Page images







(Continued from page 565.) I now come to their number, which laity of the Church. The Lamb is is given indefinitely as consisting of the sole object of their worship, ten thousand times ten thousands, which is composed of a string of and thousands of thousands. Here words, full of meaning, indeed, conthe same symbolisation is kept up. sidered in themselves, but of that John is in a temple resembling Jeru- vague and undefined character which salem's of old, and in perfect consis- might be expected from & people tency he adopts the Jewish notation ; educated in forms, debased by childish but as the Christian Church was com- superstitions and penances, and imposed of all nations, whilst the Jewish perfectly taught thô saving doctrines was limited to one, he takes the of the New Testament. multiple of both, as it is written, And every creature which is in “They are the ten thousands of heaven, and on the earth, and under Ephraim, and the thousands of the earth, and such as

are in Manasseh."* It is not, however, so the sea, and all that are in them, much their great number, though this heard I saying, Blessing and is not forgotten, as their order and honour, and glory, and power, be composition in great and not in small unto Him that sitteth upon the bodies, like a well-trained army, throne, and unto the Lamb for ever which this computation is intended and ever. And the four beasts said, to describe. Christianity was then Amen. And the four and twenty composed of Churches, not congrega- elders fell down and worshipped Him tional or solitary, but episcopal; that liveth for ever and ever." (Verses whereby it was often strictly true that 13, 14.) they numbered tens of thousands This language is so strong and unrather than a thousand only; and usual, that almost the first thought it being scattered over the greater part, gives rise to is, what can it possibly if not the whole area, of the Roman mean?

To understand it literally empire, then said to embrace the is out of the question; and what can civilised world, their number is esti- we make of it as describing symbols ? mated as complete or perfect. The It is also no more true that he heard early Church, moreover, like the the angels sing, than that he heard Roman of the present day, was com. the song of these creatures. Acposed of a multiplicity of ranks and cording to my first canon, here are orders, which too frequently received symbols, and the difficulty which more attention than the spirit by surrounds them is almost equal to which they ought to have been any presented by the prophecy. Still, regulated.

there is no mistake in the language, The position of the worshippers at and its significance is as real and a distance from the throne of God, exact, though perhaps not as striking, and outside of the sacred circle, and we should desire. When the their vague and ambiguous service, Psalmist invokes all nature, animate whilst they abundantly testify that and inanimate, to glorify God, he they are not angels, confirm my not only infers that it displays the theory,—that they constitute the Divine attributes, but he likewise in

timates that we should so use the * Deut. xxxvi. 17.

world that we make all things sub


servient to God's honour and glory.* tury-rightly described as a temple, Now, what the Psalmist regarded as from the Jewish ideas which then due only to God, John saw here per- obtained in the Church. The susverted to idolatry. Everything adored pended worship, sealed book, strong the Lamb with seven horns and eyes, angel, and weeping prophet, denoted which I have shown combined the the persecution of the Church by a idolatry of the Lord's supper and of part of the empire, urged on by the civil power. But can it be proved Paganism; the soothing words of the that animate, and perhaps inanimate, elder, and the Lamb's subsequent creatures in the fourth century prac- capture of the book, was the defeat tised this idolatry? It appears to of the advocates of Paganism by me that it may be done in this way. another part of the empire, supported It is beyond all question that what I by superstition in the Church; and am going to state literally took place, the song of the four beasts, of the or, rather, that the superstitious and twenty-four elders, of the angels, and ignorant mind absurdly thought so. of every other creature, denoted the From the beginning

of the third cen- consequent establishment of Christi. tury and downward, Christians crossed anity, as the religion of the empire, themselves for preservation from upon the ruins of Paganism. Here demons and from every real and no intimation is given of the diminuimaginary evil; which was a super- tion or extent of vital or true Christi. stition implying that everything in anity. The scope of this series of heaven, earth, and hell, reverenced the vision is confined to the nature, the cross. The person who ventured rise, progress, and establishment of upon no business and would not the Apostasy. It is not implied that encounter difficulty until he had no true religion remained. Very far crossed himself, or prayed to a cross, from it. All that we can here conimagined that there is a sovereign and fidently gather from the vision is, almighty power in such a remedy. that the cause of the Saviour was Nor was this a trifling matter, or losing ground; but we must consult beneath the notice and express por- other parts of the prophecy for satistraiture of revelation. It stood in factory information respecting the the place of God. This is exactly result of the decline upon the true what John heard : everything adored Church. The two subjects are kept the symbolic creature denoting the distinct down to the final contest; in Christian empire and the Lord's other words, this part of the vision supper. He symbolises the feeling is not so much a full and minute desor conviction then prevalent in the cription of the visible Church, as of Church, that the person who crossed the apostasy in it; or it gives us only himself could be hurt by no manner so much of the former as will enable of evil ; and how could this be more us to perceive and appreciate the forcibly expressed than by imagin- latter. I now proceed to the rupture ing he heard every creature say, of the seals. "Blessing, and honour, and glory, “And I saw when the Lamb opened and power, be unto Him that sitteth one of the seals, and I heard, as it upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, were the noise of thunder, one of the for ever and ever."

four beasts saying, Come and see. This worship, too, we know was And I saw, and behold a white sanctioned by the Church in the horse: and he that sat on him had a fourth century, as it is here done by bow; and a crown was given unto the Amen of the four beasts, the him: and he went forth conquering, civil power, and by the ministry, the and to conquer." (Chap. vi. 1, 2.) twenty-four elders, who combine with The first four seals, viewed superfiit their worship of God.

cially, appear to describe-the first, a Such is my proof that the heaven series of easy conquests, ending in into which John was admitted was universal dominion; the second, disthe visible Church of the fourth cen. sensions among the conquerors, their

mutual very great slaughter, crowned * Psalm cxlviii.

by the victory of one of the parties; the third, famine, the natural result its back, or it was full and in a cerof long-continued civil war or mutual tain measure known even to the slaughter; and, finally, the reign of world. They were not new, but had death and the beasts of the earth, the

been accumulating in the Church inhabitants of desolation. But there from the beginning of Christianity: is an insuperable objection to this

The mystery of iniquity doth altheory, in that they proceed together ready work ;"* but the restraint of under the conduct of the last. “Power

opposition, now to be reversed, would was given unto death, and hell, and

impart a license and liberty they had over the fourth part of the earth, never till then enjoyed, and would to kill with sword, and with hunger, aggravate fatally their baneful effects. and with death, and with the beasts

The call as loud as thunder was of the earth.” If ill-secured conquest, peculiar to the rupture of the first civil war, famine, and death were

seal, for the first attempt to put down literally meant, the last would be the

Paganism would make all the noise. result only, and all would follow in

This took place under Constantine, natural and necessary dependence, who left for his successors an open just in the order in which they are and easy path. recorded. Why, moreover, should

A man on horseback, armed, no the cherubim, or, at least, the elders doubt implies war, but not necesof the Church, take interest in mat

sarily with swords and spears,f for ters merely terrestrial ? The true though the Christian fights, yet, says solution can only be found in events

Paul, “the weapons of our warfare not only baneful to the Church, but

are not carnal." | The colour of the which occur in it. And this accords horse and the crown denote victory exactly with my theory. I will now

and triumph, which were usually atsee how far it can be sustained.

tended with such appendages. The None of the seals bear a date, nor remarks added state, that he went is there the smallest pause, except of forth conquering and to conquer. half an hour, and an interval occu.

But who or what is here described ? pied by sealing some among the It is the progress of the visible Church tribes. As the effects of the first four under the Christian emperors, from seals were at length contemporane- the first attempts to put down Paganous, it is likely they were opened in ism by Constantine, to its complete quick succession. The rupture of and ultimate overthrow by his sucthe first seal, or the first blow

cessors. The work was done withgiven to Paganism, caused out much difficulty; the ground was of the beasts to exclaim, with a walked over rather than gained

by voice of thunder, “Come and see.”

severe and repeated efforts. The It has been already observed that

comparison is that of a warrior, who the rupture of the seals was at the

fought with an unfilled bow, and was same time a blow to Paganism, and

nevertheless successful. This is full an occasion of greater corruption in

of meaning, and indeed everything is Church doctrine and practice. Both highly significant in the Apocalypse. will account for the interest which

Embracing the fortunes of the Church the Church took in their rupture. through many centuries, its delineaThis blow was given by Constantine, tions are often sketchy, and a history who first attempted the prohibition of of centuries is contained in a few Pagan worship, having seen that brief phrases. Omissions are not both religions could not exist toge

oversigtits, but pregnant with meanther. And such was the firm basis ing. Here is an instance. An arrow on which he had placed Christianity, without a bow, may imply a deadly that Julian, who succeeded to his

conflict, but an unfilled bow is only throne, at a very short interval, was

a feint, and as unsuitable as can be unable, with all his management, to imagined to describe the conflicts of make any great progress towards the true Church which have ever restoring the Pagan worship. I now come to the contents of the

2 Thess. ii. 7.

+ Ps. xlv. 3-5. book. It is written within and upon 1 2 Cor. x. 4.


[ocr errors]

been compared with the fatal and clearly-defined power was supposed deadly use of weapons of war. “The to be inseparable from their adminiLord hath made me a polished stration.* The adult was held to be shaft." * referring to the slaughter of sanctified and illuminated by bapanimals in sacrifice. When the com- tism, he was new created or begotten mandment came, Paul died; his de- again, and milk and honey were lusive hopes expired, and he fell to given him as illustrative of his inthe ground as one slain by & sword.+ fantile or regenerated state. He was Three thousand on the day of Pente- anointed with oil, and exorcised for cost were pricked at the heart, or the expulsion of the demon, the supmortally wounded. I The slaughter- posed cause of our depravity. White ous use of weapons alone properly raiment was given him to signify describes the Christian ministry that he was now pure and innocent, which strikes down the sinner and and the crown of victory put on his annihilates his every hope in him- head on account of his recent achieveself. A bow without arrows seems ments over the powers of darkness. indeed, at a hasty view, to denote But if they received new life at bapthe bloodless victories of the cross ; tism, they were previously dead in they are, however, bloodless only in trespasses and sins; the contrary, a carnal sense, but it opposes the however, was held by the Church, general description of the progress which administered the rite only to and triumph of the truth, both in the those who gave satisfactory proof Old and in the New Testament, that they understood_ and heartily Even the final triumph of Christ on obeyed the Gospel. But had such the fall of the Man of Sin is not so been the prevailing character of the described. He that sat on the white catechumens or candidates for baphorse, who is called the Word of God, tism, the Church would not have had a sharp sword issuing from his regarded the rite as the instrument mouth, which was so destructive, of enlightenment and sanctification, that the fowls are summoned to devour blessings which according to their the numerous slain. Slaughter and conditions of conferring the rite death, understood symbolically, are they already possessed; but that the eminently descriptive of the victory, Church did so proves the defective progress, and triumph of the Gospel. and erroneous instruction then imI conclude, therefore, that the ab. parted, and the growing ignorance in sence of the arrow denotes & defec- the teachers of the true nature of the tive and pointless ministry, and Gospel though we have here the semblance The same mysterious benefit was of conflict, it is not the earnest con- expected from the Lord's Supper. tention for the faith.

The Church regarded it as a sacrifice, But can anything more forcibly de- and the minister as a priest, and scribe the battle of forms and cere- believing it to be necessary to salvamonies which characterised the min- tion, it was administered to the istry of the fourth century? I will sickening babe. No wonder that men endeavour to bring it vividly before who crossed themselves as & preventhe eye.

Forms were multiplied tive from evil should imagine that the without number, and their obsery. Lord's Supper was more than a ance was regarded as necessarily devout memorial of the Saviour's connected with grace. Mystery was atoning death. In this transition thrown around the sacraments, not from the memorial to the sacrifice it because they denoted the marvellous appeared in the eyes of the Church love of God in the mission and gift a mystery, whose merits could neither of His Son, and of the Holy Ghost, be restricted nor defined. Such were but a wonder-working and never

Mosheim, century ii., part ii., chap. iv.,

sect. v. 6, 13; century ii., part ü., chap. * Isaiah xlix. 2.; Heb. iv. 12.

iv., sect. iv. + Romans vii. 9. 1 Acts ii. 37.

+ Mosheim, century i., part ü., chap. iv., $ Rev. xix. 17.

sect. 4-6.

the doctrines of the Church in the and persuasion, or was added when fourth century, and as it is added, those were ineffectual. According to "he went on conquering and to the symbolisation of the sanctuary, conquer," so has it been literally the calf denotes patient labour and true that these doctrines prevailed self-denying perseverance. Consefrom that time down to the present quently, one looks for the exhibition day throughout the greater part of of these graces where it directs our Christendom.

attention. But the contrary takes "And when he had opened the second place. Another spirit pervades the seal, I heard the second beast say,

Church. The man on the red horse Come and see. And there went out is armed with a great sword, and comanother horse that was red: and missioned to take peace from the power was given to him that sat there- earth (land) by instigating men to on to take peace from the earth, and kill each other. And such was exthat they should kill one another : actly the condition of the Church at and there was given unto him a great

the time I have fixed on. Its career sword.” (Verses 3, 4.)

under the Christian emperors was As Paganism declined through the only for a short time free from strife combined opposition of the court and and schism. No wonder that the of the Church, the vast accession of Church, as soon as the power of the converts made the latter feel secure sword was on its side, connived at in its new position. But prosperity the persecution of the Pagans, when is a snare often leading the Church its own members inflicted the same into error. And it was so then. As evils on each other. Symptoms of the Pagans were no longer permitted this unholy spirit betrayed itself alto follow their own convictions, they most from the beginning. But later, were obliged either to suffer for their Victor, Bishop of Rome, A.D. 170, religion, or to enter the Christian would have excommunicated all the Church. The majority preferred the

Asiatic Churches but for the timely latter course. But as compulsion remonstrance of Irenæus, and, forsteels the mind against conviction, sooth, on the trifling ground that the greater number of the converts they refused to conform to his time merely conformed. Were they then of celebrating Easter. The contenall deceivers ? No. Forms and cere- tion at Carthage and Rome, respecting monies were then so confounded with the lapsed and the power of a recomwhat they signified--the ritual and mendation from martyrs and confesits spirit being regarded as insepar- sors, was conducted with the greatest able—that the great body of the con- virulence and rancour. The Church verts entered, and were received into was involved in discussions of a most the Church as true living members. deadly character, which so incorporThen, again, the rank and influence ated persecution into its very nature, of others gave them a welcome recep

that it became one of its leading feation. Could the soldiers who fought tures. It was another spirit. Under under Constantine and the leading the first seal a defective and formal men of that day, who were incontest- gospel was propagated, and here the ably, or at least very many of them, Church was rent asunder by those Pagans at heart, be compelled to sub- very nominal Christians it had unmit to a very searching ordeal prior wisely stamped with its approbation. to admission into the Church? No, The members of the Church killed surely not. It was too glad to receive each other by mutual excommunicathem. Even bad history not admitted tion, and by losing the spiritual disthis, I should have inferred it from cernment of the true Church in their the strife and ungodly spirit which

strife and hatred. “Where anger immediately pervaded the Church. and strife is, there is confusion, and This I conceive to be the subject of every evil work.”* The Arian conthe seal under consideration. It de- troversy now began, which was somescribes a struggle: each party forcing times supported, and at other times its own sentiments on the other. Authority took the place of argument

* James iii. 16.


« PreviousContinue »