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deal with them in the great day, it is not for us to determine. We know not the utmost extent of the merits of the Redeemer's blood, nor are we acquainted with the various avenues by which the Spirit of God can convey his grace to the hearts of men. But when this tremendous threatening was uttered, light was spread extensively through the world; and the curse of God was now solemnly denounced upon all those who should worship the beast and his image, or receive his mark on their foreheads, or on their hands :--that is, upon all those who should comply with the abominations, or be active in the service, of the beast. It may however, without doubt, be admitted that many pious persons, individually considered, have continued in the communion of the Romish church since the period of the Reformation, who have not been the objects of this divine indignation ; but who, on the contrary, have been saved with an everlasting salvation. But these individuals have separated in spirit from the idolatries and abominations of Popery; and though they remained within the pale of the corrupt church, they were not Papists in principle. The language, therefore, in this passage, like many other general declarations of Scripture, must be understood as liable to some limitations and exceptions. It should be remembered that these denunciations are the language of the angel who was the emblem of the reformers; and every one who is acquainted with the writings of the reformers and their successors, knows that they generally declared without hesitation, that Popery was a damnable religion. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Hooker brought himself into suspicion, and was engaged in a dispute, because he asserted, though with much caution and many distinctions, that Papists might be saved. But whatever contempt may be cast on the supposed bigotry of the reformers, in this day of false candour and disregard to the Scriptures, it is worthy of serious consideration, whether this passage does not warrant what these faithful men generally advanced on the subject, though they might not always distinguish between those who hated the light, and those whose eyes were too weak to endure its effulgence, when it broke in upon them all at once.
12. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
The period referred to in the verses that precede, when the doctrines of truth began to be openly propagated in opposition to Popery, was a time of great trial and persecution. The Reformation was not introduced and established without much bloodshed; and there were many martyrs in every country where the truth prevailed and spread. It is therefore added, “ Here is the patience of the saints.” In this view of things, we see the trials with which the patience of the saints would be exercised. The people of God would have abundant need of patience, amidst the bloody race of inquisitors and persecutors, who kindled fires on earth to torture and burn them ; and who, by their massacres, and burnings, and tortures, and cruelties, in their opposition to the progress of the Reformation, destroyed incredible multitudes. But here the patience of the saints was seen; and here appeared the triumphs of those who kept the commandments of God, and who, by the faith of Jesus, were led to maintain the purity of Gospeltruth amidst all the efforts that were made to stifle and destroy it.
13. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
For the support and comfort of the saints under their tribulations, a voice comes from heaven commanding the Apostle to write, “ Blessed are the “ dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth.” Here, perhaps, it may be asked, what is meant by the term henceforth? Were not those who died in the Lord always blessed? Most assuredly they were; but this consolatory doctrine had not been fully understood for many years. It had long been concealed from the people in general; but, at this time, it was again fully established from the spirit of prophecy by the reformers. The doctrine of purgatory, connected with the scandalous sale of indulgences, of human merits to be disposed of by the church, and of masses and prayers for the dead, were so many abominations that afforded an immense source of wealth to the church of Rome. But these abuses stirred up the spirit of Luther, who began his attack by protesting against them. He and his followers taught, as a certain truth, that there was no such place as purgatory: that, as the wicked, when they die, go immediately to hell ; so, those who die in the Lord, immediately enter heaven. At the period referred to in this prediction, an important change took place in the minds of men respecting the immediate felicity of those who died in the faith of Christ. The Apostle, therefore, is commanded to write exactly in this place (perhaps, he did not himself know for what reason or on what account), “ Blessed are the dead which die in the “ Lord, from henceforth.” The word henceforth, therefore, may refer not so much to the blessedness of the pious dead, which is always the same, as to the writing and publishing of this doctrine after it had long been obscured and concealed by the errors and superstitions of Antichrist. From this period believers would generally understand and receive the encouraging truth, that those who die in the Lord are immediately blessed. They cannot possibly have a purgatory to undergo: for what is the nature of this blessedness? It commences immediately after death; when the soul of the departed Christian enters into paradise, where, like Adam in Eden, it is admitted to communion with God in Christ; and to a participation of the true tree of life, which grows on either side of the river that flows through the paradise of God. It consists in an immediate state of sacred fellowship with Deity itself, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; and with the holy society of angels, and of the spirits of just men made perfect.. . But surely this cannot possibly consist with the ideas of a purgatory. The testimonies given of the reality of the blessedness of believers after death deserve particular notice. These are two: first, a declaration from heaven; and, secondly, the witness of the Spirit.
First, The truth is attested by a voice from heaven.-On a few occasions, when the Almighty has judged it necessary to bear testimony to a fact or truth of special importance, he has effected it by a voice from heaven. In this manner he repeatedly bore witness to his beloved Son, whom he sent into the world, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. A voice on two different occasions came from heaven, saying, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
And again, when the Saviour prayed, “Father, “ glorify thy name, a voice came from heaven, “ saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it “ again." Now, how can a truth be more impressively or more certainly attested? But in this manner the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord is attested to the Apostle, who was directed likewise how to preserve and publish this important truth. He was commanded to write it; and thus it was to become the subject of an imperishable record. This he has done; and henceforth, the people of God, without any fear of purgatory, may have recourse to this record for their support and consolation, upon all occasions, and under all circumstances, to the end of time.
. Secondly, The truth was confirmed by the testi. mony of the Holy Spirit.-Here we have another indubitable attestation of this consoling truth, namely, that of the Holy Spirit; who, by an internal impulse, or in some other way not described, assured the Apostle, that believers after death were blessed ; that they rested from all their labours and sufferings; and that their works followed them to manifest the sincerity of their faith, and to ensure a gracious reward from their approving Judge.--This testimony of the Holy Spirit affords two evidences of the immediate felicity of believers after death. “ They “ rest from their labours.” Their warfare, their amictions, their trials, are all terminated. They rest in sweet refreshment from all the labours of this mortal life, from all their sorrows and sufferings of every kind, and from all their conflicts with sin, Satan, and the world." And their works do follow them." None of their works of faith, love, and patience, shall be forgotten before God. They shall follow them to bear witness that they were true believers, and that they possessed that faith which “ worketh “ by love, purifieth the heart, and overcometh the “ world." Here let it be remarked, that their works do not go before them as their title to the heavenly blessedness, nor as the ground for their justification; but follow them as evidences of their faith and regeneration. As such they will demonstrate the reality of the believer's religion, and receive their reward from his Judge: and not only will the labours and the sufferings of the martyr receive their gracious recompense; but even “a cup of cold water “ given to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall “ in no wise lose its reward.'
Under what obligations to ardent gratitude is the Church of God laid, that, after a long night of popish darkness, the everlasting Gospel was preached in its purity, and with the most abundant success, at the glorious Reformation! What an unspeakable bless