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thought more enlightened, times, is believed to be a virtue, and is usually termed liberality. Success in acquiring earthly wealth seems to have been the next cause of failure in this pastor ; a circumstance which is, in these days, generally construed as the principal criterion of merit! These things, however, according to our Lord, whose merits were never thus signalised, constituted nothing more than wretchedness, poverty, blindness, and nakedness, in the sight of God. The next and important counsel is, to seek the gold of Christ, which has been tried in the fire; to press on after the white raiment (the justifying grace of God), which will cover the nakedness; and to procure the eye-salve (the enlightening Spirit), which will enable a man to see the things belonging to his peace. In the next place, rebuke is no mark of the hatred of Christ; but, on the contrary, of his love: and, on this ground, which is the most likely one to succeed in all such cases, zeal in the cause of truth, and earnest repentance, are recommended. And to urge this, this Bishop is with others assured, that Christ stands even at the door, and asks. for admission on these terms. Then follow the promises of reward and exaltation as before, to all who succeed in this warfare. So far, I think, we have little more than general prophecy; and, indeed, all the denunciations against Jerusalem were originally of this character : but, upon the stubbornness, unbelief, and continued sinfulness, of this people, these received their positive and immutable character, National transgression calls for positive national calamity; and hence originated the positive and particular character of these predictions, with respect to the Churches. The calamity generally to fall on the Jews and Gentiles, had long ago received such immutable character. The Churches had partaken in their abominable practices; and nothing but repentance could now save them from a general participation in their sufferings.
THE GENERAL SUFFERINGS, TRIALS, AND TRIUMPHS, OF THE CHURCH.
We now come to a series of visions, the scope of which seems to refer to the first state, sufferings, and triumphs, of
the Christian church in general.* The first of these commences with chap. iv., and continues to the 18th verse of the eleventh, inclusive ; the particulars of which we now proceed to consider.
CHAP. IV. Verse 1. A door was opened in heaven. Ezek. i. 1: The heavens were opened. So xi. 19; xv. 5; xix. 11, &c.; intending to intimate that something remarkable is about to be revealed. The first voice (was as) it were of a trumpet. So Exod. xix. 16, before the revelation made from Sinai.— I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. So chap. i. 19, which are said in the same chap. ver. 143, shortly to come to pass, and that the time was at hand: the same period is, therefore, marked out here. See the passages there cited.
2-11. A throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne, &c. This description of the throne, &c. is taken from various parts of the Old Testament. See Exod. xxiv. 10. Is. vi. 1-3. Ezek. i. 26–28. The four and twenty elders sitting clothed in white, and with crowns on their heads, seem to represent the heads of the twelve tribes, joined with those of the Christian church, || namely, the twelve apostles justified
* The remark of Primasius on this place is valuable : Postea, inquit, vidi. Post ipsam utique visionem se alteram memorat vidisse : non gestorum est diversum tempus, sed visionum : ac siquis unam rem diversis modis enarret," &c.
+ Cælum ecclesiam eo quod sit habitaculum Dei ubi cælestia geruntur." -Primasius.
According to Arethas, the precious stones are not here mentioned on account of their value, but on account of their colours; as is also the rainbow. It is curious enough to remark that the deities of the Hindoos, the Persians, &c., as mentioned in the Dabistan, are generally painted, each with some particular colour; which, like every thing of the sort, has, no doubt, been originally taken from the Bible.
|| So Victorinus Pictaviensis, the Bishop and Martyr, in his Commentary : “ Sed et viginti quatuor, ut diximus, patres et apostolos judicare populum suum oportet.” Matt. xix. 28, and Gen. xlix. 16, are then cited. And again, on ver. 8 of the next chapter : “ Conjuncta Veteris Testamenti prædicatio cum ovo, populum Christianum ostendit cantantem canticum novum." “ Istæ comparationes,” says Primasius, “ecclesiæ conveniunt quam Dominus indutus est.” The four and twenty seats and elders he takes as just noticed.
and crowned in token of their faith and perseverance. The remainder of the chapter seems to mark out the majesty of Almighty God attended by his ministers, who are prepared to execute his purposes; and, before they receive the commission to do so, they ascribe praise to him as the Creator of all things. This chapter, therefore, is probably nothing more than an introduction, intended to arrest the attention of the reader, and to give authority to what follows. (See p. 225, &c.)
CHAP. V. Verse 1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book, &c. ... sealed with seven seals. *—Any book sealed, or otherwise difficult of explication, requires for its developement one who has knowledge sufficient to do this; especially where people are dull of sight or of understanding (Is. xxix. 9-12). In Daniel (xii. 4) we find the vision and the book sealed up to the TIME OF THE END; that is, to these times.+ In Daniel, vii. 9-14, we also find the Ancient of days sitting, the books opened, every throne put down, and universal dominion given to the Son of man. In the present chapter, which appears to be a counterpart of that, the Ai ent of days seems also to occupy the throne : the book, according to the declaration of Daniel, is sealed ; and now, at, or near, the time of the end, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David,—that is, our blessed Lord, I-is found worthy to take the book, and to unfold its mysteries ; mysteries such as a people dull of sight and heavy of hearing could not understand. It will be unnecessary to dwell on the particulars, as the context applies this office to our Lord in express and clear terms. This is the more necessary to be borne in mind, because the revelation intended for the
The Old Testament : Victorinus. “ Utrumque Testamentum."Primasius.
+ So Hippolytus the martyr on this passage. See also his Commentary on Daniel. Dan. sec. Septuag. p. 109.
| Arethas, too, here very properly refers us to Gen. Ixix. 9. Is. xi. 1. “Quoties enim occisus Christus,” says Primasius,“ in medio ecclesiæ prædicatur; toties idem agnus pro mundi crimine quasi immolari videtur." On the 6th verse he says: Super hanc, inquit, petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam, ac si diceret : Super me ædificabo te. Spiritus autem Domini replevit orbem terrarum."
Churches generally, begins here. Let it also be borne in mind, that the whole of this chapter is symbolical (see on chap. i. 3); the matter therefore revealed in it ought not to be literally interpreted : and, as it manifestly relates to the Church on earth, the song, &c. mentioned ver. 8—14, ought not to be considered as taking place among the saints in heaven, but only among believers in the true church on earth. The mysteries of the invisible world seem never to have been made the subject of any distinct revelation : all we know is, that what we now see as through a glass darkly, we shall then see clearly, and contemplate face to face. See 1 Cor. xiii. 12; xv. 50–54. 1 Thess. iv. 14-18, &c.
CHAP. VI. Verse 1. The Lamb opens the first seal; and, upon this, the ministering spirits cry out in a voice like thunder, “ Come and see!”
2. One mounted on a white horse,* having a bow in his hand and a crown on his head, goes forth conquering and to conquer. The symbol of the white horse seems to be taken from Zech. vi. 3, where we have a prophecy treating in some of its parts on the building of the temple, in others manifestly on the coming and rule of Christ (ver. 12, 13). The imagery employed on that occasion cannot be unappropriate on this. Another passage referred to is, Ps. xlv.3–5, where the arrows of this conqueror are mentioned as being fatal. This psalm evidently predicts the universal kingdom of Christ, and is occasionally cited as such in the New Testament. The commencement of the apostolic warfare is here symbolised.
3, 4. The second seal is opened ; and, on this occasion, a person mounted on a red horset goes forth. To this agent power is given to take peace from the earth, and to bring about mutual slaughter; his weapon is a great sword. This emblematical agent is taken from Zech. vi. 2, the verse pre
* “Equus albus, verbum est prædicationis, cum Spiritu Sancto misso in orbem.” Victorinus, who then cites Matt. xxiv. 14. So Primasius. Σύμβολον, says Arethas, του Αποστολικού ευαγγελισμού, and cites Habb. iii. 15.
+ Symbolical of the effusion of the blood of martyrs, according to this author. “Bella sunt significata futura,” says Victorinus, who then cites Matt. xxiv, 7.
ceding that just cited. The passage is evidently an application of Matt. x. 34, &c. which will therefore best explain it: “ Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law,” &c. See also Luke, xii. 49-53; and Micah, vii. 6, from which the passage is primarily taken. It ought to be remarked, that the context in each of these places evidently alludes to these times of trial, and has, in some instances, been so cited and applied in the New Testament.
5, 6. The third seal is here opened ; and one mounted on a black horse (the symbol of sorrow and lamentation, Arethas), with a pair of balances in his hand, is seen.* Zech. vi. 2, is again cited for the symbolical agent. The balances seem to intimate that justice will be observed by these agents; and when we are told that the oil and wine are not to be hurt, with the extreme scarcity, pestilences, &c. (Matt. xxiv. 7,) nevertheless intimated, we may infer, perhaps, that a remnant (Ezek. xiv. 22, 23) will be spared.
7,8. The fourth seal is opened. One on a pale horse now appears, who is death with hell at his heels; after which slaughter, hunger, and pestilence, &c. follow.t Under
* “Equus niger famem significat,” says Victorinus. He then cites Matt. xxiv. 7.
+ That an extreme scarcity took place during the times of the general persecution, to which this seems to refer, we are assured by Lactantius. See his treatise de Mortibus Persecutorum, sect. 7. Arnobius, in his work adversus Gentes, in which he shews that the pestilences, &c. which bappened in these times, ought not to be charged upon the Christians, is sufficient to prove that such things actually came to pass. See lib. i. passim. On one occasion his words are: “Quid est istud, quod dicitur, invectam esse labem terris, postquam religio Christiana intulit se mundo, et veritatis absconditæ sacramenta patefecit? Sed pestilentias, inquiunt, et siccitates, bella, frugum inopiam, locustas, mures, et grandines, resque alias noxias, quibus negotia incursantur humana, dii nobis important injuriis vestris, atque offensionibus exasperati.” And on another : “ Nam quod nobis objectare consuestis bellorum frequentium causas, vastationes urbium, Germanorum, et Scythicas irruptiones," &c. And again : “Sed si per vos, inquiunt, nihil rebus incommodatur humanis; unde sunt hæc mala, quibus urgetur et premitur jamdudum miseranda mortalitas ?" That such things as these took place, surely there can be no doubt; nor can there be any, as far as I can see, that they happened in fulfilment of the predictions made, Lev. xxvi.