Page images




[ocr errors]

Rev. vii. 8, 9. And the second angel sounded, and as it were

a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea ;

and the third part of the sea became blood : And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and

had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

The principal symbol of this trumpet is a burning mountain ; and, as hills and mountains are common figures in prophecy, it will be easy to determine the meaning of this symbol. They signify states and kingdoms, public bodies and associations of men; or they signify kings or first magistrates, persons that fill the highest official stations in bodies politic. Thus the church is often called a mountain ; and of this mountain it is declared, that it shall be established on the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, Isa. ii. 2. The same society is represented under the emblem of a stone cut out without hands, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth, Dan. ii. 34, 35. The Babylonian empire is called a destroying mountain, which God threatens to roll from the top of the rocks, and to convert into a burnt mountain, Jer. li. 25. John seems to have taken the greater part of this description from the language and figures of the ancient prophet ; there is therefore reason to apprehend, that as the fate of Rome was to be so similar to that of Babylon, the one would be of the same general character with the other.

The inequalities on the surface of the earth are of different degrees; some are great, and others small. This eminence which John saw is called a great mountain. Like an Ætna, or a Lebanon, it raised its lofty summit above all the rest. — It would be vain to look for this mountain among those little states and principalities, into which Europe was beginning to be divided by the inroads of the Barbarians; or among those sects and parties, into which the Christian church was divided, by the heresies of Arius and Pelagius, or the schism of the Donatists. None of them presented the appearance of a great mountain. Imperial Rome, or the church Catholic, must be intended : as these are the only two associations which, in the time of this trumpet, answer to the description.

When this mountain was first noticed by John, it had the appearance of a volcano; it was burning with fire. Like an Ætna, or a Vesuvius, it was vomiting up flames and smoke. There was something peculiarly grand and awful in its appearance; for not only the summit, but the whole mountain, from top to bottom, was enveloped in smoke and flames. The volcano was just discharging its fiery load, and the melted lava was rushing in torrents of liquid fire down the sides of the mountain ; a violent shock of an earthquake accompanied the eruption, and greatly augmented the terrors of the scene. All the surrounding country was in a convulsed state; and so violent was the shock in the immediate neighbourhood of the volcano, that this huge mountain was torn from its base, and heaved into the sea. The mountain of which Jeremiah has given the account was only overturned; but by the force of the subterraneous fires, the mountain which John saw was tossed like a tremendous fire-ball in the air, and then sunk and disappeared in the ocean.

Some interpreters understand the burning state of this mountain in an active sense, as intended to mark its destructive influence upon other objects; others understand it passively, as intended to describe the condition of the mountain itself. Both views may be admitted; for, while it was wasted and consumed by its own fires, it had a pernicious influence upon every object which came into contact with it. Even the sea into which it was thrown became as blood, and a third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died.

The foundations of the mountains have been often shaken by earthquakes ; some of them have been overturned, and others ingulfed in the bowels of the earth. Cities, with all their inhabitants, have perished in these terrible convulsions of nature. But this mountain did not sink down where it had formerly stood ; neither was it thrown upon another part of the continent. As if the whole extent of the base had become the crater or mouth of a volcano, the mountain itself was projected, by the force of the subterraneous fires, into the sea.According to the interpretation of the angel of the vials, waters denote human beings : “ The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues,'chap. xvii. 15. A sea of waters, therefore, must be meant of a great empire, or of a multitude of contiguous petty states and kingdoms. And when it is said of this mountain that it was cast into the sea, the figure seems to intimate, that the empire or public body, of which it is the symbol, was to be swallowed up and lost in other associations.

The effects of this convulsion are next mentioned: The third part of the sea became blood ; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died ; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. These particulars naturally suggest the idea of warfare, and that this mighty association was to be brought to its end by means of the sword. When the waters of Egypt were turned into blood, the fish that was in the river died, and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river,' Exod. vii. 21. Waters converted into blood are no longer fitted for the purposes of respiration ;* and they are equally unfit for the purposes of trade and commerce. It is impossible for a ship to sail through an ocean of blood. As ships are the principal means of commerce, and the only means of intercourse with countries which lie beyond the seas, the destruction of navies must be intended to intimate, that all commercial and friendly intercourse was to be broken up, at least during the time that this mountain continued to burn, and the waters to be congealed like blood.

By the dreadful eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1779, the lava poured out in such copious torrents into the sea, that it rose twelve feet above the water. The sea was observed to boil like a caldron ; and soon after a great many boiled fish were seen floating on the surface. Greg. Econ. of Nature, v. II.

I shall now consider the application and fulfilment of this prophecy.--Those who interpret the first trumpet as intended to describe the state of the church after she was divided by faction and party, and wasted by the destructive influence of heretical opinions, generally apply the second trumpet to the same society; and suppose that it is intended to symbolize an increase of her misfortunes, especially by the violent and often sanguinary contests among the bishops about preferment, and the heat of dispute upon theological controversies. The church is no doubt represented under the emblem of a mountain ; and very often she has appeared as if she had been enveloped in flames. But it never could be said of the mountain of the church, that it was either swallowed up by the sea, or devoured by the fire. In Egypt she was in the iron furnace, but she was not left to perish there; she was in one that seemed to be equally hostile to her existence in Babylon, and was also brought up out of it. But the mountain of this trumpet sunk in an ocean of blood, never to lift up its head any more; this last and great eruption, accompanied with an earthquake, brought it to its end. It is therefore natural to suppose, that some other association than the church is intended by the figure ; nor do we know of any to which it can with such propriety be applied as to the Roman empire. And as the concluding scenes of that state had a powerful influence upon the ecclesiastical body, it is only what might have been expected, that they would be described in prophecy; especially as the preceding trumpet carries forward the series of events to that period when its fall appeared to be inevitable.

Writers upon the Revelation generally apply the first four trumpets to the empire, and divide the period of their fulfilment into certain portions, between the time of Constantine the Great and the dissolution of the imperial government. They suppose that the first does not extend beyond the time of Theodosius, who imposed very considerable restraints upon the Barbarians; and that the second does not extend beyond the sack of Rome by Attila, in 410, whom they consider as the burning mountain of this prophecy. But this division appears to

be extremely unnatural, because it separates those events, which, from their sameness of character, ought to have been classed together. The inroads of the Barbarians might be more fierce and destructive after than before the time of Theodosius ; but till the empire was invaded by Genseric the Vandal, they all proceeded from the same quarter, and were of the same general character. Many of these tribes were of Asiatic extraction, and some of them are supposed to have migrated from the borders of China ; but all of them entered the Roman territory by the north of Europe, the region of the literal bail. There might be short intervals between the inroads of the Barbarians, but this circumstance cannot be a sufficient line of demarcation between the trumpets; for as they were all from the same quarter, they could be nothing but so many different showers of one great symbolical hail-storm. The first formidable attack from any other quarter was by Genseric, in the year 455; and as this was from the shores of Africa, from which a burning heat, rather than a storm of hail, might be expected, it appears to be the true æra of the commencement of the second trumpet. By the efforts of this barbaric chieftain, the power of Rome was completely broken ; and a private soldier of the guards of the emperor, within a few years thereafter, was proclaimed king of Italy. I do not therefore see to what events this prophecy can possibly be referred, unless to the closing scenes of the imperial state of Rome. The history of that remarkable period strongly confirms this application.

We have seen, that under the first trumpet the empire was "very nearly subverted. Hordes of Barbarians were settled on the borders of Italy, and only waited an opportunity of giving the last blow to the tree of the Roman stăte. Britain, as no longer tenable, was long since deserted ; Spain was divided - among the Goths, Suevi, and Alans; Africa was possessed by the Moors and Vandals ; Gaul, too, was occupied by numerous tribes. Nothing remained to the Western empire but Italy itself; and ever since the fearful depredations committed upon it by Alaric, Radagaisus, Attila, and others, it was become an easy conquest to any ambitious invader. Accordingly, thọ

« PreviousContinue »