« PreviousContinue »
worship which the agents of the second woe were to punish, took place chiefly after the Saracens entered on their career, and did not gain a full sanction in the eastern empire, until near the middle of the ninth century, when their power had begun to decline. But the apostasy which the Saracens were appointed to scourge, the impious homage of rulers, and the worship of relics, saints, and angels, commenced at the elevation of Constantine, and had become universal at the period of their first conquests. The great peculiarity of those who have the seal of God on their foreheads is, that they ascribe to God alone the right to appoint the faith, the worship, and the laws of his church, and resist and denounce the usurpation of that right by men: and the peculiar and contradistinguishing characteristic of those who have not that mark, is that they allow and uphold the arrogation of that right by civil and ecclesiastical rulers. As the latter had long prevailed in the church at the rise of the Saracens, the office to which they were assigned was doubtless that of torturing those who were guilty of that apostasy. There is no other power indeed to which that symbol can with the least probability be referred. On the other hand, as the worship of images was but partial at the rise of the Saracens, and did not reach its fullest prevalence in the eastern empire until two hundred years after their first conquests, the office of punishing that idolatry was doubtless assigned to the Turks who commenced their career after it had become universal.
Mr. Brightman, Dr. Cressner, Mr. Daubuz, and Mr. Cuninghame interpret it of the Ottomans exclusively. But that leaves the first two invasions, by which the idolatrous churches were chiefly scourged and destroyed, as well as the last, unnoticed, and cannot therefore be correct. It presents no correspondence of leaders and armies with the number of the angels. It is founded on the erroneous assumption that the third of the men denotes the men of the eastern empire. That term, however, as in other passages, denotes the proportion to be slain to the survivors, in the region over which the horsemen were to extend their ravages. That it cannot denote the territory of the eastern empire, the want of analogy shows, agents being representatives of agents only, not of mere space or inanimate matter. It is demonstrated also by the ravages themselves of the Ottomans, which were not confined to the limits of that empire at that period, which had become very narrow in Asia as well as Europe, but extended into Thrace, Bulgaria, Servia, and Hungary, over regions, parts of which were never embraced in the eastern empire, and others that had been wrested from the hands of the Romans many centuries.
That reference of the symbol is chosen also by some writers, on the assumption that the hour, day, month, and year, for which the angels had been prepared, are a measure of the period during which the horsemen were to fulfil their slaughtering office : but that is without authority from the language, is irreconcilable with the far longer period that has passed than that which they regard those terms as denoting, and is confuted by the representation in the eleventh chapter that the woe of the horsemen is to continue till near the seventh trumpet.
Mr. Mede, Dr. More, Mr. Jurieu, Mr. Whiston, Bishop Newton, Mr. Faber, Mr. Keith, Mr. Elliott, interpret the symbol of the Seljukian and Ottoman Turks only. But that is to leave two of the four incursions of the same Scythian race unnoticed. It is to lose the correspondence of leaders with the angels by whom they are symbolized. The four sultanies established by the Seljukians, which Mr. Mede regarded the angels as representing, were not established by four separate armies. They were consequents, not antecedents of their invasion ; and within their new empire, not in their ancient territory. That application is chosen also on the assumption, that the third part of the men denotes the eastern empire, which is to make agents the symbol of a territory, and is against analogy. It is held on the ground likewise that the restraint and release of the angels at ihe Euphrates, indicates that the agents denoted by them were to enter the empire by the passage of that river. Mr. Elliott, indeed, throughout his commentary, proceeds on the assumption that geographical references indicate the scene of the agency which the symbols with which they are connected denote; and builds on it many of his constructions. It is however against analogy. It assumes that the symbol is of the same species as that which it represents; or the symbolic scene as that in which the symbolized agents are to fulfil their office. It is, moreover, impossible to adhere to that assumption in the interpretation of many of the symbols. It implies that the scene of the agents denoted by the volcanic mountain of the second trumpet, is literally the sea; of the star of the third, the fountains and streams; of the stroke of the fourth, the sun, moon, and stars; and of the meteor of the fifth, the gate of a bottomless abyss. The sea indeed, the rivers and fountains exhibited to the apostle, were undoubtedly those of the apocalyptic world; but they were exhibited to him because they were the scene of the symbols, not because they were to be the scene of the agencies which those symbols represent. The sixth angel accordingly, if stationed as is probable towards the Euphrates, was stationed there because that was to be the scene of the symbolic agents, not because the agents whom they represented were to pass that stream on their entrance into the empire. The symbol was chosen, I doubt not, because of the analogy between the event to be foreshown, and the conquest of Babylon, the ancient seat of idolatry, by the diversion of the river from its channel, which allowed Cyrus and his army to pass beneath the walls without obstruction.
CHAPTER X. 1-11.
THE RAINBOW ANGEL.
And I saw another mighty angel descending from heaven, robed with a cloud, and the iris over his head: and his face (was) as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: and having in his hand a little book opened. And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left on the land, and he cried with a loud voice as a lion roars. And when he had cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had spoken, I was about to write. And I heard a voice from heaven saying: Seal what the seven thunders spake, and write them not. And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land, lifted his right hand towards heaven and sware by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the land and the things on it, and the sea and the things in it, that the time shall not be yet, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he can be ready to sound, and the mystery of God can be finished, as he announced the glad tidings to his servants the prophets. And the voice which I heard from heaven again spake to me and said, Go take the little book which is opened in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land. And I went to the angel asking him to give to me the little book. And he said to me, Take and eat it, and it shall embitter thy stomach, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey. And I took the little book from the hand of the angel, and ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet honey. And when I had eat it, my stomach was embittered. And he said to me, Thou must again prophesy before peoples, and nations, and tongues, and many kings.
It was announced immediately before the sixth angel sounded, that one woe had passed. The reason probably was that the agents of that woe were still in the scene, and were to continue, though in a different relation, and intermix with the agents of the second woe. It is also announced immediately before the seventh trumpet, the second woe is passed, and for the like reason doubtless that its agents were still visible to the apostle, and were to continue, though in another relation, and share in the convulsions that followed the seventh trumpet. Accordingly when this new agent descended, the horsemen were still spread, it is to be assumed, over the principal scene of their former agency, but no longer as masters, but the subjects of a new conquering power.
The splendor of his form and aspect, denotes their conspicuity whom he represents, and the effulgence of the light they were to impart to the nations. As he set his right foot on the sea and his left on the land before uttering his message, it may indicate that some whom he symbolizes were to cross the ocean to distant isles and continents, and implies therefore that the agency which they were to exert, was to continue through a long period.
The seven thunders that followed the utterance of his message, denote violent expressions of thought and passion, by those whom the agents he represented were to address. They were seven thunder voices uttering an intelligible response to his miessage, as appears from the apostle's procedure to write, and the direction he received not to write what they had spoken. Their loudness denotes the vastness of the multitude by whom that which they symbolized was uttered. That the apostle was about to write it on the assumption that it was prophetic, may perhaps indicate that there were to be persons who would regard what they had spoken as inspired. The reason that it was not to be written, doubtless, was that it was not inspired, but merely expressive of their thoughts and affections who uttered it, of much thence that was mistaken and evil, and which therefore if written, would have led the reader and hearer of the Apocalypse to dangerous misconceptions. The solemn oath of the angel was a response to those thunder voices, designed obviously to correct an error which they had expressed in regard to the period when the empire of the saints was to be established on earth. The time shall not be yet, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel when he can proceed to sound, and the mystery of God can be finished, as he announced the glad tidings to his servants the prophets. It foreshows therefore that they who were to respond to their message whom the angel symbolized, were to
entertain an expectation of the immediate overthrow of antichrist and establishment of the Redeemer's millennial kingdom.
The appeal of the angel to the creator of all things for the truth of his asseveration, denotes that they whom he symbolized, unlike those who uttered the seven thunders, were to found their teachings respecting the commencement of that reign on the word of God alone, and make it the sole rule of their faith and ground of their hope. The mystery of God is his permission of the supremacy of the wild beast and false prophet over the church, during the twelve hundred and sixty years, or allowance of the triumph of antichrist through that long period, ere his descending to establish his kingdom in its glory.
In the reception of the open book, the apostle acted as a symbol. What the angel with the book was to him, such were those whom the angel symbolized, to persons whom the apostle represented. The delivery of the little book, denoted that they whom the angel personated, were to present an open volume to those to whom they should be sent as messengers. The apostle in receiving it, personated the recipients of ihat volume. His eating it with a sense of sweetness, foreshowed that they should receive and study it with eagerness and delight; and the bitterness it excited, symbolized inquietudes, aversions, animosities, and contests, of which it was to prove to them the occasion. And the announcement that he must again prophesy before peoples and nations, and tongues, and many kings, that they were still to fulfil the office of witnesses for God, in the presence of antichristian rulers and nations.
That this prediction and the direction to take and eat the book, were addressed to the apostle as a representative, their utterance by the symbolic, not by the interpreting angel or a voice from heaven, renders indisputable. As the cloud-robed angel was a symbol, and a part of his office was the delivery of an open book, the object of his address and action in that delivery, as well as the action itself, was symbolic. Otherwise there were no analogy between the representative agent and the objects and effects of his agency. It is as contradictory to the law of symbolization, to assume that the object and effect of a symbolic action are not symbolic, as it is lo assume that the agent is not a symbol. It is as contradictory to that law also, to assume that the symbolic object and effect are of the same species as those which they represent, as a like assumption is in regard to the symbolic and symbolized agent. To assign therefore any other than a representative character to the apostle in his reception of those ad