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CONTINUATION OF THE SEALs;
THE PARTIAL RECOVERY OF THE CHURCH AT THE REFORMATION;
THE APPEARANCE AND ACTINGS OF INFIDELITY,
General observations on the preceding Seals, and the Apostacy they pourtray—Where spoken of in the Old Testament—They form epochas of History—Theodosius—Unity of the four first Seals—Danger of Prosperity to the Church eremplified—The Reformation—The age of Martyrs—Its influence—Its instruments—Abilities of the reigning Monarchs – Persecutions —St. Bartholomew's Massacre and others—Cry for Vengeance —Future Persecutions yet to take place—THE FRENch Revolution—Symbols of the Sirth Seal explained to refer to it —Eremplified the principles of Infidelity.
Before proceeding to the consideration of the Fifth Seal, it appears so desirable and important to make good the ground over which we have already trodden, that I will yet trouble the reader with a few general observations with the view more firmly to establish the foregoing interpretation.
First.—I would observe that the Great Apostacy into which the church fell, as detailed in the last chapter, is so very remarkable and important an event in its history, it covers so large a space of time, and it so completely absorbs all other, both ecclesiastical and secular, events, within its vortex, that it is probable—it is what we might expect— that it would occupy the most prominent place in any prophecy or revelation that God might be pleased to give of its “fates and fortunes:” in fact, that it would and must occupy that place which it does occupy as the ground-work of all that follows. Second.—I would observe that it does, at least by implication and in general terms, occupy such prominent place in the Old Testament prophecies: as for instance in what is described as the “little horn" of popery, which was to wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change the times and the laws for the space of 1260 years,” which could not be without the great declension. Moreover it is said that the little horn of Mahometanism was to appear when “transgressors were come to the full.”t And in the last Great Vision of Daniel, that “the daily sacrifice should be taken away, and the abo mination that astonisheth or maketh desolate be placed.”f All these must have a reference to this complete yet gradual and long apostacy, as there appears no other similar event to which they can apply. If this, therefore, was so decidedly revealed under the Jewish dispensation, we ought to consider it as a matter of course, that a thing that enters so completely into the essentials of the history of the Christian dispensation would, and must be, one chief thing noticed in a Christian prophecy. Third.—I would observe that it is perfectly analogous to what we find in the prophet Daniel, to pre-signify and arrange what shall befall the church according to the succession of those ruling sovereigns, whose reigns form remarkable epochs, and change the face of society; since it is in such changes that its interests are necessarily and essentially involved. To give a familiar illustration of what I mean, and one that will strike home to all our hearts, I would ask, How otherwise could the epocha in the English church be marked ? In laying down its great outline, should we not, without a moment's hesitation, fix upon Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Henry the Eighth, and William the Third, as each having given a colour and complexion to the generations that respectively followed their reigns 2 Most assuredly we should. It is just so in the present instance. The reigns of Constantine, Theodosius, Justinian, and Charlemagne changed the aspect of the church in like manner; and the divisions are so broad and so well marked, that we have only to take up the works of the greatest historians, such as Gibbon, Mosheim, and others, to be assured that these names form the great and leading resting-places at which they all stop. Gibbon, for instance, particularly quits his narrative, and rests at the reigns of Constantine and Justinian ; Mosheim, at those of Constantine, Charlemagne, and Charles V.; these being what he calls “remarkable periods, distinguished by signal revolutions or remarkable events; ” and so of others. That of the emperor Theodosius, it is true, though not less real, is not so broadly defined ; and hence it is very observable, that it is the only one of the four which was not so striking to the mind of the Apostle, and at which he