Page images
PDF
EPUB

unjustifiable than thus, in order to meet the exigences of a theory, not only without the slightest ground, but against the most certain and essential laws of language, to exhibit it as representing the witnesses as at the same time finishing their testimony, and not finishing it; being slaughtered, and not being slaughtered ; being refused, and not refused a burial; being raised from death, and not raised ; and assumed and not assumed to heaven in a cloud ? Were it not equally legitimate to represent the wild beast at the same period, as making war and not making it ; the city as fallen, and not fallen; the seven thousand men of name as killed, and not killed; and the remnant as giving, and not giving glory to God? If the same terms in the same passage may thus denote precisely opposite events, what proof can exist that opposite and contradictory meanings are not couched in all other passages ?--that the seventh trumpet may not at the same period sound, and not sound; the dead rise, and not rise ; the wild beast and false prophet be cast, and not cast into a lake of fire ? Such a rule of construction must obviously be relinquished, or the interpretation of the prophecy abandoned as wholly impracticable.

On the other hand, these erroneous interpretations verify the representation of the tenth chapter, that the Reformation was to be misconstrued as the final victory of the people of God over their enemies, and the fall of the apostate church and destruction of the wild beast. Such a false estimate of the events of that period, is more surprising now, than when they were passing. The lapse of three hundred years has revealed the great imperfections of that work, and shown the fallacy of the expectation then entertained of its spread and triumph through all the kingdoms of Europe. A large share of the nations that first united in it, soon returned to the Catholic church. No accessions have been made to the territory of Protestantism in Europe during the last three centuries ; while, on the other hand, the decline of the churches that still survive on the continent, especially in faith and piety, is portentous in the extreme. Sunk during the last seventy years into open and profligate infidelity, with but here and there an exception, they are now as conspicuously apostate as the idolatrous church from which they seceded, and stand in as urgent need of a total reformation of principle and manners. Is it credible that this return to apostasy is the act of the witnesses who ascended into heaven in a cloud ?

[blocks in formation]

And the seventh angel sounded. And there were great voices in heaven saying, The kingdom of the world is become our Lord's and his Messiah's, and he shall reign forever and ever. And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones, fell on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We thank thee, O Lord, the Almighty God, who is, and who was, that thou hast assumed thy great power, and reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead to judge, and give the reward to thy servants the prophets, and the holy, and those who fear thy name, small and great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of his covenant was seen in his temple. And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.

The great voices from heaven are undoubtedly from the angelic hosts. They announce that their Lord and his Messiah has entered on the empire of the world as its king, and shall reign forever and ever. It is to be a new era, therefore, in the government of the earth; the commencement by Christ of a widely-different and an eternal administration over it as its king. The great acts that are to mark its introduction are celebrated by the elders. They give thanks to the Self-existent, the Eternal, and the Almighty ; first, that he has exercised his supreme right, and reigned as a sovereign through the long period from the creation, during which the nations had manifested their hostility; and next, that the time is come in which he is to display his displeasure at their rebellion, to judge and give reward to his servants, and to destroy those who destroy the earth. Their thanks that he has taken his great power and reigned, are undoubtedly thanks that he has exercised such an administration as he has through the preceding ages of the world, during which the nations showed their aversion to his dominion; and imply a sense therefore of its rightfulness and its wisdom as a preparative for the everlasting rule of grace that is to follow. Their thanks that his wrath is come, and the time to destroy the destroyers of the earth, are thanks that the apostate and idolatrous have usurped the dominion of the earth, and warred against his worshippers, are now to be overthrown, and expelled from the scene; and their thanks that the time of the dead is come, to judge, and give reward to his servants, the prophets, and to the holy, and to those who fear his name, small and great, are thanks that the holy dead, whether prophets or others, are now to be raised from the grave, freed in full from the penalty of sin, and publicly adopted as heirs of his kingdom; and that the living who fear his name, small as well as great, are to be placed under a new administration, and receive the gift of transfiguration promised to those who are living at his advent. The opening of the inner temple, and exhibition of the ark of the covenant, denote probably that the mysteries of his former administration are finished; that thenceforth the reasons of his procedure are to be understood, and especially that he is to reign visibly to his people on earth, whom the prophet represented, complete the redemption of his sanctified, and exalt them to more intimate relations to himself.

vers that

The lightnings, voices, thunders, earthquake, and hail, that followed, were on the earth, and denote excitements, commotions, and revolutions

among the nations, and the descent on them of destroying judgments.

The seventh trumpet is to be followed then by three most momentous events; the assumption by the Redeemer of the dominion of the earth in a new and peculiar relation as its king, and commencement of a visible and eternal reign; the resurrection from their graves of all those of his saints who have suffered the penalty of death, and public adoption as the heirs of his kingdom, and the acceptance of all the living who fear him, and reward by the peculiar blessings which are to distinguish his reign on the earth; and finally, the destruction of the apostate powers, the wild beast, false prophet, and their supporters, who have so long arrogated his right of dominion and usurped his empire. That trumpet is to be cotemporaneous therefore doubtless with the seventh vial, which is to be followed also by lightnings, and voices, and thunders, a great earthquake, and much hail; and with the closing events also symbolized under the sixth seal.

The assumption of the dominion of the earth by the Redeem. er, which is then to take place, is that which was beheld by Daniel in night visions, when one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him before him, and there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. What space these great actions and catastrophes are to occupy, is not indicated. Probably from their nature and the representations in subsequent visions, a considerable period.

Grotius and Dr. Hammond interpret the symbols of this trumpet of the toleration and prosperity of Christians in Judea, after the suppression of the Jewish insurrections by Hadrian; Eichhorn, of the triumph of Christianity over Judaism at the subyersion of Jerusalem by Titus ; Mr. Brightman, of the prosperity of the Protestant church in the latter half of the sixteenth century; but those periods present no resemblances whatever to the prophecy. There was then no commencement of a new and triumphant reign of the Redeemer over the earth; there was no destruction of the antichristian powers that had usurped his right of dominion and persecuted his people; there was no universal agitation among the nations, and overthrow of their

governments ; there was no public reward of the holy dead of all preceding generations by a resurrection in glory, and adoption as heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. That they are to be raised at the seventh trumpet, is shown by the representation that God is then to vindicate them, and give them their reward. Their vindication will involve their public forgiveness through the merits of Christ, their release from all the penalties of sin, and adoption as his sons. It will involve therefore a resurrection from death, which is the most conspicuous penalty of sin, and the only one that will retain dominion over them till that period. Their resurrection, indeed, is to constitute their adoption as sons of God, Rom. viii. 23. That restoration of their bodies from the dishonors of death and exaltation to immortality and glory, is to form a conspicuous and majestic demonstration to the universe of their full forgiveness and acceptance as children, as Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead. They are to be rewarded also by elevation to the station of kings and priests in his presence, and a share in the glories and beatitude of his everlasting reign. That those great events are to take place at the seventh trumpet is shown, moreover, expressly in Matthew xxiv. 31, 1 Corinthians xv. 52, and 1 Thessalonians iv. 16.

Sone commentators have regarded the judgment of the dead which is to follow the seventh trumpet, as a judgment of the evil as well as the good. There is no reference however in the passage to any except the servants of God, and it is expressly rep

Daniel, chap. vii.

1

resented in chapter xx. 4-6, and in 1 Thessal. iv. 16, that the dead in Christ are to rise first.

Mr. Whiston and Mr. Cuninghame regard the period of the seventh trumpet as embracing the seven vials, and chiefly on the ground that the temple of God is said to be opened before the effusion of the first vial, as well as at the sound of that trumpet. But the opening of the temple before the effusion of the vials, was in order that the apostle and the harpers on the glassy sea might witness the delivery of the vials to the angels, and their procedure from the divine presence.

It is also thought to be a proof that the vials are cotemporaneous with that trumpet, that they are denominated the last seven plagues. That they are the last seven plagues, however, is no proof that the first six do not precede the last trumpet.

But if, as Mr. Cuninghame deems, the first vials have already been poured, the error of his assumption is indisputable, inasmuch as the second woe has not yet reached its termination, nor have the slaughter and resurrection of the witnesses taken place, which are to precede the seventh trumpet. No fact can be more certain and obvious than that the empire of the Turks still survives, maintains its dominion over the territories conquered from the idolatrous church, and continues to be an antichristian and persecuting power. On what ground can it be assumed that their sway over those vast territories ceased to be a woe, the moment they ceased to extend their conquests? Did it cease to be a tremendous token of the wrath of the Almighty at the idolatries of the ancient churches which it was appointed to rebuke and chastise ? Did it cease to be an unspeakable calamity to the churches which survived in Greece, Asia Minor, Armenia, Syria, and Egypt, and which still survive, notwithstanding the debasing examples, the cruel oppressions, and the frequent slaughters of the last hundred and fifty years ? Nor, independent of the continuance of that woe, can any truth be more indisputable, from the laws of symbolization, than that no such events have taken place as are denoted by the slaughter of the witnesses, the refusal to them of a burial, their resurrection and assumption to heaven, an earthquake and fall of a tenth of the great city consequent on that assumption, a slaughter of seven thousand men of name, and an acknowledgment by the survivors of the guilt of the persecutors, and the righteousness of God in the great acts by which he vindicates his servants and destroys their enemies.

To admit that any of the events which are alleged as such, are the counterpart of those symbols, were to assume that the symbols are in the ut

« PreviousContinue »