« السابقةمتابعة »
of the second seal is to be seen distinctly in the fourth century, though its commencement may be fixed from the end of the second century: that the abuses of the third seal did not arrive at their height till the end of the fourth and the be. ginning of the frfth centuries, though their origin may be traced so early as in the second century: and that the persecution of the fourth, though it did not attain its utmost horror till the twelfth century, began in some measure, under the influence of the second seal, with the reign of Constantine ; increased under that of Theodosius; and seems to have been in positive existence, at least so far as edicts in favour of persecution are concerned, under that of Honorius. The cry of the martyrs, described in the fifth seal, he supposes to be the cry of all those who have suffered in the cause of Christ, whether by the instrumentality of pagans or papists. And their cry is at length heard, and produces the opening of the sirth seal, which ushers in the arful day of general retribution. The Archdeacon argues, and I think with 'much appearance of reason, that the rider of the third seal does not carry a pair of balances (as we read in our common translation), but a yoke, expressive of that spiritual bondage, which commenced indeed in the second century, but was fully matured by the agents of Popery: and, agreeably' to this exposition, he conceives the dearth to be, “not a famine of bread nor a thirst of water, but “ of hearing the word of the Lord.” '; Let us now see, whether an interpretation of the seuls cannot be given, founded upon the Archdeacon's own principle of homogeneity, and yet according with what I believe to be the right chronological arrangement of the Apocalypse.
I am not aware, that we are necessarily bound to supposé that each apocalyptic period terminates precisely when another commences. St. John indeed expressly tells us, that the first wòe ceases before the second begins, and that the second ceases before the third begins: whence we must conclude, that the three periods of the three last trumpets are not only sucessive, but that each entirely expires before the commencement of another. Respecting the duration of all the other periods he is totally silent: whence, although we are obliged to suppose them successive in point of commencement, it is by
no means equally clear that we are obliged to look upon one as terminated when another begins. As far as induction goes, we may rather infer the contrary: for it seems needless for the Apostle so carefully to inform us, that each woe terminates before its successor commences, if such were likewise the case with every other apocalyptic period. We may conclude then, that the influence both of each seal and of each vial probably extends into the peculiar period of its successor.
On these grounds, suppose we say, with the Archdeacon, that the first seal represents the age of primitive christianity : that the second represents that of fiery zeal without knowledge, commencing towards “the end of the second century when “ the western rulers of the Church, and the wise and mode« rate Irenèus, were seen to interpose and exhort the furious * bishop of Rome to cultivate Christian peace," and extending so far as to include the schism of the Donatists and the bitter fruits of the Arian controversy: and that the third represents that of spiritual bondage and religious dearth, which began like its predecessor in the second century, but extends through all the worst periods of popery. Suppose we further say, slightly varying from the Archdeacon, that the fourth exhibits to us what may emphatically be termed the age of persecution, not indeed of persecution inflicted by the Church, but of persecution suffered by the Church. This may be conceived to comnience about the year 302 or 304 with the dreadful and general persecution of Diocletian. Other persecutions indeed there had been before this; but none either of equal violence or of equal extent, none under which the Church could appear so emphatically subject to the powers of death and hell, none under which the slaughter was so great as to cause the symbolical horse to assume a hue pale and livid-green like that of a half putrid corpse *. The consequences both of all the
other persecutions, and we may suppose peculiarly of the Diocletian one, are exhibited to us under the fifth seal. St. John beholds the souls of the martyrs under the altar, and hears them crying with a loud voice for the just vengeance
of heaven against their persecutors. Their prayer is heard, and is in a measure answered under the sixth scal; though it will not be completely answered until the great day of retribution, “ until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that « should be killed as they were,” in subsequent days of popish bigotry, “ should be fulfilled.” The sixth seal is opened ; and, at the very time when the affairs of the Church appear at the lowest ebb, the reign of persecuting paganism is suddenly brought to an end, and christianity is publicly embraced and supported by Constantine. This great revolution is pourtrayed indeed under images borrowed from the day of judgment: but, although the Archdeacon applies the sixth seal literally to the day of judgment itself, he is too skilful a biblical, critic not to know that the very images which it exhibits are repeatedly used by the ancient prophets and even by our Lord himself describe the fates of empires. The reason some measure at least to be this: the downfall of any false religion or of any untichristian empire may be considered as an apt type of the last day, when retribution will be fully dealt out to all the enemies of God *.
The first seal then exhibits the Church of a spotless white colour, and under the influence of a heavenly rider. The second exhibits her of a red colour, and under the influence of a spirit of fiery zeal and internal discord. The third ex
" were two eye-witnesses, have written large accounts of it. Orosius asserts " that this persecution was longer and more cruel than all the past ; for it
raged incessantly for ten years by burning the churches, proscribing the
innocent, and slaying the martyrs. Sulpicius Severus too describes it as “ the most bitter persecution, which for ten years together depopulated the
people of God; at which time all the world almost was stained with the * sacred blood of the martyrs, and was never more exhausted by any wars. * So that this became a memorable era-to the Christians, under the name of - the era of Di ian, or as it is otherwise called the era of martyrs.” Bp. Newton's Dissert. on Seal V.
* See Mede, Bp. Newton, and the Archdeacon.
hibits her as changed to black, and beginning to be subjected to a grievous yoke of will-worship and to experience ihe herror of a spiritual famine. The fourth exhibits her under the last and most dreadful persecution of paganism, as having assumed a livid cadaverous hue, as bestridden by death, and pursued by bell, as experiencing the excision of a fourth part of her members throughout the whole apocalyptic earth or the Roman empire, and we may add as falling into danger of the second death through constrained apostasy. The fifth exhibits to us the souls of the martyrs; and represents their blood, like that of Abel, as crying to God for vengeance upon
their persecutors. And the sixth symbolically describes the overthrow of paganism and the establishment of christianity.
The seventh seul introduces the septenary of the trumpets. We are now arrived at the days of Constantine : but St. Paul had predicted, that a great apostasy should take place, and that a power which he styles the man of sin should be revealed, after he that letted, or the Western Roman empire, had been taken out of the way. In exact accordance with this prophecy of St. Paul, St. John proceeds to describe under the four first trumpets the removal of him that letted; and then, at the sounding of the fifth, the great apostasy in both its branches commences in the self-same year, and the man of sin is revealed.
Such is the interpretation, which I give of this part of the Apocalypse, and which appears to me to accord better with its probable chronological arrangement than that brought. forward by the Archdeacon.
2. After my general objections to the Archdeacon's arrangement, it may be almost superfluous to state, that, if there be any cogency in those objections, bis application of the fifth trumpet or the first woe to the Gnostics must be deemed inadmissible. Yet, since he has objected to the common exposition of this trumpet as relating to the rise of Mohammedism and and the ravages of the Sarucens, it may be expedient to say a few words on the subject.
The Archdeacon supposes, that the sixth trumpet or the second woe does not relate exclusively to the Turks, as most modern commentators have imagined, but to all the professors
of Mohammedism, Saracens as well as Turks; and consequently that it begins to sound in the year 606, whence the rise of Mohammedism is most properly dated. Such an exposition of the two first woes does not seem to me to accord with the Archdeacon's own very excellent principle of homogeneity. In addition to tie fifth and sixth trumpets being alike styled woes, the prophecies contained under each of them bear a most striking resemblance to each other, insomuch that there is nothing else in the whole Apocalypse that is at all similar either to the one or to the other of them. Yet, besides their being represented as successive and as constituting two distinct woes, there is a sufficient degree of difference between them to shew plainly that they cannot relate precisely to the same people and the same event. Now, independent of the Gnostics not harmonizing with the chronology of the Apocalypse (if there be any force in my general objection), I cannot but think homogeneity violated by referring the one prophecy to the Gnostics and the other to the Mohammedans. There is a greater difference between the actions of the Gnostics and the actions of the Mohammedans, than the obvious similarity of the two predictions will warrant; and at the same time there is a less striking resemblance between their principles, than the predictions seem to require. The actions of the Gnostics and the actions of the Mohammedans were totally unlike; and I can see no reason why the principles of the Gnostics should be thought to resemble those of the Mohammedans more than the principles of many other Christian heretics. ut, in the case of the Saracens and the Turks, we exactly find at once the required similarity and the required dissimilarity: and, while homogeneity is thus preserved inviolate, the chronology of the Apocalypse (supposing it to be, as I have attempted to prove it to be, one continued vision) remains perfectly unbroken. With so much in favour of Mede's interpretation, I cannot feel my faith in it
shaken by the Archdeacon's objections. I fully agree with : him, that the fallen star of the fifth trumpet cannot mean Mohammed: but this objection is removed by the interpretation which I have given of it. His three next objections do not seem to me insurmountable. The symbolical darkness of the