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are by the Bishop himself allowed to relate exclusively to the events of the 1260 days in the West.*
This plan of interpretation is liable to numerous objections - In the first place, it is highly improbable that the prophet, after having already foretold the conversion of the Empire to Christianity under the sixth seal, should now at length, after he has begun to write the history of the western Apostacy, suddenly return to the pagan persecutions of the Church and the days of Constantine. To suppose this is to suppose that a professedly chronological prophet, without a shadow of reason, violates at once the order both of time and of place : the order of time, by suddenly turning back from the year 606 when the Apostacy in its dominant state commenced, to the earliest days of Christianity and the year 312 when Constantine became a convert ; the order of place, by us suddenly quitting the peculiar history of the West for the general history of the whole empire, and more especially that part of the Empire which lay in the East-In the
• Sir Isaac Newton's mode of explaining the whole prophecy of the little book appears to me very unsatisfactory. In many respects, it is liable to the same objections as the scheme of Bp. Newton; and, in some points, it is liable even to greater objections. Thus Sir Isaac conceives the two women, mentioned in the Apocalypse, to be one and the same person ; notwithstanding their characters are evidently so different: and supposes, that the woman fled into the wilderness, when the Roman empire was divided into tbe Greek and Latin empires ; notwithstanding the prophet represents her as fleeing there at the beginning of tbe 1260 days. The general outline of his whole explanation, so far as it regards the three grand symbols of the little book, is as follows. He conjectures, that the dragon is the Greek or Constantinopolitan Empire ; that the ten-borned beast is the Latin Empire ; and that the two-horned beast is the church of the Greek Empire. In none of these particulars can I think him right, except in his opinion of the ten borned beast ; and even of that his definition seems to me to be somewhat too limited, for the sixth bead of tbe ten-borned beast when it revived was the Constantinopolitan Emperor. As for the dragon being the Greek empire, such an opin. ion is utterly irreconcileable with the plain declaration of St. John that he is the den vil and nothing but tbe devil: and as for tbe second apocalyptic beast, there is scarcely a single point in which his character answers to that of the Greek Cburcb. For the Greek Cburcb never wrought miracles to deceive the Latins ; nor did it exercise all the power of the first beast, or the Latin empire, before him ; nor did it cause the wbole eartb to worship that beast ; nor did it set up any image for him ; nor lastly did it ever forbid all to buy and sell, except those who bore the name and the mark of sbe first beast. In short Sir Isaac's exposition entirely confounds the whole plan of tbe little book, which treats exclusively of the affairs of the West, as the two first woetrumpets had already treated of the collateral affairs of the East.
Since Sir Isaac has discussed all these matters in a single chapter, I thought it best to throw together my objections to his scheme in a single note, and not resume the subject hereafter. I shall only add, that I have not brought forward every objection that might have been urged, but have only stated some of the principal ones. See Observations on the Apocalypse, Chap. iii.
second place, the Bishop's supposition, that the dragon is pagan Rome, runs directly counter to the unequivocal declaration of St. John, that he is the devil*- In the third place, his conjecture, that the man-child is Constantine, is equally incongruous with the analogy of scriptural language. The description of this man-child, that he should rule all nations with a rod of iron, is evidently borrowed originally from the second Psalm, where the universal dominion of Christ is predicted.
The same mode of expression is twice likewise used in the Apocalypse to describe the power which Christ exercises both in his own person and through the instrumentality of the faithful :t hence surely it is very improbable, that it should here be intended to allude to Constantine. Had the prophet meant to have pointed out that prince, he would scarcely have used such very ambiguous phraseology, as must by his readers have been thought prima facie applicable, not to Constantine, but to Christ-In the fourth place, the prolepsis, of which ihe Bishop speaks, is no where to be discovered in the plain simple language of the prediction. Nothing is there declared,
* I have never been able to learn, upon what grounds Mr. Mede and Bp. Newton so peremptorily pronounce the dragon to be the pagan Roman empire ; and, as if such an opinion could not be doubted, interpret the whole prophecy accordingly. Nothing can be more definite than the language St. John. He tells us unequive ocally, that the great dragen is “ that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” (Rev. xii. 9.) If then the dragon be the devil, how can he be the pagan Roman empire? The circumstance of his being représented with ten borns shews plainly, that the agent, through whose visible instrumentality he persecutes the woman, is the Roman empire in its divided state. But the Empire was not divided, till after it had renounced Paganism. The whole of the prophecy therefore must relate to the Empire, not when pagan, but when papel. In short, what most decidedly shews it to be absolutely impossible that tbe dragon should be the Pagan Roman empire ; he is brought again upon the stage long after the Pagan Romar empire had ceased to exist. Under the yet future sixth vial, an evil spirit is said to come out of his month (Rev. xvi. 13.): and, at the commencement of the Millennium, after the destruction of the beast and the false propbet, he is bound for the space of a thousand years, and cast into the bottomless pít. Nor is this all : at the end of the thousand years he is again let loose to deceive the nations, and suc. ceeds in forming the great confederacy of Gog and Mageg; after the overthrow of which he is finally cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. It is observable, that in the course of the last prediction relative to him, he is no less than four times styled Satan and the devil: but, even independent of this circumstance, how is it pose sible that the Pagan Roman empire can perform all the actions ascribed to the dragon ? (Rev. xx. 1-10.) Bp. Newton himself allows him to be the devil at the close of his
If then he be the devil in one part of the Apocalypse, he must surely be the devil in every otlier part.
+ Rev. ii. 27. and xix. 15.
but merely that the woman, in consequence of the dragon's violence, fled into the wilderness, where she continoed 1260 days : that, during her sojourn there, a war took place between Michael and the dragon ; the result of which was, that the dragon was cast out of heaven : and that afterwards, still during her sojourn there which the prophet carefully mentions a sccond time, the dragon vomited a great flood out of his mouth against her, in order that she 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 chupter. 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 ihe dragon is laid, at least the beginning of it is laid, in heaven, or the Church general. The dragon, the persecutor, was a sign in heaven, no less than the woman, the persecuted. Whence it will undeniably 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, imperial 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 prophecy can have no relation
* See the preceding chapter upon symbolical language.
to the persecutions of pagan Rome : for the empire, as pagun, never was in the spiritual heaven ; and consequently cannot be the dragon, which the prophet declares to have been in the self-same heaven with the wo
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 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 man-child.
An exposition, essentially differing from that of all these writers has been offered by Mr. Bicheno. He supposes tbe 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 ibe Church, it acquired the additional character of Satan or the serpent. Michael and bis angels are the Gotbs and otber northern nations. Tbe beaven, out of which they cast the dragon, is Italy : the eartb, into which he is cast, is the empire without the limits of Italy, or the Roman provinces. After he has been thus ejected from beaven or Italy, he makes his appearance first in Francé 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 Bobemia, Silesia, and Moravia : and the war of tbe dragon against the woman denotes the perse cution of the protestants in those parts by the Emperors of Germany. The seven beads and ten borns of the dragon are the same as the seven beads and ten borns of tbe beast; which represents tbe ecclesiastical tyranny of the Pope. The dragon at the close of the Apocalypse is still the German empire. The beast, or the Papacy, will be first overthrown ; at which period the dragon will only be bound, or have his power so weakened as to be incapable of any immediate exertions : but, at the end of the thousand years, which are no more than a thousand natural weeks, he will be let loose again. That
say, “after nineteen natural years and a quarter," for to this short period of time Mr. Bicheno reduces the thousand years, " tbe imperial monarchy will again exert its power, form extensive alliances, and make one grand effort against tbe Church of God, the liberties of the regenerated nations, and particularly against the Jews, to pre vent the re-establishinent 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 confute this singular exposition of Mr. Bicheno : nevertheless I shall add a few remarks on those parts of it wherein he differs from the Bishop-In his notion, that beaven means Italy, and the earth the provinces of the Roman empire, to say nothing of his not having a shadow of authority for making such an assertion, he is totally inconsistent even with himself. The great star that falls from beaven under the third trumpet he elsewhere supposes to be Attila. If beaven denote Italy, bow 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 tbe Church exclusively confined to Italy? Again : the wbole earth is said to worship the ten-borned beast, which according to Mr. Bicheno is tbe Papacy. Did the provinces of the Roman empire alone venerate the Pope? Was his authority totally disregarded in beaven or Italy? But the seven beads of the dragon are the same as the sever beads of tbe beast; and the last bead of the beast Mr. Bicheno supposes to be tbe Papacy. If then the existing bead of the dragon be the Papasy, how can the dragon in his present state be tbe Experor of Germany? Is the Pope the head of the German empire ?-Tbe thousand years however are only nineteen natural years and a quarter. Who, that has paid the least
The fact is, this second chapter of the little book, like its fellows preceding and succeeding, relates solely and exclusively to the events of the 1260 years.*
attention to prophecy, will tolerate an assertion, which violates every principle of prophetic computation ?-But the unfortunate Emperor of Germany, after he has been bound nineteen years and a quarter, is at length to perish fighting against the regenerated nations of Europe ; that is to say, regenerated according to the maxims of French democracy, against which Mr. Bicheno is very indignant that any one should presume to raise his hand. I ask, Where is he to find any of those regenerated nations ? France, Holland, Switzerland, and the quondam Cis-Alpine re, public, have been most effectually re-regenerated by Buonapartè: and the man, who asserts that in the disastrous campaign of 1805 Austria was embarked in a crusade against liberty, must possess a most astonishing obliquity of intellect. [ mean not to say, that Mr. Bicheno makes such an assertion, for all his writings were published before that period. I only conjecture, from the peculiar manner in which his Destiny of the German empire was lately te-advertised, that he supposes the dragon to have been bound by the fatal battle of Austerlitz- Mr. Bicheno some. what triumphantly asks, Where is the dragon elsewhere used as a symbol of the devil Now, even if it 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 tbe dragon is Satan or be devil; and therefore that I conclude him to be the devil. - But Mr. Bicheno must surely either have overlooked the third Chapter of Genesis ; or must have been ignorant, that the dragon of the ancients was not the poetical monster of the iniddle ages, but simply a large serpent. What St. John beheld, was a great red snake with seven beads and ten borns ; not a creature with four legs and two wings like the fabulous griffin, as the licence of painters is wont ridiculously to represent the apocalyptic dragon—This leads me to notice the odd idea, that the Roman empire while pagan was only the dragon ; but that, when it was converted to Christianity, it be came the serpent and the devil. Canstantine was certainly not a pattern of primitive piety, and ibe Church in his days was by no means so pure as it had been : yet I really cannot digest the assertion, that the empire by 'embracing even a debased Chrisa tianity changed from bad to worse.
Mr. Lowman does not attempt to give a regular explanation of the prophecy relative to the dragon and tbe woman; but he very judiciously confines it to the pen. riod of 1260 days, and supposes it exactly to synchronize with the preceding vision of the witnesses, and the succeeding vision of the true beasts. “The seven beads and ten borns," says he, “is a description 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 that time when the Roman power was represented by ten borns, as well as by sever beads and crowns ; or not before ten kingdoms were erected by the nations which broke in upon tbe Roman empire, and divided it into many independent governments The representation of the wild beasts in this vision (Chap. Xiji.) refers to the same times with the two former visions of the witnesses prophesying in sackclotb, and the woman flying into the wilderness.” Lowman's Paraphrase in loc.
On the whole, I think it abundantly evident, that the times previous to the commencement of the 1260 days are necessarily excluded ; and consequently that the prophecy can have no relation to the age of Constantine.
• All the four chapters of the little bock must, in point of chronology, run either successive, or parallel, to each other. Three of these chapters, namely, the first, the tbird, and the fourth, (Rev. xi. xiii. xiv.) Bp. Newton himself supposes to run parallel to each other, all of them equally relating to the events of the 1260 years : yet, with singular inconsistency, be 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 fourtb, no less than the third. Such a mode of interpretation completely destroys the beautiful simplicity, with which tbe little book is arranged. All its chapters, as I have