Page images

animals of the rapacious kind are introduced for this pure pose ; and occasionally the strict laws of nature are departed from, and a beast is described as compounded of several other beasts in order to convey more accu- . rately the import of the prophecy.

In a temporal sense, a wild beust is used to symbolize a large empire professing and acting upon principles adverse to the Church of Christ. And here I would particularly insist upon one point, namely, that a beast never means a single kingdom considered as co-existing with other kingdoms all jointly in opposition to the Church ; such, for instance, as any one of the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided : but always an universal empire, that is to say, universal so far as the Church is concerned.* A temporal beast then importing an universal empire, its heads, if it be represented as having more than one, sometimes mean different forms of government under which the empire in question has subsisted, and sometimes different kingdoms into which it has been divided.t Horns likewise mean different kingdoms, which have branched out from the imperial head of a once universal monarchy, and which are all subsisting at the same time:, and the tail, which is the meanest part of the body, signifies the antichristian superstition of the beast, the cause by which he is rendered so utterly offensive in the eyes of God. The dominion of a beast is his power of persecution : the life or vital principle of a beast, that is to say, the principle which causes him to be a beast is his idolatry or apostacy : and the

* Other beasts or large empires, like those of China and Hindostan, never having had any connection with the affairs of the Church, are for that reason left unnoticed by prophecy. Of the beasts or empires against which the ram pushed with so much sucçess, one was the lion or the Babylonian monarcby, and the others were states with which the Church had no connection, such as the kingdom of Cresus. That of Egypt, which was conquered by Cambyses, the second king of tbe ram, is perhaps the only exception to the rule of a beast meaning an universal empire so far as tbe Churcb is concerned, having existed along with the Babylonian empire, and having, like it, been much connected with the Jews : yet even Égypt is not a perfect exception, having been once subdued, and made during the space of three years a province of the Babylonian monarcby, by Esar-haddon. Chron. Tab. to Univ. Hist. p. 54.

t I only recollect a single instance, in which beads mean different kingdoms. See Dan. vii. 6.

“ The Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and bonourable, (that is, the governing power) he is the bead; and the propbet that teacbeth lies, he is the tail." Isaiah ix. 14, 15.

of his

death of a beast is the destruction of this vital principle. Hence, when a beust is said to exist or to live, the meaning is, that the empire typified by the beast is devoted to idolatry and superstition. When he is said to cease to exist or to be slain, the meaning is, not that his temporal authority is destroyed, but that he has put away his abominati'ns ; the retaining of which was the sole cause of his being a beast, and consequently the resignation of which is equivalent to his ceasing to be a beast. When he is said to exist afresh or to revive, the meaning is, that he has either resumed his old abominations, or adopted fresh ones equally hateful to God; thereby again acquiring the bestial character, which he had before happily laid aside. And, when his dominion is said to be taken from him, the meaning is that he is deprived

power of persecuting the Church. In this last idea the loss of lawful temporal authority is not necesa sarily included. The dominion of the little horn of the Roman beust has already begun to be taken away by the withdrawing of many of its former supporters from the communion of the Church of Rome ; and eventually it shall be deprived of the remainder of its dominion and of its temporal authority likewise by the death of its colleague and supporter the secular ten-horned beast : yet we are not to suppose, that, when the secular beast ceases to exist as a beast, all government will cease within the limits of what was once his empire.* So again : though the little horn will be deprived both of its dominion and its temporal authority, since the two ideas are not necessarily connected, it does not therefore follow, that, because the other beasts are to be deprived of their dominion, they shall also be deprived of their temporal authority. On the contrary, the taking away of their dominion while their lives are prolonged means, not that the pagan nations, which shall co-exist with the Church during the millennium, shall possess no temporal power within their proper territories, but only (like the empire of China for instance) that they shall possess no power of persecuting the Church. This is sufficiently

Dan. vii. 11, 26.

† Dan, vü. 12.

manifest from the state of those nations at the close of the millennium, as it is described both by Ezekiel and St. John. In the writings of those two prophets, they appear as a regularly organized body of men, making no attempt upon the pious Christian governments, which jointly constitute the fifth great monarchy, or spiritual empire of the Messiah, during the space of a thousand years; but at the end of those years assailing them at the instigation of Satan with the utmost rancour, and perishing in consequence of it. Hence it may be collected, that, when their dominion is said to be taken away, the meaning must be, not their temporal dominion within their own limits, but their power of injuring the Church.*

In a spiritual or ecclesiastical sense, a beast is a superstition affecting universal dominion ; for universality, as I have already observed, is the peculiar characteristic of a beust, as opposed to the horn of a beast.

On the same grounds, a horn, in an ecclesiastical sense, is a spiritual kingdom : and, as such, it may be represented, either as springing out of a secular beast, or out of an ecclesiastical beast. In the former case, its geographical origin is pointed out; in the latter case, its connection with, and subserviency to, a spiritual empire. An ecclesiastical kingdom however may increase into an ecclesiastical empire, and it may then have ecclesiastical kingdoms subservient to it. Hence, what is symbolized in one prophecy by the horn of a secular beast, may hereafter in another prophecy be symbolized by a distinct spiritual beast, having a proper head or supreme governor and proper horns or ecclesiastical kingdoms of its own. There is only one such beast mentioned in the whole Bible ; and he supplies the place of what in a collateral prediction had been represented by a little horn gradually acquiring unlimited power : while, to prevent the possibility of mistaking his character, he is expressly denominated a false prophet.t

These beasts have both a natural and a spiritual origin. Hence the same beast is sometimes said to arise both out

* Ezek. Xxxvii. xxxix. Rev. xx. 1-10. + Compare Dan. vii. 7, 8, 11, 20, 21, 24, 25. with Rev. xii. 1, 11, 16. and xix. 20. The specific character of the two apocalytic beasts will be discussed at large here. after,

of the sea, and out of the bottomless pit ; the former expression denoting his physical birth out of contending nutions, and the latter his infernal extraction.

The sovereign and instigator and spiritual parent of the various beasts or idolatrous empires, that have persecuted the Church, is the drugon or serpent. This fierce and noxious reptile, when simply mentioned, is the devil, that old serpent which deceiveth the whole world, poisoning the principles of its inhabitants, and introducing death both temporal and eternal : but, when described as being connected with certain other marks or symbols, it is the devil considered as acting through the insirumentality of the power or powers thus marked or symbolized. Accordingly the great red dragon of the Apocalypse is, as we are repeatedly assured by St. John, the devil: and, inasmuch as he is said to have seven heads and ten horns, he can only be thus described, because he acts through the instrumentality of the seven-heuded and ten-horned beast ; to whom he is said to have given his power, and his seat, and great authority.


Concerning the scriptural phrases of the latter days, the

last days, and the time of the end.

FOR the right understanding of prophecy it is necessary to ascertain the meaning of certain phrases, which are used by the inspired writers to describe different future periods. The phrases, to which I allude, are the latter times or days, the last times or days, and the end or the time of the end.

Bp. Newton remarks, that the two former of these phrases “ signify primarily any time yet to come ; but denote more particularly the times of Christianity :and he

• Rev, xüi. 2.

adds, that sometimes this phraseology relates, not only to the whole period of the Christian dispensation, but likewise to the latter or last days of the latler or last

times. *

In this observation there is much that is true : but I cannot think, that it is by any means stated so accurately as it might have been.

Throughout the Old Testament, the two apparently different phrases of latter days and last days never once in reality occur. The single expression, which our translators thus variously render comparatively and superlatively, (as if there were two different expressions in the original,) is simply Dion n°908, the end of days. Consequently, the latter days and the last days of our present translation of the Old Testament must mean the very same period, whatever that period may be ; because they are each equally a version of one and the same phrase, which literally and properly ought to be rendered the end of days.

The end of days means primarily, as Bp. Newton very justly remarks, any time yet future :t but I much doubt, whether it ever signifies the whole period of the Christian dispensation. On the contrary, whenever it is not used in its primary sense, I believe it exclusively to relate to that portion of time, which begins at the termination of the great Apostacy of 1260 years, and which expires at the end of the Millennium and at the consummation of all things. This great period Mr. Mede styles the kingdom of the mountain in opposition to the kingdom of the stone ; in other words, the triumphant reign of Christianity after the 1260 years, in opposition to its depressed state before the expiration of that term. The end of days therefore includes not only the millennium, but the 75 years which will intervene between the end of the 1260 years and the proper commencement of the Millennium ; which 75 years will be occupied in the res

• Dissert. iv-Dissert. xxiii. 3. See also Mede's Apostacy of the latter Times, Part I. Chap. 11.

† In this case, perhaps it might more properly be translated the succession of days, as denoting what Mr. Mede calls a continuation or length of lime : for 797778 signifies either the wbole length of any period, or the end of thet period.

« PreviousContinue »