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God has placed a barrier against this principle. See the eighth and tenth commandments. We should obey the sacred laws; "but covet ye the best gifts."-1 Cor. 12: 31.
Verse 7: "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth beast say, Come and see." Behold how God's providential care is abused. The prophet says—
Verse 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 them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Behold luxury and debauchery, with all their ghastly train. See intemperance rapidly driving on to destruction. Behold it as the parent of diseases. Its amazing power may be seen when it inflames the passions of men, and leads them to duelling, and other species of murder and crime. In a literal sense, it often kills with hunger. It also preys most fearfully on the faculties of the soul. Reason, with all the spiritual comfort which ought to flow from it, is withered brotherly love is impaired. If the man of intemperance has any remains of it, it is only shown to creatures like himself. Instead of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, he perpetually thirsts after sen, sual pleasures. It kills with death. Let the gout, dropsy, apoplexy, and diseases of a like nature, be vouchers for the fact. But these are not the greatest evils. The unhappy victim of intemperance is frequently addicted to cursing, lying, blasphemy, perjury, and all manner of filthy, or at best, unprofitable conversation, which end in eternal death. View the debauchee in his worst state. He is beneath the beasts, and is a companion for none but brutes like himself. Power was given to this train over a fourth part of the earth. In this age we may see the truth of this calculation, particularly in Europe, which, since the apostle's days, has become the seat of intemperance.
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." Upon this verse the following observations seem to be appropriate. Persecution has raised its merciless hand against the children of God in all ages, particularly by those who lived by the altar. Behold the Jewish high priest, and his accursed train, condemning and putting to a shameful death the innocent Jesus, for preaching peace, and showing the way of salvation. They persecuted his harmless followers, and put them to death also. Heathen Rome violently persecuted the primitive Christians for giving them true ideas of the eternal God, and showing them the absurdity of worshipping false gods. But what is more astonishing, people who say there is but one God, and make a profession of Christianity, have persecuted each other. But our amazement may cease when we consider that it is all done by priestcraft. These false teachers led the laity first into error. Ignorance then increased. The Scriptures became obscure, and at length totally concealed. In this state of utter darkness, the clergy assumed a power which none dared to disobey. The few who sought for gospel information were considered heretics, doomed to damnation, and destroyed without mercy. O, persecutors ! persecutors! ye enemies of the true worshippers of God! ye monsters of iniquity, who dare to judge your fellow creatures, and doom them to perdition, know ye not that God hath appointed a Judge, who will in righteousness judge both quick and dead? and will he not judge you? How can ye appear before the eternal Jehovah, who thus rob him of his royal prerogative, and put to death his saints? Stupid mortals the laity are, who have been thus deluded and led astray by those high priests of the altar.
Verse 10: "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" The cries of the persecuted have been, since the Christian era,
loud and great. How long these evils will be permitted is not given us exactly to know, but from the signs and appearances of the times, the great whore, which did corrupt the earth, is near dissolution. God is manifesting his great power among the nations. Rome's lovers are hating her; they are eating her flesh, and will utterly consume her. Though man may assign reasons for this great change, yet the true reason is, "For strong is the Lord God, who judgeth her." Rev. 18.
Verse 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." From the words here spoken by the prophet, we may plainly see that they who are the advocates for the truth, should patiently wait till God, in his own good time, shall break the chains of ecclesiastical tyranny. Then persecution will cease. Although the prophet assigns no fixed principles for this horrid persecuting spirit, yet it is easy to see that is compounded with the other evil ones, already mentioned. The prophet says that it was under the altar he saw the souls of those which were slain. Were there any who persecuted but those who maintained and lived by the altar service? The Jews supported the altar; yet we find a sentence of condemnation denounced against them by our Savior, for their persecuting and other evil principles. Matt. 23: 13–36. Heathen Rome was guided by the high priests of their altars, when they carried on the ten persecutions against the primitive Christians. Papal Rome was as much devoted to the altar service as any of the former, and has far exceeded in persecuting cruelty. Even in the English established church, during the reign of the Stuarts, the altar service was inclined to, and for that reason, it persecuted. Thus, in the powerful language of prophecy, we may see under the altar the souls of those who were slain for the
work of God, and for the testimony they held. I omit any observations here on the conduct of the heathen world. But since the time that Christianity obtained the ascendancy, till now, what are the ravages which avarice and ambition have made in church and state! These are linked together, though the author of Christianity has expressly said, “My kingdom is not of this world!" Church and state have acted in conjunction to enslave mankind, though the gospel law is perfect freedom-freedom from sin through the Redeemer and freedom from the vices and crimes of an evil world, by obeying his commands. Christianity has often been reviled by its enemies, when, in fact, it is the false and avaricious teachers of it that ought to bear the blame. All parties boast of their holy religion; but where are the genuine effects of it. When we hear of wars and commotions, we find the clergy, in these ages, are very active instruments in formenting them. For upwards of a thousand years, what a sad spectacle has Europe presented, in point of human butchery. Yet the pretence frequently is, that we are fighing for our holy religion and so say all the contending parties. But the melancholy fact is, that it is not the religion of Jesus, but the want of it, that causes all the mischief. Christianity recommends peace, love, good-will, and universal charity. The religion of these days is the very opposite. Jesus Christ commands us to love our enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. Matt. 5: 44. Such conduct proves us to be the children of God. The clergy and priests of the altar, since the days of Constantine, have taught us to hate our enemies, to destroy them by fire and sword, to burn and destroy heretics, to sing Te Deums and rejoice for victories obtained, to pray for the success of fleets and armies by sea and land, and then say the Lord's prayer. O, can a just and holy God be pleased with such vile hypocrisy? We read of three ways used in ancient times, to punish a wicked and impious world-by
war, by pestilence, and by famine. But the clergy have invented a faith; they have created purgatorial fire, and taught man the use of gunpowder. Happy discovery! but that holy ardor and zeal which Christianity requires is extinguished. The laity have lost the harmonious sound which the gospel trumpet gave in the first century. The notes they now hear are shrill, harsh, and hard to be understood. They hear of saints' days, and holy days, of creeds and catechisms, of works of supererogation, overplus merit, of transubstantiation, which far exceeds any of the Redeemer's miracles. We hear of pardons and absolutions, of masses for the living and the dead, tithes and other church dues, of church ornaments and priests' vestments, of ceremonies instituted; and, to close the list, they hear of a mother of God. O, may the laity read the Scriptures, and shun the fatal sound of the fifth and sixth trumpet, and fly from the wrath to come. O, may my brethren, the laity, put on the true Christian armor, and be able to make war against Satan, and all the principalities and powers of darkness, and become members of that true and infalible church, whose sun is the pure gospel light-whose moon is universal charity and brotherly love, and whose crown is the doctrines and examples of Christ and his Apostles.
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." At first view, we might imagine the prophet was describing the end of all things, when the earth and all things were to be reduced to their original chaos. A chaos he is certainly giving us a representation of, but it is one embracing the ruin of true, vital Christianity, and the effects of it. First, he says there was a great earthquake. So it was in the days of Constantine, the forty-first emperor of Rome, when he took on him the name of Christian, and overturned paganism. Second, he says the sun became black as