ANTICHRIST is the adversary of Christ; an adversary really, a friend pretendedly. So then antichrist is one that is against Christ; one that is for Christ, and one that is contrary to him; and this is that "mystery of iniquity."
Against him in deed; for him in word, and contrary to him in practice: antichrist is so proud as to go before Christ, so humble as to pretend to come after him, and so audacious as to say that himself is HE. Antichrist will cry up Christ; antichrist will cry down Christ; antichrist will proclaim that himself is one above Christ.
Antichrist is the "man of sin," the "son of perdition;" a beast that hath two horns like a lamb, but speaks as a dragon.
Christ is the Son of God; antichrist is the son of hell.
Christ is holy, meek, and forbearing; antichrist is wicked, outrageous, and exacting.
Christ seeketh the good of the soul; antichrist seeks his own avarice and revenge.
Christ is content to rule by his word; antichrist saith the word is not sufficient.
Christ preferreth his Father's will above heaven and earth; antichrist preferreth himself and his traditions above all that is written, or that is called God or worshipped.
Christ has given us such laws and rules as are helpful and healthful to the soul; antichrist seeketh to abuse those rules to our hurt and destruction.
The spirit or soul or life of antichrist is that spirit of error, "that wicked," that "mystery of iniquity," that under color and pretence of verity draws men from truth to falsehood.
The body or flesh of antichrist is that church or synagogue of Satan in which the spirit of antichrist dwells, or unto which the spirit of antichrist is become a soul and life.
But God will destroy both soul and body.
Antichrist therefore is a mystical man, so made or begotten of the devil, and sent into the world, Satan himself being the chief and highest part of him.
Three things therefore go to the making up of antichrist: the head, body, and soul. The devil, he is the head; the synagogue of Satan, that is the body; that wicked spirit of iniquity, that is the soul of antichrist.
Christ then is the head of his church, the devil is the head of antichrist; the elect are the body of Christ, the reprobate professors are the body of antichrist; the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of life that acteth Christ's body; that wicked spirit of iniquity is that which acteth the body of antichrist.
Thus therefore are the two great mighties set forth before us, who are the heads of those two bodies.
RISE AND PROGRESS OF ANTICHRIST.
The reason why Christ came into the world was, that he might destroy all the works of the head of antichrist, and them which he endeavors to complete by his wicked spirit working in his body. And the reason why antichrist came into the world was, that the church, which is the body of Christ, might be tried and made white by suffering under his tyranny, and by bearing witness against his falsehoods. For, for the trial of the faithful and for the punishment of the world, antichrist was admitted to come. But when he came, he first appeared where one would have thought there had been no place nor corner for his reception.
Here therefore was his first appearance, even in the church of God. Not that the church did willingly admit him there to sit as such; he had covered his cloven foot; he had plums in his dragon's mouth, and so came in by flatteries, promising to do for Christ and his church that which he never meant to perform; for he showed himself that he was God, and in appearance set his heart to do as the heart of God.
And who could have found in their heart to shut the door upon such a one? True, he came, when he came thither, out of the bottomless pit; but there came such a smoke out thence with him, and that smoke so darkened the light of the sun, of the moon, of the stars, and of the day, that had they been upon their watch, as they were not, they could not have perceived him from another man. Besides, there came with him so many locusts to usher him into the house of God, and they so suited the flesh and reason of the godly of that day, that with good words and fair speeches, by their crafty and cunning sleights whereby they lay in wait to deceive, they quite got him in, and set him up and made him a great one, even the chief, before they were aware. Further, he quickly got him a beast to ride on, far, for sumptuous glory, beyond -- though as to nature as assish a creature as -- that on which Balaam was wont to ride; and by this exaltation he not only became more stately, but the horns of the beast would push for him.
Again, this man of sin, when he came into the world, had the art of metamorphosing, and could change himself, both in form and shape, into the likeness of a beast, a man, or woman.
A lily among thorns, a pearl on a dunghill, and beauty under a veil, will make one turn aside to look on it. Answerable to this, the church, even in the wilderness or under persecution, is compared not only to a woman, but to a comely and delicate woman. Thus the church, though in her weeds of widowhood, is become the desire of the eyes of the nations; for indeed her features are such considering who is her head, where mostly to the eye beauty lies, that whoso sees but the utmost glimpse of her is easily ravished with her beauties. The church, the very name of the church of God is beautiful in the world; and as among women, she that has beauty has her head desired, if it might be, to stand upon another woman's shoulders; so this and that and every nation that beholds the beauty of the church, would fain be called by that name.
The church, one would think, was but in a homely dress when she was coming out of captivity; and yet then the people of the countries desired to be one with her: "Let us," said they to Zerubbabel and to the fathers of the church, "build with you, for we seek your God as you do."
The very name of the church is striven for of the world; but that is the church which Christ has made so; her features also remain with herself. Hear the relation that the Holy Ghost gives of the intrinsic beauty of the church when she was to go to be in a persecuted state: "She was clothed with the sun, had the moon under her feet, and had upon her head a crown of twelve stars." And yet now the dragon stood by. But I say, here is a woman! Let any one who will attempt it show such another in the world if he can.
They therefore that have any regard to morality, civility, or to ceremonial comeliness, covet to be of the church of God, or to appropriate that glorious title to themselves.
And here indeed antichrist came in. She took this name to herself; and though she could not come at the sun, nor moon, nor stars, to adorn herself with them, yet she has found something that makes her comely in her followers' eyes. See how the Holy Ghost sets her forth: she was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand. Hence she is called the well-favored harlot, the lady of kingdoms.
But because the chaste matron, the spouse of Christ, would not allow this harlot to run away with this name therefore she gets upon the back of her beast, and by him pushes this woman into the dirt; but because her faith and love to her husband remain, she turns again and pleads by her titles, her features, and ornaments, that she and she only is she whose square answereth to the characters which her Lord had given of his own; and so the strife began. For so soon as this mistress became a dame in the world, and found that she had her stout abettors, she attempts to turn all things topsy-turvy, and to set them and to make of them what she lists.
CORRUPTION OF THE CHURCH BY ANTICHRIST.
Mischief must needs follow this ugly deed of the man of sin. If a house be on fire, though it is not burnt down, the smell of the flame may long remain there: also we count it no wonder to see some of the effects upon rafters, beams, and some of the principal posts thereof. The calf that was set up at Dan defiled that people until the captivity of the land.
For by antichristian darkness, though they might call it light, the true light was darkened, and so the eye made dim, even the eye of the truly godly. Also the Holy Ghost did much withdraw himself from the church; so the doctrines, traditions, and rudiments of the world took more hold there, and spread themselves more formidably over the face of that whole church.
And this being the effect of light against light at first, is the cause of what to this day we see in the church among the true brotherhood. For as a cause produceth an effect, so oftentimes an effect sets on foot another cause. Witness the jars, the oppositions, the contentions, emulations, strifes, debates, whisperings, tumults, and condemnations, that like cannon-shot have so frequently on all sides been let fly against one another.
The godly all hold the Head; for there antichrist could never divide them. Their divisions therefore are only about smaller things.
I do not say that the antichristian darkness has done nothing in the church as to the hurting it in the great things of God. But I say, it has not been able to do that which could sever their Head from them. Otherwise, there appears even too much of its doings there. For even as to the offices of our Lord, some will have his authority more large, some more strait; some confine his rules to themselves and to their more outward signification, and some believe they are extended further; some will have his power in the church purely spiritual, others again would have it mixed; some count his word perfect and sufficient to guide in all religious matters, others again hold that an addition of something human is necessary.
This darkness could not sever the true church from her Head; yet it has eclipsed the glory of things. By two lights a man cannot see this or that thing so exactly as by one single light; no, they both make all confused, though they make not all invisible. As for instance, sunlight and moonlight together, firelight and sunlight together, candlelight and moonlight together, make things more obscure than to look on them by a single light. The word reflecting upon the understanding without the interposing of man's traditions, makes the mind of God to a man more clear than when attended with the other.
Things therefore will never be well in the church of God so long as there is thus light against light therein. When there is but one Lord among us, and his name one; and when divisions, by the consent of the whole, are banished -- I mean, not persecuted, but abandoned in all by a joint consent, and when every man shall submit his own single opinion to those truths that by their being retained are for the health of all -- then look for good days, and not till then.
CONFLICT BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND ANTICHRIST.
They that are the church do in God's light see light but they that are not, do in their own way see. And let a man and a beast look out at the same window, the same door, the same casement, yet the one will see like a man, and the other but like a beast.
No marvel then if there is here a disagreement; the beast can but see as a beast, but the church is resolved not to be guided by the eye of a beast, though he pretends to have his light by that very window by which the church has hers. The beast is moon-eyed, and puts darkness for light, yea, and hates the light that is so indeed; but the saints will not hear him, for they know the voice of their Lord.
On both sides they are resolved to stand by their way: the church is confident, the man of sin is confident; they both have the same windows -- that is, "the word" -- to see by, and so they manage their matters; yet not so simply by the windows as by the diverse judgment they make of that which shineth in at them. Each one therefore that hath the true or false profession will be confident of his own way: he that was right, knew he was right; and he that was wrong, thought he was right; and so the battle began: "There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Nor is it in man to help it: there has been reasoning, there has been disputing, there has blood also been spilt on both sides, through the confidence that each had of the goodness of his own way: but no reconciliation is made; the enmity is set here of God; iron and clay cannot mix; God will have things go on thus in the world till his word shall be fulfilled; the deceived and the deceiver are his. Things therefore must have their course in the church in the wilderness till the mystery of God shall be fulfilled. God will get to himself great glory by permitting the hoar, the man of sin and the dragon, to revel in the church of God; for they by setting up and contending for their darkness, and calling it the light, and by setting it against that light which is light in very deed, do not only prove the power of truth where it is, but illustrate it so much the more; for as black sets off white, and darkness light, so error sets off truth. He that calls a man a horse, doth but fix the belief of his humanity so much the more in the apprehension of all rational creatures.
It is not therefore to be wondered at that we hear both parties plead so much for their authority, crying out against each other as those that destroy religion. So doth the church, so doth the man of sin. The living child is mine, saith one. Nay, but the dead child is thine, and the living child is mine, says the other. And thus they spake before the king.
The church will not give place, for she knows she has the truth; the dragon and his angels, they will not give place, but as beaten back by the power of truth. Therefore there will, there must, there cannot but be a spiritual warfare here, and that until one of the two is destroyed, and its body given to the burning flame.
FALL OF ANTICHRIST.
Antichrist had a time to come into the world, and so must he have a time to go out again. For although he saith that he is a god, yet he must he subject to the will of God, and must go as well as come according to that will. Nor can all the fallen angels, with all the members and limbs of antichrist, cause this, that their brat should abide so much as one day longer than our God's prefixed time. The Lord Jesus shall consume him, and cause him to melt away; not all at once, but now this part and then that, now his soul and after that his body, even until soul and body are both destroyed.
And that you may be convinced of the truth of this thing, do but look back and compare antichrist four or five hundred years ago, with antichrist as he is now, and you shall see what work the Lord Jesus has begun to make with him, even with the spirit and soul and life of antichrist, both in confounding and blasting it by the Spirit of his mouth, as also by forcing it to dishonorable retreats, and by making it give up to him as the conqueror, not only some of his superstitious and diabolical rites and ceremonies to be destroyed, but many a goodly truth which this vile one had taken from his church, to be renewed to them. Nay, further, he has also already begun to take from him both kingdoms and countries, though as to some not so absolutely as he shall do by and by.
And how has this long ago been fulfilled here in England, as also in Scotland, Holland, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, and other places. Nor has this spirit of antichrist, with all his art and artifices, been able to reduce to antichrist again those people, nations, or parts of nations, that by the Spirit of Christ's mouth and the brightness of his coming have been made to forsake him, and to turn from him to Christ.
The reason is, that the Lord has not retreated, but is still going on in the Spirit of his mouth and in his brightness to make that conquest over him that is determined, in the way that is determined; for the pathway that he goeth is as the shining light which shines more and more unto noon.
The first and chief proceeding of the Lord with the man of sin is to slay his soul, that his body may also be consumed; and when the spirit of antichrist shall be made to leave both the body and ordinances of antichrist, it will be easy to deal both with the one and the other.
And first, for the ordinances of antichrist, because the spirit of error is in them as well as in the body itself. When that spirit has left them, they will of themselves even moulder away and not be; as we have seen by experience here in England, and as others also have seen in other countries.
For as concerning his masses, prayers for the dead, images, pilgrimages, monkish vows, sinful fasts, and the beastly single life of their priests, though when the spirit of antichrist was in them they did bear some sway in the world, yet now of what esteem are they, or who has reverence for them? They are now blown together under hedges as the dry leaves, for the mice and frogs to harbor in. By ordinances of antichrist, I do not intend things that only respect matters of worship in antichrist's kingdom, but those civil laws that impose and enforce them also, yea, enforce that worship with pains and penalties, as in the Spanish inquisition.
These are the very pillars and sinews by which antichristianism remains; and were these dispirited, the whole building would quickly become a ruinous heap.
What could the king of Babylon's golden image have done, had it not been for the burning fiery furnace that stood within view of the worshippers? Yea, what could that horrible command to pray for thirty days to neither God nor man but to the king, have done, had it not been for the dark den and the roaring lions there in readiness to devour those that disobeyed it?
As therefore the burning fiery furnace and the den of lions were the support of the horrible religion of the Babylonians of old, so popish edicts are the support of the religion of antichrist now; and as long as there is spirit, that is, authority in them, they are like to those now mentioned. The spirit of such laws it is that makes them dreadful: for as the furnace would have been next to nothing if void of fire, and the den as little frightful if destitute of lions, so these laws will be as insignificant when Christ has slain the spirit that is in them -- that spirit which causes that as many as will not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
MANNER OF ANTICHRIST'S DESTRUCTION.
Antichrist shall be brought to ruin gradually; a part after a part: here a fenced city and there a high tower, even until she is made to lie even with the ground.
As for the order of the angels that pour forth this wrath, they plainly show that this enemy must come down by degrees; for these vials are by them poured out one after another. Now, since by these vials antichrist must fall, it is evident that this man of sin, this son of perdition, is to fall and die by degrees. He would not die at all, as is manifest by his wrestling with it; but it is an almighty God that judges, and therefore he must come down. His friends also, with what cordials they can, will labor to lengthen out his tranquillity; but God hath set his bounds, and he cannot go beyond the time appointed.
We must also put a difference betwixt his being fought with and wounded, and that of his dying the death. Michael and his angels have been holding him in play a long season, but yet he is not dead; but, as I said, he shall descend into battle and perish, and shall be found no more for ever.
"And the cities of the nations fell," Rev.16:19; the cities of the nations, the antichristian churches, otherwise called the daughters of the mother of harlots. This is a second stroke that God will give this man of sin, and a third cometh quickly.
Wherefore it follows, upon the downfall of those cities of the nations, that great Babylon came into remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. Now then, strike at great Babylon. Great Babylon! What is that? Why, I take it to be the mother, the metropolitan, the great harlot herself. For though sometimes by great Babylon we may understand the church of antichrist in general, yet by it is meant more properly the mother of the daughters, of whose overthrow we have spoken before.
We are now, then, come to the threshold of the door of the house of the old one -- to the door of the mother of harlots and abomination of the earth. This then that but now is said to come into remembrance with God, is that which gave being to the cities destroyed before, to wit, the ministers, the queen, the mother-church as she calls herself.
And this is the wisdom of God concerning her, that she should not be the first that should die, but that she should live to see the destruction of her daughters, and pine away under the fright and sense of that, even until judgment also shall overtake herself.
Thus Pharaoh and his chief ones did live to see the greatest part of Egypt destroyed, before judgment overtook them; but at last it came to their doors also. Zedekiah lived to see his children slain before his face, before judgment overtook him to his own personal destruction.
Babylon also, when God sent the cup of his fury unto her, yet was to live to see the nations drink before her.
From all which I conclude that the mother, the metropolitan, the lady of kingdoms, shall live to see her daughters executed before her face; after which, she shall come into consideration herself, for she must assuredly drink of the cup.
This destruction must be last for this reason also, because she most deserves the bottom of the cup. The bottom is the dregs, the most bitter part, and that where the most heat and fiercest wrath of God do lie. And great Babylon came into remembrance before God: "To give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath."
Now then is the time of iniquity, when it will be come to the full; and now also is the time of God's anger, when it will be come to the full. Now therefore must the murders and thefts and blasphemies and fornications belonging to this mother of harlots, be recompensed to the full, to wit, with the dregs of this cup. Yet since the hailstones come by weight and the wrath comes by measure -- for so a talent and a cup imports, Rev.16:17-21 -- it follows that the almighty God, even in the midst of the heat of all this anger, will keep to the rules of justice and judgment while he is dealing with this enemy: he has not passions to carry him beyond rules of judgment, nor weakness to cause him to fall short of doing justice; therefore he has his judgments for her by weight, and his indignation by measure. But yet this weight and measure are not suited to her constitution, not with an intent to purge or refine her; but it is disposed according to the measure and nature of her iniquity, and comes to sweep her as with the besom of destruction, until she is swept off from the face of all the earth.
Now since she is dying, let us ring her passing-bell; for when she is dead, we that live to see it intend to ring out.
PRESENT STATE OF ANTICHRIST.
Now I saw in my dream, that at the end of this valley lay blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men, even of pilgrims that had gone this way formerly; and while I was musing what should be the reason, I spied a little before me a cave, where two giants, Pope and Pagan, dwelt in old time; by whose power and tyranny the men whose bones, blood, and ashes lay there, were cruelly put to death. But by this place Christian went without much danger, whereat I somewhat wondered; but I have learnt since, that Pagan has been dead many a day; and, as for the other, though he be still alive, he is, by reason of age, and also of the many shrewd brushes that he met with in his younger days, grown so crazy and stiff in his joints, that he now can do little more than sit in his cave's mouth, grinning at pilgrims as they go by, and biting his nails because he cannot come at them.
SLAYING OF THE WITNESSES.
Thus, as to sense and reason, all shall be hush, all shall be quiet and still, Rev.11:7-15: the followers of the Lamb shall be down; the followers of the beast shall be up, shall cry, Peace and safety, and be as secure as a hard heart, false peace, and a deceitful devil can make. them. But behold, while they thus sing in the window, death is striding over the threshold! While they are crying peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh. By that they have well settled themselves at their table with Adonijah, 1 Kings, 1, they shall hear it proclaimed with sound of trumpet, The witnesses are risen again.
Now the Christians' pipes will go again, and surely the earth will be rent with the sound of their shouts and acclamations, while they cry with joyful sound, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."
REASONS FOR ANTICHRIST'S DESTRUCTION.
Antichrist must be destroyed, for that he has usurped the name and attributes of God upon himself. He hath said, I am God. For that antichrist has thus taken the place of God, prescribed and imposed a worship as a God, got the world to worship and wonder after him as after a God; therefore he shall die the death of the uncircumcised, both in the soul, spirit, body, or flesh of antichrist. Therefore will God enlighten and gather and set the kings and nations against him, that both he and his may be buried, and have their dolesome withdrawing-rooms from the world in the sides of the pit's mouth.
Antichrist must be destroyed, because he hath set himself against the Son of God; against the Father, and against the Son. He had a spite against the Son betimes, even then when he came forth but in little things, when he attempted to deny that He was come in the flesh. But seeing he could make no earnings of that, he has changed his methods, and seeks to run him out and down by other means and ways. "Because, therefore, he hath set himself against the Son of God, the King, therefore he must die."
That he hath also set himself against the Son of God, is evident; for he has his name from thence: he is therefore called Anti-Christ.
That he hath set himself against Him, is yet further evident; for that he has endeavored to take from him his headship once, and his offices for and in the church, which is his body; and has called himself the head of the universal church of God.
Antichrist must he destroyed, because of his exceeding covetousness. Religion, such as it is, is the thing pretended to; but the great things of this world are the things really intended by him in all his seeming self-denials and devotions. And for this covetousness also it is that this destruction is to fall upon him. Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, (to his church,) that he may set his nest on high: for he could not do the one before he had obtained the other. For then indeed they began to be high, when they had so inveigled Constantine that he bestowed upon them much riches and honor; and then it was cried, by an angel, and the cry was heard in the city of Constantinople, Woe! woe! woe! this day is venom poured into the church of God.
Nor has any generation, since the world began, been so insatiably greedy of gain, as these POOR people have been. They have got kingdoms, they have got crowns, they have got -- what have they not got? They have got every thing but grace and pardon. Did I say before that religion was their pretence? Doth not the whole course of their way declare it to their face? Every one of them, from the least even to the greatest, is given to covetousness; from the prophet even to the priest, every one dealeth falsely. Money, money, [Footnote: Similar is the testimony of an eminent historian. "In every misapplication which the popes now (thirteenth century) made of their power, money was the object. Every new operation which they performed, was one of extortion; and every new act of oppression was on their part, a financial speculation." Planck. V.574.
Says Luther, in his address to the German nobility, speaking of the pope, "He is a shepherd: yes, so far as you have money, and no farther." The above passage from Bunyan is altogether in the manner of Luther when describing the rapacity and avarice of Rome. hath removed them. And these seeds has antichrist sown where the kingdom of Christ should stand.] as the pedlar cries, "broken or whole," is the sinews of their religion; and it is for that they set kingdoms, crowns, principalities, places, preferments, sacraments, pardons, prayers, indulgences, liberty, yea, and souls and bodies of men, women, and children, to sale; yea, it is for this that they have invented so many places, offices, names, titles, orders, vows, etc.: it is to get money, to rob countries, that they may make their nests on high. And indeed they have done it, to the amazement of all the world. They are clambered up above kings and princes and emperors; they wear the triple crown; they have made kings bow at their feet, and emperors stand barefoot at their gates; they have kicked the crowns of princes from their heads, and set them on again with their toes. Thus their covetousness hath set them on high, even above the suns, moons, and stars of this world: but to what end? that they may be cast down to hell.
Antichrist must be destroyed, because he stands in the way of the setting up of the kingdom of Christ in the world. Many princes were in Edom before there was a king in Israel; and Christ has suffered antichrist to set up before him; and he stands in Christ's way, and has so overspread the world in all places with that which is directly contrary to him, that he cannot set up his kingdom until that which is antichrist's is tumbled down to the ground. Even as a man whose ground is full of thorns and briars and weeds, cannot sow in expectation of a crop, until he hath removed them. And these seeds has antichrist sown where the kingdom of Christ should stand.
When God came from Egypt with his people to set up his kingdom in Canaan, he cast out the heathen before them, in order thereunto: "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it." Wherefore antichrist must be removed and destroyed for this; for antichrist is in flat opposition to Christ, as Tibni was to Omri; wherefore antichrist must die.
The reason is, because Christ's kingdom shall be peaceable, without molestation, and glorious without the fumes and fogs of antichristian darkness. Because also, as the world has seen the manner of the reign of antichrist, and how tyrannical and outrageous a kingdom his is; so they shall see the reign of Christ by his word and Spirit in his people, how peaceable, how fruitful in blessedness and prosperity his kingdom is. And hence it is, that God purposes to bury antichrist before he sets glory in the land of the living; as also you read in the book of Revelation, for there you find the kingdom of antichrist was destroyed before the new Jerusalem was set up. When men intend to build a new house, if in the place where the old one stood, they first pull down the old one and raze the foundation, and then they begin their new. Now God, as I said, will have his primitive church-state set up in this world, even where antichrist has set up; wherefore, in order to this, antichrist must be pulled down, stick and stone; and then they that live to see it, will behold the new Jerusalem come down from heaven, as a bride adorned for her husband.
TIME OF ANTICHRIST'S DESTRUCTION.
The time of her fall is not certainly known by the saints, nor at all believed by her; wherefore her plagues must come unlooked for by her. And as to the saints, their guesses as to the time of her ruin must needs be conjectural and uncertain. For her part, she shall say, and that when she stands where she must suddenly fall, "I shall be a lady for ever."
Nor have I been without thought but that this mistake of the godly may become a snare to antichrist, and a trap to her upholders. For what can be a greater judgment, or more effectually harden the hearts of the wicked, than for them to behold that the predictions, prophecies, expectations, and hopes of their enemies as to their ruin, should quite, as to the time, be frustrate and made void?
It is to be bewailed, namely, the forwardness of some in this matter who have predicted concerning the time of the downfall of antichrist, to the shame of them and their brethren; nor will the wrong that such by their boldness have, done to the church of God be ever repaired by them nor their works. But the judgments of God are a great deep; and therefore who can tell, since the enemy of God would not be convinced by the power of truth and the virtuous lives of some, but that God might leave them to be snared, hardened, and emboldened to run upon their unavoidable destruction by the lies and lightness of others? They begin to vaunt it already, and to say, Where is the word of the Lord as to this? let it come now. But when Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is passed," then was the time for him to be hewn in pieces.
I shall not therefore meddle with the times and seasons which the Father has put in his own power -- no, though they, as to antichrist's ruin, are revealed -- because by the Holy Ghost there is a challenge made, notwithstanding the time is set, and by the word referred to the man of wisdom to find it out if he can.
If Sampson's riddle was so puzzling, what shall we think of this? And though the angel hath intimated that this sealed matter shall be opened towards the time of the end, yet it is evident some have either been too hasty, or presumed too much upon their own abilities; for I am sure they have missed the mark, hardened the heart of the enemy, stumbled the weak, and shamed them that love them.
SIGNS OF ANTICHRIST'S DESTRUCTION.
Forbearance is no payment: God's patience is not a sign that he forgetteth to take vengeance, but rather that he waiteth till his own are come out of her, and until her iniquity is filled up; for then he will execute the judgment written, and will remember the Babylonians and all their ways.
Must antichrist be destroyed? Then this should make us glad when we see the signs of his fall presenting themselves to our view. Indeed, the signs of his fall, or those that forerun it, are terrible and amazing to behold. But what of that, since the wrinkles that are in their faces threaten not us but them? A man is angry and will punish; yea, whets his sword and makes his rod; and he speaks not a word, but blood, blood is in it.
Indeed this should make them that are concerned in that anger afraid. But what terror is there in all this to those for the pleading of whose cause he is so angry with the other? Nothing whereat the innocent should be afraid.
Cold blasts in November are not received with such gentleness as are colder in March and April; for that these last cold ones are but the farewell notes of a piercing winter; they also bring with them the signs and tokens of a jomfortable summer. Why, the church is now at the rising of the year; let then the blasts at present or to come be what they will, antichrist is surely drawing towards his downfall. And though the devil, knowing what is to be done to him and to his kingdom, shall so blind his disciples and fright the godly, and do something like it upon the church of Christ, yet we should look through these paper windows, and espy in all this that fear, yea, certain terrible judgments, are following him at the heels, by which not only the soul, spirit, and life of antichrist, but the body thereof -- yea, body and soul and head -- are quickly to go down thither, from whence they, as such, shall not arise again. Amen.
HOPE OF ANTICHRIST'S DESTRUCTION.
Is antichrist to be destroyed? then let us live in the expectation of it; and let this be one of our songs in the house of our pilgrimage. God bids his people, while in Babylon, to let Jerusalem come into their mind; and writes to them that were then in her, to acquaint them that he remembered them still, and would assuredly deliver them from that place and state. And wherefore doth he thus, but to beget an expectation in them of their salvation and deliverance? The Lord is so pleased with the faith and expectation of his people as to this, that they seldom are herein concerned as they should, but he steps in with them and warms their hearts. The reason is, because the faith of God's people as to the downfall of Babylon, stands upon so sure a foundation as doth the salvation of their souls; and that next to that, God is as much delighted in what he has purposed to do against Babylon, as in any thing else in the earth: and therefore, if you consider it well, the great and glorious promises that are to be fulfilled on earth, are to be fulfilled when antichrist is dead and buried. These dainties are too good even for his children to have, so long as this dog is by, lest he should snatch at the crumbs thereof; wherefore they are reserved until he is gone. Jer.19: 31, 32.
EFFECTS OF ANTICHRIST'S DESTRUCTION.
It shall be done unto antichrist as he hath done to the church of God. As he hath made women childless, so shall he be made childless; as he has made Zion sit upon the ground, so now must this wicked one come down to sit in the dust; yea, as he has made many churches desolations, so now shall he lie also made a desolation. Wherefore, whoso will find his body, must look for it in the side of the pit's mouth; and whoso will find his friends and companions, must look for them there likewise.
Now then Babylon is gone down, when all these things shall be fulfilled. And what remains now but to talk of her as folk use to do of them that are dead; for the day will come, that the church of God shall have no more of antichrist, Babylon, or the mother of harlots, than only the remembrance of her; that there was such an enemy of God in the world; that there was such a superstitious, idolatrous, bloody people in the world. Wherefore, the people, that shall be born, that shall live to serve God in these happy days, shall see antichrist only in its ruins; they shall, like the sparrows, the little robins, and the wren, sit and sing, and chirp one to another, while their eyes behold this dead hawk. Here, shall they say, did once the lion dwell; and there once a dragon inhabited: here did they live that were the murderers of the saints; and there another that did use to set his throat against the heavens: but now in the places where these ravenous creatures lay, grows grass, with reeds and rushes; now their habitation is cursed; nettles grow, and so do thorns and brambles, where their palaces were wont to be.
A day is coming when antichrist shall be unknown; not seen nor felt by the church of God. There are men to be born who shall not know antichrist, but as they read in the word that such a thing has been. These shall talk of her as Israel's children's children were to talk of Pharaoh -- of his cruelty, of his tasks, of his pride, of the Red sea, and how he was drowned there. They shall talk of them as of those that have been long dead; as of those who, for their horrible wickedness, are laid in the pit's mouth. This will be some of that sweet chat that the saints shall at their spare hours have, in time to come.
There will he a strange alteration when antichrist is dead; and that both in the church and in the world. The church and the members of it then shall wear the name of their God in their foreheads; that is, they shall be bold in the profession of their King and God, yea, it shall be their glory to be godly, and carnal men shall praise them for it; the praise of the whole earth shall the church of God be in those days. Now the world shall return and discern, between the righteous and the wicked; yea, they shall cleave to and countenance the people of God, being persuaded, as Laban was of Jacob, that the Lord will bless them for his people's sake.
Now will he broken up those prophecies and promises that to this day lie as under lock and key, and that cannot be opened until they be fulfilled. Now the church of God shall read with great plainness the depths of providence, and the turnings and windings of all God's dark and intricate dispensations, through which she hath waded in the cloudy and dark day: now, I say, they shall see there was a harmony in them, and that, if one of them had been wanting, the work and way of her deliverance could not have been so full of the wisdom and justice and goodness of God. Wherefore now will that song be sung with clearer notes than ever: "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest;"
WARNING AGAINST A RETURN TO ANTICHRIST.
Must antichrist be destroyed? Then what mean they who were to appearance once come out, but now are going thither again.
If it cost Lot's wife dear for but looking hack, shall it not cost them much dearer that are going back, that are gone back again; and that after the angel had flown through the midst of heaven, preaching the gospel to those that dwell on the earth?
They that received the mark of the beast at first, before this angel came forth, are, when compared with these, excusable. Wherefore they are not threatened with the smoking wrath that these are.
You dread that which is like to become of them that will be so mad as to run into a house when fire is put to the gunpowder barrel in order to its blowing up. Why, thus do they, let their pretended cause he what it will, that are returning again to Babylon. Are her plagues pleasant or easy to be borne? Or dost thou think that God is at play with thee, and that he threateneth but in jest? Her plagues are death and mourning and famine and fire; are these things to be overlooked? And they that, as before hinted, shall receive the mark of the beast in their forehead or in their hand, and shall worship him, they shall drink the wine of the wrath of God. And will this be a delightsome draught?
FROM THE "INTRODUCTION TO THE HOLY CITY."
My fourth word is to the lady of kingdoms, the well-favored harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts and the abominations of the earth.
I suppose I have nothing here that will either please your wanton eye, or go down with your voluptuous palate. Here is bread indeed, as also milk and meat; but here is neither paint to adorn thy wrinkled face, nor crutch to uphold or undershore thy shaking, tottering, staggering kingdom of Rome; but rather a certain presage of thy sudden and fearful final downfall, and of the exaltation of that holy matron whose chastity thou dost abhor, because by it she reproveth and condemneth thy lewd and stubborn life. Wherefore, lady, smell thou mayest of this, but taste thou wilt not. I know that both thy wanton eye, with all thy mincing brood that are intoxicated with thy cup and enchanted with thy fornications, will, at the sight of so homely and plain a dish as this, cry, Foh! will snuff, put the branch to the nose, and say, Contemptible! "But wisdom is justified of all her children." "The virgin-daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee;" yea, her God hath smitten his hands at thy dishonest gains and freaks. "Rejoice ye with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her, that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory."
THE WOODEN CROSS.
Some have thought the altar to mean the cross on which the body of Christ was crucified when he gave himself an offering for sin; but they are greatly deceived, for he also himself was the altar through which he offered himself; and this is one of the treasures of wisdom which are hid in him, and of which the world and antichrist are utterly ignorant.
The altar is always greater than the gift, and since the gift was the body and soul of Christ -- for so saith the scripture, "He gave himself for our sins" -- the altar must be something else than a sorry bit of wood, or than the accursed tree.
Wherefore I will say to such, as one wiser than Solomon said to the Jews when they superstitiously magnified the gift, in counting it more honorable than the altar, "Ye fools and blind; for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?"
If the altar be greater than the gift, and yet the gift so great a thing as the very humanity of Christ, can it -- I will now direct my speech to the greatest fool -- can that greater thing be the cross? Was the cross, the wooden cross, the cursed tree that some worship, greater than the gift, to wit, the sacrifice which Christ offered, when he gave himself for our sins? O idolatry! O blasphemy!
But what then was the altar?
The divine nature of Christ, that eternal Spirit, by and in the assistance of which "he offered himself without spot, to God." "He through the eternal Spirit offered himself."
And it must be this, because, as was said, the altar is greater than the gift; but there is nothing but Christ's divine nature greater than his human. To be sure, a sorry bit of wood, a tree, the stock of a tree, is not.
It must be this, because the Scripture says plainly, the altar sanctifies the gift, that is, puts worth and virtue into it. But was it the tree, or the godhead of Christ, that put virtue and efficacy into this sacrifice that he offered to God for us? If thou canst but count thy fingers, judge.
Let the tree then be the tree, the sacrifice the sacrifice, and the altar the altar; and let men have a care how, in their worship, they make altars upon which, as they pretend, they offer the body of Christ; and let them leave off foolishly to doat upon wood and the works of their hands.