« AnteriorContinuar »
in the anarchy of the times, was finally separated from the empire, and inundated; or overrun, by a great host of barbarians who divided the western empire among them. T .:. ." And when the Dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which, brought forth the man-child." . In the former verse the general effect of the wrath of the Dragon (there named the Devil, because of his false accusations against the Christians not only before, but also after, his deposition from the imperial throne) was pointed out, and its final issue in the general desolation of the Roman, world; here the subject is résumed; and thie progress of this dread ful calamity is particularly marked. No sooner is: the Dragon deposed from the imperial throne, but his malice, as might naturally be expected, is visibly exerted against the Christian worship. “He: persecutes the woman which brought forth the manchild." Though the Pagans had now lost a great part of their power to persecute the Christians; yet the great moderation of the Christian emperors in allowing them freedom of speech was abused by them in continual defamation of the followers of Christ, and in their attempts to draw them from the worship of their holy religion.; Among the writers in the Pagan interest, Hierocles, Julian the Apostate, Himerius, Libanius; and Eunapius were most conspicuous; "Himerius and Libanius, in their public harangues, and Eunapius, in his lives of the philosophers, exhausted all their
rage and bitterness in their efforts to defame the Christian religion ; while the calumnies that abounded in the discourses of the one, and the writings of the others, passed unpunished.” * So successful were the Pagans in their endeavours, that they even gained over to their side Julian, (afterwards named The Apostate,) who, in his reign not only tolerated, but recommended, the Pagan worship; and did all in his power to undermine the principles of the Christian system. The civil power was also sometimes exerted against the Christians out of the bounds of the empire, " Among others Athanaric, king of the Goths, persecuted, for some time, that part of the Gothic nation which had embraced Christianity. In the remote provinces, the Pagans often defended their ancient superstitions by the force of arms, and massacred the Christians, who,
in the propagation of their religion, were not al· ways sufficiently attentive, either to the rules of
prudence, or the dictates of humanity. The Christians, who lived beyond the limits of the Roman empire, had a harder fate. Sapor II. king of Persia, vented his rage against those of his dominions in three dreadful persecutions. The first of these happened in the 18th year of the reign of that prince; the second in the 30th, and the third in the 31st of the same reign. This last was the most cruel and destructive of the three; it carried off an incredible number of Christians, and conti
* Mosbeim's Ecclesiastical History, Cent. IV. Part. I.
ñued during the space of forty years, having coma menced in the year 350, and ceased only in 370. It was not, however, the religion of the Christians, but the ill-grounded suspicion of their treasonable désigns against the state, that drew upon them this terrible calamity. For the Magi and the Jews persuaded the Persian monarch that all the Christiáns were devoted to the interests of the Roman emperor, and that Symeon, archbishop of Seleucia, and Ctesiphon, sent to Constantinople intelligence of all that passed in Persia."*
**** And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her plâce'; where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the sera pent.” The great eagle here mentioned can be no other than the Roman empire, and is so called because the eagle was the standard of the ancient Romans. This is not the only place where a nation is named from some animal which it has peculiarly appropriated to itself; for in the eighth chapter of Daniel's prophecy, the angel, who interpreted the vision of the ram and he-goat, says expressly, “ Thie ram with two horns are the kings of Media and Persia, and the rough goat is the king of Grecia.". In this passage it is evident that these two empires must have been so denominated from the circumstance of their appropriating these
* Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, Cent. IV. Part 1.
animals to themselves. * The two wings of the great eagle must, therefore, refer to the two grand independent divisions of the Roman empire which took place Jan. 17, A. D. 395; and it is well known that after this division, though not on account of it, the Christian church fled into the wilderness, that is, into a state of great desertion. But in this desolate condition she is nourished, for the space of a time, and times, and a half. It was said before, that “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days.” These two events must, therefore, be the same: consequently the 1260 days is the same with a time, times, and a half. But in no other sense can they be considered the same, than by understanding a time to signify a year, times two years, and half a time, half a year, that is, three years and a half. And as each prophetic year contains 360 days ; so three years and a half will contain precisely 1260 days. But 1260 days must mean 1260 years; for they are prophetic days which are meant. That a day, when spoken of prophetically, signifies a year is evident from the fourth chapter of Ezekiel, where this prophet lies upon his left side 390 days as a prophecy that the house of Israel should bear their iniquity as many years; and 40 days upon his right side as a prophecy that the house of Judah should bear their
* See Bishop Newton's Dissertation upon Dan. Tili.
iniquity 40 years. By the two wings of the great eagle being said to be the place where the Woman is to be nourished for this long period from the face of the serpent is certainly meant that the Christian religion, though in a degraded condition, should be the religion of the two empires, while the rest of the world should be under the influence of the serpent, or false religion. '; . -?« And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.” The water here evidently means great multitudes of nations and people; for in Rev. xvii. 15, the angel says, “ The waters which thou sawest are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” This water, then, which the Dragon cast out of his mouth must be an inundation of barbarous nations upon the Roman empire; and the purpose which the Dragon has in view by this inundation is, that he might cause the Woman, or Christian church, to be en. tirely swept away from the face of the earth. ? ..But the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the Dragon cast out of his mouth." This verse is thus explained by Bishop Newton. “ Nothing indeed was more likely to produce the ruin and utter subversion of the Christian church than the irruptions of so many barbarous nations into the Roman empire. But the event proved contrary to human appearance and expectation: the earth swallowed up the flood;' the barbarians.