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If by the "earth” be meant“ the Continent, as France and Germany, especially the latter," (and I know of no interpretation more natural,) we have certainly seen a succession of evils falling upon the men who “ had the mark of the beast,” first in France, and after that in Germany, grievous as the most“ noisome sores,” and like them indicative of a state of corruption and approaching dissolution. 3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon
and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in
the sea ;
If this vial respect the papal maritime nations, particularly Spain and Portugal, (and here also I know of no interpretation more natural) we have seen a commencement of things in those countries, but have not yet seen the issue. What it will be God knoweth. Whether this or that political party prevail, it will be a plague, and a plague that will tend to accomplish the ruin of the antichristian cause.
There is a circumstance of additional horror in this vial, which was not in its correspondent trumpet : the blood into which this "sea" would be turned is described as stagnant, as the blood of a dead man ;" as though such a quantity should be shed as not only to tinge, but to congeal the ocean, turning it as it were into a putrid mass!
4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters ; aud they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. 7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
If the rivers and fountains of waters denote “ Italy and Savoy," these countries may be expected to be the scene of the next great convulsions which shall agitace Europe. And if it be so, it may be a just retribution for the blood of the Waldenses, which was there shed in shocking profusion for many successive centuries.
The responsive language of the angels on this occasion, accords with such an interpretation, and is exceedingly impressive. It shows in what light the persecution of the faithful is viewed in heaven. This sin implies such a hatred of God and his image, as would, if he were within reach, dethrone and kill him! Unjust war is a great sin : it is murder on an extended scale : yet it is not to be named in comparison of persecution for Christ's sake. The one is destroying God's natural image ; but the other is aimed at his moral image. In the former “ the potsherd striveth with the potsherds of the earth : but in the latter man striveth with his Maker! This was the sin which crowned the wicked life of Herod the letrarch, who to all his other crimes " added this above all, that he shut up John in prison !" Blood shed in persecution of God's servants hath a cry which must sooner or later be heard. The persecutions of former ages may be forgotten by mép : but he, “who is, and was, and shall be,” will not forget them. The judgments of our own times are examples of this : all Europe, previous to the Reformation, was stained with the blood of the martyrs ; and since that memorable era, France,and Germany, and Spain, and Portugal, and Italy, have been deeply engaged in that impious practice. Is it surprising then that all Europe in measure, and those nations in particular which have persisted in it, should be made to drink the bloody draught? While we feel, and ought to feel, for suffering humanity, it is not for us to join with the merchants of the earth in their wailings ; but rather with the angels in heaven, saying, “ Thou art righteous, O Lord, because thou hast judged thus !”
8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. 9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues : and they repented not, to give him glory.
In discoursing upon the trumpets it was observed, that the Roman empire, then become the seat of Christianity, was considered as a world of itself; having not only its earth, its sea, and its rivers, but its sun, and moon, and stars ; symbols of its supreme and sub
ordinate governments.* When the sun was eclipsed on the sounding of the fourth trumpet it signified the fall of the imperial anthority: but the fourth vial, though poured upon the sun, yet unlike its corresponding trumpet, does not terminate upon it, but upon the people on whom it shines. The sun here, instead of being eclipsed, or having its power diminished, has it increased. Its heat is rendered more intense so as to become a plague to those who are under its influence.
By the “sun," is undoubtedly to be understood of the supreme secular government of what is called the Holy Roman Empire, which is denominated the beast, and distinguished by its carrying or supporting the harlot. Its scorching heat cannot be understood of the persecution of the faithful; for they would not blaspheme" under it. It would seen therefore to be the galling tyranny by which the adherents of the beast will be oppressed; while yet they repent not of their deeds.
* Chap. viii. 6–12. p. 85.
THE VIALS, CONTINUED.
Chap. xvi. 10-21.
And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness : and they gnawed their tongues for pain, 11 And blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
By the “ beast" we have all along understood that secular government which at the head of the other European governments has supported the papal antichrist. This certainly has not been the imperial government of France, but of Germany, to which therefore the character of the beast belongs. The station from which his influence and authority proceeds will be his "seat,' or throne, or we may say his den. And that which the swellings of Jordan were to the lions which made their dens among the thickets growing upon its margin,* that will this plague be to him, causing him, if not to quit his den with howlings, yet to be very miserable in it. This is intimated by his “ kingdom being full of darkness," and by their " gnawing their tongues for pain." The supporters of the papal cause will be confounded. Darkness and anguish will come upon them. Yet being given up, like Pharaoh, to hardness of heart, they will continue to blaspheme the God of heaven, and will not repent of their deeds. These blasphemies
* Jer, xlix. 19.
and this perseverance in impenitence are sure signs of its being the determination of Heaven to destroy them.
Individuals may repent and escape ; but as a community they are appointed to utter destruction. 12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon
river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16 And they gathered them together, into a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon.
This vial, as far as respects the temporal dominion of Christ's enemies, possesses a final character; and seems partly to respect the overthrow of the Turkish power, signified by the “drying up of the waters of the Euphrates," and partly that of the papal, signified by the battle of “ Armageddon,"
Armageddon," or of that “great day of God Almighty.”
With regard to the first, as the sixth trumpet respected the rise of the Turkish power to punish the Eastern church, so the sixth vial seems to denote its overthrow, along with that of the Western church. The drying up of waters fitly expresses that diminution of strength and defence in a nation which issues in destruction. Thus when God would destroy Babylon, he saith, " A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up, I will dry up her sea, and will make her springs dry. And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons, an astonishment and an hissing without an inhabitant."* “ The kings of the east” may denote those who shall be employed in overthrowing this power, as the armies of Cyrus and Darius, on the waters of the Euphrates being diverted, were employed in overthrowing Babylon.
* Jer. 1. 38. li. 36, 37.