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confessed, the obscurity that still remains is such, and other difficulties so numerous, as necessarily to demand the indulgence of the critic.

The preceding five ages opened with the transactions contained under their respective seals. In like manner we shall now begin the epocha of the sixth and last age of the church in this world, with the events announced at the opening of the sixth seal.

The opening of the Sixth Seal.

APOC. Chap. VI. v. 12. And I saw, says St. John, when he, the lamb, had opened the sixth seal : and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair: and the whole moon became as blood.

V. 13. And the stars from heaven fell upon the earth, as the fig-tree casteth its green figs when it is shaken by a great wind:

V. 14. And the heaven departed as a book folded up: and every mountain and the islands were moved out of their places.

V. 15. And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and tribunes, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of mountains.

V. 16. And they say to the mountains and the rocks: fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.

V. 17. For the great day of their wrath * is come, and who shall be able to stand?

Here are stupendous prodigies and dreadful disasters announced, many of which cannot be now clearly explained, but will be very conspicuous to those who shall exist at that time. They are the forerunners of the approaching general dissolution of the world, and are employed to announce the last terrible judgment, and to admonish mankind to prepare for it. If the idea which is conveyed to us by the simple description of these wonders strikes us with terror, how dreadful must they

In the Greek, his wrath.

appear when they really happen! Great earthquakes; the sun darkened to such a degree as if covered with a black hair-cloth, and the moon reddening like blood: the stars seeming to fall from the Heavens as thick as green figs are shaken from the trees in a hurricane of wind: the sky appearing to fold up like a roll of parchment; and all the mountains and islands moved out of their places, perhaps by earthquakes and extremely vehement agitations of the sea. These tremendous phænomena, some real, others appearing to the human eye, show the violent convulsions nature will sustain, and the general confusion of the whole created system. At the sight of such events, what wonder if the wicked of every rank and denomination run to hide themselves for fear, as St. John tells us, and from the consciousness of their guilt suspect the great day is arrived, and that the Almighty is coming to judgment, which will make them wish that the mountains and rocks would fall upon them to shelter them from the face of their angry God, and from the wrath of the Lamb.

The description here given by our Christian prophet seems to specify only the principal and most terrible of the signs and calamities that will happen in the last period of the world: and in them one may understand, are comprehended those that are of a less destructive and terrifying nature. Some or other of these alarms, we may suppose, will open the sixth age, and will serve to fix the date of that epocha. They will continue to alarm mankind at different times during the course of that period, to remind them of the approaching end of the world. We may also observe that some of these striking events are likewise announced by the ancient prophets, and shall be taken notice of in proper places. The extraordinary signs and prodigies both in the heavens and on the earth here described, evidently speak the majesty and power of him, whose approaching coming they are designed to announce. They therefore necessarily tend to reflect that glory on the Lamb, which was said to be his due. Apoc. v. 12. see p. 18.

The nature of the subject seems to require we should subjoin to the preceding account that other, which our

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Saviour himself gives of the same or similar prodigies.. The assemblage of both will contribute to enlarge our knowledge of that interesting subject; and the comparison of them may serve as a proof, that the expressions used by St. John, are to be taken in their natural acceptation, and not in a metaphorical sense, as some might imagine; many of his expressions being similar to those of our Saviour, which have been generally understood in their natural sense.

The account which Christ delivered of the prodigies we are speaking of, is to be found in St. Matthew, chap. 24. St. Mark, chap. 13. and St. Luke, chap. 21. His disciples having asked him by what signs they should know the approaching ruin of Jerusalem, and also what signs would precede the general dissolution of the world, Christ answers both questions. But in the first part of his answer, he seems to assign the same prodigies for announcing both those events; as the destruction of Jerusalem may be a very expressive figure of the destruction of the world. And in this sense, the holy fathers have explained his discourse. In the latter part of his answer, Christ seems to confine himself solely to the pointing out of the signs, which will be the presages of the approaching end of all things.

He thus begins his discourse: Take heed that no man seduce you. For many will come in my name, saying : I am he, I am Christ : and the time is at hand; and they will seduce many go you not therefore after them. The appearance of false Christs or false Messiahs, was then the first sign mentioned by our Saviour, and first warning of the approaching fate of Jerusalem., That many such impostors rose up in Judea before the demolition of Jerusalem by the Romans, we learn from Josephus in his history of the Jewish wars. It is here the opinion of the Holy Fathers, that Christ intended also to intimate by the preceding words, that false Christs will arise in a similar manner in the last age of the world, and be a sign of its approaching end.

Our Saviour proceeds: You shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: See that you be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For na

tion shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be pestilences, and famines, and great earthquakes in divers places, and terrors from Heaven, and there shall be great signs. These calamities happened before the ruin of Jerusalem, as the abovementioned Jewish historian testifies. The same will likewise be experienced, it is supposed, in the last age. But Christ adds: Now all these things are the beginnings of sorrows. Though great evils, they are only to be deemed the prelude of greater. Then he goes on: But before all these things they will lay their hands on you, and persecute you, and put you to death, &c. Here are the persecutions foretold, which fell upon the apostles and first christians. The same will likewise rage in a more fierce manner hereafter under Antichrist.

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many: and because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. From this rise of false prophets or teachers of false doctrine, and the abounding of wickedness before the fall of the Jewish nation, it is concluded by the holy fathers, that similar unhappy cir- cumstances will take place before the finishing of the world. And indeed, that false prophets or false teachers will then arise, we shall see it again expressed in the sequel of our Saviour's discourse; and that iniquity will likewise abound, is fully intimated by what Christ said on another occasion: When the Son of man cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on the earth? Luke xviii. 8.

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come. A new people of Christians was to be formed by preaching the gospel, before the Jews, the ancient people of God, were rejected and their city and temple abolished. The gospel will likewise be preached with extraordinary zeal in the latter times over the whole earth, to stem the prevalence of imposture and depravity of morals, and to oppose in particular, the furious efforts of Antichrist against religion.

When therefore you shall see the abomination of desola

tion, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, he that readeth, let him understand. When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army: then know that the desolation thereof is at hand. Here our Saviour points out to his disciples, the most immediate sign by which they might know, that the ruin of Jerusalem was near at hand; namely, when they should see an idolatrous army arrive with its heathenish gods, which are the abomination of desolation, and invest Jerusalem, that city which was always styled the holy place, or holy city. We shall see hereafter that Antichrist will also set up what is called the abomination of desolation.

Then they that are in Judea, continues Christ, let them flee to the mountains- For there shall be then great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things may be fulfilled that are written. There shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh would be saved: but for sake of the elect, those days shall be shortened. And they, the Jews, shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captives into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles till the times of the nations be fulfilled. Thus then the calamities and signs having all happened that had been foretold by our Saviour, the fatal time fixed for the vengeance of the Almighty was come, and Jerusalem was taken and razed to the ground by the Roman army under the command of Titus Vespasian; the temple was burned, the Jews slaughtered to an immense number, a few were reserved by Titus to be carried in triumph to Rome, and the rest were sold for slaves, and dispersed into all nations. This happened in the year 70 of the Christian æra. Extreme were the calamities and miseries that people suffered in this war, by the plague, famine, and sword; they were even such as no nation had ever felt before. The Jews must have all certainly perished, had not God in his mercy shortened those days of vengeance for the sake of the elect, that is, for the sake of reserving a remnant of that peo

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