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THE SYMBOL SATAN.
THERE can be little doubt that the interpretation in ch. xvii. was designed by the Spirit of God to cast its radiance over, and to illuminate by its light the whole book of the prophecy. It is by far the longest interpretation in it; it is couched in language which is extremely clear and definite, and it explains the meaning of two of the enemies of the great Conqueror of the book, and it leads through inference to the recognition of a third. It thus elucidates all the enemies of the Conqueror, for there are but three, of which a full-length portraiture is given-three which take part in the plan and the catastrophe, the being cast into the lake of fire.
Now no formal interpretation is required of any of the various symbols under which the kingdom of God, which is the great Conqueror of the book, appears, because the description of these is mixed up with literal language, which renders interpretation at once unnecessary and superfluous. This is not the case with its enemies. These are represented by symbols of a highly enigmatical cast. Though it is to be learned from the
text that they are enemies of this kingdom, it is not perceptible who the enemies are.
They appear under vizors which conceal their individuality. What signify the seven heads and the ten horns? of the real meaning of these there is no indication to be obtained from any part of the descriptions which usually do, in language to be taken literally, throw light upon the symbols. In regard to the sense of the seven heads and ten horns there reigns a profound darkness. In this state of things a lengthened interpretation, delivered in literal language, steps in and throws its beams of light upon those symbolical masks in which the three enemies fight, and wliose features, except for this illumination, would have been indiscernible. The seven heads and ten horns are in virtue of this interpretation clearly identified as signs of a great Roman dominion.
Now as the seven heads and ten horns belong equally to the Dragon and the Beast, and as the Beast is in combination with the third enemy, it follows that all the three enemies are Roman. Upon this view, then, the interpretation in ch. xvii. unveils the political and individual characters of the threefold enemy, for it is one as the great threefold Roman dominion--the fourth of the world, or of the three Roman enemies with which the kingdom of God has to contend,-individual we say as well as political, for by characterizing them as Roman it individualizes them, seeing that no more than three great Romàn doininions have appeared in history since the date of the prophecy, and it can hardly be held that any
great Roman dominion is yet to arise, while it is from the symbolical descriptions evident which of the three is designed by each respective portraiture. Upon this view the interpretation in ch. xvii. illuminates a great portion of the prophecy.
It is a standing law of all language that the same sign bears the same signification. The application of this law in the present case will remove an obstacle to the right interpretation of the book which, so long as the law is disregarded, it may safely be alleged can never be compassed. The obstacle to which we refer is the appropriation of the symbol, Satan. The appropriation of this symbol by the great majority of commentators has not been rightly made, and has been the source of irretrievable confusion to the whole imagery of the book. It is a legitimate deduction from the above law, that what is interpreted to be the signification of seven heads and ten horns in ch. xvii. holds good for ch. xii., as these symbols appear in the Dragon, and that designating in the former passage a Roman power, they designate the same power in the latter. This is a legitimate conclusion, based on a law fundamental to all language, and it fixes the sense of the Dragon. But still farther, by the interpretation in ch. xvii. the political field is distinctly opened up for the allegory and its hieroglyphics. The Beast and the Whore have a political significance; the seven heads and ten horns have the same. Now as unity of design and conception is a fundamental and essential principle of an allegory, we are led to infer that the
whole subject will be political. Now these are not only obvious but sound and stable conclusions.
Nevertheless these conclusions, irrefragable as they appear to be, are rendered nugatory by the application given to a single passage in ch. xii. This passage, as understood, obscures the light which the angel's interpretation throws upon the Dragon; involves a violation of a fundamental law of symbolic representation, unity of conception; asserts--which is a violation of another fundamental law-that the same sign does not bear the same signification; and opens up an entirely new field for the application of the symbols, thereby destroying the allegory in which they appear, and which holds them togethera field which not only is diverse, so that the sense of the hieroglyphics is likewise destroyed, but which is so boundless in its extent, consisting as it does of the relations which may be drawn between the spiritual and the political worlds, that it would require terms of metaphysical exactitude to characterize them. Yet this service is demanded of hieroglyphics, signs few in number, and the range of which is naturally limited. They are required to represent not only the relations which one political body has to another, but the relations which these bear to the spiritual world. Much the same task is imposed upon them as if the signs of the Zodiac were made to represent not only the relations of the heavenly bodies to one another, but to describe also the parallaxes which they bear to the earth or might bear. It is sufficient to say that they cannot do work
such as this. Few in number, these signs have not even the aid of an allegory to sustain them in the gigantic task, for this likewise has been destroyed. The whole hieroglyphic language, accordingly, falls into ruins. This is a serious evil. It requires the interpreter to pause ere he gives to a single passage a sense which entails such disastrous consequences.
The guilty passage to which we refer, or more properly the guilty interpretation of it, involving the crime of the flagitious character above described, unveils, according to the assumed acceptation of its meaning, a second sense diametrically opposed to that which we have been considering, and opens up an entirely new field for the symbols. The sevenheaded, ten-horned Beast stands for a great political empire, with ten kingdoms in it, as is interpreted, ch. xvii.; the seven-headed, ten-horned Dragon, according to the assumed signification of the words, is Satan himself. This is a serious matter. The Devil is in the Revelation in person, walking amongst political symbols, and has, comparatively speaking, wrought as much evil in it as he did in paradise. However, upon a close examination we shall find the fears naturally resulting from such a conception to be groundless, and that the Devil has only got into the prophetical part of the book where alone he can do any harm symbolically.
The words in which the Devil's presence in the book is held to be indicated are the following:
“ And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth