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Verse 7. "And the first angel sounded, and there followed bail and fire mingled with blood; and they were cast upon the earth and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
Under this symbol, is shewn the effect of the word of truth, when brought into conflict with the prejudices and passions of mankind. Instead of the dew and kindly rain which softens the earth, causing it to bring forth fruit and bud; the moisture, congealed into hail, descends with fire, mingled with bloodin allusion, perhaps, to the fire of persecution, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus Christ. The effect is to destroy all, who, like the green grass, grew upon the surface of the Christian profession, without depth of root in the ground; together with a considerable portion of trees, which were not so firmly rooted, as to have power to resist the storm. Under this trumpet, many believed unto eternal life; of whom, numbers sealed their testimony with their blood; whilst others, fearful of persecution, or ensnared by the allurements around them, turned back, like Demas, unto the present evil world, preferring it before the cross of Christ; others, like Ananias and Sapphira, made a lying profession unto God; and others, like Simon the sorcerer, offered their money for the heavenly inheritance. The effect of all this, was to separate the chaff from the wheat, and to make manifest the power of the
Spirit of God in the church, amidst persecutions, and the falling away of many.
Verses 8 and 9. "And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood: and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed."
The first trumpet has exhibited the warfare of the Church during the times of her persecution, and the second trumpet passes forward to her times of exaltation, representing her conflict amidst the many spiritual evils and corruptions by which she was assailed, as soon as the rulers of the state, having embraced Christianity, began to use their power in the propagation of what they termed the Christian religion. In the Apocalyptic symbols, mountains appear to denote temporal, and cities ecclesiastical authorities, powers, or communities and under the second trumpet, the figure represents a great state, professing the gospel, cast into the sea-that is, amongst the mass of the people making no profession, and caring for none of these things. The effect was, that religion soon became a stepping-stone to preferment; riches and honour among men, attended those who gained importance in the Church; and the unhallowed, sanguinary struggle for power and for worldly gain, between carnal men exercising spiritual functions,
soon produced scenes of violence, of bloodshed, and of religious traffic, recorded by all historians, and well described by the symbol, as if one third part of the creatures died, and one third of the ships were destroyed.
Verses 10, 11. "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains upon of waters and the name of the star is called wormwood: and
the third part of the waters became wormwood: and many men died of the waters because they were made bitter."
The third trumpet represents the Church contending with corruptions of doctrine. In Rev. i. a star is used as a symbol to represent the angel, or spiritual ruler of a Church. And here the apostate priesthood of the Church is represented as falling upon the waters of life, corrupting them, and making them bitter unto death, by the introduction of many abominations. Soon after the Roman empire professed Christianity, false doctrines were spread amongst the people, under authority of their civil and ecclesiastical rulers and although the corruptions, perhaps, were not so great as in succeeding ages, the doctrines of human merit, and the worship of saints, of relics, and of images, were fully and almost generally established in the empire and its dependencies; and,` under the sanction of bishops, mingled their deadly
poison with the waters of everlasting life, to the beguiling of unstable souls, and the manifest overthrow of many.
Verse 12. " And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars, so as the third part of them was darkened; and the day shone not for the third part of it, and the night likewise."
The sun, moon, and stars of the gospel dispensation, may be considered as the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the preachers of righteousness. Under the fourth trumpet all these were darkened. Under a worldly-minded and apostate priesthood, the Scriptures were perverted and obscured by false glosses and commentaries. A long train of useless and idolatrous ceremonies, was invented to supersede the reading, and the preaching of the word of God. In the darkness which prevailed, few were left who knew the truth, as it is in Jesus; and those who ventured to proclaim it, were denounced and destroyed as heretics. The knowledge of the Scriptures was almost withdrawn from the people, and a general blindness and ignorance ensued, as if to prepare the way for those unhallowed scenes, which are described in the ensuing prophecies.
Of the four first trumpets it may be remarked, that
they describe judgments upon the land, the sea, the rivers and fountains of waters, and the heavenly. luminaries; so that the universe, or whole outward Church is affected, each part in its turn; and it seems manifest, that no literal fulfilment of these symbols could have been designed. But adapting them to the warfare of the Church, according to the key of interpretation afforded by the seventh trumpet, a figurative fulfilment is shewn, which applies itself to the symbols with as much exactness, as any which commentators have pointed out, when adapting them to the affairs of the Roman Empire. The preceding sketch may not be perfectly accurate, and possibly the mind of the reader may suggest to him considerable improvements; but this outline is given under a very firm conviction, that the usual interpretation is erroneous, and that the truth will be accurately ascertained, by following out the symbols upon a plan like that which has been laid down.