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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 16 - Verse 11

Verse 11. And blasphemed the God of heaven. The same effect which it was said would be produced by the pouring out of the fourth vial, Re 16:9.

Because of their pains and their sores. Of the calamities that had come upon them.

And repented not of their deeds. See Barnes on "Re 16:9".

Compare Re 9:21.

In regard to the fulfilment and application of this, the following general remarks may be made here:

(a) It would succeed, at no great interval probably, what is referred to under the previous "vials," and would be one in the series tending to the same result.

(b) It would fall directly on the seat of the authority of the "beast" —on the central power of the Papacy, according to the interpretation of the other symbols; and we should look, therefore, for some calamity that would come upon Rome itself, and still more specifically upon the Pope himself, and those immediately around him.

(c) This would be attended with deep distress and darkness in the Papal dominions.

(d) There would be an increase of what is here called "blasphemy;" that is, of impiety and reproaches of the Divine Being.

(e) There would be no repentance produced. There would be no reformation. The system would be as corrupt as it was before, and men would be as much under its influence. And

(f) we should not expect that this would be the final overthrow of in the system. That is reserved for the outpouring of the seventh and last vial the series, (Re 16:17-21,) and under that the system would be overthrown, and would come to an end. This is distinctly stated in the account of that "vial" and therefore we are not to expect to find, in the application of the fifth "vial," that the calamity brought upon "the seat of the beast" would be such that it would not recover for a time, and maintain apparently, in some good degree, its former power and influence. With this view of what we are to expect, and in connexion with the explanations of the previous symbols, it seems to me that there can be no hesitation in applying this to the direct attacks on the Papal power and on the pope himself, as one of the consequences of the French Revolution, and to the calamities that were thus brought upon the Papal states. In order to show the appropriateness of this application, I will state a few facts which will show that, on the supposition that it was the intention in this symbol to refer to the Papal power at that time, the symbol has been well chosen, and has been fulfilled. And, in doing this, I will merely copy from Alison's History of Europe (vol. i. pp. 542-546) a few statements, which, like many that have been quoted from Mr. Gibbon in the former part of these Notes, would seem almost to have been penned in view of this prophecy, and with a view to record its fulfilment. The statement is as follows:—

"The Ecclesiastical States were the next objects of attack. It had long been an avowed object of ambition with the Republican government to revolutionize the Roman people, and plant the tricolour flag in the city of Brutus, and fortune at length presented them with a favourable opportunity to accomplish the design.

"The situation of the pope had become, since the French conquests in Italy, in the highest degree precarious. Cut off by the Cisalpine republic from any support from Austria; left by the treaty of Campo Formio entirely at the mercy of the French republic; threatened by the heavings of the democratic spirit within his own dominions; and exposed to all the contagion arising from the complete establishment and close vicinity of republican governments in the north of Italy the was almost destitute of the means of resisting so many seen and unseen enemies. The pontifical treasury was exhausted by the immense payments stipulated by the treaty of Tolentino; while the activity and zeal of the revolutionary clubs in all the principal towns of the Ecclesiastical States was daily increasing with the prospect of success. To enable the government to meet the enormous demands of the French army, the principal Roman families, like the pope, had sold their gold, their silver, their jewels, their horses, their carriages— in a word, all their valuable effects; but the exactions of the republican agents were still unabated. In despair, they had recourse to the fatal expedient of issuing a paper circulation; but that, in a country destitute of credit, soon fell to an inconsiderable value, and augmented rather than relieved the public distress. Joseph Bonaparte, brother to Napoleon, had been appointed ambassador at the court of Rome; but as his character was deemed too honourable for political intrigue, Generals Duphot and Sherlock were sent along with him, the former of whom had been so successful in effecting the overthrow of Genoese aristocracy. The French embassy, under their direction, soon became the centre of the revolutionary action; and those numerous ardent characters with which the Italian cities abound, flocked there as to a common focus, from whence the next great explosion of democratic power was to be expected. In this extremity, Pins VI., who was above eighty years of age, and sinking into the grave, called to his counsels the Austrian general Provera, already distinguished in the Italian campaigns; but the Directory soon compelled the humiliated pontiff to dismiss that intrepid counsellor. As his recovery then seemed hopeless, the instructions of government to their ambassador were to delay the proclamation of a republic till his death, when the vacant chair of St. Peter might be overturned with little difficulty; but such was the activity of the revolutionary agents, that the train was ready to take fire before that event took place, and the ears of the Romans were assailed by incessant abuse of the ecclesiastical government, and vehement declamations in favour of republican freedom.

"The resolution to overturn the Papal government, like all the other ambitious projects of the Directory, received a very great impulse from the reascendent of Jacobin influence at Paris, by the results of the revolution of 18th Fructidor. One of the first measures of the new government was to despatch an order to Joseph Bonaparte at Rome, to promote, by all the means in his power, the approaching revolution in the Papal states; and, above all things, to take care that at the pope's death no successor should be elected to the chair of St. Peter. Napoleon's language to the Roman pontiff became daily more menacing. Immediately before setting out for Rastadt, he ordered his brother Joseph to intimate to the pope that three thousand additional troops had been forwarded to Ancona; that if Provera was not dismissed within twenty-four hours, war would be declared; that if any of the revolutionists who had been arrested were executed, reprisals forthwith would be exercised on the cardinals; and that, if the Cisalpine republic was not instantly recognised, it would be the signal for immediate hostilities. At the same time ten thousand troops of the Cisalpine republic advanced to St. Leon, in the Papal duchy of Urbino, and made themselves masters of that fortress; while at Ancona, which was still garrisoned by French troops, notwithstanding its stipulated restoration by the treaty of Tolentino to the Holy See, the democratic party openly proclaimed 'the Anconite Republic.' Similar revolutionary movements took place at Corneto, Civita Vecchia, Pesaro, and Senigaglia; while at Rome itself, Joseph Bonaparte, by compelling the Papal government to liberate all persons confined for political offences, suddenly vomited forth upon the capital several hundreds of the most heated republicans in Italy. After this great addition, measures were no longer kept with the government. Seditious meetings were constantly held in every part of the city; immense collections of tricolour cockades were made to distinguish the insurgents, and deputations of the citizens openly waited on the French ambassador to invite him to support the insurrection, to which he replied, in ambiguous terms—'The fate of nations, as of individuals, being buried in the womb of futurity, it is not given to me to penetrate its mysteries.'

"In this temper of men's minds, a spark was sufficient to occasion an explosion. On the 27th of December, 1798, an immense crowd assembled, with seditious cries, and moved to the palace of the French ambassador, where they exclaimed, 'Vive la Republique Romaine!' and loudly invoked the aid of the French to enable them to plant the tricolour flag on the Capitol. The insurgents displayed the tricolour cockade, and evinced the most menacing disposition; the danger was extreme; from similar beginnings the overthrow of the governments of Venice and Genoa had rapidly followed. The Papal ministers sent a regiment of dragoons to prevent any sortie of the revolutionists from the palace of the French ambassador; and they repeatedly warned the insurgents that their orders were to allow no one to leave the precincts. Duphot, however, indignant at being restrained by the pontifical troops, drew his sword, rushed down the staircase, and put himself at the head of one hundred and fifty armed Roman democrats, who were now contending with the dragoons in the courtyard of the palace. He was immediately killed by a discharge ordered by the sergeant commanding the patrol of the Papal troops; and the ambassador himself, who had followed to appease the tumult, narrowly escaped the same fate. A violent scuffle ensued; several persons were killed and wounded on both sides; and, after remaining several hours in the greatest alarm, Joseph Bonaparte, with his suite, retired to Florence.

"This catastrophe, however, obviously occasioned by the revolutionary schemes which were in agitation at the residence of the French ambassador, having taken place within the precincts of his palace, was, unhappily, a violation of the law of nations, and gave the Directory too fair a ground to demand satisfaction. But they instantly resolved to make it the pretext for the immediate occupation of Rome and overthrow of the Papal government. The march of troops out of Italy was countermanded, and Berthier, the commander-in-chief, received orders to advance rapidly into the Ecclesiastical States. Meanwhile, the democratic spirit burst forth more violently than ever at Ancona and the neighbouring towns, and the Papal authority was soon lost in all the provinces on the eastern slope of the Appenines. To these accumulated disasters the pontiff could only oppose the fasts and prayers of an aged conclave—weapons of spiritual warfare little calculated to arrest the conquerors of Arcola and Lodi.

"Berthlet, without an instant's delay, carried into execution the orders of the Directory. Six thousand Poles were stationed at Rimini to cover the Cisalpine Republic; a reserve was established at Tolentino; while the commander-in-chief, at the head of eighteen thousand veteran troops, entered Ancona. Having completed the work of revolution in that turbulent district, and secured the fortress, he crossed the Appenines; and, advancing by Foligno and Nami, appeared on the 10th of February before the Eternal City. The pope, in the utmost consternation, shut himself up in the Vatican, and spent night and day at the foot of the altar in imploring the Divine protection.

"Rome, almost defenceless, would have offered no obstacle to the entrance of the French troops; but it was part of the policy of the Directory to make it appear that their aid was invoked by the spontaneous efforts of the inhabitants. Contenting himself, therefore, with occupying the castle of St. Angelo, from which the feeble guards of the pope were soon expelled, Berthier kept his troops for five days encamped without the walls. At length, the revolutionists having completed their preparations, a noisy crowd assembled in the Campo Vaccino, the ancient Forum; the old foundations of the Capitol were made again to resound with the cries, if not the spirit, of freedom, and the venerable ensigns, S. P. Q. R., after the lapse of fourteen hundred years, again floated in the winds. The multitude tumultuously demanded the overthrow of the Papal authority; the French troops were invited to enter; the conquerors of Italy, with a haughty air, passed the gates of Aurelian, defiled through the Piazza del Popolo, gazed on the indestructible monuments of Roman grandeur, and, amid the shouts of the inhabitants, the tricolour flag was displayed from the summit of the Capitol.

"But while part of the Roman populace were surrendering themselves to a pardonable intoxication upon the faneled recovery of their liberties, the agents of the Directory were preparing for them the sad realities of slavery. The pope, who had been guarded by five hundred soldiers ever since the entry of the Republicans, was directed to retire into Tuscany; his Swiss guard relieved by a French one, and he himself ordered to dispossess himself of all his temporal authority. He replied, with the firmness of a martyr, 'I am prepared for every species of disgrace. As supreme pontiff, I am resolved to die in the exercise of all my powers. You may employ force—you have the power to do so; but know that, though you may be masters of my body, you are not so of my soul. Free in the region where it is placed, it fears neither the events nor the sufferings of this life. I stand on the threshold of another world; there I shall be sheltered alike from the violence and impiety of this.' Force was soon employed to dispossess him of his authority; he was dragged from the altar in his palace, his repositories all ransacked and plundered, the rings even torn from his fingers, the whole effects in the Vatican and Quirinal inventoried and seized, and the aged pontiff conducted, with only a few domestics, amid the brutal jests and sacrilegious songs of the French dragoons, into Tuscany, where the generous hospitality of the grand duke strove to soften the hardships of his exile. But, though a captive in the hands of his enemies, the venerable old man still retained the supreme authority in the Church. From his retreat in the convent of Chartreuse, he yet guided the counsels of the faithful; multitudes fell on their knees wherever he passed, and sought that benediction from a captive which they would, perhaps, have disregarded from a triumphant pontiff.

"The subsequent treatment of this venerable man was as disgraceful to the republican government as it was honourable to his piety and constancy as the head of the Church. Fearful that from his virtues and sufferings he might have had too much influence on the continent of Italy, he was removed by their orders to Leghorn, in Hatch, 1799, with the design of transferring him to Cagliari in Sardinia; and the English cruisers in the Mediterranean redoubled their vigilance, in the generous hope of rescuing the father of an opposite church from the persecution of his enemies. Apprehensive of losing their prisoner, the French altered his destination; and forcing him to traverse, often during the night, the Appenines and the Alps in a rigorous season, he at length reached Valence, where, after an illness of ten days, he expired, in the eighty-second year of his age, and the twenty-fourth of his pontificate. The cruelty of the Directory increased as he approached their dominions, all his old attendants were compelled to leave him, and the father of the faithful was allowed to expire, attended only by his confessor. Yet even in this disconsolate state he derived the highest satisfaction from the devotion and reverence of the people in the provinces of France through which he passed. Multitudes from Gap, Vizelle, and Grenoble, flocked to the road to receive his benediction; and he frequently repeated, with tears in his eyes, the words of Scripture, 'Verily, I say unto you, I have not seen such faith, no, not in Israel.'

"But long before the pope had sunk under the persecution of his oppressors, Rome had experienced the bitter fruits of republican fraternization. Immediately after the entry of the French troops commenced the regular and systematic pillage of the city. Not only the churches and the convents, but the palaces of the cardinals and of the nobility were laid waste. The agents of the Directory, insatiable in the pursuit of plunder, and merciless in the means of exacting it, ransacked every quarter within its walls, seized the most valuable works of art, and stripped the Eternal City of those treasures which had survived the Gothic fire and the rapacious hands of the Spanish soldiers. The bloodshed was much less, but the spoil collected incomparably greater, than at the disastrous sack which followed the death of the constable Bourbon. Almost all the great works of art which have since that time been collected throughout Europe, were then scattered abroad. The spoliation exceeded all that the Goths or Vandals had effected. Not only the palaces of the Vatican, and the Monte Cavallo, and the chief nobility of Rome, but those of Castel Gandolfo, on the margin of the Alban Lake, of Terraelna, the Villa Albani, and others in the environs of Rome, were plundered of every article of value which they possessed. The whole sacerdotal habits of the pope and cardinals were burned, in order to collect from the flames the gold with which they were adorned. The Vatican was stripped to its naked walls; the immortal frescoes of Raphael and Michael Angelo remained in solitary beauty amid the general desolation. A contribution of four millions in money, two millions in provisions, and three thousand horses, was imposed on a city already exhausted by the enormous exactions it had previously undergone. Under the direction of the infamous commissary Hailer, the domestic library, museum, furniture, jewels, and even the private clothes of the pope were sold. Nor did the palaces of the Roman nobility escape devastation. The noble galleries of the cardinal Braschi, and the cardinal York, the last relic of the Stuart line, underwent the same fate. Others, as those of the Chigi, Borghese, and Doria palaces, were rescued from destruction only by enormous ransoms. Everything of value that the Tolentino had left in Rome became the prey of republican cupidity, and the very name of freedom soon became odious, from the sordid and infamous crimes which were committed in its name.

"Nor were the exactions of the French confined to the plunder of palaces and churches. Eight cardinals were arrested and sent to Civita Casteliana, while enormous contributions were levied on the Papal territory, and brought home the bitterness of conquest to every poor man's door. At the same time, the ample territorial possessions of the church and the monasteries were confiscated, and declared national property; a measure which, by drying up at once the whole resources of the affluent classes, precipitated into the extreme of misery the numerous poor who were maintained by their expenditure, or fed by their bounty. All the respectable citizens and clergy were in fetters; and a base and despicable faction alone, among whom, to their disgrace be it told, were found fourteen cardinals, followed in the train of the oppressors; and, at a public festival, returned thanks to God for the miseries they had brought upon their country." (In this connexion, I may insert here the remarkable calculation of Robert Fleming, in his work entitled Apocalyptical Key or the pouring out of the Vials, first published m 1701. It is in the following words: "The fifth vial, (Re 16:10-11,) which is to be poured out on the seat of the beast, or the dominions which more immediately belong to and depend on the Roman see; that, I say, this judgment will probably begin about the year 1794, and expire about A.D. 1848; or that the duration of it upon this supposition will be the space of fifty-four years. For I do suppose that seeing the Pope received the title of Supreme Bishop no sooner than A.D. 606, he cannot be supposed to have any vial poured upon his seat immediately (so as to ruin his authority so signally as this judgment must be supposed to do) until the year @1848, which is the date of the twelve hundred and sixty years in prophetical account when they are reckoned from A.D. 606. But yet we are not to imagine that this will totally destroy the Papacy, (though it will exceedingly weaken it,) for we find that still in being and alive when the next vial is poured out," [pp. 124, 125, Cobbin's edition.] It is a circumstance remarkably in accordance with this calculation, that in the year 1848 the Pope was actually driven away to Gaeta, and that at the present time (1851) he is restored, though evidently with diminished power.)

{a} "sores" Re 16:8

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