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persecution, which he sets up, he contrives to make an image of ancient Paganism, and more than to restore what was lost in the empire by the overthrow of Paganism in the time of Constantine : So that by these means the head of the beast which was wounded unto death in Constantine, has his deadly wound healed in Antichrist, Rev. xiii. 3. And the dragon that formerly reigned in the Heathen Roman empire, being cast out thence, after the beast with seven heads and ten horns rises up out of the sea, gives him his power, and seat, and great authority ; and all the world wonders after the beast.
I am far from pretending to determine the time when the reign of Antichrist began, which is a point that has been so much controverted among divines and expositors. It is certain that the 1260 days or years, which are so often in scripture mentioned as the time of the continuance of Antichrist's reign, did not commence before the year of Christ 479 ; because if they did, they would have ended, and Antichrist would have fallen before now. But I shall not pretend to determine precisely how long it was after this that that period began. The rise of Antichrist was gradual. The Christian church corrupted itself in many things presently after Constantine's time, growing more and more superstitious in its worship, by degrees bringing in many ceremonies into the worship of God, till at length they brought in the worship of sa ints, and set up images in their churches, and the clergy in general, and especially the bishop of Rome, assumed more and more authority to himself. In the primitive times he was only a minister of a congregation ; then a standing moderator of a presbytery ; then a diocesan bishop ; then a metropolitan, which is equivalent to an archbishop ; then he was a patriarch, then afterwards he claimed the power of universal bishop over the whole Christian church through the world ; wherein he was opposed for a while, but afterwards was confirmed in it by the civil power of the Emperor in the year 606. After that he claimed the power of a temporal prince ; and so was wont to carry two swords, to signify that both the temporal and spiritual sword was his; and claimed more and more authority, till at length he, as Christ's
vicegerent on earth claimed the very same power that Christ would have if he was present on earth, and reigned on his throne, or the same power that belongs to God, and used to be called God on earth ; and used to be submitted to by all the princes of Christendom. He claimed power to crown princes, and to degrade them at his pleasure ; and this power was owned : And it came to that, that kings and emperors used to kiss his feet. The emperors were wont to receive their crowns at his hands, and princes were wont to dread the displeasure of the Pope, as they would dread a thunderbolt from heaven ; for if the Pope was pleased to excommunicate a prince, all his subjects were at once freed from their allegiance to him ; yea, and obliged not to own him any more, on pain of excommunication ; and not only so, but any man might kill him wherever he found him. And further, the Pope was believed to have power to damn men at pleasure; for whoever died under his excommunication, was looked upon as certainly damned. And several emperors were actually deposed, and ejected, and died miserably by his means; and if the people of any state or kingdom did not please him, he had power to lay that state or kingdom under an interdict, which was a sentence pronounced by the Pope against that state or kingdom, whereby all sacred administrations among them could have no validity. There could be no valid baptisms, or sacraments, or prayers, or preachings, or pardons, till that interdict was taken off ; so that that people remained, in their apprehension, in a miserable, damnable state, and therefore dreaded it as they would a storm of fire and brimstone from heaven. And in order to execute his wrath on a prince or people with whom the Pope was displeased, other princes must also be put (o a great deal of trouble and expense.
And as the Pope and his clergy robbed the people of their ecclesiastical and civil liberties and privileges, so they also robbed them of their estates, and drained all Christendom of their money,
and engrossed the most of their riches into their own coffers, by their vast revenues, besides pay for pardons and indulgences, baptisms, and extreme unctions, deliverance VOL. II.
out of purgatory, and an hundred other things.....See how well this agrees with the prophecies, 2. Thess. ii. 3, 4. Dan. vii. 20, 21. Rev. xii. 6, 7, and chap. xvii. 3, 4.
During this time also superstition and ignorance more and more prevailed. The holy scriptures by degrees were taken out of the hands of the laity, the better to promote the unscriptural and wicked designs of the Pope and the clergy ; and instead of promoting knowledge among the people, they industriously promoted ignorance. It was a received maxim among them, That ignorance is the mother of devotion : And so great was the darkness of those times, that learning was almost extinct in the world. The very priests themselves, most of them were barbarously ignorant as to any commendable learning, or any other knowledge than their hellish craft, in oppressing and tyrannizing over the souls of the people. The superstition and wickedness of the church of Rome, kept growing worse and worse till the very time of the Reformation ; and the whole Christian world were led away into this great defection, excepting the remains of the Christian church in the Eastern empire that had not been utterly overthrown by the Turks, as the Greek church, and some others, which were also sunk into great darkness and gross superstition, excepting also those few that were the people of God, who are represented by the woman in the wilderness, and God's two witnesses, of which more hereafter.
This is one of those two great kingdoms which the devil in this period erected in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, and was the greatest and chief. I come now,
(2) To speak of the other, the second, which is in many respects like unto it, viz. his Mahometan kingdom, which is another great kingdom of mighty power and vast extent, set up by Satan sgainst the kingdom of Christ : He set this up in the Eastern empire, as he did that of Antichrist in the West
Mahomet was born in the year of Christ 570, in Arabia.... When he was about forty years of age, he began to give forth that he was the great prophet of God, and began to teach his new invented religion, of which he was to be worshipped as
the head next under God. He published his Alcoran, which he pretended he received from the angel Gabriel ; and being a subtle crafty man, and possessed of considerable wealth, and living among a people who were very ignorant, and great. ly divided in their opinions of religious matters, by subtilty and fair promises of a sensual paradise, he gained a number to be his followers, and set up for their prince, and propagated his religion by the sword, and made it meritorious of paradise to fight for him. By which means his party grew, and went on fighting till they conquered and brought over the neighbor. ing countries; and so his party gradually grew till they over: ran a great part of the world. First, the Saracens, who were some of his followers, and were a people of the country Arabia, where Mahomet lived, about the year 700, began dreadfully to waste the Roman empire. They overran a great many countries belonging to the empire, and continued their conquests for a long time. These are supposed to be meant by the locusts that we read of in the 9th chapter of Revelation.
And then after this the Turks, who were originally another people different from the Saracens, but were followers of Mahomet, conquered all the Eastern empire. They began their empire about the year of Christ 1296, and began to inyade Europe in 1300, and took Constantinople, and so became masters of all the Eastern empire in the year 1453, which is near three hundred years ago. And thus all those cities and countries where were those famous churches of old, that we read of in the New Testament, as Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, &c. now all became subject to the Turks. And they took possession of Constantinople, which was named af. ter Constantine the Great, being made by him the head city of the Roman empire, whereas Rome had been till then..... These are supposed to be prophesied of by the horsemen in the 9th chapter of Revelation, beginning with the 15th verse. And the remains of the Christians that are in those parts of the world, who are mostly of the Greek church, are in miserable slavery under these Turks, and treated with a great deal af barbarity and cruelty, and are become mostly very ignorant and superstitious.
Thus I have shown what great works of Satan were wrought during this space of time in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
2. I come now to show how the church of Christ was upheld through this dark time.....And here,
(1) It is to be observed, that towards the former part of this space of time, some of the nations of Christendom held out a long time before they complied with the corruptions and usurpations of the church of Rome. Though all the world wondered after the beast, yet all nations did not fall in at once. Many of the principal corruptions of the church of Rome were brought in with a great deal of struggle and opposition ; and particularly,when the Pope gave out that he was universal bishop, many chuiches greatly opposed him in it; and it was a long time before they would yield to his exorbitant claims. And so when the worship of images was first brought into the churches, there were many who greatly opposed it, and long held out against it. And so with respect to other corruptions of the church of Rome. Those people that dwelt nearer to the city of Rome complied sooner, but some that were more remote, were a long time before they could be induced to put their necks under the yoke ; and particularly ecclesiastical history gives an account, that it was so with great part of the churches in England and Scotland, and France, who retained the ancient purity of doctrine and worship much longer than many others who were nearer the chief seat of Antichrist.
(2) In every age of this dark time, there appeared particular persons in all parts of Christendom, who bore a testimony against the corruptions and tyranny of the Church of Rome. There is no one age of Antichrist, even in the darkest iimes of all, but ecclesiastical historians mention a great many by name who manifested an abhorrence of the Pope, and his idolatrous worship, and pleaded for the ancient purity of doctrine and worship. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of witnesses through the whole time,