Page images
PDF
EPUB

retaliation would be adopted. They were unacquainted with the mild spirit of the religion of Jesus Christ. They thought it was like their own, which knew nothing about forgiving an enemy, or loving him. They well knew with what relentless severity they had punished the Christians; by what barbarous methods they had put them to death: and they now dreaded that with the same measure which they themselves had meted out, it would be measured to them in return.

The wrath of the Lamb is a very singular expression. The lamb is an animal which is generally considered as void of passion. When led to the slaughter, or under the hand of the shearer, it is dumb. But we are not to forget that He, who in this book is symbolized by a Lamb, is also represented under the emblem of a Lion; and that, while he is all gentleness and meekness to his saints, he displays qualities of an opposite character to their implacable adversaries. The expression marks the hopeless condition of the incorrigible enemies of Christ and of his church; for, if the Lamb of God, the only Saviour of men, is their adversary, their case must be desperate. It is part of the misery of the damned, that they have no hope. And some of the most noted persecutors of the church have felt the beginnings of this part of the misery of hell even in this life. Every ray of hope was extinguished in their bosoms; they had the fullest conviction, that what they were meeting with was just the beginnings of that torment which would never have an end.- The expression is equally fitted to remind us of the true grounds of this awful quarrel. It is in the church only that the executioner of judgment is known under this title of the Lamb; and when we here read of the wrath of the Lamb, we are led to conceive that he is pleading the controversies of Zion, and executing the vengeance of his temple. They had shed the blood of his saints and prophets; he therefore gives them blood to drink.-We may now add the following reflections :

1st, The season of the church's extremity is the time in which God interposes for her deliverance. Under the former seal, her condition was so deplorable, it appeared as if her enemies would be permitted to make a full end of her. When that seal was opened, John could see nothing under the altar but the souls of dead men; but here we find a very remarkable change of circumstances. A deliverance was to be wrought, which, while it would inspire all the enemies of the church with terror, would fill the hearts of all her members with admiration and praise.

2d, When God works deliverance for the church, it is usually in the way of taking vengeance upon her enemies. Such is the deliverance here predicted ; such was the deliverance from Egypt, from Babylon, and almost every other that you read of in Scripture. By the same stroke with which he breaks the yoke of the oppressor, he sets his captives at liberty. Hence, while the one party are made to gnaw their tongues for pain, the other cannot help exclaiming in gratitude, What hath God wrought !

3d, The instruments whom God employs for the deliverance of his church are sometimes found where they would least have been expected. It could little have been expected, that Moses, who in his infancy was exposed to perish among the flags of the Nile, would one day be the deliverer of his oppressed brethren : or that Constantine, who, before his becoming emperor, was a Pagan, would have been the chief instrument in the deliverance predicted in this seal ; and that he, who, prior to his being saluted emperor by the soldiers, had not attained the rank of Cæsar in the state, would have been so suddenly elevated to all this power, that he might fulfil what is here foretold. The preservation of his life till he was clothed with the purple is next to miraculous. Many attempts were made upon it, which were always frustrated. For a long time he was little better than a prisoner in the East; he was afterwards in the same condition in the city of Rome; and when he got the news of the approaching death of his father, he had to escape by stratagem, otherwise it is exceedingly probable, that at that time he had been cut off. His father

died at York; and there Constantine was proclaimed his successor to the imperial honours. And as Vespasian was brought from Britain to avenge God's quarrel upon the persecuting Jews, so Constantine was brought from the same country to avenge a quarrel of the same kind

upon

Heathen persecutors, and to work the deliverance which this prophecy secured to the church.

4th, Under whatever forms the god of this world may be worshipped, there is no reason to apprehend, that the ancient Pagan mode of worship will be revived. There is a wide difference between the effects produced by this earthquake, in the system of the heavens, and those which were produced on the earth. Both were affected; but it was in such different degrees, that a few changes only were discernible in the onemountains and islands moved out of their places; in the other, it was nothing short of a dissolution of the system, for the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, the moon became as blood, and the stars fell unto the earth. Prior to the introduction of the New Testament dispensation, every country, except Judea, was a Heathen territory; everywhere Satan had his altars, his temples, and his priesthood. But as Christianity obtained a footing, these false systems disappeared. And under whatever names or forms false systems have risen up where Christianity once flourished, they have never been professedly Pagan. Mahomet has become the sun of a new system in the East, and Antichrist the sun of another in the West; and though many of the rites of worship sanctioned by both may be easily traced up to a Pagan source, they equally profess to disclaim all connexion with the gods of ancient Greece and Rome.

5th, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. When the day of his wrath comes, none of his enemies are able to stand; they cannot look him in the face. With more tranquillity could they look upon a huge mountain tumbling upon them, to crush them by its ponderous weight, than they could look upon the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, or see the terrible effects of the wrath of the Lamb.

How foolish, then, to abuse the patience and forbearance of God! What infatuation for men to hold on in their trespasses, till gentleness itself becomes their adversary, and appears as if it were converted into the hottest and most destructive flame!

Let us kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and we perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.'

The principle of homogeneity, so strenuously contended for by certain writers, does not appear to be violated by the

preceding interpretation of the prophecies of the seals. From the view which has been presented, either the church or her ene. mies are the subjects of all these predictions; and even when the condition of her enemies appears to be the immediate subject of any of them, she is not represented as a mere spectator, or thrown into the shade ; she still occupies a conspicuous place in the scene, and is deeply interested in all that is carrying on. The historian is never supposed to violate this principle, or to break the unity of his narration, by giving us a view of the condition of the rivals of the prince whose reign he describes. The measures of one party are often adopted, in consequence of the measures and designs of another; and to see the fitness or inutility of the one, it is necessary that we be acquainted with those of the other. In these apparent digressions, the hero of his story is not forgotten; he is still the principal figure in the group; but by introducing us to his rivals and adversaries, we become more fully acquainted with his character. - It is the same here. The church, throughout these prophecies, is the principal society to which our attention is called. And in the judgments inflicted upon the inhabitants of the Roman earth, first upon the Jews, and then upon the Gentile presecutors of the church, we see what God was to perform against those who in a future period would dare to do her an injury.

203

LECTURE XLVI.

THE STORM OF THE FOUR WINDS.

Rev. vii. 1. And after these things I saw four angels stand

ing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

The chapter immediately preceding was concluded with the history of the sixth seal; and as the different seals follow one another in the strictest chronological order, and as the account of those we have considered is given in an unbroken narrative of events, it was natural to expect, that the chapter now before us would have been introduced by the history of the seventh. But of this last seal we have no intimation whatever, till we come forward to chap. viii. 1, where we are told, that upon the seventh seal being opened, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.' The place, therefore, which this chapter occupies in the general series of the prophecies, is the first thing which claims our attention.

Many interpreters consider this chapter as wholly retrospective, and suppose that it is intended to give additional information respecting the events which preceded the times of the sixth seal. Such of them as apply the prophecy of the sixth seal to the general judgment, consider this chapter as a continuation of the history of that seal ; and suppose, that it is intended to describe the condition of the righteous, as the conclusion of the preceding chapter, they conceive, describes the condition of the wicked in the day of judgment. But the greater part of interpreters consider this chapter as introductory to the history of the trumpets; and this will appear to be the most correct view of the chapter, if you consider,-First

« PreviousContinue »