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REV. xii. 6.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place
prepared of God, that thev should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The history of the church, in all ages of this present world, is but a history of persecution and blood, when we follow her through all dispensations from Adam to Moses, and from Moses to Christ; so likewise from Christ's first coming down to his second appearance, the church have experienced, and according to the whole tenor of Scripture, must expect to realize from the kingdoms and men of this world, this one promise at least, “In the world ye shall have tribulation." These facts are so plain and obvious, that it has given rise to a common saying among almost all writers, that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." Yet there is a bright side to her history ; for she has come out of all her persecutions more purified, more faithful, and with more energy, to prosecute the work her divine Master has left her to perform. And one other thing is certain — God has preserved her, whether in the wilderness or among the nations of the earth, in an extraordinary and miraculous manner; even her enemies themselves being her judges. Where has a kingdom stood when all the nations about them have conspired their overthrow? Where is the Assyrian and populous Nineveh? Where is Chaldea, the queen of nations ? Where is the Grecian empire, once the colossus of the world ? Where is imperial Rome? Gone, gone, by the power of earthly foes. But behold the church of Christ and of God, delivered first from Egyptian bondage by the mighty arm of the God of Jacob, led by miracles through the wilderness forty years, brought into the promised land, although all the nations of the earth were her enemies, preserved as a nation through the rise and fall of mighty empires, and experiencing a reverse of fortune only when she courted the aid of worldly kingdoms, or suffering diminution only when she adopted the more popular worship of heathen idolatry. Yet in her lowest estate, God told his servant the prophet, that he had reserved seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal.” And if men would reason on the subject of religion as they do on other subjects, there could not be an infidel in the world. For nothing is or can be more manifest than the miraculous interposition of Providence in the preservation of his people through the most severe trials, heaviest afflictions, and deadliest hatred of all men, that men or societies ever endured.
Our present discourse will show us the history of the church by prophecy, through the darkest age the church has ever been permitted to experience since the days of Abraham.
I. I shall show what we may understand by “ the woman” in our text.
II. I shall show what we are to understand by the great red dragon and beast.
III. I shall give the history of the woman given in the chapters of our text.
IV. The time specified in the text, 1260 days, their beginning and end.
I. What may we understand by woman in our text?
I answer, We must understand the people of God, in all ages of the church, whether among the Jew or Gentile: she is called a woman because she is the spouse of Christ; she is likewise called a woman because of her dependence on Christ for all things. As a man is the head of the woman, so is Christ the head over all things to the church, says the apostle. As the woman depends on her husband for a name, for food, and for raiment, so
likewise the church on Christ, for a name - And thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name,” Isa. lxii. 2-5. “And they were called Christians first at Antioch.” For food, our text says, " that they should feed her there,” &c. The prophet Isaiah says, xl. 11, “ He shall feed his flock as a shepherd.” John vi. 53, “ Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” For raiment, the psalmist, speaking of the church, says, “ She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needlework; her clothing is wrought gold." The angel to the seven churches says, “ He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment.” And again, “I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This shows conclusively that the people of God are compared to a woman. And now let me show,
II. What we may understand by the great red dragon and beast that persecuted the church, or woman that fled into the wilderness.
The red dragon is the same power as Daniel's fourth kingdom, the Roman, for the description is the same, having ten horns; his character, too, is the same. Daniel says he should break in pieces the whole earth, and stamp the residue with his feet; that he should work deceitfully, &c. John says that the dragon drew a third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth, and that he deceiveth the whole world. The Roman government, then, must be the apocalyptical red dragon beast, having seven heads and ten horns. The Roman power is called red, either because of their persecuting and bloody spirit, or on account of their emperors wearing purple robes, when dressed in state; either might be sufficient to entitle them to the appellation red.” • Dragon” is undoubtedly given the Roman government from the fact that the Romans changed their forms of government so often, having seven different forms in about five hundred years, and from their deceitful, cunning, intriguing manner by which they obtained power over the nations around them, that they
were properly a nondescript; and could not be described by Daniel or John by any thing seen on earth; and therefore they took one of the inhabitants of the bottomless pit, “ the dragon,” to describe to us by figure this dreadful, persecuting, and bloody power. The red dragon is, therefore, used as a figure to denote Pagan Rome, and the woman sitting on the scarlet-colored beast to denote the church of Rome, or Papal Rome; and both together, civil and Papal, make the anti-Christian abomination, which would drive the church of Christ into the wilderness, where she would be fed 1260 days, or time, times, and half a time. I shall,
III. Give the history of the woman, as in the twelfth chapter of Revelation.
Verse 1, " And there appeared a great wonder in heaven," —John saw this wonderful sight as transpiring under the gospel day, or government of God, with his people in the gospel, the circle in which the church moves, here called heaven, —"a woman clothed with the sun,” the church adorned with gospel light; as the natural sun gives light to the world, so does the gospel the church, -"and the moon under her feet.” This shows us that John had a view of the church while it was in its Jewish state. For the moon represents the ceremonial law, which was typical of the gospel, like the moon shining in a borrowed light, and liable to change when the Shiloh should come. “ Under her feet,” shows that she walked or stood on the ordinances of God's house, which, like the moon, pointed to the sun both before and after Christ.
“ And upon her head a crown of twelve stars," — first the twelve patriarchs, afterwards the twelve apostles, Eph. ii. 20. Like stars they are smaller lights in the government of God, and teachers under the law and gospel
. Verse 2, “ And she, being with child,” — having the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, ,-“ cried travailing in birth,” - denoting prayer in faith,
-“and pained to be delivered,” – that is, an anxious and deep longing for the advent of the promised Messiah, when she expected deliverance from bondage, sin, and all her foes, Matt. xiii. 17.
Verse 3, “ And there appeared another wonder in heaven," — another sight or view of God's government of the world in connection with the gospel, — « and behold, a great red dragon” — a figurative representation of the Roman kingdom.
Verse 4, “ And his tail drew a third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” Judea became a Roman province before the Messiah's advent, which is figured by the tail, and the Jews had for a number of years been governed by tetrarchs or kings of the Romans' appointment. The Jews were governed by three different offices, figuratively called stars — kings, high priest, and sanhedrim, or the seventy elders. When, therefore, the Jews were deprived of their right to appoint their own kings, one third part of their rulers fell to the Roman power, in this passage called “ earth.". 6. And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered," — Herod was then king of the Jews, at the birth of Christ, a representative of the Romans, because he was supported by their authority,– “ for to devour her child as soon as it was born." Herod sought the young child's life, to destroy him. See Matt. ii. 13. Verse 5,“
“ And she brought forth a man child,” — Jesus Christ, born of a virgin. “ For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," &c. Isa. ix. 6, 7, Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron,” denoting the power of Christ to break in pieces and subdue all the kingdoms of the earth. Psalms ii. 9. Rev. xix. 15,“and her child was caught up to God and his throne.” Christ has ascended up on high, and is seated at the right hand of the Father until he makes his enemies his footstool.” See John vi. 62. Eph. iv. 8—10.
Verse 6, “ And the woman fed into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God." The church had grown weary of the protection of the Roman power, for she found, by woful experience, that whenever she placed herself under the protection of this red dragon, he destroyed some of her blessed privileges, and brought in a flood of errors, which caused divisions and subdivisions in the church. The Jews had tried their friendship