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But that the vials are the judgments of God under the seventh trumpet has long been admitted by the best commentators, such as Dr. Cressener, Dr. More, Mr. Whiston, Bishop Newton, Luther, Bengelius, &c. Dr. Cressener says, “ The seven vials are an orderly succession of judg
the beast, to bring him to his last ruin," and argues that they could not begin before the Protestant reformation, because they are the last judgments upon the beast. * Mr. Mede says,
6. The effusion of the vials sig" nifies the ruin of the Antichristian beast.” + Dr. Newton, Bishop of Bristol, writes, on this subject, as follows: “God's judgments upon the kingdom of the beast, or An“ tichristian empire, are hitherto denounced, and de“ scribed in general terms, under the figure of harvest “ and vintage. A more particular account of them fol“ lows, under the emblem of seven vials, which are called 66 the seven last plagues, for in them is filled up the wrath
of God. These seven last plagues must necessarily fall “ under the seventh and last woe trumpet, so that as the “ seventh seal contained the seven trumpets, the seventh “ trumpet comprehends the seven vials.-As the trum“ pets were so many steps and degrees of the ruin of the " Roman empire, so the vials are of the ruin of the Ro
man church.” And if we compare the sentiments which he here advances, with what he has said respecting the destruction of the fourth monarchy of the world, it will appear that he expected the civil tyrannies of Europe to be destroyed by the judgments of God, under these vials, as well as the ecclesiastical. $ After contending that the feet and toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image prefigured the Roman empire, divided into ten lesser kingdoms, he concludes by saying, “ The image is still stand
ing upon his feet and toes of iron and clay; the king“ dom of Christ is yet a stone of stumbling, and a rock of “ offence, but the stone will one day smite the image upon " the feet and toes, and destroy iť utterly, and will itself “ become a great mountain and fill the whole earth; or, in " other words, (Rev. xi. 15.) tlie kingdoms of this world " shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, “ and he shall reign for ever and ever.” But it is need. less to multiply quotations.
* Judgments on the Roman church, p. 227.
§ Vol. I. p. 245, 282--286.
Chap. xvi. 1. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying to the seven angels, Go your way, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. This great voice appears to be what, elsewhere, is called the sounding of the seventh trumpet; or, the voice of the seventh angel. These vials, or bowls, of wrath, are said to be seven. The first angel pours his upon the earth ; the second is poured upon the sea ; the third upon the rivers and fountains of water; the fourth upon the sun'; the fifth upon the seat of the beast ; the sixth upon the great river Euphrates ; and the seventh into the air. The difficulty of explaining what is here said of these vials of wrath, arises, in a great measure, from our ignorance of the particular objects of them. Could we ascertain, with certainty, what is in. tended by the earth, the sea, the rivers, the sun, &c. the way would be much smoothed. But, by attending to events, and improving that assistance which the sacred records afford, we may be able, perhaps, to clear away a great deal of the difficulty which has encumbered the subject. It will require some considerable attention, and we must travel over no small space of ground, to attain our object; but those who are willing to subrnit to the terms, will, I think, find themselves rewarded.
The remarkable correspondence of the trumpets in chapters viii. and ix. with these vials now under consideration, must have been observed by every reader. There (chap. viii. 7.) the first angel sounded, and there followed hail, and fire mingled with blood; and they were cust upon the earth : here, (ver. 2.) the first angel pours out his vial upon the earth: there, the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain, burning with fire, was cast into the sea ; here the second angel pours out his vial upon the sea ; there, the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of water; here, the third angel pours out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters : there, the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars ; here, the fourth angel pours out his vial upon the sun. The objects of the fifth trumpet, and of the fifth vial, are dissimilar, but between those of the sixth trumpet, and the sixth vial, we trace a strong likeness, chap. ix. 13. The sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar, which is before God, saying to the sixth angel
which had the trumpet, lose the four angels which are bound in the great rizer Euphrates; and here (ver. 12.) the sirth angel pours out his vial upon ihe great river Euphrates. Whence this striking agreement! I think there can be but little doubt, that where the same symbols, or terms, are used, the same sort of things, or the same places, or people, or whatever may be intended, are to be understood, both under the trumpets, and under the vials; and that the Holy Ghost intended this sameness of description to be as a clue to assist us in our researches, that, from the past, we might be helped in our pious inquiries, respecting what was to take place in the latter times of the world. “ The design of the trumpets, in “ general,” says Mr. Whiston, “ is to revenge the inno“ cent blood of the martyrs on that wicked Roman em“ pire which shed it, and in answer to the prayers
of the “ saints who groaned for deliverance from that new Anti“ christian idolatry and persecution, which soon began to “ be introduced into it, after it became Christian. - The “ several trumpets have a mighty correspondence with “ the several vials; and they are to be looked on, as some “ way or other, answerable to one another all along, and “ so capable to afford light to each other perpetually.” These sentiments exactly accord with my own. one, that I know of, bas pursued this idea to any consi. derable extent.
What are we to understand by the earth, the sea, &c.? If we consult our commentators, and writers, upon these subjects, we shall find nearly all of them are agreed that as under the sixth trumpet the loosing of the four angels, bound in the river Euphrates, signified the letting loose of the Turks (who, for some time had been confined in the neighbourhood of that river,) upon the Greek empire, to overturr. it, and chastise the corrupted Christians; so the sixth vial, which is poured upon that river, signifies those judgments of God, or those wars, which are to bring the Ottoman empire to rain. The conclusion is certainly 1110st natural and easy. The sixth trumpet refers to its setting up; the sixth vial to its pulling down. If theo the Euphrates signifies the same people in both visions, by what rules of criticism are we to interpret the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the sun, in the former set of pro. phecies, or visions, to mean one thing, and, in the latter,
* Essay on the Revelations, page 169, 170.
something very different? And why may not the earth, the sea, and the rivers and fountains of waters, denote particular countries, kingdoms, districts, or situations, as well as the great river Euphrates signify the Turkish people, or empire ? And why are earth, sea, and rivers, to be considered as used in a more symbolic and mystical sense than Euphrates ? I can discover no reason.
I might swell these pages to a great extent, by enume. rating the sentiments of others, respecting these visions, but, for the sake of brevity, I shall content myself with delivering my own, in as short a compass as the argument will admit of; leaving the reader to form his own judga ment as to the probability of the truth, or falsehood, of the hypothesis advanced.
We have seen what the design of the seven vials of God's wrath is. It is to destroy the opposers of the kingdom of Christ, and to sweep from the face of the earth all that which opposes its progress, that is, all despotic and corrupt governments, and those ecclesiastical systems, by which a spurious Christianity is supported, and truth enslaved. The means will be suited to the end. He that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword.* There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars : and upon the earth, disiress of nations, with perplexity; the scu and the waves roaring ; men's hearts fail. ing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth : for the powers of heaven (the symbolic heaven) shall be shaken. t 'All which is
preparatory to a new order of things in human society, when the wilderness and the solitary place are to be glad, and the desert to rejoice, and blossom as'a rose. I
If there be then but the shadow of a probability, that the present commotions are the commencement of this awful scene, as I verily believe they are, it surely becomes us to attend seriously to what is passing; and to feel a more than ordinary interest in events.-- These vials of wrath appear to mark out the progress and consequences of God's last judgments. Let us not then grudge a little attention.
To the right understanding of what is signified by the vials, it appears necessary to get as clear notions as possible of the judgments of the several trumpets; and respecting the objects, or countries, to which they are to be re
Rev. xiii. 10. + Luke, xxi. 25, 26. | Isaiah, xxxv. 1.
ferred: for as those judgments overturned the Romart empire, and made way for the setting up of the kingdoms of Europe, and of those hierarchies which have committed fornication with them; so the vials are to pull them down. * Let us then take a survey of the judgments of the trumpets, especially of the four former ones.
There is hardly any controversy about the fifth and sixth trumpets, called the first and second woes. The latter is, most evidently, to be referred to the Turks, whose empire was founded about the year 1300, and who have been the ministers of God's vengeance against the corrupted Christians, and for the overthrow of the eastern empire, called the killing the third part of men, that is, the utter destruction of that part of the old Roman empire, which remained standing, nearly 1000 years, after the other two parts were broken to pieces, and formed into ten kingdoms. † The woe preceding, or the fifth trumpet, all agree to apply to the Saracens, the disciples of Mahomet, who, in the former part of the seventh century, let loose this swarm of locusts upon the earth, that for so long a period proved such a terrible scourge to both the eastern and western world. With their head they tormented the eastern apostates for 150 years; and with their tail, the latter part of their reign, they tormented those of the west, for the same period. I
The four first trumpets are generally allowed to signify some four extraordinary calamities which hastened the fate of Rome; and brought to an end the empire in the West. Of this there can be little doubt, and yet there is some difficulty when we descend to particulars, and attempt to ascertain the events which belong to each trumpet. Interpreters have differed: but let us examine for ourselves. If we are successful, we shall have, I think, a certain clue to conduct us to the interpretation of the vials, and obtain a considerable degree of assistance towards the better understanding the progress of the judgments of God through the nations of Europe.-Think me
* To prerent the unnecessary multiplication of words, I use, all along, the term kingdoms, in the same sense as the sacred writings, for, states and empires of all descriptions; for whether they be monarchies, aristocracies, or republics, if they are corrupt and tyrannic, the consequence will be the same.
+ Chap. ix. 13--19.
| Ver. 1–11. We trace these trumpets backwards as the most certain way of fixing the period of the four former.