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shall be hereafter” (i. e. the visions from chap. iv. to the end). Now, from the time when the Apostle saw these visions, down to the time of Constantine, the church continued in nearly the same state, and received the same treatment from the world : there was no change in its aspect: and this consideration alone would lead me to apply " the things that are” to the whole of that unvarying period in the history of the church. But we have warrant in the epistles themselves so to extend " the things that are;" for it is said, ii. 10,“ Behold, the devil shall cast some of
you into prison, that ye may be tried ; and ye shall have tribulation ten days.” Now all the principal interpreters are agreed in thinking this predicts the ten persecutions inflicted by the Roman empire upon the church, and that the devil is the great red dragon, xii. 3, 9. The last of these persecutions, by Dioclesian, lasted ten years; and, beginning A. D. 303, brings us down exactly to the period of Constantine's conversion, and the empire's patronage of Christianity. This was a change in the condition of the church so great, that Paulus Orosius compares it to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt; and the church increased to that degree, that Theodoret says « all nations flocked to the faith of Christ, and were baptized, dashing to pieces the idols of their fathers,” and the Christian religion was nominally embraced from the heart of India to the shores of Spain. Well, therefore, may we interpret the first seal as immediately ensuing the ten days' tribulation, being the first curtailment of the power of the dragon (xii. 3); which was to be still further lessened under the next three seals, to make him change his policy, under the fifth, and give “his power and seat and great authority” to his deputy, the Papal beast (xiii. 2). And it is worthy of remark, that though the time during which this last beast, the Papacy, should have the ascendancy, is several times specified as forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days (xiii. 5; xi. 2), yet no time is assigned to the dragon; he being previously in existence, and passing imperceptibly into the Papacy; and even continuing to animate the Roman empire after the Papacy is judged, till he is bound, at the beginning of the Millennium.—The seals may therefore be considered as a prophetic history of that church establishment which calls itself Roman Catholic; beginning with Constantine, when it was almost catholic; taking a decided character in the time of Justinian; shaken to its foundation at the time of the French Revolution; but dragging on a precarious existence till the great day of wrath shall come (vi. 17), in the course of which it shall be cast into the lake of fire (xix. 20). The proem (ch. v.) shews its bearing upon the true church, and the glory to which she shall be brought at the termination of the
On opening each one of the first four seals, one of the living creatures invites the Apostle to “come and see;" denoting
that, through the intervention of these ministers of the sanctuary, the church, which the Apostle represents, becomes acquainted with the intention of God in these events : denoting also, as I shewed in the Structure (see Morning Watch No.III], the change in the aspect of the church which should accompany these political changes. These first four seals we might have mistaken, and supposed them to be wholly political, but for the introduction of the living creatures : and this is a mistake into which
many commentators have actually fallen. The fifth seal is wholly ecclesiastic, and the sixth is its consequence. And so the whole series becomes homogeneous, representing the succession of events in Christendom according as they affect the church; and they may be each given in one word: Ist, triumph; 2d, contention ; 3d, famine; 4th, corruption; 5th, martyrdom ; 6th, judgment.
The first four seals have each a horseman for the chief symbol. This has its peculiar meaning. When a triumph was granted to any one, he rode in a chariot drawn by four white horses; but to obtain this, it was necessary that five thousand of the enemy should have been slain in a single conflict, that the bounds of the empire should have been enlarged, and that the conquests should be transmitted in peace and security to a suc
In cases where victory had been obtained without bloodshed; or over antagonists of an inferior class, as slaves or pirates; or where war had not been regularly declared ; in any of these cases, a lesser species of triumph was granted, called an ovation. In an ovation the conqueror entered on horseback, wearing a crown of myrtle : this I think to be the meaning of the horse
And very remarkable it is, that the last who rode in triumph was Belisarius, under Justinian: so that triumphs ceased in the empire just at the time when the horsemen disappear from the vision. The symbols in the first seal will thus denote Constantine riding in ovation for the bloodless triumphs of the Gospel which followed his conversion to Christianity. The “bow” denotes not only the extent of the triumphs of Christianity, but that, like an arrow shot to a distance, it should reach distant quarters, never visited by Constantine. The “crown ” given unto him is not the royal diadem, but sepavos, the myrtle garland of victory; and Constantine, to whom alone of the horsemen it is given, is not by this symbol distinguished in rank from the rest, but only in success. Constantine was the last that ruled over the entire empire : under his successors it was not only divided, but that which remained to them was continually encroached upon by the barbarians. The phrase “ he went forth conquering and to conquer,” intimates that the Gospel should henceforth progressively extend and triumph; and also alludes to the miraculous cross inscribed EV TOUTW vika, in hoc vince, which Constantine saw in the heavens, and which he ever after bore on his principal standard. The
first seal, by the white horse, had shewn the prosperity of the empire, and its several emblems of victory indicated the peaceful triumphs of the church: the second seal discloses a red horse; its rider taking peace from the earth, and bearing a great sword. This symbolizes Theodosius, who, though a successful warrior and a zealous Christian, deluged the empire with blood and filled the church with contention. He was baptized A. D. 380, 3d March ; and ordered that no one should henceforth profess any other faith than that which was sanctioned by Damasus the bishop of Rome, or Peter bishop of Alexandria. His reign was one series of destructive wars; but he ordered the heathen temples to be thrown down, and sacrifices to be no longer offered, on pain of crucifixion.—The third seal discloses a black horse, denoting the calamitous reign of Honorius. The“ balance, or yoke,” in the rider's hand, may indicate both the scarcity which prevailed
time, and the bondage under which both empire and church groaned occasioned by Alaric and his Goths: but the chief thing intended is famine; as the voice proves : “A measure of wheat for a penny,” &c. But the principal reason why Honorius has place in this series, is because he ordered the heathen temples to be razed to the ground, which till then were only partially destroyed. -The fourth seal is full of signs of mourning and lamentation and woe. A livid-green horse denotes the corrupted, gangrenous state of things, both in church and state, when Justinian lived ; who is here named “Death," to signify the bloodshed and havoc of his time, from which some of the provinces. never recovered ; and who is here followed by “ Hell,” signifying the soul-destroying Papacy, which he introduced, and the climax of whose merchandize (xviii. 13) is “ the souls of men.” These symbols hold true also in another sense, that, as Death consigns men to that state from whence they are only redeemed by the Son of Man, who, having himself triumphed over death and hell; has the keys of both, so Justinian consigned the church into a captivity from which she shall only be delivered by the coming of the Son of Man. “ Power was given unto them (i. e. to death and hell) over the fourth part of the earth.” This fourth enables us to fix and limit the quarter to which this part of the vision extends. There were two prætorian præfectures before the time of Constantine, who, when he made_Constantinople the seat of empire, appointed four : 1st, of the East; 2d, of Illyricum ; 3d, of Italy; 4th, of the Gauls. After the division of the empire, the first two were under the Eastern emperors, the last two under the Western; but, the western provinces being overrun with barbarians, in the reign of Valentinian III. the two Western præfects ceased to be appointed. Justinian recovered Africa A. D. 528, and re-constituted that præfecture; and when he, soon after, drove out the barbarians from Italy, it VOL. 1.-NO. IV.
was placed under the same jurisdiction ; and thus what was originally called the Italian, became now the African præfecture; and, being the only one then existing, answers well to “ the fourth part of the earth.” But Justinian is best known by the code of laws which he enacted, and at the beginning of which he acknowledges the Pope to be head of all the churches, and gives him supreme and independent authority in all ecclesiastical matters; and at the same time writes in most submissive terms to Pope John, March A. D. 533. I give an extract from this letter, to shew that the church was now really put under the authority of the Pope of Rome: “Reddentes honorem apostolicæ sedi, et vestræ sanctitati (quod semper nobis in voto et fuit et est), et ut decet patrem honorantes vestram beatitudinem, omnia quæ ad ecclesiarum statum pertinent festinavimus ad notitiam deferre vestræ sanctitatis.... Ideoque omnes sacerdotes universi Orientalis tractus et subjicere et unire sedi vestræ sanctitatis properavimus....Nec enim patimur quicquam, quod ad ecclesiarum statum pertinet, quamvis manifestum et indubitatum sit, quod movetur, ut non etiam vestræ innotescat sanctitati quæ caput est omnium sanctarum ecclesiarum.” These edicts, the epistles to the Pope, and the Pope's reply, were published by the Emperor Justinian with that code which he made the law of the empire. It continued the basis of ecclesiastical law throughout Christendom till supplanted by the Napoleon Code; and on it our own ecclesiastical law rests to the present time. And this historical fact both fixes the time from whence the.Papal ascendancy is to be dated, and defines its extent, by limiting it to those who acknowledged the code of Justinian.
The first four seals exhibit the triumphs of Christianity under the patronage of those four Emperors who alone did any public acts advancing the prosperity of the universal church. 'Constantine, on his conversion, prohibited persecution, and threw open Christianity to the empire; and it was extensively embraced : he also shut up the heathen temples, and forbad sacrifices ; but the temples were left standing. Theodosius ordered the temples to be destroyed, and prohibited augury and divination under the severest penalties. But some of the temples were still left standing, which Honorius again ordered to be razed to the ground. Justinian, under the fourth seal, gave absolute power, in all ecclesiastical affairs, to the Bishop of Rome *. The fifth seal exhibits the use which the Pope made of the power so conceded. There is now an entire change in the aspect of things: we have no more note of triumph or prosperity to the church; but the Apostle " saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 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 which dwell on the earth ? The altar here, is the brazen altar of sacrifice; and the saints are represented as victims, whose blood cries for vengeance. The brazen altar stood in the midst of the court of the congregation, which, in xi. 2, is represented as given to be " trodden under foot of the Gentiles for forty-two months." This Gentile period is the “little season" during which these martyrs are required to wait: “ It was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (vi. 11.) For these forty-two months, or 1260 years,“ power is given to the beast......to make war with the saints, and to overcome them...... and all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ” (xiii. 5–8). But this “ little season extends beyond the Papal period, including the whole sixth seal, and expiring at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (xi. 15—18), which shall announce " the time of the dead, that they should be judged; and that thou shouldst give reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them that destroy the earth.” In the other passages which relate to the time when this “ little season terminates, it is written (xiv. 13), “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord : yea, from henceforth ;' and (xix. 9), “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." In which last passage (ver. 8), the church is represented as "arrayed in fine linen and white; just as, vi. 11, white robes are given to the saints beneath the altar: all alluding to the wedding garments. The characteristic of this fifth seal is the slaughter of the saints. The command to “ wait" for their fellow-martyrs, intimates that the slaying shall go on remorselessly; and “ the white robes,” that it shall continue up to the marriage-preparation day. There is no hint of repentance or amendment in their persecutor, and therefore nothing but destruction can he look for. This has been intimated in the passage just quoted (xi. 18); "shouldest de
* Constantinus igitur ad abolendam impietatem sacrificia prohibuit, et templa
audi jussit, non evertit. Euseb. in Vit. st. iv. 25; Nicephorus Eccles. Hist. xii. 25. Theodosius vero magnus templa etiam evertit, et exta ex sacrificiis consuli vetuit, pæna crucis proposita his qui id egissent. Rufinus xi. 33; Sozozemus vii. 15; Theodoret v. 22. Non tamen oninia templa fuere eversa, sed plura in villis remanserunt, quæ Honorius dirui præceperat. Postea is clean