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This is his last effort, a desperate struggle, " because he knoweth he hath but a short time." It is not impossible but some may suffer martyrdom in this closing scene of Zion's war. In Luke xviii, 1–8 we have a parable illustrating the condition of the Church just before the Son of man is to be revealed, under the figure of a woman importuning the unjust Judge to avenge her of her adversary, together with the remark of our Saviour, " And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?” This implies a severe state of trial, and corresponds with the sentiment expressed in the last verse of this chapter, that the dragon "went to make war with the remnant of her seed.” But this unlike all her history in the past; for it is her last trial, her final conflict. A period will now be put to her sufferings; and she will hear the voice of her beloved, saying unto her, “O, thou çafflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.” “In righteousness shall thou be established; thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near thee,” (Is. 54.).
EXPOSITION OF REV. CHAP. XVII.
In giving an exposition of this chapter, we shall divide it as follows: 1. The Introduction ; 2. The Vision; 3. The Interpretation, as given by the angel. “And there came one of the seven angels, which had the seven vials, and talked with mė, saying unto me, Come hither, I will show unto thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters : with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication," (Rev. i: 1,2). If John was to witness the judgment of the harlot, he must have been carried down to the end, when, as he says, she sitteth upon many waters.” There are other expressions which induce us to believe this was the fact. For example, the kings of the earth are said to have committed fornication with her.
The Woman brought to view in this chapter is the symbol of a Church, representing an ecclesiastical compact, not merely at one point of time in the history of this dispensation, but during several centuries. It is by no means an unusual thing in Scripture, to represent the Church by the symbol of a woman. For example, in Is. xxxvii: 22, the Jewish Church is called the daughter of Zion, and the inhabitants of the capital city are called the daughter of Jerusalem. In Gal. iv : 22-31, Sarah is alluded to as being a rep
resentation of " Jerusalem which is above." This not only refers to the city, but also to the people or inhabitants of that city ; while Hagar is put for a representation of old “ Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children,” that is, the apostate Jews. Now, as there was both a true and an apostate Church under the old dispensation, so there is under the present. In Rev. xii, the true Church is represented by a Woman fleeing into the wilderness from the face of the serpent — the Roman government; and it was here that the true Church was preserved during the long night of persecution, while this false substitute, seated on the beast, represents the apostate Church. At His first Advent, the Lord Jesus Christ broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and included in the New Covenant all who received Him as the Son of God, without regard to natural descent; and it was in reference to this class that the apostle remarks, 2 Cor. xi: 2; "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
At the ascension of Christ, the Church was pure; there was nothing but wheat in the field ; but soon the enemy sewed tares. The spirit of insubordination was manifest even in the apostolic age.
Says the apostle, "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men; for while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos ; are ye not carnal ? Who, then, is Paul, and who is Apol. los, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Cor. iii: 3-5).
And again, iv: 6; “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes ; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.”
The apostle anticipated the fact, that a class of teachers would arise which he denominates wolves, not sparing the flock. One characteristic feature of this class would be, a disposition to lord it over God's heritage. The seed had already been sown. Some had become carnal. There was a “Diatrephes,” who loved to have the preëminence, that is, to." lord it over God's heritage.” And there has been many of these “Diatrepheses,” clear down to the present time. Look at the Bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople, etc., striving for the mastery; till finally the Bishop of Rome succeeded, trampling under foot all others, and then rearing a mighty fabric, and taking his seat in the temple of God, showing himself that he was God. But we must remember that this was not done in one year, or one century. It was like the leaven in the measure of neal a gradual work. The deviation was so small at the first, as not to be noticed. The professed Church were imperceptibly assimilated into the same spirit; like priest, like people. Like the car loosed from the train on a downward grade: at first it moves so gently, no fears are entertained, how little will it take to stop it, is the feeling that pervades the mind of the passengers ; each one feels secure. It gathers strength — its velocity increases — the brakes are applied ; but it is too late! In turning a curve, the track spreads, and both car and passengers are precip
itated into the gulf below. How completely this illustration covers the ground! The professed Church, becoming cold in her affections, indulging in a selfconfident spirit, disconnecting herself by her legislative acts from the Great Head of the Church; went back, step by step, till finally she fell into the yawning gulf of apostacy.
The apostolic Churches, during the whole of the first century, had no creed but the Bible.”* But, as remarked above, they soon began to legislate, and ultimately they joined affinity with the governments of the world, and in consequence of this act of union with the civil power, the Lord gives to her the character of a fornicator. That which constituted the Jewish Church an idolator, or fornicator, was precisely the same thing. The Lord accuses the Jewish nation of playing the harlot. " But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by: his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colors, and playedst the harlot thereupon : the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so," (Ez, xvi: 15, 16).
Again, "Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldst not be satisfied,” (v. 28).
In the chapter under consideration, it is said, “The Woman was drunken with the blood of saints ; is, she destroyed the lives servants of God. The
* Charles Beecher.