« PreviousContinue »
Concerning the war of the dragon with the woman.
The main-spring of the Apostasy is the great red dragon, or, as the Apostle himself informs us, the devil. It was this grand deceiver of the whole world, that actuated the two-horned beast, and that employed at his instigation the ten-horned beast, to trample under foot the Gospel of Christ. Hence St. John thinks it necessary to dedicate one whole chapter of the little book to the full elucidation of his wiles,
“ And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the Sun, and the “ Moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown " of twelve stars. And she being with child cried,
travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. “ And there appeared another wonder in heaven; « and behold a great red dragon, 'having seven “ heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his “ heads. And his tail drew the third part of the “ stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth : “and the dragon stood before the woman which
was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child “ as soon as it was born. And she brought forth
a man-child, who was to rule all nations with “ a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman K 3
“ fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place. "prepared of God, that they should feed her “there a thousand two hundred and threescore
The excellent Bp. Newton appears to me to have failed in no part of his commentary upon the Apocalyse so much as in that on the present chapter. Although he had before very justly stated, that the little book described the calamities of the western thurch, and as such was with good reason made a separate and distinct prophecy : and although the little book itself repeatedly declares, that it relates to the history of the great Apostasy of 1260. years, which seems to have commenced in the year 606: yet he now supposes, in direct contradiction to his former statement, that the chief part, or I may rather say the whole, of this allowed chapter of the little book is occupied by matters entirely anterior, and therefore altogether foreign, to the history of the great Apostasy. In short, he makes the present chapter chronologically precede. both the last and the following chapter, which he rightly esteems synchronical. Thus, he conjectures, that the red dragon, which persecutes the symbolical woman or the Church, is. pagan Ronie; and that he is styled the red dragon, because “ purple or scarlet was the distinguishing
colour of the Roman emperors, consuls, and generals:” that the man-child is primarily the mystic Christ, for whom the Roman dragon laid, snares to destroy him in his infancy, as Pharaoh,
did of old for the male children of the Hebrews; but that Constantine however, the first Christian emperor, was here more particularly intended, “ for whose life the dragon Galerius laid many “ snares, though he providentially escaped them “ all; and, notwithstanding all opposition, was " caught up unto the throne of God, was not “ only secured by the divine protection, but was " advanced to the imperial throne; called the “ throne of God; for there is no power but of “ God; the powers, that'be, are ordained of God.” Agreeably to this system, his Lordship thinks that the war between Michael and the dragon, mentioned in the succeeding verses, is the struggle between Christianity and Paganism ; and that the fall of the dragon from heaven is the final overthrow of idolatry. In a similar manner, the wrath of the dragon after he is cast down to the earth is the attempt to restore paganism in the reign of Julian, and the discord excited in the Church by the followers of Arius : and the food, which he vomited forth from his mouth, signifies the irruption of the northern barbarians, whom Stilicho, prime minister of the Emperor Honorius, invited into the Roman empire, The Bishop however, being perfectly aware that the woman's recess into the wilderness during the space of 1260 days, stood in direct opposition to his scheme, maintains, that this is said merely by way of prolepsis, or anticipation; and that she did not flee into the wilderness at this time, but several years after, ķ4
during the reign of Antichrist, which is described in the following chapter: 'notwithstanding the prophet is at this very time professedly writing the history of the 1260 days ; and notwithstanding Me three other chapters of the little book, namely, the chapter which immediately precedes this, and the two chapters which immediately follow it, are by the Bishop himself allowed to relate to the events of the 1260 days in the West*
* Sir Isaac Newton's mode of explaining the whole prophecy of the dittle book appears to me very unsatisfactory. In many respects, it is liable to the same objections as the scheme of Bp. Newton; and, in some points, it is liable even to greater objections. Thus Sir Isaac conceives the two women, mentioned in the Apocalypse, to be one and the same person; notwithstanding their characters are evidently so different; and supposes, that the woman fled into the wilderness, when the Roman empire was divided into the Greek and Latin empires; notwithstanding the prophet represents her as fleeing there at the beginning of the 1260 days. The general outline of his whole explanation, so far as it regards the three grand symbols of the little book, is as follows. He conjectures, that the dragon is the Greek or Constantinopolitrın Empire; that the ten-horned beast is the Latin Empire; and that the two-horned beast is the church of the Greek Empire. Ini none of these particulars can I think him right, except in his opinion of the ten-horned beast; and even of that his definition seems to me to be somewhat too limited, for the sixth head of the ten-horned beast when it revived was the Constantinopolitan Emperor. As for the dragon being the Greek empire, such an opinion is utterly irreconcileable with the plain declaration of St. John that he is the devil and nothing but the devil: and as for the second apocalyptic beast, there is scarcely a single point in which his character answers to that of the Greek Church.
This plan of interpretation is liable to numerous objections In the first place, while I readily allow, that what is represented in the prophecy as preceding the flight of the woman into the wilderness at the commencement of the 1260 days must necessarily take place before the commencement of those days, and therefore cannot be included within them; yet I think it highly improbable, that St. John, having already foretold under the trumpets and the sixth seal the declining fortunes of the empire and its conversion to Christianity, should now at length, after he has begun to write the history of the western apostasy, detail so much at large as the Bishop supposes him to do (that is to say, so much at large as to occupy the whole intermediate chapter of the
For the Greek Church never wrought miracles to deceive the Latins; nor did it exercise all the power of the first beast, or the Latin empire, before him; nor did it cause the whole earth to worship that beast; nor did it set up uny imuge for him; nor lastly did it ever forbid all to buy and sell, except those who bore the name and the mark of the first beast. In short Sir Isaac's exposition entirely confounds the whole plan of the little book, which treats of the affairs of the West, as the two first woe-trumpets had already treated of the collateral affairs of the East.
Since Sir Isaac has discussed all these matters in a single chapter, I thought it best to throw together my objections to his scheme in a single note, and not resume the subject here. after. I shall only add, that I have not brought forward every objection that might have been urged, but have only stated. some of the principal ones. See Observations on the Apocaa' lypse Chap. iii.