Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VII.

Of the four first apocalyptic trumpets.

[ocr errors]

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, as

6 cended

[ocr errors]

B2

“ cended up before God out of the angel's hand. ” And the angel took ibe censer, avd filled it with “ fire of the altar, and cast it into ihe earth : and " there were voices, and thunderings, and light

uings, and an earthquake.”

The prophet had already, under the sixih seal, prerlicted the conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity in the days of Constantine, the downfill of paganism, and the tranquillity which the Church enjoyed for a season after her manifold troubles and persecutions*. The opening of the

[ocr errors]

* 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 trunquillity, predicted in the seventh 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 af. terwards by the apostacy of Julian. If we advert to the prophecy, we shall find that the scheme in question makes the tranquility of the sixth 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 sixth seal, it is reason. able to suppose that it is considered as terminating, when the serenth 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 under the trumpets, History shews, that this supposition is just; for we can scarcely consider thut 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.

seventh

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 clapsed before the peace of the Empire began to be broken by the incursions of the northern barbarians about the years 32 1 and 323. At this period I conceive the serenth 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 inute and anxious erpectation 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 seasoni describes the affairs 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 manners and doctrine. The holy simpli

* I shall take occasion hereafter to discuss the import of the Word hour.

city

B 3

city of primitive 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 “ im“ mediately 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 du“ ration 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 dis

couraged by a most significant emblem, that of «s 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 indi« cates, 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 trum

pets

1

« pets 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 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 acknow“ ledged throughout the whole extent of the

Empiret."

“ 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 :

[ocr errors]

60

* Whitaker's Comment. p. 80.
+ Hist. of Decline, Vol. v. p. 137.

B4

while

« PreviousContinue »