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than when it was an association avowedly Pagan. In all the different periods of its existence, it has been actuated by the spirit of a devil; and this kind of spirit was never more completely infused into it, than when it became nominally Christian. As Satan is always the most dangerous adversary when he transforms himself into an angel of light, so this empire became the most dangerous enemy to the church when she began to apprehend that she had least reason to suspect his designs. So completely had it imbibed the spirit of a devil, after it assumed the name of a Christian power, that it is not only called a dragon, but the devil and Satan.
This dragon is called great, because, the empire of which he is the symbol was extensive and powerful. At the commencement of the period of this prophecy it included the whole of the civilized world; and no power on earth was able to contend with it. He is also called a red dragon, because from the beginning to the close of its existence it was a warlike association; all the periods of its history are marked by the strongest disposition for blood and violence. It has been supposed, that there is an allusion here to the purple and scarlet robes of the emperors, and others high in office, among the Romans, which sometimes had the figure of a dragon emblazoned upon them. It is also known, that the ancient Romans and some other nations fought under the banner of a dragon. But whatever be the object from which the allusion is borrowed, we cannot be at any loss to perceive, that it is the immediate design of the figure to symbolize the bloody, cruel, and ferocious disposition of the Roman state.
Having mentioned the general appearance, the prophet proceeds to a more particular account of this dragon, and informs us that he had seven heads and ten horns. The heads and horns of the dragon have generally been understood of the different forms of government by which the Roman state had been ruled, and the different independent principalities into which it was divided, after the imperial government was pulled down. But as the dragon-state of the empire passed away be
fore any of these principalities started into existence, whence is it that the dragon is represented as having ten horns as well as seven heads?—In answer to this inquiry it may be remarked, that this part of the representation was necessary in order to prevent misconceptions both in the mind of the prophet and of his readers. Had the dragon been destitute of horns, his appearance would have impressed the mind with the idea, that when the imperial government was dissolved, the church would no more be corrupted or persecuted by the state. But when this dragon was furnished with ten different horns, which were the symbols of secular states that would rise up when the imperial government fell down, we see from this part of the representation, that the church would no sooner be delivered out of the hands of one adversary, than she would fall into the hands of another. These horns are not to be understood of principalities which were co-existent with the dragon. It was impossible that the crowns could sit both upon the heads and the horns at one and the same time. Hence, the former are represented as being crowned, but not the latter. Though the dominant state of the horns does not take place till the beast of the sea described in chap. xiii. lifts his heads above the waters, yet as that beast is the symbol of the different principalities of Papal Europe, the horns, which are also the symbols of these principalities, are first represented as being in the head of the dragon, because it was from among the ruins of the dragonstate of the empire, that all these principalities were to start into existence. When we think upon the dominant state of the horns, we must conceive of them as transferred from the dragon to the beast of the sea; and, therefore, what may be farther necessary for explaining this part of the symbol, will come more directly before us in the illustration of the following chapter. We shall confine our observations at present to the heads of the dragon.
This symbolical dragon had no fewer than seven heads, which in chap. xvii. 9, 10. are explained to have a double signification. They are intended to symbolize the seat of this
The seven heads are seven mountains
on which the woman sitteth,' ver. 9. They are likewise seven kings or forms of government in this seven-hilled city, ver. 10. The figure is natural and striking. In all countries, the head has been figuratively used for that which bears rule. It is the chief and uppermost part, and that which regulates all the motions of the body. Hence the head of a state must be the government of the state, or those that are invested with supreme authority in it. Here the heads are not meant of rulers, but of the law or constitution, according to which all the rule in the country is exercised. They are no doubt called kings; but what the prophet has stated respecting them is sufficient to shew, that it is not seven different individuals clothed with princely authority that are intended; ' two are fallen,' says he, ' and one is, and the other is not yet come.' If we understand them of kings literally, the declaration will not be true; because all the kings of the Roman state had fallen many hundred years before the birth of John. If we understand them of emperors, it will be equally impossible to shew its consistency; for though only one emperor was reigning at the time in which the apostle was writing, he was not followed by an individual only, but by a succession in the throne for a period of more than three hundred years. But if we understand the heads as denoting those varied forms of government to which the Roman people were subjected, the language of the prophet will appear to be consistent and full of meaning.
We cannot be at a loss to determine what particular forms of government these heads are intended to symbolize, as two of the Roman historians have given us a summary account of the rule which had been among them, prior to the time in which the imperial form was established. One of these historians wrote only a few years before the time when John was favoured with this vision, and he assures us, that Rome was first governed by kings, then by consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and military tribunes with consular authority. These five heads were now
Tacit. Annal. lib. I. sect. 1.
fallen; as operative forms of government they had passed away. In the days of John, the empire was subsisting in its sixth or imperial head, which was to be succeeded by the Papal and last form of its government.*
This monstrous dragon is finally described from the destructive influence of his tail, as in the beginning of ver. 4., And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. The head is the most formidable part of the natural dragon. The size of the head is enormous; hence the vast length and compass of the jaws. These last again are almost continually open; and as the tongue is forked, and the eye has a continued red fiery glare, you cannot conceive of any animal or reptile whose appearance is more terrific. But the hinder part or tail of the ordinary dragon is remarkable only for its length; in this dragon the tail was equally dangerous as the head. Immeasurable as is the distance of one star from another, by this monstrous tail he stretched through the regions of space, and swept away a third part of the stars of the sky. The tail is the symbol of blandishment and of false doc
* The regal or kingly government commenced with the foundation of Rome, and continued about 250 years. It was terminated in Tarquinius Superbus, the last of the Roman kings, 509 years before the birth of Christ.—The consular government was introduced by Lucius Junius Brutus, and, with frequent interruptions, it was continued till the triumvirate of Augustus, Anthony, and Lepidus, about 43 years before Christ. The first that filled the office of dictator was Titus Lartius Flavius, soon after the expulsion of the kings.-The decemviral power was instituted about 50 years later. This form of government was of very short duration; it was so unpopular that it was put down in three years after it had been established.-The military tribunes with consular authority were elected a few years after; but in the space of 70 years this office was also abolished, and consuls were again elected for the government of the state. All these were succeeded by the imperial, which continued about 500 years, till it was overthrown by the tribes of the North, and Europe was parcelled out among a multitude of Gothic princes. Clark's Dissertation on the Dragon, &c.
+ The fabulous dragon of the ancient Greeks and Romans was represented as the most formidable of all monsters. He was described as possessing attributes which bordered upon those of a divinity. His form was somewhat like a serpent, only it was furnished both with wings and with feet. The size was enormous, and his force destructive and irresistible. His flight was compared to that of an eagle, and sometimes to the velocity of lightning; and the brilliancy of his eyes was so remarkable, that the night was converted into day wherever this monster directed his course. To inspire their enemies with terror, the Romans, Persians, and other nations, frequently fought under banners in which the form of a dragon was the principal device.-Rees' Cyclopædia, word Draco.
trine; accordingly, when the stars were cast down by the tail, we are led to conceive of the numerous courtly favours and deep political intrigues by which the ministers of religion were corrupted, and fell from their place in the heavens of the church, while they rose to power and grandeur in the earth, and made, way for the manifestation of the Man of Sin, described in the following chapter, under the emblem of a twohorned beast which rose up out of the earth.-From these verses it appears,
1st, That the church is a truly honourable association. She is here represented under the idea of a queen; and, corresponding with this dignity of station, she has her crown, her robes of state, and all the insignia of regal power and authority. These emblems of her dignified rank are of the very highest order. Her crown is a constellation of the brightest stars, the drapery of her robe is formed by the beams of the sun, and her feet are placed on the moon, as the pedestal of her throne. 2d, That earthly things are of small consideration with the saints. This woman had the moon under her feet. Paul accounted all things, even the very best that this world could af ford, but loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ his Lord.
3d, That the apostolic doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, are the true ornaments of the church. Possessed of these, whether the society be great or small, it is adorned with a crown of twelve stars; but when once they are lost, whatever be the splendour of the exterior appearance of that body, it is either a mere worldly association or a synagogue of Satan.
4th, That the spirit and the profession, both of individuals and of public bodies, may be at open variance with each other. Here, under the mask of a profession of regard to Christ and his interest, a dragon got into the heavens of the visible church. But as no change of circumstances can convert a devil, or make a worldly association breathe any other spirit than that which is worldly, the Roman empire, after it became nominally Christian, continued, as before, to be actuated by the spirit of