Page images
PDF
EPUB

might be completely carried away by it. In all this, I can perceive nothing like the slightest intimation of any prolepsis, but rather the very reverse: I can only discover a plain account of the woman's persecution during 1260 days': an account, which exactly tallies with the general subject of the little book ; with the 1260 days prophesying of the witnesses in the preceding chapter, and with the 42 months' tyranny of the beast in the succeeding chapter. Hence I conclude, that this middle chapter of the little book treats of the same period, that its first and two last chapters treat of.-- In the fifth place, the scene of the warfare between the woman and the dragon is laid, at least the beginning of it is laid, in heaven, or the Church general.

The dragon, the

persécutor, was a sign in heaven, no less than the woman, the persecuted. Whence it will follow, that the seven-headed and ten-horned dragon, must have stirred up this persecution against the woman through the instrumentality, not of a pagan, but of a nominally Christian, power. Heaven indeed is the symbol either of temporal or spiritual polity* : little doubt however can be entertained in which sense it is to be taken in the present instance, when we note that both the woman and the dragon were equally signs in this heaven. Where the woman was, there was the dragon also. But, in the days of Paganism, im

* See the preceding chapter upon symbolical language.

periál Rome alone occupied the temporal heaven: the Church was utterly excluded from it. The heaven therefore cannot be the temporal heaven. But, if it be not the temporal heaven, it must be the spiritual heaven, or the Church. And if it be the spiritual heaven, or the Church; then the war between the dragon and the woman can have no relation to the persecutions of pagan Rome, whatever the previous labour-pains of the woman may have: for the empire, as pagan, never was in the spiritual heaven ; and consequently cannot be the dragon, which the prophet declares to have been in the selfsame. heaven with the woman. In no sense therefore, either temporal or spiritual, can the dragon, upon Bp. Newton's interpretation, be placed in heaven at the same time that the woman was there *.

The

* The interpretation, which Mr. Mede and Mr. Whitaker give of this prophecy, is nearly the same as that of Bp. Newton. The point in which they vary from each other is the mun-child.

An exposition, essentially differing from that of all these writers has been offered by Mr. Bicheno. He süpposes the dragon to be the Roman empire from its first rise, down to the moment of its present existence in the German empire. While it was pagan, it was only a great red dragon: but, when it was converted to Christianity, and thus got into the Church, it acquired the additional character of Sutan, or the serpent. Michael and his angels are the Goths and other northern nations. The heuren, out of which they cast the dragon, is Italy : the earth, into which he is cast, is the empire without the limits of Ituly, or the Roman provinces. After he has been thús ejected

from

The fact is, this second chapter of the little book, like its fellows preceding and succeeding, relates

solely

1

That is to say,

from heaven or Italy, he makes his appearance first in France when Charlemagne became Emperor of the Romans, and afterwards in Germany, where he has ever since continued. The wilderness, into which the woman flees, symbolizes Bohemia, Silesia, and Moravia : and the war of the dragon against the woman denotes the persecution of the protestants in those parts by

e Emperors of Germány. The seven heads and ten horns of the dragon are the same as the seven heads and ten horns of the beast; which represent the ecclesiastical tyranny of the Pope: The dragon at the close of the Apocalypse is still the German empire. The beast will be first overthrown; but the dragon will only be bound, or have his power so weakened as to be incapable of any immediate exertions. At the end however of the thousand yčars, which are no more than a thousand riatural weeks, he will be let loose again. “ áfter nineieeni natural years and a quarter," for to this short period of time Mr. Bicheno reduces the thousand years, "the

imperial monarchy will again exert its power, form extenóv sive alliances, and make one grand effort against the Church " of God, the liberties of the regenerated nations, and parti

çularly against the Jews, to prevent the re-establishment of “ their commonwealth :” but this effort will end only in the destruction of them that make it, for God will magnify himself in their everlasting overthrow. Signs of the Times, Part i. p. 14, 15. Part iii. p. 129, 130. The destiny of the German empire passim.

The objections, which I have made to Bp. Newton's scheme, might in themselves be sufficient to confûte this exposition of Mr. Bicheno: nevertheless I shall add a few remarks' on those parts of it, wherein he differs from the Bishop-In his opinion, that hearen means Italy, and the earth the provinces of the Roman empire, to say nothing of his having no scriptural authority for making such an assertion, he is inconsistent even with himself. The great stur that falls from

hearen

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

solely and exclusively, with the exception of a short introductory preface, to the events of the

1260

heaven under the third trumpet he elsewhere supposes to be Attila. If heaven denote Italy, how did Attila fall out of it? So, in the present prophecy, the woman is said to have been in the same heaven with the dragon At what period was the Church exclusively confined to Italy? Again: the whole earth is said to worship the ten horned beast, which according to Mr. Bicheno is the Papacy. Did the provinces of the Roman empire alone venerate the Pope? Was his authority totally disregarded in heaven or Italy ?-But the seven heads of the dragon are the same as the seven heads of the beast; and the last head of the beast Mr. Bicheno supposes to be the Papacy. . If then the existing head of the dragon be the Papacy, how can the dragon in his present state be the Emperor of Germany? Is the Pope the head of the German empire ? - The thousand years

however are only nineteen natural years and a quarter. Such an hypothesis so completely violates the whole analogy of prophetic computation, that it cannot, as appears to me, be tolerated a single moment-Mr. Bicheno asks, Where is the dragon elsewhere used as a symbol of the devil i Now, even if he were not, it would be amply sufficient, so far as the present prophecy is concerned, to reply, that St. John tells us, no less than seven times, that the dragon is Satan or the devil; and therefore I conclude him to be the devil. But the apocalyptic idea of making the dragon a symbol of the devil is manifestly borrowed from the third chapter of Genesis (see Rev. xii. 9.). It is almost superfluous to observe, that the dragon of the ancients was not the poetical monster of the middle ages, but simply a large serpent.

What St. John beheld, was a great red snake with seven heads and ten horns ; not a creature with four legs and two rings like the fabulous griffin, as the licence of painters is wont ridiculously to represent the apocalyptic dragon-- This leads me to notice the opinion, that the Roman empire while pagan was only the

dragon;

[ocr errors]

1260 years. That such is the case, will suffici ently appear from the following considerations.

In

[ocr errors]

dragon; but that, when it was converted to Christianity, it became the serpent and the devil. Constantine was certainly nut a pattern of primitive piety, and the Church, in his days was by no means 50 pure as it had been : yet it is difficult to conceive, that the empire by embracing even a debased Christianity changed from bad to worse.

Mr. Bicheno defends this schemë of interpretation in his reply to me; but I cannot think that he renders it at all more Satisfactory, though he now maintains that the seven-headed beast does not represent the ecclesiastical tyranny of the Pope exclusively, but the ecclesiastical tyrunny of the Pope united with the civil tyranny of the papal governments of Europe. In this opinion I believe him to be no less mistaken than in his formek one. But see his reply to me in his Supplement to the Signs of the Times, and my answer to him.

Mr. Lowman does not attempt to give a regular explanation of the prophecy relative to the dragon and the woman ; but he very judiciously confines it to the period of 1260 days, and supposes it exactly to synchronize with the preceding vision of the witnesses, and the succeeding vision of the two beasts. The seven heads and ten horns;" says he, " is a de

scription so exactly agreeable to the description of the beast, " that it may, I think, be justly understood as a limitation of " the opposition here meant to the times of the beast, or to is that time when the Roman power was represented by ten ** horns, as well as by seven heads and crowns ; or 'not before

ten kingdoms were erected by the nations which broke in upon

the Roman empire, and divided it into many indepen* dent governments. The representation of the wild beasts “ in this vision (Chap. xiii.) refers to the same times with " the two former visions of the witnesses prophesying in sacks

cloth, and the woman flying into the wilderness.” Lowmap'x Paraphrase in loc. Vol. II.

L

« PreviousContinue »