Page images
PDF
EPUB

had repeatedly invaded the empire before, and devastated the provinces on the Danube and the Rhine. The invasions of Italy during that period and overthrow of the western empire, are represented, as we have seen, by the symbols of the first four trumpets, and cannot, therefore, be supposed to be again indicated by this.

Mr. Mede, Dr. More, Mr. Daubuz, Mr. Jurieu, Mr. Whiston, Mr. Lowman, Bishop Newton, Mr. Faber, Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Keith, Mr. Elliott, and others, unite in interpreting it of the Saracens, though they differ in their construction of its subordinate parts. Mr. Mede, Mr. Whiston, and Dean Woodhouse regard Satan as the star. But that is to make Mahomet one of the locusts instead of their king, and to exhibit him as generated in the smoke emitted from the pit, instead of the agent who gave egress to that smoke. Mr. Cuninghame interprets the star of the pope, and the smoke of the ignorance, error, superstition, and idolatry of the churches of the fifth and sixth centuries. But that is to confound the smoke in which the locusts were generated, with the crimes of those whom it was their office to torment. Apostasy to the homage of creatures was the characteristic of the men who had not the mark of God on their foreheads, and the reason of their subjection to the scorpion torture of the locusts. But the locusts themselves were not generated in that superstition and creature-homage. The Saracens were not apostates from Christianity, but generally at least, worshippers of the sun, moon, and stars;' nor was the system of Mahomet formed like that of the false prophet of Rome by a mere perversion of the gospel, or infusion into it of contradictory ingredients, but was wholly new, a sheer and independent fabrication, and designed to supersede alike paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. His scheme was all drawn from the abyss, and employed in intercepting the sun, not in any degree like popery, in giving a new tinge and refraction to its rays, and exhibiting them as emanations from other objects.

It is to confound the region also where the smoke brooded, with the exterior earth to which the locusts proceeded on entering on their office of torture. That smoke was confined to the scene in which they were generated, not extended over the vast field of their conquests. While they remained in that scene they were hidden. It was not till they emerged from it, that they became visible. The denseness of the cloud from the abyss, denotes not only the ulter erroneousness of his doctrine, but the absoluteness 'Sale's Prelim. Discourse, sect. i. p. 19-29.

' Ibid. s. 2, pp. 53, 54.

also with which it enveloped his followers, excluding every direct ray from heaven, and every refraction from surrounding objects; a most conspicuous peculiarity of the disciples of Mahomet, who entertain no doubts whatever of the propriety of their own scheme, never modify it by the adoption of doctrines from others, nor admit the possibility of a higher degree of truth in any antagonist system.

Finally, the ignorance, the errors, the superstition, and the creature-worship of the eastern churches, which were the chief victims of the Saracen scourge, were not the offspring of the papacy, but originated with those churches themselves, and long anterior to the supremacy of the pope. No facts of history are more indisputable and conspicuous, than that the false doctrines, superstition, ambitious rivalries, and apostasy to creature-worship of the Egyptian, Syrian, and Greek churches, sprung up among themselves, and were transplanted thence to the western churches, not borrowed from earlier apostates of Italy. Gnosticism in all its numerous forms, the fabrication of false gospels and lying legends, the institution of new orders of ministers and a new government of the church, asceticism, monkery, Sabellianism, Arianism, Appolinarianism, Eutychianism, Eunomianism, all had their origin there, and spread thence to other regions; and the homage of relics and martyrs, the adoration of the cross, the invocation of saints, the worship of idols, if not first introduced at the east, sprung up there at least as early and flourished as vigorously as at the west. Of all the infinite swarm indeed of doctrinal errorists of the first six centuries, Pelagius was the only one of importance who originated at the west, and he was opposed in a degree by the cotemporary popes, and many of the western clergy. Many of those errors and superstitions had prevailed for generations before the pope attained the rank of supreme bishop in the western kingdoms, and he never enjoyed a supremacy over the

The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, were co-ordinate with the patriarch of Rome, and ever jealous of his ambition.

The objections offered to this application of the symbol are founded on misapprehension. Dean Woodhouse deems it a proof that the being who received the key of the pit cannot have been Mahomet, that he was a star, which he regards as the symbol of a distinguished religious teacher; and that he fell from heaven, which he imagines an indication of apostasy. But those assumptions are without authority. It is the office indeed of a fixed stai to give light, but not of a meteor generated in the atmosphere, which but gleams for a moment and then explodes and sinks to the earth. This star was of the latter kind, manifestly from the fact that it had fallen-not a sun of some other system, like the twinkling orbs that stud our evening sky; and its descent to the earth simply denotes its violent migration or dejection from its original station to a new scene of agency, precisely as the descent of the rain, hail, and lightning following the first trumpet, denotes a violent precipitation into the empire of the agents whom they represent; and the dejection of the meteor embittering the fountains and streams, the headlong rush from a distance of the destructive host which that body symbolized.

It is regarded by others as a proof that Mahomet is not among the agents denoted by the star, that he had not filled any conspicuous station either religious or civil, anterior to his assumption of the prophetic office and collection of a small band of disciples at Mecca. But no such previous rank was requisite to constitute him a meteor. He became such by the generation of his religious system, and gathered a train proportional to his own dimensions, by the conversion of the few relatives and associates who accompanied him on his ejection from Mecca. The descent of the meteor to the earth was a fit representative of his flight from that city to Medina. His opening the pit and emission of the smoke into the atmosphere, denote the promulgation of his doctrines at Medina ; and its brooding on the surface and enveloping every object where it spread, the absoluteness with which his imposture took possession of the people and subjected them to his dominion.

Most commentators have regarded the five months or one hundred and fifty days during which the locusts were to exercise their power, as denoting one hundred and fifty years; and have perplexed themselves with endeavors to discern epochs in their history to verify that construction. That interpretation, however, is not according to analogy. The period was to bear such a proportion to the nature of a conquering nation, passing the usual course from success to luxury and from luxury to decay, as five months bear to the usual life of locusts. And that career the Saracens had actually run, anterior to the overthrow of their empire by the Turks. Nor is the period from which those interpreters date the one hundred and fifty years, in accordance with the symbol. The agency of the locusts commenced at their emergence from the smoke and flight to the adjacent earth, or first incursion into Syria in the year 629 or 630. But those wri

"Gibbon's Hist. chap. I.

ters refer the commencement of the five months to Mahomet's first assumption of the prophetic office in 612, anterior to the flight to Medina and the generation of the locusts. The long continuance of their empire, therefore, and the impossibility of measuring its chief periods by one hundred and fifty years, are no proofs, as Dean Woodhouse and others regard them, that the Saracens are not the agents denoted by the symbol.

It is also thought by Dean Woodhouse to be an objection to this application of the symbol, that the locusts were not to injure the grass, nor any thing green, nor the trees, but only the men who had not the seal of God on their foreheads. This he first assumes implies that none of the sealed were to suffer by their agency; next, that therefore their agency was to be of a nature which the sealed would naturally resist or escape, and thence that it must have been merely moral, not physical, like that of the Saracens, who slaughtered and tortured, without distinction of age, sex, rank, or character, whoever opposed their career. But those assumptions are unauthorized. That direction was doubtless descriptive not only of the character of those whom they were to torment, and of the policy they were to pursue towards them, but also of the pretences under which they were to veil the ambition from which their wars were to spring, and the cruel tyranny they were to exercise over those whom they conquered. Their apparent aims were to differ from those of ordinary warriors. They were not ostensibly to be prompted by desire of power, honor, wealth, or the gratification of passion, but were to profess themselves to be the special ministers of the Almighty, to represent it as their sole object to fulfil his will in the dissemination of a new religion he had revealed, and the extirpation of false worships, especially idolatry, and to make that the reason and justification of their unprovoked attacks, their cruel slaughters, and lawless devastations; but under those hypocritical and impious pretences, were to be at liberty to indulge their malignant and brutal passions without reserve. Such indisputably was the course they pursued. They carried on all their wars under the pretence of religion, but made their victories subserve, beyond almost any other nation in the long succession of Asiatic conquerors, a lawless appetite and merciless ferocity.

But the direction was undoubtedly prophetic also both of the character of those whom they were to torture, and of the policy they were to pursue towards them, and in each relation had a signal fulfilment in the career of the Saracens. The term "the men” whom they were to injure, whatever application may be made of the symbol, cannot be supposed to denote only persons of mature age. If, as Dean Woodhouse assumes, the agents represented by the locusts were false teachers, their influence cannot have been limited to adults. It is impossible that what is publicly and promiscuously taught, should not be communicated to youth and children as well as to adults. Such notoriously was the diffusion of the Gnostic errors, which he regards as foreshown by the symbol. The phrase, the men that have not the mark of God on their foreheads, denotes therefore apostates promiscuously, without distinction of age, superstitious churches, communities, nations; and such churches and communities in contradistinction, not to individuals, but to churches of the opposite character. And such most conspicuously were the churches and nations overrun and tortured by the Saracens, through their long career. That was their prevalent character. The exceptions, if there were any, were but of individuals, and those undoubtedly very rare and very obscure. No churches probably ever existed that were more generally corrupt. That universality of the characteristic, therefore, is all that the verification of the prophecy requires. It was no violation of its meaning, if some few who were the true people of God shared in the miseries of the Saracen woe; or were among the victims of their swords.

SECTION XXIII.

CHAPTER IX. 13-21.

THE SIXTH TRUMPET.

And the sixth angel sounded; and I heard one voice from the four horns of the golden altar which was before God, saying to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, Loose the four angels who have been bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed who had been prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, that they might slay a third of the men. And the number of ihe armies of the cavalry (was] two myriads of myriads. I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and they who sat on them, having breastplates, fiery, hyacinthine, and sulphurous. And the heads of the horses were as heads of lions, and from their mouth proceeded fire, and smoke, and sulphur. By those three plagues the third of the men were slain, by the fire,

« PreviousContinue »