« PreviousContinue »
tem. A star falling from heaven to earth, is a striking emblem of apostasy. The earth, the seat of the discharge of this vial, then, must mean a most notable, çorrupt, earthly system. And as it must relate to the system of this description, which was most injurious to the Church of Christ; so it must have related to that Beast, which rose out of the earth, or to the Papal apostasy. By the men, who had the mark of the Beast, and who worshipped his image, must be understood the members and supporters of the Papal see; who ad. hered to that system of idolatry,, under the Christian name, which is but a real substitute for the gross idol. atry of ancient Pagan Rome.
A sore, in symbolic language, signifies some distressing calamity; but the symbol does not decide what kind of calamity. David says, Psalm lxxvii, 2, “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore run in the night, and ceased not; my soul refused to be comforted.” His sore here was some heavy affliction. Solomon, at the dedication of the temple prayed,When every one shall know his own sore, and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house; then hear thou from heaven. (2 Chron. vi, 29.) Here every man's own sore is his own grief, and his grief is his sore. The following are familiar phrases in our language; sorely pained; sorely afflicted; sorely amazed. The use even of this adverb, originates in the idea, that a great calamity is a sore. Whatever be the cause of the calamity; still it is a sore. Yet some calamities may more fitly be represented by a sore, than others; as may appear in attending to this vial.
To find the noisome and grievous sore inflicted in the first vial; look for the first signal event, which began
the downfall of the Papal hierarchy. For this was the enemy first to be attacked. This power had its rise; its zenith; and its fall. And the first capital step toward its fall, must have been the first vial. This clew appears infallible. And what was the first capital event toward the destruction of Popery? Few need to be informed, that it was the reformation under Luther and others, early in the sixteenth century. This was
a fatal stroke, and the first fatal stroke, to that wicked power. It gave Popery its death wound. And it was the introduction of a series of events, which in their issue were to terminate the existence of the Papal im. posture. Until the reformation, Popery may be said to have flourished. Notwithstanding those various calamities attendant on Popery from its origin, and in which authors have irnagined the four first vials receiv. ed their fulfilment; and notwithstanding the judgment of the second woe, in the invasion of the Turks upon the eastern wing of the Roman dominions, and their taking Constantinople in 1453, and making it the seat of their empire; yet till the reformation, Popery remained in its zenith; it felt superior to all danger, and seemed to bid defiance to the world. This is evident from the whole history of the hierarchy at that period; from their extravagant claims; unbounded insolence; and from the scandalous traffic of Leo X, and the min. ions of his order, in the vending of indulgences to commit sin; which wickedness, overleaping all former bounds, opened the eyes, and excited the zeal of Martin Luther; and facilitated the exposure of the abominations of the whole scheme. How fitly then might the events of that day be represented, in symbolic language, by the falling of a noisome and grievous sore upon the men who had the mark of the Beast, and who worshipped his image? The reformation with its consequences, has indeed operated like an incurable wound upon the body of the man of sin. All his applications and exertions to effect a hcaling, by the skill and intrigues of the Jesuits, and other means, have proved utterly ineffectual. Large portions of the Papal dominions soon fell off. England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, about half the states of Germany, a number of cantons in Switzerland, and vast numbers of people in France, Hungary, and Bohemia, received the doctrines of the reformation; separated from the commun. ion of the church of Rome; and utterly renounced the Papal authority. This was a sore indeed, and has already issued in the death of the Papal Beast. As a false prophet, in the grasp of Antichrist, the phantom of the
Papal power is dragging out a miserable existence; or rather, is on his way to execution. But as the Papal Beast, or a predominant power on the Roman earth; he is no more! The light of truth and grace, which broke out and shone at the time of the reformation, was indeed an event most excellent in its nature and consequences. But it was both noisome and grievous to the men, who had the mark of the Beast; peculiarly so to the Pope, and all his clergy; and indeed to all the millions of zeal- . ous Catholics; as is reproof to the scorner; and salutary rebuke to the irreclaimable son of Belial. It was most vexing and distressing, as is a fretting and incurable sore upon the human body.
Or shall we not a little vary the figure, and say, the light of the reformation, the art of printing (not long before invented) and the revival of learning in Europe, uncovered and presented to view the deep, filthy, and fatal ulcer, formed in the body of the Papal church? They evinced to the world, that that body, instead of being the temple of Christ; was but a mass of corruption, like a great filthy ulcer! That the church of Rome, so long and so highly venerated, was Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth: That with all her high pretensions, she was but a corrupt, filthy system, like a noisome and fatal sore upon the human body, by which the vitals are gradually destroyed. Such a figure is perfectly in point to represent such a case. We find it so used in sacred Writ, beside in the passage containing the first vial. To represent the very corrupt state of the Jewish church, in the days of Isaiah, God inspired that prophet to tell them, that from the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores. Isa. i, 6. The same, only with an amazing emphasis, the Most High caused to be proclaimed to the world, relative to the church of Rome at the reformation.. How fitly then might this exposure of the "putrifying sores” of that system be predicted in the mystical language of the first vial?
The event under consideration is so far from being incapable of being fitly represented by the figurative
sore of the first vial; that it seems capable, in a twofold sense, of such a representation. This event may be said both to have inflicted, and discovered a noisome, grievous sorę upon the men, who had the mark of the Beast. Perhaps both these senses were designed to be included, as united in one. An application to a large, infected tumor, on the human body, which applicatio! would produce no injury on healthful flesh; but which would produce a speedy and fatal eruption on such a tumor, though it had before occasioned but little attention, may be said both to inflict, and to discover a noisome, grievous, and deadly sore. The effect of the first vial in the discovery, which produced the Reformation, may be viewed in this twofold light, both as inflicting, and discovering a noisome and griev. ous sore upon the men, who had the mark of the Beast, and who worshipped his image.
The events, which produced the reformation, were not only the first signal step toward the overthrow of Popery; but were just such events, as might be expected to begin its ruin. A beam of light was let into the dark recess; or the concealment was taken off from that bļasphemous system. Were a magistrate about to put an end to a scene of wickedness in operation behind a curtain; after having made his arrangements to seize the actors; and after having silently pre. sented himself, with proper aids, by the side of the guilty apartment; what would be his first step in the process? Surely to raise the curtain, or draw it aside. Then the way is prepared to arrest the criminals, and to bring them to condign punishment. If the Most High were about to take vengeance on a corrupt es. tablishment, which is disguised under the most artful pretences; we might expect his first step would be, to strip off those false covers, and exhibit the system in its own corrupt nature. Then the propriety of his subsequent judgments will appear.
This was the very thing done with the corrupt and disguised Papal sys. gem, at the time of the reformation. The process of the final judgment seems to confirm the correctness of this view. Refuges of lies will be swept away. And
then the condign punishment inflicted. An argument is hence furnished in favor of the idea, that the reforma. sion was the commencement of the period of the vials.
The ministrations of Luther, and of the other re. formers, with the benefit of the art of printing, and the revival of learning in Europe, after the dark ages, stripped the vail from Papery, and discovered the deadly corruption of that system. And what symbolic figure could more correctly depict the operation, than the one given, as the effect of the discharge of the first vial; viz. the falling of a noisome and grievous sore upon the men, who had the mark of the Beast; and who worshipped his image. Here was a new scene opened. And it was the first, and a most natural step in that process of judgments, upon which a holy God was then entering with the man of sin. A sore was made; a deadly wound given, in a system, which was itself shown to be but a great and filthy excrescence, like a fatal abscess upon the body of a man.
As the above explanation of this vial, and that of the second, third, fourth, and fifth vials, which is to fol. low, is new; it may be expedient to adduce here some further proofs and illustrations, to shew that the time of the reformation was the commencement of the period of the vials; and that the reformation itself was the first vial. And as my track is wholly unbeaten, and the scheme, if correct, involves consequences very interesting to this age of the world, I shall take liberty to dwell soinewhat largely upon this vial, and to show that the sixteenth century opened the period of the vi. als.
Let any one read the bistory of Europe in the dark ages, and through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and he must be convinced that Popery continued entire, till the commencement of the sixteenth century; and that then it began to experience a fatal re. verse of circumstances. Such a reader must clearly perceive, that all the affairs of the nations of Europe had been preparing the way for the commencement of just such events, as seem to be indicated in the vials, will Luther arose, and Charles V came to the Imperial