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AN UNIVERSAL HISTORY or CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM.
CHRIST, in the gospel of St. Matthew, chap. xvi., hearing the confession of Simon Peter, who first openly acknowledged him to be the Son of God,
and perceiving the secret hand of his Father therein, answered again; and alluding to his name, called him a rock,
upon which rock he would build his church so strong, that, the gates of hell should not prevail against it, &c.
In these words, three things are to be noted. First, Christ will have a church in this world. Secondly, that the same church should be mightily impugned,
not only by the world but also by the utmost strength and powers of all hell. And, thirdly, that the same church, notwithstanding the efforts of the devil and all his malice, should continue.
This prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully verified, insomuch that the whole course of the church to this day, seems nothing else but verification of it.
First, that Christ hath set up a church, needs no proof. Secondly, what force, what sides and sorts of men, of princes, kings, monarchs,
governors, and rulers of this world, with their subjects publicly and privately, with all their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this church.
And, thirdly, how the said church, notwithstanding all this, hath yet endured.
To bring these events home to the minds of Christians, it will be a necessity to treat them in the following order:
First, of the suffering time of the church, which continued from the apostle’s age of about three hundred years.
Secondly, of the flourishing time of the church, which lasted another three hundred years.
Thirdly, of the declining time of the church, which comprehends other three hundred years, or about the thousandth year after the ceasing of persecution.
During which space of time, the church, although ambitious and proud, was much altered from the simple sincerity of the primitive time;
yet in the outward profession of doctrine and religion, it was something tolerable, notwithstanding some corruption of doctrine, with
HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM.
superstition and hypocrisy, had then crept in. Fourthly, followed the time of Antichrist, or, as it is scripturally called,
the loosing of Satan, or desolation of the church, which contains the space of four hundred years.
In this time both Christian doctrine and sincerity of life were almost extinguished; particularly in the chief heads and rulers of the western church,
through the means of the Roman bishops, especially from Gregory the seventh, called Hildebrand, Innocentius the third, and the friars who crept in with him,
till the time of John Wickliffe and John Huss, during a space of four hundred years.
Fifthly and lastly, after this time of Antichrist reigning in the church of God by violence and tyranny, followed the reformation, or,
as it may properly be called, the purging of the church of God, wherein Antichrist begins to be revealed,
and his antichristian doctrine to be detected, the number of his church decreasing, and the number of the true church increasing greatly.
With respect to the church of Rome, in all the ages above specified, it challenged to itself the supreme title, and ringleading of the whole universal church on earth,
by whose direction all other churches have been governed. In writing therefore of the church of Christ,
one can not but intermeddle with the acts and proceedings of the said church, because the doings and orderings of all other churches,
from time to time, as well in England as in other nations, have chiefly depended upon it; in order to give a general description, briefly to show, as in a summary table,
the misguiding of that church, comparing the former primitive state of the church of Rome with the latter times of the same, and then to proceed more at large with all the particulars thereof.
The title and style of that church were such, that it surpassed all other churches: being called the Holy Universal Mother Church,
which could not err: and the bishop thereof, Holy Father the Pope, Bishop Universal, Prince of Priests,
Supreme Head of the Universal Church, and Vicar of Christ on Earth, who must not be judged, having all knowledge of Scripture, and all laws contained within his breast.
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