Page images

head. The commission of these locuşts is, not to hurt the grass of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree, but only to injure those men who have not the seal of God in their foreheads : and, in point of time, it is limited to five prophetic months or 150 natural years. As for the locusts themselves, they are like horses prepared for battle : their crowns are crowns of gold: their faces are as the faces of men: they have hair as the hair of women : their teeth are as the teeth of lions : their breastplates are like breastplates of iron : they have the tails of scorpions, armed with deadly stings : and the sound of their wings is as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle '.

Our best commentators are agreed, with very general unanimity, in the leading proposition, that the woe of the locust relates to the rise of Mohammedism and to the flourishing period of the Saracenic Caliphate; but they are not always satisfactory in their interpretation of subordinate particulars. Before any attempt is made to remedy this defect, it will be useful and proper to give some account of the origin of that extraordinary imposture which constitutes the subject of the first apocalyptic woe.

The Christians of the seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of Paganism: their public and private vows were addressed to the relics and images, that disgraced the temples of the East : the throne of the Almighty was

Rev. ix, 1-11.

darkened by a cloud of martyrs and saints and angels, the objects of popular veneration : and the Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honours of a goddess. Intemperate xeal and curiosity had torn the veil of the sanctuary : and each of the oriental sects was eager to confess, that all, except themselves, deserved the reproach of idolatry and polytheism.

In the year 569, four years after the death of Justinian, and two months after the defeat of the Abyssinians whose victory would have introduced into the Caaba the religion of the Christians, Mohammed, the only son of Abdallah and Amina, was born at Mecca. In his early infancy, he was deprived of his father, his mother, and his grandfather: his uncles were strong and numerous : and, in the division of the inheritance, the orphan's share was reduced to five camels and an Ethiopian maid-servant. At home and abroad, in peace and in war, Abu-Taleb, the most re. spectable of his uncles, was the guide and guardian of his youth: and, in his twenty-fifth year, he entered into the service of Cadijah, a rich and noble widow of Mecca, who soon rewarded his fidelity with the gift of her hand and fortune. By this alliance, the son of Abdallah was restored to the station of his ancestors : and the judicious matron was content with his domestic virtues, till, in the fortieth year of his age, he

assumed the title of a prophet, and proclaimed the religion of the Koran.

Conversation enriches the understanding : but solitude is the school of genius. From his earliest youth, Mohammed was addicted to religious contemplation. Each year, during the month of Ramadan, he withdrew from the world and from the arms of Cadijah. In the cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca, he consulted the spirit of fraud for enthusiasm, whose abode is not in the heavens but in the mind of the prophet. The faith, which, under the name of Islam, he preached to his family and nation, is compounded of an eternal truth and a necessary fiction : THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD; AND MOHAMMED IS THE APOSTLE OF GOD.

It was in the year 609, that the Arabian prophet began privately to preach at Mecca. The first and most arduous conquests of Mohammed were those of his wife, his servant, his pupil, and his friend. Yet Cadijah believed the words, and cherished the glory, of her husband : the obsequious and affectionate Zeid was tempted by the prospect of freedom: the illustrious Ali embraced the sentiments of his cousin with the spirit of a youthful hero : and the wealth, the moderation, the veracity, of Abubeker confirmed the religion of the prophet whom he was destined to succeed. By his persuasion, ten of the most respectable citizens of Mecca were introduced to the private lessons of Islam : they yielded to the voice of

Three years

reason and enthusiasm : they repeated the fundamental creed ; THERE IS BUT ONE GOD, AND MOHAMMED IS THE APOSTLE OF GOD: and their faith, even in this life, was rewarded with riches and honours, with the command of armies, and with the government of kingdoms. were silently employed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes, the first-fruits of his mission : but, in the fourth year or the year 612, he publicly assumed the prophetic office, and resolved to impart to his family the light of divine, truth.

Such, according to the voice of history, was the rise of Mohammedism : let us now attend to the symbolical prophecy, which is generally supposed to announce it as a great and eminent woe to Christendom.

1. As that devastating insect the locust was brought by the east-wind out of Arabia, to constitute one of the plagues of Egypt; so a swarm of locusts is employed by the prophet, with the strictest hieroglyphical decorum, to represent those innumerable hosts of destructive Saracens, which, under the guidance of Mohammed and his successors, alighted upon the apocalyptic earth or the territorial Roman Empire. Yet, notwithstanding that the phantasms, which issued from the pit of the abyss, bore a general resemblance to locusts ; they had several peculiarities attendant upon


· Hist. of Decline, vol. ix. p. 255-284.

by which they were more perfectly adapted to typify the people designed to be thus shadowed


(1.) The symbolical locusts were like horses prepared for the battle.

Thus the strength of the Saracens consisted very much in their numerous cavalry: and, through all ages, the Arabs have been proverbial for their skill in horsemanship.

(2.) The locusts had on their heads, as were, crowns like gold.

Thus the Arabs have constantly worn turbans : and their boast was, that they wore, as their common attire, those ornaments, which among other people are the peculiar badges of royalty.

' The general machinery of the apocalyptic locusts has doubtless been borrowed from the locusts of Joel. See Joel ü. But each prophet has varied the naked symbol to make it suit his own descriptive purposes. Contrary to the physiology of the literal locust, Joel's locusts come into Palestine from the north. Joel ii. 20. By this indication he shews, partly that his locusts are symbolical locusts, and partly that they represent some great military destructive Power which at the time of the yet future restoration of the Jews will advance by a route from the north into the land of Canaan. Compare Joel ïi. 20. with č. 32. iii. The whole prophecy, contained in Joel ii. iii, corresponds with the prophecy in Dan. xi. 40–45. xii. 1 : for the two predictions treat of the same times, the same persons, the same events, and the same countries. In the abstract, a swarm of locusts denotes an invading and desolating army : in the concrete, the particular army denoted must be determined by the chronology and circumstances of the prophecy. See above book i. chap. i. § 11.5. (5.)

« PreviousContinue »