« AnteriorContinuar »
the Lord, and it was given to be a comfort and consolation during the Lord's absence. For these and other reasons I adopt the continuous-historical view as being the only one that is satisfactory.
There seems to be in several points a remarkable similarity between the Apocalypse and the Book of Daniel. Both Daniel and John were exiles at the time they saw their visions ; both were
greatly beloved ;" both use similar imagery, and both refer to the time when the judgment was set and the books opened. Both seem to allude to the same thing when one speaks of the little horn having eyes like the eyes of a man, and the other says, “He that hath wisdom, let him count the number of the beast, for it is a number of a man.” Both also certainly contain most distinctly similar prophecies about a beast with ten horns, and both of them tell us that this beast" was destroyed and given to the burning flame.” It is interesting, too, to notice that in both cases an explanation of the meaning of the prophecies is given in one or two important, and so to speak, crucial points. Finally and chiefly, both visions lead up to the “coming of the Son of Man.” With regard to the general principles on which the interpretation of the book should proceed, I think that although the events typified therein may have a literal, and so to speak, a human fulfilment, yet their real import is a spiritual one. The events refer, as I venture to think, not to individuals, such as Cæsar, Constantine, or Napoleon, but to systems and principles. The woman seated on the beast, for instance, is not a woman, but a church-just as the beast is not a real living creature, but a figure. No one, again, supposes for a moment that a real beast was to arise out of the sea, or that the servants of God were literally to have the seal of God on their foreheads, but only that these figures are taken as being the symbols of what they apply to. Of course, indirectly, human kingdoms and purely human affairs may be referred to sometimes, but it is only indirectly, and these form, so to speak, only a sort of by-play. The real thing prophesied is the great working out of the principles of good and evil as exemplified in the professing churches of God.
It is also to be noted that as a rule the prophecy seems to have relation mainly, if not entirely, to the portion of the world which was then under the rule of the Roman Empire, and not to outside nations. The earth then is, I think, throughout the prophecy a type or figure of the professing Church of Christ as existing in these countries. The sea is a type of the nations or peoples, who are more or less purely Pagan. Compare Isaiah xvii. 13, The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters," and the statement in Rev. xvii. 15. Similarly cities represent professing churches. The stars represent the servants of God who give light to the earth; mountains and hills represent the wealthy and externally powerful individuals in the churches, and so on.
I think, represents Divine truth, and the moon the true Church of
Christ, the Church of the firstborn, receiving its light direct from the Sun. And so with all the other symbols of this extraordinary book.
Proceeding now to consider the vision in detail, we find that it was given by God the Father unto our Lord, in order that His servants might learn by it “ things that should shortly come to pass, in accordance with God's promise to Isaiah, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secrets to His servants the prophets." We find, then, it is all to lead up to the time when “He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him." Here it is to be observed (comp. Zech. xii. 10, where precisely the same language is used, and to which no doubt reference is here made) that this wailing is not from terror, but from grief and sorrow; for it is distinctly stated that this wailing and sorrow arise from the Lord pouring out upon the House of David the spirit of grace and supplication. It is in fact a repentance, not remorse, and it is repentance most deep, earnest, and sincere. It is compared by the prophet to mourning as for an only son, and the intensity of it is shown by the fact that even each individual family can derive no comfort from its own members; but all is deep, individual, almost impassioned grief. It is a repentance so thorough that now even the very name and thought of an idol is an abomination. Now, indeed, "the (false) prophet and the unclean spirits .” pass for ever out of the land. The unclean spirit was, indeed, so far expelled by the first captivity, that external obedience was greatly increased, but now “the seven other spirits, more wicked than the first,” viz., the internal rebellion of the heart, is cast out, and for ever. Now the false prophet is “wounded in the house of his friends," for in that day “the Canaanite shall be no more in the House of the Lord of Hosts."
Having thus received this comforting assurance, the apostle is shown more of the wonderful means by which all these things were to be brought about.
The Seven Churches and their spiritual condition before God constitute, I think, the things which are, about which the apostle was commanded to write, and while the account afforded doubtless great instruction and comfort to the saints of those days, I cannot but think that they are intended also to be a type of seven different periods of the Church's history. It has been very truly remarked that if we take all the varying nations, kingdoms, tribes, and tongues of the earth as existing at any given time, we shall more or less have types or representatives of every degree of civilisation, from the highest to the lowest, and from the lowest state of civilisation to the most degraded savagery and cannibalism. Europe, Asia, and Africa, for instance, represent three widely different states of society and civilisation, and afford instances of every variety of character. In accordance with this principle, we
in all ages.
may then, I think, take the seven Churches of Asia as types of all the various stages through which a church must pass on its way through earth. We have, in fact, in these Churches what may be called representative characters of all the different states of life in which they exist, or have existed. We have the highest degree of faith and lo (in Smyrna) to that of almost absolute abandonment of the same, with the intermediate degrees of half-heartedness and failing zeal. Thus the warnings as well as the consolations requisite to the spiritual condition of each one of us, as well as of every form and condition of Churches, find here what is applicable to their particular cases.
If this be so, then it follows that this wonderful book was given in the form best adapted for the guidance of professing Christians
It was, in fact, designed by our Lord to be a comfort and a help to His suffering people during the period of His absence, and who can doubt that it has been so ? Who can doubt that that blessed Spirit who alone is Christ's representative on earth, has spoken by and through it to the hearts of myriads, and that it has been to many and many a weary and anxious soul, “ a lantern to the feet, and a light to the path.
With regard to the Seven Churches, I agree in the main with Mr. Maude's article on this subject.* We have, I think, here traced out before us, an epitome of the future of the Church of Christ. We see at Ephesus very much that is good, purity in life, and love of truth and righteousness; but beginning soon to be accompanied with loss of the original zeal and love. The church, too, like, alas, all human things, starts well and nobly, but after a time her first love begins to slacken. It may even be thought from the words (Edites, altogether left thy first love, not simply left as in our translation) that the love of the many was waxing cold. Then comes a period of persecution, which cleanses and purifies, and, as in Smyrna, great heroism and love. This is followed by (as in Pergamos) much zeal and devotion, but also by considerable corruption of truth and development of heathen religion. Then (as in Thyatira), though much love and patience and martyrdom are still exhibited, it would seem now that these qualities are confined to the few, and that heathen rites and worship of a very degraded and cruel character (typified by Jezebel, who was a worshipper of Baal) began to abound. Then follows a state of spiritual deadness and corruption, so much so that it is difficult to find even a few names who have kept their garments unstained. This period (the Sardis state) I consider to represent the long dark night of the middle ages, when heathenism was very largely developed in the Church, and Baal all but literally worshipped, as for instance, when they literally "made their sons and daughters to pass through the fire to Baal,” in autos da fi. We then come to
*"Our Hope," Vol. II., page 288.
the Philadelphia stage--that of the Reformation, when "a little strength " was manifested by the Church, and a considerable amount of real love and genuine righteousness was displayed.
Last of all comes the Laodicean state—that state which seems to me, as to so many others, indicative of our own times, viz., lukewarmness. With many noble exceptions in every division of the professing Church, we may say that, as a whole, it is at present neither cold nor hot. Mr. Greg, in his “Enigmas of Life," says, “ Our social atmosphere is thick and hazy with insincerities and unrealities. We are not exactly bad, but neither are we strong or good," which is saying, in so many words, we are neither hot nor cold. I think it will generally be admitted that there is much in the condition of professing Christian nations, to justify Mr. Greg's remark, and if so, it makes it extremely probable that we are at present living, so to speak, in the Laodicean age.
We are undoubtedly living in an age when events advance with extreme rapidity, when science has all but abolished the distinctions of time and space. This is clear, and I cannot help regarding it as a sign that the present state of things is one of preparation for another. The immense and extraordinary development of railways and telegraphs has often struck me as a proof that changes of some great and considerable character are at hand. The harvest of the earth seems nearly ripe, and just as in the natural world we observe that after the seed is sown, a long period of cold and storms intervenes before the plant full grown, but that when once the ears corn appear the ripening frequently goes on with marvellous rapidity, so is it with this mundane economy. The discovery and opening up of the positions and sites of long-buried, long-forgotten cities, the universal spread of knowledge, and finally the wonderful way in which the thread of prophecy seems to be unravelling itself, all point in the same direction. I know that every age is apt to think that it is near the coming of the Son of Man; but there are many very extraordinary events that seem to distinguish the present from former ages and to justify the hope that the “ earnest expectation of creation” will before very long be brought about. T. W.
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT.
CHAPTER I.-INTRODUCTORY. I. TT is very wonderful that God should at any time have entered into
covenant with His creatures. Nevertheless the Holy Scriptures assure us that the Infinite One has on several occasions made friendly league with man—thus displaying His own surpassing condescension, and raising men into a position of peculiar dignity and responsibility.
The covenant made by God with the patriarch Abraham concerns the whole human race; and is so fundamental to the whole work of redemp
tion, so inwrought into the structure of Holy Writ, and so decisive an indication of God's designs for the world, as to demand devout and careful study,
It is the second covenant recorded in sacred history. Based on the covenant made with Noah after the flood regarding the earth and the seasons, this covenant takes up the spiritual development of the human race, and carries it on to the ultimate point where the curse is lost in blessing, and out of the old world of sin and sorrow, appears a new world of eternal peace and joy.
In tracing the Abrahamic covenant we once more begin with an individual; and this conduces to simplicity: we are again at the beginning of the ways, and can take care to make good our start in studying the great theme of redemption. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; the Hebrew nation with its twelve tribes ; the Messiah in the fulness of the times; all nations, first in elected representation, and afterwards in aggregate fulness: these are the finger posts to guide us on our journey.
The formation of the Abrahamic covenant lies embedded in the biography of that prince of pilgrims, the father of the faithful, the friend (the beloved) of God. To understand the life we must study the covenant which gave the life its purpose and dignity. This is a great advantage- it is biography and divinity combined. Abraham lived one hundred and seventy-five years ; speaking roughly, the covenant was proposed to him when he was seventy, was fully accepted and acted upon by him when he was seventy-five; its most critical and improbable pledge was fulfilled to him when he was one hundred; and the final trial of his faith and the last confirmation to him of the covenant took place when he was one hundred and twenty-five ; after which he lived fifty years more to see the precious covenant confirmed to his son Isaac, as his joint-heir and successor. These figures focalise the covenanting transactions between God and Abraham, which are thus seen flooding the large ripe centre of Abraham's manhood with a divine splendour.
The covenant which was first and most fully made with Abraham was afterwards renewed, as we have said, to Isaac. After that it wasconfirmed to Jacob. These three pilgrim fathers thus became three covenantees of the covenant now to be investigated. These three are God's great bondholders. The promises are made over to them expressly by name. God was, and is, and ever will be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The covenanting is complete from this point-and being complete, and the covenantees having run their course, the covenant is abiding. God is not the God of the dead but of the living.
The people of Israel, in their generations of old—at least some of them-had a clear insight into the peculiar force of the Abrahamic covenant. It was as a rock beneath their feet. Their own national covenant, entered into at Sinai, was another thing. Its code was onerous, its demands exacting, its sanctions alarmingly severe. That was their law. When they kept it, in a measurable national sense, so as to be free from apostasy from their God,—then it was well with them as a nation. But when they widely and generally broke it, it gave them no foothold of security. It denounced them. It invoked their enemies to invade and smite them, or even to carry them away captive into foreign lands. Not so the covenant made with their fathers—when