Excerpts From E.B. Elliott's
| ON THE FIFTH
THE SARACENIC LOCUST PLAGUE
"And the fifth angel sounded: and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened 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 were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
"And there came out of the smoke 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 tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads. And unto them it was given that they should not kill the men, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. And the likenesses of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war: and on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold. And their faces were as the faces of men: and they had hair as the hair of women; and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breast-plates, as it were breast-plates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they have tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. And they have a king over them, the angel of the bottomless pit: whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon; and in the Greek tongue he hath his name Apollyon."—Apoc. 9:1–11.
The interval of fore-warning depicted in the last vision had passed away; and the trumpet, sounding again in the Apocalyptic temple, gave sign to the apostle of judgment as afresh in action, and of the first of the three threatened woes as about to begin.—We do not find any particular division of the Roman earth and its inhabitants marked out expressly in this vision, either for infliction or exemption. But, from the comparison of a statement made in it with an apparently contrasted statement in the vision following, the former in verse 5 of the chapter before us, the latter in verse 15,—it might have been afterwards probably inferred that the same third that was to be destroyed under the sixth Trumpet, i. e. the third of the Empire nearest the Euphrates, or Eastern third, was under this to be a principal, though not the only, sufferer.—Hitherto this division had nearly escaped. Under the first and third trumpet, though the European provinces of the Greek empire had suffered, yet neither by Alaric nor Attila had Constantinople been violated, or the war carried across the Hellespont. Again, though all open and exposed by sea to Genseric, when master of the Mediterranean under the second Trumpet, yet the Eastern coasts had scarcely been visited by him. "The fury of the Vandals was confined to the limits of the Western empire." The same exemption continued afterwards. The extinction of the imperial sun in Italy and the West was an event by which the tranquillity of Constantinople and the East was little affected. Through the 50 years that succeeded,—including the reigns of Zeno, Anastasius, and Justin,—the silence of its annals evinces the general freedom of the Greek empire from external war and suffering. In Justinian’s reign it even put on the aggressive; and, both in Africa and in Italy, under Belisarius, and then under Narses, was crowned with success specious and surprising. It is true that the desolating irruptions made into the Illyrian provinces by the Bulgarians about the middle of the sixth century, and by the Avars at its close, were ominous of the reverses that might be. But into the Asiatic third proper, comprehending Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, they reached not. The Hellespont was still to that division its guarantee Northward; and, towards the East and the Euphrates, the 100 years’ peace with Persia, which had been concluded in 444 A. D. by the second Theodosins, and renewed after a year or two of war, A. D. 551, by Justinian.—But now at length its hour was come to be judged. For of its time of reprieve it had made no profit. Throughout the two centuries reviewed in the last chapter, its religion, as there indeed set forth, had, like that of the West, been sinking deeper and deeper into superstition. In the history of its theological controversies and synods, which constitute perhaps the most characteristic feature in the Greek ecclesiastical annals of the period thus retrospectively glanced at, we seek in vain for the Christian spirit. Rather, even when most zealous and agitated for the letter of Christian orthodoxy, a spirit verging towards antichristian apostasy may be discerned as that which most deeply moved the people.1 And therefore judgment must visit them. The first bitterness of the first woe must fall on the Eastern third of the Roman world.
But what the scourge, and whence? Was it from the Avars, now established, as we have seen, on the lower Danube? Or, from the Persians, ready at any time apparently to break in from the Euphrates upon the Eastern provinces? There were in fact irruptions, as the new century opened, by the Avars. And there was a succession of invasions, from 611 to 621 A. D., very desolating and terrible, by the Persians under Chosroes. But the former were transient; and confined, as before, to the European limits. And on Chosroes the tide of war and victory was, after those ten years, fearfully rolled back by Heraclius: indeed, ere a very few more suns had accomplished their annual revolution, the Persian empire was swept away from the earth. But this was by another instrumentality;—the same that was destined, as here foreshown, to scourge the Greek empire also.—And what and whence then, I repeat, that avenging scourge? The annals of the seventh century declare it to us in characters so glaring and terrific that he who runs may read them. And, if I mistake not, it was indicated to the Evangelist also, in a manner scarcely less intelligible, by means of the symbols, the locally characteristic symbols, of the prefigurative vision.—But this is a species of evidence, and involves a principle of interpretation, which it may be well to set forth in a distinct preliminary Section.
§ 1.—the local appropriateness of scripture symbols
Let me then remind the Reader,—and I think it may be well worth his while to pause for a few moments on the topic, ere proceeding to examine the imagery of the vision before us,—that the symbols and hieroglyphics of Scripture prophecy are not of that locally indefinite character, for the most part, as simply to indicate characteristic qualities; without reference in the selection to what we may call geographical propriety. Many images there are indeed, and these too useful and striking to be left out of the language of symbolic prophecy, that belong alike to every country; such as (to borrow examples from Apocalyptic visions already analyzed) those of the luminaries of the heaven above, and the tempests and the convulsions of the earth beneath. On the other hand, as there are many varieties,—whether we regard its plants and animals, or the dress, visible customs, or assumed insignia of the inhabitants,—by which, in the wise appointment of the world’s great Creator and Governor, one country under heaven is in a measure distinguished from others, so, where these characteristic objects afford suitable emblems of the things to be signified of a people, it is the frequent habit of Scripture to select them for its purpose. The beauty of this local appropriateness of the Scripture imagery, wheresoever the locality may have been stated, must doubtless have often struck the tasteful and observant reader. Again where it is unnamed, as in the unexplained prophecies,—and it is to this point that I here wish to call the reader’s attention,—the mind may reason on the imagery; and, with no slight measure of confidence often, argue from the symbol to the country symbolized. We might almost do this when glancing at the graphic comparisons that are sometimes used by uninspired writers;—writers such as are both intimate with the countries spoken of, and select in their choice of figures. But the habit of Holy Scripture to make use of locally appropriate imagery is much more marked than that of any uninspired writer. Moreover that which I am here proposing to argue from meets us in the form of symbolic impersonation, not of mere comparison. Hence the force of the inference is in its case greater in proportion.
In order to judge of the strength of the argument thence arising, it seems necessary that the reader should satisfy himself as to the strength of this Scripture habit, if I may so call it. I shall therefore beg him, in the present Section, just to cast his eye with me over some of its symbols; and to observe how strikingly, whether the figure be borrowed from the botanical world or the zoological, or from the appearance, dress, or other visible characteristics of the inhabitants of a country, the local appropriateness that I speak of still marks the selection. He will find that the symbolic pictures are indeed for the most part pictures drawn from life.
1st, let us notice examples of emblems from plants.
Is it then Judah that is to be symbolized? We find the olive, the fig-tree, and the vine, selected to symbolize it:—fruit-trees, because the point and moral of the comparison had reference to its religious culture by God, and consequently expected fruitfulness; but all fruit-trees of the country: and of these the vine most frequently, as being of all others, perhaps, the most characteristic of its mountain-produce; indeed, as such, particularized in Judah’s blessing by Jacob. And, as of Israel nationally, so of particular classes in it. Of its princes and high ones, the cedar of Lebanon, the loftiest of the trees of Israel, is the frequent symbol: the beauty of its holy ones is resembled to the palm, perhaps the stateliest fruit-tree in the land; and the people, when withering under God’s displeasure for sin, to the dried up grass upon the housetops.—The same is the case in respect of other countries. So when Egypt is the subject, and the particular point to be illustrated its weak and faithless friendship to the Jews trusting in it, the reed is the symbol chosen; that characteristic produce of the Nile banks. Or when a Babylonish dependency, then the willow;—that of which Zion’s captives told as growing by the rivers of Babylon. "A great eagle came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar. He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffic. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field: he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow-tree. And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature." It was Jehoiakim, king of Judah, that was the top-most branch of the eedar. It was Nebuchadnezzar that was the eagle that cropped it, and carried it to Babylon. It was Zedekiah that was the seed of the land, and consequently a vine in the prophetic imagery: but one of low stature, and planted as a willow-tree; i. e. as a prince dependent on, and to be supported by, the king of Babylon.
2. Next let us turn to emblems from animals.
It is less often that Judah is so symbolized. For its relation to God is that which is most constantly and prominently dwelt on in what is said of Judah: and thus the illustrative emblems required, are in character such rather as those already noticed; or perhaps that of a city dedicated, or a virgin affianced to Him; not of a wild animal. Still there occurs at times occasion for the animal symbolization; and then the zoology of Judah furnishes the emblem. Thus is it Judah conquering? The figure is that of the lion, such as might rise up from the swelling of Jordan: "Judah couched as a lion: who shall rouse him up?" Or Judah foolishly snared by her foes? It is that of the dove, so common in the land; (as that bird’s constant use in the Jewish sacrifices assures us;) "Ephraim is a silly dove." Is it Judah apostatizing? Then, it may be, the dromedary is the figure; impatient of the holy city, and bent on regaining the wilderness of its preference. Or Judah, or her sons, in sorrow and desolation? "Like a crane, or a swallow, so did I chatter:" "I am like a pelican in the wilderness, like an owl in the desert."—Of other nations the animal class of symbols is frequent. And see the suitableness. The symbol of Edom was that of the eagle that might have built his eyrie in the mountain-rock; the very image,—as he that has seen pictures of Petra, or other Idumean cities, must be aware,—of the high rocky excavations that they inhabited. The wild ass of the desert is the not less characteristic symbol of the Arabs; "Ishmael is a man, a wild ass:" and the crocodile, the dragon of the Nile, that of Egypt.—Nor, passing to Daniel’s animal-symbols, do we find anything inconsistent with the usual Scriptural rule of local appropriateness in the selection. In the case of the four wild beasts emblematic, according to the all but universal consent of commentators ancient and modem, of the four successive heathen and persecuting powers of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, there is indeed less of distinctiveness; in consequence of the wide range, over many countries, of such savage animals as might fitly represent the persecutors of God’s people. Yet still the lion was a native of Babylonia; the bear of the Median mountains; and the leopard,—as we may infer from hints in the old notices of the neighbouring countries,—of the forests of Pindus and Macedon. Besides that the winged lion has been found by Capt. Layard, as almost a self-appropriated Assyrian emblem, in majestic sculpture at the gates of the royal palace of Nineveh. Again, in another of Daniel’s visions, (that in chap. 8,) the nature of the comparison allowing it, we find selected as the symbols animals directly characteristic, in the same manner as the last noted, of the powers symbolized; that is, of Persia and Macedon respectively. For the symbols are those adopted by the nations themselves, as in a manner their own appropriate emblems, and stamped as such, by the one and the other, on their respective coinage;—I mean the ram in symbolization of Persia, the goat of Macedon. Of which two emblems one at least, and perhaps both, may further have had allusion to a current name of the country or nation.
The examples last given being those of symbols not otherwise locally characteristic only, but self-applied as characteristic by the inhabitants of the countries symbolized, I might naturally proceed, were it the occasion, to notice other self-adopted national emblems,—whether derived from animals or other objects, and whether designative of the people themselves collectively, or of certain ranks or offices of note among them,—which have been likewise, with its usual beautiful appropriateness, adopted and applied by sacred Scripture. Such, for example, are those striking symbolizations, (and more striking, I think, there could not be,) that have occurred to our notice under the three first Seals of this Apocalyptic prophecy. And indeed I wish, by this passing retrospective notice of them, to connect the emblematic imagery of the parts already discussed of the Apocalypse, as well as that of those which remain, with this general view of the local fitness of Scripture emblems, and of the argument from it. But my present more immediate object is to prepare the reader for a right appreciation of the symbols of the fifth Trumpet. And I shall therefore hasten on to suggest just one other class of symbols, locally significant, that are more directly illustrative of the vision I am referring to; I mean the class of the prosopopœia.
3. In the which class the symbolic figure exhibited being in the human form, occasion is taken to notice distinctive points in the personal appearance,—whether in respect of dress, armour, or otherwise,—of the people symbolized.
Take, as a first example, that beautiful personification of Judah given in Ezek. 16, as a woman-child saved at the birth, and brought up through childhood and youth by her God, then affianced to Him, but soon faithless and apostatizing. Here, in the dressing up of the prosopopœia, there are certain details of personal appearance naturally brought into the description;—the woman-like growth of hair, the anointing with oil, the white and broidered apparel, the jewels, and other personal ornaments: and commentators, not without probable reason, as it seems to me, have assigned an emblematic meaning to them, as significant of the spiritual privileges and graces conferred by God on Israel. However this may be, and whether they were intended to be emblematic themselves, or merely appendages to the general emblematic picture, in one thing we cannot be mistaken, viz. that these characteristics of appearance and dress in the female personified, were drawn from the appearance and dress of the noble ladies of Israel:—that is, that the details of personal appearance portrayed in the hieroglyphic were those of a portraiture drawn from life.
A second example, and one precisely of the same character, will be found in Ezek. 23: but with this addition that, besides the female personifications of Judah and Israel, the neighbouring heathen with whose idolatries they associated,—both the Assyrians and others,—are here also in a manner symbolized; viz. as their lovers. The description paints them as cavaliers, all goodly young men, girded with girdles, and with turbans of dyed attire, or it might be crowns, on their heads: a description that must be noticed afterwards, as containing in it points of resemblance very striking to certain of the details in the imagery of the fifth Trumpet.—But there is no need at present of further dwelling on this example, as it is so similar to the former. I therefore proceed to,
A third example, different from the other, and indeed somewhat peculiar in character; but which may yet partially, if I mistake not, be connected with the class I speak of: I mean that of the symbolic image of gold, silver, brass, and iron, seen in vision by Nebuchadnezzar.
In this there were figured to himself, and to the prophet Daniel, those four kingdoms which, rising round Judah as a centre, and all connected with it, were in succession, and each in image-form, (i. e. as associated with and supporting idolatry,) to hold the empire of the civilized world, until the establishment at the last of God’s own kingdom. It has been the all but universal opinion of commentators, both ancient and modern, that the four kingdoms thus prefigured (the same as those figured by the four wild beasts of Dan. 7, previously spoken of,) were the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman. And with reason. For the succession of these four great empires is a plain historical fact, recognised by the most learned heathen writers, as well as Christian. And the suitableness of the component metals of the image to symbolize them, in regard at least of the golden splendour of the first and the iron strength of the last, is obvious, and partially confessed even by Gibbon.—Besides which illustration from qualities, it has been further and appositely observed by expositors, that there was in one case a visible resemblance between the nation symbolized and the symbolizing metal; inasmuch as the very appearance of the warrior Greek was characterized by his brazen armour. Now the same kind of illustration, it appears to me, might be carried further. In comparison of the appearance of the Greek (or indeed of the Roman) battalia, the splendid adornment of the Persian with silver or with gold (the Babylonians having at this time been absorbed and included in the Persian empire) was very characteristic, and often observed on. It was noted on occasion of the battle of Platæa, in the grand review by Xerxes, and on the fields of Issus and Arbela; and was but the result and expression of that superiority in wealth, which showed itself also in their general appearance and habits of life. On the other hand in the Roman battle-array, iron, a metal of later discovered working, at least for military purposes, was as observable as the gold and silver in the Persico-Assyrian, or the brass in the Grecian. The Mars they worshipped as their father, was not, as with the Greeks, the brazen, but the iron-armed Mars. It was early inculcated on them by their generals, that iron armour, not gold and silver, as with more luxurious nations, was the proper guise of the Roman soldier. And when, in the progress of their conquests, even Oriental kings had been subjected to Rome, the poet describes it as the subjection of the purple to the Latian iron.—Thus we see a correspondence in the metals of the image with certain characteristics in the visible appearance not of one only but of all, of the respective people.—Nor was the image-form in which they were combined an objection to this their national distinctiveness: because the idolatry that these kingdoms successively exhibited and enforced was but as part and parcel of themselves. It was the golden splendour of himself and his empire, that Nebuchadnezzar would have homage done to, in that golden image that was set up in the plain of Dura. The same was the case with Darius, and with the Seleucidæ. Finally it was Rome’s own iron will and power to which the consciences of men were required to bow down, when it allowed of no other worship but that of its own idolatrous state-religion.
And now we shall be better prepared for an intelligent consideration of our present subject. The point of personal appearance, observed on in the last example, I mean as regards the metal armour, will not be without its use in illustrating a part of the imagery of the 5th Trumpet. The two previously noted examples under the same head, of direct living impersonations, will yet more illustrate it. And, when with these there is conjoined in the reader’s remembrance the class of Scripture animal hieroglyphics noted under a former head, he will find himself furnished, I think, with all the parallelisms that he could desire, to help him to a right appreciation of the point and meaning of what I may call the primâ facie nationally distinctive symbols of the vision.
§ 2.—the symbols of the fifth trumpet analyzed to show the origin of the first woe
I now proceed, as proposed, to the consideration of the symbols of the fifth Trumpet vision. It was a vision portending woe, as we are told, to the Roman earth and its apostatized inhabitants. And what the woe, and whence, and how originating, was all to be found intimated, if I mistake not, and this not indistinctly, in the figures of the sacred description following.
"The fifth angel sounded: and I saw a star which had fallen from the heaven to the earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit: and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace.—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 the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war. And on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold. And their faces were as the faces of men: and they had hair as the hair of women: and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breast-plates, as it were breast-plates of iron: and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions; and there were stings in their tails."
The quotation above given includes all the chief emblems of the vision: and in them an intimation as to the origin of this woe to Christendom,—both as respects the people commissioned, their new and false religion, their commission to destroy, and their originator and leader. These I propose to discuss in the present Section: reserving for another what remains of the prophecy; as it had relation chiefly to the subsequent progress and history of the emblematic locusts.
I. And first, as to the country and people whence it was to originate;—a point this for which the Section preceding will have prepared us. For while, by the admixture of human similitudes in the hieroglyphic with the bestial, it was shown that men were the destined scourge, not literal wild beasts, as in some of the ancient prophecies,—there was further indicated, as I feel persuaded, and in the manner illustrated by the examples in that Section, the very country and people intended.
A Sketeh from imagination, illustrative of the possible combination of the details of the Apocalyptic symbol.
Thus in regard of the animal resemblances.—As the ground-work of these, if I may so say, in the hieroglyphic, there appeared the locust:—with the following marked peculiarities, however, that it was in look, movement, and sound like the horse, in teeth like a lion, and in the tail and poison-sting like a scorpion. Now the qualities of the invaders thus prefigured were obvious. The locust-form indieated their swarming in numbers numberless; their being in their migratory progress rapid, far-ranging, and irresistible; and moreover,—except from some special preventive check, such as in this case the prophecy foretold would be actually given,—being wide wasters of the herbage and vegetation. The horse-like appearance seemed to imply that they would be hordes of cavalry; the likeness to the lion, that they would be savage destroyers of life; and the scorpion-likeness, that of the men in Roman Christendom, whose lives they spared, they would be the tormentors, even as with a scorpion’s poison-sting. All this, I say, seems obvious.—But, passing this for the present, let us look to see, as suggested, what the local or national indications contained in these animal symbols. On doing so we shall find, I doubt not, that they pointed the Evangelist, and that not obscurely, to Arabia and the Arabs.
First, and chiefly, the locust, the ground-work of the symbol, is peculiarly Arabic. So the sacred history of ancient times informs us. "It was the east wind," it says, "which brought the locusts" on Egypt: from which the inference arises, that the country they issued from must have been that which, in all its extent, lies east of Egypt, that is Arabia. Such too, in modern times, is the testimony of Volney; "the most judicious," as Gibbon calls him, "of Syrian travellers." "The inhabitants of Syria," he observes, "have remarked that locusts come constantly from the desert of Arabia." Lebruyn, from the convent at Rama, gives the same report: and the Moorish writer Leo Africanus, from the western part of North Africa, one not dissimilar. Besides that the very name for locust,—and similarity of names is a thing not unattended to, as we have seen, in Scripture symbols,—I say the very word for locust might almost to an Hebrew ear suggest Arab: the names of the one and of the other being in pronunciation and in radicals not dissimilar;—of the locust אֲרבֶה (arbeh), of an Arab עַרְבִי (arbi). And indeed the locust-simile is one used in other and earlier Scriptures, with its usual appropriateness, to designate the numbers and character of an invading Arab horde.—Again, as of the locust, so of the scorpion, the native locality was by the Jews considered the Arabian desert. Witness Moses’ own words to the Israelites, on emerging from it after forty years’ wandering; "that great and terrible wilderness wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions."—And who know not, if facts so notorious be worth mentioning, that it is Arabia, still Arabia, that is regarded by naturalists as the original country of the horse; and that its wildernesses are the haunts also of the lion?—The zoology of the hieroglyphic is all Arabian.
Next as to what was human in the appearance of the symbolic locusts: viz. their faces as the faces of men, their hair as the hair (the long hair) of women, with crowns as of gold on their heads, (or, it might be, gold-adorned turbans,) and breast-plates like iron breast-plates.—The qualities and character indicated, seem here also sufficiently plain. There was indicated man-like courage, but united apparently with effeminate licentiousness; a combination somewhat singular: also invulnerability in war, and splendid and constant victory.—But, for the present, what I would wish chiefly to inquire into, here as before, is the local significancy of these features in the symbol; and, whether any, and what particular nation, might seem to be figured by them. For in cases like this, as we have seen, the portraiture may be generally supposed to be drawn from life: and, considering all the particulars specified, it is assuredly very characteristic and distinctive.—Applying this test then, by what is said of the faces as faces of men, (i. e. with beard or moustache,) the Goths and other kindred barbarian tribes are set aside: the faces of these being very singularly noticed by a contemporary of their earliest incursions, I mean Jerome, as having faces shaven and smooth; faces, in contrast with the bearded Romans, "like women’s faces."—Again, while from the usual habits of both Greeks and Romans in the empire that which is perhaps most remarkable in the described appearance, viz. the hair as the hair of women (not to add the turban head-covering also) was abhorrent,—there were two great neighbouring nations, and I think but two, with whose national costume and habits both these and the other points of description well suited; I mean the Persians and the Arabs. Of the Persians, alike in the earlier times of their history and the later, the appearance is nearly thus represented, both by historians, and upon ancient coins and bas-reliefs still remaining. And of the Arabs, of whom I must speak more fully, as being the people indicated apparently by the points previously considered of the hieroglyphic,—of them descriptions are given yet more exactly agreeing with that before us. So Pliny, St. John’s contemporary at the close of the first century, speaks of the Arabs as wearing the turban, having the hair long and uncut, with the moustache on the upper lip, or the beard;—that "venerable sign of manhood," as Gibbon in Arab phraseology calls it. So Solinus describes them in the third century; so Ammianus Marcellinus in the fourth: so Theodore of Mopsuesta, Claudian, and Jerome, in the fifth:—of the last of which writers the acquaintance with the people he wrote of must have been most familiar; as he passed most of the latter years of his life at Bethlehem, on the borders of the Arab desert. This was about two centuries before the great Saracen irruption. Yet once more, in the age immediately preceding that irruption, and which indeed included Mahomet’s childhood, the same personal portraiture is still given of the Arab. In that most characteristic of Arab poems, Antar, a poem composed at the time I speak of, we find the moustache and the beard, the long hair flowing on the shoulder, and the turban also, all specified.—And let me add, in regard to the turban-crown, it happens very singularly that Ezekiel (23:42) describes the turbans of the Sabæan or Keturite Arabs under this precise appellation; "Sabæans from the wilderness, which put beautiful crowns upon their heads:" and, still as singularly, that even the perhaps hinted resemblance of them in the vision to crowns, or diadems, (they being spoken of as like gold,) is one that has been made by the Arabs themselves. Of the four peculiar things that they were wont in a national proverb to specify as bestowed by God upon the Arabs, the first was that their turbans should be to them instead of diadems.
The testimonies thus quoted refer to three out of the four points of personal appearance noted in the vision. And on the fourth, that of the locusts appearing breast-plated with iron, both Antar, the Koran, and the history of Mahomet and the early Moslem Saracens, will also satisfy us. In Antar the steel or iron cuirasses of the Arab warriors are frequently noticed. In the Koran, among God’s gifts to the Arabs, their coats of mail for defence are specially particularized. And in Mahomet’s history we read expressly of the cuirasses of himself and his Arab troops.—Individual Arabs, no doubt, like the one more early noted by Ammianus Marcellinus, might not seldom astound the foe by their "naked bravery." And hence by some it has been fancied the general habit. But the Saracen policy was the wearing of defensive armour. The breast-plate of iron was a feature of description literally answering, like the three others, to the Arab warriors of the 6th or 7th century.
Thus, on the whole, the country whence the woe was to originate might seem almost fixed, by these concurrent symbols, to Arabia. And, turning from prophecy to history, if we ask whether there was then, about the times of Heraclius, and the opening of the seventh century, any correspondingly destructive irruption of Arabs on Roman Christendom, the agreement of fact with the prediction is so far notorious. A mighty desolating locust-like Arab, or Saracen invasion, is the chief topic of the history of that century. II. But it is further said of the locusts prefigured, that they issued out of the smoke of the bottomless pit, or pit of the abyss; the pit having been opened just previously, and the smoke ascending thereupon, out of it, as the smoke of a great furnace. What might this mean? And does it apply to the origin of the Saracen invaders just mentioned? The point is one strongly marked in the hieroglyphic, and evidently most important.
The word αβυσσος, abyss, answers in the Septuagint most generally to the Hebrew תְּהוֹם. It is the same word that is used of the deep on which the primæval darkness rested, in Gen. 1:2; and which seems to signify, most properly, that depth or hollow of the earth which is the bed of the ocean-waters, though often used also of those waters themselves.2 By an easy extension or change of meaning, it came to signify sometimes that deeper depth, in which opinion, if not Scripture, placed the receptacle of the departed; at least of the departed wicked. So it is used, for instance, in Ezek. 31:17, where it is rendered hell by our translators; "They went down into hell with him, unto them that be slain with the sword:" and it is thus connected with the supposed habitation, or rather destined habitation, of evil spirits. In the New Testament this seems to be the more general use of the word. In Luke 8:31, the abyss into which the devils entreated that they might not be sent, seems directly contrasted with the sea into which they precipitated the swine, immediately after entering and possessing them. And in the Apocalypse,—passing over those two passages that speak of the Beast from the abyss, in chapters 11 and 17, where its meaning might to some perhaps seem more equivocal,—there remains that other at the beginning of chap. 20, in which the sense of the word, as signifying the prison-place of evil spirits, can scarcely be mistaken;—I mean that in which an angel that had the key of the abyss is described as seizing the Devil, that old serpent, and casting him into the abyss, and there sealing him up.—In the present case the word φρεαρ, or pit, ("pit of the abyss,") that is added, confirms this as the meaning. For it signifies evidently an opening in the earth, a shaft of communication, as it were, between the earth and the infernal region beneath.—And it is yet more confirmed by the notice of the smoke, as of a great furnace, ascending from it. For in every case in Scripture, where the smoke as of a furnace is described as rising from out of, or from beneath the earth, the context shows that it is the smoke of penal fire. So in the case of Sodom; so in that predicted of the mystic Edom in Isaiah; so in that of the Apocalyptic Babylon.—Thus, on the whole, the observer could scarce be mistaken in interpreting this smoke from the pit of the abyss as an emanation from the pit of hell:—i. e. as some system of error and false religion thence originating: originating, it would seem, very suddenly; and of which the effect would be, almost instantaneously, to darken the moral atmosphere, and dim the imperial sun in the firmamental heaven.
Which being the thing predicted, we have again to recur to history, and to inquire,—1st, whether, about the opening of the seventh century, there arose any hellish and false religion in Arabia, in its manner of development sudden, and in strength such as almost at once to darken Christendom;—2ndly, whether it was out of it that the Arab invaders before-mentioned issued forth to be a woe to the Roman world.
And to both of these questions who knows not the answers?—Who knows not of the sudden rise of Mahommedism in Arabia, just at the very time we speak of:—that most extraordinary invention of fanaticism and fraud; which being, as it was, from beginning to end a lie, in its pretensions superseding the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, in its doctrines inculcating views of the blessed God dark, cruel, and unholy, and in its morals a system of pride, ferocity, superstition, sensualism,—indicated too well, to any one who had eyes to see, that it had indeed its origin from hell, and was an emanation, like the pestilential smoke in the vision, from the pit of the abyss?—Again, who knows not the fact that it was after embracing Islamism that the Saracen cavalry hordes burst forth in fury (as I shall have to detail in the next Section) on Roman Christendom; and yet more, that they were imbued from this very source with the qualities that the symbols in the vision indicated? For there is indeed a perfect fitness in the representation of the symbolic locusts as issuing forth all formed in character, out of the smoke from the pit of the abyss. It was the religion of Mahomet in fact that made the Arabs what they were. It was this that for the first time united them. as one, in numbers countless as the locusts; this that gave them the locust-like impulse to speed forth as its propagandists over the world; this which imparted to them, as to lions of the desert, the irresistible destroying fury of fanaticism; this, further, which, in case of their conquering the provinces of Christendom, as I shall notice in the next Section more at large, had already prepared in them a scorpion-like venom of contempt and hatred, wherewith to torment the subject Christian:—this, finally, that made them the θηλυμιτροι described: that added sensualism to their ferocity; suggesting indulgence of their lusts in life, and bidding them look and fight for a heaven of lust beyond it.—So that here, too, there was no one point in which the Saracen character and history did not answer to the prophetic emblems.
§ 3.—outburst, progress, and limits of the first woe, as predicted and fulfilled
The family of Mahomet was of the princely house of the Koreish: who, at the time of his birth in the latter part of the 6th century, had been for some three or four generations hereditary governors of Mecca;—and holders too of the keys of the Caaba in that city; the then central spot of the religious worship of the tribes of the vast peninsula of Arabia. After his birth his father and grandfather died; and then the governorship of Mecca, headship of the tribe, and keys of the Caaba, past into the hands of another branch of the family. Thus Mahomet, as he grew up, an orphan and destitute, found himself forced to enter into service for his support; and in that character trafficked for some years in the markets of Arabia and Syria. But thoughts were even then working in his mind which were to raise him to an eminence (a bad eminence indeed!) immeasurably higher than that of Prince of Mecca. Brooding darkly over the fall of his family, the idea of a new and false superstition was suggested to his mind by the father of lies, whereby he might more than recover its ancient dignity and power. Withdrawing each year to the secret cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca, he there consulted, and listened to, "the Spirit of fraud or of enthusiasm, whose abode," says Gibbon, "was not in the heavens but in the mind of the enthusiast;" and came to suppose himself commissioned as the prophet of God. The pestilential fumes from the pit of the abyss worked successfully within him. At length he declared his mission; first privately; three years after publicly. For a while the elders of the city, and uncles of Mahomet, affected to despise his presumption. They chased him ignominiously from Mecca. His flight marks the æra of the Hegira, A. D. 622. But soon fortune changed. "After an exile of seven years the fugitive missionary was enthroned as the prince, as well as prophet, of his native country:" and as leader too of its armies, according to the commission which he declared to be intrusted to him against idolaters and unbelievers, whether in Arabia or foreign lands. His death prevented his fulfilling his mission against the latter. But he marked them out to his followers; especially the Mariolatrists and saint-worshippers of the Roman empire. And the Caliphs, his successors and vicars, were not slow to enter on the career so marked out to them. And how can the woe be described so graphically and truly as under the imagery of the Apocalyptic prophecy before us?
From Murphy’s Alhambra
I. There was indicated, as well by the hieroglyphic itself as by the words of explanation accompanying, that to the Arab cavalry hordes, emerging from the smoke of the hellish exhalation, there would be opened a fearful career of conquest over Roman Christendom: one in which, as just hinted before, they would fly, as it were, with locust-wings, destroy what opposed them with the strength of lions’ teeth, and torment the subjugated Christian inhabitants as with the poison of a scorpion-sting.—And was there then a correspondence with this in the facts of the subsequent Saracenic history?—It was in the year 629 that the Saracens under Mahomet himself first issued from the desert into Syria, with proclamation of war against Christendom. They appeared, and they retired: it was but the omen of what was to follow. But in 636, very shortly after his death, they returned under the Caliph Omar to prosecute their mission in earnest; and behold, within less than three years Syria was subdued. When Damascus had fallen, and then Jerusalem, the unhappy Emperor Heraclius, with tears of anguish, bade farewell to the Syrian Province. He saw that it was lost to his crown irretrievably. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, yet more unhappy, had to attend the victor Caliph through it. He muttered as he passed on, "The abomination of desolation is in the Holy Place!" And soon, as if to remind the Christian remnant of the fact, there resounded that voice of the Muezzin, from a mosque erected on the site of Solomon’s temple, which, except with brief intermission during the reign of the crusaders, has since then never ceased.—The subjugation of Egypt followed quickly on that of Syria;—then, some 20 or 40 years after, that of the African Province; then, at the beginning of the eighth century, that of Spain. All this, within the limits of Roman Christendom: and contemporaneously,—though without those limits, and consequently without the sphere of the Apocalyptic prefigurative vision,—that of Persia in the second quarter of the seventh century, and that of North-west India and of Trans-Oxiana at the commencement of the eighth.—Let us take, in exemplification of the rapidity and extent of their conquests and destructions, two historical statements. The one, that in the ten years of Omar’s Caliphate, from 634 to 644, the Saracens had reduced to his obedience 36,000 cities or castles, destroyed 4000 churches, and built 1400 mosques for the exercise of the religion of Mahomet. The other, that at the end of the first century of the Hegira the Arabian empire had been extended to 200 days’ journey from East to West; and reached from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic. "Over all which ample space," says Gibbon, "the progress of the Mahommedan religion diffused a general resemblance of manners and of opinions:"—over all which ample space, we may add, the venom of the scorpion-sting of their conquerors was made to rankle in the breasts of the subject Christians.
For indeed the bitter contempt and hatred flowing out from the Moslem faith towards them could not but be felt perpetually. It was marked in the very terms of appellation, Christian dogs and infidels. The enactments of the capitulations granted them were their every day remembrancers of it. Deprived of the use of arms, like the Helots of old, and with tribute enforced as their annual life-redemption tax,—with a different dress enjoined them from their masters, and a more humble mode of riding,—an obligation to rise up deferentially in the presence of the meanest Moslem, and to receive, and gratuitously entertain for a certain time, whosoever of them when on a journey might require it,—such were the marks of personal degradation ordained in the Capitulations. And then, in token of the degradation of their religion,—that to which, notwithstanding all their superstitions, they clung with fond attachment,—there was the prohibition to build new churches, to chime the bells in those retained by them, or to refuse admission into them to the scoffing Moslem, though they regarded his presence as defilement. Add to which the inducements to apostasy, operating to an incalculable extent, on the young and thoughtless in families more especially, and then the penalty of death against the apostates returning to the Christian faith, the insults too to Christian females, and thousand undefinable injuries of oppression;—and how could it be but that the bitterness of their lot should be felt, and the poison rankle within them, yet more even than in other days with the Jewish captives in Babylon, and so as to make life itself almost a burden?
And now we shall be better prepared to consider,
IIndly, What is said of the locusts having a king over them, "the angel of the bottomless pit; whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue he hath his name Apollyon." I have already explained this as the opener of the pit of the abyss, and chief of destroyers, Satan; or perhaps one of Satan’s angels, the Spirit of evil that, like the lying Spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets, had inspired Mahomet; and of whom Mahomet, and after him his Caliphs, or Vicars, were but the mouth and instrument.—So interpreted, we see in this intimation not merely a singular fact predicted, but one of important bearing on all the main points of the prophecy. For the prediction was to this effect,—that wheresoever the Arab locusts might travel in their career of conquest, there they would carry the false religion of Mahomet with them; there, for however long, be ruled by its laws, and actuated by its spirit. Now this was not a result necessary, or to have been anticipated à priori. By no means. The Gothic invaders that conquered and settled in the Roman empire, embraced, almost immediately after, the religion of the conquered, and so were rapidly amalgamated into one people with them. The same was the case with the Saxons afterwards, the Hungarians of the tenth century, and other invaders. But, as the prediction (thus understood) noted the fact respecting the symbolic locusts, so in the case of the Saracens was it fulfilled. Through all their conquests, in countries the most remote, the Koran, the book dictated by the Spirit of the abyss to Mahomet, was the code of religion and of law that governed them; and the Caliphs, invested with civil power, were invested simply in virtue of their religious character and office, as Caliphs or Vicars of the false Prophet.—And hence, in fact, the perpetuation of their character through this period as destroyers to Christians. For the name of that Spirit of the abyss, their king, was Destroyer. Such it appeared in the doctrine of the Book; such on the field of battle. And when we consider not only the destruction of bodily life resulting, but also the destruction of soul from the poisonous doctrines of Mahommedism, surely the suitableness will by all be allowed of the name thus given him. Oh what a contrast, (it is one that even Gibbon cannot help alluding to,) what a contrast in character, doctrine, and results to mankind, between the spirit that animated Mahomet and his Koran, and the Spirit of Him and his Gospel against whom Mahomet set himself,—the Prince of Princes, the Lord Jesus:—the one the Spirit of Peace and Salvation; the other the Abaddon, the Destroyer!
III. But there was a term and limits prescribed to these locusts; a limit as to effect,—a limit as to time. They were not to kill the men of Christendom, so as were the agents under the second woe, i. e. not to annihilate them as a political Christian body; but only to torment them: moreover, while injuring the men, they were very singularly not to injure the grass or trees. Also their tormenting and destroying was limited to the defined period of 150 days. These are the next points for investigation.
1. And, first, as to the limit respecting the grass and the trees.—Strange as such restriction on the scorpion-locusts must appear, ("it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree,") yet had it its precise counterpart in the Koran, and in the actions of the otherwise destroying Saracens. The often-quoted order of the Caliph Aboubeker, issued to the Saracen hordes on their first invasion of Syria, "Destroy no palm-trees, nor any fields of corn, cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle," was an order originating not from the individual character of the Caliph, but from the precept of Mahomet. It was dictated to him, not by motives of mercy, but of policy. And its policy was soon evidenced in the rapid formation of flourishing kingdoms out of the countries conquered by the Saracens;—a formation that but for this could never have been accomplished.—But what I wish here to impress on the reader’s mind is its distinctiveness, as a characteristic of the Saracens. For let him but mark the direct contrast that they herein presented to other conquests and conquerors. For example, in the invasions of the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, the desolation of the trees and herbage was a striking feature. The ερημιαι, or desert places, that abounded in the provinces conquered by them were long a memorial of it. Hence in the Apocalyptic prediction of the Goths the wasting of the vegetation by them is made a distinct feature of prophecy; in that of the Saracens, now before us, there is the foreshowing of the direct reverse.
2. Further, as to the idolatrous men of Roman Christendom, there was the limit in the commission of the scorpion-locusts of this woe to the effect that they should not kill, or politically annihilate, but only torment them. And this too must surely seem most singular. But it had its fulfilment. When the reader consults any carefully written history of the Saracens, he will be almost sure to find the notice of their successes followed by a notice of certain remarkable checks that they received after a while; the consequence of which was the preservation of Christendom, both in the East and in the West. And he will find, intermingled with these statements, expressions of surprise and admiration, at checks such as these occurring, after so long and irresistible a progress of success.—Thus, as regards the Eastern empire. Twice did the Saracens, in the pride and plenitude of their power, attack the vital part of that division of Christendom, by besieging Constantinople;—1st, in the seven years’ siege, which lasted from 668 to 675; 2ndly, in the years 716–718, when Leo the Isaurian was on the imperial throne. Alike on either occasion they were unsuccessful; and obliged to retire, defeated and disgraced, as they had never been before.—Similarly, in the West, after that the Visi-gothic empire in Spain had been all but destroyed, A. D. 711, in the fatal battle of Xeres, and when, its remnant and only germ of re-vivification being with Pelayo in the mountains of Asturias, the Moorish Saracens, flushed with victory, attacked, in order completely to destroy that remnant,—their former success forsook them. They were twice repulsed with great loss, and gave up the enterprise. Again, and yet more remarkably, in the year 732, when Abdalrahman and his Moorish Saracens had prolonged a victorious line of march above 1000 miles, from Gibraltar to the Loire, "adjudging to the obedience of the Prophet whatever yet remained of France or Europe, … and in the full confidence of surmounting all opposition either of nature or of man,"—at that crisis, when, as Sismondi declares, "it appeared impossible for France to avoid subjugation," in the which case all Europe would probably have fallen, and, as regards our own island, "the interpretation of the Koran be now taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits demonstrate to a circumcised people the truth and sanctity of the revelation of Mahomet,"—at that crisis a bulwark was raised up most unexpectedly by the Franks under Charles Martel. The Saracens recoiled broken and discomfited from the blows of him who was called the hammer of Western Christendom; and "Europe owes its existence, its religion, and its liberty, to his victory." Historians, I repeat, agree in speaking of these deliverances of Christendom as events of which, at the time, there could have been no reasonable anticipation. But to the student of the Apocalypse, who has thus far followed and agreed with me, it will appear all accounted for. It was said to the Saracen locusts, "that they should not kill," not politically annihilate the united Church and State of Christendom, either in the East, or in any one of the kingdoms of the West;—however scorpion-like they might mutilate the political body, and torment the men, its constituents. In attempting to annihilate them, they exceeded their commission, and were repulsed.
3. Once more there was a restriction as to time. It was to a period of five months, or 150 days, that their commission was confined, to injure the inhabitants of Roman Christendom.—In order to the understanding of which restrictive clause, (a clause that will necessarily detain us some length of time,) it is important, indeed essential, that the reader should bear in mind two things:—1st, that the period noted is not that of the duration of the symbolic locusts, but of their aggressively striking, injuring, and tormenting the men of Roman Christendom, with their lion-like teeth and scorpion-stings: 2ndly, that the period intended by the 150 days is, if I am right, 150 years. For I adhere to the principle of expounding a day as significant of a year, in the chronological periods of symbolic prophecy:—a principle early suggested, as I have already intimated, and partially applied, by certain old prophetic expositors of eminence; and subsequently, and in more modern times, adopted and fully carried out by Mede, and most other English Protestant interpreters after him. An examination of the objections lately urged against it, by Dr. S. R. Maitland and others, will of course be necessary. This I reserve for my comment on Apoc. 13, as the most fitting occasion. For the present I will only repeat my deliberate conviction of the truth of the principle; and beg attention to the remark that, in its application both here and elsewhere, it will be my care to allow myself no more license or latitude than such as we find distinct precedent and authority for in other Scripture chronological prophecies; prophecies allowed on all hands to have received their fulfilment.
This premised, we turn to the history of the Saracenic warfare against Roman Christendom, to see whether there be discernible in it any well-marked period of five symbolic months, or 150 years, defining what we may call the intensity of the woe:—in other words that of the irresistible aggressive movement of the symbolic locusts; (irresistible, except with the reserve implied in the restriction as to effect already noted;) and that of the full outflowing of the venom of their scorpion-stings, to wound and to torment.
In the carrying out of which inquiry, the first question of course must be, from what act or event, as an epoch, to date the commencement of the period. And here,—just as in regard of those two famous ancient prophecies, the one Jeremiah’s, respecting the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, the other Daniel’s, respecting the seventy weeks to the Messiah,—it is not one epoch only that suggests itself, as that from which we might reasonably date the commencement of the period we speak of, but two or three. Thus, did we know when first the idea established itself in Mahomet’s mind of preaching his new and false religion, that perhaps might be considered a fit epoch of commencement; as being the time when the key of the abyss was given to Satan. Next there was that of the year A. D. 609, when Mahomet began privately to preach his divine mission, and so, before his family, there rose up the smoke of the abyss; and, yet again, that of 612, when he first publicly announced his prophetic mission, and so publicly caused the smoke of the pit of darkness to rise up before the eyes of men. Fourthly, there was the epoch of the year 629, when the locust-armies first issued out of the smoke, to make their attack on Syrian Christendom.—Now out of these four epochs I agree with Daubuz in selecting the third. I prefer it to the two first, because in regard of the term of duration of any public woe, we ought, I think, to have some noted public act, and not anything merely private, to mark both its commencement and its end. And I am led to it, in preference to the last, because the commencing epoch of 612 has, as we shall see, a suitable epoch of termination corresponding with it, whereas that of 629 has none.—It is to be observed, that in the circumstances of this public opening of his mission, A. D. 612, there was then for the first time expressed that principle of propagating his false religion by violence and with the sword, which made his followers a woe to all the countries near them, and was specially a declaration of war on Christendom. Nay, more: the organization might then be said to have begun, the destroying commission to have been given, and in the person of Ali, whom Mahomet named the Lion of God, the locust-form, with its lion-teeth and scorpion-sting, to have been discernible in the smoke from the just opened pit. For what passed on that occasion? "Who," said Mahomet, after announcing his mission, "will be my Vizier and Lieutenant?" "O prophet," replied Ali, "I am the man. Whoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly. O Prophet, I will be thy Vizier." On which I find Mr. Hallam thus observing: "These words of Mahomet’s early and illustrious disciple are, as it were, a text upon which the commentary expands into the whole Saracenic history." And, just as in the case of the 400 years of affliction and servitude, predicted as to befall Abraham’s seed, the epoch of Isaac’s mocking by Ishmael has by some been fixed on as that of the commencement of the period, because that in that mocking laugh there was manifested the spirit and the germ of what was more fully developed afterwards,—so, in the case before us, the epoch of the announcement and first manifestation of the bitter, fanatic, persecuting spirit of Mahommedism against all opposers, or even dissentients, may as justly be fixed on as that of the commencement of the 150 years of the chief virulence of the Saracenic woe. "After the year 612," says the Modern Universal History, "Mahomet sought to propagate his religion with all his might."
But supposing the epoch of the commencement of the woe thus fixed, when may we consider that its five months’ period of intensity ended? Not evidently during the progress of the aggressive religious wars and victories of the Saracen Moslems. Not, that is to say, during the first prophetic month (or thirty years) from this commencing epoch of 612, in the course of which Syria and Egypt fell before them:—not during the second month, in which month Cilicia was reduced to obedience, their inroads advanced to near Constantinople, and the African province invaded:—not during the third month, that in which the subjugation of Africa was all but completed;—or the fourth, in which Spain was subdued, and the south and centre of France almost to the Loire. The earliest date for the end of the chief intensity of the Saracenic woe, that can for a moment be thought probable, is that of the battle of Poictiers, already spoken of, in which Charles Martel defeated them, and which occurred in October 732, the beginning of the fifth prophetic month. But though defeated, or at least repulsed, on that memorable occasion, their power and spirit to aggress and to torment, with all the bitterness of fanaticism, was not terminated. "The vanquished spoilers," says Mosheim, "soon recovered their strength and ferocity; and returned with new violence to their devastations." In France the strength and power of the Saracens was so far from being crushed, that we find its Southern districts continued in subjection to them till the middle of this century. Charles Martel besieged Narbonne, the chief town of the Saracens, in vain after the battle. In 739 he had to invoke aid from Luitprand king of the Lombards against the Saracens, who had taken all the chief cities in Provence, and extended their ravages as high as Vienne, near Lyons. Nor were they finally driven out till some 15 or 20 years afterwards. In Spain the tide of their success and supremacy, notwithstanding the ill success of their efforts at totally extinguishing Pelayo and the Gothic remnant, had not yet begun to ebb. In Africa, some twenty years after the battle of Poictiers, the torment of the scorpion-sting so operated, as to induce nearly the whole Christian population of the province to apostatize, and become Mussulman. From east to west, throughout the vast Mahommedan world, one Caliph still governed the locust-hordes in the name of the Prophet. Their power remained unbroken.
But just about the middle of the eighth century a change occurred, marked by two events of such a nature, and such importance, as to be regarded by historians, both the one and the other, as constituting epochs most memorable in the Saracenic history. The change was this. The Abbassides, descendants of a different family of the early followers of Mahomet, in the year 750 supplanted the Ommiades in the Caliphate.—And then what followed? First the one and only survivor of the deposed and proscribed family escaped to Spain: and behold he was there received, acknowledged, and established as the lawful Caliph. This was in the year A. D. 755. So at length was the Caliphate divided. There was thenceforth a Caliph in the West, in opposition to the Caliph in the East. "The Colossus," says Sismondi, "that had bestridden the whole South was now broken." And he adds, "This revolution did more for the deliverance of Europe from the Mussulman arms than even the battle of Poicticrs."—Such was the first notable result.
Further, out of this change of dynasty, a second most important consequence followed in the East. The new Abbassidean Caliph, dissatisfied with the Syrian capital, where his rivals and enemies, the Ommiades, had so long lived and reigned, determined on building another on the western bank of the Tigris, where a canal with the waters from the Euphrates joined it, just a few miles beyond the old Roman Euphratean frontier. It was in the year 762 that Almanzor there laid its foundations; and thither the government and head of the locusts then took its flight, far eastward, away from Christendom. This was the era, as Daubuz well calls it, of the settlement of the locusts. They no more roved, he says, in a body as before, in quest of new conquests. And so Dean Waddington; "The [Arab] conquerors now settled tranquilly in the countries they had subdued." In fact the ancient warlike spirit, at least in this eastern divisions, had ceased to animate them as of old. "War," says Gibbon, "was no longer the passion of the Saracens." The very name that the Caliph gave to the new capital, was but an indication of the comparatively peaceable character that was thenceforth to attach to the Saracens. It was named Medinat al Salem, the City of Peace.—The æra is further noted by historians as that of the decline of the Saracenic power. So Gibbon observes; "In this City of Peace, amidst the riches of the East, the Abbassides … aspired to emulate the magnificence of the Persian Kings." … "The luxury of the Caliphs (i. e. of the Abbassides) relaxed the nerves, and terminated the progress, of the Arabian empire." So too Mills, in his History of Mahommedism; "The period preceding was that of … the rise of the Saracenic power; that which succeeds of … its decline and fall:" and Hallam; "The Abbassides … never attained the real strength of their predecessors."—Nor must I omit to observe on the manner in which the very geographical position of the new capital contributed to the relaxation of the woe. For not merely with reference to maritime enterprises against it, as Mr. Hallam suggests, but with reference to military also, the distance of the new seat of government added to the difficulty, and diminished the temptation. The locusts were no more in such immediate contact, as before, with Eastern Christendom.
And now, behold, instead of aggressive war on the part of the Saracens, aggression has begun against them, and victoriously too, on the part of the Christians. In the West, under the son of Charles Martel, Narbonne and Septimania were in the year 759 recovered, and the Saracens driven beyond the Pyrenees. Again in 761, as Baronius marks the date, the Christian remnant in the mountains of Spain, under the first Alphonzo, began to roll back the tide of war on their Saracen oppressors.—It was the same in the East. There Constantine Copronymus, the then reigning emperor, seized the opportunity for avenging the wrongs, and enlarging the limits, of the Greek empire.—So that the septenary of years begun A. D. 755, and ending 762, is obviously every way remarkable, as the period of the deliverance of Christendom from the chief terror and persecution of the Saracens. And either its year of commencement, 755, or that of its termination, 762, is just the fittest epoch, so far as I see, the one or the other, at which to consider the intensity of the Saracen woe as terminated.
And what then the length of the period of intensity and aggression, thus defined?—It is possible that the exact time when the idea was first formed by Mahomet of acting the part of false prophet, and when thus the key was used wherewith to open for him the pit of the abyss, may have been about the year 605,—four years before his private preaching; and so have furnished a date of inceptive commencement, corresponding with the year 755, as that of the inceptive termination. But the epoch of decided commencement may rather be fixed, as we have said, at Mahomet’s public opening of his mission, A. D. 612; and the epoch of full termination,—as regarded the Greek empire at least, to which in this and the next Trumpet there seems all through a special reference,—at the removal of the Caliphate to Bagdad, A. D. 762. Indeed there is in the next vision, as it seems to me, a direct allusion to this removal, as constituting an epoch recognised and marked out for notice in the Apocalyptic prophecy. And the interval between these dates of commencement and termination is, as the reader sees, precisely that laid down in the prophecy; viz. five prophetic months, or 150 years.
And now we have discussed, I think, all the prophetic details, and seen their truth and their fulfilment; more especially as characterizing the Saracen woe during its term of chief intensity, the above-mentioned 150 years.—A discussion this somewhat discursive; and which has forced us, like the historian of the Decline and Fall, though all in relevancy to his and our great topic, into inquiries respecting "the genius of the Arabian prophet, the manners of his nation, and spirit of his religion." It is to be remembered, however, that this period did not define the whole duration of the Saracen power or woe. It was but, I conceive, a marked primary period, within the whole period of this 5th Trumpet vision; just like another noted (the parallel is observable) as a primary marked period of the second woe, under the 6th Trumpet.—And thus it seems fitting that we glance, ere we quit the subject, at what remained of the history of these Apocalyptic locusts, after the ending of their first 150 years, and memorable flight beyond Euphrates, which later history of them was one of a period during much of which the woe on Christendom might seem to have been almost bound; and bound, as I have already hinted at as foreshown in the prophecy, and shall in my next Chapter have more fully to notice, by that selfsame Euphratean locality.
There then, far East, in Bagdad and the country round it,—after a brief temporary splendour, and temporary revival too into military enterprise and success, (though not the enterprise of aggressive warfare,) from 781 to 805, under the reigns of Mohadi and Haroun al Raschid, wherein the Greek Emperors who had provoked it suffered painfully,—we must think of the once terrible power of the Saracens as declined and declining: luxury and licentiousness working their usual sure process of decay with both prince and people, and the fervour of religious fanaticism past away. At length in the year 841 the reigning Caliph, distrusting the martial spirit of his Arabs, hired a band of 50,000 Turkmans from beyond the Oxus, to be the support of the Caliphate at Bagdad: and these, acting precisely the same part as the Roman Prætorian guards before them, revolted against, insulted, humiliated, and deposed the Caliphs; and so, in this case too, became a further and powerful accelerating cause of their sovereigns’ downfal.—Meanwhile among the Moslems both in Africa, and in Asia, the example of the Spanish schism had had its imitators. At Fez and Tunis, in Egypt and in Syria, in Chorasan to the North, and Persia to the East, new and independent dynasties were set up in the course of the ninth century: until at length, as the tenth century opened, the Fatimites,—descendants of that Ali, Mahomet’s first Vizier, of whom we have before spoken, and of his wife Fatima, Mahomet’s favourite daughter,—asserted their rightful claim, not to independent political sovereignty only, but even to the Caliphate itself: in the prosecution of this claim reduced Africa, Egypt, and Syria; and, from Cairo as their capital, became known as the third Caliphate of Islamism, excommunicating and excommunicated by its rivals, both at Cordova and at Bagdad.—Thus more and more dismembered, the Abbassidean Caliphate at Bagdad more and more languished: until the Persian independent Moslem dynasty of the Bowides, interposing on occasion of the factions there prevalent, advanced in the year 934 to Bagdad; stripped the Caliph of his secular office and supremacy; and reduced him to his spiritual functions as chief Pontiff of Islamism, the mere phantom thenceforward of departed power. The four angels continued bound as it were, and that for a long inaction, by the Euphrates.
Such was the progressive decline of the Eastern Saracens; and in that decline their brethren in the West in a measure participated. Throughout the ninth century the Christians of Spain were ever gaining ground on their Moorish oppressors. In 904 the capital of Asturias was advanced from Oviedo in the Gallician mountains to Leon; and that of Arragon from Jaca, in the Pyrenean valleys, to Pampeluna.—The spirit of bravery and enterprise indeed had not yet left the Western Arabs. It appeared in the Spanish battle-fields. It appeared in the exploits of the marauding bands that issued both from Spain and Africa:—of whom some, ere the middle of the ninth century, conquered the islands of Crete and Sicily; attacked, though vainly, Home itself; nor were expelled from their conquests, till after a tenure of above a century in Crete, and two centuries in Sicily.—But these were but like the marauding enterprises of the Normans of the eleventh century; indeed not so remarkable. The strength of the lions’ teeth, and the venom too of the early religious fanaticism, was greatly wanting. The intensity of the woe to Christendom had evidently passed away. The Saracenic conquests and incursions in Crete, Sicily, and Italy, were but a memento of what had been.