SUMMARY.--The Warrior on the White Horse.
The Warrior with the Great Sword.
The Black Horse and He that Had the Balances.
The Pale Horse, Death and Hades.
The Fifth Seal, the Seal of Persecution.
The Sixth Seal Opened.
A Period of Judgment.
The wonderful scene in heaven when the Sealed Book is given to the
Lamb, pictured in the
shows the transcendent importance of the Sealed Book itself, of the act
of placing it in the hands of the Lamb of God, and of the events which
be unfolded as its pages are opened. These seals are opened in
succession and with the opening of each seal John sees and records an
impressive vision. No system of interpretation which does not make
these represent events which follow each other in time is 
reasonable. The vision following the opening of the first seal must
portray a period of events nearest to the times of John, while the
seventh seal must relate to the remotest events, and when the last
symbol that it contains is reached we must have been carried to the end
of time and to the consummation of the history of the church and of the
fate of the world. As each seal is opened a symbol is seen which is
designed to outline the character of a new epoch.
THE FIRST SEAL.
1, 2. And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals. The
statement "I saw" means that when the Lamb opened one of the seals John
saw the vision which is described in what follows.
As it were the noise of thunder. A deep, impressive,
Come and see. Attend closely to the vision.
2. And I saw, and behold, a white horse. Let the reader note
particularly what John saw, and then remember that it is
symbolical, and that instead of looking for a literal fulfillment, we
are to ask the meaning of the symbols. There are several features of
the vision that fix our attention: 1. The horse. 2. His white color.
3. The armed warrior. 4. His crown. 5. His bow. 6. His mission. It
is certain that none of these features would have been named if they
did not possess a significance. What do each of these symbols mean? I
will consider them in order: (1) The horse. He was never used by
the Jews or Orientals as a beast of burden. The ox and the ass were
devoted to that office, and the horse was reserved for war. Whenever
the horse is mentioned by the prophets it will be found in connection
with war-like employments. That the horse is always associated with war
can be seen by consulting
Ps. 76:6; Prov. 21:31; Jer. 8:6; Ezek. 26:10.
Hence this symbol points to a period of war, though it alone does not
declare whether the conflict is carnal or spiritual, is triumphant or
disastrous. (2) The white color. As there are three more horses
in succession under the three following seals, each of different
colors, the color must have a meaning. White must have a different
significance from red, or black, or pale. What is indicated by the
color of the first horse? White is the color of prosperity, of
happiness, and triumph. Whenever a Roman General was given a triumph
his chariot was drawn by milk white horses. In
Rev. chapter 19,
the Mighty Conqueror who wears many crowns is seen riding on a white
horse. Commentators are agreed that the white horse signifies
prosperous, victorious wars. (3) The rider. His significance is
due to his arms, his crown, and the white horse he rides. It is enough
to state here that he represents either some conqueror, or a conquering
age. (4) The crown. "There was a crown given to him." This crown is
not "the diadem" (diadema) but the "garland crown"
(stephanos). The last was the crown given as a reward
for victory in battle, for great achievements or for victory in games.
The Hero of
wears many diadems, kingly crowns,
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but this rider wears the garland crown, the stephanos. It
is important to note this distinction. (5) The bow. He is armed
with a usual weapon of war in that age. The bow may simply signify
that the rider is a great, warlike figure, or there may be a special
significance in the fact that he is armed with a bow instead of a sword
MEANING OF THE
SEAL.--In ascertaining the meaning of a series of
prophetic symbols, portraying events which follow successively, it is
of great importance to interpret the first aright. A wrong start will
lead astray along the whole line of interpretation. Before giving my
own views I will indicate briefly those of leading commentaries
concerning the significance of the White Horse and His Rider.
"A symbol of Christ's victorious power."--Godet.
"A symbol of the conquering Gospel."--Alford.
"The Rider is Christ."--Archdeacon Lee in "Speaker's Commentary."
"It is our Lord riding prosperously."--Dr. Wm. Milligan of Aberdeen.
"Christ is going forth to judgment."--Hengstenberg.
"The Rider is Christ."--Lange.
"The Roman Empire. The Persian Empire was symbolized by a ram
the Macedonian Empire by a goat
and here the Roman Empire by a white horse and his
rider."--Elliott. "The prosperous period of the Roman Empire
extending from the Emperor Nerva to the end of the
The preponderance of interpretation is in favor of the view that the
symbol signifies the conquests of Christ, either in person or through
the gospel. It is with some hesitation that I dissent from the view
that spiritual conflicts and victories are signified. (1) Four horses
in succession follow. The latter three cannot refer to spiritual
changes. If the first horseman represents a spiritual power the others
cannot represent carnal powers. If they refer to events in the secular
world, the meaning of the first must also be sought there. (2) It has
been urged that the Rider upon the white horse in
is the same as 
that of the first seal. There is nothing common but the white horse.
The Rider of
is clothed, armed and crowned differently. He wears garments sprinkled
with blood, has upon his head many diadems (kingly crowns) and
out of his mouth proceeds the sword of the Word of God. This warrior
holds a bow and wears a garland instead of a diadem.
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(3) Christ appears often in Revelation, and there is always something
symbolical about the manner in which he is represented. In the
he appears under the symbol of a Lamb; and again, in
it is the Lamb who stands in Mt. Zion. In the
fourteenth verse of the same chapter,
one "like the Son of Man" is seen upon a white cloud, with a sharp
sickle in his hand, to indicate that the harvest time has come, when
the earth shall be reaped. In
the Son of Man is seen, radiant as the sun, with a two-edged sword
proceeding out of his mouth. In
one sat upon a white horse, who was called Faithful and True, wearing
upon his head many crowns, clothed in a vesture sprinkled with blood,
and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp sword, emblematic of the sword
of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
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The sword is constantly used as a symbol of the Word, which is Christ's
instrumentality for reducing the world to his sway.
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The conquering Savior is constantly pictured forth with the sword
proceeding out of his mouth,
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but never appears with a bow.
For these reasons I accept, in part at least, the view of Elliot and
Barnes, and believe that a series of events affecting the fortunes of
the church but immediately connected with the vast empire which
embraced the whole church within its boundaries is signified. The first
four seals, all kindred in their imagery, can only be satisfactorily
explained by referring them to events in the history of that empire.
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by the skeptical
Gibbon, is the best commentary on the seals. Nor do I think that the
Horsemen are to be sought in individuals, but are representative of
great epochs. The First Seal must refer to the period of prosperity
and triumphant war closely following John's exile to Patmos. As it
has an earthly signification, it is probable that we must look for an
epoch in the history of the Roman Empire, beginning near the opening of
the second century. An age which meets every characteristic wonderfully
is the age of prosperity and conquest beginning with the reign of
Nerva, embracing that of Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines. This
glorious period has been called THE
AGE OF THE ANTONINES. John
was an exile on Patmos in the last year of the reign of Domitian,
A. D. 96. In that year the tyrant was slain. The human Nerva
succeeded him upon the Roman throne. With his reign begins a new
epoch, at once the most brilliant and the most prosperous in Roman
history. He was the founder of a new family of Cæsars. He adopted
as his son and successor, the war-like Trajan. His incessant wars were
uniformly triumphant, and during his reign the Roman Empire reached its
greatest dimensions. Vast as were the limits of the empire under Julius
and Augustus Cæsar, the empire ruled by Trajan was much more
vast. In order to show that it was an age of conquest I quote Gibbon,
vol. 1, page 7: "The degenerate Parthians, broken by intestine discord,
fled before his arms. He descended the river Tigris in triumph, from
the mountains of Armenia to the Persian Gulf. He enjoyed the honor of
being the first, as he was the last, of the Roman generals who ever
navigated that remote sea. His fleets ravaged the coasts of Arabia; and
Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching the confines of
India. Every day the astonished senate received the intelligence of new
names and new nations that acknowledged his sway. They were informed
that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and
even the Parthian monarch himself had accepted their diadems from the
hands of the Emperor, etc." This age of conquest, when the Empire
reached its greatest limits both in Asia and Europe, was also an age of
prosperity. Gibbon (Vol. I., page 95) declares that "If a man was
called upon to fix the period in history of the world, during which the
condition of the human race was most prosperous and happy, he would
without hesitation name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian
to the accession of Commodus."
We have found that the symbols are strikingly fulfilled in the epoch
of Roman history, known as the age of Trajan, or of the Antonines,
beginning with the reign of Nerva. 1. It began immediately after John
wrote. 2. It was a period of prosperity. 3. It was the period of the
mightiest extent of Roman power. 4. It furnished one of the mightiest
conquerors of the Roman name. 5. He was entitled to wear the garland
of victory. 6. This fulfillment is within the scope of prophecy,
which embraces the Roman Empire. 7. I might add also that the bow
itself may have a special significance. Before this age the emperors
were all of Roman stock, and until the death of Nero were of the line
of Julius Cæsar. Nerva, the founder of a new line of six
Cæsars, was of Greek descent, and is said to have been of Cretan
stock. The Cretans were a race of bowmen, the most famous of the
ancient world. Some have seen this pointed out in the bow.
THE SECOND SEAL.
3, 4. And there went out another horse that was red. The second
living creature said, Come 
and see, and immediately the first vision is replaced by a second, or
a startling character. There appears in the field of view a second
horse, no longer white, but as red as blood. Upon the horse sat one
with a great sword in his hand, to whom "was given power to take peace
from the earth, and to make men that they should slay one another." The
horse is the symbol of war, but the changed color indicates that the
conditions of war are entirely changed. It is no longer triumphant war
in the dominions of their enemies, while within all is peace, but the
land is drenched in blood. During the period of the first seal the
fertile provinces of the Roman Empire never saw the face of a hostile
soldier, unless borne as a captive from the distant frontiers, where
the Roman generals waged triumphant wars in the countries of their
enemies. All was peace within. But now a period of internal war is
indicated. The "earth" contemplated by John was the Roman earth, or
empire. From it peace shall be taken away. Nor is it to be destroyed by
foreign invaders. "They are to kill one another." In as plain language
as symbolism can disclose, it is indicated that the next great feature
of history is that the land shall be torn by civil war.
FULFILLMENT.--The next period is marked in the
history of man by the most prolonged and sanguinary civil commotion
that history records. "Peace was taken from the earth"
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for ninety-two years. During this long period of nearly a century, the
Roman Empire, that portion of the "earth" which was the seat of
civilization and of the Christian religion, was constantly torn by
bloody contests between rival competitors for power. The history of
this epoch is epitomized by Sismondi in the following language: "With
Commodus commenced the third and most calamitous period. It lasted
ninety-two years, from 192 to 284. During that period thirty-two
emperors, and twenty-seven pretenders alternately hurled each other
from the throne by incessant civil warfare. Ninety-two years of
almost incessant civil warfare taught the world on what a frail
foundation the virtue of the Antonines had placed the felicity of the
empire."--Sismondi's Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I., page 36. A
full history of this dark and unhappy period is also given in the first
volume of Gibbon. During the ninety-two years there were thirty-four
emperors, besides nineteen pretenders, known as tyrants. Of these
all but two died violent deaths. What could more strikingly
represent such a period of civil contention, of incessant warfare, of
fratricidal bloodshed, than the red horse and its rider, "to
whom was given a great sword, and the power to take away peace, that
men should kill one another?"
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I suppose that no such prolonged and terrible period of civil warfare
can be pointed out in the history of the world, and there is certainly
a wonderful correspondence between the vision and the events of
THE THIRD SEAL.
5, 6. And I beheld, and lo a black horse, etc. Again there
appear a horse and a rider. Again the color of the horse is changed, as
well as the instrument held in the hand of the horseman. If the white
and red colors, the bow and the great sword, had a significance, this
must be true also of the black color and the balances. It has been
found that the horse, whatever his color, is the symbol of war. The
black horse makes it plain that the land is torn by calamitous war, and
is filled with sorrow, mourning and despair. Black is the color of
mourning. The prophet
says: "Because of the drought Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof
languish; they are in deep mourning (lit. black) for the land."
The balances used for weighing food are a symbol of scarcity and
famine. "Bread by weight" always implies scarcity. See
Lev. 26:26; Ezek. 4:16, 17.
The prices named also signify the same. The measure 
was about a quart, and the penny about sixteen cents, which
would make the wheat worth about $5 per bushel; or, if it be borne in
mind that one dollar in that age would usually purchase as $5 now, the
wheat would be about $25 per bushel in the modern currency. Oil and
wine, though common foods, are entirely prohibited. An age of war,
mourning, calamity and famine is certainly symbolized.
FULFILLMENT.--The first and second seals mark
distinct epochs, clearly separated from each other. We can determine
the exact number of years that belongs to each period. It is not
possible to separate, with the same distinctness, the events indicated
by the third and fourth seals. The prophecies are fulfilled with
startling accuracy, and the occurrences symbolized by each seal follow
each other in the same order as the seals, but the events overlap, and
are related to each other as effects to cause. During the terrible
period of civil commotion, indicated by the red horse, the era of blood
and anarchy produces the events symbolized by the black horse, and as
the combined result of the two preceding seals there follow the events
indicated by the pale horse. There is a period of extreme taxation,
enormous prices, great scarcity, want and famine, due to the
destruction of armies and untilled fields during a period of civil war
of ninety-two years. There is first the civil war as the cause,
and second, the scarcity and famine as the effect. I will verify
this by historical quotations under the next seal, which also relates
to this calamitous period.
THE FOURTH SEAL.
7, 8. Behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was
death. Again, for the fourth time John beholds a horse. It is still
a time of war. The horse is now pale, the bloodless color of the
dead. Upon him sits an undescribed figure, called by the apostle
DEATH. Behind the dread destroyer follows
Hades, the unseen world, swallowing up the dying mortals and
hiding them from human vision. The means employed to destroy men are
described. Death and Hades employ (1) the sword or war; (2)
hunger, or famine; (3) death, or pestilence, for so is
the word here used often to translated, and such is its meaning in this
place; and finally (4) the destruction caused by the wild beasts of
forests and field. The evident meaning of this symbolism is so plain
that all can understand its application, and we need only ask if the
facts correspond. Do we find the scarcity, want, hunger, and
pestilence, indicated by the prophecy, during the latter portion of
this period of civil commotion? Do we have an awful reign of
Death in the forms signified by the seal?
THE FULFILLMENT.--Let the
reader turn to the tenth chapter of the first volume of Gibbon's Rome.
It details a condition of things which existed in the reign of
Gallienus, when the ninety-two years of civil war were drawing towards
a close about A. D. 268. During that reign nineteen pretenders to
the throne aroused rebellions which were quenched in blood. The chapter
closes with a passage which I ask the reader to compare carefully not
verses 7 and 8,
but also with
verses 6 and 7.
"But a long and general famine was a calamity of a more serious kind.
It was the inevitable consequence of rapine and oppression, which
extirpated the produce of the present and the future harvests. Famine
is almost always followed by epidemical diseases, the effect of scanty
and unwholesome food. Other causes must, however, have contributed to
the furious plague, which, from the years two hundred and fifty to the
year two hundred and fifty-six, raged without interruption in every
province, every city, and almost every family of the Roman Empire.
During some time five thousand persons died daily in Rome; and many
towns that had escaped the hands of the Barbarians, were entirely
depopulated. Applying this authentic fact to the most correct tables or
mortality, it evidently proves, that above half the people of
Alexandria had perished; and could we venture to extend the analogy of
the other provinces, we might suspect that war, pestilence, and famine
had consumed, in a few years, the moiety of the human species."
Note the correspondence, John in round numbers states that
one-fourth of the people of the Roman 
Empire would perish; Gibbon furnishes data for suggesting that
one-half perished. John assigns four causes for this awful
mortality: the sword, hunger, pestilence and wild beasts.
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Of these four Gibbon names in the last sentence of the above quotation
three, and writers of the period itself speak of the fourth, the
scourge of ravenous wild beasts which had multiplied owing to the
depopulation of great provinces.
The first four seals, the Seals of the Horses, are associated. These
have now been considered. The first, described in
verses 1 and 2,
I have pronounced the seal of the Triumphant prosperity, the age of
Trajan and the Antonines. The red horse of the
is the seal of civil war, fulfilled in the awful convulsions
that began around A. D. 186, and agitated the whole civilized
world. The third seal, the black horse and balance of the
is the seal of want, while the next, the pale horse of the
is the seal of death.
THE FIFTH SEAL.
It is evident from the entire change of imagery, that, after the fourth
seal, the subject of prophetic vision is entirely changed. The horse
now disappears, and is seen no more in connection with the opening of
the seals. Along with the horse the armed warriors sweep out of sight.
The next vision is that of suffering saints.
9-11. I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for
the word of God. These are clearly Christians who had suffered
martyrdom. They had died "for the word of God." They were under the
altar. Since the temple is typical of the church, the altar, the
center of worship, points to the church and its worship. The brazen
altar stood at the door of the tabernacle, and at the bottom of it all
the blood of the offerings was poured
Their position probably points out that their own blood was poured out
10. And they cried with a loud voice. Their cry denotes that the
church had suffered long and severely, and they raise a cry for
11. And white robes were given unto every one of them. The robes
of justification and victory. They are assured that the day when "they
will be avenged" will soon come, but that they must wait a little
season. Others must be added to the number of the martyrs before the
number is fulfilled. It is a time of persecution. The fifth seal is the
seal of persecution, and it evidently marks some notable era in the
history of the Church, when more fiercely than ever before it felt the
intolerant hand of "them who dwelt upon the earth."
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The fulfillment is to be sought in a war of extermination waged against
Christianity. Again we ask if, following the events already described,
history records events that fulfill this prophecy?
ninety-two years of civil turmoil began A. D. 192 with the death
of Commodus. They ended in A. D. 284. In that year Diocletian
ascended the Roman throne, and his reign was distinguished by the most
terrible, most prolonged, and most general persecution known in the
history of the ancient Church. The Church had often been persecuted
before, but no persecution had ever been so universal, so long
continued, and so terrible. The Emperor was not by nature a persecutor,
but the great men of the empire, especially Galerius, whom he had
associated in the duty of government, were alarmed at the astonishing
progress of the new religion, and demanded its extirpation. At last
Diocletian yielded, and became the leader in the effort to root out the
religion of Christ from the very face of the earth. 
Early in A. D. 303 secret councils were held in Nicomedia,
concerning the destruction of Christianity. "Perhaps," says Gibbon, "it
was represented to Diocletian, that the glorious work of deliverance of
the empire was left imperfect so long as an independent people (the
Christians) were permitted to subsist and multiply in it." On the
twenty-third of February, the first blow was struck. An armed force was
sent to destroy the great church of Nicomedia, and to burn the sacred
books, so carefully preserved in that day when the printing press was
unknown. This was the signal for beginning a persecution which was, by
the consent of all historians, the longest, the most general, and the
fiercest ever waged against the Church. It is a remarkable fact that a
chronological era, dating from the time when Diocletian began to reign
instituted not for religious, but astronomical purposes, and used until
the Christian era was introduced in the sixth century, has received its
name from the persecution, and has been called the era of
With regard to this period I make a quotation from Gibbon, Vol. II., page
69: "The resentment, or the fears of Diocletian, at length transported
him beyond the bounds of moderation, which he had hitherto preserved,
and he declared, in a series of cruel edicts, his intention of
abolishing the Christian name. By the first of these edicts, the
governors of the provinces were directed to apprehend all persons of
the ecclesiastical order; and the prisons, destined for the vilest
criminals, were soon filled with a multitude of bishops, presbyters,
deacons, readers and exorcists. By a second edict, the magistrates were
commanded to employ every method of severity, which might reclaim them
from their odious superstition, and oblige them to return to the
established worship of gods. This rigorous order was extended, by a
subsequent edict, to the whole body of Christians, who were exposed to
a violent and general persecution." This terrible persecution,
conducted with such vindictive fury that sometimes church buildings
were surrounded by soldiers, the doors locked and the congregations
burned in them, continued for over ten years.
In the answer to the martyrs
there are three things that are noteworthy. First, it is said that they
must await the great judgment, which would not be until another
distinct set of martyrs was slain. These are evidently the martyrs
slain, not by pagan Rome, but by anti-Christ. Second, they must wait "a
little season." This season is to be measured by God's standard, and
not by ours. Third, there were given unto them white robes.
White robes are a symbol of justification and of triumph. "The white
robes are given to him that overcometh." These souls are not in the
inner sanctuary, the type of heaven; but under the altar of the outer
court, the type of the world. The white robes, therefore, imply their
triumph and justification upon the earth. This came within
twenty-five years of their suffering, through the formal acceptance of
Christianity by the Roman Empire.
THE SIXTH SEAL.
12-17. There was a great earthquake. The symbol of political or
moral agitation and upheaval.
The sun became black as sackcloth. The sun, moon, and
stars are symbols of earthly dignitaries, great lights in the
political or religious heavens. In the dream of Joseph,
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which so maddened his brethren, these terms are used in this meaning,
as well as by the ancient prophets. In the East it was common to liken
the king or emperor to the sun, and the stars as the symbols of princes
or rulers. For the use of the term we refer the reader to
The blackness of the sun and the bloody hue of the moon point out
scenes of mourning and bloodshed among rulers and princes. The falling
of the stars would indicate the downfall of those who had high places
on the earth, or rather within the Roman Empire.
14. The heaven was removed as a scroll.
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The old religions, supposed to be of heavenly origin, pass away.
Every mountain and island were moved.Mountain and
island are used to denote earthly rulers and kingdoms, the
latter referring more especially to European provinces which are often
called "the isles of the sea"
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in the Bible. From the period of Diocletian, the great persecutor, the
title, "Your Eminence," or, in other words, "mountain," was bestowed
upon princes. As a mountain stood above the plain, so the 
rulers of the earth were exalted.
15. And the kings of the earth, and the princes . . . hid
themselves. This implies great terror among "them that dwell on the
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their belief that terrible judgments were impending from God; that
the wrath of the Lamb was manifested, and their efforts to
MEANING.--Many have explained this startling
symbolism to describe the closing scenes of the world and the personal
coming of Christ to judgment. This cannot be the meaning, for the
series of visions continues on until the seventh seal is opened, and
all it contains is exhausted. Others have supposed that the rush of the
northern race which overthrew the Roman Empire is meant. I believe that
it refers to great events which have long since taken place. The
various phenomena in earth and sky, the earthquake, the falling stars,
the heavens rolled away, the mountains and islands moved out of their
places, all foreshadow a violent, bloody, remarkable upheaval of
systems, rulers, governments, kingdoms, and the establishment of a new
order upon the earth. It is on earth, it is in history that we are to
look for the fulfillment of the prophecy. And since the "earth" that
is present to the mind of John is the civilized world known to the
ancients, the Roman Empire, it is within its boundaries that we must
look for the fulfillment. There can be no doubt that this is the seal
FULFILLMENT.--Several circumstances help us to fix
the meaning. 1. The time. It follows immediately after the great
persecution indicated by the fifth seal, which closed in A. D. 311.
These events occur, then, near that time. 2. It is a time of blood
and mourning. Who are the mourners? Kings, great men, rich men, bondmen
and freemen. Are these Christians? They are enemies of the Lamb, who
fear his wrath and mourn over his power. The mourners are the opposers
3. The seal is followed by a period of great joy and prosperity on the
part of the Church.--(See
An innumerable multitude are sealed with the seal of the Lamb, of which
gives record. Have we, near A. D. 311, the time when the great
persecution closed, a period of mighty revolution, that filled the
unbelieving world with mourning, and which was followed by a time of
triumph, prosperity and glory to the Church of Christ? In the year 312,
leaving Britain, marching through Gaul, Constantine launched his armies
upon Italy. The Church watched his progress with singular interest; for
although he had, as yet, made no profession of Christianity, his
mother, Helena, was a Christian, and it was felt that he was favorable
to his mother's faith. The Italian emperor opposed to him, Maxentius,
was a firm Pagan, and around him centered the interests of the Pagan
faith. Indeed, he gave public assurance that he would extirpate the
Christian religion, and vowed to Jupiter that, in the event he was
successful, he would make his worship universal on the ruins of
Christianity. In three great battles Maxentius was defeated and in the
last was slain, and Constantine became the ruler of Rome. In the East
another emperor, Licinius, a Pagan and a persecutor, still held the
reins of power. Wars, truces and battles followed, until in A. D.
324 he was crushed and put to death. In this period of conflict,
lasting about sixteen years, six emperors in all strove for the
pre-eminence, of whom Constantine remained the sole survivor.
But these are not the most remarkable changes of this period. Let us
note these: 1. The votaries of the old Paganism had rallied around the
enemies of Constantine, because he was felt to be its unrelenting foe,
who would compass its destruction. When he was seated in triumph upon
the ruins of six imperial thrones, there was great mourning from the
enemies of the Cross. They felt that theirs was a doomed religion.
They were right. 2. In the year 319, before his final triumph, he had
decreed that his mother's religion should be tolerated as an
acknowledged faith of the empire. 3. In 321 he decreed that Sunday,
the sacred day of Christianity, should be observed in all the cities by
the cessation of trade and labor. 4. In 325 he abolished by decree the
bloody combats of the gladiators, where men killed each other to amuse
the populace, a Roman institution that had existed for a thousand
years. 5. He convoked, by imperial authority, a great council of
Christian bishops, the one known in history as the Council of Nice.
6. In 331 he decreed that the Pagan religion should exist no longer,
and that all the heathen temples should be leveled, or converted into
churches. 7. At the same time the old Roman laws were remodeled
according to the precepts of the Christian religion, and a Pagan empire
was transformed into an empire of the Christian faith, under new
institutions. Surely the old heavens were moved away as a scroll is
gathered together. But this is not all. I name another wonderful change
of this age of revolution. In 324 he determined to shake the Roman
world to its very center, and to deprive the imperial city of the crown
worn for eleven centuries, by removing the capital from Italy to a new
city upon the banks of the Hellespont, that should henceforth be called
Constantinople, from his own name. The mighty mountain of the West is
moved from its place. Not only do these revolutions, the greatest in
the history of the world, fulfil the imagery, but the mournings of the
heathen in that age almost adopted the language of Revelation in
describing this period. The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by
the Sophists, says Gibbon, "as a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which
covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of
chaos and night."
Those who insist that the opening of the sixth seal portrays the end of
the world should bear in mind, not only the chain of events continues
on through the
7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th chapters,
and that it is only when the Seventh Angel sounds his trumpet
that the proclamation is made that "the kingdoms of this world are
become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ," but they should
keep in mind also that the scenes beheld by John are not literal
pictures of the events, but symbolic visions. The interpreter should
ask himself not, What would be the literal fulfillment of the visions?
but, What do the symbols signify? The earthquake, the blackened sun,
the falling stars, the moving mountains and islands of the sixth seal
are not to be regarded as literal any more than the pale horse in the