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commencement of the 1260 years. Long previous to that era there was a grievous individual apostasy from the faith. The whole Roman em- . pire was gradually corrupted; and this corruption paved the way for the developement of an authorized apostasy, and the revelation of the man of sin. The dragon had indeed crept into the Church before the commencement of the 1260 years; but that period is the peculiar time, during which he is permitted to reign, and during which the saints are openly given into the hand of the little horn: hence the woman is said to flee from his face, during precisely that period, into the wilderness, as Elijah heretofore did from the face of Ahab: And there, in the midst of the spiritual barrenness which spreads far and wide around her, she is fed with the heavenly manna of the word in her prepared place; as Elijah was, in the waste and howling desert, by the
4. Thus far the prophecy is sufficiently easy of interpretation, but the character and birth of the man-child are attended with no small degree of difficulty. That he must be Christ in some sense, is manifest, as Mr. Mede very justly observes* . but the matter is, how we are to interpret his birth and character, so as to make them accord with the general tenor of the prediction.
* "Cum verba sint Christi periphrasis, necesse est ut iisdem Christus aliquis designetur." Comment. Apoc. in loc.
seems at once extremely harsh, and altogether incongruous with the universal phraseology of Scripture, to suppose that the absolutely literal Christ can be intended by this symbol; for our Lord is invariably represented as the husband, never as the son, of his Church. Hence Mr. Mede conceives, that the mystic Christ is here meant, or Christ considered in his members; in other words, that by the man-child we are to understand the zohole body of the faithful, or the spiritual children of the Church. The greatest difficulty however yet remains. Supposing this interpretation of the symbol to be the right one, how are we to interweave it with the prediction, so as to make them properly harmonize together? Mr. Mede believes the pains of the woman previous to her parturition to denote the persecutions of the Church during the days of paganism; the birth of the child to mean the spiritual birth of the faithful by baptism; and the catching up of the child to the throne of God to signify the introduction of the Christians into sovereign power by the conversion of the Roman empire under Constantine. But, if the man-child symbolize the whole body of the faithful, and if his birth denote the spiritual birth of the faithful; why should they be said to be born in the age of Constantine rather than in any other age, since numbers of spiritual children still continue to be born to the Church by the laver of regeneration, 'and will thus continue to be born to the end of the world?
Mr. Lowman's scheme appears to me liable to fewer objections than Mr. Mede's. Like myself he confines the whole war between the woman and the dragon to the period of the 1260 years, instead of going back to the days of primitive Christianity, and the age of Constantine; and most justly observes, that the prediction "plainly
describes an afflicted and persecuted state of "the Church in general, during this period." Having taken this ground, which to myself at least appears absolutely impregnable inasmuch as it is twice so particularly marked out by the Apostle*. he paraphrases the passage relative to the birth of the man-child, as follows. "The woman ready to be delivered brought forth a man-child, to
intimate that the Christian Church should be "continued by a constant succession of converts, "notwithstanding all opposition. Thus Christ's "kingdom should prevail over all enemies, and "break all opposition, as the ancient oracles prophesied concerning him, That he should rule "all nations as with a sceptre of iron. As soon as "this child was born, I beheld it caught up to "God and his throne, to intimate God's care and " protection of the true Christian Church, and the "safety of the Church in God's protection t."
*Rev. xii. 6, 14.
+ Lowman's Paraph. in loc, He adds in a note, "Grotius "supposes, I think, with great probability, that these expressions, And her child was caught up unto God and his throne
This exposition contains much that is excellent, though I cannot esteem it wholly satisfactory. In the first place, Mr. Lowman assigns the prophecy to its right chronological era; namely, the period of the 1260 years. And, in the next, he adopts the most natural interpretation of the catching up of the man-child to the throne of God; namely, that it signifies the superintending care with which the Almighty for ever guards his faithful people. Yet even this exposition is not free from every objection. The question will ftill recur, If the birth of the man-child denote the perpetual spiritual birth of Christian converts, why should the woman be represented as bringing him forth immediately before her flight into the wilderness during the 1260 days, rather than at any other era? Did she bear no spiritual children before that era? Has she borne none since?
It appears to me, that the key to the true interpretation of the prophecy is the acquiring a
," are an allusion to the preservation of Joash, in the time of "Athaliah's usurpation, when she put to death all the rest of "the royal family (2 Kings xi. 2, 3.). Jehoshebah took Joash
the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons “which were slain-And he was hid in the house of the Lord "six years. He was kept safe in one of the chambers of the
temple, till he was brought out by Jehoiada the high-priest, "and restored to the kingdom of David. Thus the true worshippers of God shall not all be destroyed by the enemies "of religion; some, like Joash, shall be kept safe, as if in "heaven, the true temple, till they shall appear publicly "with victory over their enemies."
right idea of the woman's parturition: and this, cannot think that either Mr. Mede or Mr. Lowman has acquired. There is a passage in Isaiah, which is almost exactly parallel to the present prediction, and which consequently may teach us how we ought to understand it. Speaking of the mystic daughter of Zion, and foretelling the restoration of the Jews and their final establishment as a nation, Isaiah says, "Before she travailed, "she brought forth; before her pain came, she « was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard "such a thing? Who hath seen such things? "Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one
day, or shall a nation be born at once? for, as "soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her "children*." The birth then of a man-child denotes not regeneration or a spiritual birth, but the allegorical birth of a community; that is to say, its final and complete establishment as a community. The national birth of the Jews is to be so sudden and unexpected, as to precede, in a manner the pains of labour. That of the Christian community, on the contrary, was to follow very severe pains; in other words, the Christian community was not to acquire a full establishment until after many afflictions and persecutions, as Mr. Mede rightly understands the pains of the
* Isaiah lxvi. 7, 8. That the restoration of the Jews is here intended, and not the conversion of the Gentiles to Christianity, is shewn in my work on the restoration of Israel and the overthrow of Antichrist.