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formed, it is readily presumed, had, some way or other, conjured up this spectre of Antichrist, as a convenient engine, by which they might either gratify their own spleen, or excite that of the people; the prophecies all the while being no further concerned in the question, than as they were wrested for these purposes (as they frequently have been, in like cases) from their true and proper meaning."
To remove this capital prejudice (which, more than any other, hath, perhaps, diverted serious men from giving a due attention to this argument) was the main purpose of the preceding discourse; in which it was clearly shewn from historical testimony, that the question concerning Antichrist had its rise in the earliest times; that the prophecies concerning Antichrist, though imperfectly enough understood, and, it may be, passionately applied, had yet been considered, very generally, as referring to Some corrupt Christian and even ecclefiaftiçal person or power; and that many emi
nent members of the Christian church had even applied those prophecies to the same person or power, to which Protestants now apply them, and for the same end, which Protestants have in view, when they apply them to such person or power, for many successive centuries, before the Reformation began. From all which it is undeniable, that the Reformers did not innovate in the interpretation of the prophecies concerning Antichrist; and that their application of them to the fee of Rome, was not a contrivance, which sprung out of the passionate resentments, or interested policies of that time,
It is true indeed (for the truth should not, and needs not be concealed) that the Reformers were forward enough to tay hold on this received sense of the prophecies, and to make their utmost advantage of it; the account of which matter is, briefly, this: The Christian Church had now for many ages been held together in a close dependence on the chair of St.
Peter; and to secure and perpetuate that dependence, was the principal object and concern of the papal court. Various means were employed for this purpose: but the most effectual was thought to be, to inculcate in the strongest terms on the minds of Christians the absolute necessity of communicating with the Bishop of Rome, as the centre of unity, and, by divine appointment, the supreme visible head of the Christian world. Hence, to renounce in any degree the authority and jurisdiction of Rome, was deemed the most inexpiable of all sins. The name of SCHISM was fastened upon it; a name, which was founded higher than that of Heresy itself, as implying in it the accumulated guilt of Apostacy, and Infidelity. The way of heaven was shut against all offenders of this fort; and, to make their condition as miserable, as it was hopeless, all the engines of persecution, such as racks, fires, gibbets, inquisitions, and even Crusades, had been employed against them: as was
seen in the case of the Albigenses and others, who, at different times, had attempted to withdraw themselves from the papal dominion.
Such was the state of things, when the bold spirit of Luther resolved, at all adventures, to break through this inve. terate servitude [a], so dextrously imposed on the Christian world, under the pretence, and in the name, of ecclefiaftical union. Yet the peril of the attempt was easily foreseen, or was presently felt. And, therefore, the Reformers (to prevent the ill effects which the dreadful name of Schism might have on themselves and their cause, and to satisfy at once their own consciences and those of their adherents) not only revived and enforced the old charge of Antichristianism against the church of Rome; but further inlifted (on the authority of those prophecies which justified
[a] Rompons leurs liens, dit il, et rejettons leur joug de deffus nos têtes. Bofuet, H.V. 1. , c. 26.
the charge) that Christians were bound in conscience, by the most express command; to break all communion with her. The expedient, one sees, was well calculated to serve the purpose in hand: but still the command was truly and pertinently alledged; for it exists in so many words (however the blindness or the bigotry of former times had overlooked it) in the book of the Revelations[b]. So that whoever admitted the charge itfelf to be well founded, could not reject this consequence of it, That Christ and Antichrist had no fellowship with each other. And on this popular ground, chiefly, the Protestant cause, in those early times, was upheld; with no small advantage to the patrons of it; it being now clear, that the invidious imputation of Schifin had lost its malignity in the general obligation, which lay upon Christians, to renounce all communion with the church of Rome.
 Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of ber fins, and that ye receive rot of her plagues. Rev.