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analogous species it must be regarded as representing, and finally to verify the prediction, if it have been fulfilled, by showing that such agents have appeared on the theatre of the world, and exerted actions and produced effects that correspond to the symbolization.
Mr. Stuart has accordingly mistaken the office of the philologist and the interpreter in respect to the Apocalypse, in the same manner as he would confound the work of a mere translator and a mathematician, who should assume that to transfer the Principia of Newton from Latin into English, is precisely the same as to make out a demonstration of the propositions of that work. The whole of his expositions accordingly that are framed in accordance with that assumption, are false. He is equally unsuccessful also in his deviations from it; as when he allows a representative significance to the symbols, he either assumes that the agent and action foreshown are of the same species as the symbols by which they are represented, or violates in some other relation the laws of analogy.
The great heads of the eastern and western hierarchies thus present a conspicuous and terrible counterpart to the symbol. The nearer we approach them, and the fuller we discern their character, the clearer we see in them the gigantic form and malignant aspect of this demon destroyer, and trace in theirs the history of his dreadful ravages. They have been for fifteen centuries the principal actors in the scene, striding over every part of the Roman empire, and especially the ten kingdoms, and filling the atmosphere through height and depth with their pestilential breath. The vast regions of the east and south, the plains and vales of Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the British Isles, the sequestered valleys, the deep glens of the mountains, the lofty hills, have been the scene of their devastating agency; nor, although that is their theatre, has their influence been limited to that vast empire. Their poisoned blast has drifted around the coast of Africa to the sultry realms of Malabar and the distant east, wafted off to the verdant Isles, and swept across the Atlantic and Pacific seas.
The symbols of the first four seals thus represent the teachers and rulers of the church from the period of the visions on to the fall of antichrist. And what an exact, what a conspicuous, what an impressive exhibition they form of the principal characters they have assumed ;-the first, of the faithful and successful, not only of the earliest age when they predominated, but all, however few, and however humble their station of every subsequent period; the second, of the ambitious and contentious who usurped an unauthorized dominion over the church, and distracted and wasted it by strifes and misrule; the third, the unfaithful and treacherous who perverted their office to the suppression and adulteration of the truth, and reduced their flocks to famine and misery; the last, the great archpriests of apostasy who, usurping the throne and rights of God, introduced new objects of homage, a new worship, and new conditions of pardon; rendered their teachings a moral pestilence that taints and kills all who fall under its power; and made the subordinate ranks of the ministry and the civil rulers also their instruments in the work of destruction.
Very different are the seals that follow ;—the fifth disclosing the views and feelings with which the martyrs pass into the invisible world, and their justification and admission to rest till the domination of antichrist shall reach its close; the sixth, the fall of the tyrannical governments which is to take place at the advent of Christ; and the last displaying other actors and other successions of events from the early ages on to the illimitable future.
CHAPTER VI. 9, 10, 11.
THE FIFTH SEAL.
And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who were slain on account of the word of God, and on account of the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice saying, Until when, O Lord the holy and true, dost thou not judge and vindicate our blood from those who dwell on the earth? And there was given to each one of them a white robe, and it was said to them that they should rest yet a short time, until their fellowservants and their brethren, who were about to be killed also as they, were completed.
Some interpreters, as Mr. Daubuz and Vitringa, regard the altar as introduced in order to exhibit the martyrs as sacrifices offered to God. That construction, however, is embarrassed by insuperable objections. The brazen altar was an altar of expiation only. The animals offered on it were types of the sacrifice of Christ, and he offered himself only in atonement for sin. What resemblance then subsists between his offering, and the slaughter of the martyrs? Their death was not expiatory, nor vicarious. We are excluded therefore by the nature of his sacrifice, from the supposition of any analogy between their death and his. Nor can the altar have been introduced for the mere purpose of indicating that the martyrs, like sacrificial victims, were put to a bloody death. No need existed of such an exhibition. Nor was there any analogy between their slaughter and that of animals sacrificed, which the altar could properly denote. The reasons of their being slain were wholly different, and its relations to right. Those sacrifices were offered by divine command; it was in transgression of the law of God that the martyrs were slain. It was no infringement of the rights of the animals sacrificed, to subject them to that death. The persecution and slaughter of the martyrs, were in violation of their most sacred rights. It is undoubtedly in some wholly different relation therefore that the altar is to be contemplated. As their cheerful submission to death for the sake of Christ was a beautiful act of obedience, it resembled far more an offering of incense on the golden altar, in expression of love, gratitude, and homage, than an expiatory sacrifice. And if the altar were introduced in order to exhibit their death as an offering, it was doubtless the altar of incense and as a symbol of homage. But that construction is likewise ineligible. That they died as martyrs, implies that they died cheerfully for the sake of Christ rather than to apostatiže, not of mere constraint, and needed not therefore a formal symbolization. Whether the altar then were the altar of incense, or the altar of expiation, it doubtless was introduced, not to exhibit them as sacrifices or as offerings, but only as a symbol of the instrument on which the expiation had been made which was the ground of their trust, as it was on that that the fire of God's justice had burned, and on the cross which it typified that his rights had been vindicated, and his truth and rectitude maintained; and its object accordingly was to exhibit them, not as martyrs, but simply as believers in Christ, relying on his sacrifice for justification. Their station under it, or at its foot, denotes accordingly their reliance on the expiation made on the cross, and appeal on the ground of it to the faithfulness of Christ to fulfil the promises of a speedy advent to take possession of the earth, redeem his people from the power of his usurping enemies, and crown them with the full redemption which is to mark his millennial reign. This is in accordance with their cry, which implies an expectation founded on a promise, that he would interpose and destroy those who were slaughtering his
people, that a long period of persecution had intervened since
Unlike the agents denoted by the symbols of the preceding seals, the martyr souls are exhibited in their own persons; and obviously because no others could serve as their symbol ; there being no others that have undergone a change from a bodied to a disembodied life, nor that sustain such relations to God of forgiveness, acceptance, and assurance of a resurrection from death, and a priesthood with Christ during his victorious reign on the earth. They act accordingly in their own persons, not as representatives of another class of beings, or of surviving or subsequent believers on the earth.
They were the souls of the martyrs that were shown in the vision, not their dead bodies, as Mr. Mede and some others have supposed, as is manifest from the term itself, the representation, the scene of their appearance, and their cry. The term τα FTúpata is used in the prophecy to denote the dead bodies of the martyrs, chap. xi. 9, and ai Luxai, xx. 4, to denote their disembodied spirits. They are represented as having been slain, and as uttering their appeal to God because of their blood having been shed. But it were incongruous to exhibit dead bodies as conscious, and exerting the actions of life. It were in contradiction to truth. Such a symbolization would represent them indeed, not as continuing under the power of death, but raised to a new life. And finally the place of their appearance was not that of their martyrdom on the earth, but at the altar before the throne in the scene of the vision in heaven, whither their souls passed immediately after death, but whither it were incongruous to exhibit their bodies as conveyed.
The period of their utterance of the cry, was that intervening immediately between death and their public acceptance, in token of which white robes were given them; and not improbably the wonder at the delay of the promise which it expressed, was not that alone which they may have felt when subjected to the stroke
of death, but in a far higher degree a surprise and awe excited on the one hand by the vision of the incarnate Deity, and loftier sense to which they were raised by it of the sanctity of his rights, his infinite power to accomplish his purposes, and the wonderfulness of his forbearance toward his foes ; and on the other by the beauty of their new existence, the greatness of his love to his people, and the glory of the salvation to which he exalts them. With these was intermixed not improbably a feeling of pity and love for those whom they had left exposed to the sufferings and dangers of persecution, and desire that their families and friends might by the speedy advent of Christ be freed from those trials, and given to share in the infinite gifts of his millennial reign.
The form in which they uttered their surprise at his delay is eminently beautiful, becoming beings approaching for the first time his visible presence, meeting his smile, beholding the dazzling grandeurs of his majesty, and raised to a raptured realization of the splendors of the existence to which he exalts his redeemed ;-a burst of wonder alike at his love to his people, and at his forbearance toward his foes, fraught with an acknowledgment of his sovereignty, his infinite sanctitude and truth, and trust in his promise of a speedy redemption of the earth from the dominion of his enemies. It exhibits them as entering his presence with a profound interest in his glory, a fervent desire to understand his ways, confidence in his rectitude, and a sense that the new and immortal career on which they had entered, is pre-eminently to owe its beauty and blessedness to the accomplishment of the great purpose which he has revealed, of a conquest of his foes, and a victorious reign on the earth.
The gift of a white robe to each one of them, denotes that they were formally accepted, and adjudged to the inheritance of life; a white robe being the symbol of justification. The response to their appeal, that they should rest yet for a short time till their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed also as they, were completed, indicates that they were in expectation of a great and blissful change in Christ's administration over the world, when he should descend to vindicate their blood ; that that change was to take place as soon as the number of the martyrs was completed, and that the period to intervene was but short. It is an indubitable announcement therefore that the last period of antichrist is to be one of persecution. That great change, it is subsequently shown, is the extinction of the idolatrous and persecuting powers, the banishment of Satan to the abyss, the resurrection of the saints and reign with Christ on the