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sons who had “ come out of much tribulation," which for the sake of Christ they had endured on earth. They were clothed in splendid “white robes;" but these robes were not originally white, neither had they been made so by repentance, obedience, sufferings, or martyrdom. But they had washed them from the guilt and pollution which had contaminated them, in the blood of the Lamb. In this way they had obtained the remission of their sins, their complete justification, and their spotless purity. Hence they had found acceptance with God, and admission into heaven, and therefore they were before the throne of God, where with incessant and augmented delight they served and glorified God day and night *; while he graciously dwelt among them as their father and friend, communicating to them “ fulness of joy and pleasures for “ evermore.”
This chapter affords abundant matter for many important and edifying reflections. We are reminded that the intervals of peace upon earth are produced by divine interposition. Alas! what a world would this be, if the wickedness of men and devils were not restrained by the almighty power of God! -When the Church has rest, and the Lord sees good to raise up men to concur in promoting his Gospel, he commonly seals many by his converting grace unto the day of redemption. But Satan often uses his devices to pervert such prosperous days into an occasion of negligence, sloth, and hypocritical profession. Nothing, however, can hurt those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. Those who are thus marked by him will be brought at length to the innumerable company that surround the throne, and unite in their adorations to God and the Lamb.-While we see the Church here below in affliction and tribulation, let us rejoice in the prospect of that glorious scene, which the Apostle beheld, and which filled him with joy and transport, even under those severe conflicts through which he was then making his way to it.- If we persevere steadily and faithfully, as these glorified saints did, the period will soon arrive when our robes will be as white, and our crowns as radiant, and our palms as verdant as theirs.—This great multitude who stood before the throne, were once like ourselves dead in sin, but they were taught their guilt and danger, and were led to flee for refuge to the Lamb of God. They fought the good fight of faith, and went on from conquering to conquer, till at length they obtained their crowns, their palms, and their harps. — Let us then bear with patience, hunger and thirst, and pain and weariness, while we are travelling through this vale of misery and tears ; rejoicing in the hope and expectation of those eternal enjoyments to which the Lamb will lead us. He will then conduct us to fountains of living water; and God having wiped away all tears from our eyes, will place us before his throne, where we shall serve him day and night in his temple. To the eternal Father, therefore, and to the seven spirits before the throne, together with the Lamb, be ascribed all glory, honour, and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
* Other Scriptures represent heaven as being free from night or darkness; but the allusion here is to the Jewish worship, in which the priests and Levites continually served God by night as well as by day.
Chap. viii. 1–6. AND when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
2. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 3. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God, out of the angel's hand. 5. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. 6. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
We are now come to the opening of the last of the seven seals, which contains in it far more than all the others, as it includes the period which falls under the seven trumpets. As the angels to whom were given the seven trumpets appear upon the opening of the seventh seal, it is evident that this seal was intended to introduce the trumpets, which may therefore be considered as a sort of subdivision of the seal.
The events predicted under the seventh seal are supposed to commence about the year 324 or 325. The sixth seal brought down the historical events to this period by predicting the revolutions which took place in the Roman empire, and in the Christian church, in the time of Constantine. What is contained in the seventh chapter, takes up no time in the historical events. The silence in heaven for about the space of half an hour, seems to intimate that the peace of the Church would be of very short continuance; or it may be expressive of the solemn expectation excited on the occasion. The imagery is supposed to be taken from the temple worship of the Jews, who united their silent prayers to the offering of the incense by the high priest. A solemn pause seems to be made preparatory to the exhibition of other awful and mysterious prophecies that were to follow. During this interval of silence, the Apostle saw seven angels standing before the throne of God, to whom were given seven trumpets, that in succession they might sound an alarm to the nations, and introduce the succeeding predictions, contained in the subsequent part of the revelation to be made to the Apostle.
Before the sounding of the trumpets, another angel comes forward and stands at the altar, having a golden censer, to whom much incense was given, that he should offer it with the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar before the throne. This angel evidently represented Christ in his priestly character, offering up the prayers of all his saints before God, accompanied by his all-prevailing intercession. This is the peculiar office of Christ as the High Priest, the Intercessor and Advocate of his people, with God the Father. He offers incense with the prayers of all saints; but none can know who are really saints, except he who is omniscient. We have, therefore, another proof of the divinity of the eternal Son of God, whose intercession always prevails with the Father. Hence “ he is able to save to the ut“ termost all who come unto God by him." To this angel of the covenant was given much incense, that he might offer it with the prayers of the people of God, which here seem to have a special reference to the events about to be predicted by the sounding of the seven trumpets. The events would occur in answer to those prayers which might be considered as intercessions for the success of Christ's cause, and against that of its enemies. The angel having offered incense with the prayers of the saints, which emblematically signified that they would be accepted and answered, he at length takes the censer, and fills it with fire from the altar, and casts it (or perhaps rather the fire * contained in it) upon the earth, “and there were voices, and thunder“ ings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” This denotes that there would be divisions, commotions, overturnings, and revolutions upon the earth, as the effects of God's displeasure with men for their opposition to the Gospel of his Son, and for their cruel and injurious treatment of his people. After this, the seven angels prepared to sound their trumpets. The period included under these seven trumpets, reaches from the time when the emblematic angel cast fire on the earth, subsequently to the short silence in heaven, on the opening of the seventh seal, till that blessed and glorious epoch shall arrive, when “ the kingdoms of the world shall become the “ kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he “ shall reign for ever and ever.”
The intervals of peace and prosperity which the Church has hitherto enjoyed, have been generally short. But amidst all the confusion that is occasioned by the wickedness of mankind, we may rejoice that the Lord reigns.-Under every affliction and trial, believers may receive consolation in contemplating the intercession of Jesus, our great High Priest, shadowed forth in so expressive a manner, by the angel standing at the altar with the golden censer and much inoense. By this representation, we see how the prayers of all the saints ascend before God with acceptance. We are reminded also, that all true believers are saints; that all the saints are men of prayer; and that those who do not make a serious business of prayer are not saints.-All created angels are ministering spirits employed for the benefit of the heirs of salvation. When they are commissioned to visit nations with horrible calamities, the servants of God will be protected. Let the fol
• It may be doubted whether or not the angel cast the center on the earth, as there is nothing for the word it in the original.