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of God, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," and shall be seen "coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved," Cant. viii. 5.
Rev. xii. 7-17. "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon; and the Dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the Great Dragon was cast out, that Old Serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore, rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the seas; for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the Dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the Serpent. And the Serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood, after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman: and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the Dragon cast out of his mouth. And the Dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
The Dragon spoken of in these verses, is not the Great Red Dragon of verse 3; for verse 9, shews it to be the Old Serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the accuser and the adversary of mankind. The symbol here returns back to the first going forth of the gospel, and under the war between Michael and Satan, represents the conflict between the powers of light and darkness, within the early apostolic Church. Being unable to destroy the spiritual seed, which sprang up again as fast as it was cut off, it became the next object of the great enemy, to pervert the revelation of the gospel, and to corrupt the disciples from the simplicity that is in Christ. This was to be done by the introduction of false teachers; and hence the Apostle Paul speaks of Satan being transformed into an angel of light; and of his ministers as false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, but shewing themselves the ministers of unrighteousness. So the children of the evil one professed the faith of Jesus Christ, and intermixed themselves with the early converts, that they might preach another gospel; and sacred history informs us, that grievous wolves entered into the fold, not sparing the flock, and men calling themselves disciples spake perverse things, drawing away others after them. To counteract this evil, the discernment of
spirits was vouchsafed unto the apostolic Church; and it being thereby made manifest from whence these deceivers came, they were in many instances cast out from amongst the brethren. This gift, however, like the others, passed away at the appointed season.
When the gospel first went forth, the disciples being few in number, a large proportion of the individuals, who professed the gospel, became the objects of heathen persecution. But when they formed themselves into churches and congregations, the bishops, pastors, teachers and elders, were more particularly sought out, as being the chief supporters and principal leaders of the new sect; and the persecutors endeavoured, as far as in them lay, to destroy the associations of Christians, and all establishments of that description. In the mean time, the children of the evil one discovered, that the profession of a religion, which brought disgrace and every temporal calamity, was little suited to their inclination and their circumstances, and many apostatized from the faith; whilst others took their stand upon a lower ground, corrupting the forms and doctrines of the outward Church; and seeking to avoid the danger of persecution, by making a low and carnal profession of Christianity, such as should not be offensive to their heathen neighbours. In this way, and by slow de
grees, they obtained individual toleration; and outward Christianity gained ground, till at length, the being suspected, and even known as a Christian, no longer brought peril of life or property, if the party were not zealous over-much. In this way the outward Church extended itself, and became more and more assimilated to the world; and in process of time, the chiefs of the Roman Empire, and the leading authorities of the earth embracing Christianity, it became the established religion; and the Church and the world were one. When this was brought to pass, the enemy attempted to overwhelm the woman with a flood of error, superstition, and idolatry; but the Church remained uninjured-for the earthly and carnal professors of Christianity drank up these poisonous waters, which came from out of the dragon's mouth, whilst the true seed remained uninjured. Foiled in this attempt, the dragon turned himself, in great wrath, to make war against the remnant of the seed. He had no longer any inducement to attack the outward Church, which having become one with the world, was fully embued with every earthly and carnal principle. So long as riches, and honour, and power, and worldly gain, remained a portion for professors of the gospel, Satan had nothing to fear from them, or from the gospel they might preach; and therefore he went forth to persecute his true enemies,
the remnant according to the election of grace, even those who kept the commandments of God, and bare the faithful testimony of Jesus Christ. And as these men, by their lives and conversation, reproved the evil generation amongst whom they sojourned, they were speedily denounced as heretics and schismatics, and as the enemies both of God and man.