By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
First published four years after John Bunyan's death.
OF THE INSTRUMENTS THAT GOD WILL USE TO BRING ANTICHRIST TO HIS RUIN.
lthough I have hinted at this before, yet it may be convenient briefly to touch it again. Antichrist, as I have told you, consisteth of soul and body, and must be destroyed by such instruments as may most properly be applied to each. Further, As to the soul, spirit or life of Antichrist, and its destruction, of that we have also spoken already: It remains then that now we discourse of the ruin of his body and flesh.
I then take it, That the destruction of her flesh shall come by the sword, as managed in the hands of kings, who are God's ministers for the punishment of evil deeds, and the praise of them that do well (Rom 13). Not that the church, even as a church, shall be quite exempt and have therein no hand at all; for she, even as such, shall with her faith and prayers help forward that destruction.
The church therefore, as a church, must use such weapons as are proper to her as such; and the magistrate, as a magistrate, must use such weapons as are proper to him as such. When the church of Israel were prisoners in Babylon, they did not fight their way through their foes, and the countries to Jerusalem; but waited in their captivated state with patience, until the kings of the Medes and Persians came to deliver them. Nor is it to be sleighted, but to be thought on seriously, that before there was an Israelite captive in Babylon, their deliverer Cyrus was prophesied of: which Cyrus did afterwards come and take Babylon, and deliver the captives, as it was foretold he should. He saith unto Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid' (Isa 44:28). And again, 'Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him, &c. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of Hosts' (Isa 45:1,13). And this accordingly he did, to wit, when the time was come; as may be seen in those holy records where these things are made mention of. Indeed, as I said, the church is not excluded (2 Chron 36:2); she may, and ought, with her faith and prayer, and holy life, to second this work of kings (Ezra 1:2,3). Wherefore, when God speaks of bringing down the lofty city and of laying it low in the dust by the church, he saith, they shall do it by their feet, and with their steps: 'The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy' (Isa 26:6).
By feet and steps, I understand the good lives of the children of God: but now, when kings come to deal with her, as kings, they serve her as Samuel served Agag, as a judge, 'cut her in pieces with their swords': or as you have it elsewhere, 'They make her desolate and naked; they eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.' The sword will be put into their hands for this very purpose. Thus therefore must their deliverance be begun.
It is also to be considered, That after these first kings of the Medes and Persians had broken the yoke of the king of Babylon from off the neck of the captive church, and had given her license to go to her place to build her temple and city, and to sacrifice there according to the law of their God, (as both in Ezra and Nehemiah we read;) and when their work was hindered by under-officers, or they endeavoured so to do, they pleaded the license that they received to build and sacrifice by the decree of the first kings, and so finished their deliverance: They went not on in headstrong manner, as if they regarded neither king nor Caesar: 'But Zerubbabel, and Joshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them,' that sought to hinder their work, 'Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us' (Ezra 4:3). And as they said, so also they did: 'The elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it , according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia' (Ezra 6:14). Yea, they did not only accept of the kindness of kings, but did acknowledge that kindness with thanksgiving, as a gift of the God of heaven: for the kings had commanded and given leave to the Jews to go to Jerusalem, to build their temple, and to do sacrifice there, according to the counsel of the priests that were at Jerusalem, and according to the law of God that they had in their hand (Ezra 7:13,14). For Artaxerxes sent Ezra the priest to inquire after the condition that Jerusalem and Judah was in, according to, or by the law of God that was in his hand (verse 14). And he had license also further to do with the king's silver and gold, which he gave of the service of the house of the Lord, 'according to the will, word or law of HIS God.' 'And thou, Ezra, [says the king] after the wisdom of thy God, [that is, after his word] that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, [that is, worship, and walk by the rule of his testament,] and the law of the king, [that is, shall refuse to give Ezra such things as by the king was appointed for Ezra's help in the furthering of the worship of God, according to the law of his God,] let judgment be executed speedily upon him whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment' (Ezra 7:25,26). This was therefore a wonderful gracious license that the king now gave to Ezra: he imposed nothing upon him or the Jews in matters of religion and worship, but left him and them wholly to the law, will, and word of God, only he laid check upon wicked and ungodly people: that if they did things contrary to the laws of Ezra's God, or did sleight the king's law, as aforesaid, that then such penalties and pains should be inflicted upon them.
To the same purpose was the decree of Cyrus, and that of Darius, to put it in execution. Also the penalty enacted against such offenders, was full as sharp and severe: 'Also I have made a decree [said the king,] that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed' (Ezra 6:11,12).
Indeed, sometimes a stop was put to this work by the kings, and the Jews were made to cease by force and power, (Ezra 4:23,24) the which the good people did bear with patience (Ezra 4:11-21): also they waited to see their God go before them among the kings, who at length took away Artaxerxes, who for a time had put a stop to the work, and brought in another, who gave leave that with speed it should be set on foot again (Ezra 5).
The Jews did also in these vacancies, or times in the which hindrances were put, carry it very tenderly and lovingly to those kings that at present they were under, submitting of their bodies and their goods to their will, and meekly endured the trial and affliction, serving them with all faithfulness, watching to save their lives from the hands of bloody men. Also when the king's laws, and the law of their God, did at any time come in competition, they would indeed adhere to, and do the law of their God; yet with that tenderness to the king, his crown and dignity, that they could at all times appeal to the righteous God about it (Dan 6:22). Nor did they lose by so doing; yea, they prospered; for by this means Mordecai was made a great man, and a saviour of his people (Esth 2:21-23) By this means also was Daniel made a great man, and helpful to his brethren (Dan 5:29).
Kings , I say, must be the men that must down with Antichrist, and they shall down with her in God's time.
God hath begun to draw the hearts of some of them from her already, and he will set them, in time, against her round about. If therefore they do not that work so fast as we would have them, let us exercise patience and hope in God: 'tis a wonder that they go so fast as they do, since the concerns of whole kingdoms lie upon their shoulders, and that there are so many Sanballats and Tobias's to flatter with them and misinform them concerning the people that are delivered but in part. See what an ugly account was given of Jerusalem by the enemies of the Jews, even then when they were in the hands of their deliverers: 'Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us, are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and bad city, and have set up the walls thereof , and joined the foundations.Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings' (Ezra 4:12,13). Oh! what a be it known, be it known , is here! But were not these gentlemen more afraid of losing their own places and preferments, than of the king's losing of his toll and custom? But the whole was a lie, though it hindered the work for a time, and the patience of the people, and their loyalty to the king, did conquer and overcome all.
I speak the more to this, because, (as I have said) I believe that by magistrates and powers we shall be delivered and kept from Antichrist; and because God has already begun to do it by such, by which also she shall be destroyed: and I have a few things to present to good men, to be conversant in, in such a day as this.
Let the king have verily a place in your hearts, and with heart and mouth give God thanks for him; he is a better saviour of us than we may be aware of, and may have delivered us from more deaths than we can tell how to think. We are bidden to 'give thanks to God for all men, and in the first place, for kings, and all that are in authority' (1 Tim 2:1,2).
Be not angry with them, no, not in thy thought; but consider, if they go not on in the work of reformation so fast as thou wouldest they should, the fault may be thine; know that thou also hast thy cold and chill frames of heart, and sittest still when thou shouldest be up and doing.
Pray for kings to the God of heaven, who has the hearts of kings in his hand: and do it 'without wrath, and doubting'; without wrath , because thy self is not perfect; and without doubting , because God governeth them, and has promised to bring down Antichrist by them.
Pray for the long life of the king.
Pray that God would always give wisdom and judgment to the king.
Pray that God would discover all plots and conspiracies against his person and government.
Pray also that God would make him able to drive away all evil and evil men from his presence; and that he may be a greater countenancer than ever, of them that are holy and good, and wait and believe, that God that has begun his quarrel with Babylon, Antichrist, the mother of Antichrist, the whore; would in his own time, and in his own way, bring her down by the means which he has appointed.
I do confess myself one of the old-fashion professors, that covet 'to fear God, and honour the king.' I also am for blessing of them that curse me, for doing good to them that hate me, and for praying for them that despitefully use me , and persecute me . And have had more peace in the practice of these things, than all the world are aware of. I only drop this, because I would shew my brethren that I also am one of them; and to set them right that have wrong thoughts of me, as to so weighty matters as these.
Now these kings whose hearts God shall set to destroy Antichrist, shall do it without those inward reluctancies that will accompany inferior men: they shall be stript of all pity and compassion. Hence they are compared to the mighty waves of the sea (Jer 51:42), which saith, when the wrecked and dying mariners cry out for mercy for themselves, and for their children, I am a sea; 'I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins' (Isa 23:4,5): I have therefore no pity for these, or any of them. Therefore they must be swallowed up of this sea, and sink like a stone in the midst of these mighty waters.
And thus much for the means by which God will destroy the body and flesh of Antichrist.