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in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both small and great." This is a strong, figurative, prophetic expression of the great slaughter and terrible destruction of mankind, when God Almighty shall come forth to battle, and manifest his hot displeasure and terrible wrath, in the judgment he will inflict on them. The representation of this battle, and the issue of it, goes on, and "I John saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together, to make war against him who sat on the horse, and against his army." These are the same who are mentioned, chap. xvi. 14-16, as gathered together to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, the meaning of which has been explained. And in this war and battle the beast and the false prophet were taken and destroyed, with their adherents. "And the remnant were slain with the sword of him who sat upon the horse, whose sword proceedeth out of his mouth, and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." By the remnant, are meant the rest of mankind, who by their sins make war with Christ, and are not included in the beast and false prophet and their followers, who belong to the kingdom of antichrist. Their being slain by the sword which proceeded out of the mouth of Christ, does not mean their conversion, but their falling victims to his vengeance, which is expressed by the fowls being filled with their flesh.
The same battle and slaughter of men is represented and predicted in figurative prophetic language, in the fourteenth chapter, where John describes a vision which he had of one like unto the Son of man, who sat upon a white cloud, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And it was said unto him, "Thrust in thy sickle and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle." And it was said unto him, "Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine press, even unto the horse-bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."
Upon this vision it is to be observed, that by the harvest of
the earth, and the clusters of the vine of the earth, are meant the inhabitants of the earth, or mankind in general. And reaping the harvest, and gathering the clusters of the vine of the earth, signifies the slaughter and destruction of the inhabitants of the earth; not every one of them indeed, for in the harvest and vintage, some ears of corn are commonly left standing, which escape the sickle, and a few scattering grapes are left on the vine when the clusters in general are gathered. And that this slaughter and desolation, which shall be made of the inhabitants of the world, will take place in consequence of their apostasy, and obstinate continuance and increase in sin, until they are become ripe, fully ripe, for this dreadful execution and destruction, by divine vengeance; therefore, that this reaping, and the harvest, and gathering the clusters of the vine of the earth will not be a merciful dispensation towards the inhabitants then in the world, but the execution of divine vengeance, and an awful exercise and display of the displeasure and wrath of God, in the evils which shall fall on men, for their perseverance and increase in wickedness. This is represented and expressed in a striking manner, by the figure of casting the vintage into the great wine press of the wrath of God, and the large and amazing quantity of blood which proceeded from thence, signifying the great and general slaughter, and terrible sufferings of mankind, when this time of wrath shall come.
From this view of the events predicted under the sixth and seventh vials, it appears that, while the sixth vial is running, the way will be preparing for the overthrow of spiritual Babylon.
One event will take place after another, which will greatly weaken and remove the power and influence of the pope among the nations in Christendom, by taking away his riches, by drying up the stream of wealth, and the removal of other things, by which the church of Rome has been made strong, and stood as impregnable for many ages. But this will not be attended by any general reformation of professing Christians, or revival and great increase of the true church of Christ; nor will the moral state of the Christian world, or of mankind in general, be reformed and grow better, but the contrary. By the evil influence which the beast and the hierarchy of the church of Rome have had in the world, and by the power and agency of Satan, the unrestrained lusts of men will hurry them on to all kinds of wickedness, so that it will rise to a greater degree, and be more universal than ever before. Infidelity, deism, and atheism, and the most open and gross impiety and profanation of every thing
sacred, will prevail and abound; and false religion, and the grossest errors and delusions of all kinds, will take place and spread among those who do not discard all religion. And a worldly spirit will be very strong and prevalent among old and young, urging them on to the gratification of their sensual inclinations and lusts, in all kinds of intemperance and lewdness, and prompting them to acts of unrighteousness, oppression and cruelty, which will promote mutual hatred, bitterness, and contention, and spread confusion and every evil work in fierce and cruel wars and horrid murders. It is certain that the unclean spirits like frogs, those spirits of devils, when they go forth to the whole world, will promote all kinds of disorder and wickedness to the greatest degree, and set mankind. against God, and all his revealed truth, and against each other, and every thing good and excellent, and make this world as much an image of hell as they possibly can; by which the inhabitants on earth in general will be united and gathered togther in arms against heaven, and become wholly ripe for destruction from the Almighty, for the battle of that great day which will come on under the seventh vial, and will be conducted, fought, and finished by Christ himself, against an ungodly world.
The prevailing unrestrained wickedness of men, which has been now mentioned, by which they shall be gathered unto this battle, is described by the apostle Paul in the following words: "This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, covenant-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." (2 Tim. iii. 1-5.) All these evil characters have been in every age of the world; but they will then, in those last days, take place to a greater degree, and more universally, than ever before.
The true church of Christ will subsist and continue in this evil time of the prevalence of the powers of darkness, but the number of real Christians will be small; and many, even of them if not the most-will probably be weak and low in their Christian exercises, by the influences and uncommon power of those evil spirits, and in too great a degree conformed to this world. They will be hated, opposed, and trodden down by the wicked, and be in an afflicted, suffering state in this dark and evil day. They will be in a great measure hidden and unknown, and the cause of Christ and
of truth will be reproached, and appear to be almost lost; and the true followers of Christ, his sheep, will be scattered into corners in this cloudy and dark day. (Eze. xxxiv. 12.) Whether wicked men, and enemies to the true servants of Christ, will persecute them unto death, and renew this horrid work, of which so much has been done in former ages, in this time when iniquity will abound to such a great degree, cannot now be determined by any thing said in Scripture respecting it. It is thought, by most, that, since the pope is brought so low, and his power and influence is still sinking so fast, and so much light is spreading in favor of civil and religious liberty, showing the reasonableness and importance of it, and the unreasonableness and folly of a persecuting spirit, and liberal sentiments respecting religion are propagated and increasing, persecution on account of religious sentiments or practice is near come to an end, and never will be revived and practised again. This may appear most probable. But though the anti-Christian church should never persecute the faithful followers of Christ again, and a persecuting spirit should wholly cease among professing Christians of all denominations, yet infidels, who condemn all religious persecu tion, in every degree and form in which it has been practised, and boast of their liberal sentiments and spirit with respect to this, and use it as a strong and conclusive argument against Christianity itself, that professed Christians have, in so many instances, persecuted others- even these infidels, or their successors, may find true Christians, their doctrines and practices, to be so disagreeable and hateful to them, and, in their view, so hurtful to society, and so contrary to all that in which they place their own happiness and that of mankind, that, having all restraints taken off, and the power being put into their hands, they may think these men ought not to be suffered to live, and that it is for the good of society to have them extirpated and put to death, unless they can be brought to renounce their sentiments and practices by persuasion or punishments; and so become as determined, cruel persecutors of Christians as any have been in past ages. If this should take place, it will make a new, and perhaps greater and more striking, discovery of the wickedness of the human heart. especially of the hearts and real character of this sort of men than ever has been exhibited before. And they who now know what is in man, from the character given of him in Scripture, and by the discovery mankind have made of their own hearts by words and deeds, and from a true acquaintance with their own hearts, must be sensible that nothing can prevent even men of this cast persecuting Christians but restraints from
Heaven. But, however, perhaps this discovery of what is in man is reserved to be made after the millennium shall be over, in the rise of Gog and Magog, when it may be exhibited in many respects to greater advantage, and so as to answer more important ends.
Though the true church of Christ must be in a low, dark state, in many respects, under this vial, yet there will doubtless be revivals of religion, and an increase of converts to real Christianity in many different places, and truth may be getting advantage, and more clearly distinguished from error, by those who have eyes to see; and Christianity be more and more refined in doctrines and practice, from the various errors and corruptions which have been introduced among the true followers of Christ, and every thing and all events will serve to bring on and introduce the millennium in the best manner, and in the most proper time.
The battle of that great day of God Almighty is to come on under the seventh vial, as has been observed. When the iniquity of the world of mankind shall be full, and they shall be united in open rebellion, and, in this sense, gathered together and armed against heaven; and, after God has waited long upon them in the use of all proper means to reclaim them, especially the Christian world, and they are become fully ripe for destruction, he will come forth to battle against them, and execute most fearful judgments upon them, and destroy them in a manner and degree which shall manifest his awful displeasure with them for their obstinacy in all kinds of wickedness. When these briers and thorns are set against God in battle, he will go through them and burn them together. (See Isa. xxvii. 4.) The destruction of the world of mankind by a flood, when the wickedness of man was become great, and the earth was filled with violence, and they continued obstinate in disobedience, while the long suffering of God waited upon them in the days of Noah, was an emblem of this battle; as also was the destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan, when their iniquity was full, which prepared the way for the people of God to take possession of that land. So God punished the nation of the Jews, by destroying them, and laying waste Jerusalem and the temple. When they had filled up the measure of their sins, wrath came upon them to the uttermost. This was a figure or type of this greater, more dreadful, and general battle under the seventh vial, when "the Lord shall come out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." (Isa. xxvi. 21.)
This battle, it has been observed, will not consist in the 28