That we are not to reckon the latter times, or the times of the
empire’s ruin, and the apostasy attending, from the
full height thereof. —This illustrated from other computations in Scripture.
—The three main degrees of the
will say, The imperial sovereignty of Old
I answer, From any of them. For as the imperial sovereignty fell by degrees, so the apostasy under the lattermost sovereignty grew up also by degrees; and for every degree which the ruinous empire decayed, was the rising Son of perdition a degree advanced. Secondly, all the main and evident degrees of the empire’s ruin fell in the compass of an age; and the knowledge and observation of that age only, within which the times of this fall are comprehended, was sufficient both to warn them who then lived, that that which
should come was then a-coming, and to inform us who now live that it is already come.
Now, which were these main and evident degrees of the empire’s falling, and at what time, I will tell you as soon as I have removed an usual mistake in this business, which is to reckon the times of the empire’s ruin, and so likewise of the apostasy attending it, only from the , or full height thereof. But this is too much against reason, and not agreeable to the course we otherwise use in the like. For as, when we reckon the age of a man, we reckon not from the time since he came to man’s estate, but from the time of his birth, so should we do here for the times of the Man of sin. I say not, we should begin to count his age from his conception, for that we use not in other things, but from the time he was first editus in lucem, when he first began to appear in the world: and so likewise the fall of the empire and the apostasy, not from the time they were consummate, but from the time they first evidently appeared. As, therefore, I hold their opinion the best and most agreeable to truth, who begin the seventy years of the Jewish captivity in Babylon, not from the consummation thereof under Zedekiah, when the city and temple were utterly razed, for that is impossible, (there being not sixty years in all between the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar and the last of Cyrus,) but from the beginning thereof under Jehoiakim, eighteen years before, or at the most but from Jehoiachin: so are these Latter Times of the Roman state to begin when the empire first began
to fall, and not when it was utterly rooted up. (i) Take, for another example, the computation of the time allotted to the calamity of the Jews under Antiochus, which I the rather allege, because he is commonly counted for a type of Antichrist. The beginning of that 2,300 evenings and mornings, or six years and somewhat more than a quarter, which that calamity was to continue, from the beginning thereof until the Temple should again be cleansed, Daniel 8: 13, 14, was not to be reckoned from the height thereof, when :the daily sacrifice should be taken away,” (for thence it is but three years, I Mac. 1: 54, &c., with chapter 4: 52,) but from the beginning of the transgression which occasioned this desolation, and is describe I Mac. , &c. So likewise the end of the kingdom of the Greeks, wherein this calamity was to happen, is not to be counted only then, when Æmilius the Consul had quite finished the conquest of Macedon, (for this points out only the height of that calamity,) but from the beginning of that last fatal war, which put an end to that kingdom; which was about some three years and a half before, and agrees with the beginning of the “transgression of desolation,” as the finishing of the conquest doth with “the taking away of the daily sacrifice.”
But, leaving this, let us return again and see which were those main and evident degrees of the empire’s downfall, and when they befell, which, I suppose, may not be unfitly be sampled by those of the Babylonish captivity.
As, therefore, the Babylonish captivity had
three steps or degrees, the first in the days of Jehoiakim, when Daniel went captive; the second under Jehoiachin or Jechonias, when Ezekiel went captive; and the last under Zedekiah, when the temple and city were wholly razed and consumed, so omitting the political change under Constantine, the chief and principle moments of the ruin of the empire by the sword (and by the word, the Beast had its deadly wound, Apocal. 13: 14,) may fitly be reduced unto three:—
1. The first was presently after the death of Julian, the last of heathen emperors, about the year 365, ominously marked with that universal, stupendous, and never-but-then-sampled earthquake, whereby the waters of the sea were rolled out of their channels, and left ships hanging upon the tops of houses. From this time forwards, all the nations with one consent, seem to have conspired the ruin of the empire. Now that terrible and fatal storm of the nations of the north, Allemans, Sarmatians, Quades, Picts, Scots, and Saxons, especially the Goths, began to break in upon it; almost without intermission harrying, burning, wasting, destroying the most part of the provinces thereof, almost for forty-five years together. And, to mend the matter, the Goths soon after their coming were admitted as inhabitants and dispersed as free citizens into the bowel and heart of the empire, advanced to be commanders, and bore the greatest sway in their armies; by which fatal error the empire received her bane, and the Romans were no longer masters of their own strength, which they quickly and often repented;
but even that cost them dear, when they had, indeed, eyes to see it, but never ability to mend it. This was the first degree of the empires ruin.
second was about the year 410, when Alaricus the Goth sacked
The third was about the year 455, presently upon the death of the third Valentinian, the last (as Sleidan well observed) of the emperors of the west, and consequently of the ancient Rome; then when Genseric the Vandal took the city the second time, fired it, and spoiled it of all the
199 & 200
goodly and glorious ornaments which Alaric had spared,
amongst which were the golden and silver vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem,
brought thither by Titus; all which, with an innumerable multitude of Roman
captives, he carried away with him. Now was the prediction, which Varro reports
that Vectius Valens, the augur, made of twelve vultures to
ANNO DOMINI 456.
Thus was the empire divided and shared A.D. 456, the year after Rome was sacked by Genseric, and the offspring of these nations, through many alterations, partly by the inconstancy of human things, unions and disunions, partly by the further enlargement of the Christian faith, are the body of most of the kingdoms and states of Christendom at this day. Three of these kings, saith Daniel, should the Antichristian Horn depress and displant, to advance himself;
* A. 526. This kingdom of the
Burgundians was subdued by the Franks: but to fill up the number,
that of the Ostrogoths became two, by the coming of the Longobards into
kingdom became one part of the
† The Longobards succeeded the
Ostrogoths first in
‡ The empire of ancient
which three are those whose dominions extended into
of the Greeks, whose Emperor, Leo Isaurus, for the quarrel of images, he
excommunicated, and revolted his subjects of
2. That of the Longobards, successors of the Ostrogoths, whose kingdom he caused, by the aid of the Franks, to be wholly ruined, thereby to get the exarchate of Ravenna; which, since their revolt from the Greeks, they were seized on, for a patrimony to St. Peter.
3. The last was the kingdom of the Franks itself, continued in the Empire of Germany, whose Emperors, from the time of Henry the Fourth, he excommunicated, deposed, and trampled under his feet, and never suffered them to live in rest, till he made them not only quit their interest in elections of Popes and investitures of Bishops, but that remainder of jurisdiction in Italy, wherewith, together with the dignity of the Roman name, he had once infeoffed their predecessors.
These are the kings, by displanting, or, as the Vulgate hath, by humbling of whom, the Pope got elbow-room by degrees, and advanced himself to the height of temporal majesty and absolute greatness, which made him so terrible in the world. (l)
third blow, therefore, I suppose, is to be counted the last of the ruin of the
empire; the imperial power of the ancient
henceforth ceasing. For as for those who yet some twenty years after our date, scuffled for that name, one of them deposing another, they were, indeed, but shadows of Cæsars, and, as it were, strugglings with the pangs of death, until, with Augustulus, it gave up the ghost. Yea, it is to be observed that two of them, Avitus, the very next, and Glycerius, being deposed from the empire, were made Bishops, the one of Placentia or Piacenza, the other of Portus; as a sign, perhaps, that the Emperor of Rome henceforth should be a Bishop, and a Bishop the Emperor.
To conclude, therefore, with the application of our apostle’s prediction, whether the Christian apostasy, in worshipping new demon-gods, began not with the first of these degrees, notably increased with the second, and was established by the last, I leave you to judge, when you shall have surveyed the monuments and records of those times.
It is commonly and truly affirmed by our ecclesiastical antiquaries that, before the year 360, there is no word to be found of the invocation of saints glorified, or worshipping their relics, to which I add, No! nor of any miracles done by them. But, presently after that year, when our first date of the empire’s ruin began, search, and you shall find. I spare to name the authors, not willing to discover the nakedness of the Fathers, but whoso reads them will admire to see so truly verified what the Spirit foretold should be in the Latter Times. And, to make an end, if any shall think this speculation of
times to be a needless curiosity, I desire him to remember
how our Savior reproved the Jews for neglect hereof, Matthew 16: 3, “O ye
hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the
signs of the times?” or, as
From which of these three beginnings of the Apostolical Times, or whether from some other moment within or between them, the Almighty will reckon His computation of these which, ended, shall finish the days of the Man of Sin, I curiously inquire not, but leave unto him who is Lord of times and seasons. Nor do I think that the Jews themselves could certainly tell from which of their three captivities to begin that reckoning of seventy years, whose end should bring their return from Babylon, until the event assured them thereof.