The scope of the seven seals in general is this, that the periods of time, as it continues to flow, being distinguished by the characters of events, it may be shown, that when the succession of occurrences of every kind relative to the Roman empire has been contemplated, it would come to pass that Christ would vanquish the powers of the world with which he was waging war. In the sixth succession, or sixth seal, the gods of the heathen Roman empire; and in the seventh, when the series of the trumpets shall have arrived at the last trump, whatever, even after that time, might have arisen anew, or yet remain in any part of the world, was to be destroyed and abolished. |For he must reign until he bath put all enemies under his feet:| That is, till he has abolished all hostile principality, and power, and authority.
We will treat of the former period, as the order requires, in the first place.
The six first seals then, in their sixfold character of events, (not much unlike those which our Saviour had prescribed for pointing out the time of the ruin of Jerusalem,) distinguish so many periods of the Roman empire, while it was yet subsisting and flourishing, until, at length, in the sixth, Christ should utterly demolish the power of idols and heathen deities in that part of the globe. Now I call characters the very signal events of the Roman empire, by which occurrences, as in a symbol, the periods may be distinguished, and those in this first period, not brought on from without by the barbarous nations, (of which kind will be those of the empire afterwards falling to decay under the plagues of. the seven trumpets,) but intestine misfortunes, arising within the empire itself: Which destruction, indeed, was introduced by the Holy Spirit for this purpose, that the different times of the Roman commonwealth, -- the former of its flourishing, the latter of its declining state, -- may be described by different marks.
It is here likewise to be observed, that since the characters of the occurrences, of which I have spoken, scarce ever or rarely pervade the whole period of the seal, and consequently may not be sufficient of themselves to circumscribe these periods within a certain beginning and end; therefore, in the four first seals, the Holy Spirit (where that may be most necessary, as well for the cause above mentioned as on account of the inequality of the periods) has had recourse to the four animated beings for that purpose, each of which might indicate the epoch of the seal according to his point of the compass. How this is done we shall presently see. It is sufficient at present to have given a hint of it. C. vi. |And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four animated beings saying, as with a voice of thunder, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse, and he that sat thereon held a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second animated being saying, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red , and it was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they might slay one another; and a great sword was given him. And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third animated being say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse, and he that sat thereon had a balance in his hand: And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, A daily measure of wheat for a penny, and three daily measures of barley for a penny; and hurt not the oil and the wine. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth animated being saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a pale horse, and the name of him that sat thereon was Death, and Hades followed in his company; and power was given them to kill the fourth part of the earth with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth.|