Excerpts From E.B. Elliott's
| ON THE SIXTH
THE TURKISH - ISLAMIC PLAGUE
"And the sixth angel sounded; and I heard one voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed; which were prepared for (or after) the hour and day and month and year, to slay the third part of men. And the number of the armies of the horsemen were [two] myriads of myriads: I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and those that sate on them, having breast-plates of fire, and of jacynth, and brimstone. And the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions: and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths, and in their tails. For their tails were like to serpents, having heads: and with them they do hurt."—Apoc. 9:13–19.
§ 1.—the occasion, local origin of, and nation commissioned in, the second woe
"And I heard one voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound by the great river Euphrates!—And the four angels were loosed: which were prepared.… for to slay the third part of men."
I. The thing most observable in the voice here spoken of is the point whence it issued; viz. the four horns of the golden altar of incense. Now, when a voice of command, whether as here for the commissioning of judgment, or as elsewhere for its arrest, proceeded from the throne in the inner temple, from the heavenly Spirit, or from some divinely-sent angel,—in cases like these the meaning is plain. It was an intimation that it originated from God. But what when proceeding (which is more seldom the case) from some other local scene or source? In every such example we shall find, if I mistake not, that the locality whence the voice invocative of judgment proceeded, was one associated with the sin or guilt to be punished. So in the history of Cain, Gen. 4:10; "The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground." So in Job’s protestation of innocence, 31:38; "If my land cry against me, or that the furrows thereof complain; if I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or caused the owners thereof to lose their life." So in Habakkuk’s denunciation against Babylon, 2:11; "The stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it; Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity:" and, yet again, in the denunciation by St. James, 5:4, against the Jews of his time; "The hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth." Once more in Isaiah 66:6, (an example more exactly parallel with that before us,) we read; "A voice of noise from the city! a voice from the temple! a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompence to his enemies:" and we find this preceded by an appalling statement of the manner in which not only otherwise had the Jewish citizens done evil against God, but even in the temple itself had provoked Him, by profaning its holy sacrifices and services. "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that offereth an oblation as if he offered swine’s blood: he that burneth incense as if he blessed an idol." So that in that case the very incense-altar and altar of sacrifice, profaned as they had been by the Jews, were scenes of their guilt; and scenes consequently from which, as well as from the city of their iniquitous lives, a voice issued denouncing vengeance against them:—"A voice from the city; a voice from the temple; a voice of the Lord rendering recompence!"—Just similarly, though with an inversion of the reasoning, in the case before us, since a cry was heard announcing and commissioning judgment against the third part of men, from the incense-altar, in the Apocalyptic temple of vision, it was to be inferred that that mystic incense-altar had been a scene of special sin, (whether through profanation or neglect,) on the part of the above-noted division of the men of Roman Christendom.
But this explanation is only partial. The Evangelist does not in mere general phrase describe the voice as issuing from the incense-altar, but specifically from the four horns of it: "I heard one voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God." It would seem therefore as if there had been guilt contracted, in respect of some such particular ritual as these horns of the altar were one and all alike concerned in. And what, we inquire, the rites of this character? I believe there were just three services in the Mosaic ritual, and only three, in which, agreeably with the divine injunction, this altar’s horns were thus used. The two first were the occasional atoning services for sins of ignorance, when brought to light, either of the priests as priests, or of the people collectively as a people; the third that of the stated and solemn annual atonement, for the sins both of priests and people, on the great day of expiation. Thus the object of the three services was similar: and, with the exception of what was peculiar to the great day of atonement, in the high priest’s entering into the Holy of Holies and the rite of the scape-goat, there was much of similarity in the ceremonials. In each case the hands of the party seeking reconcilement and forgiveness were to be laid on the head of the victim, and his sins told over it; then, after the sacrifice of the animal victim, its blood to be sprinkled by the priest seven times before the vail of the sanctuary, and then some of the blood to be put upon the horns of the altar of incense. So was an atonement to be made for the sins of the transgressors, especially for their sins in respect of holy things; and so it was promised that their sins should be forgiven them, and that the holy place, tabernacle, and altar should be cleansed from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and reconciled.—It was thus that king Hezekiah, with all solemnity and earnestness, made atonement for Israel, after its notable apostasy under the reign of his father Ahaz. For they had, both priests and people, for years previous, forsaken the house and altars of the Lord, and sacrificed and burnt incense to other gods in every city of Judah; in spite alike of severe national chastisements, sent to bring their sin home to them, and of the remonstrances of Isaiah and other holy prophets. But, this rite of atonement having been performed, the promised reconciliation with God followed. From the temple, and altar, and each blood-bedewed horn of the altar, a voice as it were went forth, not of judgment, but of mercy; of mercy through Him whose expiatory blood-shedding, and its application by Himself to purify and to reconcile, the whole ritual of atonement did but combine to typify. Instead of summoning destroying armies against Judah from the Euphrates, it staid them, when thence advancing to its invasion under Sennacherib: (thus direct was the contrast between Israel’s case under Hezekiah, and that of Christendom as here figured in the Apocalyptic vision:) it staid them, I say; and, with authority not to be resisted, bade them back.
Such were the particulars common in these three rites of atonement; and with their real and spiritual meaning, just as with that of the rest of the Levitical ritual, St. John, we know, like his beloved brother Paul, was well familiar. It was by this knowledge that he had been prepared to understand the intimations given from time to time, respecting the religious state of the Christian Church, in the mute but significant language of what was enacted on the Apocalyptic temple-scene: specially, for instance, how at the time correspondent with the first preparing of the trumpets of judgment, the large majority in Roman Christendom would have forsaken the great High Priest of their profession, in respect of his connexion with either altar; in other words, both as their atoner for sin, and as their intercessor, mediator, and offerer of their incense of prayer, on the golden incense-altar before God. And now then, when, after the judgments of five successive trumpets against them, he heard a voice denouncing judgment yet afresh from the four horns of the golden altar,—that altar which was appropriated to the true priest’s offering the true incense,—those horns of which the one and only use was in the rite of reconciliation for a transgressing priesthood and people,—what could he infer from the figure but this, that in spite of the fearful previous rebukes of their apostasy from heaven, neither the priesthood nor the collective people, at least of this third of Christendom, would have repented and returned; but the offer, the means provided, and critical occasion of respite given for reconcilement, been let to pass unimproved and unheeded. More particularly, as the rite had special reference to the sins connected with the incense-altar itself, it was to be inferred that those sins would be persisted in: to wit the abandonment of Christ, in his character of the one great propitiatory atonement, for other kinds of propitiatory merit; and in his character of High Priest over the house of God, for other intercessors and mediators; just as we have seen was the very fact throughout the previous times of the Saracenic woe:—that thus the sin would be graven even on the four horns of the golden altar; and their one and common voice, or that of the intercessorial High Priest himself from the midst of them, forced to pronounce the fresh decree of judgment, "Loose the four angels to slay the third part of men!"—Such, I say, as it appears to me, would be his interpretation of the voice in question. Issuing from the points whence it did, I think there could be no other meaning put upon it, accordantly with the spirit of the Levitical ritual: as also that no other imaginable typical action on the temple-scene could so accordantly with that spirit, and at the same time so simply and definitely, have intimated the important fact.—And alas! if the intent of the prefiguration was thus clear to St. John, there were answering facts in the religious character and state of Greek Christendom, at the time we speak of, equally clear to the discerning Christian. The offered opportunity for repentance and reconcilement, in regard more particularly of those crying sins against Christ of which I have been speaking, did pass unheeded. Neither the bitterness of the former woe, nor the taunts of the Mahommedan foes, nor the reclamations of their own iconoclastic princes, or of certain purer witnesses for Christ amongst them, had the effect of bringing home a sense of their sin either to the priesthood or people. The guilt of inveterate antichristian apostasy was fixed upon them. It was stamped on their ritual-worship. It was stamped on their hearts. It was stamped,—not to speak of other and earlier monuments,—on that of their very coinage. Witness the specimens here set before the reader; a visible memorial of the fact that has been preserved to our own later age.
II. "And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar, saying, Loose the four angels that are bound by the great river Euphrates! And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared … for to slay the third part of men."—The question now comes before us, Who, or what, might be these angels:—angels four in number;—angels commissioned in the work of judgment, specially, in the present case, for the destruction of the third part of the men of the Roman Christendom;—angels that had been bound previous to the blast of this Trumpet,1 apparently as if in action before the act of binding;—and whose binding had begun and continued by the great and famed river Euphrates?—I say, by the actual famed river so called. For that the local appellative is to be taken thus literally seems clear to me, alike from that common Scriptural habit of intermixing such literal local designations with symbolic prophecies, which I have sometime since remarked on and illustrated; and also from the evident unreasonableness of attaching any figurative sense to it, so as some have done, as if the figurative river of Rome, the figurative Babylon: seeing that Babylon is but one out of three Apocalyptic designations of Rome; the other two being Sodom and Egypt; and consequently the Nile, just as fit as the Euphrates, to be made its figurative river.—But who then, I repeat, or what, these angels?—The notorious fact of Turks from the Euphratean frontier having subverted the empire of Eastern Christendom, has naturally and reasonably suggested a reference to them, as the grand subject of the sixth Trumpet-vision. And, led by this conviction, the majority of Protestant interpreters,—I mean of those who regard the Apocalypse as already in great measure fulfilled,—have sought to explain the four angels of four Turkman, or, at least four Mussulman powers, which, in succession, or contemporaneously, took part in this work of destruction. But the interpretations are found on examination to be, one and all, inadmissible. As the commissioning and loosening of the four angels in vision was but a single act, so the agencies symbolized must necessarily have been at one and the same time loosed or commissioned: by which consideration alone all such successions of destroying agencies seem excluded, as Vitringa, and after him Woodhouse, have suggested in explanation. And as to contemporary Turkman dynasties, whether we refer to the list given by Mede and Bishop Newton after him, or that by Faber and Keith from Mills and Gibbon, there is no quaternion of them that can be shown either to have combined together in the destruction of the Greek empire,—to have been all locally situated by the Euphrates,—to have had existence at the time asserted to be that of the commissioning of the four angels,—or to have continued in existence up to the time of the completion of the commission given, in the destruction of the Greek empire. In short, the manifest inconsistency with historic fact of every such attempted solution has been hitherto, in the minds of the more thoughtful and accurate prophetic students, like as it were a mill-stone about the neck of the whole Turkish theory of interpretation.
But who then, we must repeat, or what, these four angels? And does the impossibility of finding four Turkman powers answering to the four angels, affect the truth of the general reference of the vision to the Turks? By no means. We need only, I think, to look at the nature and use of angels, as represented in the Apocalyptic figurations, to have suggested to us a view of the point in question very different, and one that will leave the rest of the Turkish interpretation altogether unencumbered.
For in the Apocalyptic prophecy, just as in all other revealed Scripture, the angels figured as acting on earth seem to mean, almost uniformly, superhuman angelic intelligences, bearing commission from God as the executors of certain defined purposes in his providential government; and in execution of them making use of, directing, controlling, and over-ruling certain earthly and human agencies subordinate.—In such case the number of angels specified is not conformed to the number of earthly agents subordinately employed, whether national or individual. For example, the circumstance of its being one angel, (Apoc. 14:6,) that was seen flying in mid-heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation under heaven, (and the remark applies to the other two angels also that in succession followed,) did not imply that it would be one individual, or one nation only, that would furnish the earthly agency. Many probably might be co-operators in the work. Again, the specification of four angels in Apoc. 7, as appointed to desolate the Roman empire, was no intimation of four nations, exactly and only, being intended to combine in that desolation. Rather the number four was chosen in accordance simply with the propriety, or what older commentators call the decorum, of the figure. The thing intended to be figured being that from every side fierce tempests of invaders would fall on the devoted empire, in the course of the then about commencing Trumpet-judgments, four angels of the winds was the number depicted on the Apocalyptic scene; in correspondence with the well-known fact that four winds from the four corners of the heaven are the proverbial representatives of all the winds.
From the above there follows this obvious inference, with respect to the passage before us, that there is no necessity to suppose four earthly powers to be prefigured as combining in the work of the sixth Trumpet, because four angelic agencies are represented as concerned;—rather that the number of the latter may have been chosen from considerations altogether different. Moreover there is suggested yet further a suspicion that, as the number of judgment-angels here mentioned is the same with the number mentioned in Apoc. 7, (and it is mentioned, let me add, nowhere else in the Apocalypse,) so it is not unlikely that they may be, the one and the other, the very same identical quaternion of angels. Which idea once suggested, it will I think only need that we trace out the characteristics either stated or implied respecting the first-mentioned quaternion, and compare them with those stated or implied respecting the other, in order to recognise their identity, and to see that this is indeed the true and simple solution of the whole matter.
"With regard then to the four tempest-angels of Apoc. 7, the nature and range of the executive commission given them under the sixth Seal, was thus defined, "to hurt the land, trees, and sea," of the Apocalyptic Roman world. A commission this, let us observe, of very general and large import, in so far as that world was concerned; and one possibly of long duration too, perhaps even as long as that of the 144,000 sealed, by way of protection from them: though liable of course to arrests and interruptions, such as in fact checked them at their time of first appearance; more especially in subordination to Christ’s purposes and provision for the preservation and good of that his election of grace.—Which being their commission, and the angels figured as ready, with the winds in leash, to execute it, that instant that restraint was withdrawn,—it could not surely be but that the process and results of their acting it out would enter into the subsequent figurations.—Admitting which, and considering that on the next or seventh Seal being presently after opened, the judgments thereupon inflicted on the apostate world were pictured under the several tempest-like figures, first and introductorily, of thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake, then, on the two first trumpets sounding, of hail and volcanic fire, affecting (as it is expressed with singular coincidence of phrase) "the land, and trees, and sea,"—considering this, it must, I think, be deemed scarce credible but that these selfsame judgments were the primary results of the acting of the above-mentioned four tempest-angels.—And, if so, why suppose their commission and their action to terminate with the second Trumpet? Why not rather to go on under the third Trumpet, and the fourth; seeing that it is still the same third of the Roman world which is the scene of the infliction; and that the meteoric judgment of the third Trumpet, at least, is as notoriously associated as those preceding, alike in poetic figure and in nature, with winds and tempests?—Thus have we advanced to the fifth Trumpet; and have only once more to inquire why, if the four destroying angels were in action thus far, we should negative the idea of their acting still; so as in fact, gathering round, to have brought the locusts on Christendom: especially considering that the same body of Christ’s sealed ones, that were originally noted in association with the four tempest-angels, are referred to as on the scene now also; and the same care implied in the charge given to the earthly agency of the scorpion-locusts, that these sealed ones of Christ should not be harmed in the infliction, as in the tempest-angels’ original commission. Nor can I see any reasonable ground for pronouncing against this view.
Thus much as to the probable acting of the four tempest-angels.—Then as to their restrainings let two things be observed. The one is, that in any case of the restraint being long and entire, (so, for example, as when the Saracen woe ceased,) the figurative phrase bound would be perhaps the most fitting of all others to designate it, considering the element they impersonated; whether judged of by classical or Scripture usage.—The other is that, supposing the local spot of their arrest, and cessation to act,—in other words, that of the earthly agency directed by them lapsing into quietude,—to be one very marked, then it would just be accordant with Scriptural analogy to represent them as bound at that particular spot. So, for example, in the memorable instance of the angel of pestilence, commissioned against David and Israel. His course having advanced with the pestilence from Dan to Beersheba, he is described as with hand outstretched locally over Jerusalem to destroy it, at the time when the plague was there commencing to destroy; and also to have been arrested and stayed locally by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, when at that very spot, presently afterwards, the plague was stayed.—Now then apply we this Scripture mode of speaking of angelic agencies, to the case of the Saracen locust-plague figured in the fifth Trumpet. And, supposing the four angels of Apoc. 7 to have both acted in it during its progress, and ceased acting when it ceased, the locality at which their arrest might be fitly described as taking place, could be no other than that where the plague itself received its arrest, viz. Bagdad by the Euphrates: the place where they might be said to have remained afterwards fettered and bound, no other than that where the power of the Saracenic caliphate remained paralyzed in its declension, and had at length its temporal power of the sword formally taken from it;—still the same Bagdad by the Euphrates.
In fine the conclusion we are forced to is this;—that both in respect of the local spot of their implied previous arrest, and in respect of the local spot of their subsequent continued restraint, a Scriptural description of those four tempest-angels of judgment, of whose original commission we read in Apoc. 7:1, must at this point of time, (on the hypothesis of the prolongation of their commission and their acting,) have exactly answered to what was said, or implied, at the sixth Trumpet’s sounding, respecting that quaternion of angels that were to act in the new commencing woe:—they too being said to have been bound, (after an implied period evidently of previous acting,) and to have also continued bound, by the great river Euphrates.
Thus the characteristics of the one quaternion of angels. and of the other agreeing, it seems to me that they may be reasonably considered identical.1 And the Turkish interpretation of the sixth Trumpet being thus freed from the difficulty of showing four Turkman nations answering to the four Euphratean angels, which has so long encumbered it, it only remains, in explanation of so much of the prophecy as stands at the head of this Section, that I show respecting the Turkman power, or new earthly agency, as I presume, employed under the angelic,—
IIIrdly, the two points following.—1st, that the locality where it received its commission, was the same as that where the preceding Saracenic scourge was arrested and bound, viz. Bagdad by the Euphrates; 2ndly, that its people and power, then and there commissioned, continued thenceforward in political life and action; so as, in due time, to effect the work assigned to the Euphratean horsemen in vision, of slaying the third part of men.
And to prove these two points, nothing more will be necessary than to trace, in brief narrative, the history of the Turkman nation, from its first commissioning as a Moslem power against Christendom, to the time of the fall of Constantinople.
1. In my sketch of the state of the world, contemporaneously, given in the last Chapter, as that which might have suggested itself to the mind of the second Basil at the commencement of the eleventh century, the name of Mahmoud of Ghizni was mentioned as the only reigning potentate, whose power could reasonably have been deemed formidable to the Greek empire. It was also noted, as that which might allay apprehensions of danger from that quarter, that Mahmoud seemed absorbed in his Indian conquests; that he was then in his old age; and that his empire was likely, in all human probability, to fall to pieces at his death.—We now proceed to observe, that, as it might then have seemed probable, so it happened. In the year 1028, three years after Basil’s own death, Mahmoud died: and, on his death, forthwith his vast empire began to fall to pieces. Among his subjects had been numerous Turkman tribes,—descendants of those Turks of Mount Altai from whom, in the seventh century, the Avars had fled, and with whom the emperor Justin had negotiated:—tribes whom it had been Mahmoud’s policy to move southward to Khorasan, a country between the Himalaya and the Caspian; thereby to separate them more entirely from their countrymen beyond the Oxus and Jaxartes. It was these that were now to become a woe to Christendom. Soon after Mahmoud’s death (it was in the year A. D. 1038) they rose in assertion of their independence; chose Togrul Beg of the house of Seljuk as their chief; defeated and killed Mahmoud’s son Massoud; drove the Ghiznivite nobles eastward to the banks of the Indus; and stood forth before the world as the chief power in central Asia.—Originally idolaters in religion, they had lately, both prince and people, embraced with fervour the religion of Mahomet: and, thus become co-religionists, they were called in the year 1055 to his assistance by the Prophet’s Vicar, the Caliph of Bagdad, on occasion of some threatening danger of domestic factions. And then the following memorable consequence resulted. (I state it in brief, because the history must be given by me more in detail in the next Section.) After the quelling of the factions, and the extinction of the weak dynasty of the Bowides, who had ruled since A. D. 933 in Persia, the Turkish chief, Togrul, was appointed by the Caliph his Lieutenant; (the inauguration being performed soon after with solemnity suited to the importance of the occasion;) and the Turk thereby legitimately constituted temporal lieutenant of the Prophet’s Vicar, and head of the secular power of Islamism. Then, and thence, was the reviving and reloosing of the long quiescent Moslem power against Roman Christendom. And I must here pray the reader well to mark the place; as I shall in the next Section call on him to mark the time. For it was the very place noted in the prophecy, as that from whence the destroying angels, under the sixth Trumpet-blast, were to be loosed and re-commissioned to destroy,—Bagdad, by the Euphrates.
This was one point that we were to prove in respect of the Turks. It only needs to pursue their history to see in it the fulfilment of the other.
2. Thus invested then, and with a freshness of fanatic fervour which spoke them animated by the same spirit from hell as their early Arab precursors, a holy war against Greek Christendom was speedily resolved on, in the very spirit of their commission. The chief Togrul himself dying, it fell to his nephew Alp Arslan, the successor to the office, title, and spirit of his uncle, and "with his name, next after that of the Caliph, similarly pronounced in the public prayers of the Moslems," to execute the project. Bearing in the very name of Alp Arslan, "the Valiant Lion," both his own character and that of his army, (according to the prophetic symbol, "I saw in the vision the heads of the horses as the heads of lions," of which more in the next Section,) "he passed the Euphrates," A. D. 1063, "at the head of the Turkish cavalry:" and the loss of the kingdom and frontier of Armenia, A. D. 1065, "was the news of a day."—But mightier change seemed portended by the then glaring comet in the heavens. The emperor Diogenes Romanus, (successor, after two or three brief reigns intervening, to the second Basil spoken of in the preceding chapter,) hastened to the defence of his empire. Franks, Normans, Bulgarians, mingled with the Greeks to add strength to his army; and the invisible tutelage of the Virgin Mary was invoked too, as we have seen, to his succour. But succour came not to the Mariolatrist. In the fatal field near Malazgerd (A. D. 1071) his army was defeated, himself taken prisoner, and the fate of the Asiatic provinces sealed irretrievably.—The victorious career of Alp Arslan himself against Greek Christendom was indeed cut short by assassination. But it was followed up under Malek Shah, the greater son of a great father: him of whose empire we read that it extended, in its final amplitude, from the Chinese frontier, west and south, as far as the neighbourhood of Constantinople, the holy city of Jerusalem, (now just taken from the Fatimites,) and the spicy groves of Arabia Felix.—I say the victorious career of the Turks against Greek Christendom was continued under him. For it was under the shadow of his sceptre, as the Asiatics express it, that Suleiman, one of the many Seljukian subordinate princes, achieved in 1074 the conquest of Asia Minor; and, with Nice as his capital, founded what was then the dependent principality of Asia Minor, or Roum. This was indeed, remarks the historian, "the most deplorable loss that the church and the empire had sustained since the first conquests of the Caliphs." Nor did the severity of the scourge end at Malek’s death. For though three out of the four kingdoms into which his dominions then split, I mean those of Persia, Kerman, and Syria, had nothing to do with the fated desolation of the Greek empire, the destiny of the fourth, Roum, now become an independent kingdom, was different.—It seems that Suleiman had been originally urged to the war against the Christian infidels by the voice of the Caliph, as well as of the supreme Sultan: and as he deserved from them the title of Gazi, or Holy Champion, by the vigour and success with which he conducted it, so by the manner also in which he continued to make it subservient to the propagation of the Mahomedan faith. Throughout the whole extent of the new kingdom, from the Euphrates to Constantinople, mosques were built, the laws of the Koran established, the mission of Mahomet preached, Turkish manners and language made to prevail in the cities, and Turkman camps scattered over the mountains and plains. On the hard condition of tribute and servitude the Greek Christians might enjoy the exercise of their religion. But their most holy churches were profaned, their priests insulted, thousands of the children circumcised, and of their brethren multitudes induced to apostatize. Alexius trembled on the imperial throne of Constantinople, and in plaintive letters implored the succours of Western Europe:1 for, unless some great intervention should occur to prevent it, it threatened to extinguish his empire, and kill the third part of men.
And such an intervention did in fact arise. The Crusades began, (as I shall again have to notice in the next Section,) and continued for two centuries; not indeed so as to avert the destruction, but to delay it. And what I wish, at the present point of our inquiry, to call the reader’s attention to, is this; that throughout those two centuries,—a period memorable in the historic page, as comprehending within it the rise, progress, and end of the Crusades from Western Europe,—the Turkish Sultany of Roum, in spite of the hostility thus aroused against it, still all through preserved its vitality. The host of the first Crusaders indeed, having taken Nice, (A. D. 1097,) and once and again defeated the Turkman hordes, forced them to move back the capital of their now contracted territory into the interior, to Iconium. But in 1147 the leaders of the second Crusade, Conrad and King Louis VII, had in melancholy strains to relate to their countrymen that the power and spirit of the Anatolian Sultan remained unquenched; and how the bones of their Christian hosts lay bleaching among the Pamphylian hills, a monument of the continued sharpness of the Turkish arrows. Yet again in the third Crusade, A. D. 1189, the Emperor Frederic 1st, traversing the same route to the Holy Land, found every step of his fainting march besieged by the still innumerable hordes of the Turkmans: till, in desperation, he stormed Iconium, and forced the Sultan to sue for peace.—It was not until the next century that a power of a different character, and from a different quarter, viz. that of the Moguls under one of the generals of Zenghis, sweeping across Anatolia, broke the kingdom of Iconium: and then in manner, and with results, such as not to extinguish the Turkman power in Asia Minor, but only the Seljukian dynasty that had ruled over it.
Not, I say, the Turkman power. For so it had been ordered by an overruling Providence, that, just before this destroying Mogul irruption, a fresh band of Turkmans from Charisme and the Oxus, under Ortugrul and his son Othman, fleeing from the Moguls, had in A. D. 1240 engaged themselves in the service, and become subjects of the kingdom, of Aladin the then Sultan of Iconium. And when the Seljukian dynasty had been extinguished, as before stated, one of these, reuniting some of the broken fragments, furnished a new head to the Turkmans of Anatolia. Gradually, but continuously, this process of reunion went on under the Othmans: the decline of the Moguls, and death of Cazan of the house of Zenghis, having, as Gibbon says, given free scope to the rise and progress of the Ottoman Empire. And at length, in the course of the 14th century, every fragment having been united by them, and the whole of Anatolia (including both Iconium and Nice, the more ancient and the later capital) embraced in their dominion, even as in the earlier and palmy days of Suleiman’s greatness,—with the same manners, language, and laws remaining to it as before, as well as the same religion, and with an armorial memento too, as I believe, of the Seljukian ensign, in the crescent that gilded and surmounted its banners,—it might truly be said, as Gibbon remarks with his usual accuracy, that the ancient kingdom of the Seljukians had again revived under the Ottoman princes. The ruling dynasty was indeed different; and a brief interval of anarchy had passed before the revival: but not so (let the reader well mark the point) as to affect the unity and continuity of the Turkman Anatolian kingdom. Just as the Visigothic power in Spain was continued under Pelayo and his successors, or as the Frank kingdom, after the dissolution of the Carlovingians and anarchy consequent, was yet kept up in the new line of Hugh Capet,—just as, (to take a biblical example,) Judah, when revived under Nehemiah or the Maccabean princes, after the longer or shorter periods of interregnum consequent on the invasions of Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus, was still regarded in Scripture prophecy and promise as the same Judah,—so is the identity of the Ottoman with the old Seljukian empire demonstrable, on this reorganization of the Turkman power. And, as under the one dynasty it began the fulfilment of the prophecy of the sixth Apocalyptic Trumpet, so under the other, as I must now briefly notice, it completed it.
Although indeed, as to the rest, what need it to tell the well-known history? Of the Sultans Othman and Orchan, Amurath and Bajazet,2 who knows not; and of the passage of their victorious armies across the Hellespont? Who knows not how, from the Danube to the Adriatic, the European provinces of the empire were then, one after another, rent from it by the ruthless foe, until its vitality was almost confined to the city of Constantine: just as vegetable life sometimes dies down to the root: or, where the limbs are dead, the animal life may still beat at the heart? Then at length, says the historian, for the first time for above 1000 years from its foundation, Constantinople was surrounded both on the Asiatic and European side by "the arms of the same hostile monarchy." The four tempest-angels seemed to have occupied each its corner of the heavens, whence to destroy: and the Turkman Sultan, Mahomet the 2nd, furnished the earthly agency for the consummation of the catastrophe.—On the particulars of this catastrophe it is not my present purpose to dwell. There are various most interesting points of detail, which will call for notice in the next Section. Suffice it in the present to have shown, as I proposed, the national continuity of these Turkmans, from the time of their first commissioning, and the loosing of the Moslem power under them against Roman Christendom, down to that of their destroying the Greek empire. And, in conclusion, let me only remark how by their official titles and appellatives the Turkman Sultans seemed almost to proclaim before the world their identity on those points with the prefigured agents of the second woe. Slayer as he was, in Apocalyptic phrase, of the third of the men of Christendom, the Sultan called himself Hunkiar, the slayer of men. Reviver and relooser as he was, agreeably with the Apocalyptic prophecy, of the long dormant spirit of the preceding woe, i. e. of the spirit of the old Moslem Caliphate, he had soon the caliphate, or spiritual headship of the Moslem world, yielded up to him, (as, long before, its temporal headship,) and added it also to his titles. Finally, having in 1530 united Bagdad to his dominions,—just as if to direct the attention of an enquirer to that city by the Euphrates, as the local source whence, as here foretold, his primary commission issued,—he inserted it prominently into the list of his proud titles of empire. "I Sultan of Sultans," was his style of writing, "Governor of the earth, … Lord of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, &c. &c.,—and more particularly of the capital of the Caliphs, Bagdad."1
§ 2.—further characteristics of the nation commissioned in the second woe
In the preceding Section the two first noted and most prominent particulars, designative of the people that were to be God’s scourge under the second woe, viz. their receiving their commission from the same locality where the former or Saracenic woe had been bound, i. e. by the Euphrates, and their destroying the third part of men, the Greek empire, have been shown to apply to the Turks,—the Seljukian and Ottoman Turks. And it surely needs not to say that they can apply to no other nation whatsoever. In order, however, yet more distinctly to fix the application, there are added certain other characteristics of the people intended; describing their numbers, their personal appearance, the particular instrumentalities used by them in destroying and injuring, and the period of time (a period very singularly defined) within which they were to execute their commission of slaying the third part of men. These I proceed now to consider—the simpler points more in brief; the difficult and the most important more at large.
1. And, first, as to their numbers. "The number of the armies of the horsemen," it is said, "was myriads of myriads:—a numeral phrase indefinite, but, according to its natural and not infrequent use in Scripture, expressive of large numbers; and of which the applicability characteristically to the Turkman armies, more especially as it is not mere numerousness of soldiers that is noted, but numerousness of horsemen, is to a student of the history of the times notorious. Numerous indeed were the contemporary armies of Western Europe, at the close of the 11th century; though not innumerous like the Turks. But herein was a greater distinction. With them the cavalry or knights were comparatively few; the bulk of the army being foot-soldiers: whereas of the Turkman, as of the Saracen armies before, (and who so well knew the fact as the Greeks and Pranks that encountered them?) the numbers numberless were cavalry.—Further it has been suggested by Daubuz, and I think not without reason, that there may be probably an allusion also in the form of expression to the Turkman custom of numbering by tomans or myriads. For though not unused among other nations, yet there is probably none with whom it has been from early times so prevalent as with the Turkmans and Tartars. Thus, as the same author adds in illustration, the population of Samarcand was rated at seven tomans, because it could send out 70,000 horsemen warriors. Again, the dignity and rank of Tamerlane’s father and grandfather was thus described, that they were the hereditary chiefs of a toman of 10,000 horse. So that it is not without his usual propriety of language that Gibbon speaks of "the myriads of the (Seljukian) Turkish horse overspreading the Greek frontier, from the Taurus to Erzeroum:" or of the cavalry of the earlier Turks of Mount Altai "being, both men and horses, proudly computed by millions." He had doubtless the Turkman phraseology and mode of numbering in his mind, when he penned the two sentences; and, in the last of them, their proud habit of exaggeration also. And wherefore then may we not suppose a similar reference, since the turn of the phrase is similarly apt and characteristic, in the Apocalyptic notice of number before us?
It is added, "And I heard the number of them." And, considering the pointedness of the declaration,—appended as it is to the notice of the numbers previous, in an order and form unusual,—and also John’s representative character on the Apocalyptic scene, I cannot but think that it may have been meant to betoken that the report of the Turkmans’ might and numbers would fall with more than common impressiveness upon the ear of the Christian Church. If so, it surely needs but a glance at history to see the realization of the intimation. Passing over the terrors of the Turkman name to the Greek Christians, we know that by Peter the Hermit personally, and by the letters also of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the report was carried to all the princes and churches in Western Christendom. "Jerusalem has been besieged, taken, sacked, razed, triumphed over. What may the rest of Christendom promise itself? The strength of the Turks is daily increased: their forces are fiercer and stronger than the forces of the Saracens: they have already devoured the whole world in hope. We call on you for help, as Christians not in the name and profession only, but in heart, soul, spirit. Ere the tempest thunder, ere the lightning fall on you, avert from yourselves and children the storm hanging over your heads! Deliver us: deliver your religion; and God shall requite you." So as Knolles relates, the report was echoed and thrilled through Western Christendom:—among the true, as well as the false, that bore the Christian name: the former having as yet not formally, or in a body, separated from the Church visible. And what followed? The Council of Clermont: the fermentation through Christendom: and then its precipitation in the crusades against the Euphratean horsemen. All was but the result of that hearing of the bruit of the Turkish might and terribleness from Jerusalem. "And I heard the number of them."
2. The next descriptive trait represents to us their personal appearance and array. This is a point not forgotten, as we have seen, in the figurative prophetic descriptions, whether of the Old or New Testament. So, for instance, in that of the Assyrian lovers of Aholah in Ezekiel; "Horsœmen clothed with blue, riding upon horses, captains and rulers:" and again, turning to the Apocalypse, in that of the Saracens with man-like faces, but hair as the hair of women, just preceding; and in that of Papal Rome and its hierarchy, as typified by the scarlet-coloured Woman, yet to come. So here of the Euphratean armies: "I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sate on them, having breast-plates of fire, (i. e. of fire-colour,) and jacinth, and sulphur;" or of red, blue, and yellow. On which it is the just remark of Mr. Daubuz, "that from their first appearance the Ottomans have affected to wear warlike apparel of scarlet, blue, and yellow: a descriptive trait the more marked from its contrast to the military appearance of Greeks, Franks, or Saracens contemporarily." And, indeed, I may add that it only needs to have seen the Turkish cavalry, (as they were before the late innovations,) whether in war itself, or in the djerrid, war’s mimicry, to leave an impression of the absolute necessity of some such notice of their rich and varied colourings, in order to convey in description at all a just impression of their appearance.
The word hyacinthine, let me observe, seems to fix the primary meaning of the other two words fire-like, sulphur-like thus, as signifying colour. At the same time the singularity of the words used to figure it, cannot but strike us. And the general appropriateness of Scripture emblems,—an appropriateness largely evidenced and exemplified in a former chapter,—may suggest the suspicion of fire and sulphur having been things in some peculiar and characteristic manner connected with the Turkish armies:—a suspicion confirmed, and also explained, by a subsequent mention of fire and sulphur in the emblematic figuration of them; and of which this twofold notice tends to show the importance.
3. To this point, then, let us next direct our attention. "The heads of the horses," the Evangelist proceeds to observe, "were as the heads of lions: and out of their mouths goeth forth fire, and smoke, and sulphur. By these three was the third of men slain;—by the fire, and the smoke, and the sulphur that proceedeth out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouths, &c."—The horses and their riders are here evidently a composite symbol: the riders being mentioned just once, as if, like the human resemblances in the Arab scorpion-locusts, to notify man’s agency in the scourge; but all the principal characteristics, including such as must needs refer not to animals, but to men, being said of the horses. So in the clause, "their heads were as the heads of lions." On which let me just observe, in passing, that as the heads, being unnatural, are of course symbolic, and the symbol, according to its all but constant use in Scripture, to be interpreted of leaders of the Euphratean armies,—it might seem a preintimation that to these leaders the same lion-like destroying character would attach, as to the Saracens before them. And we have seen that there was an answering, in respect not of character only, but even of title, in the Alp Arslans and Kilidge Arslans, the Valiant Lions and Noble Lions, of the Seljukians; and in the pretensions and character of the Othman Sultans also.—But it was specially of the new destroying agency, predicated of them, that I was to speak, as the really characteristic point in the description. "Out of their mouths," says St. John, "issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone:" it being added, as if to limit and define their instrumental use; "By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths." Now that there is in this, as Mede suggests, an allusion to the modern artillery used by the Ottomans against Constantinople, seems to me so obvious and so striking, that I cannot but wonder that any one, as Dean Woodhouse, should have objected to, or even, as Vitringa, hesitated about it. Wherefore could the Dean speak of the interpretation as a force on prophetical language, unworthy of respectable names? If the arms of a nation be often elsewhere noticed in prophetic Scripture, why not here?—And where, indeed, and on what other occasion, did ever the arms employed bear so memorable, so all-important an influence, on the great catastrophe? For I would wish strongly to impress this point on the reader’s mind. It is marked prominently in the prophecy before us. It is marked prominently also in the history. It was to "the fire and the smoke and the sulphur," to the artillery and fire-arms of Mahomet, that the killing of the third part of men, i. e. the capture of Constantinople, and by consequence the destruction of the Greek empire, was owing. Eleven hundred years and more had now elapsed since her foundation by Constantine. In the course of them, Goths, Huns, Avars, Persians, Bulgarians, Saracens, Russians, and indeed the Ottoman Turks themselves, had made their hostile assaults, or laid siege against it. But the fortifications were impregnable by them. Constantinople survived, and with it the Greek empire. Hence the anxiety of the Sultan Mahomet to find that which would remove the obstacle. "Canst thou cast a cannon," was his question to the founder of cannon that deserted to him, "of size sufficient to batter down the wall of Constantinople?" Then the foundry was established at Adrianople, the cannon cast, the artillery prepared, and the siege began.—It well deserves remark, how Gibbon, always the unconscious commentator on the Apocalyptic prophecy, puts this new instrumentality of war into the foreground of his picture, in his eloquent and striking narrative of the final catastrophe of the Greek empire. In preparation for it he gives the history of the recent invention of gunpowder, "that mixture of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal:" tells of its earlier use by the Sultan Amurath; and also, as before said, of Mahomet’s foundry of larger cannon at Adrianople: then, in the progress of the siege itself, describes how "the volleys of lances and arrows were accompanied with the smoke, the sound, and the fire of the musketry and cannon:" how "the long order of the Turkish artillery was pointed against the walls; fourteen batteries thundering at once on the most accessible places:" how "the fortifications which had stood for ages against hostile violence, were dismantled on all sides by the Ottoman cannon, many breaches opened, and, near the gate of St. Romanus, four towers levelled with the ground:" how, as "from the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides, the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke, which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman empire:" how "the double walls were reduced by the cannon to a heap of ruins:" and how, the Turks at length "rushing through the breaches," "Constantinople was subdued, her empire subverted, and her religion trampled in the dust by the Moslem conquerors." I say it well deserves observation, how markedly and strikingly Gibbon attributes the capture of the city, and so the destruction of the empire, to the Ottoman artillery. For what is it but a comment on the words of our prophecy, "By these three was the third part of men killed; by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the sulphur, which issued out of their mouths."—Indeed by a Turkish historian, describing the same catastrophe, the destroying instrument of war is described under a very similar figuration to the Apocalyptic. "The Moslems placed their cannon in an effective position. The gates and ramparts of Constantinople were pierced in a thousand places. The flame which issued from the mouths of those instruments of warfare, of brazen bodies and fiery jaws, cast grief and dismay among the miscreants. The smoke which spread itself in the air rendered the brightness of day sombre as night; and the face of the world soon became as dark as the black fortune of the unhappy infidels."
4. Next as to the appearance of the horses’ tails.—And in this, according to what I cannot hesitate to regard as its true interpretation,—though to support it we have not, as before, the authority of many consenting interpreters, but by all of them that I have seen, except Dr. Keith, it is not so much as hinted, and by him only glanced at allusively, and in a Note,—I say there seems to me in this descriptive point a symbol as remarkable and as characteristic of the Turks, as even that on which we last commented:—I might perhaps say more so. For what are the terms of the description? "The horses’ power (ἡεξουσια των ἱππων) is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, having heads, and with them they do injury." Now had it been simply said, "their tails were like serpents, and with them they injure," the case would have resembled that of the scorpion-locusts’ tails of the plague preceding; and might be presumed to have indicated here, just as there, the injury merely, and venom of a false religion accompanying it, done by the new agencies of woe. But there is mentioned, in addition, the peculiarity of these serpent-like horse-tails, seen in vision, having heads. And thus, according to the usual well-known prophetic use of the symbol of a head, as already a little while since observed, the further idea is naturally, I may almost say necessarily suggested, of rulers, or governing authorities, in association with the horse-tails. But how so? The crown seems a sufficiently natural symbol to denote a conquering emperor, the diadem a monarch, the sword a military prefect, the balance an administrator of justice. But a horse-tail to denote a ruler! Strange association! Unlikely symbol! Instead of symbolizing authority and rule, the tail is in other Scriptures put in direct contrast with the head, and made the representative rather of the subjected and the low. Besides which it is not here the lordly lion’s tail, but that of the horse. Who could ever, à priori, have conceived of such an application of it? And yet among the Turks, as we know,—i. e. among the Euphratean horsemen who were to kill the third part of men,—that very association had existence, and still exists to the present day. It seems that in the times of their early warlike career the principal standard was once lost, in the progress of battle; and the Turkman commander, in its default, cutting off his horse’s tail, lifted it on a pole, made it the rallying ensign, and so won the victory. Hence the introduction and permanent adoption among the Turks throughout their empire of this singular ensign;—among the Turks alone, if I mistake not, of all the nations that have ever risen up on our world’s theatre: and this as what was thenceforward—from the prime vizier to the governors of provinces and districts—to constitute each ruler’s badge, mark his rank, and give him name and title. For it is the ensign of one, two, or three horse-tails that marks distinctively the dignity and power of the Turkish Pasha.—Marvellous prefiguration! And who but He could have depicted it, to whom the future is clear as the present; and who, in his Divine prescience, speaks of things that are not as though they were?
From the Pictorial Bible
"And with these they do injustice:" αδικουσι. There seems a certain antithesis in this to what is predicated of the heads in front. With the lion-like fire-breathing heads in front the symbolic horses were to kill the third of men; i. e. to kill them in their political or national character. With these heads behind they were afterwards to injure and oppress the individuals of the remnant left; while also diffusing around them the poison of their false religion.—And alas! turning to historic records for illustration on this point, where is the writer on the Turkish conquests and administration that does not tell of the oppression of the Christian subject rayahs by these Turkman Pashas? As Knolles, in his Sketch of the Turkish Greatness, expresses it; "His Bassaes, like ravening harpies, as it were suck out the blood of his poor subjects." And where is the traveller through European Turkey, (at least if his travels dated before the late Greek revolution,) that has not with his own eyes witnessed the same?—Even now the scene rises in memory before the author, of the long train of a Turkish Pasha proceeding to his Pashalik in Greece; which past him by, winding in picturesque array up one of the defiles of Mount Othrys, near where that mountain-chain frowns over Thermopylæ. And bright, he remembers, shone the sunbeams on the varied colourings, the "red, blue, and yellow," of the horses, horsemen, and foot-retainers, in the procession; and proudly the ensign was borne before the Turkman of two horse-tails, to mark his dignity. But associated with the remembrance there rise up other recollections also:—the scene of a village which, on entering it a few days before with his companions, he had found deserted, though with marks of recent habitation; and from which, as a straggler emerging from his hiding-place informed them, men, women, and children had fled to the mountains, to escape from the visit, on some errand of oppression, of one of the officers of a neighbouring Pasha. Nor again can the scene be forgotten of other permanently deserted villages, such as the traveller’s path each day almost had to pass by; and often with nothing but the silent grave-yard in its loneliness, to tell the tale of former life and population. Thus was there set before his eyes how the inhabitants had failed before the oppressions of the Turkman Pashas. And, long ere he thought of entering on the direct investigation of prophecy, the singular aptitude and truth of this symbol, as applied to them, fixed itself on his mind; "The horse-tails were like serpents, having heads; and with these they do injury and oppress."
So ends our analysis, and identification with the Turkman destroyers of Greek Christendom, of what was visible in the details of the Apocalyptic symbol. It is a symbol, we see, thoroughly Asiatic in character, to figure a thoroughly Asiatic subject. Yet, as involving so much admixture (i. e. according to my view of it) of the literal and the symbolic, objections might be anticipated, and have been made, against the explanation. And I feel it right that the reader should see and consider them. But the truth of the coincidences that have been affirmed between symbol and fact remains unshaken. And the utter flatness and unmeaningness of the sacred symbol, according to these objectors’ counter-view of it, seems to me only to add confirmation strong, though most unintended on their part, to the correctness of the Turkish solution.
5. There remains for explanation but one point more in the prophecy; viz. the time within which, as measured from the loosing of the four angels at the 6th Trumpet’s sounding, their commission to destroy the third part of men was to be accomplished. A point this of great interest, and some difficulty. For, though freed by our explanation of the four angels spoken of, and of their binding near the Euphrates previously to the 6th Trumpet-blast, from various difficulties which have caused no little embarrassment to many former expositors, it is yet one that needs careful consideration, in order to the satisfactory fixing of the meaning of the phrase in which the chronological term is announced. This settled, the historical fulfilment will soon appear.
As to the chronological term it is expressed as follows: "And the four angels were loosed; which were prepared, εις την ὡραν και ἡμεραν και μηνα και ενιαυτον, to slay the third part of men." I conceive its meaning to be, that the slaying should continue for, or rather be completed at the end of, the mystical term of an hour day month and year, aggregated together. Hence both my view of the aggregation of the nouns of time, and my view of the sense of the preposition εις, governing them, are the first things to be here explained and justified.
Now as to my construction of the nouns of time collectively, and in the aggregate, I so understand them on two accounts. 1st, because that which is the only alternative construction appears to me on every account inadmissible: I mean that which, taking them each separately, would render the clause thus; that at the destined hour, and destined day, and destined month, and destined year, they should slay the third part of men. For,—to say nothing of the want of the article prefix to three out of the four nouns, a prefix needed, I conceive, for such a rendering,—it will be obvious that it explains the clause as made up of tautologies: tautologies such that every successive word after the first, instead of strengthening, only weakens the supposed meaning; and which bring out, at last, as the result of their accumulation, nothing more than this, that the destruction spoken of should be effected at the time appointed. Do the inspired Scriptures ever speak in this way?—2ndly, I so take them, because in another complex chronological phrase, and one, in respect of its enigmatic form, perhaps the most nearly parallel to the present that prophetic Scripture offers, we have the exposition of inspiration itself, interpreting the constituent terms of the phrase as to be taken in the aggregate. I allude to the well-known clause in Daniel, (12:7,) εις καιρον, καιρους, και ἡμισυ καιρου, "for a time, times, and half a time," or year, years, and half a year: which chronological formula, being made the equivalent of 1260 days, i. e. of three years and a half, must consequently be a period of a year, two years, and half a year, aggregated together.—In this view of the clause now before us, the article prefix, standing at its head, may be understood not only to govern all the accusatives that follow, so as we find done elsewhere, but also to be a means for the better uniting of them, as it were under a bracket, as an hour day month and year, all added together: at the same time that it may mark them also as together making up the period; i. e. the period fore-ordained and fore-shown in the divine councils.
As to the rendering of the preposition εις, whether in the sense of for, or else after, at the expiration of, it must of course depend very mainly upon the sense attached to the verb αποκτειναι, to kill. If that verb may be taken in its less natural sense of a continued slaying of the inhabitants of Greek Christendom, until completed at length in the political slaughter of them as a national corporate body, then the preposition before us will have its more common sense of for, or during, attached to it. If, on the other hand, αποκτειναι be deemed a verb denotative rather of the grand completed act of politically slaying the third part of men, i. e. the Greek empire,—then it seems necessary to take the preposition in its less common sense of after, or, at the expiration of.—As regards the first-mentioned chronological sense of the εις, (and I may suggest generally that in its application to chronological periods, or statements, the varied meanings of the word seem all borrowed from those which attach to it in its primary reference to place,) I say in regard of my first-mentioned chronological sense of the εις, as for or during, applicable in the case of the αποκτειναι being meant of a continuous slaying of the men of Greek Christendom, illustrative parallel cases abound. So, for example, Σπονδας εις ενιαυτον, a truce for a year: Κατισχυσε Ῥοβοαμ εις ετη τρια, Rehoboam was strong for three years; &c. Just similar to which also is one use of the analogous adverbs of time, ἑως and αχρι.—In regard of the other suggested meaning of εις, as after, or, at the expiration of, a meaning needed in the case of αποκτειναι being taken in the sense of the individual momentary act of killing, or destroying the national existence of, the third part of men, the following two examples occur in illustration. 1st, according to the usually received punctuation of the Septuagint copies, Dan. 12:7: "He said; How long (ἑως ποτε) shall it be to the end of these wonders? And he sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, ὁτι εις καιρους και ἡμισυ καιρος, εν τῳ συντελεσθηναι διασκορπισμον, γνωσονται παντα ταυτα· they shall know these things at the end of the aggregated time, times, and half a time." But the punctuation here seems more than doubtful. In verse 12, however, of the same chapter we have an example not to be questioned: Μακαριος ὁ ὑπομενων, και φθασας, εις ἡμερας χιλιας τριακοσιας τριακοντα πεντε. "Happy is he who arrives (not at the beginning, but) at the end of the 1335 days." A use of the εις precisely similar again to that of the analogous adverbs ἑως and αχρι.
After which last example when we turn to the passage we are discussing, "And the four angels were loosed, οἱ ἡτοιμασμενοι εις την ὡραν και ἡμεραν και μηνα και ενιαυτον, ἱνα αποκτεινωσι το τριτον των ανθρωπων," the probability must suggest itself of the preposition being here too intended in the same sense; and of the true meaning of the phrase being that after, or at the expiration of, the aggregated term of an hour day month and year, (calculated from the time of the angels being re-commissioned and loosed,) "they should slay the third part of men."—Supposing however the other value of the εις to be preferred, in connexion "with the other value of the αποκτεινωσι, "they were prepared for an hour day month and year, to go on staging the third of men," i. e. until the slaughter was completed in the destruction of their national existence,—the sense of the passage will come practically to the same thing: the chronological term in either case giving the interval between the epoch of the angels loosing, and the epoch of their completed killing of the third of men.
What the exact length of this period, and how many prophetic days it would in all make up, depends of course on the value that we attach to the ενιαυτος, the year mentioned: whether we prefer to consider it as, like the καιρος, a year of twelve months of thirty days each, i. e. a year of 360 days, not counting in the supplemental days added to make it accord with solar time; or whether as the actual current year, of near 365 days 6 hours. The latter value is attached to it by Mede and others: and there is, I think, à priori probability in its favour from the adoption of the word ενιαυτος, in the place of καιρος, here, and here only in prophetic Scripture; a word signifying etymologically that which returns into itself. At any rate the question is an open one; and the agreement of historic fact (as we shall show) with the calculation, as thus made, may be considered as deciding in its favour.—Thus estimated, then, the length of the period will be found to amount on the year-day system to 396 years 118 days; reckoning 12 hours to the prophetic day, on the principle some time since stated. This was the period at the end of which, as measured from the epoch of their loosing, on the sixth Trumpet-blast, from the Euphrates, the horsemen of the vision, it was foretold to St. John, were to destroy the third part of men. And, convinced as we have been that the Turks were the horsemen that acted under the guidance of the four angels in the matter, what now remains for us to do is only to look at historical dates: and, so calculating, to compare with the aforementioned prophetic period the actual historic interval between the first loosing from the Euphrates of the Moslem power, after revivification through connexion with the Turkmans, and the taking of Constantinople, and destruction of the Greek empire, by the Turks under the 2nd Mahomet.
In regard to the circumstances and the date of the former important event, and epoch, we may be thankful that we have full and authentic information in the two well-known Arabic historians Abulfeda and Elmakin; and indeed in the earlier and fuller historians, Al Bondari and Emad Eddin. From them I borrow my statements and chronology in what follows.
It has been already noted2 that in the year 1055, or of the Hegira 447, the Bagdad Caliph wrote to Thogrul Beg to come to his assistance against some threatening danger; the Bowid chieftain, who was at this time the secular head under him, having proved altogether an inefficient protector. Thogrul immediately answered to the summons, and gave the protection asked for: then, on occasion of some civic tumult occurring, seized on and imprisoned the Bowid Chief, thus extinguishing the supremacy of the Bowides, after it had lasted, says Elmakin, 127 years. He was now by the Caliph appointed, and publicly proclaimed in the mosques, "Protector and Governor of the Moslem empire;" the secular authority of the caliphate delegated to him; and his name recited, next to the Caliph’s, in the public prayers.—All this occurred in the month of Ramazan of that same year; that is in December A. D. 1055. This is the epoch noted by both Abulfeda and Elmakin, and not without reason, as that of the commencement of the Seljukian empire at Bagdad: the inauguration and investiture celebrated some two years after, or a little more, being only a more splendid solemnization of that appointment to his high office, which now already took place. Thus appointed, then, Thogrul Beg fixed his head-quarters in the citadel of Bagdad; and stayed there thirteen months: meanwhile establishing his authority, and cementing his connexion with the Caliph, both otherwise, and by giving him his sister in marriage. The effect of the connexion was, as regarded the Turkman army and people, to give them a character of religious consecration to the service of Islamism: while, on the other hand, the power of the Moslem caliphate, so long paralyzed at Bagdad, was prepared by it with new energies; and revivified, as it were, to act again in the cause of its false faith.
And now we are directed by the terms of this prophecy, to mark the time when the Moslem power, thus revivified, was loosed from the Euphrates: in other words, when, under its new Turkman head, it went forth from Bagdad, on the career of victory and aggrandizement thenceforth afresh destined for it. The date is given by Abulfeda; the 10th of Dzoulcaad, A.H. 448. That was the day in which Thogrul with his Turkmans, now the representative, as we have said, and head of the power of Islamism, quitted Bagdad to enter on a long career of war and conquest.—The part allotted to Thogrul himself in the fearful drama soon about to open against the Greeks, was, like the military part enacted long previously by Mahomet in regard of Christendom, preparative. It was to extend and establish the Turkman dominion over the frontier countries of Irak and Mesopotamia; that so the requisite strength might be attained for the attack ordained in God’s counsels against the Greek empire. His first step to this was the siege and capture of Moussul; his next, of Singara. Nisibis, too, was visited by him: that frontier fortress which had in other days been so long a bulwark to the Greeks. Everywhere victory attended his banner; a presage of what was to follow. And, on his return after a year’s campaign to Bagdad, for the purpose of the more solemn inauguration that we spoke of, (an inaugurative ceremony celebrated in Oriental history,) the result is thus described by Elmakin; "There was now none left in Irak or Chorasmia who could stand before him."
And what then the interval between this epoch of the loosing of the united Turco-Moslem power from the Euphrates, and that of the fall of Constantinople; in other words, between the 10th Dzoulcad A.H. 448, and the 29th of May A. D. 1453, on which day the siege (begun on the 6th of April previous) fatally ended? And how does it correspond with the prophetic period before us?—The calculation is soon made. The 10th Dzoulcad, A.H. 448, corresponds with January 18, 1057 A. D. From this to January 18, A. D. 1453, is 396 years; and to May 29 of that same year, 130 days more. Such is the exact historical interval.—And now, turning to the prophetic interval, since its hour and day and month and year amounts, as has been already shown, on the most exact calculation to 396 years, and 118 days, we find that it falls short of the whole historic interval by but 12 natural days, or less than half a prophetic hour: so that, in fact, had the prophecy been expressed as "two hours and a day and a month and a year," it would have overleaped the real epoch of the fall of Constantinople by near three weeks.—Nor this alone. We may trace the fulfilment yet more exactly. The precise day of the Apocalyptic period’s expiring, and consequently that "after which," according to it, the third of men was to be slain, was May 16, the fortieth day of the siege. And is then our usual Apocalyptic expositor, Gibbon, silent about it? Not so. We find him marking that last crisis in the siege, when Mahomet, by transporting his war galleys across the isthmus of Galata into the inner harbour, and with their aid planting batteries against the long river defences, had completed the investment of the devoted city; and, without a hope remaining to it any longer, was preparing his final assault. Then follow the unintended expository words; "After a siege of forty days the fate of Constantinople could be no longer averted."3 That fortieth day was the day of the death-warrant of the Greek empire.
Such is the result of our investigation. And surely it must be deemed most remarkable. For my own part, when I consider the length of the period embraced by the prophecy, scarce less than 400 years,—and when I consider further, that of all symmetrical chronological formulæ, such as symbolic prophecy alone makes use of, there does not seem to be one that could express the interval with anything like the same exactness as that before us,—I cannot but partake of Mede’s feeling of admiration, and marvel greatly at it. Who but He could have announced the period who knoweth the times and the seasons, and foreseeth the end from the beginning?—Nor let me forget to add, with reference to that singular mystical form in which the period is exprest, "the hour and day and month and year," that even this would seem very singularly to have had in it a something of Turkish character. The only term of time similarly exprest that has ever met my eye in historic record, is that which defined the truce granted to our Richard the 1st by the Turkman chief Saladin;—"three hours, and three days, and three weeks, and three months, and three years:" all nouns of time to be added together, let us observe, just as here, and taken in the aggregate.
There is just one thing that I must not omit, ere I conclude this head and chapter. I mean to impress upon the reader’s mind how remarkable, and contrary to all human probability, after once the Turkman woe had been let loose, was the protraction of its accomplishment of the work of destruction assigned it, to this far distant æra. Ere 40 years had elapsed from Thogrul Beg’s inauguration, Constantinople and its empire were on the very verge of ruin by the Seljukian Turks: and nothing less than an almost miraculous intervention seemed capable of averting it. But the intervention occurred. The crusades from western Europe, however ultimately ineffective in Syria, yet so crippled the Seljukian power, as for 200 years to aid in upholding against it the Greek empire. Then the Moguls under Zenghis yet further crippled, and delayed the resuscitation in its strength, of the Turkish power.—And, after it had at length risen up in all its pristine vigour, under the Amuraths and the Bajazets of the new Othman dynasty, and when, some fifty years and more before the hour day month and year had come to a completion, Constantinople and the empire were again on the verge of destruction;—when the chivalry of the West, vainly intervening, had been broken in the battle of Nicopolis, and the victorious Bajazet thus addressed the emperor, "Our invincible seymitar has reduced almost all Asia, and many and large countries in Europe, excepting only the city of Constantinople: resign that city, or tremble for thyself and thine unhappy people;"—when, I say, the slaying of the third part of men seemed thus imminent, full half a century before the prophetic period had elapsed that fixed it, what was there that could occur to prevent the catastrophe? Behold, from the far frontiers of China, Tamerlane was brought against him. "The savage," says Gibbon, "was forced to relinquish his prey by a stronger savage than himself: and by the victory of Tamerlane the fall of Constantinople was delayed about fifty years."—But when the predicted period had elapsed, and the Sultan Mahomet was pressing the siege, like some of his predecessors before him, then no intervention occurred to delay the catastrophe, either from the East or West, from the crusaders of Christendom or the savage warriors of Tartary. On the dial-plate in heaven, the pointing of the shadow-line told that the fatal term had expired, the hour and day and month and year. Then could no longer the fate of the unhappy Greek be averted. And the artillery of the Othmans thundered irresistibly against Constantinople: and the breach was stormed: and the city fell:—and, amidst the shouts of the conquering Turkmans from the Euphrates, and the dying groans of the last Constantine, the third of the men were slain, the Greek empire was no more!