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active part in the contest. Every church member is by profession enlisted under the banner of Christ, and every office. bearer, by the station which he occupies, as well as by the profession which he makes in common with other members of the church, is bound to appear in a state of open hostility against Satan and all his devices.
The leader of the other army was the dragon, here called the Devil and Satan. This leader, we have seen, must be understood of the Roman empire, as influenced and actuated by the devil ; and the army which he commanded, here called his angels, must be understood of all his agents and emissaries, whether human or diabolical, whom he employed in the execution of his measures of deceit and violence against the church ; especially such as occupied a public station in the Roman government. Multitudes of human beings, together with legions of devils, fought under his banner. A spirit of opposition to the truth was so completely infused into their bosoms, they verily thought that they never could do too much against Jesus of Nazareth.-Such were the characters of the two leaders, and of the two armies under their command.
These opposite parties did not content themselves with the mere shew of resistance; they entered into close combat. For Michael and his angels fought against the dragon ; and the dragon fought and his angels. The enemy with whom the church has to contend is filled with a deadly hatred. He never thinks of entering into a treaty with her, but upon terms which he knows she will not accept; and, therefore, he never thinks of a cessation of hostilities, but with the termination of her existence. Hence, the warfare of the church has been protracted from age to age without interruption. One campaign was no sooner closed than another commenced; and ranks of veteran troops were no sooner mowed down, than new levies were mustered upon the field. There have been seasons, however, in which the enemy prosecuted the war with a greater degree of vigour, and with more remarkable evidences of an implacable spirit, than at other times. Such was the character of the times of the dragon-state of the empire. The friends of truth were continually harassed; if they sounded a retreat, the enemy was hanging upon their rear; if they attempted to go forward, they had all the force of the Roman state to oppose them; or if they endeavoured to remain stationary, their enemies, whose number was like the sand of the sea, came up on the breadth of the Roman earth, and compassed their
camp about, and the beloved city.
The weapons of the church were furnished from the arsenals of her commander, and were exactly suitable to her ecclesiastical character. Her principal weapon was the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Her ministers, often in the face of great opposition, declared the truth as it is in Jesus; and her members, with an intelligent zeal and Christian fortitude, embraced it in their faith and profession, and adopted it as the rule of their conduct. They likewise fought in the exercise of all those militant virtues with which they were endowed ; they were patient in tribulation ; they gloried in persecutions and reproaches for Christ's sake and the gospel's. Many of them resisted even unto blool, striving against sin. They did not then think of propagating their cause, or even of defending it, by any other weapons than such as were spiritual ; and in the use of these weapons, they became victorious over all opposition.
The other party did not fetter themselves by the regulations of honourable warfare ; they grasped at every means, whether honourable or dishonourable, that might be rendered subservient to their interests. The poisoned arrows of calumny, slander, falsehood, and even perjury itself, were frequently shot from their bows. Sometimes they made use of the most violent and bloody measures; they endeavoured to strike terror into the whole army of Michael, by refusing to give any quarter. Hence, thousands of prisoners taken in this war were put to the most cruel deaths which a savage barbarity could inflict. But, instead of intimidating, these deceitful and cruel methods of warfare only roused the holy indigna
tion of the followers of Michael, and made them more resolute and determined in their resistance against this ungenerous and cruel adversary
But though measures of unjust violence were frequently employed, those of deceit were in more general use, especially in the early periods of the dragon-warfare. Though the adversary had the form of a dragon, he wished it to be believed that he was actuated by the spirit of a Christian, and that if at any time he adopted measures of severity, it was from zeal for the truth, and regard to the interests of the public body. He never persecuted the church as such, or the friends of Christianity, because the open profession of their religion was a crime against the state. Considering them as Christians, or members of a public body professing Christianity, he pretended the highest regard to their interest. Under this specious appearance, he seduced the greater part of the ministers, subverted the constitution of the ecclesiastical body, and corrupted and debased all the ordinances of religion. That large society which had hitherto been called the church, was bereaved of almost every thing of Christianity except the name. But for the select few who retreated into the wilderness, and continued faithful, the church of Christ had perished in the earth. *
The following extracts will sufficiently shew the remarkable degeneracy which succeeded upon Constantine's accession to the throne. “The administration of the church was divided by Constantine himself into an external and an internal inspection. The latter he professed to leave in the hands of bishops and councils ; the former he assumed to himself. In consequence of this artful division of the ecclesiastical government, Constantine and his successors called councils, presided in them, appointed the judges of religious controversies, terminated the differences which arose between the bishops and the people, and fixed the limits of the ecclesiastical provinces. As this division was never sufficiently explained, the emperors frequently determined matters purely ecclesiastical, and which belonged to the internal jurisdiction of the church.—If before this time (5th century), the lustre of religion was clouded with superstition, and its divine precepts adulterated with a mixture of human inventions, this evil, instead of diminishing, increased daily. The happy souls of departed Christians were invoked by numbers, and their aid implored by assiduous and fervent prayers ; while none stood up to censure or oppose this preposterous worship.—The Christians of this century did not imagine that the souls of the saints were so entirely confined to the celestial mansions as to be deprived of the privilege of visiting mortals, and travelling when they pleased through various countries. They were further of opinion, that the places most frequented by departed spirits were those where the bodies they had formerly ani. mated were interred ; and this opinion, which the Christians borrowed from the
But the issue of this contest was very different from what appearances at first seemed to indicate. The dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not.
In all his attempts to exterminate the cause of Christ, the dragon was foiled. In proportion as the friends of truth retired into the wilderness, they were placed beyond his reach. As they became less numerous, they were less suspected, and therefore less exposed to his resentment, and in less danger of being seduced by his wiles. When they saw how multitudes had apostatized from the faith, they became more watchful, lest they also should be shaken from their steadfastness, and continued to witness for truth and duty, till the dragon, like a vånquished enemy, was driven from the heaven of the church, and took his station on the earth. Neither was their place found any more in heaven ; and the great dragon was cast out.
If the dragon, as seen in heaven, was the symbol of the Ro
Greeks and Romans, rendered the sepulchres of the saints the general rendezvous of suppliant multitudes. The images of those who during their lives had acquired the reputation of peculiar sanctity, were now honoured with a particular worship in several places, and many imagined, that this worship drew down into the images the propitious presence of the saints or celestial beings whom they represented. A singular and irresistible efficacy was also attributed to the bones of martyrs, and to the figure of the cross, in defeating the attempts of Satan, removing all sorts of calamities, and in healing not only the diseases of the body, but also those of the mind. We shall not enter here into a particular account of the public supplications, the holy pilgrimages, the superstitious services paid to departed souls, the multiplication of temples, altars, penitential garments, and a multitude of other circumstances that shewed the decline of piety, and the thick darkness that was eclipsing the lustre of primitive Christianity.—When once the ministers of the church had departed from the ancient simplicity of religious worship, and sul. lied the native purity of divine truth by a motley mixture of human inventions, it was difficult to set bounds to this growing corruption. Abuses were daily multiplied, and superstition drew from its horrid fecundity an incredible number of ab. surdities which were added to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. The public teachers seemed to aim at nothing else than to sink the multitude into the most opprobrious ignorance and superstition, to efface in their minds all" sense of the beauty and excellence of genuine piety, and to substitute in the place of religious principles, a blind veneration for the clergy, and a stupid zeal for a senseless round of ridiculous rites and ceremonies. To be convinced of the truth of the dismal representation of the state of religion at this time (cent. 6th), nothing more is ne. cessary than to cast an eye upon the doctrines now taught concerning the worship of images and saints, the fire of purgatory, the efficacy of good works, i. c. the observance of human rites and institutions, towards the attainment of salvation, the power of relics to heal diseases, &c.—Mosh. Eccl. Hist. v. I. Cent. 4th 0. II, Cent. 5th and 6th.
man empire when it first embraced a profession of Christianity, the casting down of the dragon from heaven to earth must be intended to symbolize some very remarkable change with respect to the religious character of this state ; either it renounced the profession of Christianity and became Pagan again, or it adopted a profession of Christianity which was altogether spurious, and therefore became an Antichristian state. The last of these conditions of the empire appears to be the thing intended by the figure; because, if you except the short reign of Julian, the religion of Heathen gods was never adopted as the religion of the state, after the fall of Paganism in the time of Constantine. It was in this new condition that the dragon was metamorphosed into the beast of the sea, which was afterwards ridden by the mystical whore, and was every way subservient to her designs.
This prophetical account of the war in heaven, is concluded with a further account of the leader of the army that was opposed to the true church. He is that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.—The spirit by which the Roman state was actuated, from its very commencement to the termination of its existence, was that of the old serpent. The name is applied to Satan, on account of his craft and cruelty ; it is probable, too, that he bears it from the circumstance of having made use of a serpent when he commenced his warfare with the church. He was then some way identified with the serpent, when he spake out of its body, and directed its movements as if it had been an intelligent and rational being; and though the curse was specially intended against Satan, yet, as if he and the serpent had been one, it was pronounced immediately upon the serpent, Gen. iii. 14, 15. The name of a serpent, which was then imposed upon him, he still bears; and as he continues to inherit all the noxious qualities of the serpent, it is a name which he will continue to
To distinguish him from all others who are possessed of a similar spirit, he is called the or that old serpent. He is an old offender. Swollen with the pride of great endowments,