Page images

and all the seals being constituent parts or members of the sealed book, it is evident that the seventh trumpet cannot any way belong to the little open book, but is plainly distinct from it, the little isook being no more than an appendage to the sixth trumpet, and the contents all comprehended under it, or at least ending with it. • The forly and two months of the Gentiles treading the holy city under foot, and the 1260 days of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth,' are 1260 synchronical years, and terminate at the same time with the fall of the Othman empire or the end of the sixth trumpet, or second woe-trumpet.

And when the second woe is past,' it is said, behold, the third woe cometh quickly,'—xi. 14. At the sounding of the seventh trumpet 'the third woe'-ver. 15, commenceth, which is rather implied than expressed, as it will be described more fully hereafter. • The third woe' brought 'on the inhabiters of the earth' is the ruin and downfall of the antichristian kingdom : and then, and not till then, according to the heavenly chorus, 'the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.' St. John is rapt and hurried away as it were to a view of the happy millenium, without considering the steps preceding and conducting to it. At the same time the four-and-twenty elders,' or the ministers of the church, ver. 16, 17, 18, are represented as praising and glorifying God for manifesting his,'power' and ' kingdom' more than he had done before: and give likewise an intimation of some succeeding events, as the anger of the nations,' Gog and Magog, xx. 8; and the wrath of God,' displayed in their destruction, xx. 9; and the judging of the dead,' or the general judgment, xx. 12; and the rewarding of all the good, small and great,' as well as, 'the punishing of the wicked.' Here we have only a summary account of the circumstances and occurrences of the seventh trumpet, but the particulars will be dilated and enlarged upon hereafter.

And thus are we arrived at the consummation of all things, through a series of prophecies extending from the apostles' days to the end of the world. It is this series which has been our clue to conduct us in our interpretation of these prophecies : and though some of them may be dark and obscure, considered in themselves, yet they receive light and illustration from others preceding and following All together they are as it were a chain of prophecies, whereof one link depends on, and supports another. If any parts remain yet obscure and unsatisfactory, they may perhaps be cleared up by what the apostle himself hath added by way of explanation.




MOST of the best commentators divide the Apocalypse or Revelation into two parts,' the book Bibliov sealed with seven seals' and “the little book Bißlapidov' as it is called several times. But it happens unluckily, that according to their division the lesser book is made to contain as much or more than the larger ; whereas in truth the little book' is nothing more than a part of the sealed book,' and is added as a codicil or appendix to it. If we were to divide the Revelation, as they would have it divided, into two parts, the former ending with chap. ix. and the latter beginning with chap. x. the whole frame of the book would be disjointed, and things would be separated, which are plain.y connected together and dependent upon one another. The former part, as they agree, comprehends the book sealed with seven seals, which are all opened in order ; but the seventh seal consists of the seven trumpets, and of the seven trumpets the three last are distinguished loy the name of ‘the three woe-trumpets;' so that the seven trumpets, as well as the seven seals, all belong properly to the former part. Whereas if we were to follow the other division, the trumpets would be divided, the three last trumpets would be divided from each other, the sixth trumpet itself would be divided, would begin in the former part of the book, and end in the latter, and the seventh trumpet would remain separated from the rest, which would be a strange interruption of the series and order of the prophecies, and greatly disturb and confound the course of events. The former part, instead of closing with the seventh trumpet, would then break off in the middle of the sixth trumpet; the latter part would then commence under the sixth trumpet, and after that would follow the seventh and last trumpet, and after this the general subject of the Revelation would be resumed from the beginning of the Christian æra, which instead of coming in after so many events posterior in point of time, ought certainly to be the beginning of the latter part. For we would also divide the Revelation into two parts, or rather the book so divides itself. For the former part proceeds, as we have seen, in a regular and successive series from the apostles' days to the consummation of all things. Nothing can be added, but it must fall some where or other within the compass of this period it must in some measure be a resumption of the same subjects; and this latter part may most properly be considered as an enlargement and illustration of the former. Several things, which were only touched upon, and delivered in dark hints before, require to be more copiously handled, and placed in a stronger light. It was said that the beast should make war against the witnesses, and overcome them: but who or what the beast' is we may reasonably conjecture indeed, but the apostle himself will more surely explain. The transactions of the seventh trumpet are all summed up and comprised in a few verses, but we shall see the particulars branched out and enlarged into as many chapters. In short this latter part is designed as a supplement to the fornier, to complete what was deficient, to explain what was dubious, to illustrate what was obscure: and as the former described more the destinies of the Roman empire, so this latter relates more to the fates of the Christian church.

10. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thundrings, and an earthquake ond great hail.

This last verse of the eleventh chapter, in my opinion, should have been made the first verse of the twelfth chapter; for it ap pears to be the beginning of a new subject. It is somewhat like the beginning of Isaiah's vision, vi. 1,– I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne' (the ar k) high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.' It is somewhat like the beginning of St. John's prophetic visions, iv. 1, 2,-'I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven; and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.' This is much in the same spirit : “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament ;' that is, more open discoveries were now made, and the mystery of God was revealed to the prophet. 'Lightnings, and voices, and thundrings, and an earthquake, and great hail,' are the usual concomitants and attendants of the divine presence, and especially at the giving of new laws and new revelations. So a mount Sinai, Exod. xx. 16, &c.—'there were thunders, and ligh nings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumdet exceeding loud, and the whole mount quaked greatly.' So sikewise in this very book of the Apocalyps, before the opening on

the seven seals, iv. 5, there were ' lightnings, and thundrings, and voices.' So again before the sounding of the seven trumpets, viii. 5,-' there were voices, and thundrings, and lightnings, and an earthquake:' and with as much reason they are made in this place the signs and preludes of the revelations and judgments, which are to follow. It is no just objection, that a new subject is supposed to begin with the conjunction and; for this is frequent in the style of the Hebrews; some books, as Numbers, Joshua, the two books of Samuel, and others, begin with Vau' or 'and;' and the same objection would hold equally against beginning the division with the first verse of the next chapter.


CHAP. XII 1. AND there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars :

2. And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5. And she brought forth a nan-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron : and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

St. John resumes his subject from the beginning, and represents the church, ver. 1, 2, as a woman, and a mother bearing children unto Christ. She is clothed with the sun,' invested with the rays of Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness : having the moon,' the Jewish new-moons and festivals us well as all sublunary things,

under her feet; and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,' an emblem of her being under the light and guidance of the twelve apostles.* *And she being with child, cried, tiavailing in birth,

* A learned correspondent observes, that the Jewish religion is aptly compared to the moon, as its light is not its own, but furnished by the Christian religion, to which it rolates, and wherein its types are accomplished.

and pained to be delivered.' St. Paul hath made use of the same metaphor, and applied it to his preaching and propagating of the gospel in the midst of tribulation and persecution : Gal. iv. 19,• My little children of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.' But the words of St. John are much stronger, and more emphatically express the pangs, and struggles, and torments, which the church endured from the firsi publication of the gospel to the time of Constantine the Great, when she was in some measure eased of her pains, and brought forth a deliverer. Mr. Whiston carries the comparison farther. (Essay on the Revelation, part 3, vision 3.) “For as the time of gestation from the conception to the birth in women with child, is known to be 40 weeks or 280 days; so it is well known, that from the first rise of our Saviour's kingdom at his resurrection and ascension, A.D. 33, till the famous proclamation and cdict, for the universal liberty and advancement of Christianity by Constantine and Licinius, A.D. 313, which put an end to the pangs of birth in the heaviest persecution that ever was then known, was exactly 280 years,” reckoning according to the prophetical account a day for a year. At the same time there appeared' ver. 3,‘a great dragon ;' which is the well known sign or symbol of the devil and Satan, and of his agents and instruments. We find the kings and people of Egypt, who were the great persecutors of the primitive church of Israel, distinguished by this title in several places of the Old Testament, Psal. Ixxiv. 13; Is. li. 9, Ezek. xxix. 3, and with as much reason and propriety may the people and emperors of Rome, who were the great persecutors of the primitive church of Christ, be called by the same name, as they were actuated by the same principle. For that the Roman empire was here figured, the characters and attributes of the dragun plainly evince. He is a great red dragon :' and purple or scarlet was the distinguishing colour of the Roman emperors, consuls, and generals; as it hath been since of the popes and cardinals. His seven heads,' as the angel afterwards, xvii. 9, 10, explains the vision, allude to the seven mountains upon which Rome was built, and to the seven forms of government, which successively prevailed there. His ten horns' typify the ten kingdoms, into which the Roman empire was divided; and the seven crowns upon

his heads' denote, that at this time the imperial power in Rome, the high city, as Propertius describes it," seated on seven hills, which presides over the whole world."* His tail also, ver. 4,

Septem urbs alta jagis, toti quæ præsidet orbi. — Propert. lib. 3, El. 11. ver. 57 [Translated in the text.]


« PreviousContinue »