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DARKNESS AND TEMPEST BEFORE
But yonder rises a black cloud of wrath.-Canto III, STANZA 17.
And I saw heaven* opened, and behold, a white horse ; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which were in heaven followed hiin upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron : and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come, and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image.
These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their fesh.-Rev. XIX. 11-21.
While I fully believe that these prophetic symbols are receiving a rapid fulfillment in our day, I am not, in any proper sense, a Millerite nor a Second Adventist, as a certain
* Note 1, Canto III, stanza 1.
sect of modern origin is styled. Mr. Miller, and others who have followed in his steps, have undoubtedly done, great service in calling attention to these startling prophecies, and inducing a great deal of study of prophetic symbols. But there are several serious defects in their methods of interpretation.
One is, they often assume to forecast future specific events from these symbols, whereas, such is their nature that nothing but of a general character can be, or, indeed, ever was intended to be known of them until the events themselves shall furnish the correct interpretation of them. The reason for this is obvious: men are to be the unconscious agents in the fulfillment of very many of the most important of them.
2. They have mistaken the method of interpreting the prophetic period of the "one thousand two hundred and sixty days." They proceed as if the rise of the anti-Christian powers, whose term of existence is here foreshadowed, had been instantaneous, whereas it was by gradual steps. We have hinted before, that if this period, added to the date of any considerable advance of Papal Prerogative, should mark the date of any considerable loss of the same, and the process be repeated until the date of the final destruction is reached, the symbolism will be satisfied. Suppose the student of history and prophecy should find that in, or near, the year 529 the Papal Prerogative made considerable advance, and should add the period in question to that date, and find the date of the French Revolution, which was a heavy blow upon the Papacy; suppose he should find another advance in the year 538, and by the same process should obtain 1798, the year of the Italian Revolution, which drove the Pope from Rome. Again, suppose he should find still another advance of Papal Prerogative in 588, and from that should find the date of the second Italian Revolution, 1848, when the Pope was again driven from Rome; and another advance in 606, and find the date of Sadowa, 1866, by the same process; and still again another advance in 610, by which he would reach the date of the great war of 1870, and the destruction of the temporal power of the Pope, would he not find a key to the meaning and application of
this prophetic period ? Most of these several dates have, on some such data, been fixed by different authorities for the destruction of the Papal Domination. That they have all marked a great loss to the Pope's prerogative is a fact which must be put down as something more than a mere coincidence. This may explain the mistakes that have been made in calculating the time of the destruction of this power. It will doubtless be seen that when the last blow is struck, if from its date the period in question be deducted, we shall find the date of another important advance of that prerogative. It is very plain that the student could not, from this data, predict the time of the utter downfall of this power, only, at best, some disaster which would, it is true, tend to its destruction.
3. They have made another mistake in supposing that this period indicates the time of the second advent of Christ; whereas, it was, evidently, only designed to mark the date of the destruction of anti-Christian powers. long period should elapse before the commencement of the millennium, after these powers shall be put out of the way of the progress of Christianity, it would in no degree impair the truthfulness of these prophetic symbols. We shall endeavor to show that the Church is only just prepared by these events for her great aggressive work in subduing the world to the power of Christ, preparatory to his second coming. This must require time, though how long is not indicated in these symbols.
I. We have already remarked that the first ten verses of this chapter are descriptive of the songs* of triumph over the powers of evil, sung by the people of heaven. The eleventh verse introduces a new set of symbols, and, as it seems to me, a new epoch in the history of the Church. The vision has hitherto been confined to the Christian world. Little reference has been had, if our exposition is correct, to the vast portions of the earth which are covered with the darkness of heathenism. We cannot suppose that in a book of the future history of the Church so many peoples would be left out. The great struggles, up to this point, have been for the purpose of putting the obstacles which have opposed themselves in Christian lands, out of the way of the spread of the religion of the Bible. Now the piercing eye of prophecy is directed, for a moment, to the great work of evangelizing heathen countries. The grandest achievements of the Church are yet to come. It was for these that she endured long ages of the severest discipline. The terrible scenes through which she has passed during the outpouring of the seven vials, have prepared her for abounding in the work. The destruction of life and property in the wars, floods, and flames, has taught her to put a proper estimate upon these things. Now heaven is opened,* and the man who is called “Faithful and True,” and also “The Word of God,” as well as other significant names, comes upon a white horse, and the armies of heaven follow him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean; and out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. These symbols indicate some triumphant demonstrations from heaven, of unusual power. That one of the names of this rider is, “ The Word of God," and that a sword proceedeth out of his mouth, instead of being held in his hand, would seem to point to the preaching of the gospel with an unparalleled power and success. I have no doubt but it has reference to the same event that is referred to in Rev. xiv. 6, where John says: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” The sword is to “smite the nations; in other words, to subjugate them. The gospel is to be preached, and gain a stronghold among all the nations of the earth.f We remark, with reference to this:
* See. Poem, Canto II, stanzas 118-122.
The Christian world will have been so thoroughly prepared by the conflicts that are just past, that it will go to work with a zeal and energy it has never before shown. Skepticism will have been so rebuked and shamed by the displays of God's hand in these things, that it will no more interpose obstacles in the way of the aggressive work of the
* See Poem, Canto I, stanza 1.
+ Note 2, Canto III, stanza 3.
Church; but will rather join hands with the people of God, and help on the glorious cause. The Church will be baptized anew with the mission spirit;* she will give her wealth a hundred-fold more liberally into the treasuries of the Lord; missionaries will go by thousands,t instead of by twos; they will preach Christ with unwonted faith and fervor; the Holy Spirit will carry the preached word to the heart and conscience with unwonted power, and “the mountain of the Lord's house shall be exalted above the tops of the hills, and all nationsI shall flow unto it.”
We should expect, from the unwonted display of the heavenly powers in these symbols, and from other circumstances already hinted at, that the conquests of the gospel would now be exceedingly rapid. (a.) The unanimity of Christians in the
ork would conduce to this end. If all the Church could, at any time, feel the pressing importance of laboring for the salvation of the heathen at all commensurate with the greatness of the work, there would be such an impetus in this direction as the world has never seen. But in this epoch of the Christian world, men will see better the mighty meaning of redemption, and they will labor, pray, and give with a more commensurate zeal and liberality.
(6.) The tremendous scenes through which the men of the world will have passed, will also prepare their hearts for the reception of the truth. The plowshare of Jehovah will have been so fearfully and thoroughly driven through the soil of humanity, that the fallow ground will be broken up, and the seed of the gospel will have abundant chance to germinate and bear fruit.
(c.) The appliances of art, the facilities of communication by steam and electricity, the amenities of commerce, and the sympathy thus engendered and nourished between the nations of the earth, will facilitate immensely the work of the Church. So rapid shall this work be, that “a nation will be born in a day.” Hundreds of millions will embrace Christ, the world over.
* Note 4, Canto III, stanza 33.
+ Note 5, Canto III, stanza 34. # Note 6, Canto III, stanza 35.