Page images
PDF
EPUB

was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world : he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ : for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their

testimony ; and they loved not their lives unto death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and the sea ! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

“ And, when the dragon saw, that he was cast unto the earth, he (still) persecuted the woman, which brought forth the man-child. (Now to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle,* that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.) And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman ; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Throughout the whole of the present prophecy, we cannot too attentively keep in mind, that the dragon is neither the Roman empire nor the Pope, although the instigator of them both, but simply the devil : for this clear discrimination of character, which the Apostle anxiously as it were insists upon, will alone lead us to a

This idea is manifestly taken from that of Exodus, wherein the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness, from the face of the Egyptians, is described precisely in the same manner as the sojourn of the woman in the spiritual wilderness, from the face of the serpent. “ Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians : and how I bare you en eagle's wings, and brought you unto myself.” (Exod. xix. 4.) Bp. Newton, agreeably to the plan of interpretation upon which he set out, and which I cannot but think wrong, seems to imagine, that, the eagle being the Roman ensign, the two wings may allude to the Eastern and Western empires.

right understanding of what is meant by his full from heuven to earth. So long as Satan found an apostate Church a convenient engine for persecuting the faithful followers of Christ, just so long he continued in it: but, when the age of superstition and ecclesiastical tyranny was past ; when the papal thunders were no longer regarded ; and when he found, that the two witnesses ascended up into heaven, not only in Germany, but in Britain, Sweden, and Denmark, in despite of all his attempts to prevent them : then it became time for him to quit his ancient station, and to seek some more convenient battery against the symbolical woman. Driven from heaven or the Church, and finding that he could vo longer execute his gigantic plans of mischief through the instrumentality of the Papacy, he next took his stand upon the earth, and again renewed his attacks upon the woman and her mystic offspring with more virulence than ever. Not but that he still retained his influence over the apostatical heaven, and over many of those stars whom his long-fostered superstition bad cast down to the ground : but the Roman church was henceforth only an inferior consideration with him : like a worn out instrument, its blows were not now attended with their former effects : a new station must be assumed, whence in an age of literature and refinement the woman and the remnant of her seed might be assailed with a greater probability of victory. This station, we learn from the prophet, was the curth, or the secular Roman empire. Satan, no longer arrayed like an angel of light, like a minister of the Church of Christ, now assumed the garb of humanity, liberality, candour, and philosophy : and prepared to vomit forth from the dark' dens of atheism and infidelity that flood, with wbich he hoped to carry away his enemy. .

Flectere si ncqueo superos, Acheronta movebo. From this general statement, I shall descend to particulars. The war between Michael and the dragon does not, I apprehend, relate exclusively to the war between the witnesses and the beast, mentioned in the preceding chapter, although it doubtless comprehends it as a part

of one great whole. The difference between them is sufficiently striking to justify this supposition. The war of the witnesses took place in only one particular street of the great city. The war of Michael was carried on in the Church general. The war of the witnesses was fought upon earth : whence we may conclude, that it was not only a spiritual one, as being fought by the witnesses; but also a literal one, like those of the Saracenic locusts and Turkish horsemen, as being fought upon earth, and with a material enemy, the last head of the beast. The war of Michael was fought in heaven; and the weapons of his soldiers were, not carnal, but spiritual ; for they overcame the dragon “ by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death." This second war therefore comprehends the spiritucl, though not the literal, part of the former war of the witnesses. It was not, like the first, begun and ended within t' e space of a few years : but it was a long-continued struggle between the powers of light, and the powers of darkness. It commenced with the Apostacy itself : it raged with dreadful fury in the age of the Waldenses and Albigenses : it issued in a signal victory at the time of the reformation, the victory here celebrated by the prophet : but it will continue, with abated violence, even after Satan has chosen a different and more forinidable station, to the very end of the 1260 years ; for, throughout the whole of this period, are the saints to be given into the hand of the papal horn, and the witnesses to prophesy in sackcloth. At the era of the reformation then, the great victory of Michael over the dragon was achieved. Then it was, that " salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ,” were manifested. Then it was, that “the accuser of our brethren was cast down, which accused them before our God, day and night,' of the very same crimes which he had heretofore alledged against the primitive martyrs and confessors ; promiscuous fornication, infanticide, and even bestiality. Then it was, that “the heavens, and they that dwell in them,” were called upon to rejoice ; heavens, because the boasta ed catholicism of the Roman heaven was now annihilated, VOL. II.

9

and many reformed heavens or churches were established, differing indeed unhappily in ecclesiastical polity, but holding one head even Christ. And then it was, that a woe was proleptically denounced against “the inhabiters of the earthor the papal Roman empire in general, and “ of the seaor a part of it which was shortly to be convulsed by revolution in particular ; even that third woe, which was to be so much more tremendous than either of its two predecessors : " for the devil had come down unto them, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.He had many years reigned triumphant in the Church under the first and second woes, during the long period of the latter days, during the age of superstition and idolatry : but his final great attempt to destroy the woman under the third woe, during the period of the last days, during the age of atheism and profane mockery, is to be comparatively only a short time. He was cast indeed from heaven under the second woe ; but his peculiar time, the short time alluded to by the Apostle, commenced with the sounding of the third woetrumpet. For this last great woe he had been diligently preparing, ever since his signal defeat by Michael and his angels : but bis scheme was not ripe for execution, till the blast of the seventh trumpet gave the signal for the open developement of infernal anarchy, and updisguised hostility to the God of heaven. The seventh trumpet, as we have seen, began to sound on the 12th of August in the year 1792, immediately after the last shock of the earthquake on the 10th of August, when the French revolution may be considered as accomplished. Now, supposing the Apostacy to have commenced in the year

606, it will be evident, that of the 1260 years only 74 remained unelapsed in the year 1792 : consequently Satan had but a very short time for the accomplishment of his last plan, compared with the preceding centuries of his sway in the church of Rome.

In order the more fully to perceive the exact fulfilment of the prophecy now under consideration, it will be proper to trace the steps of the dragon, after he was cast out of heaven, and before the complete revelation of Antichrist took place under the third woe-trumpet.

At the revival of letters in Europe, the first discovery, that was made, was that of the multifarious absurdities maintained by the Church of Rome. These had long been held up to the world as the essentials of Christianity; and every impugner of them had been treated as a heretic. The consequence was, that the mummeries of Popery were charged upon the Gospel : and, because they were evidently ridiculous superstitions, it was thought to be ridiculous superstition likewise. Hence arose scepticism ; which the subtle enemy of mankind soon matured into infidelity, and even into atheism.

The prophecy teaches us, that, when the dragon quitted heaven, he retired to the earth, and the sea : and history testifies, that it was not long, ere the fruits of his labours were abundantly evident in France, Germany, and Italy. “ It is certain,” says Mosheim, " that in the sixteenth century there lay concealed in different parts of Europe several persons, who entertained a virulent enmity against religion in general, and in a more especial manner against the religion of the Gospel ; and who, both in their writings and in their private conversation, sowed the seeds of impiety and error, and instilled their odious principles into weak and credulous minds. It is even reported, that in certain provinces of France and Italy, schools were erected, whence these impious doctrines issued.”* These continental infidels may be considered as the real fathers of our English free-thinkers. Accordingly " the histories of those times bear witness, that our English youth, who travelled even so early as the reign of James the First, returned too often with the seeds of vice and infidelity, which they gathered with the knowledge and the manners of more polished countries : and the court of Charles the second displays, in a very striking manner, the principles and habits, which the King and his Nobles had learned upon the continent.

It is probable, that from some one of these secret schools proceeded the famous pamphlet of the tbree impostors, meaning Moses, Christ, and Mobammed: if indeed there ever were such a pamphlet. Infidelity prevailed even among the Popes themselves; as if, disgusted with the absurdities of the very superstition which was so profitable to them, they had sought refuge in the bosom of atheism. The blasphemy of Leo the tenth is well known. « This fable of Jesus Christ,” said he to Cardinal Bembo,“ hath done us good service.” According to the Romanists, every Pope is infallible : what sentiments will they entertain of Leo ?

« PreviousContinue »