Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

counsels in the administration of the world, whether in extraordinary dis pensations of mercy or of judgment; and to cite instances of this must be altogether needless: but the term appears to be used in a lower sense in some passages of the Apocalypse of St. John; or it may perhaps be more properly said, that it is used symbolically to denote human agents or instruments employed by God to carry his purposes into effect, and that, whether the agents themselves be good or bad. Thus the bishops of the seven Asiatic churches symbolized by seven stars, are called the angels of those churches; thus, at least, the expression appears to be generally expounded. Similarly under the fifth trumpet, the king of the locusts, symbolized also by a star fallen from heayen to the earth, to whom was given the key of the bottomless pit, is called the angel of the bottomless pit; and the false prophet of Arabia, Mohammed, is universally considered as hereby intended, and that with a particular reference to the false doctrine which he promulgated, and which is so appropriately symbolized by a smoke issuing out of the pit, and darkening the air.

Now from the analogy of these cases, it is reasonable to conclude, that by the four angels in the present vision, some power or other is intended not merely of a temporal or political character, but as an agent or instrument of some great religious or spiritual revolution, resembling that effected by the sword of Mohammed. The enumeration of four angels sufficiently intimates, that the predicted power should be either subdivided under four heads or principalities, or consist of four independent, but confederate dynasties of the same character, and the union of operation ascribed to it; and the singleness (as it were) of character in the description given of it, favours the former supposition. What we are next to understand by this power being bound in or upon the great river Euphrates, is thus far sufficiently evident, that the expres

sion bound must import, that its career, of whatever kind, was checked and restrained by some providential or extraordinary means, and that of Divine appointment; for as the angels are said to be bound, so they are said to be prepared for a certain period to slay the third part of men: but what we are to understand by their being bound in or upon the great river Euphrates, is not so plain. Understanding the Euphrates literally to mean that river, the expression may be referred to the seat or position of the power said to be thus bound, or to that of the power by which under Divine Providence it was bound; and the latter sense being perhaps as admissible as the former, we are not therefore obliged to consider the dominions of the four angels as necessarily seated upon the very banks, or in the immediate neighbourhood of the Euphrates. But moreover the great river Euphrates may be also without impropriety understood with a certain latitude, as denoting simply, and in a general sense, the Eastern boundary of the Roman empire. It had long been, as it were, the sacred boundary between that empire and Persia, from the Parthian dynasty to that of the Saracens, and had never been violated with impunity. It may, therefore, be understood as emphatically denoting the eastern limits of the Greek empire; and the loosing of the angels from the fetters by which they had been bound, may signify not so much their being allowed to break through the barrier of the Euphrates for the first time, as their being permitted to prosecute an invasion already commenced, but which had been for a length of time controuled and restrained. They are said to be prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year;" that is, for a period of three hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days, the prophetic year containing three hundred and sixty prophetic days or natural years, the month thirty, and an hour the twentyfourth part of a prophetic day or

[ocr errors]

natural year; that is, fifteen natural days. They are appointed to "slay the third part of men," that is, either literally to extirpate the Eastern Roman empire, or to overturn the Greek church; for this interpretation appears to be most consistent with that given of the fourth trumpet, in which the darkening of a third part of the sun, moon, and stars was applied to the downfal of the Western empire. The Roman empire, or Christendom, being the subject of the Apocalypse, if we consider the western division of it as the third part of men, we may by analogy justly consider the eastern also as another third part. The agent employed to execute this woe, was an "army of horsemen," characterized first by their immense numbers, "two myriads of myriads;" secondly, by the colours of their breastplates, indicated by "fire, jacinth, and brimstone;" thirdly, by the appearance of the heads of the horses resembling the "heads of lions," intimating their strength and courage; and, fourthly, by the issuing of "fire, smoke, and brimstone out of their mouths," which seems to be universally referred to the discovery of gunpowder, and the use of fire-arms, as by these three the "third part of men were said to be killed;" fifthly, by "their tails being like unto serpents, and having heads, with which they do hurt." The last symbol being strictly analogous to that used in the case of the Saracenic locusts, which were said to "have tails like unto scorpions, and to have stings in their tails,' must be consistently interpreted of the propagation, either of the same or of some other false religion. By this exposition of the symbols we are led to look in the page of history and current of events for some quadruple, or quadripartite power, seated upon the eastern frontier of the Roman empire, and, after a period of restraint, at length overwhelming it, characterized by certain distinctive marks namely, the numbers and prowess of its cavalry, the colour of their breast

[ocr errors]

plates, and especially by the use of fire arms; and moreover by their carrying in their train the poison of a false religion, and intolerant persecution of Christianity; and finally by their maintaining their tyranny over the Greek empire for a period of three hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days. Now it is hardly possible for any one at all acquainted with history, not here to recognize the conquests of the Turkish or Ottoman arms, and the forcible diffusion of the Koran: and this application of the vision seems to be universally adopted, the prophetic period being dated from the latter end of the thirteenth century. Assuming it, therefore, to be the just interpretation, I shall proceed to illustrate and confirm it by the most prominent testimonies to be found in the pages of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and, if I extract largely, the historical light thrown upon the subject will be found proportionably full and satisfactory. To form, indeed, any adequate judgment of the fulfilment of the prophecy, it is necessary to trace the history of the Turks considerably further back than the thirteenth century. Gibbon is here immediately to our purpose. Speaking of the immediate cause of the crusades, he observes, that his " reader must transport himself beyond the Caspian Sea, to the original seat of the Turks or Turkmans, against whom, towards the close of the eleventh century, the first crusade was principally directed. Their Scythian empire of the sixth century was long since dissolved; but the name was still famous among the Greeks and Orientals; and the fragments of the nation, each a powerful and independent people, were scattered over the desert from China, to the Oxus and the Danube....A swarm of these northern shepherds overspread the kingdom of Persia: their princes, of the race of Seljuk, erected a splendid and solid empire from Samarcand to the confines of Greece and Egypt; and the Turks have

maintained their dominion in Asia Minor, till the victorious crescent has been planted on the dome of St. Sophia....The first emigration of the Eastern Turkmans, the most ancient of their race, may be ascribed to the tenth century of the Christian æra. In the decline of the caliphs, and the weakness of their lieutenants, the barrier of the Jaxartes was often violated: in each invasion, after the victory or retreat of their countrymen, some wandering tribe, embracing the Mohammedan faith, obtained a free encampment in the plains of Transoviana and Carizme." (Gib. chap.lvii.) We may form some idea of the number of their horsemen from the memorable answer given to Mahmud by Ismael, a chief of the race of Seljuk, who, being asked what supply of men he could furnish for military service, replied, "If you send one of these arrows into our camp, fifty thousand of your servants will mount on horseback." "And if that number," continued Mahmud, "should not be sufficient?" "Send this second arrow to the horde of Balik, and you will find fifty thousand more." But," said the Gaznevide, dissembling his anxiety, "if I should stand in need of the whole force of your kindred tribes ? " "Dispatch my bow," was the last reply of Ismael," and as it is circulated around, the summons will be obeyed by two hundred thousand horse." The apprehension of such formidable friendship induced Mahmud to transport the most obnoxious tribes into the heart of Chorasin, where they would be separated from their brethren by the river Oxus, and enclosed on all sides by the walls of obedient cities. ......But these Scythian shepherds were converted into robbers; the bands of robbers were collected into an army of conquerors; and the Turkmans were not ashamed or afraid to measure their courage and numbers with the proudest sovereigns of Asia. Massoud, the son and successor of Mahmud, had too long neglected the advice of his

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

were in

they repeatedly urged, their origin a swarm of ants: they are now little snakes; and, unless they be instantly crushed, they will acquire the venom and magnitude of serpents." But the time was gone by; Massoud collected his forces too late: he was attacked on all sides with barbarous shouts and irregular onset, and utterly defeated; " and the memorable day of Zendecan, founded in Persia the dynasty of the shepherd kings," A.D. 1038. "The victorious Turkmans immediately proceeded to the election of a king, and the lot fell upon Togrul Beg, the grandson of Seljuk, whose surname was immortalized in the greatness of his posterity....Togrul expelled the Gaznevides from the eastern kingdoms of Persia: in the west, he annihilated the dynasty of the Bowides; and the sceptre of Irak passed from the Persian to the Turkish nation....By the conquest of Media he approached the Roman confines; and the shepherd presumed to dispatch an ambassador, or herald, to demand the tribute and obedience of the emperor of Constantinople. Under his internal administration, the more rustic portion of the Turkmans continued to dwell in the tents of their ancestors, and from the Oxus to the Euphrates, these military colonies were protected and propagated by their native princes....But while they thus preserved their native character and habits, they changed their faith, Togrul himself became a zealous Musselman, and the whole body of the Turkish nation embraced with fervour and sincerity the religion of Mohammed....Since the fall of the caliphs, the discord and degeneracy of the Saracens respected the Asiatic provinces of Rome; but it was now assailed by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes. The myriads of Turkish horse overspread a frontier of six hundred miles from Taurus to Arzcioum, and the blood of one hun

dred and thirty thousand Christians of the Seljukian dynasty of Roum was a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian prophet. This tide indeed rolled back, and Togrul made no lasting impression on the Roman empire; but after his death (A.D. 1063), the final conquest of Armenia and Georgia was achieved by his successor, Alp Arslan, or "the valiant lion;" and the Asiatic provinces were exposed to the depredations of his emirs. The valour and energy of Romanus, for a time repulsed these inroads, and even threatened the hereditary dominions of Alp Arslan; but by one disastrous battle, the Asiatic provinces of Rome were irretrievably sacrificed (A.D. 1071). Upon the assassination of Alp Arslan, on his invasion of Turkestan (A.D. 1072), his son, Malek Shah, not only prosecuted and achieved that conquest, but directed his arms to the west against the Roman empire. For this purpose, his kinsman, the valiant Soliman, was entrusted with the royal standard, which gave him the free conquest and hereditary command of the provinces of the Roman empire, from Arzeroum to Constantinople, and the unknown regions of the west. In execution of this commission, this prince of the house of Seljuk passed the Euphrates (A.D. 1074), the Turkish camp was soon seated in the neighbourhood of Hutaich, in Phrygia; and his flying cavalry laid waste the country as far as the Hellespont and the Black Sea. Since the first conquests of the Caliphs, the establishment of the Turks in Anatolia, or Asia Minor, was the most deplorable loss which the church and empire had sustained....By the propagation of the Moslem faith, Soliman deserved the name of Gazi, a holy champion; and his new kingdom of the Romans, or of Roum, was added to the tables of oriental geography. It is described as extending from the Euphrates to Constantinople, from the Black Sea to the confines of Syria....By the choice of the Sultan, Nice, the metropolis of Bithynia, was preferred for his palace and fortress: the seat

was planted one hundred miles from Constantinople....The Turkish manners and language prevailed in the cities; and Turkman camps were scattered over the plains and mountains of Anatolia." (Gib. chap. lvii.) By this conquest, the sacred barrier of the Euphrates was broken, and one might be disposed to consider the Euphratean horsemen of the sixth trumpet, as let loose at this time; but there are some insuperable objections to this interpretation: First, the prophetic description of the horsemen contains an unequivocal allusion to the use of fire arms, which the Turks appear not yet to have been acquainted with; the Seljukian, like the Parthian arrows of old, are alone spoken of as the dread of their enemies, and the instrument of their victories :Secondly, the four sultanies, generally understood as symbolized by the four angels, said to be bound in the great river Euphrates, were not established as independent sovereignties, until after the death of Malek Shah. "The greatness and unity of the Turkish empire," the historian observes, expired in the person of Malek Shah. His vacant throne was disputed by his brother and his four sons; and after a series of civil wars, the treaty which reconciled the surviving candidates confirmed a lasting separation in the Persian dynasty, the eldest and principal branch of the house of Seljuk. The three younger dynasties were those of Kerman, of Syria, and of Roum; the first of these commanded an extensive, though obscure, dominion on the shores of the Indian Ocean; the second expelled the Arabian princes of Aleppo and Da. mascus; and the third, our peculiar case, invaded the Roman provinces of Asia Minor:"-Thirdly, the voice which proceeded from the four horns of the golden altar, while it charges the angel which had the trumpet to loose the four angels, represents them also as being bound, which implies a restraint being antecedently

[ocr errors]

put upon their career of conquest. Now no such restraint had yet been put upon the Turkish arms, and we have yet to look for the events which bound them upon the great river Euphrates. These appear to have been, first, the civil wars and destruction between Persia and its dependencies, that is, between the four angels themselves; secondly, by the crusades, by which the conquests of the Turks were not only checked at the close of the eleventh century, but Nice, Antioch, and all the intermediate coast of Asia Minor were wrested from the Turks. "The Greeks recovered the entire circuit from Tre

bizond to the Syrian gate. The Seljukian dynasty of Roum, was separated on all sides from the sea and their Musselman brethren; the power of the sultans was shaken by the victories, and even the defeats of the Franks; and after the loss of Nice, they removed their throne to Cogni or Iconium, an obscure and inland town above three hundred miles from Constantinople. Instead of trembling for their capital, the Comnenian princes waged an offensive war against the Turks, and the first crusade prevented the fall of the declining empire." (Gib. chap. lix.) The Christian arms pressed still closer upon the original seat of the Turkish power. 66 Baldwin extended his conquest over the hills of Armenia and the plains of Mesopotamia, and founded at Edessa the first principality of the Franks or Latins, beyond the Euphrates, which subsisted fifty-four years." (Gib. chap. lviii.) "Jerusalem also, recently recovered by the Caliph of Egypt from the Turkish yoke, during the contest of the sons of Malek, was taken by the crusaders, and remained in the hands of the Christians till retaken by Saladin toward the close of the twelfth century; nor were they wholly dispossessed of their conquests on the coast of Palestine, till A.D. 1291. A third event by which the Turkish power was restrained and paralized, was the invasion of Persia by the Tartar

hordes, under Zingis Khan in the thirteenth century. This tremendous conqueror, the scourge of the civilized world, after the conquest of China, turned his arms against Mohammed, sultan of Carizme, A.D. 1218; and from the Caspian to the Indus, such was the ferocious character of this irruption, that a tract of many hundred miles was so effectually ruined, that five centuries have not been sufficient to repair the ravages of four years." (Gib. chap.lxiv.) His grandson, Holagou, again invaded and achieved the conquest of Irak or Persia: "After a siege of two months, Bagdad was stormed and sacked by the Moguls; and their savage commander pronounced the death of the Caliph Mostasem, the last of the temporal successors of Mohammed, whose noble kinsmen of the race of Abbas, had reigned in Asia above five hundred years.... They also spread beyond the Tigris and Euphrates, pillaged Aleppo and Damascus, and threatened to join the Franks in the deliverance of Jerusalem....Their arms overspread with irresitible violence the kingdoms of Armenia and Anatolia, of which the former was possessed by the Christians, and the latter by the Turks. The sultans of Iconium opposed some resistance to the Mogul arms, till Azzadin sought a refuge among the Greeks of Constantinople, and his feeble successors, the last of the Seljukian dynasty were finally extirpated by the khans of Persia," (Gib. chap. Ixiv.)

[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »