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the three first centuries, the idolatrous power was consuming away from the fire inflicted upon it from above, and which had been cast upon the earth from the altar of the True Religion (v. 5). But so long as it continued burning, the persecution of the idolaters raged grievously against the Gentile Churches, and great was the number of the lapsed *
Ver. 10, 1). A great star, burning like a meteot; &c.] Upon the sound of the third Trumpet, there is seen to fall from heaven a great star, burning like a deptes: which Greek word will be found to express any bright effulgence, a lamp, a torch, &c.; but having in this passage the semblance of a star, it may be deemed what in our language we call a meteor; thus therefore have I translated it. The Elder Pliny, describing, from the Greek Philosopher Hipparchus, various kinds of meteors, calls them by this very name lam. pades f. Such a meteor passing through the nocturnal air, is by Homer called a star;
Οίον δ'αστερα ήκε Κρονα ταϊς αγκυλομήλεω.
ILIAD. iv. 75.
which Virgil imitating, says,
de cælo lapsa per umbras, Stella, facem ducens, multa cum luce cucurrit.
* Under this name, those Christians are represented in ecclesiastical history, who denied their faith in the times of persecution ; and it was only by very severe penitence, that they could be restored to the bosom of the Church. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. vi. c. 44. Cypriani Epistolæ ix. x. xi. et seq. Mosheim, cent. iii. part i. ch. 2. † Nat. Hist. lib. i. c. 26. See also Aristot. Meteorol. lib. i. c. 4.
1 Sæpè etiam stellas, vento impendente, videbis
The passage of such a meteor, in our popular language, is called the shooting of a star. Now a star, in prophetic language, signifies a prince, or eminent leader, a leader in doctrine * Such an one, falling from heaven, as did Satan t, corrupts the third part of the rivers and springs of waters, corrupts the streams and the sources of pure doctrine, which are by our: Lord expressed under the same metaphor I. The corruption of pure doctrine and the introduction of heretical opinions are in Scripture commonly attributed to the agency of Satan and his angels $ ; and the corrupting doctrine, which produces heresies, is often expressed by the metaphors wormwood, gall, bitterness, &c. 1 And the death is spiritual f.
Under this Trumpet, therefore, we seem to obtain: a general description of those corruptions, which, at. the instigation of Satan, were seen to invade and subvert a great part of the Gentile Christian Church by the preaching of splendid heretics. Such, in the earliest times, were Simon, Menander, Cerinthus, &c.***
See note, ch. i. 16. + Luke x. 18. 2 Pet. ii. 4. Jude 6.-And observe in ch. xii. 4, the fallen angels are described under the synbol: of the stars of heaven: and the star, in ch. ix, 1-12, is a fallen angel, and has the action of such ascribed to him; he opens, the pit of the bottomless deep. 1 John iv. 10. &c. vii. 37, 38, 39.
W..: 10.101" § 2 Cor. xi. 14, 15. Eph. ij. 26 2 Thess. ii. g. 1 Tim 7."15. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. v. c.7.
! Deut. xxix. 18. Is. v; 20. Amos y 7 vi. 12: Acts viii. 23. 9113. I See nolę, ch. ii. 16. iii, 1.
Doru * This evil spread wide: and the Waters of Christian: doctrice. lost their original sweetness and salubrity, in other hands that those of acknowledged heretics. Many who are called Fathers of the Church, though by no means wilful and intentional corrupters of the Faith, are observed to have holden doctrines, which by no means
-- Ver. 12. And the third part of the Sun was smitten; &c.] At the sound of the fourth trumpet, the same kind of stroke which had afflicted the three preceding divisions of the Creation, falls on the fourth remaining part on the Heavenly Luminaries; the Sun, Moon, and Stars: a third part of these is smitten, and ceases to give light. When The Almighty took the Israelites to be his peculiar people, he is said, in prophetic language, to have “planted the Heavens,
and laid the foundation of the earth" It was a kind of new creation.: Happiness was thereby founded for man on a new basis, and under new lights, Unknown to the heathen. The Divine ordinances. of Theocracy, under which that peculiar people flourished, are frequently expressed by the sublime images of the heavenly luminaries. So that the darkening of these implies, that this Divine polity shall fail to But the heavenly dispensation of the Christian, covenant, being to succeed to it by the appointment of the same Heavenly Lord, is represented by the same figures. When the Jewish polity, expressed under the image of the Sun and Moon, is “ ashamed and confounded $,” the superior .splendour : of the Christian Light shines forth in the same kind of description. “The light of the Moon shall be as the
• light of the Sun, and the light of the Sun shall be “ seven-fold S.” There is likewise frequent allusion
agree with the purity of Scripture. In some of them are to be discovered, the seeds at least of error, which were afterwards matured into.dangerous heresies. (See this justly and eloquently set fotth in a Sermon by the Bishop of Oxford, 'intitled Concio ad Clerum à Johatk 1 Randolph ; 1790.) 6. Is. li. 16.
# Amos viii. 9, &c. Matt. xxiv, 29. ls xxiv. 23. !! $ Is, xxx. 26. !
to this mode of expression in the Apostolic writers * So that a third of the light taken from the heavenly luminaries, implies a failure in that invaluable light derived from the Christian revelation. The reign of darkness, ignorance, and superstition, did indeed return after the Light of the Gospel had been revealed ; the more particular history of which will be unfolded in the following Trumpets. - The prophecy of the fourth Trumpet, as of those preceding, is general. It follows the other three in natural order; and is indeed the effect of the third. Corruption of knowledge necessarily produces ignorance. The corruption of Christianity produced at length Gothic darkness and superstition.
Thus I suppose the four first Trumpets to afford a general view of the WARFARE which the Christian Religion underwent, upon its first establishment. The history delivered under the Seals, after a solemn pause and silence, begins again. Under the Seals, the degeneracy of the Church had been described. Under the Trumpets, the attacks which she had to sustain from her antichristian foes. And she is first represented as undergoing various kinds of assault in her several divisions; these divisions of the Christian world bearing analogy to the Scriptural divisions of the natural world. 1. The storm of persecution in Judæa, which, murdering the martyrs, and dispersing the Apostles t, is aptly represented by hail and fire, mingled with blood; on the bursting forth of which, the weak in the faith fall away.
2. The Gentile persecution, arising from the pagan religion, which is fitly designated by a
• Col. i. 12, 13. 2 Cor. iv. 6. 1 Thess. v. 4, &c. 2 Tim. j. 10, Heb. x. 32. James i. 17. 1 Pet. ii. 9. 1 John i. 5, &c. † Acts vii. 54, &c. viii. 1.
burning mountain. 3. The corruption of the Waters of Life, by the earliest heretics, and by injudicious teachers. 4. The consequent failure, in part, of that bright and glorious light which originally beamed from this Revelation. The symbols do not appear to me to warrant a more especial interpretation of them. The difficulty which attends them, arises from the paucity of the matter, and the short compass in which it is expressed. The means of interpreting them which I have ventured to apply, have been derived from comparing similar passages of Scripture; and by considering, that these four first Trumpets must be supposed to sound the signal of the same kind of attack, and against the same object, as the three last. Now, as these three will be found to represent the invasion of the Christian Church by Antichristian foes, we have reason to conclude that the preceding trumpets foretel a similar history. Some additional light has been obtained from the preparatory vision *, which seems to restrict the commotions contained under these Trumpets, to religious causes. If Religion, descending from the altar in heaven, had not mingled with the passions and
projects of men, these commotions would have had no place in history. The greater part of the modern commentators, following Joseph Mede, have supposed these prophecies fulfilled in the ravages committed by the Gothic barbarians on the provinces of the Roman Empire. But I have as yet been able to perceive no plausible reason, produced either by. Mede or his followers, to shew why the prophecies of the Apocalypse in general, why the seals, or why the four first Trumpets in particular, should be understood to relate to the history of the Roman Empire. Mede says, indeed, ai
* Chap. viii, 1–6.