Page images
PDF
EPUB

the last and preceding age. The guilt of their murderers is not to be extenuated; but God is rightcous. If we also trace the progress of calamity, as it moves from the Alps to the Danube, through all the regions of superstition and tyranny, and compare God's judgments with former crimes, though humanity will chill our blood with horror, and melt our hearts with pity, yet piety will constrain us to exclaim, Thou art righteous, o Lord God, because thoro hast judged thus !

And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun ; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. and men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues, and they repented not to give him glory, ver. 8, 9. Bishop Newton, (who, by the bye, though a valuable writer on prophecy, and on the more ancient parts of it especially, is far from excelling in his dissertations on those of this book,) says, “ Whether by this intense heat of the sun be meant lite“ rally uncommon sultry seasons;-or figuratively, a most " tyrannical and exorbitant exercise of arbitrary power, " by those who may be called the sun in the firmament, “ be the beast, the Pope or Emperor, time must discover."* Daubuz, in his note on this passage, says, “The sun sig“ nifies the supreme powers, according to the place or " scene of the action." “ The sun, (says Sir Isaac New“ ton), is put for the whole species and race of kings, in “ the kingdom, or kingdoms of the world politic, shining “ with regal power and glory.-Darkening,ʻsmiting, or “setting of the sun, moon, and stars, for the ceasing of a “ kingdom, or for the desolation thereof, proportional to “ the darkness. The scorching heat of the sun, for vex. “atious wars, persecutions, and troubles, inflicted by the

To determine the signification of the sun, on which this vial is poured, it is necessary to remember what was sig. nified by this symbol, and by the third part of the sun, under the trumpets. The whole Imperial power, although divided among several Emperors, was considered as the complete sun. One third part

of it was smitten when the Præfecture of the Gauls was lost to Rome; the second third part was smitten when Odoacer put an end to the Roman Cæsars; and the remaining third part, when the Eastern empire was overturned by the Turks. “ That • Vol. II. p. 318.

| Page 17, 18.

«« kings." +

" these three divisions of the empire, (says Dr. Cressener,

p. 39.) were but one and the same empire, was shewn

by the public ensigns of authority which were constantly “ carried before the præfecti prætorio in their several ju. “risdictions; though each of these Præfects were under $6 the immediate authority of but one Emperor, yet before

every one of them was carried the heads of all the Em

perors who were at that time in power, to shew that " they were all together the united majesty of the empire, “ though they had distinct jurisdictions." We are also to remember, that the Western empire, after it is broken into ten kingdoms, is considered as the same empire under another form. This is plain, both from the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's image, and of the fourth beast of Daniel, the fourth great monarchy which was to prevail, as well as from what is said (Rev. xii. and xiii.) of the dragon, and of the beast, and their ten horns.

The sovereign power, then, of all these kingdoms, (the despotic ones at least, and so far as they are corrupt, and united in the wicked design of oppression, and in opposi. tion to the kingdom of Christ,) is considered as one sun, just the same as the sovereignty in the Western and Eastern empires, after they were entirely separated, was so considered. And thus in the sacred prophecies, even all the sovereigns and sovereignties of the world, numerous as they may be, are represented. Hence when Isaiah predicts the punishment of the host of the high ones, that are on high, and of the kings of the earth upon the earth, he adds, (chap. xxiv. 23.) then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed. And our Lord, when he is uttering predictions which refer to the same general revolution which society is to undergo, in the latter days, previous to the coming of the kingdom of God, says, Then shall the sun be darkened. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars. Matth. xxiv. 29. Mark, xiii. 24. Luke, xxi 25. And, indeed, whether the scene of a vision, or prophecy, be laid in a single kingdom or state, or in an empire, or in the whole political universe, the decorum of the symbols requires that there should be but one sun in the symbolic heavens, as in the material. The vial of wrath on the sun, therefore, signifies some particular display of the divine displeasure

Cap. 24. Notit. Imp. Oriental,

S

against despots, and despotical power, existing within the scene of the vision.*

* I have said above, that the predictions of our Lord relative to the darkening of the sun, 8c. refer to the general revolution which society is to undergo in the latter duys; in my Word in Season, published on occasion of the general Fast in 1795, I have endeavoured to prove and illustrate this; and as a mode of interpretation entirely new, I believe, then struck my mind, and as it appears to ine to remove every difficulty, and is of peculiar importance at the present moment, I shall herethough not quite in place-briefly state my ideas. Our Lord had been denouncing a woe on Jerusalem, for the obstinacy of the Jews in impe. nitence and unbelief; and told them, they should not see him any more till they should say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, Matth. xxiii. 29. He had also declared to his disciples, that the time would come when there should not be left of the temple one stone upon another. (xxiv. 2.)

The disciples had long been possessed with an idea, in common with the rest of their countrymen, that when the Messiah should come, he would immediately set up a glorious kingdom, raise the Jewish nation above all people, and introduce that perfectly happy state of things, of which the prophets had spoken; and that righteousness, peace, and happiness, would take place of wickedness, war, and calamity. But they would naturally conclude, from what their Master had been saying respecting Jerusalem and the temple, that some heavy judgment would fall upon the Scribes and Pharisees, and the other obstinate enemies of Jesus, before this glorious and happy state of things would commence. But that it would soon coinmence, they had no doubt, and seemed disposed to believe it, even to the hour of Christ's ascension. Possessed with this idea, they asked him, saying, Tell us, when shall these judgments, of which thou hast spoken, be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world; or, of the age ?

The discourse of our Lord seems capable of being divided into three principal parts, and this, if considered with attention, appears to afford an easy solution to the otherwise inexplicable difficulties of this interesting part of holy writ, about which our greatest commentators have been so much perplexed and divided. 1. The former part may be considered as an introduction, and its design appears to have been to free the minds of the disciples froin that strong prejudice which possessed them respecting the speedy coming of the Messiah's kingdoin; the speedy arrival of those happy days, of which the prophets speak in such rapturous language. This introductory part extends in Matth. xxiv, from verse 4th to verse 14th. In Mark, xiii. froin verse 5th to verse 13th. In Luke, xxi. from verse 8th to verse 20th. Perceiving the prejudice which worked in the minds of the disciples, he sets himself to inform them, that instead of that blessed state of things coming so soon as they expected, there would be a long interval, which was to be filled up with woes and calamities: that the end would not be by and by. What our Lord here advances is applicable, not only to the Jewish nation, but also to the Christian church, and to the nations in general.--Having inforined his disciples, in a general way, that a long season of imposture, iniquity, persecution, and calamity, was to be expected, and not the immediate commencement of the kingdom of peace, he, 2dly. sets hiinself to answer, in a more particular way, the questions which they had

This particular display of the divine wrath against corrupt sovereignties, may be expected to appear (if our conjectures are not altogether wrong) soon after the overthrow of those tyrannies, situate in the countries of the rivers, to which we suppose the third vial refers, and bea

put to him. And as their first question was, When shall these things be? that is, when shall Jerusalem and the temple be laid in heaps, &c.? as he had spoken. He first speaks to this point, and utters predictions which relate to the affairs of the Jews, and to these only, and cautions his people how to act when desolation shall overspread their country. These predictions are related Matth. xxiv. 15—28. Mark, xiii. 14-23. Luke, xxi. 20-23. And with what precision those, which related to that age, were fulfilled, the history of Josephus bears ample testimony. But these prophecies of our Lord were not confined to that æra, but extend to the end of the Jewish captivity, for according to Luke, (xxi. 24.) our Lord said, They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. That is, till the end of the four monarchies shewn to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, and he shall come whose right it is. The Sd and last part of our Lord's discourse is in answer to the question, What shall be the sign of thy coining, and of the end of the world? This commences in Matth. xxiv. at ver. 29th; in Mark, xiii. at ver. 24th; in Luke, xxi, at ver. 25th; and relates to the judgments of the latter days, when the kingdoms and nations are to be punished for their sins, and the kingdom of God is to come, and his will to be done on earth, as it is in heuven.

But the saying of our Lord, (Matth. xxiv. 34. Mark, xiii. 30. Luke, xxi. 32.) Verily, I say unto you, this generation shull not pass away till all be fulfilled, nas been considered as forming a strong objection against applying these predictions of our Lord to the latter days; and the misinterpretation of this passage has been, I think, the principal occasion of those perplexities which pervade the explanations of most of our commentators. The phrase y yersa AUTN (this generation) is equivocal; it may mean not only this age, but this nation, progeny, family, stock, or kindred. In Gen. xliii. 7. and Numb.x. 30. what is rendered kindred is in the LXX. yevɛa. In Philip, ii. 15, the same word is rendered nation in our version, as it is in the Vulgate; and in inany other places it ought to be so rendered. The word is siinilar to yeros, which often signifies nation, and seed. See Jer. xxxi. 36., Gal. i. 14. 2 Cor. xi. 26. And ind deed the word generation does ofren, in the scriptures, signify a family, race, or progeny, and not one single succession, or age of men. See Ps. xiv. 5. xxii. 30. xxiv. 6. Ixxiii. 15. cxii. 2. Jer. vii. 29. Matth. iij. 7. xvii. 17. xxii. 33. Luke, xi. So. The ineaning of our Lord, therefore, appears to have been, “ Though there are to be so many calamities, and although the Jewish people are to experience so great a share of them, and that for so long a time, yet, verily, I say unto you, this nation shall not perish (shall not pass away) till all be fulfilled, but shall be preserved a distinct people; and of the truth of this you may rest assured, for heaven and earth shall perish, but my word shall not fail of being fulfilled.” For a fuller discussion of this subject, see as above, p. 5-19, of the second edition

fore some signal calamity falls on Rome, the seat of the ten-horned beast, and on the papal hierarchy; or rather on all antichristian hierarchies; for we shall see, by and by, that the same cause, universal renovation, which is to bring the papacy to an end, must necessarily put an end to all those corrupt and intolerant systems, which have sprung from it. That some general stroke will fall on despots and despotisms, and some great and general changes take place in the nations, before the destruction of the whore of Babylon, is certain ; for all the ten horns, kingdoms, states, or nations, are, as by a general agreement, to hate the whore, and make her de: olate and naked, and eat her flesh (seize her riches) and burn her with fire, * (that is, utterly destroy her, as fire consumes the fuel,) but which cannot possibly be, whilst the sovereignties are what they are, seeing that most of them are still her fond paramours.

But upon this fourth angel's pouring his vial upon the sun, it is said, and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire; and men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory. Dr. Goodwin understands the antecedent to the relative autű, to him, to be the angel, not the sun, as some, from the accidental agreement of the symbols, scorching, fire and heat, with the properties of that luminary, have con·cluded. They are the judgments of the angel, he says, which scorch men with great beat, and not the rays of the sun. But be this as it may, the vial is indisputably in. tended, ultimately to bring evil on the sun. It may, in its rage, scorch for a while, but the divine judgments will soon extinguish its flames in everlasting darkness, and overwhelm the supporters of tyranny with confusion. For the rule which Mr. Mede has laid down as incon. . trovertible, is undoubtedly just. " Whatever it be upon **which each of the vials is poured out, it suffers from ..66 the vial, damage and injury; since the effusion of the 6 vials, is the effusion of the wrath of God (chap. xv. 1.) ** therefore no interpretation can stand here, whereby the « effusion of a vial falleth out to the benefit of 'that upon 6 which it is poured out." +

Perhaps some may contend, that, although there may 'be some distinguishable æras in the commencements, and

* Rev. xxii, 16. + Key of the Rev. page 113.

« PreviousContinue »