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scarcity; and the proclamation for justice and judgment, and for the procuration of corn, oil, and wine, is fitly made by a creature like a man. This period continued during the reigns of the Septimian family --about forty-two years.
This exposition Vitringa has confuted in his preface to the seals; and, in treating on this particular seal, he adds as follows: “Etsi id recte monuit Medus, emblema hoc esse Judicii publici, de annonâ statuentis. Sed quam ille frigide de cura annona temporaria, quam hi imperatores susceperun , simul instituit exponere! Sane si majora et graviora his sigillis non contineantur, quam inter aliâ imperatores quosdam Romanos annonam temporariam rite curaturos esse; eritne quod tanti hanc Revelationem faciat Ecclesia ?” He then proceeds to explain the scarcity to be not of temporal goods, but of spiritual blessings; and refers the period of this scarcity to the times, beginning with Constantine, and continued to the ninth century: and he instances in the feuds and divisions of the Church, when during the turbulent factions and bloody wars, occasioned by the heresies of the Donatists, Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, &c. the doctrine of evangelical truth became scarce. There is no great difference in this interpretation from that given above; and the learned reader will perhaps determine, that the feuds and wars are intended to be prefigured under the fire-coloured horse of the second seal; and that the emblems of this third seal, and the black horse, more exactly depicture the ignorance and darkness as to true religion, of the middle ages succeeding.
From the ancient commentators we have no assistance of any value in the exposition of this seal ; they apply it to the lapsed under persecution, in their own times, without any warrant to do so.
The opening of the fourth Seal.
CHAP. vi. ver. 7, 8.
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.
Ver. 8. A pale horse.] Xlwpoc, in the received translation rendered by the adjective pale, is used in the Greek Scriptures, io express the colour of grassygreen; i which though beautiful in the clothing of the trees and fields, is very unseemly, disgusting, and even horrible when it appears upon flesh; for it is there the livid colour of corruption. In my translation, I have therefore expressed intos xiwpos, with
he additional epithet of livid green: the paleness is of that character. By Homer, the epithet xlwpoç is applied to fear, (Odyss. M. 243.) as expressive of that green paleness which overspreads the human face on the seizure of that passion: and the epithet pale, may be adequate to express this colour, as affecting the human face, but seems unequal to convey the force of xawpos when applied to this ghastly horse.
1 See Rev. ix. 4, and Gen. ii. 5, in the Greek of the Septuagint.
There is a sublime climax, or scale of terrific imagery, exhibited in the colours of the horses in the four first seals, denoting, as I understand them, the progressive character of the Christian times, from its pure beginning, to its greatest corruption. It begins with pure white; then changes to fiery and vengeful; then to black, or mournful; and when we suppose that nothing more dreadful in colour can appear, then comes another gradation still more terrific, even this deadly pale : and the imagery is scriptural as well as sublime, and a striking resemblance to it may be observed in the following poetical passage : “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, their polishing was of sapphire. Their visage is blacker than a coal, (Heb. darker than blackness.) They are not known in the streets ; their skin cleaveth to their bones, it is withered. Such a gradation was there also, from heavenlypure, to foul and horrible, in the Christian church.
Death.] This grisly king of terrors, so mounted, is very different from the benign Conqueror, who came forth on the opening of the first seal, seated on the white horse. Yet his person is not described ; his name only is given, and the picture is left to be supplied by the imagination of the reader, where, (such is the natural horror of dissolution,) he stands delineated in terrible appearance. Death is personified frequently in Scripture, as an invader, a conqueror, an enemy, a king. Such he now appears, in formidable power.
Hell.] Death, in his victorious career, is followed by Hell; for a description of which, in conjunction with Death, see note, ch. i. 18. When Death and Hell are spoken of as acting together, the utmost destruction and desolation are implied. (See Prov. v. 5; Song Sol. viii. 6; Is. v. 13, 14.) Consequently, the period of the fourth seal is a period of great slaughter and devastation. But in the metaphorical language of Scripture, these are not confined to act upon the lives of men only, but extend their destructive influence over whatever may tend to make life happy; and it is the most dire work of Death and Hell, to destroy in the heart of man those seeds of religion which are there planted to grow up unto eternal life. It is in this sense that Sardis is said to be dead. (Ch. iii. 1.) Persons, in whom the spiritual life in Christ is extinct, are said to be in the shadow of death ; and they who promote this extinction in themselves and others, are called “ children of Hell :” and the recovery of such persons to true religion, is described as a resurrection from the dead. (Matt. iv. 16; Luke i. 79; Ezek. xxxvii.) Conformably to these images, Death and Hell, under this seal, are described as making ravage not only on the natural lives, but on the spiritual lives of men, by eradicating the vital principle of pure religion.
The Christian religion, which had begun its benign progress in white array, and under the guidance of apostolic teachers, is now not only so changed in colour and appearance, as to be scarcely discernible as the same; but is under the direction of deadly and infernal agents, who delight to destroy in her all that remains of primitive purity.
Over the fourth part of the earth.] This is the only passage in the prophecy in which a fourth part of the earth is mentioned; the third part of this, and of other objects, frequently occurs. It may perhaps be found, that the Christian countries which underwent the rage of this seal, bore this proportion to the remainder. The dark ignorance, corruption, and oppression of Christian liberty, under the third seal, extended generally throughout the Christian world; but the slaughter and devastation (which remain to be described in the following note) reached only to certain parts.
To kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.] These will be found the same with “ the four sore judgments of God,” denounced against a sinful land by the prophet Ezekiel, (ch. xiv. 21.) Let the learned reader compare this passage with the Greek of the Septuagint, and he will acknowledge the resemblance, if not the identity, He will perhaps think also that the expression ev depò would be better rendered with famine; and he will be aware that the word Oavatos should be translated pestilence, in which sense it is used by the prophet, as it is also in more than thirty places beside, by the Septuagint translators, to express the word 737, pestis, (see Trommii Concord.) Pestilence, being in an extraordinary degree deadly, obtained the general name of death.
These then being the four sore judgments of God, are to be understood as such, (and also because the number four implies universality or completion,) to contain all kinds of devastation and destruction ; and these are let loose under this seal upon a fourth of the Christian world. Under the second and third seal they had begun to appear, but in the fourth their united force is exerted to ravage all before them; for, to speak without metaphor, when (under the second seal) uncharitable controversies and ambitious animosities had banished that peace which true religion cannot fail to promote; and dark ignorance and superstition, and domineering priestcraft (under the third seal) had fixed a burdensome yoke on the necks of the disciples, and made pure Christian knowledge of difficult attainment, then greater evils naturally ensued. Ignorance became blind submission, and priestcraft advanced into civil tyranny. Thus, under the fourth seal, “ the mystery