Excerpts from



The First Chapter

 Propounding the state of the controversy and the grounds of our proof

(1) Whereas the holy Ghost, 2 Thess. 2:8, hath fore-shadowed that Christ our Saviour shall consume Antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, that is, by the ministry of his word, which Isaiah 11:4 is called the rod or scepter of his mouth, and the spirit of his lips: it cannot, therefore, be denied, but that it is the duty of all faithful ministers who are, as it were, the mouth of Christ unto his people, to set themselves against Antichrist; that by their ministry his kingdom may be weakened, and the kingdom of Christ Jesus more and more advanced. For which cause I took upon me in my public readings not long since, to entreat of this main controversy betwixt us and the church of Rome, concerning Antichrist. But because my speech could profit only those that heard me, I have for diverse causes thought good by writing to make the benefit of my labors common.

Why Downame wrote this Treatise

First, that by this means the tractable Papists may be reclaimed. Secondly, that those which be obstinate among them may be confounded. Thirdly, that Protestants and professors of the truth who are sound and resolute may be more and more confirmed. Lastly and especially that those which be weak and wavering may be steadied and preserved from falling into that fearful judgment, which as the Lord hath threatened, 2 Thess. 2:10-12, against unsound professors in these latter times, so hath it within these few years fallen upon very many, who, having by the great mercy of God, been delivered out of the more than Egyptian bondage of Antichrist, and being set in the way toward the celestial Canaan land of promise, seemed with the unthankful Israelites to be weary of the celestial manna, the food of their souls, and desired to be again among the flesh-pots of Egypt. For seeing they have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved, therefore God hath sent upon them the efficacy of error that they should believe lies (meaning the lies of Antichrist) that they all might be condemned, who believed not the truth, but delighted in unrighteousness, meaning the mystery of iniquity, whereof he had spoken, verse 7, that is to say, Anti-Christianity or Popery.

 (2) And that we may proceed in order, we are first to set down the state of this controversy, which, indeed, is the chief of all controversies betwixt us and the Papists, and of the greatest consequence. For if this were once thoroughly cleared, all others would easily be decided. Our assertion, therefore, in few words is this, That the Pope of Rome, who is, as it were, the God of the Papists, is that grand Antichrist, who, according to the holy Ghost in the Scriptures, was to be revealed in these latter times. The Papists hold the contrary. And whereas we say and hold that their Lord God the Pope’s holiness is Antichrist, they affirm that our assertion is blasphemy, and our arguments mentally impaired. But if it were no harder a matter to demonstrate the truth of our assertion then to prove their concept concerning Antichrist and their proofs thereof to be feeble and silly; I should very easily put this Question - that the Pope is Antichrist - out of controversy.

 (3) But first our assertion is to be expounded, and afterwards proved. As touching the name, “we agree,” saith Cardinal Bellarmine, “in this, that as the name Christ is taken two ways, to wit, commonly and properly, so also the name Antichrist.” The name Christ commonly belongeth to all that are anointed of God; and that either to the special calling of a King, Prophet or Priest, or to the general calling of a Christian. And in this sense it is taken either more largely for the whole body of those that profess the name of Christ, whereof some are members of Christ in title and profession only, or it may be taken more strictly for the society of the elect, the citizens of heaven, who have the mark of God, and are not only in show and profession, but also in deed and in truth members of the mystical body of Christ. Particularly, the name Christ belongs to Jesus, the son of God, who was anointed with the oil of gladness above all his fellows, and is the head, after a general manner, of all Christians, but especially the elect.

 In like sort, the contrary name, Antichrist, belongeth commonly to all that be enemies to Christ; and those either open and professed enemies as the Jews, Turks, Infidels (in which sense the word Antichrist is not used in the Scripture), or else covert, professing themselves Christians, and under the name and profession of Christ, oppugning Christ and his truth. And so it is taken either more largely to signify the whole body of Heretics (as in the Epistles of John) or more strictly the society of them who, having made an apostasy from Christ, have received the mark of the beast. Properly, or rather particularly, it belongeth to the man of sin, the son of perdition: who, after a more general manner is the head of all Heretics, and especially of that society which hath the mark, the number and name of the beast. The society or body of those who, having made an apostasy from Christ to Antichrist, and the Antichristian state which in the Scriptures is called the whore of Babylon, we hold to be the apostate church of Rome. The head of this Antichristian body and catholic apostate we hold to be the Pope of Rome; and consequently that the Pope is that grand Antichrist whom the holy Ghost in the Scriptures hath described unto us; and that he is called the Antichrist, not only because he is the head of the Antichristian body, but also because he being in profession the vicar of Christ, is in deed Æmulus Christi, that is, an enemy opposed unto Christ, in emulation of like honor, as if we should say, a counter-Christ, as the word Antichrist doth also signify.

Antichrist a succession of men who occupy the chief office in the Church, one man at a time

(4) But when we say that the Pope is Antichrist, we mean not this or that Pope, though some of them have been more notorious Antichrists then others: as, for example, Sylvester 2, Gregory 7, alias Hildebrand, Boniface 8, John 22, alias 24, Alexander 6, etc., but the whole row[3] and rabble[4] of them, from Boniface 3 onward. For although the Antichrist be but one person, yet he is not one in the same way Christ, the head of the Christian body, is one. Because Christ lives forever he has no successors and, therefore, he is one in nature and number, one singular and definite person. The head of the Antichristian body which is to continue to the end of the world, is not continued in one singular and definite person, but in a succession of many who are mortal and momentary; who successively were, are, or shall be the heads of the catholic apostasy; the word Antichrist may be understood of each one in particular or all collectively. For even as the Pope or vicar of Christ, according to the Popish conceit, is not one person in number and nature, but by law and institution, one at a time, but many successively; so Antichrist is not one singular person, but a succession of Antichristian Popes, which we begin at Boniface 3. Because he, with much ado, about the year of our Lord 607, obtained from the Emperor Phocas. All the Emperor’s successors since then have challenged the Popes as to the lawfulness of their title Head of the catholic or universal Church, or ecumenical or universal Bishop. This title of blasphemy, as Gregory 1 called it, is befitting of him who resembles Lucifer in pride. For John, the Bishop of Constantinople, had challenged [to receive this title from the Emperor] not long before, about the year 600, in the time of Mauritius, whom Phocas cruelly murdered. Gregory the Great, then Pope of Rome, confirmed confidently that he who desires this title is the forerunner of Antichrist, who was then even at hand.

“For all things (saith he) which were foretold, do now come to pass. The king of pride (meaning Antichrist) is at hand: and that which is horrible to be spoken, an army of priests is prepared for him.”

Whereby Gregory would also insinuate that he should be the prince of priests. Now this is a principle in the church of Rome, that the Pope (especially such a Pope as Gregory the Great, speaking definitely and confidently) cannot err. And if this be true (as they may not deny, the Pope being the foundation of all their truth) then must they needs confess that Antichrist was come almost a thousand years ago, and that the Pope, their prince of priests, who not only succeeded John of Constantinople in that Antichristian title, but also far exceedeth him in all Antichristian pride, challenging a sovereign and universal authority, not only above all other Bishops and priests, but also above all Kings and Emperors, is that Antichrist.

Downame proves his case by the fulfillment of prophecy, not the conjectures of men

(5) To this testimony of Gregory I might add diverse other witnesses. But my purpose is not to draw my arguments from the writings, and, as it were, the cisterns of men who lived before the revelation of Antichrist, and therefore, except they had been prophets themselves, could not fully expound these prophecies; but rather from the pure fountains of holy Scriptures expounded by the history and event, the best interpreters of prophecies. For as Daniel saith of this subject (and as the Papists themselves say of these same prophecies concerning Antichrist) The words are closed up and sealed until the appointed time.[5] And accordingly was it said by Augustine, prophecies are fulfilled sooner than they are understood; and by Irenæus, whom Bellarmine also quotes to the same purpose, All prophecies are unto men dark and doubtful speeches before they have their completion. And therefore, speaking of some part of the prophecies concerning Antichrist, he saith, It is more sure and safe to wait for the fulfilling of the prophecy, then to deliver uncertain guesses beforehand. Omitting, therefore, the uncertain conjectures of men regarding the interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, (for such are the diverse opinions of the fathers concerning Antichrist, as Bellarmine confesseth of some), from the undoubted oracles of God, I frame this demonstration.

 (6) Unto whomsoever the prophecies of holy Scripture describing Antichrist, the head of the Antichristian body, do wholly and only agree, he is that grand Antichrist who is foretold in the Scriptures. Unto the Pope of Rome the prophecies of holy Scripture concerning Antichrist, the head of the Antichristian body, do wholly and only agree. Therefore, the Pope of Rome is that grand Antichrist which is foretold in the Scriptures. The proposition I take for granted. For seeing the holy Ghost hath purposed in diverse places of the Scripture to take it upon himself to fully and sufficiently describe Antichrist to the end that he might be known, we need not doubt. But that this description of Antichrist is so perfect and so proper that it will fit him only, while at the same time eliminating those whom the description agreeth not, we also need not doubt. Thus, the one whom it alone wholly fits must be held and acknowledged to be that Antichrist. All the controversy, therefore, is concerning the assumption, namely, whether the descriptions of Antichrist in the Scriptures agree to the Pope or not.

Antichrist is described by the holy Ghost especially in three places, viz., in 2 Thess. 2, in Revelation 13:11 ff., and in Rev. 17…..

(7) And that the description of Antichrist in the Scriptures fitly agreeth with the Pope, it appears by this induction. For whereas all the arguments and notes whereby Antichrist is described in the Scriptures, may be reduced to these heads, to wit:

·       The place or seat where we are to find him;

·       The time when we were to look for him;

·       His condition and qualities:

(a)He is an adversary opposed unto Christ in emulation of like honour;

(b) a man of sin, in general; and,

(c) more particularly, a horrible Idolater.

·       His actions and passions, that is, such things as he shall either do or suffer.

I will make it evident by the help of God (whose all-seeing Spirit I humbly beseech to guide me into the truth) that all and every one of them do so fitly and properly agree to the Pope of Rome, that in the descriptions of Antichrist in the Scripture the Pope may behold himself as it were in a glass.

Part Two >> Table of Contents >> Title Index


[1] (London: Cuthbert Burbie, 1603). Slight alterations in text by this present editor are for clarity only. Footnotes and paragraph subheadings are supplied by this editor. Latin footnotes are by Downame.

[2] Church of England. Also, Divinity Lecturer at St. Paul’s.

[3] I.e., succession.

[4] “A group, class or body regarded with contempt.” (Webster)

[5] Daniel 12:9.