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conveniently distributed through the Churches, by a messenger making a circuit of about three or four hundred miles, as may be seen in the most correct maps.
These Churches of Asia continued their bond of Christian connection, long after the time when they were thus addressed by Saint John. For it appears, that when toward the close of the second century the contest about the time of keeping Easter grew warm between the eastern and western parts of Christendom, Polycrates, who engaged in that controversy, “pre( sided over the Bishops of Asia *.” And the famous Epistle from the Gallic Churches, written somewhat earlier, is addressed to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia. Now Phrygia lay contiguous to the province of Asia, of which it was sometimes accounted a part; and Laodicea, one of the seven Churches, was the capital of Phrygia f.
The number of Churches to which the Epistle is addressed, is seven; the same number which we shall find frequently employed in this sacred book. For we read in it of seven spirits of God, seven angels, seven thunders, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven heads of the Dragon, of the Beast, &c. In which passages, as in others of holy Scripture, the number seven appears to represent a large and complete, yet uncertain and undefined number. Hannah, in her song, says, “ The barren hath borne seven,” (that is, a great and indefinite number of) children f. God threatens the Israelites that he will punish them “ seven times ;” that is, very completely and severely,
Eusebius, Hist: Eccl. lib. v. c. 24. + Ibid. lib: V: c. 1.
1 Sam. ij. 5.
Numerous are the instances in Scripture of such use of this number * In its Hebrew etymology it signifies fulness and perfection t. Philo styles it TE200Dogos, the completing number; and it is mentioned as such by Cyprian, who cites passages from the Apocalypse and other Scriptures, to shew the consummatio perfecta et legitima of this number I. By what means this number became so important to the Israelites, so representative of completion and universality, may be collected from their history. God had revealed to them, that his own great work of creation had been completed in seven days; and in memory thereof he cominanded them to reckon time by sevens, seven days to the sabbath day, seven months to the sabbatical month, seven years to the sabbatical year, seven times seven years to the great sabbatical or jubilee year. And when, upon their entrance into Canaan, it pleased God miraculously to deliver the city of Jericho into their hands, he ordered them to march round it seven days, seven priests, with seven trumpets, preceding them: and on the seventh day, on which the walls fell, they were instructed to encompass it seven times g. As therefore the number ten came to be reckoned among all nations a perfect and complete number, by counting on the ten fingers
See Gen. ii. 3, iv. 15. xxxiii. 3. Lev. iv, 6. Prov. xxiv. 16, xxvi. 25. Is. xxx. 26. Ezek. xxx. 9. 1 Kings xviii. 43. 2 Kings v. 10. Job v. 19, xlii. 8. Mic. v. 5. Esth. i. 11. Eccl. xi. 2. Dan. iii. 19. 2 Esd. ii. 18, 19. Tob. xii. 15. Mat. xviii. 22. Luke xi, 26, xvii, 4. + Daubuz, Etymol. Dict.
See also Cyprian. De Exbort, Martyr. De Spiritu Sancto. Test. adv. Judæos; and Augustin. de Civitate Dei, lib. xi. cap. 30.
§ Gregory Nazianzene, alluding to this transaction, calls seven the powerful number. Ηλιος ισαμενος, και σεληνη κατεχομενη, και Ιορδανης ανακοπτομενος, τειχη κατασειομενα ιερεων περιοδο και σαλπιντων ηχο, και αριθμω δυναμιν 140871. Orat. iii, p. 57, edit. Paris,
of man; so did the number seven, with those nations who preserved the meniorials of divine revelation; and these two numbers, seven and ten, multiplied together, are accordingly used to express the utmost indefinite number. “ Not only until seven times,
says our Lord, “but until seventy times seven.” But with the Jews, seven became the most important number, being seen to enter into almost all their institutions t. In the eastern nations, less given to change, this use of the number seven has continued more prevalent than with us. The Arabians and Indians, between which nations was a great conformity of religious customs, had seven celebrated temples, and believed in seven heavens, and seven compartments of hell I. And in modern India we still find this maxim in common use: " A man's own mind will tell him more than seven
sages that sit on an high tower Q.” It was through the nations of the east that the reverence for this number passed to the Greeks and Romans |. According
* Matt. xviii. 22.
+ They had seven lessons, seven readers; seventy (that is, ten times seven) composed their supreme council; which Josephus afterwards imitating, appointed seventy elders in Galilee, and seven judges in every city. (Bell. Jud, xx. 5.) And, for the same reason, in the Roman Church, the number of Cardinal Bishops (the word Cardinal implying completion), was originally fixed at seven ; so continuing until the reign of Pope Alexander III. And the ecclesiastics of the Church of Rome were aware of this use and pre-eminence of the number seven, even so late as in the 16th century; for, in 1547, at the Council of Trent, they defended the doctrine of seven sacraments, amongst other arguments, by that of the universality and superior dignity of the number scden. (Padre Paolo, lib. ii.) 1 Sale's Koran, Prelim. Disc.
Tracts on Hastings's Trial. # Spencer, de Leg. Heb. lib. i, Varro on Weeks, in, A. Gellius, lib, iiie 10. Clem. Alex, Strom. Iv.
to Pythagoras, who had studied in Egypt, in Phænicia, and at Babylon, it is a number venerable, perfect, and accommodated to things sacred *. And here it may be observed, that it is not from any casual or arbitrary notion, that the number seven has been thus dignified. It is entitled to this distinction, from the natural order of things, which God was pleased to establish at the creation. A day is a natural measure of time, and, multiplied by seven, forms that period of a week which most conveniently multiplies again, so as to form months and years. J. Scaliger has observed t, “ that the number
seven is of all others the most fit to measure the “ courses of the sun and moon." Add to this, that a week, or seven days, appears to be a complete period, by other laws and provisions of Providence; since it will be found to measure, by its repetitions, more
• Brucker, Hist. Phil. Crit. i. 1055. Jamblichus de Vit. Pythag. Grotius has produced proofs from Josephus, Philo, Tibullus, Homer, Hesiod, Callimachus, and Lucian, of an observance of a seventh day among the Greeks and Romans, or of a reverence of the number seven; and from Philostratus, Dion Cassius, and Herodotus, of the account of time being numbered by weeks among the Egyptians, Indians, and the northern nations of Europe. M. Varro (as reported in Aulus Gellius, lib. i. c. 10.) has produced some coincidences of the complete nature of this number, which shew at least that this notion of the number seven had passed to the Romans.
Αλλα και την έβδομης Γεραν, και μονον οι Εβραιοι, αλλα και οι Ελληνες ισασι,
Πρωτος ενη, τετρας τε, και έβδομον Γερον ημερ. Και 'Ομηρος,
“Εβδομαδη δ' ηπειτα καταλυθεν Ιερον ήμαρ» Ναι μην και Καλλιμαχος ο ποιητης γραφει, 'Εβδομαδη δε or
Euseb. Præp. Evang. lib. xii. c. 13. Additional citations, fully confirming this, may be seen in Briant's Analogy, vol. i. p. 382; and in Faber's Horæ Mosaicæ, vol. i. p. 344.
† " Septenarium numerum accommodatissimum esse solis et lunæ " rationibus." Canon. Isag. 95.
exactly than any other number, the natural periods of gestation in animals, and of incubation in birds; which will easily be acknowledged in the instances of domestic fowls; some brooding on their eggs three times seven days, some four times seven.
The measure of time by weeks, or by the intervention of the number seven, is therefore not altogether arbitrary; it has a foundation in the nature of things; and the discovery of this circumstance is a proof that the great Being who created the world in six days, and contemplated its perfection on the seventh, and, after this rule, established the number seven for the measure of time, acted in this circumstance with that providential order and harmony which characterize the rest of his works. Add to this, that when we find the first inhabitants of the globe in the practice of measuring time by this so perfect a number, which they could not have obtained by science, we must conclude that it was given to them by revelation.
These observations will open the way for the right apprehension of the sense in which the number seven is used by the prophetic writers. It is used to express any large, complete, indefinite number. By the seven Churches of Asia, are implied all the Churches of Asia, and, it may be, all the Christian Churches in whatever situation or period of the world * St. Paul, speaking of the events which happened to the people of God in the Wilderness, says,
“ Now these things were our “examples ;” they were, as the original implies, Tutos, types, or prophetical representations, “ written for our
* It was understood in this extensive signification by the commentators nearest to the times of St. John, as reported by Andreas Cæs sariensis. Το μυστικον των απανταχι εκκλησιων σημαινών. Comment. In loc.