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beheld as it were with our own eyes, a yet more dreadful prospect extends before us, ere the blessed reigo of Christ upon earth shall commence.
The revealing angel, who shews to Daniel that which is noted in the Scripture of truth, concludes his prophetic narrative with informing him ; that, at the period during which the atheistical tyrant is destroyed, and the Jews are restored, " there shall be u time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” Nor can we wonder, that that era should be marked with peculiarly horrible events, when we recollect that it is to witness the dying struggles, not only of Atheism, but likewise of Popery and Mohammedism. It is an era however, which will be terrible only to the enemies of the Church of Christ. Those, who have come out of the mystic Babylon, and have refrained froin polluting themselves with the Antichristian abominations of Infidelity, will not be partakers of her last plagues.
Thus have we seen, that this favoured servant of God has, with inimitable simplicity and wonderful accuracy, given us three distinct paintings of three great enemies of he Gospel of Christ ; Popery, Mohammedism, and French Atheism. The two first, being (to use Dean Prideaux's expression) the two feet of the great Apostacy with which it trampled both upon the East and the West during the same period of 1260 years, are represented by the kindred symbols of two little horns ; for Popery and Mohammedism had these features in common, that they were each a less or a greater deflexion from pure Christianity, and that they each equally affected to act not contrary to the will of Heaven but under its immediate sanction : while the last, being completely a monster sui generis, the very
predicted by St. John ; the last, as if no symbol could be found adequate to describe the enormous wickedness of his character ; the last is exhibited to our view by no hieroglyphic, but stands confessed in all his native horrors, as a king who should magnify himself above every god, who should speak marvellous things against the God
The whole of this subject will be more fully discussed hereafter.
of gods, who
should neither regard the god of his fathers, the desire of women, nor any god, but who, instead of the Lord of hosts, should impiously honour tutelary deitics, and especially venerate a strange god whom his less daring fathers of the Apostacy never knew.
I shall now proceed to examine the kindred prophecies of St. John, who, like bis illustrious predecessor Daniel, foretells, with the addition of various more minute circumstances, that the Church shall be in a depressed state during the 1260 years of a great Apostacy from the simplicity of the Gospel.
Of the four first apocalyptic trumpets.
AS the nature of my subject confines me to those parts of the Apocalypse which treat of the 1260 years of the great Apostacy, I shall pass over in silence the contents of the six first seals, and commence my observations from the last seal which comprehends all the seven trumpets.
“And, when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. . And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer : and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth : and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.”
The prophet had already, under the sixth seal, predicted the conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity in the days of Constantine, the downfall of paganism, and the tranquillity which the Church enjoyed for a season after her manifold troubles and persecutions.* The opening of the seventh seal is the prelude to the disturbing of that tranquillity, the harbinger of the downfall of the Western empire, the herald of the revealing of the man of sin. The year 313 was marked by the famous edict of Constantine in favour of Christianity: in this year therefore the tranquillity of the Church commenced. No great length of time however elapsed before the peace of the Empire began to be broken by the incursions of the northern barbarians about the years 321 and 323. At this period I conceive the seventh seal to have been opened, and the silence of half an hour or rather of half a season to have commenced. As the seventh seal introduces those first incursions of the Goths that took place after the beginning of the Church's tranquillity, incursions which were easily repelled by the yet vigorous government of the Empire ; so the silence seems to denote the state of mute and anxious expectation in which the Church anticipated, as it were, from various less important invasions, the grand irruption of the Gothic monarch Alaric and his associates under the first trumpet. The period then of the half season describes the aifairs of the Church and the Empire from about the year 323 to the year 395.
What the Church gained in outward splendor and prosperity under Constantine, she lost in purity of man
* Rev. vi. 12–17. vii. 1-17. See Bp. Newton's Dissert. in loc. I cannot but think however, that his Lordship extends the season of tranquillity, predicted in the SEV chapter, much too far, in supposing it to reach from the reign of Constantine to the death of Theodosius, when the first trumpet began to sound. Such an opinion neither accords with facts, nor with the tenor of the prophecy. If we advert to facts, we shall find, that the peace of the Church began to be disturbed even, during the life of Constantine by the heresy of Arius, and afterwards by the apostacy of Julian. If we advert to the prophecy, we shall find, that the scheme in question makes tbe tranquillity of the sixtb seal synchronize for the most part with the silence introduced by the opening of the seventh seal. Now, since the tranquillity is placed under the sixtb seal
, it is reasonable to suppose that it is considered as terminating, when the seventh seal is opened, which introduces no scenes of peace, but a mute and anxious expectation of the calamities soon about to fall upon the Roman empire upder the trumpets. History shews, that this supposition is just ; for we can scarcely consider that as a period of much tranquillity to the Church which was at once disturbed by the quarrels of the Consubstantialists and the Arians, the malignity of Julian, and the perpetual incursions of the Goths.
f I shall take occasion hereafter to discuss the import of the word bour.
ners and doctrine. The holy simplicity of priinitive Christianity was no more, and the heresy of Arius introduced a succession of crimes disgraceful alike to humanity and religion. Accordingly, before the sounding of the trumpets commences, the state of the world at that period is foretold by an emblem most significant of the corruptions then prevailing among Christians. Much incense is offered from a golden censer along with the prayers of the Church, in order to shew how much purification those prayers required ere they were meet to be presented before the throne of grace; and the placing of this circumstance “immediately before the sounding of the trumpets suggests, that the subject of these prayers was the aversion of something to be called for by those trumpets : and what could this be, but that of the destruction of the Roman empire, for the duration of which we know the ancient Christians were wont to pray! It is plainly suggested, that the petition for some delay would be accepted ; yet all further applications on that head are discouraged by a most significant emblem, that of the censer being cast away : while the filling of it with fire from the altar," the well known symbol of divine wrath, “but too plainly indicates, that the succeeding troubles should at least be forwarded by those who minister at the altar ; and the immediate succession of voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake, manifest, that, though the sounding of the trumpets should be deferred, yet some judgments should immediately follow."*
Upon referring to history we find, that the incursions of the northern barbarians gradually became more and more formidable. Between the years 365 and 379, an almost perpetual war was carried on between them and the Romans with various success : and in the last of these years, when the Empire seemed on the point of being completely overrun and dismembered, Gratian associated with himself in the imperial dignity the famous Theodosius. By the successful valour of this warlike prince, the sounding of the first trumpet, and the impending ruin
Whitaker's Comment. p. 80.
of the Empire, were delayed for sixteen years : but “ the genius of Rome expired with Theodosius, the last of the successors of Augustus and Constantine, who appeared in the field at the head of their armies, and whose authority was universally acknowledged throughout the whole extent of the Empire.
“ And the seven angels, which had the seven trumpets, prepared themselves to sound.”
The four first trumpets describe the removal of that power, which in the days of St. Paul letted or prevented the developement of the man of sin, namely the western imperial dignity of Rome : while the three last, which are awfully styled the three woes, detail the history of the great two-fold Apostacy both in the East and in the West; exhibit the man of sin in the plentitude of his power, upheld by the secular arm, and tyrannizing over the Church of Christ ; predict his complete destruction at Armageddon, in the very act of opposing the Almighty conjointly with his temporal colleague the ten-horned beast or revived Roman empire ; and finally bring us to the period, when all the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.
“ The first angel sounded : and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth; and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."
Throughout a great part of the prophecy of the trumpets, the Roman empire is denominated the third part of the whole symbolical universe, . as including the third part of the then known world, and as being seated principally in Europe which at that time was accounted the third part of the world. Hail and lightning mingled with blood denote a tremendous tempest of desolating war and foreign invasion. The storm therefore, which is here
* Hist. of Decline, Vol. v. p. 137. + See Bp. Newton's Dissert. on Rev. viii. and Waple and Whiston in loc. Mr. Bicheno conjectures, that the expression the third part, which occurs so frequently in this portion of the Apocalypse, is used in allusion to the three prefectures of the Roman empire. History however will not bear him out. We do not find, that one particular prefecture was affected exclusively by the blast of one particular trumpet, which the adoption of such a scheme necessarily requires : on the contrary, the miseries introduced by at least the first trumpet extended more or less to all the three prefectures. Signs of the times, Part üi, p. 153. VOL, I,