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ticed by Daniel, but likewise seven heads ; and that his shape was compounded of all the three beasts which preceded him, the Babylonian lion, the Medo-Persian bear, and the Macedonian leopard.
1. This general position being established with the full original consent even of Bp. Newton himself, the first point to be considered is, in what sense St. John could be said prophetically to behold the rise of the Roman empire, when it had already been in existence many ages before he was born, and when even he himself unequivocally declares such to be the case.*
The Apostle affords us two distinct solutions of this important question : first by teaching us that the beast, after his rise from the sea, should have power given him to continue forty two months or 1260 years,t the very period during which his little horn was to carry on its persecutions against the saints; and afterwards by telling us, that this same beast " was, and is not, and yet is. Hence it appears, that, in some sense or another, the Roman beast was to possess a wonderful peculiarity which should most essentially distinguish him from his three predecessors in universal empire : he was first to exist; afterwards he was to cease to exist ; and lastly, he was again to come into existence.
“ 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.”
From comparing this passage with St. John's assertion, that he saw the beast arise out of the sea, and that having this arisen he was to possess power forty two months; it will be manifest, that the second period of the beast's existence begins with, terminates with, and is therefore exactly commensurate with, the 1260
* See Rev. xvii. 10. t"Power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." What is here translated continue ought rather to be translated Hebraically practise or prosper. Now the Roman beast revived, and began to practise, when he delivered the saints into the band of his little born : consequently the period of his practising, and tbe reign of his little bpra, are necessarily commensurate. See Bp. Newton's Dissert. on Rev. xiii.
years of the great Apostacy : consequently, that it precisely co. incides with the tyrannical reign of his own little horn during a time, times, and half a time; with the treading of the holy city under foot during forty two months ; with the prophesying of the two witnesses during 1260 days; and with the flight of the woman into the wilderness, from the face of the dragon, during the same period.*
The near alliance of the Apostacy and the beast will lead us to the right understanding of what is meant by his having been, his not being, and his renewed existence. “ A beast," as Bp. Newton most truly observes, and as I have already very fully stated in a preceding chapter, “A beast, in the prophetic style, is a tyrannical idolatrous empire : the kingdom of God und of Christ is never represented under the image of a beast." This being the case, an empire is said to continue in existence as a beast, so long as it is a tyrannically idolatrous empire : when it puts away its idolatry and tyranny, and turns to the God of heaven, the beast, or those qualities whereby the empire was a beast, ceases to exist, though the empire itself may still remain : and, when it resumes its idolatry and tyranny, though they may not perhaps bear precisely the same names as its old idolatry and tyranny, it then once more recommences its existence in its original churucter of a beast. So singular a circumstance as this never happened either to the Babylonian beast, the Medo-Persian beast, or the Macedonian beast. Whatever may have been the sentiments of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede, and his nephew Cyrus ; whatever decrees they may have promulged in favour of true religion throughout their widely extended dominions ; whatever privileges they may have granted to the ancient people of God: the voice of history bears ample testimony, that their subjects, as a body, never ceased to be idolaters.* But this
See the preceding 5th cbapter of this work. This coincidence of times seems to have been the principal reason why the ten-borned beast has been so frequently confounded with his own little born or tbe Papacy : each was to continue in power 1260 days.
t“ — the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” The Complutensian edition reads « was, and is not, and yet shall be.” • Though the Persians, in the time of Xerxa's famous expedition, were pro
singular circumstance has happened to the Roman beast, and to the Roman beast alone. That empire was originally a beast, by its profession of paganism, and by its persecution of the first set of men of understanding mentioned by Daniel :* it ceased to be a beast under Constantine the great, when it embraced Christianity, and became the protector of the church: and it again relapsed into its bestial state, when it set up the tyrannical supremacy of the Pope, adopted the worship of saints and martyrs, and bitterly persecuted the second set of men of understanding.† Now the beast erected the spiritual domination of the Pope in the year 606, by conferring upon him the prerogatives of universal episcopacy. Consequently then it was that the beast arose out of the sea, or out of the turbulent times of Gothic invasion, in his third or revived state : and he may be considered as having firmly taken his station upon the shore, when in the year 607 idolatry was openly re-established in the old heathen Pantheon. In this state,the dragon, or Satan, is said to have given him “his power, and his seat, and great authority ;” in the same manner as he had given them to him before, when the resolute advocate of paganism. fessed iconoclasts ; yet, notwithstanding Dr. Hyde's laborious attempt to prove the contrary, I cannot but think it sufficiently evident, that they worshipped, possibly not altogether excluding the true God, the Sun, the Moon, and the Host of Heaven, in conjunction with their diluvian ancestors. * Dan. xi. 33.
+ Ver 35. | It is in this same third or papally idolatrous state that tbe beast “ shall go into perdition,” or be utterly destroyed, as St. John in perfect harmony with Daniel specially informs us. (Rev. xvii. 11.-Dan, vii. 11.) After his division into ten kingdoms, and " because of the voice of the great words which the born spake;" that is to say, when he has again become a beast by upholding the papal superstition, as he was before a beast by supporting the abominations of paganism : in this last state he goeth into perdition.' " He shall not, as he did before, cease for a time, and revive again; but shall be destroyed for ever.” (Bp. Newton's Dissert. on Rev. xvii.) Hence we may conclude, that, since the beast is to be destroyed on account of bis little bera, he will continue firmly leagued with bis little born to the very time of the end. Accordingly, as Daniel describes the beast and bis little born as perishing together, so St. John teaches us that the same beast and the false propbet shall be involved in one common ruin fighting against the Word of God. (Rev. xix. 20.) The necessary result of this statement is, that we must not expect any further reformation; but, on the contrary, that the followers of the Pope will become hardened in their false doctrines, and judicially blind to the clear denunciations of Scripture, so that like the Jews of old they shall unwittingly accomplish the oracles of God. As blindness in part hath happened unto Israel ; so, because the Papists received not the love of truth that they might be saved, God hath sent them strong delusion that they should believe 2 lie.' (See 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11.) Mr. Whitaker, to whom the thanks of every Protest
II. The next point to be considered is the symbolical import of the seven heads of the beast, and especially of his last head.
It is to be observed, that, although the seven-headed and ten-horned beast arose out of the sea in the year wherein the Apostacy commenced, we are not on that account to suppose, either that all his seven heads were then in existence, or all his ten original horns. The symbol of an Empire must be so constructed as to take in the whole history of that Empire: whence, if we contemplate it at any given period previous to its final dissolution, some members of the symbol will unavoidably relate to past events, some to present events, and others to future events. This, we are specially informed by St. John, is the case with the present symbol.
“ Here is the mind, which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. They are also seven kings (or forms of government:) 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.”
From this passage we learn, that the seven heads have a two-fold mystical signification ; alluding both to the seven hills upon which the city of Rome was founded, and to seven different forms of government which either had arisen or should rise in the Roman empire. At the time when St. John wrote, five of these forms had already fallen, and the sixth was then in actual existence: there
ant, particularly at the present juncture, are due for his well-timed and masterly statement of the abominations of Popery, observes, that “ above a century ago Puffendorff expressed an opinion, that for the future, in all probability, the Pope would by degrees gain ground on the protestants, and stated what makes any real reformation in the doctrine of his followers impossible : that, if it should once be granted, that the Pope has hitherto maintained but one single erroneous point, his infallibility would then fall to the ground; and, if that were removed, the whole superstructure of his ecclesiastical sovereignty, which is founded on it, must fall too." (Comment. p. 460.) Ought not this consideration to put protestants upon their guard how ihey give any encouragement to the encroaching spirit of Popery?
* Two of the tbree borns, which were to be plucked up before the little born, namely the kingdom of the Heruli, and the kingdom of the Ostrogoths, were fallen previous to the gear 606; as were likewise five out of the seven beads, or forms of government. Sir Isaac Newton justly remarks, that, “ whatever was their number afterwards, they (the ter borns) are still called tbe ten kings from their first number."
is no difficulty therefore, and consequently no dispute, in settling what is meant by the first six heads of the beast. Two Roman historians indeed have satisfactorily decided this point for us, by teaching us, that, previous to the sixth or imperial form under which St. John lived, their country had been subject to exactly five others; namely kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and military tribunes with consular authority.* The only point then, liable to dispute, is, what form of Roman government is intended by the last head : and here, I think, there cannot be much dispute, if we only compare prophecy and history together.
I have stated, that the beast arose out of the sea in the year 606, when he delivered the saints into the hand of his little horn by conferring upon the Pope the right of universal supremacy. Then it was, that he relapsed into his bestial state, and consequently then it was, that he began to exist afresh. Hence, since five of his heads had fallen in the days of St. John; and since the same imperial sixth head, that was originally an idolatrous head, and afterwards ceased to be so, constituted the Bishop of Rome a tyrant over the Church : hence, I say, it appears, that the beast began to exist afresh under his sixth : that is to say, the beast both was, is not, and began again to be, under one and the same sixth head : consequently, in point of chronolgy, when the beast revived, his last head had not arisen. In the symbol however it was necessary that he should be represented complete in all his members, though some of those members, as I have just observed, unavoidably relate to past events, some to present events, and some to future events. According, ly the beast, when he emerged from the sea, appeared to St. John complete with all his seven heads, notwithstanding five of those heads were already fallen, and notwithstanding the last head was not as yet in existence, In order to assist us in our inquiries after this last head, the prophet observes, that, whenever it did come, it should be a double head, consisting of the seventh head melting, as it were, into the eighth head; and that it
. Liv. Hist. L. 6. C. 1. Tacit. Annal. L. 1. in initio. cited by Bp. Newtor.