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there is the altar standing before the throne, and a censer and much incense are given to the officiating angel, and he makes an offering, representing (as we have shown) that of the Christian religion; and the fire, to be cast down, is not taken from the throne, but from the altar. The descent of which upon the earth therefore seems to imply, not merely the just judgments of God on a guilty world, but their connexion with the Christian religion.
The vision of Isaiah bears parallel resemblance both to this vision of Ezekiel, and to that exhibited in the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse, the scenery of which is continued in this chapter. In this (Is. vi. 6) the seraph takes the coal of fire from the altar. And the use and application of it is not to punish and destroy, but to purify the prophet from sin, and to ordain him to his holy office of foretelling the great evangelical events which were to take place in the Church of God.
The more we consider all these circumstances, the more inclined shall we be to conclude, that this preparatory vision concerns the Christian Church, and the succeeding visions under the trumpets, thus introduced, will confirm us in this opinion.
SECTIONS II. and III.
The four first Trumpets.
CHAP. viii. ver. 6-12.
6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire
mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth : and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea : and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died : and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
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.
12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
In the prophetical parts of the Old Testament, the sound of trumpets generally signifies the approach of warfare and hostile invasion; and most of the commentators on the Apocalypse agree that, in these visions, the trumpets have the same signification. But when they inquire,- Whence comes the armies of invaders ? and of what quality and description are they? and what is the object against which their hostility is directed ? there is great difference of opinion.
After a long and patient investigation of these subjects, I am inclined to adopt the following conclusions: that the object of attack throughout the trumpets is one and the same—the pure Christian Church ; and that the assailants are not only its infidel and acknowledged foes, but also those, its most formidable enemies, who professing to belong to its body, have taught doctrines, and pursued measures, contrary to its purity, destructive of its peace, and almost of its existence, the heretics and Anti-Christian corrupters.
These conclusions result from the principle laid down in my former work, and repeated in the preface to this, that the Christian Church in general is the main object of the Apocalyptic, and indeed of all divine, prophecy. There is no reason for excepting the trumpets from this rule: it is, on the contrary, confirmed in their case by the preparation which we have just now contemplated. 'It'is confirmed also by the fact which we proceed to establish, that in those visions of the trumpets whose meaning can be most accurately ascertained, the Christian Church is evidently the object of assault. Such it is seen to be in the fifth and sixth trumpets, and yet more clearly and confessedly in the seventh; where, (in chap. xi. ver. 15,) upon the angel's sounding, the heavenly voices immediately proclaim the victory, and award the kingdoms of the world to Christ; and that his church is to partake the happiness and glory of his victory and reign is apparent from the subsequent song of the elders, and indeed from all holy writ. In this seventh and last conflict the contending powers are fully declared, and we may reasonably suppose them the same in all the stages of the warfare, under the four first trumpets, as well as under the three last.
But under these four first, the description is so very short, the symbols of so general a character, so rapidly shown and passed over, that it seems difficult to collect from them particular and specific information. Yet this general and unrestricted form of the symbols employed, seems to have been the cause of so many and various expositions of them. The history of the Roman empire, as well as of the Christian Church, has been ransacked for events of warfare and sufferings, to be applied as a solution of these four short visions.
Ver. 7. The first angel sounded ; and there followed
hail and fire mingled with blood ; and they were cast upon the earth.] The earth, as distinct from the heaven, the local habitation of the Deity, is the object of attack and injury in all of the four first trumpets. But in one part of it only at a time, according to a fourfold division of it, which occurs frequently in scripture, and is to be seen in this book of Apocalypse, (chap. xiv. ver. 7,) where God is described as the Creator of the world, under these four divisions,
Heaven, earth, sea, and the fountains of waters."
The attack of the first trumpet is upon earth,” Elç TNU ynv, which, being here contradistinguished from the sea, (the object of the next trumpet,) and being evidently only a part of the globe of the earth, that part which we call land, might be more fitly expressed in our language by the word land. Upon this division of the whole earth fall “hail and fire mingled with blood.” Such a storm is described as falling upon Ægypt, by the divine command literally, (Exod. ix. 23, &c.) But here it must be received in its typical or spiritual sense. Now, in the writings of the prophets, 'H In, the . land, as opposed to the sea, frequently signifies the holy land, the people of Israel ; while the Gentiles, especially those of the west, are spoken of by the word sea; (see Isa. xxiv. passim ; xlii. 4 ; lx. 5, compared with Matth. xii. 21; Gen. x. 5; Ps. lxv. 5; Ezek. xxvi, 15, 16;) and between these, in the early days of Christianity, there was a very marked line of distinction ; the circumcised being bound to the observance of the ceremonial law in some parts, while the uncircumcised were free from that obligation, (see the Epist. to the Galatians.) In the New Testament they are also distinguished from each other by the several appellations of Aaoi and EØvot, (Acts iv. 27; Rom. xv. 10, 11;) and, in those early times,
some of the apostles and teachers were sent to address themselves to the circumcision, others to the Gentiles. Upon the Christian Israelites therefore we may suppose that the storm of hail and fire mingled with blood, -by which is generally understood the storm of persecution even unto death,was destined to fall.
And the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.] Trees and other vegetables represent the converts to the Christian religion; some of whom are “rooted and grounded in the faith; others, “having no root,” cannot stand against the storm. (Isa. lxi. 3 ; xliv. 3, 4; 2 Kings xix. 30; Matth. iii. 10; xiii. 6, 21; xv. 13; Eph. iii. 17; Jude 12.) The third part of these is destroyed. The student will find advantage in comparing Ezekiel, ch. v. 12, and Zechariah xiii. 8, 9, with this passage. Two-thirds of the people of Israel are there destined to destruction at the siege of Jerusalem, and onethird to be dispersed among the nations; and these, after severe trials, (such as the Judaic Christians experienced, by which their numbers would be greatly diminished, as in the refiner's fire,) are the remnant saved to be the true people of God. But in the passage before us, “ all green grass is burnt up: Grass, in scriptural language, represents the gaily flourishing, who exhibit a promising appearance in the Christian ranks, but, like herbage in hot burning climates, soon wither and die :-they
spring up quickly, with joy receive the word, but in time of persecution fall away.” (Mark iv. 17.)
„The first persecution which afflicted the Church arose from the Jewish zealots, and fell upon their converted brethren. Persecution from this source was continued beyond the time when this prophecy was delivered, as may be seen in chap. ii. 9–12.