Page images

wicked. And in chapter xv. of this prophecy, we shall see this complaint answered, by the triumph of the martyrs, and the "just judgments of God manifested."

The epithets here applied to God are exactly indicative of the divine nature as it affects this case. He is Aεσπorns, Sovereign arbiter of all. He is holy,

-far apart from the wicked,-he is "the truth itself" in the performance of his promises, to raise the righteous from suffering to happiness, and to punish their unrepentant persecutors.

Ver. 11. And white robes were given unto every one of them.] These are given to them as indicative of their innocence and purity, and of their title to follow their Redeemer into his heavenly kingdom. (See note, ch. iii. 4.)

That they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants and brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.] At the time when this prophecy was delivered, there had been but few martyrs to the Christian cause. We are here taught to expect, what subsequent history has shown, a numerous succession of suffering witnesses through a long period. We were prepared by the imagery of the second and third, and more especially of the fourth seal, to expect some notice of those who in such times should "be slain for the testimony of the Word." In this seal it comes forward, but, as in the other seals, in general description only; and the subject is resumed in the sequel of the prophecy. (Ch. xi. 7—14. xiii. 7. xv. 2-6. xviii. 20. xx. 4.) The period of the martyrs therefore seems to extend from the death of our Lord, the first Christian martyr, (see ch. i. 5,) to "the great day of recompense," when the noble army of martyrs" will be ultimately completed and avenged. But the part of

[ocr errors]

this period which seems more particularly to belong to this fifth seal, is the close of the fourth seal, when so immense an accumulation of martyrdom had arisen, that the question "How long?" seems emphatically to be called forth. And thus the events of the fifth seal will stand in their proper place.

The fifth seal is generally understood, by ancient and modern interpreters, to describe the sufferings and hopes of the Christian martyrs. But different writers have applied the prophecy contained in it to different periods of their history; and many of them to the time of the Dioclesian persecution, as most bloody, and of very long continuance. This is adopted by Mede and his followers, and accords with their application of the foregoing seals to the Roman empire.

Vitringa applies it to the yet more cruel and lasting persecution of the Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemian brethren, and many other confessors of a purer religion throughout Europe, in later times, by the agents of the Papal Church. But there seems to be no reason why it should be restricted to any particular body of martyrs of any particular period. All are to be avenged; and it may be perhaps more fitly understood to comprehend all the martyrs to the Christian cause, from the apostolical age to the happy time when such sufferings shall finally cease. However, there can be little doubt, but that it extends to the period of the sixth vial, when the retribution here promised is fulfilled upon the enemies of the Lamb, the antichristian persecutors, the beast and his followers. (Ch. xv. xvi.)



The opening of the Sixth Seal.

CHAP. vi. ver. 12, to the end.

12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains;

16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

The subject matter of the sixth seal may be commodiously divided into two parts. The first of these (from chapter vi. 12, to the end) contains the threatening signs of a dreadful judgment upon the world, but more directly and especially on the enemies of Christ, who are seen to deprecate his wrath, and attempt to hide themselves from his avenging presence. The second part is included in the seventh chapter, and contains the preservation of

God's elect servants, "from the wrath to come," and, also the consequent triumphant rejoicing and thanksgiving of men and angels.



Ver. 12, 13, 14. Lo, there was a great earthquake, &c.] These alarming images are not now seen for the first time in the prophetic word of God; they have appeared before. The Holy Spirit had denounced, in terms very similar to these, by the mouths of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel, the divine judgments which were about to fall upon corrupt Judæa and the wicked nations surrounding. The expressions of Isaiah concerning Babylon, (ch. xiii. 10,) and other nations, in particular Idumea, in ch. xxxiv, exhibit a very striking resemblance to those of the Apocalypse. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh,-the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.—I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts.— Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah." Thus far in the thirteenth chapter concerning Babylon. In the thirtyfourth chapter the indignation of the Lord is pronounced against all nations and their armies: "He hath delivered them to the slaughter; the mountains shall be melted with their blood; and all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their hosts shall fall down as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree; for my sword shall be

bathed in heaven; behold, it shall come down on Idumea, and upon the people of my curse to judgment." These prophetic denunciations were fulfilled, typically at least, in the complete destruction of the nations against which they were uttered.

Our Lord himself delivered a prophecy remarkable, amongst other things, for the same figures of speech: "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." (Matt. xxiv. 29, &c.) But to these figurative expressions, used by preceding prophets, he added others which are of a new character, and peculiar to his own predictions." Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory: and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." The ablest commentators have understood this to be evidently spoken of " the great day of the Lord," the last day, the day of judgment. But it has at the same time been supposed, that the primary object of the prophecy is the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish economy; for in this event we find a type, a lively image, and a certain pledge and forerunner of the more signal and extended vengeance which will overtake the enemies of God, in the latest period of the world.

The prophecy of the Apocalypse now under consideration, thus recalls to our attention this prophecy, and the others above quoted. They have all of them been typically fulfilled in the fall of those nations, whose after ruin they prefigured: but a more perfect completion is reserved for them, with

« PreviousContinue »