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Lamb that was slain, as a bleeding sacrifice for our sins !—May we rejoice in contemplating the glorious change of the Saviour's condition, from his humiliation and sufferings on earth, to his exaltation and reward in heaven! There he is worshipped by all the angels and all the saints. May every reader be prepared to join the universal chorus, when the full choir of the redeemed, from every nation, and people, and tongue, shall unite in this joyful acclamation, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive
power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and “honour, and glory, and blessing.”
General Remarks on the Seals, Trumpets, and Vials.
I am now to enter upon what is considered the most difficult part of this mysterious book, and to attempt to give the reader some illustration of the seals, the trumpets, and the vials. There is a very considerable variance in the views of different writers eminent for talent, judgment, and piety, on this important part of the book of Revelation. It is not however my intention, in this exposition, to notice this variety of opinions. My object will be to bring before my reader's view what appear to be the most generally received sentiments of approved and judicious commentators, and which on the whole seem in my own judgment to be the most probable. It is my earnest desire to be preserved from material error and mistake in the explanation of this book. May the blessed and holy Spirit, whose office it is to lead us into all truth, direct me to adopt such views of the mysterious prophecies here recorded, as are consistent with the mind and will of Him by whose inspiration the whole Scripture was written for our instruction, edification, and consolation !
Before we enter upon the opening of the seals, it may be necessary to make a few remarks on the subject in general.
First, the whole series of events included in the seals, trumpets, and vials, extends from the period in which the Apostle had the vision, A.D. 95 or 96, to the commencement of the millennium, probably to the year about 2000.
Secondly, all the events recorded in this period are included in the sealed book; and the seventh seal comprehends the seven trumpets. By this division of the first part of the prophecy into seven seals, and of the seventh seal into seven trumpets, the unity of the prophecy is preserved till the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the chronology is supported with the greatest probability of exactness and certainty till we arrive at the termination of the first part of the prophecy, at the conclusion of the eleventh chapter. We are then taken back again to the earliest ages of the Christian church; and the chronology of the second part, till we again arrive at the seventh trumpet, can only be fixed on by the internal evidence of the prophecies, by a comparison with the first part, and by the facts and events of history. Upon this principle we must form our judgment of the seven vials, which in my opinion cannot be considered, as many have supposed, a subdivision of the seventh trumpet, and included in the period of its events; but as being poured out under the sixth and seventh trumpets, or the second and third woes. It will hereafter be shewn from the chronology of the first part of the prophecy, that the second woe is not yet past; and from the fulfilment of their predictions by historical facts, that five of the vials have already poured out their baleful contents.
Thirdly, in tracing the events predicted under the seals, trumpets, and vials, it is not necessary that every preceding one must be finished before that which follows it may have begun. The termination of one may run some way parallel with the commencement of another; while, notwithstanding this circumstance, they are on the whole successive. It is undoubtedly necessary that the first seal should be opened before the second, and the second before the third, &c. and so of the trumpets and vials. But it does not follow that the events of the preceding seal, trumpet, or vial, should terminate before those of the succeeding one begin to be fulfilled. The regular series of chronology is sufficiently preserved by their commencement. Each of the seals, trumpets, and vials, predicts a series of events generally of a similar kind, taking place during a certain fixed period. A succeeding seal, trumpet, or vial, may therefore commence with an account of events peculiar to itself; while the preceding one (and perhaps in some cases more than one), describing events of a different kind, inay yet be unfinished. Thus historians, to preserve the thread and connexion of their history, oftentimes treat of different subjects in separate and distinct chapters, rendering their chronology subservient to their order of narration.
Fourthly, as far as the seals, trumpets, and vials, refer to the world or to the Roman empire, this reference is made in connexion with the Church. The cities and states of the world, with the account of their rise and fall, are introduced in the Scripture as far only as they are connected with the Church. Independent of this connexion, they are not noticed. In the Old Testament we read much of Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, and some other large cities, because, in
many respects, they were connected, with the history of the Church; while other cities and places are not mentioned, because they had no such connexion.
Historical or prophetical events, referring to the world in general, are only introduced as far as they have some immediate or remote reference to the Church and people of God: and no more events are noticed either prophetically or historically than the infinitely wise God thought to be necessary for his purposes in communicating his will to mankind. Hence, in this book of Revelations, many of the great and mighty events which occur in the world, may have no notice at all taken of them; and others may be referred to in a very general and limited manner.-Let us now proceed to the opening of the first seal.
Chap. 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. 2. 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.
When the Lord Jesus, as the “ Lamb that had “ been slain,” opened the first seal, the Apostle's attention was excited by a voice like thunder from the first of the living creatures or representatives of the ministers of the Church; whose voice was like a lion, and who called upon him to come and see what passed. On this invitation the Apostle looked, and there appeared * before him a white horse, on which one was mounted, armed with a bow, as for the battle: to whom was given a crown, denoting royal authority and conquest; and he went forth conquering all that opposed him, and still preparing new victories. The horses and the riders which appear on the opening of the four first seals, are hieroglyphical representations of things and events that were about to take place. The rider, therefore, on this first horse, is not to be considered as the Son of God himself, but as an emblematical representation of the Gospel of Christ, making its powerful victories, and obtaining its glorious successes, in the early ages of the Church. The emblem represents the progress of the Christian religion in its simplicity and purity, from the period when the Apostle had the vision. The whole symbol evidently denotes righteousness, purity, and victory. It signifies that the Church of Christ should widely extend its spiritual conquests in spite of all its enemies. The mild and beneficent victories of the Lord Jesus, by his word and holy Spirit, in the conversion of sinners to the obedience of the faith, are evidently here predicted. -After the advancement of our Lord to his mediatorial throne, the Gospel had gone forth in its primitive purity, under the conduct of the Apostles, with its peaceful and beneficent conquests. It had obtained many glorious victories, although Jews and Gentiles had opposed its progress. It had been established in Judea, Arabia, Pontus, Asia, Cappadocia, Bithynia, Parthia, Media, Mesopotamia, Athens, Lacedemonia, Galatia, Rome, Antioch, and many
* Many commentators have supposed, that on opening the seals of this volume, pictures were unfolded, which represented in a beautiful and vivid manner, the horses, persons, and things, here described. But this hypothesis appears to me exceedingly to lower the grand and lively ideas that arise in the mind on reading the other
sacred text. How could pictures represent the motion of the horses, the voice of the speakers which the Apostle heard, the souls under the altar, who cried with a loud voice, &c. &c. ? The scenes revealed under the seals certainly did not lie in the book itself, but arose in vision before the Apostle, and successively passed before his eyes. It seems surprising to me that such men as Dr. Guyse, Archdeacon Woodhouse, and Dr. Bryce Johnston, should have fallen into such a palpable mistake, as, in my opinion, this view of the subject must be generally considered.