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THE THIRD GENERAL DESCRIPTION, CONCLUDED : OR, THE MESSAGES
OF THE THREE ANGELS, THE HARVEST, AND THE VINTAGE.
Chap. xiv. 6—20.
If the foregoing application of the new song of the Lamb's company to the Reformation in the sixteenth century be just, it may be expected that what follows will relate to events subsequent to that distinguished era.
6 And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
I am aware that this commission of the flying angel has been generally understood as addressed to papal idolaters, and the passage of course applied to the evangelical labours of the Reformers. The fall of Babylon and the warnings against worshipping the beast and his image which follow, may have led to this application. There are other things however, which have led me to consider the angel flying in the midst of heaven" as sent to pagan rather than to papal idolaters.
It is true, we are in danger of magnifying the events of our own times, and of expecting to find things occupying a conspicuous place in prophecy which upon the great chart of the divine proceedings may have no place, or at most be only as a speck. I have not sought however for any thing which might be applied to the events of present times, nor interpreted the passage in any other than what appears to be its most natural meaning.
There are four characters pertaining to the prophecy, some of which appear to be inapplicable to the evangelical labours of the Reformers, but which are all applicable to the attempts to evangelize the heathen. 1. The parties to whom the message is sent are not merely the nations of Europe, but EVERY NATION, AND KUNDRED, AND TONGUE, AND PEOPLE. 2. The message itself seems to intimate that they had hitherto read only the book of nature, and that without learning from it so much as WHO MADE THE HEAVENS, AND THE EARTH, AND THE SEA, AND THE FOUNTAINS OF WATERS. 3. It is supposed that when the spread of the gospel should be attempted in good earnest, and in a humble dependence upon God, difficulties which before seemed insuperable would subside. The church bas long felt too much like the unbelieving Israelites in respect of going up to possess the promised land. Giants have seemed in the way, and walls reaching up to heaven : but when the work is attempted in the name of Christ, it is like an angel Aying in the midst of heaven, whose course none are able to arrest. 4. The tone in which the nations are addressed is solemn and imperious. “The hour of his judgment is come!” There was something resembling this when the gospel was first announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The times of this iguorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent : because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, &c." * The kingdom of the Messiah was then at hand, but now it draws near in its most extended form; and those nations and governments that will not bow to him shall be dashed in pieces as a potter's vessel! It is now coming to this, that “ All they that go down to the dust shall bow
* Matt. jii. 2. Acts xvii. 30, 31.
before him : and none can keep alive his own soul: "—which as our poet expresses it, is equal to saying
And all the kindreds of the earth
Shall worship, or shall die !
The desire which had been kindled of late years to carry the gospel among the heathen does not appear to be an object unwor thy a place in prophecy. It has engaged the attention of a large portion of the Christian church, and excited more earnest prayer and disinterested exertion, than perhaps any thing which has occurred since the Reformation. Nor ought we to consider what has hitherto been done as any thing more than the commencement of the angel's flight. It has indeed for its object the evangelizing of • every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people ;” but at present this is far from being accomplished. We have seen enough, however, to convince us with what ease the great God, by touching the hearts of a few individuals, can accomplish it.
8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
This is the first time that mention is made of Babylon. The allusion doubtless is to old Babylon, by which the church was formerly oppressed ; and to the predictions of her fall as given by the prophets :* but the Babylon here referred to doubtless is Rome, considered as the head of that great antichristian community which has corrupted the religion of Christ, and persecuted his followers.
There may be no such immediate connexion between the preaching of the everlasting gospel to the heathen world and the fall of antichristian Babylon, as that the latter should be the effect of the former : but it may comport with the wisdom of God to render it a comcomitant. When the servants of Christ lay themselves out for his name in one way, it is not unusual with him to promote the same general object in another. If we seek first the kingdom of
* Isa. xxi, 9. Jer, li. 8.
God and his righteousness, temporal blessings are added unto us ; and thus if we lay ourselves out in extending his cause among the heathen, he may at the same time, by bis providence, be working in another quarter the overthrow of that which is opposed to it.
The cry of the angel does not denote that Babylon would be immediately and entirely destroyed at this time ; for if so, the warnings of the third angel, which follow, would be unnecessary. Besides, it is by the harvest and the vintage, towards the close of the chapter, that the overthrow will be effected. But the church is here called upon to expect it, and to observe the course of events as preparing the way for it.
9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand, 10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation ; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the the Lamb : 11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever : and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his
12 Here is the patience of the saints : here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth : Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
This is the language of solemn warning. It is addressed to all whom it concerns, good and bad, especially to those who live at the time here referred to; the time immediately preceding the fall of the antichristian power, and so looks with a severe aspect on those who persevere in their attachment to it, notwithstanding the light which will have been diffused in the world. They who at any period surrender their consciences to human authority, and fully imbibe the antichristian system, will incur the wrath of God : but they who do this in the face of that light which by this time will be spread through the world, will incur greater degrees of the divine displeasure than those who have been carried away with it
in darker ages.
The 12th and 13th verses would seem to portend a time of persecution prior to the final overthrow of the antichristian power; a time which may be as the last struggles of the beast. This is the flood cast out of the mouth of the dragon after the woman (Chap. xii. 15.); the gathering together of the “ kings of the earth and of the whole world to the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Chap. xvi. 14.); and the war made by the beast and the kings against him who sat upon the horse, and against his army." Chap. xix. 19.
14 And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap : for the harvest of the earth is ripe. 16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. 17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 19 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. 20 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 hnndred furlongs.
The angels have delivered their messages, and now the Lord himself
appears. He comes as it were to judgment, and to the antichristian party a terrible judgment it will be. Under the symbols of a harvest and a vintage, is predicted its utter overthrow. Whatever distinction there may be between the one and the other, both I doubt not refer to that series of calamities which is reserved to destroy the beast and bis adherents. They refer to the same things which have been noticed from Chap. xi. 18 when the wrath of God was come, and the time of the dead that they should be avenged, and those destroyed who had long de