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of the past : and of our being almost beyond a question at that precise position in the Apocalyptic prophecy asserted at the head of this chapter ; from the which position it will be our next duty to commence our glancings into futurity.
On looking back, then, he will observe that on the simple theatric scene' (if I may so call it) of a temple like that of Jerusalem, in the foreground, with its court, and holy place, and holy of holies, to represent the Church in its various parts and characters,—and a world outstretched beneath and around, in miniature but living landscape, with its land and seas and rivers, to represent the world of the Roman Empire,—the FIRST ACT of the prefigurative drama (a drama written apparently on a scroll within and without, and divided into septenaries of Seals, Trumpets, and Vials, of which the Trumpets were all included in the 7th Seal, and Vials in the 7th Trumpet, ?)— I say that the FIRST ACT of this drama began by the going forth, one after the other, on the successive openings of the four first Seals in the scroll of futurity, (and probably upon that Roman world in landscape,) of four horses, white, red, black, and livid pale : each bearing its own rider, marked by his proper badge ; and with brief explanatory words accompanying the exhibition. After which, on the opening of the fifth Seal, a voice, as from murdered ones beneath the great altar in the temple-court, was heard crying out, “ How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood against them that dwell on the earth : "--and then presently, on the sixth Seal's opening, a revolution sudden and universal appeared before the Evangelist to pass upon the symbolic earth, and its associated heaven and heavenly luminaries : a revolution whereby the enemies of the LAMB, it was declared, were overthrown ; and consequently, it might be inferred, their political supremacy
i See Vol. i. p. 100. ? The reader will have the goodness to refer to the Exposition, as well as to the Chart at the beginning of this Work; in explanation, in all its various points, of the sketch of evidence following.
certain explastates respect of bloody
and system done away.-So ended the FIRST ACT of the drama.
And in explanation of the four earlier of these prefigurative visions it was supposed, as a first preliminary, that the horse in every case represented the Roman people, in their character of a martial military nation : this supposition being made not gratuitously, or merely because of the otherwise general fitness of the symbol ; but on various classical evidence of its propriety, especially when associated with a rider bearing such badges as in the first Seal. Which premised, -forasmuch as the colour on the successive horses, interpreted agreeably with the Roman and Greek understanding of them, did conjunctively with certain explanatory words in each case accompanying, indicate states respectively of national triumph, happiness, and prosperity, of bloody civil war, of impoverishment and want, and of extraordinary mortality,--this last by the agencies of sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, such as to cause in the horse the hue of a body in dissolution,-it was inferred that successive æras of prosperity, civil war, impoverishment, and mortality corresponding, were portended to the Roman Empire : the first to begin very soon, according to the revealing Angel's express pre-intimation, after the time of St. John's banishment in Patmos; the rest to follow in succession. Can we well have been wrong in these our inferences as to the meaning of the symbols ?-And what then the result of appeal to history, in verification of them? It was found that Gibbon marked out four æras, or epochs, in the Roman imperial history, precisely agreeing with the prefigurations :—the 1st one of both early and later signal triumphs, and moreover of a prolonged general happiness and prosperity unexampled, he says, in the world's history, beginning from Nerva's accession, the very next year after St. John's seeing the vision in Patmos, and lasting eighty years and more, to the death of the second Antonine :—the 2nd, one of civil war and bloodshed, i See Vol. i. p. 122.
· Apoc. iv. 1.-See Vol. i. p. 110.
towards the cable edict of the
almost as remarkable, begun with the murder of Antonine's son and successor Commodus, near the end of the second century, and extended, with intervals of intermission, far onwards into the æras of the two next Seals :—the 3rd, one of fiscal oppression, and consequent impoverishment and distress of the Roman people, dated by Gibbon from a memorable edict of the Emperor Caracalla, issued towards the close of the first quarter of the third century, and noted by him as one of the permanent causes of the empire's decline :—the 4th, beginning about twenty years later, one of some twenty years and more of continued mortality, through three chiefly out of the four predicted agencies of destruction ; to an extent, such, he says, that we might suspect from certain statistical tables, "that war, pestilence, and famine had consumed in a few years a moiety of the human species ;” and with such effect on the empire as to make it seem as if" approaching to the last and fatal moment of its dissolution.”—Yet more, whereas it seemed reasonable to suppose that in perfect prefigurative pictures, such as all must be that have a divine original, not the mere nature only, but the instrumental causes also, of these states of prosperity or of suffering, might probably be revealed, and the riders of the horses, characterized by their respective badges in the vision, appeared to be the fit symbols to foreshow it,-a comparison was instituted in each vision between the prophecy and the history on this point also.—And on examination it appeared that whereas, according to Gibbon's declaration, the instrumental causes of the white of the first æra were the five good emperors from Nerva to the 2nd Antonine inclusive (a line united as one by successive adoptions, and, as traced.up to Nerva its head, of Cretic original,) - of the red of the second æra those that had the power of the sword, i. e. the military power, including its chief Generals very specially,—and of the black of the third æra the Provincial Governors, in their several provinces of administration, so lst the crown (the imperial crown) given to the rider of the white horse did in fact mark
him out as the representative of Emperors, and the bow in his hand (strange as this might appear) as the representative, according to clear antiquarian evidence, of persons of Cretan provincial origin :—2nd the sword given to the rider of the red horse (the word given, where used and where omitted, should not be unnoticed)' marked him out as the representative of the soldiery generally, and more particularly of the Prætorian Prefects and Imperial Lieutenants ; these being at Rome and in the provinces respectively the only functionaries invested with the judicial power of the sword, over the soldiers, as well as military use of it against the enemy, and in token thereof solemnly presented with a sword, within or outside of the walls of Rome :- 3rd, the holding of the balance, and the words addressed to him from the throne respecting the corn, wine, and oil, did as distinctively mark out the rider of the black horse to be the representative of Roman Provincial Governors: the balance being the emblem struck by them frequently on their own coins, in promise of equity of administration, upon their appointment to office, (on which, as on other points, medals were exhibited to the reader's eye in evidence,) and the words from the throne almost the very words addressed by the Roman law (as well as by that equity which is ascribed to God's throne in Scripture) to these provincial administrators.--As to the rider of the fourth horse, his name and appearance Death, might have been supposed sufficient of itself to indicate that he was the personifi
In the vision of the first Seal the rider, as first seen, held a bow ; then a crown was given him. Agreeably with which, the badge of the bow attached to Nerva from his birth, as being of Cretan family; and of course while yet a mere general in the Roman army, so as during St. John's imprisonment under Domitian. Then presently a crown was given him : he being not born to the empire, and so possessor of the crown, on Domitian's decease, by hereditary right; but presented with it by the senate and army.
In the vision of the second Seal the sword was given to the rider; so as, we have seen, the emperors gave it to the Imperial Lieutenants and Prætorian Prefects. The which receiving it was a distinctive by comparison with the emperors themselves : forasmuch as the latter had of course the power of the sword also ; only this not as presented them by another, but as attached to their imperial office.
Once more, in the vision of the third Seal the balance is spoken of as held by the rider, not given him :-this being a symbol assumed and held forth by the provincial governors themselves.
cation of every destroying power of human life. As if however to guard against the view of him as a mere destroyer of political life, Hades, or the Grave, was seen to follow as his badge; the gaping recipient of the spoil of corpses.'
Such was the conclusive, I may say the extraordinary, evidence, (with above twenty searching tests to try it,) on which our interpretation of these first four Seals rested ; and by them we were brought down, in the Apocalyptic figuration of the fortunes of the Roman Empire, to within a very few years of Diocletian's accession :of Diocletian, the restorer of the fallen and all but dissolved empire; though with a new form of government thenceforward, and under a tetrarchy of emperors, not (as before) imperial monarchy. And still the same conclusive evidence from history attended us in our exposition of the visions of the two Seals remaining. For as, on the fifth prophetic Seal opening, the cry of souls under the altar betokened an era of martyrdom and bloody persecution of Christians, to follow quickly after the mortality of the seal preceding, so we found from history that Diocletian's reign was famous (or rather infamous) for the most terrible, bloody, and effective of all the imperial persecutions of Christianity : insomuch that its æra was named and celebrated in after ages as the “æra of martyrs ;” and that imperial monuments of the day, still extant, boasted its success in the extermination of Christianity.—And whereas the vision of the sixth Seal prefigured, as next to follow, a revolution in the Roman world, whereby the enemies of Christ and their whole supremacy and polity would be swept away, so,
Compare Apoc. xx. 13, “Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them."
Including the emblems of bow, crown, sword, balance,—the several colours of the four horses,-the various characteristic words, both as to the articles of food and the price, addressed to the rider of the black horse,-the different agencies of destruction noted under the fourth horse,-and order of succession of the four symbols.- What would mathematicians say of the probability, on the doctrine of chances, of such a series of things all falling out precisely according to the prediction ?
Mr. Arnold's partial attack on this evidence, since the publication of my lst Edition, compared with my Reply, has I believe only shewn more strikingly in the result, its unimpeachableness and strength.