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cense received from the keeper of the sacred perfumes, such quantities as were necessary for the service. And as these typical ministers had incense to offer, so the great High Priest of the church is represented as having it in such abundance, that it ascended before the throne in a cloud of the richest odours.
We are next informed of the special purpose for which this incense was given,—That he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. The raised border, or crown of the altar of incense, and the rings through which the staves were passed when it was carried, were of the finest gold : the whole altar, and even the staves, were overlaid with gold. As there were such quantities of this metal about that altar, it was usually called the golden altar, Exod. xxx. 1–10.—It was placed in that part of the sanctuary which was next to the holy of holies, at equal distances from the sides of the building, and was therefore immediately before the mercy-seat or throne, only the vail which separated the sanctuary from the most holy place being between them. But in this mystical temple there was no vail. John saw the throne of God, chap. iv. 2. A door was opened in heaven, and the celestial world, symbolized by the most holy place, was laid open to his view, verse 1.-Both altars were figures of Christ ; and this altar of gold being before the throne in the temple of heaven, is fitted to remind us of the immediate intercourse of our great High Priest with God. He is the only Mediator between God and man ; and through his mediation alone do the prayers and other religious services of the saints come up with acceptance before God.-All the saints are men of prayer. In this wicked world, they could not live without prayer. If respiration be necessary for the purposes of animal life, spiritual respiration is no less necessary for the life of the soul. But neither the prayers of the saints, nor any other services they perform, are perfect. They come up with acceptance, not upon the ground of their intrinsic worth, but by the merit and work of Christ. He separates the precious from
the vile. He sends up the former, perfumed with the much incense of his own merit, to the throne ; while the latter, like the ashes in the censer, he casts way.
In token of the acceptable manner in which this part of the work of Christ is performed, John assures us in verse 4. that the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angels hand. To come up before God, is a figurative expression, denoting the acceptance of that which is presented. Thus of Cornelius it is said, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God, Acts x. 4.; which is explained in verse 31., of his prayers being heard, and his alms being held in acceptable remembrance. The judge of all hath smelled a savour of rest, from the sacrifice and oblation of Christ. It is in the cloud of this rich perfume that the prayers of the saints come up before God, and are graciously heard and answered.
But this angel had employment also with the enemies of the saints, which was represented to John by the emblem described in verse 5. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into ihe earth. This figure is intended to signify the judgments of God upon the Roman empire. Fire cast into the earth must kindle a flame in it. And as the fire of the brazen altar was an emblem of the wrath of God, and that fire, having come down from heaven, must have possessed all the force of the electric flame, no emblem could have been better fitted to symbolize the destructive and terrible nature of the judgments which were coming upon that state. This fire being taken from the altar further shews the true nature of the controversy which God was to plead under the trumpets. It was to be the quarrel of the church, and of his own institutions; and therefore this judgment would be the vengeance of the temple, the recompenses of the controversy of Zion.-And, finally, its being cast from a censer shews the agency of Christ in the infliction of this curse.
As the priest of the church, he makes intercession for her against her adversaries. In his mediatorial character, the work of judgment, as well as of mercy, is committed into his hand.
This act of the angel was immediately followed with voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. These figures were explained in considering chaps. iv. 5. and vi. 12. ; it may therefore suffice at present to remind you, that it is very common, in the prophetical parts of Scripture, to describe the judicial procedure of God, by metaphors and allusions borrowed from storms and tempests in the kingdom of nature. The judgments of the period to which we have referred this prophecy were first represented to the prophet under the emblem of a tornado, or hurricane. They were next represented under the emblem of a thunder-storm, accompanied with an earthquake. By these figures, he had a general view of the dispensations which are afterwards more particularly described in the history of the trumpets.
Having given this summary account of the work of Christ, the prophet returns to give a more particular account of the ministers of Providence. He had told us in verse 2. that seven trumpets were given unto them ; and in verse 6. he informs us, that they prepared themselves for the service they were called to discharge. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
OBSERv. 1st, Profound attention is due to every part of the will of God. There was silence in heaven when the Lamb proceeded to open the seventh seal ; every eye was fixed, and every mind was attentive. The same disclosure that was made to John in vision is now made to us in the holy Scriptures. And when we take this book into our hands to peruse it, or when we sit down to hear it read or expounded by others, we should
pay the closest attention to its important and interesting matter.
2d, Genuine believers are sometimes filled with great anxiety respecting the church. This silence in heaven is the figure of great anxiety, as well as of deep and profound attention. The book of the Revelation has a dramatical form. In of this description, when the plot is well laid, there are scenes which deeply interest the feelings of the spectators, and in which they wait in mute anxiety for the full disclosure. When they are carried forward to those acts, in which it is manifest that the principal parties must either obtain the consummation of their wishes, or death or infamy must ensue, every eye is fixed, and every mind is racked with anxiety about the issue. Somewhat similar is the case as represented in the verses before us.
The opening of this seal was to unravel the whole plot which was laid by Satan for the destruction of the church by Antichrist and Mahomet ; need we therefore be surprised, that her members were in a state of mute and anxious expectation while this seal was opening ?
3d, Proper views of the intercession of Christ will relieve the mind from all sinful apprehensions respecting the safety of the church. It is impossible she can perish while her great High Priest continues to make intercession for her. His intercession is equally powerful to protect the church, and to destroy her enemies. While the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand, he filled the censer with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth ; and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
4th, In all our supplications and religious services, we must have respect to the mediation of Christ. God will never hear us for our much speaking, nor for the fervency of our desires ; neither will he hear us for our personal worth, or on account of any good thing done by us. It is only as our sacrifices are laid upon the New Testament altar, that they are sanctified ; and only as our requests are perfumed with the incense of the mediation of Christ, that they come up before the throne of God.
5th, Whatever services God may require of his people, it should be their concern to be in readiness to obey his call. It is too late for the watchman to be looking for his trumpet when he ought to have been giving the alarm; or to be learning how to employ it when he ought to have been sounding the loudest note, that every one might take warning: No sooner were the trumpets given to the seven angels, than they prepared themselves to sound.
Rev. viii. 7. The first angel sounded, and there followed hail
and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth : and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
The calamity of this trumpet is a judgment of hail and fire mingled with blood. It has been generally supposed that there is an allusion to the seventh plague which was inflicted upon the land of Egypt, described in Exod. ix. 22–25. Egypt was literally smitten with hail, which is said to have been very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. But here words are taken in their symbolical and figurative, and not in their literal acceptation. We are not, therefore, to suppose that the judgment of a storm of hail is all that is meant. But as hail is gendered by the cold, and proceeds from the north, this emblem might be intended to intimate, that the judgment of this trumpet was to issue from that region, and would be as destructive where it lighted as the plague of hail was to the Egyptians.
The hail of this storm was accompanied with fire. This also was the case in Egypt; and nothing is more common in a severe thunder-storm, than to see fire and hail mingled together. While the water may be rushing down in torrents, or falling in countless icy congealed particles in the form of hail, the lightning may be flashing in all directions.-Fire denotes contention. I am come,' said our Lord, to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled ? Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth ? I tell you, Nay; but rather division,' Luke xii. 49. 51. It is also taken to denote any sort of severe calamity. Thus it is said, that the Lord