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short time caused Christianity to approximate to Paganism in its outward form, as much as it had already imbibed of the spirit of heathenism.
In the course of the next three centuries, that followed the age of Constantine, those changes took place which are almost unanimously considered by protestant commentators on the Apocalypse, as denoting the full establishment of the dominion of Antichrist. Certain it is that the simple forms of Christian worship were gradually supplanted by the gaudy rites of Paganism. Festivals were industriously multiplied, and those honors were paid to the saints, which had before been given to the Gods. In the place of the Goddess Vesta, divine honors were paid to the virgin Mary, who was designated by the title, Mother of God. Images of Christ, and paintings of imaginary saints, supplied the place of marble statues; and this outward form of idolatry, though at first vehemently opposed by some, was at last triumphantly established in the western church.
It would not however be just to lay to the charge of the Latin or western church, the corruptions of this period, most of which were prevalent in the east, earlier than in the west; but it may with truth be affirmed of both, that the state of ignorance in which the people were purposely kept by the priesthood, and the examples of profligacy and worldly-mindedness set before them, contributed no less to promote the Papal usurpation in the one, than they did to favour the imposture of Mahomet in the other.
SEVENTH TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
A. D. 606 to 1500.-At the beginning of the seventh century, exactly coeval in their establishment, as they were destined to be also in their duration and downfall, were these two open manifestations of Antichristian dominion. For at the same time that the false prophet began to propagate his religion, and to found his empire with the sword, did the bishop of Rome obtain from the emperor Phocas, the acknowledgment of his supremacy, as head of the universal church. The object of both Papacy and Mahommedism was the same, or worldly power, but in outward form and appearance, they were widely different; the one a military despotism, openly avowing the employment of force, the other a spiritual tyranny, no less aspiring and cruel in reality, but gaining its ends under the garb of meekness and humility; as strikingly characterised in the prophecy, by a beast having two horns as a lamb, but speaking like a dragon;' and also pourtrayed as a harlot, drunk with the blood of the saints.
The subject of the prophetic history is the spiritual, and not the political state of the world; but it was necessary to indicate the place where, and to fix the time when, the power of Antichrist should be thus openly developed. Accordingly the seat of his dominion was distinctly marked as the Ro
man empire, by the symbol of a beast with seven heads and ten horns; the heads being expressly declared to be typical of its seven successive forms of government, and the horns to signify ten kingdoms, into which the empire, at the time of the prophecy entire and unbroken, was destined to be subsequently divided. While the time when this power should arise, was determined by this, amongst other circumstances, that it was to be subsequent to the division foretold in this remarkable prophecy. The predicted overthrow of the western empire took place at the close of the fifth century; but the barbarian nations who effected this subversion, unlike the Moslem conquerors of the east, instead of imposing their religion on the vanquished, in a short time embraced that of the people they had subdued.
If our astonishment be excited by the fulfilment of this prophecy, respecting the division of the empire into ten separate kingdoms; (and such is precisely the number fixed even by profane historians, as Procopius and Machiavelli); surely the prediction which follows is equally calculated to amaze us. It was next foretold that these ten kings should agree to give their power to another beast, whose future empire was to be different from any that had hitherto prevailed; this is designated by marks too striking to be mistaken, which clearly point out the Papal hierarchy. The distinguishing features of this spiritual tyranny, as displayed under the types of the two horned beast and the harlot of Babylon, are, its blasphemous assumption of titles, that belong
to Omnipotence alone; its pretence to infallibility, and miraculous powers; to the right of forgiving sins, both in this world and the next; in short, of dispensing eternal happiness or misery, thus arrogating the exclusive privilege of the Almighty; its claiming supremacy over all the princes of the earth; and persecuting, with relentless cruelty, all who dared to question these pretensions. Amongst other peculiarities intimated in the prophetic description, is the abominable sale of indulgencies, denounced as a traffic in men's souls.' In short the accurate delineation given in the prophecy, anticipates the task of the historian; presenting a picture, which was 'recognised in the very infancy of the Papal power, and became a salutary warning to thousands, who withdrew from the pale of the Romish church; while at a later period the same warning voice is allowed to have been chiefly instrumental in bringing about the reformation.
The accuracy of the picture thus presented by the prophetic historian, six centuries before the events took place, under the two symbols, of the harlot and the beast, requires no alteration, and scarcely leaves room for addition, except in the way of illustration or comment. Considering the ignorance and depravity of the clergy in these dark ages, few of whom could either read or write, and among whom little else was to be seen but spiritual ambition, insatiable avarice, pious fraud, intolerable pride, with many other vices, one cannot but wonder at the blind veneration paid to them by the
people; nor does there appear any other solution than the one given by Mosheim, and acquiesced in by Dr. Jortin, (V. 4. P. 441), namely, the habitual reverence for the druidical priesthood, that the Pagan converts brought with them into the church; which led them to transfer to the Roman Pontiff the superstitious awe with which they had been taught to regard their chief druid; a feeling cordially welcomed, and carefully cherished by the See of Rome.
Of the two orders who composed the clergy, the monks were the more zealous, and the more efficient, in furthering the views of the Pontiff. The belief in their superior sanctity, founded on their Pharisaical affectation of uncommon piety and devotion, along with their frequent intercourse with the people, gave them this influence over the credulous multitude; while the protection afforded them by the Pope, against the jealousy of the rival orders, inclined them to employ it in his service. The numbers of the monastic orders increased to such an extent, that in the sixth century we are told, whole armies might have been raised out of them, without any sensible diminution of that enormous body. The veneration for these orders, which was unbounded and universal, became also a source of immense wealth to the Romish See; for their prayers being esteemed most effectual in propitiating the Deity, were purchased by liberal donations; while fertile lands, and large patrimonies, were often bestowed by those who devoted their children to the monastic life.