« PreviousContinue »
golden vials filled with the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power : And no one was able to enter into the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished.
The temple of the tabernacle which was opened, was the inner temple, in which was the throne of the Almighty, as is shown by the apostle's witnessing the delivery to the angels of the vials by one of the four living creatures, whose station was in the inner temple. The angels stood in the outer sanctuary, obviously from their being seen by the apostle before the inner temple was opened. Their white robes and golden girdles denote their rectitude and dignity. The delivery to them
of the vials by one of the living creatures, indicates that the august attendants in the
presence of God whom they represent, are cognizant of his avenging judgments. The smoke from his glory and from his power, with which the temple was filled during the effusion of the vials, so that no one could enter it, denotes that the awful displays of his justice and sovereignty, which the destruction of his enemies is to form, are to strike the heavenly hosts with the profoundest sense of their infinite distance from him, the inflexibleness of his rectitude, and the helplessness of his enemies, and fill them with awe and submission. They imply also that no incense symbolic of supplications by the saints on earth for the salvation of his antichristian foes, or the suspension of his judgments, is to be offered, during that period; and that they are to be felt therefore by the church on earth, as well as the redeemed in heaven, and the angelic hosts, to be indispensable to his vindication, and the great measures of grace that are to follow.
Mr. Whiston and Mr. Cuninghame, exhibit the opening of the temple after the song of the victors, as the same as its opening at the sound of the seventh trumpet; and as denoting therefore the coincidence in time of that trumpet and the first vial. But that assumption is erroneous. That the inner temple was opened more than once, is indisputable from the consideration that it must have been open, whenever the throne, the living creatures, and the elders were visible to the apostle, as in the visions of the fourth and fifth chapters, the opening of the seals, and the innumerable multitude having palms. That it was closed after the opening of the seventh seal, and remained shut during the first six trumpets is probable; as there is no indication of its being open in the following visions until that of the sealed in the fourteenth chapter, who are exhibited as singing a new song before the throne and before the living creatures and elders. But their resurrection and assumption to heaven, it is expressly represented in the eleventh chapter, are to precede the seventh trumpet. It is indisputably certain, therefore, that the temple is to be opened before the seventh trumpet. But as it was to be opened also before the effusion of the first vial, and as neither the resurrection nor sealing of the witnesses has yet taken place, although that vial was long since poured, it is certain also that it is to be opened before the resurrection of the witnesses.
But the supposition that the first vial and last trumpet commence at the same period, is wholly irreconcilable in other relations with the representations of the prophecy. The last vial and last trumpet are cotemporaneous doubtless, from the similarity of the announcement, and the events that follow them. The assumption therefore that the first vial is cotemporaneous with that trumpet, involves the assumption that it is cotemporaneous with the last vial. Mr. Cuninghame, accordingly, represents the seven as poured at the same moment. But that is as irreconcilable with the symbols, as a similar supposition would be in respect to the seals, or the trumpets. They are as clearly exhibited as successive, as the seals and trumpets are. The symbols which follow them, differ as widely from each other, as those which follow the trumpets. If they are poured at the same moment, and the events which follow take place in the same scene, as they must spring from what must appear to be a complex cause, not from causes independent and dissimilar, no reason can be conceived for their symbolization under seven vials in place of one. And finally, the events of the French revolution of which Mr. Cuninghame regards the first five as symbols, did not commence at the same moment, but were as clearly distinguished by a difference of period as of nature.
CHAPTER XVI. 1-2.
THE FIRST VIAL.
And I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, Go and pour the seven vials of the wrath of God on the earth. And the first went and poured his vial on the land; and an evil and noxious ulcer came on the men who have the mark of the wild beast, and who worship its image.
The office of the seven angels, is simply to assist the revelation, by designating the commencement of the seven judgments, and distinguishing them as inflictions of divine wrath ; not to symbolize the agents on earth by whom they are caused. Their direction by a voice from the temple to pour out their vials, indicates that the appointment by the Most High of the great judgments which were symbolized by the phenomena following their effusion, was to be publicly announced in heaven.
The land or earth, when distinguished from the sea, rivers, fountains, and heaven, denotes the population of an empire under a settled governinent, anterior to the commencement of a political agitation. The men on whom this vial fell, were those who have the mark of the wild beast. They live under and support the governments therefore that are symbolized by that monster, and are inhabitants accordingly of the ten kingdoms. They worship its image also, and either live therefore under the dominion of the nationalized Catholic hierarchies, or acknowledge their authority, and offer their worship. The shower from the vial excited on those on whom it fell, a malignant and infectious ulcer, irritating to them, and dangerous to those who came within their influence.
The ulcer is symbolic, and denotes an analogous disease of the mind; a restlessness and rancor of passion exasperated by agitating and noxious principles and opinions, that fill it with a sense of obstruction, degradation, and misery, resembling the torture of an ulcerated body.
This vial is referred by most recent English commentators to the first step in the French revolution. And no symbol can be conceived more suited to represent the restlessness under injury, the ardor of resentment, hate, and revenge, the noxiousness and contagion of false principles and opinions, that marked the commencement of the political disquiets and agitations of the European states, toward the close of the last century. The eruption of the ulcer on the vassals of the wild beast and worshippers of its image, indicates that the mental disease which it symbolizes, was to be felt in their relations to those civil and ecclesiastical powers; and it was from them that the exasperation sprung which led the French nation to overthrow their ancient government, and prompted similar revolutionary movements in all the neighboring kingdoms. The middle and lower classes universally in France, were suddenly seized with an insupportable sense of their oppression by the monarchy, of their degradation to the condition of dependants and serfs by the nobles, of the extortions, robberies, and violences to which they were wantonly subjected by every class of superiors, of the deceptions and tyranny practised on them by the church, and of their hopeless obstruction from the improvement of which they were capable, and denial in every form of the happiness to which they were entitled. This torturing realization which sprung irresistibly from the consideration of their relations to the government, to which they were called by its embarrassments, and the prospect of new burdens in order to remedy and support its extravagance, was roused to a tenfold energy and made the means of inflaming their hatred and revenge to exasperation, and ambition and hope to madness, by the opinion to which it gave birth, that the power of the monarch, the princes, the nobility, and the ecclesiastics, was a sheer usurpation, a stupendous violation of their rights, and an atrocious crime therefore demanding instant resistance and condign punishment.
With this denial of the title of the king, the nobles, and the ecclesiastics, to their rank and authority, and assertion of the absolute equality of all in right and political power, were mingled new, false, and fanatical theories of liberty, property, government, religion, and national glory, which raised the most extravagant dreams of the possibility of happiness under a democratic rule, and inflamed ambition to a phrensy by the prospect to individuals of power, conspicuity, and grandeur. These principles and sentiments flashed instantaneously like the gleam of a meteor over the whole kingdom, roused that excitable and passionate people universally to the utmost fervor of impatience under the real and imaginary burden of the superior ranks, and kindled a fanatic desire to disencumber themselves of the weight, and emerge to freedom and independence. Awakened thus to a full sense of their oppressions, deluded into false views of the proper remedy, and inflamed with extravagant hope, they were iortured by their relations to the monarchy, aristocracy, and church, with a violence of misery, like men whom some noxious element has touched, and covered with a burning eruption.
But the exasperating vial fell not alone on that kingdom. France received its first and its largest tempest. But the angel, scattering a shower on Belgium, Holland, and the valley of the Rhine, crossed the Alps, steeping height and recess in the bitter flood, drenched the vales and plains of Italy, swept around over the German empire and the British isles, and finally, dashed the vengeance dregs on the peninsula of Portugal and Spain, and the distant southern shores of this continent. The whole circuit of the ten kingdoms thus became the scene, in a degree, of a similar dissatisfaction with the established governments, fanatical theories of liberty and equality, and wild and desperate projects of demagogueism and revolution.
* Alison's Hist. vol. i. chap. 2.
The commencement of the effusion may with probability be dated as early as 1786, when the convocation of the French Notables to remedy the financial embarrassments of the government, drew the eyes of the whole people to the extravagances of the monarchy, and arbitrary domination of the nobles and ecclesiastics. The approach of new exactions and prospect of interminable oppression, roused them to the expression of their sentiments, and gave scope to the democratic speculations which, in 1789, produced the assembly of the states-general.
Grotius and Dr. Hammond, in their usual manner, regard the symbol as denoting a literal plague, or pestilence. But that is to make the representative and thing represented of the same species.
Mr. Brightman interprets it of the malice and envy of the pope, the bishops, and other chief ecclesiastics, princes, and nobles, excited by the ejection of the papists in England from office, and elevation of the Protestants to power, during the reign of Elizabeth. But that is to exhibit the vial as poured on the two wild beasts and the hierarchies, in place of those who have the mark of the beast, and worship its image.
Mr. Mede interprets it of the chagrin and exasperation of the Catholics, at the exposure and denunciation of their errors by the Waldenses, Albigenses, Wicklifites, Hussites, and others. But that is to exhibit the vial as poured on the apostates as vassals of the false prophet only, not also, as the prophecy rep. resents, as worshippers of the wild beast. It was in their civil relations in a higher degree than in their ecclesiastical, that they felt the influence of the vial. The exposition by Cocceius, who refers it to the dissensions and divisions of the Catholics through a long succession of ages, is open to similar objections.
Mr. Daubuz, Mr. Jurieu, and Vitringa, regard it as denoting the extreme corruption of the apostate church, and refer it to the middle ages, when superstition and idolatry reached their height. But the ulcer is not an element of the corruption of the church, or one of its setiled characteristics, but a peculiar infliction because of its depravity. It is a plague too that falls on men who are the vassals of the civil governments and nationalized hierarchies, not on kings, princes, nobles, and ecclesias