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All these animals have a dignified aspect, and the cherub of holy Scripture was generally repre
followed by the elders; and when St. John is to become a nearer spectator of the throne, he is called up to the living creatures, and by them. (Ch. vi.) If therefore the twenty-four elders represent the Christian priesthood, or its ministers of any description, or the body of Christian people, this interpretation cannot be just.
Vitringa has considered at large, and ably refuted most of these opinions; and has advanced as his own, that the living creatures represent in general the teachers and ministers of the Church, most favoured by divine grace, most distinguished by their powers, and the effects of their ministry in all ages-apostles, apostolical men, fathers of the Church, reformers, &c. It is surprising, that he had already supposed the persons thus described to represent the twenty-four elders: they cannot belong to both bodies, which are so essentially distinguished from each other. And it appears, that he was disposed to account the four living creatures to be of angelic nature, but that he was unwilling to deem them angels, because, as it appeared to him, the living creatures and the elders are contradistinguished from the angels, making a separate chorus from them. (Ch. vii. 2; v. 9, 10-12.) But the cherubim, as we have endeavoured to show above, are not angels, the messengers of God, as the name Ayyelos implies, but superior beings, of angelic nature, as distinguished from man, the inseparable attendants upon the divine throne and state.
It is an objection also of Vitringa's, repeated by Archbishop Newcome, that the living creatures profess themselves to be redeemed to God by the blood of the Lamb. (Ch. v. 9.) But it is the office of these ministering spirits to sing the praises of God without ceasing; praises consequently not in their own name and behalf only, but in those of all other created beings; as in this particular instance they do, in behalf of the universal church of Christ, They unite their voices with those of the elders, to whom, as ministers from the Christian church on earth, this song more peculiarly belongs. (Ch. iv. 9; v. 8–14.) And this objection, arising from the supposed redemption of the living creatures, is in a great measure removed, by the restoration of the text from the MSS. of highest authority. For in ch. v. 10, instead of eroinoac ripac rw θεω κ. τ.λ. we read εποιησας αυτους κ. τ.λ. and instead of Bασιλευoojev, we have Bao devoovoiv. (See Griesbach.)
The last interpretation of the reggapa Zwa which I shall notice, is that which has been adopted by the ingenious and learned Joseph Mede, and his numerous followers in this kingdom,--that they represent the four standards or ensigns of the four divisions of
sented with a head like the ox or steer. The Hebrew word signifying cherub, having also that meaning. (Calmet.)
Ver. 8. They rest not, &c.] We have seen that the living creatures of the Apocalypse, are, like those in Isaiah and Ezekiel, cherubim or seraphim ; the most exalted of created beings—the nearest to the throne of the almighty King. And to him they minister incessantly, proclaiming his praise and glory, and everduring dominion. And in the remaining verses of this chapter, a noble specimen is exhibited of the divine worship in heaven, at once a pattern and incitement to man in his worship on earth. The cherubim begin the song of praise, the ministering spirits redeemed from amongst men, quit their thrones, abase their crowns, and, prostrate before the throne, join in the chorus of a creation hymn.
the camp of Israel, bearing the pictured figures of the emblematic animals described in this passage of the Apocalypse. But when we enquire for the authorities upon which this interpretation is founded, we find that there are no such ensigns mentioned in Holy Scripture, and that the whole is derived, as Lowman says, from an uncertain Jewish tradition; and a tradition, we may add, that cannot be reconciled with those parts of Scripture to which reference is made in its support; (viz. Numb ii.; Deut. xxxiii.) This will easily be seen, by comparing them together. Le Clerc, in his observations on Hammond, who had been one of the first to mention these ensigns, calls them extravagant fancies, in which he wonders that the learned author could acquiesce. And he adds, that “there is no ground whatever for such allusion, but what is said by the rabbins, who are less acquainted with what was done of old tim: than we;" and whose invention he calls absurd. “ Why then," says he, " did he believe them ?"
But, if such authority should be allowed, and if it should be conceded, that standards of such description did bear a part in the Israelite encampment round the tabernacle; yet, their station in that
camp could not be the same in respect to the throne within the tabernacle, as that of the living creatures here described : for the standards are exterior to the tabernacle; the throne, where the living creatures are placed, is interior. It is in the veiled part, the boly of holies, where was the seat of the divinity, between the cherubim, as Mede himself has stated. (Works, p. 439.) And it is not the exterior, but the interior of the tabernacle or temple, which, as he says, is exhibited to view in the apocalyptic visions. But, if it were otherwise, and we were to advert only to the outside of the tabernacle, even there we find that the tribes commissioned to bear the standards were not those nearest to the tabernacle. For the tribe of Levi was expressly appointed to surround and guard the tabernacle, in exclusion of the other tribes.
We have here presented before us a splendid exhibition of the Deity, attended by his ministering spirits; but the scene is not yet complete. In the chapter immediately succeeding, the Lamb, the Son of God, in his gracious character of Redeemer, takes his station “in the midst of the throne;" and an innumerable company of angels are seen to encompass the surrounding body of the elders, and the living creatures, and are added to the chorus, which receives a further increase when (ch. xiv. 1; xv. 2.) the innumerable company of “ the redeemed on earth” are presented to their Redeemer, and sing the new song before the throne. The whole representation is wonderfully sublime, and admirably calculated to exalt religious feeling. One of the finest parts of our Church service, the opening of the Te Deum, seems to have been formed principally
The sealed Book ; the Lamb, who opens it; and
the Praises sung by the heavenly Choir.
1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
9 And they sing 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;
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders : and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
13 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 are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
The most judicious of the commentators are so generally agreed in the exposition of this chapter, that we shall have occasion to do little more than to report, in an abridged form, the result of their observations.
Ver. 1. A book, written within, and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.] The books of the ancients, especially in the East, were rolled up like our large maps and plans, not folded.
So, “the roll of the book," when opened for inspection, is said to be “ spread;" (Ezek. ii. 10.) and it was closed by rolling up, Bibliov adıooouevov. (Rev. vi. 14.) And it was kept secret and secured from inspection, by having a seal or seals affixed to it.
Some of the prophecies delivered to Daniel, (ch. viii-xii.) are said to be sealed, or closed, or shut up for many days.
many days. Of this description are the prophecies contained in this book in the hand of the Almighty Father. No one could read them ; the book was full of them, and its contents were withheld from inspection by seven seals, that is, an abundance of seals, showing the difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of the things written in it.
Ver. 3. No man in heaven, nor on earth, neither under the earth was able to open the book, &c.] The word Ovdeiç, would be more properly translated no