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creature, in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, meaning, living or dead,—no created being in the universe, was found able; which amounts to a divine decision of most unusual formality, to the real and infinite divinity of Christ; and that none but the infinite Godhead could furnish a Saviour for lost man.
Ver. 4. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
Had not one in the infinite Three in heaven been found disposed to undertake; all men must have wept, and wailed, and gnashed their teeth in eternal wo!
But infinite wisdom and goodness found and presented one both able and willing to undertake, and to accomplish.
Ver. 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. The Lion of the tribe of Judah."
The old rabbinical legend relative to the four standards of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, of which that of Judah was a lion, may, or may not be true. But it is by no means so satisfactory an origin of the figure in the text, as is the following: viz. Jacob, when he was about to die, and was inspired to foretell the destinations of his sons, speaks of Judah (from whom Christ, in his humanity, came,) as an “old lion !” This appellation, then, naturally descended to Christ; _66 the Lion of the tribe of Judah !"
One of the elders,-representatives of the church on earth,communicates this blessed information of the Saviour. It might seem to human wisdom, as though some favoured angel, or at least one of the emblems of gospel ministers, would be commissioned to give this information. But it is otherwise! It must be one of the elders ! -a common member of the church! Was this designed to hint that Adam had been the honoured agent to give information to his fallen race of the blessed heavenly secret, that a Saviour was found for lost man? that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head?
Whether this be here meant or not; so the thing was, in fact; as we find in the history of ancient Paradise.
Ver. 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.
The beloved disciple now looked, with solicitous expectation, to see this wonderful “ Lion of the tribe of Judah !" And he beheld in the midst of the throne, and of the emblems of the gospel ministry, and those of the private followers of Christ, a Lamb! as having been slain, and recovered again to life! When people look for great things in religion, they are often disappointed, in finding what appears at first small. The Lord is not in the fire, nor in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake: but in the still small voice!
Both the lion and the lamb are notable emblems of Christ, in our holy oracles. And the position of this Lamb, hints to us, that Christ, through God, is ever in the midst of his ministers and churches, even while he is on the throne of the universe; and he holds his stars in his right hand. The seven horns of this Lamb are emblems of his omnipotent power. His seven eyes are emblems of his omniscient wisdom; and also of his hav. ing, at his official direction, the Holy Ghost in all his multiform gifts, and gracious operations, for the salvation of Zion.
Ver. 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.
Christ took the book from the Father. The Father officially communicates to the Son all he has to do as Mediator. It is in this official sense that Christ says,
“ The Father is greater than I.” And the business of both revealing, and fulfilling the decrees of God, is thus taken by the Son from the Father. And, in view of such a Saviour, and of the economy of divine grace towards men in him, Christ's ambassadors, and his whole church, prostrate themselves before God and the Lamb, in the most humble adoration, praise, and holy obedience. The harps in their hands are emblems of their actual preparation for the business of praise and holy worship, either with or without instruinents of sacred music to aid their voices. And their golden vials, or cups, full of the prayers of the saints, assure us, that the true people of God pray much! Their vials are not merely half filled, but they are full! And we here learn that their prayers are odours, in a twofold sense; or both as coming from hearts truly grateful, graciously contrite, and sincere ; and as being performed with the incense of Jesus Christ, in his powerful intercession.
Ver 9. 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;
10. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests : and we shall reign on the earth. The
song of salvation by Christ is and eternally will be new; as it will for ever excite, in the souls of the redeemed, new wonders and joys; and will never appear old, nor in the least degree irksome.
We read of a new commandment, as given to Christians, that they “love one another !"
This is the same commandment which they had from the beginning ; but it is called new, because attended with new light and obligations under the Christian dispensation.
Upon the same principle, the songs of praise to God for the salvation by Christ will appear new, in eternal ages. Those, then, who become tired of their religion, have never learned the new song of redeeming grace in
The fact here, that the four living creatures and the elders, unite in ascribing their redemption to the blood of
Christ, further decides, that both do indeed belong to the human family.
And God sees fit to employ these two sets of emblems to denote his true people on earth, consisting of his ambassadors, and the other members of his church. Such is the distinction which God makes between the ambassadors of Christ, and other Christians. But they both adore and praise God that he hath not only redeemed them, but has made them kings and priests unto himself. Levites and priests were types of Christians under this last dispensation. And inspiration sees fit to prefix here the title of kings also; making them a royal priesthood. Christians are priests, as being consecrated entirely to God in the temple of the gospel; and as being prepared, by grace, to offer to God holy and daily sacrifices, acceptable to him by Jesus Christ. And they are kings, as governing themselves by the Divine direction, and as having holy fellowship with Christ in his government of the world.
“And we shall reign on the earth.” In the Millennium, Christ will reign on the whole earth ;—not visibly :—but spiritual, and in the hearts, and the holy faith of the world of people.
And the reigning of the saints on the earth will be, not by any literal resurrection of those who have died; but by a blessed participation of the whole family of the saints (in heaven, and on earth) with Christ in his millennial reign.
The saints in glory will see, and know, that the blessed cause, in which their hearts were bound up, both living, and dying, now fills the world! and this fact will add new joys to their heavenly glory. And also the saints on earth will, at that time, have such fellowship with Christ in his reign of
grace, that they too may be said to reign on the earth!
Ver. 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.
A grand chorus here arises from all creation, except from the world of despair ! from the holy angels ;—from all the ambassadors of Christ ;—and all his followers, amounting to millions innumerable! The ministers, and people of Christ are distinguished in this grand, universal chorus, as being the people more immediately interested, having been redeemed.
In this grand Halleluia, Christ is expressly worshipped, and adored, and this too, in the most ample and rich profusion of expressions of wonder and adoration. And the scene closes with a renewed burst of rapture from the redeemed. The ambassadors of Christ exclaim, Amen! -a term of adoring acquiescence !—and a token for others to follow. Upon which the whole church fall down and worship.
Most rich is this chapter in instruction, and in practical reflections.
The opening of the way of gracious communication from Heaven is, for lost man, a theme of immortal wonder and praise. And it is a subject worthy of all acceptation and improvement. And great indeed must be the folly, guilt, , and self-ruin of neglecting it.
The thought of the ministers and people of Christ being in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, furnishes a most commanding motive to gratitude and Christian faithfulness. An ancient prophet assures us, “ Jerusalem shall be called the throne of God.” And another; “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved ! God shall help her, and that right early!" God governs the world for her salvation. May Christians more diligently learn the new song of redeeming grace; and never become weary of it !