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But when Christ came, this Mystery, which was in a great measure hidden from former Ages, was brought into a clearer Light by the Gospel. At our Saviour's Baptism, God the Father declar'd him by a Voice from Heaven to be his beloved and only-begotten Son; and the Holy Ghost descended on him at the same time, in the Shape of a Dove, to bear witness of him: where we have all the three Per fons of the Trinity mention'd, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; all and each of which are after severally stild, God blessed for ever, having all the Titles and incommunicable Properties and Perfections of the Deity distinctly ascrib'd to them : which made St. Fobn to affirm, that there are three that bear Record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghoft; and these three are one. 1 John 5.7
From hence the Church took occasion to profess and dea clare their Faith in this great Point, and to pay their solemn Praises and Adorations to the three several Perfons : yea, tho this Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity was daily own'd in the Hymns, Creeds and Doxologies of the Church, yet one Day was thought fit to be consecrated to the celebrating of this great and adorable Mystery,
And because Christ's vilíble ascending up to Heaven, and the Holy Ghost's visible descending from thence, gave no Small Light and Confirmation to this great Truth; therefore the Sunday after Whitsunday, which was before observ'd as the Octave of Pentecost, was made choice of for this purpose. And this is the Day 'on which we now commemorate the Holy Trinity. Accordingly, the Collect for the Day teaches us,
First, By the Confession of a true Faith to acknowledg the Glory of the eternal Trinity.
Secondly, In the Power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity.
Thirdly, To pray for Grace to be kept stedfast in this Faith against all Adversities and Opposition whatever. Eor the
First, The Epistle for the Day fets forth something of the Glory of the eternal Trinity: From whence we may learn to acknowledg and adore it. This St. John here doth in a Vision, representing God the Son fitting on the Throne of his father, and coming with his Holy Angels to judg the World. The Vision begins in the first Words; After
this I look'd; and, behold, a :Door was opend in Heaven. Here he seems with St. Paul to be wrapt up to the third Heaven, 2 Cor. 12.2. Where looking about, he saw as it were the Door of Heaven open’d unto him, And the first Voice that I heard (faith he) was as it were of a Trumpet talking with me, which said, Come up hither, and I will pep thee things phich must be hereafter. That is, by the help of a fhrill loud Voice, imitating the Sound of a Trumpet, he receiv'd Revelations of some future things, which should in time come to pass; which things we may suppose related to the last Judgment. Upon the light and hearing of these things, immediately (faith he) I was in the Spirit; that is, in a Trance or Extasy, like St. Paul in the forecited Place, IVhether in the Body or out of the Body, he could not tell, God knoweth : Or elle, his being in the Spirit, might be his feeling some secret Impulses or Motions of God's Holy Spirit stirring within him. And behold (faith he) a Throne was set in Heaven, and one fat on the Throne. The Throne here represented to him, as set up in Heaven, was a Throne erec- : ted for Judicature :, and the Son of God, to whom the Father hath committed all Judgment, is the Person here brought in as sitting upon this Throne, whose Glory is after defcribd by the Lustre or Shining of precious Stones : for in the next words he tells us, that he that sat on the Throne, 'was to look upon like a Jasper and a Sardine Stone; and there was a Rainbow round about the Throne, in Sight liké anto an Emerald. that is, the Majesty or Colours wherein he was represented, were like unto the Colours of a Jasper and Sardine Stone; the former, to wit the Jasper Stone, for its Firmness and Hardness, represents the Power and Omnipotence of God; the latter, the Sardine. Stone; for its fiery Redness, represents the Justice of God, who will come in Aaming Fire to consume the Adversary, Heb. 12. 28. The Rainbow that was round about the Throne, was an Emblem or Token of God's Covenant made with Man, as we read, Gen. 9. 13. The orient Colours whereof represent the Brightness that was round about the Throne, and the Appearance of the Glory of the Lord; Ezek. 1.28.' And this is said to be in Sight like unto an Emerald, which for its pleaSant Greenness and Mixture with other Colours, represents the Goodness of God, and his mixing Mercy with Judgment; delivering his people, at the same time that he de. Itroys the Ungodly.
Moreover, Round about this Throne (as the following words declare) there were four and twenty Seats, and upon the Seats I saw four and twenty Elders sitting, clothed in white Rayment, and they had on their Heads Crowns of Gold. Where by the Seats are meant, fo many Chairs plac'd about the Throne, and by the Elders, fitting on them, are meant the Saints who at Christ's coming to Judgment, shall fit' as Affeffors with him. So he himself told his Difciples ; When the Son of Man Mall fit on the Throne of his Glory, ye also mall sit upon twelve Thrones, judging the twelve Tribes of Israel ; Mat. 19. 28. which made St. Paul speak of it as a thing certain and well known, Do ye not know (faith he to the Corinthians) that the Saints small judg the World i Cor.6. 23. meaning, that 'tis certain, that at the great final Judgment of all the World, the Saints shall bear Christ company in judging the Wicked, and Mall sit with him 'in pronouncing Sentence against the evil Spirits. Which Elders or Saints are said to be clothed in white Rayment; that is, in Garments representing Purity and Inno cence, as white Linen doth: by which it appears, that white Garments are not such bad Attire, as some would make it, when the Saints are here represented as array'd in them, And these are said to have on their Heads Crowns of Gold; meaning, that they have receiv'd that Crown of Glory, which God the righteous Judg shall give them in that Day.
To which 'tis added, that out of the Throne proceeded Lightnings, and Thundrings, and Voices: signifying, that as there were Lightnings, and Thundrings, and terrible Voi. ces heard, at the giving of the Law, to awe Men to the observing, and terrify them from the breaking of it ; fo will the like terrible Signs and Tokens appear, at the giving In Evidence, and pronouncing Sentence against the wilful Violators of it.
And there were seven Lamps of Fire burning before the Throne ; which are the seven Spirits of God. These Lamps are here interpreted to be the Holy Angels, which attend the Throne of God, and are as ministring Spirits, fent forth to minister to them, who shall be Heirs of Salvation. But the Lamps and the Spirits here being both reckon’d to the number Seven, hath made some think them to be meant of the seven Angels of the seven Churches of Asia; though the confining them to these, may perhaps be only a Conjecture, founded inore in a Fancy about Numbers, than on any good ground of true Reasoning. Furthermore is said,
That before the Throne, there was a Sea of Glass like unto Crystal : Where by the Sea, is meant the Multitude of Perfons or People, that shall then stand before the Tribunal of God, express'd here by a Sean or Multitude of Waters, which in this Book often signifies a Multitude or Croud of People coming like Waves one upon another; as we read, Rev. 1.7.15. By the Sea of Glass like unto Crystal, may be meant a Multitude of People then appearing, whose Consciences like a Crystal-Glass shall reflect and lay open all their Thoughts and Actions, and make them visible before the Judg: tho fonie would have this Sea of Glass to be a Figure of Heaven, represented as a Sea for its Largeness and Extent; and of Glass, for its Purity and Splendor. But I leave this to the Wisdom of the Learned.
To go on, 'tis here farther said, that in the midst of the Thrones and round about the Throne, were four Beasts full of Eyes before and behind. Who these four Beasts or living Creatures in this Representation were, is variously conjectur'd by the Writers on this obscure Book: fome under. stand by them the four Apostles, James Bishop of Jerusalem our Lord's Brother, Peter, John, and Andrew. By their being full of Eyes before and behind, they understand their having the Gift of interpreting Scriptures; by which they could look backward, and declare what was past; and having the Gift of Prophecy, they could look forward, and foretel what was to come. But these being only ConJectures, let us go forward, and consider the Description here given of them.
The firft Béaft was like a Lion, the Second like a Calf, the third bad the Face of a Man, and the fourth was like a flying Eagle. These likewise are by sundry Authors variously in terpreted : The Jewish Writers take these four Likenesses for the four Ensigns or Standards of Israel, viz. The Likeness of a Lion in the Camp of Judah, of a Man in the Camp of Reuben, of an Ox in the Camp. of Ephraim, of an Eagle in the Camp of Dan; of which Likenesses we read also in the Prophecy of Ezekiel, Chap. I. 10.
Others again take these four Likenesses for Representations of the four Evangelists, Mattheno, Mark, Luke, and John ; which they take from the Beginnings of their several Gospels,
St. Mark, for beginning his Gospel with the Voice of one crying in the Wilderness Prepare ye the Way of the Lord, jie wont to be represented by a Lion.
St. Matthew, for beginning his Gospel with the Birth and Genealogy of our Saviour, is represented by the Face of a Man
St. Luke, for beginning his Gospel with the Prophet Zachary, who was usid to offer Sacrifices, is represented by an Ox.
St. John, for beginning his Gospel with the Divinity of Christ, is represented by a Aying Eagle, which foars high, and carries our Conteniplations up to Heaven. These Conjectures have occafion'd the picturing the four Evangelists with these Resemblančes.
Now these being but uncertain Guesses about doubtful Matters, we may lay no great Stress upon them, being content to be ignorant at prefent of some things, which we may hereafter better understand. And so much for the first Part of this Vision of St. John, which teaches us to acknowledg the Glory of the eternal Trinity : for here we find God the Father appointing, God the Son judging, and God the Holy Ghost" approving and executing the Sentences pronounc'd at the last and great Day.
The Second part of it will teach us, in the Power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity. For the four Beasts, or living Creatures, whatever they are, are said to have each fix Wings about them, to make them quick and nimble in God's Service; and to be full of Eyes within; to give them a full fight of their Duty: And these rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come! Where the thrice Holy denotes the three Persons of the Trinity, and the once Lord in the fingular Number, betokens the Unity of the Godhead in all three ; and their not resting day and night, invocating, and praising of him, denotes their continual worshipping of this Trin-Une Deity, whose Eternity, is describ'd by these words, Who was, and is, and is to come ; that is, who was before all Time, is at present, and ever will be. And when those Beasts, or living Creatures, give Glory, and Honour, and Thanks' to him that fat in the Throne, wło liveth for ever and ever ; the four and twenty Elders, or Assessors, at the fame time fall down before the One God, that sitteth on the Throne, and worship him alone that liveth for ever and ever, all of them casting their Crowns before the Throne, and saying, in the singular number, Tnou art worthy, O Lord, to receive Glory, and Honour, and Power ; for thou Vol. IV. Part 2.