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During the three first centuries of the Christian times, the fourth beast of Daniel, the Roman monarchy, had violently persecuted the Church. He was then in full vigour and dominion. And when did he seem to cease his war against the saints ? when to appear no longer beastly? when to remit his persecuting ferocity? when to receive an apparent mortal wound ?-At the accession of Constantine, the first Christian emperor ; whose laws, enacted for the establishment, protection, and propagation of the Christian religion, seemed at that time to have inflicted a mortal wound on the beast. He was smitten on his Roman, on his principal head; and his death appeared certain. But the Christian leaders seizing, too eagerly, the power and riches of the world, and ensnared in the temptation, contributed most effectually to heal the deadly wound of the beast; they restored him again to life and to power; to a power tenfold more dangerous than before, when a corrupt administration of civil tyranny began to be supported and abetted by ecclesiastical authority. Under which new form, he became an object of wonder, and of worship to the deluded inhabitants of the world. But this effect will be considered more at large, when we have taken the additional beast, called the false prophet, into view. It will be useful at this time to compare the deadly wound of the beast in this passage (which wound turns out to be not deadly) with his existence, and his non-existence, both predicated of him at the same period, in ch. xvii.
1 See the opinions of those times in Euseb. Eccl. Hist. lib. x. ; also Vit. Constant. lib. ii. cap. xix. xlii. xlvi. &c.; where, upon the death of the dragon, (for so Maximin and Maxentius and the foes of the Church are called,) a long peace and virtuous enjoyment is promised to Christians. They should have said, the death of the beast, that of the dragon is not foretold.
CHAPTER xiii. 3. Και μιαν εκ των κεφαλών αυτου ως
εσφαγμενον εις θανατον και η πληγη τ8 θανατου αυτ8 εθεραπευθη και έθαυμασεν
όλη η γή οπισω τ8 θηριου. 8. Και προσκυνήσουσιν αυτον παντες οι
κατοικούντες επι της γης, ων ου γεγραπται το ονομα εν τω βιβλια της ζωης τ8 αρνιου το έσφαγμενου απο καταβολής κοσμου. .
CHAPTER xvii. 8. Το θηριον, και ειδες, ην, και ουκ έστι,
και θαυμασονται οι κατοικεντες επι της γης, ων ου γεγραπται τα ονοματα επι το βιβλιον της ζωής απο καταβολής κοσμου, βλεποντών το θηριον, ότι ην,
καιπερ έστιν, ,
There is manifest resemblance in the two passages. persons, who admire and worship the beast, are the same; they who dwell on earth,”the whole earth, or that part whose names are not written in the book of life :—and the object of admiration is the same, namely, the beast, who in the notes (ch. xvii.) is shown to be the same in both passages. And the cause of admiration is at least nearly the same. In the one, the beast receives a deadly blow, yet does not die; in the other, he was, and is not, and yet he is, or shall be again.”
Ver. 4. And they worshipped the dragon, because he had given the power to the beast; and they worshipped the beast.] The beast succeeds to the dragon, who, in verse 2, gives him “ his power, and his throne, and great authority.” Accordingly, he promotes the interests of his master, and the worship of him in the world. This beast is joined by another beast, whom we shall proceed to consider; and by the ministry of the latter beast, not only the dragon, but the first beast also, becomes an object of worship to the inhabitants of the earth. To worship the dragon, i. e. the devil, is to do what our Lord refused, when Satan tempted him with the offer of worldly greatness; when, showing to him “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them ; ali these things,” saith he, “ will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me,” (Matt. iv. 8, 9.) Whoever, to attain worldly eminence, relinquishes his trust in God, and deviates from the path of the divine laws, withdraws his allegiance from God, and transfers it unto the devil.—And this allegiance may also be transferred to the agents of the devil; to the powers of this world, who promote his infernal interests in opposition to that heavenly kingdom, which we daily pray for, and which we are bound daily to promote.
1 There are these three readings, sce note io ch. xvii. 8. 2 See more on this subject, in notes, ch. xvii. 8.
Ib. Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?] The battle to be fought with the beast, who proclaims and enforces idolatry, is of a spiritual nature. They who, giving up their faith in God, worship after the ordinances of the beast, are overcome by him : but every faithful Christian, who adheres “ to the word of the testimony, loving not bis life, even unto death, overcomes him by the blood of the Lamb,” (ch. xii. 11.)
Ver. 5. Blasphemies.] These shall be considered, when we take into view the assistant beast and false prophet, who enabled the first beast to blaspheme to the utmost excess. (See note below, ch. xiii. 5, 6, 7.)
Ib. Power [to continue in action] forty-two months.] Ilointai, applied to time, signifies to continue, as in Acts xv. 33; xx. 3; to continue, during this period, in his evil practices against the Church.
Verses 5, 6, 7. And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, &c.] It will be useful to observe, that in Daniel vii. 8, 20, 25, the fourth, or Roman beast, does not obtain “his mouth speaking great things,” (they are the very same words used by both prophets, nor open his mouth for blasphemy, until he has produced the little horn, that is, after he has produced the ten kings. So in
See note, ch. ii. 7.
the Apocalypse, it is not in the first period of the beast's progress that he exalts himself so superbly, and becomes an object of worship. This exaltation is accomplished for him by the intervention of the second beast, his minister in iniquity, whose office and actions are described in the subsequent part of this chapter. But in this description of the first beast, ch. xiii. 149, we may discriminate his gradual progress; 1. Under verses 1 and 2, the Roman tyranny under its pagan persecuting emperors, to whom the apostate Christians literally offered incense; 2. (ver. 3.) His wound at the accession of Constantine ; 3. His recovery, and the great admiration of him in his new form; 4. His additional power and increased dominion, when, after his division into ten kingdoms, the little horn of Daniel, the false prophet, springs up in him ; when the harlot directs the reins, (ch. xvii.) The period of 1260 years seems to be that of his renewed life, and of his increased dominion, displayed in verses 5, 6, 7. [“ They who dwell in heuven,"] are not only the heavenly inhabitants, literally speaking, but the faithful Christians on earth, whose conversation is in heaven;" whose“ building” and home are there; who account themselves“ strangers and pilgrims upon earth.” 1
Ver. 8. Book of Life.] See note, ch. iii. 5.
Ver. 9. If any one have an ear, &c.] See note, ch. ii. 7.
Ver. 10. If any one leadeth into captivity, &c.] After the fearful picture exbibited of the victorious power of the beast, a comfort is derived from these words; which contain an assurance from the Al
1 Heb. xi. 9, 13: Eph. ij. 6, 19; 1 Pet. i. 17. They are opposed to “ those who inhabit the earth,” and who are said to worship the beast, ch. xii. 3, 8: xvii. 8.
mighty, that the wicked shall not finally prosper. The cause of iniquity sometimes flourishes during a long period, and under various instruments : but the individuals employed to promote its reign, have no lasting enjoyment or prosperity. They suffer in their turn the evils which they introduce, and inflict on others. This great truth in the providential government of God, is exemplified by Dr. Jortin, in the sufferings and deaths of the most noted persecutors.? We have seen it exemplified in our own times, during the progress of the French revolution. The individuals who chiefly distinguished themselves in overturning legal government and promoting persecution, oppression, a beastly domination, and the overthrow of Christianity, enjoyed but a precarious and short-lived power. Most of them were cut off in the midst of their ambitious career, or consigned to misery in a distant, wretched colony.
The saints must be patient; the great day of recompense will surely come, (Heb. x. 36.) _“ Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” (Luke xii. 32.) "And it is the office of the Messiah to lead captivity captive,” (Psa. Ixviii. 18; Eph. iv. 8.)
Commentators of all ages have looked more or less to the Roman empire for the fulfilment of this prophecy; and the principal question of debate has been, whether it is to be found in the power abused under the heathen emperors, or under that afterwards usurped and equally abused by Christian, or, to speak more truly, antichristian Rome. The acute and eloquent Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, has exerted his best talents to maintain the former of these opinions.
1 Remarks on Eccl. Hist vol. iii. pp. 246_322.