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THE SEALED BOOK.  LECTURE III.

Database

THE SEALED BOOK. LECTURE III.

James Dodson

Rev. 5:1-9....And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals, &c. &c. 

WITH the sealed book the prophetical part of the Revelation commences. All that is before this is description or narrative. It is in chap. 4th, the writer is himself introduced to those scenes which are predictive. Verses 1, 2. AFTER THIS, I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven : and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, COME UP HITHER, AND I WILL SHOW THEE THINGS WHICH MUST BE HEREAFTER. And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. Chap. 5:1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book ,written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals. Verse 1.  And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open, and to read the book.

From this representation it is not only perfectly obvious, that the first invitation which the apostle John received to survey futurity, is in the first verse of the fourth chapter; but it is also apparent, that after his attention is fixed upon the object to which it was invited, all future events are still shut up from his anxious eye. The entire prophetic period is a sealed book which no creature call disclose. It is in the fifth chapter we are first introduced to the Mediator in the character of the revealer of what is to come to pass in relation to his church on earth; and it is not until the sixth chapter, that the seals are in fact broken up, and the prospective history commences. It is therefore obvious, that there is less of judgment than of fancy in the attempt of Dr. More, to discover in the second and third chapters a complete history of future churches, and in the efforts of Dr. Johnston, to make the four living creatures of the fourth and fifth chapters, prophetical symbols. By such interpretations, there is indeed afforded an ample opportunity to display fertility of genius. Fiction always affords more scope to inventive power, than does actual history. It is no less injurious, nevertheless, to the true interpretation of the Apocalypse, to force a predictive sense on passages which are merely descriptive, than it is to expound as referring to the present or the past, those in which future events are indeed unfolded. To allegorize plain language, and to construe metaphor literally, are alike incompatible with sound criticism.

With these observations I proceed to lay before you the several parts of this lecture.

I shall explain the scenery employed in bringing the sealed book to view—show what is signified by opening this book—and make some concluding reflections.

It will be readily admitted by all men, that a correct knowledge of those events which are yet to come to pass, so far as it exceeds the province of human sagacity, must depend upon information communicated by him who knows the end from the beginning. The writer of the book of Revelation is, therefore, careful to explain the manner in which he became the depository of those secrets of the Almighty. This explanation is given in the introduction to the sealed book. I shall now lay it before you.

I. Let us examine the scenery employed in bringing to view the sealed book.

The divine revelation made to John was of that kind which is called vision. It is a representation made to the mind by supernatural power, having precisely the same effect that external objects have, when, in a clear light, they are distinctly presented to the eye. No sooner had he heard the invitation, "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter," than he was the subject of inspiration. He was prepared of course to contemplate what "eye had not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived"—Immediately I was in the Spirit. What he then beheld is,

THE FIRST PROPHETIC VISION.

It invites your attention, Christians, not so much from the variety, the boldness, and the splendour of its imagery, as from the interesting and important doctrines which it inculcates and unfolds. It exhibits the throne of God in heaven, as he sitteth on it—the characters that compose his retinue—and the Redeemer of men, honoured of God and worshipped by every creature.

1. Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.] This scene has an allusion to the temple of Jerusalem; the place of the divine presence among his people. There he dwelt in the splendour, or Shekinah,[1]above the mercy-seat.

He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone.] It is not necessary that he be named. His throne proclaims the Governor of the universe. Although there is no similitude of him, his appearance is in glory. The jasper is a bright transparent stone. The sardine is like flame—a ruby. The former signifies the holiness of the Lord, and the latter his justice. Honour and majesty are before him, strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.] The rainbow is the well-known sign of God’s covenant, Gen. 9:13. It represents the promise and the oath of the covenant of grace, and so adorns the head of Christ Jesus.[2] Here it surrounds the throne of God, to show that it is a throne of grace as well as righteousness. The bow, too, partakes of the verdant hue of the green emerald, in token of the relief which it gives to the eye from the splendour of divine justice, and to show that the covenant of grace ever abides the NEW covenant. There is no access to the throne but by covenant. There is nothing proceeds from the throne but through this covenant. All the divine dispensations are subservient to it; and it is the bond of our communion with God.

Out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings.]The mercy of God does not impair his justice, and diminish his power. He is a consuming fire. Thus he appeared from Mount Sinai to the trembling Hebrews. Even Moses did fear and quake. God is glorious in holiness, and fearful in praises.

And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.] Seven lamps appertained to the golden candlestick which was before the most holy place. They pointed out the light of divine truth, together with all the other gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, in the church of God. Seven is a number of perfection, and thus applied to the Holy Spirit, chap. 1:4. The lamps of the candlestick are the influences of the Spirit in the churches; compare chap. 1:4. with verse 20.

Before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal.] The brazen sea of Solomon’s temple ;vas the type of that washing which removes the guilt of sin, and cleanses man from its pollution. The like figure, even baptism, appears in the system of New Testament ordinances.[3]

This representation of the throne is, with some appropriate variations, similar to what the prophets were accustomed to give, for the purpose of impressing the mind with reverence for the divinity, and faith in his blessed word, Isa. 6:1-3. Ezek. chap. 1. and 10. Dan. 7:9.

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book.] Before we inquire what this book symbolizes, let us consider

2. The retinue of the King.

The attendants are of three classes, chap. 5:11. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the ELDERS. We shall attend to each in the order of approximation to the throne of God—Faithful ministers, saints, and angels.

The faithful ministers of the gospel of Christ are symbolized by the four living creatures, Τεσσαρα Ζωα.

The word Ζωα is very improperly translated beasts in this passage. I do not know an instance in which the translation degrades the original idea more than in this. The Greek word signifies any thing that has life, and may, indeed, in its highest use be applied to him who hath life in himself. Both Plato and Aristotle apply it to God.[4] We render it in this case living creatures.

Several excellent critics have represented these "living creatures" as angels, and Woodhouse has employed great pains to prove that they are the highest order of angels, because, 1, their description is borrowed from the seraphim of Isa. 6. and the cherubim of the temple, Ezek. 1:10. and, 2, because they are placed in Rev. 4:6. nearest to him that sitteth upon the throne. The first argument is, however, inconclusive; and the second proves entirely the reverse of what it is employed to prove. That some of the attributes of angels should be ascribed to Christian ministers, is nothing uncommon for they are even called by the name of angels in chap. 1, 2, and 3. That they are placed near to God, yea, nearer than angels are, is evident from chap. 4:6. and 5:11. and is perfectly conclusive that they are distinct from angels. Redeemed men being united by the Spirit of God to Jesus Christ, are thus made one with God in him, John 17:21. They must, therefore, although originally made lower than the angels, become nearer to their God than these sons of the morning. There is another consideration, however, that puts the question at rest. They are made to sing, chap. 5:9. a song, which in the month of any but redeemed men, would be a falsehood. Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. They are, in fact, throughout their whole description, perfectly distinguished from the angels.

They are evidently, too, a distinct order of redeemed and saved sinners. Their employment, as well as their situation and character, point them out as the faithful ambassadors of the cross of Christ. At the opening of the seals, chap. 6. they call to the churches, Come and see. In other words, they are the watchmen who expound the prophecy, and teach to men their duty. They are placed between other saints and the throne, being the official attendants upon their Lord and Saviour. They are described as full of eyes to mark their discernment; and compared to the lion, to the ox, to man, and to the eagle, to denote their courage, their patience, their humanity, and their celerity, elevation of mind, and quick-sightedness in the service of God.

This description is not intended to apply so much to each or any individual pastor in the christian church, as to the collective body. They are said to be in number four. This number is often used to signify universality. The four winds of heaven,[5] are all winds. The four corners[6]of the land, are the whole country. Dr. Johnston says, this "number denotes four successive periods from the days of the apostles to the final judgment." He imagines the first, lion, symbolizes the primitive ministry—the second, calf, or young ox, the ministry of the dark ages—the third, man, the ministry of the reformation—the fourth, eagle, that of the millennium. It is however a mere assumption that the four living creatures are symbolical of any distinct periods, and especially of the four which are here specified. This interpretation gives an exposition of one of the most interesting concerns of futurity even before the sealed book is at all opened. And each of the twenty-four elders might with as much propriety be separated from his companions, and made the symbol of a prophetical period, as separate the four living creatures, who appear, not one at a time, but all together, at the throne of God.

A consideration however arises from the sixth chapter which completely destroys this fanciful interpretation. Each of the four living creatures appears actually engaged in one period, and that a very early one. They all act, each in his turn, at the opening of the first four seals.

By "the four living creatures," I therefore, throughout understand, the collective body of faithful ministers, in every given period of the christian church. Next in order, appear before the Lord the King, the collective body of faithful people. They are symbolized by the twenty-four elders.

The Πρεσβυτεροι, elders, were well known as the representatives of the people of Israel, and as the constitutional representatives of christian congregations. By the number twenty-four, being that of the twelve tribes added to that of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, the Old Testament and the New Testament churches appear united in one representative assembly. Being made kings and priests unto God, they are seated before the throne.

There is in this part of the vision an undoubted reference to the manner in which the Jewish Sanhedrim sat before their president. The throne itself is the segment of a small circle, so that the four living creatures being within the segment, and before the Lord, might be said as in chap. 4:6. to be in the midst of the throne, and round about it. The twenty-four elders were upon seats round about the throne, in a semicircle of larger dimensions. They are also all clothed in white raiment, the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and they are crowned with the crown of righteousness. They and the living creatures sing the new song, chap. 5:9. In a complete circle, embracing both the throne and the semicircle before it on which the elders sat, were arranged the third class of characters who composed the splendid retinue—the holy angels.

I beheld many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders.] They are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. They are about the throne, but at greater distance than redeemed men.

3. This vision presents to our view the Redeemer himself, before the throne of God, receiving the homage of created beings.

The Messiah was not revealed until there was evidently a necessity for his interposition. In no case do we either look for him, or desire to acknowledge him, until we feel an absolute necessity for an interest in him.

I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book—And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, who is worthy to open the book—and I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book—And one of the elders saith unto me, weep not: behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book. Under these very interesting circumstances, when anxiety is at its height, the blessed Redeemer appears in his mediatorial character, and inspires the assembly with joy. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a LAMB AS IT HAD BEEN SLAIN—And HE CAME AND TOOK THE BOOK out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. The ministers of his word, the church which he redeemed, the unbodied spirits, in countless myriads around them, and the whole creation rejoice at the appearance of him who is both the lion and the lamb, to take the book, and to loose its seals. The living creatures and the elders celebrate the praises of their own Redeemer. Other intelligences join in celebrating the praises of the Redeemer of men. No sooner had the Lord Jesus Christ taken the sealed book, than

"The multitude of angels, with a shout
Loud as from numbers without number, sweet
As from blessed voices uttering joy; heaven rung
With jubilee, and loud hosannas filled
The eternal regions—
No voice exempt, no voice but well could join
Melodious part—such concord is in heaven."[7]

II. We shall now attend more immediately to the sealed book itself, to the opening of which, all this was introductory.

The book which appeared in the right hand of God, and was given to Messiah, contained the outline of those events which were after that time to come to pass.

A book is any thing upon which ideas are committed to writing for the purpose of being read. Various sorts of materials were anciently used in making them. The works of Hesiod were written on plates of lead. The laws of Solon were written on wood; and the divine law was written in Sinai on tables of stone. From the use of the inner bark of trees in this way, books derive their Latin name Liber; and as the substance written upon, whether bark or papyrus, or parchment, which came afterwards into use, was frequently rolled up for the sake of convenience, books were called volumes, volumen, or rolls as in scripture, Ezek. 2:9. When a writing was thus rolled up, the contents could not be read, and when secrecy or security were intended, the rolls were sealed.[8]

In the book before us are the purposes of heaven recorded. They are known to himself before they are accomplished, and they are arranged in due order. These purposes are, however, SEALED. They are certainly to be executed, and they are effectually concealed from view until they are either displayed in the event, or supernaturally made known to man. In this instance, the roll is sealed with SEVEN seals. SEVEN was among the Jews a sacred number, and is the sign of completeness. "This number," says Calmet, "is consecrated, as it were, in the holy books, and in the religion of the Jews, by a great number of events and mysterious circumstances. God created the world in seven days, and consecrated the seventh to repose. Every seventh year was also consecrated to the rest of the earth as a Sabbatical; also the seven times seventh year as the Jubilee. In the prophetic style, a week, i.e., seven days, often signifies seven years. Pharaoh’s mysterious dream represented to his imagination seven fat and seven lean oxen: seven full ears of corn, and seven empty. The number of seven days is observed in the octaves of the great solemnities; of the passover; of the feast of tabernacles; the dedication of the tabernacle and temple. Observe also the seven branches of the golden candlestick; the number of seven sacrifices often appointed. In the Revelation—the seven churches; seven candlesticks; seven spirits; seven stars; seven lamps; seven seals; seven angels; seven trumpets; seven vials; &c. In a word, we may find the number seven throughout the scripture." In the present use of the number seven, it is quite certain that the idea of perfection is involved. The book was completely sealed; and its contents are not to be revealed but by breaking open the several seals, and so unfolding the volume. There is besides an evident reference in this passage to the writings of the earlier prophets. They represented, as a sealed book, predictions which were not understood. Isa. 29:11, 12. The VISION of all is become unto you as the words of a BOOK THAT IS SEALED, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot; for it is SEALED. The words of the Lord respecting what was about to come to pass after the commencement of the christian era, are more immediately applicable to the sealed book now under consideration. Daniel 12:9. This prophet had heard the Messiah speaking of the great period of twelve hundred and sixty years,[9] so often the subject of discussion in the Apocalypse, and frequently before suggested to Daniel himself, but he understood it not. And I heard but understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel, for THE WORDS ARE CLOSED UP AND SEALED to the time of the end.

The book closed up against the inquiries of Daniel, and sealed to the time of the end, is that which now appears to John in the hands of him that sat on the throne. The prophet was in vain desirous to know its contents; and the apostle equally anxious, wept because there was none found worthy to open the book. But John the Divine wiped away his tears, and joined the general hymn of praise heard among the celestial inhabitants, when the Lion of the tribe of Judah appeared and took the book in his hand, with design to unfold its contents. It was understood by all, as well as of old it had been by the prophet, that it contained the prospective history of the Mediator’s kingdom. Therefore were they so anxious to learn what that history should be. A similar anxiety is natural to all liberal and faithful christians.

THE SEALED BOOK,

Now about to be opened by him who is the Root of David, and the Lamb of God, is therefore to be considered as a prophetic view of the future interests of religion, as they do affect, and are affected by the great social concerns of the human family. The opening of the book, by disclosing its contents, is of course the information which by divine revelation is afforded to us upon this very interesting and important subject.

It is necessary in order to prepare you for the interpretation of the subsequent prophecies of the Apocalypse, that this principle be well understood and kept in recollection. I shall therefore more formally assign my reasons for considering the sealed book as containing the whole of that period of time, the events of which are predicted in the Revelation.

1. The whole history of the church of God on earth, from the commencement of the gospel dispensation, until the general judgment, is included in the sealed book of the prophet Daniel, and must of course, except so far as it was already disclosed by the events, be contained in the book which John beheld in God’s right hand. His purposes are one, and the books in which they are recorded evidently identify. Dan. 12:4. O Daniel, shut up the word and seal the book, even to the time of the end. These words, however, extended to the period verse 2, in which they that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

2. The words of the Saviour, "the first voice," that addressed the writer of the Apocalypse,[10] gives assurance that such a general history would be given—I will show thee the things which must be hereafter.

3. This book appears sealed in the hand of God. It is the purpose of the Almighty respecting his church. All the inhabitants of the upper sanctuary are anxious to know the contents. None but Messiah can be found worthy to unloose the seals. To him the book is delivered in the most solemn manner. Now, as all the purposes of God are administered by Jesus Christ, and thus committed to him to be administered, the book must include the whole scheme of the divine government.

4. Under the seventh seal is included the whole period of the trumpets. Chap. 8:1, 2. And when he had opened the seventh seal, I saw the seven angels which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet, however, includes the whole of future time; and therefore it must have been originally in the sealed book. Chap. 11:5-18. And the seventh angel sounded—And thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged.

It is indeed the general, if not the uniform mode of the divine Spirit, to give in every entire prophecy, at the close of those predictions which exhibit great sufferings to christians separately, or the church of God collectively, a view of that REST which remains for the faithful, where the wicked cease to trouble. The prophecy of the book of Revelation places at the conclusion of it, the general resurrection and judgment; and thus carries on the history contained in the sealed book to the end of all time, when other books behove to be opened for settling the final state of all flesh. Chap. 20:12-15. "And I saw the dead small and great stand before God: and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works—And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire: this is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire."

The whole period of the Apocalyptical prophecy belongs of course to the sealed book. The seven periods already designated are included in it; although the most interesting parts are more fully described in collateral visions. The LITTLE OPEN BOOK of chap. 10. is in the text itself, as will appear in due time, sufficiently distinguished from this GREAT BOOK: but it is to be observed, that the period which it, particularly describes, is a very interesting part of the general one which is set forth in the roll originally held in the right hand of him who sat on the throne.

"It is a very erroneous opinion, that the predictions of the Revelation, and accordingly the contents of the sealed book, point out a very short space of time—a few years after the vision. The wisdom and goodness of God, which provides in every state of affliction suitable support to the faith and constancy of the church, give us reason to believe that the spirit of prophecy did not design its holy aid exclusively for the first ages of christianity."[11] Every section of the Apocalypse which is selected as the subject of lecture, will, however, afford us the best opportunity of determining the points of time to which itself applies. We deem it necessary at present, only to add to the preceding considerations that the true church has found, during the long and gloomy reign of superstition over the nations called christian, great support and consolation from the Apocalyptical predictions, both such as were fulfilling in their own day, and such as are even yet unaccomplished. Dr. Clarke has justly observed, "God did from the beginning make, and has all along continued to his church, or true worshippers, a promise that truth and virtue shall finally prevail over the spirit of error and wickedness, of delusion and disobedience."[12] The opening of the sealed book being a disclosure of those events which stand connected with the sufferings and the sorrows, the victories and the triumphs, of the church, was remarkably adapted to the condition of believers during the ages which were destined to precede the millennium. It is perfectly becoming, therefore, that the opening of this book be accompanied with the shouts of both the ministers and members of the christian church. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof.

A long written roll, fastened with seven separate seals, cannot be entirely disclosed until the last seal is removed; and it would be improper to suppose, that each seal would, when opened, exhibit an equal portion of the contents of the roll. Upon such an instrument, seals could not in fact be placed in such a manner as to be visible, and at the same time affect each an equal portion of its contents. Each of the six first opened, could only disclose comparatively a small part; whereas the last must unavoidably unfold the entire book. We are accordingly prepared, from the nature of the symbol, to expect that the period of time which the six seals describe is comparatively short. The opening of the seventh seal immediately announces the angels of the trumpets, and both they and the angels who hold the vials will be found to have executed their commission before the reign of righteousness extends over the earth. The seals, the trumpets, and the vials, therefore, give names in the systems of the best Commentators on prophecy, to three great distinct periods, from the apostolical age to the time of the millennium. The period of the seals is the first in order, and includes all the events predicted during the opening of the first six seals of the great book. This shall be the subject of the succeeding lecture.

III. I conclude this discourse with two reflections.

1.The vision respecting the sealed book excites joyful anticipations of discoveries elucidating the predictions of the elder prophets, and especially those which were uttered by Daniel to the Jewish captives in Babylon. Daniel himself was deeply and anxiously affected by what he saw and heard. John the Divine, and the company which he beheld in the temple, were deeply affected by what they saw and heard. You too, my brethren, if you drink together into the same spirit with these celebrated and godly men, will take a deep interest in the discoveries made to you by the Revelation of Jesus Christ. You will receive them with suitable emotions.

It is not the love of the marvellous,—that principle so natural to all men, but to which the weakest minds are the most prone; it is not the love of the marvellous that we would now court or invite to action. It is not the idle curiosity, which makes a man of no discernment or benevolence seek to know and to repeat what others do not know, merely for the gratification of vanity; and which is of course more enamoured of novelty than of truth; which is satisfied with the semblance of truth; this is not the principle which we would invite to the examination of divine predictions. We use no efforts to awaken the spirit of discontent at the order of God’s providence as it respects your present lot; or of selfish calculations of future temporal emolument, without regard to the interest of true religion. We would rather consign such a spirit to perpetual sleep. But we do invite you, christians, beloved and redeemed of the Lord, to employ your faculties in the diligent acquisition of that knowledge of futurity which the God whom you worship hath deemed of importance supernaturally to lay before you. It is the spirit of love, of zeal, and of a sound mind, that we would enlist in this holy service. It is that benevolent sensibility, which disregarding the perilous and perishing enjoyments of this world, weeps with the afflicted Israelites, and rejoices at the prospect of deliverance to the whole seed of Jacob, that we would cherish and improve. It is that holy, that rational desire of knowing what God is about to do, and in what manner he calls for your co-operation, in promoting the glory of his great name, in dispensing happiness around him, and in saving your own souls—It is this laudable desire of information we would cultivate among you.

The vision of the sealed book introduces you to your compatriots—to men of a kindred spirit. The pastors of the church, and the four and twenty elders having every one of them harps, and golden vials full, of odours, which are the prayers of saints, invite you to their fellowship. The throne of light appears surrounded with the token of the covenant of grace. God is in the midst of it. The Lion of the tribe of Judah from the throne administers his providence in the support of his ransomed inheritance. His voice is heard by believers, saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. I have delivered to you the invitation. Will you authorize me to express your acceptance?—to testify to my God the zeal of his people, and their affection for his cause? I pause for a reply. Yes! I shall offer in your behalf the vow which is demanded. For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

2. The subject under consideration calls upon you, before you retire, to express your satisfaction in the exaltation of Jesus Christ.

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and honour, and glory, and blessing." This is the song of angels and redeemed men. We have a right to require, and to expect of you that you join in his praises. It is through him alone you have access to the throne of grace. It is in him alone you are living members of the church. There is no other name by which you must be saved.

Upon the nature of our relation to Jesus Christ depends entirely our christian character. When that relation is a vital spiritual union, we are justified. "Being dead to the law by the body of Christ, we are married to another husband." His righteousness is upon us, and his Spirit within us. We are true christians. When that relation is constituted by a sound profession of faith in his doctrine, we are professed christians. But if the profession be insincere, we are hypocrites; and if there be no more than a profession, we are no more than nominal christians. Let us test our sincerity by the doctrine of Christ’s exaltation. It is a mode of trial which he himself taught his disciples to employ. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go to the Father. The only possible ground of reluctance to have all power in heaven and on earth administered by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is indisposition to obey some or all of his commandments. This indisposition he himself ascribes to the want of love for him. If ye love me keep my commandments. Inasmuch then as it is impossible to love the Redeemer without a corresponding love for his law, so it is equally impossible to love him or his laws, without being disposed at the same time to have him as our ruler, and without an ardent desire to see the whole concerns of men regulated by christian principles.

I think I might with safety lodge my appeal, against the doctrine which limits the mediatorial authority, with the hearts of renewed men. What say you? Is it unpleasant to you, that your own Saviour should be the King of nations and of saints? Is it desirable that his authority be under restraint? I know your reply. Left to his own unbiassed feelings, and to the word of God, no true christian would ever wish to see the Redeemer’s power shortened. Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. There would be weeping in heaven if Christ were prevented from reigning. Now there is universal joy because he discloses, both by prediction and providential accomplishment, the decrees of God. "I wept much," said the apostle, "because none was found worthy to open and to read the book. And one of the elders saith unto me, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."

This arrangement gave universal satisfaction. "He came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb—And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof."

It deserves to be distinctly remarked, that those ministers and members in the celestial church, were far from imagining that his character and sufferings as Mediator rendered him less qualified for reigning, or less worthy of religious worship: for in the midst of their adoration, they pointed out the official character in which they viewed him when they sung his praise, and assigned as a special reason for their song, his sufferings for our redemption. "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."

What are we then to think of the religious character of those who refuse to ascribe divine honours and religious worship to Jehovah-Jesus? Are they indeed christians, who reject the doctrine of satisfaction for sin by the death of Christ; who exhibit his sufferings as not in fact the price of our redemption; and who degrade him to the condition of a mere man?

The christian religion is something more than saying, I am a christian. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Does a man say, "I am a scholar?" The assertion does not make him one. Does he say, "I am a merchant, a land-holder, a soldier, a philosopher?" His assertion does not make him so. And shall his own assertion entitle a man to be considered as a christian, who gives no evidence of a sanctified spirit; who despises the doctrines of the grace of God; and who proclaims himself a mere partizan of man? This is not an imaginary case. Hundreds claim the christian name who adopt such language as this, "I have no need of a Redeemer to satisfy divine justice for my sins. There is no Mediator necessary to establish reconciliation. Jesus Christ is no more than a creature. He is a mere man. I am a christian only because I believe Jesus Christ to have been a man of talents and virtue, at the head of a certain sect." Can you suppose that such a profession makes a true christian? Then is christianity in nothing essentially different from the religion of the outcast Jew, of the Heathen, and of the Mahometan. And such christians, like the Jews of old, upon the supposition that our Saviour gave himself out as equal with God, would adjudge him guilty of blasphemy, and worthy of death. At the most, they could say no better of him than Pontius Pilate when giving him up to the executioner—"In this just man I find no fault."

You, my dear hearers, have not so learned Christ. You know HE thought it not robbery to be equal with God. You readily bow before him in acts of humble adoration, without feeling the guilt of idolatry. You see that angels also have received the command to worship him. He is "the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last—God over all, blessed for ever." Hear, what this first Apocalyptical prophecy says of him, when he took the sealed book. All creatures adore him. All give him honour equal to that which they give unto God the Father. Every heart beats high with exultation, and every tongue is employed in eulogy. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that is in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four living creatures said Amen. And all true christians will imitate their example. Amen and Amen!

Footnotes:

[1] SHEKINAH, is very often mentioned in the Jewish writings, and signifies in their Targums or Paraphrases, the divine presence, or the Holy Ghost. The Shekinah is that extraordinary luminous body which by miracle rested over the mercy-seat, and between the cherubim. It was the most sensible token of the divine presence among the Hebrews. It was familiarly called "the GLORY of the Lord"—The presence of the Lord.
In the infancy of society, and before revealed truth was diffused by writings, God assured his people of his presence by such a sensible manifestation. Thus he appeared to Adam when banished the garden of Eden, and to Abel and the patriarchs when he accepted their sacrifices. Thus he appeared to the Hebrews in the famous pillar, alternately opaque and luminous. Thus he appeared in the burning bush, on Mount Sinai, in the tabernacle, and in the temple. [back]

[2] Hab. 3:9; Rev. 10:1. [back]

[3] The brazen or molten sea, in the temple, was about fifty feet in circumference, and nearly nine feet deep. It was filled with pure water. The priests washed themselves in this Sea, when they were about to offer sacrifices; and, in water drawn from it, into the several lavers, they washed the sacrifices to be presented on the altar of burnt-offerings. This represented the purifying influence of the blood of Christ, necessary for both the priests and the sacrifices. The sea of glass before the throne, represents the same object—The atonement by which we are justified, and the consequent sanctification, by which we are fitted for the fellowship of the saints in light. [back]

[4] Woodhouse in loco. [back]

[5] Dan. 7:2. and 11:4. Rev. 7:1. [back]

[6] Isa. 11:12. Ezek. 7:2. See Philo and Pythagoras, as quoted by Woodhouse. [back]

[7] Milton. [back]

[8] Calmet. [back]

[9] Time, times, and a half—three years and a half—forty-two months, &c. [back]

[10] Compare chap. 4:1. with chap. 1:10, 11. [back]

[11] Lowman. [back]

[12] Connexion of Prophecy. [back]