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his people to Christianity, suppressed the heathen oracles and priests, seized upon their temples, and confiscated their revenues; and that, through the artifices and intrigues of that apostate Julian, and other impediments, the church did not succeed in silencing the opposition of heathen idolatry, and christianizing the Roman empire, until the reign of Theodosius, about the beginning of the fifth century. Even then her temporal labour was not finished; for there were many regions remote from the Roman dominions professing paganism, which remained to be converted and therefore she continued "travailing in birth," or propagating the Gospel, until the beginning of the seventh century, when, and not before she had extended the word of God to China, and the remotest parts of Asia in the East, and in the West, to the most western shores. And as to her spiritual labour, history further informs us, that between the fifth and seventh century, instead of following the plain and intelligible truths of the Gospel of Christ, she fell into schisms, strange, false, and mystical doctrines and abominable heresies, and at length into Mohamedan and Papal superstition; so that she was no longer worthy, nor fit to be farther trusted with the propagation of the word of God: and therefore it was now high time that she should be delivered of it; that is, as we shall presently find, that she should deliver up her trust to God, from whom she had received it.
Ver. 3." And there appeared another "wonder in heaven; and, behold, a great "red dragon, having seven heads and ten "horns, and seven crowns upon his head."
Ver. 4.-" And his tail drew the third "part of the stars of heaven, and did cast
them to the earth: and the dragon stood "before the woman which was ready to be "delivered, for to destroy her child as soon "as it was born."
"And there appeared another wonder in heaven;" that is, in the church; for the prophetic scene is still in the church. And it was a wonder not to be accounted for by human reason, that mankind, now knowing the will of God, and having, in the fourth century, experienced the ineffable benefits and blessings derived from the practical observance of his holy word, described by the historians of that age, such as a general cessation of all discord and war, attended by good faith, peace, brotherly love, and tranquility, over a great part of the earth, should forsake its instructions, and return again to heathen idolatry, or, in the words of the apostle, like "the dog turned to "his own vomit again, or the sow that was
washed, to wallowing in the mire* ;" and that Satan, that enemy of God and man, after he had been cast out, and deprived of his
* 2 Peter, ii. 22.
ministers and agents in the heathen world, should artfully introduce himself into the Christian church, and seduce it into the ignorance, darkness, and captivity of the church of Rome. This also was a great wonder. And yet that these wonderful events should come to pass, is foretold in the succeeding words of this verse. "And, behold, a great red dragon," says the prophet, prophet, "having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And "his tail drew a third part of the stars of hea"ven, and did cast them to the earth. And "the dragon stood before the woman which "was ready to be delivered, for to devour her "child as soon as it was born." Let us here pause a moment to consider, what minister of Satan, what evil power, did the prophet intend to designate by "a great red dragon?" Commentators in general have agreed, that it is a type of pagan and imperial Rome: but it appears to me, that this power by no means answers to the description, and if not, all their remarks on this verse must be erroneous. The "dragon," when the prophet saw it stand before the woman, had seven heads, that is seven different forms of government; but imperial Rome, whether Pagan or Christian, never had more than six, namely,kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, and emperors; and therefore could not be properly described, by a dragon having seven heads. Nor had she ten kingdoms converted and subjugated to her power through their faith in her idolatrous su
perstition; and therefore could not be said to have ten horns. Nor had she "a tail," or idolatrous superstition, by which she had drawn "a third part of the stars of heaven," or of the Christian bishops*, into that superstition. But when we apply these several marks to Rome in her Papal state, she stands the exact prototype of the dragon thus typified: for she had now obtained from Phocas, that murdering and tyrannical emperor, a commission of universal bishop over the churches of Christ (A, D. 606) and thus became an independant ecclesiastical power, in a short time assuming a right to direct or ratify the elections of the western emperors. Now, and not before, she had "seven heads," or seven forms of government, the Popedom making the seventh. She had now, and not before," ten horns," or ten independent kingdoms devoted to her will. For she had no sooner obtained her commission as universal bishop, than she established her idolatrous superstition in the Pantheon at Rome (A. D. 607). From that time, every art, falsehood, and fraud, were made use of, to convert the independent kings and princes, who had conquered the western empire in the fifth and sixth centuries. By this politic measure, she not only directed their consciences, but commanded their arms, and made them the instruments of her power and grandeur. They were now" her horns." She had also now 66
* Rev. i. 20.
tail*," which, being the basest and filthiest part of an animal, is here used as a symbol for her foul superstition, which she had now firmly established. And she had now drawn " "third part of the stars of heaven, and cast "them to the earth;" that is, all the Christian bishops and churches of the western, which was the third part of the Roman empire, into her idolatry. So complete were her wicked triumph and exaltation, that there remained scarcely a ray of the Gospel of Christ to be seen, and that only in a persecuted remnant, small indeed. From all which it is evident, that the prophet, by the "great dragon," does not here refer to the Pagan emperors, as former commentators have thought, but to the Pope; and that it was in the seventh century, and not before, that this "dragon stood before "the woman, for to devour her child, as soon as it was born," as we shall see in the next
Ver. 5. And the woman brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations "with a rod of iron; and the child was caught up to heaven, unto God, and to "his throne."
The prophet continues to represent the Church under the metaphor of a woman with child. He had before shown, that she had been
"And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail." Deut. xxviii. 13. -"The prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail." Isaiah, ix. 15.