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equally the case; yet it may be objected, that a scarcity of provisions is a circumstance of too general a nature, to be regarded as characteristic of any particular period. In reply to this, I observe, that though there have undoubtedly been other æras, when an alarming deficiency of the necessaries of life has been experienced, and that through a great extent of country; yet there are solid grounds for concluding, that, from the earliest annals of history to the present time, there never was any period, in which the inhabitants of the countries, comprehended under the Roman empire, sustained so frequent or so general a want of provisions, as in that time, which is supposed to be referred to by the symbols of the third seal. The numerous extracts, which I have been tempted to introduce from Mr. Gibbon, will go far to prove this assertion; but, in order to furnish more complete evidence of it, it will be necessary briefly to allege some facts and reasons, relative both to the centuries which preceded, and those which followed, the period which the prophet is thought to describe.
Whilst the Roman empire remained entire; whilst its frontiers were guarded by the strength of its fortifications and the valor of its legionaries; the labors of agriculture pursued their tranquil and accustomed course; the rivers, the seas, and the excellent roads that ran through the provinces of the empire, united to secure a constant, and generally a sufficient, supply of provisions for all its various inhabitants; the rich harvests of Egypt and Africa yielded an abundance, greatly superior to their domestic wants; and, to use the words of Mr. Cibbon40, the accidental scarcity, in any single province, was immediately relieved by the plenty of its more fortunate neighbors. It may be
40 Vol. I. p. 86. During the reign of Gallienus, it is true, an extreme scarcity of provisions was felt throughout the Roman empire. But it was comparitively of short continuance; and the indolent Gallienus was succeeded by a series of great princes, under whom order prevailed, and agriculture flourished.
41 In an extensive corn-country, between all the different parts of which there is a free commerce and communication, the scarcity occa
added, that, antecedently to the accession of Constantine, the dominions of Rome had not been regularly divided into the empires of the East and the West. Consequently the husbandman and the farmer were not weighed down by so intolerable a pressure of taxes: and, as but one court existed, that host of idlers and prodigals, who constitute or surround a court, were far less numerous; and those who were drawn aside from the plough, the forge and the loom, to supply the luxuries, and to minister to the amusements, of the prince and his dependents, occupied a narrower space in the ranks of society.
To evince that those who inhabited the countries of the Roman empire were not afflicted by so severe a scarcity of corn and food, subsequent to the era of the third seal, one decisive fact may be alleged. In the 8th, the 9th, and the 10th centuries, they certainly amounted not to one half, and probably not to one third, of the number of those, who lived when the mighty fabric of Roman greatness was unshaken, and consequently a much smaller quantity of provisions was sufficient for their subsistence. And there are obvious reasons, why, for a number of past centuries, no general and permanent scarcity of provisions has been felt. The establishment of laws, and the stability of governments, have given protection to property, and confidence to industry. Nations have been far less exposed to the ravages of foreign conquest; and, during the prosecution of war, its horrors have been alleviated by the superior mildness of modern times. Vast woods have been felled, and immense tracks of waste land cultivated. Agriculture has received a long succession of improvements; and commerce has opened a way for the interchange of its produce between the most distant countries of the globe.
The account of the two next seals, as well as that of the two first, is taken from Vitringa. The fourth seal predicts the conquests and devastations of the Saracens and the
sioned by the most unfavorable seasons can never be so great as to produce a famine.' Smith's Wealth of Nations, 7th ed. vol. II. p. 295.
Turks, by whose instrumentality Divine Providence se. verely punished the corrupt morals and abject superstitions of the degenerate Christians of that time, and particularly those of the East43; and by whose progress the Deity permitted, not only that a large portion of the globe should be involved in wretchedness, and be in a great degree depopulated; but that it should also cease to profess the belief, and to enjoy the benefits, of Christianity", though it had been long planted there and firmly established. Those barbarous persecutions, which have been kindled by the antichristian church, the fifth seal represents: it plainly announces that those who should stand forward in defence of Evangelic truth should be exposed to them for a very long duration of time; and, including the Albigenses and Waldenses, the Bohemian Brethren and French Protestants, as well as a crowd of contemporary sufferers that might be enumerated, it comprehends the far greater number of those who have ever perished in the cause of religion. It embraces the period which runs from the 13th century to the fall of the antichristian empire. As this great catas
42 I know not that this opinion has been adopted by a single English commentator. It is, however common on the continent. Sigillum Quartum,' says Wolfius (Cura Philologica, in loc.), de Saracenis et Turcis MULTI accipiunt.'
43 Superstitious as was the worship which prevailed in the West, that of the Eastern Christians was, says Vitringa, at this time far more corrupt. In Apcc. p. 418.
44 Not only was Christianity once established in Macedonia and Greece, in Syria, Armenia, and Asia Minor, in Lybia, Egypt and Abyssinia; but it had at one time made a considerable progress in the islands of Socotra and Ceylon, in Iberia and Thrace, in Arabia and Persia, in Tartary, China, and Hindostan. But at present, among the natives of all these countries, the knowlege of Christianity is either completely obliterated, or it is obscurely professed by a scanty portion of illiterate believers. The religion of Mahomet, on the contrary, in almost every one of these countries, either bears an undisputed sway, or has acquired very numerous proselytes. See Mosheim' Eccl. Hist. (vol. I. p. 199, 274, 275: vol. II. p. 2, 43, 179), and the Decl. and Fall of the Rom. Emp. (vol. VIII. p. 339-347). Early in the 5th century, there were, says Sir I. Newton, in Africa alone about 700 bishoprics. Obs. on Dan. p. 298.
trophe is yet future, we appear to be now living under the fifth seal, though near the close of it, and when the fury of religious zeal has almost spent its force.
The next of these prophecies, which is to be a more particular object of enquiry, is thus sublimely expressed 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 unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrowl 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 bondman, and every freeman, 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's of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand 46 ?
The expressions of this seal, says Dr. Wall, ' are always the emblems of kings, emperors, governments, falling." Not only does a part of this striking passage bear, on the very face of it, a strong resemblance to the prediction of Jesus; but it may be`regarded as representing the very same events in a more expanded form. What is said here, that there was a Great Earthquake, signifies, says Vitringa, 'that there would be a mighty Revolution, which would happen in some great empire, or rather in the world, or some eminent part of it, which is treated of in this prophecy.' Now this part of the world, he observes, is Europe. Under the emblem of the heaven being rolled together is signified a thorough change or abolition of the whole system both political and ecclesiastical.-For in the prophetic style, as I just now observed, the whole body of
45 On the expression, the Great Day of God, see the observations from Lowth, Daubuz, and Mede, in p. 261.
46 VI. 12-17.
those who have rule and authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, are included under the name of heaven.' And, in another place, Vitringa says, this seal foretells, that Great Commotions would suddenly arise, both in the empire of Papal Rome, and in the other kingdoms and republics of Europe, God being about to raise up by his providence avengers, who would undertake the cause of the afflicted.' Nothing, says this judicious commentator, can be more evident than this explication of the sixth seal, if we have compared it with the seventh vial, which, in almost the same words, foretells the destruction of the antichristian empire.
The sixth seal has, however, been applied by bp. Newton and by various other commentators to the successive defeats of Maxentius and Licinius, to the destruction of the pagan temples, and to the various alterations accomplished by Constantine47. But, besides observing, that, according to the ideas I entertain of the former seals, these events belong to a period far remote from that of the sixth seal, and therefore that this interpretation cannot possibly be the true one; I appeal to the good sense of the unpre judiced reader, whether these occurrences, though of acknowleged importance, are adequate to the grandeur or to the import of the prophetic images. In divine writings,' says Dr. Apthorp, this rule is indispensable, that a profusion of the higher figures be not employed on a disproportioned subject, or to impress ideas too vast for the event. Besides, is it not said, that the kings of the earth -hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the moun tains; and is it not admitted without dispute. in other places, that the kings of the earth are the modern monarchs of the European world? Whence then is it applied to a period of time, when these kings had no existence ?
47 Should any person, notwithstanding all the force of the objections against it, apprehend, that the sixth seal has an aspect to these inferior and less important events, yet he will probably acquiesce in an observation of Mr. Waple, that it has also a relation to the final judgments upon Antichrist.'
48 Vol. I. p. 86.