« PredošláPokračovať »
But, great as was the revolution under Constantine, it was not adequate to the language of prophecy; neither to that used in the prediction before us, nor in the former oracles respecting the fall of the fourth empire. We must, therefore, expect something greater yet to come.
In like manner, the dominion of Christian emperors, prelates, and magistrates, which succeeded to the idolatrous powers of Rome, did not prove to be at all corresponding to the glorious prophecies respecting the reign of the saints upon earth, which ought to have followed the downfall of the fourth empire. There was an analogy, indeed, between the change that actually took place in the government of the civilized world, so as to constitute a type of that glorious event; but that was all. A Christian emperor and Christian rulers succeed to the heathen emperor and his delegates ; Christian bishops and pastors take the religious government of the empire, in the room of the pagan priests and augurs, the ministers of the ancient idolatry. The true God, and his ministers in church and state, were acknowledged, and the church enjoyed, by this revolution, for a considerable time, much peace and prosperity. But, after all, it was only what was revealed to Daniel: -“And when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help, but many shall cleave to them by flatteries.” This submission of all the world to become Christian, soon discovered itself to be but complimentary. The powers of the empire, though nominally Christian, soon “ took counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed. Let us burst their bands, and cast away their cords from us." This submission of the world was that predicted in the twenty-second psalm, if I mistake not the translation of that Scripture :
They shall reflect and turn themselves to Jehovah,
It soon appeared that “ the mystery of iniquity," which had long been working within the church, was about to unfold itself, bringing on the great apostasy, and leading to the revealing of the “ man of sin," who, according to former oracles, was to direct or influence this same empire to its final opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
The First Interlude, Chapter vii.
The sixth seal, we shall bear in mind, has brought us, typically, though not in truth, to the end of time. In truth and reality, however, it has brought us to a great and very singular revolution in the state of the affairs of men.
The Roman world is become Christian: their emperor is now, to use the language of the angel in Daniel's vision, “the Prince of the host:" and his people, nominally, both by external profession and by the acknowledgment of Providence, “ the holy people.”* • What shall happen to this nominally Christian world is about to be shown in a new set of symbols, distinguished by the blowing of seven trumpets, which, as we have seen, comprise together the seventh seal: its last trumpet being to be spread out into seven new periods, marked by pouring out of vials, as itself has been spread out into seven trumpets. We are, therefore, arrived at the end of one great division of the series of prophetic events. This is chosen, by the Spirit of prophecy, as a proper place to introduce an episode, or interlude, respresenting the sealing and the deliverance of the chosen people of God: the accomplishing of the number of his elect, for which the coming of his kingdom waits, To introduce this episode, or interlude, the historic narrative of the prophecy is suspended : the seventh seal is not immediately opened. This intermediate vision which the apostle sees may justly be compared to that described in the ninth chapter of Ezekiel; and, fron, the known circumstances of Ezekiel's vision, we may illustrate this vouchsafed to St. John.
Ezekiel's vision foreboded the preparation of judgments which were ready to be inflicted upon an apostate church and people ; but the executors of these judgments are restrained, till a priest from the altar, with a writer's inkhorn by his side, “ shall set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations” that be done in the city doomed to destruction.
* Chap. vii. 15, and 24.
Exactly similar, only amplified in more magnificent scenery, are the circumstances of the vision before us :
1. “ And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow upon the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads."
It is, therefore, I collect, the intent of this vision, to point out the polluted, apostate church, now become identified with the fourth empire, as the object of future judgment: and surely to this Christian empire we may apply the language of Ezekiel's prophecy respecting faithless Jerusalem! “ The iniquity of the house of Israel and of Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness; for they say, 'the Lord hath forsaken the earth,' and, the Lord seeth not;' and as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.”
This interposed vision I conceive to be indefinite as to time; that is to say, it takes in view the whole continuance of the apostate church and empire, till those judgments fall upon her which shall destroy her. By the suspending of the four winds is symbolized the suspending of the final destruction of the apostate Christian empire, till the time of Christ's appearing, till the whole number of his elect be accomplished; then, will
his kingdom come indeed, of which the exaltation of Constantine and his Christian followers to the dominion of the world, was a faint, inglorious type:
4. “ I heard,” says St. John, “the number of them which were sealed; and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of Israel."
This is explained and specified, « out of each of the twelve tribes, twelve thousand."
“After this, I beheld, and, lo, a great number, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands."
This scene is capable of a twofold explanation. We may either consider the numbers heard and the people seen as different, or we may consider them as the same. If different, the remnant of the Jews must be represented by the one, and the remnant of the Gentiles by the other. But I am persuaded that they are the same people. It is the number of the sealed altogether, of all the mystic Israel, of “ the Israel of God,” of the children of the Jerusalem which is above: their whole number was a hundred and forty-four thousand. The number itself, probably, is mystical, and means only a very large, but still a definite, fixed number. St. John heard their numbers read; but when his eye saw the same happy company before the throne, they seemed to his view, as of course they would, innumerable.
They had white robes, like the souls of the slain beneath the altar, in a former vision; and they are, in fact, the completion of the same happy people, " the holy