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completion f, we may collect, that all kinds of devastation and destruction were to break forth and ravage under this seal :
Vestibulum ante ipsum primisque in faucibus orci,
AnĒid. vi. 273.'' These dire evils, thus personified by the poet's imagivation, arise from the fabled hell of heathen antiquity. And in this picture, we may see a strong resemblance to those evils let loose upon the Christian world, under the second, third, and fourth seals of this Prophecy. Under the second and third, they begin to appear, and some of them are in action: but in the fourth, their united force is exerted, to ravage all before them. For, to speak without me taphor, when (under the second seal) uncharitable controversies and ambitious dissentions had banished that peace, which true Religion is calculated to promote; aud dark ignorance, and superstition, and domineering priestcraft, (under the third seal,) had fixed a burthensome yoke on the necks of the disciples, and
* See note, ch. iv. 6.
had rendered the pure doctrines of the Gospel of difficult attainment, then greater evils naturally ensued. Ignorance easily became blind submission, and priestcraft advanced into civil tyranny.-So under the fourth seat, the mystery of iniquity was completed. It was then that the harsh and usurped dominion which we call the papal tyranny, was extended over the lives and the consciences of Christians. To profess Religion in its purity, became a crime in the account of those who had seized the government of the Christian Church. Bloody tribunals were erected, and deadly laws enacted, against deviations from the standard of doctrine enjoined by the corrupt rulers; soldiers were levied to inforce obedience to their tyrannical laws; and entire nations of reputed heretics were subdued, or extirpated by the sword, Thus, under the name of the Christian Church, under the auspices and guidance of her professed minis ters, Death and Hell were seen to coinmit devastation, to destroy the lives of men, and almost to eradicate puré Religion from the world.
The chronological period of these respective seals may be generally, but cannot be exactly, ascertained ; because, as was observed before, the change was gradual: and in such cases, though we can see clearly, as in the colours of the rainbow, that the change from one to the other has taken place; yet it is not sa easy to ascertain at what point of contact it began. Thus, generally speaking, we may affirm, that the uncharitable and vengeful character of the second seal is to be seen distinctly in the fourth century, though it had its dawnings much sooner * The third seal, under which superstition imposed a yoke of cere* See note, ch. vi. 4.
monies and observances, “such as pure Religion had “ rejected,” seems to have had its commencement in those times when the Church associated itself with heathen philosophy, and imbibed with it heathen superstition. These abuses crept in by degrees; and the colour seems not entirely to have changed till the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth centuries *. The corruption and ravages of the fourth seal came on likewise by gradation, growing as it were, out of the two preceding; and did not arrive at their utinost horror, till about the twelfth century. The banishment of Christians, on account of religious opinions, began, under the influence of the second seal, with the reign of Constantine, and increased under that of Theodosius. Under Honorius, in the fifth century, edicts were obtained from the civil power, for persecution unto death t; but they appear not to have been then carried into execution. Yet the bias of the church had begun at this time to incline strongly to such violent measures. Augustine, in his epistle to Vincentius , says, that he has found reason to change his opinion concerning the application of force in the conversion of heretics, perceiving it now to be useful. But still there seems to have been no capital puni ment for that which the church should deem heresy, before the twelfth century; when a court of Inquis sition was erected against the Albigenses and Waldenses. In the thirteenth century it was enacted, by the fourth council lateran, that heretics should be delivered to the civil power to be burned. At which
* Mosheim, Cent. v. pp. 376. 382. 390. 592. 396.
+ See this proted by Sir Isaac Newton, on Daniel and the Apoca. lypse, p. 410. 415. Tom. ii. p. 174.
time, during a lamentable period of forty years, above a million of men are said to have suffered by capital punishment for what was deemed heresy, or in what was called Christian warfare*.
Tantum relligio potuit suadere malorum!
Such is the interpretation of the four first seals, which a diligent attention to the figurative language of Scripture, and a comparison of it with ecclesiastical history, has occasioned me to produce. It is different from the exposition, at this time generally received ; in which, the reigns of certain Roman Emperors, distinguished by conquest, civil war, famine, ánd slaughter, are exhibited, as fulfilling these predictions. But the grounds upon which the interpreters have proceeded, are not such as have inclined me, on a candid review, to rétract my interpretation, and adopt theirs. .
I have already stated t my reasons for believing, that (agreeably to the opinion of many eminent divines) all Sacred Prophecy has for its object, the fates and fortunes of the Church of God and of Christ; that it is seldom found to deviate from this object; and that when the fates of nations or of individuals are foretold, it is even then with some reference to the future History of the Church and of its Messiah. If this notion be just, (as, I trust, will be generally allowed,) it must at the same time be granted, that, in the interpretation of the Apocalyptic Visions,
* Mosheim, Eccl. Hist. cent. xiii. Hist. des Papes, iii. 16. Fleury, Eccl. Hist. xvi. 174. 240. xviii. 485. Jortin's Remarks on Eccl. Hist. v. 72. 138, &c. 215. 254. 330. 353. 368. 356. 373. 386. 493.
+ See the Introduction, pages 11, 12, 13, 14. . .
no part should be diverted from this its main and proper object, so as to be applied to the fortunes of civil and heathen empires or rulers, unless the symbols, under which the prediction is represented, evidently demand such application, by a comparison of their former and undoubtedly fit application to such purposes by preceding Prophets. I allow, for instance, that the remainder of the Roman empire, divided into ten kingdoms, is evidently symbolized and delieneated in chapters xiii. xvii. &c. of the Apocalypse. The symbols there used, compared with similar passages of the prophet Daniel, «point out and demand such an application. But, when no such cogent reasons occur from a Divine interpretation of the figurative language, (as in that of Daniel by the angel, Dan. vii. 16.) it appears to me, that we have no right to apply the prophecies to civil and heathen history. In the figurative language of the four seals, I can discover no such grounds of interpretation; nor can I perceive that any such have been produced. We have no Divine direction, as in chap. xvii. 18, to point to the great city Rome : and certainly there is no appearance in the horses or their riders, which designates them as Roman. Nor do I remark that the writers who have adopted this mode of applying these predictions, have used arguments to justify such interpretation. A, passage indeed of this kind, I have observed in Joseph Mede, and have before quoted; in which he concludes; that because the prophet Daniel had. both presignified the coming of Christ, and also arranged the fortunes of the Jewish Church, according to the succession of the heathen empires; so the Apocalyptic prophecies must be supposed to measure the Christian history by the intervention of the Roman