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Mohamedan apostacy, established in the Saracen and Ottoman empires in the East, and which the angel had before predicted, were not to be all the tribulations, which the church must suffer, in the course of her reformation ; she should farther be oppressed by the Papal apostacy, and French atheism. But lest this great accumulation of distress should destroy her trust and faith in the divine promises, the angel is represented as having a “rainbow upon his head.” A rainbow is the well known divine symbol of faith and hope, the infalliable token by which God es. tablished his covenant with Noah, that the earth should not again be destroyed by a flood *. This token appears upon the head of the angel, that is, upon the most conspicuous, exalted, and noble part of the body, to comfort and support the church with the assurance, that the God of power and of truth will fufil his promises made thro' “ his servants the prophets,” and his blessed Son; and, in the end, exalt her to a state of everlasting peace, happiness, and immortality t. To show that all the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen I, “ the face of the angel is, as it “ were, the sun ;” the most luminous, invariable, and fixed of all natural bodies, and therefore a beautiful hieroglyphic to represent the infinite wisdom, light, and unalterable truth of the God of heaven: and moreover, to declare to the prophet, and to the whole world through him, that the events which should be revealed to him, would infallibly come to pass.
1 Gen. ix. 11,
| Rev. xi. 12.
| 2 Cor i. 20.
But the most awful part of this significant and comprehensive description is yet to come ;
the feet of the angel were as PILLARS of FIRE. A pillar, or monument, is usually erected to perpetuate the remembrance of some great event.
It is thus used in Genesis, Samuel, &c. * : and fire, the most powerful and destructive of all the elements, is often, in Scripture, a symbol of the displeasure and wrath of Godt. What then are we to understand by the feet of the angel being like pillars of fire ? but that the events, which he was commissioned to foretel, should be so dreadful as to remain, for ever, the memorials of the awful and terrible judgments of the “ wrath*" of a righteous and long-forbearing God, upon those obstinate and unrepenting sinners; who perverting the right use of their reason, rejecting the admonitions and remorse of their consciences, and refusing to be governed by the light and instructions of his REVEALED WORD, through his blessed Son,“ shall live without him in the world ;” and not only deny, but endeavour to prevail on the rest of mankind to believe, that THERE IS NO God !
Ver. 3. The spirit of truth, having thus intimated to the prophet the nature of his subject, by the mere appearance of the angel, proceeds to instruct him by words and actions ; for he informs us, that he had “ in his hand a LITTLE BOOK open.”-It was a little book,
* Gen. xxxv. 18. 20. 2 Sam. xviii. 18.
when compared with the great book, “ writ
ten, within, and on the back side, sealed with “ seven seals* :” for this great book contained the history of the church at large, in her entire and unbroken state, to the end of time : but the little book, however commentators may have differed respecting it, is nothing more than a history of the WESTERN CHURCH ; a small branch of the church in general, to be broken off from it in the seventh century, but again in time to be united with it. This little book, or digressive 'history, omitted in the great book, is to be found in the three next chapters. Similar digressions are indeed to be met with in every complete history of different and complicated circumstances. The little book was, however, open, that the prophet might read it, and make its contents the subjeet of his present vision,
The angel, having proceeded so far, "set “his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot
upon the earth ;" with a design, no doubt, to signify to the prophet the general nature, and vast extent, of the important events to be revealed, on his reading the little book, which were to come to pass upon “ the sea,” as well as upon the land ; in other words, that the dissension and wars which were to ensue, should be waged between the most powerful maritime and continental states upon
" the earth.”
* Rev. v. 1. The same figure of a roll or book is used by Ezekiel, xi. 9, 10 : containing the revelation of the visitations of God upon the Jews.
Here the prophet begins already to unfold his vision, and to allude to the wonderful events of the present times: the present wars having been waged by a greater number of states both by sea and land, than have ever been waged, within the same space of time, since the world began. They have been carried on by powers, which are properly maritime, such as Great Britain, Holland, France, Russia, Spain, Sardinia, Naples, Malta, Turkey, and the United States. So many states, maritime as well as continental, have never before been engaged in war, at the same time, and no event ever yet foretold, has been more completely fulfilled.
V.3.---The angel then “ cried with a loud “ voice, as when a lion roareth ; and when he “had cried, seventhunders uttered their voices. The loudness of the voice is, I humbly apprehend, intended to denote the great extent and lamentable effects of the judgments, with which God, in his just displeasure, would be pleased to visit the fallen and disobedient part of the church: for the lion never “roareth," but when bent upon destruction ; and he then “roareth” with a louder voice than any other beast of the forest. These figurative expressions are then intended to make known to the church, both the depression which the western part of it should suffer, by the arts, frauds, and force of the Papal apostacy, and the powers of atheism described in the next chapter*, which
Rey. xi. 2,7.
were to be the instruments of the divine displeasure, in correcting and reclaiming it. At the same time, it is easy to be perceived, by an attentive reader of this prophetic history, that whenever the Spirit of truth denounces a judgment of God upon the church, it is always attended by an assurance of her final victory and exaltation over all her enemies. So here, as soon as the angel had denounced the visitations of Heaven upon the church,“ the seven thunders uttered their voices,” to comfort her in this manner, by reminding her of the final and happy issue of all her long and distressful
captivity; and of the far more dreadful and lasting judgments, which were to be poured out of
seven vials of the wrath of God,” preparatory to her eternal redemption, through the merits of her immaculate founder, the Son of God, upon the whole antichristian and ungodly world, for ever and ever*.
Ver. 4.- And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices,” and thereby comforted the church, the prophet, lost in rapture, was “ about to write” the history of the seven thunders, or the “ seven last plagues of the wrath of God," upon the enemies of the church; but was immediately corrected by “ a voice “ from heaven, and commanded to write them “ not:" not at that time, nor to insert them in his present vision : but to “ seal them up,” or retain them in his memory, and record them
Rev. xvi. throughout.