« PreviousContinue »
gate the beast. If then the city mean the empire, the throne will signify the tyrannical authority exercised within the empire : a throne, even in our ordinary mode of speaking, being used as synonymous with the authority exercised from the throne. The great city is described as being seated upon the sea,* so as to be a conspicuous object to those who navigate it ; and, like opulent natural cities, as having abundance of merchants and shipmasters. These merchants, who enrich themselves by trading with her, are declared by the prophet to be the great men of the earth or Roman empire.t
As the great Babylon is the same as the symbolical earth or Roman empire ; so the holy city is the same as
That is, the troubled ocean of worldly politics and conflicting nations. (See the preceding remarks on the symbolical sea.) In a similar manner, the great scarlet wbore is represented as sitting upon many waters ; which the angel afterwards explains to signify "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Rev. xvii. 1, 15.
It might seem from Rev. xvii. 9, 18. that the great city does not mean the Roman empire, but tbe literal city of Rome. To such an opinion however there are insuperable objections Tbe berlot, who is said to be Babylon, or the great city, is evidently the adulterous cburcb of Rome, after the period when the Empire had been divided into ten kingdoms. Tbat Čburcb however, although its peculiar seat was the literal seven-billed city, extended its sway over the whole Western Empire : consequently the church of Rome, in its largest acceptation, must be the apocalyptic Babylon, or the great city, unless we confine it (which is an absurdity) within the limits of literal Rome. Hence the spiritual great. city must mean the wbole papal empire. So again : since our Lord is said to have been crucified in the great city, and since the great city undoubtedly means Rome in some sense or another, it is evident that the secular great city cannot be literal Rome, because our Lord never was crucified there ; whereas he was crucified in tbe great city, if by it we understand the sbale Roman empire. Further : the first apocalyptic beast, which is undoubtedly the Roman empire, is said to have ten borns or kingdoms; and the great city is said to consist of ten different parts or streets. (Rev. xi. 13.) Hence it is natural to conclude, that the ten parts of tbe city are the same as the ten borns of the beast. But, if that be the case, the great city must mean the empire at large. It is described indeed as seated upon seven bills in allusion to the site of its literal capital; but we are moreover informed that the seven beads of the beast allude to seven forms of government, a circumstance which plainly shews that the empire as including the city must be intended. For, if we confine the great city of the Apocalypse to literal Rome, we shall find it impossible to discover within the literal city of Rome all the seven forms of government and the eighth which is one of the seven. Some have supposed the short-lived seventh bead to be the Exarcbate of Ravenna, some the line of Italian Cæsars from the death of The edesius, and some the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. None of these powers however made Rome their capital. In short, let us interpret tbe short-lived seventh bead as we please, we shall find nothing within literal Rome that at all answers to the prophetic description of it. If then we are obliged to go without the limits of literal Rome to discover all the beads of tbe beast, tbe great city must likewise be understood as extending without the limits of literal Rome. In short, as tbe great city Babylon means not only Babylon itself, but likewise the Babylonian empire ; so the great city Rome means not only Rome itself, but likewise the whole Roman empire. The one is used as a type of the other : and, in addition to their mutual resemblance in other particulars, they are perhaps the only two large powers that have ever existed, whose empire and whose capital city have each borne the same name,
the first heaver, or church militant, whence it is also aptly termed a camp. After the beloved city or first heaven of the millennium shall have passed away, it will be succeeded by the second holy city, the new heaven, the church triumphant, the duration of which shall be commensurate with eternity itself.
This holy city of God is furnished, like the literal Jerusalem, with a temple, an altar, and a court without the temple. It hath also a sanctuary and a daily sacrifice : and in the midst of it is the throne of God and the ark of his covenant. In the temple moreover are two olive-trees and two candlesticks, which are the two witnesses of Christ.
To understand the import of this imagery, we must consider the nature of the visible Church of Christ. Now that Church hath ever been of a two-fold nature, comprehending both the really pious, and those who, to use the words of Daniel, only " cleare to it with flatteries," or who, in the language of another prophet, “ have bi name that they live, and are dead.” The first of these make the word of God alone the standard of their actions; the second are liable to be “ carried about with every wind of doctrine,” and are therefore peculiarly obnoxious to the danger of heresy and apostacy. The truly pious then are the mystical temple of God ;* their hearts are his throne, inasın uch as they alone really acknowledge his dominion (all others, whatever profession they may make, being practical atheists ;t) and their prayers, humbly offered unto the Lord in a reliance upon his covenanted mercies vouchsafed through the sole merits of his Son, are the daily sacrifice offered upon the altar before the ark of the covenant.
The real Church of God however is not to be confined exclusively to the times of the Christian dispensation ; it had existed from the very
* “ Know ye not, that ye are tbe temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwell. cth in you ?" (1 Corin. iii. 16.) « Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you ?" (1 Corin. vi. 19.) “ What agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corin. vi. 16.) « Christ as a son over his own house, whose bouse are uc." Heb. ii. 6.
+ Ατσι εν τω κοσμο. Ephes. ii. 12.
beginning of the world in the hearts of the faithful, and had afterwards assumed a definite form in the age of Moses and Aaron. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of his Redeemer; he “saw it, and was glad.” Moses esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” The ancient patriarchs “ all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.” In short, “ although they were not named Christiun men, yet was it a Christian faith that they had ; for they looked for all benefits of God the Father, through the merits of his Son Jesus Christ, as we now do. This difference is between them and us, that they looked when Christ should come, and we be in the time when he is come. Therefore, saith St. Augustin, The time is altered and changed, but not the fuith ; for we have both one faith in Christ.
Hence we find in the mystic temple two double symbols ; namely two olive trees and two candlesticks. The first olive tree, and the first candlestick, represent the Church of God before the incarnation of our Lord ; and the second olive tree, and the second candlestick, represent the Church after the incarnation. Ace cordingly the prophet Jeremiah denominates the Levitical Church "
a green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit ;”+ and St. Paul, adopting the same symbolical imagery, describes the conversion of the gentiles by the figure of a wild olive graffed into u good olive and thus producing valuable fruit As for a candlestick, our Lord himself declares it to be the type of a Church. The temple then symbolizing the faithful worshippers of God; the outer court, which under the Levitical dispensation was set apart for the gentiles, represents those who are only nominal Christians; and the treading it under foot signifies the introduction of heresies and apostacies, sufficient to deceive even the elect of God, were they not secure within his holy temple || In a similar manner, the profanation of the sanctuary, the abolition of the daily sacrifice which is offered in form though not in spirit by
Jerem. xi. 16, § Rev. i, 20.
2d part of Hom, of faith.
Rom. xi. 17—24, Matt. xxiv, 24.
the tares as well as by the wheat,* and the setting up of the abomination of desolation, which are all images taken from the history of the Jews, and which, as we are taught by our Lord himself, signify literally the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans and the introduction of their abominable idolatry into the very precincts of the temple : these images, when taken symbolically, mean the introduction of impious apostacies, and the abolition, or at leust the studied interruption, of divine worship.
4. A chaste woman is a symbol of the true Church; which, throughout the whole of Scripture, is considered as the bride of the Lamb, and the mother of his spiritual children. I
On the other hand, a harlot is a symbol of an apostate and idolatrous Church, apostacy and idolutry being spiritual whoredom and adultery.
In the Apocalypse mention is made of two women, but of a very different character from each other. The former of them is represented, as being driven into the wilderness by the persecution of the dragon : the latter is described, as being also in the wilderness, but as riding there triumphantly
and joyously upon a scarlet coloured beast. This symbol of a wilderness is manifestly borrowed from the history of the children of Israel, during their sojourn of forty years in the great wilderness; and it denotes a state of extreme spiritual barrenness and ignorance. Into such a wilderness of religious error the woman, who is the symbol of the true Church, is forcibly driven by the infernal serpent; where, in the midst of surrounding abominations, like Israel in the midst of the gentiles, she is nourished by the grace of God, and miraculously though invisibly upheld by the power of his
• Matt. xii. 38.
+ " The Roman army is called the abomination for its ensigns and images which were so to the Jews. As Chrysostom affirms, every idol and every image of a man was called an abomination among the Jews. We farther learn from Josephus, that after the city was taken, the Romans brought their ensigns into the temple, and placed them over against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there." Bp. Newton's Dissert. XIX.
# See the Song of Solomon Isaiah liv. 5–Jerem. xxi. 32-Hos. ï. 2, 7-EpherV. 32-Rev. xix. 7. xxi. 9.
$ See Ezek, Ivi-Jerem, üi-Rev. xvi.
arm, during the space of 1260 days or three years and a half; as the Israelites were fed with manna, the type of Christ himself who is the spiritual bread of his church,* during their pilgrimage of forty years. Into the same wilderness also of spiritual barrenness and ignorance the great whore, who is the symbol of some apostute Church predicted by St. John, voluntarily withdruws herself: where she sits, as a queen, upon the power symbolized by the scarlot beast; and labours at once to seduce with her blandishments, and to terrify with her threats, the oppressed Church of God.t
5. Another symbol of the church is a vine. When the vine is properly cultivated, and yields good fruit, it is the true church ; but, when it is styled the vine of the earth, and is described as yielding sour grapes even when they are fully ripe, & it signifies an apostute church. This being the case, gathering the clusters of the vine of the earth, and treading the wine-press, denote the just wrath of God poured out upon apostates and corrupters of his word.
6. One of the most striking hieroglyphics however, among those which are used in the writings of Daniel and St. John, is that of a wild beast. Several different
John vi. 31–58. Rev. č. 17. + Mr. Sharpe has very injudiciously, I think, followed Sir Isaac Newton in confounding these two women together. It is true, that the great wbare was once the ebaste wife of the Lamb ; but, by her withdrawing into the wilderness, she became an essentially different character, leaving that of the real wife of the Lamb to tbose who protested against ber fornications, and whom in return she persecuted and trod under foot. The prophetic account indeed of the two women sufficiently shews, that they cannot be esteemed the same person without the most palpable contradiction ; for the ten-borned beast, upon which one of the women triumphantly rides, is the agent and instrument of the very ten-horned Dragon, which is so violent a persecutor of the ether woman. (Sir Isaac Newton's Observ.p. 279-- Append. to Sharpe's three tracts p. 121, 122.) Mr. Galloway is guilty of the same error of supposing, that the flight of the woman into the wilderness means ber apostacy. (Comment. p. 131.) Bp. Newton most justly adopts the contrary opinion. “ When the woman, the true Cburcb, was persecuted and afflicted, she was said to fly into the wilderness : and, in like manner, when the woman, the false Church, is to be destroyed, the vision is presented in the wilderness. For they are by no means, as some have imagined, ibe same woman under various representations
. They are totally distinct and different characters, and drawn in contrast to each otber ; as appears from their whole attire and behaviour, and particularly from these two circumstances ; that, during the 1260
while the woman is fed in the wilderness, the beast and the scarlet wbore are reigning and triumphant ; and, at the latter end, the whore is burnt with fire, when the woman, as his wife, hath made herself ready for the marriage of the Lamb.” Bp. Newton's Dissert. in loc.
# See Isaiah v. xxvii.
§ It may not be improper to observe, that a different word is used by St. John to express the four cherubic animals who join with the twenty-four elders in praising God, and the two persecuting beasts of tbe sea and the earth : the former are termed fwa, or living creatures ; and the latter, bmpia, or wild beasts of prey. VOL. I.