Page images
PDF
EPUB

modern Europe, have manifested an irrational reverence for the glitter which surrounds the thrones of their despots, and the titles with which they have been decorated; though their own labors have been taxed for the support of that glitter, and the assumption of those titles has often been inconsistent with their most valuable rights. They have been ready to exclaim, Who is like unto the Beast, who is able to make war with him 36 ? When

any

nation has strug. gled to break its chains asunder, how often has the noble effort been regarded as altogether vain ; even criminality has been attached to it; and it has been branded with the epithets of disloyalty and rebellion !

It is the declaration of the prophet, that, on all the heads of this Beast, names of blasphemy were imprinted. That is, says Mr. Whiston, all the forms of government, under which the empire had been, and was to be, were idolatrous.' And the Ten Kings, he observes, under the Christiền name, should yet really and effectually promote idolatry still, though in a more covert manner, and by more cunning pretences37. Of the Secular Beast it is farther said, that he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to bluspheme his name and his tabernacle. Now, says Mr. Evanson, 'to speak blasphemously, as far as I am able to understand that expression, can only signify, to speak dishonorably of God; to speak in derogation of his divine nature and attributes.' To form a just judgment then of this part of the prophetic vision, it is necessary to examine, 'whether the civil governors of Europe--have propagated and established doctrines fairly liable to such a charge38? But

36 Examples of this, says Peganius (p. 179,) are found in the victorious kings of Spain and France.' With respect also to that symbolic beast with many horns, or the combination of kings, now warring against France as it labors to establish its infant liberties, how often have expressions to this purport fallen from the lips of their admirers !

37 P. 217. • These names of blasphemy signify, that the monarchs and powers shall blaspheme God, and oblige their subjects to do the same.' Daubuz.

38 Let. to bishop Hurd, p. 45. Blasphemy,' says Daubuz, p. 571, . is whatsoever tends to the dishonor of God;' and 'to impose a new worship,'

what is to blaspheme the name and the tabernacle of God ? Bishop Newton says on this verse, that he is convicted of the first of these charges, who assumes to himself the divine titles and honors ; and he blasphemes the tabernacle of God, that is to say, his temple and his church, who calls true Christians, who are the house of God, schismatics and heretics, and anathematises them accordingly39.? Whether the lofty titles4o and persecuting conduct of many among the European potentates can, on this ground, be impeached, I refer to him, who is conversant in the language of courts and the history of kingdoms.

Though it is the two-horned Beast, who has principally forged fetters for the conscience, though priests and pontiffs are the persons who have enforced this antichristian claim with the most unremitting industry; the princes likewise, who constitute the ten-horned beast, have almost universally arrogated the power of stigmatizing and punishing men for their religious sentiments, when these have happened not to harmonise with the creed of the court". The prophet accordingly declares, that it was given unte him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: words which are thus paraphrased by a member of the English hierarchy42. “The worst and most dreadful article of this antichristian dominion will be, that of forcing the consciences of men in religious matters, and of persecuting all that dare to question or withstand their idolatrous commands. In the Netherlands alone, on account of religion, more than 100,000 of the subjects of Charles V. are said to have suffered by the hand of the executioner; and this extraordinary number is attested by Grotius, a man of genius and learning, who preserved his moderation amidst the fury of contending sects, and who composed the annals of his own age and country, at a time when the invention of printing had facilitated the means of intelligence, and increased the danger of detection43' Father Paul, however, it is proper to state, reduces these Belgic martyrs to 50,000. The Jesuit Sanders himself confesses, that an innumerable multitude of Lollards and Sacramentarians were burnt throughout all Europe, who yet, he says, were not put to death by the pope and bishops, but by the civil magistrates ; which perfectly agrees with this prophecy, for it is said of the Secular Beast, that he should make war with the saints, and overcome them44.'

he observes in the following page, or manner of worship, contrary to what he hath set already, is to usurp his power, and consequently to belie and blaspheme his name.'

39 Vol. III. p. 215. 40 • Even the hallowed epithets and ceremonies of religious adoration have,' says an ingenious writer, been impiously pressed into the service of indiscriminate flattery, and the kings and nobles of the earth have not scrupled to encroach upon the majesty of heaven! Often, as he ob. serves, is indignation kindled in the mind, when history' unfolds the genuine characters of these most sacred, most christian, most noble, most puissant, high and mighty sovereigns and rulers of the globe.' Cooper's Answer to Mr. Burke's Invective.

41 The celebrated Calvin, speaking of the ecclesiastical power lodged in the hands of Henry VIII. and his successors by the British constitution, says, ' Hoc me semper graviter vulneravit. Erant enim blasphemi quum vocarent ipsum summum caput ecclesiæ sub Christo. ---Hic morbus sem. per in principibus regnavit, ut vellent inflectere religionem pro suo arbi. trio ac libidine, et interea etiam pro suis commodisi' la Amos, c. vii. 42 Mr. Pyle, prebendary of Salisbury.

But perhaps these words of the prophet are not to be understood exclusively of religious persecutions. They may be of more general interpretation. They may refer to those multiplied oppressions and cruel sufferings, political as well as religious, to which genuine Christians, and men of honest and upright minds, have been peculiarly exposed during the profligate administration of antichristian monarchs,

"The kings of the earth,' says the pious Dr. Owen, 'have given their power to Antichrist, endeavoring to the utmost to keep the kingdom of Christ out of the world. What, I

43 Gibbon's Decl. and Fall of the R. E. vol. II. p. 495. See Grot. Annal. de Rebus Belgicis. 1. I. p. 12. Amstel. 1667.

44 Bishop Newton in loc.

pray, hath been their main business for seven hundred years and upwards, even almost ever since the man of sin was enthroned? How have they earned the titles, eldest son of the church, the catholic and most Christian king, defender of the faith, and the like? Hath it not been by the blood of the saints 45 ?

And power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. This also has been wonderfully verified. And some possibly may be disposed to ask, has not the domination of the European monarchies, in conformity to this prediction, been established in every quarter of the globe; and have not they, or the plunderers whom they patronise and protect, extended their devastations and power to the extensive shores of Africa and the southern continent of America, to the populous plains of Hindostan and the defenceless islands of the Ocean?

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life47. Mr. Whiston, when speaking of this passage and of the Ten Kings, says, some few chosen persons only, whose names were written in the book of life, durst oppose them, or refuse submission to their wicked and idolatrous commandss' Certain indeed it is, that the inhabitants of Europe have paid a servile homage to the tyrants who have oppressed them ; whilst those virtuous persons, the favorites of heaven, have been few in number, who have sacrificed their interest, and hazarded their safety, by asserting the inviolability of conscience, or by standing forward in defence of the civil liberties of mankind. Such persons will not, however, lose their reward.

45 Complete Col. of his Serm. p. 328.

46 This phrase Dr. More thus explains : ' Shall worship him, that is, obey his idolatrous edicts and commands.'

47 It imports, says Durham (p. 186), 'that they are as definitely and distinctly determined and known, -as if they were by name and surname particularly recorded in'a book.' 48 P. 218.

CHAPTER VI.

ON THE TWO-HORNED BEAST.

THE following is St. John's description of the Second Beast. And I beheld another Beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first Beast before him, and causeth the earth and them that dwell therein, to worship the first Beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the Beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the Beast, which had a wound by a sword and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the Beast should be killed. And he caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads : and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name'.

The distinction between the Beasts, the one as Civil, the other as ECCLESIASTICAL, is so obvious as to have been early pointed out. Joseph Mede”, whose death took place in the year 1638, and Cradock, whose commentary was published near the close of the last century, both embrace this distinction without hesitation ; and Mr. Durham, whose Exposition appeared in 1660, notices it, as adopted by different learned interpreters. "The

1 XIII. 11-17.

2 P. 619. It was in the 52d year of his age, and at Christ's College; Cambridge, where he had spent the greatest part of his life, that this excellent man died.

VOL. I.

« PreviousContinue »