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its happy influence in promoting their sanctification, they will each day be comforted with the satisfying evidence that their salvation is nearer than when they at first believed.
How widely different this future condition of the church from her present attainments! Now the daughter of Zion is covered with a cloud; the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground; all that pass by clap their hands, they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth ?' But in the latter days there will not be those occasions of sorrow, nor will this taunting and reproachful language be used. · Even the Heathen shall say, The Lord hath' done great things for them ; the sons also of them that afflicted her shall come bending unto her; and all they that despised her shall bow themselves down at the soles of her feet ; and they shall call her The city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel,' Is. lx. 14.
OBSERV. 1st, The weakest believer may sometimes be of essential advantage to the strongest. Here a private church member was much more fully instructed upon some points than John. While the latter could form no conceptions of this multitude, the former speaks like one who was at no loss to detail their whole history.
22, A very copious measure of sound evangelical knowledge will be the attainment of all the members of the church in the latter days. Why is an elder, rather than one of the four living creatures, selected to be the instructor of the prophet, unless it be to intimate, that in the period to which the prophecy refers, the gifts and attainments of the lowest member of the church will be of the highest order ? The ministry of that age will be less needed for instruction than for conducting the devotional exercises of the church. For then the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as the light of seven days seven-fold.'
3d, The spirit of religious inquiry is followed with high gratifications. The questions of the elder were stated in order to excite a spirit of this kind ; which was no sooner done, than all necessary information was given : When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, the God of Jacob will hear them; he will
rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the vallies.'
4th, When religion prospers, particular attention is paid to the work of sanctification. Special notice is taken of the robes of this multitude having been washen, and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Religion prospers only as the work of sanctification advances; and the progress of this work will always be proportioned to the believing improvement of the blood of Christ as the only fountain of cleansing. · 5th, The attainments of the church in the latter days will be very remarkable. And as they are secured by exceeding great and precious promises, let us try to penetrate the gloom with which we are presently surrounded, and anticipate something of the joy of that happy period. The vision was given for the consolation of the prophet; and the history of it has been committed to writing for the comfort of the church in all succeeding ages, till the storms of the trumpets be blown over, the judgments of the vials be exhausted, and the Millennial glory shine forth.
Rev. viii. 1–6. And when he had opened the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to
them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden
censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden
altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of
the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar,
and cast it into the earth : and there were voices, and thun
derings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels, which had the seven trumpets, prepared
themselves to sound.
This chapter is introduced with a general notice respecting the seventh seal, and a deep silence in heaven at the time it was opened. When the preceding six were opened, the different rolls to which they were attached were presented in succession to the prophet. Accordingly, when the seventh and last seal was taken off, and the roll presented for his inspection, all the contents of the book with seven seals were disclosed. But, as the events of this seal are far more numerous, and run through a much more extended duration, than any or all of the foregoing, it was necessary, in order to his being able to form distinct and suitable conceptions of them, that they should be exhibited under a greater variety of emblems. The events of each of the former seals were presented in a single
group of figures; but here the period of the seal is divided into two great portions of time, in which the numerous and interesting events are symbolized by two different sets of figures, viz., Trumpets and Vials. Each of these is subdivided into seven lesser periods, which are described under as many different emblems. Hence, „notwithstanding the multitude, the novelty, the variety, and singular character of the objects of this seal, John was able to form as clear and distinct conceptions of them as of those upon which his attention had been previously fixed. The detailed account of these mystical signs is given in the same order in which they were presented to his own mind; and we may now reap the same advantages from the inspired account of what the prophet saw, that could have been expected from the representations themselves. In some respects our advantages are superior to his. We do not run any risk of being overwhelmed either with the glory or terrific appearance of the symbols, because what we have detailed here is only a description, and not a re-exhibition, of the symbols. Here too, we have certain epochs where we may pause without losing the connexion of matter, and look back upon the ground over which we have travelled, to assist our recollections, or unbend the mind for the more vigorous prosecution of the remaining part of the journey.-The series of predictions is continued under the form of a history of the blowing of seven trumpets, and of the pouring out of seven vials.The verses proposed at this time for explanation are introductory to the account of the trumpets.
When the seventh seal was opened, or rather when the Lamb was in the act of opening this seal, John was struck with the profound silence which was observed among the inhabitants of heaven.—The allusion, it has generally been supposed, is to the stop or pause of the music in the temple, when the officiating minister was burning incense in the sanctuary. But, as this symbolical silence did not accompany, but preceded the burning of incense, afterwards mentioned, the allusion in the text must be borrowed from some other scene of
things. As the opening of the seventh seal was to disclose the ruinous effects of the tempest of the four winds, the silence here mentioned must be in allusion to the sullen and portentous calm which usually precedes the bursting of a storm ; or rather to the mute anxiety of a multitude of people, when they are waiting the disclosure of deeply-interesting and affecting scenes. The great lines of Providence, between the revolution of the sixth seal and the commencement of the Millennium, were now to be revealed; but, from the intimations already given, it was manifest that the greater part of this long period was to be filled with the most disastrous events which could befall the church. The inhabitants of these symbolical heavens, therefore, waited in a state of silent and anxious expectation till the full disclosure should be made.
This silence has been generally interpreted of that tranquillity which was enjoyed by the church, immediately after Constantine's advancement to the throne. Forfeitures, fines, imprisonments, and all the different modes of persecution, were then laid aside ; and the church, after nearly three hundred years of persecution, enjoyed a season of rest. But if we adopt this view of the symbol, we must also suppose that the time of her tranquillity was very short. In the style of prophecy, a day is put for a year; and half an hour being only the forty-eighth part of a day, this season of tranquillity could not amount to more than seven natural days and a half; and even this period may be greater than what the prophetical language will bear, as it is not said to have been a complete half hour, but only about half an hour. If we understand the expression chronologically, it must be interpreted of a period which accords with the time of the restraint of the four winds. So long as the angels continued to hold the winds, all the inhabitants of heaven continued to look on in a state of silent expectation; they knew that the storm was soon to break out; and therefore, in fearful expectations every moment of seeing the barriers give way, there was not so much as a single whisper to be heard among them.