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DISCOURSE V.

THE BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS.

Chap. v.

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 took 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 nol : 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 living creatures, 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 living creatures, 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 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. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, 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 living creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

That which is here called "a book," must not be supposed to resemble our books, which since the invention of printing have been very different from those of the ancients. Conceive of seven skins of parchment, written upon one on side,* and rolled up, suppose on wood. At the end of every skin a seal is affixed on the backside, so that the contents of it cannot be read till the seal is opened. This book, or roll, or volume, being "in the right hand of him that sat on the throne," denotes that futurity is known only to God. The proclamation made for one that should be worthy to open the book, shows how desirable it was that the mind of God in regard of futurity, should be revealed, for strengthening the faith and supporting the hope of his church upon earth; and as John had been invited for the very purpose of learning "the things that should be hereafter," things which related to the church of Christ which he had been employed in raising, it must be peculiarly interesting to him. He must needs be anxious to know the things that should befall these his people in the latter days. To see a book therefore which contained them, and yet

By the punctuation in our translation, it would seem as if they were written upon on both sides; but this would not comport with the contents being secret, which they were till the seals were unloosed. It seems, therefore, that a comma is necessary after the word "within," in verse 1. Sev.. eral other versions, and some editions of our own, read it, A book written. within, and on the backside sealed with seven seals,

none in heaven or earth is found worthy to open it, might well make him weep. Ver. 1-4.

This want of a suitable person to open the book is introduced for the purpose of doing honour to the Lamb, whose success gives universal joy and satisfaction. The work of making known the mind of God was an honour too high for any mere creature in heaven or on earth: it was given to Christ as the reward of his obedience unto death. Ver. 9. The honour of preaching the gospel is represented as being of grace: "Unto me, (said Paul,) who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." That which Christ received as the reward of his death, we receive in our measure, of grace, and for his sake; and a great favour it is to be bearers of such good tidings.

One of the elders perceiving the apostle to weep under an apprehension that all must remain unknown, saith unto him, "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." John was not so unacquainted with the scriptures as to be at any loss who this could mean. Probably however he expected to behold his Lord in some majestic form corresponding to the imagery but lo, instead of a Lion, he saw a Lamb, a Lamb as it had been slain! yet invested with perfect authority, and possessing perfect knowledge, so as to qualify him for the work : for he had seven horns, and seven eyes." Ver. 5, 6.

This glorious personage, in whom are united the majesty of the Lion and the gentleness of the Lamb, approaches him that sat upon the throne, and takes the book out of his right hand denoting on his own part the undertaking of the work, and on that of God his perfect approbation. Ver. 7.

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And now the whole church of God by their representatives are described as falling down before the Lamb, and joining in a chorus of praise. The "golden vials full of odours," doubtless allude to those of the priests who offered incense, and denote that the church on earth is ever employed in presenting its petitions before the throne. They had also "harps" as well as vials, and "sung a new song," denoting the great occasion there now was for joy and

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praise. A new song is suited to a new manifestation of mercy. The Lamb is found worthy to take the book, and to open the seals; and they perceive the ground of it to lie in his having redeemed them at the expense of his blood. For this they bless his name, as also for his having made them kings and priests unto God, and given them to expect that however they were at present oppressed on earth, they should even there be finally victorious. Ver. 8-10.

Nor could the angels on such an occasion be silent, but must join in the choir. Myriads of myriads, a number that no man could number, unite in ascribing worthiness to the Lamb, and that on the same ground as redeemed men had done, namely, his having been "slain :" a proof this of disinterested affection, both to the Redeemer and the redeemed. He took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham : yet angels unite in praising him for his love to men.

In enumerating the things which he was worthy to receive, it is remarkable how they keep their eye on those perfections of which he had emptied himself in his humiliation. He did not lay aside any thing pertaining to his goodness, but merely what belonged to his greatness. He was no less holy, just, faithful, and merciful when on earth, than he is now in heaven : but he emptied himself of "power," as laying aside his authority, and taking upon him the form of a servant; of "riches," as becoming poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich: of "wisdom," as making himself of no reputation; of "strength," as becoming weak and subject to death like other men; of honour," as not appearing in his native divinity, but as a man, and a man of obscure birth, despised of the people; of "glory" as subjecting himself to shame and disgrace; and of "blessing," as receiving not the benedictions so much as the execrations of those among whom he sojourned. The purport of the song is, By how much he hath emptied himself on earth, by so much let him be magnified and exalted in heaven! Ver. 11, 12.

Nor is the song confined to angels; the whole creation joins in praising him that sitteth on the throne, and the Lamb, for ever; while at every pause the representatives of the redeemed add

their emphatic "Amen," adoring in humble prostration him that liveth for ever and ever. Ver. 13.

Such an august and affecting representation expresses the sentiments which become the friends of Christ while contemplating that great cause which is carrying on in the world, and which the world in a manner overlooks. To this may be added, If such be the glory ascribed to the Saviour whilst events are merely foretold, what will it be when they are actually accomplished, and when they shall be reviewed in the heaven of heavens to all eternity!

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