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the prophet with suitable apprehensions of the wasting and destructive nature of those judgments, which were to be inflicted upon the enemies of the church. In this book, terrible things in righteousness are denounced against them. The cloud that is fully charged with the electric fluid is but a faint emblem of those clouds of just indignation which collect about the throne of Jehovah, and which only wait the touch of his sceptre, to be discharged upon the implacable adversaries of his people.
Between the tremendous peals of this mystical thunder, voices, distinct and articulate sounds, were heard. This part of the imagery might be intended to intimate, that when the dispensations themselves, which the thunders symbolized, should be accomplished, their meaning would be easily understood. The voice of God in Providence is sometimes remarkably loud, and the language of Providence is sometimes so plain and intelligible, that only wilful ignorance, or the most unreasonable and obstinate prejudices, can prevent it from being understood. • Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see; but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people ; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.' Isa. xxvi. 11.
After this account of the terrible majesty of the throne, John proceeds, in his interesting narrative, to inform us of other things which he saw, but which were far more inviting in their aspects than those last mentioned. The first specified is a certain number of lamps which were burning before it: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne. The allusion is to the lights in the sanctuary.
Moses was instructed to make a candlestick of pure gold, which was to consist of one stalk, from which six different branches of the same metal were to proceed. On the top of the stalk, and at the extremity of each of the branches, a globe or lamp was to be fixed, which was to be filled with oil-olive, and trimmed and lighted by the priests every evening. Exod. xxxvij. 17. In allusion to the way in which the sanctuary was lighted, we here read of seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.
The meaning of this symbol is explained in the following declaration, They are the seven Spirits of God. They are the signs or figures of the Holy Spirit, called in chap. i. 4, The seven Spirits which are before his throne. The number seven is often ascribed to the One Spirit; and is intended to point out the perfection, fulness, and variety of his gifts and influences. • There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit ; and differences of administrations, but the same Lord.' 1 Cor. xii. 4, 5.
He is represented under the emblem of lamps burning before the mercy-seat, or throne, on account of that spiritual and saving illumination which he affords unto the church. All the rays of supernatural light with which she has been favoured were from the Spirit. Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Spirit.' The same adorable person, acting as the Spirit of inspiration, guided the pens of those whom he employed to commit the revelation of the mind of God unto writing. He also continues, by his influence and operation as the Spirit of truth, to open up and expound to the minds of the saints those things which the inspired penmen have written. « The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.' John xiv. 26.
The emblems are peculiarly descriptive : they are called lamps of fire burning. The lamps of the sanctuary, being lighted with the purest oil-olive, could have nothing offensive to the smell; their light also must have been clear, steady, and brilliant. The refulgence, however, of these mystical lamps was far greater; for it appeared as if all the oil which they contained had been kindled at once ; every lamp had, therefore, the appearance of a globe of light, or body of fire.—The prophecy respects the New Testament state of the church, in which a copious effusion of the influences of the Spirit is to be expected ; when they shall no more “teach every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know him, from the least even to the greatest
of them.' It refers to a period of the church, when the Holy Spirit would bestow a copious measure of holy, ardent zeal, as well as sound intelligence, upon her members. He can dissolve and warm the cold icy bosom, and illuminate the dark region of the mind. He can turn darkness into light, the shadow of death into the morning, and the cold bleak soil of the human heart into a fruitful field.
When these lamps are said to burn before the throne, it is intended to mark the relation between the Spirit and Him that sits upon the throne.
the throne. He proceeds from the Father as well as from the Son. But as both the Father and the Spirit are here represented in their economical characters, the Spirit is represented as before the throne ; because, in the economy of grace, he acts by an authority which emanates from the throne of the Father, as the head of that economy. The Son, in his economical character, does nothing of himself; neither does the Holy Spirit.
Here it may be remarked, that it is not one continued thunder-storm in the region of the throne ; and even when the peals are loudest, and the heavens like one sheet of fire, the lamps before the throne continue to burn ; their light is never quenched, nor obscured. In midst of the work of judgment, the great Ruler of the heavens never omits any of those actings, which may be of advantage to the church. When he shakes the nations, and turns them upside down, he still continues the dispensation of the Spirit with the church. And very often the times of greatest calamities to other societies, are seasons of remarkable reviving to his interests in Zion. « The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times, Dan. ix. 25.
The next thing which attracted the notice of the prophet, was a beautiful laver, placed also before the throne : ver. 6, And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal. The allusion is to the capacious basin called the laver and molten sea, in which the hands and feet of the priests were washen, when they were to be employed in their public functions. The representation in chap. xv. 2, sufficiently determines the meaning of this figure : for there it can be understood only of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Upon this high and advantageous ground all the victories of the church are won ; and upon the same ground, her members stand with acceptance before the throne of God. "I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. This figure symbolizes the infinite merit and powerful efficacy of the blood of Christ. No one would ever think of draining the waters of the ocean. And when you keep in mind the high character of Him that died for us, and rose again, you must also be satisfied, that it would be impossible to exhaust the merit of his sacrifice. The blood of Christ has the same virtue both to pardon and to cleanse, as on the day on which it was shed.
The laver of Moses was of the finest brass, furnished by pious women, who dedicated their looking-glasses for that special purpose. The laver of Solomon was likewise of brass, and polished in the most exquisite manner. Both therefore must have been very resplendent. But the receptaele of these mystical waters before the throne was of glass clear às crystal, and its appearance must have been far more brilliant than any of the two former.-The invention of glass is of such high antiquity, that it is impossible to fix the date of the discovery: but the kind of glass usually called crystal, is only a modern invention; and, as it was unknown in the days of John, the comparison in the text cannot be with crystal, properly so called, but with a fossil of that name. This is the ordinary scripture figure, for any thing that is distinguished by its purity and transparent appearance. Hence, the firmament above the cherubim, described by Ezekiel, chap. i. 22, and the river of the water of life, described by John, chap. xxii. 1, are said to be clear as crystal. And all of you know, that the sacrifice and service of Jesus are without spot and blemish,
Another appendage to this throne was four living creatures, called in our translation, four beasts : And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts. The word translated beasts, properly signifies living creatures, and is a very different term from the one afterwards employed to designate the enemies of the church. Whenever the ministers of religion, and the adversaries of the church, are introduced, a marked distinction is always observed in the language of John respecting them. He never makes use of the term employed here, when he is speaking of enemies; nor, when he is speaking of friends, does he make use of the term by which he has elsewhere characterized a party of an opposite description. And the same distinction ought to have been observed in the translation, especially as the objects intended by the word before us have nothing bestial or ferocious in their temper or exercise. The allusion is either to the living creatures of Ezekiel, chap. i., or to the seraphim of Isaiah, chap vi. The angels of God appear to be intended by the living creatures of the one and the seraphim of the other; but the ministers of the Christian church appear to be intended by the living creatures of John. The most simple and satisfactory method of establishing this opinion will be to take a view of the different parts of the description.
The place which they occupied is the first thing that claims our attention. They were in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne. One of them was standing in the front of the throne, another immediately behind it, and the other two were stationed, the one on the right side of the throne, and the other upon the left. They were in the space between the elders and the throne, standing like the priests under the law, between God and the people. The spiritual privileges of ministers are not greater than those of the people. Nearness to God in respect of communion with him, or conformity to his image, is as much the privilege of private Christians as it is theirs ; but, in respect of public station and official employment, they are admitted to that