spiritual discernment; they should possess the undaunted courage of the lion; the patience and readiness to labour of the or; the intelligence and compassion of the man; the elevation of mind, the celerity, the penetration, and quick-sightedness denoted by the eagle. They are represented as four, a number often used in such phrases as the four winds of heaven, to express universality. Happy the ministers who have these traits of character! They shall, in the future world, stand near the throne of their God; as those, on the other hand, who are unfaithful, shall suffer under double condemnation. None in heaven will be higher in glory than a Paul; none in hell will be sunk in deeper perdition than a Judas.

Beyond them, but still around the throne of God, are the twenty-four elders, seated on inferior thrones. They represent the universal church, and their number is probably derived from the twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament, and the twelve apostles of the New; they are clothed in white, denoting their perfect justification, and their entire sanctification; they have crowns, to display their dignity and glory, and to exhibit them as a royal priesthood; they all have harps, to show the melody of their hearts and the charms of their heavenly song; and "golden vials full of odours," denoting those prayers that rise more acceptable than the incense from the golden censers of the typical priests under the law.

But there is a world of sublime intelligences who never have dwelt in flesh, and who never sinned. These form one great and glorious family with the redeemed; they stood around the representatives of the church of Christ, prepared to unite with them in adoration. Their number was countless: myriads 7


and millions; "ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands."


These blessed beings are continually employed in worship. They rest, indeed, from affliction, and from sin; no pain or pollution attends the redeemed to that world of glory, but they are not unoccupied : it is the vigorous, delightful rest of active spirits which they enjoy. Without intermission they praise God for his moral and natural perfections, and for that immutability which assures them of the perpetuity of their happiness. They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come!" They bless him for the wonders of creation and providence : "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive honour, and glory, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." High as they are elevated above us, they shrink into nothing before the infinite Jehovah; and when they thus adore, they cast their crowns with humble reverence before him.

And oh! how sublime and rapturous must be their songs! Beholding, through the vast extent of God's dominion, displays of his perfections of which we cannot now conceive; and having all that darkness which to us so often hangs over the ways of Providence dispelled, and seeing that infinite love and unerring wisdom have directed every step that they have taken.

But there is another subject, which excites still higher raptures, and wakes a louder song: this is redemption through the blood of the cross. In the vision that we are explaining, a particular circumstance introduces this song. It is one of numerous passages of scripture, which leads us to conclude,

that, besides the general adoration in heaven, there are seasons of peculiar thanksgiving, and more solemn praise. When some of the divine attributes are more fully manifested to the blest than they had ever been before, their hallelujahs are louder, their worship more profound.

St. John saw in the hand of Him on the throne, a book or roll, written within and without, and sealed with seven seals: it was the history of the church, which he was about to reveal. To show its importance, and to display the excellence of the Redeemer, a mighty angel asks, with a loud voice, Who is worthy of this great commission, to reveal the " purposes of God to man? To the question there was no reply. In the whole compass of created beings, no one was found of sufficient worth, dignity, power, and authority. St. John was overcome with sorrow, and wept; but his tears were dried, when one of the elders assured him, that though no mere creature could open this mysterious book, yet that divine person, who is the true Messiah, who is called "the lion of the tribe of Judah," in allusion to the patriarchal blessing upon that tribe, who, in conformity with several predictions of Isaiah, is termed "the root of David," was able and authorized to reveal these counsels.

The apostle then beholds him in that mediatorial character, in which he has already been described to you, as the Lamb that was slain, and sees him receive the book to announce its predictions, and effectually to accomplish them in their proper sea


[ocr errors]

There is immediately a shout of joy in heaven; the four living creatures and elders, the representa

tives of the church of redeemed sinners, are the



centors in the choir, and they also conclude the song. It is new, in opposition to the song on creation and providence; in opposition to the song of the Old Testament saints, who could not speak of redemption accomplished; because of its excellence, and because the pleasure derived from it will never diminish. It consists in praise to the Redeemer : "Thou art worthy to take the book and open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain." "Other warriors are saluted with songs and acclamations, because they have slain their enemies; but Christ is ap-. plauded; he is crowned by the Father, and cheerfully saluted King by his church and people; they proclaim his worthiness in loudest hosannas, because he himself was slain." Nor is this wonderful when we consider the consequences of his death. "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth:" thy kingdom will at last prevail, and we shall participate in the victories of our King.

All heaven united in the song. Innumerable angels, without one jarring note or one cold feeling, cried with the redeemed, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power," authority over all; " and riches," the possession of all things, and all the stores of mercy, grace, and comfort; "and wisdom," large as his authority and dominion; " and strength," omnipotent energy to accomplish his holy purposes; "and honour," from all creatures; " and glory," essential and mediatorial; " and blessing," from all the happy beings who have seen his excellence or tasted of his love. This is the endless due and the rightful power of him, who once appeared in ignominy and died

upon the cross.
these exalted spirits:

Such was the adoring praise of

"The multitude of angels, with a shout,

Loud as from numbers without number, sweet
As from blest voices uttering joy: heaven rung
With jubilee, and loud hosannas fill'd

The eternal regions

No voice exempt, no voice but well could join
Melodious part:-such concord is in heaven."

Immediately the universal chorus is heard from the whole creation; from angels, separate spirits, whose bodies were under the earth or in the sea, and saints on earth, unitedly crying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever." Thus they "honour the Son even as they honour the Father."


The four living creatures solemnly cry, "Amen," so may it, so ought it, so shall it be; and the elders prostrate adore "Him who liveth for ever and ever."

Brethren, let us bless God that a door is opened, so that we can look into heaven; though we cannot expect the prophetic vision of John, yet we have "the sure word of prophecy," the torch of revelation, which throws light upon those things invisible to our bodily eyes; we know what are the holy joys and occupations of heaven; we know the path that conducts to it. In the gospel a voice louder than a trumpet, cries to us, "Come up hither," ascend now in the exercise of faith, of love, and desire, and prepare to come up hither, and dwell here for ever, when you depart from earth. Happy they who have listened to this voice; they can look into the world

« VorigeDoorgaan »