« PreviousContinue »
sing in truth and say, that He who is the Redeemer of men is their Lord, that he is the head of the system to which they belong, and that he is infinitely worthy to be praised.
But, as the redeemed from among men have a special interest in the mediatorial character of the Son of God, if any
heart is peculiarly affected at the consideration of the work of Christ, it may be expected to be found among them. Accordingly, the living creatures and the elders, who were represented in vers. 8, 9, as the first to strike the note, are introduced again in the close of the chapter, as the last to conclude the song, ver. 14: And the four beasts said, Amen ; and the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever
The living creatures said, Amen: they gave their full and cordial assent to all that the holy angels and the other orders of creatures had sung. It was their earnest desire that Messiah's praise should be glorious; and when they saw such harmony and cordiality among all orders of creatures, in his praise, they expressed their high satisfaction by a loud response.We have no mention of any thing uttered by the four and twenty elders: their satisfaction was greater than language could express; and therefore, in the exercise of holy wonder and admiration, they fell prostrate before the throne, and worshipped with their spirits him that liveth for ever and
The cursory view we have now taken of these introductory chapters ought to fortify the mind against all slavish fears, to afford the richest consolation, and to inspire us with the strongest confidence and hope, respecting the safety of the church. What though thunder and lightning proceed from the throne ! while the bow of the covenant continues to surround it, and the dispensation of judgment as well as of mercy is in the hand of Christ, it is impossible that she can be injured. When John recollected what he had seen in heaven, he could not but mock at all the efforts of the enemies of the church. The thrones of secular princes may be razed; but the throne of the heavens continues firm. The most solemn compacts and treaties between princes may be broken; but the covenant of God with the church is an everlasting covenant. In all ages, this mystical bow is in sight like an emerald. Times may be so tempestuous, that the ablest minister may be unfit to pilot the vessel of the state ; but, as the administration of the Divine government is committed into the hands of Christ, and as he has purchased the church with his own blood, this society will be taken care of. We may, therefore, adopt the language of the ancient church, and say, "We will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.' Psal. xlvi. 2, 7.
Rev. vi. 1, 2. And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the
seals ; and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse : and he that sat on him
had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
It was mentioned in the Introductory Discourse,* that three different kinds of symbols, viz. Seals, Trumpets, and Vials, are employed to describe a succession of the most remarkable events of Providence, between the times of John and the commencement of the glory of the latter days. Before we enter upon the explanation of the verses presently read, it will be necessary to establish this position by proof; as it will be impossible to compare facts with predictions, while the period to which they refer has not been ascertained.
Different interpreters, both ancient and modern, consider the seals and trumpets as collateral predictions. They suppose, that it is the object of the one to describe the condition of the church, between the opening of the first seal and the pouring out of the first vial; and that it is the object of the other to describe the condition of the Roman state during the same period of time: they conceive that, at the sounding of the first trumpet, the prophet returns to the point from which he had set out at the opening of the first seal, and gives a reexhibition, or second description of the same times, though not of the same events, which he had partly described in the history of the seals.—This method of arrangement necessarily
See Lec. xxxiii.
gives to each of these predictions a very long period of time for its fulfilment,-a period which cannot be much less than two thousand years. And some interpreters extend their full accomplishment to a season that is even more distant, as they do not suppose that the revolution of the sixth seal will take place till the scenes of the last judgment are disclosed.
Others consider the seals and trumpets as successive, and not collateral predictions. They, therefore, limit the time of their fulfilment to a much shorter period ; and refer to facts and circumstances very different from those stated by the former, as proofs and illustrations of their fulfilment. It is impossible that both views can be correct; and, therefore, when we are just entering upon this region of prophecy, it is necessary that we ascertain, How far the prospect extends, or to what distance we may travel in any of the departments, through the prospective history of the church or of the world.
It is impossible to settle this controversy without a strict attention to the prophecies themselves : and the way in which they are linked together appears to be sufficient to determine, whether they are one continued chain of prophecy, predicting a series of events which follow one another in the strictest chronological order, or are meant to foretell two collateral series of events, which are to be realized within the same period of time.
On both sides it is admitted, that the seven trumpets are the contents of the last seal; and that the preceding seals are not simultaneous, but successive; that is, the events of the second seal are not contemporaneous with those of the first, but follow them in the order of time; the events of the third follow, in the same order, those of the second ; and, in like manner, those of the other seals follow one another, in the strietest chronological order, till we arrive at the seventh. But this seal is as much a part of the mystical book as any of the rest; and, if all the preceding seals follow one another in the order mentioned, by what rule of interpretation is the seventh turned out of the succession, and made to revert upon times and sea
sons which are occupied by others? If John, from the nature of the symbols, was led to conceive, that the first six were to be successive, without some special intimation to the contrary he must have concluded, that the seventh succeeded to the sixth, and therefore, that the prophecy of the trumpets was to be realized in a season posterior to that of the seals. But as no such intimation was given him, the conclusion is unavoidable, that the same chronological order is followed in the seventh as in the rest of the seals.
The nature of the symbols necessarily leads to this interpretation of their order. The book consisted of seven different rolls, wrapped one above another, and each of them stamped with a separate impression of the seal. To suppose that the events of the seventh seal could be contemporaneous with those of the first, or second, or any of the rest, appears to be equally absurd as to suppose, that the seventh seal could be opened while all the preceding seals were entire and unbroken. If the book had been done up in the form of a modern volume, it might have been opened with equal facility at one place as at another; but its peculiar structure rendered it impossible to disclose the contents of the undermost roll, till all that were above it were taken off.
Or, if the prophecy of the trumpets had been detached from that of the seals, there might have been some plausible grounds for supposing that it was intended to describe the same period of time with the seals; but the trumpets are as closely connected with the seals as one seal is connected with another. What are the seven trumpets, but an expanded view of the events of the seventh seal ? And, if the seventh and last seal is to be understood as going back upon the times of the sixth, and of all that precede it, why may not the sixth be understood as reverting upon the times of the fifth, the fifth upon those of the fourth, and so on of the rest, till no definite period is left for the fulfilment of any of these prophecies, but what is included within the times of the first seal ?
Few interpreters suppose, that the prophecy of the vials de