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The next was to endeavour to compose the religious controversies of Christians, in the famous council of Nice, A.D. 325, establishing the Nicene Creed, as a standard of Christian doctrine; and to suppress the various conventicles of Schismatics and Heretics, and invite "all that had a sincere love of THE TRUTH, to come into, or return unto the bosom of the Catholic Church." The zeal and authority of the Emperor, brought a prodigious influx of hypocritical and false brethren into the pale, from the great mass of idolaters, Jews, and Heretics. Not less than 12,000 Pagans and Jews, beside women and children, were baptized, when Constantine took possession of Rome, after the death of Maxentius, in A.D. 312, as we learn from Abulfaragi.
The sunshine, or gleam of prosperity, which now succeeded the civil establishment of the Church, proved more detrimental to its spiritual welfare, than the storms and tempests of adversity, by which it had been hitherto buffeted. The grand apostacy of the worship of Demons, or departed saints, and the introduction of a multitude of mediators, borrowed from Pagan superstition, and foretold by THE SPIRIT, 1 Tim. iv. 1, and metaphysical subtleties in Theology, had infected many of the heads of the Church, especially the Monkish Fathers, (as we have seen in the foregoing articles of the duration of miracles and doctrine of Demons, in Paul's visit to Athens.) These defended their heathenish superstitions, and philosophizing tenets, with all their might and artifice, and dealt out excommunications and anathemas, and lying wonders, without mercy and without shame, upon their opponents, whom they termed heretics; and they persecuted each other with as much fury as they had been persecuted by the Pagans before *.
ments, and attempted to convey thither the perpetual fire of Vesta, the palladium from Troy, the statue of Cybele, the buckler of Mars, and whatever else was looked upon by the Romans as most sacred. From Carthage he ordered the goddess Urania, or Coœlestis, with all the rich ornaments belonging to her temple, to be transported to Rome, married her to Eleagabalus, and celebrated the nuptials of the two divinities, with great pomp and solemnity. See the Universal History, Vol. VI. p. 136, folio.
"Nothing, therefore," says Montesquieu, was now thought strange in the empire; and the people were prepared to receive every foreign custom, (or religious innovation,) which any of the emperors wished to introduce." Montesquieu's Rise and Declension, chap. xvi.
* Constantine at first endeavoured to appease this madness, in his excellent letter to Alexander and Arius, during their unhappy controversy respecting the nature of the SON ; whether he was oμoovoios, "of the same substance," or oμoiovoios, "of like
During the half hour's silence, or first calm of Constantine's reign, a mighty angel from the sun rising, (or CHRIST himself, "the day spring from on high," Luke i. 78,) with the seal of THE LIVING GOD, appeared, to separate the true worshippers from the idolaters, and commanded the four destroying angels, who presided over the winds or tempests that ravage the earth and sea, the eastern and western world, to suspend the ensuing judgments on both, till the servants of GOD, or the true Israelites, should be sealed, or preserved by baptism *, from the destruction that awaited the hypocrites.
This bears a remarkable analogy to Ezekiel's allegorical
substance" with THE FATHER, that split the Church into two violent factions. He told them this was 66 not a fundamental article of faith,” (ου περι του κορυφαίου των εν τῷ νομῳ παραγγελματων,) but “ the very least of all,” (ὑπερ λιαν ελαχιστων,) “ pain, and by no means necessary to salvation, (ματαιων και μηδαμως αναγκαιων,) and which, therefore, ought to be no obstacle to their holding one and the same faith, and returning to mutual friendship and charity; and thereby restoring peace and tranquillity to the whole body of the empire; and enabling himself to pass the residue of his life without great disquietude." See the whole, in Eusebius De vita Constantini, II. 68—71, or Socrates, B. I. ch. 7; translated at length in Ben Mordecai's Letters, edit. 2, p. 1173-1178.
But Constantine's pacific endeavours proved fruitless; he was drawn into the vorter of controversy himself, and became a decided persecutor of the Arians; against whom, the Nicene Creed was hastily framed. His son Constantius, was furious against the Athanasians; so that both sects were persecuted in turns. One council was called to annul the acts of another; and having lost sight of SCRIPTURE, in their metaphysical subtleties and distinctions, they converted the Church into a great slaughter house!
"Since the Nicene council," says Hilary, A.D. 354, "we do nothing but write creeds; and while we quarrel about words, while we raise questions about novelties, while we fight about ambiguities, and strive about parties, while we anathematize each other, scarce any one is CHRIST'S!—And while we bite one another, we are consumed one of another !"- "CHRISTIANITY," says Episcopius, "became a mysterious, dark, incomprehensible, unintelligible religion, loaded with human inventions." And during the following period of the four war trumpets, superstition and idolatry, hatred and persecution, raged among Zealots and Fanatics, calling themselves Athanasians, Arians, Eutychians, Novatians, Nestorians, &c. any thing but fellow Christians !
Alas! how applicable to the present most woeful period is this!
Mutato nomine, de TE
Fabula narratur !
This mystical sealing, or baptism of the elect Christians, bears a remarkable analogy to the symbolical baptism of the true Israelites, prefigured by their miraculous passage through the Red Sea; and again, through Jordan, before they entered into the promised land, as the Church of Christ in the wilderness, 1 Cor. x. 2-4, Heb. xi.
vision, in which the glory of the God of Israel quitted the sanctuary, when devoted to destruction, and retired eastward, to Mount Olivet, where the Roman army was encamped *, Ezek. xi. 23, and in which THE LORD commissioned the man clothed in linen, or the spiritual High-Priest, with an inkhorn, to go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a "mark," (Thau, whose primitive form in the sacred alphabet was x,) on the foreheads of the faithful, who "sigh and lament for the idolatrous abominations of the city." And then to send two parties, of six men each, with slaughter weapons, to slay all the rest, who had not the mark, beginning at the sanctuary, and the Presbyters of the house of THE LORD, without mercy; and to slay utterly old and young, women, virgins, and infants, Ezek. ix. 1—7.
The first six men remarkably correspond to the first six trumpet angels; the other six to the first six vial angels; acting under the seventh trumpet angel, previous to the catastrophe under the seventh vial; as observed by Sir Isaac Newton, which misled him to imagine that the trumpets and vials synchronized, p. 293.
The mysterious number of the sealed, 144,000, is formed of the thousands of Israel, multiplied by 144, the square number of the twelve Patriarchs and twelve Apostles. And to mark the true Israelites without guile, the two idolatrous tribes of Dan and Ephraim were excluded, and their quotas supplied from the tribes of Levi and of Joseph, in general, 4-8. The tribe of Dan had been excluded before from the book of Chronicles, and Ephraim now, in the Apocalypse. The legitimate successors of these faithful representatives of the Patriarchal and Christian Church, before and after CHRIST, compose the two witnesses of THE LAW, and of THE TESTIMONY or GOSPEL, Isa. viii. 20, who, after the establishment of the corrupt heresies of Popery and Islamism in the west and east, about the same year, A.D. 620, were destined to undergo persecution till the time of the end, or expiration of the whole period of 1260 days.
This was followed by a grand chorus of the whole faithful Church on earth, in heaven, and the angelic host, worshipping GOD with seven fold praise, in the regeneration, ver. 9—12.
Might not the portentous words uttered in the sanctuary at Jerusalem, on the eve of the Jewish war, recorded by Josephus, as we have seen, "Let us pass over from hence !" be considered as the accomplishment of this mysterious vision of Ezekiel ?
When the seven angels were prepared with the trumpets, another angel, the spiritual High-Priest, offered up, on a golden censer, the incense of the prayers of the saints, ascending from the golden altar before the throne of God. He then filled his censer with fire, taken from the altar, and cast it upon the earth, (as in Ezekiel's vision, x. 2, in which coals of fire were taken from between the cherubim, and scattered over Jerusalem, ready to be destroyed.)
This was immediately succeeded by shoutings, thunderings, and lightnings, and shaking of the heaven and earth, the usual prophetic symbols of approaching calamities, viii. 3-5.
Before we proceed to specify the plagues of the trumpets, it will be necessary to verify the foregoing chronological arrangement of the seven vials under the last trumpet, as synchronizing with its repeated soundings. This, indeed, is the most obscure and intricate period of the whole Apocalypse, and of course the most disputed; but surely the most important and interesting to the present and succeeding generations, if the prevailing opinion of the best modern expositors, Faber, &c. be well founded, that the third woe has already commenced, and the vials are now actually discharging their tremendous contents upon an irreligious and corrupt world!
1. This arrangement is supported by the remarkable analogy which it bears to the mysterious circumstances of the downfal of Jericho, corresponding to the downfal of the mystical Babylon.
After the miraculous passage of Jordan, that devoted city, Jericho, was encompassed by the host of Israel, the ark of GOD, and seven priests, with seven trumpets of rams' horns, in solemn procession, for seven days. During six days, they encompassed it only once each day, blowing the trumpets but once; on the seventh day, they encompassed it seven times, blowing the trumpets seven times; after the last blast, the people shouted, by the Divine command, and immediately the walls fell flat, and all the inhabitants, except Rahab's family, who were saved, utterly perished by the edge of the sword, Josh. vi. 3-20, Heb. xi. 30. Hence, we may collect, that the six angels sounded each their trumpets but once, during the continuance of their respective plagues; but that the seventh angel sounded
seven times, and that at each blast, a vial was poured out; after the last, a mighty voice from the celestial throne, proclaimed the catastrophe, yeyove," It is done," and immediately followed shoutings, and thunderings, and lightnings, and the greatest shaking ever known upon earth, and then the downfal of Babylon, and of the cities of the Gentiles; when the people, still blaspheming God, were destroyed by a prodigious hail; like the devoted Canaanites and Philistines, (Josh. x. 11, 1 Sam. vii. 10,) Rev. xvi. 17-21.
2. The synchronism of the seventh trumpet with the seren vials, may also be proved from the context.
The three woes corresponded to the three last trumpets; and consequently, the third woe to the seventh trumpet, Rev. viii. 13, (as remarked by Bishop Newton, III. p. 401.) But the third, or last woe, necessarily included the seren vials, which are called the seven last plagues, because "in them the wrath of God was fulfilled," (εTEλεoon,) Rev. xv. 1. See Faber, Vol. II. p. 351, edit. 2. And no one could enter into the spiritual Sanctuary, filled with smoke, from the glory of THE LORD, "until the seven plagues of the seven vial-bearing angels should be fulfilled," (TEλeσ0wσi,) Rev. xv. 1.
3. During the second woe, or sounding of the sixth trumpet, seven thunders uttered their voices, or prophecies; and the Apostle was going to write them down, when the mighty angel, who had opened the codicil, ordered him to seal the prophecies of the seven thunders, and not to write them; for he lift up his hand to heaven, and swore by the EVER-LIVING CREATOR, “The time* [of their fulfilment] shall not be yet, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel: when He is to sound, the mystery of God shall be fulfilled, (kai ɛrɛλεσ0ŋ,) as He declared by his servants, the prophets," to the world, Rev. x. 3-7.
In this last most difficult and mysterious passage (more correctly rendered †,) there is a marked allusion to the prophecies
Bengelius, and his obsequious abridger, Wesley, have assigned most whimsical, extravagant, and mystical meanings to xpovoç, "time," a period of 1111 years; a non chronos, 836 years; the time, times, and half a time, not 1260, but 777 years, the little time 888 years, &c. See Notes, pp. 239, 247, 250, 251. Bengelius and Wesley were any thing but chronologers.
Much unnecessary and adventitious confusion and embarrassment has involved these parallel passages, Rev. xv. 1, xv. 8, x. 6, 7, from the variable and the inaccurate ren