Page images
PDF
EPUB

wilt fall down and worship me,” (Matt. iv. 8, 9.) Whoever, to attain worldly eminence, relinquishes his trust in God, and deviates from the path of the divine laws, withdraws his allegiance from God, and transfers it unto the devil.–And this allegiance may also be transferred to the agents of the devil ; to the powers of this world, who promote his infernal interests in opposition to that heavenly kingdom, which we daily pray for, and which we are bound daily to promote.

Ib. Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?] The battle to be fought with the beast, who proclaims and enforces idolatry, is of a spiritual nature. They who, giving up their faith in God, worship after the ordinances of the beast, are overcome by him : but every faithful Christian, who adheres “to the word of the testimony, loving not his life, even unto death, overcomes him by the blood of the Lamb,” (ch. xii. 11.)

Ver. 5. Blasphemies.] These shall be considered, when we take into view the assistant beast and false prophet, who enabled the first beast to blaspheme to the utmost excess. (See note below, ch. xiii. 5,6,7.)

Ib. Power [to continue in action] forty-two months.] Ilointai, applied to time, signifies to continue, as in Acts xv. 33; xx.3; to continue, during this period, in his evil practices against the Church.

Verses 5, 6,7. And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, &c.] It will be useful to observe, that in Daniel vii. 8, 20, 25, the fourth, or Roman beast, does not obtain“ his mouth speaking great things,” (they are the very same words used by both prophets,) nor open his mouth for blasphemy, until he has produced the little horn, that is, after he has produced the ten kings. So in the Apocalypse, it is not in the first period of the beast's progress that he exalts himself so superbly, and becomes an object of worship. This exaltation is accomplished for him by the intervention of the second beast, his minister in iniquity, whose office and actions are described in the subsequent part of this chapter. But in this description of the first beast, ch. xiii, 1–9, we may discriminate his gradual progress; 1. Under verses 1 and 2, the Roman tyranny under its pagan persecuting emperors, to whom the apostate Christians literally offered incense; 2. (ver. 3.) His wound at the accession of Constantine ; 3. His recovery, and the great admiration of him in his new form; 4. His additional power and increased dominion, when, after his division into ten kingdoms, the little horn of Daniel, the false prophet, springs up in him ; when the harlot directs the reins, (ch. xvii.) The period of 1260 years seems to be that of his renewed life, and of his increased dominion, displayed in verses 5, 6, 7. [They who dwell in heaven,"] are not only the heavenly inhabitants, literally speaking, but the faithful Christians on earth, whose " conversation is in heaven;" whose“ building” and home are there; who account themselves“ strangers and pilgrims upon earth.” 1

1 Sce note, ch. ii. 7.

Ver. 8. Book of Life.] See note, ch. iii. 5.

Ver. 9. If any one have an ear, &c.] See note, ch. ii. 7.

Ver. 10. If any one leadeth into captivity, &c.] After the fearful picture exhibited of the victorious power of the beast, a comfort is derived from these words; which contain an assurance from the Almighty, that the wicked shall not finally prosper. The cause of iniquity sometimes flourishes during a long period, and under various instruments : but the individuals employed to promote its reign, have no lasting enjoyment or prosperity. They suffer in their turn the evils which they introduce, and inflict on others. This great truth in the providential government of God, is exemplified by Dr. Jortin, in the sufferings and deaths of the most noted persecutors." We have seen it exemplified in our own times, during the progress of the French revolution. The individuals who chiefly distinguished themselves in overturning legal government and promoting persecution, oppression, a beastly domination, and the overthrow of Christianity, enjoyed but a precarious and short-lived power. Most of them were cut off in the midst of their ambitious career, or consigned to misery in a distant, wretched colony.

1 Heb. xi. 9,13: Eph. ii. 6, 19; 1 Pet. i. 17. They are opposed to “ those who inhabit the earth,” and who are said to worship the beast, ch. xiii. 3, 8: xvii. 8..

The saints must be patient; the great day of recompense will surely come, (Heb. x. 36.) “ Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” (Luke xii. 32.) " And it is the office of the Messiah to lead captivity captive,” (Psa. lxviii. 18; Eph. iv. 8.)

Commentators of all ages have looked more or less to the Roman empire for the fulfilment of this prophecy; and the principal question of debate has been, whether it is to be found in the power abused under the heathen emperors, or under that afterwards usurped and equally abused by Christian, or, to speak more truly, antichristian Rome. The acute and eloquent Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, has exerted his best talents to maintain the former of these opinions. He built his system upon that of Grotius, who had employed much learning in his attempt to show the fulfilment of this prophecy in the heathen emperors, but especially in Domitian. The bishop applies it, with more apparent effect, to Dioclesian, and to his much longer and severer persecution. But his arguments have been examined, and refuted, by many Protestant writers; by none more ably than by Vitringa, who has shown that although in the early parts of the prophecy, it may, with great appearance of truth, be applied to the times of the heathen emperors, yet, that in the continuance of it,--in the subsequent chapters setting forth the progress, and actions, and end of the beast, all agreement ceases; and that we must have recourse to the times of the ten kingdoms rising out of the Roman empire, and the ecclesiastical power of Rome at the head of them, before we can see and acknowledge the fulfilment.

i Remarks on Eccl. Hist vol. iii. pp. 246_322.

Now as this notion of the prophecy being fulfilled in the heathen emperors who oppressed the primitive Christians was natural in those times, so with equal reason have the sufferers by papal persecution applied this prophecy to their times. The reformers in the sixteenth century, exposed to the same persecution from the same source, adopted similar contracted views of this prophecy, confining it, in their turn, to their own case.

But there are two circumstances in the symbolical prediction, which seem to require a more extended view and solution of it :-first, in verse the second of this chapter, the resemblance of this wild beast, not only to the fourth of the prophet Daniel, that is to the savage Roman empire, but also to the three which preceded it, the Greek, the Persian, and the Babylonian, seems plainly to indicate that in them also he is typified; and secondly, in verses seven and eight, it is pronounced expressly that “ power is given to him” (the power of the dragon) over all kindreds (or tribes) and tongues and nations, and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him whose names are not written in the book of lite of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.” Now this is a description of the inhabitants of the earth as general and universal as can be imagined, and has only one exception: it stretches far beyond the pale of the Roman empire, in all its divisions, whether of time or space, into all times wherein tyrannical rule has oppressed and enslaved mankind; in all portions of the globe where true religion, by its salutary influence, has not allayed the brutal passions of men.

Attention to this inherent part of the prophecy which has been overlooked by most of the commentators, has occasioned me to interpret it in the way that I have set forth. Mede very properly denominates this seven-headed beast, Bestia secularis, in contradistinction to the two-horned beast, whom he calls Bestia Ecclesiastica, (Works, p. 498 and 505.) The former seems to have been in action from the earliest times of government after the form patriarchal, even from the times of Nimrod.' But the later enormities which are displayed in the prophecy of Daniel, and in this and the ensuing chapters of the Apocalypse, during the appointed period of 1260 years, are to be dated only from the junction and co-operation of the two. These are now to be con

1 Gen, x. 8, 9. A mighty hunter," of men, say the commentators. He was the first who founded an extensive domination, or, to speak more properly, is specified as such in the history of mankind; for the short and confined view which the scriptural history has given us of the antediluvian world, attributes the divine anger which occasioned the Deluge in a great measure to this cause, “ the earth was filled with violence," the violence of “ mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Gen vi. 4, 11.

« PreviousContinue »