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|Home ¬ Previous Page ¬ Part 2, Chapter 3 - Observations upon the Apocalypse of St. John.|
THE whole scene of sacred Prophecy is composed of three principal parts: the regions beyond Euphrates, represented by the two first Beasts of Daniel; the Empire of the Greeks on this side of Euphrates, represented by the Leopard and by the He-Goat; and the Empire of the Latins on this side of Greece, represented by the Beast with ten horns. And to these three parts, the phrases of the third part of the earth, sea rivers, trees, ships, stars, sun, and moon, relate. I place the body of the fourth Beast on this side of Greece, because the three first of the four Beasts had their lives prolonged after their dominion was taken away, and therefore belong not to the body of the fourth. He only stamped them with his feet. they understood the places to which they sailed by sea, particularly all Europe: and hence in this Prophecy, the earth and sea are put for the nations of the Greek and Latin Empires.
The third and fourth Beasts of Daniel are the same with the Dragon and ten-horned Beast of John, but with this difference: John puts the Dragon for the whole Roman Empire while it continued entire, because it was entire when that Prophecy was given; and the Beast he considers not till the Empire became divided: and then he puts the dragon for the Empire of the Greeks, and the Beast for the Empire of the Latins. Hence it is that the Dragon and Beast have common heads and common horns: but the Dragon hath crowns only upon his heads, and the Beast only upon his horns; because the Beast and his horns reigned not before they were divided from the Dragon: and when the Dragon gave the Beast his throne, the ten horns received power as Kings, the same hour with the Beast. The heads are seven successive Kings. Four of them were the four horsemen which appeared at the opening of the first four seals. In the latter end of the sixth head, or seal, considered as present in the visions, it is said, five of the seven Kings are fallen, and one is, and another is not yet come; and the Beast that was and is not, being wounded to death with a sword, he is the eighth, and of the seven: he was therefore a collateral part of the seventh.
The horns are the same with those of Danielís fourth Beast, described. The four horsemen which appear at the opening of the first four seals, have been well explained by Mr. Mede; excepting that I had rather continue the third to the end of the reign of the three Gordians and Philip the Arabian, those being Kings from the South, and begin the fourth with the reign of Decius, and continue it till the reign of Dioclesian. for the fourth horseman sat upon a pale horse, and his name was Death; and hell followed with him; and power was given them to kill unto the fourth part of the earth, with the sword, and with famine, and with the plague, and with the Beasts of the earth, or armies of invaders and rebels: and as such were the times during all this interval. Hitherto the Roman Empire continued in an undivided monarchical form, except rebellions; and such it is represented by the four horsemen. But Dioclesian divided it between himself and Maximianus, A.C. 285; and it continued in that divided state, till the victory of Constantine the great over Licinius, A.C. 323, which put an end to the heathen persecutions set on foot by Dioclesian and Maximianus, and described at the opening of the fifth seal. But this division of the Empire was imperfect, the whole being still under one and the same Senate. The same victory of Constantine over Licinius a heathen persecutor, began the fall of the heathen Empire, described at the opening of the sixth seal: and the visions of this seal continue till after the reign of Julian the Apostate, he being a heathen Emperor, and reigning over the whole Roman Empire.
The affairs of the Church begin to be considered at the opening of the fifth seal, as was said above. Then by a woman in the Temple of heaven, clothed with the sun of righteousness, and the moon of Jewish ceremonies under her feet, and upon her head and crown of twelve stars relating to the twelve Apostles and to the twelve tribes of Israel. When she fled from the Temple into the wilderness, she left in the Temple a remnant of her seed, who kept the commandments of God and had the testimony of Jesus Christ; and therefore before her flight she represented the true primitive church of God, thougn afterwards she degenerated like Aholah and Aholibah. In Dioclesianís persecution she cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And in the end of that persecution, by the victory of Constantine over Maxentius A.C. 312, she brought forth a man-child, such a child as was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, a Christian Empire. And her child, by the victory of Constantine over Licinius, A.C. 323, was caught up unto God and to his throne. And the woman, by the division of the Roman Empire into the Greek and Latin Empires, fled from the first Temple into the wilderness, or spiritually barren Empire of the Latins, where she is found afterwards sitting upon the Beast and upon the seven mountains; and is called the great city which reigneth over the Kings of the earth, give their kingdom to the Beast.
But before her flight there was war in heaven between Michael and the Dragon, the Christian and the heathen religions; and the Dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world, was heard a voice in heaven, saying, Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. And they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe be to the inhabiters of the earth and sea, or people of the Greek and Latin Empires, for the devil is come down amongst you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the Dragon saw that he was cast down from the Roman throne, and the man-child caught up thither, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child; and to her, by the division of the Roman Empire between the cities of Rome and Constantinople A.C. 330, were given two wings of a great eagle, the symbol of the Roman Empire, that she might flee from the first Temple into the wilderness of Arabia, to her place at Babylon mystically so called. And the serpent, by the division of the same Empire between the sons of Constantine the great, A.C. 337, cast out of his mouth water as a flood, the Western Empire, after the woman; that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. And the earth, or Greek Empire, helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood, by the victory of Constantius over Magnentius, A.C. 353, and thus the Beast was wounded to death with a sword. And the Dragon was wroth with the woman, in the reign of Julian the Apostate A.C. 361, and, by a new division of the Empire between Valentinian and Valens, A.C. 364, went from her into the Eastern Empire to make war with the remnant of her seed, which she left behind her when she fled: and thus the Beast revived.
By the next division of the Empire, which was between Gratian and Theodosius A.C. 379, the Beast with ten horns rose out of the sea, and the Beast with two horns out of the earth: and by the last division thereof, which was between the sons of Theodosius, A.C. 395, the Dragon gave the Beast his power and throne, and great authority. And the ten horns received power as Kings, the same hour with the Beast. At length the woman arrived at her place of temporal as well as spiritual dominion upon the back of the Beast, where she is nourished a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent; not in his kingdom, but at a distance from him. She is nourished by the merchants of the earth, three times or years and an half, or 42 months, or 1260 days: and in these Prophecies days are put for years.
During all this time the Beast acted, and she sat upon him, that is, reigned over him, and over the ten Kings who gave their power and strength, that is, their kingdom to the Beast; and she was drunken with the blood of the Saints. By all these circumstances she is the eleventh horn of Danielís fourth Beast, who reigned with a look more stout than his fellows, and was of a different kind from the rest, and had eyes and a mouth like the woman; and made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, and wore them out, and thought to change times and laws, and had them given into his hand, until a time, and times, and half a time. These characters of the woman, and little horn of the Beast, agree perfectly: in respect of her temporal dominion, she was a horn of the Beast; in respect of her spiritual dominion, she rode upon him in the form of a woman, and was his Church, and committed fornication with the ten Kings.
The second Beast, which rose up out of the earth, was the Church of the Greek Empire: for it had two horns like those of the Lamb, and therefore was a Church; and it spake as the Dragon, and therefore was of his religion; and it came up out of the earth, and by consequence in his kingdom. It is called also the false Prophet who wrought miracles before the first Beast, by which he deceived them that received his mark, and worshiped his image. When the Dragon went from the woman to make war with the remnant of her seed, this Beast arising out of the earth assisted in that war, and caused the earth and them which dwell therein to worship he authority of the first Beast, whose mortal wound was healed, and to make an Image to him, that is, to assemble a body of men like him in point of religion. He had also power to give life and authority to the Image, so that it could both speak, and by dictating cause that all religious bodies of men, who would not worship the authority of the Image, should be mystically killed. And he causeth all men to receive a mark in their right hand or in their forehead, and that no man might buy or sell save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name; all the rest being excommunicated by the Beast with two horns. His mark is *THREE MALTESE CROSSES, and his name and the number of his name 666.
Thus the Beast, after he was wounded to death with a sword and revived, was deified, as the heathens used to deify their Kings after death, and had an Image erected to him; and his worshipers were initiated in this new religion, by receiving the mark or name of this new God, or the number of his name. By killing all that will not worship him and his Image, the first Temple, illuminated by the lamps of the seven Churches, is demolished, and a new Temple built for them who will not worship him; and the outward court of this new Temple, or outward form of a Church, is given to the Gentiles, who worship the Beast and his Image: while they who will not worship him, are sealed with the name of God in their foreheads, and retire into the inward court of this new Temple. These are the 144000 sealed out of all the twelve tribes of Israel, and called the two Witnesses, as being derived from the two wings of the woman while she was flying into the wilderness, and represented by two of the seven candlesticks.
These appear to John in the inward court of the second Temple, standing on mount Sion with the Lamb, and as it were on the sea of glass. These are the Saints of the most High, and the host of heaven, and the holy people spoken of by Daniel, as worn out and trampled under foot, and destroyed in the latter times by the little horns of his fourth Beast and He-Goat. While the Gentiles tread the holy city under foot, God gives power to his two Witnesses, and they prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth. They are called the two Olive-trees, with relation to the two Olive-trees, which in Zecharyís vision, chap. iv; stand on either side of the golden candlestick to supply the lamps with oil: and Olive-trees, according to the Apostle Paul, represent Churches, Romans 11:They supply the lamps with oil, by maintaining teachers. They are also called the two candlesticks; which in this Prophecy signify Churches, the seven Churches of Asia being represented by seven candlesticks. Five of these Churches were found faulty, and threatened if they did not repent; the other two were without fault, and so their candlesticks were fit to be placed in the second Temple.
These were the Churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia. They were in a state of tribulation and persecution, and the only two of the seven in such a state: and so their candlesticks were fit to represent the Churches in affliction in the times of the second Temple, and the only two of the seven that were fit. The two Witnesses are not new Churches: they are the posterity of the primitive Church, the posterity of the two wings of the woman, and so are fitly represented by two of the primitive candlesticks. We may conceive therefore, that when the first Temple was destroyed, and a new one built for them who worship in the inward court, two of the seven candlesticks were placed in this new Temple.
The affairs of the Church are not considered during the opening of the first four seals. They begin to be considered at the opening of the fifth seal, as was said above; and are further considered at the opening of the sixth seal; and the seventh seal contains the times of the great Apostasy. And therefore I refer the Epistles to the seven Churches unto the times of the fifth and sixth seals: for they relate to the Church when she began to decline, and contain admonitions against the great Apostasy then approaching.
When Eusebius had brought down his Ecclesiastical History to the reign of Dioclesian, he thus describes the state of the Church: Qualem quantamque gloriam simul ac libertatem doctrina verae erga supremum Deum pietatis a Christo primum hominibus annunciata, apud omnes Graecos pariter & barbaros ante persecutionem nostra memoria excitatem, consecuta sit, nos certe pro merito explicare non possumus. Argumento esse possit Imperatorum benignitas erga nostros: quibus regendas etiam provincias committebant, omni sacrificandi metu eos liberantes ob singularem, qua in religionem nostram affecti erant, benevolentiam. And a little after: Jam vero quis innumerabilem hominum quotidie ad fidem Christi confugientium turbam, quis numerum ecclesiarum in singulis urbibus, quis illustres populorum concursus in aedibus sacris, cumulate possit describere? Quo factum est, ut priscis aedificiis jam non contenti, in singulis urbibus spatiosas ab ipsis fundamentis extruerent ecclesias. Atque haec progressu temporis increscentia, & quotidie in majus & melius proficiscentia, nec livor ullus atterere, nec malignitas daemonis fascinare, nec hominum insidiae prohibere unquam potuerunt, quamdiu omnipotentis Dei dextra populum suum, utpote tali dignum praesidio, texit atque custodiit. Sed cum ex nimia libertate in negligentiam ac desidiam prolapsi essemus; cum alter alteri invidere atque obtrectare caepisset; cum inter nos quasi bella intestina gereremus, verbis, tanquam armis quibusdam hastisque, nos mutuo vulnerantes; cum Antistites adversus Antistites, populi in populos collisi, jurgia ac tumultus agitarent; denique cum fraus & simulatio ad summum malitiae culmen adolevisset: tum divina ultio, levi brachio ut solet, integro adhuc ecclesiae statu, & fidelium turbis libere convenientibus, sensim ac moderate in nos caepit animadvertere; orsa primum persecutione ab iis qui militabant. Cum vero sensu omni destituti de placando Dei numine ne cogitaremus quidem; quin potius instar impiorum quorundam res humanas nulla providentia gubernari rati, alia quotidie crimina aliis adjiceremus: cum Pastores nostri spreta religionis regula, mutuis inter se contentionibus decertarent, nihil aliud quam jurgia, minas, aemulationem, odia, ac mutuas inimicitias amplificare studentes; principatum quasi tyrannidem quandam contentissime sibi vindicantes: tunc demum juxta dictum Hieremiae, obscuravit Dominus in ira sua filiam Sion, & dejecit de caelo gloriam Israel, per Ecclesiarum scilicet subversionem, &c. This was the state of the Church just before the subversion of the Churches in the beginning of Dioclesianís persecution: and to this state of the Church agrees the first of the seven Epistles to the Angel of the seven Churches, that to the Church in Ephesus. I have something against thee, saith Christ to the Angel of that Church, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. The Nicolaitans are the Continentes above described, who placed religion in abstinence from marriages, abandoning their wives if they had any. They are here called Nicolaitans, from Nicolas one of the seven deacons of the primitive Church of Jerusalem; who having a beautiful wife, and being taxed with uxoriousness, abandoned her, and permitted her to marry whom she pleased, saying that we must disuse the flesh; and thenceforward lived a single life in continency, as his children also. The Continentes afterwards embraced the doctrine of Aeons and Ghosts male and female, and were avoid by the Churches till the fourth century; and the Church of Ephesus is here commended for hating their deeds.
The persecution of Dioclesian began in the year of Christ 302, and lasted ten years in the Eastern Empire and two years in the Western. To this state of the Church the second Epistle, to the Church of Smyrna, agrees. I know, saith Christ, thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art rich; and I know the blasphemy of them, which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: Behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. The tribulation of ten days can agree to no other persecution than that of Dioclesian, it being the only persecution which lasted ten years. By the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan, I understand the Idolatry of the Nicolaitans, who falsely said they were Christians.
The Nicolaitans are complained of also in the third Epistle, as men that held the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to Idols, and to commit spiritual fornication. For Balaam taught the Moabites and Midianites to tempt and invite Israel by their women to commit fornication, and to feast with them at the sacrifices of their Gods. The Dragon therefore began now to come down among the inhabitants of the earth and sea. The Nicolaitans are also complained of in the fourth Epistle, under the name of the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a Prophetess, to teach and to seduce the servants of Christ to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to Idols. The woman therefore began now to fly into the wilderness.
The reign of Constantine the great from the time of his conquering Licinius, was monarchical over the whole Roman Empire. Then the Empire became divided between the sons of Constantine: and afterwards it was again united under Constantius, by his victory over Magnentius. To the affairs of the Church in these three successive periods of time, the third, fourth, and fifth Epistles, that is, those to the Angels of the Churches in Pergamus, Thyatira, and Sardis, seem to relate. The next Emperor was Julian the Apostate.
In the sixth Epistle, to the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia, Christ saith: Because in the reign of the heathen Emperor Julian, thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which by the womanís flying into the wilderness, and the Dragonís making war with the remnant of her seed, and the killing of all who will not worship the Image of the Beast, shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth, and to distinguish them by sealing the one with the name of God in their foreheads, and marking the other with the mark of the Beast. Him that overcometh, I will make a pillar in the Temple of my God; and he shall go no more out of it. And I will write upon him the name of my God in his forehead. So the Christians of the Church of Philadelphia, as many of them as overcome, are sealed with the seal of God, and placed in the second Temple, and go no more out. The same is to be understood of the Church in Smyrna, which also kept the word of Godís patience, and was without fault. These two Churches, with their posterity, are therefore the two Pillars, and the two Candlesticks, and the two Witnesses in the second Temple.
After the reign of the Emperor Julian, and his successor Jovian who reigned but five months, the Empire became again divided between Valentinian and Valens. Then the Church Catholic, in the Epistle to the Angel of the Church of Laodicea, is reprehended as lukewarm, and threatened to be spewed out of Christís mouth. She said, that she was rich and increased with goods, and had need of nothing, being in outward prosperity; and knew not that she was inwardly wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. She is therefore spewed out of Christís mouth at the opening of the seventh seal: and this puts an end to the times of the first Temple.
About one half of the Roman Empire turned Christians in the time of Constantine the great and his sons. After Julian had opened the Temples, and restored the worship of the heathens, the Emperors Valentinian and Valens tolerated it all their reign; and therefore the Prophecy of the sixth seal was not fully accomplished before the reign of their successor Gratian.
It was the custom of the heathen Priests, in the beginning of the reign of every sovereign Emperor, to offer him the dignity and habit of the Pontifex Maximus. This dignity all Emperors had hitherto accepted: but Gratian rejected it, threw down the idols, interdicted the sacrifices, and took away their revenues with the salaries and authority of the Priests. Theodosius the great followed his example; and heathenism afterwards recovered itself no more, but decreased so fast, that Prudentius, about ten years after the death of Theodosius, called the heathens, vix pauca ingenia & pars hominum rarissima. Whence the affairs of the sixth seal ended with the reign of Valens, or rather with the beginning of the reign of Theodosius, when he, like his predecessor Gratian, rejected the dignity of Pontifex Maximus.
For the Romans were very much infested by the invasions of foreign nations in the reign of Valentinian and Valens: Hoc tempore, saith Ammianus, velut per universum orbem Romanum bellicum canentibus buccinis, excitae gentes saevissimae limites sibi proximos persultabant: Gallias Rhaetiasque simul Alemanni populabantur: Sarmatae Pannonias & Quadi: Picti, Saxones, & Scoti & Attacotti Britannos aerumnis vexavere continuis: Austoriani, Mauricaeque aliae gentes Africam solito acrius incursabant: Thracias diripiebant praedatorii globii Gotthorum: Persarum Rex manus Armeniis injectabat. And whilst the Emperors were busy in repelling these enemies, the Hunns and Alans and Goths came over the Danube in two bodies, overcame and slew Valens, and made so great a slaughter of the Roman army, that Ammianus saith: Nec ulla Annalibus praeter Cannensem ita ad internecionem res legitur gesta. These wars were not fully stopped on all sides till the beginning of the reign of Theodosius, A.C. 379 & 380: but thenceforward the Empire remained quiet from foreign armies, till his death, A.C. 395. So long the four winds were held: and so long there was silence in heaven. And the seventh seal was opened when this silence began.
Mr. Mede hath explained the Prophecy of the first six trumpets not much amiss: but if he had observed, that the Prophecy of pouring out the vials of wrath is synchronal to that of sounding the trumpets, his explanation would have been yet more complete.
The name of Woes is given to the wars to which the three last trumpets sound, to distinguish them from the wars of the four first. The sacrifices on the first four days of the feast of Tabernacles, at which the first four trumpets sound, and the first four vials of wrath are poured out, are slaughters in four great wars; and these wars are represented by four winds from the four corners of the earth. The first was an east wind, the second a west wind, the third a south wind, and the fourth a north wind, with respect to the city of Rome, the metropolis of the old Roman Empire. These four plagues fell upon the third part of the Earth, Sea, Rivers, Sun, Moon and Stars; that is, upon the Earth, sea, Rivers, Sun, Moon and Stars of the third part of the whole scene of these Prophecies of Daniel and John. The plague of the eastern wind at the sounding of the first trumpet, was to fall upon the Earth, that is, upon the nations of the Greek Empire.
Accordingly, after the death of Theodosius the great, the Goths, Sarmatians, Hunns, Isaurians, and Austorian Moors invaded and miserably wasted Greece, Thrace, Asia minor, Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Lybia, and Illyricum, for ten or twelve years together.
The plague of the western wind at the sounding of the second trumpet, was to fall upon the Sea, or Western Empire, by means of a great mountain burning with fire cast into it, and turning it to blood. Accordingly in the year 407, that Empire began to be invaded by the Visigoths, Vandals, Alans, Sueves, Burgundians, Ostrogoths,, Heruli, Quadi, Gepides; and by these wars it was broken into ten kingdoms, and miserable wasted: and Rome itself, the burning mountain, was besieged and taken by the Ostrogoths, in the beginning of these miseries. The plague of the southern wind at the sounding of the third trumpet, was to cause a great star, burning as it were a lamp, to fall from heaven upon the rivers and fountains of waters, the Western Empire now divided into many kingdoms, and to turn them to wormwood and blood, and make them bitter. Accordingly Genseric, the King of the Vandals and Alans in Spain, A.C. 427, entered Africa with an army of eighty thousand men; where he invaded the Moors, and made war upon the Romans, both there and on the sea-coasts of Europe, for fifty years together, almost without intermission, taking Hippo A.C. 431, and Carthage the capital of Africa A.C. 439. In A.C. 455, with a numerous fleet and an army of three hundred thousand Vandals and Moors, he invaded Italy, took and plundered Rome, Naples, Capua, and many other cities; carrying thence their wealth with the flower of the people into Africa: and the next year, A.C. 456, he rent all Africa from the Empire, totally expelling the Romans.
Then the Vandals invaded and took the Islands of the Mediterranean, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica,Ebusus, Majorca, Minorca, &c. and Ricimer besieged the Emperor Anthemius in Rome, took the city, and gave his soldiers the plunder, A.C. 472. The Visigoths about the same time drove the Romans out of Spain:and now the Western Emperor, the great star which fell from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, having by all these wars gradually lost almost all his dominions, was invaded, and conquered in one year by Odoacer King of the Heruli, A.C. 476. After this the Moors revolted A.C. 477, and weakened the Vandals by several wars, and took Mauritania from them. These wars continued till the Vandals were conquered by Belisarius, A.C. 534, and by all these wars Africa was almost depopulated, according to Procopius, who reckons that above five millions of men perished in them. When the Vandals first invaded Africa, that country was very populous, consisting of about 700 bishoprics, more than were in all France, Spain and Italy together: but by the wars between the Vandals, Romans and Moors, it was depopulated to that degree, that Procopius tells us, it was next to a miracle for a traveller to see a man.
In pouring out the third vial it is said: Thou art righteous, O Lord, because thou hast judged thus: for they have shed the blood of thy Saintsand Prophets, and thou has given them blood to drink, for they are worthy. How they shed the blood of Saints, may be understood by the following Edict of the Emperor Honorius, procured by four Bishops sent to him by a Council of African Bishops, who met at Carthage 14 Jun, A.C. 410. Impp. Honor. & Theod. AA. Heracliano Com. Afric. Oraculo penitus remoto, quo ad ritus suos haereticae superstitionis obrepserant, sciant omnes sanctae legis inimici, plectendos se poena & proscriptionis & sanguinis, si ultra convenire per publicum, execranda sceleris sui temeritate temptaverint. Dat. 8:Kal. Sept. Varano V.C. Cons. A.C. 410. Which Edict was five years after fortified by the following:Impp. Honor. & Theod. AA. Heracliano Com. Afric.Sciant cuncti qui ad ritus suos haeresis superstitionibus obrepserant sacrosanctae legis inimici, plectendos se poena &proscriptionis & sanguinis, si ultra convenire per publicum exercendi sceleris sui temeritate temptaverint: ne qua vera divinaque reverentia contagione temeretur. Dat. 8:Kal. Sept. Honorio 10:& Theod. 6:AA. Coss. A.C. 415.
These Edicts being directed to the governor of Africa, extended only to the Africans. Before these there were many severe ones against the Donatists, but they did not extend to blood. These two were the first which made their meetings, and the meetings of all dissenters, capital: for by heretics in these Edicts are meant all dissenters, as is manifest by the following against Euresius a Luciferan Bishop.Impp. Arcad. & Honor. AA. Aureliano Proc. Africae.
Haereticorum vocabulo continentur, & latis adversus eos sanctionibus debent succumbere, qui vel levi argumento a judicio Catholicae religionis & tramite detecti fuerint deviare: ideoque experientia tua Euresium haereticum esse cognoscat. Dat. 3:Non. Sept. Constantinop. Olybrio & Probino Coss. A.C. 395.
The Greek Emperor Zeno adopted Theoderic King of the Ostrogoths to be his son, made him master of the horse and Patricius, and Consul of Constantinople; and recommending to him the Roman people and Senate, gave him the Western Empire, and sent him into Italy against Odoacer King of the Heruli. Theoderic thereupon led his nation into Italy, conquered Odoacer, and reigned over Italy, Sicily, Rhaetia, Noricum, Dalmatia, Liburnia, Istria, and part of Suevia, Pannonia and Gallia. Whence Ennodius said, in a panegyric to Theoderic: Ad limitem suum Romana regna remeasse. Theoderic reigned with great prudence, moderation and felicity; treated the Romans with singular benevolence, governed them by their own laws, and restored their government under their Senate and Consuls, he himself supplying the place of Emperor, without assuming the title. Ita sibi parentibus praefuit, saith Procopius, ut vere Imperatori conveniens decus nullum ipsi abesset: Justitiae magnus ei cultus, legumque diligens custodia: terras a vicinis barbaris servavit intactas,&c. Whence I do not reckon the reign of this King, amongst the plagues of the four winds.
The plague of the northern wind, at the sounding of the fourth trumpet, was to cause the Sun, moon and Stars, that is, the King, kingdom and Princes of the Western Empire, to be darkened, and to continue some time in darkness. Accordingly Belisarius, having conquered the Vandals, invaded italy A.C. 535, and made war upon the Ostrogoths in Dalmatia, Liburnia, Venetia, Lombardy, Tuscany, and other regions northward from Rome, twenty years altogether. In this war many cities were taken and retaken. In retaking Millain from the Romans, the Ostrogoths slew all the males young and old, amounting, as Procopius reckons, to three hundred thousand, and sent the women captives to their allies the Burgundians.
Rome itself was taken and retaken several times, and thereby the people were thinned; the old government by a Senate ceased, the nobles were ruined, and all the glory of the city was extinguished: and A.C. 552, after a war of seventeen years, the kingdom of the Ostrogoths fell, yet the remainder of the Ostrogoths, and an army of Germans called in to their assistance, continued the war three or four years longer. Then ensued the war of the Heruli, who, as Anastasius tells us, perimebant cunctam Italiam, slew all Italy. This was followed by the war of the Lombards, the fiercest of all the Barbarians, which began A.C. 568, and lasted for thirty eight years together; facta tali clade, saith Anastasius, qualem a saeculo nullus meminit; ending at last in the Papacy of Sabinian, A.C. 605, by a peace then made with the Lombards. Three years before this war ended, Gregory the great, then Bishop of Rome, thus speaks of it: Qualiter enim & quotidianis gladiis & quantis Longobardorum incursionibus ecce jam per triginta quinque annorum longitudinem premimur, nullis explere vocibus suggestionis valemus: and in one of his Sermons to the people, he thus expresses the great consumption of the Romans by these wars: Ex illa plebe innumerabili quanti remanseritis aspicitis, & tamen adhuc quotidie flagella urgent, repentini casus opprimunt, novae res & improvisae clades affliguent. In another Sermon he thus describes the desolations: Destructae urbes, eversa sunt castra, depopulati agri, in solitudinem terra redacta est. Nullus in agris incola, pene nullus in urbibus habitator remansit. Et tamen ipsae parvae generis humani reliquiae adhuc quotidie & sine cessatione feriuntur, & finem non habent flagella coelestis justitiae. Ipsa autem quae aliquando mundi Domina esse videbatur, qualis remansit Roma conspicimus innumeris doloribus multipliciter attrita, desolatione civium, impressione hostium, frequentia ruinarum. Ecce jam de illa omnes hujus saeculi potentes ablati sunt. Ecce populi defecerunt. Ubi enim Senatus? Ubi jam populus? Contabuerunt ossa, consumptae sunt carnes. Omnis enim saecularium dignitatum ordo extinctus est, & tamen ipsos nos paucos qui remansimus, adhuc quotidie gladii, adhuc innumerae tribulationes premunt Vacua jam ardet Roma. Quid autem ista de hominibus decimus?Cum rinis crebrescentibus ipsa quoque destrui aedificia videmas. Postquam defecerunt homines etiam parietes cadunt. Jam ecce desolata, ecce contrita, ecce gemitibus oppressa est, &c. All this was spoken by Gregory to the people of Rome, who were witnesses of the truth of it. Thus by the plagues of the four winds, the Empire of the Greeks was shaken, and the Empire of the Latins fell; and Rome remained nothing more than the capital of a poor dukedom, subordinate to Ravenna, the seat of the Exarchs.
The fifth trumpet sounded to the wars, which the King of the South, as he is called by Daniel, made in the time of the end, in pushing at the King who did according to his will. This plague began with the opening of the bottomless pit, which denotes the letting out of a false religion: the smoke which came out of the pit, signifying the multitude which embraced that religion; and the locusts which came out of the smoke, the armies which came out of that multitude. This pit was opened, to let out smoke and locusts into the regions of the four monarchies, or some of them. The King of these locusts was the Angel of the bottomless pit, being chief governor as well in religious as civil affairs, such as was the Caliph of the Saracens. Swarms of locusts often arise in Arabia faelix, and from thence infest the neighboring nations: and so are a very fit type of the numerous armies of Arabians invading the Romans. They began to invade them A.C. 634, and to reign at Damascus A.C. 637. They built Bagdad A.C. 766, and reigned over Persia, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, Africa and Spain. They afterwards lost Africa to Mahades, A.C. 910; Media, Hircania, Chorasan, and all Persia, to the Dailamites, between the years 927 and 935; Mesopotamia and Miafarekin to Nasiruddaulas, A.C. 930; Syria and Egypt to Achsjid, A.C. 935; and now being in great distress, the Caliph of Bagdad, A.C. 936, surrendered all the rest of his temporal power to Mahomet the son of Rajici, King of Wasit in Chaldea, and made him Emperor of Emperors. But Mahomet within two years lost Bagdad to the Turks; and thenceforward Bagdad was sometimes in the hands of the Turks, and sometimes in the hands of the Saracens, till Togrul-beig, called also Togra, Dogrissa, Tangrolipix, and Sadoc, conquered Chorasan and Persia; and A.C. 1055, added Bagdad to his Empire, making it the seat thereof. His successors Olub-Arslan and Melechschah, conquered the regions upon Euphrates; and these conquests, after the death of Melechschah, brake into the kingdoms of Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Cappadocia.
The whole time that the Caliphs of the Saracens reigned with a temporal dominion at Damascus and Bagdad together was 300 years, viz. from the year 637 to the year 936 inclusive. Now locusts live but five months; and therefore, for the decorum of the type, these locusts are said to hurt men five months and five months, as if they had lived about five months at Damascus, and again about five months at Bagdad; in all ten months, or 300 prophetic days, which are years. The sixth trumpet sounded to the wars, which Danielís King of the North made against the King above-mentioned, who did according to his will. In these wars the King of the North, according to Daniel, conquered the Empire of the Greeks, and also Judea, Egypt, Lybia, and Ethiopia: and by these conquests the Empire of the Turks was set up, as may be known by the extent thereof. These wars commenced A.C. 1258, when the four kingdoms of the Turks seated upon Euphrates, that of Armenia major seated at Miyapharekin, Megarkin or Martyropolis, that of Mesopotamia seated at Mosul, that of all Syria seated at Aleppo, and that of Cappadocia seated at Iconium, were invaded by the Tartars under Hulacu, and driven into the western parts of Asia minor, where they made war upon the Greeks, and began to erect the present Empire of the Turks. Upon the sounding of the sixth trumpet, John heard a voice from the four horns of the golden Altar which is before God, saying to the sixth Angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four Angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four Angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour and a day, and a month and a year, for to slay the third part of men. By the four horns of the golden Altar, is signified the situation of the head cities of the said four kingdoms, Miyapharekin, Mosul, Aleppo, and Iconium, which were in a quadrangle. They slew the third part of men, when they conquered the Greek Empire, and took Constantinople, A.C. 1453; and they began to be prepared for this purpose, when Olub-Arslan began to conquer the nations upon Euphrates, A.C. 1063. The interval is called an hour and a day, and a month and a year, or 391 prophetic days, which are years. In the first thirty years, Olub-Arslan and Melechschah conquered the nations upon Euphrates, and reigned over the whole. Melechschah died A.C. 1092, and was succeeded by a little child; and then this kingdom broke into the four kingdoms above-mentioned.