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by the ministry of St. John, closes the Canon of Scripture. He subscribes it with His own hand, and sets upon it His Divine Seal, and delivers it to the Church, as the perfect WORD of God.
Let us now proceed to observe, that the Apocalypse of St. John—though prior in composition to his Gospel, yet by a prophetic anticipation suited to its peculiar character-does, in fact, appear to suppose the existence of that Gospel; and that, as the Prophet Malachi is called the Seal * of the Prophets, so the Prophet St. John, in the Apocalypse, is the Seal + of the whole Bible.
This opinion is confirmed by the prophetical symbols in the portion of the Apocalypse chosen for our text.
It would indeed be presumptuous to obtrude upon you any interpretation of these mysterious emblems, as absolutely certain. Nothing has tended more to bring discredit on the Apocalypse than the rashness of those Interpreters who have reversed the order of things, and, forgetting their office as Expositors, have constituted themselves into Prophets, and have endeavoured to make the Evangelical Prophet St. John the Expositor of their Prophecies.
Still the abuse of the Apocalypse must not tempt us to forget its use. Blessed (says St. John) is he that
D'P!oņin. See Hottinger Thesaurus, p. 483, p. 324. + Hence the Apocalypse is called σφραγίς της βίβλου. See authorities above quoted, Lect. I. p. 1.
readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein *.
Every one, my beloved brethren, who endeavours to interpret the Apocalypse, has special need of St. Paul's caution, Let him that prophesieth, (that is, expoundeth,) prophesy according to the proportion of faith t. Let him not interpret any one passage so that it be repugnant to the general tenour of Holy Scripture, but let him take care that the sense he ascribes to it be in harmonious unison with the oracles of God t.
You will also carefully bear in mind, my younger hearers, that in the interpretation of Scripture, and especially of the Apocalypse, the judgment of the ancient Church is of very great weight. In later times, the Apocalypse has become the arena of theological controversy; and its sense has been sometimes made to vary with the bias of its several expositors. Under these circumstances, it is very fortunate for us that we are able to appeal to the judgment of ancient Christian Interpreters, who were wholly exempt from the partialities and prejudices of our own age; and that thus we can retire from the strife of modern polemics to the calm retreats of Christian Antiquity.
Especially, too, is it a providential circumstance, amid the unhappy differences which have made the
† Rom. xii. 6.
* Rev. i. 3. xxii. 7. # 1 Pet. iv. 11.
divine Apocalypse a subject of contention between the Reformed Churches and the Church of Rome, that we are able to refer to early Western writers, -that is, to writers of the ancient Roman Communion,—who cannot be suspected of any hostility to Rome, nay, rather who were much prepossessed in her favour as she then was, and whose testimony on the points at issue is not liable to any exception from her.
Their judgment, therefore, is of great weight; and it is very desirable that it should be resorted to: indeed it is much to be regretted, that many modern Expositors of the Apocalypse have been so much fascinated by their own theories concerning it, that they have overlooked the valuable materials which Christian Antiquity supplies for its illustration *.
Bearing in mind these cautions, let us now proceed to observe, that the heavenly Visions of the Apocalypse open (in the Fourth Chapter) with a Revelation of the celestial mansions, and of the Most High seated upon His Throne. The Throne is canopied, as it were, by a Rainbow, in sight like unto an Emerald: it is flanked on either side by seats, on which are seated Four and Twenty Elders, wearing golden crowns, and clothed in white. Lightnings, thunders, and voices issue from the throne. Seven
* See Note A. at end of this Volume for some notice of the Ancient Commentaries on the Apocalypse.
lamps * burn before it, which (we are informed) are the Seven Spirits of God. Before it, also, is a crys
Under the Throne and about it are four beasts, or, rather, Living Creatures t, as the word ought to be rendered; to suggest a reference to the living creatures in the parallel passage of the first and tenth chapters of the Prophet Ezekiel; and also to obviate all possibility of confusion with the two monstrous beasts # in the latter part of the Apocalypse. These Four Living Creatures are full of eyes, and each has six wings: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those living creatures give glory to Him that sits on the Throne, the four and twenty elders fall down and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power : for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created .
In this glorious Vision, the ancient Church recognized and adored the Triune God, enthroned, King of the Universe.
In the arched iris spanning the divine throne, she beheld an emblem of His severity blended with love; in it she saw the dark showers of His Judgments gilded by the bright beams of His Mercy. The hea
† Swa, ninn.
venly Bow spake to Her of the Deluge, the shipwreck of the world for sin; it spake to her also of calm and sunshine after the storm.
It spake of hope and reconciliation with God; it spake also of the Day-spring from on high *, and of man's sinful nature irradiated with orient colours by the Sun of Righteousness t. It spake to her of the Incarnation of Christ. In it, descending, as it were, by an angelic ladder, Mercy and Truth seemed met together ; Righteousness and Peace kissed each other. Truth flourished out of the earth; and Righteousness looked down from heaven 1.
Such were the thoughts suggested to her mind by the Rainbow arching-over the throne in heaven.
Again. To her eye the crystal sea symbolized the pure waters of Christian baptism, through which we enter the presence of God. The sea is like crystal, because of inward purity as well as outward washing §. The whole sea of the Christian life must be as lucid as its surface || ; and the baptismal water is consolidated, by the operation of God's Grace on man's Free-Will, into a precious stone, strong and clear as crystal. The heavenly font is set before the Divine Throne. The new birth of the Christian is effected by water and the Holy Ghost. And therefore the seven* Luke i. 78.
† Mal. iv. 2. Psalm lxxxv. 10, 11.
§ 1 Pet. iii. 21. || Bede ad loc. Propter fidem veri baptismi refertur ad vitrum in quo non aliud videtur exterius quam quod gestat interius. Crystallo quoque, quod de aquâ in glaciem et lapidem pretiosum efficitur, baptismi gratia figuratur.