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queror, a king * Such he now appears in formidable power.
Ib. Hell.] Death in his victorious career is followed by Hell; for a description of which, in conjunction with death, see note, chap. i. 18. When death and hell are spoken of as acting together, the utmost destruction and desolation are implied to Consequently this is a period of great slaughter and devastation : but these are not necessarily confined to the lives of men, but, in the metaphorical language of Scripture, may destroy also whatever can prolong and make life happy. And it is the most dire work of death and of hell to destroy in the heart of man those seeds of religion, which are there planted to grow up unto eternal life. In this sense, the Church of Sardis is said to be dead Persons, in whom the spiritual life in Christ is extinct, are said to be in the shadow of death; and they who promote this ex, tinction in themselves and others, are called “chil“ dren of hell g.” And the recovery of such persons to true religion, is described as a resurrection from the dead ||. Conformably to these images, death and hell, under this seal, are described as making ravage, not only on the natural lives of men, but also on their spiritual lives, and on that pure and vital Religion, which supports them. The Christian Religion, which had begun its progress in white array, and under the guidance of apostolical teachers, is now not only so changed in colour and appearance, as to be scarcely discernible as the same ; but is under the guidance of deadly and infernal directors, who destroy in her all that remains of primitive purity.
* Jer. ix. 21. Rom. v. 12, 14.
Ver. 8. Over the fourth part of the earth.] This is the only passage of the Prophecy, in which a fourth part of the earth, or a fourth part of any other thing, is mentioned: the third part frequently occurs.
It may perhaps be found, that the countries which underwent the rage of this seal, bore this proportion to the rest of the inhabited, or, at least, Christian world. The dark ignorance, corruption, and destruction of Christian liberty, under the third seal, extended generally through Christendom: but the slaughter and devastation (which is to be explained under the ensuing note) reached only to certain parts.
Ib. To sluy by sword, and by famine, and by pestilence, and under the beasts of the earth.] These will be found the same with the four "sore judg
ments” of God, denounced against a sinful land by the prophet Ezekiel *.
Let the reader compare this passage of the Apocalypse with the Greek of the Septuagint, and he will acknowledge the resemblance. He will be aware also, that the word Sævelos, death, should be translated pestilence, in which sense it is used by the prophet; as it is also, in above thirty other places, by the Septuagint translators, to express the word 737 pestis f. Pestilence, being in an extraordinary degree deadly, obtained the general name of death. These therefore being “ judgments of God,” (containing generally all the instruments of grievous suffering,) and being expressed by the number four, which implies universality or
as the four sore
* Chap. xiv. 21.
+ See Trommii Concord.
completion I, 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,
-- mortiferumque adverso in limine Bellum,
Æneid. vi. 273.
These dire evils, thus personified by the poet's imagination, 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; and 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.
Revengeful Cares and sullen Sorrows dwell ;
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 seal, 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 ministers, Death and Hell were seen to commit devastation, to destroy the lives of men, and almost to eradicate pure 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 so 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 ceremonies 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 súperstition. 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 utmost 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 punishment for that which the church should deem heresy, before the twelfth century; when a court of Inquisition 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
* See note, ch. vi. 4.