Revelation 15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
"And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues: for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass; having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints (Greek, ethnon, nations). Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name: for Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee, for Thy judgments are made manifest?"
Here there might seem to be a difficulty. We have already had occasion to see that the sea of glass, having been clarified by fire, is a symbol of the purified populations of the earth, as they will be when the change from the present to the future age has taken place: and the victors over the beast, standing thereon, the symbols of the saints who reign with Christ over them. With this in view, it might be asked, how is it that the world in that glorious state is introduced in connection with the first view of the seven vials, whose judgment-work comes before the establishment of the kingdom? It seems to me that the explanation is that in this scene, we have the work of the seven vial-angels, and the state of things that comes after as the result, all included in one complete general picture, without reference to details. The details come after. The seven vials, in their details (as afterwards given), are all crowded, as it were, into the general statement that John saw seven angels with plagues, in which were filled up the wrath of God; and the picture of the sea of glass is a symbol of the state of things that comes after their work. It must be so, because while John in verse 1 sees the seven angels, "having the seven last plagues", he afterwards sees them (verse 7) receiving the vials containing the plagues: and whereas, at the same time, he sees Christ's victors in glory, "standing on the sea of glass, with harps of gold", and therefore "in the temple", in the sense of Christ's promise that he would make the victors pillars in the temple (Rev. 3:12), he informs us in verse 8 that "no man was able to enter into the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled." From this it follows
that we are not to read chapter 15 as if describing a scene that is to become a fact before the pouring out of the vials described in chapter 16, but rather as a general presentation of the vials and their glorious sequel in the establishment of the kingdom of God.
The victors "sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb". Why are Moses and Christ thus united in the final triumph of the saints? There are various reasons. They cannot be separated. Christ and Moses stand and fall together. It is not only that Moses wrote of Christ (John.5:46), but Moses was the shadow of Christ: and the first covenant, the shadow of good things to come. You cannot separate substance and shadow when the light shines. The light in this case is the glory to be revealed: a future brightness. Christ stands in it so to speak, and the watcher for this coming day of light looking forward to it from ancient times would have the shadow of Christ thrown forward towards himself, and this shadow is the Mosaic economy and Moses himself. Christ is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4). "The substance (of the Mosaic ordinances) is of Christ" (Col. 2:17). In Christ, Moses is consummated: and the song of his triumph is also the song of Moses, the servant of God. Then, the song of Moses, which Moses and all Israel sang on the morrow of the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea (see Exod. 15), was the song of Jehovah's triumph over His enemies through Israel, His people. The song of the Lamb will be a song of Jehovah's triumph over His enemies through Israel. The song of Moses was the celebration of the accomplishment of events preparing the way for the occupation of the promised inheritance: saying, "Thou in thy mercy hast led forth thy people whom thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength to thy holy habitation ...... Fear and dread shall fall upon them (thine enemies). By the greatness of thine arm they shall be still as a stone, till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over that thou hast purchased. Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." This song of Moses the servant of the Lord is exactly descriptive of the events to be celebrated in the song of the Lamb, events having to do with the manifestation of the judgments of God, "according to the days of Israel's coming out of the land of
Egypt", and resulting in fear towards God and the glorification of His name and the yielding of worship on the part of the nations. Both Moses and the Lamb have to do with the occupation of the land of promise; and although in the case of the Lamb, the whole world will be subdued and. subjected to the divine authority, the headquarters of the government established over them will be in the Holy Land, towards which Moses led Israel and in which Joshua (Jesus -- the names are the same) will establish them. The song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb is a political song having reference to the purpose of God with the house of Israel amid the nations of the earth -- a song perfectly unintelligible from an orthodox point of view. I once heard a minister say in a public meeting that Abel, on being murdered by Cain, went to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb before the throne. It evidently did not occur to him that Moses was not born till ages after. This is an illustration of how unintelligently mere phrases of Scripture are used by the teachers of the people.
Let us now retrace our steps a little. Having witnessed a general scene, representing the complete work of the seven vials and the sequel to come after, John sees the picture taken to pieces, so to speak, and exhibited in its details. "And after that I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened: and the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles." "After that I looked" -- not that what he saw was in the order of events to come after the scene he had just witnessed: but that after having seen that scene, he now sees another scene representing details involved in the first. This must be recognized or confusion will result. It must be so; for in the first scene he sees the servants of Christ in glory, whereas under the sixth vial (chapter 16:15), they are still watching. "Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest, etc.," shows that under the sixth vial the glory is yet ahead.
The angels, though messengers of the plague, were invested in "pure and white linen" -- the constant symbol of righteousness: intimating that the curses and judgments poured out upon the nations of Europe are all in truth and righteousness, and with a good intent and not done in malignity. The "golden girdle" connects their mission with the exercise of faith; for gold is the symbol of faith tried
in the fire. The import may be discerned in the words of Christ, "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" (Luke 18:7). The servants of God patiently exercise faith in the purpose of God to vindicate them against the oppression and unrighteousness of men, and the symbolic angels before us intimate that this element is present in the divine counsels which direct the infliction of judgment on mankind.
"One of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever." Why were the vials handed to the angels by one of the four beasts? We get the answer in the recollection of what is signified by the four beasts full of eyes. They represent the commonwealth of Israel. God told Cain that Abel's blood cried from the ground for vengeance. This was a figurative description of moral relations. In the case before us, the representative of the commonwealth of Israel is made to hand to the divine executioners the vials of wrath to be poured out upon their enemies. What can this signify but that it is for the sake of the Israel of God that all these things are done? Paul told those of them living in his day "all things are for your sakes", and also that Christ had become "the head over all things to the Church which is his body" (Eph. 1:22-23). There may not appear to be any connection between the public events in Europe and the interests of the obscure class in the earth who believe in Jehovah's testimonies and do His commandments, but the connection is revealed by this peep behind the scenes, so to speak, which we get in looking at that exhibition of the secret forces at work which God vouchsafed to His servants for their information and comfort by the hand of John in the solitude of Patmos.
Having received the vials, the angels proceed to empty them one by one upon the various objects obnoxious to their contents. Let us look at the results briefly.
THE FIRST VIAL
"The first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." Here we have the Papal populations brought to view as the sufferers of judgment. Some might think that this cannot yet be historic. Such assume that all judgment upon the Papal imposture and its friends is reserved till the Lord comes. They are right in thinking that it is when the Lord comes that its destruction is effected:
but it would be a mistake to imagine that nothing is done in the way of vengeance till then. All God's works are gradual, culminating in striking terminations. Take His judgment on Judah's commonwealth: this ended with the tragic and utter destruction of Jerusalem and Israel's nationality: but there was a long preliminary period of misfortune and pulling down. Moses told them that in the event of their disobedience, God would work against them in their ordinary affairs in their land. He did so during centuries, and then, as foretold by Ezekiel (Ezek. 22:19-22), gathered them into Jerusalem as a smelter gathers material into the smelting pot, and blew upon them in hot anger till they were consumed. This is the analogy of His judgment on the Gentiles whose times of power and privilege have been current so long. Judgment is determined against the Papal blasphemy: it ends in the tragic and utter extermination of the institution from the face of the earth by fire and sword at the Lord's coming. But before then, there is a gradual harassing and punishing of all connected with the institution, extending over a considerable time, represented in another symbol under the figure of a woman being eaten and burnt by royal paramours. The vial under consideration has to do with the outpouring of the preliminary affliction. The date of its commencement coincides beautifully with the chronology of the case. It will be recollected that the name of blasphemy, after long germination was finally developed and established by the decree of the emperor Justinian, recognizing and confirming the claim of the bishop of Rome to be the head of all churches and spiritual lord of, mankind. The date of this decree was A.D. 533, added to which, 1,260 years -- (the appointed period of its "power to make war") brings us to A.D. 1793, when all Europe was convulsed by the anti-Papal French Revolution, which developed that spirit of hostility -- private and public, religious and political -- to the Papal pretensions which has since steadily strengthened with the lapse of every year, till now the Church stands despoiled of her possessions throughout Europe, and its chief deprived of all power, and restricted to the Vatican as a private palace, which he calls his prison. We have already had occasion to see why France should stand in the foreground in all that affects the Papacy. She has been in all her history the principal section of the Papal spiritual dominions. Her position in this respect is indicated by the official title which the head of the French State has held from the Pope -- the Eldest Son of the Church. Other States hold other names from the
same source. Thus, the Austrian emperor is "His Holy Apostolic Majesty"; the king of Spain, "His Most Christian Majesty"; the monarch of England, "Defender of the Faith"; etc. These are imposing titles, but "The Eldest Son of the Church" points to the most important position in the Papal family; the eldest son is always an important member of any family. To afflict the firstborn is to bring trouble in its most direct form, as in the last and worst of the plagues of Egypt. When therefore the time arrived to subject the worshippers of the beast to special judgment, we should on this principle expect to find France most intimately affected, and it was so. She was not the Republican France of our day, but the priest-ridden, Pope-worshipping heretic-slaying country which befitted her position in the Papal family. At the close of the eighteenth century, events well answering to the infliction of "a noisome and grievous sore" -- or ulcerous sores -- on the worshippers of the beast, occurred in France. They filled Europe with dismay. They were truly dreadful, and without parallel in the history of the world. They were the events that developed the First Napoleon, the especial tormentor of the men who worshipped the beast and his image. The people came into power for the first time in French history; they dethroned and imprisoned and finally murdered the king; they beheaded thousands of his sympathizers; they chased the aristocracy out of the country; they disestablished and disendowed the clerical orders; abolished all titles, pulled down monasteries, sold and divided the lands of the clergy and nobles, melted down church bells to make cannon balls, revolutionized the laws and institutions of the country, and generally made war against "the church" and its friends. They even went so far as to suspend religion of every name, proclaiming God a myth, and futurity a dream. France became a slaughterhouse and her public life a "reign of terror." It was the most awful turmoil the world ever witnessed. More than a million beast-worshippers perished on the scaffold or on the field of civil carnage; and the survivors were brought under a tyranny as harsh and odious as ever flourished under despotism. Life was deprived of its comfort, and society of its attractions; existence was barely durable. France for a long time was a pandemonium. The Papal interests were those that suffered everywhere. The convulsions in France vibrated throughout Europe, and everywhere carried injury and torment to the worshippers of the beast and his image. The attempts of the European powers by military power to tranquillize France and restore the overthrown order of
things, only aggravated the situation ten-fold. The armies of France, after long delays, were victorious at all points, and swept like a tornado over all the countries of Europe, extending everywhere the ravages of "the noisome and grievous sore" which fell with such severity on the worshippers of the beast and his image. Europe had no settled peace for twenty-five years after the outburst of the storm inaugurated by the first vial. The progress of the storm is marked and regulated by the succeeding vials.
THE SECOND VIAL
"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 events of the first vial affected the land: the Roman habitable in its entire extent was afflicted, but the sea was to be brought under the operation -- yet not the sea as a physical element but as the basis of the maritime interests of nations, in which there is a mingling of both the literal and figurative, without causing confusion, however. To stop trade by sea would be to inflict much suffering on those living on land. As the result of the vial, the sea was to become as "the blood of a dead man." The blood of a dead man is stagnant -- non-circulatory. The sea would be stopped as a medium of national-life circulation. What could have this effect? It could be effected miraculously in various ways, but the events foreshadowed in Apocalyptic symbolism were not to be miraculous events. We must find the counterpart in natural events. Whatever difficulty, as a matter of speculation, we might have in finding an application for the second vial, it is ended when we ask if the sea was the scene of national events after the pouring out of the first vial. You have all heard of British naval achievements. You have heard of Hood, Nelson, and other naval celebrities, who swept the fleets of all nations from the sea and laid the foundation of the national song that "Britannia rules the waves." These traditions take us back to the time in question. Before the end of the last century, Britannia did not rule the waves. She was strong on the ocean, but not "Queen of the sea." She shared the strength of the sea with several European powers -- France, Holland, Portugal and Spain: but the events springing out of the French Revolution brought England to the first position. These events comprised many bloody naval engagements (the battles of Trafalgar, the Nile, Aboukir, etc., etc.), in which England cleared the ocean of all rival fleets. During these operations, 200 ships of the line, appertaining to the beast-worshippers,
between 300 and 400 frigates, and an incalculable number of smaller vessels, were destroyed, and countless multitudes of lives lost. The vial covered a period of several years, in the course of which Britain, everywhere triumphant, became ruler of the waves. The vial was poured out by the instrumentality of England, with the effect, in relation to the beast-worshipping jurisdiction of the Continent, that every living soul died in the sea; that is, every living soul on the sea belonging to the Continent (which was the subject of operation), died in the symbolic sense of ceasing to have a permitted life on it.
THE THIRD VIAL
"And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. 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; for they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." We are guided to the locality of this vial by asking, what part of the European earth has been most distinguished for the "shedding of the blood of saints and prophets"? Whether we give the question an ancient or a modern application, the result is the same. Where was Peter crucified? Where was Paul beheaded? Where flourished the power that imbrued its hands in the blood of the witnesses everywhere? Where were whole heretical districts desolated by the Papal soldiery in the terrible scenes that drew from Milton his memorable lines on the slaughtered Albigenses ("Waldenses" In all editions from 1946 on -- Editor of Antipas)? All these questions lead us to the Italian Peninsula. Why should any part of this peninsula be described as "the rivers and fountains of waters"? It will be found that this is a very appropriate description, as distinguishing the region in question from the sea and the land. In the northern part of Italy, embracing the Alpine regions, the country is cut up and intersected with springs, rivers, fountains, and lakes, as no other part of Europe is. It is a perfect network, as anyone may see who looks at a map of Northern Italy, Piedmont, and Switzerland. That this is the district upon which the vial was to operate is shown by the history of the case; for the next phase of the European turmoil, springing out of the French Revolution, shows us Napoleon I, in this very region, conducting several campaigns against both the Austrian and Italian upholders of the Papacy.
These campaigns were obstinate, prolonged, and bloody, and subjected the country of "the rivers and fountains of waters", to more than the usual calamities attendant on war. Read the history of these events, and you have the picture of whole districts desolated; pestilence following in the wake of famine, and decimating thousands of the non-combatant population. The rigours of the times fell with especial severity on the aristocratic upholders of the beast and his image. They were made to disgorge their wealth, give up their pictures and ornaments, and submit to the spoliation on pain of death. The common people were befriended, so far as the intention of the conqueror could be effected: it was the persecuting class, especially, that had the blood of the third vial given them to drink. If you are tempted to think it strange that retribution should fall at the end of the eighteenth century, for deeds performed in all the previous centuries by persons long dead, you must remember that those upon whom the retribution fell were the hearty supporters and endorsers of what had been done by their fathers. It was a case similar to the generation of Israel contemporary with the Lord Jesus. Jesus told them that upon that generation would come all the righteous blood shed upon earth (Matt. 23:35), because they allowed the deeds of their fathers (Luke 11:48).
THE FOURTH VIAL
"And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, who hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory." Here our attention is directed to the sun. The sun of the European system we get to know the meaning of by the sixth seal, in which, you will recollect, the sun was turned into darkness. In that case we found the darkening of the sun to be the eclipse of the Pagan imperialism of the Roman Empire. The emperor, as the embodiment of the power of the empire, was dethroned, and his office extinguished. In the fourth vial it is not the darkening, but a heating of the sun, that is before us. We must find the meaning in connection with some imperial luminary of the Roman system, just after the judgments of the third vial had exhausted themselves on "the rivers and fountains of waters". That luminary we must find to be so acted upon as to give forth great and destructive heat. The history of the period exactly answers to the requirements of the prophecy.
It brings the Austrian Empire before us. You must remember that the position of Austria in those days was very different from what it is now. Before the wonderful Papal-destroying exploits of Napoleon I the Austrian emperor was emperor of Germany, the military head of the "Holy Roman Empire", the second horn of the two-horned (Pope and Emperor) beast of the earth. He was the most considerable member, the overshadowing power of the European system. He was the sun of the system, whose light gave strength and cheer to those enjoying his patronage, and the withholding of whose rays caused darkness. The pouring of the fourth vial upon this sun was effected by the victories and astounding pretensions of Napoleon, who, after the temporary settlement of the Italian campaigns, adopted an attitude towards the sovereigns of Europe that led Austria to put forth her whole strength in the vain attempt to crush the formidable enemy, which had sprung up in the presence of affrighted Europe, to the old order of things. The result was a war of great severity, spread over the principal regions of middle Europe, and subjecting populations to a great -- a scorching -- heat of affliction. The occupations of peace were suspended; vast tracts were desolated; and countless thousands fell victims to the calamities of the times, which, however, as the sequel shows, did not have the effect of inducing enlightened repentance, but rather goaded men to give vent to their feelings in blasphemy. Austria was overthrown; peace ensued for a season; and the way cleared for --
THE FIFTH VIAL
"And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." The first question here is, where are we to find the seat of the beast? What beast is it? We read of the beast of the sea, the beast of the earth, and the image-beast: but it is not said on the seat of which the fifth vial was poured. No practical difficulty arises from this, because these various symbols are but historic aspects of the same power. The beast of the sea with seven heads and ten horns shows us the Pope-headed system of nations established on the downfall of imperial Rome; the beast of the earth -- the political Papacy merged by agreement and concordat with the second imperial dynasty (horn) that sprung up in northern Europe, viz.: the German emperorship; and the image of the beast, the system
resulting from the restoration of Rome, under the Popes, to the imperial position occupied by Rome under the emperors. Now "the seat of the beast" in any of these phases would be Rome, apart from which the imperial tradition was not recognized. The Papal element of the beast was always the most considerable, as occupying the traditional seat of the empire besides putting forth special pretensions to authority. The imperial element enthroned at Vienna, was always to be considered as co-ordinate with the Pope, and therefore as seated with him on the seven hills.
The correctness of the view thus presented -- (that "the seat of the beast" is to be found in the actual Roman territories themselves) -- is proved by the fact that the chapter of European history next after the events of the fourth vial shows us the course of judgment directed against the Pope and his dominions. After the overthrow of Austria, Napoleon directed his attention to the position of the Pope with a view of inducing him to accept his friendship and alliance in the re-settlement of Europe. Napoleon did not succeed in bringing the Pope to his views, and the result was the outbreak of war, in which by a curious combination of circumstances, the Pope was befriended by the anti-Papal powers, England, Prussia and others. The Pope's friends were, however, of no use to him, for God was against him. The fifth vial was poured out upon his kingdom, and what could man avail to help? Napoleon raised an army which he hurried into Italy with his usual celerity and dash, and overthrew all the forces brought into the field against him. Darkness immediately set in upon the seat of the beast. The Pope was taken prisoner, and brought to France. He was made to pay the expenses of the war. The Papal kingdom was extinguished: Rome degraded to the position of a second class city in the French empire, and offered the privilege of representing herself in the French legislative assembly in Paris by seven delegates. The cardinals and friends of the Pope had a dreadful time of it. They were stripped of their wealth; the ecclesiastical property was taken from them: the churches given up to public use and even pillage. Symbolically, they gnawed their tongues for pain. . . . After many a prolonged and determined effort to throw off the incubus of Napoleon, they accepted the situation and acquiesced in the extinction of the kingdom in which they had hitherto been the lights, but which was now full of darkness. Afterwards, the darkness passed away, and there was a revival of the Papal kingdom, but the Papacy never recovered from the shattering
effects of the judgments of the vials. It was a mere shadow of its former self; and finally the shadow disappeared with the full end of the 1,260 years in 1867-70, since which epoch, the Pope has been merely a bishop -- a false prophet -- and not a king.
THE SIXTH VIAL
This was poured upon "the great river Euphrates", which directs our attention to the country possessing that river as its distinguishing river -- viz., the Turkish empire. While the events of the previous vials were in progress, Turkey was a great and formidable power -- so powerful that a writer on prophecy at the beginning of the present (nineteenth) century, perceiving that the downfall of the Turkish empire was meant, expressed his inability to conceive by what means it could be brought to the position of powerlessness and exhaustion to which the symbolism of the sixth vial pointed. But the time had now arrived for the commencement of those events which would prepare the way for the appearance and power of the kings of the east, who should succeed tottering Papalism in universal empire. These have not yet made their appearance, but their way is prepared. You are well acquainted with the description of the vial. Still it may be well to read it in full: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet: for they are the spirits of demons, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the war of the great day of God Almighty. (Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.) And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."
The historic parallel to this, in the events with which the present generation are familiar, is remarkable, and so far as these events have gone, very complete. No sooner had the effects of the first five vials subsided in the pacification and re-settlement of Europe as the result of Waterloo, and in the death of Napoleon in St. Helena, than the destruction of the Turkish Empire began. To realize the full nature and signification of the fact, you must go back to the days of the sixth trumpet, which brought the four Ottoman waves of conquest over eastern and southern Europe.
Realize the power and terror of the Turkish name, and the enormous extent of the Turkish dominion, which threatened to spread and spread with Turkish victories till the light of European civilization should go out. Think of the power of the Sultans, who were the most exalted monarchs of their time: and think of their long and powerful reigns. A sense of those days will enable you to estimate rightly the great change that commenced A.D. 1820, in harmony with the symbolism of the sixth vial. The symbol was a drying river. Therefore we must look for events of a gradual character, more internal than external, having the effect of exhausting the power of the empire, and opening the way for another power in her evaporated territories. Such has been the history of Turkey since 1820, till the present moment, when she is on the verge of dissolution. In 1826 the Sultan accomplished the insane performance of destroying the select provincial soldiery, known as Janizaries. These were bodies of troops got up, and maintained, and officered by the provincial aristocracy -- the flower of the army and the prop of the empire. The reason of their destruction was the complaining and almost dictatorial attitude they had assumed in various military and political questions. Having in vain endeavoured to conciliate them, the Sultan, with a purpose unknown to all; ordered them to the capital, and having marshalled them in a great square, he surrounded them with troops, to whom he gave orders for an indiscriminate massacre of the Janizaries. The orders were carried out, and thus, in one day, the core of the empire's strength was taken out; for these Janizaries were in the hands of the independent chiefs, who vied with each other in the efficiency of their corps and the general vigour of their administration. After their destruction, the management of military and other matters in the provinces was left to government officials sent from the capital, who held their posts precariously at the pleasure of the central authorities, and consequently were more intent on using their position for their private enrichment as rapidly as possible, than for the efficient conduct of the public service. The result was shortly seen in the neglect of the public works, the disrepair of roads, the languishing of agriculture, for want of means of communication, and for want of protection from the rapacity of the collectors sent from the capital. Along with these causes of decay, there was a succession of the appalling disasters of fire, famine, and pestilence, depopulating whole districts; while in her political relations everything went
against her, and tended to the curtailment of her empire and the weakening of her power. Greece (till then a part of the empire for 400 years) revolted, and was made independent by the action of the European powers. Egypt revolted, and was erected into a semi-independent country, owning vassalage to Constantinople, but still self-governing under a vice-royalty. Moldavia and Wallachia revolted, and were detached as autonomous provinces, as the result of the Crimean War, and afterwards united in one government under the name of Roumania which has since become independent. Then Servia revolted, with a similar result. More recently, Bulgaria revolted, and the severe measures of repression resorted to by the Turkish Government roused European indignation, and led to the Russo-Turkish war, which further reduced the shrinking, and drying, and dying empire. Bulgaria became a self-governing country under a prince; Bosnia and Herzegovina were sliced off, and annexed by Austria; Roumelia also became practically independent, and all that was left of European Turkey was Albania, Thrace, and Macedonia, which are all in the full throes of new insurrection, which bids fair to finish the Turkish dominion in Europe altogether. Concurrently with these political and geographical evaporations, various other causes of decay have been in active operation (such as living on borrowed money, etc.), which have reduced the Turkish Government to a state of extreme poverty and impotence. The facts are so glaring, and so widely known, that it is unnecessary to do more than thus briefly allude to them as illustrating the full progress of the sixth vial, in the evaporation of the political Euphrates, in preparation of the way of the kings of the East.
A word may be appropriate as to this "way" and its preparation. The gospel of the kingdom has made you aware of the purpose of God to establish a kingdom of His own, at the return of Christ, when the times of the Gentiles have run their full course. The covenants of promise have enlightened you as to the locality of the country in which this kingdom will be manifested. You are aware that it is the land promised to Abraham -- the land occupied by Abraham's descendants for centuries -- the land now in desolation. Under whose jurisdiction is this land at the present moment? You know that the Holy Land is part of the Turkish Empire. So long as that empire exists, the way of the coming kings is barred; for the land of any king is his "way." Is there not, therefore, a manifest reason why Turkey should be dried out of the
way, in preparation for the manifestation of the kingdom of God, which is to enter into conflict with all the nations of the earth? The truth thus furnishes an explanation of the drying of the political Euphrates at this time, which you ask in vain of any other system.
But you will observe there is something else in the description of the sixth vial. While the Euphrates was to be drying in the east, other political influences were to be at work in the west (the dragon, the beast and false prophet) with the effect of developing a war-like situation of things preparatory to a gathering of the nations to the struggle that ensues on the advent of the kings of the east in their prepared way. Those influences are symbolized by three unclean spirits, like frogs, which John saw emanate from the three European centres. In this symbol, as you know, the political heraldry of France is to be recognized. She represented herself by the frog, and the three frogs in the early stage of her political existence, as shown by ancient coins and banners extant to the present day. Here she is exhibited as exercising at the time of the drying of the Euphrates an influence so potent as to emanate frog-like, or in French shape, from the mouth of the dragon (CONSTANTINOPLE), beast (VIENNA), and false prophet (ROME).
Contemporary history furnished us with the fulfilment of this prophecy. Under Napoleon III France became a disturbing element among the European powers, with the effect of rousing them from the military dormancy into which they had sunk with the close of the stormy career of the first Napoleon. A nearly forty years peace had made militarism almost obsolete. At the present moment, on the Continent, all nations are armed to the teeth, every man a trained soldier, liable to be called to the standard at a week's notice. If you trace the process of transition from one state to another -- from the state of military indifference into which the world had sunk, to the present state of stupendous armaments -- you will find it due to France. The mysterious policy of Napoleon III -- preceded as it was by the coup d'etat -- set a process of reciprocal arming into motion which no one could stop.
This process was greatly accelerated by the wars into which Louis Napoleon from time to time dragged the nations of Europe. These wars were in the very order of the frog-like emanations of the symbol. First there was the Crimean war, which commenced with a declaration of war from CONSTANTINOPLE (the mouth of the dragon), inspired distinctly and directly by Louis Napoleon, as afterwards transpired in diplomatic documents. This
declaration of war, therefore, issuing from Constantinople, was palpably a frog-like or French-like spirit coming out of the mouth of the political dragon. Next, from VIENNA, came the declaration of war by the emperor of Austria, in 1859, against Sardinia (backed by France) -- a declaration which a study of the events of the time, will show you as distinctly traceable to the operation of French policy on the Austrian government as in the case of the Constantinopolitan declaration. Finally, in ROME, there was the Papal war, in which the Pope, energized by the French, who sent troops to his aid, made war upon the revolutionists. This also was a frog-like emanent from the mouth of the false prophet. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of the sixth vial.
You may be aware that this is not an interpretation invented after the things happened, but one that was published in 1850 by Dr. Thomas, before the events transpired. The occurrence of these wars afterwards, in the very order of the symbols, is all the more to be noted as a confirmation of the Divine character of the whole prophecy, and pre-disposes the mind to consider the import of the wonderful parenthesis: "Behold, I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth." What is this but the coming of the Lord? The time of its occurrence is indicated in this general way. It is when the Euphrates is dried, and the nations are armed and ready for the Armageddon conflict, that Jesus steals into the world to resume his work, and to carry it on to the glorious issues displayed in subsequent parts of the Apocalypse. The sixth vial is nearly fulfilled, and Jesus comes under the sixth vial, but exactly at what stage of it is not revealed. We are therefore in the position described by Christ, that "we know neither the day nor the hour." His first work is a work of judgment on his own house, as indicated by the words, "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments." His next work is work of public participation in the wars that will ensue. The armies of the nations are (providentially) gathered to Armageddon, that is, to the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 38:6-16), where they are overthrown with great slaughter, and the kingdom of God established in nucleus form in the land of Judah. Then comes the era of public tumult, depicted in
THE SEVENTH VIAL
"And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, 'It is done.' And there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake,
such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great." This indicates the period of appalling revolution that sets in with the apparition of a new, and unknown, and mysterious power in the world of politics and the affairs of nations. It is the time we have already looked at in connection with the movements of the 144,000, after their enthronement on Mount Zion -- the time of trouble spoken of by all the prophets -- a time of war, and disaster, and judgment, directly inflicted with the result of breaking the pride and power of man, and clearing the way for the universal establishment of the kingdom of God. This is not an immediate result. It takes time. The little stone gradually becomes a mountain, which fills the earth. During the process there are details in the development of public events, which are foreshadowed in the further description of what occurred on the outpouring of the seventh vial: "And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great."
The overthrow of the imperial Gog, under whose leadership the nations league themselves against Christ, in the first instance, sets the nations at liberty for new combinations. A three-fold division of the Roman habitable is one of the features of it. We need not speculate as to what this division will be. It is more practical to know that the national politics, one and all, fall before the prowess of the Son of David, and that Great Babylon, in particular, receives at his hand the accumulated wrath of centuries, in the way we have already had to contemplate in connection with the symbolism of chapter 14. The political islands and mountains disappear. Rulers everywhere, great and small, abandon their power in terror at the presence of the world's conqueror. Destroying judgments -- (represented by the heavy hail) -- ministered by the saints (represented by the talent-weights), destroy those who destroy the earth; and, while filling the earth for a while with great wrath and woe, these judgments, like the cleansing storm, will clear the air, and purify the earth, and prepare the way for the sunshine of the glorious day that will dawn in fulfilment of the purpose declared in ages past.
I hope you find this helpful.