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of holiness and joy: myriads upon myriads shine already in heaven as the evidences of the Father's love, the trophies of the Saviour's grace. And we are taught by the scriptures, that all who shall be saved before the millennial glory of the church, will be only the first-fruits, bearing no greater proportion to the spiritual harvest, than the first-fruits offered in the temple did to all the harvest throughout Judea. Imagine all these collected, and you will easily conceive that however little the flock of Christ may now appear, yet when all his followersshall at last be collected, they will be innumerable.
3. We are taught whence they came: they all "came out of great tribulation." They experienced indeed different degrees of sorrow: some experienced the tortures of martyrdom; others lived in a more serene state of the church: but they all have had to contend with sorrows; to conflict with temptation, with sin, with spiritual distress. To none of them did God promise, on none of them did he confer, perfect exemption from distress.
4. We are taught how they obtained heaven: the blood of the martyr did not merit it; the sufferings of the believer did not deserve it: there is but one fountain in which they all have been cleansed, the atoning blood of Jesus; there is but one song in which they all unite, "Thou, Saviour, art worthy, for thou wast slain." Neither sufferings nor merits are there presented, as the ground of pardon and salvation; "the blood of the Lamb," and that alone, was their plea upon earth for justification, and is the theme of gratitude and triumph when they enter into heaven.
5. We are taught what is the nature of their felicity:
they have white robes, are perfectly holy and fully justified; they have palms in their hands, the symbol of victory and triumph, as well as the accompaniment of praise; they are before the throne of God, who dwells among them, affording them brighter manifestations of his glory than in the ancient temple, and more intimate communion than any of his saints can have in this world of darkness and distance from him. 66 They serve him day and night:" heaven indeed is a state of rest, but not the rest of * an unintelligent substance, or of tired powers; but that of an active spirit, which can only be easy and at rest when freed from the clogs that impair its vigour and restrain its activity. It is indeed a freedom from weariness and toil, but not a cessation from action there the redeemed serve God, not with dull and lifeless affections, as ours too often are, but with unceasing life and vigour, joy and transport. There they are freed from all calamities; "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." Neither those temporal nor spiritual calamities, which here so of ten agitate their hearts and bring tears into their ́eyes, shall attend them beyond the tomb. God himself, who in their afflictions upon earth, "pitied them as a Father pitieth his children," shall then "wipe all tears from their eyes," and pour the rich stream of blessedness upon their souls. Jesus will exercise towards them his pastoral office: as the good Shepherd, he upon earth laid down his life for his sheep; followed them into the wilderness; drew them back from the precipice, down which they were rushing; nourished them by his ordinances; and in communion with him made them to lie down by the still waters, and led them to green pastures. In heaven,
on the throne, he is still their Shepherd: he gives them richer consolations; he feeds them with higher joys than they could conceive on earth; he leads them to the living, ever-flowing fountains of blessedness, and makes them happy beyond their conceptions, and for eternity.
Such is a brief sketch of the enrapturing view presented to the apostle.
1. Afflicted Christian! in contemplating it, wilt thou still repine at afflictions that must so soon and so gloriously terminate? Who will murmur at "great tribulation," which results in heaven, and will render still dearer its perfect and eternal beatitude?
2. Who is prepared for this heaven? He, and he only who is washed in the blood of the Lamb. If uninterested in his atonement, all our sufferings on earth are only the terrible presage of that eternal agony which awaits the enemies of the Redeemer. Art thou united to him by faith? does thy life attest that thou art his child? has he sealed thee by his Spirit, and does this Spirit dwell in thee and animate thee as the pledge, and earnest, and first-fruits of heaven?
3. Finally let us emulate the felicity of the blessed; let us aspire to the same glory; with such sublime prospects let us not cleave to the earth, and with the serpent feed upon dust; but seek for honour, glory, and immortality. To us are offered robes as white, crowns as radiant, palms as verdant, as those possessed whom the apostle here beheld. God give us grace so to live, that at last we may be united with them!
LECTURES ON THE APOCALYPSE.
REVELATION, CHAP. VIII.
WE have beheld six of the seals broken in succession, and have explained the events that were symbolically foretold by them. We have beheld the overthrow of paganism in the Roman empire; have seen the commencement of those corruptions that are about to bring down the judgments of God; have marked the condescension of our Saviour in sealing his real disciples, that they may be designated as his peculiar property, and be assured of defence and protection by him. We have now advanced to the seventh seal, which includes all the seven trumpets, as the seventh trumpet includes all the seven vials. We have found, in every step that we have taken, that history confirmed the Bible; that the works of God in providence were the best commentary on his predictions in his word. In our progress we shall see still more evidence of this important truth.
I have remarked to you, that, when John wrote, the chief strength of Satan against the church was
collected in the Roman empire; and that a considerable portion of this book is designed to show the conduct of Providence towards this empire. It existed, from the time of this revelation, under three distinct forms as an empire professing heathenism; as an empire professing Christianity; and as a state, after the division of the empire, upholding, by all its power and arts, a system of corrupt religion. The events that should occur to it, and to the church as connected with it, are also foretold in three classes. Under the seals, heathenism is overthrown; under the trumpets, the united Christian empire is punished for its corruption of religion; and, under the vials, the anti-Christian hierarchy is visited with the severest woes for its false doctrines, its unholy conduct, and its persecutions of the saints; and, at last, is utterly destroyed. The seals, the trumpets, and the vials, are indeed as the successive volumes of the same work, containing the history of Divine Providence; and by this diversity of emblems, a spirit of inquiry is excited, and the charms of variety and novelty given to the scenery.
The apostle beheld the seventh seal opened: but before its contents are revealed, there is, for a short space, a profound and reverential silence in heaven, a pause of suspense, till the designs of Providence are declared.
Preparations are made for the execution of some extraordinary judgments on the world: "Seven angels who stood before God," perhaps the seven principal archangels so often referred to in this book, and in the prophecy of Zechariah, come from their station, and receive seven trumpets, indicative of the alarms that would soon be produced by wars, desolations, and woes.