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Right here we must state the principles of interpretation essential to determining the meaning of symbolic prophecy. The principle is simple: first, the signification of a symbol must be determined by the Bible; and, secondly, by the fulfillment itself. Nor can the specific character of any event be determined from the symbolic text, until the agents engaged in the event have been shown to coincide with the symbols of the text. It, therefore follows, that not one of the great symbolic characters of prophecy could be known until they existed; and as ages were required to develop their historic character, it resulted naturally that Daniel's visions, and the apocalypse, have been sealed visions for ages past. We now begin our exposition of the first seal.
1. The first beast, or lion, calls John's attention. As this beast coincides with Judah's station on the east, we might naturally expect the characters to which attention is called should be manifested on the east of Rome, or of the Christian Israel.
2. The Horse." I saw, and behold a white horse." We must now look to scripture for an interpretation of the symbol before us. The symbol is a horse, and his symbolic complexion is white. Zachariah says, that "God hath made Judah as his goodly horse in battle." Here Judah is figuratively represented by a horse, and Judah is a figure of speech for the Jewish nation. Isaiah says, "which bringeth forth the chariot and the horse, the army and the power." As it is a feature of Hebrew poetry to repeat the same idea in different words, the chariot, and the army, and the horse, are synonymous with power. Zachariah uses the term horse as a symbol. He says: "I saw, and behold a man riding upon a red
horse, and he stood among the myrtle-trees in the bottom, and behind him were red horses, speckled, and white. Then I said, O my Lord, what are these? And the man that stood among the myrtle-trees, answered and said, These are they whom the Lord sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle-trees, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold all the earth sitteth still and is at rest. Then answered the angel of the Lord and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah." Here the angel on horseback, praying for Israel's restoration from his wanderings, plainly represents Israel praying for deliverance from Babylonish captivity. Again; the horses without riders, are represented as conversing, which shows that they represented bodies of men; and their wanderings, while all else had rest, refers to the captivity and wanderings they suffered in Babylon; for God immediately says, "I am sore displeased with the heathen that are at rest." The various horses may properly represent the various tribes of Israel, but being without riders, shows a church without the state in their captivity. In the sixth chapter of Zachariah, it is stated that the four chariots, and four horses to each, represent the four spirits that stand before God, and that go into all the earth. As these were mere symbols, they represented great organizations; and, as they were symbolic spirits, or minds, they must represent organic bodies of power.
White color signifies prosperity and purity, or honor.(Sym. Dic.) A white horse was therefore a symbol of an organic body of a pure character, and moving with
the velocity of the war horse, whose neck is clothed with thunder. A horse being an organic symbol, must, from the very nature of symbols, represent an organic power or body of power.
3. The Rider.-A man, when used as a symbol, represents a government or organic body of some kind; and when riding symbolizes felicity and successful progress.-(Sym. Dic.)
4. The Bow. This signifies anger or power to avenge or punish others. Thus, in Ps. vii, God is said to be "angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his Bow, and made it ready." It may also represent virtue; as Joseph's "bow abode in strength;" but it seems to denote warfare in the passage before us, ending in victory.-(Sym. Dic.)
5. The Crown.-This crown was not a diadem, and, therefore, represents the royalty conferred as a delegated, and not an independent one. The body of government represented by the man with the bow of victory, was not, at first, a royalty, but became such after victory, denoted by the bow. This vision, it must be remembered, filled the whole field of view, over the whole symbolic heavens, and nothing coexists with it to compare in magnitude.
We must now look for a coincidence to this seal, in the Roman empire, somewhere between John's day and this; and, properly, immediately after the ten persecutions. Now, we shall look in vain for any such a double character, crowned and victorious, before or after the days of Constantine. The white horse and his rider crowned will, therefore, represent the church of Christ, united to the state, after outriding the ten great persecutions.
Coincidence First.-The scene was to be in the east. Christianity first arose and conquered in the east.
Coincidence Second-The horse represents a moving
body of warlike power, but of a pure character. Christianity was just such a moving body, in all respects.
Coincidence Third.-The horse and his rider represent a double organization, a body of moving principle, and a government, without regal power or sanction. Now, according to all history of the fourth century, it appears that the churches had gradually formed themselves, not merely into Christian societies, but had founded a great ecclesiastic or social confederate republic, which, however, had no legal power to enforce its rules of order.- Gibbon.
Coincidence Fourth.-It was to be a victorious power, as was indicated by the bow. Now, although the Christian confederacy was impaired by the persecutions, yet it rode through the ten great persecutions, or "ten days' tribulation," and exhibited a victorious. strength after them all.
Coincidence Fifth.-The rider received a crown. So the Christian confederate church government received royal sanction; was united to the state and made second only in the throne of power, as the crown is second to the diadem. The time of the giving the crown, was the time the horse appeared, with his rider and bow; so that this seal is fixed to this epoch of church and state union as its goal. From that point it begins to move on.
Coincidence Sixth.-"And he went forth conquering and to conquer." Christianity, after its union with the state, soon prevailed over every thing, and paganism was soon routed from the empire, and finally renounced by imperial law, in the days of Theodosius. All the points to identify the first seal being found in Christianity in the fourth century, and being found in nothing else, and at no other time, it follows that this full coincidence is full proof of fulfillment.
SECOND SEAL, OR WESTERN CHURCH.
"And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red; and power was given unto him to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given unto him. a great sword." This represents the western politicoecclesiastic power in Europe.
1. The station of the second beast was on the west, or Ephraim's place. Of course, then, we look for a manifestation of a religious power of a red cast, in the western empire. In this direction the empire church was manifested in all its mighty strength, as a corruption of Christianity, and a very much altered religion.
2. As the horse symbolizes a body of moving religion, so we find the Latin religion, in the west, made vast strides toward universality.
3. The horse was red.-Red and blood are explanatory of each other. "Though your sins be red like crimson." A bloody religion was, therefore, represented by this horse. Now, the Christian religion soon changed its character, after its union with the state. It immediately began a persecution of the Arians, and the blood of the people has flowed, like rivers, by its influence, ever since.
4. "Power was given him that sat thereon, to take peace from the earth." Ever since the overthrow of the Roman empire, and the rise of corrupt Christianity, the wars, that have extensively prevailed in Europe, have been on account of religion, and have been instigated, or inflamed, by the fanaticism of the church. The crusades are some instances of it.
5. "That they should kill one another." Here, the