Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

to the flight of the woman into the wilderness, which occurs at the commencement of the 1260 years: they are obliged, to invent the fiction of a prolepsis, and to contend that the woman's flight is mentioned by anticipation out of its regular chronological order.

But, even to say nothing respecting the prophet's evident determination of this war to the times of the 1260 years, the artful construction of the hieroglyphic itself is alone sufficient to confute the opinion of our more ancient interpreters.

The scene of the war is laid in heaven : and, within the self-same heaven, the combatants, whether on the part of Michael or on the part of the dragon, are equally stationed. Now heaven, when interpreted secularly, denotes the imperial powers of temporal government : and, when interpreted ecclesiastically, it denotes the Church general with reference to its governing powers'. But, according to neither of these interpretations, can we place the Christians and the Pagans within the limits of the same heaven. For, antecedent to the time of Constantine, though the Pagans were in the secular heaven of temporal dominance, the oppressed and persecuted Christians were excluded from all participation of that heaven : and, though the oppressed and persecuted Christians were in the ecclesiastical heaven of the Church general, the unbelieving Pagans were obviously shut out from this

See above book i. chap. 1. §. 11. 1. (1.) (2.)

ecclesiastical heaven by virtue of their very

unbelief itself. Hence, if by the angels of Michael we are to understand the primitive Christians, and if by the angels of the dragon we are to understand the pagan Romans anterior to the reign of Constantine (as Mr. Mede and others contend); we shall find it utterly impossible to place these two distinct classes of agents, where the express terms of the prophecy require us to place them, within the limits of one and the same heaven. Such being the case, let the respective angels of Michael and the dragon mean what they may, they clearly cannot denote the primitive Christians and the pagan Romans anterior to the time of Constantine.

Thus does the very construction of the hieroglyphic, no less than the plain untortured chronology of the prediction, require us to seek for the events, to which the heavenly war relates, within the period of the 1260 years. To this period we are referred by the prophecy itself, in its plain and natural acceptation : and, in this period alone, when Christianity was universally established throughout the entire Latin Empire, can we find any series of events corresponding with the purport of the hieroglyphic. For, as the prophecy refers us to the period of the - 1260 years : so the hieroglyphic, by its very composition, teaches us to look for a series of struggles, on account of religion, between apostate Christian pastors and faithful Christian pastors, within the limits of one and the same figurative heaven, or within the limits of one and the same Western

Church general ; struggles, which should be marked by a bloody persecution of the latter, but which should at length mainly cease from the circumstance of the visible Western Church being no longer found a suitable stage for effective opposition to the truth.

(2.) The confutation of error has almost saved me the trouble of formally setting forth, what I conceive to be, the genuine application of the war in heaven.

So long as Satan found the apostate Church, over which the man of sin presided, a convenient engine for persecuting the faithful followers of Christ : just so long he took his stand in it, and employed an apostate priesthood as the fittest instrument of waging war against the saints of God. Hence originated all the horrors of those bloody persecutions, which so eminently characterised the dark succession of the middle ages. In every country throughout western Europe, the rage of Satan, as carried into effect by his ministers, was written in characters of blood and fire. But strength from above was given to our brethren, in the presence of their malignant accuser ; who, as of old under Paganism, delighted to charge them with promiscuous fornication, infanticide, atheism, manicheism, and even bestiality : so that they overcame him with the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, loving not their lives unto death.

This state of things continued, with more or less violence, until the close of the seventeenth century and the termination of the second woe; when a new scene began to open upon the world. Protestantism was now securely planted in all the north of Europe : and, by a gradual revolution in the sentiments of men, direct persecution for conscience sakė, even in papalising countries, became (if I may use the expression), with some trifling exceptions, unfashionable. This change of opinion has increased more and more down to the present day: insomuch that, although the two ancient witnessing Churches still prophesy in sackcloth, our reason and our humanity are no longer shocked to hear of attempts to convert the souls of pretended heretics by the application of fire to their bodies. In the hierogly. phical language of prophecy, Satan and his angels have been cast out of heaven. The dominant Church general has ceased to be, what once it was, the most convenient station, whence he might wage war against the angels of Michael. He has therefore yielded to circumstances, and has wisely chosen a different position ; well knowing, that the altered temper of the times required an altered mode of attack. But, if we refer to history, we shall assuredly find, that the time, when he relinquished his old station in heaven, and when the figurative war in that specific region was brought to a close, must have been about the end of the seventeenth century: at which time, the earthquake of the English revolution finally threw down a tenth part of the great city, the two witnessing Churches were restored to life, and the woe of the Turkish horsemen passed away.

On account both of this victory and of the spiritual victories of the faithful martyrs who loved not their lives unto death, the heavens and they that dwell in them are called upon to rejoice. Here, if I mistake not, the plural form is employed, because the many distinct heavens or Churches of the reformed, each a mansion in the general heaven or the visible Western Church, are the communities alluded to. Such I conceive to be the most easy and natural interpretation of the passage : but, if any person choose to understand the expression indefinitely, let him by all means reject it.

III. We now come to the third clause of the prophecy, which describes the consequences of the dragon's descent from heaven to earth.

Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And, when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he still persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child (Now to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time and two times and half a time from the face of the serpent').

'This idea is manifestly taken from that of Exodus, wherein the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness from the face of the Egyptians is described precisely after the same manner, as the sojourn of the woman in the spiritual wilderness from the

« AnteriorContinuar »