Concerning the beginning and progress of the Conflagration, what part of the Earth will first be Burnt. The manner of the future destruction of Rome. The last state and consummation of the general Fire.
HAVING remov’d the chief obstructions to our design, and drawn a method for weakning the strength of Nature, by draining the Trench, and beating down those Bulwarks, wherein she seems to place her greatest confidence: we must now go to work; making choice of the weakest part of Nature for our first attack, where the fire may be the easiest admitted, and the best maintain’d and preserv’d.
And for our better direction, it will be of use to consider what we noted before, viz. That the Conflagration is not a pure Natural Fatality, but a mixt Fatality; or a Divine judgment supported by Natural Causes. And if we can find some part of the Earth, or of the Christian World, that hath more of these natural dispositions to Inflammation than the rest; and is also represented by Scripture as a more peculiar object of God's Judgments at the comeing of our Saviour, we may justly pitch upon that part of the World as first to be destroyed. Nature and Providence conspiring to make that the first Sacrifice to this Fiery Vengeance.
Now as to Natural dispositions, in any Country or Region of the Earth, to be set on Fire, They seem to be chiefly these two, Sulphureousness of the Soil, and an hollow, mountainous construction of the ground. Where these two dispositions
meet in the same tract or territory, (the one as to the quality of the matter, and the other as to the form) it stands like a Pile of fit materials, ready set to have the Fire put to it. And as to Divine Indications where this General Fire will begin, the Scripture points to the Seat of Antichrist wheresoever that is, for the beginning of it. The Scripture, I say, points at this, two ways, First,2 Thess. 1. 7, ch. 2. 8. in telling us that our Saviour at his coming in flames of Fire shall consume the wicked one, The Man of sin, the Son of perdition, with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy him with the brightness of his presence. Secondly, under the name of Mystical Babylon; which is allowed by all to be the Seat of Antichrist, and by Scripture always condemn’d to the Fire. This we find in plain words asserted by St. John in the 18th chap. of his Revelations, and in the 19th. (ver. 3)ver. 8, & ver. 19. under the name of the Great Whore; which is the same City and the same Seat, according to the interpretation of Scripture it self. And the Prophet Danielch. 17. 18. when he had set the Ancient of Days upon his fiery Throne, says, The Body of the Beast was given to the burning flame.Dan. 7, 9, 10, 11. Which I take to be the same thing with what St. John says afterwards, (Apoc. 19. 20.) The Beast and the false Prophet were cast alive into a Lake of fire burning with brimstone. By these places of Scripture it seems manifest, that Antichrist, and the Seat of Antichrist, will be consumed with Fire, at the coming of our Saviour. And ’tis very reasonable and decorous, that the Grand Traitor and Head of the Apostasie should be made the first example of the divine vengeance.
Thus much being allow’d from Scripture, let us now return to Nature again; to seek out that part of the Christian World, that from its own constitution is most subject to burning; by the sulphureousness of its Soil, and its fiery Mountains and Caverns. This we shall easily find to be the Roman Territory, or the Countrey of Italy: which, by all accounts, ancient and modern, is a store-house of fire; as if it was condemn’d to that fate by God and Nature, and to be an Incendiary, as it were, to the rest of the World. And seeing Mystical Babylon, the Seat of Antichrist, is the same Rome, and its Territory; as it is understood by most Interpreters, of former and later Ages; you see both our lines meet in this point; And that there is a fairness, on both hands, to conclude, that, at the glorious appearance of our Saviour, the Conflagration will begin at the City of Rome and the Roman Territory.
Nature hath sav’d us the pains of kindling a fire in those parts of the Earth, for, since the memory of man, there have always been subterraneous fires in Italy. And the Romans did not preserve their Vestal fire with more constancy, than Nature hath done her fiery Mountains in some part or other of that Territory. Let us then suppose, when the fatal time draws near, all these Burning Mountains to be fill’d and replenish’d with fit materials for such a design; and when our Saviour appears in the Clouds, with an Host of Angels, that they all begin to play, as Fire-works at the Triumphal Entry of a Prince. Let Vesuvius, Ætna, Strongyle, and all the Vulcanian Islands, break out into flames; and by the Earthquakes, which then will rage, let us suppose new Eruptions, or new Mountains open’d, in the Apennines, and near to Rome; and to vomit out fire in the same manner as the old Volcano's. Then let the sulphureous ground take fire; and
seeing the Soil of that Countrey, in several places, is so full of brimstone, that the steams and smoke of it visibly rise out of the Earth; we may reasonably suppose, that it will burn openly, and be inflam’d, at that time. Lastly, the Lightnings of the Air, and the flaming streams of the melting Skies, will mingle and joyn with these burnings of the Earth. And these three Causes meeting together, as they cannot but make a dreadful Scene, so they will easily destroy and consume whatsoever lies within the compass of their fury.
Thus you may suppose the beginning of the General Fire; And it will be carried on by like causes, tho’ in lesser degrees, in other parts of the Earth. But as to Rome, there is still, in my opinion, a more dreadful fate that will attend it; namely, to be absorpt or swallowed up in a Lake of fire and brimstone, after the mariner of Sodom and Gomorrha. This, in my judgment, will be the fate and final conclusion of Mystical Babylon, to sink as a great Milstone into the Sea, and never to appear more. Hear what the Prophet says,Apoc. 18. 21. A mighty Angel took up a stone, like a great Milstone, and cast it into the Sea, saying, thus, with violence, shall that great City Babylon be thrown down; and shall be found no more at all. Simply to be burnt, does not at all answer to this description of its perishing, by sinking like a Milstone into the Sea, and never appearing more, nor of, not having its place ever more found; that is, leaving no remains or marks of it. A City that is onely burnt, cannot be said to fall like a Milstone into the Sea; or that it can never more be found: For after the burning of a City, the ruines stand, and its place is well known. Wherefore, in both respects, besides this exteriour burning, there must be an absorption of this Mystical Babylon, the Seat of the Beast; and thereupon a total disappearance of it. This also agrees with the suddenness of the judgment, which is a repeated character of it: Chap. 18. 8, 10, 17, 19. Now what kind of absorption this will be, into what, and in what manner, we may learn from what St. John says afterwards, (ch. 19. 20) The Beast and the false Prophet were cast alive into a Lake of fire and brimstone. You must not imagine that they were bound, hand and foot, and so thrown headlong into this Lake, but they were swallowed up alive, they and theirs, as Corah and his company. Or, to use a plainer example, after the manner of Sodom and Gomorrha; which perish’t by fire, and at the same time sunk into a Dead Sea, or a Lake of brimstone.
This was a lively type of the fate of Rome, or Mystical Babylon; and ’tis fit it should resemble Sodom, as well in its punishment, as in its crimes. Neither is it a hard thing to conceive how such an absorption may come to pass; That being a thing so usual in Earthquakes, and Earthquakes being so frequent in that Region. And lastly, that this should be after the manner of Sodom, turn’d into a Lake of fire, will not be at all strange, if we consider, that there will be many subterraneous Lakes of fire at that time, when the bowels of the Earth begin to melt, and the Mountains spew out streams of liquid fire. The ground therefore being hollow and rotten in those parts, when it comes to be shaken with a mighty Earthquake, the foundations will sink, and the whole frame fall into an Abyss of fire below, as a Milstone into the Sea. And this will give occasion to that Cry, Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen, and shall never more be found.
This seems to be a probable account, according to Scripture and reason, of the beginning of the general fire, and of the particular fate of Rome. But it may be propos’d here as an objection against this Hypothesis, that the Mediterranean Sea, lying all along the Coast of Italy, must needs be a sufficient guard to that Countrey against the invasion of fire; or at least must needs extinguish it, before it can do much mischief there, or propagate it self into other Countreys. I thought we had in a good measure prevented this objection before, by showing how the Ocean would be diminish’d before the Conflagration, and especially the Arms and Sinus's of the Ocean; and of these none would be more subject to this diminution than the Mediterranean, for receiving its supplies from the Ocean and the Black Sea, if these came to sink in their chanels, they would not rise so high, as to be capable to flow into the Mediterranean, at either end. And these supplies being cut off, it would soon empty it self so far, partly by evaporation, and partly by subterraneous passages, as to shrink from all its shores, and become onely a standing Pool of water in the middle of the Chanel: Nay, ’tis possible, by flouds of fire descending from the many Volcano's upon its shores, it might it self be converted into a Lake of fire, and rather help than obstruct the progress of the Conflagration.
It may indeed be made a question, whether this fiery Vengeance upon the seat of Antichrist, will not precede the general Conflagration, at some distance of time, as a fore-runner and forewarner to the World, that the rest of the People may have space to repent; And particularly the Jews, being Spectators of this Tragedy, and of the miraculous appearance of our Saviour, may see the hand of God in it, and be convinc’d of the truth and divine authority of the Christian Religion. I say, this supposition would leave room for these and some other prophetick Scenes, which we know not well where to place; But seeing The Day of the Lord is represented in Scripture as one entire thing, without interruption or discontinuation, and that it is to begin with the destruction of Antichrist, we have warrant enough to pursue the rest of the Conflagration from this beginning and introduction.
Let us then suppose the same preparations made in the other parts of the Earth to continue the fire; for the Conflagration of the World being a work of providence, we may be sure such measures are taken, as will effectually carry it on when once begun. The Body of the Earth will be loosen’d and broken by Earthquakes, the more solid parts impregnated with sulphur, and the cavities fill’d with unctuous fumes and exhalations; so as the whole Mass will be but as one great funeral Pile, ready built, and wanting nothing but the hand of a destroying Angel, to give it fire. I will not take upon me to determine which way this devouring Enemy will steer his course from Italy, or in what order he will advance and enter the several Regions of our Continent; that would be an undertaking, as uncertain, as useless. But we cannot doubt of his success, which way soever he goes: unless where the Chanel of the Ocean may chance to stop him. But as to that, we allow, that different Continents may have different Fires; not propagated from one another, but of distinct sources and originals; and so likewise in remote Islands; and therefore no long passage or trajection will be requir’d from
shore to shore. And even the Ocean it self, will at length be as Fiery as any part of the Land; But that, with its Rocks, like Death, will be the last thing subdued.
As to the Animate World, the Fire will over-run it with a swift and rapid course, and all living Creatures will be suffocated or consumed, at the first assault. And at the same time, the beauty of the Fields and the external decorations of Nature will be defac’d. Then the Cities and the Towns, and all the works of man's hands, will burn like stubble before the wind. These will be soon dispatch’d; but the great burthen of the Work still remains; which is that Liquefaction we mention’d before, or a melting fire, much more strong and vehement than these transient blazes, which do but sweep the surface of the Earth. This ch. 9.Liquefaction, I say, we prov’d before out of Scripture, as the last state of the fiery Deluge. And ’tis this, which, at length, will make the Sea it self a Lake of fire and brimstone. When instead of rivers of Waters which used to flow into it from the Land, there come streams and rivulets of Sulphureous Liquors, and purulent melted matter, which, following the tract of their natural gravity will fall into this great drain of the Earth. Upon which mixture, the remaining parts of sweet water will soon evaporate, and the salt mingling with the Sulphur will make a Dead Sea, an Asphaltites, a Lake of Sodom, a Cup of the Wine of the fierceness of God's wrath.
We noted before two remarkable effects of the Burning Mountains, which would contribute to the Conflagration of the World; and gave instances of both in former Eruptions of Ætna and Vesuvius. One was, of those Balls or lumps of Fire, which they throw about in the time of their rage; and the other, of those torrents of liquid Fire, which rowl down their sides to the next Seas or Valleys. In the first respect these Mountains are as so many Batteries, planted by Providence in several parts of the Earth, to fling those fiery Bombs into such places, or such Cities, as are marked out for destruction. And in the second respect, they are to dry up the Waters, and the Rivers, and the Sea it self, when they fall into its chanel. T. Fazellus, a Sicilian, who writ the History of that Island,Annal. Sic. dec. 1, li. 2, c. 4. tells us of such a River of fire (upon an eruption of Ætna) near twenty eight miles long; reaching from the Mountain to Port Longina; and might have been much longer if it had not been stopt by the Sea. Many such as these, and far greater, we ought in reason to imagin, when all the Earth begins to melt, and to ripen towards a dissolution. It will then be full of these Sulphureous juices, as Grapes with Wine; and these will be squeez’d out of the Earth into the Sea, as out of a wine-press into the Receiver; to fill up that Cup with the wine of the fierceness of God's wrath.
If we may be allow’d to bring Prophetical passages of Scripture to a natural sence, as doubtless some of those must that respect the end of the World, these phrasesApoc. 14. 10, 19.
c. 16. 19.
c. 19. 15. which we have now suggested, of the Wine press of the wrath of God. Drinking the fierceness of his wine, poured, without mixture, into the cup of his indignation, with expressions of the like nature that occur sometimes in the old Prophets, but especially in the Apocalypse; These, I say, might receive a full and emphatical explication from this state of things which now lies before us. I would not exclude any other explication of less force, as that of alluding to the
bitter cup or mixt potion that us’d to be given to malefactors: but that, methinks, is a low sence when applyed to these places in the Apocalypse. That these phrases signifie God's remarkable judgments, all allow, and here they plainly relate to the end of the World, to the last Plagues, and the Last of the last Plagues, chap. 16. 19. Besides, the Angel that presided over this judgment, is said to be an Angel that had power over fire; And those who are to drink this potion, are said to be tormented with fire and brimstone, ch. 14. 10. This presiding Angel seems to be our Saviour himself (c. 19. 15.) who when he comes to execute Divine Vengeance upon the Earth, gives his orders in these words, ch. 14. 18, 19. Gather the clusters of the Vine of the Earth, for her grapes are fully ripe. And thereupon the Destroying Angel thrust in his sickle into the Earth, and gathered the Vine of the Earth, and cast it into the great Wine press of the Wrath of God. And this made a potion, compounded of several ingredients, but not diluted with water; (ch. 14. 10.) 1 and was indeed a potion of fire and brimstone and all burning materials mixt together. The similitudes of Scripture are seldom nice and exact, but rather bold, noble and great; and according to the circumstances which we have observ’d, This Vineyard seems to be the Earth, and this Vintage the end of the World; The pressing of the Grapes into the cup or vessel that receives them, the distillation of burning liquors from all parts of the Earth into the trough of the Sea; and that lake of red Fire, the bloud of those Grapes so flowing into it.
’Tis true, this judgment of the Vintage and Wine-press, and the effects of it, seem to aim more especially at some particular region of the Earth, ch. 14. 20. And I am not against that, provided the substance of the explication be still retained, and the universal Sea of Fire be that which follows in the next Chapter, under the name of a Sea of Glass, mingled with Fire;ch. 16. 2. This I think expresses the highest and compleat state of the Conflagration; when the Mountains are fled away, and not only so, but the exteriour region of the Earth quite dissolv’d, like wax before the Sun; The Chanel of the Sea fill’d with a mass of fluid fire, and the same fire overflowing all the Globe, and covering the whole Earth, as the Deluge, or the first Abyss. Then will the Triumphal Songs and Hallelujah's be sung for the Victories of the Lamb over all his Enemies and over Nature it self. Apoc. 15. 3, 4.Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are thy ways thou King of Saints. Who shall not fear thee O Lord, and glorifie thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
293:1 τοῦ κεκουρασμένου ἀκράτου.