Page images
PDF
EPUB

the Lord upon the land. This in many places occasioned · a revival of religion, as is generally the case, when great

calamities are to follow. Thunderings signify the judgments of God, actually inflicted by ways of Providence, which, when seen or heard of, stun the ears, and terrify the hearts of the guilty. Lightnings are the prognostic signs of these judgments at a short distance, by means of which flashes of Divine justice reach the consciences of sinners, in order to turn them to repentance. And earthquakes have ever been looked upon, as emblems of civil commotions, among the nations of the world. This earthquake in particular, denotes the commencement of those remarkable revolutions, of which I shall give an account under the next verse. Verse 6. And the seven angels, which had the seven

trumpets, prepared themselves to sound. In order perfectly to comprehend this new scene of events, which is indicated by the blowing of the trumpets, I presume it necessary, to make a historical introduction, which I have reserved for this place, where, according to this series of prophecy, the judgments of God are in full approach upon the house of God, 1 Pet. iv. 17. and the whole Roman empire. To reason from history, these judgments nearly all proceeded, in a great measure, from the same fountain-head—from the tremendous commotion which ensued in Asia and Europe, upon the commencement of that great migration of Asiatic and German nations, armies, hordes and tribes; who by numerous invasions shook the Roman empire to its centre, rent the Western part of it to pieces, and divided it among themselves.

This remarkable migration of the barbarians at that time, was an extraordinary occurrence, of which the world has not beheld the equal to this day. Gibbon, Mosheim, and other historians, account for this sudden tempest of nations, in the following manner. A nation of Tartars, in the north-eastern parts of China, under their victorious

monarch Toulein, vanquished, and expelled the nation of the Huns from their country to the north of the Caspian sea. This numerous, and no less warlike nation, soon withdrew from the presence of an insulting victor, and, in search of a new home, fell upon the nation of the Alans, who inhabited the countries along the river Tanais, whom they almost annihilated. Now the barrier of nations in those parts was broken, and, like a violent torrent, they overwhelmed the Ostrogoths, and Visigoths, one nation after the other, and pressed with incumbent weight into the fertile plains of the Vistula; whilst the vanquished nations, who retreated before them, must have been forced on the confines of Germany. The inhabitants of those regions, which the ancients have assigned to the Suevi, the Vandals, the Burgundians, &c. &c. disdaining to be incumbered by these Sarmatian fugitives, abandoned their woods and morasses for the more rich and cultivated provinces of the Roman empire. In this they were soon followed by other nations from Asia, who overthrew one another with precipitation, like the waves of a tempestuous sea, to take their share in the general spoil. This appears to be the most satisfactory account of the origin of that memorable commotion among the nations of the earth, which cost the Church so many tears, and the Roman empire so much blood and treasure. No doubt, in this tremendous scene, the earth has, in a peculiar sense of the word, been a theatre of the powers of darkness, who aimed at nothing short of the total annihilation of the Church of Christ. But when they imagined their victory most complete, the Lord said to this tempestuous sea, hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed. Job xxxviii. 11.

Though the first symptoms of these terrible commotions, may be dated from about the year A. D. 250; yet these barbarian nations for many years, approached the Roman empire only from a distance, with fear and awe. When

---

they afterwards drew nearer, and attempted to make inroads into the frontier provinces, they were for a long time repulsed with great loss. However, these roaming hordes still continued to take possession of all the adjacent countries, and thus encompassed the empire on every side. And these are the four winds of the earth, which were

stayed in their progress, till the servants of God had been · sealed. Rev. vii. 1. 2. 3. History also assures us, that the

Roman empire was not sensibly agitated, or in actual danger of being rent to pieces by these attacks of the barbarians, till after the year A. D. 372, or even after the death of the emperor Theodosius.

1. TRUMPET ACCOMPLISHED FROM A. D. 372_TO 422..

Verse 7. The first angel sounded, and there followed hail

and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth : and the third part of trees was

burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. This terrible tempest denotes the irraption of the barbarians into the continent of the Roman empire. No figure could have been more suitable and striking, than this storm of hail, fire, and blood, to represent the invasions of these fierce and warlike multitudes, consisting of many, tribes, kindreds, and tongues, who all laid in their claim for the common plunder. Isaiah xxviii. 2. ch. xxix, 6. Exod. ix. 23. Heb. vi. 8. This storm of hail was mingled with fire and blood. Fire, denotes the incensed, savage fierceness of their dispositions which characterized all their actions in this work of ruin and desolation. Blood here designs great slaughter in battle. The earth signifies the continent of the Roman empire, and more especially the western parts of it as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, which have been the particular theatres of those scenes of tavage and horror.

History testifies the completion of this trumpet, during the period of time from A. D. 372–to 422. It commenced with the improvident act of the Roman emperor Valens, in permitting the Goths to pass the Danube, and to settle themselves in Dacia, Morsia, and Thrace. By this impolitic step, he admitted a powerful enemy into the bosom of the empire, which endangered its security, and invited the other Barbarian nations. Soon after this, the white Huns invaded Mesopotamia, and carried their victorious arms up to the very walls of Edessa, whilst the Europian Huns made incursions into the provinces along the Danube. In the year 378, the Goths in Thrace advanced from that province into Macedon and Thessaly, where they committed dreadful ravages. They afterwards blocked up the city of Constantinople, plundered the suburbs, and at last totally defeated and killed the emperor himself. Thus these Barbarian hordes, daily increased their ranks around the empire; and though the following emperors opposed them with their whole power, the Romans suffered much. They fought most terrible battles, and the advantages gained in the end, were rarely worth the blood of a single soldier.

This was the state of Europe when Theodosius died, and divided the empire between his two sons, Arcadius and Honorious ; who both held the reins of government with unsteady hands, and governed by their ministers, who were often unfaithful. Especially Honorious, who resided at Ravenna, and reigned over the Western provinces, appeared to be little better than an idiot. Theodosius died in January A. D, 395, and early in the spring the Goths were in arms. The German auxiliaries in the Roman ar-mies, declared their independence, went over to their countrymen, and assailed the declining empire with great success. The Westgoths, issued forth out of Pannonia, and invaded Greece and Italy. So great was the consternation, that the emperor took refuge in the town of Ista in Piedmont, where he almost fell a prisoner into the hands of

- the victorious 'Alaric. Another German king, Rudagais, marched an immense army from the northern extremities of Germany, almost to the gates of Rome. It consisted of Vandals, Sueves, Burgundians, Alans and other northern tribes, and is computed, with the accession of women, children and slaves, to 400,000 persons. Gainas, another.. Gothic commander in the Roman service, revolted and turned his arms against the Eastern provinces, and had almost gained the capital of Constantinople.

In 400, the victorious Alaric at the head of his warlike Goths, entered Italy again, and took the city of Rome at three different times; which he at last plundered, and re.. duced many magnificent buildings to ashes. His successor Ataulph, pillaged and ravaged the city and country a second time, and then invaded the south of France; where he established a kingdom, which soon extended its limits over all Spain and Portugal. About this time, also the Franks passed the Rhine, and established A. D. 420, a new kingdom in Gaul, under their king Pharainond. All these invading armies, took possession of the most fertile, and fairest of all the European provinces; and Odoacer, at the head of his Goths and Heruli, conquered Augustulus, the last Roman emperor, and thus gave the mortal blow to the imperial dignity in the West.

This tremendous tempest is said to have burnt up the third part of trees, and all green grass on the continent of the Roman empire. Trees may devote the principal personages, both civil and ecclesiastical; which is a trope, common with the prophets. Isa. ii. 13. Zech. xi. 1. 2. Isaiah lv. 12. Grass, may signify the common people, as being a multitude, in a flourishing condition, though of no power against such an enemy. Job v. 25. Ps. Ixxii. 16. Ps. ciii. 15. 1 Pet. i. 24. Isa. xl. 6.7. There can be no doubt of the great sufferings of all ranks and orders by these calamities, during this period. The higher classes Lost-their offices, all their possessions in the world, and

« PreviousContinue »