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saying; Ascend here, and I will show thee what must be after these. And immediately I was in the Spirit. And behold a throne set in heaven, and one sitting on the throne. And he who sat was in appearance like a jasper stone and sardius. And an iris arched over the throne in appearance like an emerald. And circling round the throne [were) four and twenty thrones, and on the thrones four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads golden crowns. And from the throne proceeded lightnings and voices and thunders. And seven lamps of fire [were] burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. And in front of the throne (was] as it were, a glassy sea, like crystal. And before the throne and in the circuit of the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first living creature [was] like a lion, and the second living creature like an ox, and the third living creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth living crea. ture (was] like an eagle flying. And the four living creatures had each six wings, around and within full of eyes. And they have no pause day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord the God Almighty who was and who is and who is to come. And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne who lives forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou the Lord our God art worthy to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things; and for thy will they were, and were created.
The spectacle presented in this vision, was designed to show that it was from the Deity that the revelation about to be made proceeded, and to raise the prophet to a becoming sense of his infinite greatness, independence, relations and rights as creator, and the grounds on which he builds his government: and with what a beauty of wisdom were the means suited to the end ;the disclosure to him through the disparted heavens of a form of dazzling majesty, accompanied by the insignia of deity, lightnings perpetually effulging from his presence, resounding thunders, and the loftiest forms of created intelligences and regal shapes of the redeemed bending at his feet, chanting him the Self-existent, the Eternal, the Omnipotent, the Holy, the Creator of all, and acknowledging his right because of those attributes and relations to dominion over his works. Our nature is so formed, as to be irresistibly borne by such a sight to the conviction that it is the Deity who reveals himself to us, and filled with an irrepressible sense of his right to our homage. It is this that distinguishes us from irrational beings, and fits us to be subjects of law; on this that God founds his government, and will maintain it throughout our existence; through this that each spirit as it passes into the invisible world and is raised to a clear
perception of his being, presence, and relations, becomes instantly aware of its responsibility to him, and the justice or grace of his dealings with it; and through this that when the Redeemer shall come in the clouds with power and great glory, all the tribes of the earth will immediately recognise him, and sink overwhelmed with a consciousness of guilt and inability to escape his wrath.
As lamps can be the Spirit of God only as representatives, the statement that the seven lamps burning before the throne are the seven spirits of God, is an express explanation of them as symbols, and indicates accordingly that that is the office also of the other agents and objects in the visions.
The living creatures stationed near the throne are intelligences. They stand perpetually in the presence of God. They celebrate his deity, his moral perfections, and his work and right as creator. They sustain relations of superiority to the elders, as it is in concurrence with them that the latter fall down and worship. They performed offices in the conduct of the revelation also, summoning the symbolic agents as the seals were opened, and delivering to the angels the vials of wrath. They are intelligences of our race also, as is seen from their uniting in the acknowledgment of Christ's worthiness to receive the book and open its seals, because of his having redeemed them by his blood, made them kings and priests unto God, and appointed them to reign on the earth : chap. v. 9, 10. This is indicated also by the human face of those seen by Ezekiel, by which these are to be interpreted. That face undoubtedly denotes the order of intelligences to which they belong, while the office of the other faces and the numerous eyes is, to indicate the far superior senses and vaster grasp of thought to which they are there exalted.
The elders are also of our race, as is seen from their form, and their acknowledgment of Christ as their Redeemer: chap. v. They fulfilled offices likewise in conducting the revelation, in hymning the right of God to reign over his creatures, and the worthiness of Christ to be exalted to the throne, and conduct the administration of the world during the work of redemption. One of them also addressed the prophet, and apprized him that though no creature was adequate to unveil the divine purposes respecting the work of salvation, yet the God-man, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, had acquired that right by his mediation, and would receive and open the book. They appear in their own persons, from the want of analogous agents to represent them. No other order of beings has undergone such a change in their mode of existence as disembodied spirits ; no other sustains such relations to God as they who are redeemed.
The living creatures and elders are representatives of the multitude of the redeemed in heaven, it would seem from their acknowledgment of Christ's having redeemed them by his blood unto God out of every tribe and language and people and nation, chap. v.; a reason for his exaltation to the administration of the universe common to all the redeemed; and as the tribes and languages and peoples and nations are very numerous, implying also a far greater number than the living creatures and elders united. Besides that relation as symbols of the redeemed in heaven, they also manifestly, from the vials of odors which they hold symbolic of the homage of the saints, sustain a representative office towards other holy beings; as the office of priest to which the offering of incense belongs, is universally representative. They sustain undoubtedly therefore that official relation to another order of beings. Whether it be to the redeemed on earth alone, or to other holy beings also, which is not improbable, the language
does not determine. While these two classes are thus representatives of the whole body of the redeemed in heaven, they yet differ greatly from each other; the living creatures being stationed nearest the throne, superior in rank to the elders, and preceding them in acts of worship. Whether the difference be merely in station and office, or in nature also, is left in uncertainty. The living creatures may be glorified saints who have been translated like Enoch and Elijah, and raised from the dead like the many who were raised after Christ's resurrection; or they may be disembodied spirits differing from the elders in wisdom and dignity, as star differs from star in glory.
This view of the station and relations of the living creatures to the multitude of worshippers, is corroborated by the cherubic symbols in the tabernacle and temple, which were made after the pattern of heavenly things. In the holy of holies, which denoted ihe heavenly temple, were stationed two cherubs on either side the throne or mercy-seat, and numerous figures of them were wrought on the curtains of the tabernacle, and graven on the doors and walls of the temple ;-those in the inner sanctuary denoting that some of their order are perpetual a!tendants of God; those in the outer, that others fulfil offices to the worshippers on earth and perhaps in other worlds, and bear back to God notices of their homage and love.
This is in accordance with the great purpose of the Redeemer to raise those whom he saves, to a grandeur of nature like his own glorified humanity, and a dignity of station in his kingdom suited to their intimate relations to him. They are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, and kings and priests unto him, and are to reign on the earth, not doubtless in respect to one another, but to others, and not in respect to the unglorified church on earth alone perhaps, but to other orders also of holy beings, and thus be the ministers in gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.
How august the view the vision thus presents of the government of God! How gracious, how wise, how beautiful that the majestic beings who serve in his immediate presence, are appointed to offices of rule and love to the holy dwelling in distant realms of his empire, and returning serve as representatives of those orders, and present to him symbols of their homage! In what grandeur it exhibits the work of redemption, through which men are exalted to that station, made the agents of displaying its greatness and beauty to all orders of intelligences, and thence of advancing them to a loftier understanding, a more fervent love, and a higher enjoyment of God!
It is no obstacle to this construction, that there were cherubim anterior to the redemption of any of our race. Their name is a name of office, not of nature, as is apparent from the fact, that the elders are not cherubim, though they as well as the living creatures are of our race. That that office was sustained by another order of beings in earlier periods of the universe, is no demonstration that the redeemed are not exalted to it under the reign of Christ.
The worship of the living creatures and elders bespeaks a lofty perfection of knowledge and beauty of rectitude. They are aware of the attributes that distinguish God from creatures :self-existence, eternity, independence, omniscience, omnipotence; and they adore him for that which he is. They see and realize his title as creator to dominion over his works, and make that a ground of their acknowledgment and celebration of his right to reign. Their sensibility to the glory of his moral perfections is raised to a refinement and strength, equal to the perfection of their intelligence. They see an infinite beauty in his spotless righteousness, his unchangeable truth, his boundless benignity, his majestic condescension, and the vast, the all-perfect, and innumerable forms in which they are displayed toward his creatures, and are borne by an irresistible impulse of delight to their perpetual celebration. How beautiful in beings raised from the distance, the blindness, the alienation of revolt! How becoming those who serve in the immediate presence of the Almighty, and fulfil the offices of kings and priests towards distant obedient hosts, unfolding to them his rights, interpreting the measures of his administration, conveying to them his will, and representing them in his presence by presenting symbols of their homage What a contrast their conceptions of him and the grounds of duty to him form to the speculations of men, who in their definitions of virtue almost universally exclude all peculiar relations to the Deity, and resolve it into policy, self-love, benevolence, opinion, or some other quality which implies that the reason that God is to be adored and obeyed, and man to be loved, is precisely the same, and wholly overlooks therefore his peculiar rights because of his nature and agency! The doctrine, indeed, that self-love is the only motive to virtue, dethrones the Deity, and exalts the individual creature in his place. The theory that opinion is the ground and rule of right, deifies in like manner the community which furnishes that opinion; and the dogma that benevolence is the distinguishing ground and characteristic of virtuous acts, deifies the sensitive and intelligent universe, in the proportion which their limited capacity of happiness bears to the infinitude of his. With what horror would the authors of those systems have turned from them, had they studied aright the views and sentiments of these worshippers in the heavenly temple. Blessed is he who reads and they who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it.
Mr. Stuart exhibits the seven lamps burning before the throne, as denoting seven presence angels; but it is inconsistent with the symbolizations of this and the following vision, and with the wish of grace in chapter i. 5, from the seven spirits which they denote. That those spirits are not created intelligences, is apparent from the use of lamps as their symbols, and from the agency they are employed to represent. Had the design been to symbolize created intelligences of an angelic order, they would doubtless have been exhibited in their own persons, as the angels, living creatures, and the elders are in this and the following vision. Beside, if the seven lamps are regarded as symbols of created intelligences, according to the use of other symbols of creatures in this and the other visions, they should be interpreted as representing an order and a vast multitude, not themselves