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We now come to the last in order of the books of the sacred volume, the Revelation of St. John, which, from its nature and subjects, must require our very particular attention.
Sir Isaac Newton has remarkably expressed himself, speaking of a particular era predicted in the Revelation : “ The event will prove the Apocalypse; and this prophecy, thus proved and understood, will open the old prophets, and altogether will make known the true religion, and re-establish it. For he that will understand the old prophets must begin with this; but the time is not yet come for understanding them perfectly, because the main revolution in them is not yet come to pass. In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he has declared to his servants, the prophets ; and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever. * There is already so much of the prophecy fulfilled, that as many as will take pains in this study may see sufficient instances of God's providence; but then the signal revolutions predicted by all the holy prophets will, at once, turn men's eyes upon considering the predictions, and plainly interpret them. Till then, we must content ourselves with interpreting what has already been fulfilled.”
• Rev. x. 7; xi. 15.
Sir Isaac Newton further remarks: “ Among the interpreters of the last age, there is scarce one of note who has not made some discovery worth knowing; and thence I seem to gather that God is about opening these mysteries,” &c.
Such were the encouraging observations of one of the wisest of uninspired men, above a century ago: and, certainly, much successful labour has, since that time, been employed upon the Scripture prophecies : wonderful events, too, have happened in the history of mankind — events which, though their sudden and dazzling brightness confused, at first, the observations of expositors, cannot but afford important lights for discovering the true meaning of prophecy, when calmly viewed in a more settled state.
The Revelation, Chapter i. 5-8.
In St. John's preface to the Apocalypse, the second advent of Christ is plainly recognised as the grand expectation of the church, and as the final object of all prophecy. Speaking of Jesus Christ, he denominates him “ the faithful Witness, the first-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.”
“ Unto him,” he says, “ that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."
The language of preceding prophecies affords an easy solution to all this. Jesus is “the faithful witness," because he is the revealer of the mind of God, and is the great organ of revelation to his church. How he is the “ first-begotten of the dead,” has been explained on I Cor. xv.; to which we may add St. Paul's declaration, Rom. viii. 39; “ Those whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, . that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” This conformity is not manifested nor completed, till the morning of the resurrection. Believers, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, still " wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their body.” It is not till then that they “ bear the image of the heavenly:" but at that happy epocha they see him as he is, and are like him.”
This is “ the manifestation of the Sons of God,” for which · “ the whole creation groaneth and travaileth.” We per
ceive, then, why the Redeemer is called “the first-begotten"- the elder Brother “of the dead.”
“ The Prince of the kings of the earth.” This might possibly apply to Christ, as the Lord of Providence; but we have learned the fact, that he comes at the resurrection of the just, to take in his own person the kingdom under the whole heavens.
The business of his first and second advent is next contrasted, after the manners of the ancient prophecies. At the first he comes to purchase his universal church; at the last he comes to give them the promised kingdom, and to recover a lost world.
“ Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” —" and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.” He appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself—and to them that
look for him, he will appear a second time, without sin unto salvation.” The manifestation of the ransomed people of God, in the character of his kings and priests, certainly takes not place till they appear as “ the children of the resurrection.” Then it is, that they come to reign with Christ. And we remark, that the effect of his atonement, in its present application, at least, and the gift of the kingdom, are co-extensive. All, therefore, of the remnant according to the election of grace, washed from their sins in his blood, will come to reign with him in his glorious kingdom. “ Such honour have all his saints.” “ Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.”* “ All flesh,” said an ancient prophet, “ shall see the glory of Jehovah.” Our Lord's own words also illustrate : “ For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth also to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
Two parties are described as chiefly affected by his appearing; “ those that pierced him," and “ all the kindreds of the nations." The former are clearly the Israelitish nation. The ancient prophet describes them as “ looking on him whom they pierced ;” and at the same time as mourning for him in true penitence of heart. His coming is, to them that pierced him then, a blessing.' And to this agree the words of our Lord to this same people, speaking of his second coming :
* Verse 7.
1 " By such a miraculous ap- zealots against Christ,) may be parition of Christ from heaven was converted by as strange a means St. Paul converted. And I hope as was that one zealot of their it is no heresie to think that the nation.” — Mede. whole nation of the Jews, (those. See also Mr. Piere.
Verily I say to you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” But, “ the kindreds of the nations wail because of him.” And so in our Lord's prophecy, " and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with power and great glory.” How clearly does this point out to us the apostate nations of the professed Christian world; and prophecy has fully informed us, that these nations have indeed, generally, cause to wail at the Redeemer's coming.
Some Remarks on the Epistles to the Seven Churches, parti
cularly Chapter ii. 25, 8c.; and iii. 20.
In the first vision of the revelation, contained in the second and third chapters, we have several things to note, as intimating the second advent of our Lord, and the events which are then to take place :
10. “ I was in the Spirit,” says the apostle, on tlie Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. 11. What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches that are in Asia.” 12. “And I turned to see the voice of him that spake with me: and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks,” [or,“ stands for lamps."] 13. And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14. His head and his hairs were like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were