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THE sixth chapter of the Apocalypse contains an account of the opening of six of the seals of the book, which had been exhibited to the eyes of the apostle John in the preceding chapter. The first four seals shew to us the same number of hieroglyphics, each of which is sufficiently distinguished from the rest, by its appropriate characters, to mark that they all relate to different events: but yet, as all the four hieroglyphics are evidently homogeneous, or of the same kind, they must, according to the just principles of interpretation, be applied to objects of the same nature.

Most interpreters have lost sight of this principle in expounding the prophecy of the seals; for while there is a pretty general agreement among them, in referring the first seal to the victorious progress of pure Christianity, in the primitive age

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of the church, they usually apply the three following seals to the history of the Roman empire. But if the first seal relate to the church, the next three being homogeneous with it, must also be applied to the history of the church.

Bishop Newton has indeed avoided the common error of violating the principle of homogeneity, in expounding the vision of the first four seals; and this he does by applying the first seal to the history of the Roman empire during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, and Nerva; and the other three to the state of the empire in the subsequent period, down to the accession of Diocletian. But it may be here observed, as will be afterwards more fully shown, that there is nothing in the symbols which can justify this interpretation, since they are of a nature to be applied only to the church and things spiritual.

Archdeacon Woodhouse, in his learned work on the Apocalypse, seems to be the first writer who has adopted an uniform and consistent interpretation of that part of the prophecies of this book, which we are now about to consider. And as I have followed his scheme in its great outlines, in interpreting the first six seals, I think it right to set out by acknowledging my great obligations to him. I may add, that till I saw his work I rested in the commonly received interpretation of the above seals, the inconsistency of which has been so clearly pointed out by the learned Archdeacon.

Having made these general remarks, I now proceed to consider more particularly the prophecy of these seals.

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THE symbol or hieroglyphic exhibited under this seal is a white horse with a rider, having a bow: "A crown was given him, and he went forth "conquering, and to conquer.” * The horse, in the prophetical writings, seems to be the emblem of victory and dominion. The white colour of this horse denotes that the conquests of his rider shall be of a pure and holy nature, white being every where used as symbolical of true holiness. Thus in Daniel xi. 15. "to purge and to make them "white;" and in Revel. iii. 4. "they shall walk "with me in white, for they are worthy." A bow is the well known instrument for discharging arrows; and from Psalm xlv. 5. we learn that the wounds inflicted by arrows, are emblematical of the spiritual conquests of the Messiah. The crown with which the rider on the white horse is invested, denotes royal authority and conquest. The whole hieroglyphic represents to us the triumphant pro gress of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first and purest age of the church, comprehending the greater part of the first three centuries.

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Those interpreters who have adopted this explanation of the first seal, have generally supposed that the rider on the white horse is our Lord himself, but this opinion seems to me to be inaccurate; for, if we suppose the rider in the first seal to be a real personage, we must, according to the principles of homogeneity and analogy, understand the riders in the three following seals, to denote likewise

* Rev. vi. 2.

real personages. But we shall not find it easy to fix upon any real characters in history, answering to the description of the riders in the second, third, or fourth seals. We seem, therefore, to be irresistibly driven to the conclusion, that these riders are hieroglyphical representations of things future; and in order to preserve that consistency of interpretation which is necessary to lead us to the successful elucidation of this mysterious book, we must also, I think, conclude, that the character, exhibited to us in the first seal, is, like those of the subsequent visions, wholly hieroglyphical; and we are thus obliged to reject the idea that the rider on the white horse is the Messiah in person. *

There is, indeed, a rider upon a white horse in a subsequent part of this book, who is not a symbolical, but a real personage.+ But it is observable, that it is there expressly declared who the horseman is, in order that we may fall into no mistakes respecting it; and I see no sufficient reason for the conclusion which has been drawn by many writers, from some circumstances of similarity, between the two riders, that they are one and the same.


* Archdeacon Woodhouse seems to be sensible that the rider on the white horse cannot, with certainty, be pronounced to be the Son of God." We are not yet warranted,” says the learned writer, “to say that this horseman is the Son of God." Again, "The progress "of the white horse seems to be rather that of the Christian religion "in its primitive purity, from the time that its divine founder left it "on earth under the conduct of the apostles." On the Apocalypse, page 131.

+ Rev. xix. 11.

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