4 CALIPHS – HASKELL

"They had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name is . . . Destroyer." This character might in truth be imputed to the Arab caliphs, who directed the armies for so many years after the death of Mohammed; but it is especially applicable to Othman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. This, the first attempted centralization of government was the outgrowth of the doctrines of Mohammed. "Othman," says the historian, "possessed, and perhaps surpassed, the ordinary virtues of a soldier; and the circumstances of time and place were propitious to his independence and success." The close of the thirteenth century was near. The Crusades had Marginthrust Europe against the Turks in a most reckless manner. Constantinople had numerous emperors, but the Greek government grew weaker, and the time of its destruction was stealthily approaching. "It was on July 27 a. d., 1299," says Gibbon, "that Othman first invaded the territory of Nicomedia; and the singular accuracy of the date seems to disclose some foresight of the rapid and destructive growth of the monster." More than human foresight recorded this date with such definiteness. To the prophet on Patmos, it had been revealed that "their power was to hurt men five months." {1905 SNH, SSP 171.2}


Five prophetic months is the equivalent of one hundred and fifty literal years, one day meaning a year, and counting thirty days to the month. Since the exact day for the beginning of this power is given, the expiration of the five months may be reckoned to the day. It closed July 27, 1449. It is these dates which enable the student of the trumpets, to locate the events which take place under each trumpet. These dates are "nails in a sure place" for both the first and the second woe. {1905 SNH, SSP 172.1}


To show that in 1299 power was given "to hurt men five months" we have the testimony of historians. After speaking of the invasion by Othman of Nicomedia, which was the eastern frontier of the Greek Empire, Gibbon continues: "The annals of the twenty-seven years of his reign would exhibit a repetition of the same inroads; and his hereditary troops were multiplied in each campaign by the accession of captives and volunteers." The successors of Othman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, each pushed his conquests nearer to the coveted seat of power. A regular standing army of twenty-five thousand Moslems was organized by the son of Othman. Asia Minor was completely in his hands, and the seven churches referred to in the first chapter of Revelation were desecrated by the religion of Mohammed. So near was the Turkish rule to the throne that in 1346 Orchan, the successor of Othman, demanded and obtained, as a wife, the daughter of the Greek emperor, and the princess left her home in Constantinople to live in the harem of the Turk. Between 1360 and 1389, the third sovereign of the Turks, conquered, Thrace, and fixed the capital of his empire and his religion at Adrianople, almost within the shadow of Constantinople. Never before had the Greek Empire been surrounded on all sides by the foe. The fourth king, Bajazet by name, was surnamed Ilderim, or "the lightning," because of the fiery energy of his soul, and the rapidity of his destructive marches. Constantinople was sorely pressed, and were not the hand of God recognized, the fact that the downfall was delayed for another fifty years might seem a mere accident. Called to contend with a Scythian force from the East, the Turks were obliged to postpone activities in Greece for a number of years.

 

The Byzantine court, instead of profiting by the imminent danger, grew weaker. The one hundred and fifty years of torment, not destruction, was about to close. "One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter." The restraining hand of God had held contending forces in check, waiting, waiting, until the extreme limit of time, for men to acknowledge the righteousness of Jehovah. But at the sounding of the sixth trumpet a voice was heard from the four horns of the altar,-the altar before which Christ offers the prayers of saints,-saying, "Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates." During the one hundred and fifty years, the Turks had power to torment, but when their armies seemed on the very verge of victory over the Greek Empire, their force was abated by troubles from the regions of the Euphrates. (See Gibbon, Chap. 65). The time was coming when they would not only torment, but kill. In 1448 the death of John Palæologus left the throne of Constantinople in a weak and precarious condition. Constantine, his successor, could claim no territory beyond the limits of the city, and the throne was already held by virtue of the grace of Amurath, the Turkish ruler. The gracious approbation of the Turkish sultan announced the supremacy of Constantine, and the approaching downfall of the Eastern Empire. The Turkish power had been bound, in a measure, by Rome; for as long as Rome held Constantinople, the Saracen power was limited in the East. When the sultan dictated to Rome, then, were fulfilled the words, "Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates." These words seem especially to refer To Bagdad, Damascus, Aleppo and Iconium,-four sultanies bordering on the region of the Euphrates. No power could now resist, and the Moslem ruler soon gained the long coveted fortress on the Bosporus. The death of Amurath in 1451, and the succession of Mohammed II., a wily man full of ambition and restless of restraint, did not retard the conquest. Mohammed's one design was to capture Constantinople. "Peace was on his lips but war was in his heart," and every energy was bent toward the accomplishment of this design. At midnight he once started from his bed, and demanded the immediate attendance of his prime vizier. The man came trembling, fearing the detection of some previous crime. He made his offering to the sultan, but was met with the words, "I ask a present far more valuable and important,- Constantinople." Mohammed II. tested the loyalty of his soldiers, warned his ministers against the bribery of the Romans, studied the art of war and the use of firearms. He engaged the services of a founder of cannon, who promised weapons that could batter down the walls of the city. In April, 1453, the memorable siege was formed. At the sound of the war trumpet, the forces of Mohammed II. were increased by swarms of fearless fanatics until, as Phranza has said, the besieging army numbered two hundred and fifty-eight thousand. Constantinople fell; the last vestige of Roman greatness was gone, and the Moslem conquerors trampled the religion of Rome in the dust. This memorable event affected all future history. The fall shocked Europe; and the convulsions had not passed, before the light of the Reformation broke the darkness which shrouded the Western Empire. While the smoke from the "bottomless pit" was settling over the East, streaks of light heralded a coming dawn in the nations of Europe. {1905 SNH, SSP 174.2}