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Rev. vi. 1, 2. “ And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I
heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse : and he that sat on him had a bow ; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer."
In inquiring, on a former occasion, into the import of those mysterious emblems, the four living creatures, which St. John, admitted into the visions of heaven, beheld “in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne,” of the Divine glory, we were engaged but with the scenery of the heavenly temple, the description of which is, as it were, preparatory to the unfolding of the prophetic visions themselves. The opening of those prophetic scenes is in the chapter before us. In the preceding chapter St. John had told us, that he “saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals;"-a book which none “in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, was able to open, neither to look thereon," until “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David,” “prevailed to open the book, and to loose
The Book with seven Seals. [LECT. the seven seals thereof.” “ And I beheld,” says St. John, “and, lo, in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders," —the four and twenty elders whose thrones encircled the throne of the Uncreated Majesty,—“stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth 2.”
It will be recollected that to the prophet Daniel, in the days of elder revelation, it had been said, “ But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end;" “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end 3.” But now the Great Prophet had appeared in the midst of His Church; and “the mystery which ” had “ been hid from ages and generations,” was henceforth more and more fully to be “made manifest to his saints*;"—even that great “mystery which from the beginning of the world” had “been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the princi
2 Rev. v. 6—10.
.: Dan. xii. 4. 9.
4 Col. i. 26.
195 palities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord 5." To Him it was given to unfold before His Church all the mysterious roll of prophecy, and to loose its seals in order: and it is the opening of the first of the seven which is described in the words before us. “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four living creatures saying, Come and see.”
It will be observed that, at the opening of each of the first four seals, the attention of St. John is called to the unfolding vision by the voice of one of the four living creatures, one after another calling him thus to “Come and see.” It would appear from this, as if these four seals formed, in some sense, a whole; something, we may suppose, embracing, in a manner, the whole circuit of the dominion and operation of God's universal Providence in this lower world. I had occasion before to observe, in reference to the fourfold symbols which St. John beheld encircling and supporting the Divine throne, that the number four is commonly used in Scripture language to denote universality ; and if those symbols, in their relation to the throne which was above them, have been rightly interpreted as denoting the subjection to the supreme authority of the Most High, of "all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” we might imagine that events, the unfolding of which the four living creatures in order bid the evangelic prophet.
Eph. iii. 9-11.
Eph. i. 21.
The four Seals as a whole. [LECT. draw nigh and see, would be such as concerned the whole world of God's Providence, affecting in turn every corner of the earthly dominion which is under His footstool. And this idea derives some confirmation from finding, in the fourth seal, mention made of the fourth part of the earth?” as the scene of operation allotted to the agents of destruction which are there commissioned. But more clearly still does the character of completeness seem to belong to these first four seals taken together, when we observe how, after the revelation, in the fifth seal, of the assemblage of the souls of the martyrs who had been slain, as it would appear, by those sundry kinds of death which are described in the fourth seal, there follows, in the sixth seal, a great consummation, winding up the destinies of the whole earth.
But to proceed to the more particular examination of the four seals themselves, which, we may at least infer from what has been said, must be taken in a connected view. The vision which St. John beheld, when those seals were opened in succession, and the four living creatures in order bade him “ Come and see,” were four horses with their riders, going forth in the earth. Under the first seal he says, “I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.”
Under the second seal, “there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” Under the third he says, “I beheld,
Zechariah's opening Vision.
and lo a black horse ; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” Under the fourth seal, “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 8."
The imagery here employed is remarkably parallel with that of the opening vision of the prophet Zechariah. “I saw by night,” saith the prophet, .
” "and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth 9.” They were the ministers of God's overruling Providence, sent forth over the earth; their colours depicting the influence of each power, thus employed, on the destinies of God's Church and people. “The red horses, which lead the array,” as an able and judicious commentator observes, “portend war and slaughter; such as had occasioned the captivity. The white horses concluding the procession, denote, as the context shows, the peace and happiness which were to succeed. The speckled, or party-coloured
Chap. vi. 1–8.
Zech. i. 8-10.