The Lord rules in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
To the greater number of readers, history presents nothing more than a series of disjointed events, having no connection with each other, no dependence upon each other and no relation to each other. But to the truly thoughtful mind the history of this world presents itself as a unit, as one grand whole, as a series of events mutually dependent and interdependent upon each other. The mind which views history in this its true nature, is driven to one of two ways of accounting for it; either come by an inexorable chain of inevitability, or they come as directed by the hand of God of the whole earth.
The atheist who cannot see the hand of God will ascribe all to an inevitable necessity, but he whose eyes are enlightened by faith can see the hand of God ruling not only in heaven, but in earth as well; he can see the answer to the prayer taught by the Son of God; “Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven.” He who has not seen predestination in history, has not seen the philosophy of history; he who has not seen predestination in his own life, has not seen the secret springs of his being. Predestination is the soul of history. God is in history. All history is but the exponent of Providence.
John saw in the hand of him that sat upon the throne a book written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals. He was permitted to witness the opening of these seals, and has left upon record the things that he saw. When the first seal was opened, a white horse appeared, and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto him; and he went forth conquering and to conquer. This was undoubtedly a view of Christ in his risen power and eternal authority; Christ going forth in the execution of the divine will both in heaven and in earth.
But when the second seal was opened, a similar yet very different symbol appeared. And when he had opened the second seal 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. A horse, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of power and of battle; red is a symbol of war, carnage and bloodshed. The history of this world is the history of wars. Horrible as war is, it is the most potent factor of civilization and progress; reformations have never accomplished much in the world; they are good as far as they go, but they have never hurried the race onward; it takes revolutions to do this. As the terrible earthquakes, prodigious upheavals, the great subsidences, the alternate sway of scorching heat and frigid cold, all constituted God’s process of fitting this earth for the habitation of man, so wars are ordained the great process of regulating human society and of forwarding civilization. Every event that has put the world forward by a great stride, has been an event of war.
But where did the red horse and his ominous rider come from? They came out of the book that was held in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne; they came from the same place from which the white horse and his rider came – from the book of God’s decrees. And power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. Who gave him this power? Who else but the God of the whole earth? Did not the Son say, “All power is given unto me both in heaven and in earth?” Does not God’s word declare that there is no power but of God? Is not God, the God of battles?
Let us now turn to history, let us go into the great decisive contests and find God there. Begin with Marathon; in the year 490 B.C. A handful of Greek patriots met hordes of Persian invaders upon the plain of Marathon; a determined struggle ensued; the Persians were repulsed, the Greeks were victorious. By this Greek victory the long spell of invincibility was forever broken, and the intellectual treasures of Athens, the growth of free principles, and the enlightenment of what was then the western world, were saved. If the influence exerted on the world by Greece can be estimated, then the results of the battle of Marathon may be measured. Where the destinies of nations are at stake, can any who believe in God say he is not there? The influence of this victory of the Greeks, over two thousand years ago, is inseparably connected with the condition of our nation today.
The defeat of Athens before Syracuse was a decisive blow; this was a contest between Athens and the western colonies. Athens was defeated; had Syracuse been defeated, the energy of Athens would have found a field in the west for the next century, and Rome would not have conquered Carthage; and Greek, not Latin, would have been the essential element in the language of Spain, Italy and France; and the laws of Athens, and not of Rome, would now have been the foundation of the laws of the civilized world. Is it not clearly evident here that the Lord rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives to whom he will?
Now go to the battle of Arbela, which occurred in 331 B.C. This decisive encounter so far reaching in its results, was between the Greeks under Alexander the Great, and the Persians under Darius. By Alexander’s victory at Arbela, Greek customs, the Greek language and Greek civilization were established in all western and southwestern Asia, and northern Africa, to exist nearly a thousand years, and to endure in their effects forever. This planted the Greek language in Judea and Palestine, and thus it became the language of the New Testament. So the results of this battle are far reaching, not only in political affairs, but in the affairs of the church of Christ, and are as real and present as if the battle occurred but half a century ago. Alexander was the hammer in the hand of God to break in pieces the great Persian Empire.
The battle of Metaurus was conspicuous in directing the course of empires, and deciding the destinies of nations. Two hundred and seven years before Christ, the Romans and Carthaginians engaged in this decisive contest. This battle decided the great question whether the Semitic family of nations, which includes the Arabs, Jews, Phoenicians and Carthaginians, should rule the world, or whether the Germanic family, which includes the Greeks, Romans, Germans, and those from whom the English speaking people have descended, should continue their course. The results of the Roman victory stand in the present condition of nations, and shall continue to enlarge and exist while the world shall stand.
The battle of Chalons deserves mention here. This encounter came to pass in 451 A.D., between the Romans and their allies, and the dreaded Huns under Attila, their king, who was called the scourge of God. Roman arms were victorious, and Attila was defeated in his plans to establish a dynasty upon the ruins of the Roman Empire. All Europe was thus freed from the devastating ravages of the destructive Huns. The mind that can see the first letter of the alphabet of God’s providence can see the finger of God in this, as he rules in the kingdom of men.
The battle of Tours has left its imprint upon the world’s history for all time to come. Here in 732 A.D., a small body of troops under Charles Martell, encountered and put to rout a great body of invading Mohammedans. The mussulmans were beaten back in this their last attempt to conquer Europe, thus rendering it possible for the development and progress of European civilization to go on, not uninterruptedly, but in its ultimate career.
By the great battle of Blenheim, in 1704, the almost universal dominion of France and Spain was broken by the armies of England and Austria. If this had not occurred, the destinies of nations would have been altogether different. Europe, instead of being a variety of independent states, where mutual hostilities keep courage alive, and national rivalry stimulates talent, would have been sunk into the slumber attendant upon universal dominion. The Roman Catholic power would have been re-established in England, the Anglo Saxon race would have been arrested in its career, and the condition of the United States would be much like that of Mexico and the rest of Spanish America. But God ordered that the power of France and Spain should be broken, and the battle of Blenheim fulfilled the decree. At the battle of Pultowa, in 1709, the power of Sweden, which at that time was very great, was forever broken, and the ascendancy of Russia established until she now stands a giant among the nations. This battle is no less important for what it broke down than for what it established. Many more examples might be cited, but these are sufficient.
What more is needed to show those who believe in God how his predestination is exemplified in the history of nations; to show that in the great battles and revolutions in this world that God’s purpose is accomplished; that the red horse and his rider came from the book of God’s decrees; and that the power possessed by these, is the power which God has given for the accomplishment of his own purposes.
“See the mystic weaver sitting,
High in heaven, his loom below;
Up and down the treadles go;
Takes for web the world’s dark ages,
Takes for woof the kings and sages,
Takes the nobles and their pages,
Takes all stations and all stages.
Thrones are bobbins in his shuttle,
Armies make them scud and scuttle,
Web into the woof must flow;
Up and down the nations go,
At the weaver’s will they go.”
We should not look at the battles cited above as isolated events, but each has its place in the great war, and is inseparably connected with other great conflicts.
The opening of the second seal, revealing the red horse and his rider, is a prophecy in symbol of what the Saviour prophesied in word as recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, when he said, “For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” When the Son of God uttered this prophecy he was not predicting something that might come to pass, or something likely to come; he was not even foretelling what he saw coming into the world, but on the contrary he was declaring the immutable decree of the Father. When God says a thing shall be, his word has gone forth as a pledge that he will bring it to pass. The word shall in the text, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” no more expresses a decree than the word shall expresses a decree in the text, “For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.”
Although every land and every age have been invaded by the red horse and his rider, and war has been the chief business of men, there are other fields of activity in which the providence of God is clearly traceable. When the third seal was opened a black horse appeared, and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. This was a symbol of famine; great scarcity is signified by the balances. The seven years’ famine in Egypt was done by God. Gen. 41:28-32. These are the words of Scripture, “What God is about to do, he showeth unto Pharaoh, and for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established with God, and God wilt shortly bring it to pass.” One would say famines are the result of physical causes; so they are; this fact only broadens the field of providence. What controls physical causes? Natural laws. Who established natural laws? God. Who executes natural laws? God. Of what force would natural laws be without the perpetual execution of them? Who ever knew a law of any kind to enforce itself?
At the opening of the fourth seal, the pale horse and his rider came forth. The name of the rider was Death, and Hell followed with him. Power was given unto them to kill with the sword, and with hunger and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. This is a symbol of pestilence, which usually follows in the wake of famine. Pestilence has done its part in human history, and dark and woeful are its footsteps. The pale horse and his ominous rider must run their course, because they proceed from the book held in the right hand of him who sits upon the throne. The Saviour himself said in the wonderful prophecy recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, There shall be pestilences. So the Scriptures undoubtedly teach that pestilences are controlled, directed and administered by God.
In his history of epidemics in Britain, Dr. Creighton designates as the two greatest pestilences in all history, the great plague in the reign of Justinian in 543, and the Black death in 1347. Both of these had a worldwide sweep, from country to country, and from generation to generation, changing the face of the world through the vast destruction of population which they effected. The first of these brought to an end the old civilization, and the second terminated the dark ages of Europe, and opened the way for modern civilization and progress. Who can tell how many evils were swept away by these prodigious marches of death, and how many obstacles to human progress were removed, and in how many ways they answered Cod’s purposes?
When the fifth seal was opened there was revealed the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus. This presents to us the awful picture of Christian martyrdom. The Saviour told his disciples, “They shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you.”
In this company of souls under the altar, was righteous Abel, prophets of God slain in every age, the little children slain by the decree of Herod, Stephen, and countless others. This company received daily additions; Peter was crucified, Paul was beheaded, and all the other apostles with one exception, died at the hand of wicked persecutors. But did they thus perish without God’s decree? No, in no wise.
Listen to the answer given to those under the altar, when they in their impatience cried for vengeance. It was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season until their fellow servants and their brethren that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. From this record we see that they had brethren that should be killed as they were, and that this had to be fulfilled. As Christ was delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, so all of his brethren that have been put to death by wicked hands have been delivered by the same determinate counsel. Christ said to Pilate, “Thou couldst have no power at all against me if it were not given thee from above.” It may be said as truthfully of his brethren, that wicked men can have no power at all against them except it were given them from above.
Wonderful, awful and appalling were the scenes presented at the successive opening of the remaining seals. Whatever these awe-inspiring imageries are intended to symbolize, they are undoubtedly events which were to transpire in this world. They constitute an amazing vitascope of universal history. The rise and fall of nations, religious and political revolutions, civil and international wars, terrific convulsions of nature, events of every genus and every species are here presented in the boldest, most impressive and most convincing imagery and symbols.
The one thing that I would impress upon the mind of the reader is, that these things all proceeded from the book held in God’s right hand, and which was opened by Jesus himself. One would say, that would make God the author of sin. With such an one I will not stop to argue, for one who would seek to evade the doctrine of God’s predestination by resorting to such subterfuge as that old threadbare fallacy, is joined to some idol, and for my part I shall let him alone, at least for the present.
“Glorious wonder, what a weaving,
To the dull beyond believing;
Such no fabled ages know.
Only faith can see the mystery,
How long the aisles of history,
Where the feet of sages go,
Loveliest to the fairest eyes,
Grand the mystic tappet lies.
‘Tis believed by all believing,
That the great God himself is weaving,
Bringing out the world’s dark mystery;
In the light of faith and history;
And as web and woof diminish,
Comes the grand and glorious finish,
When begin the golden ages,
Long foretold by seers and sages.”
“Oh the depth both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.”
H. M. Curry.