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removed the seat of it to Byzantium in the east; which he called from his own name Constantinople.
Constantine now new-modelled the government of the empire;-abolishing all the powers of paganism ;-establishing Christianity as the religion of the empire;-and placing the administration of the government in the hands of Christian prefects! The power of persecution was now destroyed. “ The great lights, so called, of the heathen world,” says Bishop Newton, “the powers, civil and ecclesiastical, were all eclipsed and obscured. The heathen emperors and Cesars were slain; the heathen priests and augurs were extirpated. The heathen officers and magistrates were removed. The heathen temples were demolished; and their revenues were appropriated to better uses!” Here the secular Roman beast received his death wound, in his sixth—his imperial-head, and died; which death was to continue till these last days; when the deadly wounded head was to be healed. (Rev. xiii. 3, 12, 14.) This long interim was to be occupied by the rise and predominance of the papal beast; as will be shown on Rev. xiii. 11-18.
The figures in our text, to denote this revolution, are prophetic and appropriate. The sun is a prophetic emblem of
emperors and kings, or of first rulers. The moon here is a figure of their armies. The stars, of the various subordinate officers of a government. Hence the darkening of the sun, the turning to blood of the moon, and the falling of the stars, denote the various terrors of a revolution; as might be shown from various passages in the prophets, and especially in the predictions of the battle of the great day; of which event, the judgment of the sixth seal was a lively type and emblem. Joel ii. 10; " The earth shall shake before them, the heavens shall tremble; the sun and the moon shall be dark; and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” Isaiah iv. 4; “All the hosts of heaven shall be dissolved; and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their hosts shall fall down, as the leaf falleth from off the vine; as a falling fig from a fig-tree.” Isaiah xiii. 10; “For the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened at his going forth; and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.” Such is the language of the prophets, relative to most signal national judgments. As in the following; Isaiah ii. 19; “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for
fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” And Hos. x. 8; “And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
Says the text, “ For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” That revolution was a great day of God's wrath to the pagan empire; and the abetters of paganism were not able to stand. It was also a lively emblem and type of the battle of the great day of God, now not far future; and also of the end of the world. The language therefore, which we find appropriated to the battle of that great day, and to the end of the world, was adopted by the prophetic Spirit, and applied to that typical event; not that it was an ultimate accomplishment of it; but because it held a conspicuous rank among the types of it; as did also the destruction of Jerusalem. Both brought a day of God's wrath, indeed, upon antichristian enemies, and afforded a solemn memento of the battle of the great day, and also of the end of the world!
In the event in our text, the pagan Roman beast died ! In a still greater fulfilment of the description there given, or in the battle of that great day of God, the same beast (having obtained the healing of his deadly wound, and, according to another prophetic figure, having arisen from the bottomless pit) goes into perdition; and sinks as mighty millstone into the depth of the sea, never to rise again before the Millennium. (See Dan. vii. 11; Rev. xix. 19; xi. 15; xvi. 17; xiv. 14, to end; and xviii. 21.) In this scene, our text will receive a much more striking fulfilment, as to the import and amount of its figures, than in the event to which it primarily and in its chronological order applies. The imagery of the sixth seal is manifestly one of those prophetic descriptions, which allude to a rising course of events, as type and antitype, till they are fully accomplished in that last great day for which all other days were made! Hence such events are noted, as a coming of Christ;—"the great day of his wrath is come!” All such antecedent comings' of Christ are but mystical, and not literal; and are thus but types of his last and literal coming to judge the world.
The first six seals thus related to judgments on the pagan Roman empire.
6. The sixth seal abolished paganism, and planted Christianity as the nominal religion of the empire.” Viewing the event described under the sixth seal as a type of the battle of the great day of God, now
not far distant; its language is of the deepest interest to us. The language of the fifth seal too, being a note preparatory to divine inquisitions for blood, is of interest to this generation. The earth is now deeply defiled with blood. And even our land is not free from it. And blood, wantonly shed, has a voice calling for vengeance, which God will not fail to hear, and answer. The kind and solemn warning then, applies to this very period, -" Come my people, enter into thy chambers." See Isai. xxvi. 20, 21.] Christians, awake, and obey. And, O sinner, awake! fly from the wrath to come. Escape for thy life.” It is no time to sleep nor linger at such a day as the present!
Six of the seals having been opened, and paganism in the Roman empire having been subverted; a new era opens upon the church.
But the empire, though now under a government nominally Christian, had resting upon it the enormous guilt of ten bloody persecutions of the followers of Christ; and God had vengeance yet to take upon it. A series of judgments was now about to commence upon the empire, predicted under the figures of trumpets, as trumpets of old were used to sound alarms. Seven trumpets of judgments were to be blown by seven angels; inasmuch as angels are ministers of Providence to fulfil divine judgments on the enemies of God.
But some important representations were first to be given of the sealing grace of the Spirit, -of the prevalence of Christian prayer in numerous conversions,—and of a deferring of pending judgments for this great object.
Ver. 1. And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
The commencement of the judgments of the trumpets is here denoted by winds that were about to sweep the Roman earth, by invasions of hordes of barbarians from the north. Winds are a noted emblem of such judgments; as Jer. xlix. 36; And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of Heaven; and will scatter them towards all those winds; and I will send my sword after them.” The holding of such winds then, implies both that the judgments were coming, and that they were to be deferred for a time. To give a lively view of this, four angels were represented as standing at the four cardinal points of the compass, holding those pending winds, till the chosen of God in the empire should be brought in, and sealed for Christ.
Ver. 2. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3. Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4. And I heard the number of them which were sealed : and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
This angel of mercy must have been Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, coming like the natural sun from the east. He had the seal of the living God, the power of grace and of life, which is but the impression of the moral image of God
upon the soul. Their being said to be sealed in their foreheads, seems in allusion to a custom of ancient times, in which masters affixed some mark upon their servants, to note them as their property ;-also from the custom of labelling articles, to show to whom they belonged. The chosen of God were to be set apart for him, by a mark said to be upon their foreheads, but really affixed to their hearts; impressing there the image of God; and bringing them into the visible kingdom of God under the seal of his covenant. This blessed operation must be accommodated with a season of peace; as was in fact the case in the empire for fifteen years after the judgment of the preceding seal; and, to a considerable degree, for forty years. In this season 144,000 were there converted to Christ; probably a certain number put for an uncertain ;—said to be of the tribes of Israel.
Ver. 5. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
6. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
8. Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
The number is the square of the number of the twelve patriarchs, and of the twelve apostles, carried out in thousands, to indicate the greatness of the number of the converts of that time. And these converted gentiles are noted as being of the tribes of Israel, from the fact, that the gentile church succeeded the Jewish church, and are called children of Abraham.
Ver. 9. After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.
10. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
After this, or presented in vision as a subsequent event, Jolin beheld multitudes innumerable in glory, having come from every region of the earth, and now standing before the throne of glory in sinless perfection; and holding in their hands each a branch from the palm-tree, as an emblem of victory over all their enemies, of sin, Satan, and the world. These we must view as a prophetic exhibition of the amazing multitudes who should, in times then future, and to the end of the world, be in like manner sealed, and should be brought to glory by gospel grace. What follows, to the close of the chapter, confirms the idea, that