The fourth and final part of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ delivered by John Henry Cardinal Newman before his conversion during Advent in 1835. Part I is here, part II is here and Part III is here.
In this last sermon Newman speaks of the persecution that will attend the reign of the anti-Christ. In Newman’s day, living memory could recall the savage persecution that the Church endured dring the initial years of the French Revolution. In our time, we have the blood-stained last century when millions of Christians were martyred for their faith. It is all too easy to suspect that those terrible persecutions were trial runs for the persecution of the Anti-Christ. The last century brought to reality these words of Newman: “Let us then apprehend and realize the idea, thus clearly brought before us, that, sheltered as the Church has been from persecution for 1500 years, yet a persecution awaits it, before the end, fierce and more perilous than any which occurred at its first rise.” Certainly all prior persecutions pale before what Christians experienced in the Terrible Twentieth.
This is an interesting passage from Newman’s sermon: “Again, another anxious sign at the present time is what appears in the approaching destruction of the Mahometan power. This too may outlive our day; still it tends visibly to annihilation, and as it crumbles, perchance the sands of the world’s life are running out.” I assume that Newman was thinking of the decline of the Ottoman Empire of his day, the sick man of Europe. Freed from this adversary, perhaps Europe would unite behind one man, reform or revive the Roman Empire, and bring about the conditions for the Anti-Christ. Small wonder that Hitler was frequently deemed the Anti-Christ during his lifetime. Of course Hitler was not the Anti-Christ, but perhaps merely one of myriads of anti-Christs who have arisen and fallen in the centuries since the coming of Christ, or perhaps he is a precursor of the Anti-Christ.