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nearly upon the Throne, and speaking thence with the voice of thunder, which is the voice of God. They are so near to the Throne, so intermingling with its dazzling splendour, that human faculties must fail in attaining any precise and adequate idea of them. All nature appears linked together in gradational order. The chain, beginning from heavy and inert matter, ascends through the vegetable to the animal tribes, of which man is the highest, proceeding through Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, to the Throne of God. But the higher orders of angelic intelligences, who are nearest to the Throne, must necessarily be seen indistinctly by human apprehension.
The opinions of commentators upon the “ four “ living creatures,” have been variously divided. There is an ancient interpretation, derived in some measure from Irenæus, and repeated by Athanasius, Victorinus, Augustine, Jerome, and others, that under these symbolic representations, The Four Gospels are designed t. Nothing but the antiquity of this notion can give it any weight or respect. In the Apocalypse, offices and services are ascribed to the living creatures, which no books can perform. Nor could The Four Evangelists themselves be intended; for Saint John, one of this number, was a spectator at the time. This strange notion arose, perhaps, also, from another cause; that the twenty-four Elders had, with as little reason, been supposed to represent the twenty-four books of the Old Testament. By some later writers, the four living creatures are supposed to represent“ the people, or body " of the Church, as the twenty-four Elders are supposed "to represent its ministers.” But this cannot be so; for the representatives of the priests would be entitled at least to as near an approach to the Throne, as the representatives of the people; who, if represented by the living creatures, are evidently the nearest to it *. Besides, as hath been shewn t, the body of Christian people were afterwards introduced, and make no part of the present scene
* See ch. vi. 1, and note.
+ Irenæus argues that the Gospels are four in number, and therefore perfect, bearing a certain analogy to the four quarters of the world, and to the four principal Spirits ; seeming to allude to these four Cherubim of the Apocalypse. The followers of Irenæus, observing this allusion or illustration, have attempted to establish it as a complete symbolical representation. Irenæus, lib. iii. c. 11. See also Victorin. Comm. in Apoc. Rev. iv. Augustin. in Johan. Evang. Hieron. Prolog. in Comm. Matth. Epist. ad Paulinum.
strange The living creatures are generally mentioned before the Elders, as first in dignity, and nearest to the Throne, of which indeed they make a part (ch. iv. 9. v. 6, 8, 11. xiv. 3.): and if in ch. vii. 11, and xix. 3, the Elders are spoken of first, it seems to be with reference to their station as farthest from the Throne, and nearest to the Angels, who surround them outwardly; in this part of the narration the order is reversed throughout.
There is another interpretation of the four living creatures, which, as it appears to me, would scarcely deserve notice, if it had not been introduced by that able expositor Joseph Mede, and, from the prevalence of his authority, been adopted by almost all our modern commentators. They are supposed to signify the four camps, or standards of the camps, of Israel, of which standards there is no such account in Scripture, nor in the ancient Jewish writers Josephus, Philo, &c. The whole being derived, says Lowman, from an uncertain Jewish tradition. I rest therefore upon this my interpretation obtained by a comparison of scriptural passages, that the four living creatures are simply Cherubim or Seraphim; the most glorious and the nearest attendants upon the throne of God. They are said to be such by Andreas Cæsariensis, who professes to give the sense of those ancient commentators whose works have not descended to our times t.
# Note, ch. iv. 4.
1 The only plausible reason which I have seen assigned that the living creatures are not purely Cherubim, angelic attendants upon the Majesty of the Throne, is this, produced by Archbishop Newcome, in his note on Ezek. i. 10. “ They cannot," says he," always represent
Angels alone, because (Rev. v. 9.) they were redeemed to God by the “ blood of the Lamb, and (ver. 11.) are distinguished from Angels."But we must observe, that it is the peculiar office of the four living creatures to sing praises to God without ceasing, (ch. iv. 8.) praises not in their own name, but in that of others, of the universal Church, They unite their voices, therefore, with those of the Elders, whose song it is more peculiarly (ch. iv. 9, v. 8—14.) they lead in the beginning, and they conclude the last chorus with the emphatical Amen.
In other respects, I am happy to accord with the ingenious and generally judicious Joseph Mede, who has shewn, that the scene of the Apocalypse, and of this august session of God and his church, ó Sgovas tus xabedpas, is the inner and most holy part of the temple f. Or, to speak more properly, it is that theatre in heaven, which was represented upon earth by the inner Temple ; where God was supposed to have his local seat between, or among, the Cherubim.
Hence, as we advance, we shall find the furniture of the temple, the golden altar of incense before the throne, the ark of the covenant, the sea or laver, &c. These were originally appointed to be made after the heavenly pattern shewn to Moses in the mount g. Therefore
* See Lowman's note on this passage.
+ Jerome saw this in the living creatures of Ezekiel, “Quadriga “Domini, et verum Cherubim." Epist. ad Paulinum. Mede's Works, p. 439.
Heb. viii. 5. 1
when by revelation we are admitted to behold the glory of God, we must expect the scenery to bear resemblance, But additions are made to this scenery by the intervention of the new covenant through Christ, which will be remarked as they occur*
Ver. 9. And when the living-creatures.] The Cherubim, as nearest to the throne, and whose office it was incessantly to sing praise, begin the adoration ; then the elders, the redeemed from earth, now priests to God, commence their hymn. It is in unison with the Holy, Holy, Holy of the Cherubiin, and is a Creation Hymn, simple and sublime! Of the same kind is the 148th Psalm, wherein the inanimate creation is called to give glory to God: “ Let them praise the “ name of the Lord ;-for he commanded, and they were created.”
We have now before us a splendid exhibition of the Deity, attended by his ministering Spirits, and which continues as the apparatus or scenery, before which the vision is to be exhibited. But the scenery is not yet complete. In chap. v. the Lamb, the Son of God, in his gracious character of Redeemer, takes his station in the midst of the throne,” and an innumerable company of angels are seen to encompass the surrounding body of the elders and the living creatures, and are added to the chorus ; which receives a further increase, when, (in chap. xiv. 1, xv. 2.) the innumerable company of the redeemed on earth are introduced by their Redeemer, and sing the new song before the throne. The whole representation is wonderfully sublime, and must tend to exalt
* See also Josephi Antiq. lib. iii. c. 5. and Philo de Vit. Mos. whence it will appear that the Jews accounted the Holy of Holies the earthly abode of God, and the type of his seat in heaven.
religious devotion. One of the finest parts of the devotional exercises of cur church, the beginning of that ancient and majestic hymn called Te Deum, seems to have been formed principally upon it.
Ver. 10. Fall down.] This is expressed in the Greek by the future tense, by the Vulgate in the imperfect, which the French translators have followed. The English translators have given it in the present time, which may be allowed to stand, as expressing indefinitely what usually happens, and will ever continue to happen, in the church triumphanii in heaven.
Ib. Cast their crowns. ]
No sooner had the Almighty ceas'd, but all
PARADISE LOST, iii, 344-352.