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hither into heaven, and I will shew thee what must needs come to pass hereafter, and immediately I was in the spirit," &c. Rev. iv. 1, &c.
Here THE LORD did not personally appear at first to John, and when He did appear afterwards, it was under a different form. In the first vision, He was arrayed in terrors as THE ORACLE OF GOD, predestined to inflict vengeance on all His foes with the sword of THE SPIRIT, Rev. ii. 12-16, xix. 11– 16. In the course of this, He appeared under the milder form of THE LAMB, sacrificed for the redemption of mankind; afterwards associated with THE FATHER in the throne of His glory, and sharing joint worship with Him from all the rational beings of the universe.
I. This most sublime and stupendous vision opens with a magnificent and circumstantial description of the Spiritual Church, compounded of the apparatus of the former visions of Isaiah, vi. 1, &c. and Ezekiel, i. 26-28, but more distinct and splendid.
1. THE FATHER is represented in all the pomp of majesty, and surrounded with a rainbow, that gracious emblem of divine mercy to mankind, (Gen. ix. 13, Ps. lxxxix. 37,) sitting upon His precious throne, alone, at first, to mark His supreme dominion. Out of the throne were issuing lightnings and thunders; and there were seven burning lamps of fire, (which are the seven spirits of GOD,) Zech. iv. 10, and an azure sea, like crystal before the throne. Both therefore may, perhaps, be emblematical of the baptism of THE HOLY SPIRIT, (Matt. iii. 11, Acts i. 5, ii. 3, 4, xi. 16,) ver. 2—6.
2. Four living creatures, compounded of Isaiah's seraphim, vi. 2, and Ezekiel's cherubim, i. 10, 11, x. 14, 15, are represented like those that supported the mercy seat in the inner sanctuary of the Jewish tabernacle and temple. They were stationed" in the midst of the throne," or elevated midway as to its height, Isa. vi. 1, and "round about the throne," at the four corners, corresponding to the four quarters of the world, "full of eyes before," to view the wonders of time to come, and "behind," the wonders of time past *.
By a similar imagery, the most ancient of the Roman gods, JANUS, the god of time, was represented with two faces, looking forwards and backwards. That he
These cease not day nor night, praising GOD and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT, Who WAS, and who Is, and who IS TO COME*, by a sublime enlargement of Isaiah's doxology, vi. 3.
3. Four and twenty presbyters surrounded the throne clad in white vestments, sitting on four and twenty thrones, and wearing golden crowns, who, on the thanksgiving of the four living creatures, fall down before GOD, and cast their crowns before the throne, in token of homage, saying, "Worthy art Thou, O LORD, to receive the glory and the honour, and the power, [preeminently,] because THOU hast created all things, and for thy will, or pleasure, they are, and were created," ver. 6-11.
The four living creatures (wa) as they are properly rendered, Ezek. i. 5; (and improperly " beasts," here, since they all had wings, and two of them, the faces of a man and an eagle,) are supposed, by the Hutchinsonian mystics, to denote the GODHEAD; (see Parkhurst, Heb. Lex. 27, p. 379-399 ;) by other commentators, Archangels, or the principal powers of heaven; both incorrectly; for why should THE DEITY praise himself? And they are distinguished from Angels afterward, v. 11; and further, are said to be redeemed themselves by the blood of THE LAMB, v. 9. They rather, indeed, represent the
was of oriental origin, and originally denoted THE ANCIENT OF DAYS, appears from his name, evidently derived from the Hebrew IAH. See my Dissertations, p. 180-188.
* Ο ην, και Ο ων, και ο ερχομενος, here, and Rev. i. 4; Middleton has noted a peculiarity in the style of this doxology; "the verb ŋy, used as a participle of past time," p. 660. From the analogy of the following participles, wv and exoμevoc, it is evidently put for, yeyovwc, "having been," but understood verbally for ny; as they are also for εστι and μελλει ερχεσθαι.
This title of THE ANCIENT OF DAYS is an expansion of his Hebrew title,
"I AM WHO AM," Exod. iii. 14; which is rendered by the Septuagint, Eyw ε 'O wv. It bears a striking analogy to the Egyptian title of Neith.
Εγω ειμι Παν το γεγονος, και ον, και εσομενον.
With this remarkable difference, that the attributes here are in the neuter gender, whereas in HOLY WRIT they are in the masculine, as befitting the EVERLASTing God, whom the foolishness of Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman philosophy degraded to a material substance in the neuter gender, "IIav, the universe," like their secondary elementary gods, Osiris, Isis, Sirius, &c. the Sun, earth, dog-star, and Nile, &c. Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, &c.
"Aon," or N, “On," Gen. xli. 45-50, originally denoted THE SUPREME BEING, though afterwards the Sun; and was evidently the ancestor of the Greek participle, wv masculine, and ov neuter. See the antiquity and universality of this title proved in my Dissertations, p. 214–223.
whole congregation of the faithful in the four quarters of the world, or the Catholic Church, who daily offer up praise and thanksgiving to GOD.
The four and twenty Presbyters, conformably thereto, represented the priesthood; corresponding to the chief priests, or heads of the four and twenty courses in the Jewish Church, as observed before.
II. The scene now changed, and represented THE FATHER as holding in his right hand the book of fate, or of the times and seasons of the destinies of mankind in the course of his providential government. This was a volume, or roll, written from the abundance of the matter, inside and outside*, and sealed with seven seals; intimating that its mysterious contents were hidden or concealed from the past generations, from the Angels, and even from THE SON himself, Matt. xxiv. 36, Acts i. 7.
Proclamation was next made by a mighty Angel, inviting the worthiest of the whole creation, from the highest to the lowest, to open the book and loose its seals. But none was found worthy, neither Angels, nor men, nor demons, to open the book; or even to read it, if opened, (Isa. xxix. 11, 12, Dan. v. 8,) Rev. v. 1-3.
This sad disappointment deeply affected the Apostle, and he wept mucht. To comfort him, one of the Presbyters, (perhaps,
So the prophetic roll or volume, shewn to Ezekiel, was written inside and outside, ii. 10.
-Summi plená jam margine libri,
Scriptus et in tergo, nec dum finitus. Juv. Sat. i. 5.
"The Revelation was not written without tears, neither without tears will it be understood."- -"But who now is concerned, or grieved, that he cannot understand those prophecies !"
These were the pious and rather desponding reflections of two learned and respectable commentators, John Wesley and Bishop Newton. Since their time, however, a blessed · change has gradually taken place in the public mind, (which, to their due praise, they contributed not a little to promote) and the labours of former illustrious expositors, besides Mede, Vitringa, Daubuz, Whiston, Sir Isaac Newton, Lowman, &c. have been successfully followed up in the present age by Wood, Whitaker, Kett, Sharpe, Bicheno, Faber, Woodhouse, &c. who, by a closer and more critical attention to the symbolical language of these mysterious prophecies, have explained many events fulfilled and fulfilling, and thrown much additional light upon their obscurities. The subject, however, is yet by no means exhausted. Enough has been done to shew the possibility and the
the Evangelical prophet Isaiah, Rev. xix. 10,) kindly said to him, Weep not, Lo the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Isa. xxix. 1, the root of David, Isa. xi. 1, hath conquered, Isa. lxiii. 1, and is preparing to open the book and loose its seven seals, (Isa. xxix. 11, 12,) ver. 5.
Then he looked, and lo, in the midst of the throne and four living creatures, and in the midst of the Presbyters, or between both, there stood (as the great MEDIATOR between GOD and Man,) a LAMB, (Isa. liii. 7,) as if just sacrificed, (CHRIST, after his crucifixion and ascension into heaven) having seven horns and seven eyes, emblems of perfect power and wisdom (which are the seven spirits of GOD, sent forth into all the earth; and now committed to CHRIST, Zech. iv. 10, Rev. iii. 1.) And he came to the throne, and took the book out of THE FATHER'S right hand, in token of inauguration, or formal investiture into his universal and everlasting dominion, to whom all authority was given in heaven and earth, as THE SON OF MAN, (Dan. viii. 13, 14, Matt. xxviii. 18,) and also as the great Seer, or PROPHET OF GOD, to whom the times and the seasons were now fully revealed, (Dan. ii. 20-22, Rom. xvi. 25,) ver. 6, 7.
And when, with THE FATHER's full approbation, he received the book, immediately his sovereignty and omniscience were recognized by the whole Spiritual Church; for the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders, (each of the latter having harps and golden vials full of incense, containing the prayers of the Saints,) fell down in worship before THE LAMB, and sang a new Hymn, saying, "Worthy art Thou to receive the book, and to open its seals; because Thou wast sacrificed, and didst redeem us unto GOD, (from spiritual bondage to sin and Satan) by thy blood, out of every tribe and tongue, and people and nation; (in the four quarters of the world,) and didst make us (Presbyters) kings and priests to OUR GOD; and we
probability of doing much more, when the visions shall be more fully disclosed by the lapse of time, that surest interpreter of prophecy. "Many shall run to and fro, with anxious and restless curiosity, to decypher these mysteries, until the time of the end; and knowledge shall be encreased," Dan. xii. 4. "Among the interpreters of the last age," (says Sir Isaac Newton, p. 251,) "there is scarce one of note who hath not made some discovery worth knowing; and thence, I seem to gather, that GOD is about opening these mysteries. The success of others put me upon considering it; and if I have done any thing which may be useful to following writers, I have my design.”—Such is the design also of the present attempt.
shall reign upon the earth, (at the regeneration, Dan. vii. 27,) ver. 8-10.
This homage of the Spiritual Church was followed by that of an innumerable company of Angels surrounding the throne and the Church, and saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is THE LAMB that was sacrificed, to receive power and wealth, and wisdom and strength, and honour and glory and blessing.” This sevenfold praise, corresponding to his sevenfold gifts, ver. 11, 12.
The last act of this sublime service was the universal adoration of all the creation throughout the four quarters of the universe, to GOD and THE LAMB conjointly, saying to both, the blessing, and the honour and the glory and the dominion for evermore."
And the four living creatures said Amen. And the four and twenty Presbyters fell down and worshipped, ver. 13, 14.
Thus was THE LAMB invested with his NEw name, KinG OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS throughout the universe, to GOD THE FATHER'S glory. See Paul's admirable commentary, Phil. ii. 5-11.
III. THE LAMB now, as (6 THE FAITHFUL WITNESS," and TRUE PROPHET OF GOD, proceeded to open the seals of the book of fate in succession, and disclosed to view an orderly series of symbolical prophecies, unfolding the history of the Church from its rise to the end of the world.
These symbolical prophecies may be divided into two classes in general, primary and secondary. The primary represent the succession of the great leading historical events in chronological order. The secondary form a synchronizing or collateral series of explanatory prophecies, designed to enlarge and illustrate the primary, when either too concise, or too obscure. To these is added, a supplemental series, designed to explain important parallel prophecies within the range of the prophetic history, delivered by Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Joel, Ezekiel, &c. in the OLD TESTAMENT.
The mysterious book of fate consists of three divisions. 1. The inside of the roll, or volume; 2. the little book, or codicil attached thereto; and 3. the outside of the roll; containing, all together, the whole collection of these symbolical prophecies.