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I. SEAL, ACCOMPLISHED FROM A. D. 72-to 122.
Verse 1. And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the
seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thun-
and to conquer. When the Lord made this Revelation to St. John, the situation of the Church of Christ was peculiarly critical. Jerusalem and her temple, the former people and Charch of God lay in total ruin; which in its holy records had many glorious promises not yet fulfilled. The banners of the Church bad been planted in many countries, and her ministers every where met with great success, in enlisting many valiant soldiers for the service of the Lord. Jews and Gentiles were alarmed, at this rapid propagation of the Gospel; and the Christians were in full expectation of the approach of the personal kingdom of Christ on earth, which should encompass the whole world. In the midst of this full tide of prosperity, the Church of Christ was arrested by the cruel persecutions of the Roman emperors. Nero and Domitian, revived Paganism in all its abominations, and threatened Christianity with utter destruction. Idolatry was every where again vigorously supported by
the powers of this world, the self-interested views of a host of priests, and the corrupt passions of man: but the religion of Jesus was accounted foolishness, an enemy to the state and to mankind, and only maintained herself by the truth of her doctrine, and the holy lives of her disciples. When the Christians saw all their hopes thus crossed, and all their wishes frustrated, many thousands fell into doubts, perplexing temptations and fears, concerning the truth and divine origin of the Christian religion, and her final suca cess on earth. Short-sighted reason argued thus: If Je. hovah be the author of Christianity, and Jesus Christ the Son of God, then our religion must finally prevail, and all the promises concerning the welfare of Zion, will surely be accomplished; but the natural probability from the violent opposition of the world, is against us, and Paganism is victorious from the throne to the cottage. It is not impossible that we may be deceived. Man perhaps is doomed to wander in darkness, doubt and perplexity, through the valley of this world, forlorn, and ignorant of a life to come, without a true knowledge of his Maker and his God. All those miracles which we have seen, and which are preached unto us, may be the effects of superior beings, unknown to us, or from latent causes in nature, and we destined, to be the sport of an inferior Demiurgus, or a deceitful Governor of this world. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,
1 Cor. xv. 19. O that God in whom we trust, would take • pity on us, and pour light and comfort into our despond
ing hearts! If this book had not opened the future prospects of the Church of Christ, these and similar doubts and perplexitics would have arisen in the hearts of millions in every age, and the Church would this day as much as ever, need such a mighty support.
The principal wish and desire of the Church in those days of affliction was, to know the future prospects of Christianity in the Roman empire, and the final doom of Paganism. Both these important points were revealed,
by opening the first six seals of the heavenly rolt; and thus all Christians received instruction and comfort. Each seal enclosed only those events, which should be brought about by Providence, during a determined space of fifty years; and not all the events which happened during that space of time, nor even all those which the historian would treat with principal concern. Here prophecy differs widely from profane history; it only takes notice of those dispensations, which were intended to effect the downfall of Paganism, and the success and prosperity of the Church and disciples of Jesus. All the glorious achievements of emperors and armies, which have no tendency to further the designs of heaven, are not considered as worthy of remembrance. They are mere actions of men, in which the Church of God is not immediately concerned, and are therefore undescrving of a place in the journal of Provi. dence.
The whole Revelation then, contains a prophetic history of the Christian religion, of Christ and his Church. And this chapter begins the evolution of a series of Divine measures, by which the mystery of God was to be accomplished at different periods in the Roman empire, in order to procure a secure dwelling-place for the Church.'
Verse 1. Come and see. The opening of these seals seems to have been attended with circumstances, peculiarly majestic. When the Lamb opened a seal, he also exhibited its centents by a hieroglyphic representation in the surrounding clouds. Here a rider on horseback passed in full view of the throne, and all its attendants, through this heavenly theatre of visions; and the first Being of life like a lion, with a tremendous voice, as the noise of thunder, called the holy seer to give particular attention, that nothing might escape his observation, which could benefit, instruct, or comfort his brethren.
Verse 2. A white horse; and he that sat on him had a bow. Expositors have differed widely in their explana.
tions of this seal. Bengelius has here seen the victories of the Romans under the emperor Trajan, and Dr. Yung the rapid propagation of the gospel during the first centuries. Thus, truth sometimes lies before our feet un. observed, and we search for it with great labour at a distance. Horses are instruments of war, and a white horse is an emblem of victory, conquest, and succeeding prosperity. This hieroglyphic represents the Lord Jesus Christ in a double point of view, to the unspeakable comfort of his afflicted Church. First, as conqueror of Judaism, and the Jewish nation, for having rejected him as their Messiah and King. When the Persian kings after a signal victory, offered sacrifices to the sun, they rode on white horses. On account of this victory it is said in the text, é sóIn, a crown has, or had been given him, as a thing which had been done sometime before this vision of St. John. Secondly, as directing all the conquests of the Romans, from this time to the accomplishment of his heavenly designs concerning his Church. The Roman generals used to ride white horses at the head of their armies, and their triumphal chariots were drawn by white horses. It is worthy of particular remark, that Daniel's prophecy concerning the limits of the Roman empire, Dan. vii. 7. 23. was not fully accomplished, till in the days of Trajan. He conquered from Anno. 108, in a few years, Armenia, Assyria, Mesopotamia, and even the countries beyond the Tigris; and extended the Roman dominion far beyond what Pompey had done towards the East, and to the full extent of the Macedonian empire. The Christians were alarmed by the immense power of the Romans, as they were always ready to support idolatry with all its abominations; but the Lord here informs his people, that he superintends the power of these conquerors of the world, and directs all their victories to the benefit of his Church. And accordingly, Gibbon asserts that by this overgrown power, the Romans weakened the centre of their empire, and thus ac
celerated its dissolution. The Lord directed the Roman victories and conquests to the promotion of his Church and drove his arrows into the hearts of his enemies. Ps. xlv. All victories from henceforth, had a ruinous effect on the empire, and the Roman power began to sink from that time. Paganism lost its mighty hold, and fell into disrepute, until the whole empire became a province of the Lord Jesus.
Those expositors, who explain this seal only of the Lords spiritual conquests through his Church and religion, have, I presume, not sufficiently considered this subject. They represent this rider, as having a wholly separate and distinct object and employment, from the following riders : whereas the horse and rider under the first seal, must surely be explained in connexion with those under the second, third, and fourth seals, as having the execution of only a part of an enterprize, of the same nature with the rest. This explanation also perfectly accords with chap. xix. 11. Where this same rider again returns, after having gained many crowns, i. e. kingdoms and empires; for he went forth conquering and to conquer.
II. SEAL ACCOMPLISHED FROM A. D. 122-TO 172.
Verse 3. And when he had opened the second seal, I
heard the second beast say, Come and see.
a great sword. By the first seal the Christians were comforted concerning the extension of the Roman power in the East, es