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which he used as his tool, made profession of Christianity, and was therefore a part, although an apostate part, of the visible Church general *.
Here it is of importance to remark, that the woman appears in heaven previous to the dragon's appearing there, and that they both heaven before the commencement of the 1260 years. This perfectly corresponds with the his- . tory of the Church. The empire, which was a tool of the dragon, was not originally in the ecclesiastical heaven : nor did the dragon begin to use it overtly as his tool, until the apostasy of 1260 years had commenced; although a very general individual apostasy from the purity of the primitive faith had taken place prior to such commencement t, whence the dragon is likewise
* It is observable, that our reformers never thought of unchurching the church of Rome; though they freely declared it to have “ erred, not only in living and manner of ceremonies, “ but also in matters of faith.” Hence, while they rejected its abominations, they did not scruple to derive from it their line of episcopal and sacerdotal ordination ; well knowing, that holiness of office is a perfectly distinct thing from holiness of character, and that the consecration of a Judas was no less valid than that of a Paul or a Peter.
t. This distinction between an individual and an authorized apostasy, the first commencing previous to and the other with the 1260 years, is stated at large in the beginning of this work (vol. i. p. 14, 15, 16.). I conceive it to be of great use in explaining the present prophecy, because it accounts for the representation of the dragon being in heaven, and of an apostasy taking place before the commencement of the 1260 years.
said to be in heaven prior to it. It is manifest therefore, that, as the labour-pains of the woman precede the 1260 years, so her open persecution by the dragon is carried on during the continuance of those years, and consequently (as I have already observed) can have no relation to the persecution of Christianity by pagan Rome. Since then the dragon uses the apostate Roman empire as his tool; its public apostasy, and his publicly beginning thus to use it, must be synchronical : and therefore his first direct attack upon the manchild, and the flight of the woman into the wilderness, must synchronize with the commencement of the authorized Apostasy, that is to say, with the commencement of the 1260 years.
As he is described with seven heads and ten horns in allusion to the first apocalyptic beast, or the Papal Roman empire : so he is said likewise to have a tail in reference to the corrupt superstition so successfully taught by the second apocalyptic beast, or, as he is elsewhere, styled, the false prophet. With this tail he draws the third part of the stars of heaven, and casts them down to the earth : in other words, he causes those Christian bishops, whose sees lay in the Roman Empire*, to apostatize from the purity of the apostolic faith. This event is said to have taken place before the
* We have already seen, that the Roman Empire is frequently represented in the Revelation as being a third part of the symbolical Universe.
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 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 çatching 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
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 expres“sions, And her child wus caught up unto God and his throne,