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THE THIRD GENERAL DESCRIPTION: OR, THE BEAST WITH SEVEN
HEADS AND TEN HORNS.
Chap. xiii. 1-10.
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads, and ten horns; and upon his horns ten crowns ;
his heads the name of blasphemy. 2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion : aud the dragon gave him his power and his seat, and great authori. ty. 3 And I saw one of his heads, as it were wounded to death ; und his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast : and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? 5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things, and blasphe-, mies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in hea. ven. 7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations, 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. 10 He that leadeth into captivity, shall go into captivity: He that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The apostle, in vision, standing as upon the sea-shore, sees "a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven beads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.” A beast rising out of the sea is an empire opposed to God and his Christ, rising out of the perturbed state of things in the world.
The description given of this beast leaves no doubt of its being the same as the fourth beast in the seventh chapter of Daniel, namely, the Roman Empire; with only a few circumstantial differ
Daniel viewed it in its whole duration, whereas John describes it with special reference to its last or papal form; Daniel says nothing of its heads, which John does; and lastly, Daniel speaks merely of the ten horns pertaining to the beast, but John describes them as having “ crowns," which shows that the times referred to are those in which the western empire would be overthrown, and out of it arise ten independent kingdoms.
This seven-headed and ten-borned beast does not appear to be the Pope, or Popedom, nor the Church of Rome; but that secular power which has supported the Church of Rome through the whole of her corrupt and bloody progress. The beast is not the harlot, but that on which the harlot rides. That which has been denominated The Holy Roman Empire, of which sometimes a French and sometimes a German monarch has been the head, seems to be the government principally intended, as being the great supporter of that church. It is not this government, towever, exclusive of that of the other European nations, but merely as a principal amongst them. The ten horns were not distinct from the beast, but constituent parts of it. Europe, prior to the Reformation, was a family of nations, united in respect of religion by one ecclesiastical head. As nations they were independent, and ofter engaged in war with one another; but in supporting the church they were united. The beast is indeed distinguished from its horns, as any other beast may be, while yet the horns are constituent parts of it. The ten horns are said to “ agree and to give their kingdom to the beast (Chap. xvii. 17.): that is, they united with the emperor in supporting the church. Things were so managed indeed by the cburch that the rulers of every nation in Christen
dom were in a manner compelled to unite in her support. the civil powers were obliged by the Council of Latteran, to take an oath, on pain of ecclesiastical censures, that they would endeavour to exterminate all who were declared heretics by the church out of their dominions ; and if any prince or ruler refused to do so, after admonition, it was to be certified to the Pope, who should declare all bis subjects absolved from their allegiance, and any
Catholic was free to sieze his dominions.” Such was this monstrous beast, and such the means used by his rider to guide and govern him.
Of the heads and horns of the beast we sball have occasion to speak hereafter more particularly. At present we may observe, he is described as possessing the properties of the first three of Daniel's four beasts, a leopard, a bear, and a lion, each ferocious and destructive : and whereas the dragon is said to have given him his authority, the government, though professedly Christian, was under the influence of the wicked one. After the empire be.. came Christian, the dragon for a while seemed to take the work of seducing and persecuting men into his own band (Chap. xii. 16.); but he is now contented to transfer it to the beast as a kiod of deputy under him. Ver. 2.
" I saw one of his heads (continues the apostle) as it were wounded to death, and his deadly wound was healed, and all the world wondered after the beast." To understand this, we must know what is meant by the heads of the beast, and this we must learn from Chap. xvii. 7-11. They are there said to be “ mountains on which the woman sitteth, and seven kings, five of which are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come.” not one of the seven mountains that was “as it were wounded to death,” but one of the seven kings, or governments, or forms of government, under which Rome existed. These, according to Tacitus, the Roman Historian, were Kings, Consuls, Dictators, Decemvirs, Military Tribunes, and Emperors; five of which forms of government had passed away at the time of the prophecy; the sixth, namely that of Emperors, then was, and the other was not yet come. The wound which the beast is said to have received in one of his heads was so serious, that he was for a time conside VOL. VI:
ered as dead; yet he was not dead in reality, but merely
as it were wounded to death :" for after this he revived and lived and reigned to the wonder of the world. Hence the language in Chap. xvii. 3. “ And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder-when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and
There are two interpretations of this part of the prophecy, on which good commentators have been divided. One is, that the sword by which the beast was wounded was that of the Northern nations in the fifth century, by which Rome under its sixth, or imperial head, was overthrown; but by means of popery the wound was healed, and she who had been given up for lost became in a new form the mistress of the Western world. The other is, that the deadly wound was caused by the sword of ConSTANTINE, who having in different engagements defeated his pagan colleagues, subverted the ancient religion of the empire, so that for a few years the beast was as it were dead; but that when under the influence of corruption it again became idolatrous and persecuting, the beast revived, and the world wondered after him.
Till of late I have preferred the first of these interpretations; but upon a closer examination of the prophecy, I am inclined : think the last to be the meaning. It does not seem likely that se extraordinary a change in the empire, and one that so deeply interested the church of God, should be overlooked, while one which is much more ordinary, and of but small account to religion, should be held up to view. It seems also, notwithstanding the corruptions introduced under the first Christian emperors, it were too much to suppose that the empire continued to be the same beast as it was in the times of Paganism, or that the difference was so small as not to require any kind of notice in the page
That the species of Christianity introduced in the times of Constantine was injurious to the church is allowed even by those who approve of national religious establishments ; yet the prophecy may be very applicable to the event. Supposing this to be its true meaning, there is no countenance given by it to that partial
and corrupt system which at that time was introduced. On the contrary, there is a strong intimation conveyed in those saving terms “as it were," that the beast, though stunned, was not slain. - He was not wounded to death, but merely as it were wounded to death. As soon as circumstances favoured his recovery, the wound was healed, and the beast recovered his wonted vigour. Ver. 3.
“They worshipped the dragon and the beast." The homage of the world is generally paid to success, though it be in the worst of canses. Those powers which raised and supported the antichristian harlot, being successful, receive the homage of the nations called Christian, though in paying it they sink into the old idolatry under a new name, and in reality worship the wicked
Ver. 4. The "great things" spoken by this secular beast may refer to that spirit which gives not God the glory of success, but like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, arrogates every thing to self.
blasphemies” relate to words aud assumptions more immediately directed against God, and his cause. The charge of blasphemy was preferred against all the heads of the beast, (Ver. 1.) though most of thon were pagan, and of course unacquainted with the true God. The blasphemies referred to therefore must be not merely his speeches directly uttered against the Great Supreme, but his arrogating and assuming that which exclusively belongs to him. This charge is repeated and enlarged upon in ver. 6., where also it is followed with “making war upon the saints.” If God had been within reach of the beast, he would have made war with him ; but as he was not, his batred against him was discovered in making war upon his people. A species of practical blasphemy seems to constitute the principle from which all persecution proceeds ; for it is no other than usurping the throne of God in the mind of man, This principle has been common through all those pagan and papal governments which have come in contact with the church of God. Nay, is it not exceedingly prevalent in almost all the governments now in being ? It is rare, very rare, for those who occupy the supreme place in civil affairs, to respect the claims of conscience and of God. Had