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The Woman and the Red Dragon.-War between Michael and the Old Serpent.-Rev. xii.
The next series of symbols embraces the xiith. xiiith. and xivth. chapters of Revelations; and it contains the history of the great latter-day persecution of the saints. The visible Church is here shewn in the brightness of her apostolic purity, under the similitude of a glorious woman, flying from before the face of the evil one. And she goes into the wilderness, where she is fed or nourished by the hand of man for the appointed period of 1260 years, during which time, her enemy turns his persecuting hand against her seed; that is, against those, who, under the teaching of the Spirit of God, are led forward through the forms and ordinances of the outward Church, to discern; and to embrace the truth as it is in Jesus.
Rev. xii. 1 to 6.—" And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; (or sign, margin) a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder (or sign) in heaven; and, behold, a great Red Dragon, 1 having seven heads, and ten horns, and seven crowns upon
his heads and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman, which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron and her child was caught up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there, a thousand two hundred and three score days."
The prophet Daniel has represented the fourth monarchy of the earth, and the dominion which it exercises, under various symbols, which agree, and to a certain extent run parallel with those of the book of Revelations.-Ist. As the legs and feet of the great image: Dan. ii.-2ndly, As the fourth wild beast of the earth, and the little horn of that beast: Dan. vii.-And, 3rdly, As the King who exalts himself above every God: Dan. xi. The Apocalypse agrees with Daniel, and speaks of the Roman power, first, as a dragon, having seven heads and ten horns: -and, again, as a wild beast, with seven heads and ten horns, arising out of the sea, and having another beast with two horns like a lamb, associated with him : Rev. xiii.—and, thirdly, as a wild beast with seven heads and ten horns, which arises from out of the bottomless pit: Rev. xvii. The marks ascribed to this seven-headed and ten-horned monster, in the different passages where he is spoken of, define with
singular accuracy the different forms and circumstances of government, under which the Roman power should subsist at different periods of the world.
In the passage which has been last recited, the great red dragon, a fabulous creature of antiquity, marks the ancient Pagan government. The dragon is seen in heaven, by which may be understood, the gospel dispensation; for the expressions, "heaven," "kingdom of heaven," and "kingdom of God," are frequently used in this sense in different parts of Scripture and it was, perhaps, intended thus to signify, that the dragon, or Pagan Rome, should be brought to profess Christianity. The seven heads of the dragon, with crowns thereon, denote the seven different forms, under which ancient Rome exercised the powers of government; being ruled over alternately by kings, consuls, dictators, decemviri, military tribunes, triumviri, and emperors. Under the imperial head, it assumed the Christian profession in the time of Constantine; and then in this, its last form of government, which is probably signified by its tail, it drew the third part-a very large proportion of the stars of heaven, that is, of the pastors and ministers of the gospel; seducing them into worldly compliances, by temptations of worldly gain; bringing them from a spiritual to a
carnal profession, and so casting them to the earth. The horns of the Roman dragon are uncrowned, denoting their power to be future, for they did not rule as kings, until a later period.
The symbols, taken together, as they are related, represent the early persecutions of the Church by ancient Rome. The woman is the Church clothed with the Sun of righteousness, which is the word of God, and having the moon or lesser light of the Mosaic dispensation under her feet; and she is crowned with twelve stars-the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Pagan Rome stood ready to devour her spiritual seed, as soon as it was brought forth into the world, and employed itself for a season in cutting off every one whose profession of Christianity was discovered. The Church, however, brought forth a seed, which, by faith obtained the victory over the world, and over the flesh, and over Satana seed, which, at the latter day, shall sit with Christ" in his throne, even as he is set down with his Father in his throne," Rev. iii. 21: and "shall rule the nations with a rod of iron," Rev. ii. 26. That seed, for the most part, as soon as it was manifested in the world, by professing the name of Jesus, was seized upon by the Roman power, and put to death in the flesh; but their spirits have ascended unto God, and they shall
join the triumphant throng, when the Lord Jesus cometh in the latter day, "with ten thousand of his saints," to take vengeance on his enemies. The woman being at length worn out by the persecution, availed herself of the two wings (the eastern and western branches) of the great Roman eagle, and sought protection amongst the rulers of the nations, who were prepared of God to receive her, having been brought to embrace Christianity. This is her flight into the wilderness, where she is corrupted, and remains 1260 years and it is well described as a wilderness, being a dry and thirsty land, destitute of the water, and of the bread of life; for there was no outpouring of the Spirit, and the use of the Scriptures was forbidden. It is curious to remark, further, that as the carrying away of Judah into Babylon for 70 years, has a typical reference to these things of the gospel day; so, the time the gospel Church remains in the wilderness, is eighteen times seventy years— eighteen being the numerical amount of the three units which give the number of the beast-6, 6, 6.— During her abode in the wilderness, the outward Church is sustained, fed, nourished, and upheld by the hand of human authority, and by all the wise and prudent of this world; and she remains so unto this day; but the time draweth nigh when she shall again shine forth as the glorious bride of the Lamb