And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.…
But what now are we come out to see?
I. BEHOLD THE SEAL OPENED. Seals we use commonly to confirm and conceal, to make things sure, and to keep things secret. And thus death, as all God's judgments, is said to be sealed (Job 3:3), and that with a firmer seal than of the Medes and Persians. In a word, men die not by chance, course of nature, influence of stars, but then and therefore, because it is appointed. That Christian who believes this, though he may desire David's arithmetic to number his days aright, yet will he never study the black and senseless art of calculating his birth and death. None but fools are curious and inquisitive to know that which is under God's privy signet. We are all as soldiers sent to sea with commission under seal, not to be opened till we come to such and such a point. Some deaths, indeed (as some clocks), give warning before they strike, with symptoms and signs infallible; but generally God hath seen this the best for us, that it should be for the general most certain, for the particular most uncertain, to him sealed, to us concealed; of which he would have us make these uses.
1. First, for our bodily health, not to be too careful, nor too careless.
2. Secondly, for our soul's provision, not to do as most that have set days of truce and peace, and in which they hang up their armour a-rusting, and their beacons unwatched; but as people that live in perpetual hazard of war have all things in a daily readiness for service upon the least alarm.
3. Whenever this horse conies to fetch away us, or any of ours, children, or friends, a believer stamps not, and rages not, murmurs not, repines not, as the wild Irishmen without hope; expostulates not with destiny, but with Aaron, lays his hand on his heart and mouth for his sons' sudden death, knowing what God hath sealed shall be and must be.
II. The seal being thus opened, "come and see" THE CREATURE THAT ISSUES FORTH. Behold an horse, a fierce, a strong, a warlike, a speedy creature, so described by God Himself (Job 39.). Look, as the sturdy steed dashes out the little whappet's brains, so easily doth Death with the least kick and spurn of his heel the stoutest constitution, triumphing like an emperor over all sorts of people, treading on the necks of kings and princes, as Joshua over them in the cave. What, then, is the course the Christian takes? He neither foolishly thinks to resist or escape, nor yet cravenly yields; but addresseth himself for the encounter.
III. Behold also THE COLOUR OF THIS HORSE, the colour of the withering leaf, pale and wan, symbolising and noting the effect he hath first upon the living, whom he appals. See we not often prisoners at the bar wane away, and dye as white as a cloth at the sentence of death pronounced on them. A second effect of this pale horse is after death, bereaving the bodies of all blood and colour, making them lifeless, till the fashion of them he utterly altered, the beauty consumed, and shape turned into rottenness. Oh, how grievous is this to such Absaloms, Jezebels, and Rosamonds, who have set much by their painted sheaths and pampered carcases. Dust they were, and to dust they must return. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vanity.
IV. Well, then, behold also, even hell, THE PAGE AND FOLLOWER OF DEATH, attending him wherever he goes among the wicked sort. Whence it is that they are so often coupled in this book, death and hell. Look as the foxes wait upon lions, carrion crows upon armies, gaolers upon sergeants for a prey, so diligently does the devil on Death for a booty. No fowler does more cunningly stalk behind the horse, or creep behind hedges, to get his aim at the shy fowls. No sergeant hides his mace, no angler his hook more warily, knowing that else hell should never swallow so many. In this consists the devil's chiefest policy and our grossest simplicity, and even this is the cause of our sottish and foolish living and dying.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.