« VorigeDoorgaan »
But in the midst of public judgments, the Saviour will not forget his friends. Before he permitted the four angels to loose the winds, he sealed all his real children. Before the blast of the trumpet is heard, he exhibits himself to them, careful of their interests. "Another angel," the angel of God's presence, "stood before the altar" of burnt-offering, to denote the atonement he had made with his blood, and "had a golden censer with much incense," to denote the fulness of his merit, and the acceptableness of his mediation through his expiatory sacrifice. This incense he offered up" with the prayers of all saints," rendering their devotions acceptable by his intercession before the throne of grace, the mercy-seat, which intercession had been typically represented by the perfume of incense rising from the golden altar in the temple.
How animating and touching are those representations of Jesus that are every where interspersed in the Apocalypse! It is, perhaps, this circumstance which most endears it to the ordinary believer. He whose historical researches have not been sufficient to enable him to compare predictions with their accomplishment, nevertheless reads this book with deep interest, because he every where in it meets with that Saviour whom he loves. Whether he considers the glory in which he appeared to the beloved disciple, which so overpowered the faculties of nature as to cause John to fall at his feet as dead: whether he regards him exhibited as the Lamb that was slain; as the object of adoration to angels and the redeemed; as the interceding angel of the covenant, standing for us at the golden altar: whether the believer view Jesus in these, or any of the other sublime or tender forms in which he is perpetually
exhibited in this book; love, and faith, and hope, and joy, must be excited.
Pause for a moment at the representation of the text, and ask thyself, Am I a man of prayer?' It is taken for granted that thou art, if thou art one of the saints. The supplications of believers will rise to God, will be presented to the Redeemer. In vain dost thou call thyself a Christian, if, in the offices of devotion, thou dost not frequently approach the mercy-seat. Thou treatest with contempt the advocacy of Jesus, if thou dost not, by frequent prayer, employ him in this office.
Inquire whether, in affliction, thy prayers are multiplied. Judgments were about to be poured out, and the Advocate, the kind Intercessor, hastened to the golden altar, to receive the numerous petitions that would be poured out by his children. Wo to thee, if affliction does not render the throne of grace dearer to thee, and cause thy visits to thy closet to be more numerous! It is a sad sign of insincerity, if, under the pressure of sorrow, thou choose to struggle with it alone, rather than shed thy tears into the bosom of Jesus; if thou choose to bear thine own burden, rather than flee to him to be delivered from it, or to obtain strength to endure it.
Inquire what is thy plea in prayer. Dost thou expect to be heard because of thy sincerity; because of thy freedom and enlargement in thy devotions; because thy affections were deeply moved when thou wast engaged in the exercises of devotion? Ah! notwithstanding all this, there is so much imperfection mingled with thy first services, that they could not be accepted by a holy God, were not Jesus in heaven receiving thy supplications, and at prayer for thee. Use no other plea than that which he pre
sents: his atoning blood and justifying righteousness. Ever remember, that if he is able to save to the uttermost, it is because he ever liveth to make intercession for us.
But, enemies of the Redeemer, neglecters of the grace of God! never forget that the compassion of Jesus is not a weak pity, which interferes with the claims of justice; that he is regardful of the honour of his Father, as well as of the miseries of mortals. The same Saviour who had sealed his followers, and assured them that their prayers should be heard and answered, passes from the golden to the brazen altar, and filling his censer with those coals of this altar, which denoted the burning wrath of God that could be satisfied only by an atonement, cast it down úpon the earth. It represented the divine vengeance that would be executed upon those who had already deeply corrupted religion; and, notwithstanding their profession of Christianity, displayed not the spirit of the gospel. This act was followed by "voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake:" symbols of those woes and calamities which fell upon the empire before the sounding of the trumpets, in the interval between the extinction of the family of Constantine, to the death of Theodosius, from 353 to 395. There were calamities, invasions by barbarians, who were again repulsed; and the Romans still maintained their territories, though in anxiety and suspense.
But the tempest at last burst, for the angels were no longer restrained by the great Redeemer, and the first trumpet sounded; " and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."
The symbols of hail and fire are frequently used to signify the desolating judgments of God. David thus describes the vengeance of the Lord against his enemies: "The Lord thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hailstones and coals of fire." (Ps. xviii. 13.) Thus Isaiah foretells the invasion of Israel by the Assyrians: "Behold the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand." (Is. xxviii. 2.) Thus also the approaching destruction of the Assyrians is announced: "The Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones." (xxx. 30.) It would be easy to add other illustrations of these symbols: these are sufficient. Blood is here added to show, not only that there will be great devastation, but also much slaughter.
This was to be inflicted on "the third part of the earth;" the phrase generally used in this book to mark the Roman empire.
The "trees and the grass;" the great and the poor, were alike to suffer from it.
Turn now to history, and see how perfectly all this was accomplished. I enter not into particulars: you will find them in all the histories of the Roman empire; and in none more fully than in the work of Gibbon, who, though an infidel, unconsciously bears testimony to the divinity of the scriptures. We have already, in the explanation of this book, been brought down to A. D. 395. From this time to A. D. 453, when this trumpet concludes, we find a series of calamity, bloodshed, and devastation, of which, even at
such a distance of time, we cannot read without shuddering. The repeated invasions of Alaric; the ravages under Radagaisus; the desolating progress of the Vandals; the woes brought by Attila, who so often boasted that "the grass never grew again where his horse had trodden:" these, and other similar calamities, till the year 453, the period of the sudden death of Attila, fully verified these predictions. They were woes which, like the hail, came from the north.
The second trumpet sounded; "and as it were,a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed."
The symbol of the sea is explained by John himself, Rev. xvii. 15: "The waters which thou sawest, are people, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." As opposed to the earth, it signifies many nations collected together, no longer in a quiet, but in an agitatSuch was the situation of the Roman empire after the furious tempest from the north, described under the preceding trumpet.
Mountains, in the style of prophecy, are cities: casting them into the sea, denotes their desolation. Look at the description of the destruction of Babylon, Jer. li. 24, 25, 26. 42: "I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea, all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the Lord. Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, which destroyest all the earth, saith the Lord and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain. And they shall not take of thee