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The period from the persecution by Diocletian to that by Licinius commenced in 319, was marked by impassioned desires and hopes by the church, for the elevation to power, not only of a tolerant, but of a Christian prince, who should free it from the danger of extinction, with which the repetition of an exterminating war like that of Diocletian and Galerius seemed to threaten it.' That period answers to the other conditions of the symbol also. It immediately preceded a violent convulsion in the Roman empire in which the church had a deeper interest than in any other that has occurred, and in which there was a tempestuous conflict of opinion, such as voices, lightnings, and thunders denote, and a subversion of ancient institutions, analogous to the demolition of fortresses, temples, and cities, by an earthquake. That revolution also was followed by a long succession of great and peculiar events answering to the symbols of the trumpets, and to extend like the seals to the advent of the Redeemer. From the fifth of those symbols, it is apparent that the church had, at the period which it represents, apostatized. The men who were to be tormented by its scorpion locusts, were they who had not the seal of God on their foreheads, which, as we have learned from the vision of the seventh chapter, marks his true worshippers, and makes them visible as such, in contradistinction from apostates. As the first four trumpets preceded the fifth, and the fifth indisputably commenced in the early part of the seventh century, we are constrained, by the inadequacy of all other events, to refer the first four to the subversion of the western Roman empire by the Goths; and thence, as no others of that nature preceded them, to regard the voices, lightnings, thunders, and earthquake, as symbols of the agitations, contests, and revolutions, which attended the elevation of Constantine and subversion of paganism, and extending therefore from the commencement of his war with Maxentius, in the year 311, to the death of Theodosius in 395. This is confirmed also by the resemblance of this vision to that of the twelfth chapter, in which the church is exhibited under the symbol of a majestic woman, desiring to give birth to a man-child who should rule the nations with an iron
Diocletian and Galerius commenced in March, 303 : Constantius Chlorus became Augustus in 305, and died in 306, when Constantine succeeded him, with the rank, however, of Cæsar only. Galerius yielded toleration to the church in April, 311, and died in the May following. The war between Constantine and Maxentius commenced towards the close of 311, and ended in the defeat and death of Maxentivo 28th October, 312.
'Lactantii de Mort. Persecut. c. i. Eusebii de Vita Constant. lib. i. c. 1, 2, 3, 4. Sozorneni Eccl. Hist. lib. i. c. 7.
sceptre. Those desires and cries were of the period between the elevation and death of Constantius Chlorus. They were followed like these by the fall of the votaries of paganism into a minority in the empire, by an apostasy of the church, and by the flight of the woman into the desert. That man-child indisputably represented Constantine and his successors, with the exception of Julian. They in claiming dominion over the faith and worship of the church, usurped the throne of God, and led to an apostasy. The fall of the pagan party took place during their reigns, and was immediately followed by the incursions of the Goths, which the symbols of the first four trumpets denote. These and the immense train of correspondences of the successive trumpets extending through fifteen centuries, and which are found in no degree in any other events, furnish a vast and irresistible demonstration that the period of tranquillity immediately before their commencement, is that which the silence denotes. To find any other train of agents and agencies that accord with these symbols, is as impossible, as it is to find any other empire than the Roman that answers to their scene, or any other department of life than the civil and military in that empire, to which those actors can have belonged.
That the seven angels—though they appear immediately after the silence, and receive their trumpets-do not enter on their office until the prayers of the saints have been offered and answered by a tempest and earthquake in the empire, denotes that the events that were to be symbolized in connection with their agency, could not take place until those supplications had received an answer, and were to follow in some relation as consequences of them.
And another angel came and stood at the altar of sacrifice, which was in the court immediately before the vestibule of the temple, and on which the fire was never extinguished," having a golden censer with which to take coals from the altar. While in that station an attendant gave to him much incense, that he should offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar in the sanctuary or main temple, immediately before the entrance to the holy of holies. Receiving the incense and filling the censer with coals, he proceeded into the sanctuary, and firing the incense on the golden altar, the smoke ascended before the holy of holies, in which was the throne of the Almighty. Then returning to the altar of sacrifice in the court, he filled the censer again with coals, and cast to the earth, and there were voices, and Leviticus vi. 12, 13.
? Levit. xvi. 12, 13. Luke i. 9, 10.
thunders, and lightnings, and an earthquake. This action is obviously symbolic of an agency, not on earth, but in heaven. To suppose that the angel offering incense personates agents on earth, is to suppose the throne also to be on earth, and the being who sat on it, which is not only to contradict the vision, but as there is no visible being enthroned in the church on earth but the pope, and none but he to whom homage is paid, it is to imply that it is he who is symbolized in the vision as the object of worship, which is the most revolting of errors. As the throne then was in heaven, and he who sat on it the eternal Word, so the angel offering the incense symbolized an agent in his presence, not on earth, and the offering of the incense an act exerted in his presence, not in our world. It denoted therefore that there was to be a visible recognition in the presence of the Redeemer of the supplications of the church on earth, by a memorial or representative, symbolized by the offering of incense. The angel personated the order of beings who fulfilled that office. As the fire of the altar is the symbol of the instruments of divine justice, the angel's filling his censer with coals from the altar, after his return from the sanctuary, and casting them to the earth, denoted that the prayers of the church were to be answered by avenging justice; and the voices, lightnings, thunders, and earthquake that followed, that that justice was to be inflicted in a succession of violent commotions in the empire, in which the visible church was to have an immediate interest.
Eichhorn and Rosenmuller regard the silence as introduced by the apostle, merely in order to the adjustment of the dramatic action, and without signification therefore. But that is to set aside the symbolic character of the scene. Grotius interprets the voices, lightnings, thunders, and earthquake, as symbols of similar phenomena that preceded and heralded the calamities of the siege of Jerusalem, and that were themselves presages of those calamities; which is in the first place to exhibit them as of the same species as the events they represented, and next to make them representatives of representatives, which are alike against the laws of symbolization.
The commentators who interpret the sixth seal of events of the reign of Constantine, refer this vision to his reign also, or the period from his victory over Licinius to the commencement of the Gothic invasions, but differ widely in their views of its import. Mr. Brightman regards Constantine as the angel offering incense, the odors his power of assembling a council to settle the dissensions of the church, the smoke of the incense the action of the council, and the voices, thunders, and earthquake, the contentions to which the decisions of the council gave birth ; incongruities, were they not the offspring of a misconception of the law of symbolization that is common to later interpreters, it would scarcely be necessary to refute. They are against analogy. The ritual of the temple is a fit type of the spiritual worship of the Christian church, but there is no analogy between that ritual and the usurpation of authority over the church by a civil ruler, and attempt to dictate its faith and worship. There is an obvious resemblance between an earthquake which heaves the massiest structures from their foundations and prostrates whole cities, and a political revolution in which ancient institutions are undermined and overthrown; but there is no resemblance between such a convulsion which strows the earth with ruin, and the differences and dissatisfactions of a church in respect to the decrees of a council.
Mr. Daubuz regards the silence as a symbol of the liberty granted to the church by Constantine to worship without obstruction; the gift of incense to the angel, whom he exhibits as a representative of the ministers of the church, as the gift of revenues for the erection of edifices for worship and the support of ministers; the voices, thunders, and lightnings, as their public and zealous proclamation of the word of God. But what analogy is there between silence and a liberty to offer an audible worship; between the gift of incense, the symbol of acceptable supplication, and the gift of revenues to build magnificent structures and support ministers, without any reference to the nature of the worship to which those structures were to be devoted, or the doctrines those ministers were to teach ; between the lightnings and thunders of a tempest, and the proclamation to men of the glad tidings of salvation?
Cocceius regards the angel as Christ, the golden censer as the will of the Eternal Spirit through which he offered himself a sacrifice for us ; the altar as denoting the dignity of his deity, and the incense his merits; the fire from the altar as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and its dejection to the earth as denoting an effusion of his influences and distribution of gracious gifts ; all which are wholly against analogy.
Vitringa interprets the silence of the millennium of peace which is to follow the overthrow of the wild beast and false prophet, and the angel offering incense of Christ. But what analogy is there between a half hour of silence, and a thousand years of perpetual homage, activity in the service of God, and joy; or between a half hour followed by trumpets, viols, the destruction of a wild beast and false prophet, and thence a thousand years of righteousness and peace; and a thousand years of righteousness succeeded by no such trumpets or viols, wild beast or false prophet? What analogy is there between heaven and earth, that the one can symbolize the other; or what resemblance between an angel who offers homage in the presence of Christ, and Christ in whose presence that homage is offered? Created agents are never employed to symbolize the Redeemer, either in person or office.
Dean Woodhouse and Mr. Cuninghame regard the silence as indicating the termination of that series of events which the former seals denote, and the commencement of a new train of revelations. But what adaptation has a half hour's silence to show that the series of symbols that follow it, commence at a period many ages earlier than that at which the preceding series closed? If it be a representative of time, it undoubtedly represents a period that intervenes between the two series, not that, or a chief part of that, which the preceding series had measured. But it is the half hour that indicates the time, while the silence is a symbol of its characteristic, and in distinction doubtless from that which preceded and followed.
Mr. Elliott interprets the silence of the suspension of the winds during the sealing of the servants of God. But what certainty can there be of interpretation, if events may in that manner be transferred from one seal to another to meet the exigences of a theory? The philology on which he founds that transference, is as unsatisfactory as the construction he employs it to support. If the aorist in the first verse be used as the pluperfect, it must be held to be used in place of that tense also in all the other instances in which it occurs both in this passage and those that follow, and will exhibit the voices, and thunders, and earthquake, therefore, as well as the silence, as preceding the opening of the seal, and the hail and fire that follow the first trumpet, as having preceded that trumpet. There is no more infallible mark of the error of an interpretation, than that it is built on a deviation from the most simple and uniform laws of language. The meaning is invariably that which those laws, most fully understood and implicitly followed, constrain us to adopt. It is equally against analogy. What resemblance is there between silence, and a suspension of tempestuous winds ? A deep calm is more favorable to the transmission of sound, than any other condition of the atmosphere. Mr. Cuninghame