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the faithful were still intent on not only preserving but extending the Redeemer's kingdom, the dragon aims to destroy the fruits of their labours. When he saw that the bait of worldly pomp and power had so far succeeded as to draw the principal men into his net, it was doubtless his object to make a full end of the church of Christ. But he was disappointed. The woman "brought forth a man-child, who in the end would rule all nations as with a rod of iron."
By the woman's flying into the wilderness, seems to be meant her retiring into obscurity, where she would exist without legal protection, in some such manner as David did when he fled from the persecutions of Saul, and without any other defence than that which was afforded by the shielding providence of God. In this way the true church existed in all the nations of Europe from the time that popery first obtained the ascendency, and during the long period of its domination. Wherever this religion prevailed, all those Christians who refused to yield to its corruptions were driven into obscurity. It was thus not only in those countries bordering upon Italy, but in others at the greatest distance. It is thought by some to have been thus with the British Churches in Wales, with the Culdees in Scotland and Ireland, and probably with every other body of Christians where this influence extended. Many of them were so pursued by persecution, that if they had any communion with each other, it was in a secret way. If they met to worship God, it must be in the night, in woods, or mountains, or caves of the earth. So little visibility belonged to the church in this state, that it requires some attention to ascertain where it was to be found. To the question, however, "Where was your church before Luther?" we may answer, IN THE WILDERNESS, where prophecy has placed her, and whither those who ask the question had driven her. If one place was more distinguished than another as affording a shelter to the faithful, it was among the mountains and valleys of the Alps.
It may be difficult to decide upon the time when the woman fled into the wilderness. This however we know, that very soon after
the revolution by the accession of Constantine, corruptions in doctrine, divisions, intrigues, persecutions, and a flood of superstition, overspread the Catholic Church. *
In such a state of things true Christians must not only be offended, but must become offensive to others, and so be persecuted, and compelled to retire as into the wilderness.
The ancient Vaudois, are said to "date their origin from the beginning of the fourth century; when one Leo at the great revolution in religion under Constantine the Great, opposed the innovations of Sylvester, Bishop of Rome." This agrees with what was said by Rainerius, a monk inquisitor of the thirteenth century, that they were the most pernicious of all sects, for three reasons. "Because it is the most ancient. Some aver their existence (says he) from the days of Sylvester, others from the very times of the apostles. 2. Because it is so universal: for
We may see into what a gulf of superstitious imposture the Catholic Church was sunk within fifty years after the death of Constantine, by the following story, taken from Dr. ALLIX. Sulpicius Severus, who lived early in the fifth century, wrote The Life of a St. Martin of Tours, who had lived in the latter part of the fourth. In writing this life, Sulpicius speaks of a certain altar, which the popular superstition had rendered famous, because some martyr was pretended to have been buried in the place. "St. Martin not being able to make any certain discovery of the name of the martyr, and the circumstances of his sufferings, and being loth absolutely to doubt the truth of it, thought fit himself to go to this famous sepulchre in company of some of his brethren. Being come to the place he earnestly begged of God to reveal to him the name and merit of the martyr. After this, turning himself towards the left, he saw standing a hideous ghost. They command him to declare himself. The ghost obeys, tells his name, confesses that he had been executed for robbery, that it was only the error of the people that caused him to be canonized, that he was in nothing like the martyrs, they were in glory, whereas he was in pain. The good St. Martin being troubled to hear this account, caused the altar to be carried to another place, and so (says his biographer) delivered the people from a superstitious error."
The same Sulpicius Severus, though a monk himself, yet speaking of the monks of his time, says, "They do almost all things in such a manner, that you would not so much think they had repented for their former crimes, as that afterwards they had repented of their repentance!"
there is hardly a country into which this sect has not crept. 3. Because all others render themselves detestable by their blasphemies; but this has a great appearance of godliness, living a righteous life before men, believing right concerning God, confessing all the articles of the creed, only hating and reviling the Church of Rome."
THE SECOND GENERAL DESCRIPTION, CONTINUED; OR, THE WAR BETWEEN MICHAEL AND THE DRAGON.
Chap. xii. 7-17.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 and prevailed not, neither was there place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice, saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony: and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.