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the length of which detail is marked by the book being written both within and without. It is sealed up, as containing the divine counsels, impenetrable to human sagacity; and the seven seals indicate that the whole is divided into seven parts, each of which is unfolded and made known at the opening of each respective seal.
V. 2." And I saw a strong angel, proclaiming with a loud voice: Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
V. 3. “And no man was able, neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, to open the book, nor to look on it.”
A strong angel cries out with a loud voice, to be heard over the whole creation, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? But there is not found a creature, either in heaven or on earth, or elsewhere, worthy to do this function, or even to look on the book, the eyes not being here permitted to view the repository of the divine dispensations, which, the book being yet sealed up, are kept concealed from human understanding.
V. 4." And I wept much," continues St. John, “because no man was found worthy to open the book,* nor to see it.
V. 5. “And one of the ancients said to me, weep not, because the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."
St. John, mortified and weeping, because no one was found worthy to open the book, is told by one of the four and twenty ancients to cease weeping; for that the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, &c. Christ the Messiah, who is born of the tribe of Juda, and who is the root that springs from the royal race of David, is, on account of his achievements, styled the Lion of that tribe, conformably to Jacob's prophecy : “ Juda is a lion's whelp,” Gen. xlix. 9. He, the Messiah, David's descendant, like a valiant lion, conquered Satan, death, and the world. He put a stop to Satan's power, by breaking down the empire of idolatry, he discharged the great functions he undertook to perform on earth, he reconciled man to his eternal Father, he raised himself from death, he established his new Law notwithstanding the most obstinate opposition from the world, and he founded his Church at the expense of his blood. By these victories he is here proclaimed to have merited to open the book, that contains the account of the divine dispensations to that church -accordingly,
* The Greek text here adds, "and to read it.”
V. 6. “And I saw," says St. John: “and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.
V.7. “And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne."
We had just now seen Christ represented as a strong and valiant lion subduing his enemies; here we see him in the humble character of a lamb, which appears as it were slain, that is, newly sacrificed and immolated for the redemption of the world. But the Lamb is standing, that is, though he has been slain, he is resuscitated to life, and recovered all his strength and vigour: and he is seen placed in the midst of the throne, which bespeaks his divine origin and person. This lamb has seven horns, signifying the seven particular powers which he exercises in the seven successive ages of the Christian Church: and to show his wisdom and vigilance, he has also seven eyes denoting the seven spirits of God abovementioned, Apoc. i. 4. and iv. 5. or angels, who are always ready to execute the commands of God and the Lamb, and to carry their messages over the whole earth. The number seven here used, corresponds to the seven periods or ages, into which the whole duration of the Christian Church is divided : so that, when it is said, that the lamb kas seven horns and seven eyes, it is meant, that the Lamb, or Jesus Christ, governs his Church through its seven successive ages by his power and wisdom, and by the ministry of seven angels, who may be supposed to be appointed over the seven ages of the Christian Church, each angel to each age.
The Lamb goes and takes the book from the hand of God, who sitteth upon the throne:
V. 8. “ And when he had opened the book,* the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints:
V. 9. “And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book and to open the seals thereof: because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.
V. 10. “ And hast made us to our God a kingdomf and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.:'
* In the Greek text, "when he had taken the book," and so read most of the ancient interpreters.
t In the Greek, kings.
The Lamb having taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty ancients, or the prophets and the saints prior to christianity, whom they represent, fall down and adore him, having in their hands harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints. The prayers of the saints, that is, of the faithful on earth, are here described as sweet odours, and are presented to Christ by the saints in heaven. Then the four living creatures and the four and twenty ancients, being postrate before the Lamb, sing a new canticle; new, because the subject of it is new, viz. the actions of the Lamb. This new canticle is, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us, not only us but also our posterity, the christian race; for thou hast redeemed us, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. Thus these saints and prophets acknowledge, that the Lamb has, at the expense of his blood, redeemed mankind, and restored them to the rights they had lost by Adam's sin, and consequently that he is entitled to an absolute dominion over them through all succeeding generations. Thus they also acknowledge, that they are indebted to him for the ineffable blessings of heavenly glory, and of kingly and priestly power, which they now possess, and which will hereafter be likewise the portion of their posterity. On these accounts they proclaim, the Lamb has merited to take the book, and open the seals thereof, that is, to reveal to men what relates to his Church. Thus we see the double character of Christ. What he is here declared to have merited as the slaughtered Lamb, he was also before entitled to in quality of the conquering Lion.
V. 11. “And I beheld,” proceeds St. John, “and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures and the ancients: and the number of them was thousands of thousands.
V. 12. “Saying with a loud voice: The Lamb, that was slain, is worthy to receive power, and divinity,* and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction."
After the adoration and homage paid to the Lamb by the ancient prophets and saints, St. John now sees an infinite number of angels round the throne and round the celestial choir, who come next to address the Lamb with their praises and loud applauses, saying, the Lamb, that was slain, is worthy to receive power, and riches, &c. because by being slain, he has
* In the Greek text, riches. The manuscripts and the ancient writers read the same.
purchased a power of forming to himself a people out of every nation of the earth, that is, of founding a new universal church, and has also merited to be vested with the government of it through all succeeding time. And as the period of the Christian Church's duration is, by divine appointment, divided into seven ages, so the Lamb is represented as entitled to seven special qualities, power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and benediction, which bear a relation to that part of his government of the church, which is described under the seven seals. These seven qualities are therefore to be applied to the seven successive ages, each to each respectively; and there, the meaning of them will be explained.
V. 13. “And every creature, which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them: I heard all saying: To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honour, and glory, and power, for ever and ever.”
After the homage of the angels, succeeds that of all creatures, both animate and inanimate, which are in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, or in hell, and in the sea; and in fine, of all that are in them, that is, of every individual atom of the creation. They are all heard to say: To him (God) that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb, benediction and honour and glory and power for ever and ever. Thus they pour forth their praises to God and the Lamb, for their creation, their conservation, the beautiful harmony and order they hold in the general system of nature, &c. In the verses 9th and 11th, in the preceding pages, ses p. 28 and 29. three times of praise were offered to him that sitteth on the throne; here a fourth is added, viz. power, on account of the Lamb, who has acquired all power over this world, and which is thus confessed by every individual part of it. In the same sense St. Paul declares, that “ in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” Philip. ii. 10.
V. 14. “And the four living creatures said: Amen. And the four and twenty ancients fell down on their faces, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever.”
To the above praises and honiage offered to God and the Lamb, the four living creatures, or ancient prophets, join their assent by saying, Amen. This conclusion comes suitably from them who had so often proclaimed to the world the great works of the Almighty and the Lamb, and their gracious dispensations to mankind. Then, conformably to what is said in the praeding page, verse 9th and 10th, see p. 28. the four and twenty ancients close this awful and religious scene of homage and praise by adoring the Almighty in unity of Godhead.
Thus we have seen an august scene exhibited, where God the Almighty appears, shining in all the brightness and dig. nity of Divine Majesty, and round him an illustrious choir, composed of the ancient prophets represented by four emblematical animals, and of four and twenty ancients representing all the saints of the ages antecedent to christianity. By this disposition of the scene, our view is removed back to the time of the close of the Old Law, and the commencement of the New, that is, to the birth of the Christian Church. The ancient saints and prophets sound forth their praises, their thanks, and hymns of gratitude to God for all his blessings received, and for the all wise and bountiful economy he had exercised over them through all past ages. And thus they close up the period of the patriarchal and Jewish Church.
The Lamb then appears who had just been slain for the redemption of the world. He has by his blood acquired the dominion over the whole succeeding race of mankind; and therefore he now opens a new period by founding his own Church, the Church of the Christians, of which he is declared, conjointly with God, Lord and governor. Immediately the ancient prophets and saints direct their homage to him, acknowledging they owe to him their redemption, their power and bliss, and all other blessings. Thus they give testimony to the Lamb, they confess his sovereign power, and that his reign now begins, and will last for ever. The same is reechoed by every part of the creation. We must observe, that no Christian saints appear in this celestial assembly: the reason is, because the scene exhibits to us the moment in which christianity commences.
The Opening of the first Seal. Apoc. chap. vi. v. 1. “ And I saw," says St. John, “that the Lamb had opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures, as it were the voice of thunder, saying: Come and see.
V. 2. “And I saw: and behold a white horse and he that sat on him had a bow, and there was a crown given him, and he went forth conquering that he might conquer.”
Previously to the explication of the text, let us observe, that at the opening of each seal of this mysterious book, a new