16th and 17th Century Reformers Testimony of Antichrist
– playlist here –
Witness of the Reforming Fathers,
that the Pope is the Man of Sin, and Antichrist.
At the page referred to I have mentioned Bishop “Warburton’s testimony to the fact of our Reforming Fathers having regarded the Roman Catholic Church as the great predicted Apostasy from the faith, and the Popes as the predicted Man of Sin and Antichrist; a testimony cited verbally in a Note at the beginning of Section 5 of the History of Apocalyptic Interpretation in my 4th Volume. An attempt has been made of late to represent the case otherwise; and that the Reformers of our Church did not so regard the Popes as Antichrist, though they regarded Papal Rome as Babylon. So the Rev. C. Maitland, in his book entitled The Apostolic School of Prophetic Interpretation, speaking of the opinions held from time to time about the Man of Sin and Antichrist, he says on page 5, that “the Reformers of England prudently held their ground in silence [on this point about Antichrist]; confident of one thing only, that Babylon was Rome.” An assertion expanded and explained at p. 372: “The Reformers of England kept closest [as compared with the Protestants of the Continent] to the primitive teaching: recognizing Rome as Babylon: and yet so respecting her worship of the Father and the Son, as to abstain from treating her as Antichrist.” Thus Maitland directly opposes himself to Bishop Warburton, as to the matter of fact. The distinction he supposes the English Reformers have made between the religion of the Apocalyptic Babylon, which he makes Popery, and the religion of the Beast Antichrist, which he makes to be something quite different from, and worse than Popery, is so manifestly absurd, seeing that the Babylonian woman is depicted as riding the Beast Antichrist, in fellowship of the completest intimacy and union, that without further inquiry my readers would probably be well satisfied as to the correctness of Bishop Warburton’s statement. The subject is however so important, the times so critical, and the views of the early Reformers and founders of our English Church on the point in question so often overlooked, if not misrepresented, that it seems to me desirable that the truth about it should be fully and plainly stated, and well and universally understood. I subjoin therefore a series of testimonies out of our Reformers on the subject; from Tyndale, the early Translator of the Bible, and one of the proto-martyrs of the English Reformation, 1536, down to the Translators of our version of the Bible in 1611, and Articles of the Irish Church in 1615. With reference to any distinction Mr. Maitland might wish to make between opinions thus verbally expressed, and the course of action pursued (not “treating the Church of Rome as Antichrist’s”), I must beg my readers to remember that they took, and justified, the mightiest of all steps that could be taken, that of separating from her communion, distinctly on the strength of that opinion.
I give their testimony chronologically.
•1. Tyndale. (Martyred 1536)
“Now, though the Bishop of Rome and his sects give Christ these names, [Jesus, a Savior, Christus, King anointed over all men, Emmanuel, God is with us, Sanctus, that is, holy, that halloweth, sanctifieth, and blesseth all nations,] yet in that they rob him of the effect, and take the significations of his names unto themselves, and make of him but an hypocrite, as they themselves be, they be the right Antichrists, and deny both the Father and the Son; for they deny the witness that the Father bare unto the Son, and deprive the Son of all the power and glory that his Father gave him.”
•2. Cranmer. (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1533; martyred 1555)
“But the Romish Antichrist, to deface this great benefit of Christ, hath taught that his sacrifice upon the cross is not sufficient hereunto, without another sacrifice devised by him, and made by the priest; or else without indulgences, beads, pardons, pilgrimages, and such other pelfry, to supply Christ’s imperfection: and that Christian people cannot apply to themselves the benefits of Christ’s passion, but that the same is in the distribution of the bishop of Rome; or else that by Christ we have no full remission, but be delivered only from sin, and yet remaineth temporal pain in purgatory due for the same; to be remitted after this life by the Romish Antichrist and his ministers, who take upon them to do for us that thing which Christ either would not or could not do. O heinous blasphemy, and most detestable injury against Christ! O wicked abomination in the temple of God! O pride intolerable of Antichrist, and most manifest token of the Son of perdition; extolling himself above God, and with Lucifer exalting his seat and power above the throne of God!”
•3. Latimer. (Bishop of Worcester, 1535; martyred 1555)
“Judge not before the Lord’s coming. In this we learn to know Antichrist, which doth elevate himself in the Church, and judgeth at his pleasure before the time. His canonizations, and judging of men before the Lord’s judgment, be a manifest token of Antichrist. How can he know saints? He knoweth not his own heart.”
•4. Bidley. (Bishop of Rochester 1547, London 1550; martyred 1555)
“The See [of Rome] is the seat of Satan; and the bishop of the same, that maintaineth the abominations thereof, is Antichrist himself indeed. And for the same causes this See at this day is the same which St. John called in his Revelation ‘Babylon,’ or ‘the whore of Babylon,’ and ‘spiritually Sodom and Egypt,’ ‘the mother of fornications and of the abominations upon the earth.”
•5. Hooper. (Bishop of Gloucester, 1551; martyred 1555)
“If godly Moses and his brother Aaron never acclaimed this title [to be God’s vicar and lieutenant] in the earth, doubtless it is a foul and detestable arrogance, that these ungodly bishops of Rome attribute unto themselves to be the heads of Christ’s Church… “Because God hath given this light unto my countrymen, which be all persuaded (or else God sent them to be persuaded), that [neither] the bishop of Rome, nor none other, is Christ’s vicar upon the earth, it is no need to use any long or copious oration: it is so plain that it needeth no probation: the very properties of Antichrist, I mean of Christ’s great and principal enemy, is so openly known to all men that are not blinded with the smoke of Rome, that they know him to be the Beast that John describeth in the Apocalypse.”
•6. Philpot. (Archdeacon of Winchester; martyred 1555)
“I doubt not but you have already cast the price of this your building of the house of God, that it is like to be no less than your life; for I believe (as Paul saith) that God hath appointed us in these latter days like sheep to the slaughter. Antichrist is come again; and he must make a feast to Beelzebub his father of many Christian bodies, for the restoring again of his kingdom. Let us watch and pray, that the same day may not find us unready.”
•7. Bradford. (Prebendary of St. Paul’s 1551; martyred 1555.)
“This word of God, written by the prophets and apostles, left and contained in the canonical books of the Holy Bible, I do believe to contain plentifully ‘all things necessary to salvation,’ so that nothing, as necessary to salvation, ought to be added thereto… In testimony of this faith I render and give my life; being condemned, as well for not acknowledging the Antichrist of Some to be Christ’s Vicar-general and supreme Head of his Catholic and universal Church, here and elsewhere upon earth, as for denying the horrible and idolatrous doctrine of transubstantiation, and Christ’s real, corporal, and carnal presence in his supper, under the forms and accidents of bread and wine.”
•8. Homilies of the Church of England. (Authorized, 1563)
“Our Savior Christ and St. Peter teacheth, most earnestly and agreeably, obedience to kings, as to the chief and supreme rulers in this world, next under God. But the Bishop of Rome teacheth that they that are under him are free from all burdens and changes of the commonwealth, and obedience towards their prince, most clearly against Christ’s doctrine and St. Peter’s. He ought therefore rather to be called Antichrist, and the successor of the Scribes and Pharisees, than Christ’s vicar or St. Peter’s successor; seeing that not only in this point, but also in other weighty matters of Christian religion, — in matters of remission and forgiveness of sins, and of salvation, — he teacheth so directly against both St. Peter and against our Savior Christ: who not only taught obedience to kings, but also practiced obedience in their conversation and living; for we read that they both paid tribute to the king.”
“Neither ought miracles to persuade us to do contrary to God’s word; for the Scriptures have for a warning hereof fore showed, that the kingdom of Antichrist shall be mighty in miracles and wonders, to the strong illusion of all the reprobate. But in this they pass the folly and wickedness of the Gentiles, that they honor and worship the relics and bones of our saints; which prove that they be mortal men and dead, and therefore no gods to be worshiped; which the Gentiles would never confess of their gods for very shame.”
“The true Church …. hath always three notes or marks whereby it is known; pure and sound doctrine, the sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution, and the right use of ecclesiastical discipline. Now, if ye will compare this with the Church of Rome,— not as it was in the beginning, but as it is presently, and hath been for the space of nine hundred years and odd,— you shall well perceive the state thereof to be so far wide from the nature of the true Church, that nothing can be more… The Popes, in not hearing Christ’s voice, as they ought to do, but preferring their own decrees before the express word of God, do plainly argue to the world that they are not of Christ, nor yet possessed with his Spirit… They are worthily accounted among the number of false prophets and false Christs, which deceived the world a long while. The Lord of heaven and earth defend us from their tyranny and pride, that they never enter into his vineyard again and of his great mercy so work in all men’s hearts, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable gospel of his Son Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed in all places, to the beating down of sin, death, the Pope; the Devil, and all the Kingdom of Antichrist!”
•9. Jewel. (Bishop of Salisbury, 1559-71)
“Such shall be the power and authority of Antichrist; so shall he possess the consciences of the people; so shall he sit as an idol in their hearts; so shall he stand in the place of God, and ‘show himself that he is God.’ The people shall receive his doctrine, and believe his word; they shall fall down before him, and worship him: they shall say, ‘Who is like unto the beast? What creature is as beautiful as he? ‘They shall honor him as God. But what is he which hath suffered himself to be so called? Who is he which hath been called by the name of God?…who hath been so wicked? Who hath ever so much forgotten himself? In what place hath he dwelt? Or what hath he been?— Here methinketh I see the secret motions of your heart. You look that I should name the Bishop of Rome; that it is he which hath suffered himself to be called by the name of God. I will not tell you in mine own words. Unless the bishop himself so speak, I will not tell you…Then let us see what he hath written of himself, and what he hath suffered others to write. Pope Nicholas saith,… ‘It is well known that the Pope of the godly prince Constantine was called God.’… In the Extravagants it is set down: Dominus Deus noster papa: ‘Our Lord God the Pope.’ Mark these words: ‘Our Lord God the Pope.’ In them the Pope is called Lord, and is called God. Merciful Lord God, which from thy heavens beholdest this vanity, how great is thy mercy in suffering this! I devise not this. His own books, his own doctors, his own decrees and decretals speak it, and set it down; — Credere Dominum Deum nostrum papam non potuisse statuere, prout statuit, hareticum censeretur: ‘To believe that our God the Pope might not decree as he decreed, it were a matter of heresy.’ It is so written there: he hath heard it, he hath seen it, he knoweth it is so: yet he suffereth it to go abroad, and thereby suffereth himself to be called ‘God.’ He hath burnt many saints of God, and holy men, for no other cause but for the profession of the Gospel: he hath in many places burnt the Holy Bible, and such books as teach nothing but godliness. Where did he ever burn, (what speak I of burning?) where may it appear that ever he controlled, any for so writing, or called in such speeches?
“Many places of the Holy Scriptures, spoken of Antichrist, seemed in old times to be dark and doubtful; for that as then it appeared not unto what state and government they might be applied: but now, by the doctrine and practice of the Church of Rome, to them that have eyes to see, they are as clear and as open as the sun.” “We are not the ministers of Antichrist, Master Harding, but the witnesses of the truth of Christ. He is Antichrist, as St. Paul showeth you, ‘that sitteth in the temple of God, and advanceth himself above all that is called God.’ And to speak more particularly of the matter, by St. Gregory’s judgment he is Antichrist, or ‘the forerunner of Antichrist, that calleth himself the universal bishop,’ and vaunteth himself as ‘ the king of pride,’ and hath ‘an army of priests prepared for him,’ and setteth himself, as Lucifer, above all his brethren. These be the words of St. Gregory: by such colors he blazed out the kingdom of Antichrist. Of him Cardinal Franciscus Zabarella saith thus… ‘The Pope doth what him listeth, yea, though it be unlawful, and is more than a God.’ This is Antichrist, Master Harding, by the judgment of the wise and godly: and the supporters of him, whosoever and wheresoever they be, are the ministers of Antichrist.”
•10. Becon. (Chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, and Prebendary of Canterbury. Died 1567)
“Antichrist hath set up divers sacrifices for sins, but namely that vile and abominable sacrifice of the mass, which he calleth a propitiatory, expiatory, and satisfactory sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead, necessary ad salutem. This sacrifice he braggeth to be of like dignity, and of equal price, with that sacrifice which Christ the high and everlasting Bishop offered on the altar of the cross, yea, to be the very same: again, that he and his chaplains, in that sacrifice of the idolatrous mass, do daily offer up the Son of God to the Father of heaven for the daily sins of the people. Antichrist moreover is not ashamed to say that Christ, by the sacrifice of his death done on the altar of the cross, did only put away original sin; but he and his shavelings, by the sacrifice of their mass, putteth away all other sins at all times, both actual, venial, mortal, &c.”
•11. Sandys. (Bishop of Worcester, 1559, of London, 1570, and Archbishop of York, 1576-88.)
“Christ proposeth his heavenly treasures, remission of sins, justification, sanctification, mercy, grace, and salvation, freely. He that ‘sitteth in the temple of God,’ and termeth himself Christ’s Vicar, doth in like sort offer unto the people bread, water, wine, milk, pardon of sins, grace, mercy, and eternal life; but not freely. He is a merchant; he giveth nothing, and that is nothing which he selleth; for, although he make large promises to the buyer, he selleth that which he hath not to deliver… Thus you see a manifest difference between Christ and Antichrist.”
“We that profess Christ and his Gospel are charged with a defection, a schism, and a falling away… We gladly grant that we are fallen away from the Bishop of Rome, who long ago fell from Christ: we do utterly abandon his usurped and proud authority; we have happily forsaken that synagogue of Satan, that den of thieves, that polluted church, that Simoniacal temple; and we joyfully confess that we have no society or fellowship with his darkness. In our sermons we preach Christ, and none else but him… and, in yielding up our souls, we flee for mercy only to the merits of Christ Jesus, our merciful Savior. This is our apostasy. We have forsaken him that hath forsaken God, and whom God hath forsaken: we have left that man of sin, that rose colored harlot with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, that triple-crowned beast, that double sworded tyrant, that thief and murderer, who hath robbed so many souls of salvation, and sucked so much innocent blood of Christian martyrs; that adversary unto Christ; that pretensed Vicar, who hath displaced the person, not only taking upon him Christ’s room and office, but also boasting himself as if he were a god; and being content of his parasites so to be called. This wicked Man of Sin is at length revealed by the sincere preaching of the gospel.”
•12. Fulke. (Master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, 1578-89.)
“The second argument is, that Antichrist is called the adversary; and therefore is the greatest enemy of Christ, ‘denying Jesus Christ to be God and man, or to be our Mediator.— I answer, the Pope doth so, denying the office of Christ; although, with the devils, he confess in words Jesus to be ‘the Holy One of God,’ and to be ‘Christ the Son of God.’…His Divinity the Pope denieth by denying his only power in saving; his wisdom, in his word to be only sufficient his goodness, in the virtue of his death to take away both pain and guilt of sin; which he arrogateth to himself by his blasphemous pardons. Christ’s humanity he denieth by his transubstantiation; his mediation, in which he is principally Christ, he denieth by so many means of salvation as he maketh beside Christ; viz. man’s merits, ceremonies invented by man, pardons, a new sacrifice of the mass, &c.” “The city with seven hills is still the See of Antichrist described by St. John… The See being found, it is easy to find the person by St. Paul’s description, and this note especially, that excludeth the heathen tyrants, ‘He shall sit in the temple of God.’ “Which when we see to be fulfilled in the Pope, although none of the eldest fathers could see it, because it was performed after their death, we nothing doubt to say and affirm still, that the Pope is that ‘man of sin ‘and ‘son of perdition,’ the adversary that lifteth up himself ‘above all that is called God,’ and shall be destroyed ‘by the spirit of the Lord’s mouth, and by the glory of his coming.“
•13. Whitgift. (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1583-1604.)
“For anything to be a note of Antichrist is not in the nature of any creature in itself (for to that end nothing was made of God); but it hangeth altogether of consenting to Antichrist’s religion and the professing thereof. Which consent and profession being changed into the consent and profession of Christianity, there can stick in the things themselves no note or mark of Antichrist’s religion. The use of bells was a mark of Anti-Christianity in our churches, when the people by them were called to masses, and when they were rung against tempests. Now they are a token of Christianity, when the people by them are gathered together to the gospel of Christ and other holy actions.”
•14. Hooker. (Master of the Temple; died 1600.)
“I permit it to your wise considerations, whether it be more likely, that as phrensy, though itself take away the use of reason, doth notwithstanding prove them reasonable creatures which have it, because none can be frantic but they, — so Anti Christianity, being the bane and plain overthrow of Christianity, may nevertheless argue the church wherein Antichrist sitteth to be Christian. Neither have I ever hitherto heard or read any one word alleged of force to warrant, that God doth otherwise than so as hath been in the two next questions before declared, bind himself to keep his elect from worshiping the beast,’ and from ‘ receiving the mark in their foreheads: ‘ but he hath preserved and will preserve them from receiving any deadly wound at the hands of the Man of Sin; whose deceit hath prevailed over none to death, but only such as ‘never loved the truth, such as took pleasure in unrighteousness.’ They in all ages whose hearts have delighted in the principal truth, and whose souls have thirsted after righteousness, if they received the mark of error, the mercy of God, even erring, and dangerously erring, might save them: if they received the mark of heresy, the same mercy did, I doubt not, convert them.”
•15. Andrewes. (Bishop of Chichester, then Ely and Winchester. Died 1626)
In 1610 he published a work called Tortura Torti, in answer to Cardinal Bellarmine’s Work in defense of Popery, written by him under the assumed name of Matthew Tortus. The whole object and subject of Andrewes’ work is the refutation of Bellarmine; and proof of the Roman Popes being the Man of Sin, and Antichrist, of St. Paul’s, St. John’s, and Daniel’s prophecies.
•16. Translators of the authorized English Version of the Bible. (1611)
“Their contentment every day increaseth and taketh strength, when they observe that the zeal of your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled; manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defense of the truth; which hath given such a blow unto that Man of Sin as will not be healed.”
•17. Articles of the Irish Church. (Agreed on by the Archbishops, Bishops, and rest of the Clergy of Ireland, in Convocation at Dublin, 1615)
“§ 80. The Bishop of Rome is so far from being the supreme head of the universal Church of Christ, that his works and doctrine do plainly discover him to be that Man of Sin foretold of in the Holy Scriptures, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall abolish with the brightness of his coming.”
Citations similar to these above might be multiplied almost indefinitely. But the above are abundantly sufficient to show that the Reformers of the English Church, all through the 16th century, were just as decided as the Continental Reformers in their opinion as to the Popes of Rome being the great predicted Antichrist, and Man of Sin. As to the time at which opinion began to change on this point in the Church of England, my readers will find information in the following very interesting Letter from Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, to the Earl of Anglesey in the reign of Charles II: a letter written in answer to two questions that the Earl had put to him; — the one, Whether the Pope be Antichrist? The other, Whether salvation may be had in the Church of Rome? After saying, in answer to the former question, “I do really believe the Pope to be Antichrist” he thus proceeds to state the opinions of the English Fathers about it.
“The most learned and pious divines of England ever since the Reformation (and of foreign Churches too), have been of the same opinion, and judged the Pope to be Antichrist. So Jewel, Reynolds, Whittaker, Ussher, &c. The translators of our Bible into English, in King James his time, call the Pope that Man of Sin. And in both our Universities the question An Papa sit Antichristus was constantly held affirmative; as appears by their questions disputed in their public Acts and Commencements, which are extant in print. I have heard it so held in Oxon many times between the years 1624 and 1633.
The first who publicly denied the Pope to be Antichrist in Oxon was the late Archbishop, Dr. Sheldon. The Doctor of the Chair (Dr. Prideaux) wondering at it said, Quid mi fili; negas Papain esse Antichristum? Dr. Sheldon answered, Etiam, nego. Dr. Prideaux replied; Profecto, multum tibi debet Pontifex Romanus: nullus dubito quin pileo Cardinalitio te donabit. After this Dr. Hammond denied the Pope, and affirmed Simon Magus, to be Antichrist. “But, which is much more, the Church of England has in her Homilies, confirmed by Acts of Parliament and Convocation, and subscribed by all the Clergy and all Graduates in the Universities, declared the Pope to be Antichrist. And then I desire to know whether they be true and obedient sons of the Church of England, who publicly deny her established doctrine, which they had before publicly subscribed?”
Tyndale’s Works, Vol. ii. p. 183. (Parker Ed.)
Preface to Defence, &c, in Works of Archbishop Cranmer, Vol. i. pp. 5 — 7.(Parker Ed.)
Third Sermon before Edward VI, in Works of Bishop Latimer, Vol. i. pp. 148, 149. (Parker Ed.)
Farewell Letter, in Works of Bishop Ridley, p. 415. (Parker Ed.)
Declaration of Christ, Ch. iii. in Early “Writings of Bishop Hooper, pp. 22 — 24. (Parker Ed.)
Letter to Robert Glover, in Writings of Archdeacon Philpot, p. 244. (Parker Ed.)
Farewell to the City of London, in Writings of Bradford, p. 435. (Parker Ed.)
Homily of Obedience, Part iii.; Homilies, p. 114. (Ed. Come, Cambridge, 1850.)
Homily against Peril of Idolatry, Part iii.; Homilies, p. 231.
Homily for Whitsunday, Partii.; Homilies, pp. 465, 466, 467, 471.
” Latterly the word Deus has been omitted.” Ayre, on Jewel; Vol. i. p. 96.
Exposition of 1 Thess. ii. 4, in Works of Jewel, Vol. ii. p. 906, 907. (Parker Ed.)
Defence of the Apology; Vol. iy. p. 744.
Defence of the Apology, Part iv. ch. vi. div. 1, in Works of Bishop Jewel, Vol. iv. pp. 673, 674.
The Acts of Christ and of Antichrist (which see passim), in Works of Becon, Vol. iii. p. 523. (Parker Ed.)
Sermons of Archbishop Sandys, i. and xx.; pp. 11, 12, 388, 389. (Parker Ed.)
Fulke’s Answers, pp. 368, 373. (Parker Ed.)
Whitgift’s Defence of the Answer to the Admonition, Tract 7, ch. 5, div. 5, p. 276. (Lond. Bynneman, 1574.)
Sermon on Justification, sect. 27, in Works of Hooker,Vol. iv. pp. 653, 654. (Ed. Keble, Oxf. 1836.) It may be useful to compare the above passage from Hooker with the extract and argument from Dr. S. R. Maitland, cited pp. 295, 296, supra. — Also let me ask how, such being Hooker’s declared opinion, Mr. C. Maitland, at p. 372, could allow himself by a partial citation to give his less informed readers the impression of Hooker having been satirical on the very idea of the Pope’s being Antichrist?
Epistle Dedicatory to King James I.
Confession of Protestant Churches, p. 22. (Ed. Dublin, 1835.) The Articles of the Episcopal Church of Ireland were drawn up by the illustrious Ussher, then Professor of Divinity in Trinity College, Dublin. The Irish Church was then a distinct and independent national Church: but it was in intimate connection with the Church of England; and included almost verbatim, the famous nine Lambeth Articles, drawn up at Lambeth Palace under the direction of Archbishop Whitgift. Ibid. Pref. xi.
Ussher himself thus writes on the point. ” As Christ is the head of the Church which is his body, so Antichrist is the head of the Romish Church, which is his body. And this Antichrist is one who, under colour of being for Christ, and under the title of his Vice gerent, exalteth?himself above and against Christ: opposing himself unto him in all his offices and ordinances, both in Church and Commonwealth: bearing authority in the Church of God: ruling over that city with seven hills which did bear rule over nations, and put our Lord to death: a man of sin, a harlot, a mother of spiritual fornication’s to the kings and people of the nations, a child of perdition, and a destroyer; establishing himself by lying miracles and false wonders. All which marks together do agree with none but the Pope of Rome.” Ussher Body of Divinity, p. 412. Edit. London, 1677.
I copy from the Letter as given in the Dublin Examiner for 1839, pp. 379, 380.
Compare the account of this change of opinion given from Cressener in my History of Apocalyptic Interpretation, Vol. iv.