Page images
PDF
EPUB

beginning of the world in the hearts of the faithful, and had afterwards assumed a definite form in the age of Mo. ses and Aaron. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of his Redeemer ; he “ saw it, and was glad.” Moses esteemed * the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." The ancient patriarchs “ all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.” In short, “ although they were not named Christian men, yet was it a Christian faith that they had ; for they looked for all benefits of God the Father, through the merits of his Son Jesus Christ, as we now do. This difference is between them and us, that they looked when Christ should come, and we be in the time when he is come. Therefore, saith St. Augustin, The time is altered and changed, but not the faith ; for we have both one faith in Christ."* Hence we find in the mystic temple two double symbols ; namely two olive trees and two candlesticks. The first olive tree, and the first candlestick, represent the Church of God before the incarnation of our Lord ; and the second olive tree, and the second candlestick, represent the Church after the incarnation. Accordingly the prophet Jeremiah denominates the Levitical Church“ a green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit ;+ and St. Paul, adopting the same symbolical imagery, describes the conversion of the gentiles by the figure of a wild olive graffed into a good olive and thus producing valuable fruit. As for a candlestick, our Lord himself declares it to be the type of a Church. The temple then symbolizing the faithful worshippers of God ; the outer court, which under the Levitical dispensation was set apart for the gentiles, represents those who are only nominal Christians; and the treading it under foot signifies the introduction of heresies and apostacies, sufficient to deceive even the elect of God, were they not secure within his holy temple. || In a similar manner, the profanation of the sanctuary, the abolition of the daily sacrifice which is offered in form though not in spirit by

" Jerem. xi. 16. § Rev. i. 20.

2d part of Hom. of faith.

| Rom. xi. 17–24.

Matt. xxiv. 24.

the tares as well as by the wheat,* and the setting up of the abomination of desolation, which are all images taken from the history of the Jews, and which, as we are taught by our Lord himself, signify literally the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans and the introduction of their abominable idolatry into the very precincts of the temple :t these images, when taken symbolically, mean the introduction of impious apostacies, and the abolition, or at least the studied interruption, of divine worship.

4. A chaste woman is a symbol of the true Church ; which, throughout the whole of Scripture, is considered as the bride of the Lamb, and the mother of his spiritual children. I

On the other hand, a harlot is a symbol of an apostate and idolatrous Church, apostacy and idolatry being spiritual whoredom and adultery. S

In the Apocalypse mention is made of two women, but of a very different character from each other. The former of them is represented, as being driven into the wilderness by the persecution of the dragon : the latter is described, as being also in the wilderness, but as riding there triumphantly and joyously upon a scarlet coloured beast. This symbol of a wilderness is manifestly borrowed from the history of the children of Israel, during their sojourn of forty years in the great wilderness; and it denotes a state of extreme spiritual barrenness and ignorance. Into such a wilderness of religious error the woman, who is the symbol of the true Church, is forcibly driven by the infernal serpent ; where, in the midst of surrounding abominations, like Israel in the midst of the gentiles, she is nourished by the grace of God, and miraculously though invisibly upheld by the power of his

* Matt. xii. 38.

+ “The Roman army is called the abomination for its ensigns and images which were so to the Jews. As Chrysostom affirms, every idol and every image of a man was called an abomination among the Jews. We farther learn from Josephus, that after the city was taken, the Romans brought their ensigns into the temple, and placed them over against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there.” Bp. Newton's Dissert. XIX.

See the Song of Solomon Isaiah liv. 5-.-Jerem, xxxi, 32-Hos. ii. 2, 7-Ephes., V. 32-Rev. xix. 7. xxi. 9.

§ See Ezek, xvi-Jerem, ü-Rev, XVÜ,

arm, during the space of 1260 days or three years and a half; as the Israelites were fed with manna, the type of Christ himself who is the spiritual bread of his church, * during their pilgrimage of forty years. Into the sume wilderness also of spiritual barrenness and ignorance the great whore, who is the symbol of some apostute Church predicted by St. John, voluntarily withdruws herself: where she sits, as a queen, upon the power symbolized by the scarlot beast ; and labours at once to seduce with her blandishments, and to terrify with her threats, the oppressed Church of God.t

5. Another symbol of the church is a vine. When the vine is properly cultivated, and yields good fruit, it is the true church; but, when it is styled the vine of the earth, and is described as yielding sour grapes even when they are fully ripe, I it signifies an apostute church. This being the case, gathering the clusters of the vine of the earth, and treading the wine-press, denote the just wrath of God poured out upon apostates and corrupters of his word.

6. One of the most striking hieroglyphics however, among those which are used in the writings of Daniel and St. John, is that of a wild beast. Several different animals of the rapacious kind are introduced for this purpose ; and occasionally the strict laws of nature are departed from, and a beast is described as compounded of several other beasts in order to convey more accurately the import of the prophecy.

* John vi. 31-58. Rev. ii. 17.

+ Mr. Sharpe has very injudiciously, I think, followed Sir Isaac Newton in confounding these two women together. It is true, that the great whore was once the chaste wife of the Lamb ; but, by her withdrawing into the wilderness, she became an essentially different character, leaving that of the real wife of the Lamb to those who protested against her fornications, and whom in return she persecuted and trod under foot. The prophetic account indeed of the two women sufficiently shews, that they cannot be esteemed the same person without the most palpable contradiction ; for the ten-borned beast, upon which one of the women triumphantly rides, is the agent and instrument of the very ten-borned Dragon, which is so violent a persecutor of the other woman. (Sir Isaac Newton's Observ.p. 279.- Append. to Sharpe's three tracts p. 121, 122.) Mr. Galloway is guilty of the same error of supposing, that the flight of the woman into the wilderness means ber apostacy. (Comment. p. 131.) Bp. Newton most justly adopts the contrary opinion. “ When the woman, the true Church, was persecuted and afflicted, she was said to fly into the wilderness : and, in like manner, when the woman, the false Church, is to be destroyed, the vision is presented in the wilderness. For they are by no means, as some have imagined, the same woman under various representations. They are totally distinct and different characters, and drawn in contrast to each other ; as appears from their whole attire and behaviour, and particularly from these two circumstances ; that, during the 1260 years while the woman is fed in the wilderness, the beast and the scarlet whore are reigning and triumphant ; and, at the latter end, the whore is burnt with fire, when the woman, as his wife, hath made herself ready for the marriage of the Lamb.” Bp. Newton's Dissert. in loc.

See Isaiah v. xxvii. § It may not be improper to observe, that a different word is used by St. John to express the four cherubic animals who join with the twenty-four elders in praising God, and the two persecuting beasts of the sea and the earth : the former are termed zwa, or living creatures ; and the latter, onpia, or wild beasts of prey.

VOL. I.

In a temporal sense, a wild beast is used to symbolize a large empire professing and acting upon principles adverse to the Church of Christ. And here I would particularly insist upon one point, namely, that a beast never means a single kingdom considered as co-existing with other kingdoms all jointly in opposition to the Church; such, for instance, as any one of the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided : but always an universal empire, that is to say, universal so far as the Church is concerned.* A temporal beast then importing an universal empire, its heads, if it be represented as having more than one, sometimes mean different forms of government under which the empire in question has subsisted, and sometimes different kingdoms into which it has been divided. Horns likewise mean different kingdoms, which have branched out from the imperial head of a once universal monarchy, and which are all subsisting at the same time: and the tail, which is the meanest part of the body, signifies the antichristian superstition of the beast, the cause by which he is rendered so utterly offensive in the eyes of God.The dominion of a beast is his power of persecution : the life or vital principle of a beast, that is to say, the principle which causes him to be a beast is his idolatry or apostacy : and the

* Other beasts or large empires, like those of China and Hindostan, never having had any connection with the affairs of the Church, are for that reason left unnoticed by prophecy. Of the beasts or empires against which the ram pushed with so much success, one was the lion or the Babylonian monarcby, and the others were states with which the Church had no connection, such as the kingdom of Cresus. That of Egypt, which was conquered by Cambyses, the second king of the ram, is perhaps the only exception to the rule of a beast meaning an universal empire so far as the Church is concerned, having existed along with the Babylonian empire, and having, like it, been much connected with the Jews: yet even Égypt is not a perfect exception, having been once subdued, and made during the space of three years a province of the Babylonian monarcby, by Esar-haddon. Chron. Tab. to Univ. Hist. p. 54.

+ I only recollect a single instance, in which heads mean different kingdoms. See Dan. vii. 6.

# “ The Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and honourable, (that is, the governing power) he is the bead; and the prophoi that teacbeth lies, he is the tail.isaiah ix, 14, 15.

of his power of law ful temp.opus of the little hori, řv the

death of a beast is the destruction of this vital principle. Hence, when a beast is said to exist or to live, the meaning is, that the empire typified by the beast is devoted to idolatry and superstition. When he is said to cease to exist or to be slain, the meaning is, not that his temporul authority is destroyed, but that he has put away his abominations ; the retaining of which was the sole cause of his being a beast, and consequently the resignation of which is equivalent to his ceasing to be a beast, When he is said to exist afresh or to revive, the meaning is, that he has either resumed his old abominations, or adopted fresh ones equally hateful to God; thereby again acquiring the bestial character, which he had before happily laid aside. And, when his dominion is said to be taken from him, the meaning is that he is deprived of his power of persecuting the Church. In this last idea the loss of law ful temporal authority is not necesa, sarily included. The dominion of the little horn of the Roman beust has already begun to be taken away by the withdrawing of many of its former supporters from the communion of the Church of Rome ; and eventually it shall be deprived of the remainder of its dominion and of its temporal authority likewise by the death of its colo league and supporter the secular ten-horned beast : yet we are not to suppose, that, when the secular beast ceases to exist as a beast, all government will cease within the limits of what was once his empire.* So again : though the little horn will be deprived both of its dominion and its temporal authority, since the two ideas are not necessarily connected, it does not therefore follow, that, because the other beasts are to be deprived of their dominion, they shall also be deprived of their temporal authority. On the contrary, the taking away of their dominion while their lives are prolonged means, not that the pagan nations, which shall co-exist with the Church during the millennium, shall possess no temporal power within their proper territories, but only (like the empire of China for instance) that they shall possess no power of persecuting the Church.t This is sufficiently

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »