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to the several individuals of which the society is composed. Hence great and good as John the Baptist was, even the least in the kingdom of heaven is said to be greater than he, Matt. xi. 11.
These elders are described in different particulars, which may be considered in the order mentioned in the verse.
First, They are represented as occupying a very dignified station-they were round about the throne. The great throne was surrounded by four and twenty seats or thrones, upon which the elders were seated. The figure is intended to symbolize the high honours of believers in Christ. They sit upon thrones; and the thrones which they occupy are in the near vicinity of the throne of God: they are spiritual princes; they are kings and priests to our God and the Lamb. Corresponding with this part of the representation, they are described in the close of the verse, as having upon their heads crowns of gold.
Secondly, They are described from their number-twentyfour. A definite is put for an indefinite number; but it is not without a special design that this number is mentioned rather than another. Because the tribes of the Old Testament church were only twelve, their princes could not be more than twelve. But in the New Testament state of the church, Jews and Gentiles are united into one body; and, therefore, the tribes are double the number of what they formerly were.
Thirdly, They are described from their posture-they were sitting upon thrones. Sitting is a posture of rest and ease; and is fitted to remind us of that holy rest and tranquillity of soul with which believers in Christ are favoured. The wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest; there is no peace to the wicked. But by faith, believers, even now, do enter into God's rest, and participate in the joy of their Lord. This part of the description furnishes an additional proof, that ministers of religion are not intended; for, if they had been meant by the elders, they would have been repre
sented in a standing, and not in a sitting posture; the former is the posture for action, and the latter indicates a state of rest or relaxation from service.
Fourthly, They are described from their apparel-they were clothed in white raiment. The allusion is to the robes of the priesthood. Aaron and his sons were clothed in the purest linen, as emblematical of the spotless righteousness of Christ, and of that holiness of heart and life which ought to adorn all the members, and especially the ministers, of the church. These elders were clothed with the robe of righteousness, and the garments of salvation. They studied to keep their garments clean. They did not follow the sinful courses of the world, but lived soberly, righteously, and godly. They lived near God, and, by daily communications of grace and mercy from his throne, were enabled to be in some measure faithful to his interest.
These verses are fitted to impress our minds,
1st, With a firm belief of the absolute certainty of Scriptureprophecy. The events predicted in the Scriptures are things which must be fulfilled. Their accomplishment is as certain as if they had already taken place. Accordingly, towards the conclusion of the book, for the confirmation of his faith respecting the realization of all that had been exhibited by mystical signs and representations, John was addressed by a voice from the throne, saying, It is done,' chap. xxi. 6. In respect of certainty, it was as good as done.
2d, With a lively sense of the Divine goodness to those that serve him. John was no sooner called to extraordinary work, than all the requisite qualifications were afforded. • Immediately he was in the Spirit.'-Let no one decline any part of service to which he may be regularly called, either from a diffidence of his own abilities, or because there are numerous and formidable obstacles in his way. Where the line of duty is clearly marked out, the answer of God to Moses ought to silence any objection: Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have
not I the Lord?' Exod. iv. 11. What John has here stated with respect to himself, presents us with every encouragement to expect that our strength will be proportioned to the appointed service.
3d, With a firm belief of the absolute safety of the church. We have no reason to fear that this world will be destroyed by a second deluge; and we have as little reason to fear, that any deluge of wrath will ever fall upon the church, because the bow of the covenant is continually surrounding the throne of the heavens. The operations in the kingdom of nature minister to the confirmation of our faith against the fears of a second deluge; for the darker the cloud in the day of rain, the colour of green in the bow is always the more predominant. And, in allusion to this natural phenomenon, it may be remarked, that the care of God about his church is never more conspicuous than in the season of her greatest adversities. It is usually then that he opens the eyes of his servants, to see the mountains full of chariots of fire, and horses of fire, round about her for her defence. The bow of his covenant appears in times of greatest tribulation, shaded with the deepest and most beautiful green.
4th, There is a door of access into heaven. By the disobedience and rebellion of the first Adam, the gates of the celestial city were barred against every individual of the human family; but by the mediation of Jesus Christ, the second Adam, they are thrown wide open, and a voice may now be heard from the excellent glory, saying, Come up
Rev. iv. 5-8. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings, and voices: And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within:
NOTHING valuable has been lost by the change of dispensation in the church. Such things only as were typical and shadowy have disappeared; those that were substantial, spiritual, and glorious, have been retained. Every thing of which the Jew could reasonably boast is still a ground of gloriation in the Christian economy. If the worshippers under the law had an altar which sanctified their gifts, and upon which their sacrifices were laid,-we also have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle, Heb. xiii. 10. If they had a laver, in which their persons and oblations might be washen, we are far from being destitute of the means of cleansing; we have a laver, the dimensions of which are like the sea, and the waters are transparent as glass, clear as crystal. If they had lamps to give light in the sanctuary,—we have no fewer than seven lamps of fire continually burning, which are the seven Spirits of God. If they had a priesthood, to serve in the tabernacle and minister in things pertaining to God,we also are provided with public ministers of religion, who are
furnished with all those gifts which are necessary for the important station they are called to fill.-The possession of such valuable and unspeakable privileges ought not to diminish, but should greatly increase, our reverence and fear of their Author. The God with whom we have to do in the use of all ecclesiastical privileges, is a God of majesty. He sits upon the throne of the heavens; and from this throne proceed thunderings, and lightnings, and voices.
The efficiency of the administration, and the terribly destructive nature of the judgments which issue from the throne, appear to be intended by the thunder-storm described in the beginning of ver. 5: And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings, and voices. There is here a manifest allusion to the scenes of Mount Sinai, at the giving of the law. Besides thunder and lightning, there was the voice of words, so terrible that even Moses did exceedingly fear and quake. The sound of thunder is awful and impressive; it is one of the most sensible demonstrations of the power and presence of the Divinity, and never can be heard without some degree of tremor. Lightning is the most powerful and penetrating substance in the world of matter. In the twinkling of an eye it can
shiver the oak, raze the foundation of the firmest building, destroy the principle of life, waste the bloom and beauty of the fairest countenance, and reduce the hardest metals to a state of fusion. No one can resist its power; nor is it possible to calculate either the celerity of its motion, or the degree of its force.
These terrible phenomena are fit emblems of the energy of the Divine administration. When the God of nature thunders in the heavens, and arms the bolt with vengeance, we are utterly incapable of silencing his voice, or of defending ourselves against harm. And whatever the God of the church hath determined to perform, no schemes, or combinations, or efforts of creatures can prevent. His counsel shall stand, and he The thunder-storm, which seemed was fitted to impress the mind of
will do all his pleasure.' to issue from the throne,