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namely, the things which would follow in regular succession what he had already seen and heard: for this seems to be the meaning of the word, in the original, at the end of the first verse: “ I will shew “ thee the things which must happen after these.” Immediately upon this call he “ was in the spirit," cast into a holy rapture, ecstacy, or trance, as others of the Apostles had been, and the Prophets before them, on various occasions, when the Almighty was pleased to favour them with visions of his glory, and to communicate to them manifestations of his will. The Apostle, rapt in spirit, while his body remained in its local situation at Patmos, was, in his own apprehension, admitted into the immediate presence of the Almighty in heaven. Here he had a view of many glorious, awful, and majestic objects. It is not, however, to be supposed that these objects have a real existence in heaven; but they were visionary emblems, intended to illuminate the Apostle's mind, and to communicate the most important instruction to him and his readers. The business of the commentator, therefore, is to decipher these sacred hieroglyphics, and to develope the meaning of these visionary representations. The scenery of the apocalyptic visions, in general, is in allusion to ceremonies and observances in the law of Moses, and to the worship of God in the tabernacle and temple *. And, in this vision in particular, such allusion and reference may be easily traced by those who are acquainted with the worship, services, and furniture of the house of God in the Old Testament economy. In this vision the Apostle sees “ a throne, and one “ sitting upon it;" of whom he does not presume to give any particular description. There is a peculiar
b* This observation is made, once for all, without any intention of pointing out the particular references and allusions which occur throughout these visions. Those who desire to enter minutely into these circumstances may consult Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, and Bishop Newton.
wards seen to arise, may denote the grandeur and immutability of the divine throne, as contrasted with the turbulence and uncertainty of earthly thrones. Or, if it be considered in allusion to the Jewish molten sea of brass, it may refer to the “ fountain opened for sin and uncleanness," in which all the spiritual priesthood of true believers must wash, before they can offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices. In this point of view, it evidently represents the precious blood of the Redeemer, which alone cleanses man from the guilt of sin. The four living creatures *, full of eyes before and behind, represented as being like a lion, a calf, or a young ox, a man, and an eagle, are emblems of the true ministers of the Gospel, who were sent to preach in the four corners of the earth, in contradistinction to the body of the Church, or private Christians, who are represented by the twenty-four elders. That men, and not the persons of the Trinity, nor created angels, are represented both by the elders and living creatures, is evident from their song of praise to Him that sat on the throne and to the Lamb: “ Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God “ by thy blood.” This emblematical representation of the ministers of Christ shews us what they are, and what they are to do. The lion is the wellknown emblem of courage and magnanimity. The young ox is a symbol of strength, hardiness, pa
stone It is admitted by all critics and commentators, that it was an unhappy mistake in our translators, to render the word swa, beasts. The term literally signifies living creatures. The word beasts does not at all suit the emblem. These creatures have parts and appearances which beasts have not; and their powers and faculties are eminently rational and spiritual. The term is extremely degrading; and every one ntust see the impropriety of translating wae by the same word with which Omprov is afterwards rendered—the idolatrous, persecuting, antichristian beast, that arose out of the sea of tumult and commotion, and was afterwards cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. See chap. xiii. 1. xix. 20.
tience, and perseverance in labour. The human face is the emblem of prudence, intelligence, benevolence, and compassion. The eagle is a figure of penetration, perception, and elevated affection, soaring beyond earthly things, and contemplating heavenly objects. All these qualities of the four living creatures are a striking representation of what the ministers of the Gospel ought to be. The six wings denote humility and reverence, alacrity and diligence, promptitude and speed, in the Lord's work. The eyes are emblematic of their vigilance and circumspection, in their attention to the commands of God, and in the discharge of the important office with which they were invested. These living creatures are represented as ceasing not, day and night, in adoring and praising God, and saying, “ Holy, “ holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and “ is, and is to come.” It is observable that the angels, the living creatures, and the elders, are all mentioned in distinction from each other. Sometimes these three distinct orders join in one united song of general praise to God; and, whenever this is the case, redemption is not the subject of it. This, indeed, is a song in which the angels cannot join, for,“ verily, Christ took not on him the nature “ of angels." On other occasions the four living creatures, with the elders only, unite in hymns of praise to the triune Jehovah; and then the subject of their songs is redeeming love, or some peculiar blessing of the Gospel of Jesus: for these parties are equally interested in the theme of redemption. In the close of the chapter the four living creatures are represented as giving “ glory, honour, and thanks, “ unto him that sat upon the throne, who liveth for “ ever and ever;" and, at the same time, “ the four “ and twenty elders fall down before him that sat “ on the throne, and worship him that liveth for “ ever and ever; and cast their crowns before the “ throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to re
" ceive glory and honour and power; for thou hast “ created all things, and for thy pleasure they are “ and were created." p. The Lord Jesus, having overcome the sharpness of death, hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Through him the way of access is procured into the holiest of all. There we may now enter by faith; there we shall enter, by our spirits, when we die; and there we shall enter, with our glorified bodies re-united to our sanctified souls, in the last great day. In the mean time let us look up to that peaceful emblem, the rainbow of vivid green, with which the seat of the Redeemer's glory is now surrounded. As the Lord conducts the affairs of his church by his ministers, they are represented in this vision as standing nearer to him than their brethren. Surely this is a circumstance which should lead them to aspire after proportionate pre-eminence in holiness. Happy would it be for the Church, if ministers and people were earnestly to strive to become more like the angels in heaven.-As we are indebted to the triune Jehovah for our present privileges and our future hopes, may we now learn to sing the grateful song of the redeemed; and hereafter may we join the general assembly and church of the first-born in their eternal hallelujahs !
SECTION III. The sealed Book; the Opening of it by the Lamb; ** and the Praises sung by the heavenly Choir on that * Occasion.
soft Windows339903 1199 eu. .} Chap. V. 1714..strain stat 18 S AND I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within, and on the back side