“TIME’S NOBLEST OFFSPRING.”*
America in the Light of Prophecy.
“Another…beast…But he is not yet come, though he cannot be far off; for he is to appear at he end of the forty-two months of the first beast. And he had two horns like a lamb—a mild, innocent appearance.” John Wesley, New Testament with Explanatory Notes, p. 427, 1754
Among the learned men who came to America in the eighteenth century was George Berkeley, afterward bishop of Cloyne, Ireland. He went to Newport, Rhode Island, to found a university, afterward giving his American estate, and several hundred volumes of his library, to Yale College. It was while interested in America that he wrote his poem containing the oft-quoted stanza:—
“Westward the course of empire takes its way,
The first four acts already past.
The fifth shall close the drama with the day;
Time’s noblest offspring is the last.”
The stanza has been quoted as prophetic. As a matter of fact, it is founded on Bible prophecy. The first four acts of the great world drama are the history and life of the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome. Three of these, as world powers, had for almost two millenniums passed away. Rome had been for centuries in a divided state. But when Bishop Berkeley wrote his poem a new Star had risen in the horizon. A new World was opening before the nations. A new Flag was about to be unfurled to the breezes of heaven.
All this God has foretold in prophecy. The great Church–and–State system of government, which in different forms curses the world from Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, to the second coming of Christ, earth’s lawful King, is represented in Revelation 13 by a composite beast with seven heads and ten horns. It includes in its symbolism the great persecutors of the church for conscience’ sake in the great sad history of earth’s past, and this in a twofold sense, in both body and successive heads.
It possesses the mouth of a lion (Babylon, Dan. 7:4; Jer, 4:7, 13),
the feet of a bear (Medo-Persia, Dan. 7:5), the body of the leopard (Grecia, Dan. 7:6), and ten horns of Rome (Dan. 7:7), and it is inspired and upheld by the dragon (the devil, Rev. 12:9). The heads represent the same powers, being successive (Rev. 17:9, 10), not contemporaneous like the horns.
The animus comes from the seat of the mind, the head. The head controls the beast, and makes the beast what he is while the head exists.
The beginning of this persecuting régimé, this great, abnormal system, was Babylon, that power which has made all the kingdoms of earth drunken. The first head is Babylon, represented as a lion in its civil aspect, as a gorgeously-arrayed harlot in its religious aspect. The second head is Medo-Persia, continuing the same Babylonian1 system in another form. The third is Grecia. The fourth is Pagan Rome, through which the dragon1, Satan, wrought to destroy Christ. Rev. 12:4. The fifth, the head dominant during the “forty and two months” of Rev. 13:5 (see also Dan. 7:25; Rev. 11:3. 12:6, 14) is usually known by the designation of the Рарасу.
A Symbol of the New World System.
Just at the time when the papal head is wounded (Rev. 13:3, 10), beginning with the Reformation and culminating in 1798, John sees another power, symbolized by a beast, rising up out of the earth, having two horns like a lamb, yet speaking like a dragon. Rev. 13:11. Now note that this beast must symbolize a power rising to prominence about 1798; it comes up, not out of the “sea” (denoting peoples, nations, Rev. 13:1; 17: 1, 15), but out of the earth, a hitherto unoccupied region by the historic nations; its growth is rapid, its progress incoming up is visible: it has two horns like a lamb; it speaks as a dragon, and the latter part of the chapter is the development of this dragon spirit.
It will be noticed that in this beast is combined two prominent apocalyptic symbols.
(1) It has two horns like a lamb. In type and prophetic symbol a lamb stands for Jesus our Saviour. He is represented in Rev. 5:6 as “a Lamb having seven horns.” A horn is an emblem of power, exaltation, strength. Seven would denote perfection in all things which would make the Lamb truly exalted and powerful. A beast with two horns like a lamb would denote a power professing to possess, holding in prominence, two Christian principles or characteristics, principles which, applied to civil government, would make that government characteristic, or distinguished from all other governments, even as they distinguished Christianity from all other religions.
(2) A dragon is the symbol of Satan, operating through earthly governments, inducing them to persecute the children of God. “The dragon . . . persecuted the woman.” Rev. 12:13.
Here are five prominent characteristics or specifications concerning the power symbolized by the two-horned beast:—
- It must be rising to prominence in the world’s affairs about A.D. 1800.
- Its rise would be rapid and marvelous.
- It must arise, not among the great nations of history—the sea—but in hitherto ungoverned, undeveloped regions, “the earth.”
- It will possess as characteristics of strength and prominence two principles, characteristic of Christianity alone among religions, and of itself alone among nations.
- Nevertheless it would speak as a dragon, or promulgate persecuting laws.
Search through all the centuries and tomes of history and but one power, one nation, one government, alone, of all earth’s governments can be found in which these specifications are fulfilled, and they are all fulfilled or fulfilling in that one.
That nation is our nation. That government is these United States of America. Carefully consider:
- In 1798, when the papal beast (the first beast of Revelation 13) went into captivity, this nation was just rising to power. July 4, 1776, its independence was declared. Then followed eight, long, cruel, depleting years of war, not for conquest, but for liberty, for a principle. In 1798 its glorious Constitution was adopted. And at the time the prophetic vision applied it was the one great young power in the world.
- Its rise since its birth has been rapid and marvelous, a fact familiar to all observers and students and citizens.
- It came not up in the Old World, the theater of the great drama enacted in its several parts by Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome, but from a New World, a new continent, amid untrodden solitudes and virgin forests.
- It possessed in its making two principles only dreamed of by the most sanguine statesman who may have loved them in the past. In this glorious nation they were crystallized into its charters of existence.
The first of these was the equality of man. This is preeminently the teaching of Christianity, but of no other religions which the world has ever known. It was Christ who said: “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” Matt. 23:8. It was Christ’s apostle who said: “There is no respect of persons with God.” “God that made the world and all things therein, . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Rom. 2:11; Acts 17:24-26.
The second great principle vouchsafed to men by Christian ethics, so far as interference of man is concerned, is the right and privilege of every man to worship God, or not to worship, how or when he will, providing he does not interfere with the equal rights of his fellow-men.
This principle may be termed religious liberty. The Gospel of Christ compels no one. It is not “Thou shalt,” or “Thou shalt not.” Its language is, “Whosoever will” “let him come.” Rev. 22:17. Listen to a chosen servant of the King of heaven: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as tho God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” 2 Cor. 5:20, 11.
And Jesus Himself said: “If any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12:47. And that resolute apostle who was once so ready to use carnal weapons, writes: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts.” “Neither being as lords over God’s heritage.” 1 Peter 2:11; 5-3. “Not for that we have dominion [lordship] over your faith,” says Paul, “but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand.” 2 Cor. 1: 24. How different are the words of these apostles from the practices of those “lords spiritual” who now claim to be their direct successors! “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” John 8:39.
Look overall the religions of the past—pagan or perverted Christian—and in not one do we find these two particulars. The curse of caste, the creation of offices and positions, a haughty, imperious, and ambitious hierarchy, religious dogmas enforced by royal edict or legislative enactment, one or all are present in all the religions of earth save that of Christ. They are present in all forms of perverted Christianity.
Both of these divine principles of equality and liberty are embodied in the charters of our freedom in this country so far as they can be embodied in earthly government. In other words, the United States government embodied the Christian idea of civil government, or is in principle what a civil government ought to be. The first principle, equality of all men, is found in that document which sounded the birth-note of America’s freedom, and which made Americans free men:—
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” —Declaration of Independence.
The second principle—religious liberty—is embodied in this; but is guarded above question in the Constitution, the fundamental law of our government. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” —Declaration of Independence. The First Amendment reads:—
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”
No other government of any note in the world holds these two principles. There are republics like Switzerland and France, but they have their State religions, supported by many to whom they are intolerable burdens. The United States Government stands unique in this respect; and these principles have been the magnetic power which has drawn to our shores from the autocratic and intolerant priest-ridden nations of the Old World the persecuted and oppressed millions. They found here religion “without a pope and a State without a king,” and the consequent privilege of worshiping or not worshiping God according to their own consciences and understanding of His will.
The identity of these Christian principles in this government, and the fulfilment of the divine prophecy, are well set forth by America’s great historian, George Bancroft:—
“The Constitution establishes nothing that interferes with equality or individuality. It knows nothing of differences by descent, or opinions, of favored classes, or legalized religion, or the political power of property. It leaves the individual alongside the individual. . . . Vindicating the right of individuality even in religion, and in religion above all, the new nation dared to set the example of accepting in its relations to God the principle first divinely ordained in Judea.” —History of the Constitution of the United States, book 5, chap. 1.
More than this: the influence of this government has ameliorated the Old World conditions, so that dungeon and rack have slunk into night and obscurity, and the martyr’s pyre is extinguished.
Later on the shackles of slavery were broken from the feet of the slave, and the principle of liberty and equality again crystallized into fundamental law the following:—
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life,liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” XIV Amendment, sec. 1.
Grand and noble sentiments and principles! Would God they might continue in the government and nation forever. They made the best civil government upon which the sun ever shone, and is held in the hearts of the people, would continue such a government.
But, alas, the beast with the lamb-like horns speaks with a dragon voice; it becomes a persecutor. It makes an image to the ten-horned beast; that is, it unites Church and state. It enforces the mark of the Papacy, the sign which she claims of her power, the Sunday informed by law. It enforces under penalties of legal boycott and even under death the image and the mark.
Is this possible? Nay, it is probable. Read in proof of it the departure of this country from her basic principles as set forth in other articles in this paper. What means the religious legislation of the last few years? What means the many court-made laws and prosecutions for conscience’ sake?
God forewarned us of these things eighteen centuries ago. Who will heed this warning? Who will place his affections upon the heavenly land, whose inhabitants know no blight, no sorrow, no death; but glorious life forevermore?
* This article was originally published by the editors of Signs of the Times, June 4, 1889
1 It will be seen that the mouth of the lion is characteristic of the beast, not simply of one head, showing it to be a characteristic of all the heads. In other words, the whole system was received from Babylon, and is Babylonian all through. So also the dragon is not indicative of Pagan Rome or its times, but is found on the monuments as a symbol of Babylon. It is, as indicated in Rev. 12:9, the symbol of Satan, giving power to Church-and-State union which obtained during the prophetic period of 1,250 years, from A.D. 538 to 1798. The bishop of Rome became head over all the churches by decree of Justinian in the former year, and lost his power as religious censor before the French in 1798.