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act of the present state of things; and the commencement of the new state of things is the opening of the seventh seal, when there was silence in heaven for half an hour (Rev. viii. 1).
This seventh seal has not, we believe, been yet truly interpreted; the generality of commentators understanding the silence to denote " a halt in the march of the prophetic narrative" (Lovett, p. 86): others have understood it of the "sabbatic rest;" or of "the time employed by the priest in burning incence, during which the assembly was prostrate in silent prayer" (J. M‘D. p. 75): and all have understood "half an hour" of a short, but vague, indefinite period: in fact, they have only guessed at, not interpreted, the seventh seal. The seals disclose seven states of the church, in that quarter of the earth where God had determined to plant it, in western Europe, in Christendom. In this quarter, called the Earth, Idumea, or Babylon, has the truth of God been uninterruptedly preached; and for finally rejecting it does this quarter become devoured with the curse (Isai. xxiv. 6), and the nations thereof become the people of God's curse (xxxiv. 5). Great have been its privileges, great shall be its punishment for their abuse: it has trampled under foot the saints of God, and they shall have dominion over it in the morning.
The first seal discloses a victorious state of the church, conquering and to conquer:" The second, a persecuting state; that "they should kill one another:" The third, a state of famine; scant measure of wheat, barley, oil, and wine, and also of the word of God: The fourth, a death-like and hellish state; persecution to death of the saints of God, and consigning their names to hell: The fifth, apostasy victorious, and the saints crying for vengeance: The sixth, the vengeance executed: The seventh, the triumph of the church. These natural, obvious, and undeniable characteristics of the seals, apply with great exactness to the following periods:-1st, Constantine, A. D. 323; 2d, Theodosius, A. D. 381; 3d, Honorius, A. D. 420; 4th, Justinian, A. D. 527; 5th, the Papacy, A. D. 533; 6th, the French Revolution, A. D. 1793; 7th, Future.
The first five seals we do not stop to compare with their corresponding periods; for all commentators are now agreed that the sixth seal refers to the French Revolution; and therefore our only care is to carry on the sixth seal, from the first blow inflicted on Babylon at the first earthquake (xi. 13), to the final destruction of Babylon by the second earthquake (19), of which the first was the type and warning. If this be granted, as we think it must, then the seventh seal must be the triumph and reward of the saints, which every where immediately ensues on the destruction of Babylon; as xi. 18, xviii. 20, xix. 2, &c.
But we trust not to inference alone; for we can prove it from the text itself, though so short, "There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."
When Christ ascended up on high, the Lord said unto him, "Sit thou on my right hand" (Psal. cx.): he "overcame, and is set down with the Father on his throne" (Rev. iii. 21). He then received the reward of his obedience, being so highly exalted, that at the name of Jesus every knee bowed, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth :" He now sways the sceptre of Omnipotence and receives the adoration of heaven. This throne of the Father, this worship in the heavens, he continues however to occupy but for a season; "until his foes become his footstool" (Psal. cx.); " until the times of the restitution of all things" (Acts iii. 21): and then shall He sit on his own throne, and to every one that overcometh grant to sit with him there (Rev. iii. 21). Christ's own throne is the new Jerusalem, in which he makes his people kings and priests with him, the King of kings; and they reign on the earth; having been first prepared, and at that time coming down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. xxi. 2). Now, the heaven in which she is prepared is not the throne of the Father, accessible only to the Son; but the clouds of heaven, whither the dead are raised and the quick translated, to meet their Lord, coming from his Father's throne, to plant his own upon the earth: the preparation is the raising of the dead and the change of the living saints.
This is a greater work than creation; more marvellous, more glorious to God; and as at creation "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," so at new creation " when he bringeth again his first begotten into the world, all the angels of God shall worship him" (Heb. i. 6); and all the heavenly hosts look on in silent wonder at the mighty achievements of his single omnipotence. "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord, for he is raised up out of his holy habitation" (Zech. xi. 13). "Truly my soul is silent before God" (Psal. lxii). "Praise is silent before thee, O God" (Psal. lxv)." Look down from heaven, and behold, from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory....Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer : thy name is from everlasting.... Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance" (Isai. lxiii. 15).
The period of this silence in heaven is "half an hour;" an expression which we believe to be definite, as all the others in the Apocalypse. An hour, in ix. 15, has been interpreted as a month : half an hour, therefore, is fifteen days, fifteen of the smallest subdivisions of prophetic time. Chap. vii. 9 is, as we have seen, the Feast of Tabernacles; but on the last day of the feast, the high priest stood at the door of the temple, and all the priests who ministered in the temple descended together one of the fifteen steps of the temple, pausing on the first step to sing the first of the fifteen songs of degrees (Psal. cxx). Descending the second step, they sang the second song; and so with the fif
teen. These fifteen were sung by the priests and Levites alone; but when they reached the ground, the high priest gave out, from the temple above, Psal. cxxxv., in which all the congregation joined, saying, "Hallelujah: Praise ye the name of the Lord; praise him, O ye servants of the Lord," &c. "Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem: Hallelujah.' Now this exactly answers to Rev. xix. 5: "And a voice came out from the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants; and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying Alleluja: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad, and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These are the true sayings of God." These verses, by some one or other of the expressions they contain, point to a vast variety of passages, in this book, in the Gospels, and in the Prophets, descriptive of the various forms which the purpose of God has taken under the guidance of his providence, which then receive their entire development, and take their eternal constitution. The "sayings of God" shall then be all proved true by their accomplishment; the "supper of the King's Son" arrives (Luke xxii. 30; Matt. xxv. 10, xxii.); the bride in her wedding garments (Psal. xlv. 14; Isai. lii.); the marriage of the land (Isai. Ixii. 5); the reign of righteousness (Psal. xciii., xcvi., xcvii., xcviii., xcix., lxxii., &c.; Dan. vii. 13, 22, 27; Zech. vi. 13); and many more. But all these points are brought together, and ordered to our hands, in the fifteen songs of degrees sung at the Feast of Tabernacles, which have their fulfilment in the time of the seventh seal. The first of these (cxx.), 'expresses the state of misery from whence the Lord delivers them, in answer to their prayer,-distress, lying lips, and a false tongue; sojourning in Mesech (Gen. x. 2; Ezek. xxiii.); dwelling in Kedar (Gen. xxv. 13; Jer. xlix. 28); dwelling in peace when their enemies prepare for war (Ezek. xxxviii. 11). The second (cxxi.) shews that their deliverance. is from the Lord alone, the Lord in person, the Lord in the midst of them for ever. "The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." The third (cxxii.) is the final constitution of Jerusalem, of the throne of David, of the temple, and the blessings thence flowing forth to the earth. "Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.... Thither the tribes go up....there are set the thrones of the house of David....they shall prosper that love thee....because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek
thy good." The best comment upon this Psalm is found in the last chapters of Zechariah; where the Lord, turning again to Jerusalem, in his mercy (ix. 9), makes Jerusalem a burdensome stone to all people (xii. 3), and the inhabitants of Jerusalem find their strength in the Lord of Hosts their God (ver. 5). Henceforth Jerusalem is under the protection of God; and though attacked by the nations, they do not prevail, but are themselves destroyed (ver. 9). But still the tents of Judah are saved first (ver. 7), that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. Judah, therefore, dwelling in tents, in the field, in Sharon (Isai. lxv. 10: see Vol. III. p. 257), is saved, while Jerusalem is attacked by the nations; then the Lord seeks to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zech. xii. 9), and then pours "upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplications" (ver. 10), opens a fountain for sin and uncleanness (xiii.), again interposes in their defence (xiv.), and constitutes the blessedness of the world, in the families of the earth going up to keep the feast at Jerusalem (xiv. 16). All which is implied in this Psalm cxxii. Psal. cxxiii., the fourth song of degrees, is the cry of the tents of Judah, saved, and trusting in the Lord, but "the scorn of those that are at ease, and the contempt of the proud" (ver. 4), because they are not yet brought back to Jerusalem, which is still encompassed by these proud and scornful ones. The fifth song of degrees (cxxiv.) refers to the tribes of Israel, then in the valley of Achor (Vol. III. p. 259), delivered as a bird out of the hand of the fowler, by the help of the name of the Lord (vers. 7, 8). The sixth song (cxxv.) is the final deliverance of Mount Zion and Jerusalem, when the rod of the ungodly shall no more rest upon the lot of the righteous (Zech. xiv. 3), and peace shall be upon Israel (cxxv. 5). The seventh (cxxvi.) is the joy of the people of God, on the turning of their captivity, and the acknowledgment among the heathen that the Lord hath done great things for them: see also xcvi. 10. These seven songs we believe to refer to the earthly Jerusalem, and the eighth (cxxvii.) to run parallel with Isai. lxv. 17, 20, 22, being the time of the new heavens and new earth of Rev. xxi.
But this time is the manifestation of the bride, the Lamb's wife (Rev. xxi. 2); and it seems to be the purport of the ninth song of degrees (cxxviii). The tenth, eleventh, and twelfth songs (cxxix. cxxx. cxxxi.) are the three classes of whom the church of Christ, the bride, consists: first, those who have known the Lord from their youth, and who, though persecuted and afflicted; do cleave to Him with stedfastness (cxxix.); secondly, those who are plucked as brands from the burning, "out of the depths," acknowledging that "with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all his
iniquities (cxxx); thirdly, the poor in spirit, the humble souls who do not exercise themselves in great matters, or in things too high for them (cxxxi. 1): and these all become now manifested as the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And now the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them for ever (Rev. xxi. 2, 3, xxii. 5); and the Lord, taking up his eternal abode in shekinah glory in the temple at Jerusalem, and at the same time in personal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there is no temple (Rev. xxi. 22), they go into his tabernacle, and worship at his footstool, in the place which the Lord hath chosen as his rest for ever, where he will dwell (cxxxii. 7, 13, 14). And thus is fulfilled Exod. xv. 17, 18; Isai. xii. 6; Ezek. xliii. 7, and many such passages. And singing "Arise, O Lord, into thy rest, thou and the ark of thy strength" (cxxxii. 8), indicates the fulfilment of those many passages where the King of glory mounts his throne as Lord of lords; as Psal. xxiv.; Isai. xxxiii. 5, 17, 22; Dan. vii. 9; Matt. xxv. 31: and the "ark" directs us to Rev. xi. 19, v. 9, xix. 4. And the three co-existent states, in the world, the earthly Jerusalem, and the heavenly, are clearly indicated in Psal. xxiv. The earth then acknowledges the Lord (vers. 1, 2): the generation of them who ascend the hill of the Lord is given vers. 3, 6 and the everlasting doors are lifted up to receive the King of glory into the heavenly Jerusalem, in vers. 7, 10. All the brethren of Christ then dwell together in unity, and the Lord commands his blessing (cxxxiii.); and they praise God in his sanctuary, having entered the house of the Lord in his train; and the Lord, that made heaven and earth, blesses them out of Zion (cxxxiv).
The events which we have been contemplating as taking place under the seventh seal, and contained in the fifteen songs of degrees, certainly take place during the time of the transference of the kingdom of God from heaven to earth; for it is the time which all the Scriptures announce when the tabernacle of God shall be with men. Christ, who now sits on his Father's throne, shall then sit on his own throne; and the New Jerusalem shall at the same time come down from heaven. There must be, therefore, a pause in the heavenly Hallelujahs; for the Lamb, to whom as well as to God they are addressed, will be coming forth to perform his last, his greatest work, of avenging his own elect and casting out their enemies. And as at the creation the sons of God attended and shouted for joy, and as at the incarnation a multitude of the heavenly host sang glory to God in the highest; so at this last display of love shall the heavenly host come forth and join with the church of the first-born in their songs of triumph. The song of triumph of the people of God is contained in Ps. cxxxv. which was given out by the high priest standing