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century. But that is to contradict the symbol. Streams and fountains are not agents of the sea sent forth into other lands. Their current is towards the sea, not in the opposite direction.
Mr. Faber and Mr. Cuninghame interpret the symbol of the wars generally of the French revolution ; Mr. Keith and Mr. Elliott of the batiles of those wars that took place on the rivers and at their sources.
CHAPTER XVI. 8, 9.
THE FOURTH VIAL.
And the fourth poured his vial on the sun ; and it was given to it to scorch the men with fire. And the men were scorched with great heat. And they blasphemed the name of God, who has power over these plagues, and changed not to give him glory.
Those who exercise the government of a kingdom, are to the people whom they rule, what the sun is to the land and sea. Their office is to subserve the well-being of their subjects, by protecting their persons, securing to them the fruits of their industry, maintaining their rights, and aiding them to the cultivation and happiness for which they are formed; as the office of the sun is to yield that measure of light and heat which is most favorable to vegetable and animal life. But when they usurp or acquire extraordinary power, and employ it in the violent oppression of their people, robbing them of their property, obstructing their industry, depriving them of freedom, and overwhelming them with the miseries of violence, poverty, and servitude, they become to the victims of their tyranny, what the sun would be to men, were its rays raised to a scorching heat.
The symbol denotes, therefore, that the rulers of the people on whom the judgments foreshown by the former vials chiefly fell, were to become armed with extraordinary and destructive powers, and employ them in the most violent and insupportable oppression; and that the victims of their tyranny would blaspheme the name of God, who appoints those sufferings in punishment of their crimes against him, and not change to give him glory.
The extraordinary powers with which the revolutionary rulers of France became armed, and the oppressions with which they scorched and devoured that people through a period of more than twenty years, present a signal counterpart to the symbol. Immediately after the declaration of war in 1792, they assumed and began to exercise the most absolute and despotic sway over the persons and property of the people. The whole of the males capable of bearing arms, of the ages from twenty to forty-five, were rendered subject to military conscription, and many hundreds of thousands forced into the army. A host of commissioners appointed to collect materials for the war, provisions, and revenue, were invested with authority to seize whatever property they pleased for the public service, and exercised their power in the most wanton and oppressive manner. They who were thus robbed of their money, their merchandise, their catile, their grain, their furniture, and every description of effects, were compelled to accept for payment, the paper currency of the government at par, though wholly irredeemable, and much of the time worth but fifteen, ten, five, and even a lower per cent. A maximum, or exireme of prices for all kinds of produce and merchandise was fixed by law, and all parties constrained under penalty of death, to sell at those rates for the depreciated national paper. That currency was made a legal tender in all transactions between citizens, and between the treasury and those in the public service, by which creditors were defrauded of their dues, laborers of their wages, and the officers and soldiers of their stipends. A war of plunder, confiscation, and slaughter was waged against the rich from mere envy and avarice, and thousands of families reduced from affluence to beggary.! Extra loans and contributions were exacted from the wealthy without any equivalent, and the creditors of the government at length, by laws compelling them to surrender a portion of their claims, and by the national bankruptcy, defrauded wholly of their dues, amounting to several thousands of millions of dollars. A vast array of spies and cut-throats was organized throughout the kingdom, whose office was to watch, intimidate, rob, accuse, and guillotine whoever was obnoxious, and the property, person, and life of every individual subjected to the caprice of millions of demons inflamed with an infuriate ambition to plunder, to torture, and to destroy whoever was superior to themselves. This vast system of oppression reduced ihe whole nation to the most abject wretchedness. All commercial pursuits were interrupted, and all branches of industry embarrassed. The poor left without occupation by the destruction
of their wealthy employers, were reduced to beggary. The agriculturists, without assurance of a remuneration for their labor, ceased to raise the requisite supply for the national sustenance. Vast crowds were thence reduced to the misery of scarcity and the danger of starvation. A large proportion of the population of Paris was for years fed from the public magazines, and suffered all the horrors of famine. No one knew when he rose in the morning, that he should not become the victim of the assassin, the mob, or the guillotine, before night. No one at night knew but he should be robbed of his property, his family, or his friends, before morning. Every species of misery with which the wicked are ever scourged by an avenging providence, was thus inflicted on the nation by their rulers, and in an extreme degree. No oppressions of a whole people the world has ever witnessed, approach this in severity. The condition, generally, of even the helots of Greece, the captives and bondmen of Rome, the serfs of the feudal barons, the slaves of the West Indies, was one of freedom, safety, and happiness, compared to that of the French, thus robbed of their property, deprived of the power of earning a subsistence, reduced to starvation, and subjected absolutely in person and life, to the will of millions of tyrants, whose aim was by oppression, outrage, slaughter, and terror, to stifle every effort at extrication from their power, and quench every spark of liberty and independence.
Every country, also, which they conquered or invaded, was devastated by a similar sway, public and private property of every description grasped with insatiable rapacity, the conquered compelled to support and enrich the conquering armies, their cities sacked, their villages destroyed, their cottages burned, their fields strown with desolation, and their families outraged and slaughtered. And though its devouring heat of oppression was mitigated under the consular and imperial rule, the government continued a giant despotism to the fall of the empire, and crushed the people with an iron sway. Yet they blasphemed God who scourged them with those plagues, and changed not to give him glory. So far from being reclaimed from atheism and idolatry, they continued after the example of the national legislature in the early years of the revolution, to deny his existence, disown all responsibility to him, or claim his sanction of their crimes. Not the slightest indication of a change of principles appeared, however scorched by misery, no deprecation of the wrath of God was uttered, no acknowledgment of his righteousness, no recognition of his sway; and they are still a nation of infidels and apostates.
* Alison's Hist. vol. i. chap. 15.
Thus the symbol met, in every respect, in rulers and people, a terrific fulfilment.
Mr. Jurieu regarded the sun as the symbol of the antichristian empire, and its scorching heat as denoting the exorbitant authority and oppressive sway of the papacy, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century:
But that is to confound the ecclesiastical with the civil world. The sun is the symbol of the chief rulers of the political empire, and the agency which its scorching men symbolizes, affects them in their relations as vassals of the beast, not as followers of the false prophet.
Cocceius exhibits the sun as the Scriptures, the increase of its heat as the clearer manifestation of their teachings, and the torture it occasioned as the sense of guilt and desperation which the truth awakens in the impenitent; and regards it as denoting the irritation of the Catholics under the proclamation of the gospel by the Waldenses. But that is not in accordance with the symbol. The word of God was not to the Catholics of that age, what the sun is to the natural world ; nor is the sun the symbol of the Scriptures, but of the supreme civil powers in an empire.
Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Keith, and many recent writers, interpret the symbol of the oppressions that sprung from the French revolution ; Mr. Faber of those only of Bonaparte after his elevation to the throne as emperor.
CHAPTER XVI. 10, 11.
THE FIFTH VIAL.
And the fifth poured his vial on the throne of the wild beast, and its kingdom was darkened. And they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven for their pains and for their ulcers, and changed not from their works.
The ascription of a throne and a kingdom to the wild beast, shows that that monster is the symbol of the rulers of an empire. The effect of the vial on the throne is not depicted, but only its consequence to the kingdom. It was its subversion however, doubtless, and thence the darkening of the kingdom, by the humiliation of its power, the obscuration of its glory, and the extinction of its hopes. The action of the survivors is such as might naturally spring from the disappointment, the chagrin, the despair, and the rage excited by such a catastrophe. They gnawed their tongues for pain, and continued to blaspheme God by refusing to acknowledge his hand in their overthrow, and denying his existence. That they blasphemed him for their pains, denotes their denial of the justice of the retributions with which their crimes were requited, and denunciation of them as a violation of their rights. That they blasphemed for the ulcers excited by the first vial, denotes both that they were the people on whom that vial chiefly fell, and that against their wishes they were now again to be subjected to the dynasty, to a sense of whose torturing oppressions they were then aroused.
They are the French therefore, and the event indicated by the symbol, is the subversion of the imperial throne and re-establishment of the Bourbon dynasty in 1814 and 1815.
All the conditions of the symbol were fulfilled in the conquest of France at that period by the allied armies, expulsion of Bonaparte, and restoration of the ancient line of kings. The kingdom was felt to be shrouded in darkness, its power remedilessly broken, its glory eclipsed, its prospects of greatness extinguished. The new nobility, the officers of government, the soldiers, the people generally, were devoured with chagrin, and blasphemed God with an atheist impiety, by the continued disavowal of his dominion, justification and boast of their crimes, and denial of their merit of such retribution. The Bourbon dynasty was again forced on them by the conquering powers, and revived the torturing sense of their degradation, the violent detestation of that line, and the infuriate passion for unrestrained liberty, denoted by the ulcers, with which they had been smitten under the first vial. And they changed from none of their works. The same lawlessness, the same rapacity, the same thirst of blood, the same ambition of conquest, the same spirit of tyranny, the same audacious atheism, as had marked them through the whole career of the revolution and the wars to which it gave birth, characterized them still.
Mr. Jurieu interprets the throne of the wild beast of Rome, and the darkening of its kingdom, of the removal of the popes from that city to Avignon in the fourteenth century. But that is to confound the head of the two-horned beast and of the image, with the wild beast of ten horns; and make the apostate Roman hierarchy the object of the judgment, in place of the supreme civil and military power of the empire.