« PreviousContinue »
the first hint of this mode of application, which modern expositors have gradually followed. Viega, a Jesuit, who wrote in the sixteenth century, seems to have been one of the first who applied all the four seals to the Roman history. Mede, who by his just reputation as an ingenious interpreter, has given the greatest encouragement to this mode of application, though he interpreted the second, third, and fourth seals, as relating to the Roman empire, yet' understood the first to treat clearly and exclusively of the Christian Church. Indeed the first seal cannot, consistently with the symbols compared in Scripture, be otherwise applied. And if the first seal has so evident a designation, why, in the interpretation of the rest, are we to change our object, without special and compulsive reason? The writers who have followed Mede, have been aware that consistency Tequired of them, to apply all these predictions to the same kind of history: but, to obtain this consistency, what method have they pursued ? They have not relinquished Mede’s interpretation of the second, third, and fourth seals, thereby to bring them in unison with that of the first: but, labouring to make the symbols of the first seal agree with his interpretations of the three following, they have most unscripturally and unfitly represented the rider of the white horse, (whose purity can belong only to the most perfect Christian,) to signify those bloody and heathen soldiers, Vespasian and Titus * ! If Vespasian can be thought worthy of this almost divine honour, it is but another step to suppose him gifted with divine miracles, as related by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion
Jurieu seems to have been the author of this intepretation adopted by Bishop Newton,
Cassius, and as vaunted by David Hume* But, if the conquests of these Roman Emperors had been foretold in this vision, surely they would have been sufficiently expressed by the single word,“ conquer“ing,” without that additional commission, “and for “ to conquer ;” which must imply a distant period, far beyond the twenty-eight years of their empire. On the whole, I can perceive scarcely any colour of argument, arising from the words and symbols of the seals, to justify the interpretation of any part as concerning the fates and fortunes of the Roman Empire, or of any political establishment whatever. It must therefore belong to the fates and fortunes of God's Church; which appear to me, in this place, to be represented under four distinct successive characters; such as history has recorded them. Each horse is separate and distinct; he is “ another horse,” though still representing the Church: for, the Church was so changed under the progress of these different characters, as no longer to appear the same.
The white horse, representing the Church in its purity (and the true Church is always pure), is in progress through the whole of the vision. He goes conquering; is then eclipsed, as it were, for a time, by the other horses, — by the corruptions of Christianity; but at length appears again, in chap. xix. “conquering, “ and for to conquer.” Together with this distinctness of character, there is also an unity to be observed. They are all horses; and all pass, by a regular gradation, from one colour to another; from the mild and peaceful rule displayed in the character of the first horse, to the dreadful tyranny of Death and Hell which characterizes the last. This unity and completion of parts is also
insinuated by their being contained under the cardinal number four, answering to the four sides of the Throne, and to the four Cherubim there stationed, who speak on the opening of each seal, until the voices have gone through the complete square of the Throne. This unity also accords with that of the four first trumpets, and of the four first vials, as will be seen in their places *.
These four seals present us with a general view of the progress of Christianity, from its first establishment in purity, to its utmost corruption and degeneracy under the papal usurpation. They contain the first outlines of a history, which we shall see afterwards extended and filled up by the same prophetic Spirit. And this method is analogous to that of other sacred prophecies; of those of Daniel in particular, in which, as Sir Isaac Newton observes, the same subject is retraced; the subsequent prophecies adding continually something new to the former t.
* See the note, ch. xvi. 17: and observe also, that as the ancients accounted the number seren of all others the most perfect (see note, ch. i. 4.); so, among other reasons for its perfection, they assigned this, that it is compounded of the numbers four and three; the first of these, the most perfect of the even numbers; the second, of the uneven. (Cyprian. de Spirit. Sanct.; August. de Civ. Dei, c. 30.; Macrobius in Somn. Scipionis.) Certainly, in this book of Revelation, the number seven evidently divides into these component parts,-in the seals, in the trumpets, and in the vials.
+ Sir Isaac Newton, on Prophecy, part i. ch. 3.
The opening of the fifth Seal.
CHAP. vi. VER. 1-11.
9 Kai őtt óvoiže tohy, 9 And when he opened | 9 And when he had
opened the fifth seal, είδος υποκάτω το under the altar, the I saw under the altar θυσιαςηρία τας ψυ souls of those that the souls of them that χάς των έσφαγ were sacrificed for the were slain for the word μένων δια τον λόγον word of God, and for of God, and for the Tð Orð, rj dia the the testimony which testimony which they
maglugíay ng tixor. 10 they held. And they 10 held. And they cried 10 Και έκραξαν φωνή cried with a loud voice,
with a loud voice, sayμεγάλη, λέγοντες: saying, “ How long, ing, How long, O "Εως τότε, ο δεσ “ Sovereign Lord, the Lord, Holy and True, mórns ó äyra ry “ Holy One and True, dost thou not judge αληθινός, και κρίνεις « dost thou not judge, and avenge our blood και εκδικείς το αίμα
and avenge our blood on them that dwell on ημών από των κα
“ upon those that dwell 11 the earth? And white Torxéylw moi ränts
11“ on the earth?" And robes were given unto 11 yns ; Kai idötn
there was given unto every one of them, and αυτοίς σολη λευκή, ,
them white raiment ; it was said unto them, και ερρέθη αυτοίς, ένα
and it was said unto that they should rest αναπαύσωλαι έτι
them, that they should yet for a little season, xpórov, čws wangwa
rest yet a time, until until their fellow-ser. θώσι και οι σύνδελοι their fellow-servants vants also, ard their αυτών και οι αδελφοί
also, and their brethren brethren, that should αυτών, οι μέλλοντος should be completed,
be killed as they were, αποκλείνεσθαι ώς και
who were about to be should be fulfilled. αυτοί. .
slain, even as they had
Ver. 9. Under the altar.] We are not informed whether the altar here mentioned, is the golden one of inceuse which makes part of the scenery in ch. viii.
and has its proper place before the throne*, or, the brazen altar of burnt sacrificet. The former belongs more appropriately to the scenery; but the latter seems more fitting to the action represented, in which the martyrs are sacrificed. For, at the golden altar were offered only incense and prayer; before the brazen one, the victims were slain. This uncertainty occasions some difficulty, which may perhaps be removed, by supposing the action of this seal, as of the four preceding, to be represented graphically in picture. Then, though the golden altar may be still supposed to stand in its place, in the scenery before the Throne, yet the brazen altar may also appear delineated upon the roll of the book when opened by the Lamb. For on the unfolding of the fifth roll, this additional altar appears, and the martyrs are seen under it, and voices are heard to accompany their expressive gestures, as they hold up their hands in prayer.
Ib. The Souls.] 'H tuxen, the soul, is that vital part or principle of life in man, which, by the favour of God through Christ, they who kill the body cannot destroy $. The martyrs (for such they are), although slain by persecutors“ for the word of God, and the “ testimony which they held,” are “ alive unto God,' their “ souls are not left in hell ş;" they are deposited in “ their proper place ll :” they had suffered as victims
* That is, before the Ark and Mercy-seat, which was the local seat of the Divine presence in the Temple. See Exod. xxx. xxviii. xxxi. xl. 5; 2 Chron. iv. 19; Luke i. 11; Heb. ix. 4. 7.
+ The word Suorasngroy may be used to signify either of these altars ; see Luke i. 11. Matt. 1. 23. Rev. xi. 1. The expression Sugiasngios Jupianatos is applied in the Septuagint to both of them. Matt. X. 28.
§ 1 Pet. iv. 19. TOJ TOTOY TOY idioro (Acts i. 25.): on which text see Bp. Bull's Sermon.