The sixth seal - This seal also is opened and introduced by Jesus Christ alone.
A great earthquake - A most stupendous change in the civil and religious constitution of the world. If it refer to Constantine the Great, the change that was made by his conversion to Christianity might be very properly represented under the emblem of an earthquake, and the other symbols mentioned in this and the following verses.
The sun - the ancient pagan government of the Roman empire, was totally darkened; and, like a black hair sackcloth, was degraded and humbled to the dust.
The moon - the ecclesiastical state of the same empire, became as blood - was totally ruined, their sacred rites abrogated, their priests and religious institutions desecrated, their altars cast down, their temples destroyed, or turned into places for Christian worship.
And, lo, there was a great earthquake - Before endeavoring to ascertain to what the sixth seal was designed to refer, it is proper, as in the previous cases, to furnish a particular explanation of the meaning of the symbols. All the symbols represented in the opening of this seal denote consternation, commotion, changes; but still they are all significant, and we are to suppose that something would occur corresponding with each one of them. It cannot be supposed that the things here described were represented on the part of the roll or volume that was now unfolded in any other way than that they were pictures, or that the whole was a species of panoramic representation made to pass before the eyes. Thus understood, it would not be difficult to represent each one of these things in a painting: as the heaving ground - the agitated forests - the trembling hills - the falling cities and houses - the sun blackened, and the moon turned to blood:
(a) The earthquake, Revelation 6:12; “There was a great earthquake.” The word used here denotes a shaking or agitation of the earth. The effect, when violent, is to produce important changes - opening chasms in the earth; throwing down houses and temples; sinking hills, and elevating plains; causing ponds and lakes to dry up, or forming them where none existed; elevating the ocean from its bed, rending rocks, etc. As all that occurs in the opening of the other seals is symbolical, it is to be presumed that this is also, and that for the fulfillment of this we are not to look for a literal earthquake, but for such agitations and changes in the world as would be properly symbolized by this. The earthquake, as a symbol, would merely denote great agitations or overturnings on the earth. The particular character of those changes must be determined by other circumstances in the symbol that would limit and explain it.
There are, it is said, but three literal earthquakes referred to in the Scripture: that mentioned in 1 Kings 19:11; that in Uzziah‘s time, Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5; and what took place at the Saviour‘s death. All the rest are emblematical or symbolical-referring mostly to civil commotions and changes. Then in Haggai 2:6-7; “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” That is, there would be great agitations in the world before he came. See the notes on Hebrews 12:26-28. So also great changes and commotions are referred to in Isaiah 24:19-20; “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage.” An earthquake, if there were no other circumstances limiting and explaining the symbol, would merely denote great agitation and commotion - as if states and empires were tumbling to ruin. As this is here a mere symbol, it is not necessary to look for a literal fulfillment, or to expect to find in history actual earthquakes to which this had reference, anymore than when it is said that “the heavens departed as a scroll” we are to expect that they will be literally rolled up; but if, in the course of history, earthquakes preceded remarkable political convulsions and revolutions, it would be proper to represent such events in this way.
(b) The darkening of the sun: “And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair.” Sackcloth was a coarse black cloth, commonly, though not always, made of hair. It was used for sacks, for strainers, and for mourning garments; and as thus worn it was not an improper emblem of sadness and distress. The idea here is, that the sun put on a dark, dingy, doleful appearance, as if it were in mourning. The general image, then, in this emblem, is that of calamity - as if the very sun should put on the robes of mourning. We are by no means to suppose that this was literally to occur, but that some great calamity would happen, of which this would be an appropriate emblem. See the Isaiah 13:10 note; Matthew 24:29 note; Compare Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 34:4; 1,3; Isaiah 60:19-20; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15-16; Amos 8:9. What is the particular nature of the calamity is to be learned from other parts of the symbol.
(c) The discoloration of the moon: “And the moon became as blood.” Red like blood - either from the smoke and vapor that usually precedes an earthquake, or as a mere emblem. This also would betoken calamity, and perhaps the symbol may be so far limited and modified by this as to denote war, for that would be most naturally suggested by the color - red. Compare the notes on Revelation 6:4 of this chapter. But any great calamity would be appropriately represented by this - as the change of the moon to such a color would be a natural emblem of distress.
(d) The falling of the stars, Revelation 6:13; “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth.” This language is derived from the poetic idea that the sky seems to be a solid concave, in which the stars are set, and that when any convulsion takes place, that concave will be shaken, and the stars will be loosened and fall from their places. See this language explained in the notes on Isaiah 34:4. Sometimes the expanse above us is spoken of as a curtain that is spread out, and that may be rolled up; sometimes as a solid crystalline expanse in which the stars are fixed. According to either representation the stars are described as falling to the earth. If the expanse is rolled up, the stars, having nothing to support them, fall if violent tempests or concussions shake the heavens, the stars, loosened from their fixtures, fall to the earth. Stars, in the Scriptures, are symbols of princes and rulers (see Daniel 8:10; Revelation 8:10-11; Revelation 9:1); and the natural meaning of this symbol is, that there would be commotions which would unsettle princes, and bring them down from their thrones - like stars falling from the sky.
Even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs - Mart., “green”; Greek, ὀλύνθους olunthousThis word properly denotes “winter-figs,” or such as grow under the leaves, and do not ripen at the proper season, but hang upon the trees during the winter (Robinson, Lexicon). This fruit seldom matures, and easily falls off in the spring of the year (Stuart, in loco). A violent wind shaking a plantation of fig-trees would of course cast many such figs to the ground. The point of the comparison is, the ease with which the stars would seem to be shaken from their places, and hence, the ease with which, in these commotions, princes would be dethroned.
(e) The departing of the heavens, Revelation 6:14; “And the heaven departed as a scroll.” That is, as a book or volume - βιβλίον biblion- rolled up. The heavens are here described as spread out, and their passing away is represented by the idea that they might be rolled up, and thus disappear. See the notes on Isaiah 34:4. This, too, is a symbol, and we are not to suppose that it will literally occur. Indeed it never can literally occur; and we are not, therefore, to look for the fulfillment of this in any physical fact that would correspond with what is here said. The plain meaning is, that there would be changes as if such an event would happen; that is, that revolutions would occur in the high places of the earth, and among those in power, as if the stars should fall, and the very heavens were swept away. This is the natural meaning of the symbol, and this accords with the usage of the language elsewhere.
(f) The removal of mountains and islands, Revelation 6:14; “And every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” This would denote convulsions in the political or moral world, as great as would occur in the physical world if the very mountains were removed and the islands should change their places. We are not to suppose that this would literally occur; but we should be authorized from this to expect that, in regard to those things which seemed to be permanent and fixed on an immov able basis, like mountains and islands, there would be violent and important changes. If thrones and dynasties long established were overthrown; if institutions that seemed to be fixed and per manent were abolished; if a new order of things should rise in the political world, the meaning of the symbol, so far as the language is concerned, would be fulfilled.
(g) The universal consternation, Revelation 6:15-17; “And the kings of the earth, etc.” The design of these verses Revelation 6:15-17, in the varied language used, is evidently to denote universal consternation and alarm - as if the earth should be convulsed, and the stars should fall, and the heavens should pass away. This consternation would extend to all classes of people, and fill the world with alarm, as if the end of all things were coming.
The kings of the earth - Rulers - all who occupied thrones.
The great men - High officers of state.
And the rich men - Their wealth would not secure them from destruction, and they would be alarmed like others.
And the chief captains - The commanders of armies, who tremble like other men when God appears judgment.
And the mighty men - Men of great prowess in battle, but who feel now that they have no power to withstand God.
And every bondman - Servant - δοῦλος doulosThis word does not necessarily denote a slave (compare the Ephesians 6:5 note; 1 Timothy 6:1 note; Philemon 1:16 note), but here the connection seems to demand it, for it stands in contrast with freeman. There were, in fact, slaves in the Roman empire, and there is no objection in supposing that they are here referred to. There is no reason why they should not be filled with consternation as well as others; and as this does not refer to the end of the world, or the day of judgment, the word here determines nothing as to the question whether slavery is to continue on the earth.
And every freeman - Whether the master of slaves or not. The idea is, that all classes of people, high and low, would be filled with alarm.
Hid themselves in the dens - Among the caves or caverns in the mountains. See the notes on Isaiah 2:19. These places were resorted to for safety in times of danger. Compare 1 Samuel 13:6; 24; Judges 6:2; Jeremiah 41:9; Josephus, Antiq. book 14, chapter 15; Jewish Wars, book 1, chapter 16.
And in the rocks of the mountains - Among the crags or the fastnesses of the mountains - also natural places of refuge in times of hostile invasion or danger. See the notes on Isaiah 2:21.
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, - Revelation 6:16. This language is found substantially in Hosea 10:8; “And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.” It is also used by the Saviour as denoting the consternation which would occur at his coming: “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us,” Luke 23:30. It is language denoting consternation, and an awful fear of impending wrath. The state of mind is that where there is an apprehension that God himself is coming forth with the direct instruments of his vengeance, and where there is a desire rather to be crushed by falling rocks and hills than by the vengeance of his uplifted arm.
From the face of him that sitteth on the throne - The face of God - for he seems to be coming forth with the displays of his vengeance. It is not said that God would actually come forth in a visible form, lint their consternation would be as great as if he were to do this; the state of mind indicated by this was an apprehension that it would be so.
And from the wrath of the Lamb - The Lamb of God; the Lord Jesus. See the notes on Revelation 5:6. There seems to be an incongruity between the words “wrath,” and “Lamb”; but the word “Lamb” here is so far a proper name as to be used only to designate the Redeemer. He comes forth to execute wrath, not as a Lamb, but as the Son of God, who bore that name. It would seem from this that they who thus dreaded the impending terrors were aware of their source, or had knowledge enough to understand by whom they were to be inflicted. They would see that these were divine judgments, and would apprehend that the end of the world drew near.
For the great day of his wrath is come - Revelation 6:17. The threatening judgments would be so severe and awful that they would suppose that the end of the world was coming.
And who shall be able to stand? - To stand before him, or to withstand his judgments.
It is unnecessary to say that there has been, in this case, as in reference to every other part of the Book of Revelation, a great diversity of opinion respecting the events symbolized by this seal. Grotius applied it to the wars between the Jews and Romans under Nero and Vespasian; Dr. Hammond supposed that the defeat of the Jewish leaders in those wars was particularly symbolized; Mr. Brightman referred these symbols to the persecution under Diocletian; Mr. Mede, Dr. Cressner, Dr. More, Mr. Whiston, Mr. Jurien, Mr. Daubuz, Mr. Lowman, Dr. Newton, Mr. Elliott, and others, refer it to the defeat of the pagan powers, and the final suppression of those powers as opposed to Christianity; Vitringa regarded it as foreshadowing the overthrow of the anti-Christian powers of the western Roman empire; Cocceius explains it of the wars of the Emperor Frederick against the German princes in the sixteenth century; Dr. Woodhouse, of the day of vengeance at the end of the world; Mr. Cunninghame, of the same period as the seventh trumpet, commencing with the French revolution, and to be consummated by the visible advent of the Son of God; Prof. Stuart, of the destruction of Jerusalem; and Mr. Lord, of a series of events, part of which are fulfilled, three of them corresponding with the first three vials - the first expressive of the revolution of France, the second of despotism extending through several rears, and the third of the overthrow of that violent dynasty, at the fall of Bonaparte, in 1815.
It is not my purpose to examine these views; but, amidst this great variety of opinion, it seems to me that the obvious and natural application of the opening of the seal has not been adverted to. I shall suggest it because it is the most natural and obvious, and seems to be demanded by the explanations given of the previous seals. It is, in one word, the impending judgments from the invasions of the northern hordes of Goths and Vandals, threatening the breaking up of the Roman empire - the gathering of the storm, and the hovering of those barbarians on the borders of the empire; the approaches which they made from time to time toward the capital, though restrained as yet from taking it; the tempest of wrath that was, as it were, suspended yet on the frontiers, until the events recorded in the next chapter should occur, then bursting forth in wrath in successive blasts, as denoted by the first four trumpets of the seventh seal Revelation 8:1-13, when the empire was entirely overthrown by the Goths and Vandals. The precise point of time which I suppose this seal occupies is that succeeding the last persecution.
It embraces the preparatory arrangements of these hordes of invaders - their gathering on the frontiers of the empire - their threatened approaches toward the capital - and the formation of such vast armies as would produce universal consternation. A brief notice of these preparatory scenes, as adapted to produce the alarm referred to in the opening of the sixth seal, is all that will be necessary here; the more complete detail must be reserved for the explanation of the four trumpets of the seventh seal, when the work of destruction was consummated. These preparations and threatened invasions were events sufficiently important in their relation to the church, to what preceded, and to the future history of the world, to be symbolized here; and they are events in which all the particulars of the symbol may find a fulfillment. Anyone has only to took on a chart of history to see how appropriately this application of the symbol follows, if the previous explanations have been correct. In the illustration of this, in order to show the probability that these events are referred to by the symbols of the sixth seal, I would submit the following remarks:
(1) The time is what would be naturally suggested by this seal in its relation to the others. If the fifth referred to the persecutions under Diocletian - the last great persecution of the pagan powers in attempting to extinguish the Christian name - then we should naturally look for the fulfillment of the opening of the next in some event, or series of events, which would succeed that at no very distant interval, and that pertained to the empire or power that had been the prominent subject of the predictions in the previous seals. It would also be natural to look for some events that might be regarded as conveying an expression of the divine feeling in regard to that power, or that would present it in such an aspect that it would be seen that its power to persecute was at an end. This natural expectation would be answered either by some symbol that would refer to the complete triumph of the Christian system, or by such a series of judgments as would break the persecuting power itself in pieces. Now the threatened irruption of the northern barbarians followed the series of events already described with sufficient nearness to make it proper to regard that series of events as referred to.
(2) the events were of sufficient importance in the history of the empire to deserve this notice in the foreshadowing of what would occur. They were connected with the breaking up of that mighty power, and the complete change of the aspect of the world, in a political and religious point of view. A new order of things arose in the world‘s history. A new religion became established. New kingdoms from the fragments of the once-mighty Roman empire were founded, and the affairs of the world were put on a new footing. These mighty northern hordes not only spread consternation and alarm, as if the world were coming to an end, but they laid the foundations of kingdoms which continue to this day. In fact, few more important events have occurred in history.
(3) this series of events was introduced in the manner described in the opening of the sixth seal. I have already said that it is not necessary to suppose, in the fulfillment of the symbol, that there would be a literal earthquake; but nothing in the symbol forbids us to suppose that there might be, and if there were we could not but consider it as remarkable. Now it so happens that the series of events pertaining to the Gothic invasions is introduced by Mr. Gibbon in the following language: “365 a.d. In the second year of the reign of Valentinian and Valens, on the morning of the twenty-first day of July, the greatest part of the Roman world was shaken by a violent and destructive earthquake. The impression was communicated to the waters; the shores of the Mediterranean were left dry by the sudden retreat of the sea; great quantities of fish were caught with the hand; large vessels were stranded on the mud; and a curious spectator amused his eye, or rather his fancy, by contemplating the various appearances of valleys and mountains which had never before, since the formation of the globe, been exposed to the sun. But the tide soon returned, with the weight of an immense and irresistible deluge, which was severely felt on the coasts of Sicily, of Dalmatia, of Greece, and of Egypt; large boats were transported, and lodged on the roofs of houses, or at the distance of two miles from the shore; the people, with their habitations, were swept away by the waters; and the city of Alexandria annually commemorated the day on which fifty thousand persons had lost their lives in the inundation.
This calamity, the report of which was magnified from one province to another, astonished and terrified the subjects of Rome; and their affrighted imagination enlarged the real extent of the momentary evil. They recollected the preceding earthquakes which had subverted the cities of Palestine and Bithynia; they considered these alarming strokes as the prelude only of still more dreadful calamities, and their fearful vanity was disposed to confound the symptoms of a declining empire and a sinking world,” vol. ii. pp. 115,116. Mr. Gibbon then proceeds to detail the evils of war, as greatly surpassing the calamities produced by any natural causes, and adds (p. 116), “In the disastrous period of the fall of the Roman empire, which may be justly dated from the reign of Valens, the happiness and security of each individual was personally attacked; and the arts and labors of ages were rudely defaced by the barbarians of Scythia and Germany.” He then proceeds with an exceedingly interesting description of the origin, the habits, and the movements of the Tartar nations, particularly the Huns, as they moved to the West, and precipitated the Gothic nations on the provinces of the Roman empire, until Rome itself was thrice besieged, was taken, and was sacked (ii. 116-266).
The earthquake referred to occurred in 365 a.d. The movements of the Huns from their territories in the neighborhood of China had commenced about 100 a.d., and in 375 a.d. they overcame the Goths lying along the Danube. The Goths, pressed and overcome by these savage invaders, asked permission of the Romans to cross the Danube, to find protection in the Roman empire, and to cultivate the waste lands of Thrace (Gibbon, ii. 129,130). In the year 376 they were transported over the Danube, by the permission of the Roman emperor Valens; an event which, according to Mr. Gibbon, in its ultimate result, was the cause of the downfall of the empire; for they learned their own strength; they were attracted by the riches of the capital and the hope of reward, until they finally drew the Western emperor to Ravenna, sacked Rome, and took possession of Italy.
(4) aslight reference to the series of events in these periods of consternation and conquest may show more closely the nature of the alarms which would be caused by the prospect of these dreadful invasions, and may prepare us for a better understanding of the successive calamities which occurred under these invaders, when the empire fell, as described by the four first trumpets of the seventh seal. I shall copy from the tables of contents of Mr. Gibbon‘s history, under the twenty-sixth, thirtieth, and thirty-first chapters:
d 376The Huns and Goths.
d 100The emigration of the Huns.
d 375Their victories over the Goths.
d 376The Goths implore the protection of Valens.
d 376They are transported over the Danube into the Roman Empire.
d 376They penetrate into Thrace.
d 377Union of the Goths with Huns, Alani, etc.
d 378Battle of Hadrianople.
d 378The defeat of the Romans.
d 383-395The settlement of the Goths in Thrace and Asia.
d 395Revolt of the Goths.
d 396Alaric marches into Greece.
d 398Is proclaimed king of the Visigoths.
d 400-403He invades Italy.
d 406Radagaisus invades Italy.
d 406Besieges Florence.
d 406Threatens Rome.
d 406The remainder of the Germans invade Gaul.
d 407Desolation of Gaul.
d 408Alaric marches to Rome.
d 408First siege of Rome by the Goths.
d 408Famine, plague, superstition.
d 409Alaric accepts a ransom and raises the siege.
d 409Fruitless negotiations for peace.
d 409Second siege of Rome by the Goths.
d 410Third siege and sack of Rome by the Goths.
d 410Respect of the Goths for the Christian religion.
d 410Pillage and fire of Rome.
d 410Captives and fugitives.
d 411-416Fall of the usurpers Jovinus, Sebastian, and Attalus.
d 409Invasion of Spain by the Suevi, Vandals, Alani, etc.
d 415-418The Goths conquer and restore Spain.”
d (5) This would coincide, in the effects produced on the empire, with the consternation and alarm described in the passage before us. The symbols are such as would be employed on the supposition that these are the events referred to; they are such as the events are suited to suggest. The mighty preparations in the East and North - the report of which could not but spread through the empire - would be appropriately symbolized by the earthquake, the darkened sun, the moon becoming like blood, the stars falling, the departing heavens, and the kings and great men of the earth fleeing in alarm to find a place of safety, as if the end of the world were drawing near. Nothing could have been so well adapted to produce the consternation described in the opening of the sixth seal, as the dreaded approach of vast hosts of barbarians from the regions of the North. This alarm would be increased by the fact that their numbers were unknown; that their origin was hidden; and that the advancing multitudes would sweep everything before them.
As in other cases, also, rumour would increase their numbers and augment their ferocity. The sudden shock of an earthquake, the falling stars, the departing heavens, the removal of mountains and islands, and the consternation of kings and all classes of people, would be the appropriate emblems to represent these impending calamities. In confirmation of this, and as showing the effect produced by the approach of the Goths, and the dread of the Gothic arms, in causing universal consternation, the following extracts may be adduced from Mr. Gibbon, when describing the threatened invasion of Alaric, king of the Visigoths. He quotes from Claudian. “‹Fame,‘ says the poet,‘ encircling with terror her gloomy wings, proclaimed the march of the barbarian army, and filled Italy with consternation.‘” Mr. Gibbon adds, “the apprehensions of each individual were increased in just proportion to the measure of his fortune; and the most timid, who had already embarked their valuable effects, meditated their escape to the island of Sicily, or to the African coast. The public distress was aggravated by the fears and reproaches of superstition. Every hour produced some horrid tale of strange and portentous accidents; the pagans deplored the neglect of omens and the interruption of sacrifices; but the Christians still derived some comfort from the powerful intercession of the saints and martyrs,” ii. 218,219. See further illustrations in the notes on Revelation 8:7-13.
Such are the solemn and sublime scenes that transpire under the sixth seal. And a thought well calculated to awaken in every heart an intense interest in divine things, is the consideration that we are now living amid the momentous events of this seal, as will presently be proved.DAR 414.1
Between the fifth and sixth seals there seems to be a sudden and entire change in the language, from the highly figurative to the strictly literal. Whatever may be the cause of this change, the change itself cannot well be denied. By no principle of interpretation can the language of the preceding seals be made to be literal, nor can the language of this any more easily be made to be figurative. We must therefore accept the change, even though we should be unable to explain it. There is a great fact, however, to which we would here call attention. It was to be in the period covered by this seal that the prophetic portions of God's word were to be unsealed, and many run to and fro, or âgive their sedulous attention to the understanding of these things,â and thereby knowledge on this part of God's word was to be greatly increased. And we suggest that it may be for this reason that the change in the language here occurs, and that the events of this seal, transpiring at a time when these things were to be fully understood, are couched in no figures, but are laid before us in plain and unmistakable language.DAR 414.2
The Great Earthquake. â The first event under this seal, perhaps the one which marks its opening, is a great earthquake. As the more probable fulfillment of this prediction, we refer to the great earthquake of Nov. 1, 1755, known as the earthquake of Lisbon. Of this earthquake, Sears, in his Wonders of the World, pp. 50, 58, 381, says: âDAR 414.3
âThe great earthquake of Nov. 1, 1755, extended over a tract of at least 4,000,000 square miles. Its effects were even extended to the waters in many places, where the shocks were not perceptible. It pervaded the greater portion of Europe, Africa, and America; but its extreme violence was exercised on the southwestern part of the former. In Africa, this earthquake was felt almost as severely as it had been in Europe. A great part of Algiers was destroyed. Many houses were thrown down at Fez and Mequinez, and multitudes were buried beneath the ruins. Similar effects were realized at Morocco. Its effects were likewise felt at Tangier, at Tetuan, at Funchal in the Island of Madeira. It is probable that all Africa was shaken. At the north, it extended to Norway and Sweden. Germany, Holland, France, Great Britain, and Ireland were all more or less agitated by the same great commotion of the elements. Lisbon (Portugal), previous to the earthquake in 1755, contained 150,000 inhabitants. Mr. Barretti says that 90,000 persons âwere lost on that fatal day.âDAR 414.4
On page 200 of the same work, we again read: âThe terror of the people was beyond description. Nobody wept; it was beyond tears. They ran hither and thither, delirious with horror and astonishment, beating their faces and breasts, crying, âMisericordia; the world's at an end!' Mothers forgot their children, and ran about loaded with crucifixed images. Unfortunately, many ran to the churches for protection; but in vain was the sacrament exposed; in vain did the poor creatures embrace the altars; images, priests, and people were buried in one common ruin.âDAR 415.1
The Encyclopedia Americana states that this earthquake extended also to Greenland, and of its effects upon the city of Lisbon further says: âThe city then contained about 150,000 inhabitants. The shock was instantly followed by the fall of every church and convent, almost all the large and public buildings, and more than one fourth of the houses. In about two hours after the shock, fires broke out in different quarters, and raged with such violence for the space of nearly three days that the city was completely desolated. The earthquake happened on a holy day, when the churches and convents were full of people, very few of whom escaped.âDAR 415.2
Sir Charles Lyell gives the following graphic description of this remarkable phenomenon: âDAR 416.1
âIn no part of the volcanic region of southern Europe has so tremendous an earthquake occurred in modern times as that which began on the 1st of November, 1755, at Lisbon. A sound of thunder was heard underground, and immediately afterward a violent shock threw down the greater part of that city. In the course of about six minutes, sixty thousand persons perished. The sea first retired, and laid the bar dry; it then rolled in, rising fifty feet above its ordinary level. The mountains of Arrabida, Estrella, Julio, Marvan, and Cintra, being some of the largest in Portugal, were impetuously shaken, as it were from their very foundations; and some of them opened at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the subjacent valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains, which are supposed to have been electric; they are also said to have smoked; but vast clouds of dust may have given rise to this appearance.DAR 416.2
âThe most extraordinary circumstance which occurred at Lisbon during the catastrophe, was the subsidence of the new quay, built entirely of marble, at an immense expense. A great concourse of people had collected there for safety, as a spot where they might be beyond the reach of falling ruins; but suddenly the quay sunk down with all the people on it, and not one of the dead bodies ever floated to the surface. A great number of boats and small vessels anchored near it, all full of people, were swallowed up as in a whirlpool. No fragments of these wrecks ever rose again to the surface, and the water in the place where the quay had stood is stated, in many accounts, to be unfathomable; but Whitehurst says he ascertained it to be one hundred fathoms.DAR 416.3
âIn this case, we must either suppose that a certain tract sunk down into a subterranean hollow, which would cause a âfault' in the strata to the depth of six hundred feet, or we may infer, as some have done, from the entire disappearance of the substances engulfed, that a chasm opened and closed again. Yet in adopting this latter hypothesis, we must suppose that the upper part of the chasm, to the depth of one hundred fathoms, remained open after the shock. According to the observations made at Lisbon in 1837 by Mr. Sharpe, the destroying effects of this earthquake were confined to the tertiary strata, and were most violent on the blue clay, on which the lower part of the city is constructed. Not a building, he says, on the secondary limestone or the basalt was injured.DAR 416.4
âThe great area over which this Lisbon earthquake extended is very remarkable. The movement was most violent in Spain, Portugal, and the north of Africa; but nearly the whole of Europe, and even the West Indies, felt the shock on the same day. A seaport called St. Ubes, about twenty miles south of Lisbon, was engulfed. At Algiers and Fez in Africa, the agitation of the earth was equally violent, and at the distance of eight leagues from Morocco, a village, with the inhabitants, to the number of about eight or ten thousand persons, together with all their cattle, were swallowed up. Soon after, the earth closed again over them.DAR 417.1
âThe shock was felt at sea, on the deck of a ship to the west of Lisbon, and produced very much the same sensation as on dry land. Off St. Lucas, the captain of the ship âNancy' felt his vessel so violently shaken that he thought she had struck the ground, but, on heaving the lead, found a great depth of water. Captain Clark, from Denia, in latitude 36Â° 24' N., between nine and ten in the morning, had his ship shaken and strained as if she had struck upon a rock. Another ship, forty leagues west of St. Vincent, experienced so violent a concussion that the men were thrown a foot and a half perpendicularly up from the deck. In Antigua and Barbadoes, as also in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Corsica, Switzerland, and Italy, tremors and slight oscillations of the ground were felt.DAR 417.2
âThe agitation of lakes, rivers, and springs in Great Britain was remarkable. At Loch Lomond, in Scotland, for example, the water, without the least apparent cause, rose against its banks, and then subsided below its usual level. The greatest perpendicular hight of this swell was two feet four inches, It is said that the movement of this earthquake was undulatory, and that it traveled at the rate of twenty miles a minute. A great wave swept over the coast of Spain, and is said to have been sixty feet high at Cadiz. At Tangier, in Africa, it rose and fell eighteen times on the coast; at Funchal, in Madeira, it rose full fifteen feet perpendicular above high-water mark, although the tide, which ebbs and flows there seven feet, was then at half ebb. Besides entering the city and committing great havoc, it overflowed other seaports in the island. At Kinsale, in Ireland, a body of water rushed into the harbor, whirled round several vessels, and poured into the marketplace.DAR 417.3
âIt was before stated that the sea first retired at Lisbon; and this retreat of the ocean from the shore at the commencement of an earthquake, and its subsequent return in a violent wave, is a common occurrence. In order to account for the phenomenon, Mitchell imagines a subsidence at the bottom of the sea from the giving way of the roof of some cavity, in consequence of a vacuum produced by the condensation of steam. Such condensation, he observes, might be the first effect of the introduction of a large body of water into fissures and cavities already filled with steam, before there had been sufficient time for the heat of the incandescent lava to turn so large a supply of water into steam, which, being soon accomplished, causes a greater explosion.â â Library of Choice Literature, Vol. VII, pp, 162, 163.DAR 418.1
If the reader will look on his atlas at the countries above mentioned, he will see how large a portion of the earth's surface was agitated by this awful convulsion. Other earthquakes may have been as severe in particular localities, but no other one of which we have any record, combining so great an extent with such a degree of severity, has ever been felt on this earth. It certainly supplies all the conditions necessary to constitute it a fitting event to mark the opening of the seal.DAR 418.2
The Darkening of the Sun. â Following the earthquake, it is announced that âthe sun became black as sackcloth of hair.â This portion of the prediction has also been fulfilled. Into a detailed account of the wonderful darkening of the sun, May 19, 1780, we need not here enter. Most persons of general reading, it is presumed, have seen some account of it. The following detached declarations from different authorities will give an idea of its nature: âDAR 418.3
âThe dark day of Northern America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which will always be read of with interest, but which philosophy is at a loss to explain.â â Herschel.DAR 419.1
âIn the month of May, 1780, there was a terrific dark day in New England, when âall faces seemed to gather blackness,' and the people were filled with fear. There was great distress in the village where Edward Lee lived, âmen's hearts failing them for fear' that the Judgment-day was at hand; and the neighbors all flocked around the holy man,â who âspent the gloomy hours in earnest prayer for the distressed multitude.â â Tract No. 379, American Tract Society; Life of Edward Lee.DAR 419.2
âCandles were lighted in many houses. Birds were silent and disappeared. Fowls retired to roost. It was the general opinion that the Day of Judgment was at hand.â â Pres. Dwight, in Ct. Historical Collections.DAR 419.3
âThe darkness was such as to occasion farmers to leave their work in the field, and retire to their dwellings. Lights became necessary to the transaction of business within doors. The darkness continued through the day.â â Gage's History of Rowley, Mass.DAR 419.4
âThe cocks crew as at daybreak, and everything bore the appearance and gloom of night. The alarm produced by this unusual aspect of the heavens was very great.â â Portsmouth Journal, May 20, 1843.DAR 419.5
âIt was midnight darkness at noonday. ... Thousands of people who could not account for it from natural causes, were greatly terrified; and indeed, it cast a universal gloom on the earth. The frogs and night-hawks began their notes.â â Dr. Adams.DAR 419.6
âSimilar days have occasionally been known, though inferior in the degree or extent of their darkness. The causes of these phenomena are unknown. They certainly were not the result of eclipses.â â Sears's Guide to Knowledge.DAR 420.1
âAlmost, if not altogether alone, as the most mysterious and yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind in nature's diversified range of events, during the last century, stands the dark day of May 19th, 1780, â a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England, â which brought intense alarm and distress to multitudes of minds, as well as dismay to the brute creation, the fowls fleeing, bewildered, to their roosts, and the birds to their nests, and the cattle returning to their stalls. Indeed, thousands of the good people of that day became fully convinced that the end of all things terrestrial had come.... The extent of this darkness was also very remarkable. It was observed at the most easterly regions of New England; westward to the farthest parts of Connecticut, and at Albany; to the southward, it was observed all along the seacoast; and to the north, as far as the American settlements extended. It probably far exceeded these boundaries, but the exact limits were never positively known.â â Our First Century, by R. M. Devens, pp. 89, 90.DAR 420.2
The poet Whittier thus speaks of this event: âDAR 420.3
â'T was on a May-day of the far old yearDAR 420.4
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fellDAR 420.5
Over the bloom and sweet life of the spring,DAR 420.6
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,DAR 420.7
A horror of great darkness, like the nightDAR 420.8
In day of which the Norland sages tell âDAR 420.9
The Twilight of the Gods. The low-hung skyDAR 420.10
Was black with ominous clouds, save where its rimDAR 420.11
Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbsDAR 420.12
The crater's sides from the red hell below.DAR 420.13
Birds ceased to sing, and all the barnyard fowlsDAR 420.14
Roosted; the cattle at the pasture barsDAR 420.15
Lowed, and looked homeward; bats on leathern wingsDAR 420.16
Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;DAR 420.17
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharpDAR 420.18
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter The black sky, that the dreadful face of ChristDAR 420.19
Might look from the rent clouds, not as he lookedDAR 421.1
A loving guest in Bethany, but sternDAR 421.2
As justice and inexorable law.âDAR 421.3
The next most notable dark day, compared with that of 1780, was in 1762. Of this, Mr. Devens (Our First Century, p. 96) speaks as follows: âDAR 421.4
âThere was also a remarkable darkness at Detroit and vicinity, Oct. 19, 1762, being almost total for the greater part of the day. It was dark at daybreak, and this continued till nine o'clock, when it cleared up a little, and for the space of about a quarter of an hour, the body of the sun was visible, it appearing as red as blood, and more than three times as large as usual. The air all this time was of a dingy yellowish color. At half past one o'clock it was so dark as to necessitate the lighting of candles, in order to attend to domestic duties. At about three in the afternoon the darkness became more dense, increasing in intensity until half past three, when the wind breezed up from the southwest, and brought on a slight fall of rain, accompanied with a profuse quantity of fine, black particles, in appearance much like sulphur, both in smell and quality. A sheet of clean paper held out in the rain was rendered quite black wherever the drops fell upon it; but when held near the fire, it turned to a yellow color, and, when burned, it fizzed on the paper like wet powder. So black did these powdery particles turn everything upon which they fell, that even the river was covered with a black froth, which, when skimmed off the surface, resembled the lather of soap, with this difference, that it was more greasy, and its color as black as ink. At seven in the evening the air was more clear. This phenomenon was observed throughout a vast region of country; and though various conjectures were indulged in as to the cause of so extraordinary an occurrence, the same degree of mystery attaches to it as to that of 1780, confounding the wisdom even of the most learned philosophers and men of science.âDAR 421.5
Let it be noticed that this darkness also falls within the time specified in the prophecy for the occurrence of this sign; namely, between the years 1755 and 1798. This point is further discussed on pages 426-431.DAR 421.6
The Moon Became as Blood. â The darkness of the following night, May 19, 1780, was as unnatural as that of the day had been.DAR 422.1
âThe darkness of the following evening was probably as gross as has ever been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light. I could not help conceiving at the time that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable darkness, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete. A sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes, was equally invisible with the blackest velvet.â â Mr. Tenney, of Exeter, N. H., quoted by Mr. Gage to the âHistorical Society.âDAR 422.2
Dr. Adams, already quoted, wrote concerning the night following the dark day: âDAR 422.3
âAlmost every one who happened to be out in the evening got lost in going home. The darkness was as uncommon in the night as it was in the day, as the moon had fulled the day before.âDAR 422.4
This statement respecting the phase of the moon proves the impossibility of an eclipse of the sun at that time.DAR 422.5
And whenever on this memorable night the moon did appear, as at certain times it did, it had, according to this prophecy, the appearance of blood.DAR 422.6
And the Stars of Heaven Fell. â The voice of history still is, Fulfilled! Being a much later event than the darkening of the sun, there are multitudes in whose memories it is as fresh as though it were but yesterday. We refer to the great meteoric shower of Nov. 13, 1833. On this point a few extracts will suffice.DAR 422.7
âAt the cry, âLook out of the window,' I sprang from a deep sleep, and with wonder saw the east lighted up with the dawn and meteors. ... I called to my wife to behold; and while robing, she exclaimed, âSee how the stars fall!' I replied, âThat is the wonder;' and we felt in our hearts that it was a sign of the last days. For truly âthe stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' Revelation 6:13. This language of the prophet has always been received as metaphorical. Yesterday it was literally fulfilled. The ancients understood by aster in Greek, and stella in Latin, the smaller lights of heaven. The refinement of modern astronomy has made distinction between stars of heaven and meteors of heaven. Therefore the idea of the prophet, as it is expressed in the original Greek, was literally fulfilled in the phenomenon of yesterday, so as no man before yesterday had conceived to be possible that it should be fulfilled. The immense size and distance of the planets and fixed stars forbid the idea of their falling unto the earth. Larger bodies cannot fail in myriads unto a smaller body; and most of the planets and all the fixed stars are many times larger than our earth; but these fell toward the earth. And how did they fall? Neither myself nor one of the family heard any report; and were I to hunt through nature for a simile, I could not find one so apt, to illustrate the appearance of the heavens, as that which St. John uses in the prophecy before quoted: âThe stars of heaven fell unto the earth.' They were not sheets, or flakes, or drops of fire; but they were what the world understands by falling stars; and one speaking to his fellow, in the midst of the scene, would say, âSee how the stars fall!' And he who heard would not stop to correct the astronomy of the speaker, any more than he would reply, âThe sun does not move,' to one who should tell him, âThe sun is rising.' The stars fell âeven as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' Here is the exactness of the prophet. The falling stars did not come as if from several trees shaken, but from one. Those which appeared in the east fell toward the east; those which appeared in the north fell toward the north; those which appeared in the west fell toward the west; and those which appeared in the south (for I went out of my residence into the park), fell toward the south. And they fell not as ripe fruit falls; far from it; but they flew, they were cast, like the unripe, which at first refuses to leave the branch, and when, under a violent pressure, it does break its hold, it flies swiftly, straight off, descending; and in the multitude falling, some cross the track of others, as they are thrown with more or less force, but each one falls on its own side of the tree.â â Henry Dana Ward.DAR 422.8
âExtensive and magnificent showers of shooting stars have been known to occur at various places in modern times; but the most universal and wonderful which has ever been recorded, is that of the 13th of November, 1833, the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion. No celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class in the community, or with so much dread and alarm by another.... During the three hours of its continuance, the day of Judgment was believed to be only waiting for sunrise.â â Our First Century, p. 329.DAR 424.1
The effect of this phenomenon upon the negro population, is described by a Southern planter as follows: âDAR 424.2
âI was suddenly awakened by the most distressing cries that ever fell on my ears. Shrieks of horror and cries for mercy could be heard from most of the negroes of three plantations, amounting in all to some six or eight hundred. While earnestly and breathlessly listening for the cause, I heard a faint voice near the door calling my name. I arose, and taking my sword, stood at the door. At this moment I heard the same voice still beseeching me to rise, and saying, âO my God! the world is on fire!' I then opened the door, and it is difficult to say which excited me most, the awfulness of the scene or the distressed cries of the negroes. Upward of one hundred lay prostrate on the ground, some speechless, and others uttering the bitterest moans, but with their hands raised, imploring God to save the world and them. The scene was truly awful: for never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north, and south, it was the same. In a word, the whole heavens seemed in motion.â â Id. p. 330.DAR 424.3
âArago computes that not less than two hundred and forty thousand meteors were at the same time visible above the horizon of Boston.â And of the display at Niagara it is said that âno spectacle so terribly grand and sublime was ever before beheld by man as that of the firmament descending in fiery torrents over the dark and roaring cataract.â â Id., ib.DAR 425.1
These signs in the sun, moon, and stars, are the same as those so strikingly predicted by our Lord, and recorded by the evangelists in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. In these records, not only the same signs are given, but the same time is pointed out for their fulfilment; namely, a period commencing just this side of the long and bloody persecution of the papal power. In Matthew 24:21, 22, the 1260 years of papal supremacy are brought to view; and âimmediately after the tribulation of those daysâ (verse 29) the sun was to be darkened, etc. Mark is still more definite, and says, âIn those days, after that tribulation.â The days, commencing in A. D. 538, ended in 1798; but before they ended, the spirit of persecution had been restrained by the Reformation, and that tribulation of the church had ceased. And in this period, exactly at the time specified in the prophecy, the fulfillment of these signs commenced in the darkening of the sun and moon.DAR 425.2
The first instance of the falling of the stars worthy of any notice, though others of local and minor importance may be mentioned before it, took place in 1799. To the great display of 1833, by far the most brilliant of any on record, we have already referred. Of the extent of this shower, Professor Olmstead, of Yale College, a distinguished meteorologist, says: âDAR 425.3
âThe extent of the shower of 1833 was such as to cover no inconsiderable part of the earth's surface; from the middle of the Atlantic on the east to the Pacific on the west, and from the northern coast of South America to undefined regions among the British possessions on the north, the exhibition was visible, and everywhere presented nearly the same appearance.âDAR 425.4
From this, it appears that this exhibition was confined exclusively to the Western world. But in the year 1866, another remarkable occurrence of this kind took place, this time in the East, nearly as magnificent in some places as that of 1833, and visible so far as ascertained, throughout the greater part of Europe. Thus the principal portions of the earth have now been warned by this sign.DAR 425.5
Observation has shown that these meteoric displays occur at regular intervals of about thirty-three years. The skeptic will doubtless seize upon this as a pretext for throwing them out of the catalogue of signs. But if they are not more than ordinary occurrences, the question is to be answered why they have not occurred as regularly and prominently centuries in the past as in the last hundred years. This is a question science cannot answer, nor can it offer anything more than conjecture as to their cause.DAR 426.1
One significant fact will be noticed in connection with all the foregoing signs: They were each instinctively associated -in the minds of the people, at the time of their occurrence, with the great day of which they were the forerunners. And on each occasion the cry was raised, âThe Judgment has come; the world's at an end.âDAR 426.2
But the objector answers, These phenomena in the sun, moon, and stars cannot be signs of the end, because there have been many instances of such occurrences; and pointing to some ten other periods of remarkable darkness besides that of 1780, and to several occasions when stars or meteoric showers have fallen, he asks, with an air of triumph, which one we will take for the sign. That this is not a fanciful representation of the objection, the following facts will demonstrate.DAR 426.3
In 1878 we noticed in one of the leading dailies of Chicago a question from a correspondent in Vermont, and the reply given by the paper, as follows: âDAR 426.4
âWill you give the causes (and proof) of the âdark day' in 1780, the 19th of May, I believe? An âAdvent preacher' has been preaching in this neighborhood, and alluded to it as a sign of the destruction of the world.âDAR 426.5
And the reply is given thus: âDAR 426.6
âThe dark day of 1780 was produced by entirely natural causes, and was about as much a sign of the destruction of the world as of the advent of the potato-beetle. The darkness, said Dr. Samuel Tenney, of Exeter, N. H., was produced by common clouds. Between these common clouds and the earth intervened another stratum of great thickness. As the stratum advanced, the darkness commenced, and increased with its progress. The uncommon thickness of this stratum was occasioned by two strong currents of wind from the southward and westward, condensing the vapors and drawing them in a northwest direction. The density of this stratum was owing to the vapor and smoke it contained. These so-called dark days have not been uncommon, being known in 366 B. C., 295 B. C., 252 A. D., 746, 775, 1732, 1762, 1780, 1783, 1807, 1816. The one was as prophetic as any other, and no more so.âDAR 426.7
It would have been a little more to the satisfaction of any one who wishes to know the reasons of his faith, if the writer of the reply had stated where he found his evidence for all his assertions. And we would like a little light on such points as this: From whence came that âstratum of great thicknessâ? Of what was it composed? How was it formed? This caviler's explanation amounts to just this: It was dark because there was great darkness. He simply states the fact in another form, and calls that an explanation. His own statement needs explaining as really as the one to which he refers. âThe uncommon thickness of the stratum was caused by two strong currents of wind,â etc. How did those winds chance to come just then, and just when there were vapors to condense? And what caused the vapors? Then how could currents from the west and south draw the vapors âin a northwest directionâ? Common philosophy would assign them, under such circumstances, a northeasterly direction. Our friend must be careful, or he will make the dark day to be a greater phenomenon than we have ever claimed it to be.DAR 427.1
But, further, we would ask how, according to the reply above given, the words of our Lord can ever be fulfilled. He says that the sun shall be darkened; and he means the literal sun, for he speaks of men and things on the earth in contrast with it. Luke 21:25. And he says that when it is thus darkened, it is a sign of the end; for when we see these things come to pass, he tells us that we are to know that he is near, even at the doors. But according to the writer of the foregoing, there never can be any sign of this nature. He declares there never has been in the past; and suppose such a phenomenon should occur again, would it be a sign? â Not in his eyes: for the hypothesis of vapors, winds, natural laws, and common occurrences, would instantly fly to his scoffing lips. But something of this kind is to constitute a sign, for the Lord himself has declared it; and we would like to ask the objector how a darkening of the sun should differ from that of 1780 to answer to the prophecy and constitute it a sign?DAR 427.2
It is also urged that there have been many such events, hence it can be no sign; and seven dark days are mentioned by our writer before 1780, and three since, for which, however, he forgot to give his authority. But how does it happen that nobody has seemed to pay any attention to these days, or make any account of them? and why is it that all fix upon May 19, 1780, as the only one worthy of special note, giving it, by way of distinction, the title, The Dark Day?DAR 428.1
The answer is obvious. It occupies a pre-eminent position in this respect. It towers up far above all others as the one most remarkable and noteworthy for its awful phenomena.DAR 428.2
But we are not left to decide the matter from this evidence alone; for our Lord has not only told us that such an event should occur as a sign of his coming, but he has told us also when it should occur. âImmediately after the tribulation of those days,â says Matthew. Mark is more definite, and says, âIn those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened,â etc. Mark 13:24. The days are the days of papal supremacy, the 1260 years, from 538 to 1798; the tribulation is the oppression of Christians by the Catholic power till restrained by the work of the Reformation. The tribulation may be said to have ceased about the middle of the eighteenth century. The âdaysâ ended within two years of the close of that century. Thus, by the fixed terms of the prophecy we are shut up to a period of about fifty years in length, and ending in 1798, in which to look for that darkening of the sun which was to be a sign of the Lord's soon coming.DAR 428.3
Again, the darkening of the sun was to be the second great event to take place under the sixth seal. Revelation 6:12. The first, and the one which marked the opening of that seal, was a great earthquake, shown to be, by comparison with the preceding seals, the great earthquake of Lisbon, Nov. 1, 1755. Between this point and the end of the papal period in 1798, the sun was to be darkened as a sign of the end. Here we are shut up to a period of time positively only forty-three years in length, in which to look for that darkening of the sun which was the subject of the prediction. Now it matters not if our opponents should claim seven thousand dark days instead of seven, each as notable as the one of 1780, it would not affect the prediction or the sign in the least degree. It matters not how many nor what kind of dark days there may have been in other ages; we look for one which was to take place in that brief, specified period, as the predicted sign.DAR 429.1
We fix our eyes upon that time, and what do we behold? We find not only the darkening of the sun, as foretold, but we find a dark day so much more notable than all others that it is set forth by way of pre-eminence as âthe dark day,â while in general history all others are passed by in silence.DAR 429.2
Viewed from one point, it is very strange that people can overlook considerations of this nature which are so decisive upon this question; from another, it is not. What a man doesn't want to see, he can very easily keep from seeing. But we apprehend the lack both of inclination and ability is accounted for by the prophet Daniel, when he says, âThe wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand.âDAR 429.3
Of the dark day, Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, edition of 1884, page 1604, says: âDAR 429.4
âDark Day, The. May 19, 1780; so called on account of a remarkable darkness on that day, extending over all New England. In some places persons could not see to read common print in the open air for several hours together. Birds sang their evening song, disappeared, and became silent; fowls went to roost; cattle sought the barn-yard; and candles were lighted in the houses. The obscuration began about ten o'clock in the morning, and continued till the middle of the next night, but with differences of degree and duration in different places. For several days previous, the wind had been variable,
Prophecy not only foretells the manner and object of Christ's coming, but presents tokens by which men are to know when it is near. Said Jesus: “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.” Luke 21:25. “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” Mark 13:24-26. The revelator thus describes the first of the signs to precede the second advent: “There was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.” Revelation 6:12. GC 304.1
These signs were witnessed before the opening of the nineteenth century. In fulfillment of this prophecy there occurred, in the year 1755, the most terrible earthquake that has ever been recorded. Though commonly known as the earthquake of Lisbon, it extended to the greater part of Europe, Africa, and America. It was felt in Greenland, in the West Indies, in the island of Madeira, in Norway and Sweden, Great Britain and Ireland. It pervaded an extent of not less than four million square miles. In Africa the shock was almost as severe as in Europe. A great part of Algiers was destroyed; and a short distance from Morocco, a village containing eight or ten thousand inhabitants was swallowed up. A vast wave swept over the coast of Spain and Africa engulfing cities and causing great destruction. GC 304.2
It was in Spain and Portugal that the shock manifested its extreme violence. At Cadiz the inflowing wave was said to be sixty feet high. Mountains, “some of the largest in Portugal, were impetuously shaken, as it were, from their very foundations, and some of them opened at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the subjacent valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains.”—Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, page 495. GC 304.3Read in context »
This is the sharpest experience I have ever had in a carriage in a storm.... I thought of the day when the judgment of God would be poured out upon the world, when blackness and horrible darkness would clothe the heavens as sackcloth of hair.... My imagination anticipated what it must be in that period when the Lord's mighty voice shall give commission to His angels, “Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.” ... Mar 284.5Read in context »