Meditation on Revelation 12.6

A Meditation on Rev. xii. 6.

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there, a thousand two hundred and three score days.”

The church of Christ, his mystical body, those whom he loved in eternity, redeemed in time, calls by his spirit to the knowledge of themselves, and of him whom to know is life eternal, and finally brings to his kingdom and glory. – This elect church of God, we find in the scriptures of truth, described under various characters, typified by various things, but all significative either of what it is in itself, or of what it is in its glorious head: thus it is sometimes called a Worm, a Vine, an helpless Infant, descriptive of its weakness, imbecility and want of support; for what is more despicable and weak than a worm? what stands in more need of support than a vine? and what is more incapable of helping itself than a new born infant? – we know it is totally void of the power of defence, and of every means of providing for its own subsistence: and so in a spiritual sense, is the church of God, totally weak, void of power, and without strength, and utterly unable to provide for itself, stand against any of its numerous enemies, or extricate itself out of the many dangerous and disagreeable situations it is often, very often brought into. On the other hand, “I have compared thee, O my love,” says the Lord, by the mouth of an inspired penman, “to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.” Now we know that horses are creatures possessed of a very large portion of strength, and were they capable of knowing their own strength, there remains a doubt whether or no they would be subject to man: but the church is weak, and in itself without strength; therefore this character of horses can only relate to them as they are considered in Jesus; for in the Lord Jehovah, they have not only righteousness, but also strength, strength to conquer sin, strength to conquer devils, and strength to conquer death, their last enemy; for all the strength and power of a triune God, an omnipotent Jehovah, is engaged on their side, to fight their battles for them, to tread their spiritual enemies under their feet, to give them the victory, and make them finally more than conquerors over all that rise against them; and were they but more sensible of this, could they but, when feeling their own insufficiency, behold and rely on that Almighty arm, that infinite strength and everlasting power, which is engaged by covenant, by promise and oath to be exercised for them; – had they but full views of this, they would never be subject to sinking fears, and evil questioning, dark surmises, and unbelieving doubts, which often arises in their hearts, and sometimes hold their troubled spirits in bondage, under the gloomy apprehension of being finally overcome by their enemies, and snatched from the arms, and torn from the bosom of him who hath sworn never to let them go: no, they would rather cry out with the psalmist, “The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell; though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident, the Lord is with us, the Lord of Jacob is our refuge:” and add with the apostle, “if God be for us, who can be against us? who shall seperate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us; for I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thus we find that the church in scripture is described under various figures, and perhaps out of many more instances that might be brought, none are more strikingly beautiful, more picturesque or fuller of divine consolation to the church in general, and every individual member in particular, than the text I would desire, under the divine influences of the Lord the Spirit, now to contemplate; for as he is the author of these lively oracles, he must be also the revealer of them to our hearts, or we shall see no beauty in them, and consequently receive no divine consolation, no heavenly blessing from them. Come then, O thou divine Paraclete, and with thy light illuminate my darkness, with thy fire warm my cold heart, with thine unerring hand direct my pen into the paths of sacred truth, because thou hast engaged to be an instructor to the ignorant, a teacher of babes. –“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of GOD, that they should feed her there, a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days.”

If we attend to the origin of women, we find that she received her life and being from the side of man; “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept, and he took out one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof, and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man; and Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” Gen. ii. 21, 22, 23. Analogous[1] to this, the church may very properly be called a woman; for as Eve received life from the side of Adam, so the church receives her spiritual, divine, eternal life from the side of her dying Christ, the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. The Lord God put Adam into a deep sleep, while he took from him the rib of which he created him a wife, and Jesus was fast locked in the arms of death, when his side was pierced, from whence flowed that precious fountain of atoning blood, which purchased him a bride, and streams of water, significative of that Holy Spirit which should convey to his church that life and those blessings he had purchased for her.

When Eve was created, Adam awaked from his profound slumber; and so when the great work of redemption was completed, when the justice of God was fully satisfied, his law gloriously magnified, sin made an end of, transgression signified, and everlasting righteousness brought in for the church, the Lamb’s wife, then the Almighty conqueror, the victorious Savior, burst the bars of death, snapt asunder the power of the grave, and rose triumphant to reap the fruits of his pains, to receive the reward of his labour, and see of the travail of his soul, and be abundantly satisfied.

The Lord God having made the woman, brought her unto the man: she did not come to him of herself, and being brought unto him by God, Adam received her joyfully, with all the marks of the most tender affection, acknowledging her to be bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh, and called her woman, because she was taken out of man; so the church of Christ, the purchase of his blood, though she has cost him dear, and stands under infinite obligations to him, comes not to him of her own accord, but is brought unto him by God. “No man cometh unto me,” says the Savior, “except the Father draw him.” We don’t read that Eve had any objections to coming to Adam, but the church have numberless objections to coming to Christ; her understanding is darkened, she don’t see her need of him, her will is depraved, she is positively determined never to come to him, and her affections are so alienated from him that she hates him, desires not his presence, seeks not his love, but every thing that is contrary to him, that she loves, that she seeks, and pursues with delight and greediness; she is in no concern about his displeasure, she fears not his wrath, but she wraps herself up in a false security, and vainly imagines that she has made a covenant with death, and with her refuge is a refuge of lies; and says in the pride and deceit of her heart, “When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come nigh me; I sit a queen, and shall never see evil.” This is her miserable situation by nature, and while it is so, alas, there is little appearances of her coming to Christ: but what is to be done in this case? why the promise is, “All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me.” The Father therefore draws her to the Son, that she may be betrothed unto him in righteousness, faithfulness, and truth, and that for ever: he sees the pride of her heart, and the iron sinew that is in her neck, and has determined that it shall be no prevention to his bringing about, and fully accomplishing his gracious designs towards her. He therefore declares, “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement, when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus faith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place, and your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through ye shall be trodden down by it, from the time that it goeth forth it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass over by day and by night, and it shall be vexation only to understand the report, for the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it, for the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim; he shall be wrath as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act,” Isa. xxviii. 16-24.

This is the way God the Father brings the church to Christ; she is proud and stout hearted, and fortified with all the armour that satan can put upon her, but the Lord God knows how to humble her pride, to break her stout heart, and to take away all the false props in which she trusted; – he has laid a sure foundation for her everlasting happiness, and he will place her upon it, in spite of all that hell and she can do against it; to this end he arrests her by his Spirit, apprehends her by his powerful grace, and convinces her of sin, brings her conscience to the bar of his justice, and obliges her to plead guilty; and though she may perhaps endeavor to hide herself under the lying refuge of a righteousness of her own, yet he will hunt her out of this false covert, the hail, the storm, shall sweep it away; he will lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and convince her that she is not only a sinner by actual transgression, but that the fountain is corrupt, that her heart is depraved, that her nature is not only dead, but opposite to God, and that God’s holy righteous law has passed the sentence of condemnation upon her: he will lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet;[2] he will convince her of the spiritual nature of the law; how holy, how perfect, how righteous it is: she will find it not only condemns her nature, and evil practice, but when she brings her best things unto it, her refuge of lies, in which she trusted, and which she called righteousness; when she sees this weighed in the aweful balance of the sanctuary, and finds it found wanting: finds it lighter than air, and altogether vanity; a shadow without any reality; finds it is sin, altogether sin, and that as such the law of God condemns it: as such it stinks in the nostrils of the infinitely holy Jehovah, who casts it from his presence as a polluted garment, and esteems it but filthy rags. When she sees and feels this, she is ready to cry out, in the anguish of her heart, “Woe is me, for I am undone;” and why so? even because the hail hath swept away her refuge of lies, and the overflowing storm destroyed her hiding-place; she finds that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men; and alas, she feels that she is nothing but an unrighteous sinner; and this humbles her haughty heart, this bows her stubborn will, and makes her glad to come weary and heavy laden to Jesus Christ, for life and salvation. Thus the Lord accomplishes his strange work, his wonderful work, his omnipotent work, the conversion of a sinner, the bringing a ruined soul, a ruined church, to a crucified Lord Savior; and never did Adam receive his new created Eve with that joy, that heart-felt delight and complacency that Jesus Christ receives the poor ill and hell deserving sinner, that comes to him by faith, being drawn by the Father unto him, he acknowledges him for his own. He says, “Thou art the purchase of my blood, I loved thee in eternity; I laid down my life for thy ransom; for thee I labored thirty-three years, bearing the contradiction of sinners; I stood in thy place, and fulfilled all righteousness for thee, in order that I might wipe the tears of sorrow from thine eyes; I sweated blood; my soul was sorrowful, sorrowful even unto death, and I never left off toiling, and suffering for thee, till I bowed my head on the cross, and had finished thy salvation. Behold then, how I loved thee! come and look into my heart that was pierced for thee, and behold thy name engraven there in characters never to be erased; yea, thy name is engraven upon the palms of my hands, and thy walls are continually before me.”

Thus the church may very properly be compared to a woman, because the analogy there is betwixt it and the first woman, the mother of all living; and as Eve was the beloved spouse of Adam, so is the Church of Christ: he has declared he is “married unto her,” Jer. iii. 14. And says in another place, “Thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name,” Isa. liv. 5. “And, (says the apostle,) we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” Eph. v. 30. but the Husband is in heaven, and the Wife upon earth; the Bridegroom is in a palace, and the Bride in a wilderness: “For,” saith the text, “the woman fled into the wilderness.” Now a wilderness is remarkable for two things; first, there is nothing in it that is profitable or delightful; but every thing that is frightful, dangerous, and distressing: there is no overshadowing branches to screen the fainting traveler from the scorching heat of the meridian sun, no cooling streams to allay his thirst, and afford him some kind refreshment; no beds of roses, no vernal bowers to rest his weary limbs; when fatigued with his journey, or increase his strength: – nothing but burning sands, and fiery serpents, howling winds and barren wilds, or only fruitful in producing briers and thorns, which prick his feet and retard his pace, and make him cry out, “O that I had wings like a dove, that I might flee away from the noisy wind and tempest:” Or, in the language of an inspired apostle, “ O wretched man that I am!” – Such a wilderness is this world, though it is full of beauty, crown’d with verdure, and adorn’d by the hand of its infinite Creator with every thing that can accommodate and supply our bodies, yet it is void of every thing which is spiritually profitable; there is nothing in it which can satisfy the vast desires of an immortal soul; nothing which can comfort, support or console the mind of the pilgrim who is journeying through it, from time to eternity, from earth to heaven: no, he finds it a barren desert, void of every thing that is substantially and abidingly good; but it is filled with every thing that can hurt and annoy him; snares, and nets, and gins are continually laid for his feet; briers and thorns are often besetting him round, and hedging up his way that he cannot go forward: besides, it is infested with beasts of prey; the roaring lion of hell wanders up and down it, seeking whom he may devour: and happy, happy, yea, thrice happy is he who escapes his ravenous jaws: burning sands of fierce temptation, blustering winds and rushing storms, oft-times surprise him; so that sometimes his day is turned into night, his joy into sorrow, and his very heart thrills with fear lest he should lose his way, perish in the wilderness, and never reach the good land, the heavenly Canaan he is seeking.

This is the wilderness up and down in which the church of God are scattered; but blessed be God, tho’ she is in a wilderness, she is not alone, that were a dismal situation truly, for were she alone in the wilderness, she must perish, she would soon be overwhelmed by the whirlwinds, or carried away by the storm: but though her Lord is in heaven, and she upon earth; though, if considered as man, the heavens have received and must contain him till the great day of restitution comes; yet as Jehovah, God over all blessed for ever, he fills all space, and crowns immensity with his presence; and he hath said to his spouse, his purchased inheritance, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” His eye is incessantly upon her, his everlasting arms are underneath her: when she passes through fire and through water, he is nigh, and is as a wall of fire round about her. Jesus is with her in the wilderness as a guide, she often takes wrong steps, and is frequently at the point of losing her way, but then she hears his friendly voice behind her, saying, “This is the way, walk thou therein.” – He is not only with her as a guide, but he is with her as a guard, to protect her from her enemies: when the lion roars, she trembles, when her foes, strong and mighty approach, she stands aghast, but the Lord her shield, advances, spreads over her the shadow of his wing, and taking the battle into his own hand, girds his sword upon his thigh, and rides on conquering and to conquer, for they are all to him as the dry stubble is to the burning flame; by the breath of his mouth he scatters them as the small dust is dispersed abroad by the force of the irresistible whirlwind, and they are obliged to fall before him as Dagon fell before the ark, or as a worm would be crushed under the foot of one of the mighty sons of Anak.

He is not only with her as her guide and protector, but also to supply all her wants, and comfort her under all her oppressions: --She is often cast down and afflicted; often grieved and distressed; but when this is the case, Jesus draws nigh, and says to her soul, “Peace be unto thee; in the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace.” When she hungers, he feeds her with the bread of heaven; and when she thirsts, he leadeth her to the wells of salvation, and gives her to drink of the rivers of life, those rivers of pleasure which flow at his right hand for evermore: – when she is fainting, he strengthens her; when falling, raises her; and when she is wounded by the beasts of prey, stung by the poisonous nettles, with which this world, this wilderness abounds, he makes her whole, and restores her to health by applying to her wound the healing balsom of his atoning blood, the chearing unction of his holy Spirit; for she is not to be destroyed in the wilderness, it is a place prepared of God, he built it on purpose for her reception; there she is exercised, tried, and purified and made capable of enjoying that better portion reserved in heaven for her – “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there:” indeed she hath a right to be fed, for she is not a widow, her husband is living, and lives for evermore, and it is the privilege of every wife to be maintained by her husband if he has it in his power to maintain her, at least she has a certain right to expect it; and if he neglects or refuses to do it, when able, every one will allow he is a bad husband, and deserves no better a character than that of a villain; but Jesus is a faithful husband, a tender affectionate husband; he loves his bride, he purchased her with an infinite price, and has it well in his power to provide for all her wants: the treasures of his love are past finding out; the riches of his grace are unsearchable, and the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; therefore she hath a right upon the best and surest foundation, and it is her privilege to look up to him, not for a scanty allowance, but a full and ample supply of all she stands in need of; for as she possesses his hand and his heart, all that he has is hers; “for, saith the apostle, and he knew his Master’s mind, “all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s,” I Cor. iii. 21-23. This is a large grant, a very valuable possession, if we had but eyes to behold the extent of it; but our sight is now weak, and therefore we can view but a little, very little part of it; however, since this is the case, the church is in no danger of starving; God hath determined she shall be fed: he will feed her soul with his word and spirit, and feed her body by a thousand providences; and though her spiritual and temporal enemies, wicked men and wicked devils, are striving continually to cut off her supplies, and to cause her to perish by famine from off the face of the earth, yet, blessed be God, they are striving in vain, for infinite wisdom knows how to counter-work all their designs, and can, and often does out of the strongest temptation, out of the bitterest affliction, bring forth some sweet and savory meat to feed the souls and bodies of his children. Job’s afflictions were calculated to feed his soul with heavenly manna, to bring him off from feeding upon that which is not bread, even upon the mouldy husks of his own righteousness, that he might be fed with immortal food, the all-sufficient righteousness of God his Savior. While Jacob’s trouble was evidently designed for the temporal preservation of himself and his house, at a time when famine and scarcity overspread the earth; thus “the woman fled into the wilderness where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”

Blessed be God, though the church is in a wilderness at present, she is not to abide there for ever, she shall not be always beset with dangers, surrounded by enemies, and filled with affliction and sorrow; no, her beloved has not only prepared a place for her in this tumultuous sea of fire and glass, where she is to be fed and preserved, but he is also gone as her great forerunner, to prepare a place in his palace, a mansion in his heaven for her; and at the set time, the appointed time, the expiration of that thousand two hundred and threescore days, he will come himself and fetch her to partake of his glory, to share in his kingdom, and sit down on his throne to enjoy the utmost that a covenant God can bestow on the beloved of his soul – O eternal life! who can describe thee? What can we say of thee? Alas, we can but say this, we know not fully what thou art; for eye hath not seen, nor ear conceive what it is to be with God for ever. He that hath enjoyed most of the light of his countenance, most of the joy of his salvation, most sensible communion with a condescending Savior, has but as it were sipt of the cup, catch’d a drop from the infinite ocean; just tasted the fruits of the good land: – but when the time, the appointed period arrives, that wished for period which the saints of God long for, when the Lord Jesu the mighty, yea Almighty God, shall appear; then shall we appear with him in glory, and be like him; for we, his church, the purchase of his blood, shall see him as he is, but O with what eyes shall we behold him! with what hearts shall we love him! and with what triumphant songs shall we proclaim his honours, when we enter into that kingdom which was prepared for us before the foundation of the world: – then, and not till then, shall we be able clearly to expatiate on that infinite privilege of the believer in Jesus. Eternal life!

Great day of God, O when wilt thou appear

To usher in the grand sabbatic year,

When Jesus’ saints shall enter into rest,

And soul and body be completely blest;

When in full choir they shall their king adore,

And hear the rude alarms of war no more;

When immortality shall crown the just,

And all their enemies shall lick the dust;

O’erwhelm’d in awful wrath’s indignant show’r,

And death and hell confess a victor’s pow’r.

“Great day! where art thou? angels cannot tell,”

Tho’ nigh the throne their shining orders dwell;

’Tis hid from angels ken, but known to thee,

Great three in one , eternal one in three;

Thy great decree has fixt the period sure,

When sin shall vex, and saints shall weep no more.

Text: Divine Poems and Essays, 1791, pp. 209-224.