The Gospel Ministry During the Reign of Antichrist

gospel ministry during the reign of antichrist

Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici, Or The Divine Right of the Gospel-Ministry

London Provinical Assembly

1654

An Excerpt from

Chapter III

Wherein the grand Objection Asserting the Loss of the Ministry under Antichrist, is Answered.

Objection

We confess that there was a Ministry Ordained of Christ, and continued all the days of the Apostles, and some Centuries after, yet the Mystery and Ministry of the Man of Sin was then working, which at length so far prevailed, that all the world wondered after the Beast, and power was given him over all Kindreds and Tongues and Nations (Rev. 13.3); so that he caused all, both great and small, rich and poor, bond and free to receive his Mark in their Right hand, or in their Foreheads (v. 16). In this Apostacy the Church which had been a chaste Virgin, became the Mother of Harlots and Abominations, and not only the Kings and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the Wine of her Fornications, but especially the Priests in all Nations were the abominable Pandors to promote the filthinesse of her Whoredoms, they were the Merchants made rich by her Fornications (Rev. 17.2; Rev. 18.15). Now under this Reign of Antichrist, Bethel was turned into Bethaven, the Ministry was wholly lost, being only in pretence for Christ, but in reality for Antichrist: And therefore we look upon all Ministers now as Members of that notorious Strumpet, as Locusts from the bottomlesse Pit, as Priests of Baal, and Limbs of Antichrist, and so account it not a sinne, but a duty to contemn their persons, and abhorre their Ministry.

Answer

We acknowledge first that the Apostacy under Antichrist was exceeding dreadfull. Secondly, That not only the people and the Princes, but the Priests also had a great hand, and were chief agents in this defection. Thirdly, That its the duty of Gods people to come out of Babylon, that they partake not of their sins, nor receive of their plagues (Rev. 18.4). But yet we need the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in Christ, that we may know the things that differ, that we may not call good evil, and evil good, but according to the Word of truth, judge righteous judgement: And therefore we intreat the Reader or this Objector, conscientiously to ponder these Considerations.

1. Consider, as there have been many false Christs, so there are and have been many mistaken Antichrists; and the holy Ghost bids us, not to beleeve every Spirit, but to try the spirits (1 Joh. 4:1); when many shall say, Lo here is Christ, and lo there is Christ (Mat. 24.23-25): And its as true of Antichrist, some say, Lo here is Antichrist: Some, Lo there; yet the Lord commands us saying, believe them not. The Truths, Ordinances, Servants and Ministers of Christ, do not therefore cease to be of Christ, because some, either by mistake, or by design shall say they are of Antichrist. The Doctrine of the Deity of Christ, who is God blessed for ever (Rom. 9.5), will not cease to be a most precious Truth, because Michael Servetus, Georgius Blandatra, Franciscus David, Laelius Socinus and his adherents condemn it as an Antichristian Errour.

Was Valentinus Gentilis therefore a friend and Martyr to God the Father, because he died as an enemy to God the Son? Were the Valdenses who appeared against the Romish errours, the limbs of Satan, because some of the Romanist affirm that Satan was let loose in Berengarius and his Disciples? How luxuriant and confident are the fancies of many concerning the things contained in the book of Revelation, wherein modest Christians would chuse rather to be humbly inquisitive, then Dogmatically positive? Was Innocent the third the less innocent, or was Pope Calixtus the more holy, because some of their followers make them to be the Angel coming down from heaven, having the Key of the bottomless pit to binde Satan, as if the binding of Satan were nothing else, but to Excommunicate Emperours, and to depresse the Imperial power under the Papal?

Shall Dominicus or Franciscus, those two great Founders of the Orders of the Friars Dominican and Franciscan, the great upholders of Papacy, shall they be less suspected, because some of their disciples admired them, and confidently averred them to be that Angel ascending from the East, having the Seal of the living God? (Rev. 7.2) Men have no power to make Christian, Unchristian or Antichristian, either persons or things, according to their pleasure: The Word of God is established in the heavens, and his Truths do not vary after the variety of mens mistaking fancies: Therefore we have great need to be sober and humble, and to beg of the Lord the spirit of love and of a sound minde, that we may neither justifie the wicked nor condemn the Righteous.

2. Consider, concerning Antichrist, Though we grant it that Antichrist is not an individual person, as Bellarmine and the Papists generally affirm: But the state and succession of men which with one and the self same spirit oppose Christ. 2. That the seat of this great Whore, is not, as some intimate, Constantinople; nor Jerusalem, as others affirm; but Rome that great City, that then reigned over the Kings of the earth, spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. And 3. that the Antichrist is not the Turk and Mahumetanism in the East, But the Pope and Papism in the West; yet there is no ground to condemn every thing in that Antichristian Synagogue for Antichristian; for without all question the Books of the Old and New Testament were wonderfully preserved even in mystical Babylon. As formerly when the Oracles of God were committed to Israel, the Lord continued the holy Scripture in the Jewish Church, notwithstanding their spiritual Apostacy and Babylonish Captivity. The good Word of the Lord is no less the Word of Truth, because the false Antichristian Synagogue, do acknowledge it; no more than the Scripture ceaseth to be the Scripture, because Satan the father of lies did alledge it. Gold is gold wherever you find it; Truth is truth, however men either accept it or contradict it. It’s a vast comprehensive Errour to reject all Tenents, though never so true for errours, because an erroneous Society doth confesse them: For all is not false which the false Church asserteth; Every errour is founded upon the mistake of some truth; as every evil doth usually arise from the abuse of some good: In this mixture of good and evil, light and darkness, where there are many precious truths, yet many abominable falshoods; it’s our duty to sever between the righteous and the vile, that we neither swallow down all for truth because there is a mixture of truth, nor reject all for false because there is superadded a redundancy of falshood; Antichrist sitteth in the Temple of God, and his coming is with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, therefore we must Watch and Pray for the spirit of discerning, that we may distinguish between things that differ.

3. Consider as the Lord had his truths so he had his Church in Babylon during the rise, and growth, and reign, and continuance of Antichrist. The Apostacy though generall over all tongues, and kindreds, and Nations, yet it was not so universall in all individuall persons, but that there were a remnant according to the Election of grace: As in the Baalitish Apostacy the Lord reserved seven thousand who had not bowed their knees to Baal; So in this Antichristian defection, the Lamb upon Mount Sion had 12 times 12. thousand that adhered to the doctrine of the 12. Apostles, and these 144,000 had their Fathers name written in their Forehead, redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb, and in their mouth was found no guile, and they were not defiled with those Antichristian whoredomes; For they are Virgins (Rev. 14.1, 4-5), they were the true seed of the woman which keep the Commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12.17), against whom the Dragon raged: And therefore when the Romanists ask, where was the Church before Luthers time? We answer it was in and among them, though it was not of them. The Waldenses, Albingenses, Berengarians, Pauperes de Lugduno or Lionists, Lollards, in several places having many other several names and these in the several ages of the Reign of Antichrist held the truth of Jesus, and opposed the errours of the man of sin: which several Popes endeavoured to destroy but could never effect: All the Kings and Potentates of the earth were stirred up against them, and a Decree made that if any temporall Lord did neglect to expell them out of his Dominions, that he should be excommunicated, his subjects absolved from allegiance, and all their Lands confiscate and given to others; Hence some of the Princes of the earth made it Treason for any of their Subjects either to hear or harbour them, or any waies to releeve them.

And the armies raised against the Saracens and Mahometans were converted against these poor Christians and plenary indulgence, pardon of all sin promised to all that would fight against them: And if in France alone as its reported in the History of that War, there were slain ten hundred thousand, what shall we think the number of them to be who were slain in all other Nations; Yet under all these pressures and persecutions, though they were often dispersed, yet they could not be extinguished but these afflicted people of the Lord, being scattered fled into Provence and the Alpes, some into Calabria, Bohemia, Polonia, and into Britain, as Thuanus in his Preface.

And though many Opinions were imputed to them to make them odious, yet their accusers do wofully and wonderfully contradict themselves, as some of our Learned men do prove: and some of them ingenuously confesse: yet their main tenents were that they renounced the Church of Rome as the mysticall Babylon, contemned the Pope as the man of sin, and rejected their several Popish opinions as Antichristian; They held the same truths for substance that the Protestants now professe, Insomuch as some of the adversaries confesse, that they who are now Calvinists were anciently called Berengarians, and the New Protestants are the Old Waldenses; This Sect some of the Papists complain to be of all most pernicious to the Church of Rome.

1. Because it is most ancient and durable, having continued from the time of Pope Sylvester: Others say from the time of the Apostles.

2. Because most generall, no part of the earth scarce free from it.

3. Because it hath the greatest appearance of godliness, for they live justly towards men, and believe all things well concerning God, only they blaspheme and hate the Church of Rome.

As the Lord had his Saints during all the Reign of Antichrist, so he raised up his Ministers who in their several successive ages in several places, testified against the spirituall whoredomes, idolatrous worships, and deceiving frauds of Antichrist; it’s true, as the generality of the people, so the generality of the Priests in those times did worship the Beast, even all that dwelt upon earth, whose names were not written in the Lambs Book of Life; and some observe, that it was the righteous judgement of the Lord upon the Church at that time, that such an Apostate people should have such apostatical Priests, and the holy Ghost maketh this one expresse ground, because men did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved, therefore God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who beleeved not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thes. 2.10-13): But in this generall defection both of people and of their Teachers; The Lamb had a remnant with him who were called, and chosen, and faithful, even an afflicted poor remnant of Pastors as well as of people reserved in the midst of Babylon, who did trust in the Name of the Lord, and those godly pious Priests were both obedient unto and bold in the faith of Jesus.

Now if there were such Ministers during the reign of Antichrist, that followed the Lamb, did not defile their garments, but preached and prayed, and lived, and died in their constant and consciencious oppositions of the man of sinne, then surely the Ministry was not totally lost under the reign of Antichrist. But that there were such, appears both by Holy Scripture-prophecy which foretels it, and unquestionable History of the Church that confirms it: In the one, men may learn what God spoke with his mouth; In the other, what the Lord fullfilled with his own hand: The holy Ghost expresseth, that there should be some to prophesy in Sackcloth one thousand two hundred and sixty days: Now not to dispute, but taking that for granted which the best Interpreters assert, and by Arguments out of the book of Revelation prove,

1. That those One thousand two hundred and sixty days are not natural days but prophetical, every day taken for a Year, as Ezek. 4.6. Num. 14.14.

2. That those two Witnesses prophesying were not two individual persons, as Enoch and Elias, as Bellarmine and other Papists affirm; but a succession of Holy men stirred up all that time to testify the truth of Christ against Antichrist, as our learned men prove.

3. That the Reign of the Beast continuing for 42 months, which months taken prophetically as before, every day for a year, and reckoning for every month 30 days, now multiply the 42 by the 30. and the reign of the Beast is 1260 years, and though there be great difficulty when to begin the rise and reign, and most Expositors herein much vary, yet in the continuance there is a generall accord, and none can rationally make any question about it.

4. That these Sackcloth-prophecies though but very few comparatively to the Locusts out of the Bottomlesse pit, which were innumerable, called two like their types Moses and Aaron, who brought Israel out of Egypt, or as Elias and Elisha which reduced Israel out of Baalism, yet these Witnesses, though in number few, continue in their successions all the reign of the Beast, for the days of their prophecying in Sackcloth are One thousand two hundred and sixty years, and so expire not till the 42 months of the Beasts Reign be expired.

Now fifthly we adde, that these Sackcloth Prophesiers were not only Saints who mournfully bewailed the abominations of those times, that the holy City should be trampled under foot; but also that they were holy pious Ministers distinct from the Saints in Office, and in the act of their Prophetical function, which is intimated to us,

1. From the power bestowed upon them, the Lord gives to them not only to pray and to mourn, but to Prophesy, Rev. 11.3. Not so much by prediction of things future, as by Preaching the everlasting Gospel. It was a mighty power from on high that a few contemned, persecuted Ministers should have gifts to be able, and power to be couragious to preach against the son of perdition, when all the world wondered after the Beast.

2. From their effectual exercise of that power and that in their publick detecting those Antichristian abominations, and denouncing the wrath of God against them. It is said in the days of their Prophecy, though they were poor men and had no carnal weapons to defend themselves or offend their enemies, yet in a spiritual sense fire proceedeth out of their mouths and devoureth their enemies, Revel. 11.5. For the Lord did make his words in their mouth to be fire, and the people wood, and it devoured them, Jer. 5.14. and the Holy Ghost adds further that these Prophets tormented them that dwel upon the earth, v. 10.

3. The Spirit of truth doth not only call these two by the name of Prophets, but elsewhere distinguisheth the Prophets and Righteous men, He that receiveth a Prophet in the name of a Prophet, shall receive a Prophets reward; and he that receiveth a Righteous man in the name of a Righteous man, shall receive a Righteous mans reward. Where Christ encouraging poor Preachers of the Gospel against all the hard and harsh usage of the world, intimates to us,

1. That there are some who by way of Office and distinction from others, are Prophets and Preachers.

2. That there is some eminent reward due to Prophets.

3. That they who do any good to Prophets, even because of that Office, shall receive a Prophets reward.

And in this very Prophecy concerning Antichrist, the Spirit maketh these two distinct, the Prophets and the Saints: Babylon is therefore ruined, because in her is found the blood of the Prophets and of the Saints (Rev. 17.24). Now if we descend from the words of this Prophecy, and come to observe the answerable event in History, we shall find that in every age there were Ministers opposing the tenents of Antichrist.

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