Page images

triumphant progress of his religion during the fall of the pagan luminaries. Those who are desirous of examining the awful fulfilment of the whole of this prophecy, may consult Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, Echard's Roman History, and especially Milner's History of the Church. The guilty terrors, and the most horrible deaths of the emperors Galerius, Maximin, and Licinius, with many of their ministers and followers, awfully exemplify the prediction. The various struggles and civil wars which took place previous to the revolution under Constantine; the vexation, distress, despair, deaths, and suicides, of the heathen emperors during this period; the extent of these calamities over the whole empire; the abolition of the heathen worship and the establishment of Christianity, in a most striking manner exemplify the predictions under this seal. Enough, and more than enough, is recorded in history to demonstrate the dreadful consternation that came upon the heathen party when they were overtaken by the wrath of the Lamb; and could we have a distinct view of the period when the prophecy received its accomplishment, we should perceive the whole pagan world in a state of the utmost agitation and horror. The language made use of in this prophecy has been frequently applied to the day of judgment, to which it may profitably be accommodated. Indeed, to the enemies of Christ, it was actually a day of judgment in miniature. They now felt that they had incurred the wrath of the Lamb-now the number of martyrs under the pagan and Roman persecutions was completed—now the prayers of the souls under the altar were answered. The period of this seal, though, on the whole, subsequent to the fifth, is in a great measure contemporary with it; but the events predicted are of a different kind. It is supposed to have commenced A. D. 306, and to have terminated A. D. 324 or 325. Many writers seem to have undervalued the im


SectioN XI. The Sealing of the hundred and forty-four thousand;

and the Presentation of the palm-bearing Multitude before the Throne.

Chap. vii. 1–17. AND after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the winds should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 2. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3. Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

The seventh chapter is, a continuation of the sixth seal, and seems to be a kind of supplement to it. It evidently relates to the great revolution which had taken place by the accession of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Christianity was elevated by the same means by which heathen idolatry was crushed. After the dreadful persecutions which the Church had suffered, under a long succession of heathen emperors, the accession of a Christian to the imperial throne would be a most auspicious event. Accordingly a profound calm and universal peace took place in the Roman empire and the Christian world, which lasted from A. D. 325 to A. D. 340, when the civil war broke out between Constantine the Second and Constans, two of the sons of Constantine the Great. During the reign of the last mentioned, which terminated in the year 337, the Church had not only a season of peace and prosperity, but vast additions were made to its numbers. Of these, doubtless, multitudes were real Christians, though

there might be also many who were so only in profession.

The four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, represent the executioners of divine Providence; their number, answering to the four quarters of the earth, denotes that their commission extended to the whole Roman empire, or perhaps to the world; their restraining the winds, that no destructive tempests might be excited by land or sea, was an emblem of the universal tranquillity that should prevail on Constantine's accession. But the time of peace and tranquillity was likewise a time of temptation to the Church: what she gained in splendour and prosperity, she soon began to lose in doctrine and purity. The heresy of Arius arose, and introduced a succession of crimes disgraceful alike to humanity and religion. These angels of Providence, therefore, whose commission was to bring calamities and execute the divine judgments upon mankind, were only to be restrained from fulfilling it for a season. Another angel is seen by the Apostle, arising from the east: this angel was undoubtedly Christ, or at least an emblematical representative of Christ. There is no intimation of any power delegated to him, as to the other angels to whom it was “ given to hurt the earth and the sea." He acted by his own inherent and essential, or at least by his mediatorial power, in the same manner as Christ wrought his miracles upon earth, as evidently distinguished from those of the Prophets and Apostles. He authoritatively commands the other angels, who act according to his direction. This angel ascended from the east, and Christ arose from the east in respect to his incarnation. His Gospel was first published in the eastern nations, and was by them communicated to the western. As the natural sun, so the Sun of righteousness proceeded from the east to the west. In fine, who besides Christ could have the seal of the living God, even

the Holy Spirit, by which his people are sealed to the day of redemption? Who besides the omniscient Saviour “ knoweth them that are his”- those that believe in him, and “ depart from iniquity?". This great “ angel of the covenant,” acting by his own sovereign authority, calls to the other angels not to execute their commissioned judgments till he and his ministers, as the instruments of his grace, had sealed the servants of God in their foreheads ; that they might be evidently distinguished from the others, and so be preserved from the approaching calamities. Thus sincere believers were distinguished from merely nominal or heretical professors, and the former “ were sealed by the seal of the “ living God unto the day of redemption.” This sealing of the servants of God seems to have been an allusion to the practice of ancient nations, who sealed their property in order to secure it as their own. By the seal of God, therefore, is signified the impression of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, by which true believers were marked as the property of the Lord, and set apart by him as the objects of his peculiar care.

4. And I heard the number of them which were sealed ; and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand: 6. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand: 7. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand: *8. Of the tribe of Zebulun were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Benjamin were scaled twelve thousand.

« PreviousContinue »