תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

ing as it were a torch, and it fell on the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters:

v. 11. “And the name of the star is called wormwood: And the third part of the waters became wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."

Here is an allegorical description of new calamities that were to be inflicted on heathen Rome and its provinces. A great star falls from heaven: this great star represents the above-named powerful nations of the north; it falls from heaven; they are sent by Almighty God to destroy Rome, as formerly Nabuchodonosor was sent to destroy Jerusalem, and Cyrus to destroy Babylon. This star is said to burn like a torch, on account of the desolation which these barbarians spread in their progress, by laying waste the cities and country by fire. The star fell on the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. Those people spread themselves over a third part of the Roman provinces, signified by the rivers; they invaded particularly the western parts; then fell upon Rome itself, and Italy denoted by the fountains of waters. That the rivers and waters signify the provinces of the Roman empire, appears from the explication given by the angel to St. John in chap. xvii. 15. of the Apocalypse. “ The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples, and nations, and tongues.” Furthermore the name of the star is wormwood; the star may well be called wormwood since it caused such bitter distresses, such bitter calamities, and in fine ruin to the Roman people. The same kind of expression for calamities, sent by the hand of God, we find in the prophet Jeremias : “Behold,” said the Lord, “I will feed this people (the Jews) with wormwood, and I will give them water of gall to drink," Jer. ix. 15. Lastly : the third part of the waters became wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter : a great number of the Romans perished by the bitter draught of those calamities.

The disasters, and devastations by fire, that afflicted the Roman dominions at this time, may therefore very justly be compared to the effects of lightning. Apoc. viii. 5. see p. 35.

But here we must observe, that this third trumpet sounded nci only war and ruin to the pagan Roman empire, but also a terrible alarm to the Christians in it, as they became involved in those general calamities, and suffered extremely. Besides, they had lived for some time with comfort under Christian emperors, and shared their benevolence and protection : but this blessing also was now wrested from them

by the northern invaders, who superseded the western Roman emperors, and seizing their provinces, set up their own princes, who were either idolaters or Arians. Nay, even history informs us, that about the year 480 there was not one Catholic king in the world. Odoacer, who reigned over Italy, was an Arian; the same were the kings in Spain, and Genseric in Africa. The different princes in Gaul or France were also either Heathens or Arians. In the East reigned the Emperor Zeno, an abettor of the Eutychian heresy; and the kings of Persia were pagans.

The pouring out of the third Vial of the wrath of God.

Apoc. chap. xvi. 4. “And the third angel,” says St. John, “ poured out his vial upon the rivers and the fountains of waters: and there was made blood.

V. 5. “ And I heard the angel of the waters, saying: Thou art just, O Lord, who art, and who wast, the holy one, because thou hast judged these things :

V. 6. “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

V. 7. “ And I heard another from the altar, saying: Yea, O Lord God Almighty, true and just are thy judgments."

At the sounding of the third trumpet the great star fell upon the rivers and the fountains of waters : so likewise the third vial of the wrath of God is here poured out on the rivers and the fountains of waters, this is, on the pagans of the western Roman provinces, and on those of Italy and Rome itself. And there was made blood : this is the last stroke, that of the sword employed by the Almighty to complete the overthrow of the Roman empire; and effectually dreadful was the slaughter the barbarians made of the pagan Roman people. The divine judgment being executed, the justice of it is immediately proclaimed by the angel of the waters, that is, by the angel that presided over the Roman state. He cries out : “ Thou art just, O Lord, who art, and who wast, the holy one, because thou hast judged these things ;'' and the reason is added : “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and therefore thou hast given them blood to drink : for they are worthy,” or deserve it: they, the Romans, have exercised the most cruel persecutions against thy people, the Christians, they have spilt their blood, and that of thy apostles and ministers of thy gospel, and now by a just retaliation thou hast given them blood to drink, and by bringing upon them other people, as cruel as themselves, to pour out their blood. Then the angel, who presides over the altar of holocausts, at the foot of which, according to the Jewish rites, was poured out the blood of the victims, joins agreeably to his function in acknowledging the divine justice in the effusion of the Roman blood. He addresses the Almighty, saying: “ Yea, O Lord God Almighty, true and just are thy judg. ments." We may here take notice that the above-mentioned calamities are very plainly intimated in few terms by our prophet in chap. xviii. 8. of the Apocalypse, where, speaking of the punishment of heathen Rome, he says: “Her plagues shall come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine;" famine being the subject of the present seal, mourning that of the trumpet, and death that of the vial.

Such are the events, which characterize the third age of the Church, and make up its history. The preceding E.cplication illustrated by a brief Historical

account of the fall of ancient Rome with its Empire.

The Roman empire, like all other human structures, was built upon a perishable foundation. It had its rise and its decline. In its first ages it supported itself by wisdom and moderation, and owed its amazing growth to its prowess, fortitude and perseverance: but in the latter part of its period, which we here consider, these qualities were no more found in it. Its progress was like that of an elegant human shape, which had reached maturity of perfection, but whose beauty was now in the wane. The prophet Daniel had, long before its existence, described its nature. He compares it first to iron, Dan. ii. 20, &c. As iron is the strongest of metals, so the Roman state was to perform greater achievments than any of the preceding empires, and was to subdue them all. Then he compares it to iron mixed with clay. The mixture of iron and clay exhibits the subsequent decline of that state, clay being put for a sign of its weakness, and want of solidity. Such then was the nature of the Roman state. We see it therefore extending its dominion, and gaining universal empire during the time of its consuls and first emperors : but after that period, we see it distracted with interior convulsions and civil wars. The military grew licentious, the patricians luxurious and effeminate, the plebeians mutinous, and the emperors cruel and debauched. Hence it is plain, its constitution was growing old, and was tending to a decay, from its own infirmities and disorders. But though its case seemed almost desperate, a tolerable recovery might have been hoped for from active and valiant governors, who might -have reformed its defects, and revived in the people a share of the spirit of their ancestors. But this was not to be. Rome had provoked the indignation of the supreme Ruler of empires. It had bent its whole power to the supporting of idolatry, and to the suppressing of the establishment of the Christian religion. An invisible hand was therefore depressing it, and it was doomed to drink the full cup of the wrath of the Almighty, and even in the most conspicuous manner.

Many were the instruments employed by the hand of God for this purpose. He brought down upon the empire a multitude of barbarous nations, which being almost destitute of humanity, tore out its bowels without mercy. Among these the Goths bore a principal share. They were originally a people of Gothland, in Sweden, where finding themselves too closely confined for their number, a large body of them passed into Pomerania, where Tacitus places them: thence they advanced to the neighbourhood of Palus Mæotis : and afterwards bent their route westerly, and extended themselves along the north side of the Danube. From thence they made incursions into the Roman empire, carrying famine and desolation along with them. The emperors, harassed with wars on every side, were compelled to come into terms with them, and allowed to part of them a settlement in Thrace. In consideration of this indulgence, they remained quiet for a while, and even assisted the Romans against their other enemies. But new pretences of complaint soon rising, they made new incursions, and were of all the northern nations the most troublesome to the Romans.

Alaric, whom they chose for their king, an enterprising ambitious adventurer, animated with the success of former invasions, conceived a design in the year 402, of seizing on the beautiful fertile country of Italy, and attacking Rome it. self. Claudian, the Roman poet who lived at that time, in his book on the Gothic war, introduces Alaric speaking thus

Per tot populos urbesque cucurri :
Fregi Alpes, galeisque Padum victricibus hausi :

Quid restat nisi Roma mihi? "I have run over,” says Alaric, " so many countries and cities, I have crossed the Alps and the river Po, carrying every where victory with my arms: what then remains for me to conquer, but Rome itself ?

Alaric entered Italy in 402 at the head of his Arian Goths, Honorius being then emperor in the west, and Arcadius in the east, but was defeated in two different battles near Pollen

tia and Verona by Stilico, Honorius's general, and was compelled to retire out of Italy into Dalmatia. This victory was celebrated by the before-mentioned poet, who being a pagan, boasted much of the pretended special protection given by the pagan deities on this occasion to Rome. Thus speaks he:

Hanc urbem insano nullus qui marte petivit,
Lætatus violasse redit. Nec Numina sedem destituunt.

Lib. de bello Get. “No one," says he, "has presumed to attack Rome, that has not returned from it confounded at his own folly and madness. For the gods cease not to protect their seat.”

Claudian, when he wrote this, was little aware of what was to follow, and it is doubtful whether he lived to see the sacking of Rome by the same Alaric, which happened within a few years after.

In the year 406 Radagaisus, another Gothic prince, a pagan, assembled together an immense army of Goths and other barbarous people inhabiting the north side of the Rhine and Danube, (some say four hundred thousand men,) and advanced into Italy under pretence of revenging the slaughter of their countrymen made at Pollentia and Verona. All Italy and Rome itself were thrown into the utmost consternation. The heathens, who were still numerous in the city, though their idols had been taken away by the emperor's order in 399, raised an uproar, saying Radagaisus would certainly prevail, on account of his devotion to the gods, and Rome had lost their protection by neglecting their worship. St. Austin, who was then at Carthage, was informed of these things, and mentions the pagans of the city of Rome making their complaint in the following manner; “ We offer no more sacrifices to the gods, while Radagaisus sacrifices to them every day. What can we then expect, but to fall into the hands of this barbarous but religious prince ?De civ. Dei. lib. 5. c. 23. To these complaints they added blasphemies against the name of Christ. That great army advanced as far as Florence, where Stilico, at the head of the Roman legions, assisted by a body of Huns and Alans, fell suddenly upon it and entirely routed it. Rada gaisus himself was soon after taken by the Romans and put to death, and his whole army perished. Thus Almighty God would not suffer, as St. Austin remarks, that a pagan prince should be the executor of his justice, lest .the idolatrous people of Rome should ascribe his success to the false gods he adored.

At the end of the year 406, three different nations of the north joined their arms together, the Vandals from the north

« הקודםהמשך »