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is the Preserver of the ends of the earth ; for thy pleasure they are and were created. Here that branch of providence which respects the preservation of things, is presented in a very striking point of view; it is described under the idea of a continued creation. The preservation of things from day to day is not owing to any principle of permanent existence infused into them in the act of their creation. Could they exist for a single moment independent of that cause from which they sprung, they would then be clothed with one of the incommunicable attributes of God; they would be gods, and not creatures. But we are here reminded of the continued exercise of the Divine power about them; and that the same energy is put forth every moment for their preservation, which was exercised at first, when they were brought out of nothing into existence. For thy pleasure, say they, they are and were created. These reasons of praise must appear to be peculiarly forcible,
take into consideration the purpose which God intended to serve by the creation and preservation of the system of things. This was his own pleasure. He could not be under any obligations to create but what originated in his own sovereign good pleasure: and he must be under as few obligations to preserve what he has made. How unreasonable and ungenerous then is the part which any creature acts when it is silent in its Maker's praise! How peculiarly criminal the conduct of those who prostitute the talents with which they are intrusted, to his dishonour ! • Do ye thus requite the Lord ? O foolish people and unwise ! is not he thy father that hath bought thee ? hath he not made thee, and established thee?' Deut. xxxii. 6.
These verses, thus briefly explained, lay a foundation for the following practical reflections:-1st, Faithful ministers of the word are wholly devoted to the duties of their office. They are instant in season and out of season ; they study always to abound in the work of the Lord. If it be necessary for the earthly soldier to disengage himself from every other profession, that he may fulfil the duties of a soldier, much more must this be necessary for those that fill a high official station in the armies of the church. The apostles would not take upon them even the distribution of the alms of the church, lest this labour and work of love might encroach upon their more serious and important services in the ministry of the word, Acts vi. 2, 3, 4. And others, who have imbibed their spirit, will be disposed to follow their example.
2d, The conducting of the public worship of the church belongs to her ministers. Here they are represented as taking the direction; and whatever relates to the external managements and arrangements of this society must certainly belong to her office-bearers. As delineated in the Scriptures, she is like an army in the highest state of discipline; in which a due subordination is maintained, and every officer and every private soldier knows his place in the ranks.
3d, There is encouragement to expect, that the faithful discharge of the ministry will be followed by the best consequences among the people. When the living creatures give glory, and honour, and thanks to him that sitteth on the throne, the four and twenty elders fall down and worship.
4th, Right worshippers are filled with admiring and adoring thoughts of God, and with very humble apprehensions of themselves. What am I, dust and ashes, said Abraham, that I should take it upon me to speak unto the Lord ? And here the elders prostrate their persons, and lay their crowns at the foot of the throne.
5th, The end which God had in view by the creation and preservation of things, is the great reason why we should make it the business of our lives to serve and honour him. We cannot surely act from a more dignified principle, than when we strive to concur with our Maker in his designs. . Furthermore then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.' 1 Thess, iv. 1.
THE THRONE OF THE LAMB.
Rev. v. 1–5. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on
the throne a book written within and on the back side, sealed
with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who
is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth,
was able o open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open
and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not : behold, the
Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
The chapter we have lately considered presented us with a view of the economical character of the Father; the one now before us presents us with a view of the economical character of the Son. In the former, the eternal Father, as sustaining the majesty of Trinity, is represented sitting upon the throne of the heavens; in the latter, his co-eternal Son, as sustaining the character of his honorary servant, is represented as standing before him, ready to make a full disclosure of his designs, and to carry them into effect. In the one, the principal symbol is a throne with its attendants ; in the other, it is a book sealed with seven seals, which was held in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
Concerning this mystical volume, John tells us in the beginning of the chapter, that he saro in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book written. We have only to reflect upon the use and design of writing, in order to see the meaning of this symbol. Its primary design is, to disclose our sentiments to others. What we are enabled to do by speech to those that are near, we can accomplish, by writing, to those that are at a distance. Hence, a book received from God, is the common symbol of a revelation of his mind to the church. Jer. xxxvi. 2. Ezek. f. 9, 10. John had been called up to heaven, with an assurance, that' he would be shewed the things which must be hereafter. Accordingly, when he saw the book in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne, it was natural to suppose, that it contained the whole history of those future scenes and events with which he was to be made acquainted.
This book contains the great lines of the Divine managements with respect to the church, between the times of John and the end of the world. The whole matter of it is now transcribed into this book of the Revelation; the one is a true copy, a fair duplicate of the other. To mark the absolute certainty of its predictions, and the great importance of the subjects to which they refer, the whole is represented as if it had been previously written, and registered in heaven. And as the Father, according to the preceding chapter, is the head of that wonderful economy
which subsists among the persons in Trinity, all the plans and measures of the Divine government must originate with him. Hence, when this book was first noticed by John, he saw it in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
It was written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals. According to this punctuation, the book must have been written without as well as within ; but this opinion cannot be admitted, as John saw no part of its contents till the seals were broken ; and even then, he tells us only of what he saw on one side of the parchment; he makes no mention of any thing presented to his notice upon the other. The punctuation, though a circumstance apparently trivial, gives to this part of the description, a meaning which it was not intended to bear. By transposing the comma from the word
side, and placing it after the word within, it will render the text so perspicuous as to require no illustration. It was written within, and on the back side sealed with seven seals."* Ezekiel's roll was written within and without; but the book which John saw had no written or hieroglyphical characters , on the back ; on the exterior parts he could discern nothing but the impression of a large and beautiful seal.
A book sealed is the symbol of sentiments, or opinions, not yet disclosed. The vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed.' Isa. xxix. 11, 12. Though the seals of this mystical book are now loosed, and all its contents laid before us in the Revelations of John, the church has understood almost nothing of their meaning, but as it was unfold. ed by the dispensations which they predicted. But, as sealing is intended for confirmation as well as secrecy, the figure is also fitted to remind us of the absolute certainty of its predictions. Here one thing was equally secret, and equally fixed and determined as another; for every separate part of the book was stamped by a distinct and separate impression of the seal
To understand how it could be sealed with such a number of seals, and yet how one part might be read after another in succession, though the seals upon those which remained were unaffected, it is necessary to remark, that the books of the ancients were done
in a different manner from ours. They did not consist of sheets of paper folded and cut into leaves, but of sheets of parchment rolled one above another, round a piece of wood, in the form of a cylinder. Suppose a sheet of parchment wrapped about the timber, and then sealed ; a second wrapped above it, and sealed in the same way ; suppose also a third, a fourth, and so on, till seven separate sheets are wrapped above each other, and all of them stamped with a separate impression of a seal; you will then have some idea of what John now saw, and how one seal might be broken, and