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and look with joyful expectation to these days of vengeance, knowing themselves not to be appointed to wrath, but to Salvation, whether they be found among the dead or among the living, at that aweful hour *.
Ver. 15. Therefore, &c.] The remaining part of this chapter contains a figurative description, very simple and very interesting, of the future happiness of this redeemed multitude. But the interpretation of it is so obvious, to those who are in the least degree acquainted with the language of Scripture, that I shall content myself with referring to some of the principal passages of the Old and New Testament, where the same figurative language is applied in the same manner.
Ib. Serve him, &c.] Ezek. xxxvii. 23. 28. Psalm xvi, cxl. 13. Is. xxxii. 17. lvii. 15, lxv. Ezra ix. 8. John xiv. 23. Eph. iii. 17. 2 Cor. iv. 16. i John iii. 24.
Ver. 16. Hunger-thirst, &c.] Is. xxxii. 2. Ixv. 13. xlix. 10. Ezek. xxxiv. 29. John vi. 14, 35.
Ver. 17. Like a Shepherd.] Is. xl. 11. xlix. 10. Psalm xsiii, 1. lxxx. 1. Jer. xxxi. 10. And see note, ch. ii. -7.
Ib. Tear.] Is. xxx. 19. xxv. 8.
Let the reader now compare the happiness of this palm-bearing multitude, as here described, with that of the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem, in ch. xxi. 14; and he will probably determine the two periods to be the same. Of none other but of happiness in heaven can it be affirmed, (as is affirmed of both these,) that pain, and sorrow, and hunger and thirst, shall then be no more, under the reign of the Lamb, who “shall wipe away every tear from “ their eyes.” Joseph Mede observed this synchronism; but has applied it, as I am inclined to think, improperly, to an earthly millennium, or reign of Christ and his saints on earth. The expressions of perfect felicity in both passages are by much too exalted to bear application to any thing possible under the present constitution of things. They can be fulfilled only in 'heaven ; or in an heaven upon earth (which is much the same thing) succeeding to the destruction and regeneration of the present globe t.
* i Thess. v. 1. 12. 2 Thess. ii. 1. 17. Janses v. 7, 8. 1 Pet. iv. 13. 2 Pet, iii. 12, 13.
Having thus formed, upon the scriptural grounds above stated, this notion of the application of this prophecy, I found myself, when I came to read the exposition of some eminent commentators, little disposed to subscribe to their opinions, which represent this seventh chapter of the Apocalypse as containing
a description of the state of the church in Constan“ tine's time; of the peace and protection that it “ should enjoy under the civil powers, and the great “ accession which should be made to it both of Jews and
Gentiles I.” Now the history of this period, faithfully related, informs us, that although the Christian Church was delivered from persecution, and advanced in worldly consideration and power, yet did it acquire no real accession of worth, dignity, or exaltation, by its connexion with the imperial throne. Nay, from that very time, its degeneracy and cor
ruption are most indubitably to be dated. From that period, worldly power and riches became the objects of its leaders, not purity and virtue. Many entered the Christian Church, and obtained its honours and dig. nities, by base dissimulation of their principles, to please the emperor, and recommend themselves to his favour*. And the consequent extension of the Christian Religion among the heathen nations was, as Mosheim observes, in name, not in reality t. The worldly professors of Christianity in this century were so far from fulfilling the prophecy, by “wash“ing their robes white,” and by being fed and conducted by the Lamb, that they appear rather to have assumed the hue of another leader, the fire-coloured dragon, and to have greedily sought from him those worldly riches and that power, which their Lord had refused at his hands . This grand enemy of the Christian Church, the devil, had begun his attack upon her, first, by the terrors of persecution. He failed in this attempt: the blood of the Martyrs became the seed of the Church. He then changed his mode of operation. He beguiled the Christians with the promise of worldly power and splendour: and it was from this succesful mode of corruption, that he was at length enabled to produce Antichrist ;
to the point Quos neque Tydides nec Larissæus Achilles, Non anni domuêre decem, non mille carinæ!
Æneid. it. 1965.
Euseb. de Vit. Constant. lib. iy., c. 54. + Eccl. Hist. cent. A.
Matt. iv.9* ***** ***** 2.7. $. Thus Satán sped; and fix'd his aftful.reigr mit 101.31*** *** * * Wbere ten years' persecution rag'd in vain. ., The last great persecution under Dioclesiat continued ahnost ten years.
Quotations might easily be multiplied from cotemporary authors, and from learned and judicious writers of later date, to shew by their testimony, that this is the true history of the Christian Church in the fourth century. I shall content myself with a few.
Gregory of Nazianzum will be allowed to be a most unexceptionable witness, both as to character, and as to the time in which he wrote ; about the middle of the fourth century.
This writer, speaking of the Emperor Julian, says, “ It was not long before this (power of injuring " the Christians) was afforded him against us, by “ the abounding wickedness of the many, and by “ the prosperity of the Christians, verging, as one
may say, from the highest pitch to a contrary “change, and the power, and the honour, and the
plenty, by which we were become insolent.” Then, after asserting the danger of prosperity, and supporting his assertion by quotations from Scripture, he continues; “ For having been exalted when we were “ meek and moderate, and by degrees advanced, so
as to arrive, under the Divine conduct, to so great “a figure and multitude, when we were fed up we
kicked, and when we were enlarged and set at liberty we were reduced and narrowed : and that glory and
power, which we had acquired in persecutions and " afflictions, we lost in prosperity.” Jerome wrote at
Ου πολυ το εν μεσω, και ταυτην
8.0 wory καθ'
neur, των πολλων ανομια, και η επ' ακρων, ώς αν ειποι τις, Χριστιανων ευεξια την εναντιαν ζητησα μεταβολης, και η εξασια, και η τιμη, και xogos,
di' Ogro σαμε». Ημες γουν υψωθεντες, οτε ημεν επιειεις τε και μετριοι, και κατα μικρον αυξηθεντης ως εις τoδε το σχημα και αληθος συν χειραγωγια Θεα προέλθειν, ηνικα λιπανθημα», ισκιρτησαμεν, και ηνικα επλατυνθημεν εστενοχωρηθημων" και ήν και τους διωγμους και ταις θλιψισι συκλιξαμεθα δοξαν και δυναμιν, ταντην εν σρατTeils mitaivaun. Orat. ii. p. 62, edit. Morelli.
the close of this century, and at the beginning of the next. This learned and able Father, speaking of the Christian Church, says, “ After it came to the Christian emperors,
indeed and in riches it " became greater, but in virtues less *.” These ancient cotemporary testimonies are far superior in credibility to those of Eusebius and Lactantius, quoted by Bishop Newton, to shey the beata tranquillitas, the rare felicity, of the Church, from the time the emperors became Christian. And this, not from the superior veracity or judgment of the writers, but because Eusebius and Lactantius lived at the time when the change was taking place, and seeing the Church delivered from persecution, and supported by the supreme power, they naturally promised to themselves and their successors the most flourishing prosperity. But Gregory and Jerome lived a generation or two later, and had thereby the opportunity of seeing the actual effects of these measures, which proved highly detrimental to the true prosperity of the Church, and are acknowledged to be so by all our judicious writers on Ecclesiastical History,
The learned Dr. Jortin seems to have had this passage of Jerome in mind, when, introducing his remarks on the ecclesiastical history of the times of Constantine, he mentions his subject in these words ; « The Church of Christ increasing in splendour, and “ decreasing in virtue f.” And to these times of
* Scribere cnim disposui, ab adventu Salvatoris usque ad nostram ætatem ; id est, ab apostolis usque ad nostri temporis fæcem ; quomodo, et per quos, Cbristi Ecclesia nata sit, et adulta persecutionibus creverit, martyriis coronata sit; et postquam ad Christianos principes venit, potentiâ quidem et divitiis major, sed virtutibus minor facta sit. Hieron. de Vita Malchi; tom. I. p. 116, edit. Basil. + Dedication to vol. iii.