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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 ravens.
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 bis birth and character, so as to make them accord with the general tenor of the prediction. It
* “ 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 con, ceives, 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 whole 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 persecùtions 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 mé 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 s 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 loe. He adds in a note, "Grotius “supposes, I think, with great probability, that these expres
sions, And her child wus caught up unto God and his throne,
woman previous to her parturition. The question then is, When did the Christian community acquire so complete an establishment as to answer to the allegory of the man-child being completely born? Since the scene lies within the Roman empire, it may be answered, When Christianity was finally established and when Paganism was authoritatively overthrown. This was not the age of Constantine: for, although the child may be considered as then beginning to be born, Paganism still maintained a divided sway with Christianity; and shortly after the death of Constantine was re-established by Julian. But in the age of Theodosius, at the close of the fourth century, the senate publicly decreed the abolition of Paganism; and, although' some traces of it remained, even until the sixth century, in the remoter provinces, it then received its death blow, and the paramount establishment of Christianity took place.
Scarcely was the child born, when the dragon attempted to devour him, first by setting on foot a very general apostasy 'from the truth, and afterwards by causing that apostasy to be openly established. Some time previous to the public developement of the apostasy at the commencement of the 1260 years, an individual apostasy had been gradually introduced into the Roman empire. This at length became so extensive, that the dragon is represented as casting down from heaven the third part of the stars. When matters were thus prepared, he openly attacked the woman
and her offspring. The 'sa ints were delivered into the hand of the little horn, and the man of sin was revealed. But the malice of the dragon was unable 'wholly to eradicate genuine Christianity. A chosen seed was wonderfully preserved through all the darkness and persecutions of the 1260 years. The mystic child was snatched away from the devouring jaws of the dragon, was caught up to the throne of God, and was placed under the superintending protection of the Almighty; while the veoman, the true church, fled into the wilderness *."
These transactions must be considered as forming a brief preface to the main subject of the vision, which, like the other visions of the little book, relates to the persecution of the true Church by the papal Roman empire under the influence of the devil, during the allotted period of three times and a half or 1260 days.
sc And there was war in heaven: Michael and “ his angels fought against the dragon: and the
dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed s not; neither was their place found any more in s heaven. And the great dragon was cast ont, that « old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which 4 deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out
* For this interpretation of the birth of the man-child, with the exception of a few alterations and additions, I am indebted to a correspondent with whom I have not the pleasure of being personally acquainted, Dr. Okely, of Lower Wike, near Halifax in Yorkshire.