The Man of Sin Discovered
There is a great question as to who is Antichrist, and diverse answer, many things diversely; everyone according to his thoughts; some thinking that the Pope of Rome is Antichrist, some the Bishops, some the Turks ,&c; but give me leave to tell you what I conceive, that to tie the name of Antichrist to a particular man, or to any particular succession of men is to confine him unto too narrow a bound. I will not deny but that the Pope is a principal member of antichrist, of the man of sin, the Head, if you please; but I do believe the Pope and Antichrist to differ, as the part, and the whole, as the head, and the body; and I conceive the great Antichrist to be that mystical body of iniquity which opposes Jesus Christ.
Antichrist is as much as to say, against Christ; whosoever doth seek to destroy that which the Lord Jesus hath built up, or to build up that which the Lord hath plucked down, the same is against Christ, and is so much a member of the great Antichrist. It cannot be denied, but that he that will endeavor to set up sin in the conversation of the people is indeed against Christ, and so a man of sin, a limb of antichrist; but yet our Savior hath declared unto us, that the great man of sin, the great Antichrist, shall not be so palpable as to set up sin in the conversation; but that he shall come unto us in great holiness, zeal, and strictness, with eyes and hands lifted up to heaven, as though his conversation were indeed there. Thus is fulfilled that which was forespoken by our Lord. “Beware of false prophets, which come unto you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravaging wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Like those prophets of old, who did wear rough garments to deceive (Zechariah 13:4); “for there shall arise false Christs, and false Prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; inasmuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24)
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (II Corinthians 11:13-14)
They are zealous, as they “make a fair show in the flesh.” (Galatians 6:12)
The coming of the man of sin is “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” (II Thessalonians 2:9-10)
“He doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men;” (Revelation 13:13); even bringing many excellent truths of God, kindled at the flames of his altar.
One thing more observable is that such shall be his carriage, that he shall not only deceive others, but himself also; so that in his own esteem he shall be none other than the servant of the true God, and his Son Jesus Christ. We are deceived within ourselves, if we look for Antichrist to come like the heathen Bacebus, staggering up and down in the streets, wallowing in his own vomit; we are deceived, if we look for Antichrist among the lewd sons of Belial, roaring in the taverns. No, we shall find him in the Temple; rather, find him in the Pulpit; you shall find him at devotion, with great zeal, inasmuch that whosoever hath not the spirit of discerning shall presume that he is one of an excellent spirit. How often do those men lie unto deceit; who have no other touchstone for doctrine, but the zeal and holiness of the conversation. This must needs be true, say some, for I heard a very holy man deliver it. Alas poor soul; dost not thou know that beast-like doctrine which drops most often from men of holy conversation? Dost not thou see that the man of sin is as tall in the holiness of conversation as the true saints of God; as the Apostles of Christ themselves? His garment as rough, his countenance as steadfast, the supplications as frequent, his zeal as great. Oh then beware of false prophets, search the Scriptures, try all things. But you will say, if it be so, how shall I know the man of sin if I meet him? Is it not said, “by their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). If such be the fruits of the man of sin, how shall I be able to discern him? To this I answer; that there are two sorts of fruit; the fruit of conversation and the fruit of doctrine; the fruit of the lips, and the fruit of the hands. “I create the fruit of the lips.” (Isaiah 57:19) Now the surest way to discover Antichrist is by the fruit of his lips, by the discipline of his mouth; for if we look upon the apostles of Christ and the man of sin, we shall find both of them holy in conversation; yea so holy that who can discern them, the one from the other. Therefore must we inspect the voice, and ponder the doctrine.
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” (II John 10)
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)
When a wolf cometh in sheep’s clothing, how shall we discern in the flock, which is the wolf, when both are fleeced alike? Must we not wait until they utter their voices, and then we shall discern that the one bleats and the other barks. We read of a beast, (the Lord to deliver us from him), who hath horns like a Lamb, and who speaks as a dragon (Revelation 13:11). Though we cannot discern him by his horns, yet we may easily know him by his dragon-like voice. What was the course that Jephthah took to discern the Ephraimites from the Gileadites, at the banks of the Jordan, for their faces were alike, their harness alike, their colours alike, their garments alike; and yet he discerned them by their tongues. “And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites; and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan; and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.“ (Judges 12:5-6)
This will be the trial of the man of sin, of the members of antichrist, when they that have their senses exercised, shall discern them to cry Sibboleth in the doctrine of godliness. Sure it is that this is the only certain way of discerning. There is indeed another way, which is very probable, but not so certain in a double respect. It is a by his scarlet coat or gown; for the woman that sits on the beast is arrayed in purple and scarlet colour (Revelation 17:4), the beast himself was scarlet coloured, (vs.3), the great dragon is for colour red, (Revelation.12:3), and that great city was clothed in fine linen, purple and scarlet (Revelation 18:16).
Henry Denne – 1646