« AnteriorContinuar »
need not show how truly this accords with historic fact. Suffice, it to say, that from the beginning, as the Jews alleged against the apostles, “ Jerusalem was filled with their doctrine.” It was foretold that before the destruction of that city, the spel should be preached in all the world.* Paul himself preached it, and that fully, “from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum :” and, as he says in behalf of himself and his fellow-labourers, “God always caused them to triumph in every place.” The Cæsars set themselves against it; yet in spite of all their efforts, there were, even in Paul's time, saints in Cæsar's household.
The epistles of Pliny and Tiberianus, Governors of Asia Minor and Syria, to Trajan the Emperor, within ten or twelve years after the banishment of John to the Isle of Patmos, furnish a striking and unexceptionable proof of the progress of the gospel in those times. By the amazing number of persons who avowed themselves Chris. tians, and so exposed themselves to death, they were moved with compassion and wrote to know what they were to do with them. 66 The number is so great, (says Pliny,) as to call for the most serious deliberation. Informations are pouring in against multitudes, of every age, of all orders, and of both sexes : and more will be impeached ; for the contagion of this superstition hath spread, not only through cities, but villages, and hath even reached the farmhouses.” He also speaks of the temples as having been almost desolate, the sacred solemnities (of idolatry) as having been intermitted, and the sacrificial victims as finding but few purchasers. “I am quite wearied, (says Tiberianus,) with punishing and destroying the Galileans."
3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature 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.
This and the two following seals relate to the judgments of God upon
the churches' enemies. Great and terrible wars are as naturally suggested by the symbol of a red horse, as a success of the gospel was by a white one. The wars particularly alluded to, appear to be those between the Jews and Romans, who having united in persecuting the church, as well as in crucifying its head, were now permitted to “ kill one another.' It is well known that in the reign of Vespasian, the Jews having rebelled against the Romans, Jerusalem was taken and destroyed, the temple reduced to ashes, and an immense number slain. * Forty or fifty years after this, in the reign of Trajan, the Jews in Egypt and in Cyprus rebelled, and are said to have slain with great marks of cruelty, four hundred and sixty thousand men ; yet the Jews were every where subdued : a far greater number, therefore, must have been slain amongst themselves. Soon after this, in the reign of Hadrian, the Jews who were left in Palestine after the destruction of their metropolis, were drawn into a new rebellion, by adhering to a pretended Messiab, whose name was Barchocab. In these wars, besides what were lost on the side of the Romans, the Jews are said to have had a thousand cities and fortresses destroyed, with the slaughter of above five hundred and eighty thousand men. The Jews having employed the Roman power to crucify the Lord of Glory, God employed it to destroy them and their city. Their carnal policy told them that if they let him alone, all men would believe on bim, and the Romans would come and take away
* Matt. xxiv. 14.
both their place and nation. Whether guilty or not guilty, it was judged expedient that he should die, and that the whole nation should not perish. The whole nation however did perish, and that by means of the Romans. Such was the result of that policy which was employed against the Lord, and against bis Christ : and thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel." And after threescore 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 sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." Chap. ix. 26.
* Mr. LOWMAN, from Usher's Annals, says, “ A million and a half according to some, according to others two millions, besides what were slain on the side of the Romans."
THE OPENING OF THE SEALS, CONTINUED.
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature 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 living creatures 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.
A black horse is the symbol for faraine, or of a scarcity approaching to famine, by which the necessaries of life required to be dealt out by weight and measure, and special orders to be given that nothing should be wasted.* Such appears to have been the state of things in the Roman empire for a long time, during the reigns of the Antonines. It was in reference to these, among other calamities, that Turtullian speaks, representing the Heathens as ascribing them to the Christians, because they taught men to despise the gods.
The measure" here referred to is the choenix, which contained the ordinary allowance of corn to a man for a day; and as the price of a measure of wheat in those times was a Roman 6 penny,” which was the amount of a day's wages, it follows that
† Apology, Chap. XL. LOWMAN's History of the Third Seal. p. 46. * See Lam. v. 10. Let. xxvi. 26.
for a poor man to have lived on wheaten bread would have required all his labour, without any thing for other necessaries, or even bread for his family!
7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come and see. 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse : and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him. And
power was given unto them, over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The pale horse was the symbol of great mortality, by various means : particularly by the sword, by hunger, by pestilence, and by the beasts of the earth. The facts were, that between the years 193 and 270, that is, in less than eighty years,
there were more than twenty emperors, and at one time thirty pretenders to the throne. It is said also there were thirty usurpers, who raised wars for themselves in different parts of the empire. Such a state of things is sufficient to account for all that is here predicted : for intestine wars must needs produce famine and pestilence, and by destroying men, give an ascendency to the beasts of prey. In this manner the enemies of the gospel were visited, who continued, with but little intermission, to persecute the church of God.
In understanding the symbols of the white, the red, the black, and the pale horses, of the success of the gospel, and the judgments of God on its enemies, there is sufficient unity of design. They all bear a relation to the church, and to the Jews and Ro. mans only as persecuting it.
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also, and their brethren that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
A view of an altar, and the sacrifices that had been made upon it, fitly represents the numerous martyrdoms which had been
made at the time under the Heathen emperors. The “ souls under the altar," are the departed spirits of those Christians who -bad fallen in the arduous contest, which are supposed to cry aloud for retribution. The “white robes” denote the heavenly bonours conferred upon them. The answer to their appeal, in which they are encouraged to expect a retribution “after a little season and when the number of their fellow-servants and brethren, who should be killed as they were, [by the hand of Paganism, ) should be fulfilled," determines the period to which the vision refers. It is supposed that they had suffered under nine of the ten persecutions, and had only to wait for the completion of their number under the tenth, which being accomplished, God would take venc geance on their persecutors. The opening of this seal therefore would refer to about the year 270, when the ninth persecution was past, and the tenth under Dioclesian and Marimian was approaching; and which is said to have been more extensive and bloody than any which had gone before it. Its professed object was nothing less than the utter extirpation of Christianity. The places for Christian worship were everywhere demolished, Bibles destroyed, and an iminense number of Christians put to death. “ It were endless and almost incredible, (says Echard,) to enumetate the variety of sufferers and torments : they were scourged to death, had their flesh torn off with pipcers, and mangled with broken pots ; were cast to lions, tigers, and other wild beasts ; were burnt, beheaded, crucified, (hrown into the sea, torn in pieces by the distorted boughs of trees, roasted by gentle fires, and holes made in their bodies for melted lead to be poured into their bowels. This persecution lasted ten years under Dioclesian and some of his successors ; and the number of Christians who suffered death and punishment made them conclude that they had completed their work : and in an ancient inscription they tell the world that they have effaced the name and superstition of the Christians, and had restored and propagated the worship of the gods. But they were so much deceived, that this hastened the destruction of Paganism.*
Roman History, Vol. II. p. 550. Eusebius, in the 'VIIIth book of his Ecclesiastical History, gives a particular account of this persecution, of which he was an eye-witness. i