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A commentary on the Revelation of St. John (Volume 2) online

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St. 7 H N.












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lelves, cniand ^^/'or^ will. "

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419, //«^ 2^, /or or read of.
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424, lines Z2d, zdth, and Z-lth^fr I jo read I500.
434, line 3d,for"n'. read xlvii.
462, line l^th.for which r^,7:/when it.




CHAP. Xll.

'T^HIS chapter contains an account of the fixth
viiion which John faw. In it, from verfe
iirft to fifth, is contained a comprehenfive view of
the ftate and appearance of the Chriftian church,
from the time of the refurredion of Chrift to the
commencement of the temporal power of the Ro-
man pontiff in the year 756. From verfe 6tli to
the end of the chapter is a comprehenfive view of
the fituation of the Chriftian church, from the year
756 to the final overthrow of Papal Rome, in the
Vol. IL A year


year 1999. This laft part of the chapter foretels
events which are cotemporary with the prophefy-
ing of the two witneiTes in fackcloth in the preced-
ing chapter, the reign of the beafl in the follow-
ing chapter, and the pouring out of the feven
vials in the lixteenth chapter. So many cotem-
porary reprefentations of the fituation of the Chrif-
tian church and of the Roman hierarchy, in diffe-
rent points of view, throw light upon each other,
and confirm their meaning.

Verfes ijl^ id, — And there appeared a great
wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the
fun, and the moon under her feet, and upon
her head a crown of twelve ftars : and flic-
being with child, cried, travailing in birth,
and pained to be delivered.

The word in the original which is tranflated
wonder, is ay^/Mioy, which fignifies a fign. Signs and
wonders are perfedly dillincl from each other,
and are expreiled in the Greek language by words
as different from each other as thefe two words
are in the Englifh language. They are both men-
tioned in Heb. ii. 4. among thofe ways by which
God bore teilimony to the declarations of the a-
poftles : "God alfo bearing them witnefs, both
** with figns and wonders, and with divers mira-

'* cles,


" cles, and gifts of the Holy Ghoft." In that vcrfe,
ff}ifA.uov is the word in the original which is ufed^for a
iign, and n^a; for a wonder. All thefe four ways
of divine teftimony, by figns, wonders, miracles,
and gifts of the Holy Ghoft, are diftincT: from
one another. To explain the proper import of
every one of them would be a deviation from our
prefent fubjecl : A fign is fome vifible leprefen-
tation, by which a future event, which fliall bear a
llriking refemblance to that Iign, is predicted.
When an event takes place, which correfponds to
that Iign, men may be certain, from its correfpon-
dence, that it is the one which was fignified by the

Both in the Old and New Teflament many in-
flances of ligns occur. I fhall mention only a ve-
ry few of them, from which the reader may per-
ceive the proper meaning of a iign. Ezekiel iv.
1,2, 3. " Thou alfo fon of man, take thee a tile,
" and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the
" city, even Jerufalem. Andlay liege againfl it, and
" build a fort againft it, and cafl a mount againll:
•* it; fet the csmp alfo againfl it, and fet battering
" rams againll it round about. Moreover, take
** thou unto thee an iron pan, and fet it for a wall
" of iron between thee and the city, and fet thy
*' face againll it, and it fliall be befieged, and thou
" flralt lay ii^ge againtl it : this fliall be a f^n to
" the houfe of Ifrael." Thus, tliis viiible reprefen-

A ^ tation


tation of a fiege of the city of Jerufalem is a prophetic
fign tha^Jerllfalem lliall in facl be belieged in a
manner llridly correfpondent to this model orlign
of a fiege. Matth. xii. 38, 2^0^^ 40. *' Then certain of
" the Scribes and of the Pharifees anfwered, faying,
" Mailer we would fee 2ijign from thee. But he
" anfwered and faid unto them, An evil and a-
" dulterous generation feeketh after a fign, and
*' there lliall no lign be given unto it but the ^\^xi
" of the prophet Jonas. For as Jonas w^as three
" days and three nights in the whale's belly, fo
" fhali the Son of man be three days and three
" nights in the heart of the earth." Here Jonas
being three days and three nights in the whale's
belly, and afterwards appearing alive on dry ground,
is fixed upon as a prophetic fign that Chrifl fhould
die, be buried, and fhould rife from the dead on the
third day, Luke ii. 1 1, 12, "For unto you is born this
** day, in the city of David a Saviour, who is Chrifl
" the Lord. And this fball be a7^// unto you, ye
" fliall find the babe wrapped in fwaddling clothes,
" lying in a manger." Thus, by their finding a
babe lying in a manger, an unufual place, they
fnould fee ay^;/ of the extraordinary birth of Je-
fus, and be fatisfied of the truth of the declaration
of the angel, who told them, " that that day was
" born a Saviour, who was Chrifi: the Lord."

Hence, when in the verfe under our view it is
faid *' there appeared a ^x^dXfign in heaven," the



import of this expreffion is, that this vifion which
John faw, and which is exprefled in this hierogly-
phic, is a fymbolical defcription of an appearance
of the Chriflian church, by which it may be diftin-
guifned from ail other churches in the world.

She is like a woman for her beauty, her gentle-
nefs, her fruitfulnefs, and her dependance upon a
more powerful perfon for her protection, provi-
lion, and defence.

She is clothed with the fun. Her chief orna-
ment and protedlion is Chrift, the Sun of righteouf-
nefs. In the natural world, the fun is the centre
of motion to all the planets in the folar fyflem
hath light and heat in itfelf, and reflects thefe on
all the other parts of the fyflem; hence, in the fym-
bolical language, the fun lignifies Jefus Chrift, w'ho
is the centre of knowledge, righteoufnefs and jov
to the Chriftian church, hath thefe eflentially, in-
herently, and underivedly in himfelf, and commu-
nicates them to every part of his church, in that
proportion which beft accords to the whole i'y[-

The moon w^hich is a fatellite of this earth, and
which continually moves round it, which has no
light in itfelf, which refleds the light of the fun on-
ly upon the earth, and w^hich fnines in the ab-
fence of the fun only, is a moft ftriking fymbol of
the Jewifh church. As the moon is a fatellite of
this earth J that church bore a great refemblance to



th^ kingdoms of this world, in its external cere-
monies, pomp, and civil and political laws. As
the moon gives no Hght but what fhe refleds from
the fun, the Mofaic diipenfation can be underftood
only when it is viewed as typical of Chrifl, the fun
in the kingdom of God. As the moon fhines on-
ly in the abfence of the fun, the Mofaic difpenfa-
tion was in force only until Chrifl by rifing from
the dead proved himfelf to be the Son of God with
power, eftablifhed the Chriflian church, and made
the Mofaic difpenfation difappear like the moon at
the rifing of the fun. Hence, the moon is faid to
be under the feet of the w'oman, becaufe the law
of Mofes was as a fchoolmafler to bring men unto
Chrifl; and all its ordinances and ceremonies were
accomplifhed in and abrogated by the death and
refurredtion of Chrifl, on which the Chriflian
church was eflablifhed.

This woman has on her head a crown of twelve
flars. Stars always fignify miniflers of religion.
The twelve flars fignify the twelve apoflles of
Chrifl, the firfl miniflers of religion in the Chriflian
church. They are her crown, becaufe her doc-r
trine, worfhip, and difcipline, exadly correfpond
to what thefe apoflles taught, and recorded in the
facred fcriptures, and becaufe all her real miniflers
in fucceeding ages preach only what was firfl taught
by thefe apoflles. They have no powers as minif-
lers of Chrifl's church to teach any new doctrine,


Ver. 3, — 5» on the revelation. 7

worfhip, or difcipline, which were not taught by
the twelve apoilles of Chrift, by divine authority.
Thus the apoflie Paul, fpeaking of Chriftians as a
church or colieclive body, faith, Ephef ii, 20. '* Ye
" are built upon the foundation of the apoftles
** and prophets, Jefus Chrift himfelf being the
" chief corner ilone.'* This church, thus conili-
tuted, fhall bring forth many children. Her vota-
ries and difciples fhall be formed through much
fuffering and with much difficulty.

Verfes 3^, 4//?, ^th, — And there appeared
another wonder in heaven, and Behold, a
great red dragon, having feven heads, and ten
horns, and feven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the ftars
of heaven, and did caft them to the earth :
and the dragon flood before the woman
which was ready to be delivered, for to de-
vour her child afloon as it was born. And flie
brought forth a man child, who was to rule
all nations with a rod of iron : and her child
was caught up unto God, and to his

In thefe verfes, the apoflie mentions another
fign, {ay^iJiUQv ), which fhould appear in the church
ofChrill; even *' a great red dragon, having fe-

** vcn


" ven heads and ten horns, and feven crowns up-
** on his heads." This dragon iignifies ^' that old
" ferpent, called the Devil and Satan," as it is ex-
plained in verfe 9th of this chapter. By the ft-
ven heads with feven crowns upon them, is meant
the Roman empire until the termination of the
imperial government, with the city of Rome for
the feat of government. In chapter xvii. 9, 10.
we are informed, that the feven heads iignify the
feven mountains on which the city of Rome was
built, and the feven kings, or forms of civil govern-
ment which have that city for their feat, as fhall
be fully fliewn in the commentary on that palTage.
The city of Rome was built on the following feven
hills, Palatinus, Coelius, Capitohnus, Aventinus,
Quirinalis, Viminalis, and Efquilinus,

From the foundation of the Roman government
to the prefent day, there have been exactly feven
diftindl forms of government, which have had the
city of Rome, (the Urbs Septicollis) for their feat.
The diftinguifhed hiftorian, Tacitus, who wrote
a little before the time of this vifion, fays, in his
Annals, lib, i. cap. i. " Rome was firll governed
" by kings, then by confuls, by didlators, by
*' decemvirs^ and by military tribunes with confu-
" lar authority." All hiftorians agree, that thefe
five diilindl forms of civil government had taken
place in fuccelTion in Rome, before the com-
mencement of that of emperors. Thefe five were


Ver. i, 2. ON THE REVELATION. f^

all paft, before John farw this vifion, as he informs
us, chap, xvii. lo. and another, that is, a lixth
one, was then in exiftence. This fixth one was
that of the emperors. Domitian, one of thefe
emperors, banifhed John to the illand of Patmos,
where the revelation, contained in this book,
was made to him.

The lixth or imperial form of government is
long ago paft, and the feventh, or papal form of
civil government, hath continued lince the year
of Chrift 756.

The ten horns are the different kingdoms, which
were conquered by the Roman empire, who, du-
ring the period of time to which this hieroglyphic
refers, were treated as conquered provinces, and
were deprived of their regal or independant
power. As the ftrength of fome of the fierceft:
beafts lies in their horns, or rather as their ftrength
is colleded and applied to one point by their
horns ; in the fymbolical language j horns fignify
the collected ftrength of one body of men under
one Jiead, that is, the power of a kingdom under
one king. This fymbol is uniformly ufed in this
fenfe, by all the prophets, particularly by' Jeremi-
ah xlviii. 25. by Zechariah i. 18. 19. and by Da-
niel viii. 20, 21. The laft of thefe palTages I fliall
here tranfcribe, " The ram which thou faweft ha-
*' ving two horns, are the kingdoms gf Media and
** Ferfia, and the rough goat is the king of Greece,

Vol. IL J3 *' »i^d


" and the great horn between his eyes is the firft
" king." In chap. xvii. 12. John exprefsly fays,
" that the ten horns are ten kings, which have re-
" ceived no kingdom as yet." That be is there
explaining the very ten horns now under our view
ihall be Ihewn in our commentary on that verfe.

In this hieroglyphic the crowns are upon the fe«
ven heads, and not upon the ten horns, to fignify
that during the period to which it relates, Rome
fhall be veiled with the only fupreme independent
civil power; and that thefe provinces, though
formerly independent kingdoms^ and though, in
a future period, they fliall again become indepen-
dent kingdoms, yet during this period Ihall be
llripped of their regal power ; but flill as conquer-
ed provinces fhall add to the llrength of Rome.
In a fucceeding period thefe conquered provinces
Ihall become independent kingdoms, and then
they are reprefented, as in verfe ift of the next
chapter, by ten horns v/ith te?i crowns upon them^
while there are no crowns upon the feven heads,
but only the name of blafphemy. The plain mean-
ing, therefore, of this iign is, that Satan, not im-
mediately, but by the Roman empire, as an in-
ilrument in his hands, fhall attempt to deftroy the
church of Chrilt. The various attempts, which he
Ihall make, are particularly defcribed in this chap-
ter, and Ih^l be illuftrated as they occur.

This dragon is called great to lignify the great



power of Rome during the period of this hierogly-
phic, and red to lignify the great quantity of the
blood of the martyrs, which ihould be fhed in the
different perfecutions carried on by the heathen
Roman emperors.

By the influence of the Roman emperors, after
they fhould be called Chridian, a great proportion
of the minifters of Chriit's church, (liled the ftars
of heaven, ihould be fo dazzled and charmed by
the outward grandeur and magniiicence of the
many heathen rites, which, at that period, fhould
be introduced into the worfhip of thofe who ihould
call themfelves Chriftians, and io captivated by
the great temporal emoluments of the minifterial
office, that they fhould be cad unto the earth.
They fhould no longer continue the minifters of
Chrill's church, but fhould become the minifters
of the church of Rome, which fhould then be mo-
delled like the kingdoms of this earth.

The Roman empire fhould firft attempt to def-
troy, not the v/oman, but only her child, and
that fo foon as he fliould be born. The woman
fignifies the Chriftian church, as an organifed or
conftituted church, confifling of a fixed fyftem of
doctrine, precepts, worfhip and difciphne conform-
able to the facred fcriptures of the new teftamcnt.
Her child fignifies all thofe individual Chriftians,
who, by their belief and obedience of thefe, are
rendered the real votaries of that church. The

B 2 firfl


firft attempt of the Roman power fhould be, not
to corrupt the ChrilUan church, but to kill and
deflroy individual Chriftians, and thefe it fliould
perfecute in a very early period of the church.
The church fliould produce a manly race, whom
ho dangers fhould intimidate, and no fuflcrings
Ihould deprefs. A race, who, at a diftant period,
Ihall fubdue all nations, with a rod of iron, and
who, upon the overthrow of the various kingdoms
and nations mentioned in prophecy, fliall reign
triumphant on the earth.

This predidlion of ruling all nations, refers to a
period long pofterior to that in which Rome Ihould
perfecute individual Chriftians, as is evident from
the word ^e^^.e<, expreflive of futurity, which is u-
fed in verie 5th, relative to the time of ruling with
a rod of iron. This predidion refers to the fame
event, and is expreffed almoft in the fame words,
v^ith thofe contained in Pfal. ii. 9. and Rev. xix.
15. We are not to fuppofe that any of thefe pre-
didions fignify that Chriftians ftiall, with armies,
fight againft, and with relentlefs cruelty deftroy
the nations, who oppofe Chriftianity and her vo-
taries. It is only fignified, that, in the courfe of
Divine providence, inftruments fhall be raifed up
at laft, completely to overthrow all the nations
which oppofe the kingdom of Chrift, and that the
time (hall then come, when Chriftianity and her
votaries fhall reign triumphant. Some of thefe na-

Ver. 1,2. ON THE REVELATION. 1 3

tions, as fliall afterwards be flicwn in the proper
place, fhall be the rod of iron, by which, in the
courfe of providence, others of thefe nations, and
particularly the Roman empire fliall be broken to

In the mean time, the child was caught up to
God and his throne. The child fignifies the fame
perfons, who are reprefented in chap iv. 4. by
the four and twenty elders clothed in white raiment
feated round about the throne of God, that is true
Chriftians. True Chriflians, during that period
fhould make but little figure upon earth, neither
they nor their peaceful fyftem of religion fliould
appear very likely to fubdue and overcome all na-
tions. x\s if caught up to the throne of God they
fhould, in fome fenfe, be inviiible ; becaufe men
Ihould not be able to fay w^ith abfolute certamty
that this or that perfon is a fon of the church, a
real Chriftian ; not being able to look directly to
the real and internal qualities of the underflanding
and the heart, which form the Chriftian character;
yet, they fhould all be true worfliippers of God,
fhould enjoy communion with him, lliould be his
people and fubjedls, governed by his law and pro-
tedled by his power.

The prophecies, contained in thefe five verfes,
have been fulfilled, with a mod flrikihg exadnefs,
fo far as the times, to which they refer, are yet
come. The Chriftian church hath been eredled



in the world. Her chief glory and fupport is
Chriil. Her fyflem of religion is that which was
taught by the twelve apoftles. The JewiQi dif-
penfation w^as preparatory to the Chriftian, and
was accompliflied and abrogated by the death of
Chrift, that great event which opened up the
Chriftian difpenfation. The heathen Roman em-
perors did not attempt to corrupt the church of
Chriil in her doclrines, precepts, worfhip or dif-
cipline : But they carried on the moft violent and
bloody perfecutions againd individual Chriftians,
her children, as has been (hewn under feals id^
3d, and 4th, in chap. 6th.

In the reign of Conftantinc the Great, and of
feveral fucceeding emperors, many of the miniilers'
of religion w^ere induced to admit into what might
then have been called the church of Rome, ra-
ther than the church of Chriil, dodrines, modes
of worfliip and rules of conducl and difcipline,
which were borrowed from heathen theology, and
from civil governments. The Chriftian church
had many votaries, notwithftanding all the dan-
gers to which they were expofed. To this day
fhe hath many votaries, who are all known to God,
who worfliip him in fpirit and in truth, who enjoy
communion with him, who refpedl his. authority
and laws, and are protected and defended by him.
Though, in fome fenfe, they are invilible to men,
they are all known to God. He fees fome to be


Ver. 6. ON the revelation. 15

Chriftians whom men do not believe to be fuch.
He knows that fome are not Chriftians, whom
many men beheve to be Chriitians. Probably he
fees fome Chriftians in churches or focieties, in
which fome men think there are few or perhaps
none ; and he fees fome not to be Chriftians in
churches or focieties, where fome men think they
are almoft all Chriftians. The time is not yet
come, when this child of the woman ihall rule the
nations with a rod of iron. It is flill at a confi-
derable diilance. The exact time lliall appear, as
we proceed in this book. When the predided
time fhall come, we have the betl reaf3n to ex-
pe6l, that the event predided ihall alfo take

Verfc 6th. — And the woman fled into the
wildernefs where fhe hath a place prepared
of God, that they fhouldfeed her there a thou-
fand and two hundred and threefcore days.

Having told us in the preceding verfe in what
lituation the child was placed until the time Ihould
come when he ihould rule the nations with a rod of
iron; John tells us in this verfe in what iituation
the woman is placed for that period of time. She
fled into the wildernefs, w^here ihe had a place pre-
pared of God where ihe fiiould be fed for 1260



prophetic days ; that is, as explained in chap, xi,
I, 2. 1243 folar years. When thefe 1243 years
Ihall commence, and confequently when they fhall
end, fhall appear from the commentary on verfe
14th, and Ihall be Hill farther cleared up on chap-
ter xiii.

During this period, the church is faid to be in
the wildernefs, in an obfcure and diflrefsful litua-
tion. During that period, ilie hath no place pre-
pared of men. There is no vilible eitabliihed
church, in which nothing is to be found except
what exactly accords to the conilitution of the
Chriftian church as it is delineated in the bible,
and m which none can be found except thofe who
are real Chriilians.

But file hath a place prepared of God. He flands
in no need of human eilabhfliments to preferve his
church in the world, nor to tranfmit his ordinan-
ces from one age or country to another. He
hath eftedually provided for the exiitence of his
church in the world ; and he perfedly knows all
thofe fcattered individuals every w^here who en-
tertain jufl views of the Chriftian church, and
who are her real votaries.

Even in this wildernefs ftate, {he Ihall be fed.
Chriftians, even in the worft times, fhall receive as
much fpiritual food as Ihall fupport them in their
faith. Every thing confidered, the prefervation of
the church of Chrift during this period fhall be {0



extraordinary and fo much beyond the natural ten ^
dency of ordinary means, that it may well be com-
pared to the mh'acLilous feeding of the Ifraelites
with manna in the wildernefs.

Verfes 'Jth^ Sth^ i)th. — And there was war
in heaven ; Michael and his angels fought a-
gainft the Dragon^ and the Dragon fought
and his angels : and prevailed not, neither
was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great Dragon was caft out, than old
ferpent, called the Devil and Satan, which
deceiveth the whole world : he was caft out
into the earth, and his angels were caft out
with him.

Before the woman fled into the wildernefs, there
was war in heaven between Michael and the Dra-
gon. Michael fignifies Jefus Chrill. In Daniel
chap* X. 13, — 2!. Michael is reprefented as con-
tending for, and (landing by the fervants of God.
From the defcription given of the condud of Mi-
chael in thefe paflages and alfo in this verfe, it is
evident that fuch is the iignitication of this fyinbo-
lical name. The very meaning of the word alfo
fuggefts this interpretation. It is a Hebrew word,
which in that language fignifies "He who is Cod."
But Jefus Chrift is God. The parties in this war

Vol. II. C were,


were, on the one fide, Michael and his angels';
and on the other, the dragon and his angels. On
the one fide were Chrift and all true Chriilians;
and on the other were the Devil and all thofe
men who had embraced, and attempted to fup-
port and propagate thofe errors in religion which
came originally from the Devil, and to the pro-
pagation of which he tempts men.

This war was in heaven, the Chriflian church.
In it the Devil and his angels were defeated, ba-
nilhed from heaven, (the Chrillian church), and
caft down to the earth, the Roman empire. The
plain meaning of this fymbolical reprefentation is,
that by the fecret temptations of the Devil,

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