“Who opposeth, &c.”
Or is an opposer, an adversary of Christ, the antichrist; who opposes him in his kingly office, styling himself the head and spouse of the church, assuming to himself all power in heaven and in earth, taking upon him to dispense with the laws of Christ, and to make new ones; who opposes him in his priestly office, by pretending to offer him up again in the sacrifice of the mass, and by making angels and saints departed, intercessors and advocates; and also in his prophetic office, by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, and setting up unwritten traditions before the word of God, requiring the worshipping of images, angels, and saints, when Christ requires that the Lord God only should be worshipped and served; and by introducing the doctrine of works and of merit instead of grace, and with a multitude of other things, in which he most manifestly appears to be diametrically opposite and contrary to Christ:
“and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.”
The Syriac version renders the last clause, aljdw, “and religion”; and the Greek word does signify religion, worship, or devotion, as it is translated, in (Acts 17:23) but here the act of worship is put for the object, and is rightly rendered, “or that which is worshipped”; as it is in the Vulgate Latin version, and in the Arabic version, “or that which is to be worshipped”; and it was usual with the Jews to call God the object of worship, by the name of worship itself, and by which they used to swear: it is said of R. Benjamin the just, that he was appointed over the alms chest; one time a woman came to him and said, Rabbi, relieve me; he replied to her, hdwb[h, “by the worship” (that is, by God who is worshipped) there is nothing in the alms chest: and elsewhere it is said by one, concerning two that were fatherless, for whom the collectors of alms gathered, hdwb[h, “by the worship”, they go before my daughter: and a little after, hdwb[h, “by the worship”, these things are holy to thee; where the gloss says, it is an oath: and so here the word is to be understood of Deity itself; and the meaning is, that antichrist would exalt himself above all the gods of the Gentiles, who are only nominally, and not by nature, gods; to these were ascribed, some one thing, to some another; one had the government of heaven, another of hell, another of the seas, and an other of the winds, &c. but this haughty creature antichrist assumes to himself all power, both in heaven, earth, and hell. Angels are sometimes called gods, (Psalm 8:4) because they are sent of God, and sometimes represent him; the popes of Rome have exalted themselves above these; Pope Clement VI. proclaimed a jubilee, and promised forgiveness of sins to all that should come to Rome; and in his bull for it says, that, “if any that was confessed should die by the way, he should be free from all his sins; “and we do command the angels”, that they take such a soul out of purgatory entirely absolved, and introduce it into the glory of paradise:” and in a manuscript in the library at Helmsted are these words, “we command the angels that they carry such a soul into Abraham’s bosom, as soon as it has left the body:” kings and civil magistrates are called gods, (Psalm 82:6) and this monster of iniquity and firstborn of Satan, the popes of Rome, have exalted themselves above these; they have not only took upon them to excommunicate emperors and kings, but to depose them, and take away their crowns from them, and give their kingdoms to others, and absolve their subjects from allegiance and fidelity to them; an emperor has held a pope’s stirrup while he alighted from his horse, and was severely reprimanded for holding the left instead of the right stirrup; and the same emperor held another pope’s stirrup while he got on his horse, and who set his foot upon his neck when he absolved him, being before excommunicated by him, using these words in (Psalm 91:13) “thou shall tread upon the lion”, &c. An emperor and an empress waited at a pope’s gates three days barefoot; another emperor and empress were crowned by the Pope with his feet; he took the crown with his feet, and, they bowing down, put it upon their heads, and then kicked it off; and one of our own kings resigned his crown and the ensigns of his royalty to the Pope’s legate, who kept them five days; and when he offered a sum of money to the legate as an earnest of his subjection, to show his master’s grandeur, he spurned at it; a king was thrown under a pope’s table to lick the bones like a dog, while he was eating: so truly has this passage had its accomplishment in that impious and insolent set of men. Rome is by the Jewish writers called “Magdiel”, which signifies “magnifying itself”; the reason is, ldgtyç, “because it magnifies itself” above all these; that is, above all kingdoms and states: but what is worse, and most dreadfully blasphemous, follows,
“so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God;”
Not in the temple of Jerusalem, which was to be destroyed and never to be rebuilt more, and was destroyed before this man of sin was revealed; but in the church of God, so called, (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16) the Ethiopic version renders it, “in the house of God”; for antichrist rose up out of, and in the midst of the church; and it was a true church in which he first appeared, and over which he usurped power and authority; though it has been so corrupted by him, as now to be only nominally so; here he sits, and has homage done him by his creatures, as if he was a god, and is not only styled Christ’s vicar, but a god on earth, and our Lord God the Pope; so in the triumphal arch at the entry of Pope Sixtus IV, these lines were put, “oraculo vocis, mundi moderaris habenas, et merito in terris crederis esse Dens”; the sense is, that he governed the world by his word, and was deservedly believed to be God on earth; and their canon law says, “it is clearly enough shown, that the Pope cannot be loosed or bound by any secular power; since it is evident that he is called God by that pious prince, Constantine, and it is manifest that God cannot be judged by men:” and Pope John XXII is expressly called “our Lord God the Pope”: the Ethiopic version reads, “he shall say to all, I am the Lord God”; (see Ezekiel 28:2), the Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version, leave out the phrase, “as God”, but the Syriac retains it: however, the same blasphemy is expressed in the next clause,
“shewing himself that he is God;”
By usurping a power over the consciences and souls of men; by dispensing with the laws of God and man; by assuming to himself all power in heaven and in earth; by taking upon him to open and shut the gates of heaven at pleasure; and by pardoning sin, which none but God can do; this is the mouth speaking blasphemies, (Revelation 13:5,6).
John Gill (1697-1771) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher and theologian. He was appointed the Pastor of Goat Yard Chapel, Horsleydown, Southwark, serving this position for fifty-one years. He was the first Baptist to write an exhaustive systematic theology, setting forth High-Calvinistic views and a clear Baptist polity which became the backbone for the churches subscribing to them. John Hazelton wrote of him:
”[Augustus] Toplady held in high regard Dr. John Gill (1697-1771), and applied to him and to his controversial writings what was said of the first Duke of Marlborough—that he never besieged a town that he did not take, nor fought a battle that he did not win. Gill's book on the Canticles is a beautiful and experimental exposition of Solomon's Song; his "Cause of God and Truth" is most admirable and suggestive; and his "Body of Divinity" one of the best of its kind. His commentary upon the Old and New Testament is a wonderful monument of sanctified learning, though it has been so used as to rob many a ministry of living power. It is the fashion now to sneer at Gill, and this unworthy attitude is adopted mostly by those who have forsaken the truths he so powerfully defended, and who are destitute of a tithe of the massive scholarship of one of the noblest ministers of the Particular and Strict Baptist denomination. The late Dr. Doudney rendered inestimable service by his republication, in 1852, of Gill's Commentary, printed at Bonmahon, Waterford, Ireland, by Irish boys. Gill was born at Kettering, and passed away at his residence at Camberwell, his last words being: "O, my Father! my Father!" For fifty-one years, to the time of his death, he was pastor of the Baptist Church, Fair Street, Horselydown, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. His Hebrew learning was equal to that of any scholar of his day, and his Rabbinical knowledge has never been equalled outside Judaism. His "Dissertation Concerning the Eternal Sonship of Christ" is most valuable, and this foundation truth is shown by him to have been a part of the faith of all Trinitarians for about 1,700 years from the birth of our Lord. In His Divine nature our blessed Lord was the co-equal and co-eternal Son of God, and as such He became the Word of God. The Scriptures nowhere intimate that Christ is the Son of God by office, or that His Sonship is founded on His human nature. This is not a strife about words, but is for our life, our peace, our hope. Dr. Gill's pastoral labours were much blest; to the utmost fidelity he united real tenderness, and at the Lord's Supper he was always at his best.
"He set before their eyes their dying Lord—
How soft, how sweet, how solemn every word!
How were their hearts affected, and his own!
And how his sparkling eyes with glory shone!"