« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Brightman, Mr. Daubuz, and Mr. Elliott regard the angel as symbolic, and interpret his voice, on the one hand, of theirs who, like Vigilantius in the preceding age, inveighed against the corruptions of the church, and on the other, of Pope Gregory's exhibition of the arrogation by the patriarch of Constantinople of the title of universal bishop, as a mark of the presence or approach of antichrist. But that is to confound the acknowledgment and proclamation of the apostasy of the church, with a forewarning of the calamities by which first the eastern empire was to be overwhelmed, and next the western governments and the man of sin. The warning was a warning of the calamities which were to be represented by the symbols of the trumpets that were about to be blown, and as the first two fell on the eastern empire, was a warning of judgments by which that empire was to be overthrown. It is under the last trumpet that antichrist is to fall.
Mr. Lowman, Bishop Newton, Dean Woodhouse, and Mr. Cuninghame, regard it as the angel's office to excite attention merely. Vitringa exhibits his cry as designed only to warn the church that the
calamities of the last trumpets were to be far more severe than those of the first, which is to divest it of its symbolic character.
And the fifth angel sounded ; and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to the earth, and the key was given to him of the pit of the abyss. And he opened the pit of the abyss, and smoke ascended from the pit as smoke of a great furnace. And the sun was darkened and the air by the smoke of the pit. And from the smoke locusts went forth to the earth. And power was given to them as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was said to them, that they should not injure the grass of the earth, nor any thing green, nor any tree, but only the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads. And it was given to them that they should not slay them, but that they should be tormented five months. And their torment was like torment from a scorpion should it strike a man. And in those days the men shall seek death, and they shall not find it, and they shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. And the figures of the locusts (were) like horses prepared for battle, and on their heads [were] as crowns like gold, and their faces as faces of men, and they had hair as hair of women, and their teeth were as of lions. And they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings (was) as the sound of many chariots of horses rushing to battle. And they had tails like scorpions, and stings were in their tails. And their power [is] to injure the men five months. They have over them a king, the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name the Destroyer. The first woe is passed. Behold, there yet come two woes after these.
The meteor had fallen to the earth when first seen by the apostle. Its head, it would seem, was an intelligent being, whom the key of a bottomless recess was given by its porter or prince. As the meteor which fell on the rivers and fountains denoted a vast army of Hunns, so this doubtless represents a body of armed men with a slaughtering and ruthless leader. As the former extended over a surface in which a third of the rivers of the empire had their origin, it indicated a proportional vastness of that Scythian host. But as the head of the latter was an individual, and bore doubtless a due proportion to its train, that may be regarded as an equally clear indication that it was of but moderate dimensions. He opened the dungeon gate, and out of the smoke which ascended and filled the atmosphere, locusts went forth to the earth,-agents of a different class, or having a different office from those constituting the meteor. Their figures were like horses caparisoned for battle. They had faces as of men, hair as of women, and teeth as of lions. They had on their heads as it were crowns like gold, and had breastplates as iron breastplates, and such was their innumerable multitude that the sound of their wings was like the sound of many chariots of horses rushing to battle. A power or nature was given to them like that of the scorpions of the earth, and they were directed not to injure the grass, crops, or trees, but only the men who had not the seal of God on their foreheads, and not by slaughter, but by a scorpion torment. They were to exercise their power during five months, the usual period of locusts, and in such a form as to render life to the tortured insupportable.
As the locusts had life, they were by the laws of symbolization representatives of intelligent beings; and as they were of both sexes, and propagated their kind, they were representatives of human beings, the only species of intelligences on earth of that nature, and a body embracing both sexes and all ages, as a swarm
of locusts embraces all the varieties of age, size, and nature
As they who have the seal of God on their foreheads are his
What warrior host, then, uniting in itself these peculiar and terrible characters, appeared on the apocalyptic earth next after the fall of the western empire, and tortured through a long period an apostate church? An exact and conspicuous correspondence is presented by the Saracens. Mahomet and his small band of associates fled from Mecca to Medina, like a meteor that falls from the region where it is generated to the earth. He there received liberty to unfold and propagate his doctrines, and soon diffused them through Arabia; and they were a smoke from the abyss instead of an effulgence from the sun. He generated by them in his followers that locust disposition by which they were prompted to go forth from their native seat to other lands, gave them their scorpion power, enjoined it as their office to torture idolaters, and rendered them in that respect different from those who formed his meteor train, whose aim was to sustain him as a teacher merely, not like his scorpion hordes, to conquer other lands, torture apostates, and extend his sway as a king. It was not until after the promulgation of his first doctrines, the organization of his followers at Medina, and the generation of the first swarm of locusts, that he added the directions that respect their conquests. All the subordinate characteristics were united in them also. Their crowns, their faces, their hair, their teeth, their breastplates, were symbolic of their dispositions, or the characteristics of their agency, rather than descriptive of their persons, and denoted traits by which the Saracens were most conspicuously marked, a daring pretence to right, cunning, effeminateness, voracity, and insensibility to the miseries of their victims. They fulfilled their office as torturers on the eastern
Sale's Prelim. Discourse to the Koran, sect. 2, pp. 67, 68.
Roman empire chiefly. Mahomet remained their lawgiver and guide through their whole period, and they continued their scorpion career until they had run the usual course of conquerors, as locusts continue while life lasts to devour the grass and the trees. In like manner the nations, conquered or overrun by the Saracens, were such as the passage designates. The churches of Babylonia, Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, Northern Africa, Spain, and the Mediterranean islands, had sanctioned the arrogation of the rights of God by civil and ecclesiastical rulers, turned to the open and zealous worship of relics, saints, and images, and sunk to the lowest depths of profligacy and debasement.
There is no other body of men in whom the conditions of the symbol meet. Grotius, Dr. Hammond, and Eichhorn interpret the locusts of the Zealots who spread slaughter and devastation through Judea a short time previous to the overthrow of Jerusalem. But they present none of the required correspondences. They were not only five centuries earlier than the period denoted by the symbol, but preceded near thirty years the date of the Revelation. They were not generated as were the locusts in a different land from that in which they exercised their cruel. ties, but were natives of Judea and Galilee. Those whom they tortured had not sanctioned the usurpations by the emperors of authority over the faith and worship of the church, but were unbelieving Jews. They were not united under a single chieftain, were not preceded by a smoke from the abyss, nor meteor head, nor did they continue their career through a period proportional to that which nations usually run from conquest to indolence and luxury, and from luxury to decay.
Mr. Brightman interprets the star both of Mahomet and the pope, and the locusts both of the Saracens and the Roman priests and monks. But it is wholly arbitrary and inconsistent with a certainty of meaning, to assume that the same symbol may denote two wholly distinct classes of agents and even It is to set aside analogy to expound it as denoting classes of agents of different departments of life, one military, the other religious; one invading and devastating a foreign country, the other exerting their destructive influence only in their own.
Cocceius regarded the star as symbolizing the pope, and its dejection as denoting his fall from authority at the Reformation. But the fall of the star denotes the procedure of the agent whom it symbolizes to the scene of his agency, not his deprivation of power, nor the diminution of his influence. He also regarded the locusts as symbolizing the Romish clergy of that period.
But they exhibit none of the requisite analogies. They were not the offspring of a recent and peculiar smoke from the abyss. The darkness in which they were generated had long brooded over the Roman empire. Some of the monkish orders sprang indeed in a degree from a decrease of that darkness and a wish to remedy its intolerable evils, and were far less corrupt and pernicious in their agency at their origin, than after having risen to numbers, popularity, and wealth. They were not foreigners, but exerted their agency in the scenes of their birth and education. They were not hostile to the assumption of authority over the faith and worship of the church by civil and ecclesiastical rulers, nor to the homage of idols, nor were they torturers of those who had apostatized, but, instead, were the advocates of those usurpations, the votaries of relic and saint worship, and the patrons of idolatry. They were of but one sex. But when a species of creatures like locusts, embracing both sexes, is used as a symbol, analogy requires that the agents symbolized should also embrace both sexes, and that condition was peculiarly and conspicuously fulfilled in the Saracens, who were usually attended by many of their women and families in their warlike expeditions, and followed in their conquests by a crowd of emigrants, who hastened to grasp the wealth and enslave the persons of the vanquished.
There is a like want of correspondence in the Gnostics, to whom Dean Woodhouse refers the symbol. Their false doctrines were not originated by a single chief, but were invented by several persons, and at distant periods. They were not hostile to the worship of imaginary deities, but taught the existence of an infinite multitude, and proposed them as objects of homage. They were the first apostates, and authors of the first apostasy from the truths of the gospel, not torturers of those who had previously apostatized. They were not foreigners, but exercised their agency on those among whom they had their birth and education. They began their career in the first century, reached their largest diffusion ere the end of the second, and rapidly declined through the third ;' but the period of this symbol is undoubtedly after the fall of the western empire in the fifth.
Vitringa interprets it of the northern nations who devastated Italy during the one hundred and fifty years from the invasion under Alaric to the capture of Rome by Totila. But they were not guided by a single chief. They were not generated by a smoke released by their leader from the bottomless abyss. They were not a new and peculiar species of warriors. The same nations
· Eusebii Hist. Eccl. lib. iii. c. 32.