« AnteriorContinuar »
city of primitive Christianity was no more, and the heresy of Arius introduced a succession of crimeş 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 sounding 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 thein 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 trampet, and the impending ruin of the Empire, were
delayed 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 * “ 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 twofold 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 bis complete destruction at Armageddon, in the very act of opposing the Almighty conjointly with bis 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
Hist. of Decline, Vol. v. p. 137.
Through Throughout a great part of the prophecy of the trumpets, the Roman empire is denominated the third part of the whole symbolical universe, as including the third part of the then known world, and as being scated principally in Europe, which at that time was accounted the third part of the world *. Hail and lightning mingled with blood denote a tremendous tempest of desolating war and foreign incasion. The storm therefore, which is heré represented as falling upon the earth or Roman empire, typifies that grand compound irruption of the barbarous northern nations, from the effects of which the Roman empire never recovered itself, as it had done from those of the foregoing irruptions. In the natural world, a storm is frequently preceded by a calm : hence, in the figurative world, the great hail-storm mingled with lightning is represented as being preceded by silence. This silence however is not so deep, but that the latter part of it is interrupted both by thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake t, the immediate harbingers of the hail-storm. Accordingly, we find that the fierce Gothic tribes, though perpetually at war with the Romans, and though threatening to overwhelm them by repeatedly violating the long extent of the northern frontier, were for a time. restrained by the genius of Theodosius * : but, upon the decease of this great prince in the year 395, the northern cloud, which had so long been gathering, discharged itself with irresistible fury upon the Empire.“ He died in the month of January; and “ before the end of the same year the Gothic na" tion was in arms The barriers of the Danube “ were thrown open : the savage warriors of Scy" thia issued from their forests : and the uncom
* See Bp. Newton's Dissert. on Rev, viii. and Waple and Whistow in loc, # Rev. viii. 5.
strained P. 443.
mon severity of the winter" (the season in which natural hail and snow are generated) " allowed
the poet to remark, that they rolled their pon“ derous waggons over the broad and icy back of " the indignant river-The fertile fields of Phocis “ and Beotia were covered with a deluge of barba
rians, who massacred the males of an age to "s bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females “ with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages.” The whole territory of Athens was blasted by the baleful presence of Alaric; and “the travellers, “ who visited Greece several years afterwards, “ could easily discover the deep and bloody traces “ of the march of the Goths f.”
Such were the first effects of the symbolical hailstorm. Having thus ravaged Greece, it was next
*" As the impatient Goths," says Mr. Gibbon, “ could “ only be restrained by the firm and temperate character of “ Theodosius, the public safety seemed to depend on the life " and abilities of a single man." Hist. of Decline, Vol. iv.
+ list. of Decline and Tall, Vol. V. p. 176-181.
carried into Italy and the West. Under the guidance of Alaric, it passed over Pannonia, Istria, and Venetia; and threatened the destruction of imperial Rome herself. At length it was driven out of Italy by Stilicho.
Yet, scarcely was this part of the tempest dissipated, when another dark cloud *, generated like its fellow in the cold regions of the North (so accurately does the symbol correspond with its antitype), burst in the year 406 upon the banks of the upper Danube, and thence passed on into Italy. Headed by Radagaisus, the northern Germans emigrated from their native land, besieged Florence, and threatened Rome. Stilicho however was again victorious; but the remnant of the vanquished host was still sufficient to invade and desolate the province of Gaul.
“ The banks of the Rhine were “ crowned, like those of the Tiber, with elegant “ houses, and well cultivated farms. This scene “ of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into " a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins “ could alone distinguish the solitude of nature
* I have adopted the language of the historian. Unconscious that he was bearing his testimony to the truth of prophecy, he has used the self-same allegorical language as that employed · by St. John. “ The correspondence of nations,” says he,
was in that age so imperfect and precarious, that the revo“ lutions of the North might escape the knowledge of the
court of Ravenna; till the dark cloud, which was collected " along the coast of the Baltic, burst in thunder
the “ banks of the upper Danube,” Hist. of Decline and Falls Vol. v. p. 214.