06. Breaking the Seals on the Book of Prophecy

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Verse 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, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

The Lamb takes the book, and proceeds at once to open the seals. The attention of the apostle is called to the scenes that occur under each seal. The number seven has already been noticed as denoting completeness and perfection in the Scriptures. The seven seals represent events of a religious character, and contain the history of the church from the opening of the Christian Era to the Second Coming of Christ. When the seals are broken, and the record was brought to light, the scenes were presented before John, not by the reading of the description, but by a representation of what was described in the book being made to pass before his view in living characters, and in the place where the reality was to occur, namely, the earth.

The First Seal. The first symbol is a white horse, bearing a rider who carries a bow. A crown is given to him, and he goes forth conquering and to conquer, a fit emblem of the triumphs of the gospel in the first century of the Christian Era. The whiteness of the horse denotes the purity of faith in that age. The crown which was given to the rider, and his going forth as a conqueror to make still further conquests, signify the zeal and success with which the truth was promulgated by its earliest ministers. By what symbols could the work of Christianity better be represented when it went forth as an aggressive principle against the huge systems of error with which it had at first to contend? The rider upon this horse went forth where? His commission was unlimited. The gospel was to all the world.

Verse 3 And when He had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

The Second Seal. Perhaps the first feature noticed in these symbols is the contrast in the color of the horses. This doubtless has special significance. It the whiteness of the first horse denoted the purity of the gospel in the period which that symbol covers, the redness of the second horse would signify that in this period that original purity began to be corrupted. The mystery of iniquity already worked in Paul's day, and the professed church of Christ was so far corrupted by this time as to require this change in the color of the symbol. Errors began to arise. Worldliness came in. The ecclesiastical power sought the alliance of the secular. Troubles and commotions were the result. Speaking of the period of the Christian church from AD 100 to 311, the historian remarks:

"We now descend from the primitive apostolic church to the Graeco-Roman; from the scene of creation to the work of preservation; from the fountain of divine revelation to the stream of human development; from the inspirations of the apostles and prophets to the productions of enlightened but fallible teachers. The hand of God has drawn a bold line of demarcation between the century of miracles and the succeeding ages, to show, by the abrupt transition and the striking contrast, the difference between the work of God and the work of man." [1] "The second period, from the death of the apostle John to the end of the persecutions, or to the accession of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, is the classic age . .

. of heathen persecution, and of Christian martyrdom and heroism. . . . It furnishes a continuous commentary on the Savior's words, 'Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.' " [2] "The ante-Nicene age . . . is . . . the common root out of which both [Catholicism and Protestantism] have sprung, Catholicism (Greek and Roman) first, and Protestantism afterwards. It is the natural transition from the apostolic age to the Nicene age, yet leaving behind many important truths of the former (especially the Pauline doctrines) which were to be derived and explored in future ages. We can trace in it the elementary forms of the Catholic creed, organization, and worship, and also the germs of nearly all the corruptions of Greek and Roman Christianity." [3]

The spirit of this period perhaps reached its climax as we come to the days of Constantine, the first so-called Christian emperor, whose conversion to Christianity in AD 323 brought about a compromise between the church and the Roman Empire. The Edict of Milan in AD 313, is said to have granted toleration to Christians and allowed conversions to Christianity. Kenneth S. Latourette declares that the acts immediately preceding and culminating in the Edict of Milan in 313 "still remain the most significant of the many milestones in the road by which the church and the state moved toward cooperation." [4]

This modern scholar of church history further declares:

"Christianity, by bringing the church into existence, developed an institution which in part was a rival of the state. It created a society within the empire which, so many believed, threatened the very existence of the latter. The conflict was very marked in the century or more before Constantine. . . . When Constantine made his peace with the faith, however, it long looked as though the conflict had been resolved by the control of the church by the state. Yet, even in the days of the seeming subordination of the church to the government, ecclesiastics sought to influence the policies of the latter." [5]

This state of things answers well to the declaration of the prophet that power was given to him that sat on the horse "to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword."

Verse 5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

The Third Seal. How rapidly the work of corruption progresses! What a contrast in color between this symbol and the first one: A black horse the very opposite of white! A period of great darkness and moral corruption in the church must be denoted by this symbol. By the events of the second seal the way was fully opened for that state of things to be brought about which is here presented. The time that intervened between the reign of Constantine and the establishment of the papacy in AD 538 may be justly noted as the time when the darkest errors and the grossest superstitions sprang up in the church. Of a period immediately succeeding the days of Constantine, Mosheim says:

"Those vain fictions, which an attachment to the Platonic philosophy and to popular opinions had engaged the greatest part of the Christian doctors to adopt before the time of Constantine, were now confirmed, enlarged, and embellished in various ways. From hence arose that extravagant veneration for departed saints, and those absurd notions of a certain fire destined to purify separate souls, that now prevailed, and of which the public marks were everywhere to be seen. Hence also the celibacy of priests, the worship of images and relics, which in process of time almost utterly destroyed the Christian religion, or at least eclipsed its luster, and corrupted its very essence in the most deplorable manner. An enormous train of different superstitions were gradually substituted in the place of true religion and genuine piety. This odious revolution was owing to a variety of causes. A ridiculous precipitation in receiving new opinions, a preposterous desire of imitating the pagan rites, and of blending them with Christian worship, and that idle propensity which the generality of mankind have toward a gaudy and ostentatious religion, all contributed to establish the reign of superstition upon the ruins of Christianity." [6]

Again he says: "A whole volume would be requisite to contain an enumeration of the various frauds which artful knaves practiced, with success, to delude the ignorant, when true religion almost entirely superseded by horrid superstition." [7]

These quotations from Mosheim contain a description of the period covered by the black horse of the third seal that answers accurately to the prophecy. It is seen by this how paganism was incorporated into Christianity, and how during this period the false system which resulted in the establishment of the papacy, rapidly rounded out its full outlines, and ripened into all its deplorable perfection of strength and stature.

The Balances. "The balances denoted that religion and civil power would be united in the person who would administer the executive power in the government, and that he would claim the judicial authority both in church and state. This was true among the Roman emperors from the days of Constantine until the reign of Justinian, when he gave the same judicial power to the bishop of Rome." [8]

The Wheat and the Barley. "The measures of wheat and barley for a penny denote that the members of the church would be eagerly engaged after worldly goods, and the love of money would be

the prevailing spirit of the times, for they would dispose of anything for money." [9]

The Oil and the Wine. These "denote the graces of the Spirit, faith and love, and there was great danger of hurting these, under the influence of so much of a worldly spirit. And it is well attested by all historians that the prosperity of the church in this age produced the corruptions which finally terminated in the falling away, and setting up the antichristian abominations." [10]

It will be observed that the voice limiting the amount of wheat for a penny, and saying, "Hurt not the oil and the wine," is not spoken by anyone on earth, but comes from the midst of the four living creatures, signifying that although the undershepherds, the professed ministers of Christ, had no care for the flock, yet the Lord was not unmindful of them in this period of darkness. A voice comes from heaven. He takes care that the spirit of worldliness does not prevail to such a degree that Christianity should be entirely lost, or that the oil and the wine graces of genuine piety should perish from the earth.

Verse 7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

The Fourth Seal. The color of this horse is remarkable. The original word denotes the "pale or yellowish color" that is seen in blighted or sickly plants. A strange state of things in the professed church must be denoted by this symbol. The rider of this horse is named Death, and Hell ({GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT},hades, "the grave") followed with him. The mortality is so great during this period it would seem as if "the pale nations of the dead" had come upon the earth, and were following in the wake of this desolating power. The period during which this seal applies can hardly be mistaken. It must refer to the time in which the papacy bore its unrebuked, unrestrained, and persecuting rule, beginning about AD 538, and extending to the time when the Reformers began their work of exposing the corruptions of the papal system.

"Power was given unto them" "him," says the margin, that is, the power personified by Death on the pale horse, namely the papacy. By the fourth part of the earth is doubtless meant the territory over which this power had jurisdiction; and the words "sword," "hunger," "death" (that is, some infliction which causes death, as exposure or torture), and beasts of the earth, are figures denoting the means by which it has put to death millions of martyrs.

Verse 9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, does Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

The Fifth Seal. Under the fifth seal the martyrs cry out for vengeance, and white robes are given to them. The questions that at once suggest themselves for solution are, Does this seal cover a period of time, and if so what period? Where is the altar under which these souls were seen? What are these souls, and what is their condition? What is meant by their cry for vengeance? What is meant by white robes being given to them? When to they rest for a little season, and what is signified by their brethren being killed as they were? To all these questions we believe satisfactory answers can be returned.

It seems consistent that this seal, like all the others, should cover a period of time, and that the date of its application cannot be mistaken if the preceding seals have rightly located. Following the period of papal persecution, the time covered by this seal would begin when the Reformation began to undermine the papal fabrication, and restrain the persecuting power of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Altar. This cannot denote any altar in heaven, as it evidently the place where these victims had been slain the altar of sacrifice. On this point, Adam Clarke says: "A symbolical vision was exhibited, in which he saw an altar; and under it the souls of these who had been slain for the word of God martyred for their attachment to Christianity are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven." [11] A confirmation of this view is found in the fact that John is beholding scenes upon the earth. The souls are represented under the altar, just as victims slain upon it would pour out their blood beneath it, and fall by its side.

The Souls Under the Altar. This representation is popularly regarded as a strong proof of the doctrine of disembodied spirits and the conscious state of the dead. Here, it is claimed, are souls seen by John in a disembodied state, and yet they were conscious and had knowledge of passing events, for they cried for vengeance on their persecutors. This view of the passages is inadmissible, for several reasons.

The popular view places these souls in heaven, but the altar of sacrifice on which they were slain, and beneath which they were seen, cannot be there. The only altar we read of in heaven is the altar of incense, but it would not be correct to represent victims just slain as under the alter of incense, as that altar was never devoted to such a use. It would be repugnant to all our ideas of the heavenly state to represent souls in heaven shut up under an altar.

Can we suppose that the idea of vengeance would so dominate the minds of souls in heaven as to make them, despite the joy and glory of that ineffable state, dissatisfied and uneasy until vengeance was inflicted upon their enemies? Would they not rather rejoice that persecution raised its hand of their Redeemer, at whose right hand there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore?

But, further, the popular view which puts these souls in heaven, puts the wicked at the same time in the lake of fire, writhing in unutterable torment, and in full view of the heavenly host. Now the souls brought to view under the fifth seal were those who had been slain under the preceding seal, scores of years, and most of them centuries, before. Beyond any question, their persecutors had all passed off the stage of action, and according to the view under consideration were suffering all the torments of hell right before their eyes.

Yet, as if not satisfied with this, they cry to God as though He we delaying vengeance on their murderers. What greater vengeance could they want? Or, it their persecutors were still on the earth, they must know that they would, in a few years at most, join the vast multitude daily pouring through the gate of death into the world of woe. Their amiability is put in no better light even by this supposition. One thing at least is evident: The popular theory concerning the condition of the dead, righteous and wicked, cannot be correct, or the interpretation usually given to this passage is not correct, for they are mutually exclusive.

But it is urged that these souls must be conscious, for they cry to God. This argument would be of weight were there no such figure of speech as personification. But while there is, it will be proper on certain conditions to attribute life, action, and intelligence to inanimate objects. Thus the blood of Abel is said to have cried to God from the ground. (Genesis 4: 9, 10.) The stone cried out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber answered it. (Habakkuk 2: 11.) The hire of the laborers kept back by fraud cried, and the cry entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (James 5: 4.) So the souls mentioned in our text could cry, and not thereby be proved to be conscious.

The incongruity of the popular view on this verse is apparent, for Albert Barnes makes the following concession: "We are not to suppose that this literally occurred, and that John actually saw the souls of the martyrs beneath the altar for the whole representation is symbolical; nor are we to suppose that the injured and the wronged in heaven actually pray for vengeance on those who wronged them, or that the redeemed in heaven will continue to pray with reference to things on earth; but it may be fairly inferred from this that there will be as real a remembrance of the wrongs of the persecuted, the injured, and the oppressed, as if such prayer were offered there; and that the oppressor has as much to dread from the divine vengeance as if those whom he has injured should cry in heaven to the God who hears prayer, and who takes vengeance." [12]

On such passages as this, the reader is misled by the popular definition of the word "soul." From that definition, he is led to suppose that this text speaks of an immaterial, invisible, immortal essence in man, which soars into its coveted freedom on the death of the mortal body. No instance of the occurrence of the word in the original Hebrew or Greek will sustain such a definition. It most often means "life", and is not infrequently rendered "person." It applies to the dead as well as to the living, as may be seen by reference to Genesis 2: 7, where the word "living" need not have been expressed were life an inseparable attribute of the soul; and to Numbers 19: 13, where the Hebrew concordance reads "dead soul." Moreover, these souls pray that their blood may be avenged an article which the immaterial soul, as popularly understood, is not supposed to possess. The word "souls" may be regarded as here meaning simply the martyrs, those who had been slain, the words "souls of them" being a periphrasis for the whole person.

They were represented to John as having been slain upon the altar of papal sacrifice, on this earth, and lying dead beneath it. They certainly were not alive when John saw them under the fifth seal, for he again brings to view the same company, in almost the same language, and assures us that the first time they live after their martyrdom is at the resurrection of the just. (Revelation 20: 4-6.) Lying there victims of papal bloodthirstiness and oppression, they cried to God for vengeance in the same manner that Abel's blood cried to Him from the ground.

The White Robes. These were given as a partial answer to their cry, "How long, O Lord, . . . does Thou not judge and avenge our blood?" They had gone down to the grave in the most ignominious manner. Their lives had been misrepresented, their reputations tarnished, their names defamed, their motives maligned, and their graves covered with shame and reproach, as containing the dishonored dust of the most vile and despicable of characters. Thus the Church of Rome, which then molded the sentiment of the principal nations of the earth, spared no pains to make her victims an abhorrence to all people.

But the Protestant Reformation began its work. It began to be seen that the church was corrupt and disreputable, and those against whom it vented its rage were the good, the pure, and the true. The work went on among the most enlightened nations, the reputation of the church going down, and that of the martyrs coming up, until the corruptions of the papal abominations were fully exposed. Then that huge system of iniquity stood forth before the world in all its naked deformity, while the martyrs were vindicated from all the aspersions under which that persecuting church had sought to bury them. Then it was seen that they had suffered, not for being vile and criminal, but "for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held." Then their praises were sung, their virtues admired, their fortitude applauded, their names honored, and their memories cherished. White robes were thus given to every one of them.

The Little Season. The cruel work of Roman Catholicism did not altogether cease, even after the work of the Protestant Reformation had become widespread and well established. Not a few terrible outbursts of hate and persecution were yet to be felt by the true church. Multitudes more were to be punished as heretics, and to join the great army of martyrs. The full vindication of their cause was to be delayed a little season. During this time Rome added hundreds of thousands to the vast throng whose blood she had already become guilty.

But the spirit of persecution was finally restrained, the cause of the martyrs was vindicated, and the "little season" of the fifth seal came to a close.

Verse 12 And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; 13 and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

The Sixth Seal. Such are the solemn and sublime scenes which occur under the sixth seal. A thought well calculated to awaken in every heart an intense interest in divine things is the consideration that we are now living amid the momentous events of this seal, as will presently be proved.

Between the fifth and sixth seals there seems to be a sudden and complete change from highly figurative to strictly literal language. Whatever may be the cause, the change cannot well be denied. By no principle of interpretation can the language of the preceding seals be made to be literal, nor can the language of this any more easily be made figurative. We must therefore accept the change, even though we may be unable to explain it. There is a significant fact, however, to which we would here call attention. It was in the period covered by this seal that the prophetic parts of God's word to be unsealed, and many run to and fro, or give their attention to the understanding of these things, and thereby knowledge on this part of God's word was to be greatly increased. We suggest that it may be for this reason that the change in the language here occurs, and that the events of this seal, taking place at a time when these things were to be fully understood, are not couched in figures, but are laid before us in plain and unmistakable language.

The Great Earthquake. The first event under this seal, and perhaps the one which marks its opening, is a great earthquake. As the most striking fulfillment of this prediction, we refer to the great earthquake of November 1, 1755, known as the earthquake of Lisbon. Of this earthquake, Robert Sears says:

"The great earthquake of 1755 extended over a tract of at least four millions of square miles. Its effects were even extended to the waters, in many places where the shocks were not perceptible. It pervaded the greater portions of the continents of Europe, Africa, and America; but its extreme violence was exercised on the southwestern part of the former." [13] "In Africa, this earthquake was felt almost as severely as it had been in Europe. A great part of the city of Algiers was destroyed. Many houses were thrown down at Fez and Mequinez, and multitudes were buried beneath their ruins. Similar effects were realized in Morocco. Its effects were likewise felt at Tangier, at Tetuan, at Funchal in the Island of Madeira; . . . It is probable . . . that all Africa was shaken by this tremendous convulsion. At the North, it extended to Norway and Sweden; Germany, Holland, France, Great Britain, and Ireland were all more or less agitated by the same great and terrible commotion of the elements." [14] "The city of Lisbon . . . previous to that calamity . . . contained about . . . 150,000 inhabitants. . . . Mr. Barretti says, 'that 90,000 persons are supposed to have been lost on that fatal day.' " [15]

Sir Charles Lyell gives the following graphic description of this remarkable phenomenon:

"In no part of the volcanic region of Southern Europe has so tremendous an earthquake occurred in modern times as that which began on the 1st of November, 1755, at Lisbon. A sound of thunder was heard underground, and immediately afterwards a violent shock threw down the greater part of that city. In the course of about six minutes, sixty thousand persons perished. The sea first retired and laid the bar dry; it then rolled in, rising fifty feet above its ordinary level. The mountains of Arrabida, Estrella, Julio, Maravan, and Cintra, being some of the largest in Portugal, were impetuously shaken, as it were, from their very foundations; and some of them opened at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the subjacent valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains, which are supposed to have been electric; they are also said to have smoked; but vast clouds of dust may have given rise to this appearance. . . .

"The great area over which this Lisbon earthquake extended is very remarkable. The movement was most violent in Spain, Portugal, and the north of Africa; but nearly the whole of Europe, and even the West Indies, felt the shock on the same day. A seaport called St. Ubes, about twenty miles south of Lisbon, was engulfed. At Algiers and Fez, in Africa, the agitation of the earth was equally violent, and at the distance of eight leagues from Morocco, a village, with the inhabitants to the number of about eight or ten thousand persons, together with all their cattle, were [was] swallowed up. Soon after, the earth closed again over them.

"The shock was felt at sea, on the deck of a ship to the west of Lisbon, and produced very much the same sensation as on dry land. Off St. Lucar [s], the captain of the ship 'Nancy' felt his vessel shaken so violently that he thought she had struck the ground, but, on heaving the lead, found a great depth of water. Captain Clark, from Denia, in latitude 36 degrees 24' N., between nine and ten in the morning, had his ship shaken and strained as if she had struck upon a rock. Another ship, forty leagues west of St. Vincent, experienced so violent a concussion that the men were thrown a foot and a half perpendicularly up from the deck. In Antigua and Barbadoes, as also in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Corsica, Switzerland, and Italy, tremors and slight oscillations of the ground were felt.

"The agitation of lakes, rivers, and springs in Great Britain were remarkable. At Loch Lomond, in Scotland, for example, the water, without the least apparent cause, rose against its banks, and then subsided below its usual level. The greatest perpendicular height of this swell was two feet four inches. It is said that the movement of this earthquake was undulatory, and that it traveled at the rate of twenty miles a minute. A great wave swept over the coast of Spain, and is said to have been sixty feet high in Cadiz. At Tangier, in Africa, it rose and fell eighteen times on the coast; at Funchal, in Madeira, it rose full fifteen feet perpendicular above high-water mark, although the tide, which ebbs and flows there seven feet, was then at half ebb. Besides entering the city and committing great havoc, it overflowed other seaports in the island. At Kinsale, in Ireland, a body of water rushed into the harbor, whirled round several vessels, and poured into the marketplace." [16]

If the reader will look in his atlas at the countries mentioned, he will see how large a part of the earth's surface was agitated by this awful convulsion. Other earthquakes may have been as severe in particular localities, but no other supplies all the conditions necessary to constitute it a fitting event to mark the opening of the seal.

The Darkening of the Sun. Following the earthquake, as announced by prophecy, "the sun became black as sackcloth of hair." This part of the prediction has also been fulfilled. We need not here enter into a detailed account of the wonderful darkening of the sun, May 19, 1780. Most persons of general reading, it is presumed, have seen some account of it. The following detached declarations from different authorities will give an idea of its nature:

"Dark Day, The. May 19, 1780 so called on account of a remarkable darkness on that day extending over all New England. . . . The obscuration began about ten o'clock in the morning, and continued till the middle of the next night, but with differences of degree and duration in different places. .

. . The true cause of this remarkable phenomenon is not known." [17]

"In the month of May, 1780, there was a very terrific dark day in New England, when 'all faces seemed to gather blackness,' and the people were filled with fear. There was great distress in the village where Edward Lee lived, 'men's hearts failing them for fear' that the Judgment-day was at hand; and the neighbors all flocked around the holy man, [who] spent the gloomy hours in earnest prayer for the distressed multitude." [18]

"The time of this extraordinary darkness was May 19, 1780," says Professor Williams. "It came on between the hours of ten and eleven A.M., and continued until the middle of the next night, but with different appearances at different places. . . .

"The degree to which the darkness arose was different in different places. In most parts of the country it was so great that people were unable to read common print, determine the time of day by their clocks or watches, dine, or manage their domestic business, without the light of candles. In some places the darkness was so great that persons could not see to read common print in the open air, for several hours together; but I believe this was not generally the case.

"The extent of this darkness was very remarkable. Our intelligence in this respect is not so particular as I could wish; but from the accounts that have been received, it seems to have extended all over the New England States. It was observed as far east as Falmouth [Portland, Maine]. To the westward we hear of its reaching to the furthest parts of Connecticut, and Albany. To the southward it was observed all along the seacoasts, and to the north as far as our settlements extend. It is probable it extended much beyond these limits in some directtions, but the exact boundaries cannot be ascertained by any observations that I have been able to collect.

"With regard to its duration, it continued in this place at least fourteen hours; but is probable this was not exactly the same in different parts of the country.

"The appearance and effects were such as tended to make the prospect extremely dull and gloomy. Candles were lighted up in the houses; the birds, having sung their evening songs, disappeared, and became silent; the fowls retired to roost; the cocks were crowing all around, as at break of day; objects could not be distinguished but at very little distance; and everything bore the appearance and gloom of night." [19]

"The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared, and the fowls retired to roost. . . . A very general opinion prevailed that the day ofjudgment was at hand." [20]

Whittier, in a well-known poem, pictures it thus:

" 'Twas on a May-day of the far old year Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell Over the bloom and sweet life of the Spring,

Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,

A horror of great darkness, like the night In day of which the Norland sagas tell,

The Twilight of the Gods. The low-hung sky Was black with ominous clouds, save where its rim Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbs The crater's sides from the red hell below.

Birds ceased to sing, and all the barnyard fowls Roosted; the cattle at the pasture bars Lowed, and looked homeward; bats on leathern wings Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;

Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter The black sky, that the dreadful face of Christ Might look from the rent clouds, not as He looked A loving guest at Bethany, but stern As Justice and inexorable Law." [21]

"The Moon Became as Blood." The darkness of the following night, May 19, 1780, was as unnatural as that of the day had been.

"The darkness of the following evening was probably as gross as ever has been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light. . . . I could not help conceiving at the times, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete. A sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes, was equally invisible with the blackest velvet." [22]

"In the evening . . . perhaps it never was darker since the children of Israel left the house of bondage. This gross darkness help till about one o'clock, although the moon had fulled but the day before." [23]

This statement respecting the phase of the moon proves the impossibility of an eclipse of the sun at that time. Whenever on this memorable night the moon did appear, as at certain times it did, it had, according to this prophecy, the appearance of blood.

"The Stars of Heaven Fell." The voice of history still cries, Fulfilled! We refer to the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. On this point a few testimonies will suffice.

"At the cry, 'Look out of the window,' I sprang from a deep sleep, and with wonder saw the east lighted up with the dawn and meteors. . . . I called to my wife to behold; and while robing, she exclaimed, 'See how the stars fall!' I replied, 'That is the wonder:' and felt in our hearts that it was a sign of the last days. For truly 'the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' Revelation 6: 13. . . .

"And how did they fall? Neither myself nor one of the family heard any report; and were I to hunt through nature for a simile, I could not find one so apt to illustrate the appearance of the heavens, as that which St. John uses in the prophecy before quoted. 'It rained fire!' says one. Another, 'It was like a shower of fire.' Another, 'It was like the large flakes of falling snow, before a coming storm, or large drops of rain before a shower.' I admit the fitness of these for common accuracy; but they come far short of the accuracy of the figure used by the prophet. 'The stars of heaven fell upon the earth;' they were not sheets, or flakes, or drops of fire; but they were what the world understands by the name 'falling stars;' and one speaking to his fellow in the midst of the scene, would say, 'See how the stars fall!' and he who heard, would not pause to correct the astronomy of the speaker, any more than he would reply, 'The sun does not move,' to one who should tell him, 'The sun is rising.' The stars fell 'even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' Here is the exactness of the prophet. The falling stars did not come, as if from several trees shaken, but from one; those which appeared in the north fell toward the north; those which appeared in the west fell toward the west; and those which appeared in the south (for I went out of my residence into the park), fell toward the south; and they fell, not as ripe fruit falls. Far from it. But they flew, they were cast like the unripe fruit, which at first refuses to leave the branch; and, when it does break its hold, flies swiftly straight off, descending; and in the multitude falling, some cross the

track of others, as they are thrown with more or less force." [24]

"The most sublime phenomenon of shooting stars, of which the world has furnished any record, was witnessed throughout the United States on the morning of the 13th of November, 1833. The entire extent of this astonishing exhibition has not been precisely ascertained, but it covered no inconsiderable portion of the earth's surface. . . . The first appearance was that of fireworks of the most imposing grandeur, covering the entire vault of heaven with myriads of fireballs, resembling skyrockets. Their coruscations were bright, gleaming, and incessant, and they fell thick as the flakes in the early snows of December. To the splendors of this celestial exhibition the most brilliant skyrockets and fireworks of art bear less relation than the twinkling of the most tiny star to the broad glare of the sun. The whole heavens seemed in motion, and suggested to some the awful grandeur of the image employed in the Apocalypse, upon the opening of the sixth seal, when 'the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' " [25]

"After collecting and collating the accounts given in all the periodicals of the country, and also in numerous letters addressed either to my scientific friends or to myself, the following appeared to be the leading facts attending the phenomenon. The shower pervaded nearly the whole of North America, having appeared in nearly equal splendor from the British possessions on the north, to the West India Islands and Mexico on the south, and from sixty-one degrees of longitude east of the American coast, quite to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Throughout this immense region, the duration was nearly the same. The meteors began to attract attention by their unusual frequency and brilliancy, from nine to twelve o'clock in the evening; were most striking in their appearance from two to five; arrived at their maximum, in many places, about four o'clock; and continued until rendered invisible by the light of day." [26]

"The spectacle must have been of the sublimest order. The apostle John might have had it before him when he indited the passage referring to the opening of the sixth seal: 'And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' " [27]

"The Heavens Departed as a Scroll." In this event out minds are turned to the future. From looking at the past, and beholding the word of God fulfilled, we are now called to look at events in the future, which are no less sure to come. Our position is unmistakably defined. We stand between the 13th and 14th verses of this chapter. We wait for the heavens to depart as a scroll when it is rolled together. These are times of unparalleled solemnity and importance, for we do not know how near we may be to the fulfillment of these things.

The departing of the heavens is included in what the writers of the Gospels call, in the same series of events, the shaking of the powers of heavens. Other scriptures give us further particulars concerning this prediction. From Hebrews 12: 25-27; Joel 3: 16; Jeremiah 25: 30-33; Revelation 16: 17, we learn that it is the voice of God, as He speaks in terrible majesty from His throne in heaven, that causes this fearful commotion in earth and sky. Once the Lord spoke with an audible voice, when He gave His eternal law from Sinai. At that time the earth shook. He is to speak again, and not only the earth will shake, but the heavens also. Then will the earth "reel to and fro like a drunkard." It will be "dissolved" and "utterly broken down." Isaiah 24. Mountains will move from their firm bases. Islands will suddenly change their locations in the midst of the sea. From the level plain will arise the precipitous mountain. Rocks will thrust up their ragged forms from earth's broken surface. While the voice of God is reverberating through the earth, the direst confusion will reign over the face of nature.

To show that this is no mere conception of the imagination, the reader is requested to mark the exact phraseology which some of the prophets have used in reference to this time. Isaiah says: "The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again." Isaiah 24: 19, 20.

Jeremiah in thrilling language describes the scene as follows: "I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. . . . For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate." Jeremiah 4: 23-27.

Then will the world's dream of carnal security be effectually broken. Kings who, intoxicated with their own earthly authority, have never dreamed of a higher power than themselves, now realize that there is One who reigns as King of kings. The great men behold the vanity of all earthly pomp, for there is a greatness above that of earth. The rich men throw their silver and gold to the moles and bats, for it cannot save them in that day. The chief captains forget their brief authority, and the mighty men forget their strength. Every bondman who is in the still worse bondage of sin, and every freeman all classes of the wicked, from the highest down to the lowest join in the general wail of consternation and despair.

They who never prayed to Him whose arm could bring salvation, now raise an agonizing prayer to rocks and mountains to bury them forever from the sight of Him whose presence brings to them destruction. Fain would they now avoid reaping what they have sown by a life of lust and sin. Fain would they now shun the fearful treasure of wrath which they have been heaping up for themselves and their catalogue of crimes in everlasting darkness. So they flee to the rocks, caves, caverns, and fissures which the broken surface of the earth now presents before them. But it is too late. They cannot conceal their guilt or escape the long-delayed vengeance.

"It will be in vain to call,

'Ye mountains on us fall,'

For His hand will find out all,

In that day."

The day which they thought never would come, has at last taken them as in a snare, and the involuntary language of their anguished hearts is, "The great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" Before that day comes with its fearful scenes, we pray you, reader, give your most serious and candid attention to your salvation.

Many now affect to despise the institution of prayer, but at one time or another all men will pray. Those who will not now pray to God in penitence, will pray to the rocks and mountains in despair; and this will be the largest prayer meeting ever held.

Ah! better far

To cease the unequal war,

While pardon, hope, and peace may yet be found;

Nor longer rush upon the embossed shield Of the Almighty, but repentant yield,

And all your weapons of rebellion ground.

Better pray now in love, than pray erelong in fear.

Call you upon Him while He waits to hear;

So in the coming end,

When down the parted sky The angelic hosts attend The Lord of heaven, most high,

Before whose face the solid earth is rent,

You may behold a friend omnipotent,

And safely rest beneath His sheltering wings,

Amid the ruin of all earthly things.


[1]    Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, p. 7.

[2]    Ibid., p. 8.

[3]    Ibid., p. 11.

[4]    Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. I, The First Five Centuries, p. 159.

[5]    Ibid., p. 273.

[6]    John L. Mosheim, An Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, pp. 364, 365.

[7]    Ibid., p. 368.

[8]    William Miller, Evidence From Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, p. 176.

[9]    Ibid.

[10]    Ibid.

[11]    Adam Clarke, Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. I, p. 994, note on Revelation 6: 9.

[12]    Albert Barnes, Notes on Revelation, pp. 190, 191, comment on Revelation 6: 9-11.

[13]    Robert Sears, Wonders of the World, p. 50.

[14]    Ibid., p. 58.

[15]    Ibid., p. 381.

[16]    A. R. Spofford and Charles Gibbon, The Library of Choice Literature, Vol. VII, pp. 162, 163.

[17]    Noah Webster, "Vocabulary of the Names of Noted . . . Persons and Places," An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1882 ed.

[18]    "Some Memorials of Edward Lee," The Publications of the American Tract Society, Vol. XI, p. 376.

[19]    Samuel Williams, in Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. I, pp. 234, 235.

[20]    Timothy Dwight, quoted by John W. Barber, Connecticut Historical Collections, p. 403.

[21]    John G. Wittier, "Abraham Davenport," Complete Poetical Works, p. 260.

[22]    Samuel Tenny, in Collections of Massachusetts Historical Society for the year 1792, Vol. I, pp. 97, 98.

[23]    Boston Gazette, May 29, 1780.

[24]    New York Journal of Commerce, Nov. 14, 1833, Vol. VIII, No. 534, p. 2.

[25]    Elijah H. Burritt, The Geography of the Heavens, p. 163.

[26]    Denison Olmsted, The Mechanism of the Heavens, p. 328.

[27] Edwin Dunkin, The Heavens and the Earth, p. 186.




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