« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” We are, therefore, warranted to conclude that “ the cherubim," as well as the crowned “ elders,” are symbols of the church triumphant, which is one day to be manifested on earth, and with Christ to take the kingdom and the dominion under the whole heaven. What are the different parts of this blessed company, and what their several functions, as represented by these different emblems, perhaps we cannot know till the day shall reveal it; but these cherubim seem to be stationed nearer to the throne and to the Lamb than even the crowned elders !
I have already expressed my notion of the emblem of “the Lamb as it had been slain;" that it is but another symbol for him who sits as a king upon the throne: accordingly, he is seen“ in the midst of the throne,” as well as in the midst of the cherubim and angels. In short, it is an emblem of something now in God, that is to say, of the manhood taken into God of that human nature which God the Son (who personally sat on the throne) had taken upon himself, in order to redeem mankind, and to accomplish the ultimate purposes of creation. He, according to the flesh, was “ the shoot from the root of David," “ the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” Judah's future victorious Chief. He is represented in the vision as prevailing, by his worthiness, to have the book of futurity unfolded, and its contents revealed for the instruction of his redeemed people. Hence the title of this closing book of Scripture, “ the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning: for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it has happened unto them according to the true proverb: The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
This last passage strongly marks the fall of some, whose creed was pure, and whose principles, to a certain extent, had been efficacious in their moral influence on their lives : but the allurements of a spurious liberty deceive them — or rather betray them, and undeceive the world, respecting the supposition of any real change or conversion of soul. And we may say of this part of Scripture generally, that it describes the predicted apostasy of the Christian world, as beginning in the interested perversion of sacred institutions; and proceeding to the most undisguised licentiousness and disregard of all authority; till at length, as we read in the following chapter, the true believer, dwelling in the midst of nations enlightened by revelation, is surrounded by the sneers and scoffs of infidels. St. Peter speaks of this last temptation of Christ's church upon earth, as a matter which had often been enforced upon its attention:
“ That ye be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creatior." *
Chap. iii. 2.
These scoffers appear in the midst of the professed church; but they cast off all subjection to the laws and institutions of Christianity, and follow their own inclinations and private opinions. There had been some talk and expectation of the Redeemer's coming ; but they mock the credulity of the waiting people of God. “ Your favourite book talks of miracles and wonders. The fathers of your religion warned and alarmed the world with a notion of its approaching ruin. They are long since gone, and the world continues just as it always was."
Thus will they despise the expectation of the righteous. The apostle continues :
“ For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water, and in the water.' Whereby, the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”
I understand the apostle to intimate, that the possessors of the revealed word might know, that as the ancient world was so constructed that the instrument of its destruction was, by the powerful word of God, made to subsist along with it till the day of the deluge, 80, in the present structure of the earth, the materials of the fire which is to consume it, are already prepared.
“ But the heavens and the earth that are now, by the same word are kept in 'store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
These words of St. Peter seem to allude to the entire
I“ Et terram, quæ ex aquis quibus undique circumfusa erat, emersit, per aquam productam, aut formam, firmitatem et solidi
tatem suam consequutam esse sola voluntate et potentia divina, &c.” -SCHLEUSNER.
destruction of the present mundane system: if so, we must understand by “the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men;" not the fiery indignation poured upon the fourth apostate empire, but the last final judgment, at the general resurrection of the wicked. Or, perhaps both judgments may be in view of the Spirit; for the judgment of the apostates, at the first resurrection, is evidently a commencement of the last fiery indignation, that shall at length consume all the wicked, as we shall see more plainly hereafter.
8. “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing; that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
The Church, when told of the coming of its great Redeemer, must not calculate the time of its fulfilment, as though it were the promise of a mortal, which, unless it be accomplished within the compass of a few short years, can never be accomplished at all: and where long delay' may justly lead to the suspicion that the promise is forgotten. We must remember, as the ancient prophecy admonished us, time 'occurs not to the Almighty ; and in his dealings with his church, and with her adversaries too, he invests them with immortality! His promise and his threatenings, though delayed a thousand years, will be true to the utmost, at last.
9. “ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness ; but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
As repentance is the gift of God, and He bestows it on whom he will, taking away the stony heart, and never perfect or lasting, still keep the members of the empire together, and draw a line of distinction between it and the other nations of the earth.
Correcting this view of the historian, his history — perhaps in itself the most important history that was ever written, if its inpurities, as well as its infidel principles, did not forbid its being generally recommended, connecting, as it does, the ancient history of mankind with the present times, is of especial importance, as far as it goes, in explaining the prophecy of the Revelation. Mr. Gibbon, in the distribution of the great events of history, in his marking out the grand epochas and their connected eras, will be found, with wonderful exactness, to tread in the steps of prophecy; so much so, indeed, that the composition of such a history, at such a time, and by such a man, appears as providential. The reader, for the explanation of the “seals” and “ trumpets” of the Revelation, will need no other expositor than the infidel historian. With the completion of the sixth trumpet, his narrative in reality ends; and our course afterwards becomes more intricate and perplexed; not so much on account of the loss of our guide, but because we are approaching nearer the unfinished periods of our own times, when we cannot so well weigh the importance of events and revolutions by their lasting consequences on the fate of the church or of mankind : when we cannot 80 well explain how facts and characters, which appear from their nearness and close connexion with ourselves, to be so great and so important, will appear, when they are seen on the page of general history; when their true consequence is known in their bearings on subsequent events, and on the future changes to take place in the state of nations.