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accomplishment. But the sixth seal is a typical prophecy, predicting, indeed, like the foregoing seals, events to follow in the immediate train of historical narrative, but not receiving its ultimate accomplishment in them. These events, thus immediately predicted, are types of greater things to come, but of things somewhat analogous : in the same manner as, in the Old Testament, the fall of the Assyrian monarch, and especially the fall of Babylon, had been rendered by prophecy types of a greater event in distant futurity.
- In the seal we are going to consider from the order of events that precede and follow - I can have no doubt, the revolution of the Roman world, under Constantine, which immediately follows this era of martyrs, is typically represented; but its full and ultimate accomplishment cannot possibly arrive till that season of the martyrs rest, spoken of above, is over, and they come with their great Redeemer to execute vengeance on the fourth empire:
12. “ And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell upon the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind; and the heaven departed like a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places : and the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?"
By an earthquake, which throws into confusion, and often alters the positions of the prominent objects on the surface of the earth, is ever designated, in prophetic language, great revolutions and changes in the affairs of men. The face of the material heavens also, as well as the surface of the earth, has afforded the prophetic Spirit a set of images whereby to mark these changes in the state of human society. What the sun, and moon, and the principal stars, in their respective combinations, are on the etherial plain, and what mountains and islands are on the extended surface of the terraqueous globe; such are emperors and kings, with their delegates, and all subordinate rulers, in the history of human affairs, in the narrative of the destinies of mankind.
The symbols of this sixth seal will, therefore, naturally lead us - setting out at the era of persecution foretold in the last seal - to look for some great change in the state of the world, especially among its rulers and leading characters. And a revolution, we accordingly find, did happen a little while after the persecution of Diocletian, that totally changed the polity of the Roman empire. It was the next public event of importance to the era of martyrs, and, by a most extraordinary providence, grew out of it. This revolution was nothing less than the ascendancy of the persecuted religion of Jesus Christ, and its public establishment on the overthrow of all the powers of paganism, which, before, had governed the Roman world.
A moral and political change with respect to the church militant here on earth, so great and so entire, had scarcely ever been witnessed in the history of nations ; and, we have reason to suppose, never will again, till that greater revolution comes that finally destroys this
fourth empire, and introduces, in reality, the reign of the saints upon earth. Of that greater revolution at the time of the end, this revolution under Constantine, as we have observed, is constituted a type; and, therefore, this prophecy is couched in a language that, from the comparison of other prophecies, can only belong to the judgment of the great day of Christ's appearing and kingdom: when the dominion of this fourth empire is taken away, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.
The revolution under Constantine had, however, in its leading features, something analogous to that far greater event, which will answer the martyrs' prayer in the former vision; and, therefore, the language of prophecy has consecrated it to be a type of " the great day of the wrath of the Lamb." The idolatrous empire of Rome, as it stood opposed to the kingdom of Christ, was, in a manner, destroyed before the followers of the cross.
To revive again, indeed, as subsequent prophecies will show: but at the era now before us, we not only see the enormous fabric of her religion, so great a support to the strength and dignity of Rome's dominion, cast down to the ground; but her dominion is, itself, actually for a season taken away from her. The same prince who made the religion of Christ the established religion of the state, removed the seat of empire from Rome, and the imperial city that had so long reigned over the kings of the earth is reduced to the rank of a provincial city; while Constantinople, a Christian city, receives her forfeited honours.
Isaiah, xiii. 9, &c.; xxiv. 19, &c.; xxx. 26; xxxiv. 4; 1. 2, 3; Joel, ii. 30, &c.; iii. 15; Dan. ii. 34, 35; vii.; Haggai, ii. 6, 7—22, 23.
But, great as was the revolution under Constantine, it was not adequate to the language of prophecy; neither to that used in the prediction before us, nor in the former oracles respecting the fall of the fourth empire. We must, therefore, expect something greater yet to come.
In like manner, the dominion of Christian emperors, prelates, and magistrates, which succeeded to the idolatrous powers of Rome, did not prove to be at all corresponding to the glorious prophecies respecting the reign of the saints upon earth, which ought to have followed the downfall of the fourth empire. There was an analogy, indeed, between the change that actually took place in the government of the civilized world, so as to constitute a type of that glorious event; but that was all. A Christian emperor and Christian rulers succeed to the heathen emperor and his delegates ; Christian bishops and pastors take the religious government of the empire, in the room of the pagan priests and augurs, the ministers of the ancient idolatry. The true God, and his ministers in church and state, were acknowledged, and the church enjoyed, by this revolution, for a considerable time, much peace and prosperity. But, after all, it was only what was revealed to Daniel :-"And when they
" shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help, but many shall cleave to them by flatteries.” This submission of all the world to become Christian, soon discovered itself to be but complimentary. The powers of the empire, though nominally Christian, soon “ took counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed. Let us burst their bands, and cast away their cords from us.” This submission of the world was that predicted in the twenty-second psalm, if I mistake not the translation of that Scripture
They shall reflect and turn themselves to Jehovah,
It soon appeared that “the mystery of iniquity," which had long been working within the church, was about to unfold itself, bringing on the great apostasy, and leading to the revealing of the “man of sin,” who, according to former oracles, was to direct or influence this same empire to its final opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
The First Interlude, Chapter vii.
The sixth seal, we shall bear in mind, has brought us, typically, though not in truth, to the end of time. In truth and reality, however, it has brought us to a great and very singular revolution in the state of the affairs of men.