« PoprzedniaDalej »
for a burnt-offering. Thus we find that the faithful, under this first prevailing corruption in the outward church, are distinguished, in the passage before us, as those who held and realized the atonement in the blood of Christ, —“ They had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Hence their right and title, and sure possession of everlasting happiness.
The Seventh Seal.
We now return to the narrative of the prophecy which we are considering. The last chapter stopped us in our course, and permitted us to ascend the hill of vision, where it disclosed to our view a distant prospect of the land of promise. We must now descend to resume our journey towards it; travelling through the epochas and eras of history, which will lead us at length to the great day of Christ's appearing and kingdom.
Chap. viii. 1. “ And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the
of half an hour."
This short silence seems, from the order of events in history, to denote the interval of peace enjoyed by the new modelled empire. “ The latter part of the reign of Constantine was peaceful and splendid. Both Eusebius and Lactantius celebrate the peace and tranquillity at that period enjoyed throughout the world.
Daubuz observes, that some medals of Constantine are still preserved, with the head of the emperor on one side and this inscription, ConstANTINUS AUG.; and on the reverse, BEATA TRANQUILLITAS.” 1
“ 2. And I saw the seven angels that stood before God, and to them was given seven trumpets. And another angel came, and stood' at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given him' much incense, that he should offer it up with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand; and the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth; and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake; and the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”
We are still admonished that the imagery of the vision is similar to that of the Jewish sanctuary. The throne of the Most High is the mercy-seat. The altar, the angel with the censer, the incense, and the golden altar, are all emblems of the propitiation through the sacrifice and intercession of Jesus Christ. The prayers of all saints, presented with the memorial of that acceptable sacrifice, appears to me, like the cry of the martyrs in a former vision, to represent the prayer of the universal church for the coming of the day of Christ. There is a voice that comes up before his throne, as our Lord has taught us, from his injured people continually:
" And shall not God avenge his own elect that cry unto him day and night?” The symbolical act of casting fire from the altar upon the earth, and the effects produced, seems intended to represent, that the judgments to be poured out upon the Christian world, are to avenge the
cause of God's covenant, the corruptions of the times, and the oppression of his servants. We are now to attend to these judgments, which the angels, with their trumpets, are to announce in order.
The First Trumpet. 7. “ And the first angel sounded, and there followed hail, and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth, and the third part of trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." The next great event that produced important changes in the Roman world, was the invasion of the Goths and other barbarians. Their point of attack from the north, their multitude, and the destruction that they made by fire and sword, in the fairest provinces of the empire, well answer to the symbols of the prophecy. It is, indeed, a singular coincidence that both poets and historians should see something in the irruptions of these barbarians on the civilized world that suggested to them the same metaphors. Claudian compares them to a storm of hail;' and the infidel historian who is our chief guide to the interpretation of these prophecies, more than once employs the same metaphor to illustrate their devastations; and I think I discover, in the page of Gibbon, the meaning of the prophecy, when it designates “ the trees” and “ green grass” as suffering the greatest injury from this desolating storm: for it will appear, from his narrative of the invasions of the Goths under
! Claudian de Bello Getico, ver. 173.---Daubuz.
their king Alaric, that he has continually occasion to take notice of the “ richness," “ the fertility,” umbrageous beauty," of the country that lay in the line of his destructive march. These are some of his expressions : “ He (the emperor Valens, in the year 379,) was informed that the north was agitated by a furious tempest.” This was the conflict of the barbarian nations among themselves, that pushed the Goths, who were situated nearest its boundary, into the provinces of the empire.
It is from this reign that the same historian dates the “ disastrous period of the fall,” in distinction from that of “ the decline of the Roman empire:" so that here again his distribution of epochas and eras agrees exactly with the predictions of prophecy.
He computes the first emigration of barbarians, “ reserved to subvert the foundation of Rome,” at “ near a million of souls." “ Exasperated by hunger and the oppression of the Roman governors,” “ war is resolved on," “ the banners of the nation are displayed, and the air resounded with the harsh and mournful sound of the barbarian trumpet;"_" the crimes of the governors are expiated by the ruin of the peaceful husbandmen of Thrace, the conflagration of their villages, and the massacre or captivity of their innocent families.” He describes them as “ encamped in the spacious and fertile meadows near the most southern of the six mouths of the Danube.” The Visigoths, a part of these barbarians, he describes as “ satiating their hunger and revenge by the repeated devastations of the fruitful country, which extends above three hundred miles, from the banks of the Danube to the Straits of the Hellespont.” After mentioning the killing of the emperor and two-thirds of his army, the historian says, " The tide of the Gothic in
undation rolled from the walls of Hadrianople to the suburbs of Constantinople." “ Laden with the spoil of the wealthy suburbs and the adjacent country,” they “ slowly move from the Bosphorus to the mountains which formed the western boundaries of Thrace." important pass of Succi is betrayed, and they spread themselves over the face of a fertile and cultivated country, as far as the confines of Italy and the Hadriatic sea.” The Goths prudently declined the attack of fortified places: it was a saying of their king, “ He was at peace with stone walls."
By the wise administration of Theodosius, who reigned from the year 379 to 395, these calamities are checked from proceeding further for the present. But after the death of that prince, the historian has again to mark the ravages of the Gothic nations, “ from the woody shores of Dalmatia to the walls of Constantinople ;” and, again, he mentions“ the deep and bloody traces of their march in the fertile fields of Phocis and Bootia,"-" Athens submits to Alaric" - Attica “ blasted by his baneful presence." And again, in very remarkable language, “ The woody and mountainous country of Arcadia, the fabulous residence of Pan and the Dryads, became the scene of a long and doubtful conflict.” Again, “ The fame, the beauty, the wealth of Italy,” tempts him : he invades this country, spreads desolation over the fruitful face of Tuscany."
Gibbon speaks of another invasion of these northern barbarians, which happened about the same period :
“ The dark cloud which was collected along the coast of the Baltie, burst in thunder upon the banks of the
• A. D. 400-403.