Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

protection. The woman therefore, supported on the two wings of a great eagle, denotes that the Church should be sheltered and supported within the boundaries of the eastern and western empire. A retreat was prepared for her from the fury of her opposers, in which she was to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time; or for three years and a half prophetically considered, being the same period of time so frequently referred to.-In order to prevent the escape of the woman, the dragon cast out of his mouth a flood of water to carry her away. Overwhelming calamities are often represented as a torrent or flood of waters, carrying all before it. This flood here evidently means a multitude of nations and people, and undoubtedly refers to the inundation of the Huns, Goths, Sueves, Alans, Vandals, and all the barbarous nations by which the western empire was overwhelmed as by a deluge. The adherents to paganism, as it is well known, encouraged these irrruptions in hopes of subverting Christianity by their means. But the event proved entirely contrary to all their expectations. “ The earth helped “ the woman, and swallowed up the flood which the “ dragon cast out of his mouth.” The barbarians were rather swallowed up by the Romans, than the Romans by the barbarians. The conquerors, instead of imposing their religion on the conquered, submitted to that of the vanquished Christians. They not only embraced the religion, but affected even the laws, the manners, the customs, the language, and the very name of the Romans; so that the victors were absorbed and lost among the vanquished. Men without religion, of various characters and descriptions, from regard to their secular interests, protected the Church amidst all the convulsions with which the empire was agitated. The very subversion of the western empire did not at all promote the cause of idolatry, but rather tended to the propagation of Christianity. But the dragon being disappointed in his attempt, was the more enraged, and took another method of persecuting the Church and her seed, as we shall see in the next chapter. There was now but a remnant of real Christians; for superstitions and heresies of various kinds had long before this increased exceedingly, which afforded the enemy cause for that assault and success of which we have a clear prediction in the next chapter.

The reader will observe that this chapter predicts the events which made way for the establishment of the persecuting domination of nominal Christians, the flight of the Church into the wilderness, and the prophesying of the witnesses in sackcloth, during the twelve hundred and sixty prophetic days. The particulars of these later events are recorded in the following chapters; with several things relating to the approach and earnest of the delivery of the Church, and the destruction of her grand enemy *.

Though Satan and his agents be cast down, degraded, and baffled, they will still proceed to bring woes upon the inhabitants of the earth. But the Church will maintain its ground in the world; and though it remain for an appointed time in the wilderness, it will be happily sheltered and tenderly nourished. In the mean time individual believers will continually be entering into heaven, to take possession of the mansions provided for them there by their gracious Redeemer. When tribulations and dangers seem to be ready to swallow them up, they will be furnished, as it were, with eagle's wings, to

* In this chapter, as well as in many other parts of the book, the general outline of Bishop Newton's interpretation, and that of those with whom he coincides, has been adhered to, in preference to the exposition of later commentators, whose sentiments and hypotheses are so different and various, that scarcely any two of them agree. The outline of Bishop Newton, on this part of the prophecy, has been ably defended by the judicious and venerable Thomas Scott, of whose sentiments and language, in the observations on this chapter, as well as in many other places, it will be seen I have made considerable use.

fly away and be at rest.—When heresies, infidelity, or tribulation, have appeared ready to overwhelm the church of God, the earth has sometimes opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood. Worldly men afford her assistance when the Lord is pleased to make use of them for that purpose. She will, therefore, be preserved as long as the world lasts, with all the remnant of her seed, “who keep the “commandments of God, and have the testimony “ of Jesus Christ.”—Let us rejoice that the state of the Church in the wilderness is rapidly proceeding to its destined termination. The period will soon arrive when the power of Antichrist shall be demolished, and “ He that shall come, will come and will not

tarry."-" Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."

SECTION IV.

The ten-horned Beast of the Sea.

Chap. xiii. 1-10. AND I stood upon the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

2. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

4. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

In the preceding chapter we have been intructed by the prophetic Apostle, that the calamities which would befall the Christian Church, and retard the progress of the Gospel, would proceed from the malicious agency of the infernal serpent. In the chapter on which we have now entered, he particularly points out the two grand agents by whose instrumentality the Church was to be afflicted and

persecuted for the period of twelve hundred and sixty years.

Standing upon the shore, the Apostle saw a savage beast rise out of the sea. This denoted a tyrannical, idolatrous, and persecuting power springing up out of the commotions which took place in the world. This beast was undoubtedly designed to represent the Roman empire; for, in this particular, all commentators, both ancient and modern, Popish and Protestant, are perfectly agreed *. In the last chapter, the dragon persecuting the woman, is represented as having seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads of the dragon signified, as we have seen, the seven hills on which Rome was built, and the seven forms of government which successively prevailed there; and the ten horns marked out the kingdoms into which (more or less) the western empire was divided. But the seven crowns on the dragon's heads, shewed that the whole power was at that time vested in the emperors and senate of Rome. This power is now brought immediately upon the stage, but at a period subsequent to that referred to; for, instead of having seven crowns upon his heads, the beast is now represented as having ten crowns on his horns. This shews that a revolution had taken place, and that the dominion was removed from the imperial city and divided among ten kingdoms. These ten kingdoms arose

This is the fourth beast described in the prophecies of Daniel. See Chap. vii.

[graphic][subsumed]
« PreviousContinue »