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218 Connerion of the Symbols and Seals. LECT. pexion between the four seals and the four living creatures, severally; implied, as it would seem, in the call which these in turn address to the beloved disciple, as each seal is opened in succession, bidding him “Come and see.” It would greatly confirm the view which has been given, on distinct grounds, of the import of the four seals and of the four living creatures, if this connecting link were discovered between them. And if we follow the progress of the Gospel over the earth under the varying aspects presented in the four seals, our view is certainly fixed in a peculiar manner on the countries which we have supposed to be marked out by the four living creatures. It was in the East that the Gospel first went forth on its career of victory; and among the multitude who witnessed the first effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, we read of “ Parthians, and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judæa and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia”—all these from the Asiatic continent. And, next in order, we find mention made of those “ in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene ." And it is to Egypt and Africa that our attention is specially called, when instances are given us of the bitter strifes and divisions which, through the operation of human passions, followed the preaching of the Gospel ". Again, the darkness of the third seal and the partial withdrawal of religious truth, were referred to the influence of heathen philosophy, and heathen superstition; and in these we recognize the offspring of Greece. And, finally, in the persecutions and cruelty
3 Acts ii. 9, 10.
Ver. 10. · E.g., the schisms of the
Donatists and Circumcelliones, the Arian and other controversies in Alexandria, &c.
Prophetic import of the Vision.
which close the scene, we seem to trace the dominion of Rome, that imperial city in whom was to be “found” in the day of retribution “the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain
upon the earth 6."
But, whatever interpretation we may be inclined to give to the imagery which describes the train of the Conqueror who is represented in the first seal, no doubt, I think, can attach to that description, as to its reference to the early times of the Gospel. And this, I would repeat, is the important point to determine in the vision before us. And if, by the attendant forms seen in the vision as following the Rider on the white horse, we are to understand the temporal calamities which our Lord had foretold as the signs of His kingdom coming in its power, we may imagine how great the support and consolation which these vivid delineations of the beginnings of sorrows were fitted to supply to the early Christians; continually taunted as they were with the reproach of these calamities, as occasioned by the new religion, and the wrath and vengeance awakened in the insulted deities of Paganism. What comfort to them to know assuredly, that these temporal woes were in reality the attendants on His steps who was gone forth in the greatness of His power, “conquering and to conquer !”
Or if we, His soldiers and servants in these latter days, have heard His blessed Gospel reproached by the tongue of the unbeliever, because of the evils to which its enemies can point as having followed in its wake,—the bitter contentions, the dark superstition,
Compare George Herbert's "The Church Militant."
Fulfilment of the Vision. the unrelenting persecutions, which have too often presented so sad a contrast to the spirit of pure and undefiled religion,—we need not be perplexed; for all this was foretold. The Gospel came, indeed, from God, but it came on earth: a course of warfare, in order to final success, was that which was appointed to His Church in this earthly scene. And the fulfilment of the prediction, however grievous, is but an attestation of His Divine truth, and gives the more firm assurance of His future final triumph. For HE is “called Faithful and True," who is gone forth “conquering and to conquer;” and “His Name is called the Word of God ?."
And to Him, “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” be ascribed all honour and glory, might, majesty, dominion, and power, now and for evermore.
? Rev. xix. 11. 13.
Rev, vi. 17.
“ For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able
to stand ?"
In the last Lecture we inquired into the import of the first four seals of the mystic book which it was given to the Lamb to open; considering those four seals both with reference to their own distinct meaning, as gathered from the vision itself, illustrated by other Scripture, and also in their relation to the four living creatures, with which they appeared to be, in so remarkable a manner, connected. We found reason to think that these first four seals, taken together, might be understood to describe the going forth of the Gospel throughout the world, with the signs which immediately followed it, and perhaps also with the circumstances which more remotely attended its changeful progress over the face of the earth.
In the well-known prophecy of our Blessed Lord to which we had occasion to refer—the prophecy in which He declares that the “Gospel of the kingdom” should “be preached in all the world for a
1 Preached Jan. 7, 1844.
Prophecy of our Lord. [LECT. witness to all nations," before the end ” should
come”—He had foretold certain signs which, as we have seen, would appear to correspond with the imagery of the four seals in the vision before us, taken in its most literal application. 66 Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom : and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows ?." Our Lord proceeded further to speak of trials which would more immediately concern His own followers, and particularly those first disciples whom He then addressed. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye
shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another 3.” Or, as we read more fully in the record of the same prophecy given by another of the Evangelists,—in a passage which, in like manner, follows immediately upon the mention of those“ beginnings of sorrows,”—“But take heed to yourselves : for they
: shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten, and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the Gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, take no thonght beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them
2 Matt. xxiv. 7, 8.
3 Vv. 9, 10.