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James Dodson

REV. xv. 11….And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.

THE instinctive impulse to acquire knowledge, which every man feels in a greater or less degree, is remarkably connected in all its exercises with the love of society. Secluded entirely from the prospect of imparting to others the result of our own inquiries, study would speedily be forsaken by perseverance, and curiosity herself must lose her power. This law of our nature, the existence of which cannot be disputed, is an additional evidence of the wisdom and benevolence of him who made us, and who appointed to all the sons of men the bounds of their habitation; because it greatly multiplies the means of personal improvement and general felicity.

The author of our being said of man, while yet in primitive innocence and excellence, “It is not good that he should be alone.” Provided with social principles, a great part of our faculties would remain unoccupied, and much of our happiness would be cut off, were we separated for ever from society, and constrained to live in eternal solitude. In the pursuit of information the strongest excitement which we feel consists in the hope of communicating our acquirements to our fellow-creatures; and personal enjoyment is multiplied by the opportunity of admitting others into a participation of them. Religion too, would be stripped of her most interesting ornaments, were each individual secluded by her commands from the presence of witnesses, and confined in a solitary residence, however magnificently furnished. The communion of saints is one of her precious blessings. Wo to him that is alone. God setteth the solitary in families.

The principle under consideration is that which imparts to history her peculiar charms. “By the power of memory, a thing formerly seen may be recalled to the mind with different degrees of accuracy;” and history is an enlarged artificial memory. “With respect to interesting objects and events, we are not satisfied with a cursory review, but must dwell upon every circumstance. I am imperceptibly converted into a spectator, and perceive every particular passing in my presence, as if I were, in reality, a spectator.”[1] A great part of the art of the historian, accordingly, consists in preserving without interruption this ideal presence of his reader with the persons and the events which he is describing and for this purpose it is necessary that he carry on his narration without perplexing it with too great a variety of circumstances, however legitimately connected with his principal subject. He must attend to the actual and present concerns of his company, without attempting; to divert our attention by the family history of the several members. He will find himself, nevertheless, constrained to return, in a subsequent chapter, to the consideration of persons and things connected with his principal theme, and accordingly necessary to be known, although the order of time should be reversed.

This must needs be the case also with the history of future events furnished in the Apocalyptical prophecies. Having pursued directly in chronological order the series of important events predicted, until we arrive at a certain point, we must return to the contemplation of another series, which at this point meets with the former, and which gives the character in a greater or less degree to the subsequent events most interesting to the house of God.

We are now arrived, in the course of these lectures, at that point, which calls for these general observations. In the exposition of the seals and the trumpets we have pursued the history of society, as connected with the great concerns of Christianity, in the regular order of time, from the age of the apostles until the overthrow of the great Roman power in both the west and the east. Under the six seals, we have attended to the leading events of the FIRST PERIOD; and so explained the judgments of heaven upon the Pagan empire. Under the seventh seal, we found the trumpets: and in the exposition of the six trumpets, wo have described the judgments which overthrew the Christian empire, in the SECOND PERIOD of this prophecy. By the seventh trumpet, intimation has been given of the events of several subsequent periods; and so far as it was a wo trumpet, it synchronizes with a part of the period of the vials, to which the chapter, from which I have taken my text, is introductory.

This is THE THIRD GREAT PERIOD of the Apocalypse,

It exhibits, as we shall show in due time, the judgments of a righteous God upon the antichristian empire; and, as it involves the history of the most interesting concerns of the Christian church in her connexion with the several civilized nations of Europe, it is by far the most important period of this sacred book. To it belongs of course the greater part of the predictions; and we accordingly will devote to it more time and attention. In our transition from the trumpets to the vials, we must, however, return from the point of time at which we had arrived, to the consideration of that point at which this period commences. Indeed it is necessary to begin earlier than the period itself with our discussion, in order to give a correct idea of the grand object of the vials, by a history of the rise of that antichristian system, which it is their part to punish and demolish.

I confine myself in this introductory discourse to an exposition of my text and context—and a development of the plan which I propose to pursue in explaining the events of the period which lies before us.

I. I shall explain the figurative phraseology of my text, and so ascertain its meaning.

In this interpretation we must needs attend to the vials and their contents—to the agents employed for using them—to the personage who delivered the vials into the hands of the seven angels—and, to the accompanying CHORUS.

1. The instruments of this righteous judgment, are called in the text seven golden vials full of the wrath of God. In the eighth verse of this chapter these are denominated the seven plagues; and, in verse 1, the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. These expressions convey to the most superficial reader, the idea of punishment inflicted by Jehovah upon some certain criminals convicted by adequate evidence before his awful tribunal.

“The English word vials may mislead the reader. They were such cups as were used in the temple for the purpose of libations, wider at the top than at the bottom.”[2] Φιαλη, which we render vial, is probably derived from ππιειν αλις, to drink enough, and signifies a bowl or small basin. In this sense, the learned Daubuz shows it is used by the best Greek writers. The Seventy likewise employ it generally as the translation of מזרק a bowl or basin.[3] The name Phiale was therefore given to the famous fountain, or lake, at the foot of mount Hermon, from whence Jordan derives its stream, from its resemblance to a great basin.[4]

These golden vials were designed, however, to hold not the incense which symbolizes the prayers of the saints, and are accepted of the Lord; but the wrath of heaven which is to be poured out upon the earth as the effect of his justice in the punishment of transgressors. Golden vials they nevertheless are, for his judgments are just and precious; and are, in their place, essentially necessary for the preservation of the order of his empire. Seven,[5] the number of completeness, is the number of the golden vials; for they are the last plagues; and embrace the whole wrath of God toward the object of the vials. No punishment hath ever been inflicted upon the antichristian system which is not placed under these vials: nor shall any judgments hereafter come down upon the symbolical earth, which are not included under this complete arrangement. The vials, of course, embrace whatsoever hath hitherto come to pass in the providence of God, for the punishment and overthrow of the grand apostacy. This consideration ought itself to be sufficient grounds for rejecting that interpretation, which, by whatever names it is supported, renders all the vials subsequent to the era of the reformation. He must be blind indeed to the light of history, who denies, that during that remarkable period, judgments were inflicted upon the kingdom of the beast.

2. The agents employed in pouring out upon the apostate nations, those cups of the Lord’s indignation, are said in the text to be seven angels. They appear, verse 1, as a sign in heaven, great and marvellous; and verse 6, they come out of the temple in order to execute their commission. And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. The sign, Σημειον, was seen by the apostle John in heaven; and it was not only great, but also marvellous in his estimation. Heaven is the symbol of the true church of God. There, the signs of the times are to be seen and known. This, verse 1, was another sign, in addition to that described in chap. xii. 1. That one is called in our translation a wonder; but the word in the original is the same as in this case. The signification in both instances is the same. The events were to come to pass on earth; but the sign was seen in heaven. On account of the church, her antichristian enemies shall be punished; and that punishment is signified and made known to the church for the comfort of all her faithful sons, and for their encouragement in resisting the man of sin.

The angels themselves are the messengers of divine justice—the actual dispensations of Providence. They come out of the temple with the plagues, which they are appointed to inflict.

Penal dispensations are predicted in the church, are solicited from God in prayer against the enemies of the kingdom of Christ, and are appointed by the Head of the church for the sake of his body. They are consequently holy. The angels indeed appear stepping forth from the holy oracle, to fulfil the divine will, in the habiliments of the high priest, in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. Girded up for their work, with clean hands and a pure heart, they shed the blood of the victim; and yet their own garments remain unpolluted. They are justified in their deeds. It is the command of God; and, although destructive of the lives of thousands, they are right who direct the execution. Abraham was commanded to offer in sacrifice his beloved son; and was justified in his intentional obedience, although the deed would have been without a parallel for cruelty, if it had been unauthorized; and would certainly be so reckoned, in the world, by those who knew not the authority upon which the Father of the faithful acted. The punishments of the antichristian foe, are thus also capable of vindication, although they may appear to those who are ignorant, both of the law and the extent of guilt incurred, severe and blood-thirsty.

“These seven plagues,” says Dr. Johnston, “which under seven distinct dispensations of divine providence, partly have been, and partly shall be, brought upon Papal Rome, as predicted in the following chapter, shall all be brought upon her, in her public or national character, for the injuries which she hath done, and still shall do, in that character, to the persecuted church of Christ, during that period. That these plagues upon Rome, shall come out of the church of Christ during that period, is intimated chap. xi. 6.

These have power to smite the earth, (the empire) with all plagues as often as they will. These angels, like the high priest under the law, are clothed with fine and white linen, and have their breasts girded with golden girdles. Thus it is symbolically represented, that these dispensations are the ministers of God; that they strictly execute the divine command; and act only ministerially in bringing those plagues upon Papal Rome.”

3. He who delivered unto the seven angels these last plagues, deserves our attention.

One of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God. The four beasts are the Τεσσαρα Ζωα of chap v. We have already corrected the translation of these words, and explained their meaning.[6] These four living creatures are the ministers of the gospel: and one of them, that is, a certain class of christian ministers, delivered unto the authorized agents of divine judgments, the vials of wrath. This action, beheld in vision by the apostle John, is very expressive. The living creature had received from his master the seven plagues,[7] which were to fall upon the antichrist tian powers, civil and ecclesiastic; and he, coming out of heaven, gives them up to the angels, in order to execute without delay the sentence passed upon the inhabitants of the earth. ONE only, of the four living creatures, is thus employed. While the many pastors and teachers of the church are occupied, in promoting by other methods the interests of Christ’s kingdom, there are a few, of more public spirit, of more correct information, of greater fidelity to the social concerns of the Christian world, and of less subserviency to the schemes of temporizing politicians, who deliver up to the angels the plagues which come upon the nations. They do so, by explaining and applying the predictions—by testifying against lawless power—by plainly pronouncing sentence, from the word of God, upon the opposers of righteousness—by actual encouragement to the instruments of vengeance—and by prayer for the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom, including the several kingdoms of the Roman earth. Psa. lxxix. 6, 7. Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling-place.

Judgments, inflicted upon the nations, for the sake of the church, ought certainly to be approved of by her members and her ministers. We are bound to pray for them, as appears from this verse, and also from the example of the prophet Jeremiah, x. 25. We are, moreover, required to rejoice in them. Psa. xlviii. 11. “Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.” Nor is this inconsistent with that benevolent and merciful spirit which becometh the disciples of our Lord. It is assuredly consistent with piety, to acquiesce in what its author finds necessary, for his own glory, to do: and the charity of Christians cannot be sincere, when it tends to prevent what the Redeemer himself, in his mercy to them, performs in support of true religion. Is it inconsistent with the holiness of angels to approve of the divine justice in the punishment of men? Is it not consistent with the holiness of God to reveal his wrath I and can it, then, be inconsistent with an evangelical disposition, to rejoice in the overthrow of the nations that do hurt to the church of God, and so oppose the best interests of the human family? Christians cannot, I admit, entirely divest themselves of solicitude for the prosperity of the civil communities to which they belong. They ought not to be negligent of such things. Their own temporal interests, the lives, and the property of their friends and their relatives, are interwoven with the national policy. Their passions and their prejudices are interested in the political elevation or degradation of certain men; their own fears and hopes, and their calculations of futurity, co-operating with patriotic sentiments, very frequently and very justly influence their opinions and their wishes. The obligations of truth, of piety, of the divine will expressed to the reasonable creature, still, however, remain in force; and, if the combined effect, of such circumstances as have been mentioned, extenuates the crime of inattention to the purposes of Providence in the revolutions of nations, it by no means can justify resistance to these purposes, or vindicate the man who laments the demolition of thrones of iniquity, and looks back fretfully, like the wife of Lot, upon the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah.

A very different state of things is represented in this chapter. The angel of destruction comes out of the church—the temple; and the minister of Christ gives up to him the plagues which he is to inflict on the world.

4. A holy company also appears in the church, celebrating the event in songs of exultation. Verses 2—4. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sung the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, great and marvellous are thy works. Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee: for thy judgments are made manifest. This celestial band of choristers demand your attention, my brethren, that understanding their situation, their character, and their song, you may join their hallowed company, and take a cheerful share in their virtuous exercises.

1. They stand on a sea of glass mingled with fire. This chrystal sea, chap. iv. 6. was before the throne in the temple of Jehovah. It represents the blood of the covenant, by which we are justified and sanctified.[8] In this vision, the sea appears mingled with fire. Its waves flash with the flames of divine indignation, shining high to the glory of his justice. The situation of the saints is accordingly described as consisting in union with Christ in the merits of his atoning sacrifice, and in his exercise of vengeance upon them who are not interested in the atonement, and obey not the gospel. Our God is a consuming fire. The holy choristers stand upon the rock, and the divine perfections are as a wall of fire around them for the destruction of their persecutors.

2. They are characterized as having gotten the victory, and as having the harps of God.

They who stand upon the sea of glass, are “conquerors, and more than conquerors through him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. For they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.”[9] They had celestial harps given to them. This instrument of music is of great antiquity. Jubal, Gen. iv. 21. invented both harps and organs before the time of the general deluge. Harps were in use in the temple service; and are described as uttering lofty and cheerful sounds, adapted to a happy condition of the church. The use of them was laid aside during the captivity, as unsuitable to the depressed state of the saints in Chaldea. Psa. cxxxvii. 1, 2. “By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows, in the midst thereof.” The music of the harp was less of the plaintive than of the eucharistic kind, as appears from its description—solemn and sweet melody, employed in giving thanks to God for his mighty works.[10] It is therefore suited to the song of the conquerors, when they beheld the angels of the vials going forth to pour out the wrath of God upon their enemies.

This company are also characterized, from the nature of the warfare which they had accomplished. It is of a peculiar kind. They had gotten the victory over the BEAST, and over his IMAGE, and over his MARK, and over the NUMBER of his name. It is of importance to the correct interpretation of this prophecy, that definite ideas be attached to each of the four symbols mentioned as overcome. A full exposition of them must, however, be postponed until a subsequent part of these lectures, when we shall assign our reasons for the sense in which we now understand them.

THE BEAST is the WESTERN EMPIRE, in its civil capacity, with all the governments of its several kingdoms, tyrannical, immoral, and opposing pure Christianity by establishing corrupt religious systems, and by persecuting those who dissent from such establishments.

The IMAGE OF THE BEAST, is the papacy,—the impious human headship of the church, reduced, for mere political purposes, into the form of a worldly kingdom.

The MARK OF THE BEAST, is THE ACTUAL PROFESSION OF THE ESTABLISHED SUPERSTITION, by those, who, contrary to the law and the testimony of Jesus Christ, worship according to the inventions of men.

The NUMBER of the name of the beast, or the NAME itself, is the LATIN SYSTEM OF SOCIAL ORDER, in the great corrupt political and ecclesiastical commonwealth of European nations— Λατεινος, or six hundred and sixty-six. Latinus, is the name of the beast.

Against the beast, his image, his mark, and his name or number, the band of holy men described in this chapter, give their testimony. They oppose, they contend, they conquer, and they triumph. They are, it is true, in turn, opposed, misrepresented, pitied, detested, and persecuted by of their fellowmen; they suffer shame, and reproach, and loss: but they have truth and righteousness upon their side; and they are held up in prophecy as patterns of Christian imitation. They have the approbation of their own enlightened consciences; of the best men in every age; of confessors, apostles, and martyrs; of the prophets who have gone before them; of the angels of light, and of the living and eternal God. Standing, therefore, upon the sea of glass, whose waves flash with fiery indignation against the slavish votaries of antichrist, they behold the faithful ministers of the gospel pronouncing divine judgment, and giving to the angels clad in white, and begirt with girdles of gold, the plagues which shall put an end to the systems of iniquity, which have long afflicted the churches and the nations. Accompanying with their voices the exalted strains of their celestial harps, they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.

The song of Moses merits your attentive perusal. It is found in Deut. xxxii. 1—43. “It predicts,” says Dr. Johnston, “all the calamities which have befallen the Jews, and the cause of them. It foretells the character, rise, height, and downfall of antichrist; and closes with the Jews and Gentiles united in one church, singing in concert their triumph over the common enemy.” “The song of the Lamb,” adds the same writer, “is recorded in this book, chap. v. 8—14. How exactly does this song celebrate the joyful occasion of the commencement of the millennium, and represent both Jew and Gentile united in the same triumphant victory over antichrist?”

The following words is a compend of these two remarkable songs. “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who would not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”

The language of this song requires no exposition. Piety will always suggest to the judicious Christian suitable instances of the greatness and goodness of our almighty King. Let all glorify him, for in the vials of his wrath are his judgments made manifest; and all the nations shall hereafter come and worship before him. In the mean time few understand the merits of the controversy between the world and the church.

“True Christians steadily give their testimony as witnesses, in favour of the latter; but some men take one side of the question, and others the other; and multitudes calling in question the knowledge or the veracity of these two witnesses, hence, during that period, take the wrong side of that important and interesting question. But, when in the course of divine providence, Rome shall be completely overthrown, in the manner and at the time predicted in this book; when those whose religion consists in that truth, righteousness, peace, and joy, which the bible teaches, shall in the course of divine providence increase in number, and rise into high respect in the world; these events shall be justly considered, as they are in themselves the publication of the judgment or sentence of God himself, in favour of the pure, simple, and scriptural religion of Christ. This view which the minds of men shall take of these events, shall be one principal instrument in the hand of God at that period, to make all the Gentiles come and worship before God.”[11]

II. I shall lay before you an outline of the plan which I propose to pursue, in explaining the events of the third Apocalyptical period.

It is absolutely necessary, in order to understand the operation and effects of the seven golden vials, that we previously know the character of that system of antichristian disorder which they are intended to punish and destroy. It is uncontrovertibly proved by the commission given to the seven angels, who had received these vials, that the grand object of the wrath of God contained in them is the SYMBOLICAL EARTH—the western Roman empire. Chap. xv. 1. “And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the EARTH.”[12]

This object, so perplexingly and painfully interesting to the greatest and the purest parts of the Christian church, through a succession of ages, had been, long before this Revelation was given to John the Divine, the subject of sacred prediction, and minute description. The prophets of the Old Testament often spake of it; and the New Testament brings it repeatedly into view.

In the prophecies of Daniel, and in several chapters of the Apocalypse, preceding the one in which the vials are introduced to our observation, we have various and very particular representations of this great and long enduring enemy of righteousness in the earth. It is, of course, taken for granted, that, in reading the account given of the pouring out of the vials, we are so far acquainted with the object of the divine judgments, as to understand their special design.

We must therefore request your attention to such preceding predictions, as are necessary to be understood by the student of prophecy, in order to make up a correct opinion upon the events of the period at which we are now arrived.

The account, which we have in this context, of the actual condition of the true church, at the time of commissioning the angels of the vials, is also calculated to enforce the propriety of such considerations. The period of the vials represents the church of God, as possessing the means of extensive knowledge,—as consisting of comparatively a few faithful members—and as finding it peculiarly difficult to increase the number. Verses 5, 8. And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled. The opening of the temple indicates, as I have shown in the last lecture,[13] the increase of Christian knowledge, through the means of grace divinely appointed in the church. I do not deny, however, that besides this idea, the consistency of metaphorical language required the opening of the gates of the temple, in order that the angels might go out to their work; but this fact, instead of militating against the interpretation given of the symbol, will, in the present instance, tend to its support. The instruments of vengeance could not have proceeded out of the church, nor could the ministers of religion give up to the proper agents the judgments to be inflicted upon antichrist, without being possessed of correct information upon these subjects. I am therefore justified in maintaining the consistent use of the symbolical phraseology, and in describing this period, as a time of increasing Christian knowledge. The history of the times of the vials will render this fact obvious to all; although the whole period has not been so remarkable for the diffusion of the light of the gospel, as that part of it now passing over our heads, and which has recently been under discussion.[14] Then, when the temple was opened, the ark of the covenant was also revealed; but, in the case before us, the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of the Lord, and from his power, and no man was able to enter into the temple.

This expression denotes both the paucity of church members, and the difficulty of augmenting their number. Και εγεμισθη ὁ ναος καπνου εκ της δοξης του Θεου. The glory of God, Δοξα του Θεου, is the SHEKINAH, above the mercy-seat, God in Christ, or rather, the Glory-Jehovah;[15] for it is the translation of the Hebrew כבוד יהוה.[16] From him, God our Redeemer, the head of the church, proceeds the symbolical smoke. It cannot of course be like the smoke of the pit, under the first wo, a system of falsehood and delusion, such as the Mahometan Koran; but a righteous display of his own perfections in the punishment of transgressors. Καπνος, smoke, is from Καιω, to burn, and πνοη, breath, and signifies an exhalation from burning, literally, the burning breath of the Lord. There is undoubtedly a reference in these words to the facts recorded by Moses and the writer of the book of 1 Kings. Exod. xl. 35. “And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 1 Kings viii. 10, 11. “The cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister, because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.” It is not however an insignificant reference to these facts. It declares that none entered into the church—the temple, for a specified time, during the period of the vials—till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.

Such is the tendency of the antichristian opposition, and the consequent judgments, that it is difficult, even in a Christian land, to ascertain the path of duty; and the effect is, that, while the world wonders after the beast, there are few who enter among the faithful witnesses of primitive truth and order, against the corrupt systems of the several nations of Christendom. The multiplicity of interests and temptations, with which the political condition of Christians is embarrassed, so far prevails over the abundant means of Christian knowledge, that the pure church is a small minority among their fellowmen. It is, of course, the more necessary, that we attend to this subject, and become ourselves, my brethren, faithful in our generation.

In order to assist you in your resolutions, to act with those who dwell in the tabernacle of the testimony, during this eventful period, I intend to explain the subjects connected with the golden vials of God’s wrath, in the following order.

1. I shall show that the object of the wrath of God, poured out from the golden vials, is THE ANTICHRIST. And in my lecture upon this subject, I trust I shall be able to convince you, that, notwithstanding the recent and the very learned efforts of Mr. Faber, to restrict the application of this title of infamy to modern and revolutionary France, the Fathers of the reformation have not been mistaken in their application of it to the corrupt system of Roman tyranny and superstition. I shall show from the inspired writings of John, of Daniel, and of Paul, that the great apostacy, connected with the fourth universal empire, is designated not improperly the antichrist, which is defined to be that abuse of the Christian religion, which, interwoven with tyrannical constitutions of civil polity within the bounds of the western empire of the Cesars, is opposed to the true religion, and an obstacle to its prevalence in church and state.

2. I shall explain the contents of THE LITTLE BOOK of the Apocalypse. Here I must also oppose Mr. Faber, and justify the arrangement of bishop Newton, limiting this book to chap. xi. 1—14. In the exposition, we shall describe the two great contending parties, who carry on a warfare of 1260 years. A heathenized church in connexion with immoral governments, in opposition to the true church, the witnesses of Christianity.

3. I shall give, from the twelfth chapter, an exposition of the vision of the WOMAN and the DRAGON, another representation of the contest between the true church of Christ and the power of the civil arm, throughout the whole empire during the same period of 1260 years.

4. A lecture upon the thirteenth chapter, which gives a more full description of the character of the Roman apostacy, will furnish you with the interpretation of THE TWO BEASTS, the ten-horned beast of the sea, and the two-horned beast of the earth, together with that of the IMAGE of the beast, of the MARK of the beast, of his name, and the NUMBER of his name. These visions are another collateral history of that system which it is the design of the vials to punish and destroy.

5. I shall give, from the fourteenth chapter, a compendious history of the Christian religion, in its truth and power, during the same remarkable period of the general apostacy. In this history, there will appear three distinctly marked epochs of peculiar success in spreading the saving knowledge of revealed religion in the world; and in opposing the errors of antichrist. The conclusion exhibits the harvest and the vintage of divine judgments upon the commonwealth of European nations.

6. Having thus explained, in detail, my views of that system, which in the providence of God has been permitted to afflict the earth for centuries, I shall proceed to give the history of each vial by itself, comparing the event with the prediction. This will complete the discussion of the third period, called THE PERIOD OF THE VIALS.


You will allow me now, Christians, before we separate for the day, to suggest the two following ideas to your consideration.

1. As you discover, by your attention to this course of lectures, a sincere desire to understand the Apocalyptical predictions, I respectfully solicit an interest in your prayers, while I am endeavouring to aid your inquiries.

To myself, it is highly desirable to be preserved from the influence of any prejudices whatever, during my researches into this sacred book: and it is not desirable to you, who wait on my ministry, that I should be subject to any partialities. It would be no advantage to you, that I should flatter and deceive you. Were 1 permitted to prostrate so far the dignity of my ministry, as to use exertions for insinuating myself into the esteem of worldly politicians, and give myself to the service of a certain party, I might possibly succeed in gaining the attachment of some at the expense of the resentment of others: but, in so doing, I would deal treacherously with the word of truth, I would forfeit the esteem of my own conscience, and I would provoke the anger of my God. Let me rather adopt the language of Elihu, “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person: neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away.”[17]

Self-interest, I know, frequently deceives men into opinions which they would not otherwise embrace. The influence of respectable connexions; the esteem of the great or the opulent; early prejudices; the love of country, that strong passion of superior and noble minds; each of these may give a bias to our sentiments, and render conviction less dependent upon evidence than upon our wishes: but I am not conscious of having any interest inconsistent with fidelity to the scriptures; of having any connexions so dear to me as the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; of cherishing for any other human being so high an esteem, as that in which I hold the prophets and the martyrs; of any prejudices so strong as my attachment for the system maintained by the fathers, by the apostles, and by the ancient reformers; nor of loving any country upon earth to such a degree as to wish, for its sake, that any suffering should befall the inhabitants or rulers of any other country; much less to such a degree as to pervert, for its sake, the code of morality, or the system of prophecy. I habitually desire to derive all my morals, and all my politics, as well as my hope and my faith, from the oracles of God. And I most earnestly solicit your prayers in my behalf, that I may not deceive myself in this matter, and that I may not be led to embrace or inculcate sentiments irreconcilable with the word of truth.

The inspired writers often asked an interest in the prayers of the saints. We need your prayers, my brethren, at all times; and we take peculiar delight in addressing our ministrations to those, who have aided us by their supplications, and who are themselves, thus prepared, in an honest and good heart to receive the word, and to bring forth correspondent fruits.

2. Be careful yourselves to hear, without political prejudices, a discussion of those prophecies, which respect the character and changes of civil and ecclesiastical relations and establishments.

By these, we open the door of the temple to you, that you may abound in knowledge more and more. By these, we reveal to your view the commissioners employed by the Almighty Ruler of the universe, to conduct to their appointed end the movements of empire. By these, we introduce to you the few faithful pastors, who, making a correct estimate of national character, denounce the tyrannical and the impious, and give over to the angels the vials of the wrath of God, while they raise a voice to the licentious occupants of thrones, saying, “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. KISS THE SON, LEST HE BE ANGRY, AND YE PERISH.”[18]

Enter into the company of those celestial harpers, who stand upon the mount Zion, singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. Forget for a time the place of your birth, and the opinions of worldly wisdom; cast away from you the prejudices of your education; banish from your recollection the thoughts of inordinate selfishness, of deceitful honours, of aspiring ambition. Act, my brethren, in the high, the holy, the heavenly character of Christians. Taking a live coal from the altar of incense, arise and stand before the God of the sanctuary, and taking the harps of God, while his wrath is tormenting the irreligious world, join in the sweet and solemn melody, by which the praise of the Creator is celebrated, by the triumphant opponents of antichristian usurpation.

Look around you upon the companions of your song. Lo, they stand upon the sea of glass mingled with fire, before the throne of the Lamb. They have gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.

Welcome, blessed companions. We join in your exalted music. We repeat the words of your eucharistical hymn. We lift up our hearts and our hands, as well as the offering of our lips, to the God of Abraham—to thee our Father in heaven. “Great and marvellous are thy works. Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” AMEN.


[1] Lord Kaime’s Elements of Criticism.

[2] Dr. Priestley’s Notes on the text.

[3] See Parkhurst.

[4] Calmet.

[5] See page 61. [HERE]

[6] Page 55. [HERE]

[7] Πληγη whether derived immediately from πλησσω; to smite, or remotely from פלץ to shake, denotes such a calamity as inflicts a heavy blow upon its subject. The strokes of vengeance upon the antichristian empire are many and severe. They are nevertheless appointed by the Head of the church; and the ministers of the church will, of course, denounce the judgments; and, instead of lamenting or preventing the execution of the sentence, will order the agents of Providence to their work.

[8] This symbol is explained page 51. [HERE]

[9] Rom. viii. 37. Rev. xii. 11.

[10] Isa. xxiii. 16. Psa. xcii. 1—3.

[11] Dr. Johnston’s Commentary on the Revelation, p. 121, 122.

[12] See in explanation of this symbol, pages 90, 91. [HERE] and the Introduction to Lecture IX.

[13] See page 208. [HERE]

[14] See Page 209. [HERE]

[15] The learned reader will derive much gratification on this subject from an attentive perusal of a Dissertation on God’s Visible Presence, by Lord Barrington. Miscellanea Sacra, vol. iii. p. 117. London, 1770.

[16] See Hab. ii. 14. Isa. xi. 5. and lx. 1, 2. Rom. vi. 4. James ii. 1. Compare with Rev. xxi. 11, 25. See also Note, page 52. [HERE]

[17] Job xxxii. 21, 22.

[18] Psa. ii. 10—12.