« PreviousContinue »
This being the true account of that zeal, with which the doctrine of Antichrist was asserted in the days of Reformation, let us fee how the case stands at present ; and whether any reasonable prejudice lies against the doctrine itself, from the uses, that were then so happily made of it.
In the first place, The injunction, to come out of her, was, as I observed, not forged by the Reformers; nor (admitting that church to be Antichristian) was it misrepresented by them. Every reader of the prophecies must confess, that the command is clearly delivered, and that the sense of it is not mistaken. How serviceable foever, therefore, this topic was to the cause of reformation, it is not, on that account, to be the less esteemed by the just and candid inquirer.
In the next place, I will freely admit, that the dread, in which most men, if not all men [e], of that time, were held, of in.
[c] l1 [Luther] condamnoit les Bohemiens qui s'etoient separez de notre communion, et protestoit qu'il ne lui arriveroit jamais de tomber dans un semblable Şchifre. VOL. II.
curring the imputation of Schifm, was much greater, than the occasion required, and, upon the whole, a sort of panic terror. For, though a causeless separation from the church would indeed have loaded the Reformers with much and real guilt, yet when the abuses of it had risen to that height as to reduce an honest man to the alternative, either of committing fin, or of leaving its communion, they might well have justified themselves on the evident neceflity of the thing, and had no need of a positive command to authorize their feparation. All this is, now, clearly seen; and if the first Reformers did not fee thus
Bossuet, HiA. des Variat. l.i. p. 21. Par. 1740. And again, p. 28; Apres, dit-il [Luther,] que j'eus furmonté tous les argumens qu'on proposoit, il en restoit un dernier qu'à peine je pus surmonter par le secours de Jesus Christ avec une extrême difficulté et beaucoup d'angoiffe; se'ft qu'il falloit écouter l'Eglife.-One fees for what purpose M. Bossuet quotes these passages, and others of the fame kind, froin the writings of Luther. However, they shew very clearly how deep an impression che idea of Schism had made on the mind even of this intrepid Reformer.
much (as very probably they did not) all that follows, is, That the doctrine of Antichrist, from which that command derived its effect, was less necessary to their cause, than they supposed it to be; not, that the doctrine itfelf is without authority, or the command without obligation.
Lastly, I observe, that, though the violences of the time might force the Rea formers to take shelter in this doctrine of Antichrift, and though the prejudices of the time might induce them to take the advautage, they did, of it; yet, neither of these considerations affords any just prefumption against the doctrine, as it lies in scripture, and is enforced by us at this time out of its because we argue, not from their authority, but from the prophecies themselves; which are much better understood by us; than they were by them; and are still maintained to speak the sense, which they put upon them, I mean with respect to the general application of them to the church of Rome, though we have noE 2
thing to apprehend either from the power of that church, or from the prejudices of the people.
Let no man, therefore, rashly conclude, from the free use made of this doctrine by our old Reformers (and there is scarce one of them that has not left behind him a tract or discourfe on Antichrist) that it hath no better or other foundation, than in their interests or passions. A reasonable man sees, that it has no dependance at all upon them. That Luther, indeed, heated in the controversy with the church of Rome, and smoaking, as I may say, from the recent blast of the papal thunders, should cry out, ANTICHRIST [d], shall pass, if you will, for a sally of rage and desperation (e). But that we, at this day, who revolve the prophecies at our eale, and are in little more dread of modern Rome, than of
[d] Contra Bullam Antichrifti - a tract of Luther, fo called, against the Bull of Leo X.
[e] Luther reconnoit après la rupture ouverte, que dans les commencemens il étoit comme au desespoir
antient Babylon, should still find the refemblance so striking as to fall upon the. same idea; and should even be driven against the strong bias of prejudice (which with us, in England, for above a century past, has drawn the other way) to adopt the language of our great Reformer; this, I say, is a consideration of another fort, and will not be put off so Nightly.
Still, there are other prejudices, which oppose themselves to this great Protestant principle, That the Pope is Antichrift: and thefe, it will not be beside the purpose of this Lecture to consider. It may, then, be said,
II. “ That, although there be not the fame evident necessity for bringing this odious charge against the Papacy, as there was formerly in the infancy of Reformation, yet obvious reasons are not wanting, which may possibly induce the Protestant churches of our times to repeat and inforce it. So long as the separation is kept up, the parti