But even without those references he gives solid reasons why only the papacy can be the actual Antichrist, starting with its claim to the title "Vicar of Christ" which all by itself is like announcing the Pope to be "Antichrist" as the words are synonymous. This is a point I've made as well, as "vicar" means "substitute" or "in the place of," and there is also a Latin version of the concept, VICARIVUS FILII DEI which means "in the place of the Son of God" and whose letters which are also Roman numerals (VICIVILIIDI) add up to 666.
He must be a good counterfeit who can deceive many, a false Christ. Therefore he can't be an open enemy of Christ but must be a pretender to be Christ or a Christian leader. So Wylie points out that he can't be an Atheist or a Communist or a Pantheist.
He also can't be a Muslim. All these actively oppose Christ. Islam reveres him as a prophet and is antichrist in the sense that they deny His Deity, but this is an open denial. There are "Christian" cults that do the same. None of these are THE Antichrist although they are antichrists.
He also can't be an evil political leader, even if his evil surpasses that of all the most violent political leaders ever known, because he lacks the essential character of putting himself forward as a false Christ. (I would point out, however, that a characteristic of some political contenders has been that they make themselves gods and demand worship. That was true of the Caesars and Nero in particular took it to Antichrist proportions in his persecutions of the Christians, and Hitler also made himself as close to an object of worship as he could get. The Third Reich was after all one of the attempts to revive the Roman Empire, which followed the Holy Roman Empire and Kaiser Wilhelm's Second Reich, all in some form of collaboration with the papacy, and those who have followed these things are expecting the European Union eventually to develop into another version of the Holy Roman Empire.)
In this connection Wylie says
Antichrist’s rage is concentrated on one particular object and cause;By which he must mean ridding the world of the true God and Christ and His followers, but I'd point out here that although the Inquisition murdered tens of millions of true Christians it also murdered Jews and Muslims and witches and atheists.
nor with any propriety can such a one be said to sit in the “temple of God,” the seat on which the mock-Christ specially delights to show himself.It took a while for me to be convinced that this defines the Popes already down through the centuries, as putting themselves in the seat at the head of the Church, which was the view of the Reformers. This contrasts sharply, of course, with today's futurist interpretation of a rebuilt literal temple in earthly Jerusalem, in which the Antichrist is expected literally to seat himself during the last seven years before the Lord Jesus returns. Something of the sort did happen in the time of the Maccabees when Antiochus Epiphanes put up what was probably an image of Zeus in the Jewish Temple and demanded that the Jews worship it, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the "abomination of desolation" in the Book of Daniel, which is generally understood to have a future fulfillment as well. Antiochus was certainly an Antichrist figure, but by Wylie's argument not THE Antichrist since he was far from a successful counterfeit but an open enemy of the true God.
The next section of Wylie's argument where he contrasts the Mystery of Inquity with the Mystery of Godliness loses me to some extent, but then he does make a good comparison between the many Christ figures who came as types of the true Christ over the centuries before His arrival, as sketched out in the Old Testament, with types of the Antichrist, particularly the Caesars who were both kings and pagan priests and became the foundation of the papacy. He speaks of a "colossal" image of the Antichrist but, surprisingly (to me anyway), doesn't specifically name the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream which identifies the pagan empires that lead up to the final Roman empire. Nebuchadnezzer did, however, erect a gold statue of himself and demanded it be worshiped, which makes him personally a type of the Antichrist.
In Chapter 7 Wylie spells out how the papacy arose, and I find his historical points to be very convincing myself:
The first event which contributed, and contributed essentially to the development of the Papacy was the removal of the Emperor from Rome. Had Caesar continued to reside in his old capital, he would, as the phrase is, have "sat" upon the Pope, and this aspiring ecclesiastic could not have shot up into the powerful potentate which prophecy had foretold. But Constantine (A.D. 334) removed to the new Rome on the Bosphorus, leaving the old capital of the world to the Bishop of Rome, who was henceforth the first and most influential personage in that city. It was then, probably, that the idea of founding an ecclesiastical monarchy suggested itself to him. He had fallen heir, by what must have seemed a lucky accident, to the old capital of the world; he was, moreover, possessor of the chair of Peter, or believed himself to be so, and out of these two -the old town of the Caesars and the old chair of the apostle, it might even be possible -so, doubtless, he reasoned, to fabricate an empire that would one day rival and even overtop that of the emperors. These, it might have been thought beforehand, were but slender materials to bear the weight of so great an enterprise; yet with their help, and aided, doubtless, by deeper that mere human counsel, he projected a sovereignty which has not had its like on earth, which survived the fall of the Roman Empire, which lived through all the convulsions and overturnings of the Middle Ages, and which has come down to our day, and has the art, when men believe it to be about to expire, of rallying its powers, and coming back upon the world.He goes on to sketch out how the papacy acquired power bit by bit over the ensuing centuries beginning with the forged Donation of Constantine and Decretals of Isidore. These are now acknowledged to be forgeries, but
About this time, moreover, the equality which had reigned among the pastors of the church in the primitive age was broken. The bishops claimed superiority above the presbyters. Nor was there equality even among the bishops themselves. They took precedence, not according to their learning, or their talents, or their piety, but according to the rank of the city in which their see was placed. Finally, a new and loftier order arose overtopping the episcopate. Christendom was partitioned into five great patriarchates -Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. These were the five great cities of the empire, and their bishops were constituted the five great princes of the church.
Now came the momentous question, for a while so keenly agitated, Which of the five shall be the first? Constantinople claimed this honour for her patriarch, on the ground that it was the residence of the Emperor. Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem each put in its claim, but to no effect. Constantinople found, however, a powerful rival in the old city on the banks of the Tiber. Rome had been the head of the world, the throne of the Caesars; around it was still the halo of a thousand victories, and that gave it a mysterious influence over the imaginations of men, who began to see in its bishop the first ecclesiastic of the Christian world. The popular suffrage had pronounced in favour of the Roman bishop before his rank had received imperial ratification. He was installed as the first of the five patriarchs in A.D. 606. The Emperor Phocas, displeased with the bishop of Constantinople, who had condemned the murder of Maurice, by which Phocas opened his way to the imperial dignity, made Boniface III. universal bishop. The imperial edict, however, gave to the Roman bishop only the precedence among the five patriarchs; it gave him no power or jurisdiction over them.
The fabrications of Isidore were made the substructions of canon law, and that stupendous fabric of legislation is still maintained to be of divine authority, despite that it is now acknowledged to be founded on a forgery.And he goes on describing the means by which Rome brought primitive Europe under subjugation to papal power, for instance by teaching not a word of the gospel of Christ but only the power of Rome itself, and creating various superstitions to keep them in line.
In earlier years there had been genuine Christian evangelical churches planted in northern Europe by Irish and Scottish missionaries, but these were forced under Romanism, as were the original Irish evangelical churches that had been founded by St. Patrick.
Then the Crusades added to the papal power. And on it goes. I do find all this very convincing myself. This is certainly a portrait of the Great Apostasy and the Antichrist system built on it. It fits all the scriptural qualifications for the Mother of Harlots.
He continues with further evidences but I'll have to come back to consider them later. But to this point I'd say he's made the case, and it is really astonishing that today's churches are blind to the Antichrist nature of the papacy.