« AnteriorContinuar »
two centuries, in which so many kingdoms and dynasties have been established, destroyed, and founded anew, and all this upon the wrecks of a well organized empire; we may perhaps not find the armies of all these Asiatic na. tions much inferior, to the number expressed in this prophecy. For the amount of these armies and roaming tribes of nations, should be taken, from the commencement of their preparation for these bloody scenes, to the extinction of their dynasties, beyond the close of this prophetic period, determining only the duration of this woe, which will, no doubt, rise to an amazing sum. And if we consider all the blood and slaughter in battles, the lives lost, by that dreadful train of consequences attending such a warfare, the sanguinary persecutions of these furious fanatics against Christians and Pagans, if they refused to become Mahomedans; we shall be ready to grant, that the third part of men, immediately concerned in these terrible scenes during this period, may not have died natural deaths, but by means of these judgments. The expression, “the third part of men,” does not refer to all the inhabitants of the world, but only to the inhabitants of the Asiatic part of the Saracen empire, and to the Christian provinces in Asia. Verse 17, And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and
them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and of brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke,
and brimstone, 18. By these three was the third part of men killed,
by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brim.
stone, which issued out of their mouths. 19. For their power is in their mouth, and in their
tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and
had heads, and with them they do hurt. This is an emblematical representation of this terrible army of horsemen, in which their distinguishing charac
teristics from other armies, are professedly delineated; that the believer in this prophecy might take notice and warning, when it should actually appear upon the stage of action. St. John beheld them, full of martial fire and courage, as indicated by their breastplates; which according to the different customs of these nations, actually were of the three colours here mentioned. They appeared fierce and powerful, as lions, roaring for their prey; and from their mouths proceeded most severe and peremptory commands, orders and sentences, for plunder, torment, death, and heinous destruction. Their power was in their mouths. For it had been given to these commanders to inflame their whole armies with a cruel, ferocious, and frenetic spirit of war, for the execution of plans, which humanity would otherwise have shuddered to accomplish. What such a general, at the head of a nation, will be able to achieve, we have but lately witnessed in France. Their tails signify both the pillaging trains of their armies, who immediately took possession of the whole country, and of every thing in it; and the successors to the thrones of these conquerors, whose governments were like unto ser. pents, full of crafty, subtle policy and of a poisonous,
deadly effect to the prosperity of their conquered countries. · History testifies these to have been the distinguishing features in the character of these nations, and the dreadful
complexion of their wars, during this period. Thus the - Christians in those countries received solemn warning of the wrath to come : in order that they might either withdraw from the field of battle, or join in with the divine purposes, and prepare to meet the enemy in a becoming manner. Verse 20. And the rest of the men, which were not killed
by these plagues, yet repented not of the works
of their hands, that they should not worship ; .devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass,
and stone, and of wood; which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.
21. Neither repented they of their murders, nor of
their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of
their thefts. The Saracens then caused the first woe in Christendom, in propagating Mahomedism by a tormenting war of conquest, with all its attending train of persecutions and vexatious measures; and these four nations were the agents of the second woe, in establishing it, by still more severe measures of torture and death in every shape. We may expect, that only crimes of general prevalence, and these too of the blackest die, could be sufficient to induce the Lord to permit such heavy judgments on his Church, as are contained in this second woe. And such is truly the nature of the offences, laid to the charge of both Heathens and Christians, as the causes of these dreadful calamities. They were idolatry, murder, sorcery, fornication, and thefts, which kindled the anger of the Lord to inflict these judgments. And these crimes being the distinguishing characteristics of the nations, alluded to in this prophecy, may also enable us to know and determine them, among the nations of the world. :
1. They worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood. The word te dore uavidi, in the original, should not be rendered devils, which does not convey the same idea to an English reader; and as we have no appropriate word in our language, better adapted to express that idea, the word demon might have remained. This expression in Holy Scripture always refers to Pagan idolatry, 1 Cor. X. 20. 21. because the first Church of Christ knew nothing of image-worship; the Revelation excepted, in which also Christians are accused of this irrational worship of demons. But as the text before us distinguishes between the worship of demons, and the worship of idols, I would consider the first as referring to Pagans, and the last to Christians. Demons are imaginary deities, who once were mortals of renown on earth, such as heroes, inventors of arts and sciences, or who had otherwise been a blessing to cities, countries, tribes, or nacions in their time. These after death the Heathens worshipped as Deities, and mediators between the superior Gods and men, under the title of demons. 1 Tim. iv. 1. Acts xvii. 18. All the nations of Asia were worshippers of demons, except the Mahomedans and Persians,, which last adore God under the emblem of fire, and the sun. It is worthy of remark, that the instruments of this woe, were not properly worshippers of demons, though they otherwise have been guilty of many crimes; and, to the eternal shame of idolatrous Christians, are most inveterate ene-. mies to the worship of images and saints, to this day.
II. They worship idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood. These words evidently allude to image worship, and to that stupid veneration for the bones and carcasses of saints, which was first begun in Greece, about the year 590. After a terrible flame of controversy, attended with such fatal cousequences to religion and government, both in the Eastern and Western part of the empire, this idolatrous worship was firmly established by two councils assembled at Constantinople, in the years 863 and 871. Since that time, this superstitious phrenzy became universal in the Greek Church; and that deluded people, to express their most signal approbation of the frenetic enthusiasm of this council for the introduction of this species of gross idolatry, have instituted the feast of orthodoxy, as an anniversary festival to commemorate this decree. The abettors of image worship were also triumphant in the Romish Church, loud and powerful as the testimony of European Christians has been against it, since the time of Charlemagne; wherefore the third woe is suffered to fall on them with equal severity, and during a much longer period of time.
III. They are also charged with murders, sorceries, . fornication and theftse Murders of the saints and martyrs
of Jesus, as evinced by their oppressive conduct against many seceding Christians, especially in those sanguinary persecutions of the Paulicians, between A. D. 845---950, by the Creek Church; when these firm and faithful servants of the Lord fled before the brutal rage of their persecutors from Asia to the Danube. Daguaxeld, sorcery, siguifies the art of poisoning in a clandestine manner, as it here stands united to notorious murder. But the most pernicious modé ot poisoning is performed by arts of magic, and John has here used a Greek word, which ch. xviii. 23. properly signifies sorcery. History also informs us, tbat necromancy and the magic art was very much in vogue in the East, and practised to.great extent about this time. Fornication here signifies all unlawful and unnatural lusts; and theft, robbing men of their estates. History abounds with instances of these wicked and abominable practices in the Grecian empire, and more especially in the Eastern provinces, during the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries; by which they challenged the Lord to their own destruction. Though they were guilty of such heinous crimos against the dictates of religion, and the remonstrances of conscience, and had thus violated their most sacred obligations towards God and society ;—Though already scourged and severely reprehended by the judgments of this woe; yet they might have repented of their sins at the feet of Jesus, and would have found pardon with a merciful Saviour, and the aids of his Holy Spirit, in order to break their criminal connexions with sin and sinners, and attain to a new life. But such as remained impenitent, and would not abstain from their presumtuous sins, and insollent practices, are threatened with the third woe, 2 Thes. ii. 10. 12. and in case of further obduracy, with still severer judgments under the vials of wrath.
The authorities, for the historical facts alledged in thc explanation of these woes, are Gibbon, Mosheim, Shreck,