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natural providence of God alone. But such was actually the state of the church in the fourth century; and that state the prophet describes in the apposite and beautiful figure of “ a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon “ under her feet, and upon her head, A CROWN “ of twelve stars.” She is represented as clothed with the sun, to denote that she was protected by the light of the revealed word of God, and like the sun, with her rays, was imparting the truths of it to all parts of the earth, as well as that she was now, instead of being persecuted by the
power of paganism, placed under the protection of the greatest prince and empire in the world (for, to clothe, is to protect a person against the inclemency of the weather.) The sun is also the type of a great prince, governing his subjects by the light of truth and righteousness. She is also described as having “ the moon under her feet,” to signify that she had now subdued pagan idolatry ; the moon being a proper type for that wicked superstition. For as the moon, although deriving light from the great luminary of the world, yet affords only a dim, faint, darkish, light; so heathen idolatry, though derived originally, from the belief in a God, yet is so obscured and corrupted by polytheism, that it is only a faint and very imperfect light, to direct the reason and consciences of men, in the paths of truth and religion. Indeed the prophet, in divers other places, carries this beautiful allegory yet further, and compares atheism (that
abandoned black system of darkness, whick admits of no divine light or truth whatever) unto the earth, because that body is impenetrable to, and incapable of receiving the rays of light, or of reflecting them when cast upon it. With respect to the crown of twelve stars," it was intended to show, that the church had subdued and triumphed over pagan idolatry, by the labours and light of the truth, propagated by the twelve apostles. Now if we consider the signs of this verse in the manner I have thus explained them, they were completely fulfilled in the fourth century, and describe the true state of the church in that period. For it was now, and not before, that Constantine the Great, emperor of Rome, put an end to pagan persecutions, became converted to Christianity, announced it by an edict as the only true religion, and earnestly recommended it to be embraced, throughout the wide extent of his dominions. It was now the church of Christ appeared “ clothed" with the truths of the revealed word of God, the “sun" of righteousness; and also with the protection of the Roman empire (the greatest of all political suns, or temporal powers,) then the mistress of the world. And it was now, and not before, that she may be said to have the
moon," or heathen idolatry, “ under her feet ;” and “ to wear a crown of twelve stars, as an emblem of the success of the labours of the twelve apostles. But from her rise down to that epoch, she had been unclothed, naked, that is, unprotected by any temporal power whatever, and opposed, persecuted, and oppressed : heathen idolatry being her persecuting MASTER. Nor was she entitled to wear
a crown of twelve stars,” in as much as she had no where established her religion. These, with other reasons, which I shall presently offer to the consideration of the reader, convince me, that neither this nor any other verse of this chapter refers to any events in which pagan Rome was concerned, but to those which were to follow after she became Christian.
Ver. 2.-" And she, being with child, “ cried, travailing in birth, and pained to " be delivered."
Isaiah, when he foretels the rise of the church, and the first coming of Christ, represents her by the figure of a woman with child : “ before she travailed,” says he," she brought forth;” before her pain came, she was delivered of " a man child* :” meaning, that before she should travail and labour in the
propagation of the Gospel, and before she should suffer pain or persecution on that account, she should bring forth, or propagate, the WORD OF God. He adds, in the next verse, “ For as
soon as Zion (the church) travailed, she “ brought forth her children,” that is, made many converts. This was literally the fact
Chap 1xvi. 7,
as we learn from St. Luke ; for on the day of Pentecost, soon after the ascension of Christ, when the apostles began to teach the word of God, three thousand souls were converted*; " and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be savedt." This came to pass before the church had suffered any persecution whatever, even before the death of Stephen, the first martyr. So here the prophet represents the church by the same figure of “a woman with child,” but of a woman under very different circumstances. In the first instance, she is represented as bringing forth before she travailed; but here she is represented as “a
woman with child, crying, travailing in
birth, and pained to be delivered," and yet not delivered; referring to her state in the fourth century, as “ a woman with child ;" to denote, that she had embraced, conceived, and brought, with great labour and tribulation, the word of God to a considerable degree of maturity, and influence in the world. And as “ a woman crying, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,” to signify, that as a pregnant woman often mistakes her reckoning, and cries to be delivered before her full time so the church, now, as it were, upon the throne of
power, and her enemies under her feet, and the word of God generally spread over a great part of the world, should conclude that her task was finished; that is, that she had arrived at such a degree of holiness and perfection, as entitled her to the promised redemption and delivery from the temptations and persecution of the pagan world; or, like the mistaken Thessalonian church, should be persuaded that, “ the day of Christ was at hand*;" and therefore, travailing in birth and pained, anxious for the coming of that blessed event, she should cry, or earnestly pray to God that “ his
Acts, ii, 41.
# Ibid. 47.
kingdom might come, and his will be done “ on earth as it is in heaven," Farther, it was to signify, that, in these respects, she should, like a woman mistaken in the true time of her reckoning, be mistaken in the time of the end of her labour, in the propagation of the Gospel of Christ. This was really the case in the fourth century; for she had not then either temporally or spiritually carried it to its destined maturity; an event which, I apprehend, from the tenour of the Gospel, is not to take place, until “ the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angelst. For she had neither extended it to all the parts of the earth, nor had she arrived at that piety and sanctity of manners, as to be prepared to enjoy the beatitude of the kingdom of Christ$. As to the first, historians of that time inform us, that Constantine, after his conversion to the Christian church, finding his admonitory edict had not its intended effect in converting
2 Thess: ïi. 1, 2, 3, † Ibid. xx.
| Rev. xix. per totam.