The subject, friends, for our address this evening is the four equestrian seals that we read of in the sixth of Revelation. There are, as you are aware, when those seals are opened, presented to us successively four horses,—the white, the red, the black, and the pale, concerning which, of course, there are very many opinions. Some have thought the four horses meant four of the Roman emperors; but that is an opinion so far off from the meaning that it is hardly worth repeating. Others, with much more feasibility, have thought that while the first represents the Saviour, the second horse, the red, represents Rome pagan; the third horse, the black, represents Rome papal; and the pale horse infidelity. These are opinions that many years ago I myself had a little inclination to fall in with. It did not strike me then that the Old Testament was the place to go to for the interpretation of this book. It did not then so powerfully strike me that as the cherubims on the mercy-seat looked one towards the other, so the Old Testament looks to the New, and the New Testament looks to the Old; and like the windows in Solomon’s temple, opposite each other, throw light upon each other, so that God’s own book is the place to go to concerning the book itself.
Now I may just, before I enter upon the subject, remind you that the Bible is both an ancient and an Oriental book, and that the Oriental usages in illustration were very different from our own. To us some of them seem far-fetched and very uncouth, but that is because we do not catch the spirit and the meaning of those similes which are used. Let us, therefore, before I enter upon the subject, distinctly understand that while these four horses, or the vision of these four horses, is taken, as we shall see, from the sixth chapter of the prophecies of Zechariah, the horses are not intended to represent persons at all; they are intended to represent qualities, and the riders on them are of course intended to represent persons. And perhaps it will help us to be clear upon the subject if I just in this part remind you that in the sixth chapter of Zechariah, where you have the same things, we have the explanation given. When the prophet asked what these four chariots were—that is, what they were intended to represent, the answer was, “These are the four spirits of the heavens which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”
I think in my first lecture I reminded you that the book of the Revelation contains a great many repetitions, and we shall have the same things in different forms brought before us again and again. Now what are the four spirits of the heavens but the anticipated at that time general and universal mission of the gospel? “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” I therefore conclude that the horses in Zechariah and the horses in this vision represent not persons, but qualities, which we shall find in the Saviour, which we shall find in the apostles, which we shall find in all true ministers of the gospel, and which we shall find in all the people of God. Thus, then, while the riders are to represent persons, the horses are to represent qualities; those qualities I will presently state, after I have just reminded you that you have a similar form of speech in the nineteenth chapter, a similar representation of Christ and his people, differing in form, but substantially the same. There you read of Christ riding upon a white horse, and there you read of his judging and making war in righteousness; and you read there that the armies of heaven did follow him upon white horses. Now we cannot take this literally. When we deal with spiritual things, we must take literal things as the representatives to us of spiritual things. We cannot suppose that horses are in heaven, or that horses are used in spiritual matters. They are, therefore, simply representations of qualities. Now what are the qualities represented? I will look at our subject to-night under these two thoughts:—First, what the qualities are; secondly, I will go, if time permit, through these four equestrian seals, in those details in which they are presented to us in this sixth chapter.
Now the first thing you must fix in your mind is, that these horses represented in this vision are war horses,— they are all four in the war. There is some great, solemn, and tremendous war to be carried on, and these horses are war horses. We shall therefore trace out presently their qualities, after I have just quoted a plain scripture or two that will show the spirit and meaning of these war horses. Now the horse will denote strength, and a great many qualities that follow from that strength. The apostle’s words, I think, will throw a little light upon this quality, or the reason why this kind of representation is given to us, when he saith, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God,”—here is the quality, you see, the strength,—“of God unto salvation.” Then again, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Therefore, now that the Saviour hath achieved his work, that war is with those powers of darkness, to cast Satan out, and to bring immortal souls savingly to Jesus Christ and to the blessed God.
Let us trace these qualities out. I cannot but think that the Holy Spirit hath in the thirty-ninth of Job a spiritual meaning. Let us look there at the qualities attributed to the war horse, and look at them sacredly; do not look at them frivolously; for I must remind you that it is one of the easiest things in the world to turn even God’s word into ridicule; it is one of the easiest things in the world to make light even of that which is intended for our instruction. Therefore do not let us find fault with the similes which the Lord hath used, but let us be thankful that he has condescended to instruct us at all, and that he condescends to open unto us any of the meaning of his word at all; for without the meaning of his word we must remain in the dark. Therefore if we can approach his word—for “unto the pure all things are pure ”—in the spirit of humility and of prayer, I believe its mysteries will not be hidden from us; for “the meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way.” The first quality then is that of strength. “Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” Now the Saviour was armed with those terrible testimonies that were as thunder, and the apostles were armed with those terrible testimonies against the enemies that were as thunder,—hence some of them are called the “sons of thunder.” Here you will see, then, strength is the idea intended,—something beyond the strength of the creature; and that strength which they had from the Lord, the Lord is pleased thus to represent. And then, while they went forth with those testimonies that should shake the sinner like mighty thunderings, and remind him of Sinai, aud what stands against him, then comes the courage of the apostle, or the minister, and Christ of course the perfection of the same, “Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.” What is this but expressive of the undaunted courage of these riders on the horses, expressive of their determined decision for God? “The glory of his nostrils is terrible,” expressive of their breathing out their unbending and unalterable decision for the great and blessed God. And then, to show that this represents the quality not only of strength and of courage, but of willingness, it saith, “He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength.” “He paweth in the valley,” expressive of defiance. Let us hear the apostle’s testimony here, which means the same thing,—when he was in a very deep valley, and Satan said, Surely his strength is overcome now, surely he is not defiant now, surely he is cast down and out of heart now. No; he still bears this testimony,—“We are exceeding joyful in all our tribulations.” So that he, as it were, pawed in the valley to denote his defiance of his foes, and rejoiced in his strength. Ah, let us be brought ever so low, even in the valley of the shadow of death, even in that solemn hour, if God be with us and be our strength, we can defy the foe, rejoice in our strength, because God is our strength, proportioning our strength to our day. “He goeth on to meet the armed men.” Who are the armed men ? Alas! alas! I ought to say it with tears, I ought to say it with trembling, I ought to say it in the deepest possible tones of solemnity and lamentation, when I answer the question, Who are the armed men? I answer, the whole human race. There is not a man or woman that is not by nature armed with a panoply of hell against their own souls, against God’s truth, and against God’s Christ, and against eternal things; and until the stronger One comes and takes from us this Satanic armour, and brings us down to the feet of the great Conqueror, there is no yielding,—until he take the armour from us, and spoil the adversary: then is the prey delivered, then is the soul delivered. This is the very simile the Saviour himself uses,—“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusteth, and divideth his spoils.” When Jesus Christ comes, he spoils the whole of this Satanic armour, and the unbeliever becomes a believer, the prayerless man becomes a praying man, the presumptuous man becomes a God-fearing man, the sinner becomes a saint, the haughty man becomes an humble man, the whole-hearted, hardened man becomes a broken-hearted man, and becomes willing to be led captive by the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
The apostles therefore went on to meet the armed men. “He mocketh at fear,” so did they;—see the holy apostles standing before the terrors of civil and of ecclesiastical tribunals; see how undaunted they were. Listen to an humble man, but at the same time having God to be his strength, saying, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” You see how undauntedly they stood before kings and rulers, and whatever they had to encounter, counting not their lives dear unto them. “He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted;”—all the things they could heap upon them could not at all frighten them. The horse represents these noble qualities. Would that I could see a few of these qualities shine a little more among ministers and Christians in the day in which we live. “He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted.”
Hear the testimony of another:—he saith, “ None of these things move me; ”—I mock at the fear, I despise the fear, I hold it in contempt. Or, to go to the Old Testament for a scripture,—when all the terrors of an army of a hundred fourscore and five thousand came against the little few at Jerusalem, what was the answer? “The daughter of Zion hath despised thee, she hath shaken her head at thee, she hath laughed thee to scorn.” “He goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.” Christ never turned back from the sword; the apostles never turned back from the sword. Hear what the apostle Paul saith about it:—“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” And among the many things raised against him he names the sword:—“Shall the sword?” What cared they for the sword? They knew as they stood in Christ nothing could hurt them; they knew the Saviour’s promise,—“I give you power over all the power of the adversary.” He himself had all power, and therefore he could give it. “All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me.” “I give you all power; ye shall tread on serpents and scorpions, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Again, “The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield;” the spear to pierce his side, and to pierce them, and the shield. Does this cool them down? does this stop them? does this make them show the white feather? Nay, “he swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage;” it only makes their zeal bum the higher and the hotter; and so it was with the dear Saviour,—nothing could move him; so it was with the apostles,—that the more the glittering spear rattled against them, and the more they were threatened the higher their courage rose, the more strength the Lord bestowed. They could shake the foundations of prisons, they could shake off the chains of the prisoner, and stand there like spiritual kings, like monarchs of all they surveyed. They could smile at locks, and bolts, and bars, they could smile at all creature powers; there was no tower, there was no castle, there was no prison that could hold them when the Lord was pleased to appear to and for them.
I am afraid some of us know but very little of this power of godliness compared with what, in the apostolic age, was realised by those wonderful men. “ Neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.” What does that mean? They believed it was the sound of a trumpet, but not the sound of the trumpet. The Pharisees sounded the trumpet of their religion, but the apostles did not believe it was the sound of the trumpet, and so they would not hearken to the summons; and the Pope has in times past sounded a trumpet,—he might as well keep it quiet now;—he has sounded a trumpet, but the martyrs did not believe it was the trumpet. “He saith among the trumpets,” among the various false gospels, “Ha, ha,”—laughs at them all, just as you do:—you laugh at false gospels, do you not? I hope you do. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” We hold every gospel in infinite contempt but the glorious gospel of the blessed God. “And he smelleth the battle afar off.” The Saviour—let us apply it to him first,—long before he came, foresaw the battle, recognised the battle; he knew what he would have to encounter, he knew the tactics that he should follow, he knew the stand that he should take, the ground that he should hold, he knew the achievements that he should accomplish, he knew the honours with which he should return. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” “He smelleth the battle afar off.” The enemies fight blindly ; but Christ with his eyes open; he always knew where he was, but they did not know where they were; Christ always knew what he was doing, but the enemies did not know what they were doing; and the Saviour had compassion on them in the midst of it, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; ”but the dear Redeemer knew, recognised the battle afar off; “the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”
Who are the captains? The prophets. What are their thunders? The testimonies they put upon record against the adversaries. What are their shoutings? There is not a prophet that did not shout victory through the blood of the Lamb before that victory was wrought; there is not one prophet that did not look forward and exult and rejoice that his holy arm should gain the victory. Here are the thunders of the captains, and the shoutings: and the Saviour confirmed them alL He never turned round and said,—Moses, you said that I was a rock, and my work was perfect,—you began to shout too soon; and David, you began to shout too soon; and so of the rest of the prophets,—not one. The prophets watched him here below, and just as he was about to enter upon the worst of all, the greatest of all, the most solemn of all, heaven itself seemed to say,—Moses and Elias, go down, meet him in the land, come back and tell us how it is. And they went, and he was transfigured. They came to him, and he was brought up, as it were, to them, transfigured before them, and they spake there and then of the decease that he should accomplish at Jerusalem. Now go and tell the prophets, the captains; they led their little flocks along from strength to strength, from victory to victory, from advantage to advantage, from conquest to conquest, from blessing to blessing, till they all got to heaven together. Now go ye to heaven, and tell them I will accomplish my decease. It shall be at the place where it is appointed; as the place was appointed where I was to be bom, the place is appointed where I am to die; I will be there, I will accomplish the work. “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Moses, to represent the old covenant as taken out of the way; and Elias to represent the prophets, ascended up on high, spread the news throughout heaven; so that Jesus confirmed the thunder and the shoutings of the captains.
Then again, just to confirm the idea that all this hath a spiritual meaning, (I am now trying to read out “the qualities, the strength, the indomitable courage, the undauntedness, the decision, the aggressive progression, the sure conquest, and the eternal shouts); we have similar language in the tenth of Zechariah:—”The Lord of hosts hath visited his flock, the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.” And then again, yon know, while I have said the horses refer to qualities, (and the very colours of the horses will say something to us presently), nevertheless even persons are represented in the word of God by horses. For instance, in Solomon’s Song,—“ I have compared thee, 0 my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.” Why, if a young man were to say that now to his sweetheart, she would wonder what in the world he meant by such a compliment as that, because it is not our usage of speech; she would not understand it. And yet it is taken from this idea. “I have compared thee, 0 my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.” I will not now stop to remind you wherein lie the things represented thereby; 1 merely quote it to show that this is one of the usages of the word of God; and it is for us to bless his holy name for that word, and pray to be taught thereby.
In this sixth chapter, then, we have the Saviour first. John saith, “I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals.” In our last lecture we showed, I hope to your satisfaction, that none but Jesus Christ could open the seals; therefore I will not go over any of that ground again; but it is remarkable that in speaking of the opening of the seals the Lamb is said to open them; that is to remind you that Jesus Christ achieved these blessings for us by his atonement. “And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder;” the thunder there of course means the voice of God, calling the living creatures’ attention to eternal things; “one of the four living creatures saying, Come and see.” Now, just look at the Christian experience that is in this. Here is a sinner convinced of his state, and he goes to the house of God, hoping the minister will come to him and point out what his conviction means. Here is a sinner fearing and trembling; he has heard the thunder of heaven in a way he never did before, and he fears that the wrath of God will fall upon him; and he saith, as it were, to the minister, “ Come and see: ”that is, tell me what my experience means; tell me what these convictions mean; tell me what these thunders mean; tell me what these troubles mean. And is it not so, that you sometimes come to the house of God, and all but wonder how it is that the minister comes so direct to where you are? and have not some of you said,—well
I will not say some of you, but at least in different places, I will not say in this place, lest you should think I am speaking egotistically; but have you not sometimes, when you have heard a minister, said, Well, if I could tell out my soul’s exercises and experiences, and the way of salvation, as well as this minister has done it, I would join the church directly; but I am so afraid if I were to come I should not be able to say anything. So the living creature says, “Come and see.” And the minister ought to feel the force of this; for you must understand, that in ancient times,—I do not know whether we have lost the honour or not, lost the title or not; if we have lost the honour and the privilege, I say, let us pray the Lord to restore it to us,—aforetime prophets were called “seers;” I question almost if some of us that are ministers see so well now; we are such poor purblind things, I am afraid if you call us prophets you will hardly allow us the title of seers; aforetime they were called seers, because they saw into things, and opened up and explained things, and brought things to light, and the people were then delighted to listen to them.
I dare not here give way to my feelings for a moment in relation to the Reformation. When Luther appeared, what a seer that man was. He saw things, and opened up things that the people had not heard before; and so of John Knox, and Calvin, and many others that the Lord hath raised up; and we have a hope that some seers will be raised up by and by in the Roman Catholic Church. I believe when that system falls to pieces it will be by the Lord raising up some good people in that church, and bringing them out of it, that are acquainted with all the movements of the devil there. An old poacher makes a good gamekeeper; and so it is with an old thief, if he can but be made an honest man, be makes a good detective. So it was with Luther. He was aware of all the crafty movements of that system, and therefore was well prepared to encounter those crafty movements. He could see through the whole. He was a seer. So the living creatures said, “Come and see.” And John was a seer, and saw what we have now to describe. “And I saw, and behold a white horse;” there is Christ. I will use no arguments to prove it was the Saviour, because I think you will all fall in with that idea; there is the Saviour in his purity and perfection. “And he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him; and he went forth conquering and to conquer; ” but I will come back to that presently. Is not this part, think you, taken from the forty-fifth Psalm ? Does it not there say, “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory”—his glory was his finished work—“and thy majesty”—his magisterial authority, founded on the work that he had achieved. “And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth,”—new covenant truth, yea and amen truth, sworn truth—“aud meekness,”—there is his humiliation,—“ and righteousness,”—there is the righteousness that he hath brought in. “Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.” Oh what a happy day that was when the arrow of conviction reached our conscience, and we became pricked in the heart, and we fell, as it were, under him; and we desire to be kept under his protection, under the shadow of his wings; glad to sit down at his sacred feet, and bless the happy day that ever he brought us down. “He went forth conquering and to conquer;” he means to conquer. Now this shows that our faith should be in him. When we meet here on the Lord’s day, all our hope of Satan being cast out, sinners being converted, and the people of God strengthened, helped, and refreshed, all our confidence and expectation should be in Jesus Christ. And if the minister wishes to be a victor, he must preach Christ; he must know nothing among the people but Jesus Christ; and then he will often have to say with the disciples, “Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” What will not the name, in other words, the testimony of Jesus, do when attended by Almighty power! There is nothing, no, not anything, that can stand before it. But this point is so self-evident that I need not enlarge upon it, and this same subject will come before us again in the nineteenth chapter.
Now the second was a red horse. “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.” This represents one part of the ministry of God’s word. But let us look at the colour of the horse; the horse represents in colour the objects of his judgments. But how does this rider do this? how does he take peace from the earth? Testimonially. They bore testimony that Jerusalem should be destroyed; they thus testimonially took peace from the earth. They bore testimony that the wicked should be destroyed, that there is no peace to the wicked, and thus they testimonially and prophetically took peace from the earth. “ Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth, but a sword.” Here is one part of the ministry of the word. “And that they should kill one another.” This is one of God’s ways of dealing with his enemies. Look at the Jews,—when the Roman armies were somewhat quiet, they filled up the interval by killing one another. Not only did the Jews do this, but Rome pagan did this, and Rome papal, as you all know well, has done this. Therefore, “that they should kill one another.” This was his testimony. “And there was given unto him a great sword,” because he had to proclaim great judgments.
Hence this seems taken from the twenty-seventh of Isaiah, “In that day the Lord with his sure, and great, and strong sword,”—meaning, of course, the declarations of his judgments,—“shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” Thus they did it testimonially, as in the 149th Psalm; there you read, “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand;” not a sword literally; you are informed in God’s blessed word that “the sword of the Spirit is the word of the Lord.” Therefore that word, that pierceth to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, is compared to the sword. And have we not some of us trembled at this great sword? I know the time when I did, and I don’t know that I do not now sometimes. When God opened my eyes I saw there was a great judgment, a great and a flaming sword to cut me off. So this rider, then, in the strength of truth represents the terrible judgments of the most high God. Hence saith the apostle, “We are a savour of death unto death to the one.” But while these testimonies go forth God is pleased in mercy to alarm many sinners, awaken them up, to teach them how to fly from the sword, and to see that Jesus met the sword for poor sinners; and those that fly to him from the sword will escape the sword. Just as the Israelites by the paschal lamb escaped the sword of the angel of death, so those that are favoured to fly to Jesus shall escape the sword of the judgment of God. But the horse was red. Now, mind, I am merely giving what I humbly, very humbly, think to be the meaning; I do so with all the diffidence and deference that become me; but is there a scripture anywhere that will explain this part of the matter, that the horse is said to be red? What can be the reason of it? There must be a reason? What does John mean? Well, in some scriptures the term is used to denote the judgments of God. Hence you read in Isaiah, “I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine;” that is, the judgments of God shall confound and confuse them. Therefore the red denotes the deadly character of the judgments that will come upon them, and represents the persons that are marked with this character. What is the mark? How am I to know whether I am one to whom this judgment belongs? Well, hatred is a sign of murder in the heart; and if you hate God’s truth, that hatred is murder in the heart David, supposing he wrote the fifty-first Psalm, I question whether he did or not; at any rate, whoever the author of that Psalm was, saw himself by nature a blood-red murderer of Christ; therefore he said, “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.” The blood-guiltiness there was his native, blood-red enmity, murderous enmity by nature against Christ. Therefore every character that has this enmity is represented by this horse, the colour of this horse. In looking at this matter I must say my mind was exceedingly solemnized. I went to the twenty-fifth verse of the twenty-fifth of Genesis, and that verse never so struck me before; it very much solemnised my mind in connection with the colour of this horse. It is said of Esau that he was called Esau because he was red; and fix)m that very circumstance the country, as you know, where he lived was called Edom, which signifies “red.” I thought, What was Esau? Why, he was a lover of this world, and this world only; he despised the priesthood, he hated Jacob. That appeared to me to help out the meaning of the colour of this horse. May it not be our unhappy lot to be under this great sword, to be running counter to God’s truth, God’s Christ, for he is the only way of escape!
But we notice the third seal. When the third seal was opened, the living creature still said, “Come and see”—still wished to get the meaning. It is a good sign when people want to get the meaning, not for mere speculative purposes, but for spiritual, good, vital, practical purposes, by which we may more extensively glorify God. Now when the third seal was opened, there was a black horse; and his rider had a pair of balances in his hand; and there was a voice from the midst of the four living creatures associated with this black horse, “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.” Still keep up the idea that the rider on the black horse is a gospel minister, for the gospel minister testifies of both sides—the judgment and the mercy. Now you all know that in time of war provision for the army is a very important matter. As the late Duke of Wellington said, “If you don’t feed the men well, and give them sufficient rest, you must not expect to achieve many victories.” There seems to be connected with this black horse—shall I call it—a kind of commissariat, that is to say, the provision, the daily allowance, “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.” Now in the time of war, if the commissariat is not attentive and careful, but suffers the provisions to be damaged, see what evil consequences ensue. I believe from this very cause many of our men died in the Crimea. There seems an allusion here, then, to these human customs in battle: “See thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” This rider, then, represents the bringing in of the provision. He comes into the field of battle and says. Here are some loaves for you, here is some wheat; and to those who are very hungry, here is some barley bread for you; and here is some oil to make your faces shine; don’t look down about it, for the battle is not yours, but the Lord’s, and he will feed you and give you rest. “See thou hurt not the oil and the wine; ” the oil representing the grace of God, the wine representing the blood of the everlasting covenant And how can we hurt it? Why, we can hurt it, not in reality, but relatively, as far as words can do it; as the apostle describes, “We are not as many, that corrupt the word of God.” The original idea there, is that they mix water with the wine, because the wine without the water is too strong. As a publican said some time ago, he reckoned himself a good friend to the teetotal society, for he took care that every gallon of spirits he sold should be half water, and so he would help the cause. And so this softening matters down is to help the cause. You high Calvinists, your election is too strong, say they. And so when we go into some of those places for a drop of heavenly wine, we often do not even get wine and water, but only water and wine; and as to the oil, I don’t know what sort of stuff that ls—they call it grace, but it is more like grief than grace.
Now here was to be by this commissariat the daily provision; here was to be the oil and the wine. That minister is highly favoured that hath this office, because you see that, having the provision with him, he can live pretty well himself, and he can say to the others, “Eat, O friends; drink abundantly, 0 beloved.” He can invite them, as it were, between the battles, under the vine and the fig-tree, and there they can sit down and make a good meal and rest themselves.
Now he had a pair of balances in his hand, and you read nothing of weighing the provisions, because he had something else to weigh. I want to join the church, says one. Ah, I must put you into the scales, then, to see what you weigh. I will put you in one scale,—you have got your own works, your own duties, your own doings; and I will put the law in the other. You will not do at all; you are as light as a feather; you may go off again, you won’t do. But if the poor sinner comes by faith in Christ, and that sinner, Christ with him, is put into the one scale, and the law put into the other,—that sinner having received Christ into his heart as the end of the law for righteousness—now you will do. Thou art weighed in the balance, and not found wanting; Christ is thy weight; he has outweighed all thy sins, all the judgments of God, all that stood against thee; and “a just weight is the Lord’s delight.” But we have not got the colour of the horse yet; so let us go to the sixth of Zechariah; the black horses went forth into the north country. What does the north mean? The law of God. “Fair weather cometh out of the north;” explanation,—“with God is terrible majesty.” There is a sinner in darkness, mourning, and woe; the commissariat brings in the provisions of the gospel, enters into all the mourning, all the soul trouble, all the tribulation, all the darkness, and blackness, and trembling. That poor sinner says, “I am black.” Ah, says this commissariat, I am come with the provisions for poor, perishing sinners; the blacker you are the better; that is, the blacker in your own eyes. If you are black, then you will be glad of the blood that can wash you white. “I am black, but comely.” If you feel what a poor, Ethiopian sinner you are, you will be glad of the provisions of the gospel. “ And the white go forth after them the white horses in Zechariah went after them. So, just as the commissariat brought in the provision for these poor mourning creatures, in came the white horses with the conquest of the dear Redeemer, took them up, carried them off to Zion; for “ they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord, out of all nations, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules,” and so on; “they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd ; and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.” And it is said in Zechariah, “Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country,” by two things; they have met all that my law demands, by bringing Christ in, and they have delivered my dear children from Babylon; and therefore I am quiet, the people are quiet, the law and the gospel are quiet; the whole matter is settled.
Now a few words upon the fourth seal; we shall gather up some of the fragments we leave behind, perhaps, in another chapter. “ When he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come and see. 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.” Now if any one of you were under a sentence of condemnation,—if you saw a man coming up the valley, that man having with him your death-warrant,—would not that make you in a moment personify Death itself ? Ah, you would say, the name of that horse is Death, it brings my death-warrant; the name of that rider is Death, he brings my death-warrant. And, oh! my hearers, mark the next words,—“Hell followed with him.” “A savour of death unto death.” The minister brings the death-warrant of every man and woman that lives and dies in unbelief, that lives and dies unacquainted with Christ. “And Hell followed with him.” “In hell he lifted up his eyes.” Ah, how solemn is this! This is one of the solemn characters of the minister of the gospel; the pale horse. Ah, my hearer, the second death, I was going to say, is enough to make an archangel turn pale. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” But there is another point I will just notice: “power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth.”
Now who will give us an idea upon that? who will help us out? to whom shall we go to get an interpretation? We must not have anything merely fanciful; we must have something solid, something real. “Power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth.” Why had they not power over all the earth? For this simple reason, that three parts of the earth, here intended, were gone before this horse set out, before this rider began his work. Go to the seventh of Daniel, there are the four successive kingdoms,—the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian; and the Roman is the fourth. Therefore this rider has no power over the Babylonian, that is gone; nor over the Persian, that is gone; nor over the Grecian, that is gone; but only over the fourth part,—the Roman: the fourth metal in Daniel’s second chapter, and the fourth beast, or tyrannical empire, in his seventh chapter. He had dominion there testimonially, and such solemn dominion that everything came to pass that was there said ; “ Hell followed.” There he had power to kill,—that is, testimonially. And I need not tell you that the Roman empire, as Gibbon clearly shows, as well as Josephus (who describes the literal fulfilment of the Saviour’s prediction relating to Jerusalem)—the Roman empire became a perfect Acelderaa,—a field of blood; so that the testimony of this rider concerning the judgment that should come upon Rome pagan did come to pass.
But then Rome pagan includes Rome papal, and Rome papal embodies the spirit that down to the end of time shall persecute the church. Therefore the fourth part of the earth will mean all the wicked that should live after the time of the three preceding empires.