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But behold the position, strength, and malice of the devil !-How important to hear and obey the divine injunctions given in relation to him! such as,—“ Give no place to the devil,”—“ Whom resist steadfastly in the faith,”—“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices,”—“Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour,”—“ Watch, and pray, that
ye enter not into temptation.” Wretched is the state, and most fearful the prospects, of those who are led captive by Satan at his will. He will surely lead them down to the burning lake, unless prevented by a miracle of grace. “Shall the prey of the mighty be delivered ?" Satan is mighty; and sinners are his prey. Most certainly would a new-born infant fall a fatal prey to a great red dragon, if lest in his grasp. Great indeed is the honour put upon the new-born succession of the church, that it should be included, with the Captain of our salvation, in the symbolic man-child, who shall rule all nations ; and who is caught up to the throne of God. Verily, their cause will live; and it will fill and bless the world. Who would not be of their blessed community ? Here is the city of salvation; the city of our God. If the devil was foiled in the Reformation, which was the commencement of the sinking of popery ; his rage was but invigorated. And it is not now confined to old papal lands. We may be assured the dragon has not failed of visiting this land of the pilgrims. He has found his way hither. And great are his efforts to ruin the true church in America. May the church of Christ here awake, then, to her dangers and her duties. And may her prayers, alms, vigilance, and evangelical efforts for the conversion of souls be such as to accord with her height of privileges. When Zion travails, spiritual children will be born. God assures, “I have never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.” If Satan rage, your spiritual succession, O Zion, will be kept as though caught up to the throne of God. Say, then, The Lord is my strength and my salvation; of whom shall I be afraid ? I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. “The Lord is my light, and my salvation !"
But, O sinners, out of Christ,--what is your standing,
in the light of the figures in our text? Will you continue to be led captive by Satan at his will? He designs to convey you down to his own infernal abodes. Will you go? Will you cheerfully follow him thither ?—What then must be
your future and eternal reflections in hell? They will constitute the worm that dieth not; and they will furiously blow the fire, which shall not be quenched. Turn then, to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope! you may now escape the jaws of the infernal dragon. He that is stronger than the strong man armed, is now ready to be your sure salvation. O hear, and improve his proclamation of " liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." The prey of the mighty may now be delivered. Fly, then, from the tyrant of the world of despair ; lest his empire over you be eternally confirmed, and your endless perdition with him be inevitable !
Ver. 13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.
14. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
In the sketch given in this twelfth chapter of the Rev. elation, of the struggles between the church and Satan, from the commencement of the Christian era till near the battle of the great day of God, we are in our text brought to events of the latter part of the sixteenth century, and of the former part of the seventeenth.
Satan, in the events of the antecedent verses, found himself and his legions cast out by the Reformation from the symbolic heaven of high popularity in the Romish church, to the earth of open opposition to Christ. This forced
upon him a keen conviction that his remaining time on earth was short. The devil now therefore set himself to invent new forms of opposition to Christ. And his infernal court soon gave birth to that most detestable order, the Jesuits, who proved powerful supporters of the sinking popery. This code of imposition was the masterpiece of the kingdom of darkness, till the still deeper scheme of illuminism arose, as copied from it with vast improvements, and having infidelity, instead of popery, for its latent object. By the aid of the Jesuits, the dragon now instigated new and horrid persecutions; to which the first verse of our text alludes. He “persecuted the woman,” the Protestant church; a sketch of which persecution shall here be given.
Louis XIV. repealed the edict of Nantz, in which tolerance had been given to the Protestants in France; and he in a short time destroyed and banished two millions of his subjects. The noted massacres of Protestants in France, in Ireland, and in Poland now took place. Also the violent and deadly persecutions raised against the pious Piedmontese, and the slaughter of Protestants in other lands, not excepting Britain, the land of our fathers. Many even there were forced to seal their Christian testimony with their blood. Scott, upon that period, says, “ No computation can reach the number of those who have since the Reformation been put to death for their maintaining of the profession of the gospel, in opposition to the Church of Rome. A million of poor Waldenses perished in France. Nine hundred thousand orthodox Christians were slain, in less than thirty years after the institution of the order of the Jesuits. The Duke of Alva boasted of his having put to death thirty-six thousand, in the Netherlands, by the hands of the common executioner, in the space of a few years. The Inquisition destroyed, by various tortures, one hundred and fifty thousand, in thirty years." Thus the dragon, in his mighty rage at his loss, in the Reformation, persecuted the woman, as in our text had been predicted.
The flight of the church, in verse 14, followed. The
true followers of Christ had, a thousand years before, been depressed to a state, called a wilderness, at the rise of popery; as predicted in verse 6 of the context. The true sense of the second flight (that in our text) expositors have failed of giving, on account of the duration which seemed to be ascribed to it, which is 1260 years, This was the length of time ascribed to the first flight, verse 6.
That first wilderness state was to be 1260 years, from the time of the manifestation of the papal beast to the battle of the great day, when Antichrist should go into perdition, and to the second flight the same length of time seems to be ascribed : which has led writers on the subject to conceive that the two accounts (one in verse 6, and one in verse 14) must allude to the same event. But this confounds the chronology, and the events of the chapter. The difficulty which has led to so great an error, can easily be removed. The account of the duration of the second flight (that in our text) must be elliptically expressed. It is as though the writer had said, the church thus flew to her new retreat, for the 1260 years; meaning & for the remaining part of that well known period. That this is the sense, is evident from the necessity of the
For the flight, be it what it may, is within several centuries of the close of the noted 1260 years; and hence the sense must be, for the remaining part of that noted period! And we find language similar to this, relative to the 1260 years, both in the Old and New Testaments ! in Dan. xii. 6, and in Rev. xiii. 5; as may be seen in the subjoined note.*
*“A new thing," long after the rise of both the secular Roman beast, and of popery, had been shown to Daniel, viz. the rise of a system of infidelity, in the last days. The question was asked, “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ?" i. e. How long is it from the rise of this infidel influence, to the battle of that great day of God? And the reply is, “For a time, times, and an half,” which is the 1260 years, which had before, chap. vii. 25, been ascribed to the duration of the papal horn ; and is afterward, for the same reason, ascribed to the duration of the depression of the witnesses, Rev. xi. 3, and to the same event, as a wilderness state of the church, Rev. xii. 6. It could not therefore mean that this infidel system, after it should arise in the last days (many centuries after the rise of popery), should remain 1260 years, but only to the close of that term. The end of the wonders should
The flight of the woman in our text is manifestly an event of the last days, as being subsequent to the Reformation in the 16th century, and to the persecutions which arose after it, from the Jesuits against the Protestants in Europe. And the following circumstance decides that it was distinct and distant from the first flight of the true church to a wilderness, at the rise of popery, viz. this first flight was occasioned by being in the vicinity and grasp of popery ; but in the second, the church flies to a distant region, “from the face of the serpent," meaning the dragon in popery.
What then was this second flight? To aid in furnishing an answer, let the following suppositions be made. Suppose a new continent had been lately discovered, when those Protestants were thus persecuted; a continent in a part of the world distant from the face of the old papal Roman earth; a continent vast, embracing all the climes, fertilities of soil, beautiful varieties, and natural conveniences, desirable for the habitation of the greatest and most happy people on earth. Suppose it to have been put into the minds of the best of the Protestants, under their cruel persecutions, to flee over a vast ocean, to form their settlement in this new world, in order to find a peaceful asylum for the rights of conscience,
come at the end of the noted 1260 years. This fully answered the design of the interrogator, “ How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ?" We have the same elliptical use of the same period, and for the same reason, in Rev. xiii. 5. The secular Roman beast, there given, is noted as continuing 1260 years. But this could not have been designed as noting the whole duration of that beast ; for he had risen before the Christian era. See Daniel vii. 7. Its whole continuance then is about 2000 years : and yet here 1260 is the time ascribed to it. The meaning necessarily is (as when the same thing is noted in Daniel, in the above passage), he continues to the close of the noted 1260 years. This mode of speech we may suppose to have been common in Israel. They had their jubilee, recurring after every lapse of 49 years, or on each 50th year; as their noted year of release. When, then, an Israelite, at any period of the 49 years, fell into bondage; the question would arise, how long has he lost his liberty? The answer would be, the 49 years ; meaning, to the close of that known period from the present time. None would understand that reply as meaning that such a man has the whole of that period now to serve; but only the remaining part of it, be it more or less. Such is the sense of the length of the flight in our text.