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"the appearence of seven angels standing before God, to whom were given seven trumpets." As nothing is said on the opening of the seventh seal but what follows under the trumpets, the latter must be considered as a subdivision of the former.
But prior to the sounding of the trumpets, "another angel" comes forward, and stands at the altar, "having a golden censer, to whom much incense is given, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar before the throne.” There were two altars belonging to the temple-worship; one for sacrifice, called "the altar of burnt-offering," and the other for burning incense, called "the golden altar before the throne." The allusion here is to the last. Our great High Priest, having offered himself without spot to God, passed into the heavens, where he ever liveth to make intercession for us. Through him our prayers ascend with acceptance before God.
The "prayers" here referred to appear to have a special relation to the events about to be predicted by the sounding of the trumpets. The events would occur in answer to those prayers; which might be so many intercessions for the success of Christ's cause, and against that of its adversaries. Heathen Rome was overthrown in answer to the prayers of the souls under the altar, and Christian Rome may fall in the same manner. Should it be objected that in the latter there would be less to pray against, it may be answered, that those who, under the name of Christians, corrupted and debased Christianity, modelling it to their fleshly minds, and converting it into an engine of state policy, might incur more of the divine displeasure than those who, under the name of Heathens, openly opposed it. For the persecutions of Pagan Rome the persecutors only were punished, having their power taken from them, and given to the Christians; but for the corruptions of Christian Rome we shall see the empire itself dissolved, and divided amongst the barbarians.
The symbolical language under which these events are represented is that of the angel taking the censer, filling it with fire of the altar, and casting it into the earth; on which follow voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. "Fire" cast
into the earth by an angel would be the precursor of dreadful wars ; and an “earthquake" is the well-known symbol of a revolution, or such an overturning in matters of government as should introduce a new order of things. Such were the events which distinguished the times between Constantine and Augustulus, especially those between the years 400 and 476. Whatever virtues attached to Constantine, or his successors, and whatever obligations, the Christians were under for the protection afforded them by their government, yet the system which from those times was adopted, proved ruinous both to the church and to the empire. The corruptions of the former, as we have seen already, required the servants of God to be sealed in their foreheads; and the calamities of the latter we shall see described under the sounding of the first four trumpets.
7 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 trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. 8 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; 9 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. 10 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 fountains of waters; 11 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. 12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
The fulfilment of these predictions must, according to the chronological series of the prophecy, be looked for in the fourth or fifth centuries. They are the same things, particularly described, as those which followed the fire cast by the angel into the earth. Moreover, as the seals went to destroy the empire as Pagan, the
trumpets will go to overturn it as Christian. Both issue in an earthquake," the ordinary symbol of a revolution.
The Roman empire, as being now the seat of Christianity, is here considered as a world of itself; having not only its earth, its sea, and its rivers, but its sun, and moon, and stars. By the earth we may understand those parts of the empire which were continental, as Gaul and the southern parts of Germany. On these fell the effects of the first trumpet, burning up the trees and the grass, or destroying great numbers among the middle and lower orders of men. By the sea we may understand those parts of the empire which were maritime, such as Spain, Portugal, and the lower parts of Italy. On these fell the effects of the second trumpet, turning the waters into blood, and destroying whatever was in them. By the rivers and fountains of waters may be understood the mountainous parts of the empire, as Upper Italy, and the countries about the Alps; at no great distance from which rise the Loire, the Po, the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Danube. On these fell the effects of the third trumpet, imparting to their streams a mortal bitterness. By the sun, moon, and stars, we may understand the governing powers, supreme and subordinate. On these fell the fourth trumpet, smiting them with darkness, or with a general eclipse. Finally, By a third part only being affected at once, may be meant, not only that the events should take place by several successive calamities; but that the effect of the whole would not be to destroy the western empire, but merely to subvert it. The empire was to continue, though under another form, namely, as composed of the ten king doms. Mr. CUNNINGHAME very properly remarks the difference between the effects of the trumpets which refer to the subversion of the empire, and those of the vials, which refer to its final dissolution. The first are partial, the last total.t
Whether the events pertaining to each trumpet can be exactly ascertained, or not, thus much is certain, that the ravages of the Goths, the Vandals, and the Huns, were that to the empire which
*Chap. vi. 12. with viii. 5.
Dissertation, pp. 80, 81.
a terrible bail-storm, accompanied with thunder and lightning, is to the "trees and the fields;" which a burning mountain, thrown into the sea, would be to the waters; and which a blazing meteor that should fall upon the rivers and fountains of waters, and embitter them, would be to a country; while the effects of these successive ravages on the government would resemble a great though not a total eclipse of the heavenly bodies.