Chapter 7

Of the miracles, or rather,

lying signs and wonders of Antichrist

And thus much may suffice to have spoken of the qualities and conditions of Antichrist: now we have to entreat of his actions and effects. First, of his miracles, as he calls them, or rather, as the holy Ghost terms them, lying signs and wonders. For whereas there are three things (as Cardinal Bellarmine saith) mentioned in the Scriptures concerning the miracles of Antichrist, it shall appear by the help of God, that all which the Scriptures have foretold concerning this matter do most fitly agree to the Pope and church of Rome.

(1) The first prophecy which concerns us is that Antichrist and his followers should do many signs and wonders, which they call miracles. For so saith our Saviour Christ, Matt. 24:24, (which prophecy the Papists themselves understand of Antichrist and his adherents), They shall work great signs and wonders, insomuch that the very elect, if it were possible, should be seduced. Even Bellarmine admits the import of the word ‘they’ because not only Antichrist, but his ministers shall also work signs.

(2) The Apostle Paul confirms this same prophecy in II Thess. 2:9 when, speaking of Antichrist, he says his coming shall be according to the efficacy of Satan in all power, in lying signs and wonders.

(3) And likewise John affirms the same in Rev. 13:13, when he says Antichrist works great signs in the sight of men.

And that this note agrees to the Pope and church of Rome is most evident. For they abound with innumerable signs and wonders which they call miracles; so much so that there is almost no Saint or Founder of any sect among them who is not renowned for many fair miracles; no temple or monastery of note, no image or saints’ relics unto which the people went on pilgrimage, which was not famous for miracles; no doctrine which cannot be proved out of Scripture, that is to say, no point of popery which they have not commended to the people and authorized by such signs and wonders as they call miracles. And in this regard, they contemn and despise all other churches which do not boast of miracles as they do because they esteem miracles as a note of the true church.

Rome’s miracles are worthless

 Yet notwithstanding, all their miracles are worthless.

 (1) Because they serve to confirm falsehoods, as we shall prove, and therefore, are not to be regarded.

 (2) Because the vain bragging of manifold miracles among those that profess the name of Christ in these later times (wherein miracles are not needed for the confirmation of God’s word, which has already been sufficiently confirmed) is so far from being a note of the true church that it is just the opposite – a plain sign of false teachers and an evident mark of the synagogue of Antichrist. For their own devices and doctrines of men do still need signs and wonders to confirm them. But the truth of the gospel which we profess hath been sufficiently confirmed by the miracles of our Saviour Christ, His Apostles and Disciples. Whosoever therefore will not believe this doctrine, thus confirmed, neither will he believe though one should rise from the dead to preach unto him. [Downame quotes Augustine, Chrysostom, and Clement as agreeing that miracles are the mark of the false church. The Papists themselves agree that miracles accompany Antichrist and his followers.]

 And therefore, unless the Pope and his followers did boast of their miracles, we Reformed would lack one important argument to prove the Pope Antichrist. So thus it appears that the first point concerning the miracles of Antichrist doth fit the Pope in such an exact way that from hence he may be proved Antichrist. For unto whomsoever in these latter times this boasting of miracles properly and only belongs to is that Antichrist and the synagogue of Antichrist. For the Scriptures have foretold that by Antichrist and his adherents many signs and wonders should be wrought in these latter times. But to the Pope and church of Rome in these latter times, who boast of manifold and great miracles, this prophecy properly and only applies.

 For the Jews lack them, the Turks disclaim them, professing their religion must be propagated not by miracles, but by force and arms. All other Christians who already believe the truth, do not seek signs because they know they are superfluous among believers, while in others it is the badge of Antichrist.[1] Therefore, the Pope is Antichrist and the Church of Rome the Synagogue of Satan.

How the miracles of Rome are lying miracles

 The second thing which the Scripture notes is what manner of miracles they are which Antichrist was to work. This the Apostle (saith Bellarmine) declares in one word, when he calls them ‘lying wonders,’ or, as the words are written, ‘signs and wonders of lying,’ meaning most lying signs and wonders. They are called lying wonders either in respect of the ultimate goal which is to seduce men by confirming falsehoods; or else in regard of their substance, which is counterfeit. [Downame quotes Chrysostom and Augustine who confirm this definition.]

 First, I say, they are called lying signs in respect of their ultimate goal which is to seduce men, Matt. 24:24, to make them believe lies, deceiving them, II Thess. 2:10-11; Rev. 13:14. For this is the aim whereunto the signs and wonders, not only of Antichrist, but of all false prophets, are referred, Deut. 13:1-2.

Why the Lord allows false miracles

Out of which places of Scripture we are to observe that the Lord many times suffers false prophets and Antichrists to work strange signs and wonders for the trial of the faithful, and the seducing of those who will not believe the truth that they might be saved.

If there arise among you (saith the Lord) a prophet or dreamer of dreams, and give thee a sign and wonder, and the sign and wonder which he hath told thee come to pass, saying, let us go after other Gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them: thou shalt not hearken unto the words of the prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your heart, Deut. 13:1-3.

Our Saviour Christ also hath forewarned us, that in these latter times there shall arise false Christs and false prophets which shall shew great signs and wonders, so that if it were possible they should deceive even the very elect, Matt. 24:24. In like sort, the Apostle Paul, II Thess. 2:9-10, noteth that the coming of Antichrist shall be according to the efficacy of Satan in all power and lying signs and wonders, and in all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, etc., upon whom God shall send the efficacy of deceit that they may believe lies. Likewise, John the divine prophesies of Antichrist that he should do great wonders, whereby he should deceive them that dwell on the earth, Rev. 13:13-14. Hereby therefore, it is evident that false prophets and Antichrists many times have power to work great signs and wonders, not only in show and appearance, but in deed and in truth. Whereby they, endeavoring to deceive all and to make them believe lies, are permitted, both in the justice of God to seduce the wicked, and in His mercy to try the faithful. Whereas in the past signs and wonders were wrought for the confirmation of the truth,[2] in these latter times they are used for confirmation of lies, and are undoubted signs of the synagogue of Antichrist.

Downame examines Rome’s miracles

Let us then consider whether such signs and wonders be wrought in the church of Rome. It is recorded of Gregory 7, who was the first of the Popes to be openly acknowledged to be Antichrist, that because he was a notable sorcerer, he wrought many signs and wonders, such as shaking fire out of his sleeves. And of his religious orders, after he had forbidden marriage in the clergy, Aventinus writes, “that upon that occasion many false prophets did, as it were, cast mists, and by fables and miracles did turn away the people of Christ from the truth.” And again, “False prophets did then arise, false Apostles, false priests, who, by counterfeit religion, deceived the people, wrought great signs and wonders, and began to sit in the temple of God, and to be advanced above all that is worshipped. And while they endeavor to establish their own power and dominion, they have extinguished Christian charity and simplicity.”[3]

And since those times the church of Rome hath much boasted of her manifold miracles, which have been partly devised and partly wrought for the confirmation of Antichristian doctrines and idolatrous superstitions the likes of which cannot be confirmed by the Scriptures. We would include the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation and adoration of their breaden God, the heathenish doctrine of purgatory, the superstitious prayers for the dead, the idolatrous invocation and worshipping of Saints, the more than heathenish adoration of images and rotten relics; the Antichristian advancing of the Pope above all that is called God or worshipped, and other similar doctrines of devils & lies of Antichrist, all of which have been invented for confirming of the Church of Rome as the true, apostolic church. But as many miracles as they produce for the countenancing of such untruths are actually as many arguments to prove their church Antichristian and their Pope Antichrist. This is because Antichrist and his followers were in the latter times to abound with signs and wonders, but always to lead men into error. And neither Turks nor Jews, nor any other Christian churches do brag of miracles, but only the Pope and Church of Rome, whose miracles only serve to deceive men and make them believe untruths…..

Secondly, they are called lying signs in respect to the substance, as Augustine says, “being either fictions of lying men or wonders of deceitful spirits.”[4] And such are the miracles whereby the aforesaid points of Popery are warranted and confirmed. Regarding them there are three degrees or kinds. For many of them are such fabulous fictions, ridiculous fables, incredible lies, (whereof their legends and festivals are replete), as none would never believe were they not intoxicated and made drunk with the whore of Babylon’s cup of fornications, having been given over by God to believe lies. And these loud lies and more than poetical fictions were in such request in the Church of Rome that the records of them (I mean their legends, festivals and fabulous treatises) were both publicly and privately read in the vulgar tongue, whereas the holy scriptures were kept from the people in an unknown tongue.

Three kinds of false miracles in the Church of Rome

 The first kind of miracles are those which never occurred, having appeared to be so in the opinion of the drunken, given over to believe incredible untruths. The second kind are those which are fantastic, in appearance only, as being the crafty work of deceitful men, as sleight of hand magic tricks. Examples may be found in the nodding or moving, the smiling or frowning, the swearing or speaking of images, the apparitions of deceased souls, the manifold healings allegedly wrought by departed spirits or their images, relics, etc. Of these two kinds there are innumerable wonders recorded in their legends, festivals and lives of the Saints, all of which are fabulous. These wonders either never occurred in the first place, or if they were done in the sight of men, they have been either magical conveyances of wicked men, or mere illusions of the devil. The third kind of wonders are lying miracles in respect of the form, although true in respect to the substance. For though they were things which actually occurred, they did not surpass the bounds of nature or impossibility; whereas true miracles are supernatural, neither able to be wrought by natural causes, known or unknown, but only by the omnipotent power of God. And such lying signs are the principle miracles of the Apostolic Church of Rome! Neither the Pope and all his adherents are able to produce one true miracle wrought by the finger of God for the confirmation of those doctrines which are peculiar to that church to prove any point of popery. Rather, all their miracles are lying signs and wonders in respect to their ultimate purpose to deceive, as they are also in respect to their substance, being either merely fabulous, never having really taken place, or seemingly so in appearance only, often by means of trickery, or else they were natural, and no miracle at all. Therefore, all are counterfeit miracles effected by the power of the devil.

Downame gives vivid examples of Rome’s false miracles

Some of their own writers confess that sometimes there is a great deceiving of the people in feigned miracles by the priests and their adherents for temporal gain.[5] And another saith, “in the sacrament appeareth flesh, sometimes by the conveyance of men, sometimes by the operation of the devil.”[6] I once saw an image of St. Nicolas which was said to move its hand as if to bless the people when it was being burnt in the marketplace at Chester by the appointment of my father, the Bishop. In fact, the arm was tied to a secret string device in its back, enabling one to pull the string and move the arm. But that it may appear that in the Church of Rome were lying miracles and that the Popish people were given over to believe lies, I will for a taste recite a few examples out of their own records.

Their Golden Legend (so-called because as gold excels all other metals, so does that Book excel all other books, in lying, that is!) in the invention of the body of St. Fremin the martyr it is reported that after the Sun had miraculously sent his beams through a stonewall upon the grave, causing men to dig there to find the body, when a sweet smell, as if from Paradise, spread itself not only through the city of Amiens where the body lay, but also to several other cities. The sweet odor moved the people of these cities to bring their oblations to this glorious Saint, so that it cured some, even afar off, of their diseases. But when this body was taken up and carried in the city of Amiens, strange wonders were wrought. As it is written in the English version of the book, “For then the element moved, by the miracle of the Saint. The snow, which at that time was great upon the earth, was turned into powder and dust by the heat, and the trees grew flowers and leaves, and the meadows around Amiens flowered and became green. And the Sun, which at that time of year is low in the sky, ascended as high as it does in the summer at noontime. And as men bare the body of this Saint, the trees reclined and worshipped the body, and all manner of men sick were healed, no matter what the malady, by the miraculous power of his body.”

In the Legend of St. Patrick, the Irish Saint, by whose prayer all venomous snakes were immediately banished out of Ireland. We also read with a smile, that once upon a time a stolen sheep caused him to admonish the people that whoever stole it had better restore it to its proper owner in seven days. Seven days later the sheep not returned, the Legend then tells us, “Then St. Patrick commanded, by the virtue of God, that the sheep should bleat and cry in the belly of him that had eaten it. And so it happened that in the presence of all the people the sheep cried and bleated in the belly of him that had stolen it.”

In the Legend of the Annunciation of Our Lady we are told of a noble Knight who betook himself unto an Abbey, and because he was not learned, a master was assigned unto him. Either the Knight was so dumb or the legend’s inventor so foolish, that after a considerable length of time the Knight could learn no more than two words, Ave Maria. These words were always in his mouth while alive, then grew out of his mouth when dead. The Legend says, “For these words he had imprinted on his heart and had them in his mouth wherever he was. At last he died and was buried in the Church-yard of the brethren. Afterward it happened that upon his grave their grew fair fleur-de-lis, and in every flower, in letters of gold, was written, Ave Maria. All the brethren marveled at miracle, and, when opening the sepulcher, found that the root of this fleur-de-lis came out of the Knight’s mouth. Anon they understood that our Lord would have him honoured for the great devotion he had to say the words, Ave Maria.”

Likewise, in the book of the rules of St. Francis, of which I could only wish Book 1 were more publicly known so that Popery might more readily appear to all in her true colors. There is a miracle recorded which they claim proves the doctrine of transubstantiation. Once upon a time St. Francis found in a spider in the Chalice while saying Mass. He did not throw it out, instead drank the spider with the blood of Christ. Afterward, rubbing his thigh, and scratching where it itched, the spider came out of his thigh, whole, without any harm to the spider or his leg….[7]

The Papists object that they do not call fire down from heaven, therefore the Pope is not the Antichrist

 ….Seeing that this Scripture is to be understood mystically and allegorically, as well of other prophecies of the Revelation, we are not to understand, therefore, a literal, real descending of material fire. Rather, we are to understand the spiritual sense, which in the Scriptures has three significations: (1) God’s approving of the religion and sacrifices of His servants; (2) His sending down of the graces of His Spirit upon His children; (3) His vengeance executed from heaven upon His enemies.

 For the first sense, it is clear that the Lord, in former times, used to testify His approbation of the religion and sacrifices of His servants, by sending fire from heaven to consume their sacrifice, in which respect He is said to answer them by fire from heaven: Lev. 9:24; I Chron. 21:26; II Chron. 7:1; whereunto some add Gen. 4:4; Judges 13:19. When the people of Israel halted between Jehovah and Baal, Elijah miraculously caused fire to come down from heaven to consume the sacrifice, to prove that Jehovah, whom he worshipped, was the true God, and His worship the true religion, I Kings 18:38. Whosoever, therefore, doth by such signs and wonders confirm that doctrine and religion which he professes, as though God answered him by fire from heaven, he may be said to cause fire to descend from heaven, in the sight and opinion of men, who think such miracles be wrought by the finger of God, as did the example of Elijah. If, therefore, the Pope of Rome or his ministers have, by strange signs and wonders in the opinion of men, confirmed their religion, as though God from heaven approved it, they may be said to have made fire come down from heaven, although they never caused material, literal fire to descend. You must remember that Saint John says, in the sight of men, not because the Papists have actually performed that miracle, but only that they have made men believe it to be so.

Downame cites ludicrous false Eucharist miracle read in Catholic churches on Corpus Christi Day

 For example, to prove that their sacrament of the altar is the very body of Christ after the words of consecration, to be worshipped as Christ Himself, we have a narration in their festival which is solemnly read in the church on Corpus Christi Day,[8] the words whereof I will recite unto you: “Also we find in Devonshire beside Exbridge was a woman lay sick, nigh dead. A holy person was sent to her about midnight to give last rites. This man in haste went to the church, taking God’s body in a box of Ivory, placing in his bosom, then went forth to this woman. While riding through a forest, the box fell to the ground, unnoticed by the man, who came to the woman and heard her confession. He asked her if she wished the blessed sacrament, to which she replied she would. He then put his hand in his bosom to retrieve the box. Discovering it not there, he was filled with sorrow and sadness, saying, ‘Dame, I will go after God’s body and come anon again to you,’ and so left, weeping at his negligence. And so, coming to a willow tree he made a rod, stripped himself naked, and beat himself, so much so that the blood ran down his sides, saying to himself, ‘Ah, thou simple man! Why hast thou lost thy Lord God, thy maker, thy former and creator?’ After beating himself he put on his clothes and continued on. Immediately he saw a pillar of fire coming from heaven to the earth. Astonished, he blessed himself and went closer. And there lay the sacrament which had fallen out of the box onto the grass, and the pillar shone as bright as any Sun, reaching from God’s body to heaven. And all the beasts of the forest came and compassed around God’s body, kneeling on four knees, with the exception of one black horse who knelt upon only one knee. And that black horse was a fiend of hell, who had turned himself into that shape that men might steal him, as many before had done, only to be hanged when caught, etc.”

 If any man objects that this narration is but foolish fiction, I answer that this story was as truly believed as it was solemnly read. And therefore, to countenance their abominable idol of the Mass, they have in the sight of men, that is, in the judgment, opinion, and belief of men, caused fire to come down from heaven that it might point out the body and from it reach to heaven.

The Lives of the Catholic Saints abound with false miracles

 To win credit for the Saints they have canonized, and consequently causing men to pray to them devoutly, adoring their images and relics, and to go on pilgrimages to them, they have coined strange and incredible miracles in the lives and legends of almost every Saint. Typically, the legend of a Saint concludes with an admonition to pray to this worthy Saint or glorious martyr, so that he will pray to God for us, that by his merits we may have pardon and forgiveness of our sins. We read of divers of their Saints who, when beheaded, have carried their heads in their hands, some one mile, others two miles.[9] Among many other miracles they tell us also of fire they have caused to come down from heaven in the sight, that is, the judgment and opinion of men drunken and given over to believe their monstrous untruths. For example, they have brought down a pillar of fire reaching from heaven unto the earth where the body of St. Edward the martyr lay. Upon the head of St. Martin while saying Mass, they have fetched down a tongue of fire from heaven to make him equal, as they say, with the Apostles. In the fable of St. George, they make fire to come down from heaven to burn the heathen idols with their temple and priests. In the life of Barbara, we read that when her own father persecuted her, drawing his sword to slay her, she was miraculously taken up in a stone and carried to a mountain where two shepherds were feeding their sheep. When one of them betrayed her to her father, and she in her ‘charity’ cursed him, anon his sheep became locusts and he changed into a stone. Her father then delivered her to the judge, who put her to death. Whereupon the Papists bring down fire from heaven to consume her father.

Their doctrine of purgatory and prayers for the dead are confirmed by many wonders and strange apparitions of souls departed, who beg masses for their deliverance out of purgatory. Also, in their legends they have made fire to descend from heaven when they tell us of a certain Bishop who, appearing in the clouds of heaven to another Bishop here on earth, did let some fire drop upon him to give him a taste of the torments in purgatory. Besides these, there are many more examples I could cite from their fabulous writings, but these will suffice in proving that the more incredible the claim of Popish miracles, the more evidently it is proved, both that the Pope is Antichrist and the Papists the followers of Antichrist, upon whom God hath sent strong illusions that they might believe lies.

In the first sense, therefore, the prophecy of Revelation 13 doth fit the Pope and the Church of Rome, who by great signs and wonders do so confirm their Antichristian errors and superstitions in the sight of men, that is, in the judgment, opinion and belief of men drunken and made drunk with the whore of Babylon’s cup of fornications, as though God did seem to approve thereof in answering by fire from heaven. And this interpretation seems to be confirmed by the words; for it is not expressly said that Antichrist should cause fire to literally come down from heaven, but only thus, that he doth great signs, insomuch, that in the judgment of men God seems to answer him by fire from heaven, bearing witness to Antichrist’s doctrines by miracles wrought by the finger of God.

The second and third senses in which the Pope may be said to call fire down from heaven

 But descending of fire also signifies the bestowing of the grace of God’s Spirit which is called fire, Matt. 3:11, Acts 2:3. In this sense the Pope may be said to make fire come down from heaven, but we must add the words, before men, that is, in their opinion and conceit. For the Church of Rome believes the Pope not only gives the graces of the Spirit to men, but also the power of sanctification both to men and creatures, such as the Agnus Dei,[10] his holy water sprinkling, etc. Thirdly, the coming down of fire signifies the wrathful vengeance of God executed upon His enemies, often called ‘fire’ in the Scriptures, to wit, the fire of God’s wrath. As Elijah brought forth fire from heaven to consume the two Captains and their fifties, so Antichrist, according to this sense, shall with Divine revenge, as it were with fire from heaven, take vengeance upon his adversaries. But here also we must add, before men, because they shall think that those against whom Antichrist sends his thunderbolts of wrath are punished with a Divine revenge, and as it were, fire from heaven. This is also verified of the Pope of Rome, who with a Divine revenge (as he is called The God of revenge)[11] pursueth his enemies, especially with the thunderbolt of excommunication, as they themselves do call it. And because it is sent from this terrible Jupiter of Rome, so it fearfully executed with putting out and casting down of lights from above, as if the fire of God’s wrath were at their command. Or, as if with Gregory 7th, they could shake it out of their sleeves!

And well may this be this be considered among the wonders of Antichrist. For it is more than a wonder that Kings and Emperors should, by excommunications from the Pope, be either subdued or abandoned by their subjects, as some have been. Furthermore, it is all the more incredible that the Popes have professed that whatsoever is done by the Pope is done by God, who being a God upon earth, having the same judgment seat as God Himself, and the his followers have believed this! By consequent, the Kings and Emperors excommunicated have been deposed by God Himself…..

But however it is, whether this descending of fire from heaven is to be understood literally or spiritually, the prophecy of the holy Ghost concerning this first miracle of Antichrist is verified in the Pope and Church of Rome.

The second miracle: making the image of the beast to speak

The second miracle, says Cardinal Bellarmine, is that Antichrist or his ministers shall make the image of the beast to speak. But never once has any Pope or minister of his make an image to speak, therefore, saith he, the Pope is not Antichrist. But I answer that even the Popish interpretation of this prophecy answers to him and his followers, among whom has been the usual practice to put life, as it were, into images in the sight and opinion of simple men, making them to sweat, to smile, to frown, to nod, to beckon, and many times to speak, which might happen even without a miracle, for many times the Devils spoke in the images of the Heathen. Nevertheless, we are not to understand this prophecy in a gross, literal manner, as the Papists would have us do, but rather in a spiritual sense, expounding the image with the beast with the life and speech thereof. The beast itself signifies the Roman State, especially under the Heathenish Emperors, as hath been showed. The image of the beast, therefore, must signify a state which hath some resemblance thereof, or at least the name and title of the Roman Empire (as images bear the name of that which they resemble) and is, indeed but an image thereof ……Whosoever, therefore, caused this Empire, which in the West lay void 325 years,[12] to be renewed,[13] creating the Emperor, electing future Emperors, confirming their election, he may be said to have caused the image of the beast to be made, as well as putting life into it and giving it authority whereby it speaks……….Since the Pope of Rome hath caused the image of the beast to be made, puts life into it, causing it to speak, therefore he is Antichrist. The image of the beast is the revived Roman Empire in the West, the life is the imperial dignity, and the speeches are the edicts thereof. For the Pope anointed and crowned Charles the Great Emperor of the West, causing him to be acknowledged….Which things I shall not need to prove further because they are matters whereof the Pope and Papists do greatly boast. And therefore, from their own profession we may conclude that the Pope is Antichrist.

Part Six >> Table of Contents >> Title Index

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[1] I wish someone would tell that to the Charismatics.

[2] Hebrews 2:4.

[3] Annal. Bojor. lib. 4 & 5.

[4] De unitat. eccl. 16.

[5] Nicol. Lyran. in Daniel.

[6] Alexander de Hales.

[7] I. e., the spider changed into the flesh of St. Francis and then back into the spider, after it exited his leg.

[8] The feast day of the Body of Christ.

[9] St. Justinian the monk; St. Fulcien; St. Victorice.

[10] The Lamb of God, the consecrated Host.

[11] R. Cupers. de eccl., p. 61.

[12] I. e., since A. D. 475.

[13] I. e. in A. D. 800 when Charlemagne became Roman Emperor by authority of the Pope.