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The blessedness of]
teth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
[those who are sealed.
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (L)
(L) Ver. 1—17. The prophecies of the sixth seal continued. The reference of this seal to the time of Constantine is so clear, that we cannot but feel surprise that it should be applied to any other period. The first event is a stop to persecution. The Roman empire, it should be remembered, extended into almost all parts of the then known world; and it had often happened, that Christianity was persecuted in one quarter while it was tolerated or winked at in another; but four angels are here ordered to restrain the storms of persecution in all quarters, till the Christian religion should gain a peaceful establishment, and Christians should be allowed to make an open profession of their faith. There is no doubt but that, in times of persecution, there were great numbers convinced of the truth of Christianity who dared not to avow their convictions, and among these, many there might be, who secretly worshipped Jesus and avoided idols: so in the idolatrous times of Ahab, when the prophet supposed all the nation devoted to idolatry, still there were 7000 persons, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. In consequence of this, no sooner did persecution cease than Christians, professedly so at least, poured in from all quarters. Great numbers were baptized, both Jews and Pagans, and so received the seal of Christianity, which made them externally Christians; but the seal of heaven implies more than an external profession: "the seal of the Spirit" is necessary to mark them as children of God, and to secure them from his wrath. (See Ezek. ix. 4; Ephes. i. 13, iv. 30.)
It seems hardly necessary to say, that all the numbers of this book are to be explained mystically and not literally. The number before us has that square form which is constantly used to mark the Jerusalem which is above, as in chap. xxi. 10, &c. The number of the tribes being retained, may intimate that the number of
God's elect is preserved unbroken. We have, indeed, no reason to believe that an equal number of every tribe shall be saved, though as respects the seed of Abraham by faith, we know that there shall be some "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" under heaven. (See chap. v. 9.)
The next scene which follows (ver. 9, &c.) is, we apprehend, not laid in earth but in heaven. Under the fifth seal we find all the souls lying, as it were, weltering in their blood under the altar on which they had been slain in the first scene of this seal their blood is avenged, and they are raised to glory, honour, and immor tality. "A great multitude, which no man could number, stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes as symbolic of their purity, and having in their hands palm branches, as implying that they had gained the victory by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." (ch. xii. 11.) Here they appear worshipping among the heavenly hosts. And when John witnessed this, questions are put, and an answer is given, calculated to excite feelings of joy and of devotion. "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: and therefore”—that is, because they are thus justified and sanctified therefore "are they before the throne," and serve him ever more.
After writing the above, we were gratified to find that we are unwittingly following in the track of those judicious expositors, Mr. Lowman and Mr. Fuller. "After the sealing of God's servants is accomplished (says the latter), the saints and martyrs of Jesus, who, during the preceding persecutions, had overcome, and had been received into glory, joining with the whole heavenly chorus, engage in a triumphant song of praise to God and to the Lamb. The reason of their being here introduced, seems to be, that the sealed
NOTES-Chap. VII. Con.
Ver. 16. Neither shall the sun light-Woodh. "strike on them"-nor any heat.-Woodhouse, "burning." These expressions evidently refer to
that fatal disorder, the sun-stroke, so common in hot countries. See Note on 2 Kings iv, 20.
servants of God, who were yet on earth, and had to pass through a series of trials, might, by a view of their happy end, be strengthened to follow their example. As 1 great numbers would be against them in this world, they are directed to view the numbers of friends which they have in heaven; who not only look back to their own deliverance, and ascribe it to God, but seem to look down to their brethren, and Hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering.""
(M) Ver. 1—6. The seventh seal opened. Seven angels prepare to sound-and one offers incense on the golden altar.-It is impossible, within the limits of our plan, to give at length the reasons on which our exposition is founded. We have explained the seals in relation to those awful public events, which, at the same time as they purified the church, led also to the overthrow of Paganism, and the establishment of Christianity. The four first scenes we have considered as exhibiting, 1. The glorious conquests of the gospel. 2. The horrors of war. 3. The miseries of famine. 4. The miseries of plague or pestilence; all of which, while intended to punish ido
laters, were also intended to purify the church, even as gold is purified by fire. The 5th seal exhibits an awful picture of Pagan persecution. The 6th, under the figure of a general concussion, both of heaven and earth, exhibits those mighty revolutions by which the Pagan govern ment was overturned; and then the divine means, namely, the seal of baptism and of the Spirit, by which the church was so wonderfully protected and enlarged. We have then another celestial vision-a view within the veil (as it were), when we see the martyrs, who had so lately bled, received in triumph before the throne of God and the Lamb, with the happy assurance of everlasting blessedness.
The first thing which arrests our attention in this chapter, is "silence in heaven," which is not to be understood of that heaven in which the divine presence dwells, for there the worshippers" rest not day nor night" (chap. iv. 8); but evidently refers to the state of the church below, and is thought to allude to the temple worship, when, during the time of offering incense, the whole multitude were employed in secret and private prayer. (Luke i. 10.) This is called "half an hour," which was probably about the time so usually employed,
CHAP. VIII. Ver. 3. And stood.-Woodhouse, was stationed."A golden censer.-These censers, Mr. Lowman remarks, are "the same with the vials full of odours, chap. v. 8 [which are there explained to mean, a sort of cups upon p'ates, or Saucers]. The offering incense on the golden altar, Seems to determine this allusion to the constant ofering of incense in the temple, and not to the service peculiar to the High Priest on the day of expiation; and fully shows the propriety of this vision, in not epresenting the High Priest, which in this vision would have been the Lamb, as personally officiating
in this act of worship."-Offer it with.-Margin, "Add (it) to "- Of all saints.-Woodh. " all the saints."
Ver. 5. And filled it with fire of the allur.-As there was no fire upon the golden altar, this must refer to the altar of burnt-offering, which, as well as the other, appears to have had a place in the heavenly temple. See chap. vi. 9. Upon that altar the sacred fire was constantly kept burning. Lev. vi. 13.—And cast it into-Marg "upon "-the earth. And cast what? Not the censer, but the fire, or rather some remnant of the burning incense.
The three first]
7¶ The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burn
[trumpets sounded. ing with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. (N)
10 ¶ And the third angel sounded,
EXPOSITION-Chap. VIII. Continued.
and represents that short interval of peace and liberty of conscience which followed upon the accession of Constantine, before the church itself began to practice that system of intolerance, which led to the establishment of the Roman Antichrist. During this interval, seven angels who were waiting before God, come forward and receive seven trumpets, which they were to be prepared to sound when the sigual of the divine pleasure should be given. In the mean time, another angel comes forward, and there is given to him "much incense," that he may " add it to the prayers of the saints," which are collected in a golden censer, and offered upon the golden altar, before the throne.
What agency either saints or angels may have, as respects the offering to God the prayers of saints ou earth, we presume not to say; but it appears, that not only the angels, but the elders before the throne, had all" vials full of odours," or, as the margin reads, "censers full of incense, which are the prayers of saints." (Chap. v. 8.) We consider Christ himself as our only intercessor before the throne, and we believe it is the Holy Spirit which on earth "helpeth our infirmities," and teaches us to pray but it should seem as if these happy spirits took an interest in our devotions on earth, though in what way, it may be impossible for us to anticipate before we are united to their society; only so far we know, that they are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." (Heb. i. 14.) Dr. Doddridge, indeed, solves the
difficulty, by supposing Christ himself to be the angel here intended; but it appears to us, that after naming the seven angels, in ver. 2, it would be, as Dr. Woodhouse observes, degrading to our Lord, to speak of him merely as another angel:"nor are we certain, that in any part of this book the Lord Jesus is introduced under that character. He is "the Lamb that was slain, and is now exalted to the midst of the throne."
What is meant by the angel casting down upon the earth a part of the burning incense which he had placed upon the altar, is not so easy to ascertain. Mr. Croley thus explains it- The prayers and the incense are accepted-they rise before God; and his answer is symbolized in the filling of the censer with fire from the same altar [or rather from the altar of burnt offering, see Note on ver. 5], and the casting of the fire into the earth, the token of the divine wrath"-as in Ezek. L 2, &c. But when God hears the prayers of his people, does he answer by fresh trials and afflictions? So we conceive, and that with propriety; since, as we have already seen, it is thus that the church is purified. But this thunder, and fire, and earthquake, are adapted rather to excite alarm for approaching judgments than tu express the nature of those judgments.
(N) Ver. 7-9. The first and second trwa pets. In the scenes which opened from the sealed book, we have traced the various judgments whereby Paganism thrown and Christianity established; and
NOTES-Chap. VIII. Con.
Ver. 7. And they were cast-Namely, the hail, and fire, and blood. Doddr. “It was cast;" meaning the storm, or perhaps the incense.- Upon the earth.-Woodh. “Upon the land,” as distinguished from the sea, rivers, &c., ver. 8-10.
Ver. 8. The third part of the sea became blood.-This has an evident allusion to one of the miracles wrought in Egypt. See Exod. vii. 20, 21.—The third part.-This is an expression not uncommon with the prophetic writers. See Ezek. v. 12; Zech. xiii. 8, 9, &c.
Ver. 9. Which were in the sea, and had lifeDoddr. "Which had life in the sea;" ie which lived in the sea. This, as some think, refers part cularly to the maritime parts of the empire, but see chap. xvii. 15.
Ver. 10. A great star.-" A star, in prophetic lan guage, signifies a prince, or leader," Woodhouse. Of Genseric, Mr. Gibbon says, "The terrible Gen seric, a name which, in the destruction of the Ro man Empire, has deserved an equal rank with ▲lacie and Attila,"
and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of
we have noticed the short interval of peace that the church enjoyed under the government of Constantine, which lasted, in its full extent, little more than fourteen years, i. c. from A.D. 323 to 337. At his death the empire was divided among his sons, who, unhappily, quarrelled among themselves, whereby the empire was so weakened as not to be able to resist the numerous hordes of barbarians by which it was surrounded. At the same time the Christian church became infested with all the vices of the State-ambition, jealousy, duplicity, and a spirit of hostility, still more criminal among those who bear the name of Christians than even among heathen governments. And "shall not I visit for these things? saith the Lord." (Jer. v. 9.)
It is, as we have before observed, a part of the plan of divine providence to destroy the vain potsherds of the earth by dashing them together. Thus the haughty monarchs of the Roman empire were continually assailed and eventually destroyed by the rude barbarians who surrounded them; and notwithstanding what has been alleged by Archdeacon Woodhouse, Dr. Park, and others, we cannot but think these events are intended to be included under the visions now before us, though we see no necessity for confining them to political events alone.
It is commonly said that the visions of the trumpets are all included under the opening of the seventh seal; but we rather consider the trumpets as a new series of predictions, to which the last seal is to be considered as introductory, and not as comprehending them. The question, how ever, seems of little consequence to our design,
It is the general opinion of the best commentators of the Old School (if we may so speak), particularly of Mr. Lowman, Bi. shop Newton, Mr. Morell, and Mr. Fuller, that the events signified by the first four trumpets, refer to the various invasions of Rome and of the Roman Empire, by dif ferent hordes of barbarians, whose delight appears to have consisted in plunder and in murder. By these despised enemies, that haughty empire was humbled to the dust, prior to the erection of another empire, equally hostile to truth and righteousness, though under the Christian name; for it appears to have been the plan of Providence to remove the Roman Empire, in order to make room for the Man of Sin (2 Thess. ii. 6-10), who in his turn also must be brought to the dust, before the millennial kingdom of Messiah can be established.
It is but just, however, to remark, that another class of commentators, no less pious, learned, and acute, have taken a different view of this part of the Apocalypse: we refer particularly to Bishop Hurd, Archdeacon Woodhouse, and Dr. Park, who consider the evils here predicted to be rather of a moral nature; such as the general depravity of the church and its ministers during that period; the growth of heresy, and the increase of immorality. On many parts of the prophetic Scriptures the best expositors have admitted a double sense; while, therefore, we adhere to the former scheme of interpretation, as, in our opinion, best established, and most in harmony with the ancient prophets, we shall, at the same time, hint also at the moral interpretations just alluded to.
The sounding of the first trumpet, which we should date in the latter part of the
fourth century, after the death of Constantine the Great (who died in A.D. 337), produces a tremendous tempest of "hail and fire, mingled with blood," and in its fatal consequences may very aptly represent the numerous hordes of barbarians, who successively invaded this devoted empire; and is expressed in terms very similar to those in which the prophet Isaiah describes the invasions of the land of Israel by Salmanezer and Senacherib. (chap. xxviii. xxix.) At the same time, it must be confessed, that this imagery does not improperly depict the nature of theological controversy as then conducted, especially when the ardent disputants resisted each other even unto blood, as was too often the case in this and many following centuries.
The terms in which the mischief occasioned by this tempest is described, are peculiar it burnt up 66 a third part of the trees, and all the green grass." By trees, the higher classes are generally intended in prophetic language; and by grass, the common people: but here it appears to have been the "green grass" only that was consumed, and of that not a third part only, but the whole-"all the green grass" -by which we suppose must be intended, the most useful and valuable members in the lower classes of society. Dr. Woodhouse, who understands these terms allegorically, interprets (we think, rather strangely) the " green grass" to signify those professing Christians, "who exhibit a promising appearance, yet, like herbage in hot climates, are soon withered and gone:" while, on the other hand, Dr. Park seems to understand the most flourishing Christians of the age!
On the sounding of the second angel's trumpet, a great mountain burning with fire," was cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea became blood. This has been generally supposed to intend Alaric, King of the Visigoths, and his horde of barbarians', who, in the early part of the fifth century, repeatedly invaded Rome. In the first instance he was bought off by an immense price; but in the last, the capital was given up to three days' plunder by his army, and vast numbers of the Romaus were slain-not only by the barbarians, but by their own slaves, who turned against their Roman masters. And, as Mr. Fuller remarks, "If Etna or Vesuvius had literally been thrown into the ocean, it
could hardly have produced a greater e fervescence among the waters than 2 things produced among the nations." is represented as having destroyed a (i. e. a considerable part) of every that had life in it, and even of the which shows that it had particular ence to the maritime parts of the eng Of those who understand this allegori. i Dr. Park applies this to religious termi versy, and Dr. Woodhouse, to the a pated fall of Babylon.
(0) Ver. 10-13. The third and trumpets sounded. "The third as sounded, and there fell a great str heaven, burning as it were a lar This star is supposed to designate. and his Huns (or Scythians, ferocious race than the preced as to the chief himself, he ade be considered as "the scourge and pretended that the grass wo grow upon ground whereon bis had trodden. Others, howeve this to Genseric, King of the \. and conqueror of Africa, who a same period (the middle of the f tury) also plundered Rome, and c the Empress Eudoxia (whom he p to avenge), and her two daughte vast number of inferior captives
This Alaric had, in our opia perior claim to the character of star, named Wormwood; since according to Bishop Newton, bigotted Arian:" thus poisonag trines of the church, and, at the bitterly persecuting the orthod nitarian Christians.
Atthe sound of the fourth trum luminaries of heaven become dis third, i. e. a considerable parte and glory." Darkening, sm ting of the sun, moon, and sty Is. Newton), are put for the kingdom, or the desolation the portional to the darkness." £ darkness is opposed to light M observes)," as light is a symb safety, so darkness is a symb and adversity." (See Isa. Jer. xiii. 16; Ezek. xxxii. 7, 4 the time that Genseric entere strength and glory rapidly "Genseric (says Bishop Vr western empire in a weak a