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and inexpressible tortures; and some were sent to the mines to draw out the remains of a miserable life in poverty and bondage."
“In the second year of this horrible persecution, the 304th of the Christian era, a fourth edict was published by Diocletian, at the instigation of Galerius, and the other inveterate enemies of the Christian name. By it the magistrates were ordered and commissioned to force all Christians, without distinction of rank or sex, to sacrifice to the gods, and were authorized to employ all sorts of torments, in order to drive them to this act of apostacy. The diligence and zeal of the Roman magistrates, in the execution of this inhuman edict, had like to have proved fatal to the Christian cause.
The Diocletian persecution ended in the ruin of its authors, the fall of heathenism, and of all its great supporters. These events, we shall now proceed to show, are the subject of the next seal.
I See note E at the end of the vol.
The language of the Seal—its meaning—the scope of the Prophecy—the time and
place of the Predicted Events—the dismay of the enemies of the Lord.
“ And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind: and the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places: and the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and
, the chief captains hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth
the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ?”
This seal plainly foretells a great judgment and convulsion, but it is disputed, whether the language is symbolical or literal; whether a convulsion of nature and the general judgment are predicted, or a revolution in a state, causing the ruin of princes and nobles, and filling the enemies of religion with a dreadful fear of the Lord.
As the foregoing and subsequent prophecies are generally admitted to be symbolical, and to represent successive or synchronical events which come to pass long before the day of judgment, the order, structure, and contents of the other prophecies seem to require that the language of this vision should be understood symbolically, and that the events which fulfil it, should be found in the same historical sequence. And I cannot but think it will be difficult to prove what is asserted, that a prediction of the final judgment, expressed in literal terms, has
been placed in the middle of a series of prophecies, all of which shall have been fulfilled centuries before the last day. This does not appear probable, and it is certainly not required by the language of the seal: for, the inhabitants of the earth and those only, who are in terror of the Lord and devoid of hope, being mentioned, a partial judgment which is to fall upon some special enemies of the Lord, seems to be predicted. As, however, some maintain the general judgment to be the scope of the vision, the satisfactory mode of determining the question appears to be, 1. To ascertain the meaning of similar language in other prophecies; 2. The scope of the prophecies which are interwoven with the seal.
Before I engage in this investigation, the following general explanation given by Sir Isaac Newton and Bishop Warburton, of the symbolical language of prophecy may be referred to:
Sir Isaac Newton says: “ The figurative language of the prophets is taken from the analogy between the world natural, and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politick. Accordingly, the whole world natural, consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politick, consisting of thrones or kingdoms, or so much of them as is considered in the prophecy; and the things in that world, signify the analagous things in this. For the heavens and the things in them, signify thrones and dignities, and the earth with the things thereof, the inferior people. Great earthquakes, or the shaking of heaven and earth, are put for the shaking of kingdoms, so as to destroy or overturn them; the sun, for the whole species of kings in the world politick
Stars for subordinate princes and great men; and for bishops and rulers of the people of God, when the sun is Christ.”
And, in like manner, Bishop Warburton: “ The second kind (of the symbolick language of scripture) which answers to the tropical or hieroglyphical, is the calling emperors, kings, and nobles by the names of the heavenly luminaries, the sun, and the moon, and the stars: their temporary disasters or entire overthrow by eclipses or extinctions; the destruction of the nobility by stars falling from heaven; hostile invasions by thunders and tempestuous winds; the leaders of an army, conquerors, or founders of empires, by lions, bears, leopards, and goats. In
a word, the prophetic style seems to be a speaking hieroglyphic.”—Divine Legation of Moses, b. iv. s. 4, vol. iv. p. 62.
. Hence Milton's allusion, as Bishop Hurd has observed:
66 from behind the moon,
Shakspeare calls the nobility “stars :"
“Now, now, ye stars, that move in your right spheres,
King John-last scene.
We shall now proceed to ascertain the meaning of the language by its use in other prophecies.
The prophet Jeremiah represents the calamities impending over Judah, by the earth being reduced to chaos, the darkening of the heavenly luminaries, the trembling of the mountains, and the moving of the hills, or by a great and general convulsion of nature. “I beheld the earth, and lo! it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and lo! they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly." This, as appears from the following verses, is a prophecy, in symbolical language, of the destruction of cities, and the desolation of a land: “I beheld, and lo! a fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger. For thus hath the Lord said, the whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black."
The subversion of the Babylonish monarchy is thus foretold by Isaiah: “ The stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light: The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not give her light to shine. I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place.
Behold, I will stir up the Medes against
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah."1
The same figurative language, and in the same sense, is found in almost all the prophets. “Thus, saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come. I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them, and their horses and riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother."2
In these prophecies of Haggai, the shaking of the heavens and the earth signify the subversion of earthly polities. St. Paul quotes the first, to prove that the Mosaic dispensation would be removed : “ Whose voice then shook the earth? but now he hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” And this word, yet once more, signifies the removing of those things, that’ are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things that cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom, that cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
The tabernacle or temple, with its service, was an essential and necessary part of the Mosaic law, so far forth, as it was an instituted form of national religion, and distinguished from the light of nature, or the religion of the patriarchs; but the tabernacle was a pattern, and made with hands (Heb. c. viž., ix.); consequently the law was of the things that are made. The apostle's reasoning, then, is,—the shaking of the heavens and of the earth, signifies the removal of things that are shaken, as of things that are made; but the Mosaic dispensation is of the things that are made, therefore it must be removed. Further, this shaking must extend to all nations, so that the Desire of all nations may come; that is, that they may hear the voice
1 Isa. xiii. 10, 13, 16, 19. Compare Ezek. xxxii. 7. 2 Hagai, ii. 7, 21, 22. Compare Joel, ii. 10, 30, 31; iii. 15; Ezek. xxxii. 7. 3 Heb. xii. 26, &c.