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deluded worshippers and followers had received the mark
Second, that it was on the earthly-minded and sensual that it was poured out. And,
Thirdly, that the effect of this vial was a noisome and grievous sore; which brings this natural conclusion: that the papal worshippers are seized with wilful ignorance, abandoned reason, and a dark understanding; and alas! this noisome and grievous sore is not yet healed.
The New Testament abounds with proofs to show the malignant nature of this disease, and means to prevent it. The physicians of those days, having the same complaint, cannot apply the proper remedy. Therefore, it is the duty of the laity to search the Scriptures and ask wisdom of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given them.-James 1: 5.
Verse 3: "And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea. The saints and children of God grow in grace, but evil men and seducers wax worse and worse. The prophet, who was clearly shown this miserable apostacy from the truth, considers the Romish church as having fallen back into that ocean of heathenism and impurity from whence it could not return; and compares its blood or guilt to that of a dead man, which is irrecoverable, or past restoring to newness of life. They become dead in trespasses and sins, which is the very opposite of dying to sin and living to righteousness. The prophet adds, and every living soul died in the sea. It is a well known fact, that the poor Romish laity were under such strong delusion, that they verily believed none would be saved out of their church; and their teachers enforced the same irrational opinion. Their teachers acted the part of the Scribes and Pharisees for they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; and neither would go in themselves, nor suffer them
that are entering to go in.- Matt. 23: 13. They were also blind leaders of the blind, and taught the poor, ignorant laity, that by penances, pilgrimages, the saying of creeds, Pater Nosters, Ave Marias, the keeping of saints' days, holy days, lent days, and fasting from flesh on Fridays and Saturdays, that they merited eternal life; and thus by those dead works they were taught to believe that they could serve the living God.
St. Paul informs us, that if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment.—Heb. 10: 26, 27. And in another place, asks, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ? ". Heb 2: 3. And in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, he has foretold the fatal apostacy that would prevail, whereby strong delusion and damnation, or irrecoverable guilt, would be the fatal consequences. These testimonies, and time has proved their veracity, show that mankind had received the knowledge of the truth, and crawled back again into that sea of spiritual impurity which brings death on every living soul.
Verse 4: "And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood." Water, or waters, in gospel and prophetic language, signifies the spiritual blessings and comforts that may be enjoyed by a due obedience to the law and gospel precepts. It is also that inward peace, joy, and consolation which flows from a well-spent life in the fear and love of God, and certain hope of pardon and acceptance through the merits and mediation of a glorified Redeemer. It proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb,—Rev. 22: 3; and is a wellspring to every true believer.-Prov. 16: 22.
It may now be asked, how could a vial of wrath be poured out here? I answer, when the Scriptures of truth are wrested by false teachers, do they not become blood, and
bring guilt and condemnation on all those who approve such errors? When the Scriptures are tortured to establish false doctrines, have they not the same effect? When the law and the gospel, those witnesses of God and of Christ, are veiled over by the false doctrines and traditions of the man of sin, is not this pouring out blood or guilt on the Scripture fountains? When pardons and absolutions are granted for the most enormous crimes, is not this staining the gospel waters with blood, and making them of no effect? In a word, all established errors are crimes committed against the gospel of Jesus Christ; its waters become blood to all such criminal offenders, and show augmentation of their guilt. Let it be noted, that the prophet does not say that waters are blood, but that they became blood.
St. Peter, who foresaw this grand apostacy, informs us that it had been better for them not have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it to turn from the holy commandments delivered unto them; and then shows how they would creep back into their heathenish errors, as the dog returns to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.-2 Peter, 2: 21, 22.
Thus we may see that the gospel privileges, which were given to mankind for a blessing, are, by a fatal apostacy, become blood, and increase the guilt and condemnation of all apostate sinners.
Verse 5: "And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus." This angel of the waters is the gospel invitation. Accordingly, it
First, invites all to come to Christ and be saved.
Second, it shows the righteous judgment of God in the punishment of those who reject it. And that,
Third, these judgments fall heaviest on those who have apostatized from the truth, because they have received the knowledge of it.
Verse 6: "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." In this verse, observe,
First, papal Rome is charged with having shed the blood of saints and prophets.
Second, the guilt she has increased by doing so: and
Third, that she was found worthy, as she brought the guilt on herself.
Verse 7: "And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." By this verse we may understand, that both Jews and heathens who held the altar service, are crying out to God against her. The unfortunate Jews, in particular, have experienced her inquisitional tortures, and will ere long praise the Lord God Almighty for judging her.
It is truly astonishing that the hierarchy of Rome, who make a profession of Christianity, who consider themselves as the only true church, and who claim every apostolic virtue, should become such monsters in cruelty.
Many instances we hear recorded of men being burned to death for worshipping God according to their consciences, in spirit and in truth; others for denying transubstantiation, and the power of the church to forgive sins; and others martyred for reading the Scriptures and obeying them!
Have not all these evils arose from the apostacy of the church of Rome?
Verse 8: "And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire." Christ Jesus being the true Sun of Righteousness, he rose with healing under his wings.—Mal. 4: 2. He left the world his gospel or testament for their illumination; he told his disciples, who are the writers and witnesses of it, "Ye are the lights of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."-Matt. 5: 14. In the next verse to this one quoted, he gives a powerful reason why they should not
extinguish that light, but by it give light unto all that are in the house; the true meaning of which is, to exhibit this light to all the world; for in the next verse he commands them, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven." We are also informed that life and immortality are clearly brought to light through the gospel.-2 Tim. 1: 10
From what has been observed on the pouring out of the three first vials, it is easy to see that the hierarchy of Rome were making rapid advances in error. Under this vial they are arrived at that height of apostacy, that even the sun, or pure gospel light, is made use of by the bishops, as an engine of destruction, to scorch men with fire.
In 1215, they found transubstantiation in the New Testament, and all who doubted of the real presence of Christ in the eucharist were sentenced to hell-fire. About the same time they squeezed purgatory out of the gospel, and all who denied it must also be scorched with hell-fire. In 1204, they established the bloody inquisition, and all who would not adore the host, or sacramental wafer, must suffer death and hell-fire to all eternity.
Thus it was with mankind in those days of darkness and delusion; thus it was that the bishops and teachers of the Romish church showed their fire or zeal, if I may use the expression, for the glory of God! for in all their acts of cruelty they made use of texts out of Scripture to sanction them. But the decrees of their councils were what they most depended on. These hurried them on to such implacable rage that their cruelty to all who dissented from them became unbounded. They had the impudence to call themselves Christians, and boasted of being in possession of the gospel; but their actions prove that they knew little of either; and instead of obeying and propagating the gospel, they made a tool of it, to scorch men with the fire of persecution. The apostles showed their fire or zeal in defence of the gos