Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

specting the nature and merit of good works." The next treatise, which came from his pen, was on the celibacy of the clergy, and on monastic vows in gene ral. On this subject Melancthon had frequently conversed with him; but Luther, aware of the danger, which might ensue to the reformation from the promulgation of an opinion, which controverted one of the most ancient practices of the church, hes itated immediately to embrace it. Melancthon, however, was determined not to conceal his sentiments, when, in consequence of his influence and instructions, a curate of Kemberg in Saxony having, in defiance of the law of celibacy, entered on a married life, an opportunity was afforded of giving them publicity. The curate was summoned to appear before the Archbishop of Mentz; and Philip prepared an apology for him, addressed to the offi. cials of Magdeburg. This apology was an unanswerable refuta tion of the Popish tenets respect ing the marriage of Priests, and paved the way for Luther's treatise on the general topic of religious vows. These he showed to be unsupported by either precept or example in the New Testament; to be contrary to Christian liberty; subversive of that very spirituality and purity, of which it was pretended they were the bulwarks; and a bur den imposed by hellish policy on the consciences of men.†

During Luther's residence at Wartburg, a reformation took place in the public worship at Wittemberg. It was a wise

....

Seckend. § 101, p. 164. t Ib. § 104, 105, p. 170.

maxim of this illustrious reformer, that the people should be instructed in the errors, which per vaded the religious service of the church, and that after they were thoroughly persuaded of their existence, that they should be abolished without disorder or turbulence, to prevent the fatal consequence of precipitate changes in the established worship. Following out this maxim, several of the Augustine monks, who had come to Wittemberg, from different parts of Germany, to enjoy the advantages of Luther's instructions, which they regarded as the light of heaven, began publicly to preach against the doctrine of private mass, and communion under one kind. They were checked by the prior of the monastery; but persisted in their opinion, and discontinued the practices, which they impugned, on which, complaint was made against them to the court. The unanimity and peace of the society being thus broken, in or der again to cement them, the Elector, on being informed of it, sent Gregory Pontanus to Wittemberg, who appointed deputies to receive the reasons of the malcontent monks for resisting the established order, and to report them along with their own opinion to Frederic. The deputies being attached to the reformation, represented the reasonings of the innovators as sound and unanswerable; gave it, as their own opinion, that some alterations were necessary, though they did not insist on the total abolition of private mass; and conjured the Elector to maintain that gospel, which God had caused to revisit his church. Frederic, on receiving their re

port, recommended moderation to both parties; requested the monks to do nothing without se rious deliberation, and to wait till the people were better informed on the subject before they ventured to introduce changes, which interested the whole church, and which might go to subvert many ancient institutions, and to alter the whole system of ecclesiastical administration. The deputies, not being satisfied with this mode of procedure, sent a second remonstrance to Frederic, on the necessity of correcting the abuses of which they complained; and notwithstanding his repeated advice, not to make their proposed alterations, though he allowed them publicly to declare that some reformation was necessary, under the direction of Beyer, a member both of the senate and university, they regulated the worship of the sanctuary in a man

A DISSERTATION ON JOHN'S SIXTH VIAL.

Religious Communications.

Revelation xvi. 12-16.

"AND the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates, and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working Vol. II. No. 1. с

her more consonant to the spirituality of its nature, put away im ages, abolished the elevation of the host, and made preparations for suppressing the order of mendicant friars. All the Au gustines throughout Thuringia and Misnia soon after met in a chapter at Wittemberg, and gave their sanction to these important changes. Luther received these transactions with raptures of joy, and congratulated his fellow-citizens on their courage and zeal, in giving the first example of a public reformation. It was on this occasion that he composed his treatise On the Abolition of Private Masses, though it was suppressed by order of the court, and not printed till the beginning of 1523.*

....

* Beausobre, tom ii. lib. 4. p. 185– 198. Seckend. Sec. 54. §§ 129, 130. (To be continued.)

miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come, as a thief. Blessed is he, that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. gathered them together into a place, called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."

And he

The moral and religious state of the Christian world makes it evident to every careful observer, that we are now under one or other of the latter vials. Under

the preceding period of the trumpets, the sensible effect of God's judgments was the increase of the various kinds of superstition and idolatry in the degenerate and apostate church; as appears from chap. ix. But under the latter vials, the effect of God's judgments is the increase of infidelity, and a consequent dissipation of morals. "Men blaspheme the God of heaven, and repent not of their deeds." The rapid increase, extensive spread, and undisguised avowal of infidelity in all parts of the Christian world, not excepting our Own favoured country, strongly mark the period, in which we live. At least, they show that one or other of the latter vials is now running. The circumstances and events of the times will most naturally point us to the sixth. This we will endeavour to explain, and will inquire, whether events do not correspond with it.

"The sixth angel poured out. his vial upon the great river Euphrates, and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."

We are to interpret this vial according to the analogy of the prophetic part of the book, which is wholly figurative, and borrows its language and allusions from the Old Testament.

literal Babylon. We well know how that was taken by the kings of Media and Persia, whose countries lay east of her, who therefore, in relation to her, were literally "the kings of the east." The waters of the Euphrates, which ran through that city, and were the means of her wealth and defence, were dried up, or diverted from their old channel, so that the besieging army entered and took it almost without resistance. That Babylon should be taken in this manner was expressly foretold by Jeremiah. "A sword is upon the inhabitants of Babylon, a drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up. Į will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry, and Babylon shall become heaps."

As the Roman church is called Babylon, and as under the next vial, this "great Babylon comes into remembrance before God, that he may give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath;" so the judgments, coming upon her under this vial, are described by an allusion to the destruction of the

By the kings of the east" we are to understand, not literally kings, whose territories lie cast of Reme, the mystical Babylon, but her enemies in general. By " Euphrates," we are to understand, not the river so called, nor any other remarkable water, but any sources of riches and strength, which have rendered her formidable; and any impediments, which, in time past, have restrained her enemies from invading her, or have prevented their success. Who are the enemies, that shall finally destroy her, John has told us in the 17th chap. of this book: "Those kings, who had once agreed to give their kingdom to the beast," i. e. to the Roman power, "will, when God's word is fulfilled, hate the whore, that sits on the beast, make her desolate and naked, and burn her with fire."

The kings of the earth long felt the tyranny and oppressions

of papal Rome. But the dread of her fulminations, while she was blindly adored by the ignorant and deluded multitude, restrained these kings from asserting their sovereignty and redressing their injuries. This Euphrates, for a considerable time, has been drying up. The abolition of convents and of the inquisition in many Roman Catholic countries, and the gen. eral suppression of the order of Jesuits, the extension of commerce, and the consequent diffusion of knowledge, have greatly diminished the wealth, and weak ened the strength of this Babylen.

But no event has been so fatal to the papal power, as the subversion of the French monarchy. The justice of this revolution in a moral view, or the wisdom of it in a political view, is not a subject of our present inquiry. Be this as it may, the consequence of it in relation to the papal power is obvious. It has almost dried up the river, which was the source of her wealth, and removed the barrier, which was the means of her defence. The French nation, which had long supported, has now annihilated the Pope's temporal dominion, and has left him but the shadow of a spiritual supremacy in the church. Thus St. John's prophecy is fulfilled; "The ten horns, or kings, which gave their power to the beast, these, or some of these, shall hate the whore, who. sits on him, and make her desolate.

The present government of France, in a political view, is as absolute, as was her former government. But it is certainly much more favourable to the

freedom of religion; for it not only tolerates, but supports Protestantism, as well as Popery; so that means of reformation may now be applied with safety and without interruption. The way for the introduction of light and truth, which was shut under former monarchs, is now opened. Accordingly, in the short interval of peace between the last and the present war, Protestant missionaries visited France without danger, and preached there without molestation; and complete Bibles and many Protestant books were distributed among the people, and received with apparent gratitude and joy." The eruption of the war put a sudden stop to these pious measures; but, whenever peace shall return, it is hoped they will be renewed.

John goes on to say, "I saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet." It will be necessary to ascertain the char. acters, intended by these names. And let us remember, they are three, and must not be confounded.

Our first inquiry will be concerning the dragon. He is described chap xii. "There appeared a sign in heaven," or in the sky, "a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns." This must intend the heathen Roman empire, as it existed in John's time. The place is designated by the seven heads, which the angel says, are seven mountains, on which the city, or seat of the dragon, was built. This cir cumstance points out Rome,

which, all know, was built on seven hills. The seven heads denote also seven kings, or seven successive forms of government; five of which, the angel says, were fallen, one then existed, and one was to come. The sixth, which existed in John's time, was the imperial, or the government by emThe seventh, which perors. was to come, was the ducal, or rather the papal government. The crowns, at the time of the vision, were on the heads of the dragon, and had not passed to the, horns of the beast, mentioned afterward, i. e. the government was then seated at Rome, and was not divided among the king-, doms into which the empire was afterwards split. So that the dragon must signify the Heathen Roman government.

This dragon is indeed called the devil, verse 9th. But this must mean the pagan empire, as, actuated by the devil. For, whenever the devil is introduced in this book, he appears as carry-, ing on his designs by wicked, ágents. It is agreeable to the style of prophecy to call tyrants by the name of a dragon. The kings of Egypt and of Assyria,

are so called.

After the dragon John saw "a beast rise up out of the sea, hav, ing seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns; and to. him the dragon gave his power. and throne, and great authority."

In the time, when this beast appears, the crowns, importing sovereign power, have passed from the heads of the dragon to the horns of the beast. The dominion, which was before confined to Rome, is now spread among the ten kingdoms, into which the Roman empire was

divided by the incursions and. conquests of the northern barbarians. This was after Christianity was established and greatly corrupted in the empire. This beast therefore can be no other than the papal Roman empire. b

The dragon gives his power throne, and authority to the beast. The dragon and beast are no longer distinct characters. They are become one. The power has passed from the former to the latter. "Men worship the dragon, which gave power to the beast, and they worship the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast?"

By the dragon then, under the sixth vial, we cannot understand the dragon existing in his first form, or the Heathen Roman empire; for in this form he existed no longer after he had given his power to the beast. But by this name we must understand the dragon and beast united, or the papal empire, exercising the tyranny and corruption of the heathen empire.

Such a power certainly exists some where under this vial. And where shall we find it, but in the German empire? This is. very extensive. In the time of Charles V. and his successor it comprehended the greater part of the western empire, and still comprises a considerable part of it. It is that empire continued. It is called the holy Roman empire. The person, crowned King of the Romans, succeeds on the demise of the emperor, to the imperial throne. Popery is the established religion of the empire. It has exercised great tyranny, and violent persecution. It has retained all the discriminating marks of the dragon, as a tyran

14

« VorigeDoorgaan »