תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

other name for the power of the Gospel, putting itself
forth through the commissioned ministers of the Roman
government, which had now become Christian. As we
are taught by our Lord himself, that no one can 'enter
into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except
he first bind the strong man,' so it was nothing but the
divine potency of the religion of the cross, which could
avail to dislodge the system of Paganism from its
strongholds, and annul the pernicious influence which it
had for ages exerted upon the human mind. This
hitherto unprecedented revolution, which had long been
gradually working its way to a crisis, received, as we
have already intimated, its final consummation in or
shortly after the reign of Theodosius. "The ruin of
Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only
example of the total extirpation of any ancient and
popular superstition; and may therefore be considered
as a singular event in the history of the human mind."*
The reader of Gibbon will find in the concluding part
of the twenty-eighth chapter of the Decline and Fall a
more valuable commentary on this part of the twentieth
chapter of the Apocalypse than is furnished by all the
professed expositors who have taken in hand to set
forth in order a declaration of the things' contained in
it. "The gods of antiquity," says he, "were dragged
in triumph at the chariot-wheels of Theodosius.
full meeting of the senate, the emperor proposed, accord-
ing to the forms of the republic, the important question,
whether the worship of Jupiter or that of Christ should

In a

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

be the religion of the Romans. On a regular division of the senate, Jupiter was condemned and degraded by the sense of a very large majority."—"The pious labor which had been suspended near twenty years since the death of Constantine, was vigorously resumed, and finally accomplished, by the zeal of Theodosius. Whilst that warlike prince yet struggled with the Goths, not for the glory but the safety of the republic, he ventured to offend a considerable party of his subjects, by some acts which might perhaps secure the protection of heaven, but which must seem rash and unreasonable in the eye of human prudence. The success of his first experiments against the Pagans encouraged the pious emperor to reiterate and enforce his edicts of proscription; and every victory of the orthodox Theodosius contributed to the triumph of the Christian and Catholic faith."*—A 'key' being an instrument used for the double purpose of opening or shutting, is in itself a symbol of equivocal import. It signifies, however, either the power to prevent or to perform the action to which it is applied, according to the circumstances of the case. Thus the keys of the kingdom of heaven,' Mat. 16. 19. represented as given to Peter in the name of all the other apostles, denotes the ministerial or declarative power conferred upon them of proclaiming the terms on which men were to be admitted into the gospel kingdom, and invested with a share in its spiritual blessings. So in Luke 11. 5. the taking away of the key of knowledge' implies the assumption on the part of

· Decl. and Fall, p. 464, 465.

none

those who are charged with it of a magisterial right either to grant or to withhold from the mass of the people the means or the power of attaining knowledge; so that the term still conveys the idea of official prerogative. A passage still more pertinent to our purpose occurs Is. 22. 22. And the key of the house of David and open, will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open ;' rendered in the Chaldee Targum,- "And I will deliver the key of the house of the sanctuary, and the government of the house of David into his hand.” Upon this passage Lowth remarks ;-"That as the robe and the baldric (girdle) mentioned in the preceding verse were the ensigns of power and authority, so likewise was the key the mark of office, either sacred or civil." The import of the expression doubtless is, that Eliakim should act by an authoritative commission, as the prime minister, or rather perhaps the high steward, of the house of David, having all the subordinate officials of the royal palace so entirely under his control, and so obedient to his nod, that his will was to be to them an absolute law. The laying of the key therefore upon his shoulder was merely the symbol of the transfer of this delegated authority; which still farther illustrates the import of the key as a hieroglyphic.* Again

* In like manner, in the classic writers, the priestess of Juno is called nadogos ‘Hpas, key-bearer of Juno. Esch. Suppl. 299. A female high in office under a great queen has the same title: Καλλιθόη κλειδοωχος Ολυμπιαδος βασιλεῖης, Callitha the key-bearer of the queen Olympias. Anc. Phorion. ap. Clem. Alex. p. 418. This mark of office was likewise among the Greeks, as here in

it is said, Rev. 9. 1. 'And I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.' The office of the key in this instance was to open instead of shut, but it still throws light upon the general symbol. It denotes in the present connexion a providential license given to some apostate agent, represented by the falling star, to be the means of releasing from confinement some destructive power which was to issue forth and to desolate a' considerable portion of the Apocalyptic earth. The key is mentioned in order to indicate that the work executed by the prophetic agents was performed in consequence of an official designation emanating from a higher power. This is clearly implied also in the force of the word doon-was given. The grand event depicted by the symbol was undoubtedly the irruption of the Saracens under Mohammed and his successors against the Roman empire. "This," says Daubuz, " expresses well a hidden multitude of confused men arising on a sudden, and breaking out to make incursions, as a subterraneous flood when broken out; and that according to the analogy that the Deep or the Sea signifies a multitude in war and tumult, and the Pit the most vile, lowest, and contemptible sort of men, like the slaves that are in the pit. I think then that the Holy Ghost did design to show by the key of the bottomless gulf which was given to this star fallen from heaven upon the earth, that this rebellious prince or upstart would set the slaves

Isaiah, borne on the shoulder, wherefore it is said of the priestess of Ceres, κατωμάδιαν έχε κλείδα, she had a key upon her shoulder.-Callim. Ceres, v. 45.

0

at liberty, and all such sorts of despicable men; and by setting himself at the head of them, lead on that mixed multitude to prosecute the purposes mentioned hereafter carrying on their designs by a continual and prodigious war, and incursions upon others. The Saracens were as hell broke loose. Mahomet was sent to punish corrupted Christendom with the vilest sort of men, the most despicable nation." It will be seen in the sequel that we differ from this commentator, for whom we have greater respect than for any other, in our explication of the symbol of the bottomless pit,' but the citation is important for our main purpose.

99*

6

From what has now been said, we are better prepared to understand the drift of the emblematic scenery under consideration. The circumstance of the angel's coming down from heaven having the key of the bottomless pit in his hand, denotes that the action to which his coming has reference, viz. the apprehension, binding, and imprisonment of the Dragon, was to be performed by a delegated power, an authorized and official ministry, or in other words, in consequence of an imperial edict. The evident scope of this part of the vision is to point out to us the fact, that the power symbolized by the Dragon was forcibly expelled from the territories in which it had hitherto subsisted, and that through the instrumentality of some commissioned organ acting in the name of the supreme authority. Now as a matter of historical verity, Paganism did not go out of the Roman empire, but it was driven out. The majesty of

:

* Perpet. Comment. p. 398.

« הקודםהמשך »