The sixteenth century presents the spectacle of a stormy sunrise after a dismal night. Europe awoke from the long sleep of superstition. Nations shook off their chains. The dead arose. The witnesses to truth who had been silenced and slain stood up once more and renewed their testimony. The martyred confessors reappeared in the Reformers. There was a cleansing in the spiritual sanctuary. Civil and religious liberty were inaugurated. The discovery of printing and revival of learning accelerated the movement. There was progress everywhere. Columbus struck across the ocean and opened a new hemisphere to view. Rome was shaken on her seven hills, and lost one-half of her dominions. Protestant nations were created. The modern world was called into existence.
The sixteenth century was the age of the Reformation. The Church had become frightfully deformed; it needed to be thoroughly reformed It had departed from the faith; it needed to be brought back to it. It needed a restoration of non-apostate Christianity. A reassertion was required of rights Divine and human. The Papacy had subverted both the government of God and the liberties of man. Its central principle involves the expulsion from the worm of its rightful Ruler and Savior, and substitutes for Him a dynasty of blasphemous usurpers. And it involves equally the destruction of all man’s noblest rights. It denies to him his lawful access to his Maker. A fellow mortal, a pretended priest, stands in the way, and blocks the path of eternal life. He stands across the sunshine of God’s love, and casts upon the trembling human spirit a deadly shade. He claims to have the keys of heaven and hell. He thunders lying anathemas, and forbids mankind to approach the throne of infinite mercy save through him, and then only just so far as he permits. Thus Christ is eclipsed, salvation is stolen; the Papal priest is substituted for the Savior of sinners, the mystery of iniquity for the mystery of godliness, the proud pope of Rome for the holy Prince of Peace, poison for food; and Satan himself is palmed upon the Church of Jesus Christ as her head and husband. What a cursed system! Thought can scarcely fathom the abyss of evil which it creates! It arrests the flowing of heaven’s waters in the wilderness, and turns the streams of life to stagnant, putrid blood. It arrests the shining of heaven’s holy light, the illuminating influence of gospel truth, and plunges the world in gloom and darkness so gross that they may be felt. It arrests the healing hand of Divine grace and forgiveness, and substitutes for it the polluting touch of priestly fingers, stained and contaminated with lust, hypocrisy, and blood. It changes grace, that sweet and sacred mystery, spiritual, holy, not of the earth, free, oh, how free, and how Divine! for it is the Spirit’s influence ” it changes this into a mystical abomination, an insufferable compound, a something manipulated by the fingers of hypocrites, “ministered,” as they say, through sacraments, and sacraments of their own invention and management. Seven sacraments, forsooth! A something transmitted, too, through a generation of pretended vicars of Jesus Christ, and their agents, and doled out by them to a dying worm for pecuniary considerations! Do they not blush to perpetuate such damnable deceptions? Have the eternal interests of men no value in their eyes? Is the grace of God to be transmuted to a vile currency, that it may be deposited in the pockets of priests, and circulated by them as base coin is by rogues and vagabonds? Is conscience utterly dead within them? Dead? It is as good as dead; “seared with a hot iron,” till it has lost the sense of right and wrong, and can no longer feel the infamy of doctrines and deeds which would have made the men of Sodom blush with shame. A system which travesties the truth, hardens the conscience, enslaves the mind, corrupts the heart, which buries the Bible, prostitutes the ministry, profanes the sacraments, persecutes the saints, betrays and butchers the flock of Christ, and outrages all that is sacred and all that is Divine ” deserves and demands to be exposed, detested, judged, destroyed, and swept out of an injured world.
And God raised up the Reformation to do this work of protest, exposure, condemnation, and deliverance. To restore to men His word, to restore to them their rights, to open the eyes of nations, to raise them and make them stand upon their feet as responsible and free, to roll off their spirits the dark incubus, the eternal nightmare of priestly imposture and tyranny, to reestablish the ordinances and privileges of pure and primitive religion; such was the work of the Reformation which God wrought in Europe three centuries ago.
He who had raised up the prophets and apostles in olden times, He who raised up confessors and witnesses in the middle ages, raised up reformers in the sixteenth century, lionlike men, to undertake this mighty enterprise and accomplish this glorious work. There was that lion Luther, who shook Rome and Europe with his roar; and that lion Tyndale, who wrenched the Bible from the priests and gave it to us here in England in our own mother tongue, though it cost him his life to do it; and that Swiss lion Zwingle, who fell on the battlefield; and that lion of Picardy, John Calvin, who rose in his strength and majesty when Zwingle fell; and that lion John Knox of Scotland, who feared not the face of man, and turned not aside for any: these, and such as these, were the men through whom God overthrew in Germany, in Switzerland, in France, in England, Scotland, and Holland, the diabolical power and dominion of the Papacy.
We wish to invite your special attention to the fact that the convictions of the Reformers with reference to the character of the Papal Church, and the duty of separation from it, were largely derived from their study and interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures. We invite you to consider the manner in which the Reformers interpreted the prophecies bearing upon the Papal apostasy, the practical use which they made of them, and the power which these prophecies exerted in directing and sustaining the great work of the Reformation. To the Reformers Rome was the “Babylon” of the Apocalypse, and the Papal pontiff the predicted “man of sin.” Separation from the Church of Rome and from its pontifical head was regarded by them as a sacred duty. They urged on all Christian persons within the Church of Rome the apocalyptic command, “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” To them separation from Rome was not separation from Christ, but from antichrist. This was the principle upon which they began and prosecuted the work of the Reformation, the principle which directed and supported them, and rendered them invincible.
Take first the case of the reformer Luther. Early in the year 1520, he wrote to Spalatinus thus: “I am extremely distressed in my mind. I have not much doubt but the pope is the real antichrist. The lives and conversation of the popes, their actions, their decrees, all agree most wonderfully to the descriptions of him in Holy Writ.”
In the autumn of the same year he printed a treatise on the “Babylonish Captivity of the Church.” Such was the title. In this he exposed the imposture of indulgences; he showed that their object is to rob men of money by the perversion of the gospel. In this animated production Luther called the Papacy “the kingdom of Babylon.” Meanwhile Leo X. published his famous damnatory bull against Luther, containing extracts from his works, and forbidding all persons to read his writings on pain of excommunication; commanding those who possessed his works to burn them; excommunicating Luther as an obstinate heretic delivered to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, and commanding all secular princes, under pain of incurring the same censures and forfeiting all their dignities, to seize his person, that he might be punished as his crimes deserved.
In October of the same year, Luther wrote to Spalatinus: “At last the Roman bull is come, and Eckius is the bearer of it. I treat it with contempt. You see that the expressed doctrines of Christ Himself are here condemned. I feel myself now more at liberty, being assured that the popedom is antichristian and the seat of Satan.”
On December 1st he published two tracts in answer to the bull, one of which was entitled, “Martin Luther against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist.” In its conclusion he admonishes the pope and his cardinals no longer to persevere in madness, “no longer to act the undoubted part of the antichrist of Scriptures.”
On December 10th in the same year, 1520, Luther called together the professors and students in the town of Wittemberg, and publicly burned the Papal bull. Along with it he burned the canon law, the decretals, the Clementines, and the extravagants of the popes.
The die was now cast. Luther had declared war against the Roman pontiff. He had “boldly denominated him the man of sin, and exhorted all Christian princes to shake off his usurpations.” In this manner was the Reformation inaugurated.
In order to justify his action, Luther selected thirty articles from the code of Papal laws, as illustrating the contents of the books he had consumed. These he printed with pointed remarks, calling on the people to use their own judgment with reference to them. He sums up by saying that on comparing the different parts of the canon law, its language simply amounts to this: “that the pope is God on earth above all that is earthly, temporal, or spiritual; that all things belong to the pope, and that no one must venture to say, What doest thou?”
Here is an old black-letter copy of Luther’s “Commentary on the epistle to the Galatians.” Under the expression in the second verse, “the Churches of Galatia,” he says, “Wheresoever the substance of the holy sacraments remaineth, there is the holy Church, although antichrist there reigns, who, as the Scripture witnesseth, sitteth not in a stable of fiends, or in a swine-sty, or in a company of infidels, but in the highest and holiest place of all, namely, in the temple of God.”
Again he exclaims: “Is not this to sit in the temple of God, to profess himself to be ruler in the whole Church? What is the temple of God? Is it stones and wood? Did not Paul say, The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are? To sit ” what is it but to reign, to teach, and to judge? Who from the beginning of the Church has dared to call himself master of the whole Church but the pope alone? None of the saints, none of the heretics hath ever uttered so horrible a word of pride.” 1
Elsewhere again he says, 2 that when Daniel “saw the terrible wild beast which had ten horns, which by the consent of all is the Roman empire, he also beheld another small horn come up in the middle of them. This is the Papal power, which rose up in the middle of the Roman empire.”
Thus did Luther interpret prophecy; and under the influence of these interpretations of the prophetic teachings of Daniel, Paul, and John sprang up and advanced the glorious Reformation of the sixteenth century.
One of the witnesses of Luther’s disputation at Leipsic in the year 1519 was Philip Melanchthon, the learned professor of Greek at Wittemberg. Melanchthon was a man of wonderful ability and application. The treatment of the most difficult subjects became simple in his hands. He was one of the greatest theologians of his age, and composed the celebrated Confession of Augsburg in 1530, the foundation of the reformed German faith. As this Confession was intended to be publicly read to the hostile Roman Catholic emperor Charles V, in the presence of princes and ecclesiastical dignitaries, Melanchthon toned it down as far as possible, avoiding all judgments of the Roman Catholic Church which would cause offense. Luther complained of this omission. “Satan sees clearly,” said he, “that your apology has passed lightly over the articles of purgatory, the worship of saints, and above all of the pope and of antichrist. ” 3
Melanchthon lacked the bold spirit of Luther, but he shared most of his sentiments. He was clear in his convictions that Rome is the Babylon of the Apocalypse, and the pope the man of sin. 4 In his disputation on marriage, referring to the first Epistle to Timothy, he says, “Since it is most certain that the pontiffs and the monks have forbidden marriage, it is most manifest, and without any doubt true, that the Roman pontiff, with his whole order and kingdom, is the very antichrist.” 5 He adds: “Likewise in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul clearly says that the man of sin shall rule in the Church, exalting himself against the worship of God, etc. But it is manifest that the popes do rule in the Church, and under title of the Church in defending idols. Wherefore I affirm that no heresy hath arisen, nor indeed shall be, with which these descriptions of Paul can more truly and certainly accord and agree than to this Papal kingdom.” 6
He further adds in the same disputation (article 25): “The prophet Daniel also attributes these two things to antichrist; viz., that he shall place an idol in the temple, and honor it with gold and silver, and that he shall not honor women. That both these things belong to the Roman pontiff, who does not clearly see? The idols are clearly the impious mass, the worship of saints, and the statues which are exhibited in gold and silver that they may be worshipped.”
The Reformation begun in Switzerland by Zwingle, who was previously canon and priest of Zurich, and carried on by Oecolampadius, Bullinger, and others, produced the Helvetic Confession, drawn up at Basle by reformed Swiss theologians, in 1536. This Confession, after being accepted and signed by the reformed cantons and towns, was sent to the Lutheran divines assembled at Smalkald in 1537. In both the Helvetic and Smalkald Confessions the Papacy is condemned as the predicted antichristian power. 7
The same great doctrine is taught in the valuable Bohemian Confession of 1573, which was composed of four Confessions of more ancient date.
John Calvin, that mighty theologian and reformer, whose works are published in fifty volumes, uttered upon this subject no uncertain sound. In his letter to the emperor Charles V, on the necessity of reforming the Church, he wrote as follows: “The arrogance of antichrist of which Paul speaks is, that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. For where is the incomparable majesty of God after mortal man has been exalted to such a height that his laws take precedence of God’s eternal decrees? I omit that the apostle describes the prohibitions of meats and of marriage as a doctrine of devils; that is surely bad enough: but the crowning impiety is to set man in a higher rank than God. If they deny the truth of my statement, I appeal to fact.” He goes on, “What are those two laws of celibacy and auricular confession but dire murderers of souls?” At the conclusion of this letter to the emperor he says: “I deny that see to be apostolical wherein naught is seen but a shocking apostasy; I deny him to be the vicar of Christ who in furiously persecuting the gospel demonstrates by his conduct that he is antichrist; I deny him to be the successor of Peter who is doing his utmost to demolish every edifice that Peter built; and I deny him to be the head of the Church who by his tyranny lacerates and dismembers the Church, after dissevering her from Christ, her true and only head.”
In his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” 8 Calvin again defends the view that the Roman pontiff is antichrist. “To some,” he says, “we seem slanderous and petulant when we call the Roman pontiff antichrist; but those who think so perceive not that they are bringing a charge of intemperance against Paul, after whom we speak, nay, in whose very words we speak..Paul says that antichrist would sit in the temple of God. ..Hence we infer that his tyranny is more over souls than bodies, a tyranny set up in opposition to the spiritual kingdom of God..When he adds that in his own time the mystery of iniquity, which was afterwards to be openly manifested, had begun to work in secret, we thereby understand that this calamity was neither to be introduced by one man, nor to terminate in one man. Moreover, when the mark by which he distinguishes antichrist is that he would rob God of his honor and take it to himself, he gives the leading feature which we ought to follow in searching out antichrist, especially when pride of this description proceeds to the open devastation of the Church. Seeing then it is certain that the Roman pontiff has impudently transferred to himself the most peculiar properties of God and Christ, there cannot be a doubt that he is the leader and standard bearer of an impious and abominable kingdom.”
Take now the testimony of William Tyndale. Here are several volumes containing the doctrines and treatises of that famous minister, reformer, and martyr, who first translated the New Testament from Greek into English. See how plainly this learned and honest man spoke out on the antichristian character of the Papacy. “Antichrist,” he says, “in another manner hath sent forth his disciples, those false anointed of which Christ warneth us before, that they should come and show miracles and wonders, even to bring the very elect out of the way, if it were possible. ..A bishop must be faultless, the husband of one wife. Nay, saith the pope, the husband of no wife, but the holder of as many women as he listeth. What saith the pope? I command to read the gospel in Latin..It is verily as good to preach to swine as to men, if thou preach it in a tongue they understand not..Well, saith the pope, if they will not be ruled, cite them to appear, and pose them sharply what they hold of the pope’s power, of his pardons, his bulls, of purgatory, of ceremonies, of confessions..If they miss in any point, make heretics of them and burn them..The emperors and kings are no other nowadays but even hangmen unto the popes and bishops, to kill whomsoever they condemn, without any more ado; as Pilate was unto the scribes and Pharisees and high bishops, to hang Christ..What signifieth that the prelates are so bloody, and clothed in red? That they be ready every hour to suffer martyrdom for the testimony of God’s word? Is that also not a false sign, when no man dare [before] them once open his mouth to ask a question of God’s word, because they are ready to bum him?. . Is not that shepherd’s hook, the bishop’s crosier, a false sign? Is not that white rochet that the bishops and canons wear, so like a nun and so effeminately, a false sign? What other things are their sandals, gloves, miters, and all the whole pomp of their disguising, than false signs, in which Paul prophesies that they should come? And as Christ warned us to beware of wolves in lambs’ skins, and bade us look rather unto their fruits and deeds than to wonder at their disguisings. Run throughout all our holy religions, and thou shalt find them likewise all clothed in falsehood.”
In his exposition of the famous passage about antichrist in the First Epistle of John, Tyndale says: “Though the Bishop of Rome and his sects give Christ these names (His rightful names), yet in that they rob Him of the effect, and take the signification of His names unto themselves, and make of Him but a 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 bore unto His Son, and deprive the Son of all the power and glory that His Father gave Him. For ‘whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father,’ for ‘no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and to whom the Son showeth Him.’ Moreover, if thou know not the mercy that God hath showed thee in Christ, thou canst not know Him as a Father. Thou mayest well, apart from Christ, know Him as a tyrant, and thou mayest know Him by His works as the old philosophers did, that there is a God; but thou canst neither believe in His mercy nor love His laws ” which is the only worship in the spirit save by Christ.”
All the other English reformers, including Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer, Bradford, and Jewell, held the pope of Rome to be the man of sin. So did John Knox in Scotland; and he sounded out his testimony on this subject as with a trumpet. Here is an old copy of Knox’s “History of the Reformation.” Its contents are thus described on the title page: “The manner, and by what persons, the light of Christ’s gospel has been manifested into this realm after that horrible and universal defection from the truth which has come by the means of that Roman antichrist.”
Knox begins his history by giving a list of the articles of faith attributed to the Lollards of Kyle, taken from the register of Glasgow. Of these the thirty-second article runs thus: That the pope is the head of the Kirk of antichrist.” After describing the affecting martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton ” whose dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! how long shall darkness overwhelm this realm? how long wilt Thou suffer this tyranny of men?” he tells how he himself was led to undertake the public preaching of God’s word. In the year 1547 Knox, wearied of removing from place to place by reason of persecution, came to the Castle of St. Andrews, resolved to leave Scotland for Germany. Here he took the part of a godly preacher named John Rough against Dean Annan, a Romanist. Knox wielded his pen with such effect that Annan was beaten from all his defenses, and was compelled to take shelter under the authority of the Church, which authority, he said, “damned all Lutherans and heretics, and therefore he needed no further disputation.” To this Knox answered: “Before we hold ourselves, or that ye can prove us, sufficiently convinced, we must define the Church by the right notes given to us in God’s Scripture of the true Church; we must discern the immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ from the mother of confusion, spiritual Babylon, lest that impudently we embrace a harlot instead of the chaste spouse; yea, to speak in plain words, lest that we submit ourselves to Satan, thinking that we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ. For, as your Roman Church, as it is now corrupted,…I no more doubt but that it is the synagogue of Satan, and the head thereof called the pope, to be the man of sin of whom the apostle speaketh, than that I doubt that Jesus Christ suffered by the procurement of the visible Church of Jerusalem. Yea, I offer myself by word or writing to prove the Roman Church this day further degenerate from the purity which was in the days of the apostles, than was the Church of the Jews from the ordinances given by Moses when they consented to the innocent death of Jesus Christ.”
Knox tells us that these words were “spoken in the open audience of the parish church of St. Andrews,” after Dean Annan’s delivery. The people, hearing the offer, urged Knox to lay his proofs before them in a public speech, saying that if Knox was right, they had been miserably deceived.
Knox consented, and was appointed to preach the following Sunday. On that day, he tells us, he preached his first sermon, taking his text from the seventh chapter of Daniel. He gives us an outline of its contents. It opened with a “short discourse” on the four empires the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman ” as set forth by the four wild beasts of the seventh chapter of Daniel, and then showed that the persecuting “little horn” of the fourth empire was identical with the man of sin and antichrist, and signified the Roman Papacy. For this sermon Knox was called to account before a convention of “gray friars and black fiends,” as he calls them. Nine articles were laid against him. Of these the first was that he had taught that “no mortal man can be head of the Church”; and the second that “the pope is an antichrist, and so is no member of Christ’s mystical body.” Knox gives an account of his argument with the friars on this occasion, in which he evidently had the best of it. Thus was launched the Reformation in Scotland, and Knox’s sermon in St. Andrews on the “little horn” of prophecy struck its keynote and started its testimony.
The English reformers were no less clear in their views and emphatic in their teachings. Ridley thus expresses himself: “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 that St. John calls, in his Revelation, Babylon, or the whore of Babylon, and spiritual Sodom and Egypt, the mother of fornications and abominations upon earth.”
Latimer, when examined by the commissioners on his trial, said: “I confess there is a Catholic Church, to the determination of which I stand, but not the Church which you call Catholic, which sooner might be called diabolic.” In his second conference with Ridley he says: “Yea, what fellowship hath Christ with antichrist? therefore it is not lawful to bear the yoke with Papists. ‘Come forth from among them, and separate yourselves from them, saith the Lord.'”
Bishop Jewell wrote a most masterly and powerful commentary on Thessalonians, proving the pope of Rome to be the man of sin. Here is a copy of it. Take as a specimen the following sentences about antichrist: “Some say that he should be Jew of the tribe of Dan; some that he should be born in Babylon;…some that Mohammed is antichrist;…some that Nero was antichrist; some that he should be born of a friar and a nun; some that he should continue but three years and a half; some that he should turn trees upside down with the tops to the ground, and should force the roots to grow upwards, and then should flee up into heaven and fall down and break his neck. These tales have been craftily devised to beguile our eyes, that whilst we think upon these guesses, and so occupy ourselves in beholding a shadow, or probable conjecture of antichrist, he which is antichrist indeed may unawares deceive us.
“He will come in the name of Christ, yet will he do all things against Christ and under pretense and color of serving Christ; he shall devour the sheep and people of Christ; he shall deface whatsoever Christ hath taught; he shall quench that fire which Christ hath kindled; those plants which Christ hath planted he shall root up; he shall undermine that house which Christ hath built; he shall be contrary to Christ, his faith contrary to the faith of Christ, and his life contrary to the life of Christ..”
“Christ was humble and lowly. The prophet, in his own person, speaks of Him, Psalm 22: ‘I am a worm, and not a man; a shame of men, and the contempt of the people.’
And the apostle saith, Philippians 2: ‘He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’
Behold His parents, His birth, His cradle; behold His life, His disciples, His doctrine, and His death; all were witnesses unto His humility. He saith of Himself, ‘The Son of man hath not where to rest His head’; and to His disciples He saith, ‘The kings of the Gentiles reign over them, and they that bear rule over them are called gracious lords; but ye shall not be so.’ And again, ‘Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.'”
“Now, on the other part, take view of antichrist. Behold his birth, his place, his chair, his estate, his doctrine, his disciples; and all his life you shall see nothing but pomp and glory. Gregory calls him the king of pride. He is proud in life, proud in doctrine, proud in word, and proud in deeds; he is like Lucifer, and sets himself before his brethren, and over nations and kingdoms.”
“He makes every knee to bow down to him and worship him; he makes kings to bring him water, to carry his train, to hold his cup, to bear his dish, to lead his bridle, and to hold his stirrup; he claims power over heaven and earth; he saith he is lord over all the world, the lord of lords and the king of kings; that his authority reaches up into heaven and down into hell; that he can command the angels of God; that he condemns whom he will condemn; that he makes saints at his pleasure; that whatsoever he blesses is blessed, and that whatsoever he curses is cursed.”
“He sells merits, the forgiveness of sins, the sacrifice for the quick and the dead; he makes merchandise of the souls of men; he lays filthy hands upon the Lord’s anointed; he removes kings and deposes the states and princes of the world. This is antichrist; this is his power. Thus shall he work and make himself. So shall he sit in the temple of God. The people shall wonder at him, and shall have him in reverence; they shall say, Who is like unto the beast? who is so wise, so mighty, so godly, so virtuous, so holy, so like unto God? ” so intolerable and monstrous shall be his pride.”
Listen now to the dying testimony upon this subject of the well-known reformer Archbishop Cranmer. Let me read you the words he spoke just before his martyrdom: “Forasmuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon all hangeth of my life past and of my life to come, either to live with my master Christ for ever in joy, or else to be in pain for ever with wicked devils in hell, and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or else hell ready to swallow me up, I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith, how I believe, without any color or dissimulation; for now it is not time to dissemble, whatsoever I have said or written in time past.” Having briefly expressed the chief articles of his faith, he refers to his previous recantation in the following terms: “And now I come to the great thing that so much troubleth my conscience more than anything I ever did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and which was written for fear of death, and to save my life if it might be; and that is all such bills and papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished therefore; for, may I come to the fire, it shall first be burned; and as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy, and antichrist, with all his false doctrines.”
On uttering this, Cranmer was pulled down from the stage and led to the fire. Having put off his outer garments, he stood there in a shirt which hung down to his feet. His beard was long and thick, and covered his bosom. Then was an iron chain tied about him, and the fire set to the faggots. When these were kindled, and the fire began to burn near him, stretching out his arm he put his right hand into the flame, holding it there immovable. Thus did he stand, moving no more than the stake to which he was bound. His eyes were lifted to heaven and often he repeated, “This hand hath offended; oh, this unworthy right hand!” At last, in the greatness of the flame, he cried, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” and gave up the ghost.
“Antichrist, which now by the will of God doth rage for the trial of our faith, doth nothing else but procure us a ready horse to bring us to heaven.” So said that holy man John Bradford; “brother Bradford,” as Ridley called him. And he too was burned. When led to the stake, he took a faggot in his hand and kissed it, rejoicing to suffer death in the cause of Christ. Standing then by the stake, with both hands uplifted, he cried, “O England, England! repent thee of thy sins; repent thee of thy sins; beware of idolatry; beware of the false antichrists; take heed they do not deceive thee.”
Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and Bradford were burned for their testimony against the Papal antichrist, just as Huss and Jerome and Cobham had been before. Thousands of martyrdoms have sealed this testimony, and on this testimony rests the Reformation. To reject this testimony is to reject the foundation of that work; it is to reject the foundation of the noblest and divinest work which has been wrought in this world since the day of Pentecost.
Do not misunderstand me. I do not say that the teachings of Scripture prophecy form the sole foundation of the Reformation. The doctrinal and practical truths of Scripture guided the action of the reformers as well as the prophetic. They opposed the Church of Rome, as condemned alike by the doctrines, the precepts, and the prophecies of the word of God. It might be difficult to say which of the three weighed with them most. On each they were clear and emphatic. These three elements cannot be separated in estimating the springs of the Reformation. From the first, and throughout, that movement was energized and guided by the prophetic word. Luther never felt strong and free to war against the Papal apostasy till he recognized the pope as antichrist. It was then he burned the Papal bull. Knox’s first sermon, the sermon which launched him on his mission as a reformer, was on the prophecies concerning the Papacy. The reformers embodied their interpretations of prophecy in their confessions of faith, and Calvin in his “Institutes.” All the reformers were unanimous in the matter; even the mild and cautious Melanchthon was as assured of the antipapal meaning of these prophecies as was Luther himself. And their interpretation of these prophecies determined their reforming action. It led them to protest against Rome with extraordinary strength and undaunted courage. It nerved them to resist the claims of that apostate Church to the uttermost. It made them martyrs; it sustained them at the stake. And the views of the reformers were shared by thousands, by hundreds of thousands. They were adopted by princes and peoples. Under their influence nations abjured their allegiance to the false priest of Rome. In the reaction which followed, all the powers of hell seemed to be let loose upon the adherents of the Reformation. War followed war: tortures, burnings, and massacres were multiplied. Yet the Reformation stood undefeated and unconquerable. God’s word upheld it, and the energies of His almighty spirit. It was the work of Christ as truly as the founding of the Church eighteen centuries ago; and the revelation of the future which He gave from heaven ” that prophetic book with which the Scripture closes ” was one of the mightiest instruments employed in its accomplishment.
To resist the use to which Scripture prophecy was put by the reformers is no light or unimportant matter. The system of prophetic interpretation known as Futurism does resist this use. It condemns the interpretation of the reformers. It condemns the views of all these men, and of all the martyrs, and of all the confessors and faithful witnesses of Christ for long centuries. It condemns the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Wicliffites, the Hussites, the Lollards, the Lutherans, the Calvinists; it condemns them all, and upon a point upon which they are all agreed, an interpretation of Scripture which they embodied in their solemn confessions and sealed with their blood. It condemns the spring of their action, the foundation of the structure they erected. How daring is this act, and how destitute of justification! What an opposition to the pillars of a work most manifestly diviner for it is no less than this, for Futurism asserts that Luther and all the reformers were wrong in this fundamental point. And whose interpretation of prophecy does it justify and approve? That of the Romanists. Let this be clearly seen. Rome felt the force of these prophecies, and sought to evade it. It had no way but to deny their applicability. It could not deny their existence in Scripture. They were there plainly enough. But it denied that these prophecies referred to the Romish Church and its head. It pushed them aside. It shifted them from the entire field of mediaeval and modern history. As to Babylon the Great, it asserted that it meant Rome pagan, not Rome Papal. Rome pagan shed all the blood referred to in Revelation 17,18. Rome Christian had shed none of it. Prophecy was eloquent about the deeds of the Caesars, but silent as to those of the popes; and this though the persecutions perpetrated by the popes had exceeded those of the Caesars. Prophecy expended its strength in warning the Church of the perils from heathenism which it perfectly understood, and was speechless as to the far greater perils arising from the Christian apostasy on which it needed the fullest warning and instruction. It was eagle-eyed as to dangers from without, but blind to dangers from within. It guided and guarded the Church of the three first centuries, but left the Church of the next thousand years and more without a lamp to light its footsteps. As to the prophecies of the man of sin, or antichrist, these had nothing to do with the middle ages, or with the Roman popes, or the long central centuries of the Church’s sorest conflicts; they only referred to a diminutive interval in the far off future, at the end of the world. The man of sin was only an ephemeral persecutor. His whole power was to continue but three and a half years. He was to be a cunning Jew of the tribe of Dan; a clever infidel who was to call himself God and set himself up in a Jewish temple at Jerusalem. Christians had nothing to do with him as such. A Jew was to do all the mischief. The whole evil was but a Jewish infidel spasm in the very last hour of history before the Second Advent. Therefore the reformers were all wrong in their denunciations of the Papacy. They were foolish, misguided, unreasonable, fanatical, and the popes were uncondemned by the voices of the prophets. Daniel and John said nothing about them. They were not the predicted apostates. What though they did shed the blood of heretics like water, and drink it like wine, and make themselves drunken with it, and exalt themselves above kings, and above the world, and clothe themselves with wealth and splendor, with purple and scarlet, gold and peats! what though they did sit supreme upon the seven hills, and ride and rule the Roman empire in its divided Gothic state, and use its powers for the persecution of heretics, and the suppression of what some presumed to call the gospel of Jesus Christ! The prophecies which those contemptible reformers and miserable so-called martyrs said applied to them did nothing of the sort; it was folly to suppose they did. They applied to other people and to other circumstances.
The thunders of prophecy were not directed against them, but against those dead Caesars, and that unborn Jew. And so they puffed at the reformers, and scoffed at the martyrs, and scorned and derided and despised them, and went on in their proud tyranny, and abated nothing of their blasphemous pretensions and blood persecutions.
Which think you were right in their interpretations of Scripture? Those proud popes, those cruel inquisitors, those inhuman monsters who mangled the bodies of holy men and women in their torture chambers, those sanctimonious murderers who stirred up all the might of Christendom, from century to century, against the gospel and against the faithful witnesses of Jesus; or those pure and persecuted saints, those faithful Waldenses and Wicliffites, those earnest Hussites and Lollards, those self-sacrificing Lutherans and Huguenots, those noble confessors, reformers, and martyrs? With one mind and mouth all these Protestants agreed in the substance of their protest. To them Rome was Babylon, and its proud head the antichrist. Were they all mistaken, deluded, and their cruel, tyrannical oppressors and persecutors correct? What think you?
Perhaps you say, But was Rome right in nothing? Must a doctrine be wrong because Rome holds it? Does not Rome hold the truth as to the divinity of Christ, and as to some other points of importance? I grant Rome holds some truths. It would have no moral power unless it did. Even the Mohammedans hold some great truths, and the heathen also. But mark, this is a question of Rome’s judgment concerning herself and the bearing of prophecy on her own history and character. It is here in this judgment that the Futurist claims that Rome was right, and the reformers in the wrong. And the consequences are most serious, for we are living in an age of revived Papal activity. Not only is the Papacy exerting an enormous influence in the outside world, not only has it formulated and decreed its own infallibility, not only is it attacking Protestantism in its strongholds with every weapon in its reach, political, civil, religious, but the principles and practices of the system it guides and governs have been introduced into the bosom of the Protestant Church, and planted securely within its walls, and are working most disastrously for its corruption and overthrow. Never was there a time in the Church’s history when she more needed the barriers which prophecy has erected for her protection. And now when they are so sorely needed, they are not to be found. Futurism has crept into the Protestant Church, and broken down these sacred walls. Romanists, Ritualists, and Protestant Futurists are all agreed as to the non- applicability of Scripture prophecies to the Church of Rome and the Papacy. The Romanists are two hundred millions, the Ritualists are hundreds of thousands, and Protestant Futurists are many thousands in number. They all deny these prophecies their place and office. They remove these barriers. What then is to keep out the incoming Papal flood? The word of prophecy in its solemn warnings of the dangers the Church has to encounter, the foes it has to resist, is asserted to be silent as to this. Why then should this be feared? The reformers were mistaken; the popes were right. Charles V and Charles IX, Philip of Spain and Mary of England, the Duke of Alva and Louis XIV, and all the tribe of Innocents and Leos, Gregories and Clements, Pius IV and Pius IX ” all these were right in rejecting the fundamental position that Papal Rome is Babylon, and its head antichrist; and all the reformers, without an exception, were wrong in maintaining it; they were foolish interpreters of the “sure word of prophecy,” and utterly in error as to the real testimony of Scripture concerning the Church of Rome.
Is this the position you adopt? Is this the conclusion you defend? Are these the views you advocate? You, a Protestant, and this after all that has been written upon the subject, and all the blaze of light which history and experience have poured upon it? If it is, look to it that you be not found fighting against the truth, warring against the word of God, resisting the testimony of the prophetic Spirit; hindering the work of the Reformation, promoting the progress of the apostasy, opposing Christ, and helping antichrist.
Even the Romanists themselves shame you in their clear-sighted comprehension of the issues of this question. Cardinal Manning says, “The Catholic Church is either the masterpiece of Satan or the kingdom of the Son of God.” Cardinal Newman says, “A sacerdotal order is historically the essence of the Church of Rome; if not divinely appointed, it is doctrinally the essence of antichrist.” In both these statements, the issue is clear, and it is the same. Rome herself admits, openly admits, that if she is not the very kingdom of Christ, she is that of antichrist. Rome declares she is one or the other. She herself propounds and urges this solemn alternative. You shrink from it, do you? I accept it. Conscience constrains me. History compels me. The past, the awful past rises before me. I see THE GREAT APOSTASY, I see the desolation of Christendom, I see the smoking rains, I see the reign of monsters; I see those vice-gods, that Gregory VII, that Innocent III, that Boniface VIII, that Alexander VI, that Gregory XIII, that Pius IX; I see their long succession, I hear their insufferable blasphemies, I see their abominable lives; I see them worshipped by blinded generations, bestowing hollow benedictions, bartering lying indulgences, creating a paganized Christianity; I see their liveried slaves, their shaven priests, their celibate confessors; I see the infamous confessional, the mined women, the murdered innocents; I hear the lying absolutions, the dying groans; I hear the cries of the victims; I hear the anathemas, the curses, the thunders of the interdicts; I see the racks, the dungeons, the stakes; I see that inhuman Inquisition, those fires of Smithfield, those butcheries of St. Bartholomew, that Spanish armada, those unspeakable dragonnades, that endless train of wars, that dreadful multitude of massacres. I see it all, and in the name of the ruin it has wrought in the Church and in the world, in the name of the truth it has denied, the temple it has defiled, the God it has blasphemed, the souls it has destroyed; in the name of the millions it has deluded, the millions it has slaughtered, the millions it has damned; with holy confessors, with noble reformers, with innumerable martyrs, with the saints of ages, I denounce it as the masterpiece of Satan, as the body and soul and essence of antichrist.