Page images

without giving up their religious principles to mere human authority. · If we look into the history of the church of Christ, and of the Roman empire, immediately after the expiration of the period predicted under the first seal, we shall find that the hieroglyphic under the second seal was most exactly fulfilled in the bloody persecutions, which were inflicted upon Christians by the Roman emperors Trajan, Adrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Antoninus, and Severus, from the beginning to the end of the se. cond century of the Christian church.

Under this seal, most probably, is also included the persecution by the emperor Domitian in the end of the first century. The account of these persecutions is too long to be transcribed into this commentary. But the reader will see it at full length, in Mosheim's Church History, vol. I, from page 76,-80:

It is said, “that they should kill one another.” By this expression it is predicted, that the citizens of Rome themselves should persecute and kill the Christians their fellow citizens, even when the emperors were not violent in commanding them to persecute. This part of the prediction was as exactly accomplished as the other parts of it : For frequently, in the second century, when there were no edicts of the emperors or fenate of Rome commanding them to persecute the Christians, the

people people and the priests, of their own accord, persecuted them in the most tumultuous, barbarous, and cruel manner.

A very few excerpts from the history of that century will thew the most minute fulfillment of this prediction, Mosheim Hift. vol. i. p. 76. “In “ the beginning of this century, the second), " there were no laws in force against the Christians; “ for the senate had annulled the cruel edicts of “ Nero, and Nerva had abrogated the sanguinary “ laws of his predecessor Domitian. But, notwith“ standing this, a horrid custom prevailed of per“ secuting the Christians, and even of putting them “ to death, as often as a bloody priesthood, or an “outrageous populace set on by them, demanded " their destruction. Hence it happened that even “ under the reign of the good Trajan, popular tu. 6 mults, and seditions were raised among the Chris" tians, many of whom fell victims to the rage of a “ merciless multitude. Such were the riotous pro“ ceedings that happened in Bithinia, under the “ administration of Pliny the younger, who, upon " that occasion, wrote to the emperor to know in “ what manner he was to conduct himself towards " the Christians." The answer which he received from Trajan amounted to this; "that the Chrif“ tians were not to be officiously sought after : but " that such, as were accused and convicted of an " adherence to Christianity, were to be put to

Z 2

“ death,

“ death, as wicked citizens, if they did not re“ turn to the religion of their ancestors.

Page 78. “The emperor Marcus Antoninus ise “ fued out against the Christians, whom he regard“ed as a vain, obstinate and vicious set of men, e** dicts, which, upon the whole, were very unjust, ** though we do not know, at this distance of time, " their particular contents. In consequence of “their imperial edicts, the judges and magistrates t received the accusations, which even flaves and " the vileft of the perjured rabble brought against “ the followers of Jesus; and the Chriftians were " put to the most cruel tortures, and were con" demined to meet death in the most barbarous " formis, notwithstanding their perfect innocence, " and their persevering, and solemn denial of the " horrid crimes laid to their charge. The imperial “edicts were so pofitive and express against inflic“ ting punishment upon such of the Christians as " were guilty of no crime, that the corrupt judges, ei who, through motives of interest or popularity, “ desired their destruction, were obliged to suborn “ false accusers to charge them with actions that "might bring them within the reach of the laws. “ Hence many fell victims to cruel superstition and “ popular fury, seconded by the corruption of a “ wicked magistracy, and the connivance of a " prince, who with respect to one set of men, forgot “the principles and clemency which directed bis

“ conduct

“ conduct towards all others. Among these vic“ tims there were many men of illustrious piety, "and some of eminent learning and abilities, such “ as the holy and venerable Polycarp Bishop of “ Smyrna, and Justin Martyr, so deservedly renown“ed for his erudition and philofophy. Many “ churches, particularly those of Lyons and Vienne “ were almost entirely destroyed during this vio" lent perfecution, which raged in the year “ 177. and will be an indelible ftain upon the “ memory of the prince by whose order it was

carried on.”

Verses 5th, 6th.--And when he had opened the third feal, I heard the third beast say, Come, and fee, And I beheld, and lo, a black horse ; and he that fat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

When the third seal was opened, and so much of the roll as was contained between the third and fourth seal rolled off, John faw, upon it, the picture of a black horse, with a rider upon him holding a pair of balances in his band. And, at the same

time, time, he heard a voice, in the midst of the four li. ving creatures, saying, “ A measure of wheat for a “ penny, and three measures of barley for a pen“ ny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine."

In the symbolical language, this hieroglyphic fignifies a great famine. The black colour is the symbol of famine, because famine destroys the rud. dy complexion, and gives the countenance a dark pale look, Lam. v. 10. “Our skin was black like an 6 oven, because of the terrible famine." Teeat bread by weight or measure is the symbol for scarcity of food, Ezek. iv, 16, 17. “Moreover he faid unto me,

Son of man, behold I will break the staff of bread " in Jerusalem, and they shall eat bread by weight 6 and with care; and they shall drink water by “ measure and with astonishment: that they may “ want bread and water, and be astonished one with “ another, and consume away for their iniquity."

The measure of wheat is in the original the chænix ; and the penny is the denarius. The former was the ordinary allowance of corn for a labouring man's food for a day, and the latter was his ordinary wages for a day. By the expression therefore “ a measure of wheat for a penny,” it is intimated that the famine should be so great, that all the exertions and industry of men should be scarcely sufficient to procure them daily subfiftence.


« PreviousContinue »