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Whenever the vials“ begin,' says Dr. Beverly in his Scripture Line of Time"?, they move with so swift a course, that it is impossible there should be any delay in them after they are begun, or that any of them should be entered, and not all of them in their order swiftly poured out. It is observed by Brightman, (a commentator always treated with great respect by Vitringa,) that the seventh trumpet, which, he says, has the seven vials for its consti. tuent parts, should be dispatched in a short time, and should not linger so long as the former trumpets did, but should fly rather with swift wings43.' The effects of the seventh trumpet,' says Mr. Waple, shall not take up any long time in their accomplishing; but shall be performed with speed, and of a sudden; which may perhaps be the meaning of spXetai tee yu : for, as a judicious person hath acutely observed, the sixth trumpet comes immediately after the fifth, as well as the seventh after the sixth; and therefore it cannot be distinguished from the others by its immediate succession, which is common to them all ; but by the speed of its motions and the quickness of its events44.'
That the vials will be poured out rapidly, seems to be countenanced by the 8th verse of the xviiith ch. of St. John, where that prophet, when speaking of the symbolic Babylon, says, her plagues shall come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine. Against the opinion, that the vials will be poured out with a considerable degree of rapidity, the word vial may itself appear to millitate ; for, as it signifies a vessel with a narrow mouth, it would seem to denote, that God's wrath will be poured out not all at once, but slowly, and by little and little. But the objection has no solid foundation. The fact is, the word vial is an improper rendering; for it communicates to the mind of the English reader an idea entirely different from that which the Greek original suggests. On this point it will be sufficient to appeal
two of the most learned of the commentators. ( We have proved,' says Daubuzas, that picean, the word here used, is a bowl or basin proper for libations, to pour the liquor contained all at once.' A piann' is supposed by all interpreters,' says Vitringas, to have certainly had the shape of a cup, and this has lately, by a certain writer of eminent learning, been very clearly demonstrated7' It is manifest then, that the word under consideration, instead of favoring the alleged objection, when examined, favors the expectation, that ihese divine judgments will be rapidly executed.
ON A MEMORABLE PREDICTION DELIVERED BY CHRIST.
THERE is a passage, leading to the same conclusions with the prophecies, which have been alleged in chapters xviii, and xx. from Daniel and from John, which is sanctioned by a yet higher name. It is the prediction of CHRIST himself. Certainly therefore it claims more than ordinary attention: and, in order that it may be examined fairly, I must entreat the reader to divest himself, as much as possible, of any preconceived notions respecting the meaning of the expressions that occur in it; and to ask himself, whether these notions are the result of enquiry, or whether they have been taken up, hastily and inconsiderately, either from a deference to the authority of commentators, or from an attention to the mere sound of the words. In the observations to be made upon this prophecy, I shall in many points follow Joseph MEDE. And what is his character? He is introduced to the reader by bp. Hurd (to the scholar indeed he could be no stranger), as a sublime genius,—solely devoted to the love of truth, and to the investigation of it. His learning,' declares the prelate was vast, but well chosen and well digested; and his understanding, in no common degree, strong and capacious!'
45 P. 681.
46 P. 689. 47 Braunio, Select. Sacr. lib. ii. cap. 5, sect. 64, 65.
The predictions of the xxivth ch. of Matthew, says Dr. Jortin, ‘may perhaps prefigure the destruction of antichristian Tyranny, and the manifestation of Christ, that is, of his
power and spirit; and then may commence a better and happier æra, and such a renovation, as may be called New Heavens and a New Earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness3.'
But the reader will, I hope, in the course of the work, see reason to believe, not only that they are prefigured, but that they are expressly and primarily foretold; and will assent to the opinion of Daubuz and of Dr. Lancaster with respect to these predictions. The former in his Commentary, and the latter in his Symbolical Dictionary, observe (and I am sorry that their incidental introduction of the passage permitted them not to be more copious on the subject), that when Jesus said (Mat. xxiv. 29), that the Powers of the Heavens shall be shaken, it is easy to conceive that he meant, that THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD SHOULD BE OVERTHROWN TO SUBMIT TO HIS KINGDOM4.'
Our Lord's words are these: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. our Saviour,' says Joseph Mede, here "useth a prophetical expression.' It cannot, as he shews, be literally understood,
Whither,' he asks, shall the stars fall from heaven, which are either as big, or many times bigger, than the globe of the earth? Where shall there be room for them?"
1 Vol. II. p. 122.
2 In like manner, Dr. Wells says, that Mat. xxiv. 29, may secondarily be understood of the final destruction of the antichristian state.
3 Rem. on Eccl. Hist. vol. I. p. 225. 4 Daubuz, p. 161.
5 Mat. xxiv, 29. 6 P. 761. One of Mede's most illustrious contemporaries, Hugo Gro. tius, omits not to observe, that to the expressions of this verse a symbolic meaning must be annexed.
This point then being taken for granted, it next remains to enquire, what is the established acceptation of the sublime symbols which our Lord has employed. There are two ways of assertaining their meaning. First, by consulting parallel passages; secondly, by seeking the interpretation as given by writers of acknowleged eminence.
I begin with a parallel passage. ' In the vijith ch. of the book of Revelation it is said: und 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. I now transcribe the words of Mr. Pyle's paraphrase. The fourth angel sounded the complete fall of this apostate Western empire, and an end of the very name and title of the Roman Cæsars. This was represented to me by a darkness spread over the sun, moon, and stars ; that is to say, the ruin of its monarchy; of its prince, nobles, subordinate magistrates and powers. And thus it was fulfilled, in this Empire of Europe, styled the third part of the then known world.' That the fourth trumpet predicts the abolishing of the whole Roman majesty in their senate, consuls, and presidents ; the sun and moon in those parts having no light remaining,' is the declaration of Mede. There is no longer,' says Dr. H. More, any king of Rome, denoted by the sun, nor consular power, nor senatorian, nor the power of other known ancient magistrates of Rome, denoted by the moon and stars. · This fourth trumpet,' says Mr. Whiston, "eclipses the European sun, moon, and stars, i. e. it extinguishes the Western emperor and his subordinate governors8.' From the general harmony of the commentators on this subject, a crowd of similar passages might be produced.
I am next to enquire, what is the interpretation given to our Lord's symbols by writers of acknowleged eminence. After remarking, that it is admitted on all hands, that our Lord did certainly sometimes employ the word heaven in a symbolic sense”; I shall, on the import of that expression, extract an observation from Dr. Lancaster, though indeed
7 P. 738.
8 P. 166. 9 As in his prediction about the fate of Capernaum. Luke x. 15.
his opinion respecting it has been slightly refered to in a note, which was introduced in ch. ix. According to the extent of the subject, “ Heaven signifies, symbolically, the Ruling Power or Government; that is, the whole assembly of the ruling powers, which, in respect of the subjects or earth, are a political heaven, being over and ruling the subjects, as the natural heaven stands over and rules the earth.'
Mighty changes and revolutions,' bp. Newton more briefly observes, according to the prophetic style, are expressed by great commotions in the earth and in the heavens"..? • In the prophetic language,' says Dr. Sykes, the heavens are put for the higher powers, and those who enjoy great dignities and honors". In like manner Joseph Mede, in the paragraph which follows his citation of our Lord's prophecy, declares, that, in the diction of scripture, the political world is sometimes spoken of as having an earth and a heaven, with a figurative host of ‘kings, princes, peers!?.? Mr. Townson, speaking of the verse under consideration, says, this is the symbolical language of prophecy to signify the ruin of great personages and kingdoms"};' Brenius asserts, that the symbols employed in it are every where used to denote the overthrow of kingdoms and a mighty revolution in human affairs; and it is declared by Dr. Wall, that' by these names of sun, moon, stars, falling, are so constantly meant temporal powers, kings, princes, governments, that we must understand them so here'. Sir Isaac Newton indeed lays it down as a matter to be taken for granted, that in sacred prophecy, which regards not single persons, THE SUN IS PUT FOR THE WHOLE SPECIES AND RACE OF KINGS, in the kingdom or kingdoms of the world politic, shining with regal power and glory's.' • The sun,' says Vitringa, in the prophetic diction signifies kings shining
10 Vol. III. p. 56.
11 On Heb. xii. 26. 12 P. 761.
13 On the Gospels, 4to. p. 99. 14 Crit. Notes on the New Test. 1730. p. 31. Dr. Wall would interpret Mat. xxiv. 29, of the overthrow of the Jewish princes and priests, or of the fall of the Roman empire.
15 P. 17.