« السابقةمتابعة »
ing heads, that is, the heads of serpents upon them, with which they do hurt.
This will appear to be no ordinary warfare; it is not carried on merely by the common charges of a cavalry, the swords and spears of the riders; the adnyai, or strokes of injury are inflicted from the mouths and tails of the animals upon which they are mounted. The Christian warfare is a warfare of doctrine proceeding from the mouth; its conquests were foretold as thence proceeding, for the Messiah is described as “ smiting the earth with the rod of his mouth,” (Is. xi. 4; xlix. 2 ;) and in the nineteenth chapter of this Revelation he appears in this character at the head of his armies, a sharp sword going out of his mouth.” This has been clearly understood to signify that it is not by force of arms, but by powerful doctrine, that he shall prevail. “I will fight against them, says he, with the sword of my mouth,” (Rev.. ii. 16.) His witnesses, in chapter xi, employ the same instrument, “ fire proceedeth out of their mouth.” From the mouths of his opponents come also the principal injuries which they inflict, (Rev. xiii. 2, 5; xii. 15, 16 ; xvi. 13.) So that in this warfare upon the Christian Church, there is, united with the assault of armies, that more formidable one of corrupt and blasphemous doctrine. By fire, in the figurative language of Scripture, devastating warfare is denoted; by smoke, as we have seen under the fifth trumpet, dark ignorance,
ignorance, covering dangerous doctrines; and brimstone, in union with fire, implies an infernal origin of the mischief, (Rev. xix. 20; xxi. 8.) And as these issue from the mouths of the brutes employed, and not of the men, we may see cause to infer, that the destructive doctrine is not founded so much on rational argument, which is peculiar to man, as upon the promise of animal gratification, which is the motive of beasts. And we shall be further confirmed in this notion by observing, that the injury is done in part by the serpent-headed tails of these brutes; for the tail is the part of an animal which marks him brutal in contradistinction to human; and is used in prophetical Scripture to denote baseness, degradation, and subjection to impure passions. “ The prophet that speaketh lies, he is the tail,” (Is. ix. 15; Deut. xxviii. 13; Rev. xii. 4.)
Ver. 20, 21. And the rest of the men, which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, &c.] The part of the prophecy, contained in these two verses, is very important, as revealing the character and description of the men in the Christian Church, upon whom these punishments were to fall; for from this circumstance we are enabled to collect the time when the prediction would come to its fulfilment, which could not take place before that period should arrive, when the sins described were generally prevalent; for this must have been the case, when even they who were permitted to escape this terrible visitation, were deeply and unrepentantly infected with them.
The sins are these: 1. The worship of Aaruwvia dæmons, who are shown, by Vitringa and others, to be fictitious gods and deified mortals, in opposition to the only true God; 2. The worship of idols; 3. All manner of impurity, injustice, and immorality, under the scriptural designation of murders, sorceries, fornications, and thefts. This was not the character of the Christian men in the three first centuries. The degeneracy began then, but was of slow procedure. The low estate of the Church in temporal enjoyment, and its exposure to frequent and severe persecution, preserved it, in a considerable degree, from the intrusion of the worldly, who
afterwards made it subservient to their ambition. And in the two centuries succeeding the lamentable change from divine knowledge to ignorance, and from purity to corruption, was gradual, so that we cannot fairly apply a general character of so deep a die to the Christian Church, before the sixth century; but at the latter part of this and beginning of the seventh, the measure of this iniquity came to its full.
And at this time history records a dreadful invasion of the Christian world by numerous armies assailing it at the same time by corrupt blasphemous doctrines, and by the terror of their arms; and with such amazing success, as to cut off from the hope and comfort of Christianity, and from the communion of the Church, so large a body of Christians, as may fairly be accounted one third part of the whole, yet leaving the remaining parts of the Christian Church idolatrous, impure, and unrepentant.
Under this description it will be easy to recognise the invasion of the Mahometan Saracens, whose numerous armies, famous for their cavalry, beginning their destructive progress early in the seventh century, soon subdued, not only to their arms, but also to their corrupt and blasphemous religion, a great part of Christendom, thus fulfilling the prediction in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th verses. All historians are agreed in describing a dreadful corruption and idolatry of the Church at the time of the Saracene irruption; and to that circumstance, and to the unchristian divisions and animosities then prevailing, they ascribe principally the success of Mahomet and his followers ; at the same time accounting this calamity a punishment from heaven, which the professed Christians had justly deserved.
And that the Christian countries, which remained unsubdued by the Saracene arms and doctrines, re
mained also such as they were before, and such as they are described in the vision, superstitious, idolatrous, and immoral, and unrepentant, is as clearly established in the history of those times.
But as no period is fixed in this prophecy, as in that of the fifth trumpet, for the continuance of this woe, there seems no occasion to confine the fulfilment of it, in all its parts and effects, to the first Mahometan conquests by the Saracens; but it may be understood to comprehend every great assault, by which the Mahometan powers, of whatever tribe and origin, have successfully invaded and overturned the Christian worship and profession. And it is singularly remarkable, that as the dominions of the Mahometan powers were enlarged, from time to time, by these repeated irruptions, so the Christian powers continued to extend their limits and influence in nearly the same proportion, gaining in the western parts of the globe what they lost in the east, and preserving somewhat of the same balance which was set forth at first by this divine prophecy.
The labours of learned men, more particularly of Joseph Mede and Vitringa, who have shown that this vision may be fitly applied to the irruptions of particular Mahometan nations, may be profitably consulted by the student. But when these are perused, it may be useful also to attend to the following suggestion : that the symbols of this vision, although more strictly applicable to the first grand irruption by Mahomet and his Saracens, may not unfitly be so applied as to comprehend them all.
1 See notes in the former work to chap. ix. 13—21.
The little Book.
1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud : and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot
the sea, and his left foot on the earth, 3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth : and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write : and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things whichthe seven thunders uttered, and write them not. 5 And the angel which I saw stand upon
the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer :
7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
10 And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.
11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophecy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
In the 13th verse of the 8th chapter, three grand woes, three distinct periods of successful attack upon