skip to primary navigation skip to content
<1>

A
MODEST ENQUIRY
INTO
THE MYSTERY
OF
INIQUITY.

BOOK I.

CHAP. I.

1. That the Mystery of Iniquity or Antichristianism implies the secret undermining of the Ends of Christianity by such a Power as pretends to be Christian. 2. The inconvenience of describing Antichrist from Circumstantial characters, and leaving out the Essential parts of the Description. 3. The two general Principles of which Antichristianism does consist. 4. The right Artifice of drawing the true Idea of Antichristianism, with a distribution of the Draught into the two most general strokes thereof.

1. THat the Iniquity of that Mystery we are about to speak of is not open Prophaneness or plainly confessed Wickedness, is evident from the very Title; in that it is said to be Mysterious, covering it self under some shadow or show of Equity or Godliness. Which kind of Mystery, though it may in some way or measure work in, or undermine any Religion at large that was instituted for the real Worship of God and for a Fence against Atheism and Prophaneness; yet it cannot be doubted but that by that Mystery of Iniquity, that Christians so often have in their mouths, is meant such a Mystery as is directed to the defeating the Purpose, and enervating the Power and Efficacy, and to the hiddenly-undermining the very Foundations of that Religion which is called Christian. For which reason they also call this Mystery of Iniquity Antichristianism, and style the chief Authour and underpropper thereof (be it <2> one single person or body of men) by the name of Antichrist: whether you understand thereby one that opposes Christ, or one that puts himself in the place of Christ, pretending to act for, but indeed acting against the true Interest of his Kingdom.

2. The noise of these words and phrases hath filled Christendom with their Echo for some Ages together. But I do not remember that the hottest pursuers after this strange Beast, no not they that had thought they had found him and taken him, have left so perfect and essential a Description of his nature prescinded from external circumstances, that a man may have a due and full apprehension wherein this Mystery of Antichristianity does really consist; and therefore have left the world liable to think those things essential to this Mystery which are not, and those not to appertain to it that do: As if in the description of a Bear they should be carefull not to omit his collar and ring at his nose, and yet leave out some integral parts of the body.

But such imperfect and indistinct representations as these tend to nothing but the raising mens passions against things that are in themselves innocent, and the conniving at those that are truly vicious and hurtfull. As if, for example, a man should declare in gross the Turk Antichrist, or the Pope; not expressing what it was that did really constitute them such: The effect thereof would only be this, namely, without any further examination to congratulate our selves that we are neither Turks nor Papists, (though we may really have no small measure of the Mystery of Iniquity in us for all that) and to take offence at the sight of a Turbant, a Crosier or a Miter (or other things that have as little, or less hurt, if it be possible, then these) because they are found amongst the Turks or Papists. And yet methinks the most furious Reformers should not have so little wit in their wrath, as to think the Reformation incomplete, till with Mattocks and Spades they have dug down the seven Hills at Rome, and flung the earth with shovels towards the four winds of Heaven; for all that seems the most obvious circumstantial Characteristick of the Whore of Babylon (be that Whore who she will) that is to be found in the Scripture.

3. We see it therefore very requisite, that we may not quarrel with shadows, to seek out and propose such a Delineation of Antichristianism, as may let goe innocuous circumstances, and take in what is truely and essentially Antichristian; nor make any thing a part of the Mystery of Iniquity that has not any iniquity in it; as we cannot well any confessed Wickedness, but as it is the effect of some pretended Holiness. In these two things therefore in general does this Mystery of Iniquity or Antichristianism consist. First, In the instituting of such Laws, or autoritatively teaching such Doctrines, and promoting or commanding such Practices, as naturally defeat and frustrate the true scope and purpose of the Gospel of Christ. And then Secondly, In the doing this with such artifice and so fair pretences, that they bear the world in hand in the mean time that they are doing the work of God, and promoting the Interest of the Kingdom of his Son Jesus.

This, I say, in general is the very Nature and Essence of Antichristianism: And where this poison is imbibed into publick Authority; that either one <3> Person, or Body politick, or jointly both of them together, if they be the first beginners or continuers of this Mystery of Iniquity, in a due latitude thereof, are assuredly that Antichrist there is such a noise of in the Christian world. And for others that have it not in such a measure, yet so far forth as they are Teachers, Abetters, or Obtruders of such Practices or Principles upon pretence of Religion, as naturally frustrate the End of the coming of Christ, they are so far also Antichristian.

4. Wherefore he that has duly considered, and satisfied himself, what is the great Scope of the Gospel of Christ, and finds but out (which he cannot easily miss) what things are contrary thereto; if he but colour them over with plausible pretences of promoting the Interest of Christ, he has ipso facto drawn the true Image or Idea of Antichrist, whereby he may surely know him whereever he is. Now that great Scope and those main concernments that the Gospel of Christ aims at are plainly these; namely, The extirpation of Idolatry out of the world, as also A releasement of God's people from the improfitable burthen of Judaical Ceremonies, (which we may call the Privative End of the Gospel:) and The exaltation of the Divine life; whose Root is Faith in God and of a world to come; and the Branches, Humility, Charity, and Purity; as I have more at large discoursed in my Explanation of the Mystery of Godliness. And in this is comprized the Positive End of Christ's coming into this world.

CHAP. II.

1. The rooting out of Idolatry by the Messias prophesied of by Jeremy, That all the Gods that made not Heaven and Earth, should perish. 2. An explication of that Prophecy, and an assertion of our Saviour's right of being worshipped for ever as the Eternal Logos who made Heaven and Earth. 3. Proofs out of the Psalms, that the Messias was to root out Idolatry. 4. Several places in the New Testament witnessing against Idolatry and Image-worship. 5. That the Spirituality of Christian Religion indigitated by our Saviour does abundantly evidence the unlawfulness of Image-worship or of what Idolatry else soever.

1. THat God intended the rooting out of Idolatry by sending Christ into the World; appears as well by those Prophecies of the Old Testament, that foretel that all Idolatry shall be rooted out (for by whom should it be done but by the Messias, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed:) as by several passages in the New.

Of the first sort is that in Jeremie chap. 10. where the Prophet puts this prophecy in the mouths of the Jews that were carried captive into Babylon: Thus shall ye say unto them, (saith he) The Gods that made not the Heavens and the Earth, they shall perish from the Earth and from under the Heavens. But the preceding context is so lively and magnificent, and so close to our purpose, that it ought not to have been omitted. At the seventh verse <4> therefore, Who would not fear thee, O King of Nations? for to thee doth it appertain: Forasmuch as among all the wise men of the Nations, and in all their Kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. But they are altogether brutish and foolish; the stock is a Doctrine of vanities. Silver spred into plates is brought from Tarshish, and Gold from Uphas, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the Founder; Blue and purple is their cloathing, they are all the work of cunning men. But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God and an everlasting King: At his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the Nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. And then follows this Prophetick denunciation against every undue object of Divine worship; Thus shall ye say unto them, The Gods that made not the Heavens and the Earth, they shall perish from the Earth and from under these Heavens.

2. Things are exceeding clear in this Prophecy, saving in that comparison of the King of Nations with the wise men of the Nations, betwixt whom there is that infinite disparity, that the collation seems hugely improper if the pure Deity be here conceived to be compared with any wise men whatsoever. Grotius therefore ingeniously hinteth, that it is meant of some of the wise men of the Nations that had been translated into the number of their Gods, as Taautes for example: which a little helps out one terme of the comparison, these wise men being supposed to have been advanced to Divine honours after their death, and to have been reckoned amongst the Gods.

But I must confess even that in the 86 Psalm, Among the Gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord, there is none that can doe as thou doest, has often puzzel'd me, that the Prophet should vouchsafe to compare the Gods of the Nations, which were but Deified Mortals, or at best but particular Angels, or Daemons in that higher sense, with the pure, infinite, and omnipotent Deity: which has made me often suspect that such passages as these are to be understood of the Messias, who was also to be incarnated and to become the true θεάνθροπος, and thereupon, after his sufferings, to be declared King of Nations and the Worship of the whole Earth; according as it follows in that Psalm,[1] All Nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorifie thy Name. And you know he was the Logos or Word which was in the beginning, without which nothing was made that was made. As the Authour to the Hebrews also witnesseth,[2] Thou, Lord, in the beginning layedst the Foundations of the Earth, and the Heavens are the work of thy hands. Which is spoke of the Messias, his time being there so plainly decyphered, as appears in the 22 verse, When the people are gathered together, and the Kingdoms to serve the Lord. Whence that is also plain, that Christ shall be ever the same, and that his years shall have no end;[3] and that this Prophetick denunciation, The Gods that made not Heaven and Earth, shall perish from the Earth and from under these Heavens, cannot reach him. But the worship of any thing else that is not the pure Deity, is to be cast away according to the meaning of that Prophecy.

3. That also in the 97 Psalm plainly shews that Idolatry is to goe down at the coming of Christ. Confounded be all they that serve graven Images, that boast themselves of Idols; worship him all ye Gods: which <5> the Author to the Hebrews does expresly interpret of Christ, whereby he proves his Divinity, and doth therewith disapprove of giving any Religious worship to any but that which is truly the Deity; as I have noted in its due place.

4. As for the places in the New Testament, they are more copious, and not less express. The first is that in the Acts,[4] where when the Priest of Jupiter would have sacrificed to Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, by reason of the great miracles he saw done; they rent their cloaths and ran in amongst the people, crying out and saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities, unto the living God which made Heaven and Earth and the Sea and all things that are therein. And what vanities[5] are those from which they must turn, but from the giving of Divine honour to mere Creatures? The same Apostle also at Athens, in his Speech he made to them on Mars-hill, reads them a very round lesson against Idolatry. Forasmuch then as we are the off-spring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto Gold or Silver or Stone graven by art and mans device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men every where to repent. Which exhortation certainly Paul made with the greatest earnestness that could be, it being said verse the 16. ὅτι παρωξύνετο τὸ πνεῦμα ἀυτοῦ ἐν ἀυτῶ, that his spirit was in a very sharp fit, in a paroxysm of zeal, when he saw the City of Athens so given to Idolatry.

Again in his first Epistle to the Corinthians,[6] he makes Idolatry the very Character of Gentilisme, which Christ came to reclaim the world from. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away to dumb Idols, even as ye were led. And elsewhere in the same Epistle[7] he exhorts them more copiously and vehemently: Wherefore my dearly-beloved flee from Idolatry. The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to the Dæmonia, and not to God. Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of the Dæmonia. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger then he? And this was only about the meat sacrificed to these Dæmons; what had it then been to bow to their Idols? He speaks also very smartly on this subject in his second Epistle to these Corinthians. What fellowship hath righteousness[8] with unrighteousness? what communion hath light with darkness? and what agreement hath the Temple of God with Idols? And in his Epistle to the Galatians,[9] he plainly reckons up Idolatry amongst the grossest works of the flesh, Murther, Sorcery, and Adultery. And therefore accordingly in the Apocalyps[10] Idolaters together with Murtherers and Sorcerers are threatned with the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, and are shut with obscene Dogs out of the holy City. And therefore assuredly S. John[11] [12] is in very good earnest in his dehortation from Idolatry in the close of his general Epistle. And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, through his Son Jesus Christ: This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep your selves from Idols. Amen. From these places, I think it is abundantly manifest That the divulging of the Gospel aimed at the taking away of Ido <6> latry (that sottish depravation of Religion) out of the World.

5. And we may be still the more assured of it by those words from our Saviour's own mouth;[13] The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth. Where Grotius, and I think very truly, interprets ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ προσκυνοῦν, sublatis ut ritibus, ita locorum discrimine. And surely the Christian worship being so pure as to abhor from the voluminousness of Judaizing ceremonies, and the affixing of the residence of God to a consecrated place, as in the Temple of the Jews; Imagery and Idolatry must be abhorred infinitely more, as infinitely more inconsistent therewith. And if God may not be worshipped with an Image, much less any thing that is not God either with an Image or without it.

CHAP. III.

1. What is meant by Grace and Truth coming by Christ. 2. Further Testimonies of Scripture to evince that Christ came to ease men of the Judaical burthen of Ceremonies. The meaning of χειρογραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν, and of δογματιζεσθου. 3. That the Death of Christ upon the Cross was the solution of the Ceremonial Law of Moses. 4. Further proofs to the same purpose.

1. BUT now That the grossness and carnality of the Judaical Ceremonies and the unprofitable burthen of them was to be done away by the coming of Christ, (which is the other point to be proved) is very apparent out of several places of Scripture.[14] For the Law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ: that is to say, The Law, both Moral and Ceremonial, was given by Moses: but even that Moral Law was but such an one as could not give life,[15] as the Apostle speaks; but the gracious assistance of the Spirit of God promised in the Gospel, that does give life and strength to walk according to the will of God. And then for the Ceremonial Law; both it, and indeed all things else happening to the Jews, were but Types and Shadows; but in Christ is the Truth. They were not what they made a show to be, and therefore in that sense may be said to be false: so as he that says that the Image or Picture of a Man or Horse is a Man or Horse indeed, pronounces false. And therefore our Saviour speaks true when he saith,[16] Moses gave you not that bread from Heaven, but my Father giveth you that true bread from Heaven. Whenas yet it is said of the Manna, Psalm 78.[17] He gave them bread from Heaven to eat. But it being but a shadow of the true bread from Heaven, which is Christ, it is said not to be the bread from Heaven. As in the Epistle to the Hebrews[18] the Law is said to have a shadow of good things to come: and Paul to the Colossians,[19] Let no man judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the <7> new Moon, or of the Sabbath; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is Christ's. So plain is it what is meant by Grace and Truth coming by Jesus Christ. For he is that Truth which was signified by the shadows of the Law; and by him is that Grace which was not afforded by the Law, namely the Quickning Spirit of God, the peculiar promise of the Gospel. Wherefore the Truth it self, the body of the Sun of Righteousness, being now risen with healing in his wings, it is time for obscure Shadows and dark Types to fly away.

2. And hence it is that S. Paul so stoutly exhorts the Galatians[20] not to be held in bondage any longer within these shady coverts. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out out {sic} the Bond-woman and her son: For the son of the Bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the Free-woman. So then, Brethren, we are not children of the Bond-woman, but of the Free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoak of bondage: that is to say, neither with Circumcision nor any other useless and burthensome ceremony.

And again upon the same subject he speaks very triumphantly in the above-mentioned Epistle to the Colossians, in the same Chapter,[21] from the 8 verse to the verse before recited. In which paragraph χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν the hand-writing of Ordinances seems most naturally to be understood of Ceremonial ordinances, that these were nailed to his Cross, and nulled by his death: but for that Law which is purely Moral and Eternal, and the observation whereof is the perfection of Humane nature, he came not to destroy it, but to rescue it, and perfect it by clearer glosses. Which interpretation agrees the best both with the matter in hand (which are Ceremonial ordinances, which the Apostle speaks of, Traditions of men, and Rudiments of the World;) and also with the signification of the word δογματίζεσθαι in verse 20. If you be then dead with Christ from the Rudiments of the world, τί ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ δογματίζεσθε; why as living in the world are ye subjected to ordinances, to the decrees and ceremonial impositions of men? As it follows immediately, Tast not, touch not, handle not; which he calls the Commandments and doctrines of men: and not unlike those he mentions in his first Epistle to Timothy,[22] Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats; which in one sense of the Text he seems to term the seducing doctrines of Devils, as suggested by them; over whom Christ is said to triumph here under the name of Principalities and Powers, by virtue of his Cross; and so treading them down, is supposed to trample upon their ordinances, those Doctrines of Devils, which they enviously and insultingly entangled poor mankind withall. And little better then such would the Judaical Ceremonies themselves be accounted, when having been once abrogated by God through Christ, they are again re-inforced by new imposers.

For that zeal that is inspired into men for the driving on superstitious ordinances and practices, contrary to the command of Christ and the honour of the Gospel, may be rationally conceived to come from Satan, the active enemy of the Church of Christ.

3. Like to this of the Colossians, is that of the Ephesians.[23] For he <8> is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh (that is, by his flesh crucified on the Cross, as before) the law of commandments contained in ordinances; which answers to Χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασι, the hand-writing of ordinances in the former. And by both these places it is evident That the Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross was the solution of all the Ceremonies of Moses Law, according as the Prophet Daniel[24] had predicted; and That the everlasting Righteousness should take place, a Religion that would instruct us to worship God in spirit and in truth; and therefore should stand for ever, there being none more perfect to succeed.

4. And according to this tenour of the Gospel S. Peter, as well as S. Paul,[25] is very earnest upon the point in that debate at Jerusalem, whether the converted Gentiles should be circumcised; where he concludes his speech in this manner: Now therefore, saith he, why tempt ye God, to put a yoak upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our Fathers nor we were able to bear? namely, ob ingentem illum numerum praeceptorum ritualium, as Grotius has noted and superadded. And S. Paul is so zealous for the casting out the Bond-woman and her child, that he tells the Galatians roundly,[26] Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. So industriously did the Apostles of Christ fling off from the Church that wearisome burthen of the Rites and Ordinances of the Mosaical Law.

And thus we are sufficiently assured of the Privative End of the Gospel, namely, That it was to eradicate Idolatry from amongst the Nations, and to null the Law of Moses in all the Ritual or Ceremonial ordinances thereof, as a troublesome and useless incumberment upon Christianity and the Churches of God.

CHAP. IV.

1. The Positive End of the Gospel summarily proposed. 2. The several grounds of honour due to Christ, and particularly of his Paternal Title. 3. Both God the Father and Christ the Authours of our Regeneration; and how the First Hypostasis being called Father does not exclude the Second from that Title in respect of his Church. 4. The other Titles of Christ plain of themselves. 5. The Divine life with its Root and Branches, the Second part of the scope of the Gospel. 6. That such a Mysterie as upon Religious pretences does really supplant all the grand Ends of the Gospel, whether Privative or Positive, is Mathematically manifest to be that notorious Mystery of Iniquity. 7. The method of pursuing the particulars of this Mystery more largely. 8. The Falsness, Fraud and Mischief of every member of Antichristianism to be enquired into. 9. The Authour's serious desire that the Truth of the Description may be perused without Prejudice, and acknowledged without Tergiversation by them that are convinced.

<9>

1. THE Positive Scope of the Gospel, as I said, and have elsewhere proved, is The exaltation of the Divine life: which is either by giving all due honour and obedience to Christ in whom this life did so eminently reside; or by promoting the increase thereof, both intensively and extensively in his members, that it may rise to a due height where it is, and get footing amongst those where it is not; that the whole Mass of Mankind, if it were possible, might be leavened, not with the leaven of Hypocrisie, but with the sincere doctrine and enlivening spirit of the Gospel of Christ.

2. That Honour and Homage we owe to the Person of Christ is to be considered chiefly in these five respects: As he is our King, As he is our Priest, As he is our Prophet, As he is God Blessed for ever, and As he is in a particular manner Πατὴρ τοῦ μέλλοντος ἀιῶντος, as[27] Esay describes him, that is to say, the Father of his Church. As it is written concerning the Logos or Eternal Word, That,[28] As many as received him, power is given unto them to become the sons of God: which are born, not of bloud, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God: According as our Saviour speaks to Nicodemus,[29] That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; but that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. It is therefore the Spirit of Christ whereby we are begotten into a new creature. If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

3. But this Spirit of Christ is also the Spirit of God the Father, and therefore our new creation, or Regeneration, is also attributed to him.[30] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works. And S. Peter in his first Epistle,[31] Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again, or regenerated us, &c. But after in the same chapter[32] he again brings the Eternal Word as a sharer in this action of Paternity; Being born not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, διὰ λογου ζῶντος θεοῦ καὶ μένοντος εἰς τὸν ἀιῶνα, per sermonem viventem Dei & in æternum permanentem: though it may be also rendred, per sermonem Dei viventis & in æternum permanentis; and thus may refer either to God the Father, or to the Eternal Logos: As I conceive that may also in S. John,[33] He that is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed (that is, the Spirit of Truth, which is from the Father and the Son) remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Wherefore as Christ is said to be Head of all Principalities and Powers, though God the Father be also rightly so styled; and Christ is likewise said to be the Head of the Church, though no man can deny but that God is so also; for he that is an Husband to his Church, is also ipso facto the Head of her: So Christ in like manner may rightly be termed the Father of his Church, although that be the ordinary appellation of the First Hypostasis of the holy Trinity. And therefore there being such a real respect of Paternity betwixt Christ and his Church laid in this so remarkable ground of Regeneration by his Spirit into a new Creature, I thought it both allowable and usefull to take notice thereof, and adde this <10> fifth Title to the rest, there being most hainous sins committable against Christ in this respect also.

4. That Christ is our King, Priest, Prophet, and our God, are Truths so generally acknowledged, and so exceeding plain, that I need produce no proof either of the things themselves, or of the fitness of the Phrase.

5. The other general branch of the Positive Scope of the Gospel is, The spreading and propagating, the exciting and nourishing the Divine Life in the members of Christ, to the best of their capacities. In which Divine Life is comprized Faith in God, and a Belief of a Reward of righteousness in the other World, as also those three excellent Evangelical Graces, Humility, Charity, and Purity. That these make up the grand Scope of the Gospel, I think any one will be sufficiently satisfied by what I have written in my Explanation of the Mystery of Godliness.

6. Now from hence it will follow with evidence and certitude plainly Mathematical, "That such a Mystery as in effect is a real counterplot and undermining as well of the Privative as Positive Scope of the Gospel of Christ, in the above-named particulars; that is to say, That Mystery that, in stead of ridding the world of Idols, pollutes the Church with multifarious Idolatry; instead of easing of the Church of the burthen of Judaical ceremonies, fills it with a number of superfluous Rites, either Judaical, Pagan, or pretendedly Christian; That Mystery that makes Christ a King without power and laws, a Prophet without prediction or instruction, that sets up corrivalls with him in Heaven and on Earth, for both his High-Priesthood and Divinity, and eludes or prevents the inchoation or growth of the New birth by mischievous devices and practices; That Mystery that naturally tends to the superinducing upon the world Atheism and Infidelity, by magisterially obtruding upon mens belief the acknowledgement of such things as are not only useless to be believed, but impossible to be; and lastly, That Mystery that is the Mother of Pride, the Nurse of Uncleanness, the School of barbarous Injustice and bloudy Cruelty: This Mystery, I say, that is so horrid, and Diabolical, and so Antipodal to both the Person and Spirit of Christ, and to all the Christian Graces, (provided there be but found a colour for these gross enormities, as if they tended to the honour of Christ and the good of his Church) must needs be that famed Mystery of Iniquity, and the very body of Antichristianism, with the distinct Limbs and Articulations thereof."

7. Whose Image I having exhibited to your sight in this contracted Draught, I shall now endeavour more fully and amply to set it before your eyes; pursuing the parts I have enumerated in a more particular manner, and in such a method as will carry along with it a reflexion upon the universal nature of the Mystery of Iniquity, as it is opposite in a general respect to the Mystery of Godliness: that is to say, As those more comprehensive members of the Mystery of Godliness were A venerable Obscurity, A communicable Intelligibleness, Demonstrable Truth, and desirable Usefulness; so I shall trace along as I goe in every one of the abovementioned Particulars of the Mystery of Iniquity these three general Depravations or Malignities; as namely, in opposition to the Truth in the <11> Mystery of Godliness, gross and palpable Falseness; in stead of Usefulness, intolerable Mischievousness; and in stead of that venerable Obscurity joyned with Intelligibleness, the unwholesome and abhorred fogs of a worse then Ægyptian darkness, wherein harbours nothing but deceitfull Sophistry and self-seeking Fraud.

8. In brief therefore the Falseness, the Fraud, and the Mischief, shall be the points of inquisition upon every particular member of this Mystery of Antichristianism: whose Idea when we have fully set out, and demonstrated to be such, we shall then proceed further to enquire Where it is actually to be found; and by virtue of the said Idea to clear our own Church, that is guiltless, from the unjust suspicions and aspersions of malicious or inconsiderate spirits, that either misrepresent or misapprehend things, and so pass unrightfull censures upon what is at least allowable, if not praise-worthy.

9. He that is the Searcher of hearts and the Enlightner of our eyes, so purge all our Hearts from partiality and Hypocrisie, and so clear our Understandings, that what shall be penned down with truth and sinceritie, may be perused without prejudice, may be discerned with facility, and be acknowledged by them that are inwardly convinced without any slights or tergiversations; to the glory of God's name, the peace of his Church, and the advancement of the Kingdom of his Son Jesus, Amen.

CHAP. V.

1. Instances of several specious pieces of Idolatry introducible into Christian Religion. 2. The overmuch streightening, or widening the Notion of Idolatry, taxed. 3. The usefulness of giving a true Notion thereof. 4, 5. That it is not restrained to the worshipping of Idols properly so called. 6. That any thing worshipped that is not God, becomes ipso facto an Idol; and of the Seventy's rendring אלילים and ἔιδωλα and χειροπόιητα as well as θεὸς, δαιμόνια and μεγιστᾶνες. 7. That they likewise render אלהים sometimes ἔιδωλα, as they do also Baalim, and עצבים; which further argues that more general sense of Idol. 8. That an Idol and לא־אל, i. e. Non-Deus, is all one in the estimate of God.

1. LET us begin then with the delineation of the first member of this hideous Mystery, opposite to the first branch of the Scope of the Gospel of Christ, which was The ridding of the world of the impure worship of Idolatry. I say therefore, if in stead of those manifold Idolatrous worships in Paganism there were introduced (upon pretence of the greater honour to God and Christ, and the better instruction of the people) the Religious worship of the Cross, as also the Image of God the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost; the devotional invocation of the blessed Virgin, or any other Saints, or Angels; the worshipping of their Pictures, or Images; and the doing Divine honours (accordingly as it was practised toward <12> the Roman Emperours) to a mere man upon account of his being the Vicar General of Christ and Oecumenical Head of his Church upon Earth; and lastly, the adoration of the consecrated Bread in the Eucharist upon the imagination that it is transsubstantiated into the very body of Christ: I say, where these things are brought into the Church as true Doctrine and laudable Practice, they will not fail to make up one Limb of Antichristianism, and that a principal one too.

For the Doctrine is not true nor the Practice allowable, but gross and palpable Idolatry, (one of the most abhorred sins the Scripture takes notice of;) as you shall easily understand after I have with all possible caution searcht out the true Notion and definitive nature thereof.

2. This term Idolatry, though nothing is more frequent in the mouths and writings of men, yet there is nothing of so unsettled and fugitive a signification. For some, to excuse or palliate their grosly-disallowable Rites and Practices in Christian Religion, have restrained the sense of the word to such narrow limits, that according to their nice distinctions and restrictions the foulest Paganism will scarce be found guilty of Idolatry. Others, whether out of a fright and abhorrency of so detestable a crime, or out of an over-factious disgust and detestation of the contrary party, have so stretched the signification of the word beyond the natural meaning thereof, that not only harmless, but even laudable circumstances of Divine worship appointed by Authority will not fail to be stigmatized by them with that odious and reproachful name: whose zeal and passionate unskilfulness in amoving this grand errour out of the Church has had an answerable ill success, in that they have not so much wrought a cure, as changed the disease, and bartered away one great evil for several others of something a lower form; such as Scandal, rash and unjust Censure, and Superstition; which are very evil and undesirable distempers in the Church of Christ, and the necessary Authours and Fomenters of unnecessary Schisms. And indeed if I had said only, that they had changed Idolatry into Superstition, it had been enough, and all, it including the rest. For Superstition being properly a Fear of displeasing God in such things as neither do oblige him nor offend him, arising out of an opinion of the good or evil of those things that are indifferent; Those that either out of ignorance, or some worse principle, ingender in the minds of men a superstitious aversation from such harmless and allowable actions, must needs make them obnoxious to Scandal, and tempt them to rash and unjust Censures.

3. Wherefore as well to excuse the innocent, as to discover the guilty, I shall endeavour exactly to set out the bounds of this great sin of Idolatry; that thereby we may know when it is committed, and when not; when it may be called by that so hatefull name, and when again it is Injustice and Uncharitableness so to term this or that action of Religious worship.

4. That the name or guilt of Idolatry is not to be restrained to the worship of an Idol only, is plain out of ordinary consent of Speech, when we discourse of Idolatrous Nations that worship the Sun, Moon and Stars; not considering whether they make any Images to them or no. For these ἐμφανεῖς καὶ ἀισθητοὶ θεοὶ,[34] these conspicuous and sensible Deities, as <13> they are termed by the Greeks, may easily be conceived to have allured the rude people to adore them, before they had either art or leisure to build Temples and erect Statues to them. From whence that Caveat is given by God to his own people in Deuteronomie;[35] Take ye therefore good heed unto your selves (for you saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire) lest you corrupt your selves, and make you a graven Image, &c. And lest you lift up your eyes to Heaven; and when you see the Sun, and the Moon, and the Stars, even all the hoast of Heaven, should be driven to worship them and serve them. So strongly enticing have they been to mankind to bestow Religious worship on them. These were the first Objects that gain'd the title of θεοὶ, as being in perpetual Motion, as Philo has observed; which appellation was afterwards derived upon all other Deities whatsoever. And Maimonides also lays the first foundation of Idolatry in these.

5. But Nations sufficiently civilized, as namely the Persians,[36] made shift to be Idolaters without carved Images or Idols. For they sacrificed on the tops of Mountains to the visible Heaven under the name of Jupiter, as also to the Sun, Moon and Earth, to the Fire, Water and Winds; all sensible Objects, but worshipped without any sensible figure or representation. And yet I think no man learned, or Idiot, will stick to style this Nation Idolatrous: As neither the ancient Romans, who worshipped their many Gods without the use of any Idol or Image, for near two hundred years together; as both Varro and Plutarch affirm.

6. Wherefore Idolatry is not only there where an Idol is worshipped, but where any thing is worshipped which is not God, whether that thing be visible or no. In which sense[37] Gregory Nazianzene defines Idolatry to be Μετάθεσιν τῆς προσκηνήσεος ἀτὸ τοῦ πεποιηκότος ἐπὶ τὰ κτίσματα. And[38] Tertullian pronounces that whatsoever is exalted ultra humani honoris modum, with more then civil worship, does ipso facto become an Idol. When they are not truely אלהים, they become by being worshipped אלילים, that is to say אל־אלים non-Dii (as some would have the notation of the word) not Gods, but Εἴδολα, Idols, as it is often rendred by the Seventy, and also χειροποίητα. And in the first of the[39] Chronicles, πάντες οἱ θεοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν εἴδωλα, shews plainly that Εἴδωλον is to be referred also to those things that are not carved Images. For the Nations worshipped the Sun and Moon, and the Souls of men departed, which are not Imagery, but Natural things. And therefore sometimes they render אלילים θεοὶ, δαιμόνια, or μεγιστᾶνει the latter whereof must refer to those invisible Dæmons themselves, who being but אלילים in Scripture-account, their worship must also be Idolatry, and will without any scruple be acknowledged so by any one that either the sense of things or the force of words has left any impress upon.

7. This might also make the Seventy careless of translating אלהים always θεοὶ, when spoke of the Heathen Gods, but sometimes εἴδολα. those Deities themselves to whom Idols were consecrated being but <14> Idols in this sense. And whereas they understood by Baalim those false Deities distinct from their Images (as appears from the second of the[40] Chronicles, where they translate מסכות עשה לבעלים γλυπτὰ ἐποίησε τοῖς βααλεὶμ, Ahaz made Statues, or Images, for Baalim;) yet for the same reason they several times translate it εἴδωλα. the Baalim themselves, whether the Sun, or the Souls of men deceased, being but Idols in this sense we speak of.

For which reason, lastly, I conceive they also translate עצבים ἕιδωλα above a dozen times, and θεοὶ but once; whenas a learned Doctor of our Church conceives the word according to its original meaning (it signifying any cause of anxiety, grief, or frightfull passion) to note δαίμονες themselves chiefly, whose hard usages, and affrightfull appearances to dismaied mankind, brought in that kind of pusillanimity which the Greeks call properly δεισιδαιμονία, the superstitious fear and disquieting dread of Dæmons; which is so far from being supposed to proceed from the Images themselves, that Grotius has noted it as the complaint of Varro against those that had corrupted that purer kind of worship instituted by Numa, by their bringing in of Images,[41] Eos utique civitatibus suis & metum dempsisse, & errorem addidisse. But every thing that has Religious worship done to it that is not God, becoming thereby an Idol, the Seventy may very well be excused for their proneness of rendring these words by ἔιδωλα, which had been more properly and expresly in such and such circumstances rendred δαιμόνια. As their proneness in so doing is also again an argument, as I have already intimated, of the warrantableness of their both notion and expression, who call the worshipping of any thing that is not God, Idolatry.

8. To which God himself also witnesses that it is such, by declaring himself so affected at worshipping that which is not God; as he does at the bowing towards Images, which he forbids, giving this reason, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, Exod. 20. The original is אל קנא. And Deuteronomie, the 32. he says, הם קנאוני They have moved me to jealousy בלא־אל in non Deo, by that which is not God. Whereby we seem to be admonished wherein the nature of Idolatry does immediately consist; and that the worshipping of an Image is not Idolatry as it is an Image, but as that Image is not God; no Image being God, but that true and living Image of the Father, Jesus Christ. That therefore is the true and general notion of Idolatry, To worship any thing that is not God; whereby we forsake God himself, and devotionally prostitute our selves to every evanid representation or far-cast shadow of him, such as are but ἔιδωλα ἐιδώλων, shadows of shadows in infinite myriads of degenerations from him; and so provoke his jealousy by these multiplied Baalim, whenas He alone is to be our Lord and Husband. But this is a Truth so plain and acknowledged, that I need not have spent so much time in the verbal allusions to adde any countenance thereto.

[1] Rev. 25. 3, 4.

[2] Psalm 102. 25.

[3] Vers. 27.

[4] Chap. 14. v. 14, 15.

[5] Acts 17. 29, 30.

[6] Chap. 12. v. 2.

[7] Chap. 10. v. 14, 20, &c.

[8] Ch. 6. v. 14, 16.

[9] Chap. 5. v. 20.

[10] Chap. 21. v. 8.

[11] Chap. 22. v. 15.

[12] 1 John 5. 20.

[13] John 4. v. 23, 24.

[14] John 1 17.

[15] Gal. 3. 21.

[16] John 6. 31.

[17] Vers. 25.

[18] Heb. 10. 1.

[19] Coloss. 2. 16, 17.

[20] Gal. 4. 30.

[21] Coloss. 2.

[22] Chap. 4. v. 3.

[23] Chap. 2. 14.

[24] Dan. 9.

[25] Act. 15. 10.

[26] Gal. 5. 2.

[27] * Ch. 9.

[28] John 1. 12.

[29] John 3. 6.

[30] Ephes. 2 10.

[31] Ch. 1. v. 3.

[32] Vers. 23.

[33] 1 Ep. 3. 9.

[34] Origen. contr. Cels. lib. {illeg}.

[35] Ch. 4 v. 15, 19.

[36] Herodot. lib. 1. c. 131.

[37] In Orat. Panegyr. in Natal. Christi.

[38] * De Idololatris cap. 15.

[39] * Ch. 16. 26.

[40] Chap. 28. vers. 2.

[41] Grot. in Decalog.

Cite as: Henry More, A Modest Enquiry into the Mystery of Iniquity (1664), pp. 1-14, http://www.cambridge-platonism.divinity.cam.ac.uk/view/texts/diplomatic/More1664-excerpt001, accessed 2020-10-21.