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OF THE FOUR FIRST APOCALYPTIC TRUMPETS.
As the nature of my subject confines me to those
parts of the Apocalypse which treat of the 1260 years of the great Apostasy, I shall pass over in silence the contents of the six first seals, and commence my observations from the last seal which comprehends all the seven trumpets.
I. "And, when he had opened the seventh seal, "there was silence in heaven about the space of "half an hour. And I saw the seven angels "which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came "and stood at the altar, having a golden censer: "and there was given unto him much incense, "that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, as
"cended up before God out of the angel's hand. "And the angel took the censer, and filled it with "fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and "there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake."
The prophet had already, under the sixth seal, predicted the conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity in the days of Constantine, the downfall of paganism, and the tranquillity which the Church enjoyed for a season after her manifold troubles and persecutions*. The opening of the
Rev. vi. 12-17. vii. 1-17. See Bp. Newton's Dissert, in loc. I cannot but think, however, that his Lordship extends the season of tranquillity, predicted in the seventh chapter, much too far, in supposing it to reach from the reign of Constantine to the death of Theodosius, when the first trumpet began to sound. Such an opinion neither accords with facts, nor with the tenor of the prophecy. If we advert to facts, we shall find, that the peace of the Church began to be disturbed even during the life of Constantine by the heresy of Arius, and af terwards by the Apostasy of Julian. If we advert to the prophecy, we shall find that the scheme in question makes the tranquillity of the sixth seal synchronize for the most part with the silence introduced by the opening of the seventh seal. Now, since the tranquility is placed under the the sixth seal, it is reasonable to suppose that it is considered as terminating, when the seventh seal is opened, which introduces no scenes of peace, but a mute and anxious expectation of the calamities soon about to fall upon the Roman empire under the trumpets. History shews, that this supposition is just; for we can scarcely consider that as a period of much tranquillity to the Church which was at once disturbed by the quarrels of the Consubstantialists and the Arians, the malignity of Julian, and the perpetual incursions of the Goths.
seventh seal is the prelude to the disturbing of that tranquillity, the harbinger of the downfall of the Western Empire, the herald of the revealing of the man of sin. The year 313 was marked by the famous edict of Constantine in favour of Christianity in this year therefore the tranquillity of the Church commenced. No great length of time however clapsed before the peace of the Empire began to be broken by the incursions of the northern barbarians about the years 321 and 323. At this period I conceive the seventh seal to have been opened, and the silence of half an hour or rather of half a season to have commenced. As the seventh seal introduces those first incursions of the Goths that took place after the beginning of the Church's tranquillity, incursions which were easily repelled by the yet vigorous government of the Empire; so the silence seeins to denote the state of mute and anxious expectation in which the Church anticipated, as it were, from various less important invasions, the grand irruption of the Gothic monarch Alaric and his associates under the first trumpet. The period then of the half season describes the affairs of the Church and the Empire from about the year 323 to the year 395.
What the Church gained in outward splendor and prosperity under Constantine, she lost in purity of manners and doctrine. The holy simplicity of primitive Christianity was no more, and the heresy of Arius introduced a succession of crimes disgraceful alike to humanity and religion. Such
a state of things might naturally be expected to call down the wrath of heaven, notwithstanding those prayers which the ancient Christians were wont to offer up for the prosperity and preservation of the Roman empire. Yet, though it might be granted to their supplications that the heaviest judgments should not immediately fall upon it, though the soundings of the trumpets might for a season be deferred, the casting of fire, the well-known symbol of divine wrath, upon the earth, which throughout. the Apocalypse typifies the Roman empire, and the voices, the thunderings, the lightnings, and the earthquake, which it produced, testified with sufficient plainness, that it should forthwith experience some calamities, that it should forthwith be agitated by some great public convulsions.
Upon referring to history, we find that the incursions of the northern barbarians gradually became more and more formidable. Between the years 365 and 379, an almost perpetual war was carried on between them and the Romans with various success: and in the last of these years, when the Empire seemed on the point of being completely overrun and dismembered, Gratian associated with himself in the imperial dignity, the famous Theodosius. By the successful valour of this warlike prince, the sounding of the first trumpet, and the impending ruin of the Empire, were delayed for sixteen years: but "the genius of "Rome expired with Theodosius, the last of the "successors of Augustus and Constantine, who
" appeared in the field at the head of their armies, "and whose authority was universally acknow"ledged throughout the whole extent of the Empire *."
II. "And the seven angels, which had the seven trumpets, prepared themselves to sound."
The four first trumpets describe the removal of that power, which in the days of St. Paul letted or prevented the development of the man of sin, namely, the western imperial dignity of Rome: while the three last, which are awfully styled the three woes, detail the history of the great two-fold Apostasy both in the East and in the West; exhibit the man of sin in the plenitude of his power, upheld by the secular arm, and tyrannizing over the Church of Christ; predict his complete destruction at Armageddon, in the very act of opposing the Almighty conjointly with his temporal colleague the ten-horned beast or revived Roman empire; and finally bring us to the period, when all the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.
1. "The first angel sounded: and there followed "hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were "cast upon the earth; and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was "burnt up."
Before the prophecy of the trumpets can be satisfactorily interpreted, we must ascertain the
Hist. of Decline. vol. v. p. 137.