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That the period referred to should not be passed over in silence, Vitringa thinks it reasonable to expect; and he accordingly is of opinion, that ' the times of Constantine are painted in vivid colors through the greatest part of the xiith chapter49.'
An interpreter of the Apocalypse ' must,' says Daubuz, 'enlarge his thoughts, and embrace at once the whole extent and duration of the Christian religion or church.' It is evident that the whole church is concerned in the events described, 'so that when large and noble events or revolutions fit the symbols exactly, it is unworthy of the Holy Ghost, to think they are applicable' to such as are less considerable and less important50.
That the symbols of the sixth seal are of too august a kind to be applied to the occurrences which happened in the time of Constantine, is a circumstance on which Vitringa has not omitted to lay proper stress. But this is not all. The civil government was Not overturned. It is true, says Vitringa, that some emperors were divested of their power. But 'in this there was nothing new or singular.' The same rank and the same title, which Constantine had wrested from his rivals, he himself continued to retain. 'The imagery of the sixth seal exhibits to us the change and subversion of the state of some empire, which should be accomplished with a sudden shaking and the most violent commotion.' But the alterations introduced by Constantine were, says this learned divine, executed in a period of profound peace; and there was nothing in them that corresponded to the figures of the prophet. In the subversion of paganism, the Christian emperor did, says Vitringa, proceed with moderation and with caution. Many of its temples and its shrines continued untouched; the art of divination was still publicly practised51; their estates,
49 P. 239.
50 Preliminary Discourse, p. 42.
51 ' There is a law of Constantine, which shews that himself was not altogether free from pagan superstition, in which he orders the haruspices to be consulted, if any public edifice was struck with lightning.—We may
Vol. II. K
their Salaries, their Privileges still remained in the hands of the vestals and the priests and the hierophants; in the greater fccities, and especially at Rome, where an altar stood to the honor of the Goddess Victory, public sacrifices were permitted; and a large proportion of the Roman senate, many years after the time of Constantine, continued in the belief, and persevered in the patronage, of the heathen superstitions. 'Do these, and other things which I omit, answer to the imagery of the sixth seal? Whilst men, addicted to the idolatry of paganism, were every where promoted to the highest dignities of the state, at a time when Christian emperors held the reins of government; had they any necessity to say to the mountains and to the rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the -wrath of the Lamb? Was paganism subverted with violence and a mighty commotion, when, long after the time of Constantine, it subsisted and flourished in the principal cities of the empire51?
Of a part of the symbols of the sixth seal, and it will only be necessary with respect to a part, I shall give a de
add to this, that a temple of the Goddess Concord, being decayed by length of time, was repaired or rebuilt by Constantine, if we may trust to an inscription in Lilius Giraldus.' Jortin on E. H. vol. II. p. 305.
52 P. 235. There is an original epistle remaining, 'which Constantine addressed to the followers of the ancient religion; at a time when he no longer disguised his conversion, nor dreaded the rivals of his throne. He invites and exhorts, in the most pressing terms, the subjects of the Ro-' man empire to imitate the example of their master; but he declares, that those who still refuse to open their eyes to the celestial light may freely enjoy their temples, and their fancied Gods. A report, that the ceremonies of paganism was suppressed, is formally contradicted by the emperor himself, who wisely assigns, as the principle of his moderation, the invincible force of habit, of prejudice, and of superstition.—The evidence of facts, and the monuments which are still extant of brass and marble, continue to prove the public exercise of the pagan 'worship during the whole reign of the sons of Constantine. In the East, as well as in the West, in cities, as well as in the country, a great number of temples were respected, or at least were spared; and the devout multitude still enjoyed the luxury of sacrifices, of festivals, and of prosessions.—The title, the ensigns, the prerogatives of Sovereign Pontiff, which had been instituted by Nuraa„
tailed account. There was a great earthquake, i. e. a mighty revolution; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, the antichristian monarchies of the European world were completely darkened; the moon became as blood, the power of those who stood in the next rank to royalty was obliterated; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth", the nobility were brought down to a level with the mass of mankind, and stripped of all their exclusive privileges. The heaven departed as a scrowl, when it is t olled together, the old governments, which had been so conspicuous and extensive54, disappeared; and every mountain, i. e. government", and island, i. e. European country, were moved out of their places. They were not merely shaken with the greatness of the changes, but were placed in a situation altogether different from that which they had previously occupied. That ' the prophetic writers called the European countries, to which the Jews traded by sea, by the name of isles and islands of the sea56,' Mr. Pyle observes, at the same time remarking, that ' as earthquakes are seen to swallow up whole islands in the sea, and to overturn moun
"and assumed by Augustus, were accepted, without hesitation, by seven Christian emperors.—Gratian was the first who refused the pontifical robe;' and 'the fourth dissertation of M. de la Bastie, sour le Souverain Pontificat ties Empereurs Romains,' which • is a very learned and judicious performance, proves the toleration of paganism from Constantine to Gratian.*
Decl. and Fall of the R. E. vol. HI. p. 405, 408, 409.
53 On the word earth look back to p. 76, vol. I. and p. 37. vol. II.
54 Like the books of the ancients, which, when spread out, were capable of covering a large space.
55 That ' a mountain is the symbol of a kingdom,' is the statement of Dr. Lancaster; that it may signify any species of government, he likewise observes; and it is the remark of Vitringa upon this verse, that not onlv the Monarchies, but what are called Republics and Free States, would, in this general Revolution, undergo the greatest changes.'
56 See the same observation in Sir I. Newton (on Dan. p. 277), and in Dr. Lancaster. To account for this use of the word islands another reason may also be assigned. 'Islands,' says Mr. Lowth (on Isa. xi. 11), 'in the prophetic style, seem particularly to denote the Western parts of the world, or the European nations: the West being often called the sea in the scripture language.'
tains, so will the several states and great kingdoms of this Western world be all quite changed in their raligion, and the powers of Antichrist be swallowed up".'
Agreeably to the practice of the prophets, St. John, in the next verse, represents that literally, which he had before expressed under the cover of symbols. He foretells, that the princes and the great men of the earth, together with all their partisans, will, from the violence of their fears, hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks, i. e. says Mr. Waple, in 'the most secret and inaccessible places.' 'The rest of the prophecy being to proceed with the like metaphors, of plagues upon the sun, moon, stars, earth, trees, &c.' the prophet, says Dr. Goodwin, ' here gives one literal explanation of them in this, which is his first mentions of such, which one may serve for all; that so by the analogy of the Holy Ghost's own exposition here, the rest might be interpreted: who makes kings to be as the sun, and nobles as the stars**. '
With respect to the sixth seal, I shall only add, that the interpretation of it, which Vttringa has so largely defended, and demonstrated as I conceive with great strength of evidence, is no novel explication, but on the contrary of the highest antiquity. That it predicted the great events which were to happen at the destruction of Antichrist, was the opinion of Victorinus, of Andrew, and of Arethas, whose commentaries on the Revelation are still extant. The first of these filled the episcopal see of Pettaw in Austria, and suffered martyrdom under Dioclesian: the second, about the close of the fifth century, was bishop of Csesarea in Cappadocia; and the last is supposed to Have been bishop of the same see in the succeeding century59.
The arguments, alleged in the present work to prove that the antichristian monarchies of Europe will be demolished, are deduced from prophecy. Those who are desirous of seeing the powerful arguments that lead to the same con
57 On Rev. xvi. 20. 58 In loc. p. 43,
59 On the age and authority of these early commentators, see Lardner.
elusion, which are drawn from a quarter altogether different, I mean, from the deductions of reason, from the nature of things, and from the existing state of the European world, should peruse the able pamphlet of M. Mallet du Pan, entitled the Dangers which menace Europe60. In the apprehension of this celebrated abbe, the overthrow of the despotic monarchies which he so much dreads, would be one of the most fatal of all possible events; an event, as he affects to believe, subversive of religion, and happiness, and social order. But, I am convinced, that far different would be its effects. I am convinced, that it would accelerate the general practice, as well as the universal diffusion of Christianity; and would cause mankind to attain to such a pitch of prosperity and of improvement, as the world has never seen, and can but faintly conceive.
qN SOME PROPHECIES OP THE OLD TESTAMENT, PRINCIPALLT IN ISAIAH, FORETELLING GREAT CHANGES IN HUMAN AFFAIRS. •
AT the entrance of the last chapter it was observed, that in Isaiah a passage occurs parallel to the memorable prophecy of our Lord; and it shall be my present object to prepare the reader for giving >a favorable reception to the interpretation of it which I have embraced.
'It is,' says Mr.' Lowth, ' usual with the prophets, when they foretell some extraordinary event in, or near their own times, to carry their views on farther, and point at some greater deliverance, which God shall vouchsafe to
60 Dr. Hartley, independently of any reference to prophecy, long ago stated some of the more important causes, which threaten dissolution to the present European governments. On Man, vol. II. p. 440—454.