_________ REV. xiii. 18. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six. THIS text has caused as much speculation as any text in the whole Bible; rivers of ink have been shed to explain its meaning, brains have been addled in trying to find some great mystery which the wisdom of this world, as was supposed, could only discover; and in trying to be wise above what was written, men have lost their balance, and fell into absurdities too ridiculous to mention. Some have searched through all the vocabulary of Greek names, to find one whose numerical letters would make the number 666, and they have been wonderfully blest, for they found a number; but here again there remained a difficulty to surmount, which required as much ingenuity as the former; but to remedy the evil, every Greek scholar chose the one his fancy dictated, wrote his book on the number 666, and then died, and his wonderful name died with him; for every wise Greek had his own favorite name. Also, the Latin book-worms, not wishing to be outdone by their Greek brethren, rummaged all the old goatskin parchments and musty books in the cloisters of all the monks in Christendom; and behold, a much greater harvest was the fruit of their labor; for now every Latinus had three or more names to his share; and in all this wisdom, all other nations were left without any wisdom, except what they borrowed from their neighbors, the learned Greeks and Latins. But I hope, my dear hearers, that you have learned that if there is any mystery of God not explained by the Bible, it is not for us to understand. Therefore, in treating upon this subject, I shall endeavor to present the Scripture on the point, and then leave you to judge whether we have light or not.
I. Show what wisdom this is spoken of in the text.
II. Speak of the beast numbered, and show what beast.
III. The number, and what we may understand by it.
I. The wisdom spoken of in the text.
1st. Is it the wisdom of men, or of this world? I answer, No. For Paul says, 1 Cor. ii. 4, 13, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory." Now, if Paul would not preach the wisdom of men or the world, surely the angel would not instruct John to use the wisdom of man or of this world, "for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God," 1 Cor. iii. 19. And if Paul said our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, neither would John have given any thing that depended on the wisdom of men for a foundation of our faith. But Paul has taught us what true wisdom is, by saying, "Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God;" "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." And Paul tells us how we may exercise this wisdom, 1 Cor. ii. 13, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Here, then, my dear hearer, is the great secret of wisdom, to compare spiritual things with spiritual; and then we have the mind and will of the Spirit, and shall not be very liable to err. Let us, then, follow this rule while we try to explain.
II. The beast numbered in the text. And,
1st. Let us inquire what beast it is. I answer, It is the first beast. See our context, 12th verse, "And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him;" that is, the beast which John saw come up out of the sea, (the Roman government,) having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his head the name of blasphemy; and the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion; and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." By this beast, I understand the same as Daniel's fourth kingdom, the Roman government; by "names of blasphemy," I understand a mode of worship which would be idolatrous or blasphemous; by the dragon, we must understand the civil power of the same government giving its power to the ecclesiastical beast, whether Pagan or Papal. 3d verse, "And I saw one of his heads, (of blasphemy, Pagan) as it were, wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed, (by the substitution of the Papal blasphemous head;) and all the world wondered after the beast."
John then goes on to describe the civil power of this Roman government under this last head, and shows the length of time they would exercise this last power--"forty-two months"--which is the same as Daniel's time, times, and a half, or John's 1260 days, mentioned Rev. xi. 3, xii. 6. His power to make war and overcome the saints is foretold. In the tenth verse he shows us how this civil power should be destroyed, by captivity and the sword; and this was fulfilled in 1798, when the pope was carried a captive into France, and the states of Italy were conquered by the sword of the French army. In the 11th verse he gives us a discovery of the same beast in his ecclesiastical power; Pagan Rome in the first beast, and Papacy in the image beast; and it will be evident to any one who will examine the chapter carefully, that John was not commanded to number the image beast--for the civil power of that beast was before numbered in the 5th verse,--but the beast which existed before him, which the Papal ecclesiastical beast is an image of, or Daniel's daily sacrifice abomination, (Dan. xii. 11,) the one which Paul said, "he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way."
In this passage it is evident the apostle alludes to the same power, although he calls it the "working of Satan." John also gives a similar description in Rev. xii. 9, "And the 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." But I have another evidence that the beast numbered was Pagan Rome, and I think it must be conclusive testimony, in Rev. xvii. 3. In this chapter one of the seven angels that had the seven vials came to instruct John, and to show him "the judgment of the great whore with whom the kings of the earth had committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." "So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness, and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns."
Here the same idolatrous beast, having seven heads and ten horns, is described; the woman sitting upon this beast is the same as Daniel's little horn which came up among the ten horns, and shows plainly that it was that part of Roman power which was prior to the woman, and was of course called the first beast. When John saw this woman on the scarlet-colored beast, he wondered with great admiration, and says, Rev. xvii. 7, "And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition, and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is." "That was," Pagan Rome before John saw his vision, "and is not," yet in its last stage of Papal Rome, "and yet is," in the same spirit, for Papal Rome is but an image of Paganism, as says the Apostle, 2 Thess. ii. 6, 7, "And now ye know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time, for the mystery of iniquity doth already work." And, 1 John ii. 18, "Little children, it is the last time, and as ye have heard that anti-Christ shall come, even now are there many anti-Christs, whereby we know it is the last time." And again, Rev. xvii. 9, "And here is the mind which hath wisdom;" evidently referring John right back to our text, "Here is wisdom; let him that hath understanding," the same as mind in the above quotation. "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth, and there are seven kings; five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space, and the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition." These texts explain the whole matter; for it is evident that the beast here alluded to was the seven-headed monster who was then in existence when John wrote, for five of its executive forms of government (of which kings and mountains are figures) had fallen. Republican Rome had five different offices under that particular form of government--her senatorial, tribunate, consular, decemvir, and triumvirate. These were fallen. One is, (that was when John wrote his prophecy,) Imperial, and the other had not yet come, Kingly, which is the same as the ten horns. For when the Western Empire fell, Rome was divided into ten kingdoms, "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast." These have one mind, (that is, were all converted to the Catholic faith,) and shall give their power and strength unto the beast, Papal Rome. "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of lords and King of kings; and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." And although this beast, whatever form it may assume, whether Pagan or Papal, may for a season tyrannize over and trample on the followers of Christ, through the agency of the evil power of empires, kingdoms, states, or republics, yet He who rules over all, will, in the end, destroy all these powers, and himself reign King of kings and Lord over all. "And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and cut her flesh, and burn her with fire."
This text has been literally accomplished within a few years; and those kingdoms which were of the ten, kingdoms which first gave power to the beast, have of late persecuted and destroyed her, who is the abomination of the whole earth. Witness the transactions of Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Naples, and Tuscany, the Seven Kingdoms which were not plucked up by the little horn; each of these nations have in their turn resisted the power and pretensions of the Pope of Rome, until his civil authority is reduced to a cipher in all these kingdoms. "For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled." Then must the Papal beast, the image of Paganism, be numbered and finished, and like a weighty mill-stone sunk in the deep, he must with the Pagan beast sink forever and ever.
Thus we see the two beasts, although supported by the same power, "the great red dragon or Roman kingdom," exercising the same authority over the bodies and souls of men, partaking of the same spirit of Satan, made like each other, one being but an image of the other, having the same names of blasphemy on their heads, and both having, at the close of their times, the same ten horns, and both have, and are to have, their civil power destroyed by the same ten horns. Yet we see them kept separate and distinct. Pagan Rome must reign his time, and then the ten horns, or kings, would take away the "daily sacrifice abomination," and place in his stead the "abomination that maketh desolate." The last abomination was numbered in the same chapter where our text is found, "forty and two months." And why not give us the number of the first beast? He has: "Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six." This brings us to our next proposition.
III. To show what we may understand by the numbering of the beast. And,
1st. What may we understand by numbering anything of this kind in Scripture? For the Scripture must be our guide, as we have before said.
I answer, It is to count, to finish, or to destroy, when used in a figurative sense, or in prophetic Scripture, as in Isa. xxii. 10, "And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall." They were accused by the prophet of destroying houses, by numbering them or counting them for destruction. Also see Isa. lxv. 12, "Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter." Here again it is used in the same sense: I will reckon or count you to the sword. Again, Dan. v. 25, 26, "And this is the hand-writing that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE, God hath numbered thy kingdom and hath finished it."
As, therefore, the idolatrous and blasphemous kingdom of Babylon was numbered and finished by God, whose decree was conveyed by the hand-writing on the wall to the knowledge of Daniel and others, so was John commanded, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to write in this last book of prophecy, the MENE, TEKEL, of this last idolatrous Pagan beast. "Here is wisdom." Let a wise Daniel, or him that hath the wisdom of God like a Daniel, or "let him that hath understanding" in the work of God, or him that will compare scripture with scripture, "count the number of the beast," or the number of his name.
Let us inquire what is the name of this beast. His name is blasphemy, because he causes all, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, to worship stocks and stones, idols of gold, and silver, and wood, that can neither see, hear, nor talk. See the 1st verse of our context, "and upon his head the name of blasphemy," which teaches us what the name of this beast is, and shows us that we are to count, or reckon, how long before the blasphemies of this Pagan power will be finished; "for it is the number of a man." And what, you may inquire, is the number of a man? I answer again, We must apply to God's word "the number of a man."
Moses says, Exodus xxiii. 26, "The number of thy days I will fulfil." Job, speaking of man, says, xiv. 5, "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months is with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." David says, Ps. xc. 12, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Therefore, we may reasonably conclude that the "number of a man" is the number of his days; and the Scriptures often speak of man in connection with his time of sojourn on the earth, calling it days; as, "few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage;" "died, being old and full of days;" "length of days is in her right hand;" "all the days of thy life;" "I will wait all the days of my appointed time until my change come." If this is the understanding of this part of our text, which I cannot see any reason to doubt, then our text has this plain meaning. Here is need of spiritual wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of his days; for his days are numbered as a man's; they are six hundred threescore and six. This power (Rome Pagan) would be taken away when his six hundred and sixty-six prophetic days should end; and this brings us to show when those days began, and of course when they ended.
They must have begun when the Jewish rites and ceremonies were in being; for this was the sole object of Paganism, to counteract the Jewish rituals and draw the Jewish worshippers into idolatry, and to blend the heathen rites with theirs. They must have begun before Christ was born, for the great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns was to stand before the woman, (the Jewish Church,) ready to devour the man child as soon as it was born. They could not have begun before they became connected with the Jews, for the reason that no nation is prophesied of, or noticed in the prophecies, except they are somehow connected with the people of God; and for the very reason that this beast was to tread down the Jews, and finally, by cunning, deceit, and intrigue, destroy the city and nation of the Jews, then I think the fairest conclusion is, that when they became connected with the Jews by league, and when they had conquered Daniel's third kingdom, the Grecian. Then, and not until then, had the Romans any part in this prophecy. This agrees with the angel's statement, Dan. xi. 23, "After the league made with him, (that is, Romans,) he shall work deceitfully, and become strong with a small (republican) people." This league was made between the Romans and the Jews, ratified and carried into effect when the Greeks under Bachides left besieging Jerusalem, upon the command of the Romans, and, as Josephus and Maccabees tell us, never returned to trouble them (the Jews) any more. This league, then, took effect when the third kingdom in Daniel's vision ceased harassing the Jews, and the fourth kingdom began its rule over the Jews and the world. This was in the year B.C. 158. Let those who wish to be satisfied of the correctness of the foregoing statements read the 8th and 9th chapters of the 1st Maccabees, and Josephus, B. XII. chapter x. sec. 6, of his Antiquities. Then, if this be correct, that Pagan Rome began his power in the year B.C. 158, and was to continue 666 years, when would Paganism fall in the Roman kingdom, and the "daily sacrifice abomination" be taken out of the way to make room for the abomination of desolation? I answer, Take 158 from 666 and you will have 508. Then in the year A.D. 508 Paganism ceased.
What is the history of that time? I answer, that about the year A.D. 476 the Western Empire of Rome crumbled to pieces, and the Pagan nations of the north, crossing the Rhine and the Danube, established ten kingdoms in what was considered the Western Empire. France was the principal kingdom of the ten. These kingdoms were all governed by Pagan kings; and history informs us that in the city of Rome and other places in the empire these Pagan conquerors sacrificed men, women, and children to their supposed deities; and that in the year 496 Clovis king of France was converted and baptized into the Christian faith; and that the remainder of these kings embraced the religion of Christ shortly after, the last of which was Christianized in the year 508, and of course Paganism ceased, having lost its head by the power of the sword, or kings who wield the sword. Here, then, was the accomplishment of two important prophecies--the daily sacrifice abomination taken out of the way, and the Pagan beast receiving its deadly wound by a sword; since which time we have no account of any Pagan rites or sacrifices being offered within the bounds of ancient Rome. How exactly has the word of God been accomplished! How just and true are all the ways of the God of heaven! And how blind are mortals that they cannot see their own destiny in the rise and fall of others! I am astonished sometimes when I reflect on the simple truths of the word of God, the exact fulfilment of the prophecies, that more do not believe, repent, and turn to God.