Page images




Rev. viï. 10, 11. And 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 foun

tains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood : and the third

part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

The symbol of this trumpet is a falling star. When the third angel sounded, there fell a great star from heaven. This figure, we have seen in our explanation of chap. vi. ver. 13, is uniformly taken by John to denote an ecclesiastical character. By other prophets it is also taken to denote a king. Thus, the princes and nobles of Egypt are called stars, Ezek. xxxii. 7; and the fall of the king of Babylon is described under the emblem of a falling star: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning !' Isa. xiv. 12. But John has explained in chap. i. 20, in what sense he is to be understood when he uses this figure ; and, according to that interpretation, we must uniformly affix the idea of an ecclesiastical character to this symbol, unless there be something in the text, or connexion in which it is placed, that requires it to be understood of a civil ruler.

Some of the stars are placed at immeasurable distances from the earth, and are scarcely visible ; others are much nearer, and therefore shine with a brighter and more luminous appearance, — One star differeth from another star in glory.' The star, which John saw in a state of declination towards the earth, excelled in glory; it was a star of the first magnitude, and is therefore called a great star. And among those that


occupy a public station in the church, there is a very great diversity of gifts and attainments. Some, like John the Baptist, are burning and shining lights; their ministerial endowments are of the first degree of excellency; while the attainments of many others are barely sufficient to prevent the office with which they are invested from falling into contempt. Some are placed in very conspicuous stations, and in spheres of extensive usefulness; and others in regions that are very obscure, and where their sphere of usefulness is much more limited.

When this star was first noticed by the prophet, it appeared to be dropping from its sphere. It was like a comet, whose course is very eccentric, or a star which had forsaken its orbit, and was falling from heaven. When the star mentioned in chap. ix. 1, was first observed, it had reached the earth ; its fall was completed. But when the star of this trumpet was first seen, it was only in a state of declination ; it was, however, hastening towards the earth with all that velocity which distinguishes the heavenly bodies in their movements.-When a king, or first magistrate, is represented under the emblem of a star falling from heaven, the figure is intended to intimate, either the subversion of the society of which he is the head, or the extinction, or some very disastrous change in the dynasty of princes, who had exercised the supreme authority in the state. And when the figure is meant of ecclesiastical rulers, it must be intended to symbolize some very unfavourable change, either in the ecclesiastical body, or in the character of its rulers.

This mystical star was not extinguished by its fall; on the contrary, the nearer it approached the earth, it assumed a more luminous appearance; it was burning as it were a lamp. To persons in the immediate vicinity of a lamp, it seems to reflect a much greater degree of light than a star even of the first magnitude; and this star seemed to shed a much greater blaze of light in its fall, than when it was in the region of the heavens. But the light of a lamp is very limited. Instead of extending through those regions which lie between carth and heaven, it reaches at farthest to the distance only of a few leagues, and cannot illuminate the path of any traveller to the celestial world. While this planet was in its proper sphere, it was irradiated by the beams of the sun, and reflected a pure, steady, directing light; but when it was in a state of declination towards the earth, it emitted only a false glare which dazzled the eye, and left the traveller surrounded with all the gloom and darkness of the night.

The object of this judgment was the rivers and fountains of water. It affected the third part of the rivers, and the fountains of waters. Were this symbolical star to be understood in a secular sense, then, in accordance with this view of the figure, it behoved us to interpret the rivers and fountains as denoting those things by which political associations are enriched. But, as it is meant of an ecclesiastical character, the rivers and fountains must be intended of those means by which the church is enriched and refreshed. Religious institutions may be chiefly intended. These are called wells of salvation, Isa. xii. 3.; and a river which makes glad the city of God, Psal. xlvi. 4. Both the progress of revelation, and the extensive diffusion of gospel privileges, are represented by a fountain, which rose up under the threshold of the sanctuary, and increased as it flowed, till it became waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over, Ezek. xlvii. 1–12.

That the dismal effects produced by the fall of this star may be more readily apprehended, it is pointed out by a very appropriate name; the name of the star is called Wormwood. Wormwood is a species of herb which is peculiarly bitter to the taste and offensive to the smell. It is the symbol of any thing displeasing to God, and painful and injurious to man. Jeremiah speaks of being filled with bitterness, and made drunk with wormwood; he remembered his affliction and his misery, the wormwood and the gall, Lam. iii. 15, 19. Delusion, apostacy, and especially idolatry, are represented under the notion of wormwood and gall. Simon Magus, we are told, was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity, Acts viii. 23. And when Moses reminded the children of Israel of the gross idolatries of the nations through whose territories they had passed on their way to the land of Canaan, with his usual zeal and public spirit he warned them against serving their gods, lest there should be a root among them bearing gall and wormwood, Deut. xxix. 18. On account of the delusions and idolatries, of which this hieroglyphical star would be . the author, and the numerous bitter fruits and consequences which would result from his fall, he is called by the appropriate name of Wormwood.

The consequences are also mentioned. The third part of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. They were impregnated with its nosious qualities to such a degree, that considerable numbers of those who drank of them were poisoned and destroyed. Some survived ; but in proportion as they had drunk of these deleterious streams, their beauty had been wasted, their strength impaired, and their lives had been in danger; and if the influence of this poison had not been counteracted by draughts from a pure and medicinal spring, they had gone the same way with the third part that died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

The figures of this prophecy being few and simple, the short explication now given may be sufficient for opening up their general meaning. The most difficult part of our work, however, remains to be accomplished, viz., to point out the true application, and to give you the history of the fulfilment of this prophecy.-Hitherto we have kept pretty near to the common track of expositors on this book of the Revelations. The views with which you have been presented are all of them countenanced by the authority of some writer or another; but in support of what I am now to offer upon the prophecy of this trumpet I can hardly adduce a single authority; it stands or falls by its own evidence. You must therefore examine the principle upon which the following interpretation is founded, with the greater degree of attention, that you may

be able to decide upon the propriety of the interpretation. And that you may be the better able to form a judgment upon it, I shall be fuller in the illustration of the argument than was necessary where the points were less controverted, or where the authority of some writer of celebrity might have been adduced to shew that the opinion was not singular.

The greater part of interpreters explain the heavens of this star as meant of secular empire; and, therefore, in a consistency with this view of the heavens, they interpret the star as denoting a secular character; and suppose that it is meant of those rebellious governors of provinces who joined with the Barbarians, and took an active part in hastening the downfal of the Roman empire. And as the revolt of Boniface, the governor of Africa, was followed by consequences which were exceedingly fatal, he has been frequently mentioned as the individual whom this star was intended to symbolize. Others have applied the falling of this star to the extinction of the Cæsars, or emperors of Rome, in the person of Augustulus, the last of the Roman emperors.-But we cannot admit of the first of these interpretations, without supposing that the subversion of the empire was not the thing intended by the heaving of the burning mountain into the sea; because in a prophecy, where the strictest chronological order is observed, there cannot be such a violation of order as this interpretation implies. It is absurd to suppose, that, after the prophet had described the fall of the empire, he would return to give us the description of scenes which were prior to that event. This is such an inversion of order, that it places the events of the second trumpet posterior to those of the third ; though, according to the order of the prophecies as laid down in the chapter, we were warranted to expect that the burning mountain would be cast into the sea, and there swallowed up and lost, before this star of the third trumpet would be seen to be in a state of declination towards the earth.--Neither can we admit of the second interpretation, because the extinction of the Cæsars was necessarily implied in the subversion of the

« PreviousContinue »