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Therefore, rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them'.
In my attempt to expound this part of the vision, I shall pursue the same method as that which I have followed in the elucidation of its former part. A general idea of its import must first be gained in the abstract : and then we shall be prepared to apply it to its corresponding event or events in history.
1. The grandiloquence of prophecy exhibits to us a war in heaven, carried on, by Michael and his angels on the one side, and by the dragon and his angels on the other side: but such imagery is purely what Bishop Hurd would call the embroidered robe, in which are enveloped certain literal matters of fact, that occur in this present nether world %.
As heaven denotes the visible Church general, though, in the predictions of the little book, with a special limitation to the Church general of the Western or Latin Empire : so the conflicting angels are, by the very necessity of the symbol, nothing more than mere mortal men, who, within the limits of one and the same general Church, take the opposite sides of a grand litigated question. In truth, the Apostle himself furnishes the key to his own phraseology. Scarcely are the angels of Michael brought upon the stage, when they are forthwith styled our brethren : and, respecting the nature of their victory over the dragon, it is said, that they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and that they loved not their lives unto death. Such a victory as this is clearly no victory achieved by the arm of violence: nor is it possible, that the victors themselves can be angelic spirits ; for they conquer by losing their lives, and they overcome through the blood of the Lamb and by their own faithful testimony to the truth. Nothing, therefore, can be more evident, than that the angels of Michael are mere mortal men: and, since the nature of the angels of Michael is thus determined to be that of simple humanity, we are bound by analogy to conclude, that the angels of the dragon are mere mortal men likewise.
1 Rev. xii. 7-12.
• See Bp. Hurd's Introd. to the study of Proph. serm. ix. vol. ii. p. 107.
• The warriors, then, on either side, are embodied men, not unembodied spirits : and, with respect to the specific character of these men, it is fixed, if I mistake not, by the common appellation which is borne alike by the individuals of each conflicting army. In the phraseology both of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, those, who either are or who claim to be the priests and ministers and delegates of the Most High God, are styled the. angels or messengers of the Lord'. Hence, I
Hagg. i. 13. Malach. ii. 7. Rev. i. 20. ii. 1, 8, 12, 18. iii. 1, 7, 14. For a full discussion of this curious subject, see my VOL. JII.
think, we may safely conclude, that the combatants in the figurative heaven or in the literal Church general of the Western Empire, whom St. John himself with strict congruity declares to be men, are the priesthood of the Latin Empire, who, in the course of the latter 1260 years, variously espouse the cause, either of apostatic error on the one hand, or of pure Christianity on the other hand.
To such a conclusion, accordingly, we are brought by the very conformation of the dragon. In the Apocalypse, he acts, not simply, but through the medium of his borrowed members : and those borrowed members, his seven heads and his ten horns, are the constituent parts of the Roman Empire ; the ten horns and the last head being seated exclusively in the West. His angels or messengers, therefore, must be the Latin priesthood, who support the interest of the great demonolatrous Apostasy. Whence, conversely, the angels or messengers of Michael the archangel or chief messenger (who, from all the attributes ascribed to him, seems to be no other than Christ himself ") will be the priesthood of those various Western Churches, which either (like the Churches of the Vallenses and the Albigenses) needed no reformation, or which (like the more modern protestant Churches) have carefully reformed themselves from the unscrip
Treatise on the three Dispens, book i. chap. 7. & II, 1. vol. i. p. 365-380. ? See Bp. Horsley's Serm. vol. ii. serm. 29. p. 419–426.
tural doctrines and practices of the corrupt Latin communion.
This, then, being the character of the combatants in the figurative heaven or in the literal Church general of the Western Empire, the war in question will be a contest, between the Latin priesthood on the one side, and what in general terms may be styled the protestant priesthood on the other side : a contest, in the course of which many of the saints, though (like their divine Master upon the cross) spiritually victorious over Satan, suffer the death of the natural body by the brutal hand of persecution.
Yet a victory even of a different description is finally achieved : for the dragon is at length compelled, to descend from heaven, and to take his stand upon earth as affording him after his defeat a more suitable place for his future machinations against the faithful. This change of scene it is of the last importance to notice. The war itself is carried on in heaven: and heaven, agreeably to the character of the warriors engaged in it, apostates on the one hand and martyrs on the other, denotes the visible Church general limited in the present prophecy to the West. But the scene is afterward shifted to the earth : and the earth, throughout the whole Apocalypse, denotes the territorial Roman Empire. Still, however, the enmity of the dragon experiences no abatement. He again, as we shall hereafter see in the subsequent part of the prophecy, attacks the people of God from the earth, as he had heretofore attacked them from heaven.
His malice is the same, though the theatre of his operations is remarkably changed. : On these principles, therefore, the abstract purport of the hieroglyphic is plainly this.
Within the visible Church general of the Western Empire, which Satan finds during that particular period to be his most convenient stage for action, a struggle takes place, between an apostate priesthood on the one hand, and a faithful priesthood on the other hand. While it continues, the faithful are subjected, for the truth's sake, to much bitter persecution : but, through the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, they both spiritually conquer; and they also at length, partly by the diffusion of their principles and partly by some change in the temper of the times, so far literally conquer, that Satan is constrained, to relinquish the visible Western Church general as the field of warfare, and henceforth to carry on his attack from the secular Roman Empire as now affording him a more convenient and efficacious station for the
of annoyance. 2. Such is the abstract meaning of the hieroglyphic, when translated into plain language: our next business is that of historical application. Ć (1.) Our older expositors have, I believe, universally supposed the war between Michael and the dragon to shadow out the contest between Christianity and Paganism, which, in the reign of Constantine, closed with the defeat and ejection of the latter. Hence, as this war is spoken of subsequent