« PoprzedniaDalej »
world. Many events are to happen after those that are recorded in the end of this chapter; and nothing is more common in the prophets both of the Old and New Testaments, than to represent the punishment of idolatrous nations by figures derived from the events that shall occur at the dissolution of the world. It would be easy to prove this, did our time allow, by the induction of particular instances. There is also a propriety in this phraseology, since God then comes to judge these communities, as he will judge individuals in the final day. And besides, there is no obscurity; for we shall see, before the termination of these lectures, that there is a uniformity in the application of all the prophetic symbols.
These remarks, taken in connection with those made in our first lecture, will enable us fully to understand the events foretold under the sixth seal. "There was a great earthquake;" the civil and religious constitution of the world was changed. "The sun," the symbol of supreme government, and here of the ancient pagan government of the Roman empire, "was darkened, and became black as sackcloth of hair;" was degraded and humbled. "The moon," the ecclesiastical state of the empire, "became as blood," lost all its lustre, their temples were overthrown, their false systems renounced. "The stars," their idol deities, "fell from heaven," were no longer regarded. "The heaven departed as a scroll," the whole system of their pagan worship was shrivelled and destroyed. All, of every rank in society, felt that they could make no opposition to the Omnipotent; that they could not defend themselves against the Redeemer. In one word, that wonderful revolution took place, which, commencing
in A. D. 303, was completed by the firm establishment of Christianity under Constantine, in 323. Here we pause. Nothing would have been easier than to have illustrated more fully every part of the preceding discourse. But enough has been said to give you a general view of the subject; and we are desirous to advance, with as much rapidity as possible, in this mystic but animating book. One great design in choosing it as the foundation of a course of lectures, was to show you where we now stand, and what are the consequent duties imposed upon us. But in order to convince you more fully on these points, I thought it fit to trace with you the whole line of prophecy from the time of John to the present period.
Let us not conclude the present lecture without some practical remarks.
1. Admire the authority, the power, and the glory of Jesus. He went forth to conquer the nations: his success is proved by the countless number of happy, holy, exalted beings, round his throne, who have been subdued by his grace, and who now participate in his glory. It is proved by the reception of his gospel in so many countries where once the altars of paganism were reared. It shall be proved more fully when that day arrives which is so rapidly hastening on, when the whole world shall be submissive to him. Solemnly inquire then, Has he conquered me? He must be your Lord; he must be victorious over you, either by his grace or his power; you shall be brought to his feet, either as voluntary subjects, or as foes crushed by his might. Think of the righteousness and mercy of his kingdom, and submit to him. Remember that he is still "to conquer," and pray for the extension of his
kingdom, and use all the means in your power to promote it.
2. Child of affliction! you have been reviewing some of the sufferings of early Christians. Repine not then at thy lot; thou art not walking in an untrodden path through much tribulation the early believers entered into glory. He who supported them, can support thee; he who crowned them is still faithful, and sympathizing, and kind.
3. We have seen the prevalence of war, and pestilence, and famine, in the earlier periods of the church: what cause of thankfulness is it that we are not visited with these judgments of God! We have contemplated the fury of the persecutor: oh! how grateful should we be, that we are free from the rod. of the oppressor, and can worship God according to the dictates of our consciences! Surely our peculiar privileges call for more devoted lives.
4. We have contemplated the happiness of the martyrs the same robe of righteousness, the same crown of glory, will be given to all the children of God. If faithful unto death, we shall mingle with them in the world of felicity, and adore and bless our common Lord. Let us follow them so far as they followed Jesus.
5. Finally let us live in the believing expectation of the judgment-day, that day when, without a figure, the events shall occur which are represented in the conclusion of this chapter: when the wicked shall in vain look to created objects for support; when nothing can preserve them from "the wrath of Him who sitteth upon the throne," and from the more intolerable wrath of the Lamb, the injured, insulted, contemned Lamb of God. He now offers to take
away our sin let us no longer trifle with him; let us not be satisfied till we are authorized to look to him as our friend, and to anticipate the judgmentday as the period when he will manifest himself as our advocate and Redeemer.
LECTURES ON THE APOCALYPSE.
REVELATION, CHAP. VII.
In our last lecture we explained the visions that were exhibited on the opening of the first six seals of that prophetic book that was given to the Redeemer, that he might reveal its contents to the church, and accomplish the purposes of Providence that it contained. In this explanation we traced the history of the church from the period when this revelation was communicated to John, to the establishment of religion under Constantine. After this important event, there was a respite from persecution, and a season of tranquillity; during this time the visible church greatly increased, and the number of nominal Christians was augmented; but as wealth and honour were now connected with religion, the
public profession of it did not afford the same evidence of sincere piety as when the rack and the flames were the portion of the followers of Jesus. The Saviour therefore sealed those in a peculiar manner who were real believers; thus designating them as his redeemed property, and assuring them of protection and defence during those judgments that were soon to come upon the earth, and that were announced by the sounding of the trumpets in the succeeding chapter. Thus too will the Saviour mark and secure his own, in all ages' of the world, through all the corruptions and dangers of the church. The whole of the number thus redeemed and glorified by him, appeared to the apostle, and he contemplated their elevation and felicity with joy and gratitude. Such is the general meaning of this chapter: let us consider it more in detail.
In the same roll in which the dissolution of the pagan system was represented, St. John beheld four angels standing" on the four corners of the earth," or at the four cardinal points. They are the ministers of God's providence, and at his command they inflict calamities or pour out judgments upon guilty nations. Of these calamities and judgments, violent winds, which carry desolation with them, and sweep away opposing obstructions, are a frequent scriptural symbol. But these angels act not without a commission. They here appear "holding the winds, waiting for the orders of God: till he speaks, all is calm: "the earth, the sea, and the trees," all ranks and orders of men, are uninjured. It is probably a reference to that period of unusual tranquillity and peace, which intervened between the establishment of Christianity by Constantine, in A. D. 323, and his death in A. D. 337.