« PreviousContinue »
violate it, let him lose his authority and honor, and know that he is obnoxious to divine judgment; and unless he restore what he has taken away, or undergo a suitable penance, let him be debarred from the body and blood of the Redeemer, and subjected to eternal vengeance. But the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all who appropriately observe it, so that they may receive fruit here of their good conduct, and obtain from the rigorous judge the reward of eternal rest.” The popes who followed Gregory assumed still more conspicuously the relation of lawgivers to the church, and the monarchs in the western empire co-operated still more openly and efficiently in supporting their usurpations and idolatries, and enforcing them on their subjects.
Whether, then, the agency of the wild beast as a blasphemer, is to be regarded as having commenced with the arrogation of power over the church by Ethelbert in 597, or at a somewhat later period, it has indisputably acted in that character through nearly twelve hundred and sixty years.
It is a sufficient refutation of the absurd exposition given by Grotius, Dr. Hammond, and Rosenmuller, who exhibit the wild beast as representing idolatry, that it is against the law of symbolization, living agents never being used as symbols of mere modes of agency, and having no analogy that can fit them to be their representative.
The assumption of Mr. Mede, Dr. Cressner, Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. More, Mr. Whiston, Vitringa, Bishop Newton, Dean Woodhouse, Mr. Faber, Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Elliott, and indeed, excepting the followers of Grotius, nearly the whole succession of commentators, that the wild beast is the symbol of an empire, is equally erroneous; whether it be used, as by Mr. Faber, to denote the territory, or, as by Cocceius, the population of an empire. The first is against analogy; the other, irreconcilable with the representations of the passage. There is the clearest discrimination between the wild beast and the population over whom it tyrannizes. It is worshipped by all who dwell on the earth, whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb. It cannot be a representative of those worshippers therefore. That were to make it both the adorer, and the object of its adoration. Authority is given to it over every tribe and people, and tongue and nation. It cannot be the representative ihen of those classes. That were to make it both monarch, and the subjects of its monarchy. The saints moreover who do not worship it, and whom it persecutes, are inhabitants of its terri
* Gregorii Epist. 9, lib. xiii. Ind. vi. p. 1225.
tory. To suppose it to represent the whole population of an empire therefore, were to exhibit it as a representative of those who are wholly opposite to it in character, who disown its usurped authority, and whom it destroys as enemies of its sway; which were solecistical. It is the symbol then of the rulers of an empire, not of an empire itself, or its population.
As the head of an animal, the seat of perception, sensibility, and volition, presides over all its other members, and directs their movements; so the heads of this monster symbolize the chiefs of that combination of rulers, of which it is at large the representative, during the period of the diadems on the heads. The seven heads, it is said, chap. xvii. 10, are seven kings; and as a symbol when a representative of men, is universally a representative of a combination or succession of persons, and as no ground but a diversity of kind can be supposed for their discrimination, each of the seven heads must be regarded as denoting both a peculiar kind of supreme magistrates, and a succession or dynasty of its own kind; and dynasties, not that are cotemporaneous, but that follow each other, -as five, it is said at the period of the visions, are fallen, one is, and one is not yet come. The horns also are kings, and representatives of the successions of monarchs or chiefs of the body of rulers, of which the beast at large is the symbol, during the period of the diadems on the horns; as is apparent from the considerations already mentioned, and from their continuance through the period of twelve hundred and sixty years. These characteristics refute, therefore, all those expositors who, like Mr. Daubuz, exhibit the heads as symbols of cities, or, like Mr. Keith, of successive kingdoms.
The empire, of whose rulers the wild beast is the symbol, is manifestly, from many considerations, the Roman. It is an empire that was subsisting when the Apostle beheld the visions, which had already flourished through a long period, which was to continue under its dragon rule a considerable space longer, and was then to be subjected to this wild beast's dominion under the direction of the horns, and subsist under that sway through twelve hundred and sixty years. Five of its heads were already fallen, one then was, and the other had not yet come. But there is no other than the Roman empire of which those peculiarities can be affirmed ;—a subsistence at that period, and under a sixth form of government-a continuance under that sixth and a seventh form, through a still further period-a division then into ten kingdoms, and subsistence under at least eight cotemporary dynasties, twelve hundred and sixty years; with such resemblances of laws, religion, manners, and policy, as to entitle them to be represented as still one empire-and finally, uniting in such an agency towards God and towards his worshippers, as that which is ascribed to them in this delineation. An express designation by its name, could not have rendered it more certain that it is the Roman empire. No other ever subsisted, in which, disregarding all others, the two great peculiarities denoted by the heads and the horns were united.
It is the empire which embraced the apocalyptic earth, the scene of the actors and agencies denoted by the symbols ; for it embraced the regions in which the worshippers of God then subsisted, and were to continue to subsist and suffer persecution through a long tract of ages, and in which the great body of the church was to apostatize to superstition and idolatry, become new modelled under civil and ecclesiastical rulers, and exist through many centuries in intimate connection with a combination of usurping, tyrannical, and bloody monarchies ;-and is, therefore, the Roman empire; as it was in that that the churches were situated to which ihe Apocalypse was addressed; and in that empire alone, that churches subsisted from that period without interruption through a long succession of centuries; and that the visible church became nationalized, apostatized to idols, and existed in intimate relations with the rulers symbolized by the tenhorned wild beast. No other empire can present the slightest pretences to be the scene of those peculiar actors and agencies.
It is, finally, the fourth empire of Daniel, manifestly from the similarity of the symbols and their agency, and is therefore the Roman; as the Roman was that fourth empire, indisputably from its following and conquering the third-from its coinciding in all its characteristics with the peculiarities of that empire's symbol—from its being the only empire that presents any such resemblances—and from its destiny, like that, to destruction immediately before the establishment of the kingdom of the saints.
The commentators who regard the wild beast as symbolizing the Roman empire, unite generally in exhibiting the forms of government which its first six heads denote as the kingly, consular, dictatorial, decemviral, tribunitial, and imperial; but differ in respect to the seventh. Some have assigned that station to the popes. But their dynasty was never the civil head of the Roman empire, either before or after its fall; and cannot, therefore, be the class of rulers denoted by its seventh head. They did not become civil rulers of any part of that empire until after its subversion, and the emergence from its ruins of the ten kingdoms. They are exhibited in the vision of Daniel as springing up after the ten horns, and that is the representation also universally of the historians of their origin as political rulers. The eleventh horn, by which they are symbolized in that vision, is represented as small in comparison with the other horns, and thence cannot be the same with that which symbolizes the rulers of the whole empire. They are symbolized by the two-horned wild beast of the Apocalypse, which is cotemporary with the ten-horned wild beast, sustains towards it important relations, and exerts towards it and its subjects important agencies, and cannot, therefore, be one of its heads. And finally, the seventh head was to continue but a short time, but the papal rule has subsisted through a longer period than that of the first six heads united.
Dr. Cressner and some others, regarded the Gothic kings who reigned at Rome a short period after the abdication of Augustulus, as the seventh head. But they were never the head of the Roman empire in any sense-first, as their reign was subsequent to its subversion; and next, as they reigned by the foriner laws of the empire so far as they made them their guide, not by any conditions of their office, but only as they chose to adopt them.
Mr. Mede regarded the Latin emperors, after the division of the empire into the eastern and western, as the seventh head. But that is to exhibit the sixth and seventh heads as cotemporaneous, which is solecistical, and contradictory to the representation in the seventeenth chapter, that those heads were successive.
Cocceius regarded the beast as the symbol of the Roman people as falsely professing Christianity; the seven heads as representing the five ecclesiastical patriarchs of Alexandria, Je. rusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, and Rome, and the synods of Gaul and Spain; and the ten horns as denoting kings of the ten European kingdoms. But that exposition of the heads contradicts the text, by making the beast the symbol of those who worship it-by representing the first five heads that had fallen at the period of the visions as still future—and finally, by making the fifth, sixth, and seventh heads, symbols of persons who are represented by the two-horned wild beast and the image.
Mr. Faber regards Bonaparte, the head of the French empire, as the seventh head. But that is to exhibit the seventh head as
the same as one of the ten horns, which is irreconcilable with the symbol. It is to exhibit the seventh head as ruling the empire, in the same sense, during the sway of the ten horns, as it was ruled by the previous heads anterior to the rise of the horns; which is inconsistent with the symbol. It is to exhibit the period of the seventh head's rule as wholly after the diadems on the heads had been superseded by diadems on the horns, which is also to contradict the symbol.
Mr. Elliott regards the seventh head as constituted from the sixth, by the adoption or creation of a second or associate Augustus by Diocletian. But that did not essentially alter the nature of the rule. The mode of appointment to the station of Augustus and Cæsar, continued the same as before ; the ground and extent of the imperial authority, the laws and the mode of enacting them ; and it is refuted by the implication which it presents, that the seventh head, instead of but a single, received several death-wounds. If the union of two Augusti constituted the seventh head, then the fall of one and the return of the imperial rule to the hands of an individual, must have been its death. But there were several periods after the abdication of Diocletian, when the sceptre was held by a single Augustus. Constantine himself had no such associate after the fall of Licinius; nor had Constantius, after the death of his brothers; nor Jovian, Valentinian, Valens, Gratian, or Theodosius the Great, during a portion of their reigns. That author, indeed, exhibits paganism, as the seventh head that was wounded to death.
But ihat is to contradict his exposition of the beast as a symbol of the Roman empire, and of its heads as representing its forms of government. It is inconsistent with analogy also; paganism being, not a combination of successive agents, but a mere mode of agency, or system of false faith and worship, and cannot therefore be symbolized by a living agent, which is a representative of living agents only, not of mere modes of faith or action.
But the characteristics of the seventh head are found only in Constantine and his successors. He introduced, by the recognition and adoption of the Christian religion, a new principle into the government, placed his own authority in a degree, and many of the rights of the people on new grounds, and changed the relations of the throne to every one of his subjects. Idolatry had before been the religion of the state ; but he made Christianity an element of the constitution and a basis of power, and wrought thereby at length a revolution in the laws and administration of the empire. It was pre-eminently a political change, and in that