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altar. And there is an intervening action between the silence and the offering of incense, namely, the pro- ; ceșsion of the seven angels; each of whom is presented with his trumpet. This silence, therefore, though it. may bear a certain degree of allusiou to the temple. service, and may even be supposed to continue during the service which follows, seems to be exhibited for another purpose; to denote, as it appears to me, a change, in the mode, or in the subject of the prophecy; to disunite the succeeding scene from that which had gone before ; . to unfold a..new chain of prediction. The connexion, which had. hitherto - united the seals, is broken; the seventh seal stands apart; and then produces a new method of representation, and a new series i of events, to which the silence in heaven, and the offering of incense, are preparatory. But if a new series of events is to be exhibited, whence are we to expect that it will take its date? Under the sixth seal, preceding this which contains the trumpets, the rapid sketch of the Christian history was brought down to the last great day of recompense. Where then are we to expect that this renewed history will begin ? From the earliest times of Christianity, or, to speak more properly, from the period when our Lord left the world in person, and committed the Church to the guidance of his Apostles. From this time, the first seal takes its commencement; from this also the first Trumpet. This is the beginning, settled by the agreement of divines, of the second advent of Christ, the proper subject of the Apocalyptic Prophecies.
Ver. 2. The seven angels.]. These are not the company of angels employed ander the preceding seal ; for they were four. And this seems to afford an additional argument, that a new kind of repreşentation is to be
expected. Seven is a number expressive of universality, or completion. The Jewish writers seem fond of enu. merating seven principal angels. But the writings, in which they are described, are, I believe, of later date than the Apocalypse, and the notion was probably derived from this passage t.
Ib. Seoen trumpets.] The use of the trumpet among the people of God, and its symbolical meaning in this passage, will be explained under verse 6.
Ver. 3, 4. And another angel came, and was stationed at the altar ; &c.] This is expressly said (ver. 3.) to be “the golden altar, which was before the throne." Upon this altar, which stood before the Mercy-seat (the local seat of the Divine glory in the Temple), was to be offered no strange incense; no strange fires; by no strange priest || : but incense, offered thereon by the legal priests, was as an atonement for the people 1, who accompanied this offering with their prayers For it was the custom of devout people to offer up their
prayers in the court of the Temple, while the priest was burning incense within ; as may be seen at large in Luke i. 9, 10, 21, 22. The angel, therefore, seems to represent a lawful priest; and the incense, added to the prayers, a mode of offering, or form of worship tt, probably the Christian ; for, the incense, the means of presenting the prayers unto God, is given from heaven to the angel or officiating priest; is accompanied by the prayers of the saints, who are certainly
* See note, ch. i. 4.
f Tobit xii. 15, ou which see Jortin's Remarks, i. 1'13; Gray's Key to the Old Testament, art, Tobit ; Mosheim, Hist. Eccl. i. 176. 1 Exod. xxx. 9, 38.
s Levit. x. 1. Il Numb. xvi.
Numb. xvi. 46. ** Psalm cxli. 2. Luke i, 10.
H See note, ch. v. 3.
Christians; and ascends before the throne; which implies that it is accepted by the Almighty * This character can belong to no other than the true Religion t. The proper priest of the Christian Religion, the only High Priest, is our Great Intercessor and Mediator, the Lord Jesus. Yet, powerful reasons may be assigned, to shew that the officiating angel, in this passage, is not this High Priest. For, first, he has no distinguishing attributes, such as mark this high priest in ch. i. 13, &c. He is simply styled an angel, -another angel, that is, one of the same rank and description with the seven. Secondly, this office of burning incense, under the Mosaic dispensation, was not confined to the high priest; subordinate priests might offer it: and the office was generally discharged by the priests of the twenty-four courses. Zacharias, who, in Luke i,“ burns incense with the prayers of the people,” was of this description. And, thirdly, under the Gospel dispensation, we find this function of offering spiritual incense, committed to the Christian priesthood in general I So that this angel may be supposed to represent the Christian priesthood in general, as exercised in subordination to the Great High Priest.
This religion is of heavenly origin and institution ; and the smoke of its incense, or worship, ascends from the hand of the priest“ before God.”
Ver. 5. And the angel took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast to the earth ; &c.] A question seems to arise upon this passage; what did the angel cast to the earth? Our translators have inserted the pronoun it; "cast it to the earth; by which we must understand the censer. But this construction
+ Mal. i. 11. 1 Pet. ii. 5.
* See Acts x. 4.
is by no means warranted by the original". But if the censer were not cast to the earth, its contents must have been : and what were they? To answer this question, we are to observe the method in which the angel seems to have proceeded. He offered the incense, most probably, not upon the censer, but upon the altar ; the golden altar; the altar appropriated for that use; as he is expressly appointed to do, in the third verse. And if it seem an objection to this supposition, that the smoke is said to ascend from the hand of the angel, it may be answered, that so it would, if, as may seem probable, he took the incense from the censer, and with his hand applied it to the fire upon the altar. The šmokę would then ascend from his hand, almost in contact with the fire. It would be only in the same manner, " from his hand,” if the incense were burned upon the censer. But the censer seems to have been, in this case, only the receptacle of the incense; for the angel came forth with the censer in his hand; and then the incense was given to him. He had no vial, which was the usual receptacle f. The angel, therefore, seems to have taken the incense from the senger, and to have burned it upon the fire, which was on the altar. He now reverses the mode; he first takes the censer, and then the fire from the altar, which he applies to the censer, in which was the remainder of the incense; and the fire and the incense, thus burning, he casts to the earth. But the incense, thus burning, as we have before remarked, means the Christian worship and Religion ; pure and heavenly in its nature and origin; but, sent down to the earth, and mixing with the passions and worldly designs of men, it produces signal commotions, expressed in the prophetical language by
Και εβαλεν εις την γην. .
+ See note, ch. v. 8, on the word Vial.
“ voices, peace; and
“ voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and earth
quake.” Or, if it be, as it may perhaps be, that the fire alone is cast to the earth, (the incense being exhausted,) the interpretation will be nearly the same. For our Lord has declared, in the same kind of figurative language, that in sending forth his holy Religion to the earth, he had cast fire thereon ;-aug mabov Benar EIS TUU ymus-it is the very same expression *: and this fire he afterwards explains to signify divisions and contention f. Thus, in the representation before us, the Christian Religion begins in
pure incense, rendered effectual by the Saviour's atonement, and accompanying the devout prayers of the Church, is offered for a time; till, mingling with earthly corruption, with human passions and prejudices, it becomes the instrument of discord and violence. But this is only a general, symbolical, preluding view of the subject; the heresies, divisions, commotions, which, under the name of Christianity, miserably afflicted the Christian world, and almost banished true Religion, are to be more especially developed in the sequel of this seal. The significant action now exhibited, prepares.us for the kind of history which is to follow. And it seems to confine our interpretation of the sequel, to the history of THE. CHRISTIAN RELIGION, thus producing commotions upon the earth.
+ See Grotius and Whitby, in loc.
Luke xii. 49. 1 Mal. i. 11.