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befriended by the Redeemer, are uniformly characterized as witnesses. They do not content themselves with the general name of Christians or Professors of Christianity, as distinguished from Jews, Heathens, or Mahometans: they wear a title which is more definite and characteristic, by which their profession is distinguished from that of the followers of the beast, and all others who have adopted a spurious profession of the religion of Jesus Christ. They are described, as persons who are full of zeal for the truth; peculiarly riveted to the present truth, the word of Christ's patience; and who study to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Instead of being ashamed of his cause, they openly avow their regard to it, by having his Father's name written in their foreheads. -We cannot be too well acquainted with the character of a witness for Bible-truth; and as in this book we have the fullest delineation of the character, the spirit, and exercise, of religious witnesses, it cannot be too closely studied, by those who profess to testify against all the errors and corruptions of the time and place in which they live.
The better, too, that we are acquainted with it, our understandings will be the more enlightened, with respect to our own times, and the special services which Israel are called to perform. Some of its predictions are at this moment fulfilling; others will soon have their accomplishment; and all the rest are hastening forward, in the grand scheme of providential arrangements, to their full completion. As it may be determined with considerable accuracy, what particular period, described in this prophecy, coincides with the times in which we live, it will, therefore, be as a word behind us, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.' It is one of the brightest stars in the heavens of the church, by which we may steer our course with safety, notwithstanding the agitated state of the waters, and the dreadful political storms in which we are embroiled.
When studying its contents, let us place an habitual de
pendence upon the Spirit of truth. He only can expound it to our spiritual profiting. What will it avail us, though we could explain its numerous allusions and references,—though we could determine the precise period and event of every particular prediction,-though we could illustrate all the bold, sublime, and beautiful figures which it contains, and even unfold all its mysteries,-if our hearts continue to be col d the fruits of sanctified knowledge do not appear in the life! The man that sits down in retirement, to the study of the sacred Scriptures, or takes his place in the public assemblies of the church, to hear them expounded, and has imbibed the true spirit of grace and supplication, and therefore lifts up his heart with his hand to God in the heavens, to be his interpreter; though he be a person of a very shallow capacity, and of no erudition, will soon become wiser than all his teachers. And unless both ministers and people acquire the art of studying in this manner, they will suffer the genuine spirit of every text to evaporate.
In all their labours, faithful ministers have a strong claim upon the candour, the compassion, and the fervent supplications of the people. With great earnestness of desire, Paul requested the prayers of the believing. Romans. Persuaded that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, and that we never needed your interest at the throne of grace more than in the present undertaking, we cannot conclude this discourse in more appropriate language, than by addressing you in the words of that great apostle of the Gentiles, 'Now, I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,' Rom. xv. 30.
THE THRONE OF GOD.
REV. iv. 1-4.-After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and
upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
THE prophetical parts of the Revelation are introduced by a very sublime and beautiful preface, contained in this chapter and in the one which immediately follows. It forms an important part of the revelation of the mind of God by John, as it is the principal key to the whole prophecy. In vain do we think of opening the doors of this hieroglyphical mansion, without the application of this key. If we contemplate the prophecies of this book, without having obtained correct views of the throne of God and of the Lamb (the great subjects of these preliminary chapters), we shall be in danger of supposing, that there is not a king in the church, nor. a governor among the nations; that the former has been left to her own fate, and the latter to transgress with impunity; and that there are various parts of these predictions which cannot be reconciled with the other parts of the sacred volume, nor with the moral and gracious
character of God. But, by the light of these chapters, we see, that the plan of Providence is well laid; that the church is perfectly safe, even in the midst of the greatest tribulations; and that according to the days in which she has seen evil and had grief, so she will be made glad. From them it is equally evident, that no enemy can touch her with impunity, as the administration of judgment, as well as of mercy, is committed into the hand of her King. Out of the throne proceed thunderings, and lightnings, and voices. They are like a star in the heavens, or a reflector upon a rock; signs with which the mariner is well acquainted, and by which he can steer his course with equal safety in the night as in the day. The limits, however, which we have proposed, will not admit of a copious illustration of these chapters: neither does this appear to be necessary, as their subjects are rather doctrinal than prophetical; and, therefore, a short explanation of the terms in which they are expressed will be sufficient to suggest the train of thought, which you may prosecute to advantage by yourselves.
In the chapter, a part of which we have just read, the first thing that claims our attention is the order of the vision: Af ter this, says John. He had been favoured with a previous vision, of which he has given a detailed account in the chapters lately considered; and from the mode of expression here used, it appears, that the one which he was going to describe followed immediately upon the other. One astonishing scene was no sooner closed than another was opened. His first vision was upon the sabbath-day, chap. i. 10. All the rest, it is extremely probable, were upon the same day, and followed one another without any perceptible interval between them. If Satan could show to our Lord all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, with what facility and expedition could not the Spirit of prophecy impress the mind of the prophet with all that he describes? But it is hardly to be supposed, that the detailed account which John has given of them could be committed to writing in so short a space of time. The gift
of prophecy, and the gift of inspiration, were different endowments. The exercise of the one might succeed to the other; and different days might be employed in putting upon record all that he had seen and heard. In this part of his work, John has followed the order of manifestation. That which was first seen was first described; and hence his account of the second vision follows immediately upon his account of the first; and both are placed in such a connexion as must lead any one to suppose, that there was no interval of time between them.
His first vision was accompanied with circumstances which excited expectations that others were to follow. Accordingly, the scene which he had just witnessed was no sooner closed, than he looked, with the greatest intenseness of mind, prepared to contemplate whatever symbols the Spirit of God might see meet to employ.
And he did not look in vain; for, behold, a door was opened in heaven.-According to the impression now made upon his mind, there was a rent or opening in the skies, similar to what Peter had observed, when a certain vessel, descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet, knit at the four corners, was let down to the earth, Acts x. 11; or rather such an opening as Ezekiel noticed, when the heavens were opened, and he saw visions of God, Ezek. i. 1. There is such a striking resemblance between the first vision of Ezekiel, and those parts of the second of John's described in this chapter, that the principal figures employed in the latter appear to be selected from the former. You are not to suppose, that, in the literal sense of the expression, there was any door or opening in the visible heavens; or that John saw, with his bodily organs, the scene which he describes: the whole was exhibited by way of extraordinary vision, or representation, to his mind. By his mysterious and supernatural influence, the Spirit of God wrought upon the imagination of the prophet, so as to produce the same effect that would have followed, supposing the things described had been seen and heard by bodily organs. Such were