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were made, and their power of tormenting chiefly exerted during this period. But the period of these conquests, and of the calamities accompanying them, are full well known to have occupied more than double this portion of historical space; and that other warlike nations, professing the same religious creed, have renewed them; and that now, after a lapse of twelve hundred years, the Mahometan powers are still in possession of the much greater part of the conquests already accomplished.
Vitringa, with his usual learning and industry, has reviewed the principal expositions of this trumpet, as published in his time; and, among the rest, this of Joseph Mede, which he rejects, and proposes
the irruption of the Goths into Italy as fulfilling the symbols of the vision. The devastation of these ferocious conquerors he accounts to have continued one hundred and fifty years, beginning with Alaric in the eighth century. But in this application of the prophecy his failure is so evident, as to render refutation unnecessary.
Upon the whole, it must be left to the judgment of critical enquirers in future, to determine, whether the restrictions in verses 4 and 5 do not exclude all hosts and swarms, but those of heretical teachers, from being considered as represented by the scorpion-locusts; and whether the death, in verse 6, is not to be interpreted in a spiritual sense only ;--and if these questions should be answered in the affirmative, whether the period in history of one hundred and fifty years, during which the innumerable heresiarchs of Gnostical character darkened and disfigured the infant Church of Christ, exposing it to scandal, misrepresentation, and additional persecution, be not sufficiently responsive to the symbols exhibited in this vision.
1 In a letter with which I was honoured by the late Bishop Horsley, dated St. Asaph, March 20, 1806, his lordship says: “I have received much pleasure in reading your exposition of the vision of the locusts. You have rescued that portion of the prophecy from much erroneous and absurd interpretation. I have for some years been fixed in the opinion, though I have never written upon the subject, that the apocalyptic locusts represent heretics, not soldiers.” It is well known that the bishop entertained notions not conformable to mine, respecting some other predictions.
As to the claims of the Saracene Mahometans, it may perhaps appear, that they are to be more completely satisfied in the interpretation of the subsequent vision.
The Sixth Trumpet.
CHAP. ix. ver. 13–21.
13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hun-. dred thousand thousand : and I heard the number of them.
17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone : and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions: and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails : for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood : which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk ;
21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Ver. 13. And the sixth angel sounded.] It is observed by Vitringa, that the principal commentators have differed less in their opinion upon this vision, -the second woe and sixth trumpet,-than upon most others. It has been very generally explained to prefigure the terrible invasions and devastations by the nations adopting the Mahometan creed, the Saracens, the Turks, the Tartars, by some or all of them; and Michaelis, who is backward in giving his approbation to any exposition of these visions, has declared “ that this prophecy may be very well applied to the irruptions of the Saracens, the Turks, and the Tartars.” (Introd. to New Test. ch. xxiii. sect. 7.)
Ver. 13, 14, 15. I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar, which is before God, &c.] The voice is originally from the throne; it is one voice, (so it should be translated,) no power of command could be derived from any other quarter; but it passes through the horns of the golden altar, appearing to proceed from them. This is the altar of incense which in the scenery of these visions is seen to stand before the throne, as, in the holy of holies, in the temple, it stood before the cherubim, the local throne of Jehovah. Here atonement was wont to be made annually for the sins of the people, (Exod. xxx. 1-10.) A decree coming from such a quarter, and through such a medium, and attended by the alarming sound of the trumpet introducing a woe,
bespeaks the wrath of God kindling on a religious account, and a severe visitation on his people of the Christian Church. Four angels, the ministers of vengeance, are called forth from their confinement, to lead an host of assailants empowered and commissioned to slay a third part of the men, of the men το τριτον των ανθρωπων, (the article being improperly omitted in the received translation.) And the men are the Christian men, compare Acts xv. 17, and verses 4 and 20 in this chapter,) whose offences against God, on the score of religion, must be great indeed at this time, to call forth such a punishment. The nature and extent of these sins will appear in the 20th and 21st verses of this chapter, for there they are enumerated.
By these four angels, answering in point of number to the four horns of the altar, Paræus, and after him Mede and his followers, have understood four nations, or tribes of men, to be prefigured. But Vitringa properly observes, that the angels do not represent the nations, but their leaders; as in the foregoing trumpet-woe, where the host of assailants have an evil angel for their leader or king. The four angels were appointed and pre-ordained to lead this irruption; they were stationed at the great river Euphrates, from which quarter it therefore seems that the armies to be led by them were to come. They were bound there, that is, not permitted to move in the execution of their appointed commission, till a certain hour, day, month, year, when the iniquity of the men should be ripe for such a punishment.
Various commentators have endeavoured to show, that the particular nations or tribes, whom they have supposed the instruments of this divine vengeance, whether on the Roman empire or the Christian Church, were settled upon Euphrates, or proceeded
from that quarter, or at least made their irruption by passing that eastern boundary of the Holy Land, and of the Roman empire. The vision seems to imply some such Euphratean origin of the evil; but the notion that four nations or tribes were to come from thence for the execution of this commission, seems not to be fairly deduced. The number four is used in prophecy indefinitely (as hath been shown) for a large and perfect number. Thus the “ four winds of heaven” comprehend the whole globe divided into its quarters, (Dan. xi. 4; Matth. xxiv. 3) ; Rev. vii. 1 ;) and the angels being four, answering to the four cardinal points of the altar, appears to imply the fulness of the decree, and severity of its operation, not a horn of the altar being left unoccupied, so that expiation should be made upon it for the reversal of the order.
Ver. 16-19. And the number of the army of horsemen, &c.] Immediately as the command for loosing the bounden angels is issued, the consequence of it appears: an army of cavalry, whose immense numbers are expressed in those indefinite terms, which in other places of Scripture are used to denote prodigious quantities, (Dan. vii. 10; Ps. lxviii. 17.) The horsemen are described to have breastplates of fire, (or appearance of fire,) of jacinth (or hyacinthine colour,) and brimstone. Breastplates are not arms offensive, but defensive, and the slaughter is not done by these, nor by any weapon from the hands of the horsemen, but from the mouths and tails of their horses, their heads being as the heads of lions, and out of their mouths issue fire, smoke, and brimstone, by which it is expressly said, and again repeated, that“ the third part of the men was killed.” And injury also proceeds from the tails of the horses, which are like serpents, hav