תמונות בעמוד

The per

taken place, in a public judgment in the presence of the angels, and manifestation of the gracious agencies by which God accomplished their sanctification, and raised them to a meetness for his kingdom. It is not easy to conceive how otherwise each angel could have so perfect a knowledge of the history of each individual, as to authorize and give significance to so specific a judgment as they express. It is not credible that any created intelligence, however great, is adequate by virtue of his own faculties, to eye through every moment all the children of God who live cotemporaneously, discern all their conditions, all the influences that affect them, all their perceptions, emotions, and volitions, and form a perfect estimate of their dangers, imperfections, and sins, on the one hand, and their virtue on the other. ception of such an infinite complication of natures, agents, causes, influences, and effects, would involve the powers of omniscience. Their knowledge therefore must be acquired by a public revision of the divine administration over the redeemed, and revelation in that manner of all the events of their lives, and all the secrets of God's agency: and the ascription of the angels is an expression of the conviction to which ihat manifestation carried them. It indicates accordingly, with an awful emphasis, that the great truth which is disclosed and demonstrated in the sanctification of men up to that period, is that their salvation is wholly the work of God; that were it not for the sovereign and almighty aids of his Spirit, and the special care of his providence, not an individual unrenewed or renewed would ever advance a step in preparation for his kingdom: and it is the demonstration in so many forms, and on so vast a scale doubtless of that truth, and the verification thereby of all the grounds respecting the alienation of men on which the work of redemption proceeds, that is to prepare the way for the dispensation that is io follow, under which, through a long succession of ages, the whole race is to be sanctified.

Commentators vary equally in their expositions of this vision; those who refer the former to the early ages, interpreting this also of the church on earth and of the same times.

Thus Grotius, Eichhorn, and Rosenmuller, who regard the other as representing the preservation of the Jewish Christians, exhibit this as symbolizing the purity, preservation, and happiness of the numerous Gentile converts of the same period. But that is to disregard the representation that they were in the divine presence, not on earth ; that they were come out of the great tribulation, not that they were approaching the first of the long series of persecutions which began with Nero; that their salvation was completed ; that they were no more to suffer want or sorrow; and that they were to dwell forever in the presence of the Lamb. Their exposition indeed completely reverses the symbol. The temple in heaven is not the emblem, but the antitype of the temple on earth.

It was after the pattern of the heavenly, that the tabernacle was formed-Hebrews viii. 5, ix. 23, 24; the holy of holies representing the temple above, and the entrance into it of the high priest, the ascent of the Redeemer to that higher sanctuary. When the redeemed accordingly are exhibited as admitted to reside in his presence, he is said as in this passage to dwell in a tent with them, and they are represented as serving him in his temple; and when the church above is exhibited as returning again to reside below, it is under the symbol of the New Jerusalem in which God dwells, descending from heaven to earth,

Mr. Daubuz refers it, like the sealing, to the reign of Constantine, and regards it as denoting the release of the church by that emperor from persecution, its legalization, its intimate association with the government, and patronage by the erection of edifices for its worship, the grant to it of revenues, and the gift to its members of civil offices. That, however, is in like manner to reverse the ineaning of the symbols, and contradict the language of the vision. It is to make heaven the representative of earth, and the heavenly temple the type instead of the antitype of the temple below. It is to symbolize a release from one species of

a trials by deliverance from all, and the gift of temporal and worldly advantages by the honors and enjoyments of eternal life, which is the converse of analogy. But, beyond the grant of toleration, the changes wrought in the condition of the church by Constantine, instead of honorable and salutary, were degrading and pernicious in the extreme. His legalization of it and patronage, were founded on the assumption of the right of dominion over its doctrines, worship, ministers, and government, and was an impious usurpation therefore of the prerogatives of God. It was, in truth, an adoption of it by the dragon, and subordination of its faith, worship, and ministers to the sway of that monster; and the church, in assenting to it, sanctioned that usurpation, and so far transferred its homage from God to that antagonist power. That assumption of the divine right is accordingly represented in a subsequent vision, by the violent elevation of the man-child to the throne of the Almighty, and its disastrous influence on the church shown by the flight of the woman into the desert. No more unfortunate mistake therefore could be made than to exhibit such an apostasy from God to the dragon, as the fulfilment of the vision representing the innumerable multitude of the redeemed of all nations and ages, raised from the grave, presented by the Son in the presence of the Father, justificd, adopted, adjudged on his account to everlasting life, and testifying their gratitude by ascribing to him their salvation.

Bishop Newton interprets it of the large accessions to the church during the reigns of Constantine and his successors to Theodosius ; Mr. Brightman of the multitudes of true believers added after the thirteenth century, and finally of the conversion of the Jews. But their constructions also reverse the symbolization, and make earth the scene instead of heaven, and the sinning, the suffering, and mortal, the subjects, instead of those who are raised from death to immortality.

Mr. Lowman regards the multitude as the spirits of the redeemed in heaven. But that is to exhibit their bodies as still under the sentence of death, and their redemption therefore as incomplete. Vitringa interprets it of the prosperous state of the church in this world that is to follow the overthrow of Antichrist, which is again to contradict analogy, and make heaven the resentative of earth. Mr. Cuninghame regards the multitude as a portion of the church of the same period as the sealed, but of inferior fidelity, and on that account to be left to severe trial, at the loosing of the four winds, but at length with perhaps others converted from heathenism, to obtain deliverance : Mr. Elliott, as the sealed in the enjoyment of their final happiness in heaven: Dean Woodhouse, as the whole body of the redeemed living as well as dead, raised to the divine presence in heaven, or if on earth, subsequently to a regeneration of the present globe; variations from the exposition I have given on which I need not dwell. The period represented by the vision, I regard as that which is to intervene between the first resurrection and the descent of the new Jerusalem ;-the act, the presentation by the Saviour of his redeemed raised from death to the Father, their public justification in the presence of the angelic hosts, adoption as his sons, and welcome to the honors and joys of serving in the immediate presence of the Lamb throughout his eternal reign.

We are thus furnished by the law of analogy with a consistent, satisfactory, and easy solution of the first six seals. The great actors and events which they foreshadow, are found, as far as they are already in existence, graven in the utmost distinctness on the page of history; and of a significance that corresponds to the beauty or awfulness of the symbols by which they are represented, and the infinite interests they affect. No forced constructions are requisite; no deviations from an obvious and invariable law. They present a miniature delineation of all the great characters which the ministers of the church have assumed from age to age, and the changes they have wrought in its dispositions, its faith, and its worship. They conduct us into the invisible world, and disclose to us the acceptance, the glory, and blessedness during their intermediate existence, of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. They lift the veil from the future, and exhibit the approaching separation of the servants of God from the apostate church, and renunciation of the usurped dominion of the wild beast, and the whirlwind commotions that are thence to spring and sweep to destruction the towering fabrics of antichristian rule; and finally, they display to us the innumerable multitude of the sanctified, raised from the grave, presented by the Redeemer to the Father, and accepted, adopted, and assigned to stations and services in his presence through his everlasting reign. And what a demonstration they form of the omniscience of their Author! What a vast succession of agents, in what new combinations, and of what unusual characters they foreshow! What an infinite complication of extraordinary and unexampled events, beautiful and awful, fraught with boundless blessings to men, and with immeasurable evils, and that are to extend their influence through interminable ages! Who but he who creates, and who rules all, could have drawn a single line of such a portraiture? Who but the All-beholding could have traced in so brief a space, so perfect an image of the great actors and actions of so many ages?

This solution of the seals is important also in its relations to the visions which immediately follow ; as it makes it apparent from their nature that they relate to periods far earlier than several of the later seals, and that a formal notice of the commencement of a new series of disclosures was unnecessary.





And when he opened the seventh seal, tnere was silence in heaven, as it were a half hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar having a golden censer. And much incense was given to him that he should offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense ascended with the prayers of the saints from the angel's hand before God. And the angel took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast to the earth. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

[ocr errors]

The heaven, of which the half hour's silence is affirmed, was doubtless the heaven of the divine presence, not the earth's atmosphere. The silence was symbolic, as well as the agents and acts that followed at the altar, and the phenomena of the distant spectacle. It was a period of thoughtfulness, awe, and expectancy; and denotes doubtless that ere the great judgments about to be symbolized, were to be inflicted, the redeemed in heaven and angelic hosts were to be called by contemplation, submission, and faith, to a preparation for the displays of justice which they were to witness. It implies also that during a short period, no new agents were to go forth to work important changes in the world, and thence that there should be a brief space of tranquillity, compared with that which had preceded and was to follow, and a space marked in a pre-eminent degree by fervent supplications by the church for deliverance from the power of a persecu

a ting government. The period on earth corresponding to that silence, probably, from the symbolizations that follow, was that of repose which intervened between the close of the persecution by Diocletian and Galerius in April of the year 311, and the commencement near the close of that year, of the civil wars by which Constantine the Great was elevated to the imperial throne.

1 Lactantii de Mort. Persecut. c. 34, 35, 44. Baronii annal. anno 311, no. 34, an. 312, no. 7. Pagi Crit. in annal. Baron. anno 311, no. 14, 15, anno 312, no. 3.

Constantius Chlorus was declared Cæsar in the year 292. The persecution by

« הקודםהמשך »