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sackcloth of hair. This was literally the case when the pure light of the gospel was eclipsed by the smoke of the bottomless pit, opened by Constantine, the key of which was given to the church. Third, the moon became as blood. Brotherly love and natural affection became corrupt. See the violence of the Arian and Athanasian factions in the same emperor's days.
Verse 13: "And the stars of heaven fell upon the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind." Constantine established the church in temporal, as well as spiritual power, and thus soon caused the stars, or churches, to be dimmed in their lustre, and fall from their heavenly places to the earth, even as the fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. What a nervous, though short, account is here given of the miserable decline and fall, the entire decay of the churches, from primitive purity.
Verse 14: "And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." Such are the fatal effects when mankind fall into error, they have no pleasure in contemplating heavenly objects their ideas concerning the great work of creation are gross and absurd, and so are their notions of redeeming love. Converse with such on the providential care and goodness of God, they will admit it, but it affords them no comfort. Speak to them on the subject of justifying faith in Jesus Christ, the influence of the Holy Spirit, the new birth, and they have no conception of such things. Such conversation is insipid to them. Such knowledge is to them like a scroll, or sheet of paper, when it is rolled together.
The application of the latter clause of the verse, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places, may be understood when it is considered that the principles of popery removed by degrees every obstacle in its way, and
as it grew in power, it set up kings and dethroned them; it absolved subjects from their allegiance, and granted pardon to the rebellious; it changed even the commandments of God, by leaving out the second, to make way for image worship, and divided the tenth into two, to preserve the number; it made the scriptures of truth of no effect by its traditions; it made the canon or decree of a general council of more validity than any gospel authority; it set up the pope's infalibility in opposition to Him who is Supreme Judge; it condemned the righteous and justified the ungodly; it put the Redeemer into lymbus patrum, when the avaricious. road to purgatory was discovered; it substituted the sacrifice of the mass in the room of that atoning sacrifice which was to take away the sins of the world; and thus it gradually removed every mountain and island of hope and security offered to us in the gospel out of their places, and placed man's salvation in the merits of the church.
Verse 15: "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains."
Verse 16: "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."
This verse illustrates the ease with which popery brought under its dominion all ranks of men, from the king to the meanest of his subjects. The different orders of the Romish hierarchy could afford dens and rocks for mankind of all descriptions, provided they embraced its religion. If they had faith in the church, no matter how great the crime, it had power to absolve, provided the sinner had money to pay. The sum must be proportionate to the rank and dignity of the offender. If he was a king, he must make confession to an archbishop, or a cardinal; if a peer, a bishop could do his business; and so on to the poor peasant, who had the
friar to apply to. In a word, let the rank and situation of the sinner be what it may, and his crimes of ever so heinous a nature, there was a den or rock he could hide under. Thus we may see what excellent provisions the church has made for the sinner's safety. But, alas! the scene changes. Death, the king of terrors, sends his fatal summons. Sins and crimes of the blackest and deepest dye stand in array before the impenitent sinner. He dreads an offended God; he has rejected the offers of a Redeemer; the time of his departure is at hand; he sees the great day of God's wrath. is come, and he is not able to stand, for his sins are unrepented of. In this awful situation, he, or his friends, sends for the priest. The priest arrives, converses a little with the patient, if the patient is able, and reminds him of the good he has done that he was a good neighbor; that he was charitable, etc. He pulls out his book; he reads some prayers appointed for the occasion; he anoints him, or gives him the Eucharist; he reads the absolution pronounces a blessing, and takes his leave. The poor sinner rests satisfied, and dies in this lethargic state. His friends are content; they are pleased because the deceased has received the rites of the church; they pronounce him happy. But lest all this should fail, the priest is sent for again. He reads mass as a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and dead. A contribution is raised to pay him. If the deceased was a poor man, one mass will do; but if a rich man, he must have many because his friends can extend their liberality. At worst, they are assured that their friend has safely arrived in purgatory, where he is out of further danger, till the church prays him out. O, dreadful delusion! These are the mountains these are the rocks and dens, under which a large portion of mankind take a miserable shelter. For these they neglect that Rock which can give eternal security. Christ is the only true refuge. He can take away the sting of death, and enable the penitent sinner to rise and meet his God.
THE prophet, in the former chapter, having shown the different principles which have operated on the minds of the Christian part of mankind, informs us, in the eighth chapter, that when the seventh seal was opened, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. This silence is beautifully described in the present chapter, the whole of which relates to the calling in of the Jews, and their happy union with the true worshippers of God, through Jesus Christ.
Verse 1: "And after these things, I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind shall not blow on the earth nor on the sea, nor on any tree." After these things, signifies after the evils mentioned in the former chapter had lost their power and influence. John compares the four winds of doctrine whieh prevail in the earth, to the four principal or cardinal points of it. These winds are paganism, popery, mahometanism, protestantism. These winds, which formerly blew so violently against each other, are at this time to cease. Even at the present day, a spirit of toleration is manifesting itself among them. These winds are not to blow on the earth; that is, to affect the earthly-minded and carnal; nor on the sea: to agitate the heathen; nor on any tree, by which we may see that the laws and ordinances of
these adverse parties are to enjoy an undisturbed quiet for a time.
Verse 2: "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,"
Verse 3: 66 Saying, Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." This transpires during a state of perfect tranquility alluded to in the preceding verse. We may perceive that an angel ascends from the east, showing that a new spiritual government should arise, illuminating the world. This angel had the seal of the living God, which is the law and the promise given to the Jews on mount Sinai.-Exod. 20, Deut. 18. A two-fold charge is given not to hurt the earth, sea, or trees, to the four former angels, or adverse parties. Thus we may see, in the order of providence, that these hostile powers must cease from their persecuting principles until the Jews, those ancient favorites of God, shall be again restored, and shall partake of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and acknowledge the Messiah's power and glory. The power of popery is now almost annihilated. Consequently, its doctrines, which never could be accepted by the Jews, must cease to be. Therefore these mountains of ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, will shortly be removed out of the way, to hasten their acceptance of the gospel covenant. Mahometanism is also near its end. It is now a kingdom divided against itself, and cannot stand; and this, also, will soon be removed, to enlarge the kingdom of peace, and clear the way of the Jews. As to the Pagans, they are a scattered and divided people. Their religious sentiments, if they can be called such, are so very absurd, that they can be no obstacle. It is to be hoped that Protestants of every description will rather assist than impede their way; but from their present distracted situation in church