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214

LECTURE XLVII.

THE SEALED COMPANY.

Rev. vii. 248. And I saw another angel ascending from the

east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt

the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their

foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed; and there

were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all

the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe

of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad

were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed troelve thousand. Of the tribe

of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of

Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the

tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of

Isachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the

tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

When John was contemplating the powerful agency of four angels who stood upon the corners of the earth, his attention was attracted by another angel, whose appearance was far more splendid, and who, by the badge of office which he wore, shewed that he occupied å much more dignified station than theirs. Of this angel, he gives the following account in ver. 2; And I sare another angel, &c.

This angel cannot be a created spirit: he is the Lord of angels; and therefore the angels who held the winds are represented as receiving their orders from him. The office with which he was invested was too dignified for a mere creature to fill; and the work in which he was engaged was competent to God only. Who but the Angel of God's presence can either know the election of grace, or seal them to the day of complete redemption, and secure them against harm ? This angel is manifestly to be understood of Christ. He is an angel by office, the messenger of the covenant; and in the Old Tes tament Scriptures, he is more frequently pointed out by this than by any other name. As the word angel signifies a messenger, it is peculiarly fitted to remind us of his official character; for, as mediator, he came not of himself, but was sent of his Father; and in the discharge of that office he does nothing of himself, but acts according to the instructions which he received from Him that sent him. In respect of his person and excellencies, he is infinitely above angels; but, as the form in which he appeared was similar to that in which the angels had been presented to the notice of the prophet, and as the work in which he was engaged belonged to his official employment as the Saviour of the church, he therefore calls him an angel ; and in order to distinguish him from the rest, he calls him another angel.

When John first saw him, he was ascending from the east. The words may be literally translated, “I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun.' Others have translated them thus ; ' I saw another angel ascending like the rising sun.' In the song of Zacharias, he is called the day-spring from on high, Luke i. 78. But whether a formal comparison be here stated, between the rising of the sun and the Saviour, or not, it is manifest, that in this text there is an allusion to the rising of that luminary. Two things are intimated by it. First, it is fitted to impress our minds with an idea of the glory and matchless excellencies of the Saviour. In the whole system of nature there is not a more beautiful object than the sun; nor does he ever appear in greater glory, than when he is just darting his first beams upon the earth. But the splendour of this luminary, either when he is rising upon the earth, or shining in all the effulgence of his meridian glory, is far exceeded by the loveliness of the Saviour. Truly the light of this mystical sun is sweet ; and it is a pleasant thing for the eyes of the enlightened mind to behold him. When he rises upon the soul in the morning of conversion, or of renewed manifestation, his excellencies never fail to captivate the heart, and to make those who are favoured with the privilege esteem him as the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. Other objects then appear to be beautiful only as they are gilded with his beams.-Secondly, this allusion marks the relation of Jesus Christ to the church, and the incalculable benefit which she derives from him. He is the true fountain of all her light and comfort; he is the centre of her union, and the life and soul of all her genuine members. The world without the sun would not be a more dreary habitation, than the church without Christ. His influence pervades the ecclesiastical system ; and it is only as his rays are reflected upon it, that any spiritual beauty and excellency can be discerned in the church.

At the time when John saw this angel ascending from the east, he had the seal of the living God. The allusion is to the office of the highest confidential servant of the crown. In every country the keeper of the seal is considered as next in station to the sovereign. When Joseph was promoted to be governor over all the land of Egypt, Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand ; and åt the same time declared, that, according to his word, all the people should be ruled : Only in the throne,' said he, will I be greater than thou,' Gen. xli. 40, 41, 42. When Mordecai was advanced to the same station in Shushan, the ring, or signet, with which Haman, his predecessor in office, had been intrusted, was taken from him, and given to Mordecai, Esther viii. 2. To this day the lord chancellor, or keeper of the great seal, is considered as the highest office-bearer in the state.

This figure reminds us of the Father's love to Christ. No king would be disposed to say to any subject but to one that was greatly beloved, Only in the throne will I be greater than thou; and because the Saviour of men is the well-beloved of the Father, he bath intrusted him with the management of all the concerns of his glory, John v. 20—24.It shews the high honours of his official station. These are too dignified for a mere creature to wear; none but the Angel of God's presence was found worthy to open the book, and to look thereon.-It displays the absolute and unlimited authority of Christ. From what was said to Joseph and to Mordecai, when the seals of office were delivered, it appears that their powers were very extensive; and the powers of the chancellor in modern times we know to be more extensive than those of any other servant of the crown. The Keeper of the great seal of heaven hath power over all flesh; yea, all power in heaven and in earth is given unto him.-In fine, this representation is fitted to impress our minds with the idea of the efficiency of his administration, and the special guardianship which he exercises over the church. His bearing the seal of office is not a mere badge of distinction ; for here he is represented as employed in the discharge of the important duties of his office, by going forth to protect and secure the faithful subjects of the King against harm.

This glorious personage had a great work of mercy to accomplish, in the sealing of the servants of God in their foreheads, that they might be secured against the destructive influence of the impending storm ; and till this work was finished, he charged the angels of the winds to keep their station, and restrain the fury of the tempest. John heard him crying with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea. It has been supposed, that the four described in verse 1, are different from those mentioned in this verse ; that the first four were good angels, because they were employed in a good work, holding the winds of delusion and violence that they should not blow; but as the last had a commission to hurt the earth and the sea, though that commission was not to be immediately executed, they have been supposed to be bad angels. But the definite mode of expression in which they are called the four angels, plainly refers to the identical four that had been previously mentioned. We know too, that holy angels are sometimes employed in works of mercy, and sometimes in those of judgment; and surely there can be no absurdity in supposing, that the same angels may be sometimes employed in the one, and sometimes in the other.

To these angels he cried in the way of charge or commandment ; for angels, authorities, and powers, are all subject to him. The more perilous the circumstances in which his people are placed, the expressions of his concern about their safety are generally the more remarkable. Accordingly, like one in earnest that his commands might be obeyed, and every measure adopted which might be necessary for the safety of the servants of God, he lifted up his voice, as the sound of many waters, to the ministers of Providence, that the work of judgment which they were empowered to execute might be deferred for a season.

The matter of his charge is.contained in verse 3; Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. As this work of sealing is carried on under the trumpets, and some of the trumpets are described in allusion to the plagues of the Egyptians, it has been supposed, that the allusion in the text is to the mark that was set on the door-posts of the children of Israel, by the blood of the paschal lamb, when the angel of death smote down all the first-born of the persecutors of the church. Others apprehend, that it is rather to what is recorded in the ninth chapter of Ezekiel ; where a man, with a writer's ink-horn by his side, set a mark upon the foreheads of those that sighed and cried for the abominations done in the midst of Jerusalem. -But, as our Lord is represented in this context under the idea of a chancellor, it is more natural to suppose, that the allusion is borrowed from the custom of stamping a deed, or instru

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