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1260 years," nor by which the latter was to "KILL the two witnesses of God, during the space of three years and an half:" and therefore we shall find that he proceeds in this chapter, and in strict chronological order to the particular measures and circumstances of their conduct.
He begins with those of the church of Rome, under the figure of " a beast rising out of the sea;" and employs the first ten verses in foretelling and describing the beast which he saw rise up, and whence she derived her power*: the obedience and adoration which men should pay to hert; her idolatry, her blasphemy§, her dreadful and extensive persecutions of the word of God in the church of Christ, the duration of her power, and depression of the church, her captivity and fall**. Here we have a complete history of the western church, so far as she was concerned with and oppressed by the church of Rome. Upon this part of her history I shall not, however, enlarge, because many of the signs are predictive of events which have been fulfilled in ages past; and my design is to confine my remarks as much as possible to those which relate, as I have already informed the reader, to the present times. Besides, this part of the chapter has been fully interpreted and applied to the events described, by many commentators (par
§ Ver. 5, 6.
* Ver. 1, 2. Ver. 7, 8.
+ Ver. 3.
ticularly by the learned Bishop Newton,) who all agree that it contains the prophetic history of the Papal depression of the church. To their dissertations I shall then take the liberty of referring the reader, and hasten to the consideration of the latter part of the chapter, which I apprehend contains the particular history of the revolutionary power of France, or "the beast ascending out of the bottomless pit," briefly alluded to in the eleventh chapter.
In turning to this part of the chapter, I have first to observe, that it is not unusual with the prophets to describe the same power by several different signs, expressive of some essential and peculiar quality belonging to it. The evil spirit is called, "the devil," "Satan," " the accuser of the brethren," " the dragon, that old serpent which deceiveth the whole world;" Mohamed, "a star falling from heaven," " an angel of the bottomless pit," and " Abaddon the destroyer:" and the church of Rome is designated by "the court which is without the temple given "to the Gentiles," and "the beast rising up out of the sea." So here the prophet represents the power which he had before * mentioned under the figure of "a beast ascending out of the bottomless pit," by "a beast rising up out of the earth," both descriptive of its essential qualities, and tending to show, that it should be, of all powers which had ever been and ever shall be upon earth, the most abandoned, wicked, and mischievous.
* Chap, xi. 7.
From this general view of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth chapters, consisting of the events of the "little book," and containing the prophetic history of the western church, I have been led, with reluctance, and not without fear of being myself mistaken, to differ from all former Protestant commentators, who have represented "the beast of the bottomless pit," and the "beast of the earth," as several types of the church of Rome I, on the contrary, conceive that the several names and marks of the latter unite, with wonderful accuracy and harmony, in describing a very different enemy of the church of Christ; even the same described by Daniel* under the type of "the little born;" by St. Paulf under the emphatical signs of " the man of sin, the son of perdition, that wicked, and the mystery of iniquity;" and by St. Johnt, under the name of "Antichrist:" and that all these prophetic appellatives are so many signs of one great, dreadful, impious, and atheistical power, and enemy to the word and will of God, which from sundry parts of Scripture, as well as the doctrines of the primitive fathers, was to come in the last days. Whether I shall be thought too presumptuous in differing from, and opposing my humble opinion to that of the most learned, and inquisitive in the Protestant ages, is a question, the solution of which must rest upon the justness of my interpretation of the prophetic figures, into their literal meanings, and of the
* Chap. vii. † 2 Thess. ii.
1 Epist. ii. 2 Epist. vii.
proper application of them, to the events, intended to be marked out by them by the Spirit of truth. And should I, however actuated by the best intentions, be judged guilty of presumption, I know that "magna est veritas, et prevalebit," "great is the power of truth; and it shall prevail" over all errors, whether voluntary or inadvertent, in God's own time: and therefore the mischief, whether I am right or not, will not be great. With a mind impressed with this idea, I will now proceed, with diffidence and humility.
The prophet, after describing in the first verse, the beast which he "saw rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon "his horns ten crowns, &c." (which all the commentators whose opinions I am about to oppose, agree is the type of the church of Rome,) tells us in the next verse of the same chapter,
Ver. 11." And I saw another beast com"ing up out of the earth; and he had two horns "like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon."
This verse is very comprehensive of important matter, and profoundly allegorical. It contains a prophetic description of the extreme depravity and impiety of the "Beast;" of the form of its government; of the injustice and tyranny of its laws, of the cruel and despotic manner in which they should be administered; and of the unparalleled mischief it should do in the world. And therefore a just and clear elucidation of the several figures will require a distinct conside
ration of each of them, which I shall humbly attempt to give.
"Add I saw another beast," &c.
Here the prophet expressly declares that this beast is not the same, with that which he had seen "rise up out of the sea," or Papal Rome, and which he had just before described, but another. Now can another thing be the same thing? or can we, by any rule of construction, consider the word another as meaning the same? or can we suppose that the prophet, when inspired, could commit so gross a solecism? Indeed, had he not made this explicit declaration, it seems not easily to be accounted for, that any person, having compared the marks of the two beasts together, could conceive that they were intended by the Spirit of truth, which is ever the most accurate in description, to designate the same Power, In many instances their marks are so inconsistent, that it is impossible they should exist in the same beast, or civil society*. And yet, as I
* To show the extreme want of caution, nay of the impropriety and absurdity of commentators, in applying the marks of the two beasts to one power, in despite of the express declaration of the prophet, I have contrasted them in opposite columns.
The first Beast.
Rose up out of the sea.
"Had ten horns."
Upon his heads the name of
Upon its horns ten crowns.
The second Beast.
"Came up out of the earth."
Had only "two horns."
Upon its horns no crowns.