The third trumpet wholly overthrew and extinguished that burning star, the Roman Hesper, or Cæsar of the West, which fell headlong from the time when Genseric, king of the Vandals, pillaged the captured city of Rome; though, for a little time, to contend with death under those merely nominal Cæsars, -- Avitus, Majorianus, Severus, Anthemius, Olybrius, Glycerius, and Nepos, who perished by mutual treacheries and murders, at length, in the year 476, drawing its last breath under the fatal name of Augustulus, was entirely hurled from the heaven of his power by Odoacer, king of the Heruli, who had fallen upon him, with a very bitter calamity to the fountains and rivers, that is, to the cities and provincial magistrates.
By the Hesperian Cæsar I understand him, who, from the confirmed division of the empire into eastern and western, even from the death of Theodosius the First, yet remained emperor of ancient Rome, and of the West, but for a very short period, as, after the year 91, he began secretly to fall from his heaven at the sound of this trumpet. For though the Roman bishop, more than 320 years after the Hesperian Cæsar had fallen in Augustulus, substituted the king of the Franks, (and afterwards of the Germans) in the same name and title, he did nothing else but contrive, that by this drawn-curtain of a revived Cæsar, or the sixth head of the beast, he himself might not be so clearly perceived by the less perspicacious, to be the last head, that is, Anti-Christ.
The Papal Cæsar, however, does not appertain to the heads of the Roman beast, but to the horns or kingdoms, into which the empire of the sixth head, just ready to give place to the last head, were to be divided. For, after so long a space as 325 years , there could not be a succession, as in continuation of the western Cæsars.
But it is time now to throw light on the text of John, that the reasonableness of the interpretation may appear. |And there fell from heaven, (says he,) a great star, burning as a lamp.| He seems to describe a hairy star, or comet, among whose species is enumerated by Pliny the Lampadias, or blazing star, especially so called. And indeed, the Cæsar of the West might not unaptly be designated by a star of this kind, on account of his brief duration. Of whom it is said, c. xviii. |And when he cometh, he must continue a short space.| But the star was great, in order more aptly to figure the supreme majesty, whose splendour the sun, in other places, represents in prophetic parables. And it is very well known that there have been comets, which seemed to equal even the sun in magnitude, of which kind, perhaps, he will not be in an error, who affirms this star to have been one. But that you may not entertain a doubt of the application, Isaiah applies a similar image of a falling star, c. xiv. v.12, to the fall of the king of Babylon. |How (says he) hest thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground which didst weaken the nations !| In other places likewise, as in that passage of Isaiah, c. xxxiv. v.4, just now quoted, stars falling from heaven are understood of the ruin of princes and nobles. A star, therefore, of a singular and unusual magnitude, designates a prince above the common lot of princes, that is, great and illustrious. It follows: |And the name of the star is called Wormwood.| It is the prophetic plan, that the quality or fate of the thing or person of which it treats should be pointed out by the imposition of a certain proper name, since there are other instances in the Hebrew language where rhema, dvr, is the same as to pragma, that is, the word signifies the thing, as Luke c. i. v.37, |There is not any word impossible with God ,| to be called signifies the same as to be or exist, as Isaiah c. lvi. v.7, |My house shall be called the house of prayer,| for which Luke has, c. xix. v.4, |My house is, (that is, shall be accounted,) the house of prayer.| And Gen. c. xxi. v.12, |In Isaac shall thy seed be called,| that is, |shall be.| See likewise the Septuagint Isa. c. xiv. v.20. Ruth, c. iv. v.11.
But examples of the figure which I have noticed are every where to be met with. For thus says Isaiah, c. vii. v.14, |His name shall be called Emmanuel ;| that is, He shall be theanthropos, God-man; and c. ix. v.6, |His name shall be called Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace;| that is, he shall be all these. Also Jerem. c. xxiii. v.6, |And this is the name by which he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness;| and Zech. c. vi. v.12, |Behold a man whose name is the Branch.| It follows, |For he shall grow up out of his place,| &c. add Rev. c. xix. v.13, |His name is called the Word of God.| Akin to these examples are what we find in Jer. c. xx. v.3, 4, |The Lord doth not call thy name Pashur, but Magor Missabib, (i. e. fear on every side). |For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself and all thy friends;| and Ezek. c. xxiii. v.4, |Their names (i. e. the names of Samaria and Jerusalem) are Aholah and Aholibah.| Add Isa. c. viii. Hosea, c. i.6, 7. By a similar figure in every respect, is this fallen star called Wormwood; that is, according to the Hebrew notion, (by which abstracts are used for concretes,) Absinthites, or the prince of bitterness and troubles. Of this kind in truth, if ever there was one, was that Hesperian Cæsar, exercised with perpetual troubles from his first rise to his end; during whose possession of power the Roman empire was ready to fall; nay, in whose appointment was given an occasion of falling, because in the division of empire thus introduced, a way was opened for the barbarians, and the Roman commonwealth was exposed to the most dreadful calamities. Might not he be properly called Wormwood, on account of a fate so bitter to himself and others? According to that saying of Naomi, |Call me not Naomi, call me Marah; for the Almighty has afflicted me with bitterness,| Ruth c. i. v.20.
But before I quit this subject, something must be said of the state of the city and the Roman commonwealth, that the way may be prepared for the interpretation of the following trumpet.
The Cæsar of the West, then, being thus overthrown and extinct, in the mean time Odoacer, king of the Heruli, held Rome for sixteen years under the name of king, who, after two years restored, and from that time preserved, the consulate to Rome and the West, which in his anger he had at first taken away. Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, succeeded him, and that, as Paul the Deacon relates, by Zeno, the emperor of the East, delivering Italy to him in a formal manner, and confirming it by the imposition of the second veil on his head. He, after Odoacer was conquered and slain, besides Dalmatia and Rhetia, which were provinces of Odoacer, added Sicily also to his kingdom, rebuilt the walls, and some of the edifices of the city of Rome, having collected a large sum of money for that purpose; so that nothing seemed to be wanted to its attainment of its former state, except the infamy of a city plundered and burned. He regulated the kingdom most wisely; he changed no Roman institution, but retained the senate and consuls, the patricians, prefects of the prætorium, prefect of the city, questor, commissary of the sacred largesses, offices of the privates, and of the military, masters of the foot and horse, and the other magistrates, who were then in the empire, and entrusted the offices only to Romans. Which regulations were for some time continued by his successors also, Athalaric, Theodostratus, and Vitiges, Ostrogoth kings of Italy. -- Vide Sigonius on the Western Empire, Lib. xv. Anno, 479, Lib. xvi. Annis, 493, 494, 500.