And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat
In such numbers, and with horsemen on them, and in such order, and in appearance, as follows:
having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth and brimstone;
which may be understood either literally of their external breastplates, which being of polished iron, according to the custom of these people, looked at a distance like sparkling fire, and seemed to be of the colour of hyacinth, or of a sky colour, and appeared as flaming sulphur; though some think that their breastplates were of different colours, some looked like fire, others like jacinth, and others like brimstone; or it may denote that they would be accoutred in scarlet, blue, and yellow, which are the colours the Turks have commonly wore; or this may be understood of their internal breastplates, and the disposition of their minds, having in their breasts nothing but wrath, fury, desolation, and destruction; a fire devoured before them, and behind them a flame burned:
and the heads of the horses [were] as the heads of lions:
gaping and roaring for their prey, or all bloody with it, and looked fierce, and savage, and terrible: this designs not so much the strength, boldness, and intrepidity of their horses, which are warlike creatures, and very undaunted in battle, as of the men that sat upon them, who were like David's heroes and warriors, ( 1 Chronicles 12:8 ) .
And out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone;
which may be referred either to the horses, or to the horsemen, or both: some interpret this allegorically, and by "fire" understand either the tyranny of the Turks over their own people, or their fury against others, or their blasphemy against God, and Christ, and his people, being like so many railing Rabshakehs against the God of the Christians; and by "smoke" the false doctrine of Mahomet, which came out of the same bottomless pit the doctrine of the Romish antichrist did; and is fitly compared to smoke for its disagreeableness, darkness, levity, and duration; (See Gill on Revelation 9:2); and by "brimstone" the immorality and sad corruption of manners among the Turks, and what is allowed of, or winked at, as fornication, polygamy, sodomy but rather this is to be taken more literally, and represents the firing of guns on horseback in battle. Guns are a late invention, and the use of them was found out in the age this trumpet refers to; and were much made use of by the Turks in their wars, and particularly great guns or cannons; these were used by Amurath at the sieges of Belgrade, and of Constantinople F13; and by Mahomet the Second at the taking of Constantinople, where a gun or cannon was used of that size, as to be drawn by seventy yoke of oxen, and two thousand men F14. Gunpowder set on fire is fitly signified by fire, smoke, and brimstone, which is made of nitre, charcoal, and brimstone; and the firing of guns on horseback is most aptly described by these coming out of the mouths of horses and horsemen: nor could it well appear to John to be otherwise, who could never have seen a gun, and one fired off in his life; nor could he well represent to others what he saw in vision, than in this manner.
F13 Chalcocond. l. 5. p. 152, 163.
F14 Chalcocond. l. 8. p. 252.