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because of the deep and mysterious truths relative to the nature, decrees, and counsels of God, with which his writings abound; or, because he spoke so much concerning the divine person and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Omitting any farther preliminary observations, I shall immediately proceed to the consideration of the book itself, which may perhaps with propriety be divided into eight Parts, succeeding each other in the following order :
I. The introduction to the book.
II. The appearance of Jesus Christ to the writer of it.
III. The epistles of Jesus Christ to the seven churches of Asia.
IV. The mystery of the seals, trumpets, and vials.
V. The Millennium.
VIII. The practical improvement with which the book concludes, with the benedictory valediction in the last verse.
This appears to be a natural and obvious order into which this mysterious book may be arranged, and seems to be calculated, in connexion with the explanatory digressions which it contains, and which will be noticed as we proceed, to lead us to a general and connected view of the outline of its contents.
Chap. i. 1–8. The introduction to the Revelation is contained in the first eight verses of the book, and consists of five particulars: a preface, a dedication, a doxology, a prediction, and a confirmation.
' I. The introduction commences with the following concise preface:
1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2. Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
This book of Scripture is styled in the above short preface, announcing its contents, the APOCALYPSE, or the REVELATION. All Scripture is indeed a revelation from God; but this is the REVELATION, ret' toxn, eminently and peculiarly so; because it is a prophetic manifestation and disclosure of future events. This Revelation was given to Jesus Christ by God the Father. The Lord Christ, in his mediatorial character, is the great Prophet of the Church; and, as such, there was a peculiar propriety, according to the divine economy, in his receiving this revelation from the Father. In fact, the Christian revelation in general is mediatorial. The Father gives to the Son, and dispenses knowledge and grace through him. It is not, however, to be imagined that the subjects of the revelation were previously unknown to the Lord Jesus. It is of importance, therefore, that we should distinguish between the knowledge of Christ in his divine character, as “ God over all and blessed for ever," and the knowledge which he received as the mediatorial Prophet of the Church to be communicated to men. In the former sense, he knows all things: in the latter, he is said not to know some things, because they are not to be communicated by him. Thus, as the Mediator, he knew not the day of judgment, because it was not to be made known either to men or angels. As a prophet, therefore, God the Father gave him the revelation, in commission, that he might make it known to his servants and saints. The events predicted in the Book were “ shortly “ to come to pass." They were to begin to be fulfilled when the revelation was given, and were to continue in rapid succession until the final consummation of all things. St. John, the Evangelist and Apostle, the writer of the book, introduces himself as a witness “ of the testimony of Jesus :" and in order that we may give the more serious attention to the subject, a blessing is pronounced upon those who read, and hear, and keep the sayings of this prophecy. It is deserving of notice, that this is the only book of Scripture, to the study and observance of which a peculiar benediction is promised. The Holy Spirit, by whose inspiration it was indited, foreseeing that the peculiar character of this mysterious revelation would excite prejudices in some, and occasion neglect in others, judged it expedient to sanction, in this especial manner, the attentive and practical perusal of this last book in the sacred canon; and in order to secure its integrity, and prevent the presumptuous from taking an unholy liberty with its contents, a tremendous threatening is afterwards denounced against such as should venture to make the minutest alteration in this prophecy, by adding to or taking away from its words. As a motive to the attentive study of the book, it is added, “ the time is at hand.” The events would immediately begin to be fulfilled, and their accomplishment would gradually proceed through those remaining periods of time, which are rapidly leading the human race into that awful eternity which will succeed them. The motive, therefore, still remains, or rather becomes more powerful every day. Let this book, then, be studied with holy diligence; and may every reader remember, that, whatever predictions of this revelation yet remain to be accomplished before the end come, in respect to himself “ the time is at hand.” His opportunity for obtaining the blessing promised to the diligent student of this holy book will soon pass away, and he must shortly give an account of himself unto God.
II. The next part of the introduction is the dedication of the book; or, perhaps, more properly, a salutation to the seven churches to whom the revelation was inscribed and sent.
4. John to the seven churches which are in Asia : grace be unto you, and peace from him which is, and which was, and which is to come: and from the seven spirits which are before his throne; 5. And from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.
The sacred writer addresses and inscribes the revelation to the seven churches of Asia, a district of which Ephesus was the capital city, and which had been a principal station of the writer's own apostolical labours, as well as those of St. Paul. He gives these churches his affectionate benediction, wishing them “ grace and peace from him which " is, and which was, and which is to come.” This is a periphrasis for God the Father, in language sin
dying and is invoke his throne Holy Spirit
gularly emphatic and peculiar in the original, and is especially suitable in a revelation from the selfexistent, eternal, and unchangeable Jehovah, to his dying and mutable creatures. But this “ grace and 6 peace" is invoked also from “ the seven spirits “ which are before his throne.” By the seven spirits is undoubtedly meant the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, in the abundance and sufficiency of his gifts, graces, and operations. The Venerable Bede remarks on this passage, that “ the one Holy Spirit is here described as sevenfold, “ by which is intimated in prophetic language, ful“ ness and perfection.” To the benediction from the Father and the Holy Spirit, he adds, “ and from “ Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness, and “ the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of “ the kings of the earth.” Such is the character of the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God, and such he is eminently demonstrated to be in the sequel of the prophecy.
III. In the third place we have the doxology.
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
This doxology is ascribed to the adorable Redeemer. The sacred writer having introduced the name of Jesus, and being animated with a view of his beloved and gracious Saviour, breaks forth into this sublime song of praise, in which he celebrates his dying love, and its blessed and eternal effects to his redeemed and sanctified people.
IV. The Apostle, as if enraptured with his subject, passes, from the doxology to Christ, to a prediction of his second advent, as the judge of quick and dead.
7. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him : and