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called living creatures. And, as it is an essential and important part of the exercises of personal religion, to be frequently employed looking into the heart, and examining the state and exercise as in the sight of God; so these living creatures were full of eyes within, to see what was going on there, as well as eyes before and behind, to look upon the external objects with which they were surrounded.*
The following reflections are suggested from the verses we have been considering :--1st, It is a vain, as well as an impious thing, to contend with God. How easy with him to point the artillery of heaven against his adversaries! or to make the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up alive! Out of his throne proceed thunderings and lightnings. Consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.
2d, The New Testament economy is a dispensation of the Spirit. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Under the former economy, there was no doubt a dispensation of the Spirit; without this, the rites of the Mosaic law would have been useless as well as burdensome. But that dispensation was very limited, in comparison with what has been enjoyed in New Testament times ; and especially in comparison with what may ed in the last times of the church.
* Besides the general argument which is furnished, by the easy accommodation of the different particulars in the description of the living creatures, to the collective body of the ministers of the Christian church, the following considerations may be sufficient to set the question at rest, Whether angels or ministers be intended by them ?- 1st, They are uniformly spoken of as distinct from angels. In the following chap. ver. 11, they are represented as forming one circle of worshippers, and angels another, which would never have been the case if they were the same with angels. 22, They are redeemed by the blood of Christ, chap. v. 9; they must, therefore, be human beings and not angels. And, 3d, They take the direction of the public religious exercises of the church, as in the latter part of chap. iv. ; and, therefore, as distinguished from the elders, they must be the public ministers of religion. The elders and the living creatures are intro. duced about twenty different times in this book; and as they are sometimes re. presented as the principal actors upon the scenes described in it, it was therefore the more necessary to determine, with some degree of accuracy, the meaning of these symbols, for otherwise, these particular parts of the prophecy would remain in great obscurity.
3d, The sacrifice and service of Jesus Christ are accepted by the Judge of all. The sea of glass clear as crystal was in the front of the throne. It could have found no place there, but with the approbation of Him that sat upon the throne.
4th, Ministers of the gospel occupy a very dignified station. Paul was disposed to magnify his office; and it could not be an empty boast in him when he did so, as, in respect of official station and employment, ministers are that class of worshippers who are nearest to the throne of the God of the church.
5th, It likewise appears from these verses, what manner of persons ministers of the gospel ought to be, in all holy conver- ' sation and godliness. First of all, they should be spiritually alive. This feature of character is not essential to the being, but it is indispensably necessary to the suitable discharge of the duties, of the office. Sinners may be saved, though the minister be a cast-away. But it generally fares with the people as with the minister: if he be cold, and lifeless, and formal, if his ministrations have nothing of the unction which indicates the man of God, the spirit of devotion will soon evaporate. A worse thing can hardly befall a people, than to sit under such a ministry.-Ministers should be habitually disposed to receive their instructions from the throne, that they may stand prepared for the whole will of God. They are bound, by solemn ties and engagements, to look after the state of their respective flocks; and their obligations to the exercises of personal religion are no less sacred. Their duties are so numerous and important, and such a high degree of responsibility attaches itself to the discharge of them, that, if they are at all alive to their condition, they will be disposed to say with Paul, • Who is sufficient for these things ?'
Rev.iv. 8-11. And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy,
holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is
to come. And when those beasts give glory, and honour, and thanks, to
him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on
the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever,
and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and
power : for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Our remarks on the preceding verses were concluded with an observation respecting the great importance of personal religion, in order to the suitable discharge of the duties of the ministerial office. We could not introduce you to the subject now before us, in a more appropriate manner, than by reminding you of that sentiment, as we have here a very striking illustration of its truth. For when the living creatures give glory, and honour, and thanks to him that sits
upon the throne, all the elders fall down and worship.
The description of the living creatures is concluded with an account of their exercise ; and this, like every thing else which is affirmed of them, is very remarkable : they rest not day and night. Like the seraphim, they were assiduous and indefatigable in their services. They seemed to take no relaxation ; for the night, which is usually devoted to rest, was as much occupied by them in active and laborious services as the day.The expression cannot be understood as intended to intimate, that ministers of the gospel ought to be continually employed, either in the exercises of personal godliness, or in those which have an immediate respect to the office with which they are invested. Though the spirit were willing, the flesh could not endure any thing like unremitted exertions. The language, however, shews what are the habitual regards which faithful ministers have to both. Their introduction to office is not a mere step to preferment, or only a link in the chain of ecclesiastical arrangements to connect them with a living ; it opens a sphere of usefulness, and marks a series of services, sufficient to engross every portion of their time, and to give full scope to the exercise of all the talents with which they are intrusted. Of these things, the faithful among them are fully sensible, and, therefore, according to the advice of Paul to Timothy, they endeavour to give themselves wholly to them. Even their relaxations and amusements are subordinated to the duties of their official station ; they are used as means for recruiting their wasted strength, and giving a new degree of elasticity to the intellectual springs, which, by a long-continued pressure, had lost much of their vigour.—Their personal religious exercises are also connected with the work of their public ministry; the more they attend to the interests of their own souls, they always feel a more lively concern about the interests of others; and the better they are acquainted with the operations of grace and corruption in their own bosoms, they are always the better qualified to address their hearers upon the great subjects of practical and experimental godliness. No man can point out to such advantage, the marks and characters of a work of grace, as one, who, for the satisfaction of his own soul, has examined them with a scrupulous nicety, and who would tremble at the thought of deceiving himself in a matter where deception would be fatal; nor can any detect the wiles of Satan so readily, as one who has long watched his movements with a jealous eye. Their habitual regard to the duties of their office, is a magnet which draws every thing to itself that comes within the sphere of its attraction. Persons of this description, may be said to rest neither day nor night; their hearts being wholly devoted to their employment, it is impossible that they can complain of any part of it, as if it were a burden which could not be borne. To the devout mind, the work of praise must be peculiarly pleasant. In this branch of service the living creatures were engaged, when they ascribed to God their maker those excellencies here mentioned. First, They celebrated his holiness ; like the seraphim they cried, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God. Holiness is that excellency of the Divine nature, whereby it is infinitely removed from all moral pollution. It is not so much a single attribute, as it is that which constitutes the peculiar glory and excellency of all divine perfections. Wisdom without holiness would be nothing but mere craft or cunning; goodness without holiness would be nothing but waste and prodigality; and power without holiness would be only a formidable engine of destruction. Holiness sheds a lustre over every feature of the Divine character. God is glorious in his holiness; and, as if this attribute were chiefly to be admired, it is the first thing that is mentioned, and is three different times celebrated; the living creatures praised him as thrice holy, or infinite in his holiness.
They ascribe power to their Maker, for they address him by the title of the Lord God Almighty. By this excellency he can do every thing that is consistent with his moral character, and which does not involve a contradiction. His not being able to perform contradictions, does not arise from any defect of power, but from the nature of the things themselves; and his not being able to perpetrate what is wrong, arises from thc integrity and perfection of his high character. It is owing to the weakness and imperfection of a creature, that it is liable to err, and that, if left to its own energies, it would be instantly chargeable with some crime. It is the perfection and glory of Jehovah that he can never change.
They likewise celebrated the eternity of his duration; they characterize him as he which was, and is, and is to come.
In condescension to our weakness, eternity is often represented as if it were compounded of the three great portions of time, viz. the past, the present, and the future. In all ages it might be