Proving the Pope is AntiChrist, (1) The Controversy & Grounds of Our Proofs, by George Downame.
May 5, 2018
Whereas the Holy Ghost, (2. Thess 2:8) has foreshown, that Christ our Saviour shall consume Antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, that is, by the ministry of his word, which (Isaiah 11:4) is called the rod or sceptre of his mouth, and the spirit of his lips: it cannot therefore be denied, but that it is the duty of all faithful ministers, who are as it were the mouth of Christ unto his people, to set themselves against Antichrist; that by their ministry his kingdom may be weakened, and the kingdom of Christ Jesus more and more advanced. For which cause I took upon me in my public readings not long since, to entreat of this main controversy between us and the Church of Rome, concerning Antichrist. But because my speech could profit only those that heard me, I have for diverse causes thought good by writing to make the benefit of my labours common: First, that by this means the Papists which be tractable may be reclaimed: Secondly, that those which be obstinate among them may be confounded: Thirdly, that Protestants and professors of the truth which be found and resolute, may be more and more confirmed: Lastly and especially that those which be weak and wavering may be stayed, and preserved from falling into that fearful judgement, which as the Lord has threatened (2. Thess. 2) against unsound professors in these latter times, so has it within these few years fallen upon very many, who having by the great mercy of God been delivered out of the more than Egyptian bondage of Antichrist: and being set in the way toward the celestial Canaan and land of promise, seemed with the unthankful Israelites to be weary of the celestial manna the food of their souls, and desired to be again among the flesh-pots of Egypt. For seeing they had not received the love of the truth that they might be saved, therefore God hath sent upon them the efficacy of error (2. Thess. 2. 10-12) that they should believe lies (meaning the lies of Antichrist) that all they might be condemned, which believed not the truth, but delighted in unrighteousness, meaning the mystery of iniquity whereof he had spoken in verse 7 that is to say, Antichristianism or Popery.
And that we may proceed in order, we are first to set down the state of this controversy, which indeed is the cheese of all controversies between us and the Papists, and of the greatest consequence. For if this were once throughly cleared, all others would easily be decided. Our assertion therefore in few words is this, That the Pope of Rome, who is as it were the God of the Papists, is that grand Antichrist, who according to the prophecies of the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures, was to be revealed in these latter times. The Papists hold the contrary. And whereas we say and prove that their Lord God the Popes holiness in Antichrist, they affirm that our assertion is blasphemy, and our arguments dotages. But if it were no harder a matter to demonstrate the truth of our assertion, than to prove their concept concerning Antichrist and the proofs thereof to be mere dotages; I should very easily put this question out of controversy; that the Pope is Antichrist.
Our Assertion Expounded
But first our assertion is to be expounded, and afterwards proved. As touching the name we agree (saith Bellarmine) in this, that as the name Christ is taken two ways, to wit, commonly and properly, so also the name Antichrist. The name Christ commonly belongs to all that are anointed of God; and that either to the special calling of a King, Prophet or Priest, or to the general calling of a Christian. And in this sense it is taken either more largely for the whole body of those that profess the name of Christ, whereof some are members of Christ in title and profession only; or more strictly for the society of the elect the citizens of heaven, who have the mark of God, and are not only in show and profession, but also indeed and in truth members of the mystical body of Christ. Peculiarly the name Christ belongs to Jesus the Son of God, who was anointed with the oil of gladness above all his fellows, and is the head, after a general manner, of all Christians, but more specially of the elect. In like sort the contrary name Antichrist belongs commonly to all that be enemies to Christ; and those either open and professed enemies as the Jews, Turks, Infidels (in which sense the word is not used in the Scripture) or else covert, professing themselves Christians, and under the name and profession of Christ, against Christ and his truth. And so it is taken either more largely to signify the whole body of heretics (as in the Epistles of John) or more strictly the society of them who having made an apostasy from Christ, have received the mark of the beast. Properly or rather peculiarly it belongs to the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition: who after a more general manner is the head of all heretics, and more specially of that society, which has the mark, the number and name of the beast. The society or body of those who having made an apostasy from Christ to Antichrist, and the Antichristian state which in the Scriptures is called the whore of Babylon, we hold to be the apostatical Church of Rome. The head of this Antichristian body and catholic apostasy, we hold to be the Pope of Rome; and consequently that the Pope is that grand Antichrist, whom the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures hath described unto us; And that he is called the Antichrist, not only because he is the head of the Antichristian body, but also because he being in profession the vicar of Christ, is in deed Aemulus Christi, (a rival Christ) that is, an enemy opposed unto Christ, in emulation of like honour, as if we should say, a counter-Christ, as the word Antichrist does also signify.
But when we say that the Pope is Antichrist, we mean not this or that Pope, howsoever some of them have been more notorious Antichrists than others: as for example Sylvester II, Gregory VII aliâs Hildebrand, Boniface VIII, John XXII, Alexander VI &c. but the whole row or rabble of them, from Boniface III downward. For although the Antichrist be but one person, yet he is not one as Christ the head of the Christian body, is one, Christ because he liveth for ever has no successors, and therefore is one in nature and number, as being one singular and definite person. The head of the Antichristian body, which is to continue to the end of the world, is continued not in one singular and definite person, but in a succession of many, who are mortal and momentary; which successively have been, are, or shall be the heads of the catholic apostasy: of any whereof indefinitely, or of all commonly, the word Antichrist is understood. For even as the Pope or vicar of Christ according to the Popish concept, is one person not in number and nature, but by law and institution, one at once ordinarily, but many successively; so Antichrist is not one singular person, but a succession of Antichristian Popes, which we begin at Boniface III. Because he with much ado, about the year of our Lord 607, obtained from the Emperor Phocas, and all his successors since, have challenged unto them, the Antichristian title of the head of the catholic or universal Church, or ecumenical and Universal Bishop. Which title of blasphemy, as Gregory calls it, befitting him that resembles Lucifer in pride, when as John the Bishop of Constantinople had challenged not long before, to wit, about the year 600AD in the time of Mauritius, whom Phocas cruelly murdered, Gregory the great then Pope of Rome affirmed confidently (for so he saith, Fidenter dico) that therein he was the forerunner of Antichrist, who was now even at hand. Omnia enimquae praedicta sunt, fiunt. Rex superbiae propè est, & quod dici nefas est, sacerdotum ei praeparatur exercitus. For all things (saith he) which were foretold, do now come to pass. The king of pride (meaning Antichrist) is at hand: and that which is horrible to be spoken, an army of priests is prepared for him. Whereby he would also insinuate, that he should be the prince of priests. Now this is a principle in the Church of Rome, that the Pope, (especially such a Pope as Gregory the great, speaking definitely and confidently) can not err. And if this be true (as they may not deny, the Pope being the foundation of all their truth) then must they needs confess that Antichrist was come, almost a thousand years since, and that the Pope their prince of priests, who not only succeeds John of Constantinople in that Antichristian title, but also far exceeds him in all Antichristian pride, challenging a sovereign and universal authority not only above all other Bishops and Priests, but also above all Kings and Emperors, is that Antichrist.
To this testimony of Gregory I might add diverse other witnesses. But my purpose is not to draw mine arguments from the writings, and as it were the cisterns of men, who lived before the revelation of Antichrist, and therefore except themselves had been prophets, could not fully expound these prophecies: but from the pure fountains of holy scriptures expounded by the history and event, the best interpreters of prophecies. For as Daniel saith of the like (or rather as the Papists say of these same prophecies concerning Antichrist) The words are closed up, and sealed, until the appointed time. And accordingly was it said by Augustine, prophetias citiùs impleri quàm intelligt, that prophecies are fulfilled sooner than understood, and by Irenaeus whom Bellarmine also alleges to the same purpose, omnes prophetiae (saith he) priusquam habeat efficaciam, aemgmata sunt & ambigui∣tas hominibus, All prophecies before they have their complement, are unto men dark and doubtful speeches. And therefore speaking of some part of the prophecies concerning Antichrist, he saith, Certius & sine periculo est sustinere adimplet ionem prophetiae, quàm suspicari, &c: It is more sure and safe to wait for the fulfilling of the prophecy, than beforehand to deliver uncertain guesses. Omitting therefore the uncertain conjectures of men (for such are diuerse opinions of the fathers concerning Antichrist, as Bellarmine confesseth of some,) from the sacred scriptures, the undoubted oracles of God, I frame this demonstration;
Grounds for Proving our Assertion
Unto whomsoever the prophecies of holy scripture describing Antichrist the head of the Antichristian body, do wholly and only agree, he is that grand Antichrist who is foretold in the scriptures. Unto the Pope of Rome the prophecies of holy scripture concerning Antichrist the head of the Antichristian body, do wholly and only agree: therefore the Pope of Rome is that grand Antichrist which is foretold in the scriptures. The proposition I take for granted. For seeing the Holy Ghost has of purpose in diverse places of the scripture taken upon him fully and sufficiently to describe Antichrist, and that to this end, that he might be known; we need not doubt, but that this description of Antichrist is so perfect and so proper unto him, as to whom that description agrees not, he is not Antichrist: and contrariwise whom it wholly and only fits, he must be held and acknowledged to be that Antichrist. All the controversy therefore is concerning the assumption, namely, whether the descriptions of Antichrist in the scriptures agree to the Pope or not. Antichrist is described by the Holy Ghost, especially in three places, viz. in the second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation from the eleventh verse to the end, and in the seventeenth chapter of the same book. For I omit those places in the prophecy of Daniel which usually are alleged, (because they speak properly of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was but a type of Antichrist, as Bellarmine also confesses,) and the ninth of the Apocalypse, because it is by some expounded of Islam.
And that the description of Antichrist in the scriptures fitly agrees to the Pope, it appears by this induction. For whereas all the arguments and notes whereby Antichrist is described in the scriptures, may be reduced to these heads, to wit:
The place or seat where we are to find him;
The time, when we were to look for him;
His condition and qualities, that he is an adversary opposed unto Christ in emulation of like honour, a man of sin in general, and more particularly an horrible idolator; and
His actions and passions, that is, such things as he shall either do or suffer.
I will make it evident by the help of God (whose all-seeing spirit I humbly beseech to guide me into the truth) that all and every one of them doe so fitly and properly agree to the Pope of Rome, that in the descriptions of Antichrist in the scripture, the Pope may behold himself as it were in a mirror.
In the next instalment we look at Bishop Downame's Second Chapter, Of the Place or Seat of Antichrist.