« PreviousContinue »
language;* but the great star here mentioned is a falling or shooting star—a blazing meteor, and will also, like the “ wandering stars” of Jude, symbolize a false teacher or impostor. Now, it will be seen that the third leader of the barbarian nations, ATTILA, king of the Huns, whose name, as the historian has told us, deserves an equal rank with those of ALARIC and GenSERIC in the destruction of the Roman empire, will be found, in his distinctive character, to answer to this symbol.
The victorious Huns, who had driven the Goths and Vandals before them, had spread from the Volga to the Danube. “ In the reign of Attila, A. D. 433, they became the terror of the world.” Of Attila, the historian tells us, “ His head, rather than his hands, achieved the conquest of the north :" “ He surpassed his rude countrymen in art rather than in courage:” “ His monarchy was erected on the basis of popular superstition :" “ The religious acts of Attila were not less skilfully adapted than those of Zingis to the character of his age and country;" “ he acquired a sacred character, which rendered his conquests more easy and more permanent; and the barbarian princes confessed, in the language of devotion or of fattery, that they could not presume to gaze with a steady eye on the divine majesty of the king of the Huns." “ He was able to bring into the field five, or according to another account, seven hundred thousand barbarians."
This well deciphers the symbol of the great falling star: and our guide will explain to us why he is symbolized as falling upon the “ rivers and streams of water, and making them bitter,” + &c. For it will appear, from
Chap. ii. ; iii.; Numb. xxiv. 17; Dan, viii. 10; with xii. 3. | Rev. vii. 13.
our historian's narrative, that the great rivers and streams of the Roman empire as distinctly mark the scene of Attila's impression upon her boundaries, as did the “ grass and green trees” the course of Alaric and his Goths; and the sea," the vulnerable parts exposed to ruin from Genseric and his Vandals.
“In the year 441, they made their grand attack upon the empire, and the reader may trace their devastations, from first to last, by the courses of the great rivers, and on the best watered districts of the Roman territories." The words of the historian are:-" The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles, from the Euxine to the Hadriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field.” The Danube, it will be seen from the map, for the most part, forms the boundary of the empire here, receiving, along its whole course, a remarkable multiplicity of rivers and rivulets, while the interior is filled by the Hebrus with its many branches.
“ Words the most expressive of total extirpation and erasure were applied,” our historian remarks, “ to the calamities which he inflicted on seventy cities of the empire.” “ Theodosius was reduced to solicit peace, and resigned the extensive and important territory which stretched along the southern banks of the Danube, from Singidunum, or Belgrade, as far as Nova, in the diocese of Thrace : the breadth was defined by the vague computation of fifteen days' journey:" “ but it appears Naissus was within the limits." « The Huns were
masters of the Danube,” “ and insulted the empire with impunity.” This, then, explains the symbol of the star's falling on the rivers and streams, and making them bitter, so that those that drank of their waters died.
* It will appear also, from the narrative, that the waters both of the Rhine and the Po partook of this bitterness. Gibbon marks particularly “ his ravages over the rich plains of Lombardy, which are divided by the Po.” His language is remarkable, when he describes the Roman ambassadors supplicating the forbearance of Attila :
They were introduced to his tent as he lay encamped at the place where the slow winding Mincius is lost in the foaming waves of the lake Benacus." Attila died in the following year.
The Fourth Trumpet.
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 that a third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise."
The imagery of the sixth seal, and of many other prophecies, will have taught us what to expect in the interpretation of the prophetical emblems here portrayed : certainly a revolution in the civil and political state of the empire. Not, indeed, so complete a change as the far stronger language of the sixth seal foreshowed; but a partial and considerable change among the rulers of mankind.
In the order of events which history records, just such a change took place in the Roman world, after these inroads of the barbarian nations of the north, which the three former trumpets predicted. This event was the overthrow of that portion of imperial authority, which, after the division of the empire and dismemberment of Africa and other provinces, still remained in the west; that is to say, in Italy and its dependencies. Augustulus, the last of these series of Roman emperors, was compelled to seek the clemency of Odoacer. In the year 476," he was made the instrument of his own disgrace. 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.” In their letter to the emperor Zeno, 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 own master, the only vestige which yet remained of the authority that had given laws to the world.” “ The republic (they say) might safely confide in the civil and military virtues of Odoacer, and they humbly request that the emperor would invest him with the title of Patrician, and the administration of the diocese of Italy.” 1
In this place, a remarkable break occurs in the prophetic vision. The sounding of the fifth trumpet does not immediately follow the fourth, as we are prepared to expect; but the apostle tells us,-“ 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
earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpets of the three angels which are yet to sound.”*
This break in the prophecy might well be supposed
* Chap. viii. 13.
to mark' a corresponding interruption in the order of events that fulfil its predictions; and accordingly, we shall find, that a more considerable space of time intervenes before those events happen that are to be predicted by the fifth trumpet. At the same time, the cry of the heavenly messenger warns us to expect events more disastrous still than had yet been foreshown. Alas! how calamitous is the strain of man's history upon earth! Something worse than the cruel devastations of the Goths, the Vandals, and the Huns, who tore to pieces and trampled under their feet the Roman power in the west, must yet be looked for as the three remaining angels sound their trumpets! But such was the burden of ancient prophecy. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. And the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.”
The Fifth Trumpet.
Chap. ix. 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, and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace: and the sun and the air was darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the pit locusts upon the earth; and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power, and it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any green tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads;