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SECTION XXIX.

CHAPTER XII. 7-12.

THE WAR OF MICHAEL.

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting with the dragon, and the dragon fought also and his angels, and prevailed not, nor was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down; the old serpent, who is called devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world, was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.

And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, Now is the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Anointed, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, is cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life unto death. Wherefore rejoice ye heavens, and ye who dwell in them. Woe to the land and to the sea; for the devil is gone down to you having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.

This serpent is obviously a wholly different being from the great red dragon which endeavored to devour the man-child. There is no indication that he is an animal. There is no ascription to him of seven heads, seven diadems, ten horns, a tail that swept the stars, nor an appetite for flesh. Instead, and to distinguish him from that dragon, he is defined as the ancient serpent, who is called devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; titles which belong only to that great apostate spirit who seduced our first mother, and an agency that is exerted alone by him. He is a serpent, too, having subordinates of a similar nature, that fight under his standard. But the seven-headed dragon had no troops of a nature like his own. That, in short, was a fictitious monster; this dragon and his angels are real existences. This is apparent also from the scene of the contest. It were incongruous to exhibit a dragon, an inhabitant of water, as elevated to the atmosphere, and contending there with an angelic being, as though in its natural element. When the woman was exhibited in the sky, she was represented as having the moon as a support under her feet. This is confirmed finally by the nature of his opponents, and the actions ascribed to them. They are Michael, an archangel, and his subordinate angels, and they

make war.

As the armies are thus of the same species, and exert the same species of acts, their chiefs are doubtless also of the same nature.

Here, then, an obedient archangel and his subordinates, on the one hand, and the great apostate angel Satan, and his subordinate spirits on the other, are exhibited as waging a war with one another, in which Satan, unable to maintain his ground, is at length driven from heaven, and dejected with his angels to the earth. And they are representatives of men, manifestly from the song of those in heaven which follows, in which the conquerors are exhibited as not loving their life unto death, which is predicable only of men and of martyrs, not of angels; and as overcoming their adversaries by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony, which is predicable only of witnesses for God and believers in Christ. Michael and his angels, then, are symbols of believers in Christ, who gain a victory by faith in his blood, by proclaiming his word, and by submitting to martyrdom, rather than swerve from fidelity to him. And the victory is deemed to indicate the approach of the kingdom of God, and the triumphant reign of Christ. Satan and his angels, on the other hand, symbolize antagonists of believers, who endeavor by contradiction to countervail, or persecution to prevent their testimony, and maintain the supremacy of idolatry. It is shown also by the representation, that Satan accused their brethren before God, that the question between them was one of religion, not of political power.

The kingdom of God chanted by the voice from heaven, the scene of the war, as at hand, is the kingdom that is to be established at the final overthrow of antichrist, in which the Messiah is visibly to reign. That chant was uttered by the victors, and indicates that the church was to regard its growth to a majority, and the change in public feeling, by which its persecution had become unpopular even with multitudes of the pagans, as insuring the speedy advent of Christ, and commencement of his millennial reign. The heavens summoned to rejoice, are the new heavens, the symbol of the risen and glorified saints, who are to descend with the Redeemer, and reign with him as kings. They who dwell in those heavens, are the sanctified nations who are to live under their sway. On the other hand, the land and the sea, contradistinguished from the new heavens and they who dwell in them, denote the nations at rest and in agitation, anterior to the establishment of that millennial kingdom. That the dejection of Satan and his angels was to be a woe to the earth and the sea, indicates that the decline of the pagan party into a mi

war.

nority, was to exasperate its priests and rulers, and lead them to more violent methods to overwhelm their antagonists, and reinstate themselves in authority. From the persecution of the woman, and attempt by the seven-headed dragon to destroy her during her flight to the desert, which are exhibited in the vision that follows, it is seen that the period of this contest was anterior to her retreat into seclusion, and the commencement of the twelve hundred and sixty years.

This angel war, then, it is apparent from these characteristics, was symbolic of the struggle of the faithful teachers, confessors, and martyrs of the gospel on the one hand, to spread and give supremacy to Christianity, and of the pagan priests and their active abettors, the persecuting rulers especially on the other, to maintain the dominion of idolatry. It was not a strife for political power, manifestly from the means by which the victory was gained. They overcame the dragon, not by the sword, but by the blood of the Lamb, and by their testimony. It were against the law of symbolization also, to interpret it as a literal

As the symbol war was one of force, analogy requires that that which it symbolizes should be one of authority and persuasion. The victory of Michael was such a success of the Christian army as to turn the current of public belief and feel. ing in their favor, and produce at length a revolution in the civil government, by which, instead as before, of accusation as apostates, they were formally recognised as true worshippers of God, tolerated in their faith and worship, and inspired with the expectation that the commencement of Christ's millennial reign was at hand. The period of this war was the period therefore of the persecutions by Diocletian, Galerius, Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius; and the victory, that change of public feeling wrought by the testimony and faith of the teachers of the gospel, and sufferings and constancy of the confessors and martyrs, that rendered persecution and paganism itself unpopular, prompted Constantine to espouse the cause of the Christians, and finally led to the rejection of paganism as the religion of the state.

I. The persecution by Diocletian and Galerius, instead of weakening the church, and adding strength to the pagans, produced the opposite effect. The horrible evils inflicted on the unoffending and virtuous Christians, touched multitudes of the idolaters with sympathy and sorrow; while their invincible constancy, and the joy and exultation with which they met the most ignominious and hideous death, impressed them with wonder, begat the feeling that they were supported by a supernatural power, and thus

gave birth to the wish that they should be freed from persecution, and allowed the profession of their religion in peace. On the other hand, the merciless oppression by those tyrants of the whole body of their subjects, pagan as well as Christian, excited a general terror and disgust of such rulers, and desire for the elevation to power of just and tolerant princes, like Constantius Chlorus. Thus Lactantius :-“ Another reason that the people of God are permitted to be persecuted is, that they may be multiplied. Nor is it difficult to show why or how that takes place. Many are repelled from the worship of the gods by a dislike of their cruelty ; for who does not regard their sacrifices with horror? Some approve of virtue and the faith. Some are led to suspect that it is not without cause that the worship of the gods is regarded as wrong by so many, who prefer to die rather than do that which others do that they may live. Some feel a desire to know what that good is which is adhered to even to death, which is preferred to all that is pleasing and dear in life, from which neither the loss of goods nor of light, neither pains of body nor tortures of the heart can deter. Such considerations have great influence, but the causes that have chiefly augmented our number are these :-The crowd standing around, hear the martyrs say in the midst of their torments, that they sacrifice not to statues made by the hands of man, but to the living God, who is in heaven. Many perceive and feel that this is true. Then, as is usual in regard to things that are not understood, in asking one another what the cause can be of that perseverance, many things that pertain to religion are introduced, investigated, and learned, which, from their excellence, necessarily give pleasure. Moreover, persecution itself, as always happens, strongly impels to belief. Nor is it a slight cause that of the multitudes whom the inpious spirits of demons enter, all who are healed by their expulsion adhere to the religion whose power they have experienced. These numerous causes united, have drawn a great multitude in a wonderful manner to God.”!

As the persecution of the Christians thus multiplied their number, so the insupportable tyranny of their persecutors, led the population generally, pagan as well as Christian, to wish for their destruction, and to hail Constantine's victory as a deliverance. Constantine himself represents the population at large as murmuring under the cruel oppressions and wanton slaughters to which they were subjected by Diocletian, Galerius, Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius, and as cherishing their love of free

Lactantii Inst. lib. v. de Just. c. 22.

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dom, and invoking God to deliver them. « The issue of their tyrannical course was predicted by the intelligent, for they were neither silent, nor concealed their lamentations at those outrages, but openly and publicly, without reserve, said to one another,

What madness! what insolence of power in men to dare to make war on God, to delight to insult a most holy and righteous religion, and without provocation plot the destruction of such a multitude of just men !'” “At length divine providence took vengeance of their impious deeds, not, however, without the injury of the public; for the slaughters that have been perpetrated, had they been slaughters of the barbarians, would be enough to ensure an eternal peace; for the whole army of Diocletian being subjected to the power of the rude man who seized the government of the empire by force, after God had liberated the capital, was wasted in numerous wars. But how do the cries to God of those who were oppressed, and desired their natural liberty, and after the removal of those evils, the offerings of thanks to him for the restoration of freedom and justice, bespeak his care and love towards men."

Accordingly on Constantine's entering Rome after the defeat and death of Maxentius, " the whole senate, all the superior orders, and the people with their wives and children, received him with glad countenances, shouts, and exultation, as their liberator, saviour, and benefactor."

II. The question which of their religions was genuine and to prevail, was considered by both parties as on trial in the contest of that period, and to be determined by its issue.

Such were the views of Constantine: “ The whole body of foot and horse was assembled by him, and at their head was borne the cross, the symbol of a good hope in God. Moreover, aware that then if ever he needed prayers, he took the priests of God with him, regarding their continual presence as a protection of his life. Licinius naturally, on learning that Constantine made his preparation for victory over his enemies, as though it were to be gained only through God's co-operation, that the priests whom I have mentioned were continually present and communicating with him, and the standard of the cross always borne before him and his troops, thought it ridiculous, and mocked and traduced him. He, however, collected around himself Egyptian seers and diviners, enchanters, jugglers, and the priests and prophets of those whom he regarded as gods, and

· Const. Orat, ad Sanct. Cæt. c. 25.
? Eusebii Hist. Eccl. lib. ix. c. 9.

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