by James S. White
THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS
OF REVELATION 8 AND 9
The great leading features of Daniel's visions were the four great governments of antiquity, beginning with the Babylonian, and ending with the Roman, in its papal form. Not so, however, with John; he lived when three of those governments had passed away, and the fourth and last was in being, and in the height of its glory, as an universal monarchy. Under that government John was in banishment on the isle of Patmos, "for the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ." Accordingly, instead of predicting the rise and triumph of either of those four great governments, it was his part to give the prophetic history of the fall of the last of the four, and give us the various means by which that great persecuting system should come to ruin.
The first decisive step in the downfall of Rome, was the removal of the seat of empire from the west to the east. Until then its unity had been very faithfully preserved. After that, division and subdivision became the order of the day, until the final ruin of the empire.
The sounding of the seven trumpets I understand to shadow forth the instrumentalities by which the Roman empire was to be overthrown and subverted, and finally ruined.
The empire, after Constantine, was divided into three parts; and hence the frequent remark, "a third part of men," &c., in allusion to the third part of the empire which was under the scourge. Under the first four trumpets the two western divisions fell, and under the fifth and sixth the eastern empire was crushed; but under the seventh trumpet great Babylon entire will sink to rise no more at all.
In giving an outline of this subject, I shall, for the most part, follow Keith, in his "Signs of the Times," on the first four trumpets. I should be glad to give his remarks and historical quotations entire, would my limits, which are prescribed for this work, admit it.
The subject properly begins with the second verse of the eighth chapter; and the first verse should have been annexed to the seventh chapter, it being the conclusion of the opening of the seals.
From verses 2-5 of chapter 8, we have the prefatory remarks, prefatory to the sounding of the first angel.
Mr. Keith has very justly remarked, on the subject of this prophecy, "None could elucidate the texts more clearly, or expound them more fully, than the task has been performed by Gibbon. The chapters of the skeptical philosopher, that treat directly of the matter, need but a text to be prefixed, and a few unholy words to be blotted out, to form a series of expository lectures on the eighth and ninth chapters of Revelation." "Little or nothing is left for the professed interpreter to do but to point to the pages of Gibbon."
The first sore and heavy judgment which fell on western Rome in its downward course, was the war with the Goths under Alaric, styled by himself, "the scourge of God." After the death of Theodosius, the Roman emperor, in January, 395, before the end of the winter, the Goths, under Alaric, were in arms against the empire.
"Hail and fire mingled with blood, cast upon the earth." The terrible effects of this Gothic invasion, are thus described by Gibbon, Vol. 5, p. 176: "The barbarian auxiliaries erected their independent standard; and boldly avowed hostile designs, which they had long cherished in their ferocious minds. Their countrymen, who had been condemned, by the conditions of the last treaty to a life of tranquillity and labor, deserted their farms at the first sound of the trumpet, and eagerly assumed the weapons which they had reluctantly laid down. The barriers of the Danube were thrown open; the savage warriors of Scythia issued from their forest; and the uncommon severity of the winter allowed the poet to remark, that 'they rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy back of the indignant river.' The unhappy nations of the provinces to the south of the Danube, submitted to the calamities, which, in the course of twenty years, were almost grown familiar to their imagination; and the various troops of barbarians, who gloried in the Gothic name, were irregularly spread from the woody shores of Dalmatia, to the walls of Constantinople. The Goths were directed by the bold and artful genius of Alaric. In the midst of a divided court, and a discontented people, the emperor, Arcadius, was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms. Alaric disdained to trample any longer on the prostrate and ruined countries of Thrace and Dacia, and he resolved to seek a plentiful harvest of fame and riches in a province which had hitherto escaped the ravages of war.
"Alaric traversed, without resistance, the plains of Macedonia and Thessaly. The troops which had been posted to defend the straits of Thermopylae, retire, as they were directed, without attempting to disturb the secure and rapid passage of Alaric; and the fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were instantly covered with a deluge of barbarians, who massacred the males of an age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages. The travelers who visited Greece several years afterwards could easily discover the deep and bloody traces of the march of the Goths. The whole territory of Attica was blasted by his baneful presence; and if we may use the comparison of a contemporary philosopher, Athens itself resembled the bleeding and empty skin of a slaughtered victim. Corinth, Argos, Sparta, yielded without resistance to the arms of the Goths: and the most fortunate of the inhabitants were saved, by death, from beholding the slavery of their families, and the conflagration of their cities." It was thus that "hail," from the fact of the northern origin of the invaders; "fire," from the destruction by flame of both city and country; "blood," from the terrible slaughter of the citizens of the empire by the bold and intrepid warriors, "were cast upon the earth." This vivid description will be still more forcibly illustrated by Gibbon's account of the invasion of the western empire by the Goths:
"The birth of Alaric, the glory of his past exploits, and the confidence in his future designs, insensibly united the body of the nation under his victorious standard; and, with the unanimous consent of the barbarian chieftains, the master-general of Illyricum was elevated, according to ancient custom, on a shield, and solemnly proclaimed king of the Visigoths. Armed with this double power, seated on the verge of two empires he alternately sold his deceitful promises to the courts of Arcadius and Honorius, (of Constantinople and Rome,) till he declared and executed his resolution of invading the dominions of the west (of Rome.) The provinces of Europe which belonged to the eastern emperor were already exhausted; those of Asia were inaccessible; and the strength of Constantinople had resisted his attack. But he was tempted by the fame, the beauty, and the wealth of Italy, which he had twice visited; and he secretly aspired to plant the Gothic 7 standard on the walls of Rome, and to enrich his army with the accumulated spoils of three hundred triumphs.
"When Stilicho seemed to abandon his sovereign in the unguarded palace of Milan, he had probably calculated the term of his absence, the distance of the enemy, and the obstacles that might retard their march. He principally depended on the rivers of Italy, the Adige, the Minico, the Oglio, and the Addua; which, in the winter or spring, by the fall of rains, or by the melting of the snows, are commonly swelled into broad and impetuous torrents. But the season happened to be remarkably dry; and the Goths could traverse, without impediment, the wide and stony beds, whose centre was faintly marked by the course of a shallow stream. The bridge and passage of the Addua were secured by a strong detachment of the Gothic army; and as Alaric approached the walls, or rather the suburbs of Milan, he enjoyed the proud satisfaction of seeing the emperor of the Romans fly before him. Honorius, accompanied by a feeble train of statesmen and eunuchs, hastily retreated towards the Alps, with the design of securing his person in the city of Arles, which had often been the royal residence of his predecessors. But Honorius had scarcely passed the Po, before he was overtaken by the speed of the Gothic cavalry; since the urgency of the danger compelled him to seek a temporary shelter within the fortification of Asta, a town of Liguria or Piedmont, situate on the banks of the Tanarus. The siege of an obscure place, which contained so rich a prize, and seemed incapable of a long resistance, was instantly formed, and indefatigably pressed by the king of the Goths." – Gibbon's Hist., Vol 5, pp. 194-196.
But although Alaric thus put to flight the emperor of the west, deliverance soon came, and Rome was saved from his hands. Alaric was first conquered in 403. But another cloud was gathering, and is thus described by Gibbon: "About four years after the victorious Toulan had assumed the title of Khan of the Geougen, another barbarian, the haughty Rhodogast, or Radagaisus, marched from the northern extremity of Germany almost to the gates of Rome, and left the remains of his army to achieve the destruction of the West. The Vandals, the Suevi, and the Burgundians, formed the strength of this mighty host; but the Alani, who had found a hospitable reception in their new seats, added their active cavalry to the heavy infantry of the Germans; and the Gothic adventurers crowded so eagerly to the standard of Radagaisus, that, by some historians, he has been styled the king of the Goths. Twelve thousand warriors, distinguished above the vulgar by their noble birth, or their valiant deeds, glittered in the van; and the whole multitude, which was not less than two hundred thousand fighting men, might be increased by the accession of women, of children, and of slaves, to the amount of four hundred thousand persons.
"The correspondence of nations was, in that age, so imperfect and precarious, that the revolutions of the north might escape the knowledge of the court of Ravenna, till the dark cloud, which was collected along the coast of the Baltic, burst in thunder upon the banks of the Upper Danube, &c. Many cities of Italy were pillaged or destroyed; and the siege of Florence, by Radagaisus, is one of the earliest events in the history of that celebrated republic, whose firmness checked or delayed the unskillful fury of the barbarians.
"While the peace of Germany was secured by the attachment of the Franks, and the neutrality of the Alemanni, the subjects of Rome, unconscious of the approaching calamities, enjoyed a state of quiet and prosperity, which had seldom blessed the frontiers of Gaul. Their flocks and herds were permitted to graze in the pastures of the barbarians; their huntsmen penetrated, without fear or danger, into the darkest recesses of the Hercynian wood. The banks of the Rhine were crowded, like those of the Tiber, with elegant houses and well cultivated farms; and if the poet descended the river, he might express his doubt on which side was situated the territory of the Romans. This scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of man. The flourishing city of Mentz was surprised and destroyed; and many thousand Christians were inhumanly massacred in the church. Worms perished, after a long and obstinate siege; Strasburgh, Spires, Rheims, Tournay, Arras, Amiens, experienced the cruel oppression of the German yoke; and the consuming flames of war spread from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That rich and extensive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, was delivered to the barbarians, who drove before them, in a promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the senator, and the virgin, laden with the spoils of their houses and altars." – Ibid., Vol. 5, p. 224
After this invasion of the empire by Radagaisus, Alaric again returned, invaded Italy in 408, and in 410 he besieged, took, and sacked Rome, and died the same year. In 412 the Goths voluntarily retired from Italy.
I know not how the history of the sounding of the first trumpet can be more impressively concluded than by presenting the graphic rehearsal of this history, by Mr. Keith, in his Signs of the Times, Vol 1, pp. 231-233
"Large extracts show how amply and well Gibbon has expounded his text, in the history of the first trumpet, the first storm that pervaded the Roman earth, and the first fall of Rome. To use his words in more direct comment, we read thus the sum of the matter. The Gothic nation was in arms at the first sound of the trumpet, and in the uncommon severity of the winter, they rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy back of the river. The fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were crowded with a deluge of barbarians: the males were massacred; the females and cattle of the flaming villages were driven away. The deep and bloody traces of the march of the Goths could easily be discovered after several years. The whole territory of Attica was blasted by the baneful presence of Alaric. The most fortunate of the inhabitants of Corinth, Argos, Sparta, were saved by death from beholding the conflagration of their cities. In a season of such extreme heat that the beds of the rivers were dry, Alaric invaded the dominion of the West. A secluded 'old man of Verona pathetically lamented the fate of his contemporary trees, which must blaze in the conflagration of the whole country. And the emperor of the Romans fled before the king of the Goths. "A furious tempest was excited among the nations of Germany; from the northern extremity of which the barbarians marched almost to the gates of Rome. They achieved the destruction of the west. The dark cloud which was collected along the coasts of the Baltic, burst in thunder upon the banks of the Upper Danube. The pastures of Gaul, in which flocks and herds grazed; and the banks of the Rhine, which were covered with elegant houses and well cultivated farms, formed a scene of peace and plenty, which was suddenly changed into a desert, distinguished from the solitude of nature only by smoking ruins. Many cities were cruelly oppressed or destroyed. Many thousands were inhumanly massacred. And the consuming flames of war spread over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. "Alaric again stretched his ravages over Italy. During four years, the Goths ravaged and reigned over it without control. And, in the pillage and fire of Rome, the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies; the flames consumed many public and private buildings; and the ruins of a palace remained, (after a century and a half,) a stately monument of the Gothic conflagration.
"The last word, Africa, is the signal for the sounding of the second trumpet. The Scene changes from the shores of the Baltic to the southern coast of the Mediterranean, or from the frozen regions of the north to the borders of burning Africa. And instead of a storm of hail being cast upon the earth, a burning mountain was cast into the sea."
The history illustrative of the sounding of this trumpet has been given so fully in the first chapter of this volume, that it will be unnecessary to repeat it here. The reader will find it at large in the exposition of Dan. 11:30. It relates to the invasion and conquest of Africa, and afterward of Italy, by the terrible Genseric. His conquests were for the most part naval, and his triumphs were "as it were a great mountain burning with fire, cast into the sea." The repetition of one or two extracts from Gibbon must suffice: "The woods of the Apennines were felled; the arsenals and manufactories of Ravenna and Misenum were restored, Italy and Gaul vied with each other in liberal contributions to the public service; and the imperial navy of three hundred long galleys, with an adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels, was collected in the secure and capacious harbor of Carthagena in Spain. But Genseric was saved from impending and inevitable ruin by the treachery of some powerful subjects, envious or apprehensive of their master's success. Guided by their secret intelligence, he surprised the unguarded fleet in the bay of Carthagena; many of the ships were sunk, or taken, or burnt, and the preparations of three years were destroyed in a single day.
"Italy continued to be long afflicted by the incessant depredations of the Vandal pirates. In the spring of each year they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric himself, though in a very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with impenetrable secrecy till the moment that he hosted sail. When he was asked by his pilot what course he should steer, 'Leave the determination to the winds,' replied the barbarian, with pious arrogance, 'they will transport us to the guilty coast whose inhabitants have provoked the divine justice.' The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Leucania, Brutium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily; they were tempted to subdue the island of Sardinia, so advantageously placed in the centre of the Mediterranean, and their arms spread desolation or terror from the column of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. In the treatment of his unhappy prisoners, he sometimes consulted his avarice, and sometimes his cruelty; he massacred five hundred noble citizens of Zante, or Zaynthus, whose mangled bodies he cast into the Ionian sea." – Gibbon, pp. 180- 182,187,188.
A last and desperate attempt to dispossess Genseric of the sovereignty of the sea, was made in the year 468, by the emperor of the east. "The whole expense of the African campaign amounted to the sum of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds of gold–about five millions, two hundred thousand pounds sterling. The fleet that sailed from Constantinople to Carthage, consisted of eleven hundred and thirteen ships, and the number of soldiers and mariners exceeded one hundred thousand men. The army of Heraclius, and the fleet of Marcellinus, either joined or seconded the imperial lieutenant. The wind became favorable to the designs of Genseric. He manned his largest ship of war with the bravest of the Moors and Vandals, and they towed after them many large barks filled with combustible materials. In the obscurity of the night these destructive vessels were impelled against the unguarded and unsuspecting fleet of the Romans, who were awakened by a sense of their instant danger. Their close and crowded order assisted the progress of the fire, which was communicated with rapid and irresistible violence; and the noise of the wind, the crackling of the flames, the dissonant cries of the soldiers and mariners, who could neither command nor obey, increased the horror of the nocturnal tumult. Whilst they labored to extricate themselves from the fire-ships, and to save at least a part of the navy, the galleys of Genseric assaulted them with temperate and disciplined valor; and many of the Romans who escaped the fury of the flames were destroyed or taken by the victorious Vandals. After the failure of this great expedition, Genseric again became the 'tyrant of the sea;' the coasts of Italy, Greece, and Asia were again exposed to his revenge and avarice. Tripolia and Sardinia returned to his obedience; he added Sicily to the number of his provinces; and before he died, in the fullness of years and of glory, he beheld the final extinction of the empire of the west."–Ibid., pp. 203,205.
"A third angel sounded;–and a third name is associated with the downfall of the Roman empire. The sounding of the trumpets manifestly denotes the order of the commencement, not the period of the duration of the wars, or events, which they represent. When the second angel sounded, there was seen, as it were, a great mountain burning with fire. When the third angel sounded, there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp. The symbol, in each instance, is expressly a similitude, and the one is to the other in comparative and individual resemblance, as a burning mountain to a falling star: each of them was great. The former was cast into the sea, the latter was first seen as falling, and it fell upon the fountains and rivers of waters. There is a discrimination in the similitude, in the description, and locality, which obviously implies a corresponding difference in the object represented.
"On such plain and preliminary observations we may look to the intimation given in the third trumpet, and to the achievements of Attila, the third name mentioned by Gibbon, and associated in equal rank with those of Alaric and Genseric, in the decline and fall of the Roman empire.
"Genseric landed in Africa in the year 420, and in the following year spread desolation along its coast, throughout the long-extended territory of Rome, which was then finally separated from the empire. Attila invaded the eastern empire in the year 441. From that period, ten years elapsed before he touched the western empire, and twenty-two years intervened, from 429 to 451, between the invasion of Africa by Genseric, and of Gaul by Attila. The burning mountain arose first, though it blazed longer than the falling star.
"The connexion between the events predicted under the first and second trumpets, is marked by the passing of the Vandals from Europe to Asia, and the consequent combination with Moors and Mauritanians in the conquest of Africa, 'the most important province of the west;' and in the overthrow of the naval power of Rome. The sequence and connexion between the events denoted by the second and third trumpets, are, we apprehend equally definite.
"'The alliance of Attila,(A. D. 441,) maintained the Vandals in the possession of Africa. An enterprise had been concerted between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople, for the recovery of the valuable province, and the ports of Sicily were already filled with the military and naval forces of Theodosius. But the subtle Genseric, who spread his negotiations round the world, prevented their designs, by exciting the king of the Huns (Attila) to invade the eastern empire: and a trifling incident soon became the motive, or pretence, of a destructive war. The troops which had been sent against Genseric were hastily recalled form Sicily.'
"But if symbolized, or described under the second and third trumpet, the respective nature of their power, or character of their warfare, must need be described, as well as the order marked, in which Genseric and Attila first assaulted the empire of Rome, and accelerated its ruin.
"A great star is the symbol–of which the significance has to be sustained; burning as it were a lamp, is the character of the warfare. The locality is neither the earth, in the full extent of the term as applicable to the Roman empire, and the wide scene over which the hail and fire swept on the sounding of the first trumpet, nor yet the third part of the sea, as expressive of the second, by which the African coast was forever separated from the empire, and the ships finally destroyed, but, as referring to a portion of the remains of the empire of Rome–the fountains and rivers of waters.
"There fell a great star from heaven. The name of Attila is to this day a memorial of his greatness, of which a brief description may suffice. "'The crowd of vulgar kings, the leaders of so many martial tribes, who served under the standard of Attila, were ranged in the submissive order of guards and domestics, round the person of their master. They watched his nod: they trembled at his frown; and, at the first signal of his will, they executed, without murmur or hesitation, his stern and absolute commands. In time of peace, the dependent princes, with their national troops, attended the royal camp in regular succession; but when Attila collected his military forces, he was able to bring into the field an army of five, or, according to another account, of seven hundred thousand barbarians.'
"Burning as it were a lamp. The armies of the eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements; and the progress of Attila may be traced by the fields of battle. From the Hellespont to Thermophlae, and the suburbs of Constantinople, he ravaged, without resistance and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Heraclea and Hadrianople might perhaps escape this dreadful irruption of the Huns; but the words, the most expressive of total extirpation and erasure, are applied to the calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities of the eastern empire. "'Attila threatened to chastise the rash successor of Theodosius; but he hesitated whether he should first direct his invincible arms against the eastern or western empire; while mankind awaited his decision with awful suspense, and his ministers saluted the two emperors with the same haughty declaration, Attila, my lord and thy lord, commands thee to provide a palace for his immediate reception. But as the barbarian despised, or affected to despise, the Romans of the east, whom he had so often vanquished, he soon declared his resolution of suspending the easy conquest, till he had achieved a more glorious and important enterprise. In the memorable invasions of Gaul and Italy, the Huns were naturally attracted by the wealth and fertility of these provinces.
"'The trumpet sounded. The kings and nations of Germany and Scythia, from the Volga perhaps to the Danube, obeyed the warlike summons of Attila. From the royal village in the plains of Hungary, his standard moved towards the west; and, after a march of seven or eight hundred miles, he reached the conflux of the Rhine and the Necker. The hostile myriads were poured with violence into the Belgic provinces. The consternation of Gaul was universal. From the Rhine and the Moselle, Attila advanced into the heart of Gaul; crossed the Seine at Auxerre; and, after a long and laborious march, fixed his camp under the walls of Orleans. An alliance was formed between the Romans and Visigoths. The hostile armies approached. I myself, said Attila, will throw the first javelin, and the wretch who refuses to imitate the example of his sovereign, is devoted to inevitable death. The spirit of the barbarians was rekindled by the presence, the voice, and the example, of their intrepid leader; and Attila, yielding to their impatience, immediately formed his order of battle. At the head of his brave and faithful Huns, Attila occupied in person the center of the line. The nations from the Volga to the Atlantic were assembled on the plain of Chalons. The number of the slain amounted to one hundred and sixty-two thousand, or, according to another account, three hundred thousand persons; and these incredible exaggerations suppose a real or effective loss, sufficient to justify the historian's remark, that whole generations may be swept away, by the madness of kings, in the space of a single hour.'
"The course of the fiery meteor was changed, not stayed; and, touching Italy for the first time, the great star, after having burned as it were a lamp, fell upon the third part of the rives, and upon the fountains of waters. "'Neither the spirit, nor the forces, nor the reputation of Attila, were impaired by the failure of the Gallic expedition. He passed the Alps, invaded Italy, and besieged Aquileia with an innumerable host of barbarians. The succeeding generation could scarcely discover the ruins of Aquileia. After this dreadful chastisement, Attila pursued his march; and, as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua were reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. The inland towns, Vicenza, Verona, and Bergamo, were exposed to the rapacious cruelty of the Huns. Milan and Pavia submitted, without resistance, to the loss of their wealth; and applauded the unusual clemency which preserved from the flames the public as well as private buildings, and spared the lives of the captive multitude. Attila spread his ravages over the rich plains of modern Lombardy; which are divided by the Po, and bounded by the Alps and Apennines. He took possession of the royal palace of Milan. It is a saying, worthy of ferocious pride of Attila, that the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod.'
"'The western emperor, with the senate and people of Rome, embraced the most salutary resolution of deprecating, by a solemn and suppliant embassy, the wrath of Attila. The Roman ambassadors were introduced to the tent of Attila, as he lay encamped at the place where the slow-winding Mincius (Mincio) is lost in the foaming waves of the lake Benacus, and trampled with his Scythian cavalry the farms of Catullus and Virgil. The barbarian monarch listened with favorable, and even respectful attention; and the deliverance of Italy was purchased by the immense ransom, or dowry, of the princess Honoria.'
"Attila advanced not further into Italy than the plains of Lombardy, and the banks of the Po. He reduced the cities, situated on that river and its tributary streams, to heaps of stones and ashes. But there his ravages ceased. The great star, which burned as it were a lamp, no sooner fell upon the fountains and rivers of waters and turned cities into ashes, than it was extinguished. Unlike to the great mountain burning with fire, the great star that fell from heaven, after suddenly scorching a part of Italy, rapidly disappeared. During the same year in which Attila first invaded the Italian territories, and spread his ravages over the rich plains of modern Lombardy, which are divided by the Po, and bounded by the Alps and Apennines without advancing beyond the rivers and fountains of waters, he concluded a treaty of peace with the Romans, 'at the conflux of the lake and river,' on the spot where Mincius issues from lake Benacus (L. di Garda.) One paragraph in the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, describes 'the invasion of Italy by Attila, A. D. 452.' Another is entitled, under the same date, 'Attila gives peace to the Romans.' The next paragraph describes the 'death of Attila, A. D. 453;' and the very next records, without any interval, the destruction of his empire.
"There fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. Its greatness, its burning course, the place, the severity, and suddenness of its fall, leave nothing more to be here explained, while its falling from heaven seems obviously to imply that it came from beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire, on part of which it fell. Allusion will afterwards be made to the significancy of the term, third part, which so repeatedly occurs. "But another verse is added, under the third trumpet, which, having thus seen the significancy of the former, we cannot pass over with any vague and general exposition, without calling on history to discharge its task, in expounding the full meaning of the words, which sum up the decline, and are the immediate prelude to the fourth trumpet, the death-knell of the western empire.
"And the name of the star is called wormwood. These words–which are more intimately connected with the preceding verse, as even the punctuation in our version denotes–recall us for a moment to the character of Attila, to the misery of which he was the author, or the instrument, and to the terror that was inspired by his name.
"'Total extirpation and erasure,' are terms which best denote the calamities he inflicted.
"'One of his lieutenants chastised and almost exterminated the Burgundians of the Rhine. The Thuringians served in the army of Attila; they traversed, both in their march and in their return, the territories of the Franks; and they massacred their hostages as well as their captives. Two hundred young maidens were tortured with exquisite and unrelenting rage; their bodies were torn asunder by wild horses, or were crushed under the weight of rolling wagons; and their unburied limbs were abandoned on public roads, as a prey to dogs and vultures.'
"It was the boast of Attila, that the grass never grew on the spot which his horse had trod. 'The scourge of God,' was a name that he appropriated to himself, and inserted among his royal titles. He was 'the scourge of his enemies, and the terror of the world.' The western emperor, with the senate and people of Rome, humbly and fearfully deprecated the wrath of Attila. And the concluding paragraph of the chapters which record his history, is entitled, 'Symptoms of the decay and ruin of the Roman government.' The name of the star is called Wormwood.
"'In the space of twenty years since the death of Valentinian,' [two years subsequent to the death of Attila,] 'nine emperors had successively disappeared; and the son of Orestes, a youth recommended only by his beauty, would be the least entitled to the notice of posterity, if his reign, which was marked by the extinction of the Roman empire in the west, did not leave a memorable era in the history of mankind.'"
I shall also permit the same author to give us the history of the
Verse 12. "And 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, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise."
"At the voice of the first angel, and the blast of his trumpet, the whole Roman world was in agitation, and 'the storms of war' passed over it all. 'The union of the empire was dissolved;' a third part of it fell; and the 'transalpine provinces were separated from the empire.' Under the second trumpet, the provinces of Africa, another, or the maritime, part, was in like manner reft from Rome, and the Roman ships were destroyed in the sea, and even in their harbor. The empire of Rome, hemmed in on every side, was then limited to the kingdom of Italy. Within its bounds, and along the fountains and rivers of waters, the third trumpet reechoed from the Alps to the Apeninnes. The last barrier of the empire of Rome was broken. The plains of Lombardy were ravaged by a foreign foe: and from thence new enemies arose to bring to an end the strife of the world with the imperial city.
"Though the union of the empire was dissolved there was still an emperor in Rome. The majesty of the Roman name was not obliterated, though tarnished. And after the middle of the fifth century, the Caesars had still a successor in their own city. But the palace of Milan could not again be the temporary abode of the Roman court, when it was the seat and center of a hostile power. And the marshes of Ravenna ceased to be a security, after the waters were made bitter, and when hordes of Huns mingled with other savages in the northern regions of Italy. The time, too, had long passed for realizing the project, which the terror of the Goths had first suggested, of transferring the court of Rome to the shores of Africa, and transforming Carthage into another Constantinople.
The remnant, or the refuse, of previous invasions, was enough to destroy the last remaining parts of Roman greatness in Italy, and to abolish the office and the name of the emperor of Rome.
"Long had that name been a terror to the nations, and identified with supreme authority in the world. Long had the emperor of Rome shone and ruled in the earth, like the sun in the firmament. His was a kingdom and dominion, great and terrible, and strong exceedingly, to which all others were subjected or subordinate. His supreme or imperial authority, had, in the decline of the empire, been greatly obscured, but till then it had never been extinguished. It had been darkened and disfigured by a great storm; eclipsed, as it were, by a mountain that burned with fire; and outshone, as it were, by a falling star, like a fiery meteor. It had survived the assaults of Goths and Vandals, and Huns. Though clouded and obscured, it had never been smitten: and though its light reached but a little way, where previously it had shone over all, it had never been extinguished.
"Neither, at last, was the whole sun smitten: but the third part. The throne of the Caesars had for ages been the sun of the world; while other kings were designated as stars. But the imperial power had first been transferred to Constantinople, by Constantine; and it was afterwards divided between the east and the west. And the Eastern empire was not yet doomed to destruction. Even the western empire was afterwards revived; and a more modern dynasty arose to claim and maintain the title of emperor of the Romans. But, for the first time, after sudden, and violent, and distinctly marked and connected convulsions, the imperial power in Rome, where for so long a period it had reigned triumphant, was cut off forever; and the third part of the sun was smitten.
"'Extinction of the western empire, A. D. 476 or A. D. 479. Royalty was familiar to the barbarians, and the submissive people of Italy were prepared to obey without a murmur the authority which he should condescend to exercise as a vicegerent of the emperor of the west. But Odoacer resolved to abolish that useless and expensive office; and such is the weight of antique prejudice, that it required some boldness and penetration to discover the extreme facility of the enterprise. The unfortunate Augustulus was made the instrument of his own disgrace; and he signified his resignation to the senate; and that assembly, in their last act of obedience to a Roman prince, still affected the spirit of freedom and the forms of the constitution. And epistle was addressed, by their unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno, the son in-law and successor of Leo, who had lately been restored, after a short rebellion, to the Byzantine throne. They solemnly disclaim the necessity or even the wish of continuing any longer the imperial succession in Italy; since in their opinion the majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade and to protect, at the same time, both the east and the west. In their own name, and in the name of the people, they consent that the seat of universal empire shall be transferred from Rome to Constantinople; and they basely renounce the right of choosing their master, the only vestige which yet remained of the only authority which had given laws to the world.'
"The power and the glory or Rome, as bearing rule over any nation, became extinct. The name alone remained to the queen of nations. Every token of royalty disappeared from the imperial city. She who had ruled over the nations sat in the dust, like a second Babylon, and there was no throne, where the Caesars had reigned. The last act of obedience to a Roman prince, which that once august assembly performed, was the acceptance of the resignation of the last emperor of the west, and the abolition of the imperial succession in Italy. The sun of Rome was smitten. But though Rome itself, as an imperial city, ceased to exercise a sovereignty over any nation, yet the imperial ensigns, with the sacred ornaments of the throne and palace, were transferred to Constantinople, where Zeno reigned, under the title of sole emperor. The military acclamations of the confederates of Italy saluted Odoacer with the title of king.
"A new conqueror of Italy, Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, speedily arose, who unscrupulously assumed the purple, and reigned by the right of conquest. 'The royalty of Theodoric was proclaimed by the Goths, (March 5th, A. D. 493,) with the tardy, reluctant, ambiguous consent of the emperor of the east.' The imperial Roman power, of which either Rome or Constantinople had been jointly or singly the seat, whether in the west or the east, was no longer recognized in Italy, and the third part of the sun was smitten, till it emitted no longer the faintest rays. The power of the caesars was unknown in Italy: and a Gothic king reigned over Rome.
"But though the third part of the sun was smitten, and the Roman imperial power was at an end in the city of the Caesars, yet the moon and the stars still shone, or glimmered, for a little longer in the western hemisphere, even in the midst of Gothic darkness. The consulship and the senate were not abolished by Theodoric. A Gothic historian applauds the consulship of Theodoric as the height of all temporal power and greatness:'–as the moon reigns by night, after the setting of the sun. And, instead of abolishing that office, Theodoric himself 'congratulates those annual favorites of fortune, who, without the cares, enjoyed the splendor of the throne.'
"But in their prophetic order, the consulship and the senate of Rome met their fate, though they fell not by the hands of Vandals or of Goths. The next revolution in Italy was its subjection to Belisarius, the general of Justinian, emperor of the east. He did not spare what barbarians had hallowed. 'The Roman consulship extinguished by Justinian, A. D. 541,' is the title of the last paragraph of the fortieth chapter of Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of Rome. 'The succession of consuls finally ceased in the thirteenth year of Justinian, whose despotic temper might be gratified by the silent extinction of a title which admonished the Romans of their ancient freedom.' The third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars. In the political firmament of the ancient world, while under the reign of imperial Rome, the emperorship, the consulate, and the senate, shone like the sun, the moon, and the stars. The history of their decline and fall is brought down till the two former were "extinguished,' in reference to Rome and Italy, which so long had ranked as the first of cities and of countries; and finally, as the fourth trumpet closes, we see the 'extinction of that illustrious assembly,' the Roman senate. The city that had ruled the world, as if in mockery of human greatness, was conquered by the eunuch Narses, the successor of Belisarius. He defeated the Goths; (A. D. 552) achieved 'the conquest of Rome,' and the fate of the senate was sealed.
"The calamities of imperial Rome, in its downfall, were told to the very last of them, till Rome was without an emperor, a consul, or a senate. 'Under the exarchs of Ravenna, Rome was degraded to the second rank.' The third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars. The race of the caesars was not extinct with the emperors of the west. Rome before its fall possessed but a portion of the imperial power. Constantinople divided with it the empire of the world. And neither Goths nor Vandals lorded over that still imperial city, the emperor of which, after the first transference of the seat of empire by Constantine, often held the emperor of Rome as his nominee and vicegerent. And the fate of Constantinople was reserved till other ages, and was announced by other trumpets. Of the sun, the moon, and the stars, as yet but the third part was smitten.
"The concluding words of the fourth trumpet imply the future restoration of the western empire. The day shone not for the third part of it, and the night likewise. In respect to civil authority, Rome became subject to Ravenna, and Italy was a conquered province of the eastern empire. But, as more appropriately pertaining to other prophecies, the defence of the worship of images first brought the spiritual and temporal powers of the pope and of the emperor into violent collision; and, by conferring on the pope all authority over the churches, Justinian laid his helping hand to the promotion of the papal supremacy, which afterwards assumed the power of creating monarchs. In the year of our Lord 800, the pope conferred on Charlemagne the title of emperor of the Romans. That title was again transferred from the king of France to the emperor of Germany. By the latter it was formally renounced, within the memory of the existing generation. In our own days the Iron crown of Italy was on the head of another 'emperor.' And the sun, as in the sequel we will see, is afterwards spoken of in the book of Revelation."
Verse 13. "And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe to the inhabiters of the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!"
The last three trumpets are each attended with a woe to the inhabiters of the earth. The fifth trumpet is the first woe; the sixth trumpet the second woe; the seventh and last trumpet the third woe.
"There is scarcely so uniform an agreement among interpreters concerning any part of the apocalypse as respecting the application of the fifth and sixth trumpets, or the first and second wo, to the Saracens and Turks. It is so obvious that it can scarcely be misunderstood. Instead of a 'verse of two designating each, the whole of the ninth chapter of the Revelation, in equal portions, is occupied with a description of both.
"The Roman empire declined, as it arose, by conquest; but the Saracens and the Turks were the instruments by which a false religion became the scourge of an apostate church; and hence, instead of the fifth and sixth trumpets, like the former, being marked by that name alone, they are called woes. It was because the laws were transgressed, the ordinances changed, and the everlasting covenant broken, that the curse came upon the earth or the land.
"We have passed the period, in the political history of the world, when the western empire was extinguished; and the way was thereby opened for the exaltation of the papacy. The imperial power of the city of Rome was annihilated, and the office and the name of the emperor of the west was abolished for a season. The trumpets assume a new form, as they are directed to a new object, and the close coincidence, or rather express identity between the king of the south, or the king of the north, as described by Daniel, and the first and second wo, will be noted in the subsequent illustration of the latter. The spiritual supremacy of the pope, it may be remembered, was acknowledged and maintained, after the fall of Rome, by the emperor Justinian. And whether in the character of a trumpet or a wo, the previous steps of history raise us, as on a platform, to behold in a political view the judgments that fell on apostate Christendom, and finally led to the subversion of the eastern empire."
Chap. 9, 1. "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit." "Constantinople was besieged for the first time after the extinction of the western empire, by Chosroes, the king of Persia."
"A star fell from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit."
"'While the Persian monarch contemplated the wonders of his art and power, he received an epistle from an obscure citizen of Mecca, inviting him to acknowledge Mahomet as the apostle of God. He rejected the invitation, and tore the epistle. "It is thus," exclaimed the Arabian prophet, "that God will tear the kingdom, and reject the supplication of Chosroes." Placed on the verge of these two empires of the east, Mahomet observed with secret joy the progress of mutual destruction; and in the midst of the Persian triumphs he ventured to foretell, that, before many years should elapse, victory should again return to the banners of the Romans.' 'At the time when this prediction is said to have been delivered no prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment(!) since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire.' "It was not, like that designative of Attila, on a single spot that the star fell, but upon the earth.
"Chosroes subjugated the Roman possessions in Asia and Africa. And 'the Roman empire,' at that period, 'was reduced to the walls of Constantinople, with the remnant of Greece, Italy, and Africa, and some maratime cities, from Tyre to Trebisond, of the Asiatic coast. The experience of six years at length persuaded the Persian monarch to renounce the conquest of Constantinople, and to specify the annual tribute or the ransom of the Roman empire: a thousand talents of gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand silk robes, a thousand horses, and a thousand virgins. Heraclius subscribed these ignominious terms. But the time and space which he obtained to collect those treasures from the poverty of the east, was industriously employed in the preparations of a bold and desperate attack.' "The king of Persia despised the obscure Saracen, and derided the message of the pretended prophet of Mecca. Even the overthrow of the Roman empire would not have opened a door for Mahometanism, or for the progress of the Saracenic armed propagators of an imposture, though the monarch of the Persians and chagan of the Avars (the successor of Attila) had divided between them the remains of the kingdom of the Caesars. Chosroes himself fell. The Persian and Roman monarchies exhausted each other's strength. And before a sword was put into the hands of the false prophet, it was smitten from the hands of those who would have checked his career, and crushed his power.
"Since the days of Scipio and Hannibal, no bolder enterprise has been attempted than that which Heraclius achieved for the deliverance of the empire. He permitted the Persians to oppress for a while the provinces, and to insult with impunity the capital of the east; while the Roman emperor explored his perilous way through the Black Sea and the mountains of Armenia, penetrated into the heart of Persia, and recalled the armies of the great king to the defence of their bleeding country. The revenge and ambition of Chosroes exhausted his kingdom. The whole city of Constantinople was invested–and the inhabitants descried with terror the flaming signals of the European and Asiatic shores. In the battle of Nineveh, which was fiercely fought from daybreak to the eleventh hour, twenty-eight standards, besides those which might be broken or torn, were taken from the Persians; the greatest part of their army was cut in pieces, and the victors, concealing their own loss, passed the night on the field. The cities and palaces of Assyria were open for the first time to the Romans. "'The Greeks and modern Persians minutely described how Chosroes was insulted, and famished, and tortured by the command of an inhuman son, who so far surpassed the example of his father: but at the time of his death, what tongue could relate the story of the parricide? what eye could penetrate into the tower of darkness? The glory of the house of Sassan ended with the life of Chosroes; his unnatural son enjoyed only eight months' fruit of his crimes; and in the space of four years the regal title was assumed by nine candidates, who disputed, with the sword or dagger, the fragments of an exhausted monarchy. Every province and every city of Persia was the scene of independence, of discord, and of blood, and the state of anarchy continued about eight years longer, till the factions were silenced and united under the common yoke of the Arabian Caliphs.'
"The Roman emperor was not strengthened by the conquests which he achieved; and a way was prepared at the same time, and by the same means, for the multitude of Saracens from Arabia, like locusts from the same region, who, propagating in their course the dark and delusive Mahometan creed, speedily overspread both the Persian and Roman empires. "More complete illustration of this fact could not be desired than is supplied in the concluding words of the chapter from Gibbon, from which the preceding extracts are taken."
" 'Yet the deliverer of the east was indigent and feeble. Of the Persian spoils the most valuable portion had been expended in the war, distributed to the soldiers, or buried by an unlucky tempest in the waves of the Euxine. The loss of two hundred thousand soldiers, who had fallen by the sword, was of less fatal importance than the decay of arts, agriculture, and population, in this long and destructive war: and although a victorious army had been formed under the standard of Heraclius, the unnatural effort seems to have exhausted rather than exercised their strength. While the emperor triumphed at Constantinople or Jerusalem, an obscure town on the confines of Syria was pillaged by the Saracens, and they cut in pieces some troops who advanced to its relief–an ordinary and trifling occurrence, had it not been the prelude of a mighty revolution. These robbers were the apostles of Mahomet; their fanatic valor had emerged from the desert; and in the last eight years of his reign, Heraclius lost to the Arabs the same provinces which he had rescued from the Persians.' " ' The spirit of fraud and enthusiasm, whose abode is not in the heavens,' was let loose on earth. The bottomless pit needed but a key to open it; and that key was the fall of Chosroes. He had contemptuously torn the letter of an obscure citizen of Mecca. But when from his 'blaze of glory' he sunk into 'the tower of darkness' which no eye could penetrate, the name of Chosroes was suddenly to pass into oblivion before that of Mahomet; and the crescent seemed but to wait its rising till the falling of the star. Chosroes, after his entire discomfiture and loss of empire, was murdered in the year 628; and the year 629 is marked by 'the conquest of Arabia,' 'and the first war of the Mahometans against the Roman empire.' And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit. He fell unto the earth. When the strength of the Roman empire was exhausted, and the great king of the east lay dead in his tower of darkness, the pillage of an obscure town on the borders of Syria was 'the prelude of a might revolution.' 'The robbers were the apostles of Mahomet, and their fanatic valor emerged from the desert.'
"A more succinct, yet ample, commentary maybe given in the words of another historian.
" 'While Chosroes of Persia was pursuing his dreams of recovering and enlarging the empire of Cyrus, and Heraclius was gallantly defending the empire of the Caesars against him; while idolatry and metaphysics were diffusing their baneful influence through the church of Christ, and the simplicity and purity of the gospel were nearly lost beneath the mythology which occupied the place of that of ancient Greece and Rome, the seeds of a new empire, and of a new religion, were sown in the inaccessible deserts of Arabia.'
"The first wo arose at a time when transgressors had come to the full, when men had changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant, when idolatry prevailed, or when tutelar saints were honored–and when the 'mutual destruction' of the Roman and Persian empires prepared the way of the fanatic robbers–or opened the bottomless pit, from whence an imposture, which manifests its origin from the 'father of lairs,' spread over the greater part of the world.
"And there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. Like the noxious and even deadly vapor which the winds, particularly from the south-west, diffuse in Arabia, Mahometanism spread from thence its pestilential influence–and arose as suddenly, and spread as widely, as smoke arising out of the pit, the smoke of a great furnace. Such is a suitable symbol of the religion of Mahomet, of itself, or as compared with the pure light of the gospel of Jesus. It was not, like the latter, a light from heaven; but a smoke out of the bottomless pit.
" 'Mahomet alike instructed to preach and to fight; and the union of these opposite qualities, while it enhance his merit, contributed to his success; the operation of force and persuasion, of enthusiasm and fear, continually acted on each other, till every barrier yielded to their irresistible power.' 'The first caliphs ascended the pulpit to persuade and edify the congregation.' " 'While the state was exhausted by the Persian war, and the church was distracted by the Nestorian and Monophysite sects, Mahomet, with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity and of Rome. The genius of the Arabian prophet, the manners of his nation, and the spirit of his religion, involve the causes of the decline and fall of the eastern empire; and our eyes are curiously intent on one of the most memorable revolutions which have impressed a new and most lasting character on the nations of the globe."
"Mahomet, it may be said, has heretofore divided the world with Jesus. He rose up against the Prince of princes. A great sword was given him. His doctrine, generated by the spirit of fraud and enthusiasm, whose abode is not in the heavens, as even an unbeliever could tell, arose out of the bottomless pit, spread over the earth like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. It spread from Arabia, over great part of Asia, Africa and Europe. The Greeks of Egypt, whose numbers could scarcely equal a tenth of the nation, were overwhelmed by the universal defection. And even in the farthest extremity of continental Europe, the decline of the French monarchy invited the attacks of these insatiate fanatics. The smoke that arose from the cave of Hera was diffused from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. But the prevalence of their faith is best seen in the extent of their conquests."
Verse 3. "And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth; and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power."
"A false religion was set up, which, although the scourge of transgressions and idolatry, filled the world with darkness and delusion; and swarms of Saracens, like locusts, overspread the earth, and speedily extended their ravages over the Roman empire, from east to west. The hail descended from the frozen shores of the Baltic; the burning mountain fell upon the sea, from Africa: and the locusts (the fit symbol of Arabs) issued from Arabia, their native region. They came, as destroyers, propagating a new doctrine, and stirred up to rapine and violence by motives of interest and religion. " 'In the ten years of the administration of Omar, the Saracens reduced to his obedience thirty-six thousand cities or castles, destroyed four thousand churches or temples of the unbelievers, and erected fourteen hundred mosques, for the exercise of the religion of Mahomet. One hundred years after his flight from Mecca, the arms and the reign of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean.
" 'At the end of the first century of the Hegira, the caliphs were the most potent and absolute monarchs of the globe. The regal and sacerdotal characters were united in the successors of Mahomet. Under the last of the Ommiades, the Arabic empire extended two hundred days' journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. And if we retrench the sleeve of the robe, as it is styled by their writers, the long and narrow province of Africa, the solid and compact dominion from Fargana to Aden, from Tarsus to Surat, will spread on every side to the measure of four or five months of the march of a caravan. The progress of the Mahometan religion diffused over this ample space a general resemblance of manners and opinions; the language and laws of the Koran were studied with equal devotion at Sarmacand and Seville: the Moor and the Indian embraced as countrymen and brothers in the pilgrimage of Mecca; and the Arabian language was adopted as the popular idiom in all the provinces to the westward of the Tigris.'
"A still more specific illustration may be given of the power, like unto that of scorpions, which was given them. Not only was their attack speedy and vigorous, but 'the nice sensibility of honor, which weighs the insult rather than the injury, sheds its deadly venom on the quarrels of the Arabs:–an indecent action, a contemptuous word, can be expiated only by the blood of the offender; and such is their patient inveteracy, that they expect whole months and years the opportunity of revenge.'"
Verse 4. "And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads."
On the sounding of the first angel, the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. After the death of Mahomet, he was succeeded in the command by Abubeker, A. D. 632, who, as soon as he had fairly established his authority and government, despatched a circular letter to the Arabian tribes, of which the following is an extract:–"This is to acquaint you that I intend to send the true believers into Syria to take it out of the hand of the infidels, and I would have you know that the fighting for religion is an act of obedience to God."
"His messengers returned with the tidings of pious and martial ardor, which they had kindled in every province; the camp of Medina was successively filled with the intrepid bands of the Saracens, who panted for action, complained of the heat of the season and the scarcity of provisions, and accused, with impatient murmurs, the delays of the caliph. As soon as their numbers were complete, Abubeker ascended the hill, reviewed the men, the horses, and the arms, and poured forth a fervent prayer for the success of their undertaking. His instructions to the chiefs of the Syria were inspired by the warlike fanaticism which advances to seize, and affects to despise, the objects of earthly ambition. 'Remember,' said the successor of the prophet, 'that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of Paradise: avoid injustice and oppression; consult with your brethren, and study to preserve the love and confidence of your troops. When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women or children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons who live retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God that way; let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries; and you will find another sort of people that belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns; be sure you cleave the skulls, and give them no quarter till they either turn Mahometans or pay tribute.'
"It is not said in prophecy or in history that the more humane injunctions were as scrupulously obeyed as the ferocious mandate. But it was so commanded them. And the preceding are the only instruction recorded by Gibbon, as given by Abubeker to the chiefs whose duty it was to issue the commands to all the Saracen hosts. The commands are alike discriminating with the prediction; as if the caliph himself had been acting in known as well as direct obedience to a higher mandate than that of mortal man–and in the very act of going forth to fight against the religion of Jesus, and to propagate Mahometanism in its stead, he repeated the words which it was foretold in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, that he would say."
Verse 5. "And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months; and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man."
"Their constant incursions into the Roman territory, and frequent assaults on Constantinople itself, were an unceasing torment throughout the empire, which yet they were not able effectually to subdue, notwithstanding the long period, afterwards more directly alluded to, during which they continued, by unremitting attacks, grievously to afflict an idolatrous church, of which the pope was the head. Their charge was to torment, and then to hurt but not to kill, or utterly destroy. The marvel was that they did not. To repeat the words of Gibbon: 'The calm historian of the present hour must study to explain by what means the church and state were saved from this impending, and, as it should seem, from this inevitable danger. In this inquiry I shall unfold the events that rescued our ancestors of Britain, and our neighbors of Gaul, from the civil and religious yoke of the Koran; that protected the majesty of Rome, and delayed the servitude of Constantinople; that invigorated the defence of the Christians, and scattered among their enemies the seeds of division and decay.' Ninety pages of illustration follow, to which we refer the readers of Gibbon.
Verse 6. "And in those days shall men seek death, but they shall not find it; and shall desire to die, but death shall flee from them."
"Men were weary of life, when life was spared only for a renewal of wo, and when all that they accounted sacred was violated, and all that they held dear constantly endangered; and when the savage Saracens domineered over them, or left them only to a momentary repose, ever liable to be suddenly or violently interrupted, as if by the sting of a scorpion. They who tormented men were commanded not to kill them. And death might thus have been sought even where it was not found. 'Whosoever falls in battle,' says Mahomet, 'his sins are forgiven at the day of judgment: at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk, and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.' The intrepid souls of the Arabs were fired with enthusiasm: the picture of the invisible world was strongly painted on their imagination; and the death which they always despised became an object of hope and desire."
Verse 7. "And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle."
"Arabia, in the opinion of the naturalist, is the genuine and original country of the horse; the climate most propitious, not indeed to the size, but to the spirit and swiftness of that generous animal. The merit of the Barb, the Spanish, and the English breed, is derived from a mixture of the Arabian blood; the Bedouins preserve with superstitious care the honors and the memory of the purest race. These horses are educated in the tents, among the children of the Arabs, with a tender familiarity, which trains them in the habits of gentleness and attachment. They are accustomed only to walk and to gallop: their sensations are not blunted by the incessant use of the spur and the whip; their powers are reserved for the moments of flight and pursuit; but no sooner do they feel the touch of the hand or the stirrup, then they dart away with the swiftness of the wind.
"The Arabian horse takes the lead throughout the world; and skill in horsemanship is the art and science of Arabia. And the barbed Arabs, swift as locusts and armed like scorpions, ready to dart away in a moment, were ever prepared unto battle.
"And on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold."
When Mahomet entered Medina, (A. D. 622,) and was first received as its prince, 'a turban was unfurled before him to supply the deficiency of a standard.' The turbans of the Saracens, like unto a coronet, were their ornament and their boast. The rich booty abundantly supplied and frequently renewed them. To assume the turban is proverbial to turn Mussulman. And the Arabs were anciently distinguished by the mitres which they wore.
"And their faces were as the faces of men.
'The gravity and firmness of the mind of the Arab is conspicuous in his outward demeanor–his only gesture is that of stroking his beard, the
Verse 8. "And they had hair as the hair of women."
"Long hair is esteemed an ornament by women." The Arabs, unlike to other men, had their hair as the hair of women, or uncut, as their practice is recorded by Pliny and others. But there was nothing effeminate in their character, for, as denoting their ferocity and strength to devour, their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
Verse 9. "And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron."
"The cuirass (or breastplate) was in use among the Arabs in the days of Mahomet. In the battle of Ohud (the second which Mahomet fought) with the Koreish of Mecca, (A.D. 624,) 'seven hundred of them were armed with cuirasses.' And in his next victory over the Jews, 'three hundred cuirasses, five hundred pikes, a thousand lances, composed the most useful portion of the spoil.' After the defeat of the imperial army of seventy thousand men, on the plain of Aiznadin, (A. D. 633,) the spoil taken by the Saracens 'was inestimable; many banners and crosses of gold and silver, precious stones, silver and gold chains, and innumerable suits of the richest armor and apparel. The seasonable supply of arms became the instrument of new victories.'"
Verse 9. "And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle."
"The charge of the Arabs was not like that of the Greeks and Romans, the efforts of a firm and compact infantry: their military force was chiefly formed of cavalry and archers; and the engagement was often interrupted, and often renewed by single combats and flying skirmishes, &c. The periods of the battle of Cadesia were distinguished by their peculiar appellations. The first, from the well-timed appearance of six thousand of the Syrian brethren, was denominated the day of succor. The day of concussion might express the disorder of one, or perhaps of both the contending armies. The third, a nocturnal tumult, received the whimsical name of the night of barking, from the discordant clamors, which were compared to the inarticulate sounds of the fiercest animals. The morning of the succeeding day determined the fate of Persia. With a touch of the hand, the Arab horses darted away with the swiftness of the wind. The sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. Their conquests were marvelous, both in rapidity and extent, and their attack was instantaneous. Nor was it less successful against the Romans than the Persians. 'A religion of peace was incapable of withstanding the fanatic cry of "Fight, fight! Paradise, paradise!" that reechoed in the ranks of the Saracens.'"
Verse 10. "And they had tails like unto scorpions: and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months."
"The authority of the companions of Mahomet expired with their lives: and the chiefs or emirs of the Arabian tribes left behind in the desert the spirit of equality and independence. The legal and sacerdotal characters were united in the successors of Mahomet; and if the Koran was the rule of their actions, they were the supreme judges and interpreters of that divine book. They reigned by the right of conquest over the nations of the east, to whom the name of liberty was unknown, and who were accustomed to applaud in their tyrants the acts of violence and severity that were exercised at their own expense.'"
"Thus far Keith has furnished us with illustrations of the sounding of the first five trumpets. But here we must take leave of him, and, in applying the prophetic periods, pursue another course.
Click here to continue
Home Page for SDA Pioneers Writings