And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.…
The red colour is the emblem of bloodshed, the destruction of life. It recalls the vision of Isaiah concerning the traveller from Edom, "with dyed garments of Bozrah," or that later vision of St. John concerning the King of kings, who leads the armies of heaven, His "vesture dipped in blood." "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." It is every man for himself — the spirit of selfishness. Let me draw for you a picture of yourself. You are a person with certain wants, natural and material — wants, that is to say, of those things which are needful for the support and well-being of your bodily life. You are a person with certain tastes, natural and intellectual, at least as necessary to the prosperity of your mind as food is to the prosperity of your body. You have also certain desires and aspirations which we may call natural and spiritual. Then, your life is surrounded by certain circumstances, which you may modify, but cannot possibly do away with. Amongst these circumstances are your fellow men and women. And these have wants and tastes and desires of their own; the wants may be identical with yours, in which case your neighbour's possession of the things wanted may well interfere with your own possession of them. You are in each other's way. Or your tastes and desires may be dissimilar, in which case you are liable to be irritated and outraged by contradiction. In any case you cannot go through life without having your path traversed every day by others, going their own way, regardless of you. Let us go further. You are supremely important to yourself, and you have been so from your childhood. See how a child thinks his own affairs the first, and at all moments thrusts upon your notice the thing which happens to be especially interesting to himself. And certainly in this we, grown men and women, cannot say that we have "put away childish things." But this self-importance is a reasoning spirit. I am always present to myself, you say; I cannot get away from pain and discomfort and disappointment and the hundred ills that my flesh is heir to. I move through life, the centre of my own little world; it all concerns my happiness or misery; how, then, can I say that I am not supremely important to myself? I may stop at the requirements of my earthly life, or I may go further. I may be a religious sort of person. But is this realisation a cure for my selfishness? Alas, that one must answer, No! For the possible selfishness of the religious person is quite the strongest and most terrible form that selfishness assumes. Now, it is my own soul, my own eternal happiness, my own personal salvation. Look at your own life, at your own heart, and say, Is there nothing of this spirit in me? For, after all, this selfishness seems so natural. How can one help it, in the lower interests of the body — far, far less in the higher interests of the soul? How can one help it? The one thing to be sure of in this world of crossing interests is oneself. Surely St. John's terrible vision is overdrawn. What has it to do with me, that blood-stained figure, with the great sword? Surely my harmless, natural, inevitable egotism does not look like that in heaven? But stay, and ask yourself, Why not? I am not alone in the world. A thousand million others are engaged in this strange dance of life, equally with me. Each one may be supreme unto himself. Each one has his own place; to him I am as he to me. And if this be so, what must result from it but one vast scene of conflict, world-wide and age-long? How shalt not peace be taken from the earth? How shall not men kill one another? How shall not the spirit of conflict, the dazzling horseman, with the bow and with the crown, go forth "conquering and to conquer"? It is the spirit of Jesus which is wanted here. And what is that? Go back to the thought of the great renunciation of the Son of God. Surely it is the everlasting condemnation of selfishness. Not the terrible vision of St. John, not the extremest picture of horror that man's mind can conceive, can ever delineate too fearfully the spirit which is set in such antagonism to the spirit of Jesus Christ.
(A. H. Simms, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.