« PreviousContinue »
THE MEASURING REED.
Rev. xi. 1-3. And there was given me a reed like unto a
rod : and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the
temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and meas
ure it not ; for it is given unto the Gentiles : and the holy
city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall
prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth:
John had no sooner received the little book, accompanied with the instructions contained in the close of the preceding chapter, than he proceeded to disclose its contents. It was written in the same hieroglyphical and mystical characters, and many of them are equally remarkable, with those of the book with seven seals. — The first mentioned is a reed or pole, with which he was to take the dimensions of the temple, and the court of the priests : And there was given me a reed like unto a rod. -Considerable part of the imagery of this vision is borrowed from the fortieth chapter of Ezekiel. There you find the prophet was set on the top of a high mountain in the land of Israel, from which he saw the platform of a large city on the south. The sight could not fail to be peculiarly gratifying, because, for the space of twenty-five years, Jerusalem and almost all the cities of Judah, had been lying in ruins, and the inhabitants either slain or carried captives into a foreign land. At the same time, he saw a man whose appearance was like burnished gold, or brass which had received the best polish, who held a line of fax and a measuring reed in his hand, to
take the dimensions of the place, whom Ezekiel was instructed to follow.
The common rod or standard of measurement among the Jews was formed of reed or cane for lightness, and was about six cubits long, which, upon the lowest calculation, was about nine feet. Of this description, but somewhat longer, was the reed of Ezekiel; and it may be presumed, that the one given to John was of the same dimensions. The use he was directed to make of this symbol is sufficient to determine its general acceptation. By what other standard can the temple of God, with its courts and appurtenances, be measured, but the unerring rule of his own word? Too many have acted in the things of God as if there were no standard by which they were to be regulated. It has been frequently avowed, and all the kings of the Roman earth have acted upon this false principle, that the constitution and forms of the church were left to be moulded and fashioned according to those of the state; and that they might add such rites and ceremonies to the external forms of worship as human fancy might judge fit and decent, to give splendour or solemnity to the ordinances of religion. But is it reasonable for a moment to suppose, that the principality, of which Christ himself is the king and head, and where the strictest and most perfect order might be expected, would be left to be cast into any form, which the whim or caprice of human fancy, or the erring judgment of mortals, might think best ? Such a supposition is inconsistent with his known character as the God of order in all the churches of the saints, his unremitting attention to their interests, and his jealousy of the honour of his prerogatives as their only King and Lord. All that pertains to the constitution and order, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the church, is laid down in the holy Scriptures. By this standard, and by this alone, the whole is to be regulated. * To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
When John was presented with this reed, he was directed as to the use he was to make of it. The angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.—By the temple, as distinguished from the altar and the courts, is meant that stately building which contained both the sanctuary and the most holy place. None but priests could enter this sacred edifice; and none but the high priest could enter its inmost recess, and that only upon a single day in the year, the great day of atonement.-As the altar of incense stood in the sanctuary, the measuring of that altar must be understood as included in the measurement of the temple. The altar, therefore, intended here, must be understood of the altar of burnt-offering, which was placed in the middle of the court of the priests, immediately before the porch of the temple. Nor was it simply the altar, but the whole court in which it was situated, of which he was to take the dimensions. The contrast, in this part of the representation, with the court afterwards mentioned, confirms this opi. nion. He was to take the length and breadth of this court by the most scrupulous and exact measurement.-He was likewise to measure the worshippers. That part of the sacred enclosures, in which the altar of burnt-offering stood, was usually called the court of the priests, because it was there that the ordinary ministrations were performed, and none of the people, except on special occasions, when they had an offering to present, were permitted to enter it. The same standard which the prophet was to apply to the court and to the building be was to apply to the worshippers.
The temple was the place of public and solemn worship under the law. Jerusalem, the city in which this sacred structure was erected, on account of its vicinity to the temple and the special privileges which it enjoyed, was usually called the holy city. Both of them were figures of the church; the one chiefly of her invisible, and the other of her public and visible state. Here they are spoken of as distinct ; and the prophet is commanded to pay every attention to the exact measurement of the one, while the outer court was to be left out of the measurement, and the holy city was to be trodden under foot of the Gentiles.-Contrasted with what follows in ver. 2., the temple and altar, or the temple and inner court, with them that worshipped there, appear to be the figures of the true church, and may intimate, First, that during the period of forty-two months, when the outer court was to be given to the Gentiles, a true church would still be preserved on earth. The tabernacle of God would be with some of the human family, and he would dwell among them.--Secondly, that true worshippers in this period of apostacy would be few in number. The inner court, compared with the outer, was only a very small enclosure ; and even the temple, with all the courts that surrounded it, was of small dimensions, compared with the extensive city of Jerusalem. Genuine worshippers were to be so few, that their number might be counted, and even the stature and dimensions of the several individuals ascertained.
At the same time he was prohibited from surveying the large space which was contiguous to the court of the priests, where the great body of the people were accustomed to assemble, and which was usually called the outer court. Verse 2., But the court which is without the temple, leave out, and measure it not ; for it is given unto the Gentiles.—What sort of Gentiles are here meant may be learned from the space
of time in which this court is kept in their possession, and the holy city is trodden under foot. The term is not meant to describe their origin according to the flesh, as distinguished from the natural seed of Abraham, but their moral and religious character, as distinguished from evangelical and true worshippers. They are Christians in name, for they stand within the acknowledged limits of the Christian church ; but mey are Gentiles or mere Heathens in principle and practice, for they pollute wherever they stand, and they trample the whole of the scriptural order of the mystical city under foot. The term is applicable to the church of Rome, and cannot be consistently applied here to any other society. On various accounts she may be represented by this emblem, but chiefly on account of the objects and the manner of her worship.-Like the ancient Heathen, the objects of her worship are numerous. At one time the gods of the Roman empire were supposed to be about thirty thousand; but the family of Popish gods has increased and multiplied so fast, that it is a long time since they were increased into a multitude which could not be numbered. All the hosts of angels, all the spirits of just men departed, and all the relics of saints and martyrs, together with many of more modern date, who were of a very dubious, if not infamous character while they lived, have a place in her calendar, and are with Catholics objects of religious worship. Whenever a new collection of wafers is consecrated to be used as the host in the sacrament of the supper, or another flagon of wine is set apart for the same purpose, these new deities are set up to be worshipped ; and as this forms part of the daily employment of the priesthood of that church, it is impossible to say what a rabble of deities may yet be added to the calendar of their gods. This society is so completely Heathen in respect of the objects of worship, that she has far excelled all that ever preceded her in the number of her gods. In respect of the manner of her worship, she is no less entitled to be called a Gentile or Heathen society. There is hardly a rite belonging to the church of Rome which cannot be traced up to a Heathen origin. When the ministers of this church began to deviate from the simplicity that is in Christ, they endeavoured, in order to conciliate the Heathen, and to gain them over to at least a nominal profession of Christianity, to accommodate their mode of worship as nearly as possible to the ancient Pagan forms. Multitudes were in this manner brought to espouse a profession of Christianity, while all the rites and forms of their Pagan services were retained: they exchanged the name of Pagans for that of Christians, but they knew almost nothing of Christianity except the name.*
As historical statements furnish the best illustrations of prophecy, I shall subjoin in this note a short comparison between Popery and Paganism, selected chiefly from Laborde's View of Spain, and Middleton's Letter from Rome.
When any stranger enters a Popish church, especially on high festivals, the