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it is by the appointment of God; for their voice is like the noise of thunder, which is the symbol of the voice of God, chap. i. 3. “Blessed is “ he that readeth, and they that hear the words of “ this prophecy, and keep those things which are « written therein."
When Christ opened this first seal, that part of I the book or roll which occupied the space between the first and the second seal was opened up, and John saw upon it the following hieroglyphic; the picture of a white horse, with a rider upon him, which rider had a bow in his hand, and a crown upon his head. This picture was drawn in such a manner, according to the rules of the symbolical language, as plainly to thew that this rider was conquering his enemies not only at the time of the opening of that seal; but that he shall also conquer them more completely in a future and distant period.
In the symbolical language, a horse and his rider signifies a dispensation of divine providence. A horse is powerful, swift, and majestic; and though irrational, and an inferior instrument, is conducted by the rider to accomplish his wife and useful purposes, without any intention or plan of his own. In like manner, the dispensations of divine providence are not only irresistible, but have a peculiar dignity and majesty in them, to which the greatest plans of men bear no proportion. And in them
THE REVELATION. 169 inferior agents and instruments are employed, used, and directed, by the invisible hand of God, which holds the reins of the government of this world, to accomplish his great, wise, and good purposes, without any intention of their own. The particular nature of the dispensation is specified, by the colour of the horse, and the dress, armour, and appearance of the rider. This observation Mall be illustrated in the commentary on the opening of this and the three following seals, by which four different horses and riders are exhibited.
The hieroglyphic now under our view signifies the dispensation of divine providence, with respect to the gospel of Jesus, in its purest and most prospe. rous states on earth. For whiteness is the symbol of purity, and the bow and the crown that of war and victory. Hence the rider on the white horse is said to have gone forth conquering and to conquer. This hieroglyphic fignifies that, in that age in which John saw the vision, even the apostolic age, the church of Christ sliould appear in great purity, and dignity, that, in a particular manner, it should be under the guidance of Christ; that it should then make great conquests and extend its fpiritual dominion far and wide in spite of all its enemies. It farther fignifies that, in a future and diftant period, it should appear again in its original purity under the direction of Christ, and ma .e still greater conquests and obtain greater triumphs; for Vol. I.
the rider on the white horse went forth, not only conquering in the present, but also that he shall conquer in future. Accordingly chap. xix. II, -16. the rider on the white horse is again introduced in a most triumphant state over all his enemies. Having before that time conquered all his enemies he hath, on his head, many crowns, as the symbol that he is then King of kings and Lord of lords. That by the white horse and his rider is meant the purity and triumph of the church of Christ, thall fully appear in the commentary on that passage.
The prophecy under this first seal was exadly fulfilled, in that purity of doctrine, holiness of life, and fimplicity of manners, for which Christians were distinguished during the first century of the church; and in that rapid progress, with which, even in fo short a period, Chritianity spread over almost the whole then known world, not only without the aid of worldly power, rank, riches, or interest, but even in opposition to all these, and also to the religious prejudices of both Jews and Gentiles. In the apostolic age the gospel was preached in Judea, Arabia, Pontus, Alia, Capadocia, Bythinia, Parthia, Media, Mesopotamia, Athens, Macedonia, Galatia, Rome, Antioch, and many other parts of the world as appears from sacred fcripture. And it very foon spread to Africa, Spain, and Britain. .
Language can scarcely give a more minute, and distinct account of the fulfillment of this prophecy, than what is faid by Mosheim in his Church History, vol. i. p. 27, 28. “When we consider the ra“ pid progress of Christianity among the Gentile “ nations, and the poor and feeble instruments, “ by which this great and amazing event was im“ mediately effected, we must naturally have re“ course to an omnipotent and invisible hand, as “ its true and proper cause. For, unless we suppose “ here a divine interposition, how was it possible “ that men destitute of all human aid, without cre“ dit, or riches, learning or eloquence could, in so " short a time, persuade a confiderable part of man: “ kind to abandon the religion of their ancestors ? “ How was it possible that a handful of apostles “ who, as fishermen and publicans, must have been " contemned by their own nation, and as Jews “ must have been odious to all others, could engage “ the learned and the mighty; as well as the fim“ ple and those of low degree, to forsake their fa“ vourite prejudices, and to embrace religion which “ was an enemy to their corrupt passions? And in“ deed, there were undoubted marks of a celestial “ power perpetually attending their ministry. “ There was in their very language an incredible “ energy, and amazing power of sending light un“ to the understanding, and conviction unto the vi's heart. To this were added the commanding
“ influence of stupenduous miracles, the fortel“ ling of future events, the power of discerning " the secret thoughts and intentions of the heart, “a magnanimity superior to all difficulties, a con“ tempt of riches and honours, a serene tranquilli" ty in the face of death, and an invincible på. “ tience under torments still more dreadful than “ death itself; and all this accompanied with lives “ free from all stain, and adorned with the con“ stant practice of sublime virtue. Thus were the “ messengers of the Divine Saviour, the heralds of “ his spiritual and immortal kingdom, furnished "" for their glorious work, as the unanimous voice “ of antient history so loudly testifies. The event “ sufficiently declares this; for without these re.. “markable and extraordinary circumstances, no “ rational account can be given of the rapid pro“ pagation of the gospel throughout the world.”
Virfes 3d, 4th.—And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and fee. And there went out another horse that was red : and power was given to him that sat thereon, to take peace from the carth, and that they should kill one another : and there was given unto him a great sword.