Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

picture of a pale horse, and a rider upon him, whose name was Death, and the symbol for the grave followed with him. 'Adns the word translated bell, signifies the grave. He was at the same time informed, that power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

By the pale colour of the horse, the name of the rider Death, his follower the grave, and the explanatory note bearing that power was given unto them to kill, it is plainly declared that the persecution, predicted by this hieroglyphic, was to be one in which such great numbers of Christians should be killed by the sword, hunger, and savage beasts, that Death, if turned into a person and appearing among men, could not have killed them in greater numbers. And that the burials of them should be so frequent, that the graves might well be represented as always open to receive their dead bodies. This persecution was to extend over a fourth part of the earth, that is of the Roman empire.

At the time to which this seal relates, the Roman empire, then very extensive, was divided into • four parts, and governed by two emperors and two

Cæsars. By a fourth part, therefore, of the empire, is to be understood so much of it as was under the

jurisdiction

man

lan

[ocr errors]

jurisdiction of one of these four rulers; though the territory, over which each of them ruled, might not be of the same extent.

By looking into the history of the Christian church, and of the Roman empire, immediately after the period of the third seal, we shall see the predictions under this one exactly accomplished. In the beginning of the fourth century of the church Maximian Hercules was emperor in the west, and Constantius, the father of Constantine the great, was Cæsar or governor of Britain, Dioclefian was emperor in the east, and Maximian Galerius, Cæfar in the east. In a short time, Galerius obliging Dioclefian and Maximian Hercules to resign the purple, declared himself sole emperor of the east, while the administration of the western provinces was still in the hands of Conftantius. During these reigns, which were from about the year of Christ 300 to the year 311, the persecutions against the Christians were carried to the most barbarous and shocking height in the eastern part of the empire, first under Dioclefian, and after his abdication, under Galerius.

As the persecution predicted under this seal was to extend, not over the whole, but only over a part of the Roman empire, the accomplishment of this circumstance must strongly strike every candid mind. For, notwithstanding all the violence of Dioclefian and Galerius against the Christians in

the

as

the east; Constantius not only did not perfecute, but even countenanced them in the western provinces of the empire.--That the Christians were, at this period, countenanced in the western part of the empire by Conftantius, Mosheim declares, Hift. vol. i. p. 163. with whom Eufebius agrées, Book viii. chap. 13. and also Gibbon vol. ii. p. 382,-_393. “ Dioclesian though much addicted " to superstition, did not however entertain any " aversion to the Christians : and Constantius Clo“ rus, who following the dictates of right reason a“ lone in the worship of the Deity, had abandoned " the absurdities of poletheism, treated them with “ condescension and benevolence. This alarmed "the pagan priests, whose interesis were so closely “connected with the continuance of the ancient “ fuperftitions, and who apprehended, not without " reason, that to their great detriment, the Chris« tian religion would become daily more universal " and triumphant throughout the empire. Under " these anxious fears of the downfall of their au. " thority, they addressed themselves to Dioclesian, " whom they knew to be of a timorous and credu, “ lous disposition, and by fictitious oracles, and o-"ther such perfidious stratagems, endeavoured to " engage him to persecute the Christians.”

The numbers that were killed in this persecution were astonishingly great. In some places the blood of the Rain itself made little brooks, and co

loured loured large rivers. Eusebius says, that he hath seen the actors of that persecution fo fatigued, and their swords so blunted with killing the Christians, that they were obliged to be relieved by fresh persons, Fox Mar. p. 103. Eufeb. Hift. 1. viii. c. 9, 10, 11, 12.

At this time, there was also a great sickness and mortality in the Roman empire, so that from the mortality, (Death), and the persecution, men died faster than the living could bury them; by which means, dogs were so accustomed to eat dead men's flesh, that they became a terror to the living left they should eat them also. Eufeb. Hift. 1. viii. c. 10. Well then might this horse be pale; his rider Death, and the grave following him. .

The Christians were killed by being drawn a. sunder by horses, cloven by trees, cast to wild beasts, sent to sea in boats without any provision. There was an emulation among their persecutors, who might invent the most torturing deaths to Christians, Fox's Tables; Eufeb. Hift. 1. 8.'

Eachard describes the different modes, by which Christians were put to death in this persecution under Dioclefian and his successor Galerus, almost in the very words of this prophecy. In the prophecy it is said, “And power was given them to

kill with sword and with hunger, and with " death, and with the beasts of the earth. And Eachard says, Rom. Hift. vol. ii. p. 533. “ As “ this was the last persecution, so it was the most

“ fevere “ fevere of all others, like the last efforts of an ex“ piring enemy, who uses his utmost power and “ strength to give a parting blow. It were endless, “ and almost incredible, to enumerate the varie“ty of sufferers and torments; it is sufficient to ob“ serve, in this place, that they were scourged to “ death, had their flesh torn off with pinchers, and “ mangled with broken pots, were cast to lions, ty“ gers, and other wild beasts, were burned, be“ headed, crucified, thrown into the sea, torn in “ pieces by the distorted boughs of trees, roasted by “ gentle fires, and holes made in their bodies for “ melted lead to be poured into their bowels. “ This persecution lasted ten years under Diocle. “ fian and some of his successors; and the incredi“ ble number of Christians which suffered death " and punishment, made them conclude that “ they had completed their work. And in an an“cient inscription, they tell the world that they " had effaced the name and superstition of the “ Christians, and had restored and propagated the “ worship of the Gods."

How exactly this persecution corresponded to the prediction in these verses is abundantly clear from Mosheim's Hift. vol. i. from page 164, to 166. Of these three pages I shall transcribe only two short paragraphs. Page 165. “In the second “ year of this horrible persecution, the 304th " of the Christian æra, a fourth edict was pub

“ lished

« PreviousContinue »