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of Jesus, and receive (the gospel) a kingdom which cannot be shaken. Consequently, civil or ecclesiastical constitutions, which are opposed to the gospel, and will not be changed so as to admit of its free publication and reception, shall be violently overthrown by the Lord Himself. This overturning is, in the symbolical language of prophecy, “ the shaking of the heavens and of the earth.”
As the imagery and language of the seal are the same as the imagery and language of many prophecies which foretell the calamities and revolutions of states, we are justified in believing, nay, almost compelled to believe, that the Apocalyptic prophecy has its accomplishment in like events.
Let us now examine the seal in connexion with the prophecies which are interwoven with it.
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.
The reference here is to two prophecies of Joel (chap. ii., 10, 31): “ The earth shall quake before them. The sun and the moon shall be dark.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood." 66 The earth shall quake, the sun and moon shall be dark,” are allowed to predict disasters by war. It is not supposed to denote a physical convulsion, as an earthquake, or a change in the heavenly luminaries.
The second, the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, must also foretell national convulsions. It cannot be a prophecy of the awful change which shall take place in this mundane system at the day of judgment, not only because the imagery and the language are the same as the imagery and language of prophecies which foretell national changes, but because whosoever, even in the midst of these convulsions, shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Now, the scriptures do not allow us to believe, that, in the last day, whosoever shall then call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The Judge himself has said it will be then too late to
mercy: • Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works. And then will I
profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.”
Another of the interwoven prophecies is taken from Isaiah, xxxiv. 44" All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree.” The prophecy of Isaiah foretells a visitation or outpouring of Divine vengeance on some noted enemies of the Lord, on “the people of His curse,” and “the
" ” controversy is for Zion.” It cannot possibly predict the general judgment; for the works of art and creation remain long after the destruction of Edom and Idumea. The mountains melt with blood; the cormorant and the bittern possess the ruined state; the owl and the raven dwell in it. Neither are all the inhabitants destroyed, though the survivors are reduced to great proverty and distress—“ They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing." And many of the works of art remain amidst the scene of desolation—" Thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses." Hence, the demolition, continuing through a long tract of time, “the day of vengeance,” of a great system of tyranny is the subject of Isaiah's prophecy. And the scope of the fourth verse appears to be the subversion of a system of pure heathenism, and not of a corrupted Christianity, moulded after a heathen model; for the time of the whole judgment is “the day of vengeance," or " the year of the recompense for the controversy of Zion;" but
" " the day of vengeance” commenced A.D. 66, when no great people had professed Christianity: consequently the judgment would appear to be directed in its early stages against a persecuting heathen power: the seal, therefore, this part of Isaiah's prophecy being made a part of it, will have its accomplishment in the same events.
The scope of the Apocalyptic vision, as thus determined, is fully sustained and confirmed by the other prophecies
| Matthew, vii. ? Mede, in his explanation of the seal, understands the “moon” to represent the heathen Roman priesthood. And we shall have reason to see, in the exposition of the twelfth chapter, that there the moon is the symbol of heathenism.
referred to: they are from Hosea and Isaiah, and foretell the overthrow of heathen idols. “The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed; the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the hills, Cover us, and to the mountains, Fall on us."! And again, from Isaiah—" The idols He shall utterly destroy. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”2
The scene of the visitation, Rev. vi., is the earth, which has been proved to be the Roman empire; the time of it is after the publication and before the establishment of Christianity; and the chronological order of the visions direct us to look for the predicted events, in the history of Rome, either during the latter part of the third or sometime in the fourth century. They are wars, and the fall of a great heathen system of idolatry—the ruin of princes and nobles, and a dreadful fear of the wrath of the Lord. These will be found to be the characteristics of the fall of Roman heathenism in the fourth century.
But before we proceed to the historical illustration it will be necessary to prove, that Roman heathenism was a great religious system. This, we think, will be done, if it be shown, that the religion of Rome was established by the laws, its peculiar rites and worship vigilantly guarded by the magistrate, and enforced by the authority and power of the state, and the affairs of the state, foreign and domestic, made to depend on the established religion.
Numa Pompilius established a regular system of religion, which he pretended to receive by divine revelation from the goddess Egeria: he appointed the priesthood and rites which the gods should be worshipped, and the sources from which the revenues were to be derived in order to support the public worship: he chose a public pontiff, to whom he gave a sealed written law, directing what sacrifices were to be offered, on what days and in what temples the sacred rites should be performed; and he ordered that all matters pertaining to religion,
by both public and private, should be subject to the decision of this public pontiff: so that the people might know to whom they were to resort in every case of doubt and difficulty;t and that the religious rites of their country might be neither neglected nor depraved by foreign mixtures.2
1 Hosea, x. 8.
? Isaiah, ii. 21.
These positive and prohibitory laws of Numa were steadily maintained in their spirit) and rigorously enforced for more than a thousand years; and during that time the Roman gods (that is, the gods approved by the state) were worshipped3 (patrios ritus, patrio more) “after the Roman manner,” or by “Roman rites,” from which all foreign ceremonies were sternly excluded.
Hence, acting on these laws and the constitutional principle embodied in them, Pliny at once put the Christians to death for refusing to worship, by the customary rites, the image of the emperor, and the images of the other Roman gods. And when Diocletian ordered the sacred books and the writings of the Christians to be given up and burned, the ministers of religion to be imprisoned or slain, and churches to be destroyed, he enforced a fundamental principle of the Roman constitution, which required all books pertaining to religion, and every form of worship that was not sanctioned by Rome, to be destroyed. And Galerius, in the edict of toleration that he
1 Livy, b. i. c. xix. p. 20.
2 Ib., “Ne quid divini juris negligendo patrios ritus peregrinosque asciscendo turbaretur."
3“Datum inde negotium ædilibus, ut animadverterent, ne qui nisi Romani dii neu quo alio more quam patrio colerentur.”—Ib. iv. c. 30 ; compare 25, p. 1; 39, p. 16. These laws were made a part of the twelve tables. “ Separatim nemo habessit Deos : neve novos, neve advenas, nisi publice adscitos, privatim colunto.” Thus translated by Warburton—"No man shall worship the gods clandestinely, or have them separately to himself; nor shall any new or foreign gods be worshipped by particulars, till such god hath been legally approved of and tolerated by the magistrate.”—Divine Legation of Moses, b. ii. sec. 6. Compare Dion Cassius, b lii. ; Tacit. An. b. ii. 85.
4 “Quoties hoc patrum avorumque ætate negotium est magistratibus datum ut sacra externa fieri vetarent? Sacrificulos, vatesq. foro, circo, urbe prohiberent? Vaticinos libros conquirerent comburentque? omnem disciplinam sacrificandi præterquam more Romano abolerent?”—“How often in the time of our fathers and ancestors have the magistrates been commanded to forbid the rights of a foreign religion? not to suffer its priest and diviners to come into the forum, the circus, the city? to search for and burn their prophetic books? to abolish every way of sacrificing which was not according to the Roman custom ?”--- Livy, b. xxxix. c. 16 ; iv. 30.
was compelled to issue before his death, alleges “ the ancient laws and constitution of the Romans”l as the reason of his vain attempt to extirpate Christianity.
In short, the whole religion of ancient Romanism was strictly settled and regulated by law, and there was no emergency however sudden and seemingly unexpected which had not been provided for by public authority.
The self-immolation of the consul Decius, in the Latin war, affords an example of this provident forethought and care. His army being almost defeated, he determined to offer himself a propitiatory sacrifice for the salvation of his legions and country. But, as he would offer the sacrifice orderly and in due form only, the public pontiff of the Roman people was summoned to instruct him in the legal manner of sacrificing. And the public pontiff of the Roman people, without a moment's hesitation, amidst the din and tumult of a fierce and adverse battle, told the consul the dress he should wear, the way it should be worn, the posture in which he should stand, and the words to be repeated in devoting himself.?
But a very different order of things is observable among the Greeks ;3 for even in their best policied states many most important matters, with regard to religion, were absolutely undetermined by public authority; and when a difficulty arose, it was left to popular feeling to decide, sometimes one way, sometimes another, and sometimes not at all: and this on occasions when their most important interests were at stake.
1“ Volueramus antehac juxta leges veteres et publicam disciplinam Romanorum cuncta corrigere," &c. &c.—“We wished to correct all things according to the ancient laws and established constitution of the Romans; and that the Christians who had forsaken the religion of their ancestors should return to a right mind.”—Lardner, vol. vii. p. 529.
Livy, b. viii. c. 9; x. 28. 3 The different spirit of the Greek and Roman heathenism can be easily traced in the Scriptures. St. Paul, in preaching the Gospel at Ephesus and other cities, was often exposed to popular violence, but the magistrates protected him because he had violated no law; and the learned Athenians heard him with curiosity and contempt. But matters immediately assumed another aspect as soon as he preached in a Roman colony, governed by the municipal la Rome, and among a people trained in the heathenism of Rome. Here he is at once taken up, accused of teaching "customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans," and he and his friends are scourged and imprisoned by the magistrates.-Acts, xvi. 19, &c.