« PreviousContinue »
The Wormwood, from its influence on the waters. It tinged them with bitterness, and became the means of death to many who resided on their borders in the distant regions which they traversed, or where they mingle with the sea.
For the counterpart of this symbol drawn from the physical, analogy requires us to look to the civil world. As in a great empire like the Roman, embracing many nations and tribes, the ceniral and most numerous people is to distant and tributary communities, what the sea is to the fountains and streams that descend into it, the fountains obviously and rivers on which the meteor fell, are representatives of communities and tribes at a distance from the capital, which are perpetually descending towards the centre and intermixing with the main population. As the fountains and streams denote those tribes and communities, the men who were killed by the bitter infusion into their waters, are not men of those tribes and communities, but others residing on their banks in the distant countries through which they pass, or the central population towards which ihose tribes tend. Otherwise the poisoned waters and those who drank them were the same.
The symbol thus denotes the descent of a terrible agent on the skirts of the empire occupied by various tribes and communities, and infusion into their disposition and policy of a new element, by which they became pernicious and destructive to the central population and others.
And such pre-eminently were the characteristics of the Scythian hordes under Attila, and the effects of their invasion of the northern and western skirts of the empire. Like a meteor descending from the distant regions of the atmosphere, they came from the remote solitudes of Asia. As the elements of the star were soon absorbed by the waters where it fell, so they were wasted in a large degree in their disastrous contests with the Visigoths, Franks, and others, and disbanded and absorbed by the tribes of the Danube and Germany on the death, soon after, of Attila. The success of the Gauls, Visigoths, and Alans in resisting the aggressions of so powerful a foe, their determination to repel all further inroads of the barbarians and maintain possession of their respective territories, and the dissolution at the death of Attila of the Scythian empire, withheld the northern hordes from again invading them, and left them thereafter to subsist as separate and independent nations, and assume relations towards Italy that became the occasion to it of slaughters through a long succession of ages. Their warlike youth left without employment by their independence, soon after enlisted in large numbers in the
Italian armies and became a scourge alike to the people and rulers, and prepared the way for their subjugation; and the circle of nations around the Alps, like their rivers which have never ceased to flow, have continued from age to age to make that country their battle-field, and waste it with slaughter.
Attila was opposed at the battle of Chalons in 451, by the Visigoths, Alans, Franks, and Romans. The slaughter was so vast, that a rivulet passing through the plain is said to have become colored and swollen with blood." On his advancing against the Alans in 453, he was again met on the same ground by the combined forces of that tribe and the Visigoths, and suffered an equal defeat. He met a powerful resistance in his invasion of Italy in 452, and though he at length conquered Aquileia and wasted the cities of Lombardy, he relinquished them to the Romans and retired again beyond the Danube ; and on the war between his sons and separation of the hordes that formed his army, the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Lombards who subsequently conquered Italy, settled in Illyria and Pannonia, and were the last of the northern tribes that established kingdoms within the limits of the western empire. Their wars thereafter were wars with one another, and Italy was the prize for which not only the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Lombards fought, but the French, Germans, and Spaniards in a large part of their wars from the eighth to the nineteenth century:
There is less diversity among interpreters in the application of this symbol, than of those that precede it. Grotius, Dr. Hammond and Rosenmuller, interpret it of some actor in the Jewish war, as Eleazar, Josephus the son of Matthias, or others, presenting, however, not the slightest trace of a correspondence. What analogy is there, for example, between Eleazar the priest's refusal to offer the emperor's sacrifices alleged as its counterpart by Rosenmuller, and the fall on fountains and streams of a star that tinges them with bitterness; between the refusal or discontinuance of an action, and the exertion of a new and momentous agency?
Mr. Brightman interprets the star of Constantius ; its fall of his defection to Arianism ; its embittering the waters, of his inducing the bishops to disseminate that error; and the death, of its influence on those who were seduced to its adoption. But that is wholly without analogy. Constantius, if a star, was such simply as a ruler. He was not a teacher. His fall thence, if he fell,
Jornandis do Rebus Get. c. 40.
must have been either a precipitation from the throne to a private station, or else a descent as a conqueror on some kingdom exterior to his empire. A mere change of opinion while continuing to occupy the throne, exhibits no counterpart to the symbol.
Cocceius and Vitringa likewise expound it of Arianism, interpreting the star of the author of that error, its fall of his dejection from office, the bitterness of his false doctrine, and the death of its effects. But they are without correspondence. Arius was not brought into contact with those who were induced to adopt his opinions, by his dejection from office. Those who became his disciples were not to the church or the empire, what the fountains and streams are to the sea. The church exhibited no counterpart to the physical world, from which this symbol and those of ihe first, second, and fourth trumpets are drawn. As the land, the sea, the fountains and streams, and the heavenly bodies make up a whole system, so the analogous system which it represents must embrace a whole social system, and be a civil empire, therefore, which includes all classes of population, and all ranks of rulers ; not the church which did not include the whole community in which it subsisted, was made up of several hierarchies that were independent of each other, had no supreme ecclesiastical head, and was subject moreover to a civil dominion.
And finally, there is an analogy between intelligent bodied beings acting on fellow intelligences as bodied beings, and such intelligences acting on each other as spirits. But there is no such analogy between the agency of a mere unintelligent cause on unintelligent or unconscious objects, and the spiritual agency of one intelligence on another. In order to analogy, either both the symbolic and the symbolized agency must be physical, both agents voluntary, or both subjects of the agency voluntary. A physical agency of an unintelligent cause may symbolize a physical agency, as by a sword, of a voluntary cause : a physical agency of a voluntary cause may symbolize a spiritual influence of a voluntary agent; and a physical agency on men a spiritual agency on them. The proper symbol thence of a spiritual inAuence on men, is a physical agency on them, either of man as under the second, third, and fourth seals, or of some other cause, as of a star or lamp. None of the great agents accordingly of the natural world that are used as symbols in their exertion of influences on unintelligent objects, denote men in the exertion of spiritual influences. They symbolize civil and military agents only in the exertion of a physical force, in contradistinction from a moral power.
When stars are used as symbols of teachers, it is in their relations as light giving bodies to man, not to the material world. It is in that relation also that lamps are employed to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Man is the subject in each instance of the symbolic agency, as well as that which is symbolized. Had this law been observed it would have withheld commentators from a large share of their misapplications of the prophecy.
The exposition of the symbol given by Dean Woodhouse, who interprets it of heretical teachers, such as were Simon Magus, Menander, and Cerinthus, is open to the same objection.
Mr. Lowman expounds it of the whole series of invasions and wars from Genseric to the reconquest of Italy by Justinian ; Bishop Newton of the mere capture and pillage of Rome by Genseric; but neither has the requisite resemblances. As every part of the empire was devastated by those wars, what were the different and distant nations that were killed by the poisoned waters, or what communities were they, in distinction from the people of Rome, that suffered by the sack of that city?
Mr. Mede interprets the fall of the star of the dejection of the western emperor by the Heruli in the
476. But that is to make the star the subject of the calamity, in place of the cause of it to the tribes and nations that are symbolized by the fountains and rivers,
Mr. Daubuz, Mr. Whiston, Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Keith, Mr. Ellioti, interpret it of the Hunns under Attila, but on the mere ground of the slaughters they occasioned, or the scene of their exploits, not of the correspondences of their agency and its results with the peculiarities of the symbol.
CHAPTER VIII. 12.
THE FOURTH TRUMPET.
And the fourth angel sounded; and the third of the sun was smitten, and the third of the moon, and the third of the stars, that the third of them should be darkened, and the day, the third of it should not shine, and the night likewise.
As the land, the sea, and the fountains and streams, acted on oy other physical causes, denote the population of an empire in
their political and military relations in which they are acted on by force ; so the sun, moon, and stars, which preside over the land and sea, and give them light and warmth, are representatives of the rulers who appoint laws to the people, and exert a chief influence in determining their physical and civil conditions ; such as the central or imperial, the provincial and the municipal. As in the Roman empire after the death of Constantine, there was more than one of each of these classes, the stroke on the sun, moon, and stars, by which a part of them was to be darkened, denotes a violent extinction of some of the governments or political organizations of those several orders; the third part expressing the proportion of their power and influence which were to be overthrown to the whole.
That catastrophe was undoubtedly the subversion of the western imperial government and its dependent organizations, and institution in its place of a new rule by the Heruli, in the year 476. The two thirds of the sun, moon, and stars, that still shone, were the corresponding governments of the eastern empire, which at that period greatly surpassed the other in splendor and strength, and still continued to shed either a brilliant or feeble ray through near a thousand years. There is no other event that in the slightest degree meets the conditions of the symbol. As the sun, moon, and stars, were created at the same epoch with the earth which they illumine and rule, and are its only light-giving orbs through its whole period, so in order to analogy, the governments which they symbolize must sustain the same relation towards the empire over which they preside. But there is no other instance in the history of the Roman empire, in which a branch of the supreme government, with its subordinate organizations and institutions that had subsisted from the beginning, was extinguished, leaving another part of superior power still to prolong its being and shine on through many ages. There were short periods, indeed, after the division of the empire into the eastern and western, during which the imperial rule reverted wholly to the Byzantine dynasty, but the other branches of the western government continued unaltered. And that change was not an extinction in any degree of the sun. If the circuit of his disk was apparently diminished, there was a proportional increase of his effulgence, and the same influences were continued on the empire to which it had been accustomed."
Grotius interprets the symbol of the capture of the cities of Galilee and slaughter of the Jews by Vespasian. But those
Jornandis, c. 46, pp. 679, 680. Sigonii de Occid. Imper. lib. xiii. pp. 250, 251.