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God incarnate, or the Messiah ; these were forerunners of the great Antichrist, who
very probably will teach the same doctrine, proclaiming himself to be the Messiah ; as our Saviour himself seems to intimate. John v. 43.
6. “And the king (Antichrist) shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods: and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished : for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers...... Nor regard any God: for he shall magnify himself above all." Dan. xi. 36, 37.
According to Protestants this is said of Antichrist: Now, let them name which of the Popes of Rome has denied the God of his forefathers ? Or magnified himself above every God? Or spoke against the God of gods? If none of the Popes have done this, then we are absolutely certain none of the Popes were Antichrist.
7. “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders; and he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire to come down from heaven on the earth, in the sight of men." Rev. xiii. 13......" And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” ver. 15.
According to Holy Scripture, these are the signs and prodigies which will be done by the great Antichrist; but not one of the Popes of Rome have yet done any prodigies like these : then none of the Popes are Antichrist.
8. “ And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth.” Rev. xi. 3......" And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth up out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them; and shall overcome them, and kill them.” ver. 7.
The Holy Scripture here informs us, that toward the end of the world two great prophets (Enoch and Elias) will be sent, clothed in sackcloth, to preach and work miracles against Antichrist, for the space of one thousand two hundred and three score days, at the end of which term, the two prophets are to be slain by the beast, and to suffer martyrdom: Now let Protestants say which of the Popes is the beast that has slain the two prophets Enoch and Elias ? Or, if this extraordinary thing has never yet been done, we may rest satisfied, and conclude that none of the Popes is Antichrist.
From the texts above cited, it is plain, even to demonstration, that the great Antichrist who is mentioned by St. John in his first Epistle and in the Revelations; as also by St. Paul, in his second to the Thessalonians ; and by the prophet Daniel ; never yet sat in St. Peter's chair at Rome. Could we but learn what was the famous medicine for the brain, which the townsmen of Democritus formerly sent to that philosopher, when they heard he was, in imagination, building the structure of this great world out of atems, never could it be more properly applied than in the present case to those who imagine Antichrist to be a long series of the bishops of Rome, successors of St. Peter, who, instead of opposing Christ (2 Thess. ii.) as Antichrist will do, have all constantly professed the faith of Christ, great part of whom, at least one hundred, have suffered martyrdom for Christ, who moreover are continually sending missioners into all parts of the world, to propagate amongst infidels the name of Christ; from whom, in a word, almost all nations of the Christian world did at first receive their Christianity, England in particular. Those who have ever looked into Scripture must clearly perceive that the great Antichrist there mentioned is one single person, the greatest of all impostors, who will make his appearance a little before the day of judgment; will deny Jesus Christ, and in his place proclaim himself to be the Messiah and God (Belarm. de Rom. Pont. xiv. and xii.) ; will do great prodigies, and reign in great prosperity for about three years and a half, persecuting. the Church beyond all the tyrants that went before him. It is true St. John makes mention of some Antichrists that were already come in his time; but his meaning cannot be that the great Antichrist himself was then come in person, but only that he had appeared in his precursors, and such wicked men as were types of him. Now, by the very characters he gives of these, we know they could not be the Popes and Bishops of Rome that were in St. John's time, for these were no other than St. Peter and his immediate successors, who for the first three hundred years after Christ, almost every one suffered martyrdom for the faith of Christ: but much rather the Antichrists that were come in St. John's time as precursors of the great Antichrist, were the heretics of that age, especially such as denied our Saviour to be the Messiah ; which is the
doctrine that Antichrist himself will teach in person. So all the ancients ever understood this matter. Now, I appeal to all sober Protestants, whether our interpretation of Scripture, or theirs, in relation to Antichrist, is the most probable. They will do well, at the same time, to reflect whether these their monstrous slanders against the Church of Christ, and the heads of it, styling one the Whore of Babylon, and the other Antichrist, are not damnable sins, of which they must give a terrible account one day to God: and what opinion they ought to have of a religion which, by a principle that is intrinsic and essential to it, teaches all its followers daily to utter these abominable slanders.
POINT IX. PROTESTANTS hold, That no privilege or power was granted by our Saviour Christ to St. Peter above the rest of the apostles, but that they were all equal in power and authority; and that the Scriptures reveal no such thing as St. Peter's supremacy, nor consequently the supremacy of his successors the Bishops of Rome.
Contrary to the express words of the Gospel.
1. “So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith unto him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John xxi. 15, 16.
2." And I say unto thee that thou art Peter
(or rock) and upon this rock I will build my church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven ; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.' Matt. xvi. 18.
In the first of these texts a commission is by our Saviour given to St. Peter, of feeding or teaching both the lambs and the sheep, which does most fully comprise the whole flock of Christ, as well pastors as people ; for of the lambs and the sheep the whole flock is composed.
In the second text, a power is given to the same apostle, of ruling and governing the flock in spiritual matters, which spiritual power is expressed by the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For, as Dr. Hammond, a noted divine of the Church of England, remarks, what is here meant by the keys, is best understood by Isaiah (xxii. 22.) where they signify ruling the whole house or family of the kin: and this being accommodated by Christ to the Church, denotes the power of governing in it.
In token of this supreme power given to St. Peter by our Saviour, we find him constantly set in the first place, whenever the apostles are named in the Gospels : nay, by St. Matthew, he is not only mentioned first, but called the first. As a further confirmation of the same, we find him preaching the gospel the first of the apostles, both to Jews and Gentiles : the holy scripture bearing evidence that God, who elected St. Paul to be the apostle of the Gentiles (Gal. ii. 8.), made choice of St. Peter to be the apostle both of Jews and Gentiles.