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after having first ascertained the meaning of the figurative terms employed in the narration.
Ib. A great earthquake.] When the earth is shaken violently by subterraneous commotion, the buildings erected upon it fall. Agreeably to this, in prophetical language, whatever commotion, by Divine appointment, shakes and overturns political fabrics and empires, is called earthquake *.
Ib. The sun became black as sack-cloth of hair, and all the moon became as blood.] In such figurative language, great calamities, which bereave men of the usual sources of their comforts, are frequently expressed. The sun, under such deprivation, seems no longer to shine, but is enveloped in raiment of mourning; for, such, with the eastern nations of antiquity, was sackcloth of hair t. The moon glares horribly, like blood; the stars fall I.
Ver. 13. Figs.] See Isaiah xxxiv. 4. Nahum iji. 12.
Ver. 14. As a volume rolled up.] A sheet of parchment, upon which the ancient books were written 9, being in its nature elastic, is seen to roll up in an instant, when he that extends it quits his hold. Then the characters, written or painted upon it, vanish from the sight, with a rapidity, which aptly expresses this sudden disappearance of the splendid luminaries in heaven, at the command of their. Maker. The same image is used by Isaiah, ch. xxxiv. 4.
* Psalm ix. 2. xcvii. 1-7. xcix. 1. Isaiah ii. 19. xii. 13. xxiv, 18–21. Jer. iv. 24. X. 10. xlix. 21. Joel ii. 10. iii. 16. Mic. vi. 2. Hagg. ii. 6, 7, 21, 22. Amos viii. 8. Hab. xii. 26.
+ 1 Kings xxi. 7. Zech. xii. 4. Eccl'us xxv. 17. Matt. xi. 21. Luke x. 13.
Isaiah xiii. 10. xxiv. 4, 23. Ezek. xxxii. 7,8. Amos viii. 8, 9. Joel ii. 10. iii. 15. Matt. xxiv. 29. Mark xiii. 24, 25. Luke xxi. 25. Acts ii. 20. § See note, ch. v. 1.
Ib. Mountain-Island.] These are places of the greatest security in times of hostile invasion; the mountain is difficult of access, by reason of its height and steepness; the island, from its surrounding waters. Therefore, under these images, the securest places are represented as no longer affording safety during this dreadful visitation. *.
Ver. 15. Kings of the earth, &c.] As in the description of the verse preceding, no place can afford security, so, in this, no pre-eminence in rank, power, or riches, can yield protection from the impending devastation: nor is there escape from it in any station of life: “Every bond-man and every free-man” flee before it, but in vain!
Ver. 16. Say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us.] Compare Judges vi. 9; 1 Sam. xiii. 6; Isaiah ii. 10, 19; Hos. x. 8; Luke xxiii. 30; and add to them the accounts which we derive from modern travellers, of the caves and hiding-places yet to be seen in Judæa, Arabia, &c. : and this language will be found to describe a flight of the utmost terror and dismay, beforea victorious enemy, who, having destroyed all the fortresses and cities, pursues the hopeless fugitives into their last places of refuge. But who is this dreadful and avenging Conqueror, before whom at this time they flee? (ver. 16.) “He who sitteth on the “ Throne; and the Lamb,” the Redeemer, his Vicegerent, who executes his wrath t.
• Hab. iii. v. 6.
+ Go, then, thou mightiest, in thy Father's might;
Throughout the whole of prophetical Scripture, a time of retribution, and of vengeance on God's enemies, is denounced. It is called “the day of the Lord;" “ the day of wrath and slaughter; of the Lord's anger,
visitation, and judgment;" " the great day;" “ the “ last day:" and whenever it is described, the signs which occur under this seal will be found, more or less, to compose its dreadful apparatus. At the same time, it is to be observed, that this kind of description, and the same expressions, which are used to represent this great day, are also employed by the Prophets, to describe the fall and punishment of particular states and empires ;—of Babylon, by Isaiah (ch. xiii.); of Egypt, by Ezekiel (ch. xxx. 2, 3, 4. xxxii. 7, 8.); of Jerusalem, by Jeremiah, Joel, and by our Lord *: and in many of these prophecies, the description of the calamity which is to fall on a particular state or nation, is so blended and intermixed with that general destruction, which, in the final days of vengeance, will invade all the inhabitants of the earth, that the industry and skill of our ablest interpreters have been scarcely equal to separate and assort them t. Hence it has been concluded by judicious divines, that these partial prophecies and particular instances of the Divine vengeance, whose accomplishment we know to have taken place, are presented to us as types, certain tokens and fore-runners, of some greater events which are also disclosed in them. To the dreadful time of universal vengeance, they all appear to look forward, beyond their first and more immediate object. Little indeed can we doubt that such is to be considered the use and application of these prophecies, since we see them thus applied by our Lord and his Apostles *.
Pursue the sons of darkness, drive them out
PARADISE Lost, vi. 710. * Matt. xxiv. + See the ingenious attempt of Grotius, in his notes on Matt. xxiv.
One of the most remarkable of these prophecies is that splendid one of Isaiah, ch. xxxiv; the importance and universality of which is to be collected from the manner in which it is introduced : 6 All na“tions and people, the world and all things in it,” are summoned to the audience. It represents “the
day of the Lord's vengeance,” and the year of the recompenses for the controversy of Sion (ver. 8); it descends on all nations and their armies (ver. 2). The images of wrathful vengeance and utter dissolution are the same which' are presented under this sixth seal. The hosts of heaven are dissolved ; the heavens are rolled together as a scroll of parchment; the stars
See Matt. i. 22, 23. xxvii. 9. John xv, 25. xix. 36, 37. Acts ii. 20, 27. iii. 19, 22, 24. Heb. iv. 7,8. X. 27, 37. Rom. ii. 5. Gal. iv. 24. Eph. v. 14. 2 Thess. ii. 3, &c. 2 Pet. iii. 2-14; where the prophecies of the Old Testament are applied in a more extended and spiritual sense, than in their first and primary designation. For observations on the nature of Divine Prophecy, as applicable in a double sense, which has been denied by some divines, (by Dr. Sykes and Dr. Benson, and by Collins, the free-thinker,) see Bp. Lowili, Prælection xi.and Note on Isaiah, ch. xl.; Mr. Lowth on Isaiah vii. 15; Jortin's Remarks on Eccl, Hist. p. 188–228; Serm. v. 1, 124 ; Sir Isaac Newton on Prophecy, 251; Bp. Hurd's Sermons on Prophecy, i. iv. v; Bp. Sherlock on Prophecy, Disc, ii; Bp. Warburton, Divine Legation, book vi. 8; Bp. Horne's Preface to the Psalms; Jones on the Figurative Language of Scripture, lect. viii; and, lastly, a very recent publication by Archdeacon Nares, in which, with great judgment and ability, he has shewn the indubitable right and authority by which we apply the prophecies in a double sense, because they are thus applied by our Lord himself and his Apostles; (Sermons at the Warburtonian Lecture, 1805),
fall, fall, like a leaf from a vine, or a fig from its tree. And yet Idumea is mentioned by the prophet as the particular object of vengeance : such seems to be the typical completion, and primary application of this prophecy : but it has evidently a more sublime and future prospect, and in this sense the whole world is its object : and using the same symbols and figurative expressions with this prophecy of the sixth seal, with those of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and above all, sixteenth chapters of the Apocalypse, and with others of the Old and New Testament, it must, with them, be finally referred to the great day of the Lord's vengeance for its perfect completion.
The sixth seal appears to exhibit a general description of this great day; and is illustrated by many preceding prophecies, which, having a primary reference to the destruction of God's enemies in Babylon, Ægypt, Jerusalem, &c. have evidently received their partial accomplishment, yet as evidently look forward to a more full and glorious consummation. They are not becoine a dead letter; they unite in pointing to some grander object, which all such prophecies describe; even the universal and final overthrow of the enemies of Christ. And they encourage us to look with certain assurance to the completion of the predictions in their final sense, since we have already seen them fulfilled typically.
As our Lord, in foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, made use of the expression of former prophets, and thus directed their application to events then to come, involving in the same prediction the vengeance to fall, not only on his enemies in that siege, but at “the end of the world;" so, this prophecy of the sixth seal, published after the destruction of