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little book) the first propagation of Christianity, the struggle between Christianity and Paganism, the final overthrow of idolatry, the attempt to restore Paganism in the reign of Julian, the discord excited in the Church by the followers of Arius, and the irruption of the northern barbarians into the empire. The main subject of the prophecy is the history of the 1260 days and this is ushered in by a very short preface, which was necessary to bring us acquainted with the chief characters of the drama.
The woman tra
vails, and bears a son. The dragon casts down a third part of the stars, and attempts to devour the child. The child is snatched up to the throne of God, and the woman flees into the wilderness. Then commence the 1260 days,-In the second place, the Bishop's supposition, that the dragon is pagan Rome, can scarcely be reconciled with the unequivocal declaration of St. John, that he is the devil. I have never been able to learn, upon what grounds his Lordship and Mr. Mede so peremptorily pronounce the dragon to be the pagan Roman empire; and, as if such an opinion could not be doubted, interpret the whole prophecy accordingly. Nothing can be more definite than the language of St. John. He tells us plainly, that the great dragon is "that old serpent, "called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the "whole world. *" If then the dragon be the devil,
* Rev. xii. 9.
how can he be the pagan Roman empire? The circumstance indeed of his being represented with ten horns shews, that the agent, through whose visible instrumentality he persecutes the woman, is the Roman empire: but it is absolutely impossible, that the dragon himself should be the pagan. Roman empire, because he is brought again upon the stage long after that empire had ceased to exist. Under the yet future sixth vial, an evil spirit is said to come out of his mouth * and, at the commencement of the Millennium, after the destruction of the beast and the false prophet, he is bound for the space of a thousand years, and cast into the bottomless pit. Nor is this all at the end of the thousand years he is again let loose to deceive the nations, and succeeds in forming the great confederacy of Gog and Magog; after the overthrow of which he is finally cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. It is observable, that in the course of the last prediction relative to him, he is no less than four times styled Satan and the devil: but, even independent of this circumstance, how is it possible that the pagan Roman empire can perform all the actions ascribed to the dragont? Bp. Newton himself allows him to be the devil at the close of his career. If then he be the devil in one part of the Apocalypse, he must surely be 'the devil in every other part.-In the third place, his conjecture,
* Rev. xvi. 13.
+ Rey. xx. 1-10.
that the man-child is Constantine, is equally incongruous with the analogy of scriptural language. The description of this man-child, that he should rule all nations with a rod of iron, is evidently borrowed originally from the second Psalm, where the universal dominion of Christ is predicted. The same mode of expression is twice likewise used in the Apocalypse to describe the power which Christ exercises both in his own person and through the instrumentality of the faithful*: hence surely it is very improbable, that it should here be intended to allude to Constantine. Had the prophet meant to have pointed out that prince, he would scarcely have used such very ambiguous phraseology, as must by his readers have been thought prima facie applicable, not to Constantine, but to Christ. -In the fourth place, the prolepsis, of which the Bishop speaks, is no where to be discovered in the plain simple language of the prediction. Nothing is there declared, but merely that the woman, in consequence of the dragon's violence, fled into the wilderness, where she continued 1260 days: that, during her sojourn there, a war took place between Michael and the dragon; the result of which was, that the dragon was cast out of heaven and that afterwards, still during her sojourn there, which the prophet carefully mentions a second time, the dragon vomited a great flood out of his mouth against her, in order that she
* Rev. ii. 27. and xix. 15.
might be completely carried away by it. In all this, I can perceive nothing like the slightest intimation of any prolepsis, but rather the very reverse: I can only discover a plain account of the woman's persecution during 1260 days: an account, which exactly tallies with the general subject of the little book; with the 1260 days prophesying of the witnesses in the preceding chapter, and with the 42 months' tyranny of the beast in the succeeding chapter. Hence I conclude, that this middle chapter of the little book treats of the same period, that its first and two last chapters treat of.-In the fifth place, the scene of the warfare between the woman and the dragon is laid, at least the beginning of it is laid, in heaven, or the Church general. The dragon, the persécutor, was a sign in heaven, no less than the woman, the persecuted. Whence it will follow, that the seven-headed and ten-horned dragon, must have stirred up this persecution against the woman through the instrumentality, not of a pagan, but of a nominally Christian, power. Heaven indeed is the symbol either of temporal or spiritual polity*: little doubt however can be entertained in which sense it is to be taken in the present instance, when we note that both the woman and the dragon were equally signs in this heaven. Where the woman was, there was the dragon also. But, in the days of Paganism, im
* See the preceding chapter upon symbolical language.
perial Rome alone occupied the temporal heaven: the Church was utterly excluded from it. The heaven therefore cannot be the temporal heaven. But, if it be not the temporal heaven, it must be the spiritual heaven, or the Church. And if it be the spiritual heaven, or the Church; then the war between the dragon and the woman can have no relation to the persecutions of pagan Rome, whatever the previous labour-pains of the woman may have for the empire, as pagan, never was in the spiritual heaven; and consequently cannot be the dragon, which the prophet declares to have been in the selfsame heaven with the woman. In no sense therefore, either temporal or spiritual, can the dragon, upon Bp. Newton's interpretation, be placed in heaven at the same time that the woman was there*.
* The interpretation, which Mr. Mede and Mr. Whitaker give of this prophecy, is nearly the same as that of Bp. Newton. The point in which they vary from each other is the man-child.
An exposition, essentially differing from that of all these writers has been offered by Mr. Bicheno. He supposes the dragon to be the Roman empire from its first rise down to the moment of its present existence in the German empire. While it was pagan, it was only a great red dragon: but, when it was converted to Christianity, and thus got into the Church, it acquired the additional character of Satan, or the serpent. Michael and his angels are the Goths and other northern nations. The heaven, out of which they cast the dragon, is Italy: the earth, into which he is cast, is the empire without the limits of Italy, or the Roman provinces. After he has been thus ejected