« AnteriorContinuar »
Ans. 3. Though it is not for us to know the precise time of the fall of Antichrist, yet I humbly conceive that we have no reason to suppose the event principally intended in the prophecies of Antichrist's destruction to be at so great a distance, as Mr. Lowman places it; but have reason to think it to be much nearer. Not that I would set up myself as a person of equal judgment with Mr. Lowman in matters of this nature. As he differs from most others of the most approved expositors of the Apocalypse, in this matter, so I hope it will not appear vanity and presumption in me, to differ from this particular expositor, and to agree with the greater number. And since his opinion stands so much in the way of that great and important affair, to promote which is the very end of this whole discourse, I hope it will not look as though I affected to appear considerable among the interpreters of prophecy, and as a person of skill in these mysterious mai. ters, that I offer some reasons against Mr. Lowman's opinion. It is surely great pity, that it should be received as a thing clear and abundantly confirmed, that the glorious day of Antichrist's fall is at so great a distance (so directly tending to damp and discourage all earnest prayers for, or endeavors after its speedy accomplishment) unless there be good and plain ground for it. I would therefore offer some things to consideration, which I think may justly make us look upon the opinion of this learned interpreter, of this happy event's being at so great a distance, not so certain and indubitable, as to linder our praying and hoping for its being fulfilled much sooner.
The period of Antichrist's reign, as their author has fixed it, secms to be the main point insisted on in his exposition of the revelation ; which he supposes a great many things in the scheme of prophecies delivered in that book do concur to establish. And indeed it is so with respect to the scheme of interpretation of these prophecies, which he goes into, and finds it requisite to maintain, in order to confirm this point. But there are several things in that scheme, that appear to me justly liable to exception.
Whereas it is represented, Rev. xvii. 10, 11, that there are seven different successive heads of the beast ; that five were past, and another was to come, and to continue a short space, that might on some accounts be reckoned a seventh ; and that Antichrist was to follow next after this, as the eighth; but yet the foregoing not being properly one of the heads of the beast, he was properly the seventh ; Mr. Lowman does not think with others, that by the seventh that was to continue a short space which would not be properly one of the heads of the beast, is meant Constantine and the other Christian emperors ; (for he thinks they are reckoned as properly belonging to the sixth head of the beast) but that hereby is intended the government that Rome was subject to under the Gothic princes, and the exarchate of Ravenna, after the imperial form of government in Rome ceased in Augustulus, until the Pope was invested with his temporal dominion, called St. Peter's patrimony, by Pipin, King of France, in the
And he supposes, that that wounding of one of the heads of the beast with a sword unto death, that we read of chap. xiii. 3, and 14, was not fulfilled in the destruction of the Heathen empire, and the giving the imperial power unto Christians, but in the destruction of the imperial form of government, by the sword of the Goths, in the time of Augustulys. But it seems to me to be very unlikely, that the spirit of God should reckon Constantine and the Christian emperors as proper members, and belonging to one of the heads, of that monstrous, wild and cruel beast, that is compared to a leopard and a bear, and a devouring lion, and that had a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and that rules by the power and authority of the dragon, or the devil;t which beast is represented in this very 17th chapter, as full of names of blasphemy, and of a bloody color, denoting his excecding cruelty in persecuting the Christian Church. For Constantine, instead of this, was a member of the Christian church, and set by God in the most eminent station in his
+ The word Therion signifies a wild savage beast, as Mr. Lowman himaself observes, Page 127.
church ; and was honored above all other princes that ever had been in the world, as the great protector of his church, and her deliverer from the persecuting power of that cruel scarlet colored beast. Mr. Lowman himself styles him a Christian prince,and protector of the Christian religion. God is very careful not to reckon his own people among the Gentiles, the visible subjects of Satan ; Num. xxiii. 9. “ The people shall not be reckoned among the nations.” God will not entrol them with them ; if they happen to be among them, he will be careful to set a mark upon them,'as a note of distinction ; Rev. vii. 3, &c. when God is reckoning up his own
h people, he leaves out those that have been noted for idolatry, As among the tribes that were sealed Rev. viii. those idolatrous tribes of Ephraim and Dan are left out, and in the genealogy of Christ, Matth. i. those princes that were chiefly noted for idolatry, are left out. Much more would God be careful not to reckon his own people, especially such Christian princes as have been the most eminent instruments of overthrowing idolatry, amongst idolaters, and as members and heads of that kingdom that is noted in scripture as the most notorious and infamous of all, for abominable idolatry, and opposition and cruelty to the true worshippers of God. And especially not to reckon them as properly belonging to one of those seven heads of this monarchy, of which very heads it is particularly noted that they had on them the names of blasphemy ; (Rev. xiii. 1.) which Mr. Lowman himself supposes to signify idolatry. It was therefore worthy of God, agreeable to his manner, and what might well be expected, that when he was reckoning up the several successive heads of this beast, and Constantine and his successors came in the way, and there was occasion to mention them, to set a mark, or note of distinction on them, signifying that they did not propcrly belong to the beast, nor were to be reckoned as belonging to his heads; and therefore are to be skipped over in the reckoning ; and Antichrist, though the eighth head of the Roman Empire, is to be reckoned the seventh head of the beast. This appears to me abundantly the most just and natural interpretation of Rev. xvii. 10, 11. It is reasonable to suppose that God would take care to make such a note in this prophetical description of this dreadful beast, and not by any ineans to reckon Constantine as belonging properly to him. If we reckon Constantine as a member of this beast, having seven heads and ten horns, described chap. xvii. and as properly one of his heads, then he was also properly a member of the great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, that warred with the woman, chap. xii. For the seven heads and ten horns of that dragon, are plainly the sámė with the seven heads and ten horns of this beast. So that this makes Con: stantine a visible member of the devil: For we are told expressly of that dragon, ver. 9, that he was ' that old serpent, called the devil and Satan.” And to supposć that Constantine is reckoned as belonging to one of the heads of that dragon, is tu niake these prophecies inconsistent with themselves. For here in this 12th chapter we have represented a war between thč dragon and the woman clothed with the sun ; which woman, as all agree; is the church; but Constantine, as all do also agree, belonged tờ the woman, was a member of the Christian church, and was on that side in the war against the dragon, yea, was the main instrument of that great victory that was obtained over the dragon, there spoken of, ver. 9....12. What an inconsistency therefore is it, to suppose that he was at the same time a member and head of that very dragon which fought with the woman, and yet which Constantine himself fought with, overcame, and gloriously triumphed over ! It is not therefore to be wondered at, that God was careful to distinguish Constantine from the proper heads of the beast : It would have been a wonder if he had not. God seems to have been careful to distinguish him, not only in his word, but in his providence, by so ordering it that this Christian emperor should be removed from Rome, the city that God had given up to be the seat of the power of the beast and of its heads, and that he should have the seat of his ema pire elsewhere.
Constantinc was made the instrument of giving a mortat wound to the heathen Roman empire ; and giving it a mortal Vol. III.
wound in its head, viz. the heathen emperors that were then reigning, Maxentius and Licinius. But more eminently was this glorious change in the empire owing to the power of God's word, the prevalence of the glorious gospel, by which Constantine himself was converted, and so became the instrument of the overthrow of the heathen empire in the east and west. The change that was then brought to pass, is
represented as the destruction of the heathen empire, or the old heathen world ; and therefore seems to be compared to that dissolution of heaven and earth that shall be at the day of judgment, Rev. vi. 12, to the end. And therefore well might the heathen empire under the head which was then reigning, be represented as wounded to death, chap. xiii. 3. It is much more likely that the wound the beast had by a sword, in his head, spoken of ver. 14, was the wound that the heathen empire had in its head, by that sword that we read of chap. i. 16; and xix. 15, that proceeds out of the mouth of Christ, than the wound that was given to the Christian empire and emperer by the sword of the heathen Goths. It is most likely that this deadly wound was by that sword with which Michael made war with him, and overcame him, and cast him to the carth, chap. xii. 9, and that the deadly wound that was given him, was given bim at that very time. It is most likely, that the sword that gave him this deadly wound, after which he strangely revived, as though he rose from the dead, was the same sword with that which is spoken of, as what shall at last utterly destroy him, so that he shall never rise more, chap. xix. 15, 19, 20, 21. This wounding of the head of the beast by the destruction of the heathen empire, and conversion of the emperor to the Christian truth, was a glorious event indeed of divine Providence, worthy to be so much spoken of in prophecy. It is natural to suppose, that the mortal wounding of the head of that savage, cruel beast, that is represented as constantly at war with the woman, and persecuting the church of Christ, should be some relief to the Christian church : But on the contrary that wounding to death that Mr. Lowman speaks of, was the victory of the enemies of the