The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84
The Church of Christ, Symbolized by a Woman
The Church of Christ, Symbolized by a Woman.
Here we have to direct the attention of the reader to Revelation, chap. xii., which relates specially to the Church of Christ, and shows what will become of her during the great tribulation, when the Wilful King will have set up his abominable worship. The first verse reads : "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."
By that woman the Church of Christ is represented. Not, however, the general formal or visible Church, but all true believers, the members of Christ's spiritual body :—(1.) Individually; each member of the body being represented by the woman; for as the Church of Christ is qualified as a body, so is each individual member, for that man's soul is the bride of Christ, for which he is jealous. And (2.) Collectively, as a body; of this we may be certain, by the marks given the woman answering to it.
1. She is "clothed with the sun." The sun means Christ himself, the sun of righteousness, in whose righteousness each member of that body is clothed, by the forgiveness of his sins, and by his being enlightened with God's light.
2. "The moon under her feet." That mark is somewhat difficult to be understood, even by experimental knowledge; we shall however endeavour to make it as explicit to the reader as possible, and to make this the more intelligible it will be necessary to enter somewhat into details. By the moon is represented the whole of our outward natural system. The moon is a dark body, and receives her light from the sun. So our nature is dark in itself, and points to matters concerning our body and its needs; and thus far do we stand on a level with the animal world. But the light concerning our soul, provided for higher faculties, comes from God direct; for "God is light, and there is no darkness in him" (John, i. 6); therefore where God appears darkness disappears. To receive this light of God we are possessed of inward as well as outward senses, and these inward senses are those of our soul. The inward senses are seated in the heart, as the seat of our soul, from whence the whole man is ruled and actuated; whilst the outward senses are those of our body, and answer for our outward needs or worldly occupation—namely, to hear, to feel, also to taste, to see, to smell, &c.
Through these senses God manifests himself to our soul in his pleasure or displeasure, according to the state a person may be in. Hearing takes naturally the first place; for by hearing we receive God's voice (Rom. x. 17), by which the sense of feeling gets impressed, for feeling is the most tender and the noblest sense of our soul, and manifests itself before all other, either in sorrow or joy. The next sense is that of tasting (Psalm xxxiv. 8; St. Peter ii. 3; Heb. vi. 5). These three, hearing, feeling, tasting, are the three principal senses of our soul, by which we discern whether what we hear is of God, or merely the imitation of God's word, and, in fact, the mere word of man. And if our soul is in good health of faith, what we are enabled to discern by these three senses is far more certain than what we observe with our outward senses. Next follows the inward eye (seeing) with which we behold the wondrous love of God, manifested in our Lord Jesus Christ, for the redemption of sinners; Christ, principally, on the cross. And, lastly, the sense to smell the holy anointing. By the exercise of these senses seated in the heart, if in a healthy condition of faith, and when carefully watchful, we hold the most happy communion with our Saviour, which the Song of Solomon pictures in the most glorious figures; for our soul is not, as some take it to be, a created being, but is the gift of God—God's likeness, and his image, and a substance of God himself (Genesis ii. 7); for we are "God's offspring" (Acts xvii. 28, 29); and, in that sense, we are God's children, and on that ground immortal—as the son is the image and offspring of his father. Nevertheless our soul is not within itself perfect; there is a void in our soul, and that void God takes up and occupies as his seat and throne, to rule over the man, and from which to supply all our spiritual needs with Himself. But as the son is his own agent, and responsible for himself, so was Adam, though page 14 the son of God (Luke iii. 38), based upon his own responsibility; and when put upon his trial to prove his faithfulness to his Father (God), he failed, through unbelief, (the fruit of which was disobedience,) by which he decided against God (his Father) and went over to the side of the Devil; regarding him as true, and God to be false (Genesis iii. 3, 4, 5). Thus Satan became master of his soul and took up God's place, and thus he rules the whole man and all Adam's offspring, and makes them slaves of sin and iniquity by his influence of "lust." (John viii. 44; Rom. vi. 16.) Man by sin is thus spiritually dead, dead to God, as God predicted to Adam before it took place would be the case (Genesis ii. 17). God, as the light of our soul, being shut out from our inward senses (heart), our soul as well as the outer man has become darkened by the darkness of hell (Luke xi. 34). the prince of darkness; or, as St. Paul calls him, "the god of this world" (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4), even as the moon is dark when the sun does not shine upon her. In that state a man is void of the knowledge of God; and even the knowledge he has obtained from the study of Scripture is a dead knowledge; in fact, he does not understand Scripture at all; and his knowledge, if he brings it into practice upon himself, makes either a hypocrite or a self-righteous man; and in teaching others he is a blind leader, and produces errors, and does harm instead of good. (Matt. xv. 14; Luke vi. 39.)
The fall of man was of the same nature as the fall of the devil and his angels. In both cases it was a rebellion against God's sovereignty. They differ only in this : the fall of the devil and his angels was through a premeditated and determined conspiracy or rebellion against God to overthrow His sovereignty, aggravated by the devil's ambition, wherefore he and his angels could not be redeemed. It was power against power, sovereign against sovereign, for the devil is a King and owns a kingdom (Luke xi. 18); and he is also a god (2 Corin. iv. 4); whereas Adam was merely unfaithful to God, and deserted him as a son would a father, or a subject a king, going over and becoming a subject to another power. Satan could in the first instance only be bound with chains of darkness (2 Peter, ii. 4), to blind him, and thus to keep him within certain bounds until the end of the war which is still raging, and in which every righteous man is also engaged to fight for his liberty, and to overthrow the principalities of Satan and his strongholds (Eph. vi. 12). Another step will be taken by Satan in his future attempt in heaven, to which he has as yet access, with the result that he will be cast out from thence to the earth (Rev. xii. 7, 9).
On the other hand, the rebellion of man was not a planned and precalculated scheme, but was brought about indirectly, as it were, by the interference and instrumentality of the devil, by his tempting and subtile deceit. Man, therefore, could be redeemed from the sovereignty, service, and slavery of Satan. But, as every man is placed upon his own responsibility, it is by his own choice therefore whether he will be set free or not, and his redemption can only be brought about individually by his own consent : whether he will turn and be reconciled to God his father, and live in obedience to him and in his service, and take the weapons provided against his master the devil whom he has served hitherto, and fight the good fight of faith; or whether he will remain under the ruling and the bondage of Satan and his service. Notice, therefore, that man can and shall be set free from the service of Satan and sin, but only by his own consent. A person must be willing with his whole heart and soul; to which God urges him, showing him in his word the fatal consequences if he remains in the state he is in : "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live "(Ezekiel, xxxiii. 11). God offers a free pardon to the rebel; He stretches out his hands to him, by the influences of His Spirit, in the convincing of his sins, and which influence is the voice of the so-called "conscience."*
* Conscience is not, as some take it to be a power or faculty belonging to man's soul-We may know this by the fact that all powers and faculties belonging to the man act and strive together, aiming at one and the same object, and to one end, either for good or for evil, as to the man is in. Conscience, however, acts right, contrary to the intention and actions of the ungodly and according to circumstances, with great force. Con-science, we take to be God's voice, by which he makes man conscious of his guilt. It is God's Spirit striving with man to bring him to repentance and be converted; it is the hammer by which Christ knocks at the door of the heart of man (Rev. iii. 20). Conscience is the word of God within man (Deut. xxx. 14; Rom. x. 8) which makes the written word alive—impresses the heart of man, applies the written word to each person in the state he is in, and as it is applicable to him, either for rebuke, correction, or for comfort. Conscience is the powerful word St. Paul speaks of in Hebrews iv. 12. Conscience is an infallible witness to every man's actions, thoughts, and words, whether they are good or evil, pleasing or displeasing to God.
To make the matter more clear, let us illustrate it, thus : There are two powers, warring the one against the other, the power of light on the one side and the power of darkness on the other side, and each power has his own laws. The laws of God, who is the prince of light, are righteousness and truth : the laws of the devil, who is the prince of darkness, are unrighteousness and error (lies). The property in dispute is man's soul, which each power tries to possess. The whole human race belongs to God, for they are God's children; but Satan holds them in his possession by right of conquest, in his attack upon our first parents; whilst God endeavours to reclaim his lost race, being his real and original property.
Each Government possesses its own power to enforce its laws. The power of God to enforce his law is Love—love to God and all men, either friend or foe, kindled by Christ on earth, and shed abroad by God's spirit in the hearts of believers, God's reconciled children. The power of the devil to enforce his law is "Lust:"-"The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world "(1 John ii. 16). These lusts are inflamed by the unclean spirit, the father of lust and lies (John viii. 44), and, whilst under this influence of lust, the man is bound to serve that master and cannot do otherwise; he is subject to that law of sin and death; for all lust is sin, because God condemns it : "Thou shalt not covet "lust, or desire (see Rom. vii. 7); and cursed is every one who transgresses God's law.
1. "The lust of the flesh."—That lust includes everything after which the flesh lusts, and has such a strong hold on man and woman that some make themselves, to satisfy their lust, the most wretched of beings and a disgrace to God and the world; it occupies all their attention, and defiles all their conversation in one way or another.
2. "The lust of the eyes."—To satisfy the desire of the eye people travel to and fro from one end of the world to the other; they look into all its corners its towns, and countries, and wish that they could be at all places at one and the same time, to see what is going on here and there and everywhere. And, to satisfy their curiosity, if they could make to themselves wings, they would fly to the sun, also page 16 to examine the moon, and the stars,—they would gladly do so; but they would find it all in vain, for the eye is never satisfied with seeing, but demands more (Eccl i. 8). The eye lusts after seeing.
3. "The pride of life."—Each one seeks to be the greatest, or to show himself to be something more than others; to put contempt upon others, and so to exalt himself to be the ruler. It is the parent of that ambition which causes so many quarrels and so much war and bloodshed, and makes the stage of the world a scene of misery and ruin, and, with it all, affording no satisfaction. But the reason for this lack of satisfaction is because all these lusts, though practised in the extreme, leave the soul empty; for our soul is of such a high and noble quality that there is nothing to be found in this world to satisfy it. People under the influence and power of lust look for peace; but there is no peace for a man in that state (Isaiah, xlviii. 22; lvii. 21).
The satisfaction which worldly-minded people find in the indulgence of their carnal desires may be compared to the experience of one who is eating and drinking in a dream, but who, when he awakes, feels himself empty and miserable. On the other hand, a Christian—not the merely nominal Christian, but the regenerated or new-born soul (1 Peter i. 23)—is reconciled to God in or through our Lord Jesus Christ, and is returned to the original from whence he sprung (Genesis i. 27). And in God alone, and through his influence, a soul finds rest, peace, and abundance of comfort, joy, and gladness, and feels satisfied : and by His assistance the carnal lusts are subdued. Thus the soul of such a person is made free indeed—free from the father of carnal lust and his power (Rom. vi. 18, 22; viii. 2, 14; John viii. 36).
Further, as the sun shines upon the moon, whose light is again reflected upon the earth, so God's light (Christ) shines in a regenerated soul, (John viii 12.) by which the whole body becomes light (Matt. vi. 22); and that light reflects upon the degenerated world (Matt. v. 14). But, as the reflection of the light of the moon on the earth is dim and imperfect in comparison with that of the sun, so is also the light of a Christian upon the world. His outward appearance and his whole conduct is very dim and imperfect in comparison with the inward light by which his soul is enlightened; for what is going on within him in that respect is hidden from the view of the world (John xiv. 17). "The King's daughter is all glorious within." (Psalm xlv. 13.)
Moreover, the most enlightened and most advanced Christians find that there is much sin in them. This has been the case in all ages. The Old Testament contains many accounts of the sins of God's beloved people; and the New Testament also clearly shows that evil clings to the most holy of Christ's followers. St. Paul complains very seriously of the sins he had to battle with (Rom. vii.), and the experience of Paul is that of all true and sincere followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, as long as they live, find that sin dwells in their mortal body : "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John i. 8). A worldly person has but one nature, called the old nature," or old man, which is only fit to commit sin and live in sin, and there is no good to be found in him : Whereas a Christian has two, the "old" and the "new." Moreover, this old nature he cannot get rid of, but carries it along with him till death. Various terms are used in Scripture to represent the old nature : as "the old Adam," "flesh and blood, "the old man; " and with this outer man, the old Adam, there is continual conflict—it has to be mortified; kept under his feet, as it were : and that is represented by the woman which we are considering, having "The moon under her feet."*
* The sin a Christian is subjected to after being reconciled to God, and having become alive in Him, and all God's gracious support for his soul being restored, may be represented thus: Take for example a person reading a book, in the contents of which he is deeply interested; and whilst thus engaged, some one is constantly teasing him, employing every end misinterpreting and putting a different meaning upon what he is reding; all of which annoyance the reader cannot avoid, but has to suffer it. Thus a Christian is constantly engaged in the study of the great matter of God's redeeming love, and his own obligation to God his reconciled Father, and his great Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ, and whilst thus engaged from morning till night, the unclean spirit, who has been turned out of his heart (Matt. xii. 43), and of which God's Spirit has now taken possession, is actively employed in regaining his old habitation; and to obtain this object he is very busy in tempting, misrepresenting, lying, &c., in a most bold and shameless manner, so that a person is constantly molested with him from within, and too often from without, in his daily occupation; and against that evil spirit a Christian has to fight and to battle, from within and from without, all his lifetime, so as not to be overcome again. And that is the difficult state St. Paul speaks of in Rom. vii., and is "the good tight of faith" (1 Timothy vi. 12). But a worldly-minded person does not know anything of that battle. On the contrary, worldlings fight against God's spirit, who convinces them of the sinful and dangerous state they are in, which conviction troubles them and cuts them in their hearts (Hebrews iv. 12), which conviction is termed "conscience;" but they will not be troubled, and consequently they cannot and will not be saved, because they are righting against God's Spirit; desiring to be left alone, and will not be ruled by him, and thus resist God in his attempt to save them.
3. "Upon her head a crown of twelve stars."—The meaning of these words may be said to be the doctrines or teachings of the twelve Apostles, and the prophets; Christ our Lord being the head corner-stone, (1 Peter ii. 4, 8,) for they are the true Christian's Guide, Life, and Crown.
"And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron : and her child was caught up unto God and to his throne" (Rev. xii. 2, 5). By this man-child we understand that Christ himself is meant; for our Saviour was born in his Church, and of a member of that Church. The woman not only represents true believers and the Church of Christ in the new dispensation; but she stands for the whole, both old and new, from Adam to the end of the world, because with God there arc no old and new dispensations. In his sight there is one Church from the beginning of the world to the end. With God everything is present.
"And there appeared .... a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads 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 out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. xii. 3, 7—9). Of this casting out of the devil and his angels we have never heard or read a true explanation. It could not have taken place upon Christ's return to heaven, as Satan would have no access there now, and Christ would not require to appear in heaven as an advocate for us. But Satan is now our accuser before God our Father, accusing us day and night, and trying to lay claim to us again on account of our sins; and Christ appears there as an advocate for us.*
The casting out of the devil and his angels, represented in these verses, will take place just before the rise of that king, "the child of sin; " for here it is said, (verse 10,) "The accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before (rod day and night; " and verse 12, "Because he knoweth that he hath but a short time," the devil will inspire that man, tilling him with fierce rage, pride, and fury; "because he knoweth that he has but a short time." We will now follow the woman and see what shall become of her.
* In Zechariah iii. 1, 2, we read, "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan at his right hand to resist him" like the prosecutor in a court of law in a criminal action). "And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee : Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?"
This vision seems clearly intended to represent the office of our Saviour as our advocate in heaven against Satan, who is accusing a reconciled sinner before God of his sins of infirmity. We are told in Hebrew ix. 7 that the High Priest went into the most holy place behind the veil once every year, with blood, which he offered for himself and the errors of the people. In this he acted as the representative of all Israel : and in like manner wo understand that "Joshua the high priest," referred to in this vision, stood before God as the representativo of all spiritual Israel; and Christ was there as the advocate on his behalf. The charge brought against God's children by Satan for their sms of infirmity—on which ground he tries to lay claim to them—is resisted by Christ, in whom they trust, and who, having secured the forgiveness of their sins on the strength of shedding his blood for the sins of the world, claims them on that ground as his own. Satan consequently fails in his accusation against them. But his claim holds good against every soul that has not sought pardon of his sins, and being thus unreconciled to God in Christ Jesus. All that Christ can do for those sinners is to pray for them : "Leave [him] alone another year," and I will work on him to bring him to repentance; but if he should still harden his heart gainst the law and the Gospel, then cut him off (Luke xiii. 8, 9).
"And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child" (Rev. xii. 13). It must always be borne in mind that by the woman is meant the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ has always been persecuted, from Cain who slew his brother, through all ages, more or less. The persecution of the woman mentioned above occurs at the time when that wicked king shall set up the worship of his image (Rev. xiii. 15, 16); or, as it is called in Matthew, xxiv. 15, "the abomination of desolation;" also in Daniel vii. 8, the little horn, "in which were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things and in verses 20 and 25, "And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; " and in verse 21, "and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them." And, further, in Rev. xiii., of that wounded head which became healed again, which, as we have seen before, means one and the same person; and also in the following verses : "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. . . . And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." (verses 5, 6)
Before we proceed with our consideration of the woman, we wish to direct the attention of the reader to the length of time during which that abominable worship of the image shall last. Refer again to Daniel ix. 26, 27 : "The prince that shall come," meaning the King we are considering, "shall confirm the covenant with many" of the Jews, to restore them the possession of their land "for one week" (seven years); "and in the midst of the week," after 3½ years, "he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease"—their Mosaic worship which they shall have re-established—by setting up his image in their temple to be worshipped. During the latter half of the week, or 3/12 years, the worship of this image shall last, and after that he (the King) shall be destroyed, which destruction we shall consider hereafter. In further reference to the time that worship shall last, we may direct the attention of the reader also to Daniel vii. 25, where it is spoken of as a "time, and times, and the dividing of time;" and Revelation xi. 2, 3, 9; and xii. 6, 14: "Forty and two months," and "a thousand two hundred and threescore days." Each of these passages means three years and a half, and refers to one and the same period—namely, to the last three and a half years of that king's reign.