REV. xii. 1, 3 .... And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a no man clothed with the sun, and the moon wider her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. 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.
RELIGION, by divine appointment, respects man in every relation of life, and renders all his temporal concerns subservient to his future and eternal state. It is therefore impossible to survey attentively the great social interests of the church of God, without, at the same time, taking a view of the condition of civil society within the bounds occupied by Christian communities.
This obvious principle is taken for granted in the whole system of sacred predictions; and upon it the symbolical language of prophecy uniformly proceeds. This language, highly figurative as it, is, must nevertheless be considered as remarkable for its precision.
The same symbol, it is true, is capable of a twofold application; because there are, in fact, two great systems of social order in the world, essentially distinct from one another, but each of them inseparably connected with the interests of religion, and accordingly with the history of Christianity, which are alike subjects of scripture prophecy—political and ecclesiastical society. The symbol, of course, according to the connexion in which it stands, may be applied to the concerns of the church, or to those of the state.
The prospective history of the Apocalypse relates to secular things, and to ecclesiastical things; and whichever of these be the subject of the passage under consideration, it forms a system, according to which the symbolical language must be interpreted. This effectually prevents confusion and indistinctness in the exposition of the Apocalypse. Due attention to this principle might have prevented the torturing of passages in some instances by Commentators, in order to employ the same symbol always to the very same object, and the indefiniteness of application, tolerated by some other able expositors, for want of any precise rules of interpretation.
The time, the place, and the character of the war between the woman and the dragon, as described in this chapter, would not have been matter of controversy, had the nature of the symbolical language been understood, and the true principles of exposition been kept throughout in view.
The various modes of interpreting the prophecy of this chapter, which are worthy of notice, may all be reduced to three.
1. The system which applies the whole contents to the contest between Christianity and heathen Rome, terminating in the revolution effected by Constantine the Great.
2. The system which applies the first part of the chapter, from the 1st to the 6th verse, to the times of Pagan Rome; and the subsequent parts to the antichristian empire.
3. That system which applies the whole chapter to the times of the grand apostacy.
Each of these systems is supported by several eminent men; and were we to be governed by human authority, it would be difficult to determine which hypothesis it would be our duty to adopt.
Independently, however, from the argument furnished by inspection of the text itself, it appears to me necessary, upon other considerations, to apply the war of the dragon to the period of the antichristian apostacy.
1. This chapter, as it does not belong to the LITTLE BOOK, must belong to the SEALED BOOK; and of course to that part of it which was under the seventh seal. Had it indeed been a part of the little book, it could by no means be applied to events preceding the 1260 years, of which alone that book treats: but being the continuation of the seventh seal, although it may run parallel with the trumpets under that seal, it cannot be supposed to return to that time which preceded the opening of the seal itself.
2. This chapter has no connexion with the trumpets, any more than one history has with another distinct history, which may happen to treat of some events which came to pass at the same period of time. It cannot therefore be referred to any one trumpet, any more than Hume’s History of England can be said to belong to a particular chapter of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It may, nevertheless, be parallel to one or more of the trumpets. If indeed it were under the seventh trumpet, it must have respect to events subsequent to the millennium, for the seventh trumpet, in the preceding chapter, had introduced that period; but this chapter evidently precedes the millennium; and it must of course respect events under the seventh seal, cotemporary with some of the events of the trumpets; but not included under any one of them. The inference is irresistible. This chapter is an introduction to the vials.
As the little book was introductory to the seventh trumpet, designed to explain the object of the third wo; so are the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters, descriptive of the state of the moral world, during the 1260 years, and designed to explain the system of iniquity upon which the golden vials pour out their seven last plagues.
The 12th chapter synchronizes with the little book, and with each of the two succeeding chapters. It does not carry on the history of events in chronological order from the time to which the trumpets extend; but returns back, not however to the time of John the Divine, but to the seventh seal, and prepares the way for the period of the vials. This consideration determines the application of its contents to the antichristian reign: and the text itself furnishes other and more ample reasons for such an interpretation.
I proceed in this lecture, to exhibit the war of the dragon in the Roman empire, with the woman, the symbol of the true church. It is a contest between a devilish civil polity throughout the whole extent of the earth, and the cause of true religion in the hands of the saints.
You will permit me, in the first place, to introduce to your acquaintance, the principal characters engaged in this war; and in the second place, to give you the history of the contest.
I. An exhibition of the principal characters engaged in this war.
These are, upon the one side, the woman, supported by Michael and his angels, and upon the other, the dragon with his angels.
Both the parties appeared to the apostle John in heaven, and there did the contest, now under consideration, commence. Verses 1, 3, 7. Let us ascertain the character of the combatants.
1. The Woman.
She is described verses 1, 2. 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: and she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
She appeared as a great wonder—Σημειον μεγα. In the first verse of the book of Revelation, we are informed that God signified, εσημανε, unto his servant John, the things which must come to pass. In that place, the verb σημαινω is not to be understood as indicating that wonder would be excited; but as specifying the manner in which future events were to be brought into view. The things which must come to pass, were represented by suitable signs to John the Divine, Σημειον, in this place, is a sign, or suitable representation of some interesting object. In verse 3, the word rendered wonder is the same, and ought also to be rendered sign, or symbol.
The place, in which the sign appeared, denotes the whole great system of ecclesiastical polity throughout the empire. Heaven may be the symbol of civil power, or of ecclesiastical polity, more or less restricted, as the connexion may require. Here, in the same heaven, there appeared both the woman and the dragon, and the symbol must of course be explained of the visible church in her most extended form.
Distinct from this general church, and yet, visibly connected with it, appeared the actual church of the living God.
A woman, in scripture, is used to signify any body politic—a city, a state, or a church. We read of the daughter of Tyre, and of Babylon, as well as the daughter of Jerusalem. All nations have, indeed, been in the habits of representing cities and states under this symbol. “Rome,” says Mr. Woodhouse, “is represented upon the ancient medals under the form of a woman. Britannia appears under the same emblem.”
This WOMAN, revealed as a sign in heaven, is the actual church of God, scattered among the churches of the western empire. She is arrayed in the most splendid attire. Although about to fly into the wilderness, and already degraded in public estimation, she is in fact elevated upon the moon, clothed with the sun, and crowned with the stars. She is the King’s daughter, greatly desired for her beauty. The moon upon which she stands, represents the actual ordinances of divine grace, appointed of the Lord, and giving light to the world, in proportion as the Lord shines upon them. The sun, with which she is clothed as a garment, represents the light and the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Sun of righteousness, and the Light of the world. The crown which she wears, is the doctrine of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and of the ministers of reconciliation, who succeed them in the faith and the order of the church. Her pastors are her stars and her crown.
Thus constituted, she shall become the joyful mother of children. She cries and labours, in her faithful struggles to multiply the seed of righteousness upon the earth.
The true church, amidst the nominally Christian world, is opposed by a formidable adversary.
2. The Dragon is her enemy.
He is described, verses 3, 4. 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. 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 to he delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
Concerning this celebrated personage, there is a difference of opinion; for the interpretation which we give of the dragon, determines the period of history to which this vision applies.
Sir Isaac Newton conjectures the dragon to be the Greek Christian empire of Constantinople. There are some who would have it to signify the present British government, because of the use of scarlet among its officers and soldiers; and upon similar principles, the greater number of Commentators apply it to the pagan power of ancient Rome.
The sacred text, nevertheless, applies this sign to a more distinguished character—To the personage, whom those beasts and horns that govern the kingdoms of this world, serve. The voice of inspiration declares expressly that the dragon is the devil; and we follow this decision in preference to the opinions of learned men. Verse 9. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.
The dragon, the sign, σημειον, of Satan himself, appeared in heaven along with the woman.
It cannot therefore be applied to the pagan empire; because, whether we render heaven the symbol of ecclesiastical or civil polity, the church of God and the pagan empire never did contemporaneously appear in the same heaven. The pagan power never appeared in the ecclesiastical heaven, nor did the true church ever appear in the heaven of pagan power. This vision must therefore be applied to events posterior to the days of Constantine.
It respects a period of time in which Satan evidently possessed such power in the ecclesiastical system as openly to oppose the true church. What that power is, and at what time it is so employed, also appear from the text. And, behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. Satan appears of a red colour, the emblem of persecution, of cruelty, and of blood; and his seat is in the nominal church in heaven. He is embodied in the beast, the civil polity of that empire, which hath seven heads and ten horns. These words are illustrated in chap. xvii. 9—12. The angel explains to the writer of the Apocalypse the mystery of the scarlet coloured beast which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads are seven mountains. And these are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings. This is a precise description of that empire of which the city of seven hills was the capital, and of which the government had assumed seven different heads or forms. It is described too, as actually divided into ten separate kingdoms, which have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
We shall afterwards designate the seven hills upon which the woman or the city of Rome sitteth; mention the several successive forms of government under which the Romans lived; and give you the names of the ten kingdoms unto which this proud empire was divided.
I shall only add in this place, that the Roman empire in its divided state, being nominally Christian, but in reality antichristian, is identified with the devil, as was the serpent in paradise, and for the very same reason. That fallen spirit, in his opposition to the holiness and the happiness of man, actually possessed a creature of the serpent kind, and through it, attacked with success the mother of mankind. Therefore Satan is called the serpent. The same great adversary, and with the same malevolent design, possessed himself, in like manner, of the political power of the Roman empire, and that of each of its ten several kingdoms, and continues to influence and direct that great political system, and all its parts, in opposition to the interests of vital religion. The whole civil polity of the antichristian nations being thus animated by the god of this world, he is considered by the text as the soul, and the visible authorities, as his body; and therefore he bears the appropriate title of the great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns.
This dragon stood before the woman, as did the agents of Pharaoh king of Egypt before the Israelitish women, to destroy their offspring. His object was to prevent faithful ministers from labouring to convert their hearers to God, and to his cause; and to destroy all who, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the gospel of Christ.
With nominal Christian pastors, he was too successful. His tail drew the third part of the stars of heavenly and did cast them to the earth.
As the heaven is to be understood ecclesiastically, so are the stars. They are ministers of religion. One class of them, it appears, adorns the crown of the true church; but another follows the tail of the dragon, the devil—that are under the pernicious influence of the beast which Satan possessed. Such is the degrading picture given of those pastors, who, fond of show, and ambitious of distinction, attach themselves to the train of earthly thrones or dignities; and prostitute their ministry to political purposes, in the service of the men of the present world. They follow at the tail of the dragon, and are cast down to the earth. They are left to promote the purposes of diabolical governments.
As this effect was produced on the priesthood, not in the days of pagan Rome, but during the apostacy, it determines the period of time to which the prophecy refers.
We shall now introduce to your acquaintance another, and a more interesting personage, engaged in this war, on the side of the woman, and in opposition to the dragon.
Verses 5—7. And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.
Bishop Newton refers this man-child to the first Christian emperor, Constantine, in violation, not only of the various reasons for explaining the prophecy of more recent events, but also of the description given in the text. The masculine Son, ὑιον αρρενα, rules the nations with a rod of iron, being caught up to God and to his throne. This description is evidently borrowed from the prediction of the second Psalm respecting Jesus Christ. Verses 8, 9. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This promise was made to the only begotten of the Father, and not to the Roman emperor. It is appropriately quoted in this connexion, to show the fate of the diabolical powers that oppose the Messiah. The description is moreover applied, Rev. xix. 15. to THE WORD OF GOD—The King of kings; as if to prevent all mistake as to the character who should smite the antichristian nations—He shall smite them with a rod of iron.
The objection, that Messiah is not to be represented as the Son of the Christian church, but of the Jewish, is of no force. He is the Son of the church, not as being Jewish or Christian; but as the church of God, and one, under both the dispensations of grace. He is represented here as in the first war against the same enemy—the SEED of the WOMAN that shall bruize the serpent’ head. Still, therefore, may the church of God proclaim with joy. Unto us a CHILD is born, unto us a SON is given, and the government shall he upon his shoulders—the Prince of peace. Still may her faithful pastors travail in birth again until Christ be formed in their congregations.
The man-child in this text, however, does not literally apply. He was passed into the heavens before he gave the Revelation to his servant John, and was not, in fact, again to be born of a woman, on earth. The prediction applies to Christ mystical. Jesus Christ was alone in the work of purchasing our redemption; but he associates his seed with him, as the body of which he is the head, in the work of conquering his enemies. And he promises to his members a participation of the power given to him over the nations. Rev. ii. 26, 27. And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessel of a potter shall they be broken to shivers; even as I (Psalm ii. 9.) received of my Father. Although, therefore, we refuse to Constantine, whose own personal religion was at best questionable, the application of this prophecy, we readily admit upon the authority of Messiah himself, that, this honour have all the saints. Yes, the spiritual seed, along with Christ the head, are here described. “As soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children.” “Of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her.” “Jerusalem is the mother of us all.”
Christ, the Head of the church, and Prince of the kings of the earth, as the Representative of his people, is in defiance of the old serpent, the red dragon, caught up to the throne of God, while the church flies to the wilderness during the gloomy period of 1260 years. Satan still, along with his angels, occupies a place in the heaven, the nominal church, and by means of the diabolical governments of Christendom, wages war against the cause of God. The man-child whom he sought to destroy, resists him, and at the head of his angels, conducts the war with efficacy.
As the Captain of the Lord’s host, he bears the name Michael. This name, as well as the work of subduing the adversary, designates Messiah. מיכאל who is like to God, points out that personage who thought it not robbery to be equal with God. He is mentioned, Dan. xii. 1. as The great Prince which standeth for the children of God’s people. And Jude, verse 9. as The Archangel who contended with the devil. Christ, our Lord, had driven Lucifer and his angels from heaven for their apostacy; and he now appears in the ecclesiastical heavens to conquer the same enemy.
II. Let us take a historical view of this contest, between the true church and diabolical powers—the war of the dragon with the woman.
From the character of each party in this war, it is sufficiently manifest to what period of history the prophecy must be applied. The only reason, arising from the text itself, which has any appearance of force in it, for applying the prediction to the pagan Roman empire, is the assertion in verse 3d, that the dragon had the crowns upon his heads. As crown is the symbol of sovereignty, it is inferred from this expression, that the ten horns were not yet erected into independent kingdoms; and that, of course, Satan carried on his opposition through the agency of imperial power, and not by means of the antichristian kingdoms.
The text, however, will not bear this commentary. If we are to infer from the words, seven crowns upon his heads, that the imperial power which was confessedly only the sixth head, existed at the time, we ought also to infer that the preceding five heads, and the subsequent seventh, were also in existence, for they are said to be crowned as well as the sixth. This is too absurd to be admitted; and the canon of criticism which leads to this absurdity, by whatever names it is supported, ought to be dismissed. The truth is, that this mode of expression is employed in order to identify the power by which Satan works. It is the Roman power, the fourth great beast, and being under diabolical influence, throughout all its changes, from the days of Romulus until the commencement of the millennium, it is justly represented as the dragon with seven heads and ten horns, although the several heads were never cotemporaneously invested with the sovereignty.
The period of the present history is, however, distinctly pointed out in another part of the chapter. That part furnishes the key to the prediction. Verse 6. The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. This is her place, verse 14. where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. Time, times, and a half a time, is the well-known language of Daniel, for one year, two years, and a half year, and corresponds with the one thousand two hundred and threescore days above mentioned. Three years and a half, of twelve months each, make forty and two months, the period in which the church remains heathenish and unmeasured by God’s word, Rev. xi. 2. Forty-two months, of thirty days each, amount to one thousand two hundred and threescore days, the period during which the witnesses against the apostacy bear testimony in sackcloth, Rev. xi. 3. It is precisely the same period during which the woman remains in the wilderness. Both the numbers are given for the purpose of mutual illustration and confirmation. And taking, according to the prophetic style, a day for a year, we have, as the proper period of the history of this chapter, the well-known 1260 years of antichristian usurpation.
Upon the opinion of bishop Newton, considering the period of 1260 years as mentioned in this place, by way of anticipation, Mr. Faber makes the following correct animadversions.
“The prolepsis, of which the bishop speaks, is no where to be discovered in the plain simple language of the prediction. 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 chapter.”
For six centuries since the advent of our Saviour, the woman laboured in spiritual travail; and the great adversary of our salvation was employed in watching her offspring, with design to torment and destroy them: but this
SIXTH PROPHETIC VISION
reveals the state of affairs in the moral world, about the commencement of the seventh century.
As the empire of Christianity was extending in name, it was losing in purity and godliness. The ecclesiastical heaven became dark and stormy. An able historian gives the following character of the sixth century.
“The public teachers and instructers of the people degenerated sadly from the apostolic character. They seemed to aim at nothing else than to sink the multitude into the most opprobrious ignorance and superstition, to efface in their minds all sense of the beauty and excellence of genuine piety, and to substitute in the place of religious principles, a blind veneration for the clergy, and a stupid zeal for a senseless round of ridiculous rites and ceremonies. To be convinced of the truth of the dismal representation we have here given of the state of religion at this time, nothing more is necessary than to cast an eye upon the doctrines now taught concerning the worship of images and saints, the fire of purgatory, the efficacy of good works, i.e., the observance of human rites and institutions, towards the attainment of salvation, the power of relics to heal diseases of body and mind; and such like sordid and miserable fancies.
“In this century the cause of true religion sunk apace, and the gloomy reign of superstition extended itself in proportion to the decay of genuine piety. This lamentable decay was supplied by a multitude of rites and ceremonies. The western churches were loaded with rites by GREGORY the GREAT, who had a marvellous fecundity of genius in inventing, and an irresistible force of eloquence in recommending, superstitious observances.”
Our Lord and Saviour, employing the powers of his own prescience upon this state of the visible church, prospectively describes it unto his servant John: but he also assures him that the true church, the woman clothed with the sun, raised up above the moon, and crowned with stars, should not be permitted to perish. She exists amidst the prevalent corruption: and in the same nominal church is found her antagonist, the old serpent, the devil. He, however, while in the communion of the visible church, takes possession, as of the serpent in Eden, of the civil polity as best calculated to answer his purpose of drawing the stars with his tail, and of putting to death the seed of the woman.
He had always found in the mistress of the world, a power which he could wield, whether under the Pagan or Christian name, in opposition to actual piety; and in the beginning of the seventh century, there was at the head of the empire a man remarkably qualified to answer his diabolical purposes. He is thus described by Mr. Gibbon. The character of Phocas is the portrait of a monster.
—“His diminutive and deformed person, the closeness of his shaggy eyebrows, his red hair, his beardless chin, and his cheek disfigured and discoloured by a formidable scar. Ignorant of letters, of laws, and even of arms, he indulged in the supreme rank a more ample privilege of lust and drunkenness; and his brutal pleasures were either injurious to his subjects, or disgraceful to himself. Without assuming the office of a prince, he renounced the profession of a soldier; and the reign of Phocas afflicted Europe with ignominious peace, and Asia with desolating war. His savage temper was inflamed by passion, hardened by fear, exasperated by resistance or reproach.
“The condemnation of the victims of his tyranny was seldom preceded by the forms of trial, and their punishment was imbittered by the refinements of cruelty: their eyes were pierced, their tongues were torn from the root, their hands and feet were amputated: some expired under the lash, others in the flames, others again were transfixed with arrows; and a simple speedy death was mercy which they could rarely obtain: the companions of Phocas were the most sensible, that neither his favour, nor their services, could protect them from a tyrant, the worthy rival of the Caligulas and Domitians of the first ages of the empire.”
This is that emperor who gave the saints of the Most High into the power of the little horn, by constituting pope Boniface III. in the year 606, universal bishop, and requiring all the churches to acknowledge the papal supremacy.
The dragon had, besides the seven heads, ten horns, or kingdoms, all of which, however they might have been distinguished from one another, and from the head of the empire, were under his influence; and with the whole power of the nations at his own command, he succeeded in dragging at his tail the third part of the stars of heaven.
The ministers of religion, in an age of licentiousness and superstition, became the ignoble parasites of antichristian power; and instead of serving with piety and magnanimity the Redeemer of God’s elect, they were degraded into diabolical instruments of opposition to the seed of the woman.
The exalted Mediator, who hath received from the Father power over all flesh, and who himself, the man-child, admits every believer into communion with him in his exaltation, sits upon high to rule with a rod of iron all nations, and to preserve his people from the enemy.
In allusion, not to the imperial eagle, but to the protection afforded to the children of Israel, on their emancipation from the Egyptian dragon. The woman was furnished with the wings of an eagle, Exod. xix. 4. that she might fly into the wilderness from the face of the serpent.
The saints were frequently driven by the frowns of power into a literal wilderness. Such was the case with the pious occupants of the Alpine hills of Piedmont; with those who were expelled from their parish churches in the British dominions, to worship on the barren heath and among the mountains; and with those who were compelled to emigrate to the new world, before the American continent had begun to flourish under the hand of cultivation.
The wilderness is, nevertheless, to be understood metaphorically. The faithful followers of primitive truth and order, during the 1260 years of the great apostacy, are preserved in a state of comparative poverty, remote from the riches and honours of the earth. While the dragon controls the stars and the horns, while Satan influences the churches and the politics of the nations, those who live in the fear of the Lord, cannot be otherwise than comparatively a people who dwell alone, and are not numbered among the nations.
The dragon compels them, by tyrannical impositions, to leave the heavens and the cultivated parts of the earth which he occupies—to separate themselves from the systems of criminal policy, by which he pollutes the great social concerns of Christendom. The Lord, for their preservation in the true religion, disposes them to relinquish the honours and the profit of antichristian churches and kingdoms; and to prefer, like Moses, to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin during the season in which the old serpent possesses the whole power of the Roman empire throughout all its ten kingdoms. This is the faith and the patience of the saints.
After the removal of the actual church into the wilderness, mentioned verse 6, there is mention made of three successive attacks of the dragon upon the friends of true religion. The first is the war in heaven, described verses 7—12. The second is the persecution on earth, described verses 12—16. And the third is mentioned in the 17th verse. These are three peculiarly interesting epochs, in the contest of 1260 years duration, between the corrupt power of a diabolical empire, and the true church of the living God. We shall attend to each in order, and then conclude this discourse.
1. The war in heaven.
Verses 7—9. And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
The allusion, in these words, to the rebellion of angels, and their consequent degradation from the place of blessedness, is too manifest to be misunderstood.
Wild work in heaven—
Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince,
—lead forth to battle these my sons
Invincible, lead forth my armed saints.
—————————the great Son of God
To all his host on either hand thus spoke;
Stand still in bright array, ye saints, here stand,
Ye angels arm’d, this day from battle rest.
And full of wrath bent on his enemies,
Drove them before him thunder struck—
Down from the verge of heaven. Eternal wrath
Burnt after them to the bottomless pit. MILTON.
The present contest, is the same in principle with the original war; but it is carried on in a different place, and under a different form. The heaven of this place, signifies the superior regions of ecclesiastical power; and Satan acts by the civil authority of the empire. After the woman, the actual church, who maintained sound doctrine, true discipline, and the legitimate use of the sacraments, had been carried into the wilderness, Satan’s power in ecclesiastical affairs became so great, that by its means he aimed at the entire destruction of the true religion. Still, however, he met with opposition. The Catholic church, corrupted as it was, had not been entirely forsaken by our Lord. There were saints preserved in its communion, and Michael, even in this heaven, contended with the adversary. The secular power appeared at the time of the flight of the woman to the wilderness, and for some time before, to be entirely identified with the great enemy of righteousness: he is, of course, denominated the great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns.
The civil power waged this war against the woman, at the instigation of an apostate church, and under pretence of supporting her interests.
“The protestants of this age were the WALDENSES— their first and proper name seemeth to have been Vallenses— they called themselves Vallenses, because they abode in the valley of tears, alluding to their situation in the vallies of Piedmont. They were called Albigenses from Alby, a city in the southern parts of France, where also great numbers of them are situated. They were afterwards denominated Valdenses or Waldenses, from Peter Waldo, a rich citizen of Lyons—From Lyons too, they were called Leonists, and Cathari, from the professed purity of their life and doctrine, as others since have had the name of Puritans.”
The testimony of their very enemies show them to have been, the woman in the wilderness, the true witnesses of their own time.
Reinerius, at the head of the barbarous inquisition, justifies them in the sight of impartial men, by the reasons which he urges for their condemnation. They were, in his view, the most pernicious opponents of the church of Rome. “And this for three reasons. 1st. This is the oldest sect; for some say that it hath endured from the time of pope Sylvester; others from the time of the apostles. 2. It is more general; for there is no country in which this sect is not. 3d. Because, when all other sects beget horror in the hearers—this of the Leonists hath a great show of piety; they live justly before men, and believe all things rightly concerning God; only they blaspheme the church of Rome and the clergy.”
The historiographer Mezeray describes them in this short sentence. “They had almost the same opinions as those who are now called Calvinists.”
Besides these Dissenters from the church of Rome, who were persecuted and driven about among the nations, there were within her own pale men of learning and of piety, who, opposing error and licentiousness, were also persecuted often into banishment and death. It was not, however, until the era of the REFORMATION, that the war of Michael and the dragon came to its height: and it was by that event the dragon was cast down from his ecclesiastical eminence, and took his stand upon the earth.
While the ecclesiastical power was increasing in its demands and its influence, it was the best station for Satan to occupy: by papal bulls and decretals, he could direct the civil arm against the saints with the utmost effect: and the pontifical power had been gradually augmenting from the rise of the little horn in the year 606, until in the eleventh century it arrived at its greatest elevation.
“The authority and lustre of the Latin church, or to speak more properly, the power and dominion of the Roman pontiffs, arose in this century to their highest period, though they arose by degrees, and had much opposition, and many difficulties to conquer.—The popes employed every method which the most artful ambition could suggest, to render their dominion both despotic and universal. They not only aspired to the character of supreme legislators in the church, to an unlimited jurisdiction over all synods and councils, whether general or provincial, to the sole distribution of all ecclesiastical honours and benefices as divinely authorized and appointed for that purpose, but they carried their insolent pretensions so far as to give themselves out for LORDS OF THE UNIVERSE, arbiters of the fate of kingdoms and empires, and supreme rulers over the kings and princes of the earth.”
By the force of truth, under the providence of God, these claims were rendered vain, and such pretensions made to cease for ever at the reformation.
Satan fell like lightning from heaven; the saints rejoiced in his downfall: and throughout the several churches of the nations, the friends of reform became numerous and powerful, and raised their voices in thanksgiving to God.
Verses 10—12. And I heard a loud voice, saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.
The devil has been always considered as the accuser of the godly. He excites wicked men to raise false accusations against them; he aggravates their faults; he misrepresents their motives; and he employs every deceitful effort to diminish their influence and their usefulness. While acting as the dragon in the church, he was very successful in the work of falsehood and of blood: and in his being cast down the virtuous rejoice. He appeared to succeed in his accusations against them before God, as in the case of Job, while they were depressed; but now the triumphs of the gospel admonish them of the change—The Lord no longer admits the accuser even to a hearing.
They who survived the tempest occasioned by the reformation, recognized as their brethren those who fell in its defence: they make honourable mention of their names, while they follow their steps: they proclaim them victorious even in death: and, while they celebrate their prowess in the contest against the dragon, loving not their lives; while they recognize them as the witnesses of the Lord, who delivered a faithful testimony against the man of sin; they justly ascribe their victory to the word of which they were the witnesses, and to faith according to that word in the blood of the Lamb. They rejoice in the power and prevalence of the gospel of the grace of God: and if the kingdoms of this world are not as yet become in fact the kingdoms of Christ, they hail the reformation as the dawn of a brighter day; they anticipate in reaping these first ripe fruits a more abundant harvest.
Eternal salvation thus visited a vast body of sinners; the strength of the Redeemer was felt extensively in the hearts of men, and over worldly empires; and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ, became conspicuous, and received glory by that blessed event. Let it never be forgotten. Therefore let the heavens rejoice.
Sole Victor, from the expulsion of his foes
Messiah his triumphal chariot turn’d:
To meet him all his saints, who silent stood
Eye-witnesses of his almighty acts,
With jubilee advanced; and as they went
Sung triumph, and him sung victorious King. MILTON.
2. The contest now assumes the form of persecution on the earth.
Verses 12, 13. Wo to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath hut a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.
A short time, comparatively, from the reformation of the 16th century, is yet remaining of the 1260 years of the apostacy, at the expiration of which. Rev. xx. 2. Satan is to be bound one thousand years. Had we dated the war in heaven at the time of Constantine, upon no allowable principle of interpretation could the remaining period be called ολιγον καιρον, a short season. A space of upwards of 1500 years could not be short, compared with the whole time of the Apocalyptical predictions, which cannot from the apostolical age until the millennium amount to 2000 years.
It will be acknowledged by all, that if the war in heaven does not symbolize the struggles of Christianity with pagan power, it must be applied, as we have done, to the protestant reformation; and the events now under consideration will of course be posterior to that remarkable era of history.
These verses accordingly designate the mode of warfare practised by the dragon against the church, subsequent to the time in which the power of ecclesiastical domination received its death-blow.
The place upon which the contest of Satan with the church of God is now carried on, is the symbolical earth—the collective body of the population of the empire. The dragon was cast down from his ecclesiastical eminence, when the power of the church of Rome and the papacy was so far reduced by the effect of the reformation, as to lose in a great measure its terrors to the saints.
The adversary still actuates that apostate church, as well as the empire. He still disturbs individual believers, and goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He never ceases to oppose piety in every place: but his power to affect injuriously THE GREAT SOCIAL CONCERNS OF THE MORAL WORLD, the proper subject of the Apocalyptical predictions, is now by way of eminence displayed on the symbolical earth.
“When the age of superstition and ecclesiastical tyranny was past; when the papal thunders were no longer regarded,—he took his stand upon the earth, and again renewed his attacks upon the woman and her mystic offspring.—The Roman church was henceforth only an inferior consideration with him: like a worn-out instrument, its blows were not now attended with their former effects: a new station must be assumed, whence in an age of literature and refinement, the woman and the remnant of her seed might be assailed with a greater probability of victory.”
He descends among the mass of the people, now in consequence of the reformation become of more importance in both church and state than they had heretofore been, having great wrath because he anticipated, from the combined influence of religion, and the spirit of freedom with which it was accompanied, the total subversion of his empire.
He changed the mode of his warfare according to existing circumstances; and he succeeded. Wo to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you. These words are a warning to the Christian world, that the devil now has descended from the throne and the altar; and will henceforward do more injury to mankind, whether in a quiescent or agitated condition, whether of the earth or of the sea, by popular weapons, than either by papal bulls, or by the sword of the magistrate which enforced the decretals of the church.
It is asserted for the comfort of the saints in the 14th verse, that the woman had been previously provided with the wings of an eagle, to fly to a place of safety, and that she shall there find spiritual nourishment until the antichristian period of 1260 years is come to an end.
The principal design, however, of repeating in this place what had been before the war in heaven declared distinctly in verse 6, respecting the sojourn of the woman in the wilderness, appears to me to have been entirely overlooked by the several expositors of the prophecy. This circumstance has occasioned much confusion in their whole interpretation. Even Mr. Faber, who has approached nearest to the true meaning of this chapter, has been guilty of this omission. Indeed I cannot avoid considering so great and so general a misapprehension, as conclusive evidence of the success of the adversary in the new mode of warfare which he has adopted since the era of the reformation. And yet, as if to anticipate and prevent the general deception, the Holy Ghost in this verse puts us distinctly in mind, that, however great the benefits of the reformation, and however much we are relieved from the oppression of antichristian power in church and state by that event, still the true church is in the wilderness, and must continue to sojourn there until the expiration of the time, times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. Pure and undefiled Christianity shall in no place of the empire receive a permanent establishment until that period is expired. It is at best only a mixed system, which is established in power, and supported by the policy even of the protestant nations. The true church, the woman standing upon the moon, clad in the lustre of the Sun of righteousness, and crowned with her apostolical stars, is still in the wilderness: destitute of the smiles of the higher powers; deprived of the fatness of the land; but protected and supported by the word of the Lord her God. This is the chief design of the 14th verse. The text then proceeds to describe the new mode of warfare employed by the enemy.
Verse 15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
A flood of water is a very expressive metaphor, and is applied with great latitude to very different objects. It denotes victorious armies, Isa. viii. 7. Nah. i. 8. Jer. xlvi. 7. Ezek. xxvi. 3. It denotes any threatening assemblage of ungodly men, Psa. xviii. 4. and xciii. 3. It denotes divine judgments, of whatever kind, Psa. xxxvi. 6. and lxxvii. 19. A great abundance of temporal or spiritual blessings, is not unfrequently designated by a flood of waters. Job xx. 17. Ezek. xlvii. 5. Generally, indeed, a flood designates something destructive, and is very often employed to represent troubles, whether persecutions and temptations, or profaneness and heresies, Psa. lxix. 2. Isa. lix. 19. Matt. vii. 25.
In this case, it must be understood of some evil proceeding from Satan, with design to subvert the true religion, throughout the Roman empire. It is also different from the weapons he employed during the war in heaven, in contending with the reformers—not the anathemas of the pope, and the sword of the empire. It is more obviously of the character of a spiritual adversary, and partakes less of the nature of reasons of state for opposing the church—it proceeds directly out of the mouth of the serpent. It is of course of a more popular character, and affects the mass of the multitude of antichristian men—A wo to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea: and to complete its description, from the text before us, it is authorized by the civil polity; for the serpent is still the seven-headed ten-horned dragon.
This diabolical flood denotes the torrent of heresies and licentiousness in both principle and practice, which succeeded in Europe the work of reform, and which received protection and countenance from the higher powers. False doctrines were legalized by acts of toleration; or otherwise by authoritative decrees became a part of the civil constitution.
The serpent’s design against the woman was to cause her to he carried away of the flood; and he too far succeeded in blending with truth his own falsehood. He thus obscured the light of revelation: many pious men were perplexed by the multitude of discordant opinions which were afloat around them: the exertions of the actual church of God became, by the disunion of her sons, less powerful against the common foe of all the saints: nominal Christians lived with the world, while they professed to belong to the seed of Abraham: and by the confusion of tongues which obtained among the builders of the temple, the work of our reforming ancestors was not only retarded, but also permitted by the neglect, the timidity, the ignorance, and the falling away of many of their descendants, to sink into forgetfulness.
Amidst the general defection of the protestant churches, there is preserved, as in ancient Israel, a remnant according to the election of grace. Verse 16. And the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
Had all those inhabiters of the Latin earth, who did not belong to the body of true believers, returned in their former bigotry to the bosom of the church of Rome, it would have been easy, humanly speaking, to crush the church in the wilderness: but the prevalence of heresies, and even of infidelity, among the high and the low, if it was to the multitude of deluded men a wo, proved by the disunion, and the indifference for truth or error which it created, a wall of defence to the faithful that remained. The earth opened her own mouth, and swallowed up the diabolical flood, and thus undesignedly helped the woman.
The confusion produced in the present convulsions of Europe, owing to the prevalence of impious opinions, explains the expression, “the devil has great wrath, because he knows his time is short.” The events of the French revolution, a terrible wo to the nations, demonstrates the effects of the diabolical flood upon the earth that swallowed it; while the church amidst the storm, although in the wilderness, is permitted to remain in the profession of truth, and the comparatively undisturbed maintenance of the faith of God’s elect.
History confirms this interpretation, by demonstrating that we have not mistaken the character of the times. “In the sixteenth century there lay concealed in different parts of Europe several persons, who entertained a violent enmity against religion in general, and in a more especial manner against the gospel; and who, both in their writings and in their private conversation, sowed the seeds of impiety and error. It is even reported that in certain provinces of France and Italy, schools were erected whence these impious doctrines issued.”
“Our English youth, who travelled even so early as the reign of James I. returned too often with the seeds of vice and infidelity, which they gathered with the knowledge and the manners of more polished countries; and the court of Charles II. displays, in a very striking manner, the principles and habits which the king and his nobles had learned upon the continent.”
James II. who as well as his brother Charles, was himself a papist, while full of enmity toward the English and Scottish Presbyterians, found it convenient to afford these pious people some mitigation of the persecution under which they laboured, by proclaiming an act of toleration intended to cover the opinions of his own court. “By the incessant labours of Voltaire, his diabolical principles were protected by the sovereigns of Russia, Poland, and Prussia, and by an innumerable host of landgraves, margraves, dukes, and princes. They had penetrated into Bohemia, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. They had many zealous advocates in England: they had thoroughly impregnated France: and in short, had more or less pervaded the whole Roman earth, where the dragon had now taken his station, after his expulsion from the symbolical heaven.”
Systems hostile to the grace of God, and to the merits of .Jesus Christ, Socinianism and avowed infidelity, together with the several pernicious heresies connected with such abominable and impious doctrines, received, as they came out of the mouth of the serpent, the countenance of the constituted authorities of the several kingdoms of the man of sin.
We live, brethren, in the age pointed out in this prophecy. Since the revival of literature in Europe, and the corresponding liberality of sentiment relative to the civil and religious rights of men, which generally prevails, persecution carried on directly against the saints has become unfashionable. The dragon wages war by the flood of error which prevails over the nations. He has succeeded in poisoning the fountains and the streams of literature; and thus has caused the higher ranks of life to be carried away of the flood of infidelity, or of indifference to all religion. The celebrated Condoreet, describing the progress of the human mind, undesignedly gives the character of his own age as carried away by this diabolical flood.
“There was a class of men in Europe, whose chief object was to attack prejudices in the very asylums, where the clergy, the schools, the governments, and the ancient corporations, had received and protected them—In England, Collins and Bolingbroke; in France, Bayle, Fontenelle, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, and the schools formed by these men—Assuming every tone, taking every shape, from the ludicrous to the pathetic, from the most learned and extensive compilation to the novel or petty pamphlet—adopting the words, reason, toleration, and humanity, as their signal and call to arms.”
This part of the prophecy synchronizes with the commencement of the third wo trumpet; with the sixth vial, as will afterwards more fully appear; and with the harvest of God’s wrath.
3. The concluding verse of this chapter describes the last part of the contest.
Verse 17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“This will be,” said Mr. Faber, “the last great effort of Satan against the church previous to the commencement of the millennium. We know that it must commence after the dragon has been cast out of heaven; after he has taken his station upon earth; after he has vomited forth a flood against the mystic woman; after the earth has swallowed up the flood; when every current event bears testimony that the third wo trumpet is sounding, that the vials of the last plagues are pouring out, and that Satan is come down having great wrath.”
This last war waged by the dragon is identified with that in which the witnesses are slain; and will be more obviously a persecution of the saints, than that kind of warfare which at present exists.
When the enemy come in, as in the period formerly described, like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against him.
This promise has been accomplished. However great the flood of errors with which Satan has been endeavouring to carry away the saints, the Spirit of the Lord hath supported and encouraged the seed of the righteous, and they have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the testimony which they hold.
They have met every heresy with piety and argument: they have refuted every calumny against the gospel with meekness and fear: they have caused every appeal to reason and to literature, to redound to the glory of the God of truth, in the confusion of their adversaries: they have met the scholar, the philosopher, the critic, and the sceptic, and have ably and learnedly demonstrated that Christianity is worthy of our faith, that its peculiar doctrines are capable of vindication and of proof, and that it is the only religion which gives to the true God the praise which is worthy of him; which affords to the sinner the only solid hope of reconciliation with God; and which shall eventually bless the inhabitants of the earth with civilization, with comfort, and with peace.
The present era of Christianity deserves to be called “THE AGE OF REASON,” upon far different principles from those which induced Mr. Thomas Paine to bestow upon it that name. More argument and intellect have been employed since the time of the protestant reformation in examining and illustrating the doctrine of Christ, than there have been employed in the same way at any period since the world began. The banner of truth has been eminently displayed; and the art of printing, in the providence of God, hath stamped perpetuity upon the labours of the faithful. Future generations shall reap from the labours of the present, although it has been a seed-time of tears, a very luxuriant harvest. There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
To the symbolical earth, nevertheless, the flood of diabolical opinions which flowed from the mouth of the dragon, proved a great wo. And the enemy was wroth at the disappointment. Again he changes the manner of attack. It is the dragon in all the terror of tyrannical persecuting power, the diabolical beast with seven heads and ten horns, that puts the witnesses to death. The civil sword is again unsheathed, and in this last contest bathed in the blood of martyrdom. “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war upon the remnant of her seed.”
It is in relation to former martyrs, to those who had suffered under pagan and papal domination, that the objects of this war are called the remnant. Their character is put beyond a doubt. Theirs is a real, not a nominal religion, a soul-sanctifying, not a political Christianity. They keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. “They are those,” said Dr. Johnston, “who in matters of religion strictly adhere to the commandments of God. They do not make void the law of God by human traditions, nor teach or believe as doctrines of God, the commandments of men. They firmly believe, and heartily approve of that testimony which is given in the sacred scriptures, of the natures, character, offices, and religion of Jesus Christ, and they boldly give their testimony to these. It is scarcely possible to draw a more exact and marked description of the character of true Christians than this one.”
From this exposition, Christians, and we leave it with your understanding and your conscience to judge whether it be not agreeable to the word of God—from this exposition, you may learn in what estimation you are to hold the civil and ecclesiastical establishments of the antichristian empire. If you are willing to make a proper estimate of their moral character; if you would examine them in the clear light of this divine prospective history; if you would judge of them as the infallible God hath described them, you will have an unwavering conviction of their being diabolical establishments, opposed alike to the Son of God, and to the remnant of the church’s seed—the dragon against the woman and the man-child. I leave you to infer what claim they have upon your affections, upon your approbation, and your prayers. I address myself to you, who are the disciples of my Saviour, who believe in his name and espouse his cause, and who are placed in the ranks under Michael the Archangel and captain of the Lord’s host, I beseech you, dear brethren, never permit yourselves to mistake the nature of this contest.
Let not true religion ever be in your estimation identified with the cruel dragon, with any of his heads or of his horns. Let not your eyes be dazzled by the glare of his power, or your hearts misguided by the stars which are swept from heaven to earth, or suspended at the tail of the persecuting monster—the pastors whom he keeps to serve him. Let not your sympathies be withdrawn from that mourning widow in the wilderness—from those witnesses clothed in sackcloth—let them not be misplaced upon those corrupt systems which Jehovah hath sworn in his justice to destroy. I urge upon Christian principles, that which is the evident moral and political duty of this rising empire, this great and growing republic. I urge it upon you from the considerations which my text suggests, not to imitate the maxims of social order, not to covet the policy, or approve of the conduct, of the antichristian nations of Europe. Amity, commerce, and peace with them all, you may, and you ought, upon principles of just reciprocity, to cultivate; but no entangling alliances, no identification of feelings and of interests, no community of moral or religious opinions, with powers influenced by the old serpent, the great red dragon.
You will never forget, that the Spirit of God denominates the errors, the show of learning, the philosophism, of the enemies of the doctrines of grace, and of the scriptures, a flood from the mouth of the serpent; and from a distance you will contemplate with astonishment the wo which it brings upon the kingdoms which imbibed the poison: you will consider as the predicted effects of this flood, the desolating judgments of modern Europe; and you will, I trust, stand in awe, and unhesitatingly reject the impious innovations from among you. You have witnessed in the impiety, the licentiousness, the horrors, and the massacres, of Revolutionary France, the fruits which they yield. In proportion as you deviate from evangelical doctrine, and Christian morality, you expose yourselves to similar danger.
Mistake me not. I urge this detestation of heresy and infidelity, not for the base purpose of diverting your attention from the ten-horned dragon himself: not for the purpose of directing your attachment to the old and corrupt establishments of Europe. No. I am not the apologist of superstition, of hypocrisy, or of despotism. I do not wish to contribute to the prolongation of any diabolical power. My prayers are against all the horns of the beast: they are in union with the cry which you hear from the altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
The reply to this prayer is admonitory to us. It checks impatience. Rest, then, my brethren, until the catalogue of martyrs is complete, then shall the nations cease to be impious and tyrannical.
There is a day of trial approaching the Lord’s people in the world. It is not upon the 11th chapter alone we rest the belief that the slaughter of the witnesses is yet future. It appears from other parts of the Apocalypse. It appears from this chapter. The concluding passage, the last war of the dragon, synchronizes with a part of the third wo—with the death of the witnesses—with the vintage—and with the last of the vials.
We do not predict future judgments for your discouragement. Under the care of the Shepherd of Israel, we fear no evil. “May we be found like Daniel, to rest and stand in our lot at the end of the day.” AMEN.
 It frequently occurs in this sense. Matth. xii. 38. and xvi 1—4. and Rom. iv. 11.
 Psalm xlv. 11.
 As this interpretation of the text represents as diabolical governments the powers that be in the dominions of antichrist, and effectually sets aside the claim of allegiance and support, out of respect to the ordinance of God, which the constituted authorities make upon the Christian citizens of Europe, it is not improper that I should devote a foot note in evidence that it is neither a novel opinion, nor unsupported by other expositors of the Apocalypse, I quote two distinguished writers of the Church of England.
“As for the dragon being the Greek empire, such an opinion is utterly irreconcilable with the plain declaration of St. John, that he is the devil, and nothing but the devil—He tells us unequivocally, that the great dragon is that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world—The circumstance of his being represented with ten horns, shows plainly, that the agent, through whose visible instrumentality he persecutes the woman, is the Roman empire in its divided state.” Faber in loco.
“For this dragon is expressly asserted to be the ancient serpent, who is called the devil—This was seen clearly by the most ancient Commentators—The seven heads of the dragon express an immense command of worldly power—The number ten seems to have reference to those passages of the Apocalypse and Daniel, wherein are to be seen just so many kings or kingdoms promoting the interests of the adversary.—The dragon is to have great sway among the kings of the earth, whom he beguiles by the offer of that worldly power which was rejected by the Son of God.” Woodhouse in loco.
 Gen. iii. 15.
 Isa. ix. 6.
 Gal. iv. 19.
 Psa. cxlix. 9.
 Isa. lxvi. 8.
 Psalm lxxxvii. 5.
 Inattention to this obvious principle, has misled Mr. Mede, bishop Newton, and their followers. Because the primitive Chris tians considered the pagan empire as possessed of the devil, these writers were led to suppose, that the prophecy of the xiith chapter should be applied to that period. But the Roman empire is throughout all its forms diabolical. All its heads and horns are the instruments of Satan. Indeed, all immoral systems of government, of whatever nation, are as much identified with the devil, as was the serpent in paradise. The benevolent courtesy of Christians, their prudence, and, perhaps, in some instances, an ignoble timidity, have prevented them from speaking plainly upon this subject, to the rulers of the nations. This language was held, however, when it could be done with perfect safety.
“It is very remarkable,” said bishop Newton, “that Constantine himself, and the Christians of his time, describe his conquests under the same image. Constantine saith in his epistle to Eusebius, ‘Liberty being now restored, and that dragon being removed from the administration of public affairs, by the providence of the great God, and my ministry, I esteem the great power of God to have been made manifest even to all.’ Moreover, a picture of Constantine was set up over the palace gate, with the cross over his head and under his feet, ‘the great enemy of mankind, who persecuted the church by the means of impious tyrants in the form of a dragon transfixed with a dart into the midst of his body.’” Euseb. de vita Constant. Lib. 3. Cap. 3.
Hostem illum et inimicum generis humani, qui impiorum tyrannorum opera Ecclesiam Dei oppugnaverat, sub draconis forma.
 Mosh. Eccles. Hist. Vol. II. p. 120—133. Phil. 1798.
 Hist. Dec. Vol. V. p. 448—450. Phil. 1805.
 No man can read, without a sigh for the Christian cause in the hands of a mercenary ministry, those writings of the pastors of the church which represent tyrannical and immoral power as by the word of God, worthy of Christian approbation, and conscientious support. No loyalist of any country or sect, ever complimented a king more than did pope Gregory the Great, this tyrant on his accession to power. “He contented himself,” says Gibbon, “to rejoice, that the piety and benignity of Phocas have been raised by Providence to the imperial throne, and to pray that his hands may be strengthened against all his enemies.”
His own words are worthy of being held out as the model for all the flatterers of immoral power. They will apply to modern emperors and kings as well as to Phocas.
Greg. l. xi. Epis. 38. Indict, vi. Benignitatem vestræ pictatis ad imperiale fastigium pervenisse gaudemus. Lætentur cœli et exultet terra, et de vestris benignis actibus universæ reipublicæ populus nunc usque vehementur afflictus hilarescat.
 “The dragon, as the apostle himself teacheth us, is ‘the old serpent, the devil.’ He is represented with seven heads and ten horns, to show us by whose visible agency he should persecute the woman; and he is said to be in heaven, because the empire which he used as his tool, made profession of Christianity. He is said likewise to have a tail, in reference to the corrupt superstition so successfully taught by the second Apocalyptic beast. He causes those Christian bishops, whose sees lay in the Roman empire, the third part of the symbolical universe, to apostatize. The appointed time, during which he is permitted to reign, is the 1260 years of the great apostacy: hence the woman is said to flee from his face, during precisely that period, into the wilderness, as Elijah heretofore did from the face of Ahab: and there, in the midst of the spiritual barrenness which spreads far and wide around her, she is fed with the heavenly manna of the word of God in her prepared place; as Elijah was in the waste and howling desert, by the ravens.”' Faber, Diss. Vol. II. pp. 111, 112. Lond. 1806.
 Newton’s Diss. Vol. II. p. 256. New-York, 1794.
 Reiner. Cont. Hæret. as quoted by bishop Newton.
 Quoted also by the bishop of Bristol.
 Mosh. Eccles. Hist. Vol. II. pp. 459, 460. Phil. 1798.
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 This writer, whose judgment is often perverted by political prejudice, considers “the kingdom of England” as identified with the church of God, and of course a special object of this last war. He might have spared his fears upon this account. However unable Mr. Faber may be to distinguish between the present British government, and the actual church of Christ, there is no difficulty in making such distinction. The difference between the two was well known to the author of prophecy. It is maintained in the prophecy itself. It is readily perceived by the saints. Whatever may be the fate of the British crown and constitution, England is not as a kingdom the object of this war. It is waged against quite a different class of men—against those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Surely those who reap the fruits of the most fertile fields, and enjoy the fatness of the land, cannot be “the woman in the wilderness.” Upon no principle of legitimate criticism, can this character be applied to “the protestant kingdom of England,” or to its great, splendid, and opulent hierarchy. There are, it is true, thousands in his majesty’s dominions, yea, many within the very pale of the establishment, who witness for the truth, and unto whom the description, in part at least, applies. But whatever may prove, in that day, to be the condition personally of the learned VICAR OF STOCKTON-UPON-TEES, he need not apprehend that this last war waged by the dragon against the church in the wilderness who keep the commandments of God, will be a persecution of the royal family, or of “the lords spiritual and temporal” of Great Britain. It is far more likely to fall upon that despised people, the PURITANS, whom Mr. Faber, and the author quoted by him with approbation,[Vol. II. p. 120.] very illiberally hold up to general detestation for hypocrisy and fanaticism.
 Isa. lix. 19.
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