Page images

was not prohibited by law, they soon collected again in their beloved country in great numbers, and raised their tents even among the ruins of Jerusalem. But their love of liberty, and burning revenge against the Romans, made them every where restless citizens. They often raised insurrections against the Greeks and Romans, and committed most horrible cruelties. In the neighbourhood of Cyrene they destroyed no less than 220,000 men; in Egypt and Cyprus 240,000; so that Adrian sent new colonies in order to re-populate the desolate places. But when Adrian began to rebuild Jerusalem, ne filled it with Heathens, and even erected a Pagan temple for idolatrous worship within her walls, in consequence of which the Jews suddenly rose in rebellion throughout the whole Ro. man empire. An infamous impostor by the name of Barochebas inflamed their passions to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, by calling himself the Star of Jacob, under which title the Messiah had been promised, as the deliverer of Israel, Num. xxiv. 17. Akibas, the most famous among the Jewish doctors, and the principal families of that diluded people, received him as their Messiah without any further proof, than believing that to be the time of bis appearance. They chose him their leader, took many fortresses, and spread desolation, blood and slaughter, whereever they went, especially among the Christians in Judea, whom they persecuted with unaccountable fury. Rufus, the governor, could not stop their progress, though the emperor had sent him large supplies of troops; he therefore sent Julius Severus, the greatest general of his time, who subdued them with such immense blood and slaughter, as to deter them for ever from rising again. He destroyed fifty of their cities, and nine hundred eighty-five towns, and made Palestine almost a desert and solitary wilder

The Jews lost more than 600,000 of their nation. So great was the slaughter, especially in Bither, of men, , women, and children, that the Jews say their blood ran


down into the main sea, that a horse might wade up to his nose in blood. From this time, their yoke became heavier than ever under the Roman empire, they were banished Judea, and forbidden ever to approach the holy city,

This overthrow of the Jewish nation was total, like that of their city and temple, and left them no hopes of recovery. They have drawn this judgment upon themselves, by their malignant opposition to the Church of Christ. They not only rejected, and put to death their Messiah, but also persecuted his disciples and followers with unaccountable malice, and destroyed their peace and happiness in every country, by presenting false accusations against them before the Roman tribunals. Thus they have added the blood of many thousand Christians to that of their prophets, and hastened their total ruin. And this is the effect of the great sword, given to the rider under this seal.

During this period also the third and fourth persecution raged in Asia with double fury, in which Polycarp and Justin honoured God by their deaths as martyrs. But this prophecy does not seem to refer to that legislative madness, which is all reserved for the fifth seal. These words only refer to those, who are capable of killing one another, which is not the disposition of Christians, and much less of the Christians of those days.


Verse 5. And when he had opened the third seal, I heard

the third beast say, come and see. And I be. held, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat on

him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6. 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. This hieroglyphic denotes a famine, which was to happen during this period in the Roman empire, more remarkable for its universality and duration, than on account of the high degree of scarcity of the necessaries of life. See Sam. iv. 7. 8. and chap. v. 10. Bread-grain is truly scarce, when it is no longer measured by measure, but weighed out by balances. Zorvig, Choenix is a measure of about two pounds, the usual allowance in Xerxes's army, and among the Romans of a man per day; and &nágrov, a penny, was the usual hire of a labourer for a day. A man's daily wages then, would only buy himself bread, without any thing to eat with it, or any surplus for his family, or even for his own clothing. This scarcity would have fallen on the superfluities also, such as oil and wine, but the voice of Christ from the midst of the four Beings of life, limited it to the most necessary articles of subsistence.

Those historians, who have given us the lives of the emperors, and the particulars of their reign in detail, during this period, bear witness to such a famine in the Roman empire. It began during the last years of the reign of Antonine the philosopher, and lasted to the first years of the emperor Severus. There were alternately throughout the whole Roman empire sterility of crops, inundations, great droughts, barrenness of soil, immense exportations of grain, foraging during the many intestine wars, earthquakes, burning of towns, unnatural meteors and eclipses. Tertullian says, that during the reign of Antonine, cach town and city in the empire had suffered a famine, and that the heavy rains, which had been the cause of it, were so numerous, as to threaten the world with a second deluge. The emperor, who had sold his precious furniture to prosecute the war, made the people great donations, out of his own private purse. During the reign of the empe. ror Commodus, says Echart in his Roman History, the

[ocr errors]

Tiber inundated a great part of the city of Rome, upon which followed a great famine, earthquakes, and infection of the air, by bloodless animalcules and insects. The scarcity ran so high, that the people in a violent commotion killed Cleander, the emperor's favourite. Severus at last made it a principal object, to supply their wants by importations from other countries. There neither was before nor after this period, a famine so general and of such long duration, as this had been.

And here I would answer an objection, which perhaps some of my readers are ready to make. They wish to read of more all-important events, as the completion of these seals, than what are here actually treated of. To this I answer: 1. When the Lord judges it necessary to comfort and strengthen his Church in any certain period by prophecy, he can only make choice of such events as according to his Divine prescience of things, actually take place during that time. The events themselves are not the principal objects to the Church, however great or small their influence on her prosperity may be; but the accomplishment of a divine prediction in those occurrences. This is what constitutes them prophecies--memorials and pledges of the Lord to his people. 2. These events are sufficiently important to the Church. The Christians were citizens of the Roman empire, and their lives and sublu... nary happiness were largely involved in its fate. By these prophecies they were informed of the extent of these ca. lamities, which might diminish unnecessary fear, excite them either to fly from dangér, where it was proper, or prepare to meet it in a becoming manner. 3. The Church of Christ in those days was as yet a young and tender infant, which, especially during the time of the bloody persecutions by the Romans, required perpetual aid and refreshment. The Lord, therefore, in each period gave her pledges of his favour and assistance, that she might continue faithful, and rise superior to the power of her enemies.


Verse 7. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I

heard the voice of the fourth beast say, come

and see.

8. And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and

his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him : and 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. The name of this rider fully corresponds with the colour of his horse. According to the same rule we may admit, that the rider on the white horse was victory; the rider on the red horse war; the rider on the black horse famine; and because all the judgments of God under the foregoing seals still continued, and here received new strength, this rider is emphatically called death. The holy seer beheld his frightful appearance, as he passed the theatre of visions before the throne of God. The colour of his horse was xrwgós, pale, a mixture of green and yellow, like faded, putrescent grass. qdns as well as scheol, hell

, signifies a spacious open gulf, or large cave under the earth. The ancients,, who had more intercourse with the world of spi. rits than we, believed Hades to be a great solitary desert, into which all separate spirits are collected, before the determination of their final destiny. Isa. xiv. 1 Sam. xxviii. Death heré denotes sudden death, as by pestilence, putrid fevers and other epidemics.

The sword, hunger, death and beasts are the four sore judgments of God, by which he punishes the opposition of diabolical nations. Ezek. xiv. 21. Lev. xxvi. 16. Jer, xxiv. 10. Ezek. vi. 12. They all raged dreadfully during this period in the Roman empire. soudaid not only signifies sword, but a broad swords a glave, as used in


« PreviousContinue »