Page images
PDF
EPUB

172

PART IV. SERIES II.*

Mon

SECTION I.
The Woman and the Dragon.

Chap. xii. 1-6. We now enter upon the second part of the prophecy of the Revelation, which coincides with the chronology of the seals and trumpets, and will lead us, from the early ages of the Church, through various periods till it brings us a second time to the millennium. The concluding part of the eleventh chapter, to the end of the eighteenth verse, has already conducted us to the commencement of that glorious era. But this and the following chapters evidently relate to events preceding the millennium. It is plain, therefore, that the visions and emblematic representations which follow, have reference to events that preceded those which are predicted in the former chapters. It must therefore be admitted, agreeably to the sentiments of Bishop Newton, and the majority of the most able and judicious commentators, that the subject must necessarily go back to earlier times. Accordingly, this chapter will lead us again to the primitive ages of the Church by the book of the seventh seal; though the events of this its early state are mentioned much more briefly than those which followed in later ages. We should divide the Revelation, says Bishop Newton, into two parts, or rather, the book so divides itself. The former part, which terminates in the preceding chapter, proceeds, in a regular chronological series, from the Apostles' days to the millennium. Whatever follows, therefore, till we are again brought to this period, must fall somewhere between the Apostles' days and its commencement. This latter part of the prophecy, therefore, may most properly be considered as an enlargement and illustration of the former. Many things which before were only glanced at, are here treated more copiously. It was said that the beast " that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, should “ make war against the witnesses, and should over“ come them.” Who or what that beast is, we might have reasonably conjectured; but the Apostle will now most surely explain. In short, this latter part of the book, till we arrive at the twentieth chapter, is designed to be a supplement, or rather, a counterpart to the former, to complete what was deficient, to explain what was dubious, to illustrate what was obscure; and as the former described more particularly the destinies of the Roman empire, so this latter more peculiarly relates to the state of the Christian Church. This exposition is agreeable to the scheme of the celebrated Joseph Mede, who deserves the attentive consideration of every commentator on the Revelation, who was a giant in talent and literature, and who was the first person that ever published the true key to the Apocalypse. The outline he has given of the subject, is, in the main, undoubtedly that of the truth; and as such, it has subsequently been, more or less, adopted by all sober and judicious interpreters. He considers that the prophecies of the Revelation, from the sealed book to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, consist of two parts. The sealed book carries us in a direct line of chronology through the seals and trumpets to the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The opened (or little) book then takes us back and leads us through a parallel line of chronology, till both lines enter together the circle in which the seventh trumpet sounds; and which, according to his scheme, includes in it the millennium. The chronology of the second part of the prophecies must be interpreted by their internal evidence, and especially by their synchronisms with those of the first part, and with one another. This double structure of the prophecy is a circumstance absolutely necessary to be attended to, if we would understand the predictions it contains ; for, if we do not keep hold of this clue, which has been properly called the internal geography and chronology of the book, imagination will rove at large, and supposed allusions to detached events in different ages and places, will disjoint the interpretation, and render the whole ambiguous and suspicious. 5 The predictions of the second part of the prophecy, as has been observed, are contained in the little book, or the seventh volume of the large book, which is designed to amplify the revelation contained in the former six volumes. But since this little book relates, in an especial manner, to the western apostacy, or, in other words, to Popery; it seems necessary that it should allude to some of the events which preceded that apostacy; and accordingly we shall find, that in fact it does.-Having premised these remarks, I shall now proceed to the consideration of the sacred text. 1 9 9 1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2. And she being with child, cried travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth, and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready “ red dragon." The dragon is afterwards expressly said to be “ the devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the “ whole world.” He is here asserted to have “ seven “ heads and ten horns," which are the well-known emblems of the Roman beast, or fourth kingdom of Daniel: and he is represented with these emblems, because he acted through the instrumentality of the Roman empire upon the woman and her offspring. Purple, or scarlet, was the distinguishing colour of the Roman emperors, consuls, and generals; as scarlet has been since of the popes and cardinals. The seven heads of the dragon signify the seven hills on which Rome was built, and the seven forms of government which successively prevailed there; namely, that of, 1. kings; 2. consuls; 3. dictators; 4. decemvirs; 5. military tribunes; 6. triumvirs; and, 7. emperors. The ten horns marked out the ten kingdoms into which the western empire was afterwards divided, and which may be thus numbered as they existed in the eighth century: 1. the senate of Rome; 2. the Greeks, at Ravenna; 3. the Lombards, in Lombardy; 4. the Huns, in Hungary; 5. the Allemanes, in Germany; 6. the Franks, in France; 7. the Burgundians, in Burgundy; 8. the Goths, in Spain; 9. the Britains; 10. the Saxons, in Britain. These ten kingdoms have been reckoned up with some marks of difference by different writers, according to the date assigned to their enumeration; but, in general, they have been ten kingdoms with some little variation; and it is clear that they are nearly the same with the principal kingdoms of Europe at this day, excepting some of the more northern regions, and those possessed by the Turks. And if these ten kingdoms have been sometimes rather more or less than the specified number; yet they were still known by the name of the ten kingdoms of the western empire. The seven crowns on the dragon's seven heads, and not ten crowns on

* It will have been observed, that the little book containing the second part of the prophecies, carries the reader back in the last chapter. But as the predictions that relate to the primitive ages of the Church are not resumed till the beginning of this chapter, it has been judged more proper to begin the second series of these predictions in this place, rather than at the period of the first exhibition of the little book.

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed]
« PreviousContinue »