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BEFORE we enter on the opening of the seals, the sounding of the trumpets, or the pouring out of the vials, it will be proper to make a few general remarks.
First, The whole series of events here revealed is included in the sealed book. We are not to conceive of the seals as containing one series of events, the trumpets another, and the vials another ; but as all being included in the seals : for the seven trumpets are only subdivisions of the seventh seal, and the seven vials of the seventh trumpet.
Secondly, This division into seals, and subdivision into trumpets and vials, appears to be the only one which the prophecy requires, or even admits. Not to mention its division into chapters, which are sometimes made in the midst of a subject, the scheme of dividing it into periods, which Mr. Lowman and many others have favoured, seems to be merely a work of the imagination. There are doubtless some remarkable periods in the prophecy, such as that of the 1260 years, &c.; but to make them seven in number, and for this purpose to reckon the day of judgment, and the heavenly state, as periods, is fanciful. It is by the division of the prophecy itself into seals, and the subdivision of the seventh seal into trumpets, and of the seventh trumpet into vials, that we must steer our
Thirdly, In tracing the events symbolized by the seals, trumpets, and vials, there is no necessity for supposing that every preceding Vol. VI.
one must be finished before that which follows it can have begun, It is enough if they succeed each other in the manner of the four monarchies predicted in the seventh chapter of Daniel. The Babylonish empire was not extinct before that of Persia began ; nor that of Persia before that of Macedonia began; nor that of Macedonia before that of Rome began. The latter end of each would be cotemporary with the beginning of that which followed: yet upon the whole they succeeded each other in the empire of the world: and this was sufficient to justify their being represented in succession. Thus the wars of the red horse in this chapter might commence before the conquests of the white horse were ended, and continue in part while the events signified by the black horse occurred. The beginnings and endings of each might run into the other, while yet upon the whole they were successive. It is on this account that I am not solicitous to determine the year when each begins or ends.
Fourthly, So far as the seals, trumpets, or vials respect the world, it is as connected with the church. The plan of this prophecy is much the same as that of the Old Testament: it follows religion, and what concerns religion only. Why is there so much said in the scriptures of Nineveh and Babylon, rather than of other heathen cities in those times, but because these powers had to do with the people of God? Why are the ravages of the four beasts predicted by Daniel, but for the same reason? Had it not been for this, they might have risen and fallen unnoticed by the scriptures, as much as Carthage, Palmyra, or Pekin. It is this that accounts for so much being said by Daniel of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is this that accounts for so much being said by John of the Roman empire, rather than of the other great empires of the earth; for it was here that Christianity would be principally embraced. And as the Roman empire and the profession of Christianity would in the latter ages be in a manner confined to Europe, so the greater part of what respects the world in the latter part of these prophecies is in a manner confined to that quarter of the earth. The scriptures, foreseeing that Europe would be the seat of both the Christian church, and the antichristian beast and
harlot, predicts events concerning this part of the world, while they overlook the other parts.
Nor must we expect to find all the great events eren of those parts of the world which are connected with the church. As the Old Testament history in respect of the nations connected with Israel, is select, so we may expect to find the New Testament prophecy. If some of the mightiest changes in Europe bave no place in this prophecy, we are not to consider the omission of them as a defect, but rather take it for granted that God did not judge the introduction of them necessary for his purpose.
Fifthly, The commencement of the prophecy is, I apprehend, to be reckoned from the ascension of Christ. It has been common, I am aware, to reckon it from the time of the vision, which is supposed to have been under the reiga of Domitian, about the year 95. On this principle Mr. LOWMAN proceeds. Hence he confines the opening of the first seal, on which it is said “there appeared a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown, and went forth conquering and to conquer,” to the success of the gospel after the year 95, leaving out the whole of that which accompanied the labours of the apostles. In like manner the opening of the second seal, on which there went forth “a red horse, and power' was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another," is confined to those wars between the Jews and Romans which occurred between the years 100 and 138, leaving out the whole of those which issued in the destruction of Jerusalem.* But surely it must appear singular that in a prophetic description of the success of the gospel in the early ages the most glorious part of it should be left out; and that in a like description of the wars between the Jews and Romans the most terrible part should be omitted. The reason given by Mr. Lowman for its being so, is, “The destruction of Jerusalem being past, can bardly be supposed to be denoted by a prediction of a judgment to come.” Doubtless it is in general true that prophecies are predictions of things to come: in some instances, however, they may refer to events, the beginnings of which are already accomplished.
See Lowman's History of the First and Second Seals, pp. 40-42.
There is a remarkable iostance of this in the prophecies of Daniel concerning the four monarchies. He speaks of his seeing them all rise up out of the sea ; yet at the time of the vision the first of them, namely Babylon, bad risen, and reigned, and was near its end; for it was in the first year of Belshazzar, who was its last king. And why should not the apostle in like manner commence the prophecy with the commencement of the Christian dispensation, though he wrote above sixty years after it! This makes the sealed book to contain a perfect system of New Testament prophecy, from the ascension of Christ 'to the end of all things. By this we include the success of the apostles in the conquests of the man on the white horse under the first seal, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in those of the red horse under the second seal. By this too we are furnished with an easy interpretation of the division of the book into "things which the writer had seen, things which were, and things which should be hereafter." He bad actually seen the great progress of the gospel from the time of Christ's ascension, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; he then saw the church struggling under a cruel persecution ; and that which should be revealed to him would carry on those struggles till she should rise triumphant over all opposition in her New Jerusalem glory.
1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four living creatures, saying, Come, and see. 2 And I saw, and behold, a white horse : and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown wus given unto him : and he went forth conquering and to conquer.
There is no doubt of this being meant of the glorious success of the gospel in the early ages of the church, even when it had to encounter the most bloody persecutions. Of this the white horse is the appropriate symbol. “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty : with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness: and thy right hand sball teach thee terrible things.” I
# Chap. xix, 11. 12.
* Chap. vii. 1-3.
Psa. xlv, 3. 4.