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that great period, except the momentary apparition of the pregnant woman and of the red dragon holding himself in readiness to devour her offspring. With this phantasm the vision opens indeed : but, in the next instant of time, St. John beholds the dejection of the stars by the dragon, the parturition of the woman, the abreption of her child to the throne of God, and the flight of the woman herself into the wilderness. · Such an arrangement, so far as I can judge, is: plainly required by the express language of the prophecy. St. John does not behold the woman during the period of her gestation; though he carefully specifies the period itself, because it serves as an index to mark the true epoch when the subsequent period of 1260 prophetic days commenced : but he sees her, for the first time, when on the very point of bringing forth, when in the very article of parturition ; in other words, he first sees her immediately before the commencement of those 1260 prophetic days during the lapse of which she is fed in the wilderness. One moment, he beholds her in the actual pains of child-birth : the next moment, she produces a son and flees into the wilderness where she hath a place prepared of God. Then commences the period of the 1260 prophetic days or of the latter three times and a half. She, being with child, cried, TRAVAILING IN BIRTH AND PAINED TO BE DELIVERED, says the Apostle: and the dragon stood before the woman WHICH WAS READY TO BE DELIVERED, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. Now a woman is only ready to be delivered, at the close of the forty weeks of her gestation. Hence, as St. John first beholds the woman, when she is ready and even pained to be delivered; as she flees into the wilderness, immediately upon her parturition; and as the 1260 prophetic days then commence : the present vision, like that of the two witnesses, must be viewed as opening with the latter three times and a half. Such being the case, the sackcloth-prophesying of the two witnesses will synchronise with the events detailed in the present vision as occurring while the desolate woman sojourns in the wilder
But we have had reason to believe, that the latter three times and a half commenced in the year 604". Therefore, if this belief be well founded, in the same year 604 must have occurred the several events shadowed out by the synchronical dejection of the stars, the parturition of the woman, the abreption of her child to the throne of God, and her own flight into the wilderness ?.
" See above book i. chap. 6.
· The great error, into which commentators have usually fallen in the interpretation of this vision, is the making it more or less completely precede, in point of chronology, the subsequent vision of the seven-headed and ten-horned wild-beast.
On such a principle, the persecution of the woman by the dragon has been referred to the persecution of Christianity by the Pagan Roman Empire ; the placing of the child upon the throne of God, to the establishinent of Christianity under Constantine ; the war between Michael and the dragon, to the struggle between Christianity and Paganism; the fall of the
I consider the present vision as by far the most difficult in the whole Apocalypse: yet the difficulty consists, not so much in ascertaining the general import of it, as in acquiring a distinct idea of the
dragon from heaven, to the final overthrow of idolatry; and the flood which he vomited from his mouth, to the irruption of the Gothic tribes into the Roman Empire.
Now all these events confessedly took place before the commencement of the 1260 prophetic days: and yet the vision opens with the parturition and immediate flight of the woman into the wilderness at the commencement of that very period. How, then, is the vision to be applied to events confessedly anterior to the commencement of the 1260 prophetic days ?
This is managed by the theory of a Prolepsis. We are told, by commentators who adopt the present scheme of interpretation, that the woman's flight into the wilderness at the com. mencement of the 1260 days, and her sojourn there during the continuance of that period, are mentioned purely in the way of anticipation. Hence, though the prophet describes the war between Michael and the dragon as occurring after the woman's flight at the commencement of the 1260 days, and though he places the flood which the dragon casts out of his mouth also after the commencement of the same period : we ought, nevertheless, to make them chronologically precede her flight, on the ground, that the flight and the 1260 days are mentioned only proleptically.
If such a mode of interpretation as this be allowable, we may, so far as I can understand the merits of the question, produce any thing out of any thing. As for the alleged Prolepsis, I vainly seek for any proof of its existence. The whole figment is a mere gratuitous assumption.
With the radical error which I have here pointed out, the various systems of Mede, More, Cressner, Whiston, the two Newtons, Whitaker, Cuninghame, Woodhouse, Bicheno, Holmes, and many others, are all more or less chargeable.
symbols under which it is conveyed. Hence the most satisfactory mode of discussion is, to begin with considering the terms of the prophecy, then to compare the machinery of the present vision with the machinery of its predecessor, and lastly to apply the hieroglyphical picture to corresponding events in history
1. Let us then, in the first place, attempt to gain some clear idea of the symbolical imagery, which is employed as the vehicle of the prediction. · The prophet looks up to heaven : and he beholds in it a woman who bears a man-child and a dragon which prepares to devour that man-child.
(1.) Heaven is the visible Church under its spiritual governors : but, as the figurative world, treated of in the Apocalypse, is the Roman world ; the heaven, here mentioned, must be the visible Church, as limited to the Roman Empire, and more especially as limited to the Western Empire since the fates of the Western Empire form the special subject of the little
book This visible Church, agreeably to our Lord's frequent description of it, comprehends both the holy and the unholy, both spiritual Christians and nominal Christians ?. Hence we may expect to find within it persons of very different and even opposite characters: nor need we be surprised, if we observe the evil spirit himself exerting his influence over a considerable part of it.
See above book i. chap. II. 1. (2.)
(2.) The woman, who is described as stationed in the figurative heaven, must obviously, from the very circumstance of her position, represent some certain portion of the visible Church of the Western Empire. Now the two portions, into which the visible Church is divided, are faithful worshippers and unfaithful worshippers. The woman, therefore, agreeably to the familiar custom of representing communities by females, must denote either the great body of faithful worshippers collectively or the great body of unfaithful worshippers collectively. She cannot denote the latter, because she is exhibited as the object of satanical hatred and persecution. Therefore she must denote the former.
Hence we may pronounce the woman to represent the collective body of God's faithful worshippers, though with a special geographical reference, throughout the present vision, to the Western Empire : in other words, she is the mystical or faithful Church of Christ'.
(3.) In the same heaven or visible Church with the woman, St. John also beholds a great red dragon or serpent.
This hieroglyphic, as we are repeatedly taught by the prophet himself, represents the evil spirit of darkness : yet the very circumstance of its peculiar conformation plainly shews, that it does not represent the devil simply or abstractedly. As Satan, in his persecution of the faithful, acts through the
· See above book i. chap. 1. § II. 5. (1.)