Imágenes de páginas

the pillar of fire that rested on the sea, nor that which was set upon the earth, diffused its light, except by a momentary gleam, beyond the Pyrenees or the Alps.

But the mighty angel did set his left foot upon the earth. Switzerland, Saxony, Prussia, Bavaria, Bohemia, Hungary, are partly Protestant countries, and on them, as on the earth, the left foot of the mighty angel rested.

The angel that came down from heaven is not only denominated mighty, but he cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth.The first six trumpets completed the fall of the imperial power in Rome and Constantinople, but the sixth trumpet, or second woe, had not ceased to sound or to afflict at the close of the fifteenth century. And the next great event after the taking of Constantinople, and the continued impenitence of the Roman Catholic church throughout the interval, was the Reformation ; and how it was typified, as in all other respects, by a mighty angel who cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth, may best be seen in the same record of history, and is a fact of which the world can never lose the remembrance.

“ The most momentous event that distinguished the church after the fifteenth century, and, we may add, the most glorious of all the revolutions that happened in the state of Christianity, since the time of its divine and immortal founder, was that happy change introduced into religion which is known by the title of the blessed Reformation. This grand revolution, which arose in Saxony from small beginnings, not only spread itself with the utmost rapidity through all the European provinces, but also extended its efficacy more or less to the more distant parts of the globe, and may justly be considered as the main and principal spring which has moved the nations from that illustrious period, and occasioned the greatest part both of the civil and religious revolutions that fill the annals of history down to our times. The face of Europe was, in a more especial manner, changed by this great event. The present age feels yet, in a sensible manner, and ages to come will continue to perceive, the inestimable advantages it produced, and the inconveniencies of

[ocr errors]

which it has been the innocent occasion. The history, therefore, of such an important revolution, from whence so many others have derived their origin, and whose relations and connexions are so extensive and universal, demands undoubtedly a peculiar degree of attention, and has an unquestionable right to the principal place in such a work as the history of the church.”

The mighty angel had a little open book in his hand. And it is equally manifest, that the translation of the Scriptures was the great moving power in this “ grand revolution.

“ The different parts of Luther's German translation of the Holy Scriptures, being successively and gradually spread among the people, produced sudden and almost incredible effects, and extirpated, root and branch, the erroneous principles and superstitious doctrines of the church of Rome, from the minds of a prodigious number of persons.”t

“ The charm,” to use the words of Dr. Robertson,“ which had bound mankind for so many ages, was broken at once. The human mind, which had continued long as tame and passive as if it had been formed to believe whatever was taught, and to bear whatever was imposed, roused of a sudden, and became inquisitive, mutinous, and disdainful of the yoke to which it had hitherto submitted. The wonderful ferment and agitation which, at this distance of time, appears unaccountable, or is condemned as extravagant, was so general, that it must have been excited by causes which were natural and of powerful efficacy. The kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, England, and Scotland, and almost one half of Germany, threw off their allegiance to the Pope, abolished their jurisdiction within their territories, and gave the sanction of laws to modes of discipline and systems of doctrine which were not only independent of his power, but hostile to it. Nor was this spirit of innovation contined to those countries which openly revolted from the pope; it spread through all Europe, and broke out in every part of it with various degrees of violence. The number of converts to the opinions of reformers was so great, their zeal so enterprising, and the abilities of their leaders so distinguished, that they soon ventured to contend for superiority with the established church, and were sometimes on the point of obtaining it. In all the provinces of Germany which continued to acknowledge the papal supremacy, as well as in the Low Countries, the Pro

Mosheim, xvi. Cent. Introduction.

f Ibid. c. i. 18.

testant doctrines were secretly taught, and had gained so many proselytes that they were ripe for revolt, and were restrained merely by the dread of their rulers from imitating the example of their neighbours, and asserting their independence. Even in Spain and in Italy, symptoms of the same disposition to shake off the yoke appeared. The pretensions of the Pope to infallible knowledge and supreme power, were treated by many persons of eminent learning and abilities with such scorn, or impugned with such vehemence, that the most vigilant attention of the civil magistrate, the highest strains of pontifical authority, and all the rigour of the inquisitorial jurisdiction, were requisite to check and extinguish it."*

Every attempt at reconciliation with the Catholics having proved abortive, liberty of conscience having been denied to the Protestants, and a severe decree of the emperor, the signal of excommunicating bulls, having been issued against them, they entered into a league at Smalkald, and the Protestant states of Germany combined for their mutual defence. So rapidly were the doctrines of the Reformation spread, and so earnestly were they embraced, that the league of Smalkald was formed only thirteen years after the first preaching of Luther; and in the year 1546, when alarmed at the designs of the emperor, some of the Protestant princes of Germany assembled an army of nearly a hundred thousand


66 the most numerous, and undoubtedly the best appointed, of

any which had been levied in Europe during that century.”+ The pacification of Passau, commonly termed the religious peace, without a battle, secured to the Protestants the free exercise of their religion ; and the Reformation might then be considered as consolidated. It forms one of the most illustrious and eventful revolutions which the world has ever witnessed ; and is discriminated from them all, as in its origin it was symbolized by the descent of a mighty angel from

* Robertson's Hist. of Charles V. vol. ii. pp. 472, 473. + Ibid. p. 203.

heaven, who cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth.

And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write ; and I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. Ver. 3, 4. Interpreters are almost uniformly agreed that thunders denote war, and the symbol is peculiarly appropriate after the introduction of fire arms and artillery in the art of war. Being immediately connected and interwoven with the description of the Reformation, and introduced after the completion of the full time of preparation of the second woe on apostate Christendom, it is not diverging from the strict and straight line of prophetic interpretation to imagine, that these successive wars, or periods of warfare, bear some reference to the Reformation to which they immediately succeed, and fill up

the chasm after it, till the time of the sitting of the judgment on the papal church, and the pouring out of the last vials of the wrath of God which are written or described. The number alone of the thunders is given. The time to which they referred, and the things which they uttered, as consequent on the Reformation, and associated with it, pertained to a season of peculiar light; and never perhaps in the whole history of man was there a time when the prophecies of Scripture would have been so readily held as rules of action rather than reasons of faith ; and the perfection of wisdom, in respect to them, may have been, even that they were not written.

But as, after the mighty angel had cried, or the Reformation was established, the seven thunders uttered their voices, it is written in history that the Reformation was “ the main and principal spring which moved the nations from that illustrious period” down

to the time of another mighty revolution, which bears not the character of religious, and drew not its light from heaven. And “ the civil and religious revolutions that fill the annals of history” between these most eventful eras, and of the greatest part of which the Reformation was the occasion, may perhaps, without any violence to things sacred or civil, be now viewed retrospectively, that it may be seen whether, as emanating from the Reformation, they do not, like all antecedent history, occupy their own place in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and, exclusive of any specific definition, give palpable illustration from their origin, nature, and number, that the seven thunders which uttered their voices after the Reformation needed not to be farther written, in order that their significancy might finally be obvious without affording a seeming sanction to Christians to look on war as their calling.

In the retrospect of events since the Reformation, may it not therefore be warrantable to inquire, whether enough has not been written to shew, that the thunders dictated by the spirit of prophecy, as well as the trumpets and the woes, may not now take their place in the testimony of Jesus

The great event that, with the intervention of a brief period of continued papal impenitence, succeeded to the taking of Constantinople, was the Reformation. The blood which it cost was on the Church of Rome and the empire of Germany. The men who were the lights of the Reformation, and who shewed no lack of boldness in a righteous cause, cherished a Christian horror of war, sought to curb the earthly passions of their more fiery associates, and though, like the men of understanding in the earliest days of the church who knew their God and instructed

many, they were ready to die, yet they were not prepared to fight. The angelic likeness of the Reformation was not disfigured or destroyed by a bloody war to accom

« AnteriorContinuar »