« PreviousContinue »
in its gospel signification among common believers of the Gentiles; who are exhorted to make their calling and election sure; to worship God in spirit and in truth; to draw near in the ephod and teraphim of imputed righteousness and true holiness, with the holy crown of lovingkindness and tender mercies; to attend on Christ the golden altar; and to minister about holy things; and offer the pleasing and acceptable sacrifices of hearty praises, humble petitions, and a broken and contrite heart, which God will not despise, Psalm li. 17.
Our glorious privileges are so great that babes in grace, as soon as Wisdom, their mother, has brought them a little coat of needle work wrought about with divers colours, they may gird on the linen ephod of sanctification, go to Shiloh, and talk to God the Saviour for themselves. Thus the covenant of an everlasting priesthood is confirmed to the church at large; nay, I add, that as Christ was a priest after the order of Melchisedec, and not after the order of Aaron; which order interweaving two offices together, namely, that of a king and a priest, it opens a way for this wonderful dignity to fall upon the church of Christ, which the Levitical tribe could never boast of, for God never spoke such things of that: “ But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a. peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God,” i Peter ii. 9, 10. Thus the royal and priestly order of Melchisedec is found in all their glorious meaning in the glorious King of Zion, and high priest of our profession; and the dignity and honour of both offices is reflected from the Saviour on the church: He hath made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign on the earth, Rev. i. 6. Aaron's miraculous rod that confirmed his election and calling, is now found, with its blossoms and almonds, in the church at large; “I said, I see a rod of an almond tree,” Jer. i. 11; which shall flourish, Eccl. xii. 5. " It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon : they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God,” whose leaf shall never wither, but they shall blossom as the rose, and fill the world with fruit.
The family of Aaron who were priests were divided into twenty four courses, i Chron. xxiv. 1-19; and these twenty four courses all waited or attended on their ministry in turn. And all those four and twenty courses of ministers, with their election, call, and privileges, are now found in the church in a gospel sense, and are confirmed with many additional blessings and privileges which they never had; and which will end in the eternal salvation and glorification of every spiritual priest, which theirs did not. These four and twenty elders represent the churches of God at large,
which were prefigured under the old testament by twenty four courses of ministers or priests. This appears plain, as the scriptures call every saint a priest, a levite; yea, kings and priests, or a royal priesthood: and in these four and twenty courses young learners were numbered as well as the preachers that taught; to shew, that the babe in grace should be included in the gospel signification of their order, as well as the strong man in Christ: " And they cast lots, ward against ward, as well the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar,". were numbered, i Chron. xxv. 8. Blessed for ever be that spiritual priest, into whose lap the lot of eternal life falls. “ The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord.” This lot causes contention to cease. And indeed there is no stopping the clamorous mouth of Satan, conscience, and unbelief, till we are persuaded that we shall rest, and stand in God's lot at the end of the days, Dan. xii. 13. Thus it appears, that these four and twenty elders who fall down and worship, are representatives of the church of Christ at large, prefigured by the twenty four courses of priests, which represented the church as a royal priesthood.
The name elder is often applied to the firstborn son; “Shem the brother of Japheth the elder,” and represents the children of God as the elder or firstborn by election; and no wonder, when they were predestinated to the adoption of sons, before any man-child was born into the world. Abel was
Adam's younger son, Isaac was the younger of Abraham, Jacob of Isaac, and Ephraim of Joseph: but in God's decree they were not so. They were firstborn sons by promise, as Isaac was, that they might inherit the homestall, agreeable, both to the law, Deut. xxi. 15, 16; and the promise; “ And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.” Esau, was before Jacob; yet the Israelites, not the Edomites, are called God's firstborn. “ Israel is my son,' says God, “even my firstborn. And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”
Elders are magistrates that used to sit on seats, at the city gates, to hear debates, try causes, settle disputes, and bear witness to contracts; hence you so frequently read of the gates of the elders, and of the elders at the gates bearing witness to Boaz’s redeeming Naomi's inheritance, and betrothing Ruth, Ruth iv. 11. And if
you read the description of the wonderful city called the heavenly Jerusalem, you will see elders there. s And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, having the glory of God; and her light was like unto a stone most precious; and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel;" which shews that the twelve patriarchs, fathers of the twelve tribes, whose
names the tribes bore, who all sprung from Jacob, and were called Israelites, a name which is now entailed on every believer, who may call himself by the name of Jacob, or surname himself by the name of Israel, Isa. xliv. 5; being a son of and of the Israel of God, Gal. vi. 16. I say, these elders having their names at the twelve gates of this city, inclines me to think, that in the gospel signification of their names, they are one half of these four and twenty elders who represent the whole Israel of God in the various gospel characters that their names signify.
The twelve gates, three east, three west, three north, and three south, Rev. xxi. 13; is to shew, that
many “ shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down [with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,] in the kingdom of God.” If these twelve names, at the twelve gates of this city, are twelve of the elders, as representatives of the church, in the gospel signification of their names, it is to shew that none can pass these elders, or enter into the gates of the city, by them, unless they are Israelites indeed, as Nathanael was, John i. 47; or a part of God's Israel, which is a name and an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off, Isaiah lv. 13.
The name of this city is Jerusalem, righteousness and peace, to shew that none but justified souls, in a state of peace and reconciliation with God, can enter therein. It is the royal city of the Great King, in which he resides; “ And the name