Enter subtitle here
...The First Four and Sixth Seals, representative of the judicial manner of "taking out of the way" the PAGAN CONSTITUTION of the "Dreadful and Terrible Fourth Beast, which withheld the revelation of "the LAWLESS ONE" (Dan. vii. 7; Apoc. vi; 2 Thess. ii. 3-9; Apoc. xii. 1-5,7-13) and the consequent manifestation of the CATHOLIC MYSTERY OF INIQUITY, or Man-of-Sin Power, in the heaven of said beast, or "Great Red Dragon."
TIME OF EVENTS
From A.D. 107 to A.D. 324
Chapter 6 begins the historical outline. It records the opening of the first six seals. It covers 228 years, from 96 AD (John's day) to 325 AD, the establishment of Constantine as sole emperor-the first, so-called, "Christian emperor."
The first seal (verse 1) opens with thunder-the assassination of the Emperor Domitian, who had banished John to Patmos. This seal covers 87 years, from 96 to 183 AD, described by the historians as the happiest years of human history-a period of peace and prosperity under five strong, capable, intelligent emperors devoted to public service and well being.
John saw (verse 2) a horse representing the Roman Empire. It was white, symbolizing peace and well-being. It was ridden by a bowman who was given a crown of victory and went forth conquering. This peaceful conqueror was the Ecclesia of Christ overcoming paganism. In a sense, this bowman continues all through the book. His conquering is really the theme of the book-it's eventual conquering the destruction of all paganism-the flesh.
Verse 3 - The second seal-a red horse, and the rider with a great sword to take peace form the earth, to kill one another. From 180 to 211 AD there was a complete and sudden and dramatic change in the Empire. Commodus, son of the previous emperor and a vile incompetent youth, inherited the throne of the world. Because of debauchery and tyranny, an attempt was made by one of the senate to assassinate him. Aroused, he began a wholesale destruction of senators and influential men. He was killed and the army seized control. The senate appointed an emperor, and the army killed him, because he cut their allowance. The army sold the throne to another senator, and after two months they killed him. Two more claimants were killed within a year or so. These conditions led to the events of the next seal.
Verse 5 - The third seal-a black horse and a rider with balances-wheat and barley at famine prices. The balances indicate taxation and scarcity. The period from 211 to 235, 24 years-5 emperors; all were killed. Some were dissolute monsters, imposing heavy taxes, incompetent administration, squandering the treasury on the army to hold its support. Taxation and oppression were such that vast areas went out of cultivation. It didn't pay to farm. The final emperor of the period cut taxes to 1/30 of what they had been and began to restore order and prosperity. The army killed him and anarchy reigned.
Verse 7 - The fourth seal-a pale horse and the rider was death and hell (the grave) followed. Power was given to them to kill the fourth part of the earth with sword, hunger, pestilence and wild beasts. In the period from 235 to 284 AD, 49 years, there were 39 emperors or claimants, and they all died violently except one. There was constant strife and bloodshed. The army murdered any emperor who tried to do good and restore order. Industry and agriculture collapsed. A plague due to food scarcity raged for 15 years, and nearly half of the population of the Empire died. We can see that the Roman Empire destroyed itself long before the barbarians came.
Verse 9 - The fifth seal-an entirely different picture. This concerns events within the household-the inside of the scroll. The souls under the altar that were slain for the Word of God, crying for vengeance against the oppressor. History records ten persecutions of the Christians by the pagan Roman emperors from Nero to Diocletian. And this was the tenth, the worst and the last, from 303 to 313-10 years. All who held religious meetings or were found in possession of the Scriptures were to be put to death. All who refused to worship the Roman gods could not hold office or have the protection of the law.
Verse 12 - The sixth seal-a great earthquake. There are four earthquakes in the Revelation. All involve a complete change of government-both political and religious-a complete sweeping of one order out of power and the rise of another. They are: 1st, this earthquake, which cast out the pagans and elevated the so-called Christians. 2nd, the Julian earthquake, about 40 years later, which reversed this briefly and put the pagans back in power. 3rd, the French Revolution that ended the Holy Roman Empire after 1000 years of rule and began modern history. And finally, the 4th and last, the establishment of Christ's Kingdom.
We are considering the first earthquake. "The sun became black"-the pagan emperorship was extinguished. "The moon became as blood"-the priesthood was slain, the pagan priesthood. "The stars of heaven fell"-all the subordinate officials. Heaven itself was rolled up as a scroll-the whole government apparatus rolled up and swept away as finished.
Bro Growcott - Review of the Apocalypse
I have remarked ... that the general subject of the translation of Apoc. vi is the conflict between the truth incarnate in the Woman's Seed and their adversary, the seed of the Serpent, enthroned in Pagan Rome. However prolonged, it reveals that the conflict was not to be endless, but should terminate in bruising the Satan, and the departing of his heaven as a scroll when it is rolled up...
The first seal, then, being our point of departure in this great contest, which was to determine the fate of that Pagan power which had "magnified itself against the Prince of the Host, and had already taken away the Daily, and cast down the place of his sanctuary" (Dan. viii. 11), it is important and desirable to know the chronology of the first seal, that is, the epoch of the beginning.
And how is this to be determined? It certainly was not opened before John's banishment to Patmos; for the seals were a prophecy to him of what should come to pass afterwards. The best evidence extant declares that John resided in Patmos in the reign of Domitian, where, A.D. 96, he saw the things he records in the apocalypse. The first seal in its symbolization is not of a colour suited to the times and events of the period from the assumption of Jesus to the right hand of power, to A.D. 96.
The following quotation from Gibbon will give the reader some idea of the agents who figured before the world and gave character to the times in which it was the misfortune of honest men to live.
With the exception of Vespasian and his son Titus, by whom God broke up the Jewish State, and burned the city of his Son's murderers (Matt. xxii. 7), the imperial rulers of the Roman people, from Tiberius to Domitian, were tyrants of a truly "dreadful and terrible" description. "Their unparalleled vices," says he, "and the splendid theatre on which they were acted, have saved from them oblivion. The dark, unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Caligula, the feeble Claudius, the profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius the timid, inhuman Domitian, are condemned to everlasting infamy.
During fourscore years (excepting only the short and doubtful respite of Vespasian's reign) Rome groaned beneath an unremitting tyranny, which exterminated the ancient families of the republic, and was fatal to almost every virtue and every talent that arose in that unhappy period."
The colour of the first seal is not characteristic of the age in which these rulers flourished in crime. Red or black would have expressed the colour of their times, but certainly not the white of the first seal.
Prior to the opening of the first seal Domitian reigned. His despotism and blood shedding was incompatible with the White Horse of the First Seal period
Domitian ascended the throne of the Caesars, A.D. 81; and, as a "destroyer of the earth," his tyranny was endured for fifteen years... This man was son of Vespasian, and brother of Titus, the renowned destroyers of the holy city and temple of the Jews....The greatness of his family alarmed his pusillanimity, which could only be appeased by the blood of those Romans whom he either feared, or hated, or esteemed.
His ferocity does not appear to have been inflamed against the christians immediately upon his accession to power. He increased in cruelty as he approached the end of his reign, when he renewed the horrors of Nero's persecution, imputing to his victims the guilt of "atheism and Jewish manners," which was the common charge against christadelphians* on account of their refusal to worship the idols of Greece and Rome.
1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying [from one of the Four Living Ones, saying, as a voice of thunder], Come and see.
In spirit John was in the Lord's day, and "saw" spirit-manifestations, or spirit-forms...
It is the voice of the Spirit, as fatal to Domitian as the writing of the same spirit upon the wall was to Belshazzar on the night he was slain. The voice is the opening voice of the first-seal period, A.D. 96. A voice that changed the times, and whitened the situation of the affairs of the great Roman Habitable.
It was the thundering voice of revolution that hurled the tyrant from his throne, and inaugurated a new course of things; the effect of which should not cease until Christ had conquered Caesar.
And what the second causes resulting in this premanifestation and predetermination of the Spirit? Listen; Domitian bestowed on his cousin Flavius Clemens his own niece Domitilla in marriage, adopted the children of that marriage to the hope of the succession, and invested their father with the honours of the consulship.
But he had scarcely finished the term of his annual magistracy, when on a slight pretence he was condemned and executed; Domitilla was banished to a desolate island on the coast of Campania; and sentence either of death or of confiscation was pronounced against a great number of persons who were involved in the same accusation -- atheism and Jewish manners.
He charged this upon those symbolized by "the Lamb and the Four Living Ones;" and in so doing the pagan government, their Accuser, "accused them before the Deity day and night" (xii. 10). But the mandate of retribution had gone forth, and a few months after the death of Clemens, and the banishment of Domitilla, Stephen, one of her freedmen who had enjoyed her favour, assassinated the emperor in his palace.
...the first cause of all the events represented in the seals was "THE LAMB;" "he openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;"
He opens all the seal periods; and, by that omnipotence given to him in heaven and in earth, he gives such a shape and colour to the world's affairs, civil, ecclesiastical, and social, as accords with the prefigurations of the Spirit in this prophecy...
... preparing a situation of affairs favorable to the establishment of his throne and kingdom upon earth. Providence is the Lamb; and the Lamb, with his seven horns and seven eyes, recovered from the wound with which he was wounded in the house of his friends (Zech. xiii. 6); and embodying the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne -- is the symbol of the All-powerful Spirit of the Deity.
...As the Dead One, anointed with spices and bound with grave clothes, he was Sin's Flesh crucified, slain, and buried; in which by the slaying sin had been condemned, and by the burial, put out of sight: but as the Living One again alive for the Aion of the Aions -- "the Son of Deity with power by spirit of holiness out of a resurrection of dead ones," He is the Spirit -- "the Seven Spirits before the throne;" "the Alpha and Omega, beginning and ending; the first and the last; he who is and who was and who is coming, THE OMNIPOTENT" (Apoc. i. 4,8,11; xvi. 5).
THE FOUR LIVING ONES
... a class of agents performing a very important part in association with the Lamb during the first four seal-periods. Aggregately they are the symbols of the "ONE BODY" -- of "the Ecclesia which is His body" (Eph. i. 22-23; iv. 4)... in these seals they are emblematic of the general assembly and ecclesia of firstborns, who have been enrolled for heavens (Heb. xii. 23) in their relation, or rather, opposition, to "the Prosecutor of the Brethren" enthroned in the heaven of Pagan Rome (xii. 7-10).
This power, symbolized by "the Dragon in heaven," was continually assailing them with accusations of blasphemy and atheism, and of hatred to mankind in general; and unrighteously subjecting them to the cruelest pains and penalties of despotic and arbitrary power. But, energized by the Lamb, "they loved not their lives unto the death"; and "by the word of their testimony" withstood their enemy until at length "they overcame him."
The Lamb and the Four Living Ones in the first four seals symbolize, then, what may be styled in popular phrase, "the church militant" -- such as the ecclesia of the Deity was in the time of the apostle John. The Lamb was then in the midst of the seven golden lightstands, in which burned the seven flames of fire. In other words, the apostolic ecclesias were all in the Spirit's Mouth, from which they were not "spued," or ejected, until after the fifth seal. The Lamb and the Four Living Ones were One Body -- "the Father in Jesus, and Jesus in the Father, and they, the true believers, in them," a Divine Unity.
This was a power too strong for the Dragon-power of Rome. It was the spirit of the Deity in intellectual and moral activity contending in flesh and blood "against principalities, against powers, against the worldrulers of the darkness of the aion, against the spirituals of the wickedness in the heavenlies" of Daniel's fourth beast (Eph. vi. 12). While the weapons of the Dragon's warfare were carnal -- imprisonment, torture, confiscation, fire, and sword; the weapon of theirs was "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
The Thunder Voice
...The dethronement and death of Domitian were the thunder-voice of the opened first seal-period, which arrested the attention of all christadelphian eyes to behold what was next to "come."
The fall of Domitian, then was in itself a command to all the eyes of the One Body (and it was gemonta ophthalmon, "full of eyes" ch. iv. 8; Ezek. x. 12) to come "to the consideration of the event," and to "see," or discern, the unloosing of the seal.
And what did they see in the Dragon-empire consequent upon the tyrant's fall? They saw a very remarkable change of times. The previous fifteen years of misrule and cruelty were immediately succeeded by a mild and beneficent reign of sixteen months and eight days. This was the short, but brilliant reign of Nerva, which was inaugurated by an act of the Roman Senate, which condemned Domitian's memory, and rescinded his decrees. Nerva was one of the best monarchs permitted by the Lamb to occupy the Dragon throne.
Under his mild administration of the laws, the people of the Roman Horse was everywhere contented and happy. He extended his clemency as "the minister of the Deity for good," to all who were imprisoned for treason; called home all that had been banished in Domitian's time, except the tyrant's own niece, Domitilla, whose freedman had assassinated him; restored all sequestrated estates; punished informers, and, to the utmost of his power, redressed the grievances of every description of his subjects.
To christadelphians he allowed the freest toleration, not permitting any to persecute either them or the Jews, though the saints were generally regarded as Atheists, having no visible temples, altars, or sacrifice, which the pagans considered as essential to a profession of religion.
THE EPHESO-SMYRNEAN STATE
INITIATION OF THE SEAL-PERIOD.
2 And I saw, and behold a White Horse: and he that sat on him had a bow [one sitting upon him having a bow]; and a crown was given unto him [ there was given to him a coronal wreath]: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer [that he might conquer].
The white horse goes forth with the arrowless bowman. Bro Thomas in Eureka equates this, with the Ephesian-Smyrnian state of the Apostasy, corresponding with the reigns of Nerva, Hadrian, Trajan and the two Antonines (AD 97-183). Pockets of Truth (ecclesias) had been spread throughout the Roman Empire by Paul. The white horse and its arrowless bowman symbolised its further spreading and the spiritual warfare of this epoch of relative peace in the empire.
Trajan and Hadrian were no lovers of the Jews natural or spiritual, and Hadrian suppressed the Bar Kochba rebellion and had Jerusalem plowed over. Justin Martyr and Polycarp were martyred in this epoch and many others thrown to wild beasts in the Colluseum.
Apostasy also spread (Nikolaitaines, Balaamites Jezebels) (Eureka vol. 1), Early Christians met in the catacombs of ancient Rome - cobblers, wool workers, fullers, craftsmen; slaves hiding from the tyranny of Rome and prayed and sang Psalms such as Pslm 73, Pslm 42, Pslm 141, Pslm23 •Brother Richard Lister
The Apocalyptic Messenger
Horse Symbolic or Roman Military Power
White is emblematic of peace...From the time of John, the pagan body politic, with whom he and his brethren and fellowservants were contending to the death, was to pass through seal-periods of a peaceful onslaught upon their superstitions, war, famine and pestilence, in the order of symbolical enumeration.
...In Isa. lxiii. 13, the Spirit says, that Yahweh led the whole tribes of Israel "as a horse in the wilderness that they should not stumble." This use of the animal is making it the symbol of a nation, or people.
Again, in Zech. x. 3, the Spirit saith, "Yahweh Tz'vaoth hath visited his flock, the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle." Thus, when Messiah comes he will ride Judah as his war-horse. From these instances, then, it is scriptural to say that the Spirit in prophecy sometimes represent a people by a horse.
Now it is also scriptural to say that where He finds people representing themselves by animals, he adopts their symbols, and speaks of them by their own signs. Thus, the Persians represented their nation by a Ram; the Macedonians theirs by a Goat; the Romans theirs by a Horse, a Dragon, an Eagle; and the Franks their people by Frogs. The Spirit of Christ that was in the prophets has appropriated all these in speaking prophetically of each. The Ram-people and the Goat-people are largely treated of in Daniel; and the Horse-people, Dragon people, Eagle-people, or Greco-Latin, or Roman people; and Frog-people, figure conspicuously in the apocalypse.
...The introduction of the Roman Horse into the symbolization of the first four seals as representative of the Roman people, was peculiarly appropriate. It was their symbol as pagans -- worshippers of their father Mars through the horse which they sacrificed to him. It represented the pagan Roman people, who were to be ridden by the judgments of the first, second, third and fourth seals in retribution for the cruelties they perpetrated upon the seed of the Woman in their fight of faith against idolatry during the first.
...The first seal-period, then, was to be a period of internal peace and prosperity to the pagan Roman world; and this period is only found in pagan Roman history subsequent to the death of Domitian, between that event and the accession of the emperor Commodus, A.D. 180.
This, then, is the chronological initiatory epoch of the seals. The Lamb begins the unrolling of the scroll by causing the removal of the "timid inhuman Domitian," A.D. 96; and the introduction upon the arena of a new class of imperial agents, who should promote the material prosperity and happiness of the people. John saw the change and partook of its benefit. On the opening of the first seal, he returned from exile. He lived through the short reign of Nerva; and died, according to the consent of antiquity, in the early part of the reign of Trajan.
Eureka 6 introduction 2
The Whiteness of the Horse
In regard to the period thus propitiously initiated by the reign of Nerva, Gibbon has remarked that, "were a man called to fix upon an epoch in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was the most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus," namely, from A.D. 96, to A.D. 180.
"The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power under the guidance of wisdom and virtue. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their day been capable of enjoying a rational freedom."
Here then are two periods of about equal duration, the one ending, and the other beginning at the death of Domitian; the former styled by the historian, "that unhappy period;" and the latter, "the most happy and prosperous" known to the world. This happiness and prosperity of the Roman people for eighty-four years was owing to the exemption they enjoyed from civil discord under these emperors. The period was a reign of peace over the Roman earth, granted by the opener of the seal; and as white is symbolical of peace and prosperity, the Horseman in the first seal-period, is paraded upon the arena sitting on a white horse.
...the spirit of the Lord would be quieted in the Roman Habitable until the time arrived to open the second seal-period however long that might be; and that then in the first seal-period, there would be peace, prosperity, and plenty for the people generally.
The Rider and the Bow
The rider of a horse is one who governs, controls, influences him in all his movements. He is active, while the horse is passive and subject to his will. The Roman horse, or people, in this first seal-period, were to be ridden, or subjected to certain activities, which would result in such a consummation as was indicated by other elements of the figuration.
The rider was "the spirit of the heaven" whose mission was conquest. He gave energy to a certain class of activities, by which they were prosperously advanced, until at length they overcame all obstacles. He was not therefore an emperor, nor a succession of emperors, wreathed or diademed; but a class of spirit-agencies to be coronally wreathed when their triumph over all that hindered was complete.
"He had a bow." ... It was the weapon of his warfare which killed without shedding the blood, or piercing the bodies, of his enemies. It was the weapon with which "he went forth conquering that he might conquer." It was an invincible weapon in his hand; and he who used it though unharnessed with shield, breastplate, or helmet in the figuration, was fearless of heart, and able to quench all the fiery darts of his adversaries.
...Again, in Hab. iii. 9, the Spirit saith, "quite naked was made thy bow -- oaths of the tribes -- the word." Here bow stands for the word, which contains the covenanted promises of Deity concerning the tribes of Israel. In other words, bow represents that "certain word" which Paul preached as "the hope of Israel," and styled in the New Testament "the gospel of the kingdom." This is the Spirit's Bow from which arrows are shot more killing than barbed steel.
Thus a multitude imbued with the word is an agency that might be fitly represented by a bow in the hand of the Spirit of the heaven riding the white horse of the seal. But then, how does he use this intelligent multitudinous bow? How does he shoot from it; and what are the arrows he shoots? We shall be able to "see" this by reference to other scriptural uses of the word bow.
In Psalm lxiv. it is written, "the workers of iniquity whet their tongue like a sword, and bow their arrows, bitter words, that they may shoot in secret at the perfect."
In this the tongue is compared to a bow from which words are shot forth as arrows. Hence, a multitude may not only itself be a bow, but its tongues may be bowed or bent, to shoot forth doctrine or testimony, which, as an arrow in the vitals, shall put to death the enmity of the carnal mind, or "the thinking of the flesh," against the Deity.
When such a multitude would deliver the testimony it held to be true, it would be drawing the bow and shooting at its adversaries the word of truth. This word would also be the arrow of their bow, as well as their sword; and whether regarded as an arrow or a sword, "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. iv. 12).
This was the Spirit-Man who fought for conquest against Caesar as the power which hindered, that he might be taken out of the way. He began this good fight in Caesar's empire on the fiftieth day after he was wounded in the heel by the serpent-power. Being healed of his wound, he went forth with his bow "conquering;" and in his prospering course, "pulling down strongholds, casting down reasonings, and every lofty conceit that exalted itself against the knowledge of the Deity, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (Eph. iv. 13; 2 Cor. x. 5).
For about sixty years he had handled his bow with great dexterity, prowess, and effect; and had already witnessed the signal overthrow of the Jewish power, against which he had been practising his archery nearly forty years. But the fall of Jerusalem did not bring peace to him. His work was still to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints," until the idolatrous superstition of which Caesar was the Chief Pontiff should be expelled from place and power in "the heaven" of the Roman Orb, or habitable earth.
For upwards of thirty years he had been bleeding at every pore, "sweating great drops of blood," in his encounters with the Neros and Domitians of the Roman state. Still he went on conquering with his bow, subduing enemies with the truth, and transforming them into Eyes of the Living Ones, and his own faithful allies in the good fight of faith.
This perfect man of the Ephesian phase is of the "One Body" had thus for sixty years "borne, endured, and labored for the sake of the Spirit's Name, and had not fainted" (ii. 3). He drew his bow against all adversaries, whether lying pretenders to apostleship, and Nicolaitans within; or the Jewish and Pagan denizens of the rayless darkness without. They were all the prey of his devouring bow, which spared neither age, sex, nor condition, admitted of no neutrality, knew no compromise, and tolerated only that which was indisputably true.
This Spirit-Man, whose head was Christ, his members in particular, those whom he filled with spirit-gifts for the work of the ministry and edifying of the body; and his flesh and bones, the faithful in general (Eph. iv. 10-12; v. 30) -- this Spirit-Man, I say, was a real and formidable potential existence in the empire of the Goat's Little Horn.
He had made Felix tremble; he had almost persuaded king Agrippa to be a bowman with himself; and he had so alarmed Caesar, that this imperial pontiff of the state superstition commanded him to draw his bow no more in the name of Jesus. But to this mandate he paid no regard.
The Coronal Wreath
How gratifying, then, to the spectator when he beheld a coronal wreath bestowed upon him -- "and there was given to him a stephanos," not a diadema. John "saw" the full import of this sign...The destiny of the rider of the white horse was not to wear the diadem, but to win the stephanos when the limit of his conquering should be reached.
...This conquest of Rome pagan they saw foreshadowed in a stephanos being given to the rider on the white horse. They knew from the nature of the gift, and their own condition in the world as a proscribed people, that it was prophetic, and not the representation of an accomplished fact. When they reviewed their progress in the empire for the past sixty years, they perceived that they were a conquering people, but that they had not yet won the stephan, or victor's wreath.
They had therefore to go on "conquering that they might conquer;" and with this most satisfying consideration to strengthen and encourage them, that if in the conflict their blood were poured out under the Altar, and they might not be personal witnesses of the Dragon's expulsion from the heaven, yet, "precious in the eyes of Yahweh is the death of his saints;" they would therefore not be forgotten, but at a remoter epoch would be raised from among the dead, and be associated with the Lamb as his companions in arms in the conquest of the Ten Horns, and in the binding and shutting up of the Dragon in the abyss for a thousand years.
Such, then, is the general import of the first seal. Although its period was most happy and prosperous for the generations ruled by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian and the two Antonines, yet the "we all who had come to a perfect man" had often to groan under the bloody despotism of those wise and virtuous heathen.
...There is still a letter extant addressed by Tiberianus, of the province of Syria, to Trajan, which shows his persecuting spirit, and the boldness of his victims. "I am quite wearied," says he, "with punishing and destroying the Galileans, or those of the sect called Christians, according to your orders. Yet they never cease to profess voluntarily what they are, and to offer themselves to death. Wherefore I have labored, by exhortation and threatening, to discourage them from daring to confess to me that they are of that sect. Yet, in defiance of all persecution, they still continue to do it. Be pleased, therefore, to inform me what your highness thinks proper to be done with them."
...A second rebellion broke out in the sixteenth year of Hadrian, A.D. 133. This was also very sanguinary, and continued to increase for about four years. In its suppression there was an unpitying destruction of the Jews, being more severe because they had long irritated and vexed the Romans. "But," as a writer has well remarked, "their sufferings were a just reward for their cruelty and unrelenting hatred toward the christians, whose principles would not allow them to unite in rebellion against the government." This ruin of Jewish affairs was of some advantage to the party of the Bow, which, though not delivered from their hatred, was liable to less annoyance from the diminution of their influence with those in power.
But, with the death of Hadrian, A.D. 138, and the accession of Titus Antoninus Pius, a senator of about fifty years of age, who filled his place in "the heaven," the state of the combatant for the victor's wreath was relatively improved. The emperor appears to have been a most amiable prince. He caused order and tranquillity to be maintained throughout the empire, and though a heathen pontiff, he was never guilty, so far as his own personal character and intentions were concerned, of wantonly shedding the blood of christians.
They were, however, cruelly treated in some of the Asiatic provinces. The crimes laid to their charge by the priests were those of impiety and atheism from a pagan point of view. But Antoninus issued an edict in which he decided that the profession of christianity was not in itself either the one or the other.
...But at length the senior Antoninus died, A.D. 161; and was succeeded by his colleague, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, an implacable persecutor of the faithful; yet, according to Gibbon, "just and beneficent to all mankind." These two Antonines governed the Dragon empire forty two years "with the same invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue. Their united reigns," continues this elegant apologist for paganism, "are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government." Marcus detested war as the disgrace and calamity of human nature; yet he was forward to shed the blood of christians without a pang.
...The reign of this "philosophic emperor" [Marcus Antonius] abounds with instances of unrelenting cruelty towards the christians. He made it a capital offence for any one to avow himself a christian; by which he afforded the world a striking illustration of the justice, mercy and beneficence, which flow from the mere reason and philosophy of the natural man! His theory deified what he called the soul; and this rational and philosophic god within him devoted all its divinity and power, inherent and acquired, to the maintaining a system of superstition and idolatry, repugnant to every principle of reason enlightened by sobriety and truth.
But, the Lamb who opened this seal, and who was now about to open the second, had tolerated this blind and ferocious philosopher's malignity, so much in accord with the fury of the besotted and brutal populace, to the utmost of his forbearance. He had afforded "philosophy" in purple an ample opportunity and a splendid theatre for the display of its "wisdom and virtue," in promoting the honour of the Deity, and real happiness of mankind.
But it had been weighed in the divine balance, and proved by the conquering bowman of the seal, to be lighter than vanity. His cruelty upon the Brethren of Christ is an indelible disgrace to his memory; which, however, according to Gibbon on the authority of Dion, "was revered by a grateful posterity, and above a century after his death, many persons preserved the image of Marcus Antonius among those of their household gods." His death occurred A.D. 180, by which a period was put to the flaming of this firebrand, which, with little intermission, had continued in one quarter or another during a period of eighteen years.
3 And when He opened the Second Seal, I heard [from] the second beast [living one] say [saying], Come and see.
The Second Seal
The red horse rode out baptising the empire with blood. This came about with the accession of Commmodus (AD 183) who succeeded his father Marcus Aurelius who died on the Danube frontier protecting the empire from the barbarians in the vast Thuringian forests of Germania. Commodus was attacked by the assassin's dagger (Gk.machaira). He turned on all suspects in the senate and aristocracy. He thus took away the peace. The praetorian guard became all powerful and slaughtered thousands.
Several generals converged on Rome, with Septimus Severus emerging as leader. He had suffered heavy losses whilst fighting the Picts north of Hadrian's wall in an ill fated expedition, weakening the empire.
Bro Thomas equates this period with the Pergamos state of the Apostasy, when although Christianity spread it was rapidly being transformed into Catholic Apostasy, heresies of Judaism, and gnosticism, immortal soulism, denial of the resurrection and of the thousand Years reign of Christ, and the doctrine of antichrist (clean flesh heresy) taking hold (I Jhn4.l-4).
Brother Richard Lister - The Apocalyptic Messenger, firstname.lastname@example.org
THE PERGAMIAN STATE
4 And there went out [forth] another, [a fiery-red horse]: and [ to him sitting upon him, to him it was given to take The peace from the earth and that they might slay one another, and there was given to him a great dagger]."
The rider of the Red Horse puts an end to the previous peace, and involves the populations of the Fourth Beast Polity in bloody civil wars.
...The retribution threatened against these apostatizing professors of christianity [signified by the Pergamian ecclesia] was that the Spirit would fight with them, and that the weapon he would wield against them would be "the sword of his mouth." That is, he would command a sword to be unsheathed against them. Such a sword would consist in something more practical and material than reason and testimony.
These were fast becoming to them, what their brethren in modern times affirm the word of the Deity to be now, "a dead-letter." Argument by the Spirit through the Angel-elderships of the Ecclesias had been exhausted; so that appeals to their intelligence being fruitless, it remained only to treat them as heathen men and publicans -- mere creatures of sensation, brutish as the beasts that perish.
The sword, then, that was suspended over them was a sword of retribution, which, on smiting them, would also smite the heathen populace and its rulers, and redden society with its own blood. That this is the kind of sword "signified" by the Spirit's words, will appear from the use of the phrase in Apoc. xix. 15 -- "Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword that with it he might smite the nations;" and in verse 20, "The remnant were slain with the sword of him sitting upon the horse, which sword proceedeth out of his mouth;" and the blood of those slain flowed to the horse-bridles of them who inflicted the vengeance.
"Repent," metanoeson, change your minds, "or else I will come unto thee suddenly, and fight with thee." But instead of such repentance as this, they hardened their hearts, and went on from bad to worse, until the patience and longsuffering of the Deity being exhausted, the Lamb opened suddenly the Second Seal, and a fiery red condition of society became the characteristic of the "Spirit of the Heavens" that ruled the passing hour.
During the first three years of his reign, he reluctantly surrendered himself to the direction of those experienced counsellors whom his father had delighted to honour. By their influence his profligacy was confined to his private revels; and as his hands were yet unstained with blood, there was hope that he might become, if not the most virtuous, at least not the most "dreadful and terrible" of his kind. A fatal incident, however, dashed all hopes, and decided his weak and timid character for the worse, until cruelty degenerated into habit, and at length became the ruling passion of his soul.
One evening as Commodus was returning to the palace through a dark and narrow portico in the amphitheatre, an assassin, who waited his passage, rushed upon him with a drawn sword, loudly exclaiming, "The Senate sends you this." The menace prevented the deed; the assassin was seized by the guards, and immediately revealed the authors of the conspiracy. The conspirators, who, with the assassin himself, were senators, were all executed. But though relieved of their presence, the words of the assassin sunk deep into the mind of Commodus, and left an indelible impression of fear and hatred against the whole body of the Senate.
...Suspicion was equivalent to proof, trial to condemnation. The execution of a senator of consideration was attended with the death of all who might lament or avenge his fate; and when Commodus had once tasted human blood, he became incapable of pity or remorse."
Such was the opening of the Second Seal, A.D. 183. It was a sign in "the heaven," and the colour of the sign was fiery red. The spirit that ruled the situation there was that of retributive vengeance, through a class of agents who were the blind executioners of a purpose which they knew not. Bloodshedding was the order of the day. The son-in-law of the late emperor was among the victims; and Arius Antoninus, the last representative of the Antonines, also fell by the axe of the executioner. Every sentiment of decency and humanity was extinct in the mind of Commodus.
...His cruelty proved at last fatal to himself. He had shed with impunity the noblest blood of Rome; he perished as soon as he was dreaded by his own domestics. He was strangled while laboring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, A.D. 192, after a sanguinary reign of thirteen years.
This reign may be regarded as the opening period of the Second Seal. In its course divine vengeance executed through the wicked, as the sword of Deity, retributive justice upon the authorities, and upon the imperial family, who had shed the blood of the saints in the former reigns; and, when the work was consummated in their case, the imperial executioner was punished for his crimes by death at the hands of the infamous.
But, though Commodus had destroyed the peace and happiness of the Senate and patricians of Rome, his reign was remarkable for the peace granted to the Ecclesia of Christ in all the habitable. In this one particular point only, namely, in his conduct towards the christians, Commodus was more just and equitable than his philosophical father.
In this the change of emperors was propitious. The power, goodness, and justice of the Deity were evinced in making so vile a character at once his sword upon the persecutor and a check upon persecution, by which a breathing time was afforded after eighteen years of sufferings exceedingly cruel.
The Horse Fiery Red
... a horse dyed with blood -- with arterial blood the life of the flesh, and therefore its fiery rather than a purple hue. The same word is used by the LXX in 2 Kings iii. 22, purra hos haima, red as blood. The word is very expressive; the root of it being pur, fire, it indicates in this emblem both the brightness of the red and the cause of the horse's redness -- the fiery indignation of the Deity.
...While the horse represents Greek and Latin society, the colour represents that society's judicial condition.
The judgments brought upon it in the reign of Commodus fell chiefly upon the uppertendom of the State. The lower classes, however, of the city Rome did not altogether escape. Pestilence and famine broke out among them there, so that two thousand persons died every day for a considerable length of time. The pestilence was attributed to the just indignation of their gods; but the famine they considered as owing to speculators, and among these principally to the emperor's favourite, who had monopolized the breadstuffs of the city.
The popular discontent, after it had long circulated in whispers, broke out in the assembled circus. The people quitted their favorite amusements for the more delicious pleasure of revenge, rushed in crowds towards the palace in the suburbs, and demanded with angry clamors the head of the public enemy. The obnoxious favourite ordered a body of praetorian cavalry to disperse the seditious multitude. The people fled towards the city; several were slain, and many more trampled to death.
But when the praetorians entered the city, the foot-guards joined the people. The tumult became a regular engagement and threatened a general massacre. The cavalry at length gave way, and the tide of popular fury returned with redoubled violence against the gates of the palace, where Commodus lay dissolved in luxury, and alone unconscious of the civil war.
It was death to approach his person with the unwelcome . Two of his concubines, however, ventured to break into his presence, and revealed to the affrighted tyrant the impending ruin. He started from his dream of pleasure, and commanded that the head of his favorite should be thrown to the people. The desired spectacle appeased their rage, and the tumult ceased.
This was a sort of earnest of the sanguinary aspect that awaited the whole social horse when the judgments of the seal should be fully developed. He would, in all his parts, under the administration of his bloodshedding rider, bleed from every pore, and become fiery red, as John saw him in the vision; so that when the seal-judgments should be complete, the Senate, the executive, the pagans, philosophers, and heretics, of Daniel's "dreadful and terrible" fourth beast, should be all fiery red from the sanguinary calamities their crimes, unbelief, and apostasy had brought upon them.
The Rider of the Horse
John was ... informed that the reason why it was given to him to take away the peace, was that "they," the agents symbolized by the rider, "might slay one another." This was an intimation to the apostle that, when the second seal should be in manifestation, a period of civil commotion and bloodshed would have superseded "the most prosperous and happy era" of the first seal.
A great dagger
In verse 4, a machaira was given to the rider; while in verse 8, they kill with a rhomphaia. There must be a reason why two different words, both rendered sword in the English Version, are used by the Spirit in the second and fourth seals. A machaira and a rhomphaia, though both weapons of destruction, are such in the hands of different classes of destroyers.
In Liddell and Scott's Lexicon, machaira is defined "a large knife or dirk; a short sword or dagger; but still rather an assassin than a soldier's weapon." It was worn by the emperors as a symbol of their power, as magistrates-in-chief, over life and death. It was also worn by the praefects of the imperial guard. It was the badge indicating them as the constitutional authorities whose function it was to cause the laws to be obeyed on pain of death.
As a symbol, then, adapted to the representation of events peculiar to the bloodstained condition of things in the second seal-period, a machaira was very appropriate. In this symbolization, it was the emblem of the murder or assassination, committed by them, who wielded constitutionally the power over the lives of their contemporaries, commonly termed the power of the sword. It was a great dagger -- symbolically great. It was great in the excessive and unconstitutional, or illegal use of it.
Though a short, small, weapon in itself; yet in the hands of the class represented by the rider, it was great, or "dreadful and terrible." It was a weapon in the hands of imperial and military assassins of murder by wholesale in cold blood; and of bloodshedding in civil war to avenge assassination; or to retain sovereign power which had been acquired by the dagger's use. In giving therefore to this rider "a great dagger," he had power "given to him to take away the peace of the earth," and to cause its potsherds to slay one another in civil wars. He would redden them with a fiery redness -- the redness of a brother's blood.
"It was given to him (the rider) to take the peace from the earth."
"The earth" in this place cannot be the earth wherever men dwell, comprehending what we term Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australasia. The last two were unknown to the ancients; and may therefore certainly be excluded from "the earth" having relation to events being transacted in their time. The use of the phrase in this seal furthermore, could not have comprehended even all the territory known to them, for the prediction was "to take the peace" of the first seal "from the earth."
Now, "the peace" of this seal was internal, not external, peace; for although it was a "most prosperous and happy" period for the Roman people, they still waged great wars against the Persians, Jews, Quadi, Marcomanni, &c., in the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Antoninus. Hence, the territories inhabited by these peoples must be excluded also from "the earth" of this text. In other words, "the earth" was bounded and confined to the frontiers of the Greco-Latin Dragon of Daniel and John; extending two thousand miles in one direction, and three thousand in another; and inclosing within its circuit the Mediterranean sea.
This was the sense in which "the earth" was understood by the Greeks and Latins in John's time...This will remind the reader of what John says of this city in his day under the figurative name of "Babylon the Great," in Apoc. xvii. 18, "that great city having dominion over the kings of the earth."
This formula, then, "the earth" in this prophecy of the six seals, is to be interpreted of the Roman territory -- all that portion of the orb we inhabit subject to the dominion of Pagan Rome. Beside the text before us, we have it occurring in verses 8,10,13,15. In all these places "the earth" has the same limitation; and is to be interpreted only as the arena of events happening to the peoples and government of Rome.
Fulfilment of the prophecy
Commodus, the imperial sword-bearer of the Roman empire, was not poinarded, but strangled to death. He was succeeded by Pertinax, the praefect of Rome, a senator of consular rank, and conspicuous for his merit. He was chosen emperor by the Praetorian Guards, whose praefect, Lactus, had procured the murder of Commodus, and his election by the military. The election was ratified by the Senate, A.D. 193, which at the same sitting branded the memory of Commodus with eternal infamy.
Pertinax was a "virtuous" pagan, who sought to heal the wounds inflicted by the hand of tyranny. The innocent victims who yet survived, were recalled from exile, released from prison, and restored to the full possession of their honours and fortunes. The unburied bodies of murdered senators (for the cruelties of Commodus, an individual element of the rider of the fiery red horse, endeavored to extend itself beyond death) were deposited in the sepulchres of their ancestors; their memory was justified; and every consolation was bestowed on their ruined afflicted families.
Economy and industry he considered as the pure and genuine sources of wealth. The rapacious extravagance of Commodus had left only about forty thousand dollars in the treasury. With this small sum he had to defray the expenses of the government, and to discharge the pressing demand of a liberal donative he had been obliged to promise the licentious and turbulent soldiery who had elected him. Yet under this pressure, he remitted all the oppressive taxes invented by Commodus, and cancelled all the unjust claims of the treasury; declaring, "that he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by ways of tyranny and dishonour."
His thorough radical reform of state abominations secured to Pertinax the love and esteem of the people, who never would have acquired a fiery redness had they been ridden solely by rulers of his description. They already flattered themselves that they should long enjoy the benign influence of his administration. But his zeal to reform the corrupted state was too hasty, and proved fatal to himself and to his country. His honest indiscretion united against him the servile and swinish multitude, who found their private benefit in the public disorders, and who preferred the favour of the most vicious tyrants to the inexorable equality of the laws.
Amidst the general joy, the sullen and angry countenance of the praetorian guards betrayed their discontent. They dreaded the restoration of ancient discipline; and regretted the licence of the former reign. Three days after their election of Pertinax, they seized on a senator with the design of making him emperor. But he escaped their grasp, greatly alarmed at their purpose of thrusting upon him so dangerous a distinction. A short time after this, one Sosius Falco, a rash youth, conspired with the soldiery in the absence of Pertinax; but the conspiracy was foiled by his unexpected return to Rome. Falco was on the point of being condemned to death by the Senate, but escaped through the intercession of the emperor, who desired that the purity of his reign might not be stained by the blood even of a guilty senator.
These disappointments served only to irritate the rage of the licentious and brutal praetorians, who were the curse of the state it was their duty to defend. Only two months and twenty-six days after the death of Commodus, a general sedition broke out in their camp, which the officers wanted either the power, or inclination to suppress. They marched at noonday with arms in their hands, and fury in their looks, towards the imperial palace. Their companions on guard gave them free admission; and they were welcomed by the domestics of the old court, who had already formed a secret conspiracy against the life of the too virtuous emperor.
Pertinax, disdaining either flight or concealment, advanced to meet those in whose fiery red hand was already brandished "the Great Dagger." He recalled to the minds of these assassins his own innocence, and the sanctity of their recent oath. But all in vain. A barbarian levelled the first blow, and Pertinax fell, pierced with a multitude of wounds. His head was borne on a lance in triumph to the praetorian camp in sight, of a mournful and indignant people, who lamented the unworthy fate of an excellent prince, and the transient blessings of a reign the memory of which could serve only to aggravate their approaching misfortunes.
The praetorian bands, whose licentious fury was the first symptom and proximate cause of the decline of the Roman empire, numbered about fifteen thousand. They were instituted by Augustus for the maintenance of his usurped dominion. They enjoyed double pay, and superior privileges. After fifty years of peace and servitude, Tiberius for ever riveted the fetters of his country by concentrating them at Rome, in a permanent camp without the walls, which was fortified with skill, on the broad summit of the Quirinal and Viminal hills.
Such formidable servants are always necessary, but often fatal, to the throne of despotism. By thus introducing the praetorian guards as it were into the palace and the senate, the emperors taught them to perceive their own strength, and the weakness of the civil government; to view the vices of their masters with familiar contempt, and to lay aside that reverential awe, which distance only and mystery, can preserve towards an imaginary power. In the luxurious idleness of an opulent city, their pride was nourished by the sense of their irresistible weight; nor was it possible to conceal from them that the person of the sovereign, the authority of the senate, the public treasure, and the seat of empire, were all in their hands.
The advocates of the guards endeavored to justify by arguments the power which they asserted by arms; and to maintain that their consent was essentially necessary in the appointment of an emperor. "Where," said they, "was the Roman people to be found? Not surely amongst the mixed multitude of slaves and strangers that filled the streets of Rome; a servile populace as devoid of spirit as destitute of property. The defenders of the state were the genuine representatives of the people, and the best entitled to elect the military chief of the republic." These assertions became unanswerable when the fierce praetorians increased their weight by throwing their swords into the scale.
...These praetorian assassins, who claimed to be the representatives of the Roman people, were the sword in the hand of power; and became signally "great" when their numbers were increased by Severus, "the military chief of the republic," to fifty thousand.
Having violated the sanctity of the throne by their atrocious assassination of Pertinax, the praetorians at once proceeded to dishonor its majesty by proclaiming, with a loud voice from the ramparts of their camp, that the Roman world was to be disposed of by public auction to the highest bidder. This infamous excess of military licence diffused grief, shame and indignation throughout the city. Two bidders presented themselves, Sulpicianus, father-in-law to Pertinax, and governor of the city, and Didius Julianus, a wealthy senator.
The former offered £160 to each soldier; when the vain old Julian, eager for the prize, offered upwards of two hundred pounds sterling to each. This was irresistible; the gates of the camp were instantly thrown open to the purchaser. He was declared emperor; received their oath of allegiance, which would be regarded so long as convenient; and was conducted, in close order of battle, through the deserted streets to the senate-house where he received the imperial symbols from the obsequious and false-hearted council of the nation.
On the throne of the world, Julian now found himself without either friend or adherent. The praetorians even were ashamed of him, nor was there a citizen who did not regard his elevation with horror as the last insult on the Roman name. The streets and public places of Rome resounded with clamors and imprecations. The enraged multitude insulted the person of Julian, rejected his liberality, and called aloud upon the legions of the frontiers to assert the violated majesty of the Roman empire.
"It was given to him to take the peace from the earth."
The public discontent was soon diffused from the centre to the frontiers of the empire. The armies in Britain, in Syria, and in Illyricum, lamented the death of Pertinax, as an old and favorite commander, and sternly refused to ratify the ignominious sale.
"Their immediate and unanimous revolt was fatal to Julian, but it was fatal at the same time to the public peace; as the generals of the respective armies, Albinus, Niger, and Septimus Severus, were still more anxious to succeed, than to revenge the murdered Pertinax. Of these rivals, S. Severus was the most fortunate; and as the time of the seal-period had arrived, "that they should slay one another," they all prepared for the arbitrament of the sword.
Severus being a man of energy as well as a soldier of experience and capacity, and having the best troops of the service; and being also nearer to the capital had much the advantage over Niger of Syria, and Albinus of Britain. He speedily assembled his Pannonian legions; painted in the most lively colours the crime, the insolence, and the weakness of the praetorians, and animated his soldiers to arms and revenge. He concluded with the persuasive of about nineteen hundred and fifty dollars to every man; a donative double in value to the bribe with which Julian had purchased the world. The acclamations of the army immediately saluted Severus as emperor, who without delay marched them into Italy on the way to Rome.
Severus and his Pannonian legions were a "great machaira" in every sense of the phrase. His approach to the city made both Julian and the praetorians to tremble. They quitted, with a sigh, the pleasures of the baths and theatres, to put on arms, whose use they had almost forgotten, and beneath the weight of which they were oppressed. Every motion of Julian betrayed his trembling perplexity, which, with secret pleasure, was greatly enjoyed by the Senate. He insisted that Severus should be declared a public enemy; anon he entreated that he might be associated with him in the empire. He sent public ambassadors to negotiate, while he dispatched private assassins to slay him.
He designed a solemn procession of vestals, and all the colleges of priests in their canonicals, and bearing before them the symbols of Roman superstition, to meet the Pannonian legions; and at the same time he vainly tried to interrogate, or to appease, not "the Lamb," but "the Fates," by magic ceremonies, and unlawful sacrifices. But Severus dreaded neither his arms, nor his enchantments, but took wise precaution against assassination. His emissaries, dispersed in the capital, assured the guards, that provided they would abandon Julian, and the assassins of Pertinax, to the justice of the conqueror, he would no longer consider that murder as the act of the whole body.
The faithless praetorians complied with these easy terms, seized the greater part of the assassins, and signified to the senate that they no longer defended the cause of Julian. That assembly forthwith, unanimously acknowledged Severus as lawful emperor; and pronounced sentence of deposition and death against the unfortunate Julian, who was beheaded as a common criminal in a private apartment of the baths of the palace, after an anxious and precarious reign of sixty-six days.
Having settled affairs in Rome upon the new basis, he left the city at the end of thirty days, and led his legions to the slaughter decreed for them and their compatriots under Niger and Albinus, in the second seal -- "it was given to him to take the peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another."
In less than four years Severus subdued the legions of the east under Niger and the valour of the west under Albinus. He vanquished these two competitors of reputation and ability, and defeated numerous armies provided with weapons and discipline equal to his own. He was, as a legitimate imperial power, truly a "great machaira;" whose uncommon abilities and fortune had induced an elegant historian of that age to compare him with the first and greatest of the Caesars.
He was a man of great craft and dissimulation. He promised only to betray, and flattered only to ruin. By these arts as well as by arms, his rivals fell singly and successively, an easy prey to their subtle foe. The sons of Niger had fallen into his hands at Rome. As long as the power of their father inspired terror, or even respect, they were educated with most tender care with his own children; but they were soon involved in Niger's ruin, and removed -- first by exile and afterwards by death -- from the eye of public compassion.
As for Albinus, he was induced to accept from Severus the precarious rank of Caesar, as a reward for his neutrality in his conflict with Niger. Till this civil war was decided, he treated Albinus, whom he had doomed to destruction, with every mark of esteem and regard. Even in the letter in which he announced his victory over Niger, he styles Albinus the brother of his soul and empire.
The messengers charged with the delivery of this were instructed to accost the Caesar with respect -- to desire a private audience, and to plunge their daggers into his heart. The conspiracy was discovered, and the too credulous Albinus crossed over to the continent to meet Severus in arms for the work of mutual slaughter, according to the terms of the second seal. The battle of Lyons in France, where one hundred and fifty thousand Romans were engaged, was fatal to Albinus; and this second civil war was finished by that memorable day, A.D. 197.
Both Niger and Albinus were discovered and put to death in their flight from the field of battle. Severus' unforgiving temper stimulated by avarice, indulged a spirit of revenge, where there was no room for apprehension. The most considerable of the provincials who had obeyed the vanquished governor under whose authority they were accidentally placed, were reddened with their own blood, sent into exile, and lost their estates by confiscation.
He sent the head of Albinus, with a threatening letter, to Rome, in which he announced that he was resolved to spare none of the adherents of the Caesar. He condemned forty-one senators to the fiery redness of the seal. Their wives, children, and clients attended them in death; and the noblest provincials of Spain and Gaul were involved in the same fiery red ruin. Such rigid justice -- for so he termed it -- was, in the opinion of Severus, the only conduct capable of ensuring peace to the people, or stability to the prince; and he condescended slightly to lament, that to be mild it was necessary that he should first be cruel.
Having thus become the "great machaira" of his age, Severus considered the Roman empire as his property, and proceeded to improve and cultivate so valuable an acquisition. In the administration of justice, his judgments were characterized by attention, discernment and impartiality; and whenever he deviated from the strict line of equity, it was generally in favour of the poor and oppressed.
The misfortunes of civil discord were obliterated. The wrath of the Lamb was temporarily assuaged; and the judgments of the second seal were complete. The calm of peace and prosperity was once more experienced in the provinces. The fame of the Roman arms was revived by that warlike and successful imperial sword-bearer: and he boasted, with no little pride, that having received the empire oppressed with foreign and domestic wars -- "slaying one another" -- he left it established in profound, universal and honorable peace.
But, while "the peace" was taken "from the earth," and the armies of the empire were engaged in "slaying one another," what was the condition of those anti-pagan professors of christianity who had let go their hold upon the Spirit's name, had denied his faith, and had embraced the dogmas of Nikolaitanism? And amid all the trouble of the times, was the Bowman of the first seal "conquering," while the Imperial Machaira of the second was blindly executing rigid justice upon the pagan senate and public at large?
In the beginning of the third century, at which we have arrived, we find an unhappy mixture of metaphysical self-righteousness and superstition, now amply developed in "the names and denominations" of blasphemy, overshadowing and darkening the world, and greatly clouding and depraving the pure light of the gospel.
This perverting the gospel of Christ, and preaching another gospel than Paul's, had been progressing from his time; but recently it had been greatly promoted by Ammonius, Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, of the Divinity School at Alexandria, the capital of Egypt; who were all eminent in the unhallowed work of making christianity palatable to heathen philosophers and admirers of the world's wisdom -- a work that could only be successful by corrupting it.
...The great imperial machaira was the power employed in inflicting judgment upon "the house of the Deity" (1 Pet. iv. 17). In his younger days Severus had been a bitter persecutor of the christians at Lyons, where he afterwards fought his great battle with Albinus. But through the influence and kindness which he had received from Proculus, a christian physician, he became favorably disposed towards them for a time. It was not till about the tenth year of his reign, or A.D. 202, that his native ferocity of temper broke out afresh, and kindled a very severe persecution against them.
He may have been provoked to this by some political demonstration against his administration on the part of heretical professors; who, taking advantage of the trouble of the times, may have given aid and comfort to Niger or Albinus, preferring them as rulers rather than Severus. Be this as it may, he visited Alexandria, formerly under Niger, with great severity. From various parts of Egypt professors were brought to that capital to suffer; and they expired in torments. The Justice of the Deity was very retributive in that city. It was the Oxford and Cambridge -- the Andover and Princeton of spurious christianity; and there, consequently, the providential visitation was the most intense.
From all I can see in the history of those times, the executions seem to have been chiefly of professors who coveted martyrdom, which was contrary to the teachings of Christ who told them that "when persecuted in one city they should flee to another." But, the reverse of this, they rushed into the mouth of the dragon, and provoked him to devour them with his "great iron teeth," and to rend them with his "brazen claws."
...But, after nine years of sanguinary conflict, "the Lamb" sent relief to his suffering people. After a reign of eighteen years, Septimus Severus died, A.D. 211. From this time, "the brethren and fellowservants" found peace and tranquillity for the space of thirty-eight years. During this long period, a short turbulent interval under Maximin excepted, they enjoyed a continued calm. In this period, their sufferings were those of the third and fourth seals, of which they were partakers with the general public.
THE THYATIRAN STATE A.D. 212
The Pergamian with all its evils merging into the worse Thyatiran degree of apostasy. Christians so-called, as intensely nominal and worldly as sectarians of the nineteenth century. The prophetess Jezebel, and "the Satan," their representatives in the third century (Apoc. ii. 20,24).
The Greco-Latin horse, black with lamentation, mourning and woe.
5 And when he opened the third seal, I heard [from the third living one saying], Come and see. [And I saw, and behold a Black Horse, and one sitting upon him holding a Balance in his hand].
The Spirit not yet Withdrawn
The Lamb also opens this third seal. It is an opening, not to give exit to blessedness upon Roman society; for that is not the nature of a seal; but, to loose those evils upon the world, which would be calamitous to pagan, Jew, and Jezebel-professors of christianity, in all the empire.
Though the evils would be general, "the Brethren," or as many as had not the Jezebel doctrine, would, doubtless, not suffer so severely as others; for in the time of the first four seals, it was certainly a ministration of Spirit in which retribution came upon ecclesias "according to their works." It was, I say, a ministration of Spirit, though not so amply manifested as when Paul wrote 1 Cor. xii, xiii and xiv.
He represents a class of agents who, in relation to the Roman peoples, held the balance as their badge of office; the duties of which they performed so oppressively that they became a public evil, which like a noxious weed of most luxuriant growth, "darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade."
Among the Greeks and Latins, as also among the moderns, a balance was the symbol of justice. The scripture also adopts it as such: "Let him weigh me," says Job, "in the balance of justice" (xxxi. 6). In the hand of an official it indicated a judge, or an administrator of justice, or properly, of law; which, in the mouth of a judge, is often times far removed from justice. In this seal, it is the symbol of agents, whose office it was to execute the laws -- the imperial functionaries of the empire; both the emperors and their subordinates.
... Among these is an imperial coin of Alexander Severus. On one side is the head of an emperor; and on the other, a diademed figure holding a balance in the right hand and a measure in the other, with the legend Aequitas Augusti, S. C.
It is the symbol of the equity of the emperor by decree of the senate in his levies upon the people in kind; for in imperial times the supreme judicial and financial, as well as supreme military power centred in the emperors. For this reason, the balance of justice is ascribed to them as well as the machaira, which, says Paul, "he beareth not in vain, for he is the minister of the Deity, a revenger to execute wrath upon them that do evil" (Rom. xiii. 1-4).
The Black Horse
The colour indicates mourning, distress, intense depression of mind, from any kind of calamity that may befall. This appears from Job xxx. 26-31:
"When I looked for good then evil came; and when I waited for light, there came darkness. My bowels boiled, and rested not; the days of affliction anticipated me. Mourning (kodair, darkening) I went without the sun. ... My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat. My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep."
We need not multiply examples. This from Job shows, that the outside blackness is caused by the inner heat of burning, or intense, affliction. So also in the case before us, the severe oppression to which the community represented by the horse, is subjected by them who ride, or rule it, gives it hieroglyphically, a black skin.
It is therefore to be viewed as under the operation of great evil in days of affliction, producing lamentation, mourning, and great distress. The horse represents the same community as the white of the first seal, and the fiery red one of the second -- the peoples subject to pagan Rome; the different colours signifying their different condition in different periods.
6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four [living ones, saying, 'A choinix of wheat a denarius; and three choinices of barley a denarius; but the oil and the wine thou mayest not act unjustly by'.]
This voice that John heard was edicts, decrees, or laws, proclaimed by authority; and to be executed by the class of agents who exercised the power symbolized by the balance -- the praetors at Rome, and the governors of the provinces...
when we come to understand the character of the sign, if it be an evil sign, we may expect to find the administration of the balance-holder evil; and productive of such results as would blacken the community over which he rules; or cause to it lamentation, mourning, and woe:
Oil and Wine
The sign-voice implies an intensely oppressive administration of public affairs in all the third seal period, with a brief intermission only. This was indicated by the words, "the oil and the wine thou mayest not act unjustly by." This implies that the edict-making power, or voice of the seal, would not in all its career be devoid of equity.
...This injunction in regard to the oil and the wine, indicates that injustice would be done in the matter of the wheat and the barley. These were taxable articles from which a great revenue was derived for the use of the state. The decrees, or seal-voice of the senate, fixed the tariff, which the emperors and their subordinates carried into effect, justly or otherwise as it pleased them. The grain tax was levied in kind, or an equivalent was paid in money to the farmers of the revenue; who often sent the treasury at Rome what the law required, and retained for themselves the excess they had extorted from the taxpayers they oppressed.
Thus, for example, if wheat were assessed by the senate at ten cents a bushel, they might extort thirty; send the treasury its due, and keep the twenty for their own use. According to this principle of robbery in Sicily, when the wheat-procurations were required from the islanders, the market price being not above one denarius the modius, Verres exacted three denarii from some of them as a money equivalent for each modius due.
These extortionate proceedings of the farmers of the revenue were a cause of great public distress and irritation. They were appointed for an equitable administration of affairs, and the collection of revenue in kind and money according to the voice of the Senate. But, being pagans without enlightened conscience, they acted under the blind impulse of their natural organization, and plundered the people as far as they could do so with impunity.
"Those," says Gibbon, -- "who had learning enough to read the orations of Cicero against Verres, might instruct themselves in all the various arts of oppression with regard to the weight, the price, the quality, and the carriage; and the avarice of an unlettered governor would supply the ignorance of precept or precedent."
The emperor Alexander Severus used to style the revenue-collectors, "the robbers of the provinces;" it was with them as Hosea says of Ephraim, "the balance of deceit is in his hands, he loveth to oppress."
This is high for barley; and indicates some calamitous condition of public affairs, causing the necessaries of life to range so high. It would affect all classes, rich and poor, bond and free; none would be exempt. When the tax was paid on the barley, what would be its price then?
But after all, a denarius may not have been the price of the choinixes; but the tax assessed on each respectively -- a denarius on a choinix of wheat; and a denarius on three choinixes of barley. -- This, I am inclined to believe, is the signification of the voice. If so, a bushel of wheat would be assessed at four dollars and fifty cents; and a bushel of barley at one dollar and fifty cents. This superadded to the market-place would make the cost of the necessaries of life enormous; and cause whole tracts of country to be thrown out of cultivation, and so prepare the way for that famine which came upon the people as one of the miseries of their situation during the fourth seal (ver. 8).
The Emperor Trajan likened the undue enlargement of the taxation, with exacting procurators to collect it, to the morbid enlargement of the spleen, causing atrophy. And, after the failure of Alexander Severus, who responded to the Senate's voice, "not to act unjustly by the oil and the wine," in attempting to ameliorate existing fiscal evils, the history of the sequel illustrates fully the truth of Trajan's comparison.
A general internal wasting of the Roman state resulted from it. Speaking of this seal-period, Gibbon remarks, that the form of the state was still the same as under Hadrian, "but the animating health and vigor was fled; the industry of the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppression;" and again, "that the general famine, which (soon after Philip's death) befell the empire, was the inevitable consequence of the rapine and oppression, which extirpated the produce (the wheat and barley) of the present, and the hope of future harvests."
The agriculture of the provinces was insensibly ruined; and thus preparation was made for famine. "The injustice and avarice of the provincial governors," says Mosheim, "together with the rapacity of the publicans, by whom the taxes of the country were farmed, were the source and occasion of innumerable grievances to the people;" and another writer says, "the rapacity of the imperial procurators were among the causes that finally wrought the downfall of the empire."
An edict by Aurelian shows what extortion had effected previous to his reign. It speaks incidentally of the desolation in Italy; and urges agriculturists to plant vines on certain extensive fertile lands of Etruria, that had been deserted. With reference to a later period, Gibbon states that sixty years after the death of Constantine, and before a barbarian invader had been seen in Italy, an exemption from taxes was granted for 300,000 acres in the fertile province of Campania, that is, for one eighth of the whole province, as being by actual survey ascertained to be desert; and he ascribes it to the long impoverishing effects of fiscal oppressions; the chief era of which is the period of this third seal.
Thus, the rapine and oppression symbolized in the sign-voice "in the midst of the four living ones," involved both the depopulation and desolation of regions in themselves fertile. People do not abandon to the wild beasts of the forest such tracts of country, unless they are oppressed by their rulers, or left without protection against the barbarians without. The sign-voice in its operation reduced the inhabitants of the earth to despair, and banished every patriotic sentiment from their minds.
Illustrative of the personal and family distress induced by official robbery and oppression which Constantine sought to remedy, Gibbon says: "The horrid practice of exposing and murdering their newborn infants was become every day more frequent in the provinces, and especially in Italy. It was the effect of distress; and the distress was principally occasioned by the intolerable burden of taxes, and by the vexatious as well as cruel prosecutions of the officers of the revenue against their insolvent debtors.
The less opulent or the less industrious ... instead of rejoicing in an increase of family, deemed it an act of paternal tenderness to release their children from the impending miseries of a life which they were themselves unable to support. The humanity of Constantine, moved perhaps by some recent and extraordinary instance of despair, engaged him to address an edict to all the cities of Italy, and afterwards of Africa, directing instant relief to those parents who should produce before the magistrates the children whom their own poverty would not allow them to educate."
The voice, then, of this third seal hieroglyphic, was not the voice of famine, but of an intolerable assessment for state purposes of the abundance already in store, and to be hereafter produced. The era succeeding the seal-period in which they were slaying one another under the generalship of the great machaira, was one of abundance of wheat, barley, oil, and wine. This appears from the testimony of Dion who lived in those times. He says that Septimus Severus celebrated the secular games with extraordinary magnificence, and at his decease, left in the public granaries a provision of grain for seven years, at the rate of 75,000 modii, or pecks, or about 10,000 bushels a day.
This was a part of the policy of S. Severus by a constant and liberal distribution of grain and provisions, to captivate the affections of the Roman people. But the policy of his son and successor, the fierce Caracalla, was "to secure the affections of the army, and to esteem the rest of his subjects as of little moment." The liberality and indulgence to the troops was tempered by the father with firmness, authority, and prudence; but the careless profusion of Caracalla's reign, the inaugural period of the sign-voice of the third seal, was, as Gibbon says, "the inevitable ruin both of the army and of the empire. The excessive increase of their pay and donatives, exhausted the state to enrich the military order, whose modesty in peace, and service in war, are best secured by an honorable poverty."
I take it, then, that the sign-voice may be expressed thus: "Let a choinix of wheat be assessed a denarius; and three choinixes of barley rated at the same; but the oil and the wine thou mayest not act so unjustly by." The signification of this, and the causes operating so grinding and blackening a despotism, will appear in the Lamb's opening of the seal hereafter...
Fulfilment of prophecy
Caracalla - distress and mourning to multitudes of Pagan Romans -
but providentially benign to Christians and Christadelphians
The declining health and last illness of S. Severus, inflamed the wild ambition, and black and blackening passions of Caracalla. He attempted, more than once, to shorten Severus' life, and with as little success, to excite a mutiny among the troops. Severus deliberated, and threatened, but was too fondly parental to punish his son and colleague in the throne; and this last, and only instance of mercy he was ever guilty of, was more fatal to the empire than a long series of cruelty. At length he expired at York in Britain, A.D. 211, leaving his two mutually detesting and impetuous sons, Caracalla and Geta, the imperial chiefs of the Roman world.
Proclaimed by the army and cheerfully acknowledged by the Senate, the people, and the provinces, the two brothers commenced their reign, with equal and independent power. But they were implacable foes, who neither desired nor could trust a reconciliation. It was visible that only one could reign, and that the other must fall; and each of them judging of his rival's designs by his own, guarded his life with the most jealous vigilance from the repeated attacks of poison or the sword. They met only in public; and each surrounded by a numerous train of armed followers. Even on these occasions of ceremony, the dissimulation of courts could ill disguise the rancour of their hearts.
This latent civil war already distracted the whole government. To remedy this, it was proposed to divide the empire between them. But this scheme was defeated by the influence of their mother; and Caracalla got rid of Geta by an easier, though more sanguinary process. He artfully listened to his mother's entreaties and consented to meet his brother Geta in her apartment, on terms of peace and reconciliation. In the midst of their conversation, some centurions, who had contrived to secret themselves, rushed with drawn swords upon him, and laid him lifeless at his mother's feet.
The deed accomplished, Caracalla, rushed with horror on his countenance, to the praetorian camp, where he reported in broken and disordered words, his fortunate escape from attempted assassination. Geta had been the favorite of the soldiers, but complaint was useless, revenge dangerous, and they had still a reverence for the house of their "great machaira," Severus.
Their discontent died away in idle murmurs, and Caracalla soon convinced them of the justice of his cause, by distributing to them in one lavish donation the accumulated treasures of his father's reign. The real sentiments of the soldiers alone were of importance to his power or safety. Their declaration in his favour commanded the dutiful professions of the Senate, which obsequiously ratified as usual the success of villany the most lawless and abandoned.
The anguish of remorse henceforth seized upon the haunted imagination of Caracalla, which prompted him to remove from the world whatever could remind him of the fratricide, or recall the memory of Geta. Seeing the empress Julia, his mother, in a company of matrons, weeping over his untimely fate, he threatened them with instant death; the sentence was executed against Fadilla, the last remaining daughter of Marcus Antoninus, the imperial stoick, and sanguinary persecutor of the christians, under the first seal.
It was computed, that under the vague appellation of the friends of Geta, above twenty thousand persons of both sexes suffered death. His guards and freedmen, the ministers of his serious business, and the companions of his looser hours, those who by his interest had been promoted to any commands in the army or provinces, with the long connected chain of their dependants, were included in the proscription; which endeavored to reach every one who had maintained the smallest correspondence with Geta, who lamented his death, or who even mentioned his name.
The particular causes of calumny and suspicion were at length exhausted; and when a senator was accused of being a secret enemy of the government, Caracalla was satisfied with the general proof that he was a man of probity and virtue. From this well-grounded principle he frequently drew the most sanguinary inferences.
Such was the opening of the third seal, A.D. 212. Through the mad ferocity of one of the basest of mankind, retribution fell upon the heads of a people, who in their public pastimes clamored for inoffensive and non-resisting professors of the christian faith, to be brought out of prison to fight with savage beasts in the amphitheatres for their amusement.
It is a remarkable fact, and deserves to be noted, that while this monster of wickedness was filling the families of pagans with lamentation, mourning and woe, christians found in him friendship and protection. His father Severus, we have seen, was a cruel persecutor; but in this soil of iniquity, arose an avenger, who rendered the heathen public BLACK with mourning and distress.
The education of Caracalla is said to account for his favour towards them. He had known Proculus his father's physician, who was a christian, if not a christadelphian, and maintained in the palace to his death; and he had himself been nursed by a professed christian woman. This gave him an early predilection in favour of the christians, insomuch that when he was seven years old, observing one of his playfellows to be beaten because he followed the christian religion, he could not for some time after behold with patience either his own father, or the father of the boy.
The tyranny of Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian, who resided almost constantly at Rome, or in the adjacent villas, fell principally upon the senatorial and equestrian orders. But Caracalla was the common enemy of his heathen subjects. He left the capital, and never returned to it, A.D. 213. The rest of his reign was spent in the several provinces of the empire, particularly those of the East, and every province was by turns made black by rapine and cruelty.
The senators, compelled by fear to attend his capricious motions, were obliged to provide daily entertainments at an immense expense, which he abandoned with contempt to his guards; and to erect in every city, magnificent palaces and theatres, which he either disdained to visit, or ordered to be immediately thrown down. The most wealthy families were ruined by partial fines and confiscations and the great body of his subjects oppressed by ingenious and aggravated taxes. In the midst of peace, and upon the slightest provocation, he issued his commands at Alexandria in Egypt, the seat of paganized christianity, and where in his father's reign so much blood of professing christians had been shed, for a general massacre.
From a secure post in the temple of Serapes, he viewed and directed the slaughter of many thousands of citizens, as well as strangers, without distinguishing either the number or the crime of the sufferers; since, as he coolly informed the Senate, all the Alexandrians, those who had perished, and those who had escaped, were alike guilty -- guilty of slaying the disciples of the Lamb; and therefore in opening the third seal, the Lamb retributively gave them blood to drink; and made the survivors, black with lamentation and distress; so fearful a thing is it to tamper with the truth, and to persecute its friends. Sooner or later, terrible vengeance overtakes the guilty, even by the wicked, who are the Deity's sword-bearers against all such evil-doers.
As long as the vices of Caracalla were beneficial to the armies, he was secure from the danger of rebellion. A secret conspiracy, however, provoked by his own jealousy, caused his assassination, and the election of the chief conspirator as his successor. The grateful soldiers forgot his vices, remembered only his liberality to them, and obliged the Senate to stultify itself and their superstition, by decreeing him a place among the gods.
While living, Alexander the Great was the only hero which this "god" deemed worthy of his admiration; but in no one action of his life did Caracalla express the faintest resemblance to him, except in the murder of a great number of his own and of his father's friends.
His extraordinary gifts to the army amounted annually to about two millions three hundred and fifty thousand pounds, or about 11,750,000 dollars. The prodigality of Caracalla left behind it a long train of ruin and disorder. But the policy of the house of Severus was to increase the dangerous power of the army, and to obliterate the faint image of laws and liberty that was still impressed on the public mind. In pursuing this policy, Severus and his son undermined the foundations of the empire, and hastened its decline.
An important edict of Antoninus Caracalla, which communicated to all the inhabitants of the empire the name and privilege of Roman citizens, greatly contributed to this. This edict made the limits of the city Rome, and the limits of the empire, the same. His unbounded liberality, however, flowed not from the sentiments of a generous mind; it was the sordid result of avarice. Inattention, or rather, averse to the welfare of his subjects, he found himself under the necessity of gratifying the insatiate avarice which he had excited in the army.
The favour of citzenship was lost in the prodigality of Caracalla, and the reluctant provincials were compelled to assume the vain title, and the real obligations of Roman citizens. Nor was the rapacious Caracalla contented with such a measure of taxation, as had appeared sufficient to his predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a tenth, a denariad of all legacies and inheritances; and during his reign he crushed alike every part of the empire under the weight of his iron sceptre. The new citizenship brought with it only an increase of burdens. The old as well as the new taxes were, at the same time, levied in the provinces.
This was an intolerable grievance, which found only a temporary remission in the reign of Alexander Severus, who reduced the tributes to a thirtieth part of the sum exacted at the time of his accession. "In the course of this history," says Gibbon, from whose work I have condensed as before, "we shall be too often summoned to explain the land-tax, the capitation, and the heavy contributions of grain, wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted from the provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the capital." Caracalla supplied the necessities of these insatiable consumers without any regard to the blackening effect produced upon the unhappy civilians, from whom the supplies were so oppressively obtained.
Caracalla was assassinated A.D. 217, after a reign of six years; and was succeeded by Macrinus, at whose instigation he was stabbed by a desperado, to whom he had refused the rank of centurion.
The reader will, perhaps, now be able to "see" the historical significance of the hieroglyphical "opening" and "voice" of this seal-period; and how, by the sanguinary and fiscal oppression of the rulers, the horse-people whom they rode, were made black with anguish and despair.
The mad career of Caracalla, however, was only the opening sorrows of this third seal. He had sown tares which bore much evil fruit in the reigns of his successors. Macrinus, who had procured his assassination, was proclaimed by the praetorian guards, whom he had bribed by promises of unbounded liberality of indulgence, the head of the empire. Macrinus had now reached a height where it was difficult to stand with firmness, and impossible to fall without instant destruction.
The mercenary and fickle loyalty of the soldiery, to whom, from his reforming tendencies, he soon became detestible, was his only support. But the necessity of financial reform was inevitable. The expenses of the government had to be reduced; and he might have succeeded if the numerous army assembled in the East by Caracalla, and which had made him emperor, had been immediately dispersed through the provinces. But they remained concentrated in the luxurious idleness of their quarters; where, from various causes, they soon became ripe for another revolution, by which they might recruit their exhausted treasure. To minds thus disposed, the occasion soon presented itself.
A new candidate for the honour and danger of the imperial balance-holder appeared in a pretended son of Caracalla, the high priest of the sun, at Emesa, in Syria. The soldiers accustomed to attend his ministrations, professed to recognize in his the features of Caracalla, whose memory they now adored. His emissaries distributed large sums among them with a lavish hand, which silenced every objection, and they declared the young pontiff the successor of Caracalla, by hereditary right, and their own good pleasure. Macrinus remained inactive at Antioch. At length he went forth to encounter the forces of the young pretender. But, he was defeated and fled, and a few days after slain by his own guards.
Having been elected by the military, A.D. 218, Elagabalus, the high priest of the sun and the first Asiatic emperor of the Romans, without consulting the Senate, beside the machaira, assumed the balance in assuming the tribunitian and proconsular powers of the State. It was the prerogative of the Senate to confer these by its decree -- by "a voice in the midst of the four living ones" -- upon the imperial sword-bearers; a right which had hitherto been respected by the turbulent praetorians and the imperial puppets it was their pleasure to set up.
"This new and injudicious violation of the constitution," says Gibbon, "was probably dictated either by the ignorance of his Syrian courtiers or the fierce disdain of his military followers."
The timid prudence of the obsequious Senate having acquiesced in what it could not remedy, Elagabalus was duly recognized both as bearer of the balance and the sword; and the most potent, grave and reverend senators confessed with a sigh that, after having long experienced the stern tyranny of their own countrymen, Rome was at length humbled beneath the effeminate luxury of oriental despotism.
The installation of the Sun in Rome as chief over all the religions of the earth, was the great object of the zeal and vanity of Elagabalus. The Sun's marriage with the Moon, and the display of superstitious gratitude to him for his elevation to the throne, were the only serious business of his reign. He called himself Elagabalus (though his real name was Bassianus) after the name of his god, an appellation dearer to him than all the titles of imperial greatness.
He was an irrational voluptuary who abandoned himself to the grossest gratification of sense with ungoverned fury, and soon found disgust and satiety in the midst of his enjoyments. Whilst he lavished away the treasures of his people in the wildest extravagance, his own voice and that of his flatterers applauded a spirit and magnificence unknown to the tameness of his predecessors. To sport with the passions and prejudices of his subjects, and to subvert every law of nature and decency, were in the number of his most delicious amusements.
No more beastly a sensualist could have been found in Sodom than this high priest of the Sun. The public scenes displayed before the Roman people attest that the inexpressible infamy of his vices and follies surpassed that of any other age or country. The corrupt and opulent nobles of Rome gratified every vice that could be collected from the mighty conflux of nations and manners. Secure of impunity, careless of censure, they lived without restraint in the patient and humble society of their slaves and parasites. Elagabalus, in his turn, viewing every rank of his subjects with the same contemptuous indifference, asserted without control his sovereign privilege of lust and luxury.
But the licentious soldiers who had raised this dissolute pretender [Elagabalus] to the throne of the balance and the sword, blushed at their ignominious choice, and turned with disgust from the monster to contemplate with pleasure the opening virtues of his cousin, Alexander Severus, whom he had been induced to invest with the title of Caesar, that his own divine occupations might be no longer interrupted by the care of the earth.
In the second rank, that amiable prince soon acquired the affections of the public, but not without arousing the tyrant's jealousy, who determined, but without success, to take away the life of his rival. Failing in this, he degraded him from the rank and honours of Caesar. This sentence was received in the Senate with silence, and in the camp of the praetorians with fury. These swore to protect Alexander, and to revenge the dishonored majesty of the throne.
Elagabalus trembled, and begged for his life with tears; his prayer was granted, but the folly of the emperor brought on a new crisis, which was instantly fatal to his minions, his mother, and himself. Elagabalus was massacred by the infuriated praetorians, his mutilated corpse dragged through the streets of Rome and thrown into the Tiber. His memory was branded with eternal infamy by a decree of the Senate in the year of his death, A.D. 222, after a reign of three years, nine months, and four days.
With two such tribunes and proconsuls of the Roman Senate, or Balance-Holders, as Caracalla and Elagabalus, what but oppression and injustice could result? The choinix of wheat and the choinices of barley, must have been heavily taxed to provide the means of perpetuating for ten years such wild and reckless extravagance as history attributes to their administration. Better to grow no wheat or barley, than, having produced it, to be subject to the visits of the rapacious farmers of the revenue of such monsters.
As we have remarked already, they did abandon the labours of the field, and left thousands of fertile acres waste and desert, by which, as one among other causes, preparation was made for the intense famine of the fourth seal. Could any people be white -- happy and prosperous -- under such riders? Could they be anything else than black -- overshadowed by the blackness of darkness that might be felt in all parts of the body politic.
But, for the sake of the four living ones (and concerning them whom they represent, Paul says, "All things are for their sakes," 2 Cor. iv. 15) the Lamb, who presided over these seal-judgments, had provided temporary relief in the preparation of a balance-holder, who would "not act unjustly by the oil and the wine" -- in other words, whose rigid economy in every branch of the administration would seek to neutralize the injustice under which they had previously groaned.
Alexander Severus, aged seventeen, and his mother, Mammaea, were the persons under whom this happy transformation of public affairs was brought about. On the death of Elagabalus, Alexander was raised to the throne by the praetorian guards. His amiable qualities and his danger had already endeared him to the people, and the eager liberality of the Senate decreed to him in one day -- the voice in the midst of the four living ones -- the various titles and powers of the imperial dignity, all summarily symbolized by the Balance and the Sword or Dagger of the State.
The regency of Mammaea was equally for the benefit of her son and the empire. With the approbation of the Senate, she chose sixteen of the wisest and best disposed senators as a perpetual council of State, before whom every public business of moment was debated and determined. The celebrated Ulpian was at their head, and the prudent firmness of this aristocracy restored order and authority to the government. Learning and the love of justice became the only recommendation for civil offices; valor and the love of discipline the only qualifications for military employments.
The uniform tenor of the emperor's life left not a moment for vice or folly. Since the accession of Commodus, the Roman world had experienced, during a period of forty years, the successive and various vices of four tyrants. From the death of Elagabalus, it enjoyed an auspicious calm of thirteen years. The provinces, relieved from the oppressive taxes invented by Caracalla and his pretended son, flourished in peace and prosperity, under the administration of magistrates who were convinced by experience that to deserve the love of the subjects was their best and only method of obtaining the favour of their sovereign.
The price of provisions and the interest on money were reduced by the care of Alexander, whose prudent liberality, without distressing the industrious, supplied the wants and amusements of the populace. The dignity, the freedom, the authority of the Senate were restored, and every well-intentioned senator might approach the person of the emperor without a fear and without a blush.
In the civil or balance-holding administration of Alexander Severus, wisdom was enforced by power, and the people, sensible of the public felicity, repaid their benefactor with their love and gratitude. There still remained a greater, or more necessary, but a more difficult enterprise -- the reformation of the military order, whose interest and temper, confirmed by long impunity, rendered them impatient of the restraints of discipline and careless of the blessings of public tranquility. By the most gentle arts he labored to inspire the fierce multitude with a sense of duty; but his prudence was vain, his courage fatal, and the attempt toward a reformation served only to inflame the ills it was meant to cure.
There was no persecution of the christadelphians, nor of philosophical christians, under the Balance-Holders of this seal -- to wit, Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus, and Alexander Severus. The calamities they experienced befell them in common with the general public. Though primitive christianity was losing ground, the Archer with his bow was still "conquering" the popular superstition.
An Alexander Severus, on the throne of the world, was evidence that philosophical christianity, the metaphysics of the Alexandrian School of "Divinity," was supplanting the grosser superstition of the heathen. Though christianity in the purity of its faith and practice, was succumbing to the rising and now rapidly maturing apostasy, there were very many christadelphians or Brethren of Christ, who still contended earnestly for the faith, as "the living ones" of the third Cherub of the seal.
These were the salt which preserved the whole professing community from putrefaction. Little, however, is known about them, seeing that the writers of their times were the philosophicals of the Satanic synagogue, of which, by way of derision, the pagans named Alexander the chief.Eureka 6.3.6
THE FOURTH SEAL
THE SARDIAN STATE
Spiritual death overshadowing the ecclesias from long peace and the philosophical "divinity" which had, to a great degree, superseded the gospel. The things that remain not yet dead, "ready to die." The Thyatiran, or Jezebel-and-Satan, ethics, the seed which ripens into the Sardian (Apoc. iii. 1).
War, famine, pestilence, and barbarian invasion combined, sickly over the Roman Horse with the pale cast of death and corruption...When the opening was complete, John saw hippos chloros, a pale horse. The word rendered pale indicates green as the basis of the pallor. Pallida mors was proverbial among the Latins. Hippocrates enumerates the colour of the facial skin fading into green and black among the symptoms of approaching death. Nothing could be more appropriate than the colour which accompanies putrefaction as representative of the Italian body politic at this crisis of its "dreadful and terrible" history.
It had suffered severely under the second and third seals; but what were these in comparison of the death-strokes by sword, famine, pestilence, and beasts, speedily and of long continuance, to fall upon the Pagan Horse! A deadly paleness and livor would come over it -- a hue emblematic of approaching dissolution, as most expressively represented by the chloros of the fourth seal.
7 And when he opened the 4th seal, I heard the voice of the 4th beast [living one] say[ing], Come and see.[!]
8 And I looked [saw], and behold a Pale Horse: and his name that sat on him was Death [and he who sits upon him, the name for him is Death], and Hell [Hades] followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth [upon the fourth of the earth], to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death [with famine, and with pestilence], and with the beasts [ by the wild beasts] of the earth.