[previous LECTURE IV.]
THE APOCALYPTICAL TRUMPETS.
LECTURE V.

Rev. 8....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, &c.&c.


REVEALED religion affords the most clear and extensive views of man’s origin and connexions, as well as the only satisfactory discoveries relating to God, providence, and a future state. While, from the simple exhibition of Christ crucified, is derived the peculiar efficacy of gospel preaching, in promoting a life of holiness, the faithful development of the mysteries of Divine Providence yields powerful reinforcements. In these, the vast and comprehensive scheme of government, administered over mankind, is unfolded in its principal periods to its last result. The discussion of topics, selected from the history of God’s providence as it respects human affairs, would unquestionably, if fitly managed, tend to fix our attention upon the several acts of Christ’s administration; to awaken and exalt our reason; to interest and to improve our conscience; and thus, both enforce obedience to the law of the Lord, and promote our own holiness, usefulness, and happiness. The dispensations of Divine Providence, like the Apocalyptic Angels in this chapter, sound their trumpets in every period for the benefit of "the men of understanding."

These Trumpets give a brief prospective history of the

SECOND PERIOD.

You have already been informed, that the first period extended from the apostolical age to the overthrow of Paganism, in that signal revolution which established Constantine the Great upon the throne of the empire. This is "the period of the seals." It has respect to the Heathen Roman empire, opposing the growing influence of christianity, as the system to which the symbols appertained. Each seal contains a distinct chronological prediction. The events, of one, terminated before the commencement of those which are pointed out in the other, unless in the text itself, intimation is given that the events exhibited in vision, are only in progress. The sixth seal completed that period; and at its close the seventh seal commences. Seeing, therefore, that this seal does little more than announce the trumpets, the second period is called the period of the trumpets. In this lecture, I propose, To explain the preface to the trumpets—Give the rules of interpretation—and show the interpretation of the first four trumpets.

I. Introduction to the period of the trumpets.

This part of the prophetical history is prefaced with great solemnity. Silence reigns, and the whole assembly gives a reverential attention to what is laid before them. The High Priest of our profession offers unto God the prayers of his people, before he gives commission to the destroying angel to enter upon his work. He casts upon the earth the burning coals of the altar as the signal of his wrath. Then the angels prepare to execute his judgments, Verses 1-6.

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.] While the priest, according to the Mosaic ritual, offered incense in the holy place of the temple in Jerusalem, the people without, in profound silence, offered their prayers. [1] In allusion to this fact, it is said, "there was silence in heaven," at the opening of the seventh seal.

This SILENCE remained but for a very short time—about the space of half an hour. It indicated nevertheless, the awful curiosity which christians in that very trying time, indulged with respect to the future concerns of the Roman empire. After the establishment of the christian religion, they enjoyed a respite from persecution—For a short time they worshipped their God in tranquillity. The rest which they enjoyed from their tribulations, in consequence of the revolution described under the sixth seal, still continues at the opening of the seventh; but it does not continue long. It is a time of silent solicitude for what is to come to pass. The seven angels stand before their God, and receive from him the Trumpets, which shall speedily put an end to the silence which now reigns. In the meantime the service of God proceeds among his faithful people, and the Great High Priest intercedes for them in heaven.

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.] Jesus Christ himself is the Angel at the golden altar. He was typified by the priests of the law who worshipped in the temple. He alone adds incense to the prayers of the saints. He is the channel through which we approach Jehovah. And whether we interpret the allusion as to the day of expiation [2] or to the daily service, as to the high priest, or some other of the sacerdotal order, the Mediatorial angel, the High Priest of our profession, is here revealed as our Advocate with the Father. The whole house of Aaron was typical of our Redeemer. Through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father. And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

The Priest of the covenant of grace appears in various characters in order to accomplish the salvation of Israel. He is a King and a Priest upon his throne. He rules over his enemies. He presents to his Father the prayers of all saints, and by terrible things in righteousness, he frequently gives an answer to these prayers.

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. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets, prepared themselves to sound.] This puts an end to the tranquillity of the "half hour." Commotion, and battles, and political changes, now supersede suspense, and attract attention. The altar, upon which was offered acceptable sacrifice, furnishes coals of fire for the destruction of impenitent men. The censer, which conveyed the incense to the sanctuary, is the instrument of torture to the guilty. The angel of mercy, who had just offered the prayers of the saints, turns around him to bring judgments upon the nations. Religion has frequently been the occasion of contention; and independently of the disputes to which it may from time to time have given rise, by the decree of a righteous God, judgment without mercy overhangs every country or people to whom the christian religion has been sent in vain. Its language to individuals and to communities is, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little."

The applicability of these remarks to the time of which the text speaks is evident from history.

The repose of the church after the accession of Constantine and the establishment of christianity was of very short duration. The state of religion itself, being greatly corrupted, contributed to the disorders of society. In an ignorant, licentious, and tumultuous age, it might have been expected that a religion which, from whatever cause, spread with great rapidity, would be embraced in its visible forms and mere name by multitudes who had no inward conviction of its power; and, that being thus professed, it would suffer degradation by the polluted touch of unprincipled men.

However insidious and impious the efforts of the celebrated historian of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" may have been, in treating as he has done of the causes which he assigns for the progress of christianity; it is not to be denied: that these causes, and even others which he has not mentioned, and which are equally unworthy of true godliness, contributed to spread nominal christianity among the nations. While actual religion was progressing by a divine influence, such causes cooperated in the establishment of corrupt systems, bearing the name of Jesus Christ, and having some resemblance to the gospel of God. The absolute power which Constantine himself assumed over the church, in modeling its government after the manner of the civil empire, together with the prevalence of superstition and heresies, soon produced a state of things greatly injurious to the interests of primitive truth and order. "Arian heresy itself introduced a succession of crimes disgraceful alike to humanity and religion."

At the opening of the seventh seal, and before the sounding of the trumpets, we are accordingly presented with a suitable emblem of the situation of affairs in the moral world.

A silence, expressive both of present tranquillity and awful solicitude about the prospect before them, prevailed among the christians. The worship which true believers offered unto God, was accepted through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. The abuse, and the rejection of revealed religion, called for the revelation of the righteous judgments of God; and burning coals from the altar are consequently cast down upon the earth by the Head of the church. Voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake—Contentions, and wars, and even a revolution in the religion of the empire, interrupt the silence some time previously to the sounding of the trumpets.

Bishop Newton extends too far the repose of the church, symbolized by the half hour’s silence in heaven. Mede, Lowman, and Johnston, have neglected to remark that the thunder and the earthquake preceded the blowing of the first trumpet. The bishop is perfectly correct in representing the sounding of the first trumpet, as posterior to the reign of the emperor Theodosius the Great; and the other Commentators referred to are equally correct, in limiting the silence or tranquillity of the church to a much shorter period than from the time of Constantine to the death of Theodosius. In this period, the Arian heresy produced contentions and tumults that extended from the cottage to the throne of the empire; the Goths disturbed by frequent incursions the general repose; and the apostacy of Julian,[3] although his reign was but of short duration, was as the shock of an earthquake to the religious establishment of the empire. Such a period cannot be represented as a season of tranquillity.

Mr. Faber has given the most correct view of this light of the prophecy. "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 year 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. The silence seems to denote the state of mute and anxious expectation in which the church anticipated the grand irruption nor the Gothic monarch Alaric and his associates. The period then of the half season describes the affairs of the church and the empire from about the year 323 to the year 395. 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 acknowledged throughout the whole extent of the empire.’"[4]

Having occupied, brethren, so much of your time in explaining the introduction to the sounding of the trumpets, it is proper that I should, without further delay, proceed to specify the

II. Rules to be observed in ascertaining the period, and in giving the interpretation of the Apocalyptical Trumpets.

You will already have observed, what we have taken for granted in the preceding remarks, that the trumpets .have respect to the affairs of the Roman empire under what is called its christian form. I intend, under this head, to show that this is not a mere gratuitous hypothesis. Every prophecy furnishes its own key—A key adapted with so much wisdom to the several wards of the lock, as that it alone, without offering violence to any part of the sacred mechanism, sets open the door to him who seeks admission into the sacred edifice. The preservation of consistency, in both the symbols and the chronology of scripture prediction, is essentially necessary.

1. The seventh seal, it is to be remembered, is the last on the sacred book, When it is broken, the whole book is of course laid open, And it is altogether incongruous with the prophetical symbols to imagine, with Mr. Woodhouse and others, that this seal returns to the period of the first seal, for the purpose of giving a re-exhibition of the same chronological epoch. The seventh must be supposed to commence where the sixth terminated, and to continue the same theme of discussion until the angels are commanded to sound their trumpets. Upon this principle we have proceeded in explaining the first verses of this chapter, and we shall now justify the application of the Apocalyptical trumpets to the history of the great events which took place in the moral world, in connexion with the fate of the fourth universal empire, after the time of Constantine and Theodosius.

The last of the seven trumpets is sounded before the commencement of the Millennium. Rev. 11:15. "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." If the seventh trumpet precedes that illustrious period of time, so must all the trumpets; and we have shown that the seventh seal, which includes them all, succeeded the era of Constantine. The period of the trumpets must therefore be found somewhere between the time of the overthrow of Pagan Rome, and the overthrow of antichristian power, before the reign of the saints commences.

The additional argument, in support of applying the trumpets to this period, is derived from the interpretation of the prophecy; and, I must of course, leave that interpretation in due time to speak for itself.

2. It is of great importance, before we attempt to explain the figurative language of this prophecy, in order to designate the particular historical events in which it has received its accomplishment, that we distinctly understand the object in view—the definite system of events of which the predictions treat.

Although it is generally admitted by respectable commentators that the christian Roman world is the scene of this prophecy; there is a diversity of opinion as to the special object. Mr. Mede, who is followed by the greater part of modern expositors, assigns this reason for making the Roman empire the theatre upon which the predictions are accomplished. "As Daniel in the Old Testament both presignified the coming of Christ, and arranged the fortunes of the Jewish church by the succession of the empires; so the Apocalypse is to be supposed to measure the christian history by the means of the Roman empire, which was yet to be remaining after Christ." The interpretations of this eminent expositor proceed upon the principle that the empire is in fact the special object. On this account he has been censured by Mr. Woodhouse, as guilty of neglecting a more noble object, "the fates and fortune of the christian church," and as inconsistent with himself, inasmuch as he had not maintained the homogeneity of the trumpets. Mr. Woodhouse, himself, adopts the principle upon which Mr. Durham and Dr. Johnston proceed, that the christian church, not the empire of Rome, is the special object: but, in his exposition, he differs widely from both these divines; and follows, in the general outline, if not entirely in the minute details, the explanations given by Lord Napier. It was not, however, doing justice to Mr. Joseph Mede, to represent him as inconsistent with himself, either as it respected the fifth or the seventh trumpet.[5] It was no part of his scheme to exclude ecclesiastical considerations from the prophetic page. A little reflection too might have convinced Mr. Woodhouse himself, that under the seventh trumpet the christian religion does in fact triumph over the immoral systems which obtained throughout the Roman empire, partly by the infliction of merited judgments upon that beastly power. The followers of Mr. Mede require no further vindication.

I do not, however, admit, that either the church or the state exclusively, is the system which the Apocalyptical trumpets make the formal subject of the prospective history. To the church, indeed, and for the sake of the true church, these prophecies were delivered. They have respect to that which, in the progress of human society, is most interesting to the moral world; and consequently to the great social concerns of true religion. In this point of view the history of the Roman empire is of equal interest with the history of the Roman church: but neither the one nor the other is otherwise taken notice of in scripture than as they affect the interests of truth, of piety, and social order. The Divine Being foresaw that during the period under review, there would not be, in fact, many saints upon earth who would not be more or less affected by the moral changes which took place within the bounds of the Roman empire; and as external christianity, or if you will, the great body of the christian church, had been in one complex system identified with the state, there is great propriety in making the empire itself the special subject of the predictions.[6] The rule of interpretation, which we deduce from these reasonings, is that the symbolical language of this period is to be applied, not ecclesiastically, but in the civil sense, unless the text itself makes upon particular grounds such application necessary. The earth, the sea, the rivers, the sun, the moon, and the stars, are to be considered as political, not religious symbols.

3. It will aid us much in giving a consistent, as well as the true interpretation, to affix correct ideas to the symbol which gives its designation to this period.

The trumpet is a well-known instrument, constructed upon principles analogous to the organ of hearing, the ear. The effect of employing this instrument is to increase the sound of the human voice, and render it more audible at a distance. The object is, rapidly to communicate information, or to give notice of any design or event which requires to be speedily known. Trumpets were, by divine appointment, used for various purposes among the Hebrews; and from that usage it is reasonable to infer the symbol in the Apocalypse is drawn. The Lord commanded Moses to construct two silver trumpets for the purpose of assembling the Israelites in the wilderness when they were to decamp, Numb. 10. The priests also employed these instruments in announcing the periodical returns of the civil year, the sabbatical year, and the year of jubilee. A feast was celebrated at the commencement of the civil year, (the September new-moon) which from this custom was called the feast of trumpets, Lev. 23. Numb. 29. Indeed the first day of every month, and all their religious festivals, were announced by the sound of these instruments. By the trumpet also, the people were called forth to war. To sound a trumpet was a familiar phrase for calling forth to baffle. This was perfectly understood by the writers of the New Testament. "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"[7] On such occasions the trumpets were to sound an alarm—the signal of hostile invasion. "Shall the trumpet be blown in the city and the people not be afraid?"[8] Of this description are the seven Apocalyptical trumpets. It is evident from their contents that they were not designed to call either to the sacrifice or to any festival. They are therefore a voice of warning, to the church of God, of the judgments and trials which are to come upon the corrupt empire in whose concerns they have a deep interest. This idea corresponds with the use made of the trumpets, according to the style of the former prophets. "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound an alarm."[9]

The seals, from the nature of the case, followed one another in chronological order. The space of the roll, unfolded by removing one seal, was fully exhibited before the next seal was broken; but the voice of warning of one danger may very properly be heard when it approaches, although the cause, of the alarm immediately preceding, may not in every case have been entirely removed.

The judgments of the trumpets are, therefore, to be considered only so far announced in chronological order, as it respects their commencement. It is not necessary that the whole cause of the first alarm shall have terminated before another alarm is given; because one hostile attack may speedily follow another without waiting for the result of the contest. The trumpets follow one another in order as to their beginning; but as to the termination of the events predicted, that is left undetermined.

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. We shall now proceed,

III. To explain the first four Trumpets.

We have already assigned our reasons for considering the Roman empire, in its present complex ecclesiastical political form, the proper object of the judgments announced by the trumpets. It is not merely for the purpose of recording deeds of blood perpetrated by offending man against his fellow-mortals, that these events are esteemed worthy of notice, either in the scheme of prophecy or in history. It is on account of the influence which such political commotions exercise over the moral concerns of accountable creatures; their tendency to illustrate the manner in which Jehovah administers his moral government; and for the sake of their ultimate effect in preparing the way for the universal diffusion of light, life, and happiness, over the abodes of men, that they are esteemed worthy of the place which is assigned to them in the Apocalypse.

In comparing the fact with the prediction, I avail myself principally of the great historical work of the celebrated Gibbon. This man is well known to have been an enemy to the christian religion. He cannot be suspected, therefore, of any design, in the compilation of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, to furnish evidence of the fulfilment of sacred prediction.

The preceding prophecy brought the history of Rome down to the year 395, when Theodosius the Great departed this life. "The public safety," says Mr. Gibbon, "seemed to depend on the life and abilities of this single man." In another place he remarks, that "the correspondence of nations was in that age so imperfect and precarious that the revolutions of the north might escape the knowledge of the court; until the dark cloud which was collected along the coast of the Baltic, burst in thunder upon the banks of the upper Danube."[10]

TRUMPET I—Verse 7. 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 trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

We have already shown that EARTH is the symbol of the Roman Empire. Upon this earth the fire was cast from the golden censer, verse 5. Considered as a whole, the Empire, like the system of nature, has its earth, and its sea, and its rivers, &c. &c.

The OBJECT of the judgment of the first trumpet is the earth of the system—the collective body of the population of the empire.

The JUDGMENT itself is, hail and fire mingled with blood—Savage warfare bursting from a distance upon the various parts of the empire in frequent and destructive showers.

The CONSEQUENCE is a great consumption of the necessary support, and the principal ornaments of the land. The vegetation,—the third part of the trees and green grass were burnt up. The western Roman empire was considered as the third part of the world, and as the earth in this instance signifies its population, the trees and the grass are men of high and low degree. [11]

By comparing this trumpet with the first vial, it will appear that the effects of this judgment lasted until that vial is poured out upon the earth. We are accordingly required to look for some such series of events, as while it tends to the ruin of imperial Rome, will introduce a new system of policy among the inhabitants of the land which is to characterize their social relations until the time of the first vial. We are directed to expect upon the death of Theodosius, a terrible, barbarous, and overwhelming warfare; laying the land waste before it; and establishing upon the ruins of a civilized empire a species of social order suited only to a savage race, which is to last until the commencement of the third prophetical period.[12]

History immediately points to the causes which demolished the superb fabric of policy constructed over a great and civilized people, and introduced in its stead the feudal system adapted to a barbarous and military race, as the fulfilment of the prediction of the first trumpet. These causes are found in the irruption, of the northern hordes of military barbarians, into the civilized provinces of the empire, overturning in their course all the monuments of Roman greatness, and destroying alike the remaining religion, the literature, and social institutions of an already degenerate people.

In confirmation of these remarks I quote Mr. Faber, who makes a liberal and judicious use of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. "Upon the decease of this great prince (Theodosius) in the year 395, the northern cloud, which had so long been gathering, discharged itself with irresistible fury upon the empire."[13] "He died in the month of January, and before the end of the same year the Gothic nation was in arms—The barriers of the Danube were thrown open, the savage warriors of Scythia issued from their forests; and the uncommon severity of the winter allowed the poet to remark, that they rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy back of the indignant river. The fertile fields of Phocis and Beotia were covered by a deluge of barbarians; who massacred the males of an age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages."[14]

"Such were the first effects of the symbolical hail storm. It was next carried into Italy and the west; under the guidance of Alaric it passed over Panonia, Istria, and Venetia, and threatened the destruction of imperial Rome herself. Another dark cloud, generated like its fellow in the cold regions of the north, burst in the year 406, upon the banks of the upper Danube, and thence passed on into Italy. Headed by Radagaisus, the northern Germans emigrated from their native land, besieged Florence, and threatened Rome."[15]

"The flourishing city of Mentz was surprised and destroyed; and many thousand christians were inhumanly massacred in the church. The consuming flames of war spread from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That rich and extensive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, was delivered to the barbarians, who drove before them, in a promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the senator, and the virgin, laden with the spoils of their houses and altars."[16]

The ravages committed by the Huns under their king Attila, justly denominated "the scourge of God," equaled, if they did not exceed, those of which Alaric and Radagaisus were the principal instruments. Attila having united under himself the Scythians and the Germans, invaded in the year 441 the eastern empire. The Huns under his command destroyed with fire and sword the populous cities of the east.

"The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the Euxine to the Adriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field—the armies of the eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements—words the most expressive of total extirpation and erasure ale applied to the Calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities."[17] In the year 450 Attila again threatened the peace of the empire. Mankind awaited this decision with awful suspense: victorious in the east, he pursued his march toward Rome; and as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua, were reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. He boasted that the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod.

Bishop Newton relates upon the authority of Sigonius, that "Attila, when he turned his arms against the emperor Valentinian the Third, entered Gaul with seven hundred thousand men; and not content with taking and spoiling, set most of the cities on fire—all places between the Alps and Appennines with flight, depopulation, slaughter, servitude, and desperation. He was preparing to march to Rome, but was diverted from his purpose by a solemn embassy from the emperor, and the promise of an annual tribute."

Such were, in their desolating course, those incursions of the northern barbarous nations which afterwards overthrew the empire.

In the mean time, the succeeding great judgment which contributed to this event is announced.

TRUMPET II.—Verses 8, 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 died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.]

The OBJECT of the judgment announced by the sound of the second trumpet is the sea of the Roman world. The symbolical signification of waters is explained in Rev. 17:15. "The waters which thou sawest, are people, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." The sea, therefore, as a great collective of waters, signifies many people and nations connected in one body politic, in a dissolute and commoved condition. Thus it is distinguished from the solid earth. The symbol earth is the population of the empire in a compact and quiescent state. The sea, the same body in a loose and agitated state. Daniel gives this as the description of the condition of society at the commencement of each of the great universal monarchies. Chap. 7:2, 3. "Behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea."

The JUDGMENT itself is, in this ease, a burning mountain. A mountain is the symbol of great and established power. Zech. 4:7. "Who art thou, O great mountain?" The Lord says to the king of Babylon, Jer. 51:25. "Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain—I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain." A burning mountain, therefore, signifies some great power that falls upon the Romans, full of rage, and thus to consume, and to be itself consumed.

The consequences of this judgment are described in terms analogous to the principal symbol. The third part of the sea became blood—the fish perished—the ships were destroyed.

In language resembling, and of course illustrating, these expressions, the prophet announces the destruction of Egyptian power. Ezek. 29:3. "Behold, I am against, thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt—I will cause the fish of thy river to stick unto thy scales—I will leave thee thrown on the wilderness, thee, and all the fish of thy rivers." This figurative language is explained by plain speech, for the prophet adds, verse 8. "Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee."

It may be considered superfluous to add, that the Roman shipping, like that of modern nations, was an instrument, and therefore, a proper emblem, of their riches and their strength.

By the second trumpet the pious were warned of the approach of a striking calamity that should be felt every where throughout the Roman Empire, at a time too when left in great confusion by the irruptions of the barbarous nations from the north. At some period, not far removed from the times of Alaric, and Attila, they were to expect some mighty potentate should, with flaming zeal and fury, fall upon the already distracted empire, and massacre its inhabitants without mercy; exhaust the sources of its wealth; and while humbling its power, be also himself hastening to ruin.

History looks back upon the events then anticipated, and confirms both our exposition, and our faith in the sacred prediction. In the year 455, two years after the death of Attila, the principal angel of the cloud of hail from the north, Genseric, set sail from the burning shores of Africa, and suddenly appeared like a mountain on fire hurled from its base, and cast into the sea, at the mouth of the Tiber. Several years before this, he had established himself in Africa at the head of his Vandals, and erected a kingdom which promised to endure for ages. The Vandals, it is true, had, like the other barbarians, come originally from the north; but having planted themselves in the heated sands of Africa, it was from the South, the proper region of fire, they invaded Rome. Of these people Mr. Gibbon speaks in the following manner: Having crossed the straits of Gibraltar, "on a sudden the seven provinces from Tangier to Tripoli were overwhelmed by the invasion of the Vandals. Careless of the distinctions of age, or sex, or rank, they employed every species of indignity and torture, to force from the captives a discovery of their hidden wealth. The stern policy of Genseric justified his frequent examples of military execution: he was not always the master of his own passions, or of those of his followers; and the calamities of war were aggravated by the licentiousness of the Moors, and the fanaticism of the Donatists."[18]

Having been established, by a treaty with the emperor Valentinian, over all the provinces of Africa, Genseric was looked upon by Eudoxia, the relict of that emperor, for defence against the murderers of her husband.

It was then he invaded Rome at the head of three hundred thousand warriors. The city fell an easy prey into their hands. A bigoted Arian, Genseric availed himself of every opportunity to harass the orthodox christian. During the fourteen days, for which the imperial city was given up to be plundered by his soldiers, the churches, as well as private houses and palaces, were stripped of every thing valuable which they contained. He returned with immense wealth to Africa;[19] and after his death the kingdom of the Vandals ceases for years to make a figure in history. Justinian reduced Africa again into the form of a province.

The western empire, however, did not long survive the effects of this burning mountain. "It struggled hard, and gasped, as it were, for breath, through eight short and turbulent reigns, for the space of twenty years, and at length expired under Augustulus."[20]

TRUMPET III—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 upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains 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 OBJECT of this judgment, as well as of the former, is the symbolical waters—the people. They are not, however, considered as united in one body politic, so much as in their separate state in the several provinces and departments of the empire. It is not the sea; but the rivers and fountains.

The JUDGMENT is represented as a great star fallen from heaven. The heaven of the Roman system, is the whole frame of its government. A great star is a distinguished officer of the government. Its burning like a lamp signifies the sufferings which such ruler both causes and undergoes, in his fall from power.

The CONSEQUENCES are bitterness and death. The name of the fallen star is Wormwood, to betoken the bitter effects of the judgment.

This representation has an allusion to the description which the prophet Isaiah gives of the downfall of the king of Babylon. Chap. 14:4-12. "Thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say,—the Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers—how art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, (day-star,) son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!"

It is with great propriety, therefore, that Mr. Mede explains this star of the prince of Rome. A fallen star, in the language of symbols, signifies either the downfall of a king, or the apostacy of a minister:[21] but the prophecy does not describe the state of the church; and we therefore cannot admit the application of this prediction to any of the early heretics, or as Dr. Johnston does, to the bishop of Constantinople. It is somewhat strange that so judicious an expositor as bishop Newton should have applied the fallen star to Genseric, who was a triumphant conqueror. The observations of Mr. Faber upon this subject are more appropriate. "The last emperor, Momyllus, or Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer king of the Heruli, who put an end to the very name of the western empire. The fall of this star was productive of much bloodshed among the rivers and fountains, the Gothic governments of the west, which now filled the place formerly occupied by the Roman empire." "At that unhappy period," said Mr. Gibbon, "the Saxon fiercely struggled with the natives for the possession of Britain; Gaul and Spain were divided between the powerful monarchies of the Franks and the Visigoths, and the dependent kingdoms of the Suevi and Burgundians; Africa was exposed to the cruel persecutions of the Vandals, and the savage insults of the Moors; Rome and Italy, as far as the banks of the Danube, were afflicted by an army of barbarian mercenaries, whose lawless tyranny was succeeded by the reign of Theodoric the Ostrogoth. All the subjects of the empire, who, by the use of the Latin language, more particularly deserved the name and privileges of Romans, were oppressed by the disgrace and calamities of foreign conquest; and the victorious nations of Germany established a new system of manners and government in the western countries of Europe."

TRUMPET IV.—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 a third part of it, and the night likewise.]

After the extinction of the line of the western Cesars, by the downfall of the star of Rome in the person of Augustulus, under the third trumpet, the fourth angel predicts a very general obscuration of the lights of the empire.

The OBJECT of this judgment, are the sun, moon, and stars; the JUDGMENT itself consists in a stroke inflicted upon them; the CONSEQUENCES of which are, that the day shone not, and the night also was deprived of its wonted light, throughout the dominions of ancient Rome—the third part of the known world, "Darkening, or smiting of the sun, moon, and stars," says Sir Isaac Newton, "are put for the setting of a kingdom, or the desolation thereof." Light is the symbol of joy; darkness, of adversity. Thus doth the prophet Isaiah describe the burden of Babylon. Chap. 13. "The noise of a multitude like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them. The stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. Therefore I will shake the heavens," &c. In a similar manner the prophet Ezekiel describes the destruction of the kingdom of Egypt. Chap. 32:7, 8. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee.

It was in the year 476, history informs us, that Augustulus, the diminutive Cesar Augustus, fell from his throne. But the ancient frame of Roman government remained for some time after the downfall of this Imperial Star. The political heaven, although shaking, was not yet removed altogether were all its lights extinguished. In the time of Odoacer, the Roman Senate, the Consuls, and other magistrates, were only subjected to a suspension for two years. When Theodoric founded, in the year 498, the Gothic kingdom of Italy, he permitted Rome to maintain in its ancient government some appearance of its former splendour. It was in the year 566, after a series of bloody and doubtful wars, that Italy was reduced into the provincial form, by the emperor of the east; the whole form of Roman government was abolished; the Senate, and Consuls, and other magistrates of Rome entirely put down; and the proud city, the queen of the nations, was reduced into the miserable condition of a tributary Dukedom. Then was fully accomplished the judgment announced by the sounding of the fourth trumpet.

Among the expositors of the Apocalyptical prophecies, there is, as in other instances, a considerable diversity of opinions with respect to the interpretation of the four trumpets first in order. Those who are agreed about the general period to which they refer, differ, however, in matters of detail. Mr. Faber, who commonly improves on bishop Newton, seems to me to have erred in the application of history to the fourth trumpet. He has offered, I admit, an unanswerable objection to the exposition of bishop Newton; but he has himself applied the fourth and the third to the same event, the downfall of the last Emperor of the west. In this he is entirely wrong. The bishop was but half right, however, in applying it both to the overthrow of Augustulus, and the entire demolition of the old Roman Senate. It belongs to the last event alone. Mr. Lowman, in this particular, is more correct than those who have succeeded him. To him, upon this subject, I refer those who are anxious to see my interpretation supported with a greater variety of historical facts.

The grand object of the judgments of all the trumpets is to overthrow the fourth and iron kingdom, which even after it assumed the christian name continued to be a beast; and in this precise point of view is the object of these judgments. Its western dominions, being for a long time the place in which the saints had the most interest, occupy of course, for the most part, the attention of prophecy. The eastern empire is, notwithstanding, far from being overlooked. The two succeeding trumpets particularly apply to the fourth kingdom as it existed in the regions east of Italy: but upon the dismemberment of the western empire and its division, according to sacred prediction, into ten distinct power, or horns, the business of the trumpets is, with respect to it, suspended until "the time of the end;" and preparation is made for the period of the vials, by which this new power, the ten-horned beast, is to be destroyed. The period of the trumpets, nevertheless, progresses as it respects the eastern empire, as shall be made apparent in the ensuing lecture. The Seventh Trumpet announces the entire overthrow of Anti-christian Rome.

I shall now bring the discourse to a close with some remarks upon this part of the second prophetical period.

IV. The Concluding Reflections.

1. However great the confusion, which from time to time appears over the history of the nations, it is becoming the ministers of Jesus Christ both to understand for themselves, and to point out to others, the relation in which the events of history stand to the progress of the Christian religion, and to the interests of the church of God. Like "the living creatures" of the Apocalypse, it is their duty to say to intelligent and inquiring men, "Come and see." Were it possible completely to separate the concerns of this world from those of Zion, so that they should cease to exercise any reciprocal influence on one another, there might be e propriety in the watchman of Israel’s refusing to answer any inquiries, such as What of the night, or the morning? This state of things is, however, morally impossible. The policy of those nations, in which christianity is either tolerated or established, will be more or less affected by ecclesiastical considerations; and it is unreasonable not to expect that the church will feel the influence of worldly political management. All the events which come to pass, are included in the plans of Providence; and such of course as are interesting to the moral world, deserve the attention of the christian pastor. Divine revelation too, in its precepts, and narrative, and predictions, pays particular attention to national concerns; and thus not only sets an example to the ministers of Christ of their proper duty, but also imposes an obligation upon them to be acquainted with the history of the world, in order to understand and expound the scriptures.

You will not, therefore, brethren, charge us with intermeddling unduly with your civil concerns, or with violating the sanctity of the Lord’s day, by laying before you, with the necessary exposition, the predictions of the Apocalypse. Assuredly, the Christian who is persuaded that all things shall work together for good to them who love God; and who is qualified by liberal views of God’s moral government to form a proper estimate of the subject, will consider of importance that great system of causes, and their various operations, which finally demolished the western Roman empire, in which, since the revolution of Constantine, civil and ecclesiastical concerns were so blended together, that they could not be otherwise than in idea distinguished.

The total change which took place in the state of society in Europe in this period, renders the era of the Trumpets interesting to the moralist. "How far this change ought to be lamented is not now a matter of much dispute. The human species was reduced to such a degree of debasement by the pressure of Roman despotism, that we can hardly be sorry at any means, however violent, which removed or lightened the load. But we cannot help lamenting, at the same time, that this revolution was the work of nations so little enlightened by science, and polished by civilization.[22]

It was by such means that the ignorance which served the purposes of the Roman antichrist, was universally spread; and thus upon the downfall of Imperial Rome, "the man of sin" was speedily revealed.

2. Amidst the revolutions which desolate the nations, we, Christians, have ample grounds of hope and confidence. Our Saviour reigns, and will do all his pleasure. Light shall arise out of darkness. Order shall spring from confusion. The divine purpose shall be accomplished. The generation of his children shall be saved.

Behold him, Christians, in whom you have believed, standing before the altar of incense in the upper temple, making continual intercession for us. We verily have an Advocate with the Father. He will not plead in vain. His blood, shed for the remission of the sins of many, speaketh better things than that of Abel. The blood of the martyrs, unjustly shed, calls for vengeance on the foes of religion. The blood of the covenant, making satisfaction to divine justice, calls for the salvation of believers. I will, O Father, that they whom thou hast given to me, may be with me, that where I am they may behold my glory. The prayers, the praises, the services of the saints, are accepted: for they are received into the golden censer, and presented by the High Priest. He never, in any instance, neglects the sighs of the prisoner, or turns a deaf ear to the solicitations of his anxious disciples. He is ever merciful. He is moreover just. He scatters coals of fire upon their heads who obey not the gospel. When he has served up to his Father the devotion of his own church, he casts the contents of the censer upon the earth. All religion, which is not sanctified by his grace, becomes a curse to its professors. All, who have no religion, remain under the sentence of condemnation. The all-merciful Saviour is the all-righteous Governor. His sceptre is right. His enemies shall perish when his wrath is kindled but a little. Fly to him for safety. Fly to him speedily; before death and judgment shall overtake you. He invites you to himself. He commands you to betake yourselves to the city of refuge. He assures you of a ready welcome. Whosoever cometh shall not be cast out. Represent, with prayer and with boldness, your personal condition before the throne of grace. Forget not to mention your brethren in the profession of religion. Plead for the cause of your invaded, your sinful, your distracted country. The sword is hanging over your heads. Your friends, your neighbours, are already suffering. Your business is stopped; your commerce is spoiled; your relatives are carried into captivity; your villages are laid in ruins. War, with its accompanying horrors of robberies, rapes, and murders, rages in your borders. Repent of your transgressions; mourn for the sins of the land; confess the justness of the Divine judgments. Trust not, in the day of trial, on the arm of flesh. Call upon your Redeemer to turn to you in mercy. He is the Governor of the nations. He directs the whirlwind. He controls the fury of the battle. He puts down and sets up at pleasure. The race is not to the swift, neither is the battle to the strong.

The time for visiting Zion is at hand. Arise, and call upon your God, who is able to deliver you. "Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us. Lord, in trouble have they visited, thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them." When the blast of the trumpet is heard from afar, it is time to fly to him "Who has been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against, the wall."

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

[next LECTURE VI.]

Footnotes:

[1] Luke 1:10. [back]

[2] "On the day of expiation the whole service was performed by the high priest. The custom was on other days to take fire from the great altar in a silver censer; but on this day for the high priest to take fire from the great altar in a golden censer; and when he was come down from the great altar, he takes incense from one of the priests who brought it to him, and went with it to the golden altar, and while he offered the incense, the people prayed without in silence." Sir Isaac Newton in loco. [back]

[3] Julian "the Apostate" was the son of Julius Constantius, and the nephew of Constantine the Great. He was a man of talents, learned, politic, and ambitious. War in those days, was the chief employment of man; and it was in the field of battle, and at the head of his armies, that Julian distinguished himself as the formidable rival of Constantius, the last of the sons of Constantine, with whom he disputed the empire of the world. He succeeded. Constantius died, and Julian, in the thirty-second year of his age, A.D. 361, became sole emperor.

His attachment to the Platonic philosophy is supposed to have influenced him to renounce the christian religion; and his well-known fondness for the study of magic, so unbecoming a man of genius and education, will in part account for his indisposition to the gospel. Reasons of state, however, furnish to, such a man as Julian the most powerful motives of action, and must determine whether any, or what religion, shall be embraced. He was a crafty and ambitious warrior and statesman. The family of his uncle were of the christian religion, and calculated upon the support of the church which they had enriched and protected. Julian, at enmity with that family, and desirous to rise upon their ruin, put himself at the head of the Pagan interest, offering toleration to all sects of Christians. No sooner was he confirmed in the supreme power than he formed the design of extirpating christianity.

He patronized the Jews, and in hopes of convicting the New Testament of falsehood, employed his wealth in vain attempts to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. He can scarcely be said to have completed a revolution in the religion of the empire, on account of the shortness of his reign, and the caution with which he was constrained to act. Julian reigned only two years. At him death the religion of the empire was restored. [back]

[4] Gibbon. [back]

[5] "If the trumpets are to be all homogeneal, let us have recourse to one of them, whose character and interpretation are placed beyond dispute.

The Seventh Trumpet. "What does it announce? Most clearly the victory obtained by Christ and his Church, not over the Roman Empire, but over the powers of hell. They (the six Trumpets,) must therefore be supposed to contain the warfare of the Christian Church." Woodhouse, p. 222. Lon. 1805.

Such is the argument of this very learned writer. But surely he had forgotten that the seventh Trumpet itself records the downfall of the kingdoms of this world. It was a triumph over the Roman Empire under its antichristian form. This is the fourth beast of Daniel—The fourth kingdom on earth, in its divided form; or in other words, the beast with seven heads and ten horns: the kingdoms, in short, of the old Roman Empire, now distinct, but united by a bond of blasphemy and iniquity, a corrupted religion made an essential part of tyrannical policy.

Christianity cannot triumph until political religion be overthrown: and this kind of religion, by whatever name it may be called, is as much a part of the politics or constitution of the nations, as the monarchy or judiciary. [back]

[6] We can readily conceive of Church and State as distinct objects of thought: and we even feel that they are of right distinct. The Church of God is, certainly, something quite different from the kingdoms of men. They never can become identified. True, there is a period approaching, in which "the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established upon the tops of the mountains" of national power:—The true church shall influence, thoroughly influence the political conduct of men. Even then, however, Church and State shall be two different things. The distinction shall be marked and understood. Hitherto it has been almost universally otherwise. In the Roman Empire, at the era of Constantine, nominal christianity and politics were identified. The actual Church of God was always a different thing from the mere political body; but that which was called the Church, became a constituent part of the Empire. It is in this light the prophecy contemplates the subject; and for the very best reason too, because it is the only true light. Nor is it possible really to understand or to interpret correctly these predictions without keeping this fact in view. The Roman Church was as much a part of the Roman Empire as was the Roman Senate. The nation was not sanctified; but the Sanctuary was profaned. The established church was a mere worldly sanctuary. [back]

[7] I Cor. 14:8. [back]

[8] Joel 2:1. [back]

[9] Amos 3:6. See also Ezek. 33:2-4. [back]

[10] Vol. IV, page 56. Phil[adelphia edition] 1804. [back]

[11] Sir Isaac Newton remarks, that in the prophetic language, "Tempests, winds, or the motion of the clouds, are put for wars; thunder for the voice of a multitude; storms, lightning, hail, and rain, for a tempest of war. In like manner the earth, animals, and vegetables, are put for the people of several nations and conditions. Trees and green grass express the beauty and fruitfulness of a land; and when the earth is an emblem of nations and dominions, may signify persons of higher rank, and of common condition." [back]

[12] This idea will be more fully explained under the first vial. [back]

[13] Vol. II. page 9. [back]

[14] Hist. Dec. Vol. IV. p. 29-31. [back]

[15] Faber. [back]

[16] Hist. Dec. Vol. IV. p. 63, 64. [back]

[17] Hist. Dec. Vol. IV. p. 242. [back]

[18] Hist. Dec. Vol. IV. p. 220. [back]

[19] Hist. Dec. Vol. IV. p. 310-315. [back]

[20] Bishop Newton. [back]

[21] Stars, in prophetic style, are figurative representations of many things; among others, they signify kings, or kingdoms, eminent persons of great authority and power. Thus, in the prophecy of Balaam, Numb. 24:17. There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel. The power of the goat over other powers, is represented in Dan. 8:10. It cast down some of the host, and of the stars." LOWMAN. [back]

[22] Russel’s Modern Europe, Vol. I. p. 11. [back]


Return to Homepage