An interpretation of the number 666 wherein, not onely the manner, how this number ought to be interpreted, is clearely proved and demonstrated : but it is also shewed [that] this number is an exquisite and perfect character, truly, exactly, and essentially describing that state of government to [which] all other notes of Antichrist doe agree : with all knowne objections solidly and fully answered [that] can be materially made against it
Potter, Francis, 1594-1678.
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CHRISTIAN Reader, Grace and wis∣dome be multiplied unto thee. If thou knowest not to what issues the questions are driven concerning Antichrist, and the interpretation of this number; nor hast that knowledge which is requisit for the understanding of it; then I know that that which I have here written will seem nothing else to thee, but an intricate labyrinth of curious & unnecessary speculations. I have therefore a double request unto thee: either that thou would'st stirre up thy industry, whereby thou maist attaine such know∣ledge as is required for the understanding of it, or else that thou wouldest make use of thy sobriety, by leaving those things which are above thy reach and capacity, unto those more learned Readers, who even for this ve∣ry reason, that thou doest not understand it, will, or may draw a probable argument, that this is the true interpre∣tation. For assure thy selfe it is not in any mans power, much lesse in mine, to make that streight, which God hath made crooked; nor to make that plaine and easy un∣to Page  [unnumbered] all men, which by the expresse words of the scripture is restrained only to those that have wisdome and un∣derstanding.

But if thou art one of those other sort of Readers, of whom aLucilius speakes, who canst understand more by that which I have written, than I my selfe that writ it; thē my request unto thee is, not as his was, that thou shoul∣dest abstaine from reading of it; but by how much the more wise, and more learned, & more quick of apprehen∣sion thou art, so much the more earnestly do I desire, that thou wouldest vouchsafe to peruse this treatise, which with very great confidence, and yet not without due hu∣mility and submission to thy better judgment, I doe here present unto thee. I know that all men are naturally in love, & most men ravished with their owne opinions & inventions; & I know also that the heart of man is evill & deceitfull above all things, and that the master-peice of the deceitfulnesse of mans heart consists in deceiving of* it's selfe, & lastly, I know that he which knowes all this, may have▪ alie in his right hand: yet am I confident that this my confidence concerning the truth of this inter∣pretation, proceeds from evidence of truth and reason, and not from the blindnesse of mine owne minde. I have not uttered it hastily & unadvisedly, but upon mature, or at the least upon long deliberation, and divers yeeres have now passed, since some chiefe substantiall points of it, were publiquely declared and defended in the Di∣vinity schoole at Oxford; and neither then, nor at any time since▪ could I ever heare, or learne any reason that could be brought against it, which might cause me to doubt of the probability or truth of it. Neverthelesse if any man either by authority of scripture, or evident rea∣son, shall be able to confute and evince, the possibility or probability of this interpretation, or of any substantiall Page  [unnumbered] or essentiall part of it, I shall be then ready▪ and willing, even with mine owne hands, to pull downe these, then towers, of mine owne imaginations, and shall rejoyce to see the ruines and rubble of them, serve to levell the ground, upon which a better building may be raised. But I am perswaded better things of this interpretation although I thus speake▪ & such things as accompany the manifestatiō of that truth, which shall never be abolished. Let not any man esteem it the lesse probable, because it proceeds from one, who is no way eminent, either in the Church or Common-wealth, except it be for his infir∣mities. Great matters may (and most usuall doe) pro∣ceed from mean and unworthy beginnings. A fountaine of precious water may arise out of a dry and stony plat of ground, although it were otherwise barren and unfruit∣full; A late namlesse writer speaketh fitly to this purpose in these words Quòd si ita est, nec maximis ingenj is licet*hujus inventionem numeri, sibi minùs confidenter arroga∣re, nec diffitendum tamen est posse Deum perexiguo inge∣nio rationem hujus numeri patefacere, dicit enim numerus hominis est, id est, t alibi alia de re, & mensus est murum ejus. 144. cubitorum, mensura hominis quae est Angeli. Neither let it seem unprobable to any man, that the true meaning and interpretation of this number, having layen hidden for so many ages, should in these times be found out and revealed. For such happy times as these, in which Christian Princes and Common-wealthes, are a∣ble and willing to stand at defiance with the Pope, and to maintaine truth to his face, these are the fittest times (as Mr Fox noteth) for the manifestation of this myste∣ry,* and not heretofore, when no man in these Westerne Churches could affirme the Pope to be Antichrist, with∣out apparent danger of his life. The same namelesse Author whose words, I have above alleaged, doth to this Page  [unnumbered] purpose also speak very fitly in these words. Ne{que} enim*res hoc uno indicio vertitur; multa alia signa aperta sunt et approbata, hoc anum adhuc occultum latet & obscurum, eorum gratiâ vestiguandum, qui ut Thomas de Christo, ad vulnera; ita hijudicium suum de Antichristo, ad hujus nu∣meri explicationem reservant; ne{que} enim hunc numerū tam insigniter nobis commendâsset Scriptura, si nunquā fuisset revelandus, & quamvis probabile est revelandum esse ante exitum Antichristi, videmus tamen bestiam, & reges ter∣rae, et exercitus eorum aggregatos ad bellum faciendum cum Christo, & exercitu ejus, in ultimo praelio, in quo omnes devictierunt & profligati. Quaerant igitur omnes, vesti∣gent & scrutentur, inventio quaerentibus non est desperan∣da, non-agnitio repugnantibus est pestifera.

Concerning the interpretation itselfe, it supposeth this number 666. to be an image and typicall representa∣tion of the whole body of Antichrist, that is, of the whole body of his Kingdome, state and Hierarchy: and thus much is generally acknowledged by many writers, and especially by Cotterius, who layeth this as a certaine ground, by which the true interpretation of this num∣ber ought to be tried and examined. Now if this num∣ber be an Image and type of the whole body of Anti∣christ, then no man ought to imagine that the whole image of Antichrist, is like unto any one particular mem∣ber, or part of the body of Antichrist; for as the whole image of Caesar, is not like unto the hand of Caesar, nor like unto the head of Caesar; so neither is this number being considered wholly, applicable to any particular Times, Names, Persons, Places, or other individuall things or circumstances belonging unto Antichrist, as divers in∣terpreters have endeavoured to apply it. But he that de∣sireth to know Caesar by his image, must compare head to head, face to face, eye to eye, hand to hand, and foot Page  [unnumbered] to foot, and so conclud a likenesse in generall from an in∣duction of particulars. In like manner he that desires to know Antichrist by this number, must first finde in this number (being considered as an absolute number) such things as are most essentiall and remarkable in it, and such things by which this number is distinguished from all other numbers, and these things being found out, must be compared, with those things that are most essentiall and remarkable in that state or government which is An∣tichrist, and with those things, by which Antichrist is di∣stinguished from all other states and governments what∣soever. Now the Root and Figure of every number, are those things which are most essentiall and remarkable in it; and by one or both of these, every number is distin∣guished from all other numbers, in these doe the essenti∣all properties of all numbers consist, and upon these chiefly doe all those mysteries depend, which S. Augu∣stine, and divers other sacred and profane writers have observed to be in numbers.

And concerning those things which are most essenti∣all and remarkeable in the Kingdome of Antichrist, to, and with which, the Root and figure of this number be∣ing found out, is to be applied and compared; the Scrip∣tures themselves doe infallibly guide and direct unto them, by an actuall application, of the Root and figure of an opposite number, unto such particulars, as are most remarkably answerable and opposite unto them. As for the finding out of the Root, and Figure of the number 666. This cannot be done, but by a kinde of calculation or computation of the number itselfe; wherefore it is said in the Text 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Let him that hath understanding count the number of the Beast, that so he may finde out the Root and Figure of it, by which the root and foundation of Antichrists Hierar∣chie,Page  [unnumbered] his originall, his City state, doctrine, and many o∣ther particulars are manifestly revealed; And this is the effect of the following interpretation, which dependeth chiefly upon the extraction of the root of the number 666, as the words of the Text doe necessarily imply, that the right interpretation should doe; and I am so confi∣dent, that this is the true manner of counting the Beasts number, that I will be bold (with addition of two words onely) to say in these times of this computation in parti∣cular, as Cotterius in the time of King Iames, concer∣ning his typicall interpretation in generall. aHaec sunt in quibus iudiciorum aliam experiri paratus sum, quae astrui cùm intersit si à vero non discrepant, á viris doctis precibus omnibus contendo, tum autem à tua Majestate, Rex serenis∣sime, ut ij qui regno tuo doctissimi ornamēto sunt, inquirant in singula, notent quod deprehenderint, ijs verò quae certa videbuntur (ulteriorem adhuc) calculum adjiciant, ut in∣de ad Ecclesiam Domini fructus aliquis accedat. As for those which shall think such a kinde of interpretation as this is, dark & intricate, and to leane too heavily upon the props of humane arts and sciences; such when they un∣derstand these words of the Text. Here is wisdome, let him that hath understanding count the number, &c. may in them finde a full answer to their own objections, in the mean time they may doe well to consider that S. Austin, S. Hierome, S. Gregory, and divers others, have used the like, and far more obscure interpretations than this, of di∣vers other numbers mentioned in the Scriptures. And such their interpretations have been commended by la∣ter b writers, & esteemed more fitly applicable to truths Page  [unnumbered] in Divinity, then unto humane arts and speculations. It may therefore be very well acknowledged, that this in∣terpretation is dark and obscure in some degree, especi∣ally to some men, because it may be easily proved, that the true interpretation ought so to be. And as it is dark and intricate, so must it also be acknowledged, to be new, and unheard of in former times: In both which re∣spects I may say of it, as a late worthy writer doth of his new Philosophy in a very like case. Scio quemadmodū ar∣duum*est vetustis novitatem dare, obsoletis nitorem, obscuris lucem, fastiditis gratiam, dubiis fidem; it a multò magis no∣vis & inauditis, contra omnes omnium opiniones, authori∣tatem aliquam conciliare & stabilire difficilimum. But all truths which are now old, were once new, and have had their severall oppositions. New truths are like new friends, worthy to be tried, though not to be trusted, and I propose these things to the wise and learned, as bMar∣tiall proposed himselfe to his friend, to be tryed and ex∣amined first, and to be beleived afterward: as it is al∣wayes wisdome to trust an old friend, so is it somtimes great folly, not to make an exact triall of one that is new.

As touching the method and manner of composure of this treatise, I do willingly confesse, that it is not on∣ly inartificiall, but also rude and harsh, especially consi∣dering, how nécessary a perspicuous Method, and exqui∣sit expressions had been, in so difficult a matter. But I hope the Logick is better then the Rhetoricke, and per∣haps there wil not want those, that will quickly put my meaning into better words, and other languages, if it shall deserve them. My only aime hath been to speak so, that my meaning may be fully understood; and yet I finde, that where I have indeavoured to expresse my selfe most clearly, there have I done as Iob did in his Page  [unnumbered] vexations, even darkened Counsell by words without knowledge. But I hope a wise, learned, and charitable Reader, will picke out my meaning howsoever, and par∣don my unnecessary tautologies and circumlocutions.

And to the serious and setled considerations, of such sober minded and judicious Readers, I wholy referr that which I have written. Let such consider what I say (not who speaks unto them) and God give them under∣standing in all things, that hating neutrality of opinion (especially in a matter of so great consequence and a ne∣cessity) they may be both able and willing, if the sub∣stance of that which I have here written be true, to be∣lieve it: or if it be otherwise, to confute it. In the mean time, and untill I shall see reason to the contrary, I shall hope; That among this wood, and hay, and stubble, which I have here heaped together, there is also some Gold, and some Silver, and some Pretious Stones (that is some long sought after and desireable b truthes) which being purged and refined from my errors and imper∣fections, by that fire of which the Apostle speakes in the third Chap: of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, shall continue in the Church of God, notwithstanding any thing which hath been as yet objected against it.

Kilmington in Somerset: March: 27. 1642.