Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sons which are occupied by others? If John, from the nature of the symbols, was led to conceive, that the first six were to be successive, without some special intimation to the contrary he must have concluded, that the seventh succeeded to the sixth, and therefore, that the prophecy of the trumpets was to be realized in a season posterior to that of the seals. But as no such intimation was given him, the conclusion is unavoidable, that the same chronological order is followed in the seventh as in the rest of the seals.

The nature of the symbols necessarily leads to this interpretation of their order. The book consisted of seven different rolls, wrapped one above another, and each of them stamped with a separate impression of the seal. To suppose that the events of the seventh seal could be contemporaneous with those of the first, or second, or any of the rest, appears to be equally absurd as to suppose, that the seventh seal could be opened while all the preceding seals were entire and unbroken. If the book had been done up in the form of a modern volume, it might have been opened with equal facility at one place as at another; but its peculiar structure rendered it impossible to disclose the contents of the undermost roll, till all that were above it were taken off.

Or, if the prophecy of the trumpets had been detached from that of the seals, there might have been some plausible grounds for supposing that it was intended to describe the same period of time with the seals; but the trumpets are as closely connected with the seals as one seal is connected with another. What are the seven trumpets, but an expanded view of the events of the seventh seal ? And, if the seventh and last seal is to be understood as going back upon the times of the sixth, and of all that precede it, why may not the sixth be understood as reverting upon the times of the fifth, the fifth upon those of the fourth, and so on of the rest, till no definite period is left for the fulfilment of any of these prophecies, but what is included within the times of the first seal ?

Few interpreters suppose, that the prophecy of the vials describes either the same times, or the same events, with that of the seals, or of the trumpets. It is generally admitted, that the first vial does not begin to be poured out till the blast of the seventh trumpet is heard. But consistency of interpretation requires, that the prophecy of the trumpets be explained as describing times and events posterior to the seals; because the one is connected with the other, in the same way as the prophecy of the vials is connected with that of the trumpets. The seven vials are the contents of the seventh trumpet, in no other way than the seven trumpets are the contents of the seventh seal.-From these premises we think it a fair conclusion, that the seals and trumpets are not collateral predictions, but follow one another in chronological order ; and, therefore, that we must look for the history of the accomplishment of the one, in a season which is posterior to the times of the other.

The precise limits of the first of these predictions is the next; point to be determined. To what age of the church, or of the world, is the prophecy of the seals to be referred ? When did the fulfilment of this prophecy commence? Through what measure of duration does it run? And when did it receive its full accomplishment ?

Its commencement could not be more early than the apostolic age, because the first seal opens with a view of the progress of Christianity among the nations; its completion could not be later than the beginning of the fourth century, because it was about the middle of that century when the first trumpet began to sound its alarm, by the inroads of the Barbarians of the North. The prophecies of the seals and trumpets are like two regions which lie contiguous; the line of demarcation between them is the remotest part of the territory of the one, and the nearest land of the other. In the year 376, the Visigoths, impelled to seek new settlements by the inroads of the Huns, were transported across the Danube, and admitted within the limits of the Roman empire. Two years after, they threw off their subjection to the Romans; and, in the battle

of Adrianople, slew the emperor Valens, and cut off more than two-thirds of his army. After this terrible battle they became sole masters of their new settlements, from which all the power of the Roman arms never could expel them.* The period of the trumpets, therefore, is supposed to commence with that year, as being the remarkable æra in which the throne of the Cæsars was so dreadfully shaken in Europe, by the same tribes, who, within a period of one hundred years thereafter, levelled it with the dust. But, as we meet with no event in history between the time in which Constantine the -Great became sole emperor, and the year 376, that accords with the earthquake of the sixth seal, it is natural to conclude, that that earthquake was intended to describe the revolution which took place at the time of his accession to the imperial throne, and that the prophecy of the seals cannot extend beyond the year 323. We must, therefore, look for those facts which are necessary to illustrate this prophecy, in the history of the first three centuries of the Christian church.

It only remains that we endeavour to ascertain the particular object of this prophecy. Does it respect the church ? or is it meant also to describe the condition of the Roman state ?-Opinions on this question are as contradictory as on any of the two former. By some writers, it is represented as a prophecy which respects the church only; and by others, it is applied exclusively to the state. A medium application will be found to be nearest the truth. There are many parts, as we may see when we enter upon the explication, which cannot be applied to any other society than the church; and there are others which can be meant only of the Roman empire. Though the great subjects of prophecy are the affairs of the church, yet, as the interests of religion are always affected by the encroach. ments and revolutions of civil society, it is impossible, in many cases, to have a proper understanding of the one without some view of the condition of the other. Hence the references in prophecy to political changes, and the affairs of civil states, as well as to those of an ecclesiastical and religious kind.

* Gibbon's Decline and Fall, chap, 26.

. The scene of all the three prophecies is laid within the limits of the territorial possessions of the Romans. Four great monarchies, described by Daniel, were to rise and fall in succession; during the times of the last, and within the limits of its dominions, the God of heaven was to set up a kingdom which would never have an end, Dan. ii. 44. Till the best times of this spiritual monarchy should arrive, it was to be in a great measure circumscribed by the limits of the secular state, whose changes and measures, both in the imperial and divided form, were deeply to affect its condition. Hence the numerous references in these prophecies to the affairs of the ancient Romans, and to the changes and condition of modern Europe. It is, therefore, unnecessary to travel beyond the Euphrates or the Danube, or even to the other side of the Rhine, in quest of facts and illustrations to shew the fulfilment of these predictions; they are to be found only in those regions over which the jurisdiction of the Romans extended. And some of the greatest modern infidels, little knowing the service they were doing to religion, when they were compiling the history of the Roman affairs, have furnished us with the best illustrations of prophecy, and with many clear and decisive proofs of the divinity of that religion, which, at the very time they were writing, they were endeavouring, by all the arts of sophistry and malice, to subvert.

The chapter before us contains the history of the opening of six of the seals, which are severally distinguished by features of character peculiarly their own.

The first is victory, the second is slaughter, the third a balance, the fourth is death, · the fifth an altar, and the sixth is a great earthquake. To the first four is prefixed an account of some previous circumstances, which will require to be explained, as well as those parts of the chapter which are strictly prophetical.

The circumstances introductory to the account of the first seal are stated in ver. 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 beasts saying, Come and see.—The eye of the prophet was fixed, and his ear was no less attentive. He had formerly seen the Lamb in the midst of the throne receive the book out of the right hand of the Father ; and now he had the satisfaction to witness the performance of all that had been undertaken. The Lamb had engaged to nothing but what he intended speedily to accomplish. Accordingly the book was no sooner received, than he proceeded to open the first, here called one of the seals : at that instant the prophet was addressed by one of the four living creatures, in a voice like thunder, saying, Come and see. In the subsequent seals, the speakers are distinguished by the order in which they are mentioned : one is called the second, another the third, and the last-mentioned is called the fourth. The one, therefore, by which the prophet was addressed, at the opening of the first seal, must have been the first, whose general appearance, as described in chap. iv. 7, was like a lion. As the living creatures are the hieroglyphics of the ministers of the Christian church, John's attention, at the opening of this seal, being called to the scenes about to be disclosed, by one that had the appearance of a lion, might be intended to intimate, that, in the period to which the prophecy refers, the ministers of religion would possess a very copious measure of the bold, undaunted spirit of lions; no danger would appal them, or make them shrink from their duty.

The voice of this living creature was even more majestic than that of the lion; it partook of all the strength and majesty of the thunder-storm. The scene which John was called to witness was peculiarly interesting ; a passing glance would not have been sufficient ; it required the greatest intensity of thought, all the ardour of a deeply-interested mind : he was, therefore, addressed as by the voice of thunder, to come and see. The figure might be intended to intimate, that the ministry of this age would be faithful as well as bold; they would not shun to declare any part of the counsel of God; they would press particularly upon the attention of their

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »