Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

followed with him. And power and with death and with the was given unto them over the beasts of the earth. fourth part of the earth, to kill 9 And when he had opened with sword, and with hunger, the fifth seal, I saw under the

widely death would be occasioned by and devour the wounded and the In these evils. War and famine pro- slain. In fine, we esteem it neces

duced “pestilence that wasteth at sary to add only, under this verse, noon-day.” Pestilence, like the chol. that it represents, more forcibly than era for instance, or the plague, may either of the preceding, the scourges well be represented by death, the that were to fall upon the Jews. king of terrors. On such occasions Well did Jesus weep before Jerudeath seems to ride fearfully among salem, in view of the calamities that the people, and hell, or the grave, were impending over it. follows with him. In the parallel- 9. As there were but four beasts, isms of the Old Testament death and these had all spoken at the openand hades are frequently conjoined, ing of the first four seals, so there is “ Like sheep they are laid in the none represented as speaking at the grave; death shall feed on them ;'' opening of the fifth, sixth and seventh Psa. xlix. 14. “Let death seize seals. |Souls of them that were slain. upon them, and let them go down - John saw under the altar the souls quick into hell," hades, the grave; of them that were slain for the word

Idem, lv. 15. We refrain from further of God, &c. This agrees with Rev. e quotations. Death is personified by xx. 4, where the martyrs, notwith

several of the sacred writers. See standing they had been killed, are Job xxviii. 22; Hos. xiii. 14; Hab. said to have lived and reigned with ii. 5; 1 Cor. xv. 55. si o death, Christ a thousand years.

It is a bold where is thy sting? O grave, where prosopopeia, as in the case of the is thy victory ?" We can make no blood of Abel crying unto God from great distinction here between death the ground; Gen. iv. 10. The marand hades, hell, translated the grave. tyrs were before the altar, or at the So when it is said, “his name that base of it, where the faithful are said sat on him was Death, and hell fol- to stand; Rev. vii. 9, 14. Souls do lowed with him," we judge it to mean not signify absolutely spirits in a disnothing more than that death and embodied state. Nothing is more destruction marked the path of the common in the Scriptures than the pale horse. [ Power was given unto use of the word souls for persons. them. - It was a wide power too, Paul said, “We were all in the ship power over the fourth part of the two hundred three score and sixteen land, to kill with sword, and with souls ;" Acts xxvii. 37. Peter, hunger, and with the beasts of the speaking of the ark, said, “Wherein earth. Does this mean that a quarter few, that is eight souls, were saved part of the people were to be cut off by water;" 1 Pet. iii. 20. The imby the scourges here referred to? port of the verse before us is, then, Death reigned with fearful power. that the revelator saw under the altar Sword and famine were the principal those who had been slain. | The agencies by which he executed his testimony which they held They were will. But to these were to be added slain for their adherence to Christ. 6 the beasts of the earth." This is The word “held” here means, held manifestly a reference to Ezek. xiv. fast. The Christians were exhorted 21, quoted above. If wild beasts, to hold fast the profession of their and not ferocious men, be intended, faith without wavering; Heb. x. 23. they follow in the course of an army, 'This exposed them to persecution

[ocr errors]

1

altar the souls of them that were blood on them that dwell on the slain for the word of God, and earth? for the testimony which they 11 And white robes were held :

given unto every one of them ; 10 And they cried with a. and it was said unto them, that loud voice, saying, How long, they should rest yet for a little O Lord, holy and true, dost season, until their fellow-serthou not judge and avenge our vants also and their brethren, and to death. Jesus pre-accused the ye scourge in your synagogues, and Jews of these things. “Wherefore, persecute them from city to city : behold, I send unto you prophets, and that upon you may come all the wise men, and scribes; and some of righteous blood shed upon the earth, them ye shall kill and crucify, and from the blood of righteous Abel, some of them shall ye scourge in your unto the blood of Zecharias, son of synagogues, and persecute them from Barachias, whom ye slew between city to city; Matt. xxiii. 34. Warn- the temple and the altar. Verily, I ing to a similar effect was given to say unto you, All these things shall the disciples : “ Then shall they de- come upon this generation." Ven. liver you up to be afflicted, and shall geance was not taken upon them at kill you; and ye shall be hated of all once for their iniquities; they were to nations for my name's sake;" Matt. "fill up the measure” of their fathers, xxiv. 9.

(Matt. xxiii. 32,) and then they 10. How long, O Lord. — The mar- should be fully punished. At the tyrs are represented as waiting im- time the revelator referred to, under patiently for God to avenge himself the fifth seal, the measure was not upon those who had shed their blood ; filled up. It seemed long to those intending nothing more than the Jews who suffered, and whose friends had should be judged for their murders of been slain. The Jews seemed to the Christians, but that their punish- them sufficiently ripe for judgment; ment was for a short time delayed; the measure seemed to be full ; but and this delay to judge and punish in the wisdom of God, it was best to might create some discontent and forbear yet longer. When the measimpatience. The words of discontent ure of wickedness was full in the are placed in the minds of the mur. sight of God, then the Jews should be dered Christians, who, by a bold signally punished. They should be figure, are represented as inquiring visited with a retribution so signal, how long this delay was to be con- that it should appear to all the world tinued. The time had not come for the hand of the Lord was in it. It the judgment to take place.

should surely come on that generation, 11. White robes. — Bat the martyrs before all who were then on the earth were honored in the sight of God, should pass away. And here it may though their enemies were not then not be improper to observe, that the fully punished. White robes were dreadful punishments which are pregiven to the former as signs of ap- figured in the succeeding verses probation and honor ; and for a little were the punishments that were to season they should rest, until their fall upon the Jews, in consequence fellow-servants should be killed, and of their long continued rebellion then their wishes should be fulfilled. against God, and determined perse. How readily does this bring to mind cutions of his church. But even in the language of Jesus in Matt. xxiii. the midst of the deepest persecutions, 34–36: "Some of them ye shall kill the martyrs, and all who suffered for and crucify, and some of them shall righteousness' sake, should be hon.

1

that should be killed as they and the sun became black as were, should be fulfilled. sackcloth of hair, and the moon

12 And I beheld when he became as blood : had opened the sixth seal, and 13 And the stars of heaven lo, there was a great earthquake; fell unto the earth, even as a ored in the sight of all good men. civil commotions, in the metaphorical All these things were to happen dur- style of the sacred writers. See Rev. ing that generation.

viii. 5; xi. 13, 19; xvi. 18. See, 12. The sixth seal. The events also, Isa. ii. 19; xiii. 13; Joel iii. 16; under the sixth seal are described Haggai ii. 6, 21; and many other under the most glowing imagery. places. This style is carried into The ancients were remarkable for the New Testament, and used both this style of writing. It seems wild by Christ and his apostles; Heb. and extravagant to men in this age. xii. 26, 27. | Sun became black as There is nothing, however, more sackcloth of hair.— Cloth woven of certain, than that changes in heaven black hair is of a deep blackness. and on earth — among the heavenly Sackcloth was often of hair; it was bodies and among the hills and moun- very coarse — of a deep black; and tains were used by the Jewish was worn, therefore, in seasons of prophets to describe political or na- trouble. The sun became black in tional changes, the building up or the revelator's imagination. In re. the overthrow of nations. Bishop ality, such a thing never happened; Lowth says, “ The Hebrew poets, to but we have already asserted the express happiness, prosperity, the in- fact, in the language of Bishop stauration and advancement of states, Lowth, (which is given as a sample kingdoms and potentates, make use of what might be quoted from many of images taken from the most strik- authors,) that the Jews were in the ing parts of nature, from the heav- habit of representing great changes enly bodies, from the sun, moon, and on earth, by changes in the heavenly stars; which they describe as shining bodies. The heavens sometimes, in with increased splendor, and never their descriptions, are covered with setting; the moon becomes like the blackness, as when a terrific cloud, meridian sun, and the sun's light is shutting from our vision half the augmented seven fold ; (see Isaiah hemisphere, arises with fearsul vixxx. 26,) new heavens and a new olence, heaven seems as if it were earth are created, and a brighter age about to expend itself in wrath upon

On the contrary, the the earth. See 1 Kings xviii. 45; overthrow and destruction of king- Isa. 1.3; Jer. iv. 28. | Moon became doms, is represented by opposite im- as blood. — This is precisely the style ages: the stars are obscured, the in which the prophets foretold the moon withdraws her light, and the destruction of Jerusalem. " The sun shines no more; the earth quakes earth shall quake before them ; the and the heavens tremble, and all heavens shall tremble; the sun and things seem tending to their original the moon shall be dark, and the stars chaos.” —(Note on Isaiah xiii. 10.) shall withdraw their shining;” Joel | A great earthquake. Our Lord, in ii. 10. « The sun shall be turned into his prophecy of the destruction of darkness, and the moon into blood, Jerusalem, associated earthquakes before the great and the terrible day with famines and pestilences ; Matt. of the Lord come ;" 31. See, also, xxiv. 7; Mark xiii. 8; Luke xxi. 11. Matt. xxiv. 29, quoted below. Earthquakes, or shaking of the earth, 13. Stars of heaven fell. — This, are frequently put for moral and I also, is precisely in the prophetic

commences.

fig-tree casteth her untimely 14 And the heaven departed figs, when she is shaken of a as a scroll when it is rolled tomighty wind.

gether; and every mountain

style. Ezek. xxxii. 7; Daniel viii. events attending the destruction of 10; Joel ii. 10; iii. 15. It repre- Jerusalem ; and taken in connecsented civil or political commotions. tion with the preceding signs of The metaphor of stars falling like war, pestilence and famine, the figs from a tree was used by Isaiah whole seems to denote, beyond a to represent the fall of the powers of doubt, that it is that event which is Idumea ; xxxiv. 4, 5. See below. spoken of in the sixth chapter of Rev.

14. Heaven departed as a scroll. elations. Such, also, are almost the The metaphor here, also, is from precise terms in which the prophet Isaiah ; see the verse last quoted. describes the destruction of Idumea. The metaphors in the 12th, 13th and See Isaiah 34th chap. " All the host 14th verses are clearly a description of heaven shall be dissolved, and the of the events that attended the de- heavens shall be rolled together as a struction of Jerusalem; and are given scroll, and all their host (viz., the almost precisely in the language that stars] shall fall down as the leaf our Lord applied to that event, and falleth from the vine, and as a falling that ancient prophecy applied to the fig from the fig-tree;" Isa. xxxiv. 4. temporal judgments that God sent And yet all this splendid imagery is upon rebellious countries. In Matt. expressly said by the prophet to refer xxiv. 29, we read, “Immediately to the destruction of Idumea, ver. 5. after the tribulation of those days, We cannot forbear quoting the fol. [referring to the tribulation of wars, lowing very intelligent remarks from pestilences and famines, of which he Dr. Lightfoot, on the whole series of had been speaking,] shall the sun be events mentioned under the six seals : darkened, and the moon shall not “ The opening of the six seals in this give her light, and the stars shall fall chapter speaks the ruin and rejection from heaven, and the powers of the of the Jewish nation, and the desoheavens shall be shaken. Now, no lation of their city, which is now very intelligent commentator of the pres- near at hand. The first seal opened ent day has any doubt, that in the shows Christ setting forth in battle use of these splendid metaphors, our array and avengement against them, Lord was speaking of the destruction as Psa. xli. 4, 5. And this the New of Jerusalem. " That event took Testament speaketh very much and place “immediately after the tribula- very highly of; one while calling it tion of those days;" and in verse 34 his coming in clouds,' – another it is said, “This generation shall not while, his coming in his kingdom,' pass till all these things be fulfilled.” - and sometimes, his coming in Now look at the passage in the sixth power and great glory ;' and the like. of Revelations, and see if there be Because his plaguing and destroying not changes in the sun, moon and of the nation that crucified him, that

“ The sun became black as so much opposed and wrought mischief sackcloth of hair, and the moon be- against the gospel, was the first evicame as blood, and the stars of heav- dence that he gave in sight of all the en fell upon the earth, even as a fig-world of his being Christ; for, till tree casteth her untimely figs, when then, he, and his gospel, had been in she is shaken of a mighty wind," humility, as I may say, as to the eyes and the heaven departed as a scroll, of men, - he persecuted whilst he &c. These are the very figures em- was on earth, and they persecuted ployed by our Lord to describe the l after him, and no course taken with

stars.

a main

and island were moved out of 15 And the kings of the their places.

earth, and the great men,

and them that so used both; but now he 16,1 «They shall say to the rocks, awakes, shows himself, and makes Fall on us,' &c., doth not only warhimself known by the judgment rant, but even enforce us to underthat he executeth. The three next stand and construe these things in the seals opening, shows the means by sense that we do; for Christ applies which he did destroy, namely, those these very words to the very same three sad plagues that had been thing ; Luke xxiii. 30. And here is threatened so oft, and so sure, by another, and to me a very satisfactory the prophets, 'sword, famine, and reason, why to place the showing of pestilence. The second seal opened, these visions to John, and his writing sends out one upon a red horse, to of this book, before the desolation of take peace from the earth, and that Jerusalem.” -(Harmony of the New men should destroy one another ; he Testament, Works, Milman's Ed., iii. carried a great “sword. The third 335–337.) | Every mountain and seal opening, speaks of famine, when island. The mountains are usually corn for scarcity should be weighed places of strength and security. Lot like spicery in a pair of balances. was advised to escape to the mounThe fourth seal sends out one on a tains from the fires of Sodom and pale horse, whose name was Death. Gomorrah ;. Gen. xix. 17. Jesus diThe opening of the fifth seal reveals rected his disciples, at the time of the

cause of the vengeance, destruction of Jerusalem, to "flee unto namely, the blood of the saints which the mountains ;'' Matt. xxiv. 16. But had been shed, crying, and which to signify times of great commotion was to be required of that generation. and distress, the very mountains are These souls are said to cry from un- moved. To express a high state of der the altar, either in allusion to the joy, the mountains and hills are blood of creatures sacrificed, poured sometimes personified. The mounat the foot of the altar, or according tains “skipped like rams, and the to the Jews' tenet, that all just souls little hills like lambs ;" Psa. cxiv. 6. departed are under the throne of " Praise the Lord, mountains and all glory. Answer to their cry is given, hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars;" that the number of their brethren cxlviii. 9. See also Isa. xliv. 23; that were to be slain was not yet ful- xlix. 13; lv. 12. But to denote the filled ; and they must rest till that overthrow of nations, princes, leadshould be; and then avengement in jers, governments, the mountains are their behalf should

This melted, shaken, thrown down. God speaks suitable to that which we ob- touches the mountains and they served lately, that now times were smoke; Psa. cxliv. 5. The day of the begun of bitter persecution, an hour Lord is upon all the mountains and of temptation, the Jews and devil the hills that are lifted up, (Isa. ii. 14,) raging, till the Lord should some where they seem to be put for proud thing cool that fury by the ruin of men. They are put for the leaders that people. The opening of the of Israel, Ezek. vi. 2, 3 ; xxxvi. 1, 8. sixth seal (ver. xii. 13] shows the To show the overthrow of these leaddestruction itself, in those borrowed ers, there is great confusion in the terms that the Scripture useth to ex- mountains. They “tremble," Jer. press it by, namely, as if it were the vi. 24; they “quake,” Nah. i. 5; destruction of the whole world ; the they are “thrown down." Ezek. sun darkened, the stars falling, the xxxviii. 20; they are “ removed," heaven departing, and the earth dis- Isa. liv. 10; they “ melt,” Isa. xxxiv. solved; and that conclusion, (ver. 13; lxiv. 1 ; Micah i. 4; Nah. i. 5. When

[ocr errors]

come.

« PreviousContinue »