Page images

promised a place in the tabernacle of God, the new Jerusalem, the paradise of God; which cometh down from heaven after the earth is purified and Satan is bound; and when the Lord cometh to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe in that day; and when the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of God, and from the glory of his power.

The proper instruction for the church, in the trials to which she is exposed as a community, is given from the fourth to the seventeenth chapters of this book; and these chapters should be studied principally in this connection. For the epistles to the churches are full of instruction to individuals, and these three chapters may be profitably read by many who have no perception of the true nature of a church : but the following chapters of the book contain no instruction to individuals, otherwise than as they are members of the church ; and he who on the one extreme makes the church a mere form, and he who on the other hand makes the church invisible, will both alike miss the instruction which this part of the book of Revelations contains; and the Papist and the Dissenter have in general silently allowed it, in prohibiting or slighting the study of this book.

The church of God is the body of Christ; one body of many members. A body must have form, substance, and visibility, otherwise it is not a body. To constitute a body, there must be one head and many members, and these united together and animated by the same life. The head of the church is Christ, therefore there is but one church; the body of Christ is the church, made up of all its members. The one Head requires the body to be one, and includes the universal church; the oneness with the Head requires the life of Christ in every member of the body, and excludes all who have not this living membership. They exhibit on earth the life of Christ, having the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, and perfected through sufferings, as he was: his sufferings their pattern, his resurrection their hope.

The nature and end of the church is shewn us in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelations; where the throne of God is encircled with the kings and priests of God, to receive the revelation of God, made to them by the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb slain ; by whose blood they were redeemed out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation : and the purpose and end of the church is to express and lead the worship of the whole creation," of every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, saying, Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.”

This church, it is next revealed, should be assailed by three forms of evil, actuated by one evil principle; three beasts, instigated and empowered by the dragon, who is the old serpent, the devil, and Satan. And the field, or lists of combat, the mode of attack from the adversary, and the weapons of defence against him, and the final issues of the combat, are the subjects of revelation through all these chapters of the book.

The lists of combat are marked out as the fourth part of the earth (vi. 8), and the various forms of encounter are revealed in the sixth chapter ; and in chapter vii. the preparation for, and protection in, the last encounter is declared, and the reward of those who are victorious shewn in vision. The scene of conflict is manifestly and avowedly Christendom, or the Western Roman empire, from the river Danube to the Western Ocean; but the hottest contest lies in the regions of Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Austria—the empire of Charles V. and Francis I. who long contended for the supremacy in Italy, that by means of Rome and the Pope they might sway the kings of Europe. It is called the fourth, as being one of the four proconsulates of Rome; and becomes the chief seat of judgment, as being the chief seat of the church.

The rest of the earth receives its portion of judgment during that time, in the woes revealed in the eighth and ninth chapters, under the symbols of trumpets calling forth sinoke and locusts and horsemen from the bottomless pit, to torment the third part of men, to turn the third part of waters into blood, to burn the third part of trees, and all green grass. The refreshing dews of the Holy Spirit are withdrawn, and the grassy verdure of the earth fades away, and every living thing suffers loss or death in consequence. All these judgments fall on the Eastern or Asiatic part of the Roman Empire, of which Jesusalem was the proper metropolis, and first seat of the church. But, Jerusalem being destroyed for crucifying Christ and rejecting the Gospel, and condemned to desolation till the second coming of the Lord, there is no established church in the East, and the judgments fall there, not upon a community or body, but upon individuals scattered and separated; and their comforts as individuals, and their encouragements to perseverance, are to be derived from the promises to the seven churches of Asia, in the first three chapters of Revelations ;-promises and encouragements which few, very few, had faith to take hold of under these judgments of the trumpets; for it is expressly declared, that “the rest of the men, which were not killed by these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands; neither repented they of their murders, nòr of their sorceries, nor of their fornications, nor of their thefts” (ix. 21).

The history of the external and visible judgments on both

halves of the Roman empire, is given in the six chapters from the fourth to the ninth ; with the melancholy conclusion, that these judgments produce no repentance, but that the whole earth, having filled up its cup of iniquity, is ripe for the day of the Lord,“ when he shall rise up as in mount Perazim, and shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work (of vengeance), and bring to pass his act, his strange act (of destruction)" (Isa. xxviii. 21).

But as man consists of soul as well as body, so in the church there is a spiritual as well as an external and visible history: and as the soul is of greater importance than the body of man, so the spiritual mystery in the church is of far greater importance than the external history of the church; and this spiritual mystery occupies all the remaining chapters of the book of Revelations, from the tenth to the twenty-second. The spiritual nature of the mysteries now to be revealed to the Apostle John is indicated by his being commanded to eat the book which the Angel, who is Jesus Christ, holds in his hand (x. 8), and by his being sent forth to prophesy again—which denotes a new mystery, different from the preceding chapters.

The spiritual mysteries can only be understood by means of visible things and historic facis; the unknown is revealed by the help of the known. The external history of the church and the world, in the preceding chapters, afford a basis on which the symbolic representation of the spiritual mysteries might be constructed ; an outward form, to indicate the internal workings of the church.

We must therefore study the spiritual mystery by continually referring to past history, which typified it, and which is the form and the language by which it is expressed ; and we shall find brought out by this study the further truth, that the spiritual also has its historic fulfilment-a realization in time and place of all that had been typified and symbolized beforehand, and is now received spiritually in doctrine ; both incorporated in the church and its history, as the types and doctrines of the Old Testament were embodied in the person and history of our Lord.

This ought not to be called a double fulfilment, for the spiritual reception of a doctrine is no fulfilment of a fact predicted ; though it is necessary that the prediction be received as a doctrine, in order to its being realized as a fact. Prophecy answers its end, first in preparing for the accomplishment, by instructing the believers and hardening the unbelievers ; secondly in becoming accomplished, to the joy of believers, to the confusion of unbelievers. The preparation is not the accomplishment, though without it no accomplishment could take place; but this is the mistake that lies at the root of almost all the error of the day.

If doctrines and spiritual truths were the whole that prophecy


reveals, in the reception of these truths prophecy would have attained its end; and those who hold this, in consistency ought to maintain, that on those who receive these truths death has no power, and that they shall remain on this earth, to receive those eternal rewards they expect, and of which this earth is declared to be the scene in terms as plain and explicit as possible.

But the Scriptures reveal, that a people is prepared for the Lord, and that he will dwell amongst them: not only that he is now preparing this people, but preparing their habitation. He is now guiding them in the way wherein he would have them to walk, both by the opening of his word, and by the voice of his Spirit. He teaches them to discern the signs of the times in the workings of his providence; and he will shortly come to receive his waiting people, and to stamp the seal of fact upon all the remaining prophecies.

Prophecy undoubtedly ceases at the coming of our Lord; its end will be then attained : we shall know even as we are known; time will be no longer, and the eternal state begins. We are living in the time of the end, and near the end of time: the spiritual fulfilment of the latter chapters of the Apocalypse has only been to teach us doctrine, and only preparatory to the full accomplishment in the letter of all that we have had faith to see accomplished in the spirit. The witness for Jesus, which has subsisted from the Apostles' time in the Scriptures, or in communities with much infirmity, shall now be sent forth in mighty power, confirmed by signs and wonders. Against the two witnesses, realized in living men, the beast shall put forth all his power, in real deadly persecution, by living men, whom he will possess; and which the witnesses will defeat by superior power, till the time of their witness shall be accomplished; and then the witnesses shall be lifted up to the clouds in the sight of their enemies, there to abide with Jesus till the time of retribution and vengeance is over ; when, the enemies of the Lord and his Christ being swept into the lake of fire, the new Jerusalem shall descend from heaven, the metropolis and palladium of the regenerated earth, the eternal abode of the Son of Man and the sons of God, the manifestation of the glory of God the Father.

There are three bands of witnesses for Jesus, during the three great periods of the church history; and three forms of opposition to their testimony. The first period of witnessing extends from the Apostles' time down to the opening of the fifth seal, with which the Papal period commences. And this band of witnesses is mentioned as slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held (vi. 9); to distinguish them from another band, to be slain during an ensuing period, called a little season (vi. 11)which little season is the thousand two hundred threescore days (xi. 3), when the two witnesses prophesy in

sackcloth. And this last company again, typify, the third band (xx. 4), who shall be beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, like the first band ; and who have the further distinction of not worshipping the beast, neither his image, neither receiving his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands : a trial to which the first and second bands have not been exposed.

Against these three bands, three forms of the beast are arrayed. The first form is the great red dragon (xii. 3), ready to devour the children of God as soon as they should appear; and this form is represented as rising up out of the sea (xiii. 1), to denote the turbulence and tossings of the nations out of which Pagan Rome arose, by which it continually enlarged its power, and of which Satan took advantage continually to turn the rage of the Emperors against the infant church. This first form of persecution, which aimed at nothing less than the utter destruction of the church, subsisted for 666 years, beginning for the Western Empire, with the possession of Pergamos, B. c. 133, and ending with Justinian, A. D. 533; beginning for the Eastern Empire with the Julian period, B. C. 44, and ending in the Hegira, A. D. 622.

The second form of the beast, against which the sackclothcovered witnesses testify for forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days (Rev. xi. 2,3), has been generally limited to the Papal form of opposition, and to the Western half of the empire ; but it manifestly includes both the Papal and the Mohammedan persecutions, and the whole Roman empire. It is a continuance of the same beast for a period of forty-two months, during which he should open his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven (xiii. 5, 6); and against whose blasphemies the two witnesses receive power to testify: and their testimony is therefore co-extensive with the dominion and duration of the beast.

The change of form is twofold: first, in the beast itself; next, in another beast rising up, and exercising all the power of the first beast before him (xiii. 12): the emperors no longer head of the church, but a double supremacy,—the Papal horn usurping an equality in the West, the Mohammedan horn in the East; and the empire still subsisting and acknowledged in the Roman

The first beast changed its form when the deadly wound, inflicted by the Gothic invaders, was healed by Justinian, in the sixth century; who not only restored health and vigour to the empire by his prowess, but bound it together by his laws. But Justinian is represented as Death, followed by Hell (vi. 8), which indicates the other beast, which exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, the absolute dominion throughout the


« PreviousContinue »