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The white horse, in the passage before us, is a warhorse, for he carries his rider “ to conquer.
In a vision of the prophet Zechariah, (ch. i.) a person is seen“ riding on a red horse, (suppos, flamecoloured,) and behind him were there red horses, speckled and white.” These appear, in the sequel, to represent the progress of heavenly angels, in military array, sent forth through the nations at the time of the Jewish captivity. The red horses, which lead the array, portend war and slaughter; such as had occasioned the captivity. The white horses concluding the procession, denote, as the context shows, the peace and happiness which were to succeed. The speckled, or party-coloured horses, express the intermediate transition from suffering to happiness.
In the sixth chapter of the same prophet, there is a similar exhibition of four chariots, drawn by red, black, white, and party-coloured horses ; which are explained by the angel to signify “ the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” And they go forth in the same character; the black horses denoting mourning and woe, to the north country, to Babylon, where the Jews were then in bondage. But “ the white go forth after them,” representing the deliverance they were to obtain from the victorious Cyrus.
From this application of the imagery of horses in Scripture, it may appear, that a man on horseback, in scriptural vision, represents the going forth of some power divinely commissioned to effect changes upon earth: and that the character of the change is to be collected from the colour of the horse; the red or flame-coloured, denoting war and slaughter; the black, mourning and woe; the white, victory, and peace, and happiness.
To assist us further in the interpretation of the white horse, we have a passage in this same book of the Apocalypse, (ch. xix. 11-17.) where, a white horse is introduced with the very same expression,
behold, a white horse; and he that sate upon him was called faithful and true; and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew but he himself; and he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called THE WORD
And the armies which were in heaven followed him
white horses clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture, and on his thigh, a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
No one conversant in scriptural prophecy, can doubt for a moment to whom this description belongs. The glorious Rider on this white horse, is manifestly the only-begotten Son of God; who here in person, (that is, with more ample manifestation of his overruling power,) leads his Church to victory. But under this first seal, it is not so certainly apparent, that the rider on the white horse is the same glorious Personage; for he is not distinguished by the same glorious attributes.
He has simply a crown and a bow: the bow is not a weapon or appendage peculiar to Christ. And the elders, representing the ministers of Christ, have crowns, which are promised likewise to all faithful, victorious Christians, who in this vision, (ch. xix.) are represented following their Lord on white horses. the Father had sent him, so he sent them into the world,” (John xvii. 18.); all which circumstances being considered, we may be inclined to conclude, that, by the going forth of this white horse, the progress of the Christian religion seems to be intended; its progress in primitive purity, at the time when its heavenly Founder left the world in person, and commissioned his apostles to“ teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;” adding, “ Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” The divine religion goes out crowned, having the divine favour resting upon it, armed spiritually against its foes, and destined to be victorious in the end."
He went forth conquering, and to conquer.] Two periods of time seem here to be designated : the first, when the Christian religion, preached in purity
1 This interpretation of the white horse, is supported by the authority of the most distinguished commentators, ancient and modern.' Andreas Cæsariensis records it as adopted generally by the ancient writers before his time; and he quotes Methodius as referring the first seal to the preaching of the apostles. He is followed by Arethas, Victorinus, Primasius, &c. Of the learned moderns, Grotius, Hammond, Mede, Durham, Forbes, Daubuz, Vitringa, Hales, Lowman, Faber, in a greater or less degree express the same notion.
Gravius, quoted by Pole and Viega, a Jesuit of the 16th century, seem to be the first writers who applied this seal to the Roman empire: they were followed by Jurieu, in the 17th century. Mede, though desirous of referring all the seals to ancient Rome, had the judgment to see that this seal cannot be so applied. But some of his disciples, having followed him in his application of the remaining four first seals to Roman emperors, have ventured at length to give to this seal also the same kind of interpretation. They have supposed the rider on the white horse to be Titus or Vespasian, armed as instruments of the divine vengeance on the Jewish nation. But the character of the white horse is not vengeful warfare, but victorious innocence, and blissful peace. Innumerable are the solid objections to this interpretation: they who wish to see them at large, may consult Vitringa, who has ably refuted almost every other exposition of the first seal, but that which applies it to the early and apostolical progress of the Christian Church.
by the apostles, overcame the powers of darkness and all human opposition, and establishing itself in the world, “ went forth conquering.” The second, when after a long warfare, during which this holy religion is corrupted, debased, and deformed, by the machinations of the enemy, it is at length seen to regain its primitive freedom and purity, and to overcome all opposition. These two periods are plainly distinguished in the visions of Daniel. The first is that of the “ stone, cut out of the mountain without hands,” and representing the Church of Christ in its infantine state, when it begins to conquer, by smiting the idolatrous kingdoms of the world. (Dan. ii. 34.) The second is that of the mountain : when this “ stone becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth.” (Dan. ii. 35.) The latter period is represented in the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, being only alluded to in the passage now before us; the prime object of which is to show the religion of Christ going forth in its purity, and in the power divinely conferred upon it. Its heavenly colour is as yet unstained by worldly corruption; its beginnings are pure; and pure it must be, when it shall conquer at the last.
The commencement of the time occupied by this seal, may be dated from our Saviour's ascension, when he gave his final commission to the disciples to go forth with his doctrines and heavenly proclamation to the world. The duration of this period cannot be so precisely ascertained, because the change in the Church, from original purity to corrupt doctrine, worship, and morals, was gradual. But, generally speaking, we may admit the three first centuries of the Christian æra to have been of this purer description.
The opening of the second Seal.
CHAP. vi. ver. 3, 4.
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
Ver. 4. And there went out another horse that was red.] The second seal being broken, another sheet unrolls, and the representation of another horse and rider appears; but the colour, which in the white horse was expressive of purity, innocence, and peace, is changed ; thus denoting a change of character in the times prefigured. The horse is now red, or more properly fire-coloured, (Truppoç, from mp,) which is an epithet of colour, applied to horses by the classical writers. (See Theocriti Idyll. xv. 51.) The angel, in Zech. i. 8, rides upon a horse of this description ; and of this colour is also “ the ancient serpent, the devil,” who “ comes wrathfully to war against the saints.” (Rev. xii. 3, 9, 17.)
To take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given unto him a great sword.] To this horseman, whose character, denoted by the colour of his horse, is fiery and vengeful, it