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In point of chronology, the four chapters of the little book must run either successive, or parallel to each other; because, unless this be allowed, we shall be involved in the most perplexing confusion and uncertainty of interpretation that can well be imagined. Three of these chapters however, namely, the first, the third, and the fourth*, are acknowledged by Bp. Newton himself to run parallel to each other, all of them equally relating to the events of the 1260 years : yet he conceives the second of the chapters chronologically to precede the third ; and consequently, since the third treats of the same era as the first and fourth, the second must, according to his scheme, precede the first and fourth, no less than the third. Such a mode of interpretation completely destroys the beautiful simplicity with which the little book is arranged. All its chapters, I repeat it, must be either successive or parallel to each other. If then Bp. Newton makes the third chapter succeed the second, he ought likewise to make the second succeed the first, and the fourth the third : instead of which he selects one of the middle chapters of the book, and makes it precede · all the others, which he supposes to run parallel to each other. This he does in direct opposition, both to the plain language, and the plain tenor, of the little book. From the mention of the 1260 years in each of its three first chapterst, we can scarcely avoid concluding that they equally treat of the
* Rev. xi. xiii, xiy.
+ Rev. xi. 2, 3. xii. 6, 14. xiii. 5.
events of that period; and if so, they must be parallel, not successive, to each other. As for the last chapter*, though no such declaration is explicitly made respecting it, yet its contents, as Bp. Newton rightly observes, sufficiently shew, that “ it delineates, by way of opposition, the
state of the true Church during the same period, “ its struggles and contests with the beast, and “ the judgments of God upon its enemies." Hence I think it evident, that all the four chapters of the little book run parallel to each other, and treat alike of the events of the 1260 years, with the exception (as I have already observed) of the short introductory preface which ushers in the war between the dragon and the woman.
But it is time to proceed to a discussion of the matters contained in the present chapter.
1. Heaven is the Church general; the same as the holy city, mentioned in the last chapter. Part of it is occupied by the woman, or the spiritual Church of true believers; who, during her sojourn in the wilderness, is the same as the temple and the two witnesses. Another part of it is occupied by the dragon ; and corresponds, during the same period, with the outer court trodden under foot by the Gentiles, and with the great scarlet whore hereafter mentioned by the Apostle as riding triumphantly upon the ten-horned beast.
2. The woman is the Church of Christ, originally comprehending all professed Christians, but afterwards confined within narrow limits, and driven into the wilderness. She is represented, as being clothed with the Sun; to denote, that her spiritual 'nakedness is only clothed by the righteousness of Christ: as standing upon the Moon, which, like herself, is a symbol of the Church, to mark, that she shines only with a borrowed light, being naturally a dark opaque body*: and as wearing a crown of twelve stars ; to shew, that, as the Church is a crown of rejoicingt to the Apostles, so the Apostles are the brightest crown of the Church.
3. The dragon, as St. John himself repeatedly teaches us, is the devil. He is represented with seven heads and ten horns, to shew us by whose visible agency he should persecute the woman ; namely, by that of the seven-headed and tenhorned beast mentioned in the next chapter: and he is said to be in heaven, because the empire,
* Bp. Newton supposes the moon here to mean the Jewish new moons and festivals as well as all sublunury things : but I cannot find, that this interpretation at all tallies with the general analogy of symbolical language. When the Sun means a temporal sovereign; the Moon, as Sir Isaac Newton very justly observes, and as I have stated in my chapter upon symbols, is " put for the body of the common people, considered as the king's wife:” when the Sun is Christ; the Moon will,"in a similar manner, signify his mystical wife the Church. + 1 Thess. ii. 19.
which he used as his tool, made profession of
Here it is of importance to remark, that the
* It is observable, that our reformers never thought of unchurching the church of Rome; though they freely declared it to have “ erred, not only in living and manner of ceremonies, “ but also in matters of faith.” Hence, while they rejected its abominations, they did not scruple to derive from it their line of episcopal and sacerdotal ordination; well knowing, that holiness of office is a perfectly distinct thing from holiness of character, and that the consecration of a Judas was no less valid than that of a Paul or a Peter.
t. This distinction between an individual and an authorized apostasy, the first commencing previous to and the other with the 1260 years, is stated at large in the beginning of this work (vol. i. p. 14, 15, 16.). I conceive it to be of great use in explaining the present prophecy, because it accounts for the representation of the dragon being in heaven, and of an apostasy taking place before the commencement of the 1260 years.
said to be in heaven prior to it. It is manifest therefore, that, as the labour-pains of the woman precede the 1260 years, so her open persecution by the dragon is carried on during the continuance of those years, and consequently (as I have already observed) can have no relation to the persecution of Christianity by pagan Rome. Since then the dragon uses the apostate Roman empire as his tool; its public apostasy, and his publicly beginning thus to use it, must be synchronical: and therefore his first direct attack upon the manchild, and the flight of the woman into the wilderness, must synchronize with the commencement of the authorized Apostasy, that is to say, with the commencement of the 1260 years.
As he is described with seven heads and ten horns in allusion to the first apocalyptic beast, or the Papal Roman empire : so he is said likewise to have a tail in reference to the corrupt superstition so successfully taught by the second apocalyptic beast, or, as he is elsewhere, styled, the false prophet. With this tail he draws the third part of the stars of heaven, and casts them down to the earth : in other words, he causes those Christian bishops, whose sees lay in the Roman Empire*, to apostatize from the purity of the apostolic faith. This event is said to have taken place before the
* We have already seen, that the Roman Empire is frequently represented in the Revelation as being a third part of the symbolical Uniderse.