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manifest, that within this short period, the gospel of the Son of God had been propagated throughout the various districts of Syria, the Lesser Asia, and the states of Greece; it had obtained a footing in all the islands of the Ægean Sea, in Egypt, and all along the western shores of the African continent ; it had found its way into every province, and into every city of any note, in the eastern parts of the empire ; it had also begun to sap the foundations of Pagan theology and superstition in the West. Rome, the seat of government, and various other cities in Italy, were favoured with the gospel. By the time that the book of the Revelation was written, the converts to Christianity were become in many places the most numerous party; and if they had been inclined to resist the measures of their
persecutors, they could easily have repelled force by force, and set all the rage of their enemies at defiance.
If we descend to the times which were immediately subsequent to the age of the apostles, we will find numerous and explicit testimonies, both from Heathen and Christian writers, respecting the extensive propagation of Christianity. I shall select only two of these ; from which it will appear, with what propriety the hieroglyphic in the text has been employed. Justin Martyr was next in point of time to the apostles; he flourished in the first half of the second century. The period of his ministry may be considered as succeeding to the age of the apostles, as John lived till very near the close of the first century. This venerable father could say, "There is not a nation, either of Greek, or Barbarian, or of any other name, even of those who wander in tribes, and live in tents, amongst whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered to the Father and Creator of the universe, by the name of the crucified Je
Tertullian flourished in the latter half of the same century; and in his Apology for Christianity, he appeals to his persecutors, and says, “We were but of yesterday, and we have filled your cities, islands, towns, and boroughs ; the camp, the senate, and the forum. Every sex, age, and condition, and persons of every rank, are converts to the name of Christ.** In another work of his, which was written chietly against the Jews, speaking of the extensive propagation of Christianity, besides many other countries, he enumerates as belonging to Christ, the · Moors and Gaetulians of Africa, the borders of Spain, several nations of France, and parts of Britain inaccessible to the Romans : the Sarmatians, Dacians, Germans, and Scythians.'t Before the close of the second century, the visible kingdom of Christ was of greater extent than
* Dial. cum Tryph. quoted by Paley.
any of the four great monarchies had been ; it was erected even in different places, where none of these mighty political associations had been able to acquire a single inch of territory.
These statements, it is presumed, will be sufficient to shew, that the prophecy of the first seal has met with a very remarkable fulfilment; they likewise furnish clear and decisive attestations to the truth of Christianity. The propagation of this system must have been of God, otherwise it could never have been accomplished. That twelve illiterate fishermen should have propagated, to such an extent, and in so short a space of time, a system of religious opinions so widely different from the common principles of belief in all countries, and that too in the face of such violent opposition, can never be accounted for, but in the way of admitting, that they had the countenance of the God of heaven in their work; and, therefore, the doctrines they taught, and the worship they established, must be divine.
Finally, these statements furnish matter of encouragement with respect to the future. John could not see any termination of the triumphs of the rider of the first horse, but with the subjugation of the whole world to his authority. He was in the act of conquest, and going forth to new victories ; no adversary could check his career, or prevent the execution of any of his designs. And in what he has now done, we have
Tertul. Apol. e. 37.
+ Ad Jud. c. 7.
a pledge or security for the fulfilment of what remains to be accomplished.—And surely it cannot be more difficult for him, in the latter days, to fill the whole earth with his glory, than it was to produce, in the early periods of Christianity, by means so unlikely, so sudden and extensive a revolution of sentiment in the minds of men.
Rev. vi. 3, 4. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard
the beast say, Come and see. 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 circumstances previous to the account which is given of the contents of this seal, are similar to those which precede the account of the former ; only it is the second of the four living creatures which now gives the invitation, and there does not appear to have been any thing peculiarly impressive in the tone of voice with which he spoke. The first had spoken with the majesty of the thunder-storm; but the voice of the second was much more familiar, as it bore a greater resemblance to the tones of the human voice.—The second of the living creatures had the general appearance of an ox, chap. iv. 7; and as this animal is remarkable for patience and submission, the symbol may be intended to intimate, that the ministry, in the period of this seal, would be distinguished by their patience under sufferings, and perseverance in discharging the duties of their office, notwithstanding the rude treatment to which they might be exposed. The ministry of the former seal were not without a very considerable share of sufferings; but they seem to have been called to active services, rather than to the patient endurance of wrongs. Their commission was to go and preach the gospel to every creature; and in executing this commission, it behoved them to attack the popular system of religious belief, and the established forms of Pagan worship, wherever they came. An attempt of this kind was sufficient to excite the clamour and resentment of the world lying in wickedness; and unless they had been endowed with the bold undaunted spirit of the lion, they would have been very unfit for their work. But their successors in office appear to have been called to minister for the confirmation of the faith of converts, rather than to make new inroads upon the heathen dominions of the god of this world. Hence they are represented under the emblem of oxen, because no animal is known to submit, with a less degree of reluctance, to harsh treatment. And the history of the age which succeeded to the time of the apostles presents us with many striking illustrations of this figure.
Persecution commenced very early in the Christian church. Within two years after the ascension, it broke out with great violence at Jerusalem. In this persecution, Stephen, one of the deacons, suffered martyrdom, and all the ministers of the word, except the apostles, were compelled to leave the city. The unbelieving Jews were the first persecutors; they verily thought, that they never could do too much against Jesus of Nazareth ; and, therefore, not content with harassing and distressing his followers in Palestine, they persecuted them unto strange
cities. In whatever country they resided, they represented the Christians in the most unfavourable light, and endeavoured to excite the popular feeling against them. Most of those tumultuary proceedings, both in the Lesser Asia and in Greece, which we read of in the book of the Acts, were by means of the Jews. These persecutors, however, were often destitute of the means of gratifying the virulence of their tempers; but it was different with the Romans: when once they imbibed the spirit of persecution, they were armed with power to give full scope to its exercise.
From the foundation of the city of Rome till the time of Nero, every form of religion had been tolerated by the Romans. All the gods of the Heathen were supposed to be local divinities; hence the Romans never thought of pulling down the religious establishments of the conquered provinces,