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TWELFTH CHAPTER OF THE REVELATION, The Prophet réfilmes the general Hiftory of the Church,
in which he foretels the REFORMATION. BISHOP Newton and others, I apprehend, have altogether erred in their explication of this chapter. They have thought that the prophet here resumes the history of the church from the beginning, and, of course, that it includes her state, while under the oppression of pagan Rome; and they have contrived to twist and torture the prophetic figns into meanings never thought of by the prophet, to support their opinion. Upon only. 'a cursory view of the chapter, it firuck me in a different light; and upon a careful interpretation of the different figurés, 'I am fully perfoaded, that none of them refer to events AnTECEDÉNT to the fourth cenlury, when the church became delivered from pagan oppression, and exalted over the heathen world : and that the prophet only resumes the history of the church from that time. My reasons for this construction of the chapter, I'will briefly fübmit to the candid confideration of the reader.
1. The prophet, in the first nine chapters, had brought down the general history of the church to the present times. He had foretold her rise, her wonderful success in propagating the word of God, her triumph and exaltation over the heathen world, the peaceful and happy state of mankind under her influence and power; her subsequent ungrateful departure from the truth, and the divine judgments to be inflicted upon her upon that account, by the barbarian nations, and the Mohamedan apostacy. How then shall we find a reason that could induce him, after he had travelled more than one hall of his journey, in the midst of his
narration to return back to the place whence he -had' first set out; and to detail,'a fecond time, the
events which he had before described and foretold? Would it not have been an useless and unnecessary repetition, if not an error, which we may be al- fured he never committed ?,
1.2. It may here be objected: Why then should he go back at all? The answer naturally arises out of the circumstances of the events. He had
related those which properly belonged to the church at large, before it became divided into two parts, and had then proceeded with those of the eastern part down to the present times, omitting "the contemporary events which related to the western
part, after it was to be divided, in the fifth century, from the mother-church. And as it was neceflary to make his general history complete, he introduces the events which affected the part fo feparated from it. Accordingly, we find, that in the tenth and eleventh chapters he digresses from his general subject to the particular history of the wesiern church. In this digreffion he takes a summary view of his subject, and describes the principal events and characters which were to form his digressive history; namely, the Papal apoftacy, which was to “ tread “the holy city (or church of Christ in the West) S under foot forty and two months * ;” and “the « beast of the bottomless pit (or revolutionary « France), which was to kill the two witnesses “ of God," in the latter end of that periody And then, in order to introduce those two characters -into his general subject, he takes, in this chapter, a brief view of the state of the church in
the fourth century, just before it became divided. "Accordingly, we shall find, upon a right inter
* Chap. xic 2.
| Ibid. 7.
pretation of the figures into their natural and literal meaning, that he begins it with a reprefentation of the church in general, in her triumphant and exalted state over heathen idolatry; and then proceeds to the subsequent persecutions the should fuffer from the church of Rome, the late Reformation, the abolition of her influence and power in France, and the present war made with Great Britain by the French atheistical nation. That such is the subject of this chapter, will appear more and more evident in every step we shall take, in the translation of its figures into their true prophetic fenses.
Ver. 1.-" And there appeared a great won“ der in heaven; a woman clothed with the “ fun, and the moon under her feet, and upon “ her head a crown of twelve stars."
This verse plainly refers to nothing more than the ftate of the church in the fourth century, when she had, from a very small beginning, from a little spark, as it were, diffused the truths of the word of God, and their blessed influence, over the heathen world: a work, which is here called “ a wonder in heaven;' that is, in the church; which is often typified by the word heaven in the prophecies. And was it not a wonder, a great miracle, that a system of theology and virtue, revealed by a poor carpenter's son to twelve men only, for the most part also poor, obscure, and illiterate, of the lowest ranks in life, without power or influence; a system professedly and directly tending to conibat and subvert the long-rooted prejudices, the luftful desires and vices, and all the varieties of the long-established fuperftitions and religions of the whole world; that such a fyftem should be propagated and embraced, without any earthly aid whatever, and in the teeth of the most dreadful persecutions, and the most discouraginng and intimidating massacres, of hundreds of thousands of its converts; and that at length it should so prevail, as to become, as it were, placed upon the throne of the greatest of nations, and protected by the mistress of the world. Surely this was a great wonder, brought to pass by the supernatural providence of God alone. But such was actually the state of the church in the fourth century; and that state the prophet describes in the apposite and beautiful figure of " a woman clothed with the fun, " and the moon under her feet, and upon
her head, “ A Crown of twelve stars.” She is represented as clothed with the sun, to denote that she was protected by the light of the revealed word of God, and, like the fun, with her rays was imparting the truths of it to all parts of the earth; as well as that she was now, instead of being perfecuted by the power of paganism, placed under the protection of The greatest prince and empire in the world (for, to clothe, is to protect a person against the inclemency of the weather). The sun is also the type of a great prince, governing his subjects by the light of truth and righteousness. She is also described as having " the
moon under her feet," to signify that she had now subdued pagan idolatry; the moon being a proper type for that wicked fuperftition. For as the moon, although deriving light from the great luminary of the world, yet affords only a dim, faint, darkish light; fo heathen idolatry, though derived originally from the belief in a God, yet is so obscured and corrupted by polytheism, that it is only a faint and very imperfect light, to direct the reason and consciences of men, in the paths of truth and religion. Indeed the prophet, in divers other places, carries this beautiful allegory yet further, and compares atheism (that abandoned black system of darkness, which admits of no divine light or truth whatever)
unto the earth, because that body is impenetrable to, and incapable of receiving the rays of light, or of reflecting them when caft upon it. With respect to " the crown of twelve stars," it was intended to Thow, that the church had subdued and triumphed over pagan idolatry, by the labours and the light of the truth, propagated by the twelve apostles. Now if we consider the signs of this verse in the manner I bave tbus explained them, they were completely fulfilled in the fourth century, and describe the true state of the church in that period. For it was now, and not before, that Constantine the Great, emperor of Rome, put an end to pagan persecutions, became converted to Christianity, announced it by an edict as the only true religion, and earnestly recommended it to be embraced, throughout the wide extent of his dominions.
It was now the church of Chrilt appeared " clothed" with the truths of the revealed word of God, the “ fun" of righteousness; and also with the protection of the Roman empire (the greatest of all political suns, or temporal powers), Then the misireis of the world. And it was now, and not before, that she may be said to have the
moon," or heathen idolatry, “under her feet;" and
to wear a crown of twelve stars," as an emblem of the success of the labours of the twelve apostles. But from her rise down to that epoch, she had been unclothed, naked, that is, unprotected by any temporal power whatever, and opposed, persecuted, and oppreised: heathen idolatry being her persecuting
Nor was the entitled to wear a crown of “ twelve fiars,” in as much as she had no where established her religion. These, with other reasons; which I shall prefently offer to the confideration of : the reader, convince me, that neither this nor any other verse of this chapter refers to any events, in which pagan Rome was concerned, but to those which were to follow after she became Christian.