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tude, but in respect of beauty, excellency, or analogical fitness. The picture was well drawn; the hand of a master was visible in all its features, and in the proportion of its parts. It was drawn to the life ; and therefore it appeared to the prophet, as if a woman had actually been in heaven, in such circumstances as are here described.
This analogical sign was a woman clothed with the sun. Two different females occupy a very conspicuous place among the groups of figures in this book. The one is represented as possessing all the hardened and unblushing effrontery that ever characterized and disgraced an abandoned and dissolute woman. She is the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; she is · Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. The other is a female of a very different and opposite character. She is the bride, the wife of the Lamb;' the Jerusalem that cometh down from above;' and the mother of all genuine believers. This last is the woman intended by the sign in heaven. The analogies cannot be traced in the features of any other society than those of the church.
If it should be objected to this view of the figure, that it involves an absurdity, because heaven is the symbolical name of the church; and if the woman be meant of the church, then the church must have been seen in herself. In answer to this it may be observed, that the church has an outward and visible form as well as an inward and invisible state. Heaven is the hieroglyphical name of the first; and multitudes like the dragon may obtain access to the outward and visible privileges of the society, who have no part nor portion with her genuine members in the possession of saving benefits. This mystical woman is the figure of true believers ; she is the sign of those that are married to the Lord, and admitted to the most blessed and intimate fellowship with him by the Spirit. And it would be vain to look for persons of this description any where but among the visible professors of the name of Christ.
This woman was possessed of the ensigns of high rank. She had the regalia of a queen; and, compared with her's, all the insignia of earthly greatness dwindle into mere pageantry, and are as nothing. Her robe of state was peculiarly splendid; she was clothed with the sun, and therefore her appearance must have resembled that luminary when he shineth in his brightness ; his rays were so condensed about her throne, that she was covered with light as with a garment.—This splendid attire could be nothing else than the comeliness of Jesus Christ put upon her. He is the sun of the church ; and all her genuine members shine in the rays of his imputed righteousness, and by the grace and work of his Spirit. • They are covered with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation. Their clothing is of wrought gold; they are all glorious within.'
The pedestal of her throne was the moon; she had this planet under her feet. The figure has been generally understood of earthly and sensible objects, as the moon is known to have a very powerful influence upon our globe. The affections of this mystical queen were placed upon things which are above. She'could look down from her lofty throne in the heavens, with great indifference of spirit, upon the most splendid objects which this world could present to her notice. And though she did not despise any of the good things of Providence, yet, compared with the blessings of grace and mercy, she was disposed to trample them under her feet. The figure has sometimes been understood of the ceremonies of the law, as almost every thing peculiar to that dispensation was regulated by the
But all that ritual is now passed away. These weak and beggarly elements are not suited to the advanced state of the church in New Testament times ; that moon, as including every thing which pertained to the Mosaic system, is now put under the feet of the church.
The gems of her crown were also of a very singular description. She had on her head a crown of twelve stars. The public ministers of religion are symbolized in this book by stars ; and as the woman is the hieroglyphic of the church in her New
Testament state, these twelve stars must be understood of the twelve apostles, the honoured instruments of introducing that new and better dispensation with which she is favoured. Not that the apostles themselves, personally considered, can be intended by the figure : when they are alluded to under the emblem of stars, we must think of the doctrine which they communicated, the example they proposed for imitation, the mode of worship they introduced, and the ecclesiastical order and government which they established. When any church relinquishes the apostolic doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, she parts with her best ornaments, she loses her crown of twelve stars. But so long as these things are retained, how. ever few the number of her members, however poor in respect of the things of time, and however persecuted and despised by the world, she is an honourable association. Her crown is of immense value ; it has a brilliancy which far excels the crowns of earthly majesty ; it could not be more beautiful though it were studded and ornamented with the different constellations in the heavens.
Finally, She is represented under the idea of a woman in an advanced state of pregnancy: she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come, John xvi. 21. In allusion to this, the church, who is the mother of believers, is described as being in pain, and crying out of her pains, to be delivered of her spiritual progeny. There have been seasons, when as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth children ; but there have been others, in which ber children were not brought forth without much anxiety and pain. This last was remarkably the case in the period to which the prophecy refers; because, together with what might be called her labour-pains, she was tormented with the fear of bringing forth children to be devoured by a dragon. An adversary of this description was lurking in her neighbourhood, and ready to devour her child as soon as it might be born.
These verses present us with a beautiful picture of the Catholic body, before it was corrupted by false doctrine, or debased by superstition and earthly grandeur. In the age of the apostles, the church looked forth • fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.' While the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the apostles continued to be regarded, this holy society continued to flourish ; • There were daily added to the church such as should be saved. But when the worst of doctrines came to be imbibed, when human inventions were substituted in the place of the ordinances of religion, and when the discipline and government, which her king had instituted for the correcting of abuses, were completely changed, it was then that the great body of the professors of the name of Christ lost their crown of twelve stars; and the select few that adhered to the apostolic system and order retired, from the face of the dragon, to the lone sequestered retreats of the wilderness.
In the following verses we have an account of a very formidable adversary of the woman and her seed, who is presented to our notice by the same kind of intimation as in he beginning of the chapter : There appeared another wonder, or sign, in heaven. And when we are told, both of the monstrous appearance of this adversary, and of the place in which he was seen, nothing can appear to be more natural, than that the prophet’s account should have been introduced in the language of astonishment. Behold, a great red dragon. The dragon is the most formidable species of serpent. His bite is mortal, his ferocity cannot be tamed, and his strength is so gigantic, that to come within his reach is to border upon certain destruction. If the ordinary dragon be of this description, how perilous must have been the circumstances of this woman! How unequal the contest between them ! especially as the strength and ferocity of seven dragons were united in this adversary; and he was at the same time furnished with instruments of destruction more numerous and more formidable
any other dragon was ever known to possess ; for he had. seven heads and ten horns.
In verse 9. he is called the devil and Satan ; accordingly, he has sometimes been understood of Satan, in the most literal sense of the terms.—But it ought to be recollected, that Satan is not permitted to assault the church, otherwise than through the instrumentality of means.
If he and his legions fought against her by an immediate personal agency, it would not be long till the contest would be decided, unless the Lord of the church interposed by a continued miracle for her preservation. A contest between a woman and a dragon would not be between parties so unequally matched, as a contest between a saint and a devil; or between the whole body of the faithful, and the numerous and powerful legions of wicked spirits. Unless Satan found tools and instruments suited to his designs, he could not make any impression upon the church. When, therefore, this adversary is called the devil and Satan, it is not meant that the dragon and the devil were identified, but that the dragon was the tool of the devil, and that the state or power which he is intended to symbolize was wholly actuated by the devil.
This dragon appears to be the symbol of the Roman empire, after it had embraced a profession of Christianity. It is difficult to conceive how in any other way he could have crept into the heavens of the church. As a civil or political association, it could never find a place there. But when the great body of the subjects avowed themselves Christians, when the profession of Christianity came to be incorporated with the state, and when the external form of the church was cast into the mould of a political society, church and state then appeared as if they were become one association. Hence this dragon is represented as appearing in heaven. But his translation thither did not make any change upon the genius or spirit of Roman policy; the empire of Rome was not one whit more friendly to genuine Christianity, after it became a Christian state,