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280 years before the epoch of her parturition in the year 604, when the 1260 years appear to have commenced. But, about the same time, the sealing of the figurative Israelites, in the age of Constantine and under the sixth apocalyptic seal, must have océurred. For the sixth seal, the period of which runs into the period of the seventh seal agreeably to the analogy of the whole septenary, was opened in the year 313; when Constantine, about five months after the conquest of Italy, made a solemn and authentic declaration of his sentiments, by the celebrated edict of Milan': and it was in the year 324, when, after the defeat and death of Licinius, he reigned without a colleague sole lord of the Roman Empire, that he publicly announced to the world by a special edict his own conversion to the faith of Christ and consequently the important fact that henceforth the Gospel was to be deemed the religion of the court”.
The year 324, then, seems to be the era, when the figurative sealing of the 144,000 faithful Israelites commenced : for, at that time, the truly spiritual Christians began to be separated into a distinct collective body from the secular converts to the court religion and from the multitude now rapidly degenerating into abject superstition. In this year, therefore, the woman, who symbolises the collective body of the faithful, began to be separated from the corrupt mass of the outward professing
See above book iv, chap. 3. § II. 1.
visible Church. But, to this identical year 324, we are numerically directed to ascribe the commencement of her allegorical gestation : for, as her parturition took place in the year 604, her gestation must have commenced 280 years earlier ; that is to say, her gestation must have commenced in the precise year 324.
Now her son, the man-child, answers, as we have seen, to the two witnesses of the preceding vision : while the woman herself answers to the collective body of measured worshippers. Hence the manchild symbolises the Vallensico-Albigensic Church : and his mother symbolises the general collective body of the faithful, from the year 324 down to the end of the 1260 years, though with a limitation (as noted above) during the lapse of the 1260 years to the Western Empire. Such being the case, the man-child, during the period of his mother's gestation, represents the Vallensico-Albigensic Church, undistinguished from the collective body of the faithful because not yet set apart for its appointed task during the lapse of the 1260 years, though separated conjunctively with that body, by the mystical act of sealing, from the great mass of the now corrupt and secularised visible Church : while the same man-child, subsequent to his mother's parturition, represents the same Vallensico-Albigensic Church, now distinguished or set apart from the collective body of the faithful for the purpose of executing the task which is specially allotted to it as a Church during the entire period of the latter 1260 years.
• Thus we see, that the antecedent term of the woman's gestation accurately marks out the period, during which the faithful had continued to separate themselves from a now corrupt and secularised Church visible previous to the commencement of those 1260 years, throughout which an eminent ecclesiastical branch of the faithful was destined to prophesy in sackcloth against the abominations of the completed demonolatrous Apostasy. This separation is determined, by the vision of the sixth seal, to the age of Constantine : and the voice of prophecy is most remarkably corroborated by the testimony of the Vallenses themselves; for (as we have seen above) they fix their own separation from the corrupt visible Church to the time of Pope Sylvester the contemporary of Constantine, pronouncing that Pontiff to be St. Paul's man of sin,' and declaring that from that epoch the Church at large perished or ceased to be the faithful spouse of Christ.
Here, then, we incidentally obtain a new proof, that the 1260 years must have commenced in the
The gestation of the woman commenced, when the figurative 144,000 Israelites were, by the act of sealing, separated from the great body of the visible Israel. But this separation, agreeably to the necessary chronology of the sixth apocalyptic seal, must have taken place in the time of the Emperor
Constantine and the Pope Sylvester : and a more proper definite era for its commencement cannot be pitched upon, than the year 324, when Constantine, by avowing himself a convert to Christianity, henceforth made it the religion of the court. The period, however, of the woman's gestation comprehends, agreeably to the economy of nature, 40 prophetic weeks or 280 prophetic days or 280 solar years : and her parturition takes place exactly at the commencement of the 1260 years. Let us, then, reckon 280 years downward from the year 324, and we shall be brought to the year 604. Consequently, in the year 604, the parturition of the woman must have taken place, and the 1260 years must have commenced.
As for the state of the visible Church general, immediately before and unremittingly after the mystic sealing of the 144,000 Israelites, or immediately before and unremittingly after the commencement of the gestation of the now separated woman, nothing can more lamentably shew the need of such a sealing or separation of the faithful.
In the year 317, commenced the Arian heresy ; which, spreading into the West, was not finally extinguished until the year 600'. Shortly afterward, in the year 345, sprang up the fanatical and ferocious sect of the Donatists?. Synchronically with
' Gibbon's Hist. of the Decl. vol. iii. p. 314, 329—332; 350-396. vol. vi. p. 301, 302,
; Ibid. vol. iii. p. 398—402.
schism and heresy, the predicted 'demonolatrous Apostasy of the latter days, though not yet perfected by the acquisition of its lawless head, was making rapid inroads into the visible Church ". And, to complete the deformity of this dismal picture, with heresy and schism and superstition was associated a bitter spirit of animosity and bigotry:
II. We now come to the second clause of the vision; which describes a war, between Michael and his angels on the one side, and the dragon and his angels on the other side.
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon : and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not ; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon 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.
"Gibbon's Hist. of Decline, vol. v. p. 115–118, 123, 124, 126-136, ? Ibid. vol. iii.