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been translated to heaven, either miraculously or by an ordinary death, as soon as he was united to the person of the Son of God, the church, the true mother of this spiritual progeny, would have been written childless, as it is by means of a seed being continued that a church-state is preserved on the earth. The figure is intended to describe the special care of Providence, about the genuine offspring of the church during the times of the dragon and those of his successor, the beast of the sea. Though persecuted they would be kept in as great safety as though they had been translated from earth to heaven, and set down before the throne of God.
It has been supposed that there is an allusion to the preservation of Joash during the usurpation of Athaliah, described in the 11th chap. of 2 Kings. When the rest of the seed-royal were destroyed, Jehosheba took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons which were slain, and hid him together with his nurse in the house of the Lord six years. The usurper did not imagine that any of the sons of the late king were left alive, much less that one of their number was in such vicinity to the palace as to be lodged in the temple; till Jehoiada the priest presented him to the people, and by stating the circumstances of his preservation, convinced them that he was the true heir to the throne. The house in which he was lodged was the temple, the place of God's special residence on earth, and where he had erected a throne for himself. There Joash was in safety, when all his brethren were slain by the murderous Athaliah. In like manner it was to be with this true son of the church. Multitudes might be cut off, but a remnant would be spared, whom neither the dragon nor the beast of the sea would be permitted to injure.
But as the dragon was filled with a deadly resentment against the son, he could not be well affected towards the mother. In what conceivable manner was she preserved? To this inquiry we have a satisfactory answer in ver. 6. The woman fled into the wilderness, &c.-There is a manifest allusion in
this text to the flight of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. Pharaoh, who is symbolized by a dragon, was ready to devour them, Psa. lxxiv. 13, 14. When they fled from him it was into a wilderness, where they were miraculously sustained during a period of 40 years; and in allusion also to the manner in which they were conducted through it-being borne as on the wings of eagles-we are told in ver. 14., that to this woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness.-The text, however, is not a geographical or topical description of the seat of the church; but is intended to mark the obscurity of her condition durin, a period of 1260 days. The seed of the church might be more numerous in the valleys of Piedmont than in most other countries; there were, nevertheless, handfuls of this precious corn scattered upon the mountains and valleys of all the other countrics of Europe.
The flight of the children of Israel from the Egyptian dragon was into a land which was not sown, and which to this day continues to be the most barren and inhospitable region upon the face of this globe; yet even there they were provided with all the necessary means of subsistence; Their bread was given them, and their water was sure;' they lacked nothing that was necessary, either for their spiritual or temporal subsistence. And in like manner it was to be with the woman in the wilderness. They were to feed her there. The witnesses were to prophesy during the whole period of their sackcloth condition; and as the blessing of God was to accompany their ministrations, sons were to be born to the church in the wilderness who would be nourished by the sincere milk of the word and the different institutions of religion, till they grew up to the measure and stature of perfect men in Christ.
The residence of the woman in the wilderness was to be much more protracted than that of the children of Israel in the deserts of Arabia. They were to feed her there, a thousand two hundred and threescore days.-She did not reach the edge of this desert at the close of the first day's flight; her re
tirement was gradual. Between the time of Constantine and the abolition of all the forms of the imperial government, a period of nearly 250 years elapsed, and it is during the progress of this season that we must conceive of her as receding more and more from the view of nominal Christians till they supposed that the land had shut her in, and that she would perish among the rocks and sands of the desert. The war with the dragon and the flight into the wilderness can be only different ways of representing the same facts. In this war the only safety of the church consisted in flight. The parties were a woman and a dragon; and when they were so unequally matched, there could be no hope of safety for the one but in the way of fleeing from the other. Accordingly, as the warfare was protracted not only to the close of the imperial government about 150 years after Constantine, but till all the forms of that government were put down, which was about 100 years later; so, when we conceive of the condition of the church during this period, under the idea of an army retreating or fleeing from a powerful adversary, we must extend our views of this retreat through the whole of that period. Till he that letteth or hindereth' was completely removed out of the way, the Papal Antichrist could not be fully revealed. Till this last had taken place, the church was only in a state of progress towards her residence in the wilderness, and not yet completely shut up there. The notice taken of her wilderness condition here is manifestly by way of anticipation, and in order to introduce the account of the circumstances by which she was brought into this situation, as described in the following verses.
Here the figures are borrowed from a state of warfare, and that our minds may be the more impressed with the importance of the contest, the scene of battle is laid in heaven, as described in the beginning of ver. 7., And there was war in heaven.The mind of the prophet was impressed with the appearance of armies in the skies. Numerous battalions completely armed and in the highest state of discipline seemed to contend for victory, like those who were determined to conquer or to die.
Imagination cannot paint the conflict in the third heavens, when Satan and those myriads of apostate spirits that fought under him rebelled against God; and without a powerful afflatus of the prophetic spirit we are as incapable of forming any conceptions of what was now presented to the mind of John. It is impossible to witness the conflict of armies with perfect apathy of spirit. When a multitude of human beings engage in the work of mutual destruction, the undistinguished carnage of the field must fill any spectator with awe. But as the appearance of armies in the skies must necessarily suggest the idea of beings of an order far superior to men, and of warfare managed with an ardour and military skill peculiar to themselves, such a representation must be fitted to inspire the mind with an awe and tremour which cannot be described.
The parties in this warfare are described by their respective leaders, and the general character of the troops under their command. A prince of the name of Michael was the commander of the one army, and the dragon was the commander of the other; and countless legions of angels composed the military force of both. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. In the prospective history of Daniel's wars of the church, we read of a prince of the name of Michael that took part with her against the Persians, and who likewise acted the part of an ally to those who were favourable to her interests, Dan. x. 13—20. From the epistle of Jude we learn that the archangel who contended with the devil about the body of Moses was called by this name, ver. 9. Both passages have been understood of Christ. And when we consider the import of the name, the station which this chieftain occupied, and the success with which his arms were crowned, we cannot understand the Michael of this text of any other than Him to whom the safety of the church is committed. The word is of Hebrew derivation, and literally signifies He who is God; and with no shadow of propriety can this name be applied to any created spirit, whether angel or archangel. If you understand it of Christ, there
will appear in the history of the times to which the prophecy refers sufficient reason for his being announced here by this remarkable name. One special ground of the quarrel between the two parties was the true character of the Saviour, viz. Whether he was the true and supreme God, or only a super-angelic being, like God, but not of the same nature and essence with the eternal Father. And here it is worthy of notice, that he was no sooner presented to the view of the prophet, than he was announced by name to be in reality what the profession of his friends had declared,—the true God and eternal life. This Michael is captain of the Lord's host, a station which none but He who is God as well as man is qualified to fill. And, accordingly, in the 19th chapter, where he is introduced again, though not by the same name, yet as filling the same station, and conducting the armies of the church in triumph from the field of Armageddon, he is there announced by such names and attributes as cannot fail to impress every unprejudiced mind with the idea of his divine character.
The army of this dignified commander consisted of a chosen body of angelic troops.-Angels, authorities, principalities, and powers, are all in a state of subjection to him. These hosts of the celestial world he frequently employs in the wars of the church. At his command they stand in the front of her lines and fight her battles; hence the havock in the camp of the Assyrians and in the dwellings of the Egyptians in the course of a single night, Isa. xxxvii. 36. Exod. xii. 29. Or they act the part of a rear guard to her armies, or fill the mountains. as with horses and chariots of fire round about them for their defence, 2 Kings vi. 17. But we do not suppose that angels, properly so called, but that ministers, the angels of the churches, are here chiefly meant by the term. The warfare described is that of the church, and whatever use may be made of holy angels as powers confederate with the church, her own members compose the visible body of her troops, and her ministers are the angels, who both carry the orders of the commander in chief to the different parts of the field, and take an