Page images
PDF
EPUB

only. The

agency moreover which the action of the lamps represents, is not appropriate to created intelligences stationed in the presence of God. The office of a lamp is to give light to intelligent creatures, in order to the employments to which they are called ; and as the body is the counterpart of the mind, and the corporeal eye of the spiritual, the light which is designed for the former must, according to analogy, be the symbol of knowledge imparted to the latter. The agent, therefore, symbolized by the lamps, is an agent that enlightens intelligent creatures in the knowledge of God, and especially men, towards whom peculiarly it is that the offices are sustained, and the agencies exerted that are represented by the lamps, manifestly from the wish of grace and peace to the seven churches from the spirits which they denote. But angels are not assigned to that office; it is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. It is He therefore undoubtedly from that consideration that is denoted by the lamps ; and that is certain from the invocation of grace and peace from the seven spirits before the throne, as well as from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. That invocation is an act of the highest religious homage. It involves an ascription to that which the seven lamps denote, of the attributes and prerogatives of the Deity.; and the union in the invocation of that which they denote with the Self-existent, and the incarnate Word, implies that it is equal in nature, rights and relations toward us with the Father and the Son. But it is impossible that God can have sanctioned the ascription to creatures, of the attributes, rights, and relations that are peculiar to himself; and it is in contradiction also to the obvious aim and most conspicuous symbolizations of the book; the object of which is to show on the one hand that the self-existent, eternal, and almighty creator is alone entitled to worship, and that the true worshippers acknowledge his right to reign over them because of his attributes and work as creator, and pay to him alone their homage; and on the other, that they who legislate over his rights and laws, usurp a dominion over him, and make themselves objects of worship; and that they who yield to that usurpation and accept creatures as their religious lawgivers, mediators, and redeemers, ascribe to them his prerogatives, and pay them a homage that is due only to him. No construction therefore could be more at war with the great characteristics of the revelation, than that the seven lamps are representatives of angels.

The supposition that they are a symbol of the Holy Spirit, is

[ocr errors]

not inconsistent with the law that no living creatures can be employed to represent the creator, as lamps have neither intelligence nor life. Their station before the throne exhibits him in the relation ascribed to him in the Scriptures in the work of redemption, as sent by the Father and the Son; and the office denoted by the radiation of light by the lamps, is that which he is represented as filling in the illumination and sanctification of men.

Mr. Stuart represents the living creatures as symbols of the attributes of God. But that is inconsistent alike with the divine nature, the law of symbolization, and the agency ascribed to the living creatures. It implies the greatest of all solecisms, that the attributes of God exist separate from himself. Why else should they be separately symbolized ? or how could they consistently with the supposition that the form addressed as the self-existent, eternal, and almighty, truly represents him as such ? If the being enthroned truly symbolizes God as self-existent, eternal, and almighty, what necessity could exist of other symbols exterior to himself, representative of his attributes ?

But it is as irreconcileable with the law of symbolization as it is with the divine nature. If there be any rule of representation that is indisputable, and the observation of which is indispensable to the interpretation of the visions, it is that agents symbolize agents, and agencies agencies. There is no analogy between an agent and a mere attribute; between a nature of many differing characteristics, and a single characteristic of that or some other nature. Attributes are predicates of agents, and each class or peculiar combination, is characteristic of the class of agents of which it is predicable, and is to be regarded as theirs, as absolutely as their activity, life, or form. If a symbol then be a living agent, nothing can be more certain than that the attributes which are predicable of it belong to itself, and thence if they are divine, demonstrate it to be divine also. His assumption, therefore, that the living creatures symbolize divine attributes, implies not that the attributes of the personage seated on the throne are divine, but that they are themselves divine persons.

It is inconsistent also with the representation that the living creatures fall down and worship him that sits on the throne, and hymn bim as the self-existent, eternal, almighty, and all-holy. What can be more incongruous than thus to represent the attributes of the Self-existent as separate agents, bending in homage to his form conceived as symbolizing his mere nature irrespective of his attributes, and ascribing themselves to him!

Mr. Mede and some others regard the living creatures as symbols of the church or congregation of worshippers on earth, and the elders as representatives of the ministers ; Mr. Daubuz interprets the living creatures as symbols of the ministers of the church on earth, and the elders as representing the congregation of worshippers ; Vitringa exhibits the elders as denoting the rulers of the church, and the living creatures its eminent teachers and ministers through every age. But if they are symbols of the church on earth, then must the throne and he who sat on it be regarded as symbolizing a visible throne and monarch in the church on earth, the temple a scene of worship here, the angels an order of worshippers who are not of the church, and the worship, a worship paid to some being visibly throned in the church on earth. But as there is no one who has here seated himself on a throne in the church, and demanded a worship, but antichrist, that construction makes the vision a symbol of the Man of Sin, and the idolatrous worship paid to him by the apostate church, which is impossible. None of the agents and actions of the heavenly temple are symbolic of agents and actions on earth. The assumption on which these writers proceed, involves them in like manner in inextricable difficulties in their exposition of many other passages.

Dr. Hammond exhibits him who sat on the throne, as the metropolitan bishop of Judea, as a representative of God; the elders as diocesan bishops of Judea, and the living creatures as four apostles, as symbols of the saints who are to attend the Almighty as assessors in judgment. But that is first to make a creature a symbol of God, which is against analogy; and next to exhibit the living creatures and elders as ascribing the attributes and acts of the deity to a creature, and paying him the highest homage, which is to represent them as guilty of the false worship which the prophecy exhibits as the peculiarity of apostates. There moreover is not only no evidence nor probability of the existence, at the period to which he refers the vision, the reign of Claudius, of either what he denominates a metropolitan bishop at Jerusalem, or twenty-four or any other number of diocesan bishops in Judea ; but the most ample demonstration that neither of those orders were in existence at the period of the visions. The earliest mention of a metropolitan is in the acts of the council of Nicæa in the fourth century ;—the earliest existence of diocesan bishops, of which there is any proof, toward the close of the second.

The annunciation in this and the first vision, that the selfexistence, eternity, omnipotence, and work of God as creator,

[ocr errors]

give him a right to reign, and are the ground on which he founds his government, presents the first great truth of the Apocalypse, in the light of which all the other visions are to be contemplated in order to discern their import. The true worshippers are they who acknowledge and honor him for what he is, and refuse to yield to usurping creatures the homage that is due only to him. The antagonist powers are they who usurp his rights, and claim a worship which supersedes his; and the apostate worshippers they who yield those usurpers their claims, and ascribe to them prerogatives and honors that belong only to the creator.

SECTION VII.

CHAPTER V. 1-14.

THE DELIVERY OF THE BOOK TO CHRIST.

And I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a book written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book and loose its seals ? And no one in heaven, nor on the earth, nor under the earth was able to open the book, nor to look at it. And I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the book, nor to look at it. And one of the elders saith to me, Weep not. Behold the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book and its seven seals. And I saw before the throne and the living creatures and within the elders, the Lamb, standing as slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God that are sent to all the earth. And he came and took the book from the right hand of him who sat on the throne; and when he took the book, the four living creatures, and the four-and-twenty elders fell before the Lamb, having every one harps and golden vials full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open its seals; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made us to our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels in a circle round the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders, and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and whatever is in the sea, and all that are in them I heard saying, To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the four-and-twenty elders fell and worshipped.

The object of this great scene was to show that Christ is exalted to the throne and exercises the government of the universe ; that he attained that exaltation by his work as Redeemer; that thence the right belongs to him alone to reveal to creatures his designs; and that he is to conduct his administration in the redemption of his people according to the eternal purposes of God. That the Lamb who is the eternal Word having seven horns and seven eyes, the symbols of all-perfect dominion and all-perfect knowledge, had been slain, was indicated by the glory to which in consequence of his death his human form was changed at his resurrection. The book was the symbol of the purposes of God. The seals by which it was closed, denoted that his designs in regard to the administration of the church and world, were hidden from creatures; and the summons by the angel, who is worthy to open the book and to loose its seals, that no created being was capable unaided of discerning it, or of a dignity equal to the office of revealing it to the hosts of heaven or the church on earth. The disappointment and tears of the apostle that no one was found worthy to open the book, or to inspect it, bespeak a fervid interest in the divine purposes, and an expectation that great and wonderful events were approaching: The mode is eminently beautiful in which the elder apprized him that the Redeemer was to make known and execute the divine designs. He spoke of him, not as the Self-existent, but as the incarnate Word. Weep not. The Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book and its seven seals. He who assumed our nature has become the head of the church, and is to reign over it as lawgiver and teacher, and complete the work of redemption.

Expositors generally have regarded the Lamb standing as slain, as literally a lamb symbolizing the Redeemer; not the Redeemer himself in his human form, which showed that he had been slain, by the majesty to which in consequence of his death, it was transfigured at his resurrection. But they appear not to have considered that the metaphorical titles by which he is designated in the ancient Scriptures and in the gospels, are appropriated to him as proper names in the Apocalypse. Thus he is in this

« PreviousContinue »