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parts of the world. But the opening of this seal shewed that this divine religion was still making progress in its victories, crowned with the divine favour; and armed with weapons to subdue its enemies, and to gain more numerous conquests.
It rapidly spread into Africa, Spain, and other parts of Europe and Asia; and accurate historians are of opinion that Christianity increased more rapidly and extensively among the Gentiles, just after the time in which the Apostle had this vision, than ever it had done before*.
The opening of this seal reminds us of the glorious triumphs of the Gospel. The view of the white horse, and his rider, who went forth conquering and to conquer, should lead us to reflect on the peaceful purposes of the blessed Saviour's appearance, and the rapidity of his conquests. Let all Christians pray for the further prosperity of his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. On this subject they may offer up their petitions to the throne of grace, in the fullest confidence that they will be heard and answered. The eternal Father hath given to his beloved Son “ the heathen for his “ inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth “ for his possession;" and Jesus will proceed with his victories and his conquests till he has subdued all nations “ to the obedience of the faith."
* The commencenient of the prophecy recorded under this seal, is to be dated from the time in which the Apostle had the vision; namely, about the year 96. The time of its duration cannot so accurately be ascertained. The rider upon this horse went forth conquering and to conquer. These future conquests, therefore, being indefinite, may run into the periods of the second and third seal; or even to the time of the prevalence of Christianity under Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century. If we can ascertain the period of the commencement of the seals, trumpets, and vials; their termination, where not specifically defined, will be a circumstance which it will be of much less consequence to discover. If the commencements of the different predictions can be fixed on, the general chronology of the entire prophecy will be preserved, although the periods of their duration may not be precisely ascertained.
Chap. vi. 3, 4. AND when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4. And there went out another horse that was red; and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
On the opening of the second seal, the Apostle had a vision of another horse that was red or firecoloured: and to the rider was given power to take peace from the earth, and to occasion men to kill one another. By this symbol, or hieroglyphic, the idea of terrible and destructive wars is obviously presented to our minds. The awful events predicted under this seal are supposed to have taken place between A. D. 100 and A. D. 138. The wars particu larly alluded to, appear to be those between the Jews and Romans; who, having united in persecuting the Church, as well as crucifying its Head, were now permitted to kill one another. The insurrections, battles, massacres, and devastations, which took place at this period among the Jews and Romans, are almost unparalleled. It is related by Dion, that, in the reign of Trajan, at the beginning of the second century, “ the Jews about Cyrene slew of the Ro“mans and Greeks two hundred and twenty thou“ sand men, with the most shocking circumstances of
barbarity. In Egypt also, and Cyprus, they com“ mitted the like barbarities, and there perished two “ hundred and forty thousand men more.
But the “ Jews, in their turn, were subdued by Lucius and “ other generals sent against them by Trajan. .. “ The emperor sent Marcius Turbo against them “ with great forces by sea and land ; who, in va“rious battles, slew many myriads of Jews.....
“ Orosius, treating of the same time, saith that the “ Jews, with an incredible commotion, made wild “ as it were by rage, rose at once in different parts “ of the earth. Throughout all Libya they waged “ the fiercest wars against the inhabitants, and the “ country was almost desolated *. But in Alex“ andria and Mesopotamia they were overcome and “ destroyed with vast slaughter.” After this, in the reign of Adrian, the Jews who were left in Palestine, subsequently to the destruction of their metropolis, were drawn into a new rebellion under the famed impostor Barchochebas, who pretended to be their Messiah. “ The result of this revolt was, that the “ Romans demolished fifty strong fortresses, nine “ hundred and eighty-five towns, and destroyed five “ hundred and eighty thousand men, besides an in“ numerable multitude that perished by famine, “sickness, despair, &c.; and a much greater number “ that were sold for slaves and doomed to a most “ dreadful captivity. The Romans likewise lost a “ vast number of their troops, upon which the em
peror and senate published an edict expressly for
bidding all Jews, even those who were converted “to Christianity, to set foot in Jerusalem, or even “ come within sight of itaf." The loss of the Romans in this destructive war was so great, that the “ emperor forbore the usual salutations in “ his letter to the senate."--Thus it appears that the miserable Jews who refused to receive the true Messiah, and who, with wicked hands, slew him and persecuted his disciples, were permitted, in trusting to a pseudo-messiah, to rush into remediless destruction. Their crooked policy persuaded them, that if they let Christ alone, all men would believe on him, and the Romans would come and take away their place and nation. It was expedient, therefore, in their estimation, that Christ should die whether guilty or not guilty, that the whole nation might not perish. But what was the result of this carnal expediency?-Their place and nation did perish, and the Romans were the instruments of their destruction; and thus was fulfilled the celebrated prediction of the Prophet Daniel * :-“ And after three“ score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but “not for himself; and the people of the prince that “shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanc
* Ancient Universal History, reign of Trajan. + Ditto, reign of Adrian.
tuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood; “ and unto the end of the war desolations are deter“ mined."
Some commentators have enumerated the persecutions and sufferings of the Christians under this seal; and it is certain, as Mosheim has remarked, that at this time a horrid custom prevailed of persecuting the Christians, and putting them to death as often as a bloody priesthood, or an outrageous populace set on by them, demanded their destruction. Hence it happened, that even under the reign of the virtuous Trajan, popular tumults and seditions were raised against the Christians; numbers of whom fell victims to the rage of the populace. During this period such riotous proceedings occurred against the Christians in Bithynia, that Pliny the Younger wrote his well-known epistle to Trajan to know in what manner he was to act on the occasion. But as the persecutions and sufferings of the Christians during the period of the second seal were not equal in duration or severity to some others which they were called to endure, both previously and subsequently, and as the prediction does not appear particularly to refer to the trials, calamities, and deaths of the Christians, I decline noticing them any further. Enough has been said to shew the fulfilment of the prophecy. The instruments of the anger and indignation of Jesus Christ were empowered to take peace from the earth, and to set men to kill one another; and a great sword of war and of slaughter was put into their hand.
* Chap. ix. 26.
The history of the horrors and ravages of wars that have taken place at different times in various nations and ages, reminds us of awful depravity in which man is involved by sin. Happy will it be for the world when the peaceful religion of Jesus so effectually prevails as to subdue the corrupt passions of men, and to influence them to convert the weapons of war into the implements of husbandry. May the glorious prediction of the “ sure word of pro
phecy” speedily receive its destined accomplishment, when the victorious Saviour “ shall judge
among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; " and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, “ and their spears into pruning-hooks ; nation shall “ not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they “ learn war any more.”
Chap. vi. 5, 6. AND when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny ; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
The black horse was an emblem of calamity, affliction, and mourning. The balances in the hand of the rider denoted, that in the times referred to, there would be a great scarcity of provisions, so that men would have their food weighed out to them with great exactness. The measure of wheat here mentioned was the ehønix, containing about a wine