תמונות בעמוד

sits there enthroned, and brings orders to the Son of man to thrust in his sickle and reap; because the hour is come to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe; the number of saints pre-ordained by the Almighty is completed, and the period allotted to the existence of the human species is run out. Christ, in obedience to his eternal Father, thrusts his sickle into the earth, and the earth is reaped, v. 16; he puts an end to the world, and reaps the harvest of his elect, by withdrawing them from all further labours, and gathering them to himself, as the husbandman gathers his corn into his granary. “ And he (the Son of man) shall send his angels with a trumpet, and a great voice: and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them.” Matt. xxiv. 31. The harvest being made, follows the vintage.

An angel comes out, v. 17, from the temple in heaven, as sent by the Almighty, with a sharp sickle in his hand, and presently comes forth, v. 18, from the altar of holocausts where fire was perpetually kept, a second angel who hath power over the fire, and who is commanded, because perpetual fire is to be the punishment of the wicked, to tell the first angel to thrust in his sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vineyard of the earth : because the grapes thereof are ripe. The angel executes the order, cuts off in an instant the clusters of grapes over the whole earth, v. 19, gathers them together, and casts them into the great press or wine-press of the wrath of God: that is, the angel collects together the whole troop of the reprobate, and casts them, as being ripe for punishment, into the deep pit of hell. This is conformable to what we hear from our Saviour: “ The Son of man,” says he, "shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity: and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.” Matt. xiii. 41, 42. St. John then adds, v. 20, “ And the press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the press, up to the horses' bridles for a thousand six hundred furlongs." Here is a striking allegorical expression of the effusion of God's anger upon the damned, who are represented as trodden in the lake of hell, in the same manner as grapes are trodden in the wine-press: and the person that thus treats them, we are told, is Christ himself; "he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.” Apoc. xix. 15. Christ is constituted the avenger of the injuries done to his almighty Father, and is his minister to execute his judgments upon the impious. The allusion

of the treading of the wine-press is carried on, and as if it were supposed that the whole heap of the damned lodged in the pit of hell, were there trodden, there would issue out from their bodies a quantity of blood that would cover a space of ground, all around, to the distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs, or two hundred miles, and to such a height, that the blood would reach to the horses' bridles, if waded through. This sea of blood would not, however, affect the city or mansion of the blessed, which is placed at a great distance. One cannot but shudder at the picture here exposed to us, as it sug. gests the dismal idea of such an immense multitude of the human species devoted to the flames of hell without hope of redemption. For, in effect, if a circular space, of four hun. dred miles diameter, be covered with blood to four feet height, which is about the height of a middle-sized horse's bridle from the ground; and if we suppose fifteen pounds to be, at an a verage, the quantity of blood in a man; the density of blood being nearly one 25th greater than that of water, a foot cubic of which weighs a thousand ounces; we shall find, by making the computation, that the number of men's bodies, requisite to give the mass of blood above mentioned, will be upwards of 60,000,000,000,000.

We have now seen, on one side, the body of the reprobate banished from the presence of Christ, and doomed to their perpetual prison : while on the other side the whole company of saints shine with all the noble qualities belonging to bodies clothed with immortality. They now see the happy moment arrived for the accomplishment of all their expectations. That part of them, who adorned the world before the Saviour of mankind appeared in it, are called into the heavenly mansions with angelical acclamations. They enter, singing in jubilation: “ Come, let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our Saviour. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving: and make a joyful noise to him with psalms." Psalm xciv. The other body composed of the Christian saints, are gratified in a peculiar manner with the gracious countenance of Christ, their Lord and Master, who invites them to reign with them in bliss for all eternity. On so happy an occasion that crowns all their wishes, the heavens resound with the loudest acclamations of joy and exultation :

Chap. xix. 7. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him, (God,) for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has prepared herself.

V. 8. “And it was granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints.

V.9. “And he said to me: Write, blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." The heavenly choirs thus break out into jubilation and transports of joy, because the time is come for the nuptials of the Lamb, that is, for Christ to espouse his Church, which is the society of his saints, by taking her to himself, by freeing her from all enemies, by removing all evils for ever from her, by enriching her with every blessing, and in fine by cherishing her as a spouse does his beloved consort. The wife or bride of the Lamb, that is, the company of Christian saints, appears in a suitable garb for the marriage. She is dressed in fine linen, the symbol of the justifications or the good works and merits of her holy members; the most pleasing attire in which she can present herself to the Lamb. Her robe is glittering and white, because she has been purified as silver in the furnace, and washed white in the waters of tribulation and persecution. Here then follows the marriage of the Lamb, or the gracious and affectionate union of Christ with his saints. He then introduces them into heaven, and presents them, as his bride, before the throne to his eternal Father. Then may be truly said, Blessed are they, v. 9, that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb; the saints are seated in glory, and filled with ineffable and endless bliss, which is the marriage supper, the ultimate term of all.

After so glorious a conclusion of the marriage feast, St. John proceeds,

V. 9. “ And he saith to me: these words of God are true." The angel of Christ, that is, St. John Baptist, who in the form of an angel attends the apostle during this prophecy, gives testimony to what has been just pronounced: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The angel affirms that these are the words of God, and consequently true, or will infallibly have their accomplishment at the appointed time, viz. at the last day.

The apostle supposing this to be the conclusion of all that was to be revealed to him, turns to the angel:

V. 10. “And I fell down,” says he, “ before his feet, to adore him. And he saith to me: See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Adore God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” St. John, in token of gratitude, offers to pay to the angel such homage as is due to a being of his rank,

which the angel however refuses to accept, giving for reason, that he is a fellow-servant of the apostle and of the apostle's brethren who bear testimony to Jesus Christ. This speech evidently agrees with the character of the Baptist, but not with that of a real angel. Then St. John is told to adore God, as the author of all prophecy: after which the angel adds: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, that is, the testimony which you give to Christ by suffering for his holy name and the profession of his doctrine is of equal value with the spirit of prophecy, by which I reveal to you these future events.

Though the divine incomparable revelation, here imparted to St. John, seemed in this place to terminate, as having carried on the history of the Christian Church from its birth to its triumphant state after the resurrection, yet we see further discoveries communicated, and new scenes shown to the apostle. He has described to us the wreck and dissolution of the world, the resurrection of mankind, the judgment passed upon them, with the punishment of the wicked and the recompense of the good. The prophet now proceeds to lay before us a series of new pictures, the objects of which are of so uncouth a nature, so different from any thing we are acquainted with, that it is beyond the power of man to explain them to full satisfaction. The first of these pictures he exhibits to us is the following:

Chap. xxi. 1. “And I saw, says he, a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven, and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more.” Here is a total change in our system of nature. The earth, that was, the heaven or sky, with its atmosphere, its clouds, &c. had passed away and vanished; but now a "new heaven and a new earth" appear. The same we are taught by St. Peter; “ We look,” says he, “ for new heavens and a new earth, according to his promises in which justice dwelleth.” 2 Ep. iii. 13. This new heaven and new earth are not of new creation, but the former heaven and earth, purified by fire, renewed by the hand of God, and made much more perfect, “not other heavens and another earth,” says St. Jerom, “but the former ones changed into better.” In Isai. lxv. And St. Gregory the Great, speaking of the same, says: “ Others are not to be created, but these same renewed." Lib. xvii. Moral. in Job. c. 5. This sentiment is founded on Scripture. The psalmist represents the heavens and the earth growing old and wearing away like a garment, and then to be changed. “ In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundedst the earth : and the heavens are the works of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest : and all of them shall grow old like a garment: and as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed." Ps. ci. 26, &c. Solomon also seems to assure us, that every thing shall remain that has been created : “ I have learned," says he, " that all the works which God has made, continue for ever." Eccl. iii. 14. Upon which St. Gregory the Great's comment is : "they will pass, as to their present figure or appearance, but as to their substance they will remain for ever." Lib. xvii. Moral. in Job. c. 5. St. Austin tells as, that “by the change of things the world will not entirely perish or be annihilated. Its form or external appearance will be changed, but not its substance.” Lib. xx. de Civ. c. 14. And again more amply : “ The figure of this world will pass away by the general conflagration.—The qualities of the corruptible elements, of which our world is composed, which were proportioned to our corruptible bodies, will be entirely destroyed by the fire : and the substance of those elements will acquire new qualities which will be suitable to our immortal bodies: and thus the world, by becoming more perfect, will be proportioned to the then improved state of the human body.” Ibid. c. 16. After the same manner speak St. Justin, St. Basil, and other holy fathers. Hence we may conclude that our new world, as to its substance, will be the same as the old; but its qualities will be totally altered, so as to be no more pernicious to the human body, offensive to the senses, or obnoxious to unseasonable vicissitudes. Every part will then appear bright, glorious, pleasing to the senses, and inspiring happiness. They will form as it were a paradise. Whether the superior heavens, that contain the sun, moon, and stars, will undergo the same change, is uncertain; and the writers on this subject are divided in their opinions.

St. John adds in this place a particularity worthy our notice; and the sea is now no more; being perhaps wholly dried up, as to its fluidity, by the fire; and its component solid parts reduced into the same state with the rest of the terrestrial globe. Thus the sea will be no more, as being of no further use. This entire suppression of the sea may give a reason, why the angel, whose feet were as pillars of fire, when he announced the end of the world, stood with his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the land, Apoc. X. 1, 2. The right foot denoting a greater power of strength, which is 1

« הקודםהמשך »