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SCHEME OF THE PROPHECY.
THE addresses to the seven churches are applicable to all other churches in similar circumstances, in all ages, but not prophetic-The things which the apostle was commanded to write being those which he had seen, those which were, and those which should be hereafter, prove that the prophecy commences, not from the time of the vision, but probably from the ascension of Christ, in like manner as the four monarchies of Daniel commenced from the rising up of the Babylonish empire, many years before the time of the vision Chapters i-iii.
The book of SEVEN SEALS Contains the whole of the prophecy, the trumpets being only a subdivision of the seventh seal, and the vials of the seventh trumpet. Chapters iv, v.
The opening of the first seal,-on which appeared “a white horse, and The that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer"-represents the great progress of the gospel in the apostolic age Chapter vi. 1, 2.
The opening of the second seal-on which there appeared “a red horse, and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another,”-signifies the wars between the Jews and the Romans, who had united în persecuting Christ and his followers Chapter vi. 3, 4.
The opening of the third seal-on which there appeared "a black horse, and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand, &c.”— denotes a famine, or scarcity approaching to famine, in which the necessaries of life would be required to be weighed out with the utmost care, and which was fulfilled during the reigns of the Antonines Chap. vi. 5, 6.
The opening of the fourth seal-on which there appeared "a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed,"signifies great mortality, owing to the intrigues and intestine wars in the empire, between the years 193 and 270, which produced famine and pestilence, and by diminishing the number of men gave ascendancy to the beasts of prey. Chap. vi. 7, 8.
The fifth seal was opened, on which were seen "under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them that they should rest [or wait] yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." This seal represents the state of the church about the year 270, when it had endured nine out of ten of the heathen persecutions, and was about to endure the tenth under Dioclesian and Maximian, after which God would avenge their cause, by an utter overthrow of their persecutors Chap. vi. 9-11.
The opening of the sixth seal-on which appeared "an earthquake,” and as it were a day of judgment,-signified the revolution of Constantine when the pagan empire was overthrown, and the prayers of the souls under the altar were answered Chap. vi. 12-17.
The "sealing of the servants of God in their foreheads," portends danger to the spiritual interests of the church from its outward prosperity, and distinguishes the faithful from the crowd of nominal Christians that would now be pressing into it Chap. vii. 1-8.
This chapter concludes with a vision of the martyrs who had overcome, serving to strengthen the servants of God to encounter new trials.
Chap. vii. 9-17.
The seventh seal is opened-A solemn pause ensues-It is then subdivided into SEVEN TRUMPETS, which are put into the hands of seven angels; and the sounding of them is prefaced by "another angel's offering up the prayers of the saints with much incense, filling his censer with fire,
and casting it into the earth, denoting that the judgments to be brought by the trumpets would be in answer to their prayers. Chap. viii. 1-5.
The sounding of the first four trumpets, which affect "the earth, the sea, the fountains of waters, and the sun, moon, and stars," denote the continental, the maritime, and the mountainous parts of the empire, by the invasion of the northern nations, the issue of which was the eclipse of the government, supreme and subordinate. As the seals overthrew the pagan empire, these overthrew the Christian Chap. viii. 6-12.
The sounding of the fifth, or first woe-trumpet, on which followed "smoke from the bottomless pit, and locusts," represents popery as filling the world with infernal darkness, and thus preparing the way for Mahometan delusion and depredation Chap. ix. 1-12.
The sixth, or second woe-trumpet, is complex, relating partly to the "loosing of the four angels in Euphrates," followed by "an army of horsemen," and partly to the conduct of "the rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues,”—the first denoting the rise and ravages of the Turks, by whom the eastern empire, and with it the Greek church, were overthrown; and the last, the idolatries and cruelties of the members of the western church, who, instead of taking warning from the fate of the eastern, repented not, but persisted in corrupting the religion of Jesus Christ, and in persecuting his witnesses.
Chap. ix. 20, 21. to Chap. xi. 14.
The vision of the angel with "a little book open," whose cry was followed by 66 seven thunders," refers to the Western, or papal church, >which the prophecy now goes some ages back to take up, and which occupies the whole of what follows, till the beast and the false prophet are taken, or down to the times of the Millennium. The "thunders” may probably refer to the same things in the form of a general threatening, which are afterwards particularly disclosed under the vials: for it appears to be of their execution that the angel swears by Him that liveth for ever and ever that there shall be no delay; but that in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, (that is, in the times of the pouring out of the vials) the mystery of God should be finished." This accounts for the command "not to write them," as they would be particularized under the vials Chap. X
The eleventh and three following chapters are considered as three general descriptions of the false church, chiefly under the 1260 years of antichristian usurpation, together with the state of the true church during the same period. These general descriptions of course are not confined to the times of this or that trumpet, but comprehend those of the greater part of the trumpets.
The first general description, contained in the eleventh chapter, denominates the false church "gentiles," and the true church “witnesses," who bear testimony against them. It leaves out of " the temple of God" the place occupied by the former. It represents, by the "slaughter of the witnesses," the prevalence of the antichristian party; by their "resurrection and ascension to heaven," the protestant reformation; and by the "earthquake," in which a tenth part of the city fell, (and which, by the way, marks the termination of the sixth, or second woe-trumpet) the late revolution in France. By the sounding of the seventh angel, a signal is given of the progress of the gospel. And by the song of the heavenly choir, are intimated the judgments which should be inflicted on the antichristian party, and the Millennial glory that should follow Chap. xi.
The second general description, contained in the twelfth chapter, represents the true church prior to the introduction of antichristian corruptions, as "clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." These corruptions originate in a third part of the stars of heaven being drawn from their orbits by the tail of the dragon, and cast upon the earth; or by the rulers of the church being seduced by the riches and honours of the Roman empire. The dragon having thus prevailed over a part of the Christian church, aims to devour the other. The true church fleeth into the wilderness, where she exists without legal protection or toleration, till the Reformation in the sixteenth century, when Michael fights her battles, and the dragon is cast down. Succeeding persecutions are the effect of his defeat.
The third general description, contained in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters, represents "a beast rising out of the sea, with seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, &c." signifying that secular government by which the false church has been all along supported-namely, The Roman empire under its last head, after it had been divided into ten independent kingdoms, each of which was a horn of the