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PARTIAL DEVELOPMENTS OF THE SECOND SENSE IN
FORM OF INTERPRETATIONS RENDERED,
The most effectual means, however, for obtaining an insight into the true meaning of an allegory, unquestionably is the taking advantage of a formal discovery, which the allegory itself sometimes makes of the second sense. This is done when the allegoric curtain is actually lifted up by the hand of the allegorist himself, and a veritable view is afforded of the second, the remote, but the real picture. Such a discovery is for the most part either less or more made. It rarely happens that an allegory is so constructed that some indication of the second meaning is not given in it. Either an apparently casual word or phrase let fall, suggests it, or a formal development of the second sense, delivered in plain and literal language, makes an important discovery of it. These revelations, more or less partial, point the mind to the track the allegory pursues, which, as it always moves in one line of thought, may be followed out through its whole course, provided the track be adhered to with the same consistency which the allegory itself is known to observe, and provided no cross
path is struck into, leading the mind away from that unity of conception which is the guiding and governing principle of the allegory. We shall have occasion afterwards to advert to a cross road, in the shape of a supposed interpretation, which has been entered into by a great majority, nearly the whole of coinmentators, and which has led them far away into a region which the hieroglyphics of the prophets do not inhabit.
In ch. xvii., the Revelation lifts up a very considerable fold of the allegorical curtain, in which its true meaning is enshrouded, and displays to view a whole scene in the second true and real sense. This discovery is made in a formal interpretation, delivered to John by the angel, in the following words:
“ And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition : and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings : five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and
goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”—Rev. xvii. 7-18.
Now it would not be very difficult to show that this passage presents a key to the whole allegory, and that all the principal points of it may be made out from this single interpretation, by a system of legitimate deduction. The Seven-headed Ten-horned Beast is explained by the angel to be a great Roman temporal power, succeeding that great Roman imperial power which, as the angel affirmed, was in existence at the time when he was speaking. This explanation is delivered in language as plain as can be conceived, short of the actual naming of the subject-an ex
treme plainness usually foreign to the interpretations of Scripture. The seven heads, which are said to prefigure seven mountains, or hills, constitute an undeniable characteristic of Rome, the seven-hilled city. The characteristic is meaningless in every other application. The heads are said to prefigure also seven kings, that is, according to prophetical use (see passim) seven different and distinct dominions, or successive forms of dominion. Five of these had fallen when the angel was speaking, which, as enumerated up till Augustus, the first emperor, by Livy and Tacitus,* two Roman historians, who cannot be regarded otherwise than as impartial witnesses to the truth of a Christian prophecy, are kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and tribunes; the sixth, viz., the empire, was then in existence-further conclusive evidence, if any were wanting, that a Roman dominion is symbolized by the Beast, and the empire by its sixth head, for the Roman empire was the only dominion then existing in the world at all, which can be conceived to have had any place in Scriptural prophecy.
*“Quæ ab condita urbe Roma ad captam eandem urbem Romani sub regibus primum, consulibus deinde ac dictatoribus, decemvirisque ac tribunis consularibus gessere.” Livii, 1. 6, c. 1. “ Urbem Romam a principio reges habuere. Libertatem et consulatum L. Brutus instituit. Dictaturæ ad tempus sumebantur: neque Decemviralis potestas ultra biennium, neque tribunorum militum consulare jus diu valuit. Non Cinnæ, non Sullæ longa dominatio : et Poinpeii Crassique potentia, cito in Cæsarem ; Lepidi atque Antonii arma, in Augustum cessere : qui cuncta discordiis civilibus fessa, nomine principis sub imperium accepit." Tacit. Annal. l. 1.
Its magnitude, comprising ten kingdoms under it, is equally conclusive evidence to the same effect; for no dominion correspondent in size to the description, has appeared in the world since the date of the prophесу, , which is not Roman. But the Empire then existing is to fall, is to be followed by a seventh form, which is to last only a short time, and to be followed by that prefigured by the Beast itself, which form is the eighth, and yet is of the seventh, i. e. is a dominion of the city of the seven hills, although there is no special head to represent it, the number having been exhausted by the previous forms. There is here apparent an inadequacy on the part of the symbolic machinery, naturally somewhat cumbrous, unpliant, and intractable as it is, perfectly to square with the unyielding facts of history; an inadequacy which is here supplemented by the literal description of the angel. This last dominion is an enormous one, like the Enpire encircling ten kingdoms in its sphere. It is in combination with an ecclesiastical power, represented by a Whore, and prefigured by the seven-hilled city itself, a city being in the book a symbol of a church. This church prefigured by the city,“ reigneth over the kings of the earth.” The name equally of the Whore and of the city, is Babylon, a name mystically used for Rome by the early Christians. This double dominion, this great combined temporal and ecclesiastical power, is in existence at the late period of the prophecy which follows the opening of the seven vials, that is, after 1260 years have elapsed, for the vials of the last plagues cannot be conceived to be