Of the Woman dwelling in the Wilderness.
The woman delivered of a child, when the dragon was overcome, from thenceforth dwelt in the wilderness, by which is figured the state of the Church, liberated from Pagan tyranny, to the time of the seventh trumpet, and the second Advent of Christ, by the type, not of a latent, invisible, but, as it were, an intermediate condition, like that of the lsraelitish Church journeying in the wilderness, from its departure from Egypt, to its entrance into the land of Canaan; a state, therefore, safe from the fury of that red dragon, who resembled Pharaoh, but not yet arrived at that pitch of glory, to which it should finally arrive, when the rest of her enemies should be subdued, as by the possession of Canaan. A state, indeed, which was externally better than the servitude of that heathen tyranny, (out of which, as from Egyptian slavery, the Christian people emerged by the power of Christ,) as from thenceforth endued with a power, under the auspices of Christian emperors and kings, of worshipping Christ freely, as the Israelites in the wilderness of worshipping Jehovah; with temples, likewise, as the tabernacles of Christian worship, magnificently built, with an ecclesiastical polity, constituted by kings, with sacred revenues, tithes, and oblations, but unhappy by its apostasy of various kinds, not less than Israel in the wilderness, with the calf, Baal-peor, Balaam, Korah, &c. Nor, perhaps, should that circumstance be passed over, that the forty-two months of the Christian woman's residence in the wilderness answers to the number of resting-places of Israel in the wilderness. Vide Numbers, c. xxxiii.
The reason and tendency of the type being thus explained, let us illustrate the text particularly, and apply it to the event.
|And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And there was given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and a half, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast forth water out of his mouth after the woman, like a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.|
This was the first attempt of Satan, when he was cast down, but not yet entirely cast out, remaining, on the contrary, a short time below. That he might, if it were possible by any means to do so, overwhelm the woman, who, when her offspring was possessed of power, was departing to a station in the wilderness, before she should retreat thither wholly secure from his fury. For she did not immediately, as she began to escape, arrive in the wilderness, but after some space of time and delay had intervened; as Israel consumed some time in the journey which he had undertaken from Egypt. But the words here used are so to be understood, that they may appear in some way to be referred to what was said above of the same flight of the woman into the wilderness, either in this, or in a similar sense. |When the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who had brought forth the male child.| For since (as was observed above) |there was given to the woman,| after the birth and exaltation of her offspring to the throne, (by two wings of a great eagle furnished to her, as if for flight) |to depart into the wilderness, where she was to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time; he cast out of his mouth after her a flood of water, that he might cause her to be carried away with the flood.| So, likewise, Pharaoh persecuted the people of Israel, departing into the wilderness out of his dominion, by a flood of another kind.
The great eagle is the Roman empire. Its two wings, the two Cæsars of the now divided empire of the West and East, under whose protection and authority the church departed into its eremitical state. For it is well known, that the Roman empire, as soon as it had received the Christian faith, became bipartite, and was borne up as it were on the two wings of the Cæsars. The eagle being the ensign of the Roman empire, renders this interpretation obvious to any one. But what forbids us from confirming the interpretation of the prophetical type by an apocryphal writer? This is Esdras the prophet, for under this denomination does Clemens of Alexandria quote him, (Strom, book 3d, a little before the conclusion) according to whom, the type of an eagle signifies the fourth kingdom, the twelve feathered wings as many first Cæsars. Vide c. xi. and xii. But tell me, Reader, would you not also say, that here is a reference also to that saying of the Lord concerning the departure of Israel out. of Egypt. Exod. c. xix. v.4. |Ye have seen,| says he, |what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself,| that is, into the wilderness. But there is something else in this verse which requires to be expounded. Why is the time of the woman's inhabitation in the wilderness, which was reckoned a little before by days, here changed into years, or a time, and times, and half a time? I seek no other cause of this alternation, than that it might be the key to a similar notation of time in Daniel, and might inform us that the Church was now arrived at those very times, which he described by the period of a time, times, and half a time. And, indeed, without this index, that designation of time would have been very uncertain, and inexplicable. For from what source, or by what indication, could it have been known, that time denoted a year? or if so, that times did not mean more than two years? But now, from this communication it is clear, that the period may be resolved into 1260 days, and therefore, signifies a year, two years, and a half.
These difficulties having been explained in this manner, let us now examine what that water was which the dragon vomited out of his mouth like a flood, that he might. overwhelm the woman while she was preparing to take her journey into the wilderness. The gushing out of water is language and doctrine according to Prov. c. xviii. v.23. |The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, the well-spring. of wisdom is a flowing brook.| Whence the word nk, which signifies to burst forth, and gush out as a fountain, is applied to doctrine, as Ps. lxxviii. v.2. |I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter, or pour forth, things hidden from the foundation of the world;| which is alleged of the doctrine of our Saviour, Matt. c. xiii. v.35. So Prov. c. i. v.23. Wisdom is said to preach in the streets; |I will pour out my Spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you.| What, then, is the effusion from the mouth of the serpent, a venomous beast, but pestiferous doctrine, that is heresy? according to that verse of Prov. c. xv. v.28. |The mouth of the wicked poureth forth evil things.| Now the history of this time exhibits it as proceeding like a flood from the mouth of the dragon, -- I speak of Arianism and its offspring. By this his flood the dragon had nearly caused the woman to be carried away. He intended it no doubt. And, in truth, it was wonderful that the Roman emperors, who had so recently given their names to Christ, and had not fully settled the Christian establishment, offended and alienated as they were at the horrid dissension in so primary a point of doctrine among Christians (only just respiring from persecution), at such deadly party feuds, tumults, and credulity, among the brethren, even equally to that of the Pagans, should not have cast off the faith.
|But the earth succoured the woman, and the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.| That is, the multitude of Christians in the councils persisting in the orthodox faith, exhausted the diabolical inundation, as the earth does water, when it has long continued in a state of drought. For if water, (but of a poisonous and pestiferous nature) such as proceeds out of the serpent, represents heresy; the mode of analogy undoubtedly required that the substance which should have the effect of absorbing and removing the same, should be figured by the earth, as that whose property it is to exhaust an inundation of waters by its aridity.
Which, indeed, happens in this matter so much the more agreeably to the explanation of the subject, because elsewhere likewise in historical and simple expression, the earth is commonly used for the inhabitants of the earth. Vide Gen. c. xli. v.37.1 Sam. c. xiv. v.25. Deut. c. ix. v.28. and elsewhere at large.
Of the Ten-horned Beast blaspheming God, and of the Two-horned Beast, or False Prophet, his Founder and Hierarch.
A new scene of evils invaded the woman, as soon as she had entered the bounds of the wilderness; for she immediately encountered a double sort of beast, less formidable indeed in appearance than that of the dragon, or serpent; whose figure only she dreads, professing to be nothing but a panther, or a lamb, but being truly an agent of the dragon, who has been cast down, and in his stead prepared to bring troubles on the offspring to which she should give birth in the wilderness.
|And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and departed to make war with the rest of her seed, (viz. with those which she should produce in the wilderness,) who keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus Christ.|
|And he stood on the sand of the sea.| That is, when the dragon saw that he who was now expelled from the Roman empire, that he had not succeeded in overwhelming the woman, as she was hastening into the wilderness, by the inundation of Arianism, but that she nevertheless had arrived there in safety; and besides, that he should no longer be suffered to possess the sovereignty of the Roman world, as he had formerly done, in his own name, he now attempts it in another way, by tacitly substituting a kingdom dependent on himself, and for that purpose he stood on the sea shore, that he might form a new appearance of the Roman kingdom, thence to arise, subservient to him. The history of the double beast, prepared to transact the affairs of Rome, now follows; one ten-horned, and the other two-horned, connected by the strictest necessity with each other, and both reigning at the same time, and in the same part of the world. The first of which, that is, the ten-horned beast, you may call if you will secular; the other, or two-horned, ecclesiastical.
Of the Ten-horned Beast.
The ten-horned, or secular beast, is that university of ten kingdoms, more or less, (into which the empire of the Cæsars, after the expulsion of the dragon, had settled after the Barbaric plague,) coalescing at length into one Roman republic, through the renewed impiety of the dragon.
|I saw,| said he, |a beast ascending out of the sea, having seven heads, and ten horns, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.| The same beast is here described as that which afterwards, c. xvii. carries the harlot; the seven-headed Roman beast, under the state of its last head. |I saw,| says St. John, |the type of that last state of the Roman kingdom, in which, acting under its seventh head, it was divided into ten kingdoms; and yet in the same manner, as it had done under its former heads, he blasphemed the great God Almighty by the worship of idols.| For the number of seven heads is a particular mark of the Roman kingdoms, as well as the furniture of ten horns. The name of blasphemy is the mark of idolatry. The diadems, or crowns, placed on the horns, (which are on the last head only,) point out that the kingdom is exhibited under the government of its last head, which will be amply confirmed by the remaining description of the beast.
|And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet as those of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion.| That is, this kingdom, partly in respect of its regimen, and its state, partly in respect of its disposition, was so composed, that it represented the three monarchies, anciently pourtrayed by these beasts in Daniel, in a certain blended association. Since it was Greek in the remaining appearance of the body, it stood on feet in their march and action, like the Persian kingdom; with its mouth, like that of Babylon, it issued its edicts to be performed. For the leopard is the type of the kingdom of the Greeks, the bear of the Persians, the lion of the Babylonians. First, then, that kingdom was plainly like the Grecian in its body, for instance, a kingdom like that divided into many parts, Dan. c. vii. v.6. and c. viii. v.8.22. For the Greek was divided into four parts; this last Roman kingdom was separated into ten kingdoms, to which type is referred the bearing ten horns on the last head of the beast, which the angel afterwards interprets, c. xvii. are ten kings, or kingdoms, into which the Roman empire of the sixth head, having been dilacerated, coalesced into a new kingdom, under the seventh, for the purpose of carrying the harlot. That the ten horns were upon the last head only, that is, the seventh, and not, as commonly supposed, promiscuously on all, I thus demonstrate. While the head flourishes, the horns flourish, and when it falls, the horns also arising from it must necessarily fall. On the first five heads, then, there could not be horns, because those five heads, as the angel says in c. xvii. were already fallen; neither could there be on the sixth, because while that was reigning in the age of John, (as the angel expressly affirms,) the time of horns was not yet come, for says he, |The ten horns are ten kings, which have not yet received their kingdom.| They are reserved, therefore, for the last head. Away, then, with such painters as distribute the ten horns according to their fancy, on seven heads, giving single ones to some, and two to others, out of their liberality, which, how inconsistent it is, and remote from the groundwork of the text, yea, and plainly repugnant to the interpretation of the angel, there is no one, who, having been already informed on the subject, shall seriously weigh it in his mind, that will not be induced to confess. Therefore, it is to be taken as true and certain, that the seventh head alone in the scale of heads, raising themselves one after another, towered over the rest, the highest in situation, the last in place.
Now then I proceed to explain the remaining appearance of this last beast. By the feet on which the body rests, and on which it is moved, and walks, and of which those before answer the purpose of hands and arms to beasts, in holding, seizing, and fighting; by the feet, I say, it alludes closely to the Persian empire; since, as they relied on the councils of their Magi in the management of their affairs, so the Roman kingdom in its last state is governed by the authority of idolatrous monks and clergy, like those Magi. To which that future saying refers of the other falsely prophetic beast, |that it exercises all the power of the ten-horned beast before him.| For the feet are to be considered here, not as the lowest and most dishonourable parts of the body, but of the same kind as they are in beasts; not merely the instruments of walking, but also of fighting, and seizing their prey, in which, and in bears especially (I speak of the fore feet), the chief strength of the body consists. Nor are the feet to be here understood as that part only which makes an impression on the ground, but that which comprehends the thighs also, and arms, as well as the smaller part commonly called the foot.
Lastly, the ten-horned beast issues edicts to be observed with a Babylonian mouth, by commanding the worship of deities and idols, with pain of death, and burning alive, denounced against those who refuse it, in the same manner as Nebuchadnezzar did to those Jews, who would not adore the golden image which he had set up, sixty cubits high, to his god Bel. Dan. c. iii. At the same time, I do not wish, by this interpretation of mine, to excite a prejudice against that of others; namely, of those who may think that regard should be had rather to the natural disposition of those beasts, whose qualities or fierceness the ten-horned beast might express. Let every one judge for himself. |And the dragon (who had been cast down, and stood on the sea-shore,) gave him his power, (that is, his strength or forces,) and his throne, and great authority.|
Power, Dunamis, signifies, with the Hellenists, forces or army, according to the use, as it appears to me, of the Hebrew chyl, by which is denoted both strength and bravery, and an army likewise. The Seventy say, in Exod. c. xiv. v.28. of the army of Pharaoh overwhelmed in the sea, |The waters covered, pasan ten dunamin, all the host of Pharaoh,| and c. xv. v.4, |he hath cast, ten dunamin autou, his host into the sea.| And so in various passages, not only in these, but in profane writers. From this notion spring those expressions, Kurios dunameon, the Lord of hosts, and Matt. c. xxiv. v.29. dunameis ton ouranon, the powers of the heavens, or the celestial hosts, shall be shaken. So, in the next verse, the Son of man is said to be about to come in the clouds of heaven, meta dunameos kai doxes polles, with power and great glory, which is explained in the following chapter, us |coming in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.| So in this place, the dragon or Satan delivered to the ten-horned beast, ten dunamin autou, that is, his forces, or his army. But the forces of Satan are his angels or demons, and idols, the receptacles of demons. These forces he delivered over to this last beast, to be worshipped and reverenced, together with his throne, and great authority; that is, in one word, all that power from which he had lately fallen, when conquered and overthrown by Michael, and the holy martyrs and confessors of Christ. So that, indeed, the dragon, or Satan, in this beast of the last state of the empire, recovered in some measure the ancient dominion which he had exercised in the red one; but in a form so dissimilar from the former one, that the seed of the woman in the wilderness did not immediately perceive it. For the dragon did not now make his advances as before, in the form of a dragon, that is, did not profess himself to be what he was, the sworn enemy of the Christian name. For if he had done this, the seed of the woman would have known him immediately, and been upon his guard against him, as his deadliest foe, from that innate antipathy which God had denounced from the beginning of the world should subsist between them. |I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed.| But, in truth, when he had assumed the form of another beast, having no affinity with the serpent, it was not so difficult for him to impose upon the seed of the woman, that is, the Christian Church, rejoicing in its late victory, and now secure from the dragon, and to allure it to adopt his customs. Which, indeed, the arch impostor so covertly and deceitfully did, under the mask of a beast not friendly to him, that the Church did not acknowledge till late, that she had been deceived by her ancient enemy, and led to venerate the dragon under this mask. For who would have suspected that the dragon lay hid under the figure of a leopard, or (what is the same) of a panther , that is, under the appearance of an animal, which, while other beasts, attracted either by the beauty of his skin, or the sweetness of his smell, love to approach and behold, the dragon alone is said to abhor and avoid? Or, to explain the matter a little more clearly, who would have supposed, that under the empire of the Christian religion, the destroyer of idols assuming worship for herself, heinous idolatry, and long since exploded heathenism, would be restored with the utmost labour, and promoted by laws and edicts?
|And I saw one of its heads, (namely, the sixth,) as it were, wounded to death, (which was done in the battle with Michael and the holy martyrs ,) and his deadly wound was healed,| by the medicine of this vicarious power. That this seven-headed dragon, (or the Roman empire, possessed by the ancient serpent, that is, the heathen empire,) was the beast with the sixth head, may be shown by what is afterwards said of these heads. Five in the age of John had fallen, one (which is the sixth) then ruled the Roman states, and chiefly because this beast of the last dynasty immediately succeeded the fifth, on the same throne. The dragon, I assert, is here said to have given up his throne to the beast of the last dynasty, or the seventh head. Therefore he was the immediate successor, or the beast of the last head. Nor let any one be disturbed, that during the continuance of the sixth head, it appears seven-headed in the vision. For though the heads performed their parts, not at the same time, but in order, and successively, yet the beast is exhibited with all its apparatus of heads and horns, under every state, that it may every where designate the same Roman kingdom, though under different successions of dynasties.
But to return to the text, in which, in the Complutensian edition, according to the testimony of Irenæus, Aretas, the Syrian paraphrast lately published, and among the Latin authors, Primasius does not acknowledge the words |I saw,| but joins the words, |one of the heads,| with the word |gave,| as in this sentence, |The dragon delivered unto him his power and throne and great authority, and one of its heads mortally wounded, that it might be cured.| I suspect also that the Latin Vulgate read it so formerly, on account of the words |de capitibus suis,| instead of |ejus.| But whether this reading is to be preferred to the other, I will not hastily affirm, but only that it appears to be very ancient, so that I wonder it was not noticed by R. Stephen. But whichever it may be, the received reading, if rightly interpreted, and as the subject actually requires we should interpret it, evidently gives the same sense. |I saw (says he) one of the heads, as it had been wounded to death ,| namely, not at the time the apostle saw it, but before it emerged in this form from the sea, hupersuntelikos, or in the
preter-pluperfect tense, as in ch. v. ver.6, he had said, he |saw in the midst of the elders and of the animals a Lamb standing, as if it had been slain,| not slain at the time he saw it. What is added, however, about the healing of the wound, that he saw done, either while the beast was just emerging from the sea, or as soon as it had arisen from thence? For that healing was not, (as is still believed by many,) some subsequent fate, but the very nativity of the last beast. From each of the remaining heads, it had passed to the turn of the successor without a wound; but in the transition from the sixth to the last, the beast sunk under a deadly wound; from the cure of which I say, and not before or sooner, the ten-horned beast, or that of the last state, took its beginning, and did not deduce its origin any higher. That this is the case, the whole series of the following narration evinces. For whatever evil the beast is related to have perpetrated, whatever worship and adoration was paid to him by the inhabitants of the earth, all is said to have been done after the cure of his wound. |I saw (says he) one of his heads as if it had been wounded to death, and the wound of death, or the deadly wound, was healed, and all the world followed, wondering after the beast,| -- namely, that just healed,| and they worshipped the dragon,| &c. Then likewise |was given to him a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies,| &c. And |he opened his mouth against God,| &c. All those things were done after his cure; but before that, no evil deeds are predicated of the beast, no mention of subjection or honour paid to him by the nations. Whatever is commemorated before, partly relates to the form of the beast, partly to the occasion and manner of his rise. And why, I beseech you, should we represent to ourselves an antichristian beast, of whom for some time, no facts are related, no persecution recorded? Nay, if we follow the reading of Irenæus and the Complutensian version, by expunging |I saw,| there will be no longer a place for such an interpretation. |And all the earth wondered after the beast;| that is, with the utmost approbation and consent, they went over to the party of the beast. |And they worshipped the dragon, which gave power to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?| That is, they did not simply worship the beast as a beast, but also as a vicegerent of the dragon. Therefore they did not venerate the beast alone, but the dragon himself likewise, under the mask of the beast. For to worship the beast, unless so far as idolatry discharged the functions of the dragon, in the sense in which it is here used, would not have been more impious than to obey any kind of mundane power.
The beast, in truth, denotes a kingdom. To adore the beast, then, according to the usage of the Hebrew and Oriental languages, is the same thing as to be subject to him, which the explanation subjoined to the word worship, not obscurely points out. |They adored (says he) the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is capable of contending with him?| As if he had said, They devoted themselves willingly to the obedience of the beast, as to one who so far excelled others in power, that there was no one that would resist or make war with him. In which also, ver.12, the earth itself, not merely its inhabitants, is said to have worshipped the beast; that is, to have yielded to his dominion. |And he caused (says he) the earth, and those that dwell therein, to worship,| &c. So in the benediction of Jacob, Gen. c. xxvii. v.29, |Let the people serve thee, and nations worship (or bow down to) thee. Be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee.| For this meaning of the words tou proskunein, vide Gen. c. xxxvii. v.7, and c. xlix. v.8, in the benediction of Judah; so also Isa. c. xlv. v.11. But to be subject to the beast according to his religious constitution, as it refers to the seven-headed dragon, is blasphemous, and impious towards God. Whence, they who so adore the beast, are said to adore the dragon in adoring the beast.
|And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and there was given him power to continue forty-two months.|
Hitherto of the constitution and state of the beast. It is afterwards explained in what things he exercised the power committed to him by the dragon; viz. in two, -- in blasphemy towards God, and the persecution of the saints. The whole description is taken from the prophecy of Daniel, ch. vii. where he treats of the same subject, as here, that is, the Roman beast in the last state. But the circumstances which are there related to Daniel by the angel, rather succinctly, are here more diffusively laid open, as in an interjected explanation.
|There was given to him (says be) a mouth speaking great things.| The mouth speaking great things is Daniel's; but here the great words are explained by |blasphemies;| under which name, it will presently be asserted, idolatrous worship was designated, as a matter of the highest affront to God.
Moreover, he says, that the beast should so blaspheme for forty-two months; that is, of years, throughout the same space of time, as the Gentiles should trample down the outer court of the temple, or the holy city. And not undeservedly, since that profanation of the Gentiles runs in a parallel line with the same impiety as this blasphemy of the beast, and both point out a subject of the power of darkness and of night, and therefore to be measured, not by years or days, but months, according to that of the moon, which presides over the night. And, indeed, unless the Holy Spirit had intended the designation of time to be referred to the blasphemy, why has he inserted it in this place, immediately after the mention of blasphemy? The months are not to be reckoned from the beginning of his cruelty, or warfare with the saints, but of his blasphemy. As if the word poiesai signified some certain act, or state of the power of the beast, (of which kind some suppose that to be, which is here called the power of acting or doing.) it must then altogether be referred to the act of blasphemy. But to poiesai seems rather to be applied in the senses of lasting or remaining, as it is elsewhere used with words of time. For thus, Acts, ch. xv. v.33, ?poiesantes de chronon tina, |when he had spent some time;| and ch. xx. v.3, ?poiesas te menas treis, |and there abode three months.| 2 Cor. ch. xi. v.25, nuchthemeron en to butho pepoieka, |a night and a day I have been in the deep.| Add James, ch. iv.13, |to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city,| kai poiesomen ekei eniauton hena?, |and continue there a year.| Drusius remarks that sh is thus used, Eccles. ch. vi. v.13, and |facere| in Latin, Seneca, Epist. lxvii. |Quamvis paucissimos unà fecerimus dies.| -- |Though we have passed very few days together.| In the marble tablet, |cum qua fecit annos ix.| |Where, when he had continued nine days.| In Alfenus, i. e. |Is servus fugerat et annum in fugâ fecerat.| |That slave had fled, and passed a year in flight;| that is, spent, continued, finished, transacted.
According to these examples, why should not |poiesai menas 42,| signify lived so long, remained, continued blaspheming? The force of which expression, those who did not understand, seem to have inserted in the text the word |polemon war,| which is extant in some of the copies. Now, as I said before, that by the name of blasphemy in this place, was designated, as by way of eminence, idolatry, or spiritual fornica. don, may be evinced by a twofold, or even a threefold argument. First, because Babylon, the metropolis of this beast, means the mother of harlots, and with her the kings and inhabitants of the earth are said to commit whoredom. But the beast of which we treat, is nothing else than the community of those kings and inhabitants. Secondly, it must be a blasphemy of the same kind, which should suit with the state of the head, immediately preceding nay, of all the other heads for on all |were written the name of blasphemy,| ver.1. Add that this beast of the last state, was born and composed from the renewal of the impiety of his predecessor of the sixth head. But what blasphemy could be ascribed as common to them all, except idolatry alone? Assuredly none .
The use of Scripture adds force to these observations, by expressing the idolatry of God's ancient people by this name. To understand which it must be known that there are three words in Hebrew, translated by the Greek interpreters and the Latin Vulgate in the acceptation of blasphemy, n'ts, and chrph, in none of which you may not discover the sign of idolatry. In the word ndph, Ezek. c. xx. v.27, |Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me. When I had brought them into the land, for which I lifted up my hand to give it them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered their sacrifices,| &c. In the word chrph, Isa. c. lxv. v.7, |Which have burned incense on the mountains, and blasphemed me on the hills.| And certainly chrph answers precisely to the Greek blasphemein , for both signify to treat with contumely, or to reproach. Whence, 2 Kings, c. xix. v.22, |Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?| it is joined with ndph, as synonymous; as also Ps. xliv. v.16. The Seventy are in the habit of rendering both by oneidizo, p9aroxuno, and the Chaldee also by its own chrm. Moreover, let me add this likewise, that it was usual with the Jews, not only of the age of Isaiah, but also of a lower age, to understand the worship of idols by the nomenclature of reproach or blasphemy. This may even be collected from the paraphrases of the Hagiographists, where, Ps. lxix. v.10, instead of the words, |The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me,| the Chaldee has, |The rebukes of the impious who rebuke thee, while they make their idols partakers of thy glory, are fallen upon me.|
With respect to the word n'ts, which is another of the two, to which blasphemein answers, according to the Seventy; in Forster it is, to attack with contumacy, reproaches, and reviling words. Jerome always translates it in the Psalms, as often as it occurs, (and it occurs five times,) according to the true interpretation of the Hebrew, blasphemare. With others it is, to despise, or to irritate by contempt, so that the most accurate signification of it seems to be, to provoke to anger by reproaches and contumelies. By this expression, I say it may be shown from Deut. c. xxxi. v.20, that idolatry is designated, as well as by the former. |When they shall have eaten and filled themselves, they will turn to other gods, and will serve them vn'tsvny, and will provoke me.| So, indeed, the Vulgate uses the sense of blaspheming, though not the word. For what else is Deo detrahere, to detract from God, than to blaspheme him? But in other places it does express the word, as Jer. c. xxiii. v.15-17, |From the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.| -- |They say lmn'tsy unto those that blaspheme me, (the discourse is about idolaters,) the Lord hath spoken, There shall be peace to you, and to every one who walketh after the imagination of his heart,| &c.
To these quotations may be added, if you please, by way of illustration, that the profanations of Antiochus, by which he polluted the temple of God, and his sacrifices, are called blasphemies, 1 Macc. c. ii. v.6, and 2 Macc. c. viii. v.4. Also, that Kimchias interprets that of Gen. c. iv. v.26, |Then was the name of the Lord profaned by invocation .| Then men turned away after idols, and the invocation of the divine name was polluted and profaned. Whether he has translated rightly or not I do not inquire, but so he has rendered and understood it. Hence according to the scholastic doctors there are three species of blasphemy; one, when something is attributed to God which does not belong to him; another, where something is taken from him which does belong to him; a third, when what is appropriated to God, is attributed to a creature, as in idolatry. For as an adulterous wife brings a reproach upon her husband, so the Church, prostituting herself to idols, does upon God; since idolatry is spiritual adultery.
|And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and those that dwell in heaven.|
What he had before said generally about blasphemy, he here pursues in detail, and distinguishes a triple idolatry of the beast: For first, he blasphemes the name of God; that is, in the worship of images. |By giving the incommunicable name to stocks and stones.| Wisdom, c. xiv. v.21. Or the name of God means the person of God, (may we be permitted thus to speak,) which is then blasphemed, when any thing besides God is worshipped with divine honour. Secondly, his |tabernacle;| that is, the human nature of Christ, in which the Deity hypostatically dwells. Ho gar logos sarx egeneto kai eskenosen en hemin, John, c. i. v.14. And according to the same Evangelist, c. ii. v.19, |Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But he spake of the temple of his body.| Has not that passage in the Hebrews, c. ix. v.11, a reference to this |In a greater or more perfect tabernacle.| This tabernacle, I say, the beast blasphemes, when he believes the body of Christ to be made every day out of bread, by the transubstantiation of the mass, and therefore worships the bread instead of Christ, the tabernacle of God; nay, looks up to the propitiatory sacrifice offered for the living, and the dead, as crucifying Christ anew. He blasphemes the celestial inhabitants likewise, that is, the angels and saints, who dwell in heaven, whilst in their names he invokes the demons and idols which he worships .
What a reproach is this to the blessed spirits! nay, an affront to Christ their Lord: In derogation of whose prerogative and glory they are constituted, even against their will, mediators and intercessors with God, patrons and presidents of mortals in the manner of the heathen. See what we have already said, at the end of the sixth trumpet, out of the theology of the Gentiles on demons and their offices. And the beast, not content with this alone, degrades the blessed spirits besides, with his disgraceful and wicked fables and miracles; so that you may doubt whether he offends more by the worship which he wishes to display, as addressed to them, or by the injurious nature of his fables.
Thus far of blasphemy, then follows the other part of the impiety of the beast, by which he exhibited himself as the vicegerent of the red dragon, -- -the persecution of the saints. For in addition, |it was given to him to make war upon the saints, and to overcome them.| So Daniel, |He made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.| With the saints, that is, with the seed which proceeded from the woman in the wilderness. Now, though the whole domination of the beast may be a kind of warfare against the saints, (according to what was said at the beginning, |that the dragon went away enraged,| under the mask of this beast, |to make war with the rest of the woman's seed, who keep the commandments of God, and retain the testimony of Jesus Christ,|) yet a war of another kind is here to be understood, as appears from v.10, where something is said of retaliation to be at some future time rendered to the beast. |If any one lead into captivity,| &c., and |If any one kill with the sword, he must be killed with the sword.| The war, therefore, is one which is waged with slaughter and blood. Add that we are at present engaged in the description, not of the ecclesiastical, but of the secular beast, with which war of any kind can scarcely agree.
But the beast did not carry on this war immediately from his commencement; but after he had arrived at his acme, during the twelfth age from the birth of Christ. His first expedition threatened the Albigenses and Waldenses, and by whatever other name the true worshippers of Christ were called; of whom so great a destruction was made, that throughout France alone, if P. Perronius, in his history of the war, has made a right calculation, there were slain about a million of men. For not only was this war carried on by burnings alive, by the loss of goods, by exile, and other kinds of punishment, but that nothing might be wanting to the true appellation of war, in such an inhuman persecution, whole armies were raised against them, and those crusading expeditions, first undertaken against the Saracens, being now turned against the Christians, of that chaste and pure religion which refused to adore the beast, it raged cruelly for about seventy years, with incredible fury and inhumanity.
The histories of this butchery are to be met with, to which I refer the reader. I choose to subjoin the words of Thuanus, a most illustrious historian, but of the opposite party. He says, in the Preface to the History of his own Time, |Since exquisite punishments were of little avail against the Waldenses, and what was unseasonably applied as a remedy aggravated the evil, and their number every day increased, a regular army was at length raised, and a war of no less magnitude than that which our people had formerly waged against the Saracens, was resolved upon against them; of which the issue was, that they were brought to their senses, rather by being slain, routed, every where despoiled of their goods and dignities, and dispersed on every side, than by being convinced of their error. Therefore, they who had defended themselves in the beginning by arms, being at last conquered by arms, fled into Provence, and the Alps bordering on the French domain, and there found retreats for their life and doctrine. Some departed into Calabria, and remained there for a long time, and even to the pontificate of Pius the Fourth; part passed over into Germany, and fixed their habitations among the Bohemians, in Poland and Livonia; others turning to the West, found refuge in Britain.|
Now in this war the memorable fact happened, that those Albigenses who were conquered at Morell with a great slaughter by Simon Montfort, the leader of those who were signed with the cross, seem to have seized on this prophecy of the saints conquered by the beast, as an argument for consolation and constancy. For when the Bishop of Toulouse, interposing to prevent the slaughter, admonished the remnant, who remained in tents, by sending to them a religious person, that, convicted by such a scourge, of God's being angry with, and pronouncing a judgment upon them, they might at length, (having laid by their hard-heartedness) be converted to the faith which they call Catholic; but they, on the contrary, retorting that the conquered were the people of Christ, by this kind of shield frustrated the attack of temptation, and all to a man fell bravely, being slain by a band of soldiers rushing in upon them.
After this war against the Waldenses and the Albigenses, there was a cruel conflict carried on in various ways against different portions of their remains in different places, as well as against other associates of the same pure religion in every part of the world, until at length, notwithstanding all this, after the year 1500, whole kingdoms, principalities, and republics, with their reformed churches, seceded from the dominion of the beast to the party of the saints; against whom war was afterwards carried on, and continues to this day, nor will it finish until the beast shall come to an end.
Now if any one would diligently measure in his mind the whole series of this butchery, comprehended in little more than 450 years, and would refer the number of the slain to calculation, I am either deceived, or it will appear marvellous, that the persecution of the beast not only equalled, but surpassed the ten heathen persecutions.
We just now observed, that the number of the Albigenses and Waldenses who were slain, was estimated at a million of men. From that time to the Reformation of the Church, no one has undertaken the calculation of those who were taken off, partly by the flames, partly by the sword, partly by other tortures, though the number is known not to have been small. From the origin of the Jesuits to the year 1480, that is, in little more than thirty years, Baldwin on Antichrist remarks, that nearly nine hundred thousand were destroyed. In Belgium alone, and that only by the hand of the executioner, the Duke of Alva, that cruel champion of the Roman see, boasted, that under his authority about thirty-six thousand souls, by his orders, had been taken off in a few years. Vergerius testifies, who well knew the fact, that the Inquisition, as they call it, of heretical depravity, in the space of hardly thirty years, made away with a hundred and fifty thousand Christians, by divers kinds of afflictions. Sanders confesses, that an infinite number of Lollards, and Sacramentarians, were delivered to the flames through the whole of Europe; who, however, he says, were not given up to slaughter by the pope and bishops, but by political magistrates. So, indeed, in consistency with the prophecy, the fact ought to be; for of the secular beast it is said, |that he made war with the saints, and overcame them;| and of the ten kings, c. xvii. that |they should carry on war with the Lamb, and the elect, and faithful;| but of the ecclesiastical beast, not indeed that he himself killed with the sword, |but caused that whoever would not worship the image of the beast, should (by that image) be killed with the sword,| as we shall see a little below. Then follows, |And power was given him over every tribe, and tongue, and nation.|
Now what was this power, but that of waging war with the saints? as if it would extend itself as widely as the Roman domain, for the subject of discourse is not perhaps of dominion, but of the amplitude of persecution. If any one prefer the other interpretation, the sense will be, that such was the authority of the beast, that no tribe, tongue, nor nation, resisted his impiety. But we must not understand this of individuals, (many of whom were found in every age who preserved their faith to the Lamb) but of whole tribes, tongues, and nations, that is, of the political governments of mankind. Of which it is very true, that none is to be found which the beast had not detained for many ages in servile obedience to his impiety; so that those who dwelt dispersed here and there, through the provinces of the beast, and were in reality Christians, constituted alone at that time the undefiled and virgin Church, as that which had, alas! no state, republic, principality, nor kingdom, of its confession of faith. But here it is to be kept in mind, that the form of the beast was that impiety which supplied the place of the dragon, in whose communion those many kingdoms of the Roman dominion, as we have observed, coalesced to form one beast. Those, therefore, who embraced this are said to yield to the power of the beast, as all tribes, languages, and nations, did.
|And all they that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.|
Now, lest any one, fascinated by so universal and catholic an assent to the laws of the beast, should presume that it was done piously and rightly, and that the example of so many nations and people might be followed by them without danger, or even when broken down and debilitated by the cruelty of persecution, he might violate his faith given to the Lamb, and yield to the worship of the beast; the Holy Spirit denounces, in a declaration plainly to be feared, in what situation and number they are to be esteemed by God, who exhibit themselves as complying with this monster of impiety; that they are not to be considered as in the roll of the Lamb who was slain, but to perish eternally as exiles from the kingdom of God. To this formidable admonition is subjoined an apostrophe, in order to excite attention. |If any one,| says he, |has ears to hear, let him hear.| As if he said, O pious worshippers of Christ, incline your ears, and retain in your inmost souls what is now proclaimed beforehand of the very unhappy lot of those who follow the beast; and it is not a thing of small moment, but the hinge upon which your salvation turns. Those words, therefore, ought to be referred to what precedes, and not to what follows, in the same manner as it is clear, the same address is more than once to be referred in the epistles to the churches. Vide c. ii. v. ult. c. iii. v.6.13.22.
|If any one leadeth into captivity, he shall go into captivity; if any one killeth with the sword, he shall be killed with the sword.|
A consolatory reflection for the pious, against whom the beast, when they refused to obey him, proceeded with war, imprisonment, and the most inhuman punishments. The time will come, when God, the just avenger of his people, may demand retribution for so many butcheries, suchenormous cruelties, and may execute vengeance on the raging beast.
And |here,| says he, |is the patience and faith of the saints.| That is, let not the saints, relying on this equity of the Divine Power, and on his justice in ordering human events, be disturbed at what they are about to suffer, or faint in their minds, but courageously contending against the beast, firmly and patiently wait for the vengeance which will certainly, and in an accumulated degree, proceed from God.
Hitherto we have treated of the secular beast. Now the apostle proceeds to the description of the other beast seen by him, namely, the ecclesiastical beast, or rather the false prophet, who exercises the lieutenancy of the former beast, and of his blasphemies.
Of the other Two-horned Beast, or False Prophet.
The two-horned beast, or pseudo-prophet, is the Roman pontiff, with his clergy, having indeed two horns like the Lamb, of whose power of binding and loosing on the earth he boasts himself the vicar, but uttering idolatries and butcheries of the saints like a dragon. For this beast was the author and founder of that ten-horned beast, which supplied the place of the dragon in tyranny and blasphemies, under the mark of the Christian profession. Of whom, therefore, as he exercises the power in the office of hierarch, so likewise is he the pontiff of the same, no less than of his clergy, (with whom he privately constitutes the pseudo-prophetic beast,) he conducts himself as head and monarch, exhibiting that seventh and last head of the Roman commonwealth, in the city on seven hills; who, indeed, by signs and miracles, which it was given to him and his clergy to do, or pretend to do, by the thunder of excommunication, as of celestial vengeance, brought in by degrees the kings, lately risen in the Roman world, out of the dissipated empire of the Cæsars, to submit their necks unanimously to him and to the government of Rome, now otherwise subdued, so as to introduce an image of the ancient, and now demolished heathen empire. Which went on so favourably for him, that not only the Roman beast, wounded in his Caesarean head, evidently revived in that image, but the image itself likewise, at the nod of the false prophet, fell upon those who exclaimed against his appearance, and chastised them with the secular sword, as the false prophet did with the spiritual.
|And I saw (says he) another beast ascending out of the earth, and it had two horns like a lamb, and it spake as a dragon.|
He saw another beast, namely, the pseudo-prophetical or pseudo-ecclesiastical beast, which consisted, as we have said, of the Roman pontiff with his clergy. For the pontiff alone, and by himself, though he may be called the false prophet, does not, however, constitute the beast, unless with the addition of his clergy, since the beast denotes an assembly of men, delighting, like an animal, in a certain order of its members, and not a single person. But he saw him ascending from the earth; that is, not like the former, risen from the sea, or the dominions of the world; that is, from a more noble kind of origin, but sprung from the lowest condition of human affairs; or rather, not born as the secular one, during a tumultuous conflict of armies and people contending with each other, but growing up quietly, and without noise, like herbs and plants springing from the earth. For the sea, though it signifies a conflux of people into one dominion, signifies also an army in war. |And it had two horns like a lamb,| that is, the bipartite power of binding and loosing, delegated by Christ to Peter, and so far, indeed, similar to that of the Lamb, inasmuch as lie said, |As my Father sent me, so send I you.| This power, in fact, the beast assumes, and says that he acts therein as the vicar of Christ, hut he speaks as a dragon; even as the red dragon, whom Michael had a little before overthrown, and expelled from the Roman empire; whilst in truth, like him, he patronizes the worship of deities and idols, by his authority, and, in a similar manner, causes the true and pure worshippers of the Lamb that was slain to be exterminated by persecution and butcheries. For |he exercises all the power of the first beast before him.| The two-horned beast executes that delegated power of the dragon committed to the first beast, and consisting in idolatrous worship; as a hierarch, whose office it is to preside in offering sacrifices. |Before the beast, or in his sight,| is the same as with him, or for his sake; as if one should say, this two-horned beast belongs to the ten-horned beast, for the purpose of sacrifice, so that it ought not to appear wonderful if he speaks as a dragon. For thus the lphny of the Hebrews; to which enopion, in the sight of or before answers, is sometimes equivalent to the dative of the person to whom something is given, or in whose favour it is done, as, instead of that which is said 1 Sam. ii.18, |Samuel was worshipping before the Lord,| it is in ch. iii. |worshipping the Lord.| But the Roman pontiff, in an especial manner the head of the latter beast, exercises the supreme administration likewise of the former beast: |And causet4 the earth, and those that dwell therein, to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.| That is, in general, whatever the first beast is, whatever obedience is offered by the nations to his impiety, is wholly to be referred to this hierarch as its parent, by whose exertion, in fact, it should come to pass, that the earth and its inhabitants should worship the first beast, which arose out of the sea, and whose deadly wound was healed. In what manner, and by what means and contrivances he effected this, he particularly explains in the sequel. |For (says he) he doth great wonders, so that he maketh fire to descend from heaven on the earth, in the sight of men.| -- |And he deceiveth those that dwell on the earth, by the miracles which it was given him to do, in the presence of the beast, saying to those that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast which had the wound by the sword, and yet lived.| For he doth, kai poiei, the Vau of the Hebrews; and, therefore, kai in Scripture is not only a conjunction copulative, but also disjunctive, rational, causal, or dinal, or explanatory, as the sense requires; and this it may be sufficient to observe once for all. The pseudo-prophetic, or pontifical beast, is the occasion of constituting for the nations that ten-horned beast, by which the power of the dragon revived. For he persuaded him, by the same signs and miracles, to agree with him in fabricating an image of the beast slain in its sixth head; which at length, being formed at his suggestion, that wound, received in its dragon state, appeared by the introduction of a new idolatry and tyranny, according to the similitude of the former, to be cured; and the beast who worshipped the dragon, to be renewed; for the Roman beast is the image of the last head of the beast slain in its sixth head. He said to the inhabitants of the earth, that they should make an image of the beast which had received the wound from a sword; that is, the image of him in the condition in which he was when he received the wound; |and he lived;| that is, thus at length the beast revived, or was restored. For those words do not refer to the description of the beast whose image was to be fabricated, as the words of the false prophet who was speaking; but they are those of the angel relating or exhibiting the consequence of that advice; namely, that in this manner the slain beast revived. As if he had spoken more fully as follows: |Saying to the inhabitants of the earth, that they should make an image to the beast which had the wound from a sword. They did so, and he revived.| As 2 Kings ch. xx. v.7, Isaiah said, |Take a lump of figs;| and they took them and laid them on the ulcer, and he recovered, viz. Hezekiah, or the ulcer. Now this is what was said in the description of the secular beast, that the dragon delivered to him his forces, and great authority, and therefore his deadly wound was healed. That is, the dragon impressed the form of his worship and power on the beast of a different religion; whilst he substituted his angels or demons, not, indeed, as formerly, to he worshipped under those titles in which they proclaimed themselves enemies to Christ our Lord, but under the shelter of the Christian religion, in the names of saints and good angels, -- and, shame on the blasphemy! -- even of Christ himself. For he who worships idols, under whatever name he may invoke them, worships demons.
Nay, that nothing might be wanting to the complete image of the beast that was slain, that is, of the dragon, what some of the emperors who worshipped the dragon had done before, the pontiff himself took care should be offered to him; even divine honours, and an authority peculiar to God; so that |he sits in the temple of God,| as St. Paul says, |exhibiting himself as God.| Which though John, or the angel unfolding the history to him, does not here specially treat of, yet he means to have comprehended under the general name of an image, as a part of that similitude under which he is compared to the slain beast.
And thus far of the fabrication of the image; now we proceed to the wonders applied in favour of his party. |He doth great wonders, so that he even causes fire to descend from heaven on the earth.| Not unwillingly here should I accede to the opinion of Graser, if it could by any means be confirmed from the writings of the Hebrews, that this assertion of drawing down fire from heaven is used as a proverbial hyperbole, to the exaggeration of that which preceded it, as if one had said, he does great wonders, nay, of such a kind and so great, that they appear to be not far removed from the miracles of Elias himself, by which he maintained the worship of the true God. For the Jews, says Graser, commonly attribute so much to that miracle of Elijah, that they use it proverbially for all stupendous facts, by which the dignity of God is elucidated. But whoever is not pleased with this exposition, let him follow the Complutensian reading confirmed likewise by other copies. |He does great wonders kai pur ina tatabaine, and that fire should descend from heaven on the earth;| and so, as the summary of those things which are afterwards more diffusively explained, may be proposed in these words; the sentence may be interpreted of a two-fold species of means, which the false prophet should employ, to induce the inhabitants of the Christian world to form anew the image of the beast, which was slain in his sixth head; that is, by the display of miracles, and by the thunder of excommunication, by one of which he seduced the minds of the nations into error, by the other he subdued the contumacy and pride of the disobedient. Now each of these, whichever way they are regarded, is treated of in the following words in order. Of the wonders in these words, -- |And he seduces the inhabitants of the earth by the wonders which it was given him to perform, saying to the inhabitants of the earth, that they should make an image of the beast, which was wounded by the sword,| and those which follow to ver.16. Of excommunication in these words, -- |He causeth all to receive a mark in their right hands, or in their foreheads, that no one might buy or sell, but he who had the mark, or name of the beast, or the number of his name.|
A mode of speaking by synecdoche, by which, from the interdiction of commerce with others, the censure of ecclesiastical anathema is intimated. Nor is that assimilated improperly to celestial fire or lightning; for what, I beseech you, is to devote any one to the eternal fire in the name of God, but to call down fire from heaven? especially since the punishment to proceed from God in the lake of fire and sulphur, or Asphaltites, in which Sodom and Gomorrha were burned by fire rained down, is more than once represented in this book. Nay, the apostle Peter speaks of that conflagration, 2 Pet. c. ii. v.6, that |God had set it forth as an ensample to those who should hereafter live ungodly; that is, by an ellipsis of the former substantive, common in the Hebrew, an ensample of the punishment of those who should be ungodly hereafter. And Jude, here expressing more clearly the intention of Peter, says, |puros aioniou diken hupechein;| that is, |to bear the similitude or type of eternal fire.| For so, in a sense similar to this, the collation of the words of the two apostles with each other, and the nature of the thing itself, will persuade an attentive reader, that the words of Jude ought to be interpreted. And on this occasion likewise, permit me to add, that it was a memorable and melancholy omen to the Jews, then rejected by God, which Josephus relates to have befallen them in the very beginning of that fatal war, the defeat sustained by them at the passage of Jordan from the country of Jericho; namely, while some were thrown into the river by the enemy, others not being able to bear up against their force, voluntarily leaped into it; so that the lake Asphaltites was filled with carcases rolled down by the descending flood; in which case, says he, the plague, though very great in itself, yet appeared still greater in its nature to the Jews.
But to proceed to the event of the prophecy. As to the wonders, it is a notorious circumstance, that a universal idolatry has prevailed in the kingdom of the beast for about twelve ages, to the present time, as well as the primary species, consisting in the worship of dead saints, of relics, and angels, as the next in order, the worship of images, and afterwards that latest blasphemy of a god in bread, by a great assemblage of wonders, by supposed cures, and miraculous visions, by the coercion of demons in appearance only, and by other surprising effects of different kinds, was first recommended, as it were, to unhappy Christians, and afterwards enforced and confirmed. All which things, indeed, the two-horned beast, or Roman pontiff, with his pseudo-prophetic attendant, is said to have done; inasmuch as they either contrived them or approved them by their authority when contrived by others; or they obtruded what were really the operations and tricks of evil demons, for true and divine miracles, in order to seduce the Christian world. For this is the very thing which the apostle Paul predicted to the Thessalonians, |that the appearance of the man of sin should be according to the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.|
The examples of thunder, or the pontifical anathema, by which he maintained his authority in decreeing and commanding, are in truth so obvious to every one, that I may be wholly spared the labour of introducing them here from the annals of the Church. One I wish to notice as very remarkable, and which so nearly relates to the image of the fabrication of which we are treating, that it may alone be sufficient to establish the truth of this prophecy. In that controversy or war about images, which arose among the Greeks about the year 720, and which was agitated for 120 years with great fervour, and persecution of idolatry, it can hardly be described into what peril that image of the slain dragon, then rude and imperfect, and not having received the finishing hand of the artificer, was brought. Nor in that controversy, as is commonly supposed, was the worship of images alone, but also that of dead saints and relics strenuously opposed. Leo Isaurius (says Theophanes, Hist. Miscell. Lib. xxi. ch.23) not only erred with the impious concerning the affectionate adoration of venerable images, but also concerning intercessions of the most chaste mother of God, and of all the saints, whose relics, likewise, that most wicked man abominated, like his teachers the Arabians, (that is, the Mahometans.) The same writer says of Constantine, whom, as a term of reproach, the patrons of idols called Copronymus, (same chapter,) |This most mischievous, unmannerly, savage man, &c. first departed from God, and his undefiled mother, and all the saints.| So this paltry Greek idolater blasphemes the pious emperor. Again, Lib. xxii. c.42, |He every where opposed the intercession of the holy virgin, and mother of God, and of all the saints, as useless, both in his writings, and unwritten declarations, through whom every favour flows down upon us, rejecting their holy relics, and rendering them hateful. If at any time he was told of any extraordinary thing to be applied to the health of souls and bodies, or according to custom to be honoured by those who live piously, he immediately threatened death against those who did thus, as acting impiously; or, at all events, proscription, exile, torments. And that scrap most acceptable to God, as it was accounted a kind of treasure to the possessors, was taken away to he rendered hateful from thenceforth.| Let the reader see likewise, c.54. So also in c.48, |As often as any one who fell down, or was sick, uttered the usual outcry of Christians, -- Help, mother of God or was apprehended keeping vigils, &c. he was condemned as an enemy to the emperor, and was denominated immemorable.| Nay, still under Theophilus, the last of five emperors who contended against images, it appears that the worship of saints was opposed by that hymn of Theodorus, in which the Constantinopolitan Church was accustomed every year, (O sin and sorrow,) to cherish again the memory of idolatry, at length victorious. For there the eighth ode says, |The sacred relics of the saints, and their images, that savage Lezius, together with John, (who was patriarch of Constantinople under Theophilus,) those deserters of piety nu-piously asserted were on no account to be venerated.| What, then, did the Roman pontiff do in this case? He succours the image of the beast, in the greatest danger of being broken, and when he cannot succeed by letters and threats, he has recourse to fulminating arts. He strikes Leo the Isaurian, the leader of the Iconoclastes, with an anathema; he absolves his subjects in Italy from the oath of obedience, and deprives him of the Exarchate of Ravenna, and the rest of his dominion, as far as he is able. By which act, as he gave courage to the idolatrous faction in the east, so he opportunely terrified the kings of the west, from attempting any thing of a similar kind. By the same thunder, the Lateran Synod of 280 bishops, under Alexander the Third, ordained that the Albigenses, and their defenders, and supporters, should be blasted, and actually did blast them. The same thunder likewise, the great Lateran Council decreed, should be called down on the temporal lords, who, when required and admonished by the Church to purge their territories of them, neglected to do it; that is, that they should be bound by their metropolitans, and other provincial bishops, under the bond of excommunication, and if they contemptuously neglected to discharge this duty, their vassals should be denounced by the Roman pontiff, absolved from their allegiance, and their lands given up to be occupied by Catholics.|
|And it was permitted him to give life to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might both speak, and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.|
If the image had not been endued with a vital power, the slain beast would not have revived by its fabrication. For the dragon-worshipping beast, which it was to resemble, was not an inactive beast, but was accustomed to exert himself very strenuously, and to attack those who opposed his inclination. Of the same kind, therefore, must that image be, in which he afterwards revived. Hence it is said to be given to the false prophet, not only that he should entice the Christian people to make an image of the beast, but that he should bestow life on it, by which, and by edicts of a similar nature, he might order what was necessary for the maintenance of his dignity, and might punish those who were disobedient, and who refused to submit to his religious constitution, by the sword, or by a secular death. And indeed the whole power which the image has, as a secular idolatrous beast, of warring with the saints, he exercises only as delivered to him by the pseudo-prophetic beast. For the matter is so managed, that those whom the pseudo-prophetic beast has condemned for heresy, (as they call it) or for dishonouring the image, he gives at last to the secular beast the power of killing; of which he possesses none himself, but that dependent upon ecclesiastical judgment. And this is what they call delivering over to the secular power, every where to be met with in the histories of the bestial executions. The pseudo-prophetic beast, indeed, as he would wish it to appear, does not himself kill, but yet he delivers those condemned by his sentence to the secular power, as to an executioner, to be killed.
|And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, and free and bond (that is, of whatever rank, state, and condition) to receive from him a mark upon their right hand, or upon their foreheads. And that no one might buy or sell, but he that had the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.| What is meant by the interdiction of buying and selling, (to begin with the last in order,) I have just now shown, namely, to denote the papal excommunication, under which those who fall are excluded from the custom and commerce of citizens. So the canon of the Lateran Council under Alexander, of which mention was made a little above, issued against the Waldenses and Albigenses, prohibits expressly under an anathema, |That any one should presume to receive, or maintain them in their houses, or to carry on any business with them.| And the Synod of Tours, in France, prohibits under a similar denunciation, |Where the followers of that heresy, (as they call it) were known, that any one should presume to grant them a place of refuge in their territory, or to afford them protection; but prescribes that no communication should be held with them in buying and selling.|
And what? Does not the false prophet here likewise speak like a dragon? For the dragon Diocletian published a similar edict. That no one should sell or supply any thing to the Christians, unless they had first offered incense to the gods, of which Beda thus sings in the Hymn of Justin Martyr:
Non illis emendi quidquam
Aut vendendi copia;
Nec ipsam haurire aquam
No power to buy or sell,
Not even water from the well,
Could wretched Christians have;
Unless to idols dire,
With frankincense and fire,
They hateful glory gave.
This synechdochical mode of speaking perhaps the Holy Spirit used, to intimate that the papal anathema, though it boast of an abscission from the internal and invisible communion of Christ, has not really any power beyond that of excluding the person from the internal and visible commerce with other citizens.
Now, as to what is said of the mark or character. The mark of the beast is not properly any thing but the name; therefore it is called the mark or name of the beast, and in the following chapter, the mark of his name. Now there is an allusion here to the ancient custom, by which slaves were wont to be marked with the names of their masters, and soldiers with that of their general; (the former chiefly on the forehead, the latter on the hand;) therefore, in a like manner, the followers of the Lamb, in a subsequent chapter, who form a contrast to the attendants on the beast, are inscribed on the forehead with the names of the Lamb and the Father. In the same sense, .in both examples, to indicate to what lord each assembly belonged, and for whom it fought; that the former professed themselves the servants of the beast and his image, the latter of Christ and his Father.
What relates to number, is to be understood rather as an appendix of the name or mark of the beast, than the mark itself; and, indeed, it is the number, not so strictly of the name of the beast, as of the beast itself, as it is also immediately after called. But it is only called the number of the name on this account, because it would be contained in the letters of the name of the beast, referring to numbers, God so disposing it. And yet it does not follow, because the number agrees so intimately with the name, that therefore the number of the beast is to be confounded with the name. For the method of opposition (or contrast) requires, that, as in the assembly of the Lamb, the character of the name is distinguished from the number of the assembly, so likewise it should be in the bestial assembly. Add, that the character of the name and the number are altogether of a different kind, I say, as to signification, if we direct our interpretation according to the analogy of other places. For the character of the name is one thing as to the Lord, to whom those who bear it devote themselves, and the number is another, which points out from what ancestry or origin those who are celebrated by it derive their race. As the number twelve, and that formed from the multiplication of twelve, exhibited as well in the virgin assembly as in the structure and dimensions of the New Jerusalem, is a symbol of its apostolical origin and character.
But not to dwell longer on these generalities, let us see at length what is that name of the beast in which his number, also marked by the Holy Spirit, is contained. It is, in truth, what some suspected, while the Apocalypse had been recently written, that word so often repeated, Lateinos. For it was by this name , after the division of the empire, and the ten kings had arisen in its provinces, and not before, that the Roman false prophet, with the rest of the inhabitants of the West, was called by way of distinction, and that by those to whom the Apocalypse was addressed, -- the seven Churches of Asia. For the Greeks, and the rest of the Orientals, with whom, in the dilaceration of the empire, the name had remained, wished themselves only to be called Romans; but us, with our pontiff, and under him, his bishops, kings, and dynasties, by a kind of fatal instinct they called Latins. And this very name, with its letters cast up in the manner of the Greeks and Hebrews, completes the number noted by the Holy Spirit; but it is a mystical number; -- by which is indicated of what lineage the beast is, and how falsely he boasts himself the successor of the apostolic choir, when he is really that of the dragon.
|The number of the name of the beast is 666;| which, if you endeavour to deduce from the compounds of 12, the symbol of the apostolic race, you will labour in vain, for you will never from thence be enabled to make 666, by whatever mode you may multiply: But on the contrary, from the power of 6, which is the number of the red dragon, that is, the beast of the sixth head, you will do it very easily, since the whole may be made up from sixes, how great soever it may be of units, tens, and hundreds; as if the seed of the dragon had pervaded the whole body of this last beast, and all its limbs. |Here is wisdom,| says the Spirit. |He who bath understanding, let him compute the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.|
That this ought to be computed according to the mode which I have described, I seem to myself to collect from the analogy of the virgin company, whose number 144, in contradiction to that of the beast, is wholly apostolical, arising from 12 multiplied into itself. The rule of contraries is contrary. And there, indeed, the Holy Spirit has expressed both, as well as the name inscribed, as the number of the company inscribed, but here he has left the name to be conjectured from the number. To settle the matter in few words. To receive the mark of the name of the beast then, is to devote oneself to his power, and to confess his dominion; but to be of his number, is to embrace his impiety, derived from the dragon, namely, the Latin idolatry. Whence it will not perhaps be unworthy consideration, that though no one can receive the mark of the beast's name, or be subject to his power, but he must of necessity receive his number also, at the same time, that is, partake of his impiety; it is possible that a person may admit the number or impiety of the beast, but may reject his mark or name.
This is what has taken place among the Greeks for a long time past, who, although they embrace the same form of impiety, engrafted from the dragon, or the Latin idolatry, and that originally confirmed among themselves, under the auspices of the Latin pontiff, in the second Council of Nice, who was labouring there likewise to erect the image of the slain dragon, yet they have refused now for 700 years to be subject to the Latin pontiff, or to bear his name, as before they seceded in consequence of a schism, they had been accustomed to do.
Of the Virgin Assembly, or one hundred and forty-four thousand of the Sealed of the Lamb.
The virgin assembly of the followers of the Lamb of Sion, and the same selected company of Israel, adopted from the Gentiles, of which mention was made at the beginning of the seventh seal, (for it is described by a double vision, as we there observed, in order to connect the prophecy of the seals with that of the little book) signifies the Church faithful to the Lamb, a virgin under Babylon, in the midst of a world of nominal Christians, who followed the beast; the kindred and undegenerate progeny of the twelve apostles, apostolically multiplied; as alone according to the example of the heavenly choir, instructed to celebrate the Lamb and the Father with an evangelical song, in a chaste and holy manner; which by a sad fatality, not one of the beast's party was able to learn. Yet a people not addicted to any one seat, as the people of the beast, but accompanying the Lamb wherever he went, warning finally the worshippers of the beast frequently and sharply of the duty of evangelical worship, and of the manifest severity of God against idolaters; and at length denouncing to all, if they would not perish eternally, to withdraw themselves as quickly as possible from all connexion with it. This is a summary of the vision. Let us now elucidate the text according to this rule.
|And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand.| From the number 144, or twelve times twelve thousand, it appears that the same assembly is here described as was sealed at the introduction of the seventh seal; viz. that legitimate and undegenerate offspring of the apostles, bearing this number twelve as a mark of its origin. Let the reader reconsider what we there remarked.
Now, mount Sion was the throne of the kingdom of David, and the same as what is called the city of David, because he built it, when taken from the Jebusites, externally with new walls, and internally with a royal citadel, streets, and squares. Therefore here it is parabolically applied, and it will designate that place on the earth which Christ, having conquered the dragon, made the dwelling-place of his kingdom, or his Church, that is, the world denominated Christian. In this world the virgin Church has its mansion, and therein still preserves its faith and chastity undefiled, when the beast appeared to have contaminated, and trodden down all things, with his adulteries and slaughters, and to have left nothing sound and uninjured.
|Having (the name of the Lamb and) his Father's name written on their foreheads.|
The name of the Lamb is improperly omitted from some copies, as the Vulgate, Primasius, Andrew, Aretas, the Complutensian edition, and the Syriac translator allow. That it was the true reading is not to be doubted, but that the subject itself requires it to be so read, will clearly appear in the progress of the interpretation. For here is an allusion (as we also noticed in the history of the beast) to the ancient custom, by which both the slaves of masters, and the soldiers of the emperor, were distinguished, being anciently inscribed with their name or mark; and the slaves, indeed, principally on their foreheads, (witness Rhodigian's Book, v.33.) but the soldiers on their hands. Vegetius, lib. ii.5, says, |The soldiers, inscribed with permanent marks on the skin, and inserted in the rolls, were accustomed to take an oath.| But Ætius says, lib. viii.12, |They call them brands, which are inscribed on the face, or some part of the body, as those of soldiers are on the hands. But of the inscription of soldiers, Lypsius will give us more ample information, lib. i. de Mil. Rom. dial.9. |Under the princes,| says he, |they punctured with a sharp instrument youths just taken, and branded them on the skin.| These were real stigmas, and impressed on the hands of soldiers. They were inscribed with the name of the emperor. Hence Augustin calls it the royal mark, and Chrysostom sphragida, the seal. This is to be derived from the circumstance, that anciently the name of the emperor used to be inscribed on the shields, spears, and standards, and in imitation of that on the skin; or else from sacred rites, for those whom they consecrated to God, or initiated, they branded with marks or stigmas.|
Now then to the point. They bear the name of the Lamb, and his Father, on their foreheads, who do not break the faith by which they gave themselves up to the Lamb, as their emperor and Lord, and to his Father in baptism, and who do not relapse to the worship and pomps of Satan, and his angels, which they had once abjured. For thus in ancient times, (in order to throw a greater light on what has been here said) was the form of renunciation in baptism couched in most Churches. |I renounce Satan and all his works, and his pomps, and all his worship.| In many, and those, the most ancient liturgies, was added, |and his angels.| In others, |and all his inventions, and all who are under him.| In others, in the same sense, |and his world.| All which things may be expressed readily in the apocalyptical sense, -- |I renounce the dragon, and all his forces;| that is, as Cyril of Alexandria explains the form of baptism, |I bid farewell to the multitude of demons, and I reject all their pomp and worship.|
The Roman Church was here a little more terse than others: for in it there is mention made only of Satan, his pomps, and his works; where, under the name of Satan as chief, it understands his angels also; of pomps and works, the idolatrous worship, and all its apparatus.
That the sacrament of baptism, by which we solemnly profess faith to the Lamb, and the Father, and by which we receive their name, and are called Christians, is the Lord's seal, the fathers every where declare, and that from the highest antiquity of the Church. Hence that of Origen, |We bear the immortal laver on our foreheads; when the demons see it they tremble.| Augustine also calls it, |the royal mark, the mark of the Emperor, the mark of the Redeemer.| They also maintain that this seal may be cancelled, and as it were, obliterated by idolatry and superstition. Tertullian on Spectacles, c.4, treating of baptism under the name of a seal, says, |When, upon our entering into the water, we profess the Christian faith in the words of his law, we call God to witness by our declaration, that we have renounced the devil, and his pomps, and his angels. What will be the chief and principal instance in which the devil, and his pomps, and his angels, arc to be understood, but idolatry?| and c.24, |Do we not abjure and break the seal in breaking his testimony?| Of the same kind also is that in the Book of Idolatry, c.19, |There is no agreement between the sign of Christ, and the sign of the Devil.| In like manner Augustine Tract.7 on John, |He has lost the sign of Christ, he assumes the sign of the devil.| Christ will not have such a communion. He will possess solely what he has purchased. With these Isidore agrees, Origin b.18. c.59. On the execration of spectacles, |He denies God, who undertakes such things, and has become a prevaricator to the Christian faith, who desires that afterwards, which he renounced long ago, at his baptism, that is, the devil, his pomps, and his works. All therefore who have received the mark of the beast, have denied, abjured, rendered of no avail, and accounted, as if they had never received, the mark of Christ, and of the Father. Only those, a hundred and forty-four thousand, who had not gone over to the camp of the beast, but adhered firmly to the Lamb, show the Lord's mark on their foreheads.
One thing still remains to be noticed; viz. that though the sealed in both instances, namely, here as well as in c. vii. are the. same, yet the reason for the sealing is not the same in both; and that in consequence of the different intent of the sealing. For there the subject of protection is treated of; here, of service and fidelity. But there is no necessity on that account to seek any other sign absolutely different from that of baptism; for baptism answers to both, since, over and above that which is the sign of our profession, God superadds another, namely, that of his grace, by which he acknowledges those who are washed, as his own, and receives them into his protection.
The latter, then, is treated of in the first vision of the sealed ones, the former in the present, if I am not deceived. And it favours this construction, that Clemens Alexandrinus, according to Eusebius, lib. iii. c.17, calls baptism teleion phulakterion, perfect guardianship. Also that Nazianzen, Orat. on Holy Baptism, affirms, that it is called a seal, as sunteresin, because it is conservation. Lastly, that of Basil, Exhort. to Baptism, |Unless the face of the Lord be sealed upon thee, unless the angel acknowledges the mark upon thee, how shall he fight for thee, or defend thee from thine enemies?| Now let us proceed to what follows.
|And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder, and I heard the voice of harpers harping on their harps. And they were singing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and the elders,| &c. This indicates the voice and song of the heavenly angels, glorifying the Father, and the Lamb, as they are reported to have done, when first the Lamb took the book of fates to be unclosed. With regard to these angels, therefore, he says by and by in the 5th verse, |And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven;| that is, a different one from those precentors. For there is no mention made of an angel before this, unless we call those who sung together a chorus of angels. Now the voice like the sound of many waters, and of thunder, signifies nothing but the voice of a numerous and crowded multitude, of which kind was that frequently heard in the temple, while it was still flourishing, of the Levite choristers, sounding forth the praises of God with the voice, and with musical instruments, on account of the multitude of whom, and of the people joining with them, a sound was produced resembling the waves of the sea, and the noise of thunder. This is not conjecture, but a plain matter of fact, as is directly expressed in the Song of Victory, c. xix. where the metaphor is the same. |I heard, as it were, the voice of a vast multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah!| Hence, in Ezek. c. xliii. v.2, where it is simply in the Hebrew, |His voice, (that is, the voice of the glory of the God of Israel) was like the voice of many waters;| the Septuagint render it by a paraphrase, Phone tes paremboles, hos phone diplaion ton pollon, |The voice of his camp, as the voice of many redoubling the sound.| The Chaldee has it in like manner, |The voice of those who bless his name, as the voice of many waters.| And that passage from the same prophet, respecting the cherubim, c. i. v.24, |I heard,| says he, |the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech as the voice of a host.| Lastly, in this acceptation is what is said in the description of the person of the Son of God in the beginning of the Apocalypse, taken from Daniel; for what, according to Daniel, is |the voice of a multitude,| is substituted by St. John |the voice of many waters;| what Daniel has, |His feet were like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words as the voice of a multitude,| John expresses, |His feet were like fine brass, as if glowing in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters.|
Moreover, the song is new which is sung to God, after the appearance of Christ in the world, in which, to Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb together, and to them alone, redemption, and power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing, are religiously and evangelically offered. The formula of this song is to be found, c. v. v.12, 13, and that under the title of a new song. So that it is scarcely to be doubted but that reference is made to it here, since mention is no where else made of a new song in this book. |Worthy,| say they, |is the Lamb that was slain;| that is, as it is before a little more explicitly said by the elders and living creatures, because he was slain, |to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.| |To Him, therefore, that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing, and honour, and glory, and strength, for ever and ever. -- Amen.| This is the formula of the new song, which, if God should ever enable me more thoroughly to understand, I shall, perhaps, more diffusively detail by an explanation; for it is deeply imprinted on my mind, that the whole mystery of the evangelical worship is therein contained.
As to the reason of the term applied to it, it seems to be called new, either as different and distinguished from that which was sung before the mission of Christ, (for under this, according to the saying of the apostle, |Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new,|) or, for the new benefit resulting from his advent, granted to none of the former ages of the world, but only to the last times; for which benefit, God was from thenceforth to be glorified, as well by angels as by men. And this reason for the expression will be confirmed both by that passage of Isaiah, c. xlii. vv.9, 10, |New things do I declare -- Sing unto the Lord a new. song,| and that appellation which occurs so often in the Psalms, of a new song, not to be understood, as it appears, in any other sense than either such a one by which the Divine power is celebrated for some new blessing, especially that of deliverance; (as in Psalm xl. |He brought me out of the miry clay; and He hath put a new song into my mouth;|) or, at least, one which is sung according to the manner of such songs, with no common joy and delight. That either of which would agree with the evangelical hymn is so plain, that there is no reason why I should endeavour to prove it.
|And no one could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, who were redeemed from the earth.| In the whole Christian world, as long as the beast was possessed of power, no one knew how to sing the song of angels, except those who were of the number of that 141,000 attendants of the Lamb. Since these alone, without any spot of idolatry, glorify the Father and the Lamb on earth, as the blessed angels in heaven, and they do that very thing which the Church in the Lord's Prayer incessantly asks of the Father that it may be done by all: |May thy will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.| The idea, therefore, or perfect example, of worshipping the Divine Power lawfully and duly, cannot be sought from any other source than from the celestial inhabitants. -- |These are they who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins.| That is, who have not associated with immodest women, or harlots. But who are these women? Certainly not those who are commonly so called, but in the language of the prophets, states, and those indeed nominally Christian, but devoted. to idols, of which the queen is Babylon the Great, called the Mother of Harlots, with whom the kings and inhabitants of the earth commit fornication. With such, those who are of the company of the Lamb have not consorted; that is, they have not contaminated themselves with idolatrous incest. |For they are virgins;| that is, free from all stain of idolatry. For the mode of analogy fully requires that these should be called virgins in the same sense in which the others, whether kings or people, are said to commit fornication with Babylon. Besides, since Babylon herself is spoken of as the mother of harlots, it follows that her daughters, the other states, must likewise be young harlots, with whom the inhabitants subject to them are polluted by spiritual fornication.
|These are they that follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth.| That is, most faithfully adhere to him, and do not desert him on any occasion; the metaphor being taken from those who never recede from a person's side, but accompany him in every place. Or thus: In whatever city, region, or territory, the Lamb has pitched his tent, there they attend upon Him; not like the rest of those who are called Christians, but will not seek for and follow the Lamb any where, unless he dwell at Rome, in the seat of St. Peter. |These were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb.| That is, they were redeemed from the remaining profane crowd, that they might become a sacred property to God and the Lamb, like the first-fruits. For the Ap9ar9che, or Primitiæ, do not, as is commonly. believed, denote merely the first-fruits, but also, whatever in general is consecrated to God, as exempt from profane uses; for that expression in the Hebrew is trvmh, under which name the Scripture comprehends, as well tithes, as whatever were the object of oblations, except burnt offerings. Whence Chrysostom calls the tithes which Abraham paid to Melchisedeck, first-fruits. And Irenæus also contends that the first-fruits, which he asserts that God even still requires of his creatures for himself in his Church, ought not to be less than a tenth, since Christ says he did not abolish the natural precepts of the Law, but extended them; and, in truth, Christians have not an inferior, but a greater hope than the Jews. (Iren. adv. Heres. lib. iv. c.27 and 34, juxta Feverardent. ed.) Why, even Callimachus, in his Hymn on Delos, calls the tenths, accustomed to be sent to Apollo, aparchas dekatephorous, first-fruits producing tithes. From all which circumstances it appears, that the word aparche, not only denotes an oblation of first productions, which in Hebrew is r'syt or bbvrym but also any other; and the reason of the name arises from this, that his own portion was to be given to God, before any thing was consumed for own purposes. Moreover, since the word does not include the definition of what part of the first-fruits was to be given, it came to pass that the ancient Christians chose to call their productions of the earth, or oblations of fruits, (though they thought they ought not to be less than the tenth part,) aparchas, or first-fruits, rather than tenths, as a voluntary, not a forced donation.
These observations, though not much conducing to my object, I nevertheless wished to introduce, that I might make it palateable, if possible, to those among us, who sometimes employ themselves in searching out the antiquity and right of tithes in the Christian Church, from the Fathers and the Councils. In the mean time, (to return to the subject from which I have made a little digression,) it must be confessed, that the more strict signification of first-fruits is not ill-suited to the place before us, -- namely, that the virgin company may be called the first-fruits in respect to the multitude of palm-bearers who are afterwards to receive him in a much larger number. Let the reader's judgment be free.
|And in their mouth was found no guile,| (pseudos, mendacium, lie: So the Vulgate, Syriac, Complutensian, Aretas, and Andrew in the Palatine copy; in others dolos;) |for they are blameless.|
|There is found no lie.| Of the kind of which there is found in the mouth of the beast's company, and of all idolaters, who profess that they worship the Lamb and the Father, yet really bestow the honour due to the Divine power on created things. For in truth, all idolatry is lying, since it worships for God what is not God. To which refers that passage of the apostle to the Romans, ch. i.25, |They have changed the truth of God into a lie, and served the creature instead of the Creator,| para ton ktisanta. Whence idols are called lies, as Amos ch. ii. v.4, |Their lies (idols in the Vulgate) have caused them to err, after which their fathers walked.| In the same manner, Isaiah ch. xxviii. v.15, |We have made lies our refuge.| So also Jerem. ch. xvi. v.19, 20, |The Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, (Chaldee, phlchv have worshipped vanity); and things wherein there is no profit. |Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?| Hence, too, the Apocalypse, ch. xxi. v.8, |Idolaters and liars;| and also ver.27, |that worketh abomination and maketh a lie,| seem to be placed on a level, or as synonymes. Moreover, since the idolatry of men of any description is a lie, then truly that of those, who at the same time pretend that they are the worshippers of the true Deity, is most properly deceit, or a fraudulent lie; so that if we attend to the hypocrisy of those followers of the beast, in opposition to whom the company of the sealed attendants of the Lamb is described, the reading which has |guile,| will appear preferable to the other, which has |a lie;| though it makes no great difference in the matter itself. In the mean time, for a fuller explanation of this pas. sage, let the reader compare that of Zephaniah iii.13, which is indeed very similar to it. |The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.|
|And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven (en mesouranemati), having the everlasting Gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people.|
The description of the assembly being finished, the history of events in that state of the Church follows, which were to be transacted, as well by the assembly under the auspices of the Lamb, their leader, as by the Lamb himself, against revolters and rebels. Of those events the order is double. First, of a three-fold admonition to the followers of the beast, exhibited as the shout of so many angels; secondly, of judgments in the Parable of the Harvest and Vintage. The first of the admonitory angels is he who is called another; but another, as I observed with reference to the chorus of angels, a little before described, in the number of whom that evangelist was not included. And here it must be remembered, (what I have already noticed above,) that the angels, in visions of this kind, represent the rule of those over whose government they preside; and what is transacted by the joint operations of both, is said to be done by the authority of angels, as the leaders or directors of the action. Hence, therefore, there is room to suppose, that the flying so sublimely, (provided that also ought to be considered as within the purview of the parable) is the president, not of every rank of men, but of those of a higher condition, and of such men lie is about to make use in publishing the Gospel. Besides, that Gospel is called aionion, or eternal, and that, I think, not so much with respect to the future as the past, as that which was promised, ap' aionos, that is, from the foundation of the age, or the beginning of the world, namely, |that the seed of the woman should hereafter bruise the serpent's head;| that is, by the coming of Christ, the kingdom of the devil should be destroyed, and the kingdom of God established. In which sense also, the apostle says, that it was |promised by God, pro chronon aionion, before the world began,| Titus, ch. i. v.2. So then aionion will be here the same as ap' aionos, and the everlasting Gospel mean the same as in the Hebrew, any vsrh slm the ancient Gospel, as eremoi aionioi, Isa. ch. lviii. triboi aionioi, Jer. ch. vi. v.16, and Bounoi aennaoi, Deut. ch. xxxiii. v.15, are rendered, the |old waste places, the old paths, and the ancient mountains.|
|Saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.|
The first angel, announcing that the time of the kingdom of God was now at hand, in which his judgment would be exercised on idols and idolaters, and therefore it began to be exercised as soon as the demons were thrown down, and cast out from the Roman throne; on which account he exhorts the nations, and tribes, and tongues, and people, who had from that time submitted to the power of Christ, that mindful of what they had done, they should worship the one only true God, the Creator, as it is announced in the Gospel, -- and keep themselves from idols. |Fear God,| says he; that is, reverence him, and give him the glory, -- the glory of adoration and religious worship, as is explained in the following words: |For the time of his judgment is come;| that is, the time when Christ by his cross spoiled principalities and powers, and announced, by his apostles and evangelists, to the nations whom he had suffered so long to walk in their own ways, that they must be converted from idols, or otherwise they would be punished with eternal death, at his return from heaven. Why, then, did Christians, who profess their faith in Jesus Christ, this judge and conqueror of demons, return again to the worship of idols and demons?
It is perhaps possible, that the time of judgment might be understood more strictly of the judgment of God, some time before displayed against the dragon and his followers, by which Paganism fell; but I would rather extend it more widely, and take it universally of the kingdom of Christ begun and promulgated in the last times, in which idols are no longer to be endured; namely, according to that saying of our Saviour, in the Gospel by St. John, ch. xii. v.31, -- |Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.| See also ch. xvi. v.11. From which judgment, indeed, the apostle Paul also (in the same manner as the angel here) drew an argument for dissuading the Athenian pagans from the worship of idols, Acts, ch. xvii. v.30, 31, |The times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now commandeth all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; having given assurance thereof to all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.| Similar to which is his admonition to the Lycaonians, ch. xiv.15, |We preach unto you, that ye should turn from these vanities to the living God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things therein; who, in the generations that are passed, suffered all nations to walk in their own ways;| that is, before his judgment was manifested to them. We must supply: But now he promulgates his judgment to all; which the angel here expresses by saying, |The time of his judgment is come.| But when? you will ask; and where, and with what ministers, did this angel perform his preaching? Certain preludes were issued as soon as superstition began to attach itself to the memories, and to hang round the relics of the martyrs in the Church, as appears by the history of Vigilantius, with whom, when opposing a superstition of this kind, many others, even some of the bishops of that time, agreed, as his adversary Jerome witnesses, who improperly attacks him on that account.
But this preaching most manifestly appears to have been fulfilled from the year of our Lord 720, in the Greek and Oriental Churches, where the evangelical angel indeed was flying, en mesouranemati, in the midst of heaven, that is, in a lofty and sublime place; for he employed one who was of the administrators of the Gospel, not a man of low and vulgar rank, but of the highest powers in the Christian world; for instance, the Constantinopolitan emperors, Leo Isauricus, Constantine Iconomachus, Leo the Arminian, Michael Balbus, and Theophilus; who all, but especially the first, protested most strenuously by their edicts and decrees in favour of a religious worship addressed to God alone, the Creator, in contradiction to the worship of the creature, not only that which was exercised in the veneration of images, but in reference to the saints, and their relics. Let the reader look back to the testimonies which I quoted upon this subject from Theopanes, when 1 was treating of the two-horned beast. But besides this, under the auspices of the second emperor, a council of bishops was convoked at Constantinople, in 338, and the adoration of images was charged with impiety, and condemned. You will acknowledge, Reader, if you are not tired of referring to it, that the very declaration of the Synod is the address of the angel, and grounded on the same foundation as his, according to our interpretation. But since it happened there, by the fraud of some who had indeed assented with the rest to the condemnation of images, yet favoured the invocation of saints, (for the votes were not equal against the latter and former superstitions,) that two canons, one relative to the worship of the blessed Mary, the mother of God, the other to the addressing the rest of the heavenly saints with religious invocation, were intermixed in the beginning with the decrees of the Council. As soon as the Emperor Constantine, with the Fathers of the sounder opinion, had remarked them, they immediately adjudged them to be erroneous, and took care, in testimony of their judgment, that they should be cancelled, and blotted out of the book. Of this fact I have a witness, if any one should doubt it; in the first place, the author of the refutation of that Constantinopolitan declaration, inserted in the Acts of the second Council of Nice; which, while it assumed that the first publication of it refuted itself, thus refers to those canons: |After this their publication,| says he, |they rejected even the offer of intercessions acceptable to God, blotting it out from this their rescript.| Then the acts of Stephen the monk and pseudo-martyr, according to whom, when the bishops, who were sent by the emperor to convince him, began to recite the decree of the Council, he immediately proceeded to object to the title of the Council as Holy, that it ought not to be called holy which proscribed holy things. |Have you not,| says he, |torn in pieces the sacred shrine adorned with images? Have you not discarded this adjective Agios, Saint, from all the just, from all apostles, from prophets, from martyrs, and pious men? For it is established by you, O generous men! that when any one should approach one of these persons, and he should be asked by him whither he was going, he should answer, To the apostles, to the forty martyrs; or, whence he came, From the temple of the martyr Theodorus, from the temple of the martyr George. Are not these your doctrines? With what consistency then have you, who have proscribed holy things, convened a holy council?| These are the words of Stephen himself. Let us hear besides the describer of his acts (who lived at the same time), tragically exclaiming against the same persons, for undervaluing the worship of the mother of God. |To what a degree, O Christ, do I admire thy lenity, which cannot be expressed in words! In what manner may I explain the depth of your benignity, which surpasses all the power of words! Still do those audacious tongues continue to burst forth in such a manner, that they do not hesitate to utter that great and wicked saying, namely, that the virgin mother of God herself is a being of no utility after death, and destitute of all advantage, and cannot be an aid, or a patroness to any one.| I add to these the testimony of Cedrenus. He relates, that Constantine issued an universal law, (without doubt, from the opinion of a council, whose Acts are not extant at this day, except the declaration only) |That no one whatever of the servants of the Lord should be called Saint, but that their relics when found should be despised, (that they might not be superstitiously venerated, O Cedrenus, even though they were real; and if false, be cast out of the temple;) nor their intercession invoked, for it was of no value.| |The wretch added,| says he, |that no one should implore the intercession of Mary.|
Now the reader may agree with me, whether he does not think it clear from these testimonies, that there was something transacted in that council against the worship of saints and relics. I have dwelt so much the longer on the proof of this, because it is not so well known to every one as that against images. But we have not yet discharged our duty; that calumny about the epithet of Saint being denied to the just, as if in degradation and contumely, must first be wiped away. For it is evident from the declaration of the Synod, (which is extant at this clay in the Acts of the second Nicene Council) that the apostles and the just are every where honoured by those fathers with the title of sanctity. They are not therefore to be supposed to have absolutely prohibited that which they themselves have often done. But we may be allowed to conjecture, that, in the opinion of that age, the word hagios (for of this word only are we disputing,) appeared to infer the honour of intercession; and therefore, that superstition might by all means be opposed, the use of it in common discourse about the temples, especially when they went there to pray, was interdicted. For hagios seems to he derived from hagos, by which word is signified veneration, or a being worthy of veneration. Whence are hagioi, sebasmioi, and both from hazo, to venerate, to worship. Nay, that it manifestly refers to the worship of the dead, it is of common origin with enagizein, to offer sacrifices to the dead, to perform funeral rites to deceased relatives; and with enagismos, the performance of such rites, sacrifices to the dead. Besides, (with the reader's good leave, and without a charge of trifling annotation,) it might be the case, that the word hagios, among the Greeks, (as the examples of similar blunders on the part of the vulgar may sometimes be observed among us,) might seem to imply, though falsely, by whom our prayers are offered to God; that is, prosagogia, an usher and mediator with God; in the same manner as Gregory Nazianzen gives the title to our Lord Christ, according to the apostle to the Ephesians, c. ii. v.18. Di autou echomen prosagogen pros ton Patera. |Through him we have access to the Father.| However it may be, it appears by the testimonies adduced, it was at the time supposed, that by the use of this word the superstitious feeling towards the saints who had departed this life, was supported and cherished. To resist which, by every means and effort, its use was interdicted, not, indeed, absolutely and universally, as their adversaries calumniously represent, but in giving that title to the temples only, which were named in memory of the apostles and martyrs.
This was done, as it appears, to do away the error of supposing, that either the places themselves, where God was approached through the intercession of martyrs, or of those whose names they bore, were entitled to veneration. Therefore, instead of the name of Saints, they thought fit to substitute that of apostles and martyrs, certainly not less honourable. It was indeed the province of him to judge on this subject considerately and advisedly, who had all the circumstances of the time, and the facts of the case, before him, openly and fully displayed. In the mean time, it does not detract at all from the virginity and purity of the Church, if she has sometimes judged with less wisdom in such cases as refer to the reason and mode of performing any act. It does not necessarily follow, that she who is chaste should always act or speak prudently. From nearly a similar cause, the word sacerdos, priest, as applied to evangelical presbyters; and sacrificium, a sacrifice, as applied to the sacrament of the eucharist; (not to name other words of this kind,) were ordered to be disused among many of the reformed churches. And that indeed not altogether rashly, if they had not substituted (in the opinion of some,) the word ministri, ministers, not a very appropriate term; by which all who discharge the sacred office are properly called according to the use of Scripture, but by which, however, priests are not distinguished from deacons. Should we not rather have called them by the apostolical name of presbyteri, presbyters, if we dislike sacerdoti, priests? But these are matters which belong to another place.
Moreover, not only in the East, but in the West also, though the Roman pontiff was enraged, the proclamation of this angel resounded, not indeed, as there, with the full blast of the trumpet, but still with a public and solemn denunciation. First in the year 790, in the Synod of Frankfort, under Charlemagne, composed of nearly 300 bishops, besides abbots, and others; where the worship and adoration of images were condemned, together with the second Nicene Council, which had established them, and which Pope Hadrian had by his legates managed and approved. And again in the Synod of Paris, in the year 825, assembled by the command of Louis, in which it is shown at length, both from Divine authority and from the opinions of the Fathers, that the adoration of images was a wicked and impious practice, and the Nicene Synod was reprobated, as guilty of this kind of superstition. Add to this, the commentary sent by Charlemagne to the pontiff Hadrian, the champion of idols, after the Frankfort Council; and here likewise you may acknowledge the angel flying in the midst of heaven. Hitherto we have attended to the exhortation of the first angel: now let us listen to the preaching of the second.
The second angel denounces Rome for its filthiness, and the multitude of its idolatries; by which, in despite of the exhortations of the first angel, she had not only contaminated herself, but also had exhibited herself as the leader and chief of all the nations of the world, that they with her might do the same, and by which she was now converted from the city of God into Babylon; on this account become at length wholly obnoxious through her impenitence to the Divine sentence delivered against all idolaters, as no longer to be endured, but to be destroyed, and cut off by an irrevocable decree; and the preparation for that ruin was ordained to be continually and assiduously prosecuted from this proclamation.
And the assembly of the Waldenses and Albigenses were the attendants of this proclamation, partly in word, and partly in deed, as those who first of all mortal beings openly denounced the Roman Church for its idolatry, or mystic whoredom, to be the apocalyptical Babylon; and they likewise took the first step towards its ruin; since thus detected, immediately a great multitude of men began to abominate her, and privately to make a defection throughout all the provinces of her dominion; and, in addition, her authority from thenceforth, day by day, began to fall more and more into decay, and her ruin then to commence, which was not to stand still, till it should at length come down to the burning of the city. I will say in a word, from the preaching of this angel, a select force of holy soldiers began to be formed for the uninterrupted destruction of Babylon.
|Babylon has fallen. It has fallen.| As if he had said, Now are the foundations laid for the ruin of Babylon; from this time shall the preparations for waging war against her be undertaken. It is an imitation of Isaiah, c. xxi. who expressly, in the same words, and on an occasion not different in kind, related the ruin of the ancient Babylon, not yet accomplished, but pre-announced, as here by the foundations being laid, it should most surely come to pass. For as chronology teaches, Isaiah uttered his prophecy at the very time when the Medes, who were hereafter to lay waste Babylon, having shaken off the yoke of the Assyrians, asserted their own liberty; and having built Ecbatana, under their new king, Dejoces, laid the foundations of that kingdom, which was to be fatal both to Nineveh .and Babylon.
|Because she made all nations drink of the wine of the excess of her fornication.|
That is to say, she has deceived them with philtres, with medicated wine; thumos here does not mean wrath or violent anger, but according to the Hellenistic use of the word, poison ; for they conceive it to be synonymous with the Hebrew chmh, which signifies sometimes wrath, sometimes poison. Hence, Deut. c. xxxii. v.33. Sept. |Thumos drakonton ho oinos auton, kai thumos aspidon aniatos.| |Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the incurable venom of asps.| Also Job, c. xx. v.16. |Thumon drakonton thelaseien, aneloi de auton glossa opheos;| that is, |he shall suck the poison of asps, the viper's tongue shall slay him.| Add Psalm lviii. v.4. |Thumos autois kata ten homoiosin tou opheos,| |Their poison is like the poison of a serpent.| Vide also, if you will, Deut. c. xxxii. v.24; Job, c. vi. v.4. Nay, wherever the signification of poison occurs in the Old Testament, you will not see it expressed more than once in any other way than this, or by the word choles . Now mention is twice made in the Apocalypse of oinos tou thumou, or poisoned wine of this kind; of oinos tou thumou tes porneias, the poisoned wine of fornication, in which, as I said, an amatory virus or philtre is meant, (according to which the same c. xviii. v.23. pharmakeia, sorcery, a word suited to that meaning) and oinos tou thumou tes orges, the poisoned wine of indignation, which is the potion of those who undergo punishment; since by the former the Holy Spirit expressed the enticement to spiritual fornication from the custom of harlots conciliating love by philtres; by the latter, he alluded to the manner of the Jews, who were accustomed to offer to those who were to suffer death, a cup of wine, in which myrrh or some kind of aromatic bitter was mixed, for the purpose of bringing on a torpor. A potion of which kind, for this reason, is related to have been offered to our Saviour just after be had been affixed on the cross, but he refused to drink it. Matt. c. xxviii. v.34. |They gave him wine mingled with gall,| meta choles memigmenon, that is, wine of wrath, for chole and thumos mean the same. Now, by the word chole, the evangelist meant something bitter in general, according to the use of the Greeks, (by whom wormwood is also called chole). This St. Mark shows to have been myrrh, |And they gave him wine mingled with myrrh.| But myrrh in Hebrew mvr, Syriac mvr', took its name from its excessive bitterness. And hence it seems to follow, that the prophets in depicting destructions, so often make use of the parable of the cup; as that which according to national custom it was usual to present to those who were about to die.
Such was the proclamation of the second angel, whom the third soon succeeded. Whatever new admonition he superadds, let us listen to with submissive attention.
The third angel, going beyond the two former, admonishes the worshippers of the beast how horrible a danger impended over them, if they still persisted in being his followers; and therefore persuades them, renouncing all delay, immediately to withdraw themselves from his society; that by this means they might consult their own safety, for those who adhered to him afterwards could not possibly be safe. Which preaching, indeed, being the most remarkable of all, was fulfilled in the labour of Luther, and his associates and successors; the consequence of which was the illustrious Reformation of the Churches, which we now behold, not by individual men, as was done at the voice of the preceding angel, but by provinces and tribes, to the assertion and purification of religion, every where shaking off the yoke of the beast. |And a third angel followed them (that is, the two former), saying with a loud voice, If any one worship the beast and his image, and receive the mark on his forehead, or on his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before the holy angels, and before the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.|
A terrible description of a terrible judgment, to which scarcely any thing similar occurs within the compass of the whole canon of Scripture. |The wine of the wrath of his indignation,| is the potion of punishment accustomed to be given to those who are about to die, as we observed on ver.8. Pure wine, that is, wine not diluted with water, strongly inebriates, and still more, if different kinds of wine are mingled together; of which kind, therefore, some would understand to be meant here, by those words kekerasmenou akratou, that is, mixed wine; since he would otherwise speak of things that oppose each other. But I am inclined to think, that akraton kekerasmenon may be the same with pure wine mixed with myrrh, gall, frankincense, or a similar drug of bitter flavour, which was used to be put into a cup, called by the Jews the cup of malediction, after the manner of the nation; and that there is an allusion to it in the lxxvth Psalm, v.9. according to the Septuagint. |Poterion en cheiri Kuriou, oinou akratou pleres kerasmatos,| |A cup in the hand of the Lord of pure wine full of mixture.| When the Chaldee has, |There is a cup of malediction in the hand of the Lord, of strong wine full of a mixture of bitterness, so as to take away the use of reason from the wicked.| For we said, that the potion was given to take away the use of reason from the dying person. But instead of what the Sept. has, pure wine, in the Hebrew it is yyvtmd, red wine, which had not lost its colour by admixture with water. For there: were red wines in the Holy Land. The remaining part of the description is obvious.
It will be useful here, to observe the progress of this triple proclamation, and how the latter exceeds the former in importance. The first angel admonished only of one duty, that of worshipping God duly, according to the directions of the Gospel, and did not reprove the fault committed on this head. The second proceeding farther points at the crime of spiritual fornication, and that to be inevitably punished by death and destruction, but which it threatens at the time to Babylon alone, the chief leader and contriver of the crime, and not yet to the participators in it. But the third, the full measure of heinousness being fulfilled, denounces to the whole army of the beast, and to all who should continue in obedience to him, the most horrible and unspeakable torments, and that they would have neither end nor remission. Then follows, |Here is the patience of the saints, here are they who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.| As if he should say, This preaching will be the touchstone, to prove both the patience and obedience of the saints. Their patience indeed, if, acquiescing in the expectation of so terrible a punishment, of such as will compensate for all delay, they should by no means be disturbed at the daily successes of the beast; nor fall away in their minds in any degree to him by the rage of persecutions, with which he will assail the refractory, and those who are disobedient to his command; their obedience, truly |to the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,| if, after having heard this threat, they without delay forthwith withdraw themselves from communion with the beast, and renounce his image, and mark. These are they |who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus;| that is, who rightly and evangelically worship God in the faith of Jesus Christ, and on that account are called, not undeservedly, by the name of evangelical.
The virgin church having thus discharged her triple admonition, the sanction of it succeeds against her enemies, under the type of the harvest and the vintage; which, when once finished, the blessed remuneration of the just is no longer delayed, as is proved by that denunciation from Heaven delivered before the description of both. |I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.|
I know that most refer this celestial declaration to former events, as for the purpose of consoling the saints, who are now about to suffer very grievous injuries from the beast, irritated by the preceding shout of exhortation. In which opinion I also concurred some time ago. But now, having weighed the matter more accurately, I incline to think, that it is to be referred rather to subsequent events, as an admonition of the near approaching resurrection and judgment under the seventh trumpet; the preparation for which would begin to take place in the following visions; so that the word aparti, from this time, may be used not in respect of the subject exhibited in the preceding vision, but of that to be exhibited in the following one, which, without doubt, immediately precedes the resurrection of the dead and judgment. As if he had said, Now we are come to that state of things, that only one thing remains to be fulfilled, before the time in which the dead in the Lord shall rise to a blessed life. For so in the Gospel of St. Matthew, c. xxiii. ver. the last, our Lord says to the Jews, |Ye shall not see me aparti, from thenceforth, until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.| That is, not from the moment of time in which he was speaking these words, but from the time of the Passover, which he was then about to celebrate; after which he no longer presented himself openly in the sight of the Jews. Now my reason for thinking this to be the case is threefold: First, that I do not remember any where in the sacred Scripture, that the day of death is pointed out as the day of recompense, but only the day of resurrection and judgment. Secondly, the denunciation from heaven, with a command to write, does not seem applicable, except to point out some remarkable turn of events. Undoubtedly a command of this kind is nowhere else to be found, except in the beginning of this entire prophecy. Lastly, there is an agreement in sense, if well-attended to, between this proclamation, and that at the sound of the seventh trumpet, ch. xi., where the time is said to be come, when |the cause of the dead,| (namely, those who died for the sake of Christ) |should be judged, and God should give reward to his servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to those who fear his name, both small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.| So here, |Blessed are the dead from henceforth, who die in the Lord, that they may rest from their labours;| that is, they may henceforth lead a life secure from their ancient evils and calamities; (by which is intimated the extermination of enemies and tyrants;) |and their works do follow them;| that is, they shall obtain a most blessed reward for all their sufferings and all their good works.
Meanwhile, if this interpretation is admitted, I alter not the sense of the words, |those that die in the Lord,| by understanding those with the last words of the foregoing sentence, |not of any who sleep in the faith of Christ, but especially of the martyrs, who poured out their lives for Christ,| (for to such belongs the first resurrection,) so that I think with Beza, it may be rendered, who die on account of the Lord, or for the Lord's sake. As in the Epistle to the Ephesians, c. iv. v.1, |A prisoner in the Lord,| is a prisoner for the sake of the Lord, the same indeed as |the prisoner of Christ,| c. iii. v.1.
In which sense the ancients (as we may conjecture from Tertullian) understood 1 Thess. c. iv. v.16, |The dead in Christ shall rise first;| that is, the martyrs, who were delivered up to death for confessing Christ. See Tert. de Animâ, c. lv. Moreover, it is to be noted, that the ablative in the Latin, and so likewise the dative in the Greek, which signifies in some places the instrument, and mode of acting, denotes also the cause for which, or on account of which, a thing is done. |He strikes in anger; he is impelled by envy,| or the like. But since the Hebrews express this ablative or dative by the preposition v, and in imitation of them the Greek Scriptures express it by en, it follows from thence, that iv also signifies in the same place, the cause, on account of which a thing is done. Such a signification, indeed, with this particle, is not very frequent, but I have no doubt but diligent observation would supply more examples than occur to me at present. So much with reference to the heavenly proclamation. Now let us investigate the sense of this pair of visions, to which we observed it was a forerunner; and let us do this, as far as is allowable, in a future event, with the sobriety and modesty which become us. And first of the harvest, by which the primary step is taken towards consummation.
|And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sitting like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel went out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Put forth thy sickle and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he who sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.|
The word harvest embraces three things, -- the mowing down, the gathering in, and the threshing of the corn. Whence it follows, that it constitutes a two-fold parable in the sacred writings, and of a contrary meaning. Sometimes in that of slaughter and destruction, as of reaping and threshing; sometimes in that of restitution and salvation, in the sense of gathering in. An example of the former is to be met with in Jeremiah, ch. li.33, where he thus speaks of the destruction of Babylon. |The daughter of Babylon is as a threshing-floor, the time of her threshing is come; yet a little while, and the time of her harvest will come.| Also Isaiah, ch. xvii.5, &c. of the fall of Damascus, and the slaughter of Israel by Tiglathpileser. |And it shall be, as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and his arm reapeth the ears.| But an example of the latter is scarcely any where else to be found than in the New Testament. |The harvest,| says our Saviour, |is great, but the labourers are few.| There are not wanting some, however, who interpret in this sense that complaint of Israel in Jeremiah, ch. viii.20, |The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.| The time is past in which we thought ourselves safe, and we are not saved. Let us search out, if possible, which of the figures the harvest sustains in the present passage from the order of those transactions, which the Holy Spirit has elsewhere represented to us concerning the same times of the Church. That the treading of the winepress, by which the vintage succeeding the harvest is accomplished, is the same with that bloody slaughter executed by him who sits on the white horse, ch. xix.15, is manifest from what is inserted in the description of the rider. |He it is who treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God Almighty.| Now this being an acknowledged datum, it follows of course, that the prophetical parables, which equally and immediately precede each, and without any other vision intervening, must either denote the same thing, or if they are different events, yet by some means connected and interwoven with each other. Since, therefore, here. the harvest immediately precedes the vintage, and there the preparation of the nuptials of the Lamb, together with the fall of Babylon precede that fierce slaughter, it follows indisputably, that either that preparation or destruction is the harvest of which we are in search, and that they relate to the same circumstance as the harvest does, or the harvest to the same as they do. If we were to say that the devastation of Babylon was the harvest, it would sufficiently agree both with the character of the type, which implies reaping and threshing, and particularly it would favour a little the example of Jeremiah, predicting the fall of the ancient Babylon, under the same figure. The passage is the same which I just now quoted. To this likewise must be added, that since both the harvest and the vintage, as they finish the year, denote the end and consummation of all things; but the harvest would precede the vintage in time; therefore, if it were certainly known that either were applied to signify the consummation of the Roman tyranny, the harvest would very appositely designate the destruction of the city, as the first-fruits of this full destruction; the vintage succeeding that harvest would point out the extinction of the whole kingdom of the beast, to follow the former at no long interval of time. Nor is there any thing to oppose this accommodation but that one circumstance, that the laying waste of Babylon, as we have hitherto presupposed, is not found to take place immediately before that dreadful slaughter, expressed likewise by the image of the vintage, ch. xix., but another event, subsequent, as it appears, to the laying waste of Babylon, namely, the preparation for the nuptials of the Lamb, or the embellishment of his bride. Will not then the harvest be a signification of that preparation? or (it that be unsuitable) of some other event to be transacted at the same time
But what, you will ask, is that preparation of the bride? What is it which is to be transacted at the same time with this? In truth, I do not see how that preparation of the bride can be any thing else than the conversion and collection of Israel, expected for so many ages; of her, who formerly, (according to our Saviour's parable,) when invited to the nuptials of the king's son, refused to come, but now hastens to meet him, promptly and prepared. For the Gentiles, as it appears, cannot possibly be called that bride, because they have been long ago, and for many ages, espoused to Christ. The Jews, therefore, are those who are yet expected to become the spouse of the Lamb.
But with this conversion and restoration of Israel, (by which she will be adopted into the virgin company of the Lamb, and will become a part of it,) will be joined the reaping or destruction of the Turkish empire, according to what we read at the sixth phial, but under another figure, that |the water of the great river Euphrates should be dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.| For the time of this phial manifestly agrees with the time of the preparation of the bride, since, as that was introduced between the destruction of Babylon and the last slaughter of the enemies of the Church, so this phial intervenes between that which is poured out on the throne of the beast, and the last phial. That is, the Church of Christ, as it was about to become double by the conversion of Israel; so each part appears to have, at that time, its own peculiar enemy; the former the Roman beast, with its uncircumcised origin; the latter, the Mohammedan empire, over a circumcised people, and of an Ismaelitish origin, ominous to the descendants of Isaac. Of the extermination of both of which, to be accomplished at the coming of Christ, why should not the harvest represent the one, and the vintage the other?
Moreover, to this interpretation of the harvest, the prophecy of Joel will afford, if not absolutely confirmation, yet at least some appearance of probability; from which both the image of the harvest and the vintage was taken. For it is manifest, that he is there treating of the time of the conversion of Israel, even from the first words of the Oracle, (Joel, ch. iii. v.2.) |In those days, and in that time, when I shall bring back again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem; I will gather all nations in the valley of Jehosaphat, and will plead with them there for my people, and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and divided my land.| Then follows, in the suggested type of a warlike array, |Put ye in the sickles, for the harvest is ripe. Come, get ye down, for the winepress is full, the fats overflow, for their wickedness is great.|
Since, then, we may observe in this accommodation of the figure of the harvest, that the event transacted may be so compared, that either notion of the harvest, that of reaping and threshing as well as that of gathering in, may be adapted to it, the latter with reference to Israel gathered together into the garner of the Church; the former to the slaughter of enemies in conjunction with that event; yet as the matter here treated of is the last effort of the Church against its foes, I think that the notion of reaping and threshing is altogether to be preferred.
But whatever the harvest may be, the description proves that Christ himself as king will assuredly be the Lord of it, and the director of the work of reaping the corn. For to what other king than him is that title of the Son of man coming in the chariot of a cloud, attributed through the whole course of Scripture? So that, in my opinion, it is by no means safe to wrest it to any other meaning. It is rather to be collected, that the power of the Divinity in discharging the duties of that harvest, as well as in the vintage next to come, will be more conspicuous and illustrious than in any of those works, which were performed only in the names of angels.
Hitherto we have formed conjectures respecting the harvest. Let us now proceed to the vintage; which, as it usually does in the order of events, it is agreeable to reason that it should succeed the harvest.
|And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, having power over fire, and he cried with a great cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel put in his sickle upon the earth, and gathered the produce of the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress up to the bridles of the horses, for the space of a thousand six hundred furlongs.|
This is the description of the vintage; to the interpretation of which we shall with more certainty direct our aim, because the signification of the parable is less ambiguous, and the meaning of treading the clusters is more express, since the treading of the vintage in parabolical Scripture constantly denotes a fierce, deadly, and cruel slaughter. This is our first observation. And then those words about treading the winepress of the wrath of God, inserted in that description, show that this is the same with that great slaughter in ch. xix. as I have just now observed. Therefore also, it will be the same with |the battle of the great day of the Lord God Almighty,| at the last phial; for that the deadly slaughter in ch. xix. is the same as that, we cannot doubt, since both arc the last destruction of the same enemy; for both ultimately impend over the beast, the false prophet, and their confederates. But it is impossible there should be more than one last slaughter of the same persons. Now, if our vintage signifies the same destruction with those, it must also impend over the same enemies, and therefore over the beast, and the false prophet. The vine, therefore, or vineyard of the earth, of which mention is here made, is the dominion of the beast. The grapes ripe for gathering are the followers of the beast, swelling with the guilt of blood, ripe for judgment. The lake, in the last place, or winepress, is the place of slaughter, the same in truth as in the seventh phial, interpreted according to the Hebrew, is called Armageddon; perhaps because there the troops or forces of the beast will be extirpated by a deadly destruction. For arma means chdvv', destruction; gedon, or geddon, gdvn, troop, army, or their army. |He gathered them together,| says he, |in a place called in the Hebrew language Armageddon. (the books published by Plautinus have only the single D, Armagedon.) And the seventh angel poured out his phial in the air, and a great voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.| But where the winepress, or place for treading the grapes will be, is yet hid among the secret things of God; nor is it on that account to be too curiously investigated by us, nor to be pointed out, until either the event shall disclose it, or a state of things more nearly advanced to it, shall perhaps afford some indication of it. It will be allowable however to observe, without any charge of temerity, that from so accurate a measurement of the space, for which the slaughter should extend, it may seem that the Holy Spirit directs our attention to some region, which stretches one thousand six hundred furlongs in length, for he shows us that the carnage shall take place without the city, for so many furlongs; that is, if I am not mistaken, in the region or dominion of the city. Hence it follows, that some have thought the Holy Land was marked out by that circuit, as what accurately contains so many furlongs in its length, that is, 200 Italian miles, though not more than 160 Greek, which Jerome reports in his epistle to Dardanus was the length of the Holy Land. For the Greeks, they say, measured their mile by ten furlongs, each of which were a hundred paces; but the pace (which they call orgya) was six Roman feet; so that in the whole a Greek mile contained 6000 Roman feet. The Romans, on the contrary, define the pace by five feet, the furlong by 125 paces, the mile by eight furlongs, that is, only 5000 feet. Whence it comes to pass, that the Greek mile, though it agrees with the Roman in the number of 1000 paces, is yet greater than the Roman by a fifth part. So that 200 Roman miles make no more than 160 Greek.
This is the sum of the argument. Besides, it is not altogether unimportant, in addition to this conjecture, that the name of the place is called in the Hebrew language Armageddon, as if it were to be in the land of the Hebrews. But after all, by what means could this possibly take place? Indeed, to those who imagine Antichrist is to come from the East, this opinion is very natural and easy; but not so to us, unless some one perhaps should think it probable, that the false prophet, after the overthrow of Rome, should migrate into the East, and there fix his seat; which there are not wanting some among the followers of the beast who maintain, that is, that before the last day of judgment, the Roman pontiff shall have his habitation at Jerusalem. For certainly, that the beast with his affairs at home, placed in such a state, and in such jeopardy in the West, as is supposed, should again (as formerly in the expedition to Jerusalem) lead an army into Palestine, leaving many enemies behind him, and there at length be entirely put an end to, cannot be affirmed with any show of probability. But farther, that we who assert a Western Antichrist may not be inferior on this side to those who suppose an Eastern one, there is also a place in the neighbourhood, with which the assigned number of furlongs agrees; for instance, the Stato della Chiesa, or the possessions of the Roman Church, which, from the city of Rome to the mouth of the Po, and the marshes of Verona, extend to the space of 200 Italian miles, that is, 1600 furlongs.
But whither am I digressing? Let us at length impose a restraint on curiosity, in which perhaps we have hitherto too much indulged. Let us come to other matters which will be more worth our consideration. And therefore, in the first place, that the gatherer of the grapes, and the treader of the winepress, are not the same person; but, as the offices of the vintager and the winepresser are different, so likewise they have different agents; the vintage or gathering in, an angel furnished with a vine-hook the treading, Christ himself, as King, accompanied with heavenly horsemen, which may clearly appear from the vision of the xixth chapter (for I have often quoted it). For there St. John saw |heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he that sat upon it was called faithful, and true, and in righteousness does he judge, and make war,|| and he was clothed with a garment dipped in blood, and he was called by name, The Word of God.| -- |And the armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.| -- |And out of his mouth proceeded a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and he treadeth the winepress of the indignation and wrath of God Almighty.| Can any thing be said more clearly? And therefore, in the context on which we are throwing light to the utmost of our ability, it is by no means said that the angel who gathered or cut off the clusters, was the same as trod the winepress, but only, that he cast the gathered clusters into the winepress, which being done, |the winepress was trodden without the city;| by whom, unless by Christ the King, proceeding from heaven, with his celestial troop? That doubtless is what the Holy Spirit would signify by the mention of horses immediately subjoined; |And the blood came out of the winepress, even to the horses' bridles.| For why is that allusion to horses inserted, unless to admonish us by this token, that the winepress was trodden by him to whom that equestrian force belonged? To circumscribe the matter then in few words, this is the sum of the vision respecting the vintage. An angel vintager, with the assistance of the saints, the presidency over whom was committed to him for this purpose, will prune and cut off the clusters of the beast, and, during his pruning, will cause them to be gathered together at Armageddon, and those who are gathered, the Lord Jesus Christ will at length tread under at his coming; according to what St. Paul says of the |man of sin,| (who is this very beast,) that he shall be destroyed by the Lord |with the brightness of his coming.|
Now the harvest, as well as the vintage, is supplicated by prayers; the former, as it appears, by those of the Church universal; whence the angel who there sustains the person of the suppliants, is said generally to come out of the temple. But the latter is rather enforced by martyrs and confessors, against whom the wicked had raged with butcheries and torments, and had made them victims to Christ. On which account, the angel who proclaims to this effect, goes out of the thysiasterium, or enclosure of the altar, and is said to have power over fire, even the fire of martyrdom. It is very commonly observed, that the blood of the martyrs cries to God for vengeance. For, indeed, the Scripture every where testifies, that the Divine Power will bestow on the Church neither a state of prosperity, nor vengeance on their enemies, without the prayers of its members. So the Babylonian captivity was put an end to at the prayers of Daniel; and in the parable of the widow fatiguing the unjust judge by her clamorous entreaties, the application is, that God would be aroused in like manner by the prayers of his elect, to come at length at some fit time to avenge them. You may add, that when the trumpets were sounded for the demolition of the Roman empire, the prayers of the martyrs by incense offered up, are first recalled to the memory of God.
Hear then, O Christ our King! and recall to the memory of thy Father, so many suppliant prayers of thy people, for thy kingdom, so many groans of the afflicted, and of those who were slain for thy name; and when the time shall come which will appear seasonable to thee, arise, reap, and gather in the vintage!