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LECTURES ON THE APOCALYPSE.
REVELATION, CHAP. XIII.
The particular points to be explained in this chapter are evidently these :
The beast with seven heads and ten horns.
The image, mark, name, and number of the beast.
Let us briefly examine each of these in order.
The first hieroglyphic is illustrated by the seventh chapter of Daniel. This illustrious prophet, more than 550 years before Christ, foretold that there would be four famous monarchies successively reigning over that part of the world where the church of God should exist: of these the 1st, or Assyrian, was represented as a lion; the 2d, or Persian, like a bear; the 3d, or Grecian, like a leopard ; the 4th was to be a diverse from all the rest, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly.” The other traits ascribed to it in Daniel, show that it is the Roman em, pire of which he speaks.
Three of these empires had passed away when John wrote. He lived under the fourth ; and his description of it corresponds with the predictions of the Old Testament, and with the records of history. It is a wild beast,” Incies, the symbol of tyrannical power. It is compounded of the three former beasts of Daniel, the leopard, the bear, and the lion, or the Grecian, Persian, and Assyrian empires; to show that its power is equal to all the others, and that it is composed of all the nations over which the dominions of the other beasts extended. It has seven heads :" an expression which is explained in the 17th chapter, as denoting seven kings, or governing powers, having supreme authority. Of these the angel declares, that in St. John's time, “ five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come;" that is, five of these ruling powers were past and gone, like so many heads fallen off. One then existed, which was the sixth, and another should succeed. Livy and Tacitus both afford us a comment on this passage, when they say that the Roman empire was at first under kings, then consuls, dietators, decemvirs, and tribunes, with consular power; these five had ceased; emperors had succeeded; and there was still to be a new head, a new mode of exercising the imperial power.
The ten horns, crowned, are the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided. It is not necessary here to mention their names. You will find them in every good commentator, or history of Rome.
Upon the heads of the beast was the name of blaspheту ;" impious words or idolatrous actions denoting the unholy sentiments of the mind, are often thus termed. The simple idea then, is, that under every form of the Roman empire, it should be idolatrous, opposed to God, and impious. And he knows little of spiritual religion, who will not acknowledge that this was true, not only when the head of the empire was heathen, but also when it was nominally Christian.
The source of the authority of the beast is pointed out. “ The dragon,” whom in the preceding chapter we have seen to be the devil and Satan, “ gave to the beast his power, and seat, and great authority;" influencing him to persecute, or to deceive and corrupt the church of God.
“ One of the heads appeared as though wounded to death." It was supposed impossible that the monarchy should revive, when Augustulus, the last emperor, was deposed by the Goths in 476. The wound that the empire then received seemed to be deadly; but the deadly wound was healed ;" the monarchy revived in a new form indeed, ecclesiastical instead of civil, but its authority was not less extensive nor absolute. “ The world wondered after the beast.” Surprised at his restoration, they gazed with astonishment; they paid homage to him, and subjected themselves to his authority: “ they worshipped him," regarding him as a kind of deity; "and they worshipped the dragon,” complying with those idolatrous services, and embracing those opinions which Satan had invented in opposition to the pure gospel.
Henceforward a striking alteration was made in his voice and actions; his blasphemies, his idolatries, his pride, his tyranny, his persecutions over the saints, till the termination of the twelve hundred and sixty years, (which are here for the fifth time mentioned,) are strikingly described from the 6th to the 11th verses. I the less regret that I have not time particularly to illustrate them, as some of the great points exhihited in them will hereafter be again presented to us. Let me merely quote the remark of a good man, with respect to one of the traits of his character: 66 A calculation of the sufferings inflicted by the beast upon the saints over all the nations of Christendom, would astonish the world. Probably not less than 15,000,000 of men have lost their lives for their attachment to the truth, and their opposition to heresy, since the rise of Antichrist. Were all the saints in Christendom to be slain on the present day, it would not equal the number of the martyrs against the man of sin, who have already sealed their testimony with their blood."*
A new account is then given of this fierce and blasphemous power; he had, in a civil or worldly character, persecuted the saints; he now is exhibited as an ecclesiastical power, assuming the appearance of meekness, and claiming an authority from the Lamb of God; yet inflicting the severest woes on all who do not bow down to him. Though distinct, he is cotemporaneous with the seven-horned beast.
6. He has two horns like a lamb,” Horns, as you have seen, are the symbol of power; those of fiercer animals denote high authority; those of a lamb are not to destroy, but for distinction, and for some weak defence. This second beast then appears, not entirely without power, but with no such power as should excite alarm. His appearance is mild and inoffensive: he is as a Lamb, the emblem so often used in this book for the Saviour; he professes to resemble him, and to be commissioned by him; yet in reality he is a wild beast, and “ speaks as a dragon;" is the instrument of the old serpent in his designs against the church; and uses the language of blasphemy and cruelty, so opposite to the meekness of the Lamb of God. His two horns may signify, according to some, his inconsistent union of temporal and spiritual power; or, according to others, the two distinct bodies of his clergy, the regular and the secular, by which his authority is maintained. He exercises the power of the first beast; he becomes so united with him, that their separate agency is scarcely to be distinguished. Notwithstanding the dying condition of the first beast, he affords him such aid, that all the inhabitants of the former empire submit again to the authority that had been exercised over them, and adore the new power connected with it. He pretends to perform the most stupendous works, and is distinguished for what Paul calls, ** lying wonders, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” He claims the power of Elijah to bring down fire from heaven, to inflict the present and eternal vengeance of God on all who do not obey him.
Who that is acquainted with the history of that, period, does not observe here a true delineation of the ecclesiastical empire of Rome? Under the weakness and apparent dissolution of the imperial government, it obtained civil power, while professing to act only in a sacred character. It pretended to miracles; it claimed authority from Christ; it said that it was acting by plenary power from him; it was exalted by ignorance and superstition, till it was almost adored.
It then set up the image of the beast, described in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses. The former beast, or Roman empire, appeared a mere carcass, without life or activity. The second beast per