but we shall be gathered together in one congregation. The saints are now scattered by Providence; they live in divers countries, towns, houses, have little comfort of one another. They live where they may be most useful; as stars do not shine in a cluster, but are dispersed throughout the heaven; and as they are the light of the earth, so they are the salt of the earth, which is sprinkled here and there, not laid in a heap; sometimes by violence of men, persecution, and banishment; sometimes by death, which parts friends, perfectus est quem putas mortuum, like people in a wreck, got to shore before us. Now what a comfort is it to be united to all God’s people, which have been, are, or shall be, to the end of the world, and to meet in one assembly: Mat. xxiv. 31, ‘They shall gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another.’ The saints shall be gathered from all quarters of the earth; though they live in several places, several times, many we never saw in the flesh, Christ will assemble them all, bring them in unto one place.

[3.] To comfort them under the degenerate and collapsed state of Christianity. (1.) The mixture of the wicked; the good and bad are here mixed, they live together in the same kingdoms, cities, societies, visible church, family, bed (perhaps), but then a perfect separation: Zech. xiv. 21, ‘There shall no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts;’ Rev. xxi. 27, ‘Nothing that defileth shall enter there:’ such a difference shall there be between the state of God’s church in this world, and the world to come: here tares are mingled with wheat, good fish with bad in the drag-net; it is hard by discipline to keep the sound from the infected. (2.) Discord; the saints are divided in affection, but then perfect harmony; they are all gathered together to Christ, and have no signs and badges of distinction to herd apart. (3.) It is universal with all the saints. (4.) Perpetual, never to part more.

Sermon Two.-2 Thess. 2:2.

James Dodson


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.—2 THES. II. 2.

WE come now to the matter of the apostle’s caution, which is in the second verse: ‘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.’ In which words take notice:—

1. Of the error disproved: that the day of Christ is at hand.

2. The effect which this error might produce; trouble and unsettled ness of mind: that ye be not soon shaken in mind or troubled.

3. A removal of all the supposed foundations of this error, or the means which these impostors used to entice them to embrace it. Three are mentioned—spirit, word, and letter.

[1.] Nor by spirit; that is, pretence of spiritual revelation; be not soon shaken in mind by it.

[2.] Nor by word; some word of the apostle, which they pretended to have heard—and that is another sleight of deceivers; some tradition or doctrine delivered by the apostle by word of mouth.

[3.] Nor by letter as from us. This may be understood—(1.) Either of some passage in the former epistle; for the apostle saith there, 1 Thes. iv. 17, ‘Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air;’ and because he joins himself with them, they thought he should survive until that day. Or else those warnings which the apostle gives them: 1 Thes. v. 1-3, ‘Of the times and seasons I need not write unto them, for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night,’ &c. Now these warnings they might abuse; and this is one way by which men may be unsettled and unshaken, i.e., by false glosses and interpretations of scripture. (2.) Or rather the sense may be, some spurious and counterfeit writings, which was one means of deceit used in the primitive times; supposititious or apocryphal legends, wherein the apostle might be said to write something, as if Christ should come in that age wherein they lived. Now, to obviate this, the apostle is supposed to insert that passage, chap. iii. 17, ‘The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.’

First, From the error disproved, observe:—

Doct. That the time of Christ’s coming to judgment must be patiently expected, not rashly defined or determined; for this is the error which the apostle with such earnestness opposeth here.

But you will say, Is this such an error? Do not the holy apostles themselves say, in effect, the same, as the apostle James, chap. v. 8, ‘The coming of the Lord draweth nigh;’ and the apostle Peter, 1 Peter iv. 7; ‘The end of all things is at hand.’ Yea, Paul himself, 1 Cor. x. 11, ‘These are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come;’ and Rom. xiii. 12, ‘The night is far spent, and the day is at hand;’ where by night is meant the state of ignorance, sin, and paganism before conversion; and by the day is meant the state of our full regeneration and illumination in eternal glory, when the corrupt world shall come to an end, and all shadows shall fly away. As if he had said, The morning of the resurrection is at hand, the night is far spent—not quite past—and the day is at hand; the night is not thoroughly gone, nor the day wholly come, yet, he saith, it is at hand. What evil was in this opinion, that the apostle should with such vehemency argue and reason against it? Ans. There is some difference in the words, for ἤγγικεν signifies, it draweth near; ἐνέστηκεν it is begun already. But the sense is vastly different; for by these and such like expressions the apostle only did intend that the last dispensation was then on foot—no other change of dispensation or worship was to be expected till the coming of Christ. But I shall more clearly and distinctly show—

1. What reason the apostle had to speak at this rate.

2. What little reason these seducers had to pervert this speech to countenance their hypothesis or supposition.

1. For the first, the apostle had reason to say the day of the Lord was at hand.

[1.] With respect of faith; for faith gives a kind of presence to things: Heb. xi. 1, ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;’ that is, it gives a being, a kind of existence, to things future and afar off, and sets them before the eyes of our mind, and gives us some sight of them, as if they were already come. And therein it agrees with the light of prophecy. Look, as by the light of prophecy John saith, Rev. xx. 12, ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened,’ &c., so faith doth in effect see what it believes. Well, then, faith looking upon things distant and absent as near at hand, the apostle had reason to use this language to believers, as if the judge were at the door: Phil. iv. 5, ‘Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand,’ not only in regard of his present providence, but also with respect to his second coming to judgment; it is as certain to faith as if he were already come.

[2.] With respect of love: love will not account it long to endure the hardships of this present world until Christ come to set all things at rights. Jacob served seven years for Rachel ‘for the love he bare to her, and it seemed to him but a little while,’ Gen. xxix. 20. If we had any love for Christ, we should be contented to suffer a while for his sake. The time is coming when the wicked shall persecute no more, when the mouth of iniquity shall be stopped, when the desire and hope of all believers shall be satisfied, when the Redeemer’s work shall be consummated, when the kingdom shall be delivered up to the Father, when those that made a jest of this day shall be fully confuted. Faith sees the certainty of it, and love makes us hold out till the time come about.

[3.] The apostle might speak so, as comparing time with eternity: Ps. xc. 4, ‘A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday, when it is past, and as a watch in the night;’ 2 Peter iii. 8, ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ The longest time to eternity is but as a drop lost and spilt in the ocean; and all the tediousness of the present life is but like one rainy day to an everlasting sunshine: 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ Though troubles are lengthened as long as our lives are, yet they are but a moment in respect of eternity; we reckon by time, and not by eternity, and therefore these expressions may seem strange to us.

[4.] The apostle speaks this to particular men, whose abode in the world is not very long. Eternity and the judgment is at hand, though Christ tarry long till the church be completed, and the elect be gathered: 2 Peter iii. 9, ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.’ Now, what is long, and what is afar off to the whole church, considered in several successions of ages, it is short to particular persons. Death soon puts an end to their conflict, and then their triumph ensues. And so Christ is ready to judge at all times, though the world be not ready to be judged. The coming of Christ is uncertain, and hidden for this very purpose, that men in all ages might be quickened to faithfulness and watchfulness, and make that preparation which is necessary. Now, therefore, it concerns the messengers of God to bind men’s duty upon them, by showing the nearness of it in all the fore-mentioned considerations, that they might be always ready; for so we find our Lord himself pressing it: Luke xii. 40, ‘Be ye therefore ready, for the Son cometh at an hour when ye think not;’ Mat. xxiv. 42, ‘Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord cometh.’ He may come in a moment; our duty is unquestionable, but the time of his coming is uncertain. And to please ourselves with the thoughts of a delay, is a mighty deadening thing, and quencheth our duty; yea, it is an enticement to all evil; Mat. xxiv. 48, the wicked servant took liberty to beat his fellow-servants because of his lord’s delay. We are bid to be sober and watchful, and always to be looking for the coming of the Lord.

2. The seducers had little reason to pervert this speech to the countenance of their hypothesis or supposition, and therefore the apostle had very good reason to be zealous in the confutation of this hypothesis of the seducers, who maintained that Christ would come in that age.

[1.] To inquire after the time is curiosity: Acts i. 7, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put into his own power.’ Those things which God hath reserved to himself, for us to inquire after is sinful. It is a great evil to pry into our Master’s secrets, when we have so many revealed truths to busy our minds about. We take it to be a piece of ill-manners to pry into that which is purposely concealed; as to break up a secret letter and the like. The practising of known duties would prevent this curiosity. These things tend not to our profit and edification.

[2.] Much more was it a sin to fix the time; it was an arrogant presumption: Mat. xxiv. 36, ‘For of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.’ The peremptory time of the day of judgment God keeps to himself, and it is arrogance for any to define it and set a time, when God has resolved to keep it secret.

[3.] The fixing of that time did a great deal of hurt.

1.) For the present it drew away their minds from their calling, because they expected a sudden coming of the Lord. Ill impressions either destroy or weaken necessary duties.

2.) The least error doth gratify Satan and the interest of his kingdom, for he is the father of lies.

3.) It might shake their faith in other things when their credulity was disproved by the event; the gospel might be brought into contempt when their error only was confuted; as many men, who have been peremptory in fixing times, afterwards have thrown off their religion.

4.) It showed a diseased mind, that they were sick of questions; as the apostle speaks, 1 Tim. vi. 4, ‘Doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy,’ &c., when they had so much wholesome food to feed upon.

5.) It did but engender strife among Christians, begat wranglings and disputes in the church: I Tim. vi. 4, ‘he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting (or sick) about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railing, evil surmisings.’

Use 1. Let us not fix times. Many of the ancients were too bold this way, and we are apt to it. Lactantius peremptorily said, the world would endure but two hundred years after his time. So many will fix the time of the calling of the Jews, and the destruction of Antichrist without evident grounds and reasons. What God hath revealed is enough to bear us out in our duty and suffering. In other things let us patiently wait; we see reason to do so, when we consider how many men have proved false prophets.

2. Let us not put off the time, and set it at too great a distance. Distant things, though never so great, will hardly move us; that which men put off they do in effect put away; they put far off the evil day, they would not let it come near their minds to have any operation upon them. Look, as the stars, those vast globes of light, by reason of the distance between us and them, do seem but as so many spangles, so we have but a weak sight of what is set at a great distance, and their operation on us will be but small; the closer things are, the more they will work upon us. One that looks upon what God hath revealed of this as sure and near, is more affected with it than others are. Therefore set yourselves at the entrance of that world, where you: must everlastingly be, and watch and be ready. They that put it off are apt to loiter in their work. If Christ’s coming be not near at hand, certainly the time of our departure is at hand, and it will not be long ere it come about. But this is but introductive to the doctrine of Antichrist. Therefore I come to the second thing.

Secondly, The effect that this error might produce, trouble and unsettledness of mind: ‘That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled.’ In the words there is a twofold metaphor; the one taken from a tempest, or sea-storm, as the word plainly implies, ‘that ye be not shaken in mind; and the other word is taken from the sudden alarm of a land-fight, which breeds trouble.

Doct. 1. That errors breed trouble of mind: they do not only trouble the church’s peace: Gal. v. 12, I would they were even cut off which trouble you; but they hinder tranquillity of mind: Gal. i. 7, ‘There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.’

How do errors hinder tranquillity of mind? Partly because it is an unsound foundation; it can never yield solid peace. We only find rest for the soul in a true religion, and there where it is purely professed others are left to great doubts and uncertainties. The Lord seems direct us in this course when we are upon consultation about the taking up of a religion: Jer. vi. 16, ‘Stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ Soul-rest is only found in God’s way, find where it is most clearly professed. Partly because whatever false peace is bred there, it will at last end in trouble. The apostle compares seducers, Jude 13, to ‘raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;’ and we are told of the locusts that came out of the bottomless pit, Rev. ix. 5, that they ‘stung like scorpions.’ Every erroneous way of religion is comfortless; yea, their doctrine breeds anxiety, and vexes the spirit; for they have no true way of quieting the conscience; let us therefore detest error, because it is so much our interest. It is the property of truth to beget a delectation of mind; it is ‘sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.’ Verum est bonum intellectus—truth is the good of the understanding. Now when we understand truth satisfyingly, it breeds an incredible delight; when we have been in some perplexities, and begin to find out a truth: Prov. xxiv. 13, 14, ‘My son, eat thou honey, because it is good, and the honeycomb, which is sweet unto thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be when thou hast found it.’ Honey is not so sweet to thy taste as this is to thy understanding. When a man hath found out any truth, though it be but a natural truth, it breeds its oblectation [delight]: much more spiritual truth; it is very pleasing, to the understanding, and most of all when spiritual. Truth is obeyed and practised; for the understanding gives us but a sight of it, but obedience gives a taste thereof. Our Saviour saith, Mat. xi. 28-30, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ If you will but come under Christ’s blessed yoke and sceptre, and that way of religion he hath recommended to you, you will find an incredible peace, joy, and oblectation in your mind.

Doct. 2. That Christians should be so established, and have such constancy of mind, that
they should not be easily shaken and moved from the faith.

1. Let us see how this is pressed. Sometimes it is pressed from the encouragement of your great hope: 1 Cor. xv. 58, ‘Be stedfast, and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ First, he would have them stedfast and unmoveable; these two words have their special signification, the one is a degree above the other. A man may be stedfast in a thing, though he be moved a little in some by-matters; but now, since your innocency will bear you out, be not only stedfast but immoveable, which is a higher degree; but take it thus, be stedfast in yourselves, and unmoveable by the storms of temptation from without: a man is stedfast in himself, settled upon his own foundation; and you are unmoved when you are strengthened against outward assaults: Acts xx. 24, None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so I might finish my course with joy.’ A man may be settled in the knowledge of the truth, but he is not unmoveable except he be fortified against all temptations that may draw him off from his profession. Such constancy of mind may be well enforced because of our great hope; thus it is pleaded for there. Then the absolute necessity of it is urged at other times, as Col. i. 23, ‘If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.’ The same condition is required to continue as to begin our right in the privileges of the gospel. There are some conditions required for the beginning, others for the continuing of our right, Now this is absolutely required for the continuing of our right, both for present reconciliation with God, and future glory; it is upon this condition, ‘if ye continue in the faith.’

2. Let us inquire what is necessary to this constancy and establishment of mind, that we may not be soon troubled and shaken; partly that our minds may be enlightened to know the truth, and our hearts renewed to believe and love the truth; for without this there can never be any constancy of mind in religion.

[1.] A clear conviction of the truth, or certainty of knowledge, a rooted assent, or well-grounded persuasion; not some fluctuating opinion about it. A half light maketh us very uncertain in our course: James i. 8, ‘A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways’—δίψυχος ἀκατάστατος; first ‘try all things,’ 1 Thes. v. 21, then ‘hold fast that which is good.’ When men resolve upon evidence, or after due examination, the truth sticketh the closer and faster by them; but when they take up things hand—over—head, they have no firm principles, and therefore waver hither and thither, as vessels without ballast are tossed with every wave: 2 Peter iii. 16, 17, ‘Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness’—ἰδίου στηριγμοῦ, substantial grounds within themselves. They do not stand by the knowledge of others, or the faith of others, and consent of others: light chaff is carried about with every wind, περιφερόμενοι: Eph. iv. 14, ‘That ye henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.’ They go through all parts of the compass; sometimes this wind of error taketh them up, sometimes that; sometimes taking up one opinion, then changing it for another: this is the fruit of half-convictions.

[2.] The other part of our basis is a resolution to adhere to the truth. What likelihood is there that we should continue, who are not so much as resolved so to do? The heart must be established by grace, as well as the mind soundly convinced: Heb. xiii. 9, ‘Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines, for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;’ as the apostle speaketh of a purpose not to marry: 1 Cor. vii. 37, ‘He that standeth stedfast in his own heart,’ &c. So here, Acts xxi. 13, ‘I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ A firm, thorough resolution is requisite to fortify us against all changes in religion; otherwise we are but as trees without a root, or a house without a foundation. Now this resolution of the heart is by faith and love. Faith: Heb. xiii. 12, ‘Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.’ Love: 2 Thes. ii. 10, They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; and for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they shall believe a lie.’ We are not only rooted and grounded in faith, but ‘rooted and grounded in love:’ Eph. iii. 17, ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love,’ &c.

1. The opposite to this is levity and inconstancy of mind, that soon quitteth truth without difficulty, or without much hesitancy and resistance yields to the temptation. The scripture often taketh notice of this sudden embracing of error: Gal. i. 6, ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel;’ and in the text, ‘soon shaken in mind.’ Credulity is a lightness in believing, when we are like reeds shaken with every wind, Mat. xi. 7, and have a faulty easiness, ready to be carried away with every doctrine which pretendeth to truth: ‘The simple believeth every word,’ Prov. xiv. 15. There is a readiness of mind which is good, but it goeth on sufficient evidence; so ‘the wisdom that is from above is gentle, and easy to be entreated,’ James iii. 17; and the Bereans were προθυμίας: Acts xvii. 11, ‘They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures, whether these things were so or no.’ But a readiness of mind differs from a weakness of mind, or a lightness in believing upon slender and insufficient grounds: they never receive the truth with thorough efficacy, and are prone to error.

2. The causes of this levity and inconstancy of mind are these:—

[1.] Want of solid rooting in the truth; they receive it hand—over—head, as the stony ground forthwith sprang up: Mat. xiii. 5, 20, ‘Anon they receive it with joy;’ they do not so soon receive the word, but they as soon quit it.

[2.] Want of mortification: 2 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world.’ Lusts are uncertain; fear of men, favour of men, carnal hopes will easily prevail.

[3.] A certain readiness of mind which disposeth men to conform and comply with their company, as the looking-glass representeth every face that looketh on it; so they are very changeable, and unstable as water; as Zedekiah, Jer. xxxviii. 5, ‘The king is not he that can say you nay;’ soon turned this way and that way.

[4.] Want of a thorough inclination to God, so that they are right for a while, or in some things, yet they are not universally true to his interest: 1 Kings ii. 28, ‘Joab turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom;’ Hosea vii. 8, ‘Ephraim is a cake not turned.’

[5.] Want of holiness and living up to the truths we know: 1 Tim. iii. 9, ‘Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.’ Choice liquors are best kept in a clean vessel; men provoke God to desert them and leave them to a vertiginous spirit.

[6.] Libertinism. Men think they may run from one sect of Christians to another, as the wind of interest bloweth. If they were to turn to Ethnicism [i.e., paganism, or heathenism], Turcism [i.e., Islam], or Judaism, they would die rather than change their religion; but they think the differences among Christians are not of such moment as to venture anything upon that account. Every truth is precious, and must be owned in its season, and it is damnable in itself to do anything against conscience, and he that giveth way to a small temptation will entertain a greater; as a man that hangeth over a precipice, when he lets go his hold, will sink further and further till he come to the bottom; therefore, it is good to be faithful in a little.

Use. Let us take heed of this evil credulity and lightness.

1. Till Christians get a settled and sound judgment they never have peace within themselves, for fears and scruples arise in the dark, and those that live in error are full of perplexities, and have not that tranquillity of spirit which they have who are fully persuaded in their own mind: Rom. xiv. 5, ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’

2. If hardened in error, consider your opinions will ordinarily have an influence upon your whole religion, and ‘will pervert your carriage towards God and men; your prayers will smell of your opinions, and be like Balaam’s sacrifice, offered to God to engage him against his own people; your love will be dispensed according to the interests of your faction: 1 Cor. i. 12, 13, ‘Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?’

3. The danger of error to others. Vice is like a duel, error a war: 2 Tim. ii. 17, ‘Their word will eat as doth a canker;’ ‘All in Asia have turned from me,’ 2 Tim. i. 15.

4. There is danger to yourselves, though the error be not damnable, 1 Cor. iii. 13. You have not so full communion with God.

Thirdly, The third thing is the means which these impostors used to seduce them from the faith,—spirit, word, letter; by all which the apostle would not have them troubled and shaken in mind; none of these engines which the seducers used should draw them from the truth. What should poor Christians do thus assaulted? Ans. Stick to the apostolical doctrine. I shall observe:—

Doct. That a Christian should be so persuaded in religion that neither spirit, nor word, nor writing, should be able to shake or unsettle his mind. I shall show you:—

1. What ways or what means God hath appointed whereby a man may settle his choice as to opinions in religion.

2. That the word of God will sufficiently fortify him against all these false ways by which error is wont to be insinuated.

3. For the first, if a Christian would be established and guided aright in the choice of a religion, he must follow both the light of nature and scripture.

[1.] The light of nature, antecedently to any external revelation will sufficiently convince us of the being of God and our dependence upon him: Rom. i. 19, 20, ‘That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it to them; for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.’ For I must know there is a God, or else I cannot be certain that he hath given us a rule or revelation of his mind. We begin with what is natural, and then go on to what is spiritual. Nature will tell us that there is one God, the first cause of all things, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; that it is reasonable he should be served by those whom he hath made; that he will reward and punish men as they disobey or serve and please him: but how God will be served, how they shall be rewarded or punished, or how they shall escape punishment, if after a breach they are willing to return to their duty and obedience to him, this is revealed in the word of God.

[2.] The written word shows us the true way of worshipping and pleasing God, and being accepted with him; therefore it is a sufficient direction to us: there is enough to satisfy conscience, though not to please wanton curiosity; as that may quench the thirst of a sober man that will not satisfy the lust of a drunkard: there we are ‘made wise unto salvation,’ 2 Tim. iii. 15—‘Thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation;’ and Ps. cxix. 105, ‘Thy word is a light unto my feet, and a lantern to my paths.’ There we have the knowledge of many things evident by the light of nature discovered with more clearness and certainty; and that which could ‘not be found out by natural light, as salvation by a Redeemer, or the remedy of our lapsed estate, which, depending on the sole will and good pleasure of God, could not be known till it was manifested and revealed by him. When man sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, it was necessary that God should some way or other reveal his mind to him by word of mouth or by writing. By word of mouth, that is, either by oracles or extraordinary messengers. That sufficed while God saw fit to reveal but a few truths, or such as did not much burden the memory; and men were long-lived, and the church confined within a small compass of ground, and not liable to so many miseries and changes as now in the latter ages; and then he put it into writing, that men may not obtrude upon us their own conceits, but we might have a standard or rule of Faith and manners: Gal. vi. 16, ‘As many as walk according to this rule,’ &c.

[3.] The natural truths contained in the word of God are evident by their own light. The supernatural truths, though they are above natural light, yet they are not against it, or contrary to it, and do fairly accord with those principles which are naturally known; and are confirmed,—partly by an antecedent testimony, which is prophecy; partly by an innate evidence in their own frame and contexture; partly by a subsequent evidence, which is valuable testimony as to matter of fact. The antecedent testimony: John v. 39, ‘Search the scriptures, for in them ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me;’ 2 Peter i. 19, ‘We have a more sure word of’ prophecy, to which we do well to give heed, as to a light shining in dark places.’ The innate and concomitant evidence: 2 Cor. iv. 2-4, ‘We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of’ God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. For if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.’ The subsequent testimony, the apostles: Acts v. 32, ‘We are witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.’ They were eye and ear witnesses of great fidelity and credit; their religion forbiddeth them to lie for God, and they were accompanied with the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, not only in giving them success in the face of the learned world, hunting out the devil everywhere, but also by miracles, divers signs, and wonders; and they and their followers endured all manner of torments and death to witness to the truth of these things, and transmitted them to us with assurance of God’s owning this doctrine.

[4.] The word being thus stated and put into a sure record, it is intelligible enough, in all necessary matters at least; for if God should speak or write darkly to his people, especially in necessary things, it is because he could not or would not speak otherwise. The former is direct blasphemy: Exod. iv. 11, ‘Who hath made man’s mouth? have not I, the Lord?’ The latter cannot be said, because that is contrary to his goodness: Ps. xxv. 8, ‘Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners the way.’ It is not to be imagined that the great and universal king should give a law to mankind, and speak so darkly that we should have no sure direction from thence, nor be able to know his mind in any of the duties God hath required of us, or expose us to great difficulties and hardships in the world. And if he had not plainly expressed his will to us, man would never leave writing and distinguishing himself out of his duty. Surely he that will venture his all for Christ’s sake had need of a clear warrant to bear him out, for none will hazard all that is near and dear to him but for weighty reasons.

[5.] Besides, the illumination of the Holy Spirit doth accompany this word, and make it effectual to us, to show us God as revealed in Christ: 2 Cor. iv. 6, ‘God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;’ and for heaven, Eph. i. 17, 18, ‘Praying that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.’ He sanctifieth and healeth our souls, and prepareth us for the entertainment of the truth, that as natural things are naturally discerned, so spiritual things are spiritually discerned: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’

[6.] There are promises of direction made to humble and sincere minds: Ps. xxv. 9, ‘The meek shall he guide in judgment, the meek shall he teach his way;’ to the industrious: Prov. ii. 4, 5, ‘If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God;’ to the godly and well-disposed: John vii. 17, ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself;’ so to them that pray much: James i. 5, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.’ They that thus sincerely endeavour to know the will of God, will come to a sound, established judgment in the truth.

2. A Christian that is thus established, is fortified against spirit, word, or writing, or all suggestions that may perplex his mind.

[1.] Against pretended revelations, called here spirit.

1.) Because having his mind thus settled, he may boldly defy all revelations pretended to the contrary: Gal. i. 8, ‘Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than we have preached, let him be accursed.’ Any doctrine, if diverse, or different from, or besides the written word, much more contrary to it, a Christian may reject it, and account it cursed doctrine; therefore neither church, nor angel, nor spirit is to be heard against it.

2.) Because a Christian is upon better terms, having the written word, than if God dealt with him by way of revelations: 2 Peter i. 19, ‘We have βεβαιότερον λόγον, a more sure word of prophecy;’ comparing it with the voice from heaven, of which he spake before; not as if there could be any uncertainty in the Lord s voice speaking from heaven, but because a transient voice is more easily mistaken or forgotten than an authentic standing record; as Samuel thought Eli called him, when it was the Lord. It is quoad nos; though God gave evidence of the truth of such revelations as he made, yet we have more accommodate means. Our Lord intimateth such a thing: Luke xvi. 3l, ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’ This is the surest ground for faith to rest upon of any that ever hath been or can be given to sinners, subject to forgetfulness, jealousies, and mistakes.

3.) Because it is not rational to expect new revelation, now the canon and rule of faith is closed up: Heb. ii. 1, 2, ‘Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip,’ &c.; Mat. xxviii. 20, ‘Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you;’ John xvii. 29, ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them which shall believe on me through their word.’

4.) Because if any such be pretended, it must be tried by the word: Isa. viii. 20, ‘To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because they have no light in them;’ so 1 John iv. 1, ‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone abroad into the world.’

5.) Because they that despise ordinary means, and pretend to vision, revelation, or inspiration, are usually such as are given up by God to a vertiginous spirit, and cast into the dungeon of error, for the punishment of other sins: Micah ii. 11, ‘If a man walking in the spirit of falsehood do lie, he shall be the prophet of this people;’ God will permit those that are both deceivers and deceived themselves to come amongst them for a plague to them. Sleidan giveth sad instances of some given up to this fantastical frenzy, that killed their own relations on pretence of inspiration, and of others that murdered fifty thousand in one day.

[2.] By word or unwritten tradition. This also should not shake the mind of settled Christian, for this hath no constat—no evidence of its certainty, and would lay us open to the deceits of men, blinded by their own interest and passions; and if such tradition could be produced as hath unquestionable authority, it must be tried by the scripture, which is everywhere commended as the public standard, and true measure and rule, both of faith and manners.

[3.] Not by epistle as from us.

1.) Supposititious writings, which the church in all ages hath exploded, having received only those which are unquestionably theirs whose names they bear.

2.) False expositions. These are confuted by inspection of the context, scope of the writer, comparing of obscure places with plain and clear. Thus you see what certainty God hath provided for us to guide us in the way to eternal life.

Sermon Three.-2 Thess. 2:3.

James Dodson


Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.—2 THESS. II. 3.

IN these words we have these two things:—

1. A caution against the error set afoot at that time concerning Christ’s sudden coming to judgment.

2. The confutation of it. It is disproved by two antecedents and forerunners of his coming:—(1.) A general apostasy, or a defection of the visible church from the true state of Christianity; (2.) The revelation of Antichrist, described here by his names and proper titles—lst, That man of sin; and 2dly, Son of perdition.

I. Let us speak of the general apostasy that must be before Christ’s coming to judgment: except there come a falling away first.

Now concerning it take these propositions:—

1. That apostasy is any defection from him to whom we owe and have performed subjection, or a failing from that lord to whom we owe fealty. I am sure, in religious matters, it importeth a defection from our right and proper Lord. Thus the devil is an apostate, because he abode not in his first estate: Jude 6, ‘And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains,’ &c.; ‘abode not in the truth;’ John viii. 44, ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth;’ that is, forsook his obedience to God, and so became the ringleader of all rebellious creatures. So it is true of our first parents. They were apostates, they did revolt from God and their obedience to him. Therefore it is said, Rom. v. 19, ‘By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.’ So of their posterity; their apostasy is described by ‘turning back from following the Lord,’ Zeph. i. 6, and ‘departing from God,’ that is, his worship and service; Isa. lix. 13, ‘In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God.’ Let us then be agreed of this notion of apostasy, which is evident, that it is a falling off from the obedience which we owe to our rightful Lord.

2. The apostasy mentioned in the text was not civil, the falling away of many kingdoms from the Roman empire; but an apostasy of the visible church from him who is Lord of the church. I prove it partly from the persons to whom the apostle wrote, who did not intermingle themselves with state affairs, or were not concerned in the interests of the Roman empire further than that they lived within the bounds of it; and this apostasy must be understood as they would conceive of apostasy with respect to the main cause wherein they were concerned and engaged, which was the profession of Christianity. Partly from the use of the word in the Christian doctrine; falling away there is certainly falling away from the faith and purity of the gospel: Luke viii. 13, ‘Which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.’ And partly because to them it was expressly foretold that ἀποστήσονταί τινες, ‘Some shall fall away or depart from the faith,’ 1 Tim. iv. 1. Lastly, because those who are most concerned to maintain the notion of the civil apostasy from the Roman empire are most notorious in this defection. It is true the Roman empire lost Asia and the places adjacent by the invasion of Eastern nations, but it was thrust out of Rome by the rebellion of its subjects, and chiefly by the influence of the Pope there, as histories manifest. So that this interpretation will not help them a jot, but hurt them not a little. So that here is a defection from our proper Lord, and a spiritual defection, not a civil.

3. The proper Lord of the Christian church is Jesus Christ, who hath purchased it with his blood, and ‘died, and rose again, and revived, that he might be Lord of dead and living,’ Rom. xiv. 9; and again, Eph. v. 23, ‘Christ is the head of the church, and the Saviour of the body.’ He that sayeth and recovereth the church out of the general apostasy of mankind, and restoreth them to their due obedience and proper happiness, he only is fit to he head of the church; and this only is Christ: we expect no opposition here.

4. The apostasy from the Lord will be determined chiefly by these two things:—(1.) By undermining his authority; (2.) Or destroying the interests of his kingdom. By these two we may understand the falling away, which is to come first.

[1.] By undermining his authority. Certainly his authority is undermined when others presume to usurp his place without his leave. Therefore, to superinduce a universal head of the visible church, which Christ never appointed, is manifestly to usurp his authority; though the party so intruding should pretend to hold his sovereignty from Christ, and under him, yet this is treason against Christ, for here is an authority set up without, and therefore against, his consent. Put the case in a temporal kingdom, and the thing will be clear. And thus the Pope is the usurping head of a rebellion against Christ. Where did Christ institute him to take this office? Tu es Petrus is such a stale pretence, so often baffled and defeated, and pretended upon so small grounds;—as that Christ hereby conveyed singular authority to Peter above the rest of the disciples, that from Peter it descendeth to his successors, and to those of Rome (if ever he were at Rome), and not those of Antioch;—that it is endless to pursue the absurdities of this impertinent allegation. The argument holdeth the more strongly when the Pope condemneth all the churches that will not be his subjects, how holy, good, and obedient to the laws of Christ soever they be. Surely, if anything, this is an apostasy or a revolt from our rightful Lord; and to consent to this rebellion and usurpation is to be drawn into a conspiracy against Christ, to submit to the head of the most pernicious schism that did ever rend the church of Christ, and to betray the liberty of the people of our Lord to a tyrannical usurpation.

[2.] Or corrupting and destroying the interests of his kingdom. Certainly, wherever there is a degeneration from the purity and simplicity of the gospel, the interests of Christ’s kingdom are destroyed. ‘I fear,’ saith the apostle, 2 Cor. xi. 3, ‘lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ The ancient, pure, apostolic Christianity doth only preserve the interests of Christ’s kingdom in the world; there is no way of safety but by keeping there; for since godliness is a mystery, and we shall see afterwards the iniquity that is contrary is a mystery also—2 Thes. ii. 7, ‘The mystery of iniquity doth already work’—we need to be exactly careful to keep close to the doctrine, worship, and discipline of the first gospel church; for if these had remained pure, Antichrist had never risen. Christ’s institutions would have preserved his interests in the world; but as these were corrupted, the apostasy prevailed. When the faith of the gospel was turned into dead opinions and curious questions, if not direct errors, and the worship of the gospel was corrupted by giving divine honour to saints and angels, and turned into a theatrical pomp and the pageantry of empty ceremonies, which eclipse the majesty and splendour of it; and the discipline of the church into a temporal domination, and all is carried in the world by sides and interests, that Christianity looketh like another thing, a design calculated for the present world rather than a serious preparation for the world to come; then certainly there is an apostasy and a defection from Christ; however the corrupt manners of the church be varnished over with the name of Christianity, there is a degeneration questionless; and that is apostasy, in a mystery, such as this is, though not in open revolt from Christ.

But to make this more evident to you, let us consider what the kingdom of Christ is. The gospel kingdom is a kingdom of light, life, and love. Opposite to light is ignorance and error; to life, a religion that consists of shows, dead rites, and empty ceremonies; to love, uncharitableness, malice, and especially hatred of the power of godliness. Now where these prevail eminently, there is an opposite kingdom set up to the kingdom of Christ; certainly a falling off from his kingdom: that is to say, where, in opposition to light, error is taught, and ignorance is counted the mother of devotion, and people are restrained from the means of knowledge, as if the height of Christian faith and obedience did consist in an implicit believing what the church believeth; and where, instead of life, men place their whole religion in superficial rites and ceremonies, and some trifling acts of seeming devotion and exterior mortifications; and instead of love to God and souls, all things are sacrificed to private ambition; and forcing consciences with the highest penalties and persecutions to submit to their corruptions—there is a manifest subversion of the interests of Christ’s kingdom. In short, God’s witnesses were ‘slain in that city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, and where our Lord was crucified,’ Rev. xi. 8; that city which answereth to Sodom for impurity, to Egypt for idolatry, and to Jerusalem for persecution of the saints; there may you find the great apostasy.

5. This apostasy from our Lord’s authority and the interests of his kingdom is some notable and discernible apostasy, and the head patron thereof is Antichrist. The defection is not of one, or a few, or many in divers churches; there have always been backsliders from the faith: 1 John ii. 19, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us;’ and the spirit of Antichrist wrought in the apostles’ days: 1 John ii. 18, ‘As you have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now there are many Antichrists;’ and again, 1 John iv. 3, we are told of the spirit of Antichrist: ‘And this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world;’ then described to be afterwards (ver. 5) a worldly spirit: ‘They are of the world, and speak of the world, and the world heareth them.’ Though they profess Christianity, carnal, worldly hypocrites, which never conquered the fleshly mind and interest, have the spirit of Antichrist; these obscure the light, and obstruct the life and love of the gospel—they that wholly affect a life of pomp and ease in the church. Now, this hath always been in all the ages. The false Christians forget their hopes are built upon a crucified Christ, and are to be derived to them from a glorified Christ in the other world—crucified in this world and glorified in the next,—which indeed are the two considerations that keep Christianity pure and lively; that all was purchased by a crucified Christ, and all is dispensed by a glorified Christ; and I wish you would oftener think of it. But the great apostasy is eminently found in some external visible church, where these corruptions are generally received and defended. For the head of that church is Antichrist, where doctrine is corrupted, and the worship mingled with idolatry, and the government a usurpation, and bent against the holy seed that desire to worship God in spirit and in truth; there is this manifest revolt from and rebellion against God and Christ, though they push with the horns of the lamb.

That the Papists are a corrupt sect of Christians is beyond dispute to any that will try their religion by the scriptures; and that they are far more corrupt than the Protestants or Reformed Churches, will also soon appear by the comparison, or a view of both churches. But whether they are so corrupt as to become the seat of Antichrist, is the matter under debate. Therefore, let any one consider where the eminent apostasy is to be found. Who are they that invade Christ s authority by setting up a universal head over all Christians? Who are they that establish the doctrine of demons, or revive the worship of a middle sort of powers between God and mortal men? 1 Tim. iv. 1. Who through hypocrisy invent so many lies to maintain it, and when Christians should keep themselves from idols, 1 John v. 21, yet, in defiance of this, worship angels and other creatures: Col. ii. 18, ‘Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels,’ &c.; and erect the images of saints, commanding and compelling men to adore them, and pray to them? Who are they that are not contented with the one only Mediator: 1 Tim. ii. 5, ‘For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ;’ 1 Cor. viii. 5, ‘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 but 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,’—but set up other mediators of intercession? Who are they that plead for indulgences and the supererogatory satisfactions of the saints, as gathered into the treasury of the church, and so profitable for the remission of sins, and condemn them who think the contrary? Who are they that keep believers from reading the scriptures, when they are so expressly enjoined to do it? John v. 39, and Ps. i. 2, ‘But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.’ That deny one part of the Lord’s Supper to his disciples, notwithstanding his institution to the contrary? 1 Cor. xi. 25, 26, ‘After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me; for as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death till he come.’ It were endless to instance in all: I shall speak more of it in the following verses.

6. This apostasy is not only forbidden, but foretold as a thing that would certainly come to pass. This consideration is necessary for divers reasons.

[1.] Because the Papists ask how this can be consistent with Christ’s care of his church, that there should be a universal apostasy and decay of Christian religion, who hath promised ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’?

Ans. That promise is made chiefly to the invisible church, or community of the elect, not to all the visible societies of the Christians, against whom the devil can and hath prevailed, and doth daily, to the destruction of many souls. And we say not that the whole visible church did apostatise, though all are faulty.

[2.] Because some require the time when this apostasy began to be particularly assigned and noted to them, and by what persons these corruptions were first introduced, or else deny that any such thing hath been. But the case is clear: it began to work betimes, only it wrought in a mystery. But cannot we prove a man to be old, unless we prove the first moment when his grey hairs began to appear, or his natural force to be abated? Who can tell every step of the progress of the corruption of the Jewish church? and why should the like be required of the Christian? This dunghill of corruption was not raised in one age: and suppose that in track of time authors be forgotten, matters of faith are not to be contradicted because of the defect of history. And yet histories are not altogether wanting in the case, only in things that came in by degrees they are not necessary. In the introducing of the general apostasy, some erred in the simplicity of their hearts, as the people followed Absalom, 2 Sam. xv. 11. But shall we deny a thing to be done because we cannot speak the particular moments of time, and circumstances of them, when and how it was done? Shall we say the pointer in the dial passeth not, because we do not see its motion? Might not the priests judge of a leprosy, though they knew not how it was contracted? Iniquity mystical did by degrees prevail.

[3.] Because some think, if we should grant such an apostasy, it would interrupt the whole course of visible Christianity, and so deprive the world of a ministry and ordinances, till Christ send some new nuncios from heaven, or by miracle, at least, authorise a new ministry, that may be owned by the world, and received by his people. A vain conceit! for though this apostasy is foretold that it should come to pass, yet it is also foretold that Christ will be with the apostles and their successors to the end of the world, Mat. xxviii. 20; and prayed for all them that should believe in him through their word, John xvii. 20; and though the church was corrupted by degrees, yet all this while it ceased not to be a church, nor the officers thereof to be Christ’s ministers. When the ten tribes fell away, yet God till their dissolution continued the spirit of prophecy amongst them; and in the Christian church a ministry, though many had their calling from such who Consented to the encroachments of Antichrist. God had not so wholly cast off his people, but that there was a ministry and ordinances; their ministry was a true ministry, and the baptism a true baptism, to be owned in foro externo: for these things remain whilst anything of Christianity remaineth. In a body mangled with wounds, or all overgrown with sores, there is life remaining; and so some functions and offices of life. God called idolatrous Israel his people, and was not angry with them for circumcising their children, but for offering them to Moloch, Ezek. xvi. 20, 21. But of this in the next verse, where Antichrist is said to sit in the church of God.

II. The revelation of Antichrist: and that man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition; where two things are notable:—(1.) His rise and appearing; (2.) The names and titles given to him.

1. His rise and appearing, expressed in the word revealed; that is, that great and chief Antichrist, upon that apostasy or falling away, shall be extant and show himself to the world. A thing is said to be revealed two ways—either when it is in being, or when it is discovered; both ways are proper here. He shall publicly appear, exercising a tyranny in the world, or cast off his veil, and show himself in his colours. God by his providence permitteth him to be, and by the doctrine of the gospel discovereth his impostures to all those who have no mind to be deceived.

2. The names or titles given to him; they are two:—(1.) ‘The man of sin,’ wherein he is compared and likened to Antiochus; (2.) ‘The son of perdition,’ wherein he is compared and likened to Judas.

[1.] For the first, the Jews called Antiochus ‘the man of sin:’ 1 Macch. ii. 48, ‘They gave not the power to the sinner;’ in the Greek, to κέρας τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ, ‘They gave not the horn to the sinner.’ The Syriac version hath it, ‘They suffered not the horn of the sinner to be lifted up;’ and ver. 62, ‘Fear not the words of the man of sin,’—ἀπὸ λόγων ἀνδρὸς ἁμαρτωλοῦ μὴ φοβηθῆτε, ‘From the words of the man the sinner be not afraid.’ Now why did they call Antiochus the man of sin? Because he sought to alter the religion of the people, and by cruelty to introduce a change of worship and idolatry, and such laws as he would set up. Now, according to this pattern, Antichrist is a man of sin; that is, either a man given up to all sin eminently, a sinner addicted unto sin, and a ringleader of others unto sin, either by fraud and violence; or as he giveth encouragements and encitements to sin; or as a special kind of sinner, a usurper and invader of the empire of the Son of God. So was Antiochus. So was Antichrist. Now, how much open sin is practised, allowed, and maintained in the Papacy, I list not now to rake into; their own stories speak enough;—the sodomy, blasphemy, incest, adulteries, sorceries, murders, treasons, parricides, which they have authorised and countenanced. Histories witness that hardly hath the world yielded a more abominable sort of men, than have sat in that chair of pestilence. This I am sure of, that a man can sin nowhere at so cheap a rate as in Popery, where, what by dividing their sins into mortal and venial, and these expiated by a little penance, accompanied with a single attrition, and bare grief and trouble, because of the punishment; what by faculties, pardons, licenses, dispensations, indulgences, sin is distinguished out of the conscience.

But because he is called the man of sin, here it cometh fitly to be inquired whether Antichrist be an individual person? for ‘that man of sin’ would seem to be some single person. No; he is put for a society and succession of men, that make up the head of the apostate state. As one lion figured the whole kingdom of the Babylonians, and one bear the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, and one leopard the kingdom of the Grecians, Dan. vii.,—and there the fourth beast is the fourth kingdom,—so one person that succession of men that head the revolters from Christ. So Dan. viii., a goat figured a succession of kings; so the Assyrian, Isa. x. 5, several kings in that empire; so Isa. xiv. 9, the king of Babylon, meaning not one but many. So this man of sin doth not note a single man, but a succession of men, a body politic or corporate, under one opposite head to the kingdom of Christ: so the ‘man of God’ is put for all faithful ministers, 2 Tim. iii. 17; so ‘honour the king,’ I Peter ii. 17, series regum. So ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς, Heb. ix. 25, ‘The high priest every year entereth into the holy place;’ meaning not one, but the succession of the order; and in reason it must needs be so here. Because Antichrist, from his beginning to his end, from his rise and revelation, till his ruin and destruction, will take up such a long track of time, as cannot fall within the age of any one man, even from the time of the apostles till the end of the world. Antichrist is the head of the apostasy; for here the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin are conjunct; now the mysterious apostasy could not be perfected in a short time.

[2.] The son of perdition, wherein he is likened to Judas: John xvii. 12, ‘None of them is lost but the son of perdition.’ Him he resembleth in covetousness, treachery, and final destruction. The term may be explained either passively, or actively:—(1.) Passively, as one condemned to everlasting destruction; as the ‘son of death,’ is one condemned to die: 2 Sam. xii. 5, ‘He shall be a son of death;’ we translate it, ‘He shall surely die.’ So ‘children of wrath,’ Eph. ii. 3; so here, ‘son of perdition.’ (2.) Actively, bringing destruction upon himself and others; one that shall destroy others, and so he is called ‘Abaddon,’ and ‘Apollyon,’ Rev. ix. 11, and is opposite to Christ, who is ‘the author of salvation,’ Heb. v. 9, but Antichrist of destruction. And let us see the parallel between him and Judas; for the person is a type, as well as the name hath a significancy. Antichrist then is like Judas—in profession, a disciple of Christ; in office, a governor of the church; but in practice, a traitor. As they said of the blind man, John ix. 9, ‘Some said, This is he; others, He is very like him.’ The Pope boasteth that his seat is apostolical, his chair is Peter’s chair, and that he is the successor of the apostle. Grant it, but there is an error of’ the person—not of Peter, but of Judas. Let us see the parallel:—

(1.) Judas was not a stranger, but a pretended friend and apostle: Acts i. 17, ‘He was numbered with us, and obtained part of this ministry.’ Turks and infidels are enemies to Christ, but Antichrist seeketh to undermine him, under a pretence of friendship; ἀντίχριστος [antichrist] is one in show for, and in effect against Christ, and the beast in the Revelation is said to ‘push with the horns of the lamb,’ Rev. xiii. 11. If he were a professed enemy, what mystery were there in it? But mystery was written upon the woman’s forehead, Rev. xvii. 5; and here, ver. 7, ‘The mystery of iniquity.’ It is wisdom to discern the false prophet, Rev. xiii. 18, but there needeth no great wisdom to discover an open an professed adversary.

(2.) He sold Christ for a small matter. Omnia Romæ venalia: pardons, indulgences, freedom from purgatory, all to be bought with money; and it is a small matter, considering the things put to sale, the pardon of sins, the souls of men redeemed with Christ’s precious blood. The antichristian state maketh a market of religion; truth is made to yield to interest and profit.

(3.) Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, under a pretence of honouring him: Luke xxii. 48, ‘Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?’ Antichrist is a true adversary of Christ, though he pretend to adore him; as those that murdered the present prophets would by all means beautify the tombs of the prophets deceased, and bear a respect to their memories, Mat. xxiii. 30. He pretendeth to be his servant, yea, a servant of servants, but is really his enemy. The apostle telleth us of some that were ‘enemies to the cross of Christ,’ Phil. iii. 18. Who to appearance such friends to the cross as the rabble of nominal Christians? but they are opposers of his spiritual kingdom, the virtue and power of the cross. You have crucifixes everywhere, painted, carved, gilded; they are ready to worship the cross with a holy worship; they set it in their temples, altars, wear it in their bosoms, and wherever they meet it show it reverence, adorn it with gold, silver, and precious stones. Their popes and prelates have it carried before them; and are not these friends of the cross? No; they live a worldly, sensual life, and all their religion tendeth thereunto; therefore enemies of the cross of Christ, because they mind earthly things. This is right antichrist-like, to betray Christ under a colour of adoration.

(4.) Judas was a guide to them that came to take Christ; and one main work of Antichrist is to be a ringleader in persecuting for religion. Christ is in heaven, death hath no more power over him; his natural body is above abuse, but his mystical body still suffereth: Acts ix. 6, ‘Why persecutest thou me?’ Antichrist is the head of the persecuting state, others are his emissaries and agents, to take Christ in his members. It is a politic religion, that must be carried on with worldly artifices, with power and cruelty.

(5.) Lastly, The covetousness of Judas is set forth. He was a thief, and one that carried the bag, John xii. 6. England, to its bitter cost, knoweth the polling exactions of the Papacy; all its dealings with us were to fill the bag out of this puteus inexhaustus. Now all these things should open our eyes; we may behold the man of sin, the son of perdition; one egg is not more like to another than Judas and Antichrist.

Use. Is to persuade us to a detestation of what is antichristian, and to that end let us mark the progress of the text. (1.) The apostasy made was for Antichrist; (2.) Antichrist, rising upon the apostasy, becometh a man of sin; and (3.) The man of sin is also the son of perdition.

1. Let me begin first with the falling away. There is a twofold falling away—either from the power and practice of godliness, or from a true religion to a false, particularly to Popery.

[1.] I begin with the falling away from the power and practice of godliness, though the profession be not changed; and the rather, partly because this disposeth to the entertainment of error. When a people that are carried with great fervour and vigour of zeal for a while, lose their affections to good, and return to a worldly, sensual life, then the bias of their hearts doth easily prevail against the light of their understandings. And so unsanctified men may the sooner be drawn to apostasy; they never felt the quickening virtue of faith, and were never wrought by it to the true love of God, or an holy and heavenly mind and life. And partly, also, because if a lively Christianity had been kept up, Antichrist had never risen in the world; and it is the way to keep him out still: When the servants slept, the enemy sowed tares,’ Mat. xiii. A sleepy religion and corruption of manners made way for corruption of doctrine, worship, and order. It was with the church according to the spouse’s complaint: ‘I sleep, but my heart waketh,’ Cant. v. 2. Some care there was, but much drowsiness and deadness in religion; and that produced the great apostasy. Partly too, because there is such a compliance between the nature of antichristianism and the temper of a carnal heart; for superstition and profaneness grow both upon the same root. A lothness to displease the flesh, the sensual nature of man, is such, that it is loth to be crossed; and that breedeth profaneness. For wherefore do men ingulf themselves in all manner of sensualities, but because they are loth to deny their natural appetites and desires, and row against the stream of flesh and blood, but will ‘walk in the way of their own heart, and in the sight of their own eyes’? Eccles. xi. 9. Again, if nature be to be crossed, it is only a little; it shall only be in some external actions, and observances, and dead rudiments, which never kill our lusts, nor promote the divine life. And this pleasing superstition shall make up a religion which is a fit pillow for a carnal heart to sleep upon. Popery is the easiest religion for the flesh that can be found out, for it never biteth nor disturbeth their lusts. The duties of it are like the pharisees’ fasting, which our Lord compareth to old wine, Mat. ix. 17, fit for old, dried skin bottles. Well, take heed of falling away from a lively godliness. No man entereth seriously upon religion but with some tasting or rejoicing, Heb. vi.; now as this decayeth, we fall off. The heavenly life is obstructed, if not choked and quite lost. Now, to prevent this, observe two things:—(1.) Your coldness in duties; (2.) Your boldness in sinning.

(1.) Coldness in duties, when the will and affections grow more remiss, and the worship of God, which keepeth up the remembrance of him, is either omitted or performed perfunctorily, and in a careless and stupid manner: Jer. ii. 32, ‘My people have forgotten me days without number;’ Job xxvii. 10, ‘Will he always call upon God? will he delight himself in the Almighty?’ God chargeth Israel with growing weary of him; and it began in not calling upon him, Isa. xliii. 22. Now, when you seldom think or speak of God, and do not keep up a delightful communion with him, there is a falling away.

(2.) Boldness in sinning. When men lose their tenderness and strictness, and the awe of God is lessened in their hearts, and they do not only sin freely in thought, but freely in act, have not that hatred of sin and watchfulness as formerly, but more abandon themselves to a carnal life, they are falling off from God apace: 2 Peter ii. 20, ‘For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.’ At first the heart checked you for sin, but you did not kindly come off, were not troubled about it, hoped God would pardon it; and then you are bold to venture again, and so by degrees are entangled in the sensual and worldly life. Now consider the causes of it:—1. Want of faith in God: Heb. iii. 12, ‘Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.’ You have not a sound belief of his being and presence. 2. Want of love to God: Rev. ii. 4, 5, ‘Nevertheless I have (somewhat) against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.’ Your hearts decline from that love you had to him and his ways, and then your work is intermitted. 3. Want of a due sense of the world to come: Heb. x. 39, ‘But we are not of them who draw back to perdition, but of them that believe, to the saving of the soul.’ 4. The love of the present world: 2 Tim. iv. 10, ‘For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.’ The more that is valued, the more your hearts are taken off from things to come, and the care about them; you have too great a liking, either to the profits of the world—1 Tim. vi. 10, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil, which while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith’—or else the pleasures of the world: 2 Tim. iii. 4, ‘Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.’ As the inclination of the heart groweth stronger to sensual pleasures, your thoughts of God are less serious and pleasing to you. Now look to these things, lest you grow quite weary of God and the holy life, which once you had an affection unto.

[2.] From a true religion to a false; which may be done two ways:—(1.) Out of corruption of mind; (2.) Out of vile affection.

(1.) Out of weakness of mind, as those do that were never well grounded in the truth: Eph. iv. 14, ‘That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;’ 2 Peter iii. 16, ‘In which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.’ Therefore we need to be established; but the forsaking of a truth we were bred in usually cometh from some falseness of heart. Some errors are so contrary to the new nature, that they discern them by the unction: 1 John ii. 20, ‘But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.’

(2.) Out of vile affection, when they forsake the truth for the advantages of a fleshly, worldly life, some places to be gotten by it, &c., and as the whore of Babylon hath a golden cup, riches, and preferments, wherewith it inviteth its proselytes. Now these are worse than the former, for they sell the birthright: Heb. xii. 16, ‘Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.’ O Christians! take heed to yourselves. Apostasy brought Antichrist into the church. Let it not jure postliminio, bring him back again into the land, or into your hearts.

2. The next step is the man of sin. As the first apostasy of Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, so this great apostasy brought in a deluge of sin into the church, and defiled the holy society which Christ had gathered out of the world. Idolatry is often called adultery or fornication; spiritual uncleanness disposeth to bodily, and bodily to spiritual. Usually a corrupt state of religion and corrupt manners go together; otherwise the dance and the fiddle would not suit. The world cannot lie quiet in a course of sin, if there be not some libertine, atheistical doctrine, and carnal worship to countenance it: Rev. xi. 10, ‘And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.’

3. The man of sin is also the son of perdition—(1.) Actively. False religions strangely efferate [brutalize] the mind: Jude 11, ‘These go in the way of Cain;’ and Hosea v. 2, ‘Revolters are profound to make slaughter.’ Men think no cruelty nor dishonesty unlawful which serveth to promote the interests of their sect, and lose all charity to those that are not of their way. (2.) Passively, shall be destroyed. Sometimes grievous judgments come in this world for the corruptions of religion; but in the world to come, dreadful is the end of apostates: 2 Peter ii. 20, 21, ‘For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.’

Sermon Four.-2 Thess. 2:4.

James Dodson


Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.—2 THES. II. 4.

IN this matter of Antichrist we have made this progress:—First, That he arose upon and by a falling away from, the ancient pure state of Christianity. Secondly, That the Holy Ghost points him out by his names and titles, which are two:—‘the man of sin,’ wherein he is resembled to Antiochus; and ‘the son of perdition,’ wherein he is resembled to Judas. As Antiochus, he is one that by force and power should change the laws and ordinances, and compel men to his abominations. As Judas, he should betray Christ by a kiss for worldly gain, and be one that is in pretence an apostle, but indeed a real adversary to Christ. Now, after the apostle had pointed at him by his names and titles, he describeth him by his practices, wherein his names and titles are verified; for here he proveth that he should be as Antiochus, by his exalting himself above all that is called God, which is said of Antiochus, Dan. xi. 36, ‘And the king shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods;’—and as Judas, one sitting in the temple of God; that is, he sitteth there as exercising a public ecclesiastical office, yea, challenging the highest seat in it. He sitteth there potestate regiminis, by the power of his government; he doth Cathedratica potestate præsidere (Estius). His sitting there as chief shows him as Judas; his sitting here as God, and exalting himself above all that is called God, showeth him Antiochus.

But to handle the words more closely, Antichrist is here set forth:—

I. As opposite to Christ; ὁ ἀντικείμενος, one set to the contrary, that is, in respect of pride chiefly. Christ was the pattern of humility, Antichrist is the king of pride; Christ would not so much as assume to himself an authority to divide the inheritance between two brethren—Luke xii. 14, ‘Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?’—but Antichrist will depose kings, and dispose of kingdoms.

II. The instances of his pride:—(1.) In exalting himself above all human power: ‘Who exalteth himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped.’ (2.) A usurpation of divine honour: ‘He, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.’

Let us open these things more particularly:—

I. He is represented in the term ἀντικείμενος, as one diametrically opposite to Christ, and contrary to him, who is the true head and Lord of the church: Acts x. 36, ‘He is Lord over all;’ but Antichrist opposeth himself, that is, showeth himself in a quite contrary appearance. That which is most remarkable in Christ, and should be in all his followers, is humility. He expressed a wonderful contempt of the riches and greatness of the world, and all the honour which is of man; taking the form of a servant, and making himself of no reputation, and living a mean, inferior life. He ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,’ Mat. xx. 28. He kept no state, nor affected pomp of attendants; though he were Lord of all, yet ‘he became poor, to make us rich,’ 2 Cor. viii. 9. But it may be this was proper to him; doth he expect it from his servants and officers in the church? Yes; this is the grace which he hath recommended to all his followers: Mat. xi. 29, ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly.’ But especially to the ministers of the gospel: our Lord foresaw what spirit would work in them, and therefore he forewarned them of pride and lordliness: Mat. xx. 25, 26, ‘Ye know that the princes of the earth do exercise dominion over them, and they that are: great exercise authority upon them; but it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.’ Among Christ’s servants, he that is chief must be chief in service, even as a servant unto all: Luke xxii. 26, ‘He that is chief, as he that doth serve.’ Domination, greatness, principality and power, is allowed in the civil state, for there it is necessary; yet it is excluded the church. This affecting of pre-eminence and chiefness is the bane of the church—it is taxed as a great sin in Diotrephes, 3 John 9—be it either over their fellow-labourers, or the people of the Lord. You see how tender the apostles were in this point; everywhere they disclaim this affectation of lordship: 2 Cor. i. 24, ‘Not that we are lords of your faith, but helpers of your joy.’ And Peter recommendeth it to his fellow-elders: 1 Peter v. 3, ‘Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.’ And if the apostles would not assume lordship, who may? It is true, there is a government in the church, and the people are to obey their guides, Heb. xiii. 17, and to ‘have them highly in honour, for their works’ sake,’ 1 Thes. v. 13; but yet the pastors of the church should govern by light and love, not by pomp and force, and not be known by such pomp and authority as begets fear. Well, now, let us see the opposite state. If humility and meekness be in the very essence of Christianity, and woven throughout the whole frame of it, then it is antichristian to be lordly and proud, especially in them who pretend to be successors of Christ and his apostles. Now, in the Pope and his adherents, you will see the most odious pride set forth that ever the world was conscious unto, without any cloak and shame. And all their business is to get power; what designs they have for preferment in the world, how studiously they have, and do prosecute it, they blush not to own openly before angels or men. This worldly ambition to rise higher and higher is their design and trade of life. As the bishop of Rome, at first, from the chief pastor of that city, affected to be an archbishop over the suburban towns and cities; then, a patriarch over many cities; and because two opposed him in Italy a long time, Ravenna and Milan, he gets power over them, and then he must be œcumenical bishop over all the world. But Constantinople resisteth for a long time, yea, arrogateth within the empire the same titles. Who more earnest against it than Gregory, whom they call the Great, and more forward to charge the assuming of this title as antichristian? But then, when once they began, by powerful means and many indirect courses, to be owned as universal bishop, they enlarged their bounds, not only over the ecclesiastical power, but civil, and all kings and princes must stoop to them, as well as bishops. So that here was the progress and gradation:—First, from the chief presbyter, a bishop over many presbyters in the same city; then, a metropolitan over many bishops in one province; then, a patriarch over many provinces in one diocese (for in the Roman division there were seven provinces in one diocese); then, universal bishop in the whole world; then, the only shepherd and bishop, and others but his substitutes. Pretty steps of ambitious encroaching! But yet exalting himself farther, he challengeth all power in heaven and earth; and the like is practised by his followers at this day in the church of Rome. From private priests they grow up into some prelature, as archdeacons, deans; then a bishopric; then a better or richer; then archbishops, cardinals; then pope. And the devil is grown so impudent, by the help of these churchmen, as that it is counted a great piece of spiritual wisdom, publicly owned in the world, to be able, by these steps, to get higher and higher, and lord it over God’s heritage; as if ambitious affectation were the honour of Christianity, and gospel humility would expose the church to scorn, and pomp and grandeur were a greater ornament to religion than grace; when, in the meantime, they have nothing to prove them to be true pastors of the church but Judas’s kiss, a little owning of Christ to countenance their ambition.

II. The particular instances wherein the pride of Antichrist is set forth are two:—

1. His exalting himself above all human powers: ‘He opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped.’ Here the object is set forth by two terms:—(1.) All that is called God; (2.) Or worshipped. They both belong to the same thing.

[1.] That which is called God, that is, magistrates, princes, and kings: Ps. lxxxii. 1, ‘He judgeth among the gods;’ and ver. 6, ‘I have said, Ye are gods; all of you are children of the Most High;’ and John x. 34, 35, ‘It is written in your law, I said ye are gods. If he call them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken,’ &c. God hath clothed magistrates with his own honour so far that he hath put his name upon them; and their eminency is a part of his image, as it lieth in superiority, dominion, and power. Though magistrates be but like their brethren as to their common nature, yet in respect of their office they have the glorious title of gods conferred upon them; as being his vicegerents, and bearing his person in government, they are honoured with his name. So that, without impeachment of blasphemy, those that excel in the civil power may be called gods. Now, over these Antichrist exalteth himself, that is, above all kings and potentates.

[2.] The other notion is, ἢ σέβασμα; we render it, ‘or is worshipped.’ The Greek word is, whatever is held in the highest degree of reverence, whatever is august or illustrious; as the emperors of Rome were called Sebastoi: Acts xxv. 21, Paul ‘appealed to be referred to the hearing of Augustus;’ it is τοῦ Σεβαστοῦ, not Augustus Caesar, who was then dead, but his successor. Well, then, here is the character of Antichrist: that he exalteth himself above all civil authority authorised and permitted of God, not only above ordinary magistrates, but kings and emperors. Now, we find in history no less than twenty kings and emperors trampled under foot by the Pope of Rome, some of whom he had excommunicated and deposed from their kingdoms, and their people dispensed withal in denial of their subjection to them; others brought to cruel, shameful deaths, and their kingdoms miserably rent and torn, to the destruction of millions of men, by their means. lie that hath any knowledge of the histories in Christendom cannot but know these things; how he treadeth on their necks, kicketh off their crowns with his feet, and hath brought them to the vilest submissions. And if kings and emperors have received more spirit and courage, and the Popes of Rome learned more modesty nowadays, thanks is due to the light of the gospel, which hath shined so far and to such a degree as to the consuming of Antichrist, though not to his utter destruction.

2. The next instance of his pride is his usurpation of divine honour, expressed in two clauses:—(1.) The one showeth the usurpation itself, ‘That he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God;’ (2.) The other, the degree of it, ‘showing himself as God.’ Both must be explained and vindicated.

[1.] For the usurpation itself, ‘he sitteth as God in the temple of God.’ By the temple of God is meant the church: 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17, ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’ So 2 Cor. vi. 16, ‘What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God.’ The external visible church, which professeth the faith of Christ and beareth his name; so that the place wherein Antichrist shall arise is the visible Christian church; not Rome ethnic, but Christian.

But is, then, the church of Rome the church of Christ?

Ans. It was one part of it before it was perverted; it usurpeth still that name; it retaineth some relic of a church, mangled as it is. Saith Calvin in his Epistles: ‘I think I have given some strong reasons that it yet retaineth some show of a church.’ Now in this temple of God he sitteth as an officer and bishop there, as I before explained it: and whereas other princes are said to reign so many years, the Pope is said to sit so long. It is his sedes, his cathedral or seat. And again, here he is said to sit as God, that is, as God incarnate, for Christ is the true and proper Lord of the church; none should reign there but he. And the name of this man of sin is not Άντίθεος [Antitheos], but ἀντίχριστος [antichristos]; not one that directly invadeth the properties of the supreme God, but of God incarnate, or Christ as Mediator: he sitteth negatively, not as a minister, but positively as supreme lord upon earth, whom all must adore and worship, and kings and princes kiss his feet. In short, he usurpeth the authority due to Christ. Now I shall prove that by a double argument:—

First, By usurping the titles due to Christ; for he that will make bold with names will make bold with things; as to be sponsus ecclesiæ, the husband of the church, as Innocent called the church sponsam suam, his spouse; caput ecclesiæ, the head of the church, which is proper to the Saviour of the body; supreme, visible, and universal head, which only Christ is, who hath promised to be with her to the end of the world, and will be visible to those who do at length approach his court in heaven, where his seat is; to be chief pastor, Christ’s own title: ‘And when the chief shepherd shall appear,’ 1 Peter v. 4; to be pontifex maximus, the greatest high priest, whereas Christ alone is called ‘the high priest of our profession,’ Heb. iii. 1, and ‘the great high priest over the house of God,’ Heb. iv. 14; so his vicar-general upon earth; whereas the ancient church attributed this to the Holy Ghost, calling it Vicariam vim Spiritus Sancti, he supplies his room and absence. Now titles including power, certainly they are not to be usurped without warrant. Therefore to call the Pope the chief and only shepherd, and the like, it is to usurp his authority to whom these things originally belong.

Secondly, He doth usurp the thing implied by the titles—the authority over the church, which is only due to God incarnate. Supreme authority may be considered, either as to the claim, right, property, and pre-eminence which belong to it, or to the exercise.

1. The claim and right pretended. He sitteth as God in the temple of God; that is, by virtue of his office there, claimeth the same power that Christ had, which is fourfold:—

(1.) An unlimited power over all things both in heaven and earth. This was given to Christ, Mat. xxviii. 18, and the Pope, as his vicar, challengeth it. But where is the plea and ground of the claim? For one to set up himself as a vice-god without warrant, is rebellion against Christ. To set himself in his throne without his leave, surely none is fit to have this authority that hath not his power to back and to administer and govern all things for the church’s good, which power God would trust in the hands of no creature.

(2.) A universal headship and supremacy over all the churches of Christ. Now, this supreme power over all Christians is the right of God incarnate, and whosoever challengeth it sits as God in the temple of God; and it is very derogatory to the comfort of the faithful that they should in all things depend upon one man as their supreme pastor, or else be excluded from the hope of salvation. Certainly this power, as to matter of fact, is impossible to be managed by any man, considering the vast extent of the world, and the variety of governments and different interests under which the people of God find shelter and protection, and the multitude and diversity of those things which are comprised in such a government; and, as to matter of right, it is sacrilegious, for Christ never instituted any such universal vicar and bishop. It is a dignity too high for any creature: none is fit to be universal head of the church but one that is God as well as man.

(3.) Absolute authority, so as to be above control. When a mortal man should pretend to be so absolute as to give no account of his actions, that it shall not be lawful to be said to him, What doest thou? and all his decrees must be received without examination or complaint, this is such a sovereignty as belongs to none but God: Job ix. 12, ‘Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?’ Now, this is in their canon law, that the Pope is to be judged by no man; that though he should lead millions of souls into hell, none can say Domine, cur ita facis?

(4.) Infallibility and freedom from error, which is the property of God: he neither is deceived nor can deceive. ‘Let God be true, and every man a liar.’ Now, that corrupt and fallible man should arrogate this to himself, such an unerring in judgment, is to usurp divine honour in matter of right and in matter of fact. For the Pope to arrogate this is as great a contradiction to all sense and reason as if a man sick of the plague, or any other mortal disease, should say that he was immortal, and in that part wherein the disease was seated.

2. As to the exercise, there are two acts of supreme authority:—

(1.) Legislation.

(2.) Judgment.

(1.) Legislation: It is the peculiar and incommunicable property of Christ to be Lord and lawgiver to the church; Isa. xxxiii. 22, ‘The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.’ God alone hath such interest in his people as to prescribe supreme or universal laws to them, and we arc his subjects: James iv. 12, ‘There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.’ Now, whosoever will make laws that shall immediately bind the conscience, they invade Christ’s sovereignty. This is spiritual tyranny, and the worst sort of tyranny, to arrogate a power over the subjects of Christ and their consciences as lord of their faith. He that taketh upon him to rescind and make void his institutions and ordinances, and set his own in their place, and give that reverence and honour to them which only belongeth to the ordinances of Christ, he is Antichrist, whatever he be.

(2.) As to judgment: It is an exercising an authority no less than divine, so to take upon him to absolve man from his duty to God, or the penalty which sin hath made his due. The one is done by dispensations, the other by indulgences: and therefore whoever by dispensations antiquates and dispenses with the laws of God himself is thus guilty; as dispensing with marrying the brother’s wife. Nay, one of the Popes dispensed with one that took his own sister to wife. I do not allege this so much for the particular facts, but to show the power which they challenged to be inherent in themselves. Bellarmine saith, Christ hath given Peter and his successors a power faciendi peccatum non peccatum—to make a sin to be no sin; and again, ‘If the Pope, should err in forbidding virtues and commanding vices, the church were bound to believe vices to be good and virtues to be evil,’ which certainly is to set man in the place of God. As to indulgences: as to pretend to give pardons for sin for so many years, a thing that God himself never did; to pardon the sin before it was committed, that is, to give a license to sin: so for the highest crimes to absolve men, upon a little attrition or trouble about the sin,—to do all this and more than this as of right, is to sit in the church of God as God.’

[2.] And showing himself that he is God: that is meant, not of what he professeth in words, but what he doth in deed. It is not said that he saith he is God, but ἀποδεικνύντα, he showeth himself, or sets forth himself as God. The reason of the thing showeth it:—(1.) Antichrist gets power by seduction, or the deceiveableness of unrighteousness; therefore does not openly call himself the true and only God. He is represented as a false prophet, that speaketh lies in hypocrisy. If one would openly and plainly profess himself to be God, he might be a frantic usurper, but could not be a cunning seducer, and few would be so stupid and senseless as to be led by him. (2.) Antichrist, whoever he be, is to be a Christian by profession, and to have a high and great charge among the visible professors of Christianity. He is a secret adversary, that groweth upon the apostasy or degeneration of the Christian state. Now, such pretends observance and obedience to Christ, and therefore he would not openly declare himself to be God, and he sitteth in the temple and church of God, as before. And it is a mystery; all which imply crafty conveyance, and that he doth not openly assume the godhead, but slyly and secretly, which doth not mend the matter; for the insinuating, devouring, unsuspected enemy is the most perilous and pernicious; as Joab to Amasa, and Judas to Christ. (3.) Antichrist is plainly a man. Now, for a man to disannul all religion, and set up himself directly as God, is improbable. Nero, Nebuchadnezzar, Simon Magus would be adored as gods; they did not deny other gods, nor a greater God above them; therefore it is the arrogance of works is intended. If Antichrist will show himself as God, certainly he will sweeten his blasphemy with some hypocrisy, as that he is the vicar and vicegerent of God. (4.) His showing himself as God, is either accepting or doing such things, which if they did rightly belong to him, they would show that he is God. Two persons I find in scripture charged for usurping divine honours. The one, Herod Agrippa, who was smitten by an angel for not giving God the glory, when the people cried, ‘The voice of God, and not of man,’ Acts xii. 22: his fault was accepting what was ascribed by others. The other is the prince of Tyre: Ezek. xxviii. 2, ‘Because thy heart is lifted up, and thou hast said I am God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seat; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thy heart as the heart of God.’ His fault was taking upon him, as if he were God, to accept divine honours, to do those things which would make him equalise himself to our Lord Christ, blessed for ever. So doth he show himself that he is God. (1.) His accepting Antichrist’s disciples, who call him our Lord God the Pope, supremum numen in terris, a certain deity upon earth. That the Pope hath the same consistory with God, and the same tribunal with Christ; that he is lord of heaven and earth; that from him there are no appeals to be made, no, not to God himself; that the Pope may do all that God doth; that he is the husband of the church, and the foundation of faith (Council of Lateran, sess. 4); A1ter Deus in terra; that the words of the Pope in cathedra are for certainty of truth equal to the scriptures; that he can change the form of sacraments delivered by Christ, or decree contrary to scripture. If any do object that these were the applauses of his flatterers and claw-backs, it is true they were so uttered; but those flatteries of the canonists and Jesuits do come to be received doctrines among them; and whereas divers popes have directed special commissions for perusal of the works of the learned, with authority to expunge and purge out whatsoever is not orthodox, many better things have come under censure, but these things stand still, as being very pleasing to his holiness’s humility, and so not to be altered: besides, many of these things have been spoken to his face without rebuke.—Conc. Latt., sess. 2. He is called the high priest and king that is to be adored by all, and most like unto God—(sess. 9). It is said, the aspect of thy divine majesty dazzleth our eyes, and that of the 72d Psalm applieth to him, ‘All the kings of the earth shall worship him, and all nations shall serve him.’ Now, to accept and approve of these flatterers is to show himself that he is God: (2.) By doing such things as if he were God, not by the usurpation of the formal name, as by arrogating to himself such things as belong to God, his right and property, to take upon himself to be lord of consciences, to command what faith is to be believed, suppressing the true doctrine of Christ, and setting up his own inventions, dispensing with God’s laws, taking upon him to pardon sins. One article for which Luther was condemned is this: that it is not in the power of the church or Pope to make new articles of faith; another, that the best penitence of all is the new life. Qui facit Deos divosque Deo major est. The Pope doth canonise saints, and his decrees must be received as oracles, &c.

The first use is to give us a clear discovery where to find Antichrist; every tittle of this is fulfilled in the bishop of Rome, that we need no longer be in doubt, and say, ‘Is this he that should come, or shall we look for another?’ Who is the ἀντικείμενος, but he that opposeth himself to that humble state and frame wherein Christ left the church, and will be prince of all pastors, and swear them to his obedience, and hath made such troubles in the world to make himself acknowledged for head and chief? Who is he that exalteth himself above all that is called God, and is august in the world, but he that takes upon him to deprive and depose emperors, kings, and princes, by his excommunications, suspensions, interdictions, and decrees, discharging subjects of their allegiance and oaths, and giving away their kingdoms; that doth crown and uncrown emperors with his feet, and tread upon them as one would do upon a viper? Who is he that sitteth as God in the temple of God—that is, affecteth the honour due to our Lord Jesus Christ—but he that doth thus imperiously aspire, sub esse Romano Pontifici definimus esse de necessitate salutis; that takes upon him a power to make a new creed, and say we are bound to obey him; that saith he can change the things which God hath commanded in his word, and dispense with them, and so by his decrees make the commandment of God of none effect; and can forgive sins, not only already committed, but to be committed, which God himself never would do; that lords it over consciences, enslaving the world to his usurpations: in short, that will be obeyed in those things which God hath forbidden, and take upon himself an office which no human creature is capable of? Who is he that showeth himself that he is God, but he that suffereth himself to be decked with the spoils of God’s own attributes; to be optimum maximum, the best and chiefest, our Lord God the Pope, a visible deity; and will be adored by all the potentates of the earth, with such veneration as greater could not be given to Christ himself if he were corporally present, and will have all the world to submit to his decrees as being infallible; that challengeth a power over angels, purgatory, and hell? These things are as clear as daylight, and ought to be regarded by us, partly that we may bless God, who hath freed us from this tyranny, and have a liberty of judging of truth and falsehood out his holy and blessed word; partly that we may stand fast in this liberty. Those that were never pope-bitten know not the mischiefs that attend this spiritual tyranny; and God grant that we never more know it to our bitter cost. Therefore, as Samuel dealt with the Israelites when they would cast off the theocracy, or God’s government, under which they had been well and safely governed, unless they forfeited the protection by their own sin, that they might be like all the nations round about them, 1 Sam. viii. 20;—Samuel telleth them what would be the manner of the king that should reign over them: 1 Sam. viii. 11-13, ‘And he said, This shall be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants,’ &c.;—so if such a wanton humour should possess us, that we must have the religion of the nations round about us, consider whom you receive spiritually to reign over you—the king of pride, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped, &c., one that will not only devour your substance, but lord it over your consciences, and put out the eye of your reason, that you may the better swallow his damnable errors, pestilent superstitions, and idolatries, and bold usurpation on the authority of Christ; or else burn your bodies with temporal fire, and cast out your name as one to be condemned to that which is eternal. It is easy to open the flood-gate, but when that is done, it is not so easy to call back the waters; and when you come to discern the difference between the blessed yoke of Christ and the iron yoke of Antichrist, it will be too late for a remedy to repent of your error.

The second use is to show us how things should be carried in the true and reformed Christianity.

1. With such meekness, modesty, and mortification, that our religion may be known to be established by a crucified Lord, whose doctrine and example do visibly and eminently hold forth the contempt of the world. The pride and ambition of the pastors of the church hath been the cause of all the evil in it; therefore nothing so unsuitable to the gospel as a domineering spirit. We, that are to preach heavenly-mindedness and self-denial, should not affect the greatness of the world, lest our lives contradict our doctrine.

2. How eminent and exemplary we should be in our obedience to magistrates, for this is to be opposite to the antichristian estate. God is very tender of the honour of civil powers and authorities, and will have every soul to be subject to them: Rom. xiii. 1, ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God; and again, 1 Peter ii. 13, ‘Submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or to governors, as them that are sent by him.’ Great respect and submission is due to them for God’s sake, and that we may commend religion to the profane world, and live down the reproaches of the gospel. They were branded as wicked men that were not afraid to speak evil of dignities, that despise governments in their own hearts, or weaken the esteem of it in the hearts of others by their speeches: 2 Peter ii. 10, ‘But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanliness, and despise government; presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.’

3. What a wickedness it is to usurp divine honours! We do so when we take that praise and admiration to ourselves which is only due to God: Acts iii. 12, ‘And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, &c.; and his name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom we see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.’

Sermon Five-2 Thess. 2:5-7.

James Dodson


Remember ye not, that, while I was with you, I told you these things? and now you 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 till he be taken out of the way.—2 THES. II. 5-7. 

IN these words is:—

First, A digression, calling them to remembrance of what he delivered by word of mouth,

Secondly, A progress in the further description of Antichrist. He had hitherto been described by—

1. His names and titles;

2. His nature and properties; now—

3. By the time of his appearing, where take notice of three things:—

I. That Antichrist was not then revealed, because there was an impediment hindering his revelation.

II. That though he was not then revealed, yet that mystery of iniquity did begin to work, but secretly.

III. That when that impediment shall be removed, then Antichrist shall be revealed.

First, I begin with his putting them in mind of what he had told them before by word of mouth: ‘Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?’ This showeth the certainty and usefulness of this doctrine; for though the event were not to be accomplished in their days, yet he taught them before when present, and now repeateth it again when absent; he preached it in private, and now writeth it for public good, and laboureth to confirm the truth of it, and fasten it upon their memories.

Observe, then, that the doctrine of Antichrist is a profitable doctrine, and a point very necessary to be preached and known.

1. It is a point very necessary to admonish and warn the faithful, that they be not circumvented with these delusions, and be found in the opposite state to Christ Jesus, and the interests of his kingdom. God hath blown his trumpet: Rev. xviii. 4, ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues;’ God calleth his people out of spiritual Babylon; it is dangerous and unsafe being there. If we would escape Babylon’s punishments we must escape her sins, not live in that communion and society where there are such temptations to idolatry and other detestable enormities. It is disputable whether the errors of Popery be damnable, or there be any possibility of salvation in that religion. Some deny all possibility; others, abating from the rigour of that opinion, assert a very great difficulty: 1 Cor. iii. 13, ‘Saved as by fire;’ if so much Christianity left as to save them, it is with much ado. But the question is not about our benefit, but our duty; not whether possibly we may be saved? but what is the way the Lord will have us to walk in? And if there were possibility or probability of salvation in the way, in the general, yet there is very little or none for them that live in a known sin, and especially in a sin of such a dangerous nature as abetting an opposite faction to Christ, such as is that of Antichrist.

2. It is necessary to fortify and forewarn the people of God against a double temptation. (1.) Against scandal; (2.) Against persecutions.

[1.] Against scandal. It is a dangerous temptation to atheism to see Christianity so corrupted and debauched by a vile submission to serve worldly ends, and turned into the pageantry of empty and ridiculous ceremonies, which beget scorn and contempt of it in the minds of all considering beholders; and therefore there are more atheists in Rome and Italy than in other countries. Supernatural things, disguised with a vain pomp, lose their reverence, and do not alarm the conscience, but harden the heart in a settled atheism and contempt of Christ. Now it is a mighty stay to the heart to see that this degeneration was foreseen and foretold: John xvi. 1, ‘These things have I spoken to you, that you should not be offended;’ Mat. xviii. 7, ‘Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!’

[2.] Against persecutions; for the man of sin is also a son of perdition, a destroyer of the saints, and maketh havoc of the people of God. Now it is grievous when Christians suffer by Christians, and we may have many doubtings and misgivings about our cause; but when Antichrist is clearly discovered, we submit the more cheerfully to suffer the hardest things under his tyranny; for suffering under antichristian persecution is martyrdom and suffering for Christ, as much as suffering under Pagan persecution: Rev. xiv. 13, ‘And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth,’ &c. Not only the primitive martyrs, who were put to death by heathens, but those that are condemned by Christians and burned for heretics, those are martyrs also.

3. That we may the better understand true Christianity; antikeimena parallhleimena malista faivetai, opposites illustrate each other. The two opposite states are Christianity and Antichristianity; the one is a ‘mystery of godliness,’ 1 Tim. iii. 16; the other, ‘a mystery of iniquity.’ The design of the mystery of godliness is to recover men from the devil, the world, and the flesh, unto God; the other, to seduce men from God to the devil, the world, and the flesh again; and that by corrupting the former mystery, or the most excellent institution that ever the world was acquainted with for the ennobling and refining man’s nature; so that Christ’s religion is turned against himself, to lull men’s consciences asleep, whilst they gratify the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, or live in pride of life. The devil is gratified by all sin, but especially he is eidwlocarhs, as Synesius calleth him; one that delighteth in idols, as knowing this is the best way to make men brutish, or to live in an oblivion or neglect of God; for an idol is ‘a teacher of lies,’ Hab. ii. 18, doth imprint upon the mind carnal and false conceptions of a deity.

4. To confirm us in the truth of the Christian faith, when we see the prophecies of it expressly fulfilled; for this is the Lord’s direction to know a true prophet, Deut. xviii. 22, if the thing come to pass, and the event doth punctually answer the prediction; but when a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, and the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken. Now, the apostles did not only teach the church the doctrine of Christianity, but by a prophetic spirit and divine revelation foretold things to come; and among these, the great thing which is to happen and come to pass before Christ’s second coming is Antichrist, or the appearing of the man of sin. Therefore, that we may not doubt of what is past, nor suspect what is further to come, it is good to study these prophecies, and know they are to be fulfilled in their time, that we may say that God, who hath kept touch with the world hitherto in all the predictions of the word, will not fail at last.

Use 1. To reprove them that think this is a curious point not to be searched into. Why then did God reveal it, and that so often by St Paul, by St John, in so many prophetical representations of it? Surely it is not curiosity to search into things revealed, but to intrude ourselves into things hidden, and which God hath put under a veil of secrecy. It is true men must know their measure, and not attempt to run before they can go, and venture upon obscure points before well versed in plain; and it is true, in more abstruse points, men must not rashly define, but soberly and modestly inquire, and compare predictions with plain events; this is no way culpable.

2. To reprove those that are so impatient of giving a little attendance to such doctrines for a while, and think at least matter more profitable should be insisted on; they are persuaded enough already. It is well if it be so; but those that stand should take heed lest they fall; and presumptuous confidence soonest giveth out, and forsaketh Christ. I would but propound this argument to them: If it were profitable for them that were to go out of the body long before Antichrist was revealed to be taught these things again and again, and they be charged to keep these things in remembrance, certainly it is more profitable for others that live at the time when these things are in being, and the temptation is at the next door, ready to break in upon them. Surely it is profitable to discover Antichrist, to reduce those that are gone astray, much more to prevent a revolt, that we may not return to this bondage after a deliverance from it.

Secondly, I come to consider the time of his appearing, and there to observe three things:—

I. That Antichrist was not then revealed because there was an impediment hindering his revelation: ‘and now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time,’ that is, what keeps him back for the present, until the time that God had prefixed. The apostle doth not expressly mention what thisto katecon, or impeachment was, either because he thought it enough to appeal to their memory and knowledge—now ye know what withholdeth; there was no need of repeating that which was formerly mentioned, they sufficiently knew; or partly because he would not give the heathen an occasion of raising a persecution against the Christians, if they should come to understand that one professing himself a Christian should erect a throne for himself at Rome, and that the empire should be taken away to make way for him. The Romans were very jealous, oti basileian onomazomen—because they talked of these innocent notions, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of heaven; they were apt to accuse them læsæ majestatis, as if they would with open force and violence attack or assault the empire; therefore the apostle had spoken that which he thought not fit to write in an epistle; or, lastly, he leaveth it in this obscurity because all prophecies were but darkly uttered, that their accomplishment be not hindered, since it is the will of God that such events shall fall out in the world, and out of indulgence to his people he is pleased to foretell this. It is not meet that the prediction should either be too clear or too dark; if too clear, the event would not follow, nor God’s government of the world be carried in such a way as might suit with the liberty of mankind; if too dark, the comfort and caution of God’s people would not be sufficiently provided for.

But what was this impediment? The ancients generally determined it to be the Roman empire; for so Tertullian—the empire of Rome, which was to be divided into ten kingdoms; and reason showeth it, because the man of sin could not rise to his greatness as long as the Roman empire stood. Why? Because he that was to exalt himself above all that is called God, and above all that is august, could not bring his designs to pass as long as the Roman empire retained its majesty; but when once that was eclipsed and removed, then he was to be revealed in his time: all things have their time, and so the man of sin. Well, then, it was the Roman empire that stayed the manifestation of Antichrist, he being to build his tyranny on the ruins and wreck thereof; and therefore the primitive Christians prayed pro mora finis, that it would please God to defer the fall of this empire, fearing worse things upon the dissolution thereof.

Now this impediment showeth both the time and place of Antichrist; and time and place, next to the nature and state of things, are the best circumstances to discover him. (1.) The place: Antichrist’s seat and throne was to be there, where the seat of the Roman empire was; and St John telleth us it was situated on the city that had seven hills: Rev. xvii. 9, ‘The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth;’ and that is Rome, which is famously taken notice of to be seated on seven hills or mountains. Now Antichrist had not room as long as the seat was filled with the Roman emperor, for this seat could not be filled with two imperial powers at once, especially with such a tyrannical power as that of Antichrist is, exalting itself not only above kings and kingdoms, but pan sebasma, the august state of the emperors themselves; there was no exalting this chair, till there was a removal of the throne; while the Roman emperor possessed Rome, the seat was full, and till it was void it could not be the seat of Antichrist.

(2.) The next circumstance is the time when the impediment is taken away, when the Roman empire is so weakened and removed from Rome that this power may grow up; and that was when the Roman empire was divided into ten kingdoms, as Tertullian saith, and is agreeable enough with the prophecy of St John, Rev. xvii. 12, ‘And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have not received their kingdoms as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast;’ that is, near that time when the Roman empire was broken and divided, which began near 600 years after Christ’s birth.

II. The next observation is, that though he was not revealed in the apostle’s days, yet the mystery of iniquity did begin to work, but secretly; for it is said, ver. 7, beginning, ‘The mystery of iniquity doth already work.’ This is given as a reason why it would break out sooner; but it was kept back; there was something a-brewing that would make way for Antichrist, some disposition of the matter, some propensity thereunto, something begun, which would afterwards show itself more eminently in the great Antichrist. Here two things must be explained:—

1. What is the mystery of iniquity.

2. How it began to work in the apostle’s days.

1. What is the mystery of iniquity? I answer—The design of usurping Christ’s kingdom, and his dignities and prerogatives over the church, to countenance the kingdom of sin and darkness, under the mask of piety and religion. Surely it is something, quite contrary to the gospel, which is the ‘mystery of godliness,’ 1 Tim. iii. 16. So that this mystery is such a course and state design as doth frustrate the true end and purpose of the gospel, and yet carried on under a pretence of advancing and promoting it. So that to state it we must consider:—

[1.] The mystery of godliness.

[2.] The mystery of ungodliness or iniquity.

[1.] The mystery of godliness is known by the ends of God in the gospel, and the way he took to promote those ends.

(1.) The end of the gospel is to recover man out of a carnal, ungodly state, into a state of holiness and reconciliation with God. (1.) The terminus a quo:—men are carnal, ungodly. (1st.) Carnal. When man fell from God, he fell to himself; self interposed as the next heir, and that self was not the soul, but the flesh. Many wrong their souls, but no man ever yet hated his own flesh; and therefore men would rule themselves, and please themselves according to their fleshly appetite and fancy: John iii. 6, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh,’ and therefore love the pleasures, honours, and profits of the world, as the necessary provision to satisfy the desires of the flesh; and whosoever live thus they live in a carnal state, as all do, till grace renew them, Rom. viii. 5. But this carnal estate doth break forth and bewray itself in various ways of sinning: Titus iii. 3, ‘For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.’ All are not fornicators, drunkards, persecutors, nor live in the same way of sinning; but all are turned from God to the world, and have a ‘carnal mind, which is enmity to God,’ Rom. viii. 7. (2dly.) The next word is ungodly. Men thus constituted live either in a denial of God: Ps. xiv. 1, ‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God’—or a neglect of God: Eph. ii. 12, ‘Without God in the world;’ without any acknowledgment or worship of him: Ps. ix. 17, ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God;’—or if not deprived of all sense of a deity, they worship false gods, as those, Acts xiv. 12, 13, the men of Lycaonia, that called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker, and would have sacrificed to them; and the apostle saith to the Galatians, Gal. iv. 8, ‘When ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods;’ they worshipped plurality of false gods; and though the wise men of the Gentiles had some confused knowledge of the true God, Rom. i. 19-21, yet they glorified him not as God, but committed idolatry by setting up a false medium of worship, an idol, which begot a brutish conception of God in their mind; so that a false religion is so far from showing a remedy of corrupt nature that it is a great part of the disease itself. (2.) The terminus ad quem, into a state of holiness and reconciliation with God, in whom man alone can be happy. (1st.) For holiness and obedience to God. The great design of the Christian religion is to bring us back to God again. First, As we are carnal, by the denial of fleshly and worldly lusts: Titus ii. 12, ‘The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,’ &c.; I Peter ii. 11, ‘Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshy lusts that war against the soul;’ and Gal. v. 24, ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.’ Secondly, As we are ungodly, to bring us to the knowledge, love, worship, and obedience of the true God: Acts xiv. 15, ‘We pray ye that you should turn from these vanities to the living God, that hath made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things therein;’ and to seek after the Lord, from whom we have life, breath, and all things, Acts xvii. 25-28; 1 Thes. i. 9, ‘How ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God.’ (2dly.) Reconciliation with God, that we might have commerce with him for the present, and live forever with him hereafter: 2 Cor. v. 19, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation;’ 1 Peter i. 18, ‘Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation,’ &c.; Heb. vii. 25, ‘He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God through him;’ that whereas before they were alienated from the life of God, they might live in his love, and in the expectation of being admitted into his blessed presence, that they may see him as he is, and be like him, I John iii. 2.

(2.) The way it took to obtain these ends, how God may be satisfied, man renewed and changed, God pacified by the sacrifice, merit, and intercession of Christ Jesus, who came in our flesh and nature, not only to acquaint us with the will of God and the unseen things of another world, but to suffer an accursed death for our sins; therefore the mystery of godliness is chiefly seen in ‘God manifested in our flesh,’ 1 Tim. iii. 16; and man must be renewed and changed, for our misery showeth what is needful to our remedy and recovery: that we be not only pardoned but sanctified, if ever we will be saved and glorified; for till men have new and holy hearts they can never see God: Heb. xii. 14, ‘Without holiness it is impossible to see God;’ Mat. v. 8, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ &c.; nor for the present love him and delight in him, nor take him for their chief happiness. As none but Christ can satisfy justice and reconcile such a rebel to God, so none but Christ’s Spirit can sanctify and renew our souls that we may live in obedience to him: I Cor. vi. 11, ‘Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’ This is the mystery of godliness.

[2.] Now, for the mystery of ungodliness or iniquity: that is a quite opposite state, but carried on plausibly, and with seeming respect to the mystery which it opposeth. To know it, take these considerations:—

(1.) Where the carnal life is had in request and honour, there certainly is the mystery of iniquity to be found, whatever pretences be put upon it. Now, the carnal life is there had in request and honour,—(1.) Where all is referred to worldly gain and profit, and the whole frame of the religion tendeth that way; for certainly they are ‘enemies to the cross of Christ whose god is their belly, and who mind earthly things,’ Phil. iii. 19. Now pardons, indulgences, purgatory, shrines of saints, what do they all tend unto but to make a merchandise of religion? It was an old byword, Omnia Romæ venalia—all things may be bought at Rome, even heaven and God himself, &c. And these things are used, not only to open the people’s mouths in prayer, but their hands in oblations and offerings. The complexion of their religion is but a gainful trade. But the papal exactions and traffickings have been so much and so loudly insisted upon, and the evil runneth out into so many branches, that I shall forbear. (2.) Where temporal greatness is looked upon as the main prop of their religion. ‘The king’s daughter is glorious within,’ rich in gifts and graces, Ps. xlv. 13; Ps. xciii. 5, ‘Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever;’ but the false church is known by pomp and external splendour. It is easy to discern the true ministers of Christ from the false; the true are known by being much in labours, much in afflictions: 2 Cor. vi. 4-6, ‘In all things approving ourselves the ministers of God, in much patience, afflictions, necessities, distresses, in labours and watchings, and fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,’ &c.; whereas the false ministers are known by the life of pomp and ease. The rule is plain, because self-denial is one of the great lessons of Christianity, and self-seeking the bane of it: therefore where men professedly seek the greatness of the world, they serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies.

(2.) Where men are turned from God to idols, though it be not the demons of the Gentiles, but saints, as mediators of intercession, there godliness is destroyed and the mystery of iniquity set up; for the great drift of the Christian religion is to bring us to God, through Christ. So the great whore—(which imports a breach of the fundamental article of the covenant, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods but me’), it is said, Rev. xvii. 5, ‘Upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon, the mother of fornications and abominations upon earth,’—debaucheth nations with her idolatry, and so seduceth from God to the worship of the creature, that the great intent of the gospel is lost.

(3.) Wherever power is usurped in Christ’s name, and carried on under the pretence of his authority, to the oppressing Of Christ’s sincere worshippers, who hate the carnal life, and would by all means keep themselves from idols, or bowing and worshipping before images, but excel in unquestionable duties, there is the mystery of iniquity; for the beast, that hath a mouth like a dragon, pusheth with the horns of a lamb, Rev. xiii. 11. The violence and persecution against the sincere, pure worshippers of Christ is nothing else but the mystery of iniquity, the enmity of the carnal seed against the holy seed, or the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman disguised.

(4.) Where there is a lessening of the merits of Christ and his satisfaction, as if it were not sufficient for the expiation of sin without penal satisfactions of our own, there is the mystery of iniquity: ‘For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,’ Heb. x. 14.

(5.) Where the new nature is little thought of, and all religion is made to consist in some external rites and adorations or indifferences, there the reducing of man to God is much hindered, and Christianity is adulterated, and the religion that designedly countenanceth these things is but the mystery of iniquity—To worship God, as the Papists do, with images, agnus dei’s, crucifixes, crossings, spittle, oil, candles, holy water, kissing the pix, dropping beads, praying to the Virgin Mary and other saints, repeating over the name Jesus five times in a breath, repeating such and such sentences so often, praying to God in an unknown tongue, and saying to him they know not what, adoring the consecrated bread as no bread, but the very flesh of Christ himself, fasting by feasting upon fish instead of flesh, choosing a tutelary saint whose name they will invocate, offering sacrifices for quick and dead, praying for souls in purgatory, purchasing indulgences for their deliverance, carrying the bones and other relics of saints, going in pilgrimage to shrines or images, or offering before them, with a multitude more of such trashy devotions, whereby they greatly dishonour God and obstruct the motions of the heavenly life, yea, quite kill it; for instead of the power and life of grace, there are introduced beggarly rudiments or ritual observances in indifferent things, and vain traditions by which Christian liberty is restrained, and these pressed with as much severity as unquestionable duties established by God’s known law for the renewing and reforming mankind. We are to ‘stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage,’ Gal. v. 1; Col. ii. 16, ‘Let no man judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moons, or of a sabbath-day.’ These things are left to arbitrament, to abstain or use them for edification. That physician may be borne with who doth only burden the sick with some needless prescriptions, if faithful in other things; but if he should tire out the patient with prescriptions which are not only altogether needless, but troublesome, costly, and nauseous, and doth extinguish and choke true religion by thousands of things indifferent, making our bondage worse than the Jews’, this is the mystery of iniquity,—to cheat us of the power of godliness by the show of it, burdening of men with unnecessary observances.

2. How did this work in the apostle’s time? Something there was then which did give an advantage to Antichrist, and laid the foundation of his kingdom, and did dispose men’s minds to an apostasy from pure Christianity; as—

[1.] Partly the idolising of pastors by an excess of reverence, such as was prejudicial to the interests of the gospel, setting them up as heads of factions: 1 Cor. i. 12, ‘Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas; I Cor. iii. 22, ‘Glory not in men, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,’ &c. This in time bred tyranny and slavery in the church.

[2.] The ambition of the pastors themselves, and the spirit of contention for rule and precedency: Acts xx. 29, 30, ‘There shall arise among you ravening wolves, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them;’ which within a little time began to affect not only a primacy of order, but of jurisdiction and authority; so that then Antichrist did not exist in his proper person, but in spirit and predecessors.

[3.] The errors then set afoot corrupted the simplicity of the gospel: 1 John ii. 18, ‘Now there are many antichrists;’ 1 John iv. 3, ‘Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is the spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard it should come, and even now already is it in the world.’ The spirit of Antichrist is even now in the world; there was a spirit then working in the church to introduce this mystery of iniquity, only the seat was not empty, but filled by another; the seeds of this mystery were sown in ambition, avarice, haughtiness of teachers, and their carnal and corrupt doctrines.

[4.] Some kept their Jewish, others their Gentile customs, so that the Christian religion was secretly tainted and mingled with the seeds of heathenism and Judaism, which afterwards produced the great apostasy. Paul, in all his epistles, complaineth of the Judaising brethren, and seeks to reduce them to the simplicity of the gospel. In the Corinthians he complaineth of their resort to idol temples, their communion in idol-worship: 1 Cor. x. 14, ‘Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry;’ and ver. 20,’ But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils and not to God, and I would not flint ye should have fellowship with devils,’ and 2 Cor. vi. 16. The worship of angels, interdiction of certain meats, then will-worship, and shows of humility: Col. ii. 16, ‘Let no man judge you in meat and drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days;’ and ver. 18, ‘Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up with his fleshly mind;’ and vers. 22, 23, ‘Why are ye subject to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men? which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body.’ Contempt of magistracy: 2 Peter ii. 10, ‘But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government; presumptuous are they, self-willed, and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.’ Thus you see how it began to work, and that the devil from the beginning had sown these tares.

But was it, then, in the apostle’s time that the mystery of iniquity did begin to work? Then—

1. We see what need we have to withstand the beginnings, and not give way to a further encroachment on the church of God; and—

2. That the word of God should dwell richly in us, for we have to deal with mystical iniquity.

III. Proposition: That when that impediment shall be removed, then Antichrist shall be revealed; only he that now letteth will let till he be taken out of the way. Where observe—

1. It was before, to katecon, that which letteth; now it is o katecwn, he that letteth—the empire and the emperor. And mark, a long succession of empires is called o katecwn: why not then a long succession of popes, the man of sin, the son of perdition?

2. He that now letteth will let. Antichrist was but in fieri, and that secretly and in a mystery; there was desire of rule, some superstitious and false doctrines, some mixture of human inventions, borrowed both from Jewish and heathenish rites, mingled with the worship of God, some secret rising of antichristian dominion, some playing at lesser game, as Victor took upon him to excommunicate the Eastern churches for the matter of Easter. But before this obstacle was removed, he could not fully appear and invade the empire of God and men till the emperor was removed out of that city: while the heathen emperors prevailed, there was no place for churchmen’s ambition; their times were times of persecution, and it is not persecution, but peace and plenty, that breedeth corruption in the churches.

3. He, that is, the emperor, must be taken out of the way, that is, either by the removal of his person and throne from the city of Rome, or till the Roman empire be ruined, as it was in the East by the Turk, in the West by the incursions of many barbarous nations, parting it into ten kingdoms, and then by the translation of the empire to Charles the Great.

Well, then, note three things for the time of Antichrist:—

1. Before the obstacle was removed he could not appear.

2. When this obstacle was removed, presently he appeared.

3. The degrees of the falling of the one are the degrees of the exaltation and establishment of the other, for Antichrist did grow up upon it.

But they say, the Roman empire is not quite fallen, there being a Roman emperor still. But (1.) the present empire is but inane nomen, or umbra imperii—a mere name, or a shadow of the empire. (2.) He that then let, in St Paul’s time, was the succession of the Roman emperors, but this is the German empire; now, if the Roman empire were the only impediment (the apostle useth the word monon), therefore as soon as that should be removed, Antichrist would infallibly be revealed. (3.) Though this empire be not abolished, but removed out of Rome, it is enough to make good Paul’s prophecy.Dixit apostolus, imperium esse de medio tollendum, non prorsus delendum.—(Whitaker.) Well, then, since the seat is left void, either the prophecy is not accomplished at the time, or else the Pope is Antichrist, for the nations are long since fallen away from the Roman empire, and the emperor hath no power nor authority at Rome.

Use. To give a new note to discover and descry the man of sin. Certainly Antichrist is already revealed, and we may find him somewhere. I prove it by two arguments:—(1.) The mystery began to work in the apostle’s days; therefore surely it is completed by this time, and not reserved to a short space of time a little before Christ’s coming to judgment; (2.) This spiritual usurped power was to break forth upon the fall of the empire; accordingly so it did, though it grew to its monstrous excess and height by degrees, as to ecclesiastical dominion, in Boniface III., who obtained from Phocas the title of universal bishop; whereas Gregory the Great called John of Constantinople the forerunner of Antichrist for arrogating the same title.

Sermon Six-2 Thess. 2:8.

James Dodson


And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming.—2 THES. II. 8. 

THESE words contain both the rise and ruin of Antichrist, his revelation and destruction.

1. As to his revelation, there are two things:—

[1.] The title given to Antichrist: o anomoV, the wicked.

[2.] His appearing in the world upon the taking away the impediment: shall be revealed. 

2. As to his ruin, three things are observable:—

[1.] The progress of his destruction, which is here considered as begun, or as consummated.

(1.) A diminishing of antichristianism: whom the Lord shall consume

(2.) The finishing thereof, in the word destroy.

[2.] The author, the Lord.

[3.] The means.

(1.) God’s word, called his breath, or the Spirit of his mouth.

(2.) The brightness of his coming, namely, when he shall come to judge the world in the glory of the Father.

First, Of the rising of Antichrist: ‘And then shall that wicked be revealed.’

1. The title given to Antichrist, o anomoV,that lawless one, or son of Belial. It is the property of Antichrist to boast himself to be above all laws, and to be judged by no power upon earth; for therein he resembleth Antiochus, of whom it is said, ‘He shall do according to his own will,’ Dan. xi. 36. Now if this be one of his characters, it will not be hard to find him out; for who is that infallible judge that taketh upon him to decide all controversies, and judgeth all things, and is judged of no man? and whosoever doth but mutter against his decrees and delusions, if a private person, he is to be destroyed with fire and sword; if a prince, to be excommunicated, deposed, and his subjects freed from all allegiance to him? Who is he that taketh upon him, with faculties, licenses, and pardons, to dispense with the law of God, and to allow open and notorious sins? Who is he that by his own writers is said to beSolutus omni lege humana, freed from all human law (Hostiensis), Nec ullojure humano ligari potest, that hath a paramount authority to all laws, that he cannot be bound by them, whether they concern parricide, the murder of princes; or perjury, the obligation of oaths; or matrimony, the bond of conjugal relations? But one expressly saith, that he is supra jus, contra jus, extra jus, above law, against law, and without law; a plain description of the lawless one in the text; and another, not without some spice of blasphemy, Apud Deum et Papam sufficit pro ratione voluntas, God and the Pope have their will for a law. Lastly, Who is he that hath brought into the church the great impiety of worshipping of God by images, and the worship of the saints and angels, with a worship which is only due to God? which is the great anomia, the lawlessness, which the pure Christian rule condemneth and brandeth for such. If there be not such a power extant in the Christian world, then I confess we are yet to seek for Antichrist; but if there be, none so wilfully blind as they that cannot see wood for trees, and know not where to fix this character

2. His revelation: ‘Then shall that wicked be revealed.’ The word revealed noteth two things:—

[1.] His appearance in the world.

[2.] God’s discovery of him.

[1.] Then he shall be revealed beareth this sense, He shall be in the world, and begin to lift up his head as soon as the Roman emperor and empire shall be removed; this lawless one shall begin to discover himself and set up his kingdom.

Now to understand this, consider this:—

(1.) The most learned interpreters, both ancient and modern, agree in this, that the impediment was the Roman empire, as we showed before; and therefore as the Roman empire and emperor were removed out of the way, Antichrist was to be revealed, or the predictions of the scripture are false.

(2.) Things of great moment cannot be removed nor established in a minute. The removing of the Roman empire was not all at once, nor the rising of the pontificate, but by degrees the seat began to be made void. When Constantine began to remove the imperial throne to Byzantium, though the majesty of the empire continued still at Rome, yet this was a step to the removing of the impediment, for by that means the popes grew in greatness; but as the emperor’s authority was lessened, so grew that of the popes, who still encroached to themselves more and more power, and that to promote the apostasy and derogation from the pure Christian religion. But as soon as he arose, he came not to the height of his power, either ecclesiastical or temporal, nor shall he presently decay.

(3.) To state the progress of antichristian tyranny is not for a sermon, it filleth whole books; but thus in short. About the year 600, or in that century, their ecclesiastical power began to be raised, when the majesty of the empire was low and weak in Italy, and therefore then was Antichrist advanced a good step. When John of Constantinople had usurped the title of universal bishop, Gregory the Great saith, Rex superbiæ prope adest—the king of pride is near; et sacerdotum exercitus ei præparatur—an army of priests is prepared to serve him as their general; this he—(fidenter dico, I speak confidently) and within six years or thereabouts Phocas conferred on Pope Boniface the same title, to ingratiate himself with the people of that part of the empire, after the murder of his lord and master. And then many superstitions were gotten into the church; as, about the year 688, the Pope obtained of the emperor the Pantheon, or temple of all-devils, and consecrated the same to the Virgin Mary, and all saints. The temporal monarchy was long in hatching, but yet the beginning of this mystery soon bewrayed itself. In the beginning of the seventh century, Constantine the Pope would have his foot kissed, like another Diocletian, and in defence of image-worship he openly resisted Philippicus, the Emperor of Greece, and encouraged Justine and Anastasius, tyrants and murderers, who submitted themselves to him with adoration. Rebellion and idolatry have been ever continued since. In the year 720, or thereabouts, Gregory the Second and Third continued the same idolatry and rebellion, and caused all Italy to withdraw their obedience from the Emperor Leo, because he had commanded all images to be broken and burnt, and for the same cause excommunicated him, and took to himself the Coctian Alps as the gift of the Lombards. In the same century, 749, Zachary encourageth and assisteth Pepin to depose his master Childeric, king of France, and to take upon him that kingdom. Afterward Adrian took upon him to translate the empire of the Greeks to the Latins; and ever since deposed emperors and made broils in kingdoms.

[2.] God’s discovery of him to the world; that is, when Antichrist was not only extant, but impleaded as such; and this also was by degrees, God raising up in every age witnesses against the tyranny and usurpations of Rome, as the place, and the Pope, the person, as, considered in his succession, claiming the same power. Five hundred years before Luther, Peter Bruis began, and Henry his scholar succeeded him, and both of them succeeded by the Waldenses and Albigenses; then Wicliffe, the Bohemians, who have all pleaded and proved that the Pope was the very Antichrist; then Savonarola in Italy preached this boldly. In the fifteenth century, about 1500, there were some remainder of the Albigenses about the Alps, some few relies of the Hussites and Calixtines in Bohemia, so few and so ignorant that they had neither learning nor ability to oppose this potent tyranny. Then God raised up Luther, and many other worthies to assault the idolatry, tyranny, and errors of the church of Rome; and it is reported in history, that the angel on the top of the Tower St Angelo was beaten down by a thunderbolt; and in the very day and in the church where Pope Leo the Tenth at Rome had created thirty-one cardinals, a sudden tempest dashed the keys out of the hands of the image of St Peter, showing God would begin to take away their power.

Use. If God hath revealed Antichrist, let no man shut his eyes, but let him be shunned, forsaken, and abhorred. When Christ was to come into the world, it was a day of rumours; some sent to John Baptist, whether he were the Christ, others cried up false Christs and impostors; but the people were alarmed with a general expectation. So when Antichrist was to be revealed, it was a day of rumours; just about the time there was a great expectation: some pitched it here, some there, until the pit was discovered to the church, and the snare laid open. And now to run wilfully into these errors, how damnable is it! If Papists cleave to him, let not Protestants fall to him; to continue Papists is dangerous, for they favour Antichrist, and serve Antichrist; but to turn Papists is more dangerous, for this is a down-right revolt from Christ to Antichrist. And how God may in mercy dispense with errors imbibed in our education we know not; but to turn our back on the truth, wherein we have been educated and instructed, maketh it more dangerous to our salvation.

Secondly, We now come to the more comfortable part, his ruin; where note:—

I. In the general, that the apostle, as soon as he had showed his rise, he presently foretelleth his ruin, to support the hearts of the faithful, though he hath yet more things to speak concerning his discovery, ver. 9. I cannot let this pass without an observation.

Doct. That a spiritual eye can discern the ruin of wicked instruments, even in their rise and reign: Job v. 3, ‘I have seen the foolish taking root, and presently I cursed his habitation.’ By the foolish, is meant the wicked; by their taking root, their seeking to fix and settle themselves in their worldly prosperity; I presently, that is, without any great deliberation, which in this matter needeth not, cursed their habitation, not as desiring, but as foreseeing and foretelling. I pronounced them accursed, or to be in a cursed condition; when carnal men seek to root and establish themselves upon earth, to a spiritual eye, their best estate is miserable and detestable. When we see their rise, we may foretell their fall.


1. Their faith occasions such a reflection, which is ‘the evidence of things not seen,’ Heb. xi. 1. They look not at things as at present they seem to shortsighted men, or as they relish to the flesh, but as they appear, and will be judged of at last; their ruin is as present before them as their rise; present time is quickly past. But now without faith this cannot be: 2 Peter i. 9, ‘He that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off,’ muwpazwn, but are dazzled with present splendour, and so miscarry.

2. This faith is necessary:—(1.) Partly to prevent scandal at the prosperity of an ungodly party who obey not the gospel, but corrupt and pervert it to their worldly ends. David’s steps were even gone when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, till he went into the sanctuary and understood their end, Ps. lxxiii. 17; that settled his heart, to consider what end these men were appointed unto. How prosperous soever they seem to be for the present, yet the end must put the difference; there they see the wicked in the height of their prosperity, as ready to be cut down and withered. (2.) To prevent apostasy. They choose the better part that choose the holiness and patience of the saints: 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ But things present carry away our hearts, because we have so dim and doubtful a sight of things to come; whereas, if we did look upon them as sure and near, they would fortify us against temptations: Prov. iii. 31, 32, ‘Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the froward is abomination to the Lord, but his secret is with the righteous.’

II. More particularly the ruin of Antichrist is set forth:—

1. Partly by the manner of his fall. It is represented both as begun and finished: he shall be consumed, he shall be destroyed; the one noteth a lingering delay, the other an utter perdition, that he shall be finally rooted out.

First, Consumed: to consume is to waste and melt away by little and little.

Doct. Antichrist is not presently to be destroyed, but to waste away by a lingering consumption; as his rising was by little and little, so is his fall; he loseth his authority in Christendom by degrees.

Now the reasons may be these:—

1. God hath a ministry and use for him and the abettors of his kingdom, as he hath a use for the devil himself, therefore permitteth him some limited power; but yet he holdeth him in the chains of his invincible providence. So hath he a use for the devil’s eldest son, for Antichrist, and antichristian adversaries, which, if their power were wholly gone, could not be performed; as—

[l.] To scourge his people for their sins, as their contempt of the gospel, and wantonness under the several privileges which they enjoy by it. God will not want a rod to scourge his disobedient children; as, Isa. x. 5, he calleth the Assyrian ‘the rod of his anger,’ the instrument that he maketh use of to punish those with whom he is angry. And again, the ‘staff of his indignation,’—the staff is a heavier and sorer instrument of correction than a rod. What the Assyrian was to the Jews, that Antichrist is to professing Christians. God useth him till he have sufficiently chastised his children, and then he will cast this rod into the fire. Heathens and Turks are at a distance from us: our miseries will come from antichristianism, who are nearer at hand to execute the Lord’s vengeance when we grow wanton.

[2.] To try his people, for he expects a tried obedience; what Christianity we will accept and choose—that calculated for this world, or that which is calculated for the next. Antichristianism, in all the branches of it, is a sort of religion suited to worldly interests: 1 John iv. 5, ‘They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them;’ but true Christianity is for the kingdom of heaven: 1 Cor. ii. 12, ‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.’ Therefore God will try who are the formal and pretended Christians, that serve their own bellies, and the sincere Christians, who look to an unseen world, and are willing to hazard their own interests out of their fidelity to Christ; therefore, when the saints under the altar groaned: Rev. vi. 10, ‘How long, Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’ the answer given was, ver. 11, ‘that they should rest for a season until their fellow-servants, and also their brethren that should be killed, as they were, should be fulfilled.’ In every age God will have his witnesses, who by their faith and patience, and not loving their lives to the death, should promote the Lamb’s kingdom before they receive their crown; and therefore, though Antichrist be consumed more and more, yet he hath so many abettors of his kingdom left as may try the faith and patience of the saints.

[3.] To cure our divisions. Nazianzen called the enemies koinoidiallaktai, the common reconcilers. The dog is let loose to make the sheep flock together. We are hardened in our strifes against each other till a common danger unite us. It is noted that when there was a strife between the herdsmen of Abraham’s cattle and Lot’s cattle, the Canaanite and Perizzite were yet in the land, Gen. xiii. 7. God will unite those in common sufferings whose stubborn humours will not suffer them to meet upon other terms.

[4.] To keep up a remembrance of his mercies: Ps. lix. 11, ‘Slay them not, lest my people forget; scatter them by thy power, and bring them down, O Lord, our shield.’ God maketh us sensible of the care he hath over us, not by the utter destruction of the enemies of his people, but by lingering judgments on them, which affect us more than if they were cut off suddenly.

2. Many other reasons may be given, because it serveth the beauty and harmony of his providence to cut them off in their time, and by such means as he hath appointed, and in such a way as shall most conduce unto his glory. But I pass them by; we must tarry his leisure, and not question his truth and care over us, and be content that our faith and patience be exercised. If God should bring a sudden destruction upon a power and tyranny so supported by the combined interests of the world, we were not able to bear it. Thorns serve for a fence to a garden of roses. God would not destroy the Canaanites at once, lest the beasts of the field should increase upon them, Deut. vii. 22; nor all abettors of antichristianism, lest his people should lie open to such evils as they cannot bear.

[1.] Observe this consumption, how it is accomplished. If we find Antichrist risen, discovered, and consumed, why should we be in doubt any longer? The pomp and height was much about 1500 years after Christ; what a consumption hath happened since, by the reviving religion and learning, the Christian world should with thankfulness take notice of, by the falling of Germany, England, France, and Hungary in a great part, together with Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and other countries; and by what means hath this been but by the Spirit of his mouth? It is profitable to know Antichrist by his rise and description; but it is comfortable to know him by his discovery and consumption, and God’s blessing such unlikely means at the beginning to such a wonderful effect. When Luther first appeared, the bishop of Strasburg told him, Abi in cœlum, mi frater, et dic, miserere nostri. But God hath done great things for us too: when he first turned the captivity of his churches, we were like unto those that dream.

[2.] Caution. Antichrist is consumed, but he is not yet dead. What strength he may recover before his last destruction, God knoweth. Popery after it was cast out, hath re-entered Bohemia and Austria, and the emperor’s hereditary countries; and what havoc hath been made of the evangelical churches, the book of Caraffa, the bishop and legate of the Pope, called Germania sacra restaurata, showeth, wherein many notable things concerning their artifices to replant Popery are set down. As to England, some hope his consumption is not desperate, and many fear that Popery may recover again, unless God in mercy prevent it. We know not what is in the womb of providence, or how far the prerogative of free grace may interpose in our behalf—whether England shall be made a theatre of mercy once more, or the seat of idolatry, and superstition, and blood. But though we do not know what God hath determined, yet we may soon know what England hath deserved. And that is enough to quicken us to watchfulness and prayer, and expectation, and serious preparation for the day of evil; and by these things, if it cometh to pass, it will do us no harm.

(1.) When God hath laid in great store of comforts against sufferings, usually there is a time of expense to lay them out again. Christ warned his hearers to make use of the light, because of the darkness coming upon them, John xii. 35, 36. You never knew the gospel powerfully preached, but trials came: Heb. x. 32-34, ‘For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.’ Castles are first victualled, then besieged: the ministry is consolatory mostly.

(2.) When men can neither bear our vices nor their proper remedies: Ezek. xxiv. 13, ‘In thy filthiness is lewdness; because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee;’ Hosea vii. 1, ‘When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria, for they commit falsehood,’ &c.

(3.) When there are great differences amongst God’s own people, the end is bitter; we warp in the sunshine, will not know the way of peace. Eusebius says, before Diocletian’s persecution, foiloneikiaV aneflegovto—the church was torn with intestine broils, pastors against pastors, and people against people. Ease begets pride and wantonness, and that maketh way for contention.

(4.) When profaneness increaseth, and men do not walk becoming the gospel, God taketh the gospel from them. The apostasy from the power and purity of religion first made way for Antichrist, and is most likely to let him in again.

(5.) When a people are prepared for such impressions, there is a party formed, partly by opinions that symbolise with Popery, partly by doting on the pomp and outside of religion, and neglecting the life and power of it; and partly when indifferent and atheistical conceits do dispose their minds no more to one religion than another: usually then is a nation fitted for such a change.

Now what shall we do?

1. Watch and pray. A people well awaked will not change their religion. The envious man sowed tares while the servants slept, Mat. xiii. 25. Be instant with God in prayer, as all good Christians should be, when the church is in danger; as David, Ps. lix. 13, ‘Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be, that they may know that God rules in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.’ The consumption is at hand: Luke xxi. 36, ‘Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass.’

2. Reform and repent: Rev. ii. 5, ‘Repent, or I will remove thy candlestick out of his place.’ Our disorders must be bewailed and redressed. There are two stumbling-blocks—the idolatry of the Romish synagogue, and the evil manners of the Reformed Churches.

3. Be fortified and established:—

[1.] By knowledge. If we have not idionsthrigmon, a steadfastness of our own, we shall fall, 2 Peter iii. 17; in a time of long peace, arms hang up a-rusting; and so we are not prepared to resist temptations.

[2.] By grace: ‘It is good the heart should be established by grace,’ Heb. xiii. 9. The new nature will caution men against many popish errors: 1 John ii. 20, ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.’ A child of God hath something in his bosom that will not permit him to hearken to Popery; the very life in us is opposite to this dead show and mummery of trashy devotions.

Now I come to the author, with the means of consuming: ‘The Lord shall consume him with the spirit of his mouth.’ The Lord, that is the Lord Christ. But what is meant by the spirit of his mouth, or the breath of his mouth, as some render it? Two things may be meant hereby—either his providential word, or his gospel, accompanied by his Spirit.

1. His providential word; that is, when Christ saith, Let it be done, it shall be done: Isa. xi. 4, ‘He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.’ Those that are called wicked, they are also called the earth, because they are earthly-minded, and have their portion here, and possess much on earth, and have great power, by the advantage of which they oppress his people. Now, to execute judgment upon them, Christ needeth no more than the rod of his mouth, that powerful word whereby he created all things: Ps. xxxiii. 6, ‘By the words of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth;’ upholdeth all things: Heb. i. 3, ‘Upholding all things by the word of his power;’ and brings all things to nothing again: John xviii. 6, ‘As soon as he had said to them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground;’—one word of his powerful providence is enough. Or, secondly—

2. It is meant of the efficacy of his gospel, as it is accompanied by his Spirit, called ‘The sword of the Spirit,’ Eph. vi. 17. And it is said to be ‘quick and powerful,’ Heb. iv. 12; and Rev. ii. 16, ‘Repent, or I will come against thee quickly, and smite thee with the sword of my mouth.’ By this word he shall confound the falsehood and cunning practices which are carried on under this mystery of iniquity, and give it such a deadly and incurable wound, that it shall languish before it be utterly destroyed.

Doct. That Antichrist’s destruction is by the preaching of the gospel, and the victorious evidence of truth. It must needs be so, for his kingdom and tyranny is upheld by darkness, which is dispelled by the light of the truth; and, therefore, the Papists, as all other heretics, are lucifugæ scripturarum Dei—cannot endure the scriptures, deny them to the people, and seek to make them contemptible by all the means they can. Again, his kingdom is carried on by falsehood; and his cheats, and impostures, and wickedness, and usurpation, and false interpretations and delusions are discovered by the truth and simplicity of the gospel, and so is consumed yet more and more. Lastly, Popery is a dead form of religion, and there is not only truth in the word of God, but life; we are not only enlightened, but quickened by it, and converted to God, and made partakers of his Spirit; and these will go against their own experience and inclination, if they should sit down with such empty, beggarly rudiments.

But here ariseth a question, Shall Antichrist be consumed no other way but by the spirit of his mouth? We read in the prophecy of wars, by which the antichristian state is brought to nought. I answer—The pure and powerful preaching of the gospel is the principal means whereby the Spirit of the Lord consumeth Antichrist in the hearts of men; but this is not exclusive of other means which God, in the ways of his providence, may use to weaken his worldly interest. But we must distinguish between the means God may use and we must use. Simply to put down a religion by force of arms is not our way; it is not lawful certainly to invade other nations upon the pure and sole title of religion; but if they invade us on that account, no doubt a prince and people so invaded may defend themselves. But when a war is commenced on other occasions, it is the most cheerful cause to engage in. When we war against the abettors of Antichrist, we war against an enemy whom God will consume. Constantine warred against Licinius, his colleague, not because an infidel, but because he persecuted the Christians, contrary to their capitulations. Lewis XII. caused it to be disputed in a synod at Tours, Num liceret -Papæ absque causa principi bellum inferre? when it was answered, Non licet; a second question, Num tali principi sua defensione fas sit eum invadere?Their answers were Licet, which he undertook, and caused money to be stamped with this inscription—Perdam Babylonem.

Use 1. We learn hence not to be discouraged in our greatest extremities, when all temporal hopes seem to fail, and we have nothing left us but the word of our testimony. Let us not distrust our spiritual weapons, for they are mighty through God to bring down all the strongholds of sin and Antichrist, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. Oh, encourage yourselves in the Lord; you have the merit of his humiliation, and the power of his exaltation. Merit, what cannot the blood of Christ do to fetch off men from their inveterate prejudices and superstitions? 1 Peter i. 18, ‘We are redeemed by the blood of Christ from our vain conversation.’ So, for the power of his exaltation, there is his Spirit. The success of his Spirit on the pouring out of the first sermon, Acts ii. 41, fetched in 3000 souls that had imbrued their hands in the blood of their Saviour, and were in no very devout posture at that time. His word, that is, ‘The rod of his strength,’ Ps. cx. 2, which hath a mighty power to convince, transform, and convert souls: Rom. i. 16, ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.’ Then there is the power of providence; all judgment is put into Christ’s hands for the advancement of his own kingdom, John v. 22. If all be in Christ’s hands, why should you distrust your cause, or the success of it?

2. If you would defend yourselves, and wound the enemy, be much acquainted with ‘the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit,’ Eph. vi. 17; thereby you may ward off every blow of a temptation. Surely then we should be much acquainted with this word, that it may dwell in us richly, that we may have it ready; this is enough to make wise the simple for all necessary duties and defence.

3. Pray heartily that the word of God may have a free course, 2 Thes. iii. 1, and that God would send forth labourers into his harvest, Mat. ix. 38.

Secondly, The final destruction of Antichrist: and destroy him by the brightness of his coming. This coming is most likely to be the coming of Christ, so often mentioned: 2 Thes. i. 7, 8, ‘When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ;’ 2 Thes. ii. 1-3, ‘Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, nor be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.’ Others conceive some notable manifestation of his presence and power in his church; but this would engage us in many dark prophecies, which I shall not meddle withal (intending only a doctrinal discovery of Antichrist), as how long before his coming, by what means. Sure I am, that at his coming, ‘The beast and false prophet shall be slain, and cast into the lake of fire,’ Rev. xix. 20; but for other things, I have not light enough certainly to define that the utter ruin of Antichrist is not to be expected till the second coming of Christ.

Use. Be not discouraged though Antichrist yet remain after all the endeavours against him.

It is enough that antichristianism shall be finished and finally destroyed; and for the time refer it to God. If it be not till the day of judgment, or Christ’s final conquest over all his adversaries, you must be contented to tarry for that, as well as for other things.

Sermon Seven-2 Thess. 2:9,10.

James Dodson


Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.—2 Thes. II. 9, 10. 

WE have considered the titles of Antichrist, his nature and properties, the time of his rise, and with it his ruin; now we are to consider the way and means how he doth acquire and keep up this power in the world.

The means are—(1.) Principal; (2.) Instrumental.

1. Principal: kat enepgeiantouSatana,—after the working of Satan.

2. Instrumental, which are also two:—

[1.] Pretence of miracles: with all power, signs, and lying wonders.

[2.] Other cheats and impostures: with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness; their general way of dealing being sophistical and fallacious. Let us a little explain these things. 
1. The great agent in setting up this kingdom: ‘After the working of Satan.’ It may note the manner, as we render after, that is, in such a way as Satan deceived our first parents, ‘for he was a murderer and a liar from the beginning,’ John viii. 44; ‘I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ,’ 2 Cor. xi. 3. So all this mystery of iniquity shall be carried on after this manner: by deceit, by the tricks of lying men, and the works of deceiving spirits. Rather it noteth Satan’s agency and influence, and after, oraccording to the working of Satan, is as much as by the working of Satan, noting not only his pattern, but his influence; so is kata often rendered, and the energy of the devil, and influence upon all wickedness is spoken of elsewhere: Eph. ii. 2, ‘The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.’ The devil hath a great hand over wicked men in the world; his way of dealing with them is most efficacious and powerful, and certainly he is the first founder and main supporter of the anti-christian state.

2. The instrumental means.

[1.] By pretence of miracles: ‘With all power, and signs, and lying wonders.’ These three words signify the same thing, and are often joined when true miracles are spoken of; as 2 Cor. xii. 12, ‘Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all places, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds,’—dunameiV, shmata, terata. So Acts ii. 22, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, wonders, and signs;’ so Heb. ii. 4, ‘God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles;’ Rom. xv. 19, ‘Through mighty signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.’ Powers they are called, because they issue from power divine and extraordinary; signs, from their use, because they serve to seal and signify the doctrine to which they are applied; wonders, from their effect, because they breed astonishment in the minds of the beholders: these were the true miracles. Now, Antichrist, to countenance his false doctrines and superstitions, would ape and imitate Christ, and pretendeth to powers, signs, and wonders: as Jannes and Jambres sought to imitate Moses, God permitting it in some degree; so Antichrist seeks to promote his kingdom the same way which Christ took to promote evangelical truth. But they are called powers, and signs, and lying wonders, i.e., lying powers, lying signs, and lying wonders, for it agreeth to all the words, though affixed only to one of them. But why lying wonders? Partly because the greatest number of them are mere fables, notorious impostures, and forgeries; partly because others are diabolical illusions, things beyond human, but not angelical power. If they are qaumata,—wonders, they are not shmeia, as Chrysostom distinguisheth, fit signs to signify the truth of the doctrines; partly from the end and scope, for that must also be regarded. God cautioneth his people, that if they gave them a sign and wonder, though it came to pass, if it were to draw them to other gods, it was to be rejected, Deut. xiii. 1-3; the spirits must be tried whether they be of God, 1 John iv. 1; 1 Cor. xii. 3, ‘No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed.’ If a wonder be wrought, or pretended to be wrought, to draw us off from Christ, or to promote things clearly forbidden by the word of God, it is a lying wonder, as all Antichrist’s are; for their end is to confirm the Pope’s dominion and false doctrine. The sum is this, then: that many things are pretended, not really done,—impostures and forgeries, not miracles; other things, done by diabolical illusions, as there may be apparitions, visions, specters, for Satan will bestir himself to keep up the credit of his ministers. Lastly, if we cannot otherwise disprove them, if they tend to false doctrine and worship, they are to be rejected, whatever extraordinary appearance there be in them.

[2.] The other expression concerning the means is general: ‘With all deceivableness of unrighteousness;’ which compriseth—

(1.) Their sophistical reasoning from antiquity, unity, infallibility, without coming to the intrinsic merits of the cause, but condemning the truth rather by prejudice.

(2.) Their practical acts and feats to beguile souls, by fawning or threatening, or preferment and persecutions; these are the arts by which Antichrist shall deceive men into unrighteousness, that is, to bring this corruption into the church, and acquire this power to himself.

Now I shall observe some points.

Doct. 1. The devil hath a great hand in setting up Antichrist’s kingdom, as he hath a great interest by it; his coming shall be by, or after the working of Satan. He is the raiser and supporter of that estate, and he is the great seducer, opposer, and adversary of the gospel. This will appear, if you consider, first, the properties of the devil how the devil is set forth in scripture, and secondly, by what ways he promoteth his own kingdom. 
First. 1. By ignorance; for the devils are called, Eph, vi. 12, ‘The rulers of the darkness of this world,’ and his kingdom is called ‘the kingdom of darkness,’ Col. i. 13. The prince-like authority and government which by God’s permission he exerciseth in the world, is over those who remain in a state of darkness and ignorance. Well, then, necessarily the devil must be a great friend to Popery, where ignorance not only reigneth, but is commended as the mother of devotion; it is into the ignorant part of the world and the church that the devil hath brought in errors in doctrine, formality and superstition in worship, and tyranny and usurpation in government.

2. The next thing ascribed to him is error; so it is said, John viii. 44, ‘He abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him: when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ He soon apostatized from God and his way, and ever since is an enemy of all truth and goodness; he turned from God, and is a deceiver of others. To our first parents he called the truth of God in question, and was the inventor and beginner of all errors that have since fallen out in the world. Well, then, where should his eminent power and residence be, but in that society of professed Christians where most errors and corruptions in doctrine and worship have been introduced, where they teach men to pray to and for the dead, to adore the bread and worship it with divine worship, and to worship images, and to pray to God in a language which they understand not, and maim the Lord’s Supper, and profess they can live perfectly without sin, and meritoriously and supererogate besides, and lay up a treasury of merits to redeem souls from purgatory? &c. There will be errors and mistakes in religion, while men are men; but where there is a willful opposing of evident truths, and an obstinate refusing of all healing means, and men will abide in their errors rather than acknowledge that they have erred, surely they are governed by the influence of his counsels who abode not in the truth, and seeketh what he can to hinder the prevalency of it in the world.

3. That which is ascribed to Satan is idolatry. This was his first and great endeavour in the world, to bring man to worship other gods rather than the true, or the true God by an idol. So he prevailed among the heathen; they thought their images did represent their gods, and that their gods dwelt in them, as our souls do in our bodies; therefore the Psalmist saith, ‘all the gods of the nations are idols’ or devils, Ps. xcvi. 5, and the devil was the great master and contriver of this idolatry; therefore it is said, Ps. cvi. 37, ‘They sacrificed their sons and daughters unto devils.’ The service done to idols or images of man’s devising is not done to God, as men pretend who worship them, but to devils, who are the devisers, suggesters, and enticers of men unto all sorts of unlawful worship, and are in effect served and obeyed by a false religion: Deut. xxxii. 17,’ They sacrificed unto devils, not unto God;’ 2 Cor. x. 20, ‘The things which the Gentiles sacrificed, they sacrificed unto devils, not unto God;’ 2 Chron. xi. 15, ‘And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made;’—they otherwise meant it: Jeroboam intended it to the true God Jehovah, but it was of the devil’s invention. Now if the devil can get such a party in the church as shall not only set up but be mad upon image-worship, who can more serve his turn among professing Christians than they who have consented to and continued in idolatrous worship? Surely then Satan is concerned to befriend their usurpations, and uphold their interests; for what will more conduce to the ruin of Christianity, or at least the decay of the power thereof?

4. That which is ascribed to Satan is bloody cruelty, or seeking the destruction of Christ’s most faithful servants; for he is called a ‘murderer from the beginning,’ John viii. 44; and Cain is said to be ‘of that wicked one, because he slew his brother; and wherefore slew he him? because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous,’ 1 John iii. 12. Enmity to the power of godliness came from Satan; and wherever it is encouraged, and notoriously practised, they are party of men governed and influenced by Satan. Now, where shall we find this character but in Antichrist’s confederacy? In the prophecy of him, Rev. xiii. 15, he caused as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed; and again, Rev. xvii. 5, ‘The woman, whose name was Mystery, was drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus;’ and it hath been eminently fulfilled in the blood shed in Germany, France, and England, and other nations; and all this to extinguish the light of, and suppress the Reformation. The world is no stranger to their bloody persecutions. Oh, how many seeming Christians hath Satan employed in these works of cruelty! When once he had seduced the church to so many errors, and corrupted the doctrine and worship of Christ, he presently maketh the erroneous party his instruments of as cruel and bloody persecutions as were ever commenced by infidels and Mahometans; witness their murders upon so many thousands of the Waldenses and Albigenses, whom they not only spoiled, but slaughtered with all manner of hellish cruelty. Some of their own bishops complained they could not find lime and stone to build prisons for them, nor defray the charges of their food. The world was even amazed at their unheard-of cruelties, smoking and burning thousands of men, women, and children in caves, others at stakes, and many ways butchering them; proclaiming croisados, and preaching up the merit of paradise to such bloody cut-throats as had a mind to root them out, driving multitudes to perish in snowy mountains. What desolations they wrought in Bohemia, what horrible massacres in France, what fires they kindled in England, and of late, what cruelties they exercised in Ireland, Piedmont! &c.Histories will tell you, and will tell all generations to come, what principles Rome is acted by, and how insatiable their thirst is for the blood of upright righteous men. And after all this, tell me, who is he whose coming is after the working of Satan? and whether we have cause to be enamoured of blood, and fires, and inquisitions?

5. That which is ascribed to Satan is, that he is ‘the God of this world,’ 2 Cor. iv. 4; and again, ‘the prince of this world,’ John xii. 31. He playeth the god here; the riches, honours, and wealth of this world are the great instruments of his kingdom; and the men of this world, whose portion is in this life, are the proper subjects of his kingdom. Of the saints, Christ is their head; but of the wicked, ungodly, ambitious world, surely Satan is the head. There are two cities (as Austin distinguisheth them): Jerusalem is the city of God, and Babylon, that incorporation which belongeth to Satan. Now, then, where shall we find him whose coming is after the working of Satan, but with him who, with the loss of Christianity, exalteth himself, and affecteth an ambitious tyranny and domineering over the Christian world, both princes, pastors, and people; and to uphold the tyranny, careth not what havoc he maketh of the church; and the whole frame of their religion is calculated for secular honour, worldly pomp, and greatness?

Secondly, By the visible appearances of the devil, and where he is most conversant, as in his own kingdom. Before Christ’s kingdom was set up, the devil did often visibly appear; but since, he playeth least in sight; when God openly manifested his presence by appearing to the fathers in sundry ways and manners, as he did before he spake to us by his Son, Heb. i. 1, 2, so did Satan; visions, apparitions, and oracles, were more frequent; and where Christ’s spiritual kingdom prevaileth, the world heareth less of these things; but where it is obstructed, more. Now, two instances in Popery:—(1.) In their chiefs: how many conjurers and necromancers (who expressly consulted and contracted with the devil), from the year 600 to the year 1500, the chair of pestilence yielded, the histories tell us. (2.) In other duties, the devil had formerly, in the times of Popery, and still where it is allowed, incomparably more power among men to appear to them, and haunt their houses, and vex them, than now he hath; all that I say is, haunting of houses and apparitions were much more common.

Uses. 1. A detestation of Popery; whatever is of the devil should be hated by us, for we are Christ’s soldiers, listed in his warfare in baptism: Rom. vi. 1.3, ‘Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God; but yield not your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin;’ Rom. xiii. 12, ‘Let us cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.’ Now, after our military oath, should we revolt to them that join with the devil and his angels, to make war against Michael and his angels?

2. To be more careful to be completely armed, ‘For we fight not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places,’ Eph. vi. 11, 12; that is, not only with the one, but the other. The abettors of Popery are Satan’s auxiliary forces, whom he stirreth up and employeth. Now, the devils are of great cunning and strength, and by God’s permission exercise great authority in the world, and the matter about which we contend with them is the honour of God and Christ, and our eternal salvation. Therefore, since the subtlety, power, and strength of the enemy are so great, we had need to be the better prepared, and put on the whole armour of God. That bodily and human power that befriendeth the kingdom of Satan is formidable, and that can only reach the outward man; but devils and damned spirits are a more terrible and dangerous party, who secretly blind our minds and weaken our courage, and strangely and imperceptibly, by our own carnal affections, promote our eternal ruin.

3. It showeth us the folly of reconciling Babel and Sion—Rome, as it is, and the Reformed Churches: ‘For what concord hath Christ with Belial?’ 2 Cor. vi. 15, 16; ‘What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?’ You can never reconcile God and Satan, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. I speak not of holy endeavours to adjust the controversies, and reclaim papists from their errors; that must be pursued, how fruitless soever the attempt be; but to hope for an agreement, as things now stand, is impossible.

4. Caution, that the devil prevail not against us; he once surprised Peter: Mat. xvi. 23, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan;’ he hath prevailed over them that usurp the highest chair in the Christian church. Let him not blind your eyes in whole or in part; though you be not drawn to antichristianism, do not live in a carnal, worldly course: ‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,’ 1 John iii. 8. Every wicked act is Satan’s invention; he stirreth it up, is served by it, delights in it, his kingdom goeth forward by it: he gaineth by every wicked action. Show plainly that you are not of his party, nor ever mean to be. Give way to fleshly and worldly lusts, and you are very prone to entertain the grossest temptations; and by subtle evasions will wriggle and distort yourselves out of your duty, as the papists do.

I come now to the second means.

Doct. That Antichrist doth uphold his kingdom by a false show of signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. To evidence this—

I. We must inquire what is a miracle? Miracles are works extraordinary, exceeding the ability of second causes, and done to confirm the truth. Where we may observe:—

1. The general nature of them.

2. Their author.

3. Their use.

1. Their general nature and kinds: extraordinary works. Some are either besides nature, when the course of nature is changed, as the standing still of the sun in Joshua’s days, the going back of the shadow on Ahaz’s dial in Hezekiah’s time; above nature, as the opening of the eyes of a man born blind by Christ, John ix.; against nature, when the operation of it is obstructed, as when the three children remained untouched in the fiery furnace, Dan. iii.: the fire had not lost its property to burn, for those that cast them in were singed and scorched.

2. The author: they are works exceeding the ability of second causes, and therefore are always done by the power of God, either immediately or mediately, using some creature in the performing of them, as the apostles of Christ. Well, then, the primary efficient cause is God, and the manner of working is extraordinary and unusual, exceeding the power and force of any creature.

3. The end and use is to confirm some truth. When they are done for curiosity, ostentation, and delight, they are but juggling tricks, and have not God for their author; much less when they are pretended to confirm a false doctrine or evil end. But real miracles do oblige by way of sign, declaring God’s interest in or owning of the truth and testimony to which they are annexed. For God, being the ruler of the world, good, merciful, just, it is not to be supposed he will co-operate to a lie or cheat, or leave such a stumbling-block before his creatures.

II. That the miracles wrought by Christ and his apostles did sufficiently prove that they were teachers sent from God, for Christ often appealeth to his works: John v. 36, ‘For the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me;’ and John x. 38, ‘Though ye believe not me,’ that is, his personal verbal testimony, ‘believe the works,’ that is, his miracles, ‘that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him.’ And when John sent his disciples to know whether he were the Messiah or no (not so much for his own confirmation as their satisfaction): Mat. xi. 4, ‘Go, show him what ye hear and see;’ and what was that? ‘The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up,’ &c. So Nicodemus was convinced by these: John iii. 2, ‘We know that thou art a teacher come from God; for none can do the works that thou dost, except God were with him.’

To improve these scriptures, let us consider:—

1. The necessity of this attestation.

2. The sufficiency of it.

1. The necessity there was that Christ’s person and office should be thus attested. He had the law of Moses to repeal, which was well known to be God’s own law; a new law to promulgate, which is the law of faith, or the gospel; and before this could be received, it was needful for him to manifest his authority. Besides, he came to redeem and recover sinners to God from the devil, world, and flesh. And that he might be more readily and cheerfully entertained, it was necessary to be evidenced that he came not only by God’s permission, but commission. ‘For him hath the Father sealed,’ John vi. 27, that is, authorised by miracles. Look, as in the first institution of the Aaronical priesthood, fire came from heaven to consume the sacrifices, whereas afterwards the high priests were consecrated and admitted by the ordinary rites, without any such attestation; so there was a greater necessity then, when God brought forth his Son into the world, and did first set up the gospel state, than there was afterwards, when the course and order of it was settled, and received in the world.

2. The sufficiency of it. The miracles then wrought were numerous, evident, and undeniable, being done publicly in the sight of all, and therefore the clearest attestation to his doctrine, that flesh and blood could expect; such a stream of holy, necessary miracles, that were for the most part not acts of pomp, but of succour and relief, and such as could be done by no power less than divine; not like those ludicrous miracles they talk of in Popery, which look like a cheat rather than a sign from heaven. These miracles of Christ could no way be impeached; for either it must be by some truth of God, which the new revelation did contradict, and delivered by more certain means than those miracles were—but no such revelation was there; all fairly accorded with those former revelations of his mind given to the ancient church; and Christ and his apostles preached no other things than what suited with Moses and the prophets, Acts xxvi. 22—or else by some greater works which should contradict the testimony of these wonders, as Moses did the magicians of Egypt, Exod. vii. 18; but no such thing could be alleged, or was pretended, therefore these were sufficient.

2. After the faith of Christ was sufficiently confirmed, miracles ceased; and it was fit they should cease, for God doth nothing unnecessarily. The Christian doctrine is the same that it was, and is to be the same till the end of the world; we have a sure and authentic record of it, which is the holy scriptures. The truth of Christ’s office and doctrine is fully proved, and cometh transmitted to us by the consent of many successions of ages, in whose experience God hath blessed it to the converting, comforting, and saving of many a soul. Look, as the Jews, every time the law was brought forth, were not to expect the thunderings and lightnings, and the voice of the terrible trumpet, with which it was given at first on Mount Sinai (one solemn confirmation served for after ages); they knew it was a law given by the ministry of angels, and so entertained it with veneration and respect; so Christianity needed to be once solemnly confirmed (after ages have the use of the first miracles); for the apostle compareth these two things, the giving of the law and the gospel: Heb. ii. 2-4, ‘For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward: how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him?’ we must be contented with God’s owning it now only in the way of his Spirit and providence.

3. That upon the ceasing of miracles, or their growing to be unnecessary, we have the more cause to suspect them who will revive this pretence of a power to work miracles; especially after we are cautioned against these delusions, as here in the text against the lying wonders of Antichrist, and elsewhere: Mat. xxiv. 24, ‘For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect;’ and again, Rev. xiii. 13, ‘He doth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven upon earth in the sight of men.’ But herein they triumph, when did they ever pretend to do so? Ans. This is not to be taken literally, for the whole chapter is mystical; none can be so ignorant that Antichrist shall arise as a beast out of the sea, with seven heads and ten horns; therefore, to fetch fire from heaven is only an allusion to Elias, that he should pretend to work miracles, as did Elias, who brought fire from heaven, 1 Kings xviii. 24; and yet, in the letter, it was fulfilled in Pope Hildebrand, or Gregory VII., as one Paulus, who wrote his life, testifieth, who mentioneth divers wonders of fire wrought by him, and sundry times resembles him to Elias. The meaning is, he shall make his followers as confident of their errors as if they saw fire come from heaven to confirm them. But to return. We being thus cautioned and forewarned, miracles thus performed are deceitful. But you will say, though miracles are not necessary to confirm the faith, yet they are necessary to convince the falsehood of heresies. Ans. Heresies being a corruption of the faith once received, are to be confuted by arguments, not miracles; by evidence of doctrine, not wonders: partly lest the people be deceived by magical impostures, for it requireth some skill to distinguish true miracles from those that are deceitful, and done by the power of the devil; partly because verum est index sui et obliqui—faith stated and confirmed showeth what is error; so that to confute error by miracles is nothing but to confirm truth by miracles.

4. Whosoever teach false doctrine, not consonant to the truth of scriptures, or that faith of Christ which was confirmed by miracles, their wonders are lying wonders, and, how plausible soever they seem, are lying wonders, and not to be believed. Surely miracles must needs be false and pretended which are brought to confirm a doctrine contrary to that which is already confirmed by miracles; for God is faithful, and cannot deny himself, and therefore he cannot be the author of miracles whereby things contrary to each other may be confirmed. If the faith once be established by other miracles, we are to believe the latter miracles to be a mere imposture; for Christ is not yea, and nay, but ‘yea, and Amen,’ 1 Cor. i. 19, 20. The apparition of an angel is a great miracle, but ‘if an angel preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,’ Gal. i. 8. It is a supposition of an impossible case, necessary to forewarn the people of God against the delusions of the devil, changing himself into an angel of light. Surely God will never contradict himself.

5. The miracles wrought by Antichrist and his adherents are mira, but not miracula, some wonderful things, but no true and proper miracles; else, as Austin saith, Figmenta mendacium hominum, portenta fallacium spirituum—either the fictions of lying men, or the illusions of deceiving spirits. Many times the matter of fact is not true; at other times the thing done is but some illusion of the senses by the devil, or something taken for a miracle which doth not exceed the power of nature. Either way it is an imposture; and, indeed, the miracles of the legends are so false, so ridiculous, so light and trivial, that they expose Christianity to contempt; or else, if there be anything in it, it giveth suspicions of magical illusion and converse with the devil which, among their votaries and recluses, is no unusual thing.

6. There are seven points in Popery which they seek to confirm by miracles; and which, being senseless in themselves, do most scandalize Protestants.

[1.] Pilgrimages. They show the shrine, and also the chamber of the house of the blessed Virgin; how the Virgin at Loretto was transported out of Galilee into Dalmatia, and by angels in the air, to the remote parts of Italy, and settled there after some removes. 
The story is ridiculous, and I am serious; yet this draweth an infinite company of pilgrims there, where new miracles are pretended to be wrought continually.

[2.] Prayers for the dead. Bellarmine allegeth, out of Gregory, the miraculous apparition of Paschal’s ghost, beseeching St Germanus to pray for him.

[3.] Purgatory. All their miracles are framed especially for the establishing of this point, which is of such gain to them; as that a dead man’s skull spake to Mercarias praying, ‘When thou dost offer prayer for the dead, then do we feel a little consolation.’

[4.] The invocation of saints. Alypius, a grammarian, being forsaken of his physicians, St Tiola appeared to him by night, demanding what he ailed, or what he would have? He answered (to show a touch of his art) in Achilles’s speech to his mother Thetis, in Homer, &c. ‘Thou knowest; why should I tell thee that knowest all?’ Whereupon she conveyed a round stone to him, with the touch of which he was presently healed.

[5.] The adoration of images, but especially of the cross, crucifix, and image of Christ. Malvenda saith, that at Meliapore, in the East Indies, where St Thomas was killed by those barbarous people, digging, to lay a foundation, they found a square stone, in it a bloody cross, and an inscription implying the saint was slain in the very act of adoring and kissing the cross; hereupon on went the building, and the chapel being finished, in the beginning of the gospel, in sight of the whole multitude, the cross did sweat abundantly; the sweat wiped off, drops of blood appeared in the linen with which they wiped it, till at length it returned to its own colour.

[6.] The adoration of the host is made good by such a number of miracles as fill whole volumes. Bellarmine himself telleth us of a hungry mare, kept three days without meat, yet when provender was poured to her in the presence of the host, she, forgetting her meat, with bowed head and bended knees adored the sacrament.

[7.] The primacy of the Pope hath been the beginning and is the end of all popish legends A bishop, being excommunicated by Pope Hildebrand, and inveighing against his pride, was smitten with a thunderclap. Baronius relates, that while Pope Eugenius the Third was celebrating the mass, a beam of the sun shone upon his head, in which were seen two doves, ascending and descending, which an Eastern legate seeing, submitted instantly to the primacy.

Use. Another note of Antichrist: these impostures are not only countenanced and encouraged in that church, but made a mark of it. The power of miracles: When Antichrist first appeared, ridiculous miracles of all sorts began to be cried up and established; yea, and to this day, these are pleaded, challenging us for the want of them. What they cannot prove by the oracles of God, they endeavour to prove by miracles of Satan.

Sermon Eight-2 Thess. 2:10.

James Dodson


With all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.—2 THES. II. 10. 

WE have described unto you the head of the antichristian state; we come now to the subjects, especially the zealous abettors and promoters of this kingdom. They are described:—(1.), By the means how they are drawn into this apostasy and defection, en pash apath thV adikiaV. (2.) By their doom or misery; they are in a state of perdition: in them that perish. (3.) By their sin, which is the cause and reason of this doom: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

1. The means: ‘With all deceivableness of unrighteousness.’ That Antichrist shall be a deceiver, and that he deceiveth by lying miracles, we have seen already, and is foretold: Rev. xiii. 14, ‘And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast,’ &c.; but the deceived are not altogether guiltless, for the fraud would soon be discovered by a holy and pure soul. His great engine is either the baits of lust and sin, which work on none but those that have pleasure in unrighteousness, ver. 12: the generality of wicked and carnal Christians are easily drawn from God’s pure worship, and true godliness; either by worldly means, as by the offers of preferment, riches, dignities, or else terrors of the flesh. Now, none catch at these worldly baits but whose eyes the god of this world hath blinded, 2 Cor. iv. 4.

2. Their misery: they are said to be ‘those that perish.’ That beareth three senses:—(1.) That they are worthy to perish, because they do not use care and diligence to understand their duty, being blinded by their worldly affections. That is the mildest sense we can put upon it; they deserve to perish. No man perisheth but for his own fault: Hosea xiii. 9, ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.’ Now, they that will yield to the deceivableness of unrighteousness, justly perish; though there be deceit in the case, yet there is unrighteousness in the case also. Fraudulent dealing should not so cozen us, as apparent unrighteousness or unfaithfulness to Christ should warn us. (2.) That they are in an actual state of perdition, and, unless they come out of it, are undone for ever. The apostles, when they propounded Christian doctrine, at first did use this term to distinguish impenitent unbelievers from those that received the gospel: as 1 Cor. i. 18, ‘The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us that are saved the power of God;’ so 2 Cor. ii. 15, ‘We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that perish, and in them that are saved.’ So he distinguisheth them that receive the faith, and them that receive it not; penitent believers are those that are saved, but impenitent unbelievers are those that perish, that is, are for the present, during their infidelity and impenitency, in an actual state of perdition; so 2 Cor. iv. 3, ‘If our gospel be hid, it is hid to those that are lost;’ that is, who are for the present in a lost condition. We know not God’s secret decrees, but those that refuse and oppose the only remedy, to all appearance, are lost men. Now, this he applieth to those that yield to Antichrist, showing them that though they are Christians, yet they have no more benefit by the gospel than infidels; they receive not the truth—these revolt from the owning of it upon carnal reasons: and therefore it is foretold, Rev. xiv. 9, 10, ‘If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and the presence of the Lamb;’ that is, all those that give up themselves as servants and soldiers to the antichristian estate, and obstinately adhere to and promote that profession, they shall taste of the Mediator’s vengeance, which will be very sore and severe: Luke xix. 27, ‘These mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them forth, and slay them before me.’ Popery is the highway to damnation. (3.) It beareth this sense, that they are fore-appointed to perish who are left to these delusions; they are such as God hath passed by, and not chosen to life. This is to be considered also; for damnable errors take not effect on God’s elect: Mat. xxiv. 24, ‘If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.’ The elect cannot altogether be seduced and drawn away from Christ, for God taketh them into his protection, and guardeth them against the delusions of false prophets, that, if they be for a time, they shall not always be deceived. So it is said, Rev. ix. 4, ‘The locusts shall hurt none of those that had the seal of God in their foreheads.’ The delusions of Antichrist have only their full effect on those who are not elected and sealed, upon the hypocritical professors that live in the visible church. So it is said again, Rev. xiii. 8, ‘All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life;’ and again, Rev. xvii. 8, ‘And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.’ The elect are still excepted, which is much for the comfort of the godly, who belong to God’s election, that he shall not prevail over them totally, finally. God hath chosen you to life.

3. The reason of this doom: ‘Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.’ By the truth is meant the gospel, the chief truth revealed in God’s word, and the only means of salvation: Eph. i. 13, ‘In whom also ye trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.’ This is the truth most profitable to lost sinners; receiving is put for entertaining, or believing the word; as Acts viii. 14, ‘When they heard that Samaria had received the word of God;’ and Acts xi. 1, ‘That the Gentiles had received the word,’ and elsewhere. This reception must be with love: Acts ii. 41, ‘As many as received the word gladly;’ and Acts xvii. 11, ‘They received the word with readiness of mind.’ And this affection must produce its effect, so as to convert them unto God. Now, this is denied of them who are seduced by Antichrist, that they ever had any true love to the truth, or minded it in order to their salvation. Now, the business is, whether the clause concerned only the Jews, or can be applied to Christians? The Jews clearly received not the love of the truth, but did refuse Christ and his salvation. And herein the papists glory of an advantage of turning off this prophecy from themselves. But the apostle speaketh not of rejecting the truth, but of not receiving the love of the truth, which is not proper to the Jews but to false Christians. The Jews’ company rejected Christ, and Antichrist was not sent to them for a punishment, but wrath came upon them to the uttermost, to the excision and cutting off their nation. But here is rendered the reason not of other judgments, but why men are captives to Antichrist. Therefore it is not so to be confined.

Doct. 1. The subjects of Antichrist’s power and seduction are those that perish.

2. The great reason why God sent this judgment on the Christian world, is because they received not the love of the truth.

Doct. 1. That the subjects of Antichrist’s power and seduction are those that perish.

It is a dreadful argument we are upon, yet necessary to be known for our caution, however to be handled warily. (1.) It is certainly more meet for us to have a regard of our own estate, than curiously to inquire what becometh of others. The apostle waiveth judging them that are without, 1 Cor. v. 12. I know he meaneth it of the censures of the church, which are not exercised upon infidels, but Christians; but so far we may apply it to this case, that we should not rashly judge of the eternal state of other persons, but rather of things wherein ourselves are concerned. If the inquiry were only matter of curiosity, surely Christ’s rebuke would silence it, ‘What is that to thee?’ John xxi. 22; for Christ is ill pleased with curiosity about the state of other men; but it is fit we should know our own duty and danger, and to that end it must be discussed. (2.) That there is a great difficulty of the salvation of papists so living and dying, if not an utter impossibility. Partly because, though it should be supposed that they retain the foundation, yet they build such hay and stubble upon it, so many errors in doctrine, corruptions in worship, and tyranny in government, that if a man could be saved, he is saved but as by fire, 1 Cor. iii. 13; and no man that hath a care of his soul will either embrace Popery or continue in it. Where the way is plainest there are difficulties enough, and the righteous are scarcely saved; and, therefore, in a questionable way, none should venture. Worshipping of angels and saints departed, and images, are no light thing. Nor will a serious Christian choose that way where the doctrines of the gospel are so exceedingly corrupted, and there is such a manifest invasion of the authority of Christ, by challenging a universal headship over his church without his leave, and this maintained by errors and persecutions. (3.) We must distinguish of those that lived under Popery, rather as captives under this tyranny, than voluntary subjects of this kingdom of Antichrist; as many holy men did in former times, groaning and mourning under the abominations, rather than countenancing and promoting them. To these God speaketh when he saith, Rev. xviii. 4, ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’ They were his people while they were there. These were as those ‘seven thousand in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal,’ Rom. xi. 4. (4.) There is a difference to be put between those that err in the simplicity of their hearts, knowing no better, and those that withstand the light upon carnal reasons, and will not retract their errors, though convinced of the degeneration of Christianity; for simple ignorance is not so damning as obstinate error: Luke xii. 48, ‘But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes,’ &c.; and 1 Tim. i. 13, ‘But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.’ The scriptures many times condemn a way as a way of ruin, but all in that way are not damned; as John iv. 22, ‘Salvation is of the Jews.’ There it is eminently dispensed, and yet therefore it followeth not that all the Samaritans were damned. Some among them, though tainted with the errors of their country, might have such knowledge of the law of God, and love to him, as might be effectual to salvation. (5.) We must distinguish between papists so living and so dying; many, by God’s grace, may have repentance conferred upon them at death; and though they lived papists, might die as reformed Christians, seeking salvation by Christ alone, in the way of true faith and repentance, and so the Lord may manifest his compassion to them, pardoning the errors of their lives. (6.) We must distinguish times. God might dispense with many in the times of universal darkness and captivity, more than he doth afterwards, when the light of the gospel breaketh forth, and his trumpet is sounded to call them forth. Whosoever shall compare John Fierus and John Calvin will find they were assisted by the same Holy Spirit of God, though the one lived and died a papist, and the other was an eminent instrument in reforming the church of God; but an ignorant fear of separation from the catholic church caused many to do as they did; but much more doth it hold good in the times before. Our fathers, if alive, would not have condemned us, nor should we condemn them, being dead, before they had these advantages which we now enjoy. Illi si reviviscerent, &c., saith Austin in a like case. (7.) We must distinguish between Popish errors: some are more capital, as adoration of images, invocation of saints, justification by the merit of works, inhibition of the scriptures, &c.; others not so deadly, as when too much reverence is given to ecclesiastical orders and constitutions, penance, auricular confession, fasting, &c. Now though the case of a real papist, who is complete in this mystery of iniquity, and refuseth, hateth, persecuteth the truth offered, be desperate, yet the Lord may in tender mercy accept of other devout souls who yet live in that way, if they hold the head and the foundation.

Use 1. Let us not think Popery a light thing, which the Lord so peremptorily threateneth. Surely it is no little mercy that we are freed from it. Therefore we should be thankful for the light we have, and improve it well while we have it, and hold it fast. What hope soever we may have of men living in former times, and foreign countries, where they know no better, but after such express warnings, what hope can we have of English papists, considering the time, when Rome is not grown better but worse, and what was common opinion is now made an article of faith, and when the truth is taught and so clearly manifested; so that for any, by their own voluntary choice, to run into Popery, is a plain defection from Christ to Antichrist, and wilfully to drink that poison which will be the bane and ruin of their souls I

Doct 2. The great reason why God sent this judgment upon the Christian world, is to punish those that received not the love of the truth.

Here I shall inquire—(1.) How many ways men may be said not to receive the love of the truth. (2.) How just their punishment is for such a sin.

[1.] In stating this sin—(1.) It is supposed that the truth and doctrine of Christ is made known to a people; yea, cometh among them with great evidence, conviction, and authority. For it is not the want of means, but want of love, that it is charged on them; and the plenty of means aggravateth their fault, and maketh their condemnation the more just: John iii. 19, ‘This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness more than light.’ The truth was not for their turns, but was contrary to their lusts, and passions, and prejudices; and these they preferred before the light of the gospel shining to them.

(2.) That as in evidence of doctrine was not the cause of not receiving the truth, so not bare weakness of understanding. No; it is not weakness, but wilfulness which is here intimated; not a defect of their minds, but their hearts: John viii. 45, ‘Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.’ It was not weakness but prejudice hindered their believing. They despised the grace of God; yea, hated it for their lust’s sake. Their lusts lie more in opposition to the truth than speculative doubts and errors: Luke xvi. 14, ‘And the pharisees, who were covetous, when they heard all these things, derided him;’ the words are, ‘blew their noses at him.’ The sensual, carnal, and ungodly world scorneth heavenly doctrine, and pure Christianity is distasted by false Christians. Err in mind, err in heart.

(3.) It is not enough to receive the truth in the light of it, but we must also receive it in the love of it, or it will do us no good. To make the truth operative:— (1.) Knowledge is necessary, and also faith, and then love. Knowledge, for ‘without knowledge the heart is not good,’ Prov. xix. 2. Nothing can come to the heart but by the mind; the will is orexiV meta logou—a choice or desire, guided by reason, and the gospel doth not work as a charm, whether it be or be not understood. No; the purport or drift of it must be known, or how can it have any effect upon us? Next to knowledge, to make it work, there must be faith. When we apprehend a thing, we must judge of it, whether it be true or false; how else can it make any challenge, or lay claim to our respect? 1 Thes. ii. 13, ‘Ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which worketh effectually in you, as it doth in all them that believe.’ Faith doth enliven our actions about religion; to hear of God, and Christ, and heaven, doth not stir us unless we believe these things. Well, next to faith there must be love, for apprehension and dijudication are acts of the understanding only, but love belongeth to the will, and we must believe with all the heart, Acts viii. 37. There may be knowledge without faith, as an heathen may understand the Christian religion, though he believe it not, profess it not. And there may be faith without love, for there is a ‘dead faith,’ James ii. 20, which rests in cold opinions, without any affection to the truth believed. Love pierceth deeper into the truth, and maketh it pierce deeper into us. As a red-hot iron, though never so blunt, will run farther into an inch board than a cold tool, though never so sharp. And love maketh it more operative; there is notitia per visum, et notitia per gustum—a knowledge by sight, and a knowledge by taste. A man may guess at the goodness of wine by the colour, but more by the taste; that is a more refreshing apprehension; and Augustine prayeth, Fac me, Domine, gustare per amorem qued gusto per cognitionem—Lord, make me taste that by love which I taste by knowledge. Surely we are never sound in Christianity till all the light that we receive be turned into love. These great things are revealed and represented to our faith, not to please our minds by knowing them, but to quicken our love. Faith alone is but as sight, and faith with love is as taste. Now, it is more easy to dispute a man out of his belief that only seeth, than it is him that tasteth, and knoweth the grace of God in truth. This is the true reason of the stedfastness of weak and unlearned Christians; though they have not such distinct conceptions and reasonings as many learned men have, yet their faith is turned into love, and a man is better held by the heart than by the head. And though they cannot dispute for Christ (as one of the martyrs said), they can die for Christ. But alas! many receive the truth in the light thereof, but few receive it in the love of it, and so lie open to deceit.

(4.) This love must not be a slight affection, for that will soon vanish; but we must be rooted and well grounded, and have a good strength. The stony ground had some love to the word: Mat. xiii. 20, 21, ‘But he that receiveth the seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: yet he hath not root in himself, but dureth but a while; for when tribulation or persecution riseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.’ So also of the thorny ground: ‘He heareth the word, and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful,’ ver. 22. Now what are the defects of this love? (1.) It is not radicated—a pang of love or flash of zeal; whereas we should be ‘rooted and grounded in love,’ Eph. iii. 17. Hypocrites had a taste: Heb. vi. 4, 5, ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.’ Tasted, but did but taste; did escape miasmata kosmou, 2 Peter ii. 20; yet, not having a good conscience, may make shipwreck of faith, 1 Tim. i. 19. (2.) It is partial. The gospel offereth great privileges, and it is also a pure, holy rule of obedience, Acts ii. 41. The word of God is made up of precepts and promises. God offereth in the covenant excellent benefits, upon gracious terms and conditions: there must be a consent to the terms, as well as an acceptation of the privileges. The confidence of the privileges serveth to wean us from the false happiness, therefore that must be kept up: Heb. iii. 6, ‘But Christ, as a son over his own house, whose are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.’ And the consent to the terms bindeth our duty upon us, Isa. lvi. 4. Now as willingly as we yielded at first, we must keep up the same fervour still: Deut. v. 29, ‘Oh, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always; that it might be well with them and with their children for ever.’ But whole, pure Christianity is not loved by false Christians; therefore, when religion crosseth their interests and the bent of their lusts, they seek to bring religion to their hearts, not their hearts to religion. (3.) It is not strong, and in such a prevalent degree as to control other affections; it is but a passion, a pleasure, and a delight they take on for a time, not the effect of solid judgment and resolution—a joy easily controlled and overcome with other delights; therefore Christ requireth a denial of all things, for a close adherence to him and his doctrine, and hath told us, Mat. x. 37, ‘He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me,’ and Luke xiv. 26, ‘cannot be my disciple.’ This is a love to which all other loves must give way and be subordinate. Many love the truth a little, but love other things more, will be at no cost for it. Solomon giveth advice, Prov. xxiii. 23, ‘Buy the truth and sell it not.’ In lesser points we must do nothing against the truth, for though the matter contended for be never so small, yet sincerity is a great point; but in the greater truths we should purchase the knowledge of them at any rate, and be faithful to Christ whatever it costs us. (4.) This slight love may arise from worldly respects. Now in the text it is said, ‘They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.’ It should arise upon eternal reasons and considerations of the other world, which only produce abiding affections: Heb. x. 39, ‘We are not of them that draw back to perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.’ In closing with Christianity, that must be fixed as our scope, not to spare the flesh, but to save the soul, and to save the soul with the loss of other things; and that will make us true to Christ. But there are many foreign reasons for which men may show some love to religion. As, first, policy; as Jehu took up Jehonadab into the chariot with him, 2 Kings x. 15—there is his compliment to him. Jehonadab was a good man, and this honoured him before the people, to see Jehu and Jehonadab so well acquainted. Sometimes respect to others upon whom we depend. Many seem to be good because they dare not displease others that have authority over them, or an interest in them; as Joash was religious all the days of Jehoiada, for he stood in awe of him, 2 Chron. xxiv. 2. Now such sorry religion dependeth on foreign accidents, the life of others or presence of others, and therefore it cannot be durable; whereas, in presence or absence, we should ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling,’ Phil. ii. 12; otherwise men only keep within compass for a while, but they have the root of sin within them still. Or it may be novelty, as our Lord telleth the Jews, ‘John was a burning and shining light, and ye were willing to rejoice in his light for a season.’ John was an eminent man for pureness of doctrine and vigour of zeal, and the more corrupt sort of Jews, pharisees as well as others, admired him for a while, but they soon grew weary of him—it was a fit of zeal for the present. Lastly, This love may be to the excellency of gifts bestowed upon some minister or instrument whom God raiseth up, or some countenance of great men given to their ministry may stir up some love and attendance on their ministry; and some respect is given for their sakes when men have no sound grace in their hearts. There is a receiving of the word as the word of man, and a receiving of the word as the word of God, as the apostle intimateth, 1 Thes. ii. 13. The receiving of the word as the word of man, so it worketh only a human passion, a delight in the gifts of the ministry used: Ezek. xxxiii. 32, ‘Thou art to them as a lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice.’ Then there is a receiving it as the word of God, and then we receive it with much assurance and joy in the Holy Ghost: I Thes. i. 5, ‘Our gospel came to you, not in word, but in power, and much assurance, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ Now if we do not receive the truth upon God’s recommendation and confirmation, we do not love truth as truth; our contest is not who hath most wit and parts, but most grace. (5.) They do not receive the love of the truth, when it doth not produce its solid effects, which is a change of heart and life, and they are not brought by the gospel to a sincere repentance and conversion to God, or receive the truth so as to live by it; but whilst they have the names of Christians, have the lives and hearts of atheists and infidels. These were those that debauched Christianity, and meritoriè and effective, by their provocations and negligence, brought this degeneracy into the church and judgment on the Christian world. Certainly a man hateth that religion which he doth profess when he will not live by it. This perfidiousness and breach of covenant was that which provoked God to permit these delusions in the church; the worldly, sensual, carnal Christians, that hate that life which their religion calleth for. The godly Christian and the carnal Christian have the same Bible, the same creed, the same baptism, yet they hate one another as if they were of different religions, and confound the distinction between the world and the church, because the world is in the church. And of sensual and godless men we must speak as heathens, as if they were without God: they abhor that religion which they do profess; that is, they abhor not the name, but they abhor those that are faithful to it and serious in it, who desire to know God in Christ, and desire to love him, and live to him. It was that Christ taxed in the pharisees; they honoured the dead saints and abhorred the living: Mat. xxiii. 29-31, ‘Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.’ Christ hath not worse enemies in the world than those that usurp his name, and pretend to be his officers, and yet eat and drink with the drunken, and beat their fellow-servants, Mat. xxiv. 49. Christ will disown such at the day of judgment: Mat. vii. 22, 23, ‘Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’ And such do most dishonour him in the world. A righteous, sober, godly life is the best evidence of our love to the truth.

[2.] How just this punishment is:—(1.) Because God hath ever held this course on the pagan world, who kept not the natural knowledge of God: ‘He gave them up to vile affections,’ Rom. i. 28. The Jews who rejected Christ: John v. 43, ‘I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: another will come in his own name, and him will ye receive.’ When Christ cometh merely for our benefit, the unthankful world will not make him welcome, but they will take worse in his room. So towards Christians. At first men would not receive the gospel while it was pure and in its simplicity, as taught by Christ and his apostles, and sealed by the blood of the martyrs, till it was backed by a worldly interest, and corrupted into a worldly design; and then they had it and all manner of superstitions together, and with these strong delusions there came just damnation. So still the pure gospel is refused, and God sendeth popish seducers as a just judgment; men only prize the light as it may serve their turn. (2.) The neglect and contempt of the truth is so heinous a sin that it deserveth the greatest punishment: Heb. ii. 3, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?’ Now it is revenged by these errors as a just judgment on the perverseness and unthankfulness of the world. The duties of the gospel being so unquestionable, shows their perverseness. The privileges of the gospel being so excellent, their unthankfulness is more intolerable.

Use 1 is to show us what cause we have to fear a return of Popery. Alas! where is this love of the truth? (1.) Some are gospel-glutted, loathe manna: a full-fed people must expect a famine, Amos viii. 2. In differences between God and Baal, Christ and Antichrist, few are valiant for the truth: Jer. ix. 3, ‘And they bend their tongue like their bow for lies, but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord.’ Contend earnestly: Jude 3, ‘It was needful for me to write unto you, and to exhort you, that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’ Again (2.) There are many sensualists, unclean and carnal gospellers; to these God oweth a judgment. Usually the gospel is removed and given to a nation that will bring forth the fruits thereof. They that use the truth only or principally for their own turns, hate to be reformed; God will reckon with them: Ps. 1. 16, 17, ‘But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes? or that thou shouldst take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee?’

Use 2 shows you indeed that you love the gospel. Carentia remedii is a grievous misery, or else Christ had not come as a great blessing. Neglectus remedii is a grievous sin, to be lazy in a matter of such moment: those that never set their hearts to obey the truth. Crassa negligentia dolus est: There should be constant purpose, endeavour, striving, and not cease striving, till we in some measure prevail. Rejectio or contemptio remedii, if we put away the word of God from us: Acts xiii. 46, ‘Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.’ God will be gone, if not from the land, from thy soul. This is the most heinous iniquity of all: Heb. x. 28, 29, ‘He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ So Esau’s despising his birthright: Heb. xii. 16, 17, ‘Lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright; for ye know how that afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.’