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the court and the treading of the holy city are the great occasion of the witnesses being clothed in sackcloth ; hence the 1260 days of the one must be contemporaneous with the 42 months of the other; hence also the time of the woman's residence in the wilderness must be the same with the time of the sackcloth state of the witnesses, because these different figures are intended to describe only one and the same condition of the church. The last of the two beasts is the hieroglyphic of that society, which, in chap. xi., is represented under the idea of Gentiles. And as the times of the Gentiles are contemporaneous with the times of the witnesses, the period of the sackcloth state of the witnesses must synchronize with that of the beast of the earth; but the beast of the earth is co-existent with the beast of the sea, and therefore the fulfilment of all these prophecies must commence in the same period; and when any of them receives its accomplishment, the period of the fulfilment of the rest may soon be expected.
The prophecy in the xii. chap. is the only one that will not admit of this application. It is extremely difficult to settle its chronology, or to say of what particular period we must understand its fulfilment ; and yet, unless this point be determined, it will be impossible to give any satisfactory explanation of the figures. The greater part of interpreters have understood the dragon-warfare, described in this chapter, of the persecutions of the Christian church under the Pagan state of the Roman empire; and have therefore referred the period of this war to the times between Nero and Constantine ; as it was under the first, that Christians began to be persecuted by public authority, and under the second, that the penal statutes of Pagan em, perors were repealed.
But though this view of the prophecy has been generally adopted, it does not appear to be correct. First, it is difficult to conceive how any prophecy, which respected events that were to be realized in the time of the seals, should have found a place among the prophecies of the little book. If it synchronizes with the seals, it must then be a supplement to the pro
phecies of the seals ; and the natural place which it might have been expected to occupy in the book of the Revelation, would have been at the close of the prophecy of the sixth seal, and before any account had been given of the blowing of the trumpets. It does not indeed become us to say which would have been the fittest place in the general series to have inserted any particular prediction ; but this much we may safely affirm, that it is not like John's usual method of arrangement, to insert a prophecy supplementary to a series of predictions, at the close of another series which refer to very different events. All the other prophecies of the little book are admitted to be supplements to the trumpets. And if these supplementary prophecies are placed where we would expect to find them, viz. immediately after that series of predictions which they are intended more fully to illustrate, what good reason can be assigned why the prophecy of the dragon,if it revert upon the times of Pagan Rome, and be intended to give a more expanded view of the condition of the church under the seals, is placed after the trumpets, and not immediately after the seals ?-Secondly, the place in which John first saw the dragon affords a conclusive argument against the common interpretation of this prophecy. He saw the dragon in heaven, ver. 3. ; and this symbolical heaven could not be any other society than the church: for it was the same heaven in which the woman clothed with the sun appeared, otherwise he could not have stood before her, to devour her child as soon as it was born. If the dragon is the symbol of the Roman empire, he must be intended to symbolize that state, after it became nominally Christian, and not before. In no sense could it ever be affirmed of any Pagan state, that it was in heaven. The dragon-warfare, therefore, cannot be meant of the persecutions of Heathen emperors, nor can the dragon be understood as the symbol of the Heathen state of that empire.
Some late interpreters consider the dragon-state of the empire to be the same with its Antichristian state ; and, therefore, suppose that the period of the dragon-war, as well as all the other events of the little book, falls within the limits of the 1260 days.—But this application can as little be admitted as the former, because it supposes the dragon and the beast of the sea to be either the symbols of contemporary powers, or only different ways of exhibiting the same power. But neither of these suppositions can be admitted. First, they cannot be the symbols of the same power, because they do not exist in the same place. The one has some sort of residence in heaven; the other is an inhabitant of the deep. Secondly, they can as little be understood of two different contemporary powers, because the one is represented as the successor of the other. "The dragon gave his power, and his seat, and great authority, to the beast of the sea,' chap. xiii. 2.
The dragon manifestly refers to a state of the empire, while it was united in one great association ; the beast of the sea, to its condition after the bands of this union were broken, and a multitude of independent states had risen up in its room. Accordingly the heads of the dragon were crowned, and his horns were naked; but the beast of the sea had no crowns upon his heads, while every horn of this monster was ornamented with the usual symbol of regal and independent authority. So long as the imperial government remained, the horns were naked ; because it was impossible that both an empire and a multitude of independent states could subsist together within the same limits. But, after the empire was broken into pieces, and ten different principalities rose up in its place, the crowns were then transferred from the heads to the horns, as in the beast of the sea.—The dragon appears to be the symbol of the imperial state of Rome before it was broken down by the inroads of the barbarians, and must precede the 1260 days; and as this dragon appeared in heaven, he cannot be the symbol of the Roman empire in any stage of its existence prior to the time in which Paganism was supplanted by Christianity. Hence the dragon-state of the empire must necessarily fall in between the time of Constantine the Great and the dissolution of the imperial government. This chapter is a prophetical account of the times which immediately preceded the rise of Antichrist, and made way for a complete development of his character. *
• When this Lecture was delivered (March 6, 1814), I did not then know of any writer that had adopted the same views of the prophecy, and therefore submitted the opinion expressed above with considerable diffidence. I am now happy to find, that the excellent Mr Fuller, in his Expository Discourses on the Apocalypse, has made the same application. There are two marks,' says he, by which the times referred to in this vision may, if I mistake not, be ascertained. One is the 1260 days or years, which being the appropriate number of the reign of the Papal Antichrist, proves it to have no reference to the times of Paganism. The other is, that the ten horns are not upon the beast, but upon the dragon, and the crowns are not as yet upon them, but upon the seven heads. When the horns are spoken of in reference to the times following the overthrow of the empire by the northern nations, and of its becoming ten independent kingdoms, they are described as being upon the beast, and as having crowns upon them, chap. xiii. 1. This indicates, that the introduction of the vision, contained in the first five verses of this chapter, though it does not go so far back as to the days of Paganism, yet neither does it go so far forward as to the times of Popery, but to those which were intermediate and preparatory; namely, the fourth and fifth centuries, in which Christianity became exceedingly corrupt, and a connexion was introduced between the secular and ecclesiastical powers, which issued in what is exhibited in chap. xvii., a woman riding upon a scarlet-coloured beast.
Mr Faber, who has many excellent observations upon the structure and design of the little book, very properly rejects the idea of the Heathen state of the Ro. man empire being intended by the dragon. He admits, that the woman and this adversary appear in the same heavens ; but, as his theory requires that every thing in the little book should fall to be accomplished within the 1260 days, he contends, that the dragon-war must be understood as continued to the close of this period. Mr Cunninghame, Dr M‘Leod, and some others, have adopted nearly similar views. But, as the beast of the sea is the great instrument of Papal persecution, and as this beast is the successor of the dragon, it is impossible that they can be contemporaneous powers. The dragon-war must be understood as brought to a conclusion before the beast of the sea can be employed as the instrument of Papal vengeance. It does not render Mr Faber's theory more consistent, that the dragon is called the devil, the old serpent, and Satan ; because, though the spirit of the devil has actuated the Roman state under all its different forms of government, the empire and the devil were never identified; the one was the agent, and the other the mere instrument of oppression. By means of the empire, he perse. cuted the church when that empire was Pagan as well as when it became Antichristian ; and, therefore, this view of the figure will no more prove that the dragon-warfare is continued through the whole period of the 1260 days, than it proves that the prophecy goes back to the times of the Heathen emperors.-If we consider the period of this prophecy as falling in between the times of Paganism and Popery, the figures will admit of an easy application, and the chapter will appear to be a natural introduction to the prospective history of the afflictions of the church during the 1260 days of the Antichristian state of the empire. The Man of Sin did not appear in all the plenitude of his power at once; his rise was gradual, and one design of this chapter is, to shew by what means he appeared. As Satan seduced the first woman under a profession of consulting her interest, so this adversary, through means of a nominal profession of Christianity which was assumed by the Roman state, cast down the stars of the ecclesiastical heavens, and made way for all the evils of the Papacy.
Having thus endeavoured to settle the chronology of the prophecy, I shall now consider the verses as laid in order before us :--The chapter is introduced with a beautiful and sublime description of the church, as she appeared to the prophet immediately before the commencement of her warfare with the dragon. The language of the description is the least of its beauties; yet even this is not unworthy of notice, and cannot fail to excite the admiration of any classical scholar. Here the church is represented under the idea of a married woman in an advanced state of pregnancy, who was about to be delivered, and to become the joyful mother of a son. Her husband, who is a truly dignified character, is the Prince of the kings of the earth, and Lord of heaven ; she is therefore described as a queen in heaven. Corresponding to the station to which she is advanced in consequence of her marriage with this exalted husband, she is presented to our notice as clothed in a robe of state, the drapery of which was formed by the rays of the sun.
Her throne was equally magnificent; the pedestal of it was the moon. And her crown was no less bril. liant and remarkable; for the constellations with which it was adorned were the stars of the sky. She was clothed with the sun, the moon was under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
This beautiful description, like the other parts of the book of the Revelation, is symbolical. The introductory expression in ver. 1. is a plain intimation of this : There appeared, says the prophet, a great wonder in heaven. The word which is here translated wonder, is, in the margin of some of your Bibles, rendered by the word sign, which last is both the most literal and the best translation, as it suggests the precise idea which the prophet meant to convey. All the contents, both of the sealed and of the open book, were disclosed to John by mystical signs and representations. He did not see the objects or things themselves; but mere pictures, analogical signs, or representations of them. The sign which he was now led to contemplate, is called great, not in respect of bulk or magni.