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With these attempts “ to put a yoke on the neck of “ the disciples,” the history of the church abounds. Attempts of this kind are to be traced so early as in the second century* ; but these were only “the be
ginnings of evil.” As the stream of Christianity flowed farther from its fountain, it became more and more corrupt, and as the centuries advanced, superstition advanced with them; and unauthorized mortifications and penances, and rigorous fastings, and vows of celibacy t, and monkish retirement and austerities, and stylitism, and the jargon and repetition of prayers not understood, and tales of purgatory, and pious frauds, and the worship of saints, relics, and images, took the place of pure and simple Christianity: till at length, the book of God being laid aside for legendary tales, and “the traditions of men,” all these corruptions were collected into a regular system of superstition and oppression, well-known by the name of the papal yoke, and which was expressly foretold by the Holy Spirit, as about to be produced in the latter times . The Eastern Church, for some time,
+ Mosheim, Eccl. Hist. ch. iv.--In a fragment of Ignatius, preserved by Grabe, (Spicileg. sect. ii. p. 24.) that apostolical father says, Παρθενιας ζιγον μηδενι επιθει: Lay upon none the yoke of virginity." And Augustine, in the 5th century, complains, that the jugum Judæorum sub lege, the yoke of the Jews under the law, was more tolerable than the ceremonies, &c. then introduced. , Epist. xix.
+ See Socrat. Hist. i. 11. where it is called the yoke : for in the first Nicene Council, when some of the bishops had proposed that the married clergy should separate from their wives, Papbnutius, a prelate of great authority among them, successfully opposed the motion: εξοα μακρα, μη βαρυν ζυγον επιθειναι τοϊς ιερωμενοις ανδρασι' vehemently calling upon them, not to lay a heavy yoke on the clergy. Thus the disposition to impose the yoke in this instance strongly appeared and was defeated : but the evil day was only deferred. 11 Tim. iv. 1.
kept pace with the Western, in the introduction of burthensome unauthorized observances; and the Mahometan religion, derived from the corrupted Jewish and Christian, has imposed a similar kind of yoke in those parts where it has prevailed.
Ver. 5. A voice in the midst of the four living creatures.] This voice is from the throne ; for the Cherubim, or living creatures, were stationed close around the throne* The progress of the yoke, through the ages of dark ignorance and superstition, has been indeed alarming; threatening to annihilate the pure law of Christian liberty. A voice therefore, of the highest authority and most dread command, is uttered, to restrain its pernicious consequences.
The effect of this will be seen in the ensuing note.
Ib. A chænir of wheat for a denarius, and three chænices of barley for a denarius; and the oil and the wine thou mayest not injure.] Wheat, barley, oil, and wine, were with the Eastern nations of antiquity the main supports of life. Under these terms therefore, in scriptural language, we find plenty to be generally expressed t. Now it is proclaimed from the throne, that during the progress of the black horse, how desolating soever, there shall be still a certain price, at which wheat and barley may be bought, and a certain preservation of the more precious commodities, wine and oil. These prices will be found to be very high, which infers great scarcity of the commodity. But still, there is not to be an utter failure; they are to be purchased at some price. A chenix of
* Ch. iv. 6.
+ Gen. xxvii. 28. Deut. xi. 14. xviii. 14. 2 Chron. ii. 15. Is. lxii. 8. Jer. xxxi. 12. xli. 8. Ps. iv. 7. Hos. ii. 8. 22. Joel ü. 24, Hag. i 11.
wheat (that ancient universal measure) is to be bought for a denarius, and three measures of barley for the same. We may judge concerning the degree of plenty or want attending this arrangement, if we obtain a knowledge of the quantity of corn contained in the chanix, and compare it with the value of the denarius, which, was a coin of universal circulation in the Roman empire. The chenix appears to have contained just so much wheat, as to supply a slender allowance for the daily food of one man. This we collect from ancient authors, who represent it as the allowance of a slave: and in particular from Herodotus, who, in calculating the corn consumed by the army of Xerxes in their daily march, says, Ει χοινικα συρών εκαστος της ημερας ελαμβανε, και μηδεν πλεον *: which shews this measure to have been but a short allowance for the sustenance of one man. The denarius, (in the Scripture translation called a penny,) appears to have been the daily pay of a labouring mant. But the labouring man has many other things to provide for himself besides bread. Those times therefore must be accounted very dear and oppressive, . wherein the whole daily pay must be employed to purchase the daily food; and that but scantily. In the times of Cicero, it appears that a denarius would purchase sixteen chenices of wheat, and in Trajan's reign twenty 5. The times of the yoke, or black horse, were therefore times of great scarcity. A coarser bread might, it seems, be then had in greater proportion for a denarius, even as three to one; a bread of barley, which appears to have been used by
.« If each person received a chønix of wheat per day, and no more." (Herodot. Polymn, edit. Stephani, Genevæ, 1618; p. 446.) # Matt. xx. 2. I See the authorities in Daubuz, in loco
the poorer Jews *, and which is represented to be still
yielding fifty-fold, and principally consumed by
But by these provisions for food, what are we to
wine, oil, in their plain why and proper meaning ? Surely not.
The tenour of pro- 1,2 phetic language forbids,--directing our attention, as our Lord has directed it f, to another kind of scarcity, [! even that of which the prophet Amos speaks,
“Not a “ famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of
hearing the words of the Lord §." This kind of invej scarcity is frequently lamented by the prophetical writers, who delight in describing the spiritual plenty of Christ's kingdom by such sensible images, “corn' " and wine, and oil ll.” By these are signified that food of religious knowledge, by which the souls of men are sustained unto everlasting life. Such we are invited by the Evangelical Prophet to buy, even, " without price [.” Such are recommended to the purchase of the Laodiceans by their divine Lord **. Such were dispensed throughout the world, at the first preaching of the Gospel, and upon terms of the easiest acquisition ;-“ freely ye have received,” said
* Judg. vii. 13. John vi. 9. Joseph. Ant. v. C. vi. 4; Bell, Jud. v.
See note, ch. ii. 7.
!! Ps. lxii. 16. Hos. ii. 22. Jer. xxxi. 12. Matt. ix. 17.
** Rev. iii. 18.
Jesus to his disciples, “freely give.” But when dark clouds of ignorance, denoted by the colour of the black horse, began to spread over the face of the Christian world, and ambitious and corrupt teachers could advance their worldly purposes, by “bringing “ the disciples under the yoke” of superstitious observances, the knowledge and practice of genuine religion became scarce. Astonishing are the instances produced by historians, of the extreme ignorance in the professors of Christianity, throughout the middle ages.
Yet, during the long progress of these dark times, the prophetical command from the throne has been wonderfully fulfilled. There has always been a moderate supply of spiritual food. The grand saving
doctrine of Christianity, an eternal life of happiness, I given to sinful man, upon his faith and repentance,
through the satisfaction of his Redeemer, has been taught in all these ages.
And that invaluable storehouse and repository of divine knowledge, of spiritual wine and oil, the Holy Bible, the word of God, has been accessible to some persons in all times since this injunction was delivered. Through all the ignorant, fanatical, factious, and corrupt hands, by which this sacred treasure has been delivered down to us, it has passed, in the main, uninjured. The corruptions of it, even for the base purposes of party zeal, and worldly domination, have been miraculously few. And such as it hạth come down to our times, it is likely to be delivered to posterity, by the useful art of printing. Thus hath the prophetical injunction from the throne been wonderfully fulfilled, through a dark period of long continuance, and of great difficulty and danger :--The oil and wine have not been injured,