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A book … sealed with seven seals.
The sealed book
I. The sealed book.
1. The Divine throne.
2. The Possessor of the throne. There is no name given, but there is eternal glory in this nameless majesty.
3. The right hand of Him who sat upon the throne.
(1) The right hand is the symbol of wisdom. God’s hand and His council are synonymous expressions (Isaiah 14:27; Acts 4:28).
(2) The right hand is the symbol of power. All that infinite wisdom hath contrived, omnipotent power will certainly perform.
(3) The right hand is also the symbol of Divine operation. In all the means and instruments employed He is still supreme.
4. The wonderful book.
5. The writing of the book.
(1) The writing implies the immutability of His counsels and all His precious promises.
(2) The writing implies the manifestation of His counsels--the design of God, that His will should be revealed, or made known to the world.
(3) The writing implies their value and importance. They are worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance as a ground of hope and consolation to the Church.
6. The form of the writing--“It was written within and on the backside.” The allusion implies the number and variety of the counsels, works, and dealings of God. It also implies the fulness of the writing.
7. The sealing of the book.
(1) The sealing is expressive of Divine authority. This book proceeds from the throne, from God’s right hand; it comes in His name, it is clothed with His prerogative, invested with His glory, and enforced by His omnipotence.
(2) The sealing of the book is expressive of darkness. While a writing is sealed, the meaning is unknown.
(3) The sealing of the book implies distance--the distance of time between the giving and fulfilling of Divine prediction.
(4) The sealing of the book implies Divine certainty. What is written in the king’s name, and sealed with his ring, may no man reverse.
3. The number of the seals--“It was sealed with seven seals.” This implies the holiness, depth, fulness, and perfection of the counsels and covenant promises contained in the book of God’s right hand.
II. The heavenly proclamation.
1. The agent employed. He is called “an angel.”
2. His glorious power and excellence. This was “a strong angel.”
3. The wonderful proclamation--“The angel proclaimed with a loud voice.”
4. The great subject of the proclamation--“Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?”
III. The unavailing appeal.
1. The field of inquiry is vast and boundless.
2. The universal appeal.
3. The subject of inquiry is expressed again, and more fully and gloriously declared to the world. The work to be performed is great and marvellous, and variously expressed in the Book of Revelation. The qualifications for the work are also great and marvellous.
IV. The sorrow of the apostle--“And I wept.”
1. If the book cannot be opened, how could the apostle refrain his voice from weeping and his eyes from tears? The darkness that rested on the Church’s future history filled his heart with sorrow and deep foreboding fear.
2. The greatness of his sorrow--“And I wept much.” There is a sacredness in sorrow, that fills the heart with awe. Yea, there is a majesty in overwhelming woe that commands the sympathy and homage of the heart.
3. The apostle repeats the reason of his sorrow; for the mind of the afflicted loves to linger on the cause of the affliction and the greatness of his grief: and he wonders that any one should feel such indifference to his melancholy tale, and take so little interest in what is so sadly interesting to him. (James Young.)
The government of God
I. It is conducted according to a vast preconcerted plan. The Almighty never acts from impulse or caprice, but ever from plan or law; and this plan is truly vast. “It is written within and on the backside.” All that shall happen through the vast futurities of individuals, families, nations, worlds, is mapped out on the pages of this wonderful book. Predestination is no special doctrine of the Bible; it is written on every part of nature; it includes as truly the motions of an atom as the revolutions of a world--the growth of a plant as the conversion of a soul. True philosophy, as well as Christianity, resolves everything but sin into the predestination of Infinite Love.
II. This vast preconcerted plan is sealed in mystery.
1. It transcends all finite intelligence.
2. It is frequently the source of great mental distress.
3. It is an inestimable means of spiritual discipline: it sobers, humbles, stimulates.
III. That the mystery of this plan is to be expounded by Christ. He discloses the eternal purposes in various ways.
(1) In His creative acts. Stars, suns, and systems are but the palpable forms or diagrams of Infinite ideas.
(2) In His redemptive operations.
(3) In His judicial conduct. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” In the last day what new disclosures will be made! (Homilist.)
The seeded book
I. The apostolic vision.
II. The apostolic proclamation.
III. The weeping apostle. This gives humanness and pathos to the scene. We too, like John, have shed tears as we wrestled to solve some dark, difficult problem in the government of our righteous but most merciful God.
IV. The consoling elder.
V. The victorious lion. (James Nelson.)
The sealed book of the future
I. How beneficent is the fact of our general ignorance of the future! It is this ignorance of the future which alone makes it possible for life to be a school of goodness, a training-ground for faith, hope, and a host of other qualities which are among the noblest that adorn the human soul. Could we see in the aggregate the sorrows which await us, the mere sight would crush us. Did we foresee the happiness which the “Hand that was pierced” is keeping for us, the present, with its limitations, and pains, and duties, would become intolerable to us. If we could foresee the certain victory or certain defeat of each battle we fight for justice, truth, and right, where would be our courage, our faith, our patience? But God has purposely hidden in His own wise and loving counsel such things as whether our lives are to be long or short; whom we shall marry, or whether we shall be married at all; whether we shall succeed or fail in examinations, or in business; whether we shall have health or sickness. And He has hidden these things in order that we may feel our dependence upon Him, and confide ourselves to His keeping; that we may give ourselves to the doing of His will, and leave to Him to choose the inheritance of friends and circumstances which the future may have in store for us.
II. While ignorance of the future is generally beneficent, occasions may arise when a knowledge of the future beyond what can be gained by experience and foresight is of the highest advantage. This supposition is bound up in our belief in a supernatural revelation, such as the Bible professes to give, Such a revelation must deal, among other things, with the facts of the unseen world of which experience can give us no authentic information, and also with events of the future of this world’s history beyond the power of the wisest merely human foresight to predict. A revelation of this kind would plainly not be given unless it were needed, but serious doubt as to the need seems hardly possible. While ignorance of the future on our part is needful, it is no less needful to our welfare that Some One should know our future; and, also, not less needful to our comfort that we should be assured of this knowledge on His part. The growing child is still dependent on the knowledge of its future needs which leads parents to train and educate it with a view to its well-being and happiness. But the best knowledge and truest foresight of parents will not enable them to predict with certainty the future events of the child’s life. This third and highest kind of evidence brings into full view the question that is of infinite and eternal importance for every individual: How do I stand related at this moment to this living and reigning Saviour? Only one relationship can be right and safe, that of humble submission, of trustful loyalty, of reverent affection.
III. What effect ought our knowledge of Christ’s complete mastery over the future to have upon our feeling and action? Should not this glorious truth infuse into our feeling a deep peace? Should it not inspire us with quiet confidence and a lion-like courage--a mighty hope and an invincible patience? (Arthur James, B. A.)
The book, the Lamb, and the song
I. “A book, written within and on the back with seven seals.”
1. It is the book of redemption. Its central thought is the Cross, which is the wisdom of God and the power of God.
2. This book is complete; it is “written within and on the back,” both sides of the parchment covered. God’s plan of redemption is round and full. Its last word is “Finis,” and there is room for no other.
3. The book was “close sealed with seven seals.” In the ages before Christ the great problem was how God could be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly. Three sentiments were struggling in all human breasts: the conviction of sin, the intuitive apprehension of death, and the trembling hope that God, in some wise, would deliver. The solution of the difficulty was hid within this volume of the Divine decrees--hid by the Father, to be revealed in fulness of time unto us.
II. A lamb as it had been slain. And this Lamb took the book out of the right hand of God and opened it. The opening of this book of the Divine decrees concerning the redemption of man is like daybreak after an Egyptian night. As to this Lamb observe--
1. He bore in His person the tokens of death. Our Lord Jesus wears in glory the honourable scars of His service on earth. Why did the Lord Jesus die? That so, in our behalf, He might triumph over death: That so He might prevail to open the book of life end immortality.
2. The place where the Lamb stood is significant: it was “in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders.” Where else should He stand who ever liveth to make intercession for us, the Mediator of the new covenant, the only One between God and men. John Bunyan was at one time sorely troubled to know how the Lord Jesus could be both man and God. “At last that in Revelation 5:6 came into my mind: ‘And, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the elders stood a Lamb.’--‘In the midst of the throne,’ thought I--there is the Godhead; ‘in the midst of the elders’--there is the manhood; but, oh, methought this did glister! It was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction.”
3. He had seven horns. The horn is the emblem of power. The name of Jesus is The Mighty to Save.
4. He had seven eyes, which are the fulness of the Divine Spirit sent forth into all the earth. We are now living under the dispensation of this Spirit, who goeth to and fro everywhere like multitudinous eyes to see into all hearts and perceive all secret imaginations, ever watchful for truth and righteousness, to the end that all souls and all nations presently may be brought under the peaceful sway of the Lamb. The horns of Divine power and the eyes of Divine wisdom are grandly and perpetually co-working towards this consummation so devoutly to be wished.
III. Oh, then what a song, when heaven and earth shall join in ascribing praises to Him that was dead, but is alive again, and liveth for evermore, and hath the keys of death and hell!
1. It will be a new song. The fresh mercies of God call, even here, for perpetual renewals of thanksgiving. Stale praises are in no wise better than stale manna. But how will it be in the kingdom? The songs yonder must keep pace with the perpetually new unveilings of Divine love.
2. And it will be a universal song, joined in by “the redeemed tenantry of heaven end earth, the angels of the sky, and grateful inmates of the ocean and the air.” (D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
The writing on the book of life
The book of futurity is what was sealed with seven seals. It is a dark and mysterious one for us also. The future is closed to us, and must remain so. How foolish the wish to raise this thick veil. Every joy, being foreseen, would lose its attraction; every pain and loss would become an insufferable torture. Through God’s grace the future is hid from us; and they are foolish who pretend to proclaim it. And yet the seals are broken. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has come to open the book and break its seals. Fate is no longer cruel darkness to us Christians. Whatever darkness may lie before our feet, at every step which we take into the future the guiding stars shine above us, and at our side stands the faithful guide. And how do these holy superscriptions of our life run?
1. We read first the words, Walk before God. In everything that thou doest, ask what is good, what is true before God. How does He speak to thee by His voice, conscience? You bear in yourselves the dominion over all that approaches from without, whether with allurements or threats. You bear in yourselves the measure of things.
2. Perceive, then, this the second inscription and precept of life. It is: “All things are yours!” The Divine and exalted right of man over all creatures is here proclaimed to us. And this includes his freedom and his dominion--the freedom of his soul from the outer world, and the dominion of his spirit over it. Is it not, then, you who turn misfortune into prosperity, and acquire strength in trial, and in exercising patience learn courage and self-conquest, the highest work of man? Is it not you who ennoble good fortune, and place it in the service of the Spirit, and use it in order to lead yourselves farther, and to lessen the want round about you, and to fashion everything that is near you into a life worthy of man?
3. Now you perceive, in fine, the third superscription of the book of life: “The fruit of the Spirit is love!” It puts forth, perhaps, many and beautiful flowers, and the powerful stem raises itself and extends its wide shadowing branches over the extent of the earth; but the ripe fruit of the Spirit is love, and that alone. We feel, everything else is only falling flowers, only brilliant appearance; love alone remains. We feel it is cold, and solitary, and joyless in the world without love. And our liberty and moral power also against the world and fate, how can we preserve them if we stand not firmly bound together in the fellowship of the brethren?--one extending the hand to the other whenever he sinks down, one comforting the other in word and deed when a heavy blow falls upon his head. (Dr. Schwarz.)
The glorified Christ
I. The solution of the mysteries of God. God, like the painter, poet, builder, works by plan. Is the conflict of life purposeless? Evidences of plan and purpose--in nature. Everywhere there are proofs of an intelligent mind and Divine purpose. This truth is stamped on our lives from first to last. We are limited, dependent, controlled everywhere. Life itself is not ours to determine, nor its particular form and circumstances. Even where we have a choice, the circumstances between which we choose are not in our power. The duration of life is determined apart from our choice. If thought is ours, the power to think is given. Again, the great variety there is among men, modified, too, by so many circumstances of birth, education, etc., variety in regard to temperament, position, success, anticipation. And so in regard to the inner life and the life and course of the Church. Wise builders always work by plan. The wisest are most like God.
II. The Object Of Worship. (R. V. Pryce, M. A.)
The unsealing of the plan of universal destiny
I. There is in the Divine mind a plan of universal destiny.
1. Destiny is planned.
2. Destiny is comprehensive. The scroll was full of writing.
3. Destiny is effective. The book was in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. It was not carelessly thrown on the ground.
II. The plan of universal destiny is concealed.
1. It is concealed by the mystery in which it is inherently involved.
2. It is concealed by the intellectual inability of man.
III. The plan of universal destiny sometimes awakens mental anguish on the part of man.
1. Men often experience mental anguish as they contemplate the mystery of destiny. Fears of--
2. There is much to console the mental anguish which the thought of destiny may awaken.
IV. The plan of universal destiny is revealed by Christ in His mediatorial relationship to mankind.
1. Destiny is unsealed by strength.
2. Destiny is revealed by humiliation.
3. Destiny is revealed by sacrifice. Lessons:
(1) That all the events of the future are arranged according to a wise and comprehensive plan.
(2) That in contemplation of the future, all mental distress which may arise should be consoled by the revelation which Christ has made.
(3) That Christ is above all created intelligence in His mediatorial relationship to the future. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The song of the book
I. I notice first, that under any really feasible interpretation, the judicial element must, directly or indirectly, be included. Different minds have discerned in this symbol “the Book of the Secret Decrees of God,” “the Book of Destiny,” “the Book of the Inheritance,” “the Book of Universal History,” “the Book of the Future,” or “the Book of Providence.” But every one of these interpretations--different but not contradictory--carries a reference to judgment in its right hand. Whatever more may be “written within and on the back side,” the handwriting of Christ against His enemies is undoubtedly there. Its very position, it has been well shown, is an indication of its judicial character. It lies “in the right hand of Him who sat upon the throne”; in that hand “which teaches terrible things,” and is “full of righteousness,” and at which Christ is set “until His enemies are made His footstool.” As each seal is opened, ministers of Divine retribution are seen going forth. Effects like these could only follow the opening of a Book of Judgment.
II. I observe next, that everything in the vision, in which this symbol occurs, seems to speak to us of the domain of Providence. Those prelusions of the consummation of all things, of which Providence is so full, salute us here. It is the “Lamb,” the redemptive heart of Providence; the “Lion,” the avenging arm of Providence; the “root of David,” the kingly power in Providence, who prevails to open the book. He is the Lord mighty to save or destroy. And finally, His power to deal with this great mystery of time, the oppression of the righteous by the wicked, is represented as a joy to all who are embraced in the great scheme of Providence. It should be borne in mind that this worship, like the vision in which it occurs, was revealed as consolation for John. He was in tears because no man could unseal the book. It is a most suggestive fact, that the first word of the consolation comes from one of the representatives of the redeemed. It was one of the elders who said to the exile, “Weep not!” To that elder and his companions the seals on the book had caused no anxiety. The secret of the Lord was in their hearts. They knew that there was one eye from which the things written in that book were never hid. In the light which breaks upon him now, the tears of the captive-prophet have disappeared. The mystery which lay upon his soul is unloosed. The book is in the hands of his Lord. “What no man in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth” could do, has been done by Christ. He has prevailed “to open the book, and to loose the seven seals.” The joy of the seer seems to palpitate up into the throngs of heaven. And if we would know the character of that book, we must open our minds to the thoughts which find expression in this song.
1. The song is first of all a song of thanks: “Thou hast redeemed us.” There was such power in His sympathy, that it penetrated, and used for redemption purposes, every peculiarity of nature, and race, and sphere. There was such power in His grace, that it broke down, in their hearts, the might of indifference, and enmity, and lust, and sin.
2. Again, the song of the elders is more than personal thanksgiving. It is a prophecy of consolation as well. It is sung for John and the suffering Church.
3. Besides being personal thanksgiving and prophecy, the song of the redeemed is worship of the Redeemer. And it is the judicial aspect of His work they praise. The object of this worship is seated on the throne of the universe. The song is often quoted as if it were an acknowledgment of His worth as a sacrifice: “Thou art worthy … for Thou wast slain.” But it is more, by being less, than this. “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, for Thou wast slain.” The fact that He was slain is celebrated here, only because it imparts the right to open the book. The singers take their stand on the fact that He is judge, because He is first of all sacrifice. He is worthy to unloose the seals of judgment, because He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We are accustomed to connect the death of Christ with the outflowings of His mercy; the connection here is between that death and the outflowings of His justice. In the depths of this song I find the great faith, that there is a Judge in the earth who judgeth righteously, and Christ the crucified is He. (A. Macleod, D. D.)
The sealed book
But these prelusive judgments are little known. The book is sealed with seals. We do not see its contents, or we do not see them as what they are. The retributions it reveals are not known as retributions. Our knowledge at the best is limited, our insight dim and poor, and the “thoughts” of the Judge “are very deep.”
1. The habit of expecting from the future what is already by our side is one cause of our blindness to the retributions of the present. We underrate the present, and are surprised when it brings a judgment to our door. Every age, I might say every day, is a judgment-day. “Every morning doth He bring judgment to light.” Even while I write these words the term of probation for some life, or scheme, or institution, or nation, is coming to a close. Over a thousand spheres of action, the judgment hour is striking.
2. Our subjection to sense, and the consequent tendency to judge according to appearance, is another cause of the dimness which seems to lie on the world of retribution. “Appearance” is no mark of well-being in the sphere of Providence.
3. A third cause of our blindness to such events is the foregone conclusion that retribution is only present when the last results of sin have been reached. Judgment manifests itself in the partial as well as in the complete developments of evil.
4. A fourth cause which seals up the prelusive judgments from our view is the mistaken conceptions of retribution which we entertain. We are wrong in our notions of its nature and manifestations. Even when retributions are present and palpable to the senses, we will not believe them to be outbreakings of the Divine wrath on sin. We suffer ourselves to be blinded by phrases which hide out the truth. We say--we think we have explained them when we say--they are the accidents of circumstances, or the natural fruits of evil. We do not see that there can be no such accidents. We do not sufficiently remember that the natural fruits of evil are themselves a doom. We insist on extraneous and formal dooms. Retributions must come forth clad in miraculous and visible garments. It must be a handwriting on the wall, a portent in the heavens, a sounding of trumpets in the sky. But this is merely the aberration of our ignorance. Retribution can only on rare occasions be clothed in formalities like these. Its manifestations, for the most part, and of necessity, are not miraculous, but natural. It is at work when we, who are in its presence, see only decay, or disease, or accident. (A. Macleod, D. D.)
Four volumes are mentioned in the Scriptures as belonging to God’s celestial library.
1. The “book of the living” (Psalms 69:28), in which are enumerated all items of personal human history, as God has decreed them (Psalms 139:16).
2. The “book of the law” (Galatians 3:10), in which are included all God’s demands for obedience and duty.
3. The “book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16), in which are noted all the incidents of each believer’s continued experience (Psalms 56:8).
4. The “book of life” (Philippians 4:3), in which are recorded all the names of those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and no others (Revelation 20:15). Of these perhaps the likeliest to be the one John now saw in God’s right hand was the first, containing the secret decrees of Divine providence concerning human life and the destiny of nations. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The book and the song
I. The book of mystery.
1. It is instructive to inquire where the seer saw the book.
2. It is also instructive to notice the fulness of Divine counsels contained in the book.
3. The carefulness with which its contents are secured.
II. A startling challenge and the profound suspense.
1. By whom made.
2. The nature of the challenge.
3. The profound suspense.
(1) What a stern rebuke to all the daring speculations of unaided reason concerning the future purposes of God!
(2) How painful the thought of the unbroken seals to the apocalyptic seer!
III. The consoling announcement.
1. The character of the announcement.
2. The ground of the consolation.
IV. A marvellous scene.
1. A symbolic representation of our Lord in heaven.
(1) “In the midst of the throne,” etc. Christ is the central figure of all the heavenly hosts.
(2) “A Lamb as it had been slain,” etc. Christ’s death is the ground of all heavenly glory.
2. “A symbolic representation of the investiture of Christ with full control of all the purposes of the Father.
(1) These purposes are symbolised in the book.
(2) The investiture is symbolised in Christ becoming possessor of the book.
3. A symbolic representation of the joy which will fill all heaven and earth and sea when Christ is thus honoured.
(1) The song now sung was a “new song.”
(2) The inspiration of the song was the worthiness of Christ to take the book and to open its seals.
(3) The theme of the song--redemption through Christ’s blood; the exaltation of the saved to the positions of kings and priests, blessed hope of reigning over the earth.
1. That all the events of the future, as well as those of the past, are under the supreme control of our Lord as Redeemer.
2. That to Christ we owe every ray of light that this book sheds on the future.
3. That while terrible judgments are announced in the book against the wicked, the issue will be most glorious for the Church of Christ, and the result of Christ’s administration will be the triumph of holiness. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The plan of the Divine government
1. The plan of the Divine government is settled and adjusted with as much certainty and precision as if it had been put upon record, or written in a book.
2. The work of Messiah is a great and glorious undertaking.
3. There is a mixture of good and evil in the temper and conduct of the best of men. John wept when he had no proper occasion for sorrow. In so far as his grief sprung from inattention to Christ it was criminal; but in so far as it manifested his public spirit, and sprung from a fear lest the Church might be destitute of any branch of knowledge that might be advantageous for her, it was truly generous and patriotic, and therefore much to be commended.
4. There is a constitutional fitness in the person of Christ for the work of mediation. He is both the root and the offspring of David; He is a daysman who can lay His hand upon both, and make up the breach between them; and as there is no other medium of friendly intercourse with God, it nearly concerns us to be savingly acquainted with Him, as the way, the truth, and the life. (R. Culbertson.)
Tears are effectual orators
Luther got much of his insight into God’s matters by this means. It is said of Sir Philip Sidney that when he met with anything that he well understood not, he would break out into tears. (J. Trapp.)
The Lion of the tribe of Judah … hath prevailed to open the book.--
Christ the Lion of the tribe of Judah
1. Whereas John is comforted by one of the elders, we see that the Lord never leaves His own comfortless.
2. Where He says, “Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” etc., we are taught for all solid comfort to look up to Christ the fountain thereof; and as Samson got honey out of his slain lion, so shall we the sweetness of comfort from Him.
3. The elder speaks of Him in His titles out of Moses and Isaiah; and so do all faithful teachers speak of Him according to the Scriptures.
4. Christ is said to be not only a Lamb for meekness, innocence, and patient suffering, but also a Lion for power and prevailing against all His foes and ours, which is both a comfort to His own and terror to His enemies.
5. Also where He is said to be of the tribe of Judah, and so to be man of our nature and come of men; it is likewise greatly to our comfort that He has so dignified our nature in His person, wherein now it is glorified, passing by the angels.
6. Where He is called “the Root of David,” who was also a Branch or the Son of David, we see as He was man; so likewise God, and the root or stock which bears up all the faithful and can never fail.
7. He is said to have prevailed to open the book, etc.
to wit, with the Father-as our Mediator and Advocate, which is to our great comfort, that whatever (for the good of His Church) He seeks of the Father, He prevails therein; yea, whatever we shall seek in His name, it shall be granted us.
8. He prevails to open the book and the seven seals thereof. It is He, then, only who is “The Word,” as the Wisdom of the Father to decree, so the Word to declare, and the Power to effectuate, that Great Prophet of His Church who came from the bosom of the Father to reveal the Lord’s counsel, and His goodwill to men: hear Him. (Wm. Guild, D. D.)
The Lion of the tribe of Judah
I. Jesus is called a lion because of the unparalleled courage which belongs to Him. The work which He undertook to execute was one of incomparable magnitude. Had it been proposed to the mightiest archangel that stands before God’s throne, he would have shrunk in timidity from the task. For what was it? It was to reconcile things apparently incongruous, and to perform things apparently impossible. It was to satisfy the demands of justice, and yet, at the same time, yield abundant scope for the exercise of mercy. It was to secure pardon to a condemned race, and yet maintain inviolate the honour of the law which had sentenced them to condemnation. And, in addition to all this, it was to combat single-handed the powers and principalities of hell. Who among the sons of the mighty could have presumed that he was equal to such a work? And yet, behold, in the fulness of time, One born of a woman undertakes this mighty office. The difficulties and dangers of the work were not hidden from Him. Yet did not the prospect, awful as it was, deter Him from engaging in the service. Nor, when the very worst was immediately in view, did it shake the intrepidity of His purpose. Of His courage, even as of His love, it may be said that it was “stronger than death.”
II. Courage, however, as we all know, may reside in a bosom to which the power of accomplishing what it undertakes is denied. There may be the will to do and the soul to dare what the hand is incompetent to execute. But it was not thus with the blessed Jesus, who undertook the bold work of saving lost men. His strength was equal to His courage, and He had power to execute all that His boldness purposed. Being God as well as man, no burden was too heavy for Him, no trial too severe.
III. The idea suggested by the metaphor under consideration may well animate you to steadfastness in the work of the Lord. Like your Divine Master, you too shall have powerful opposition to encounter, and formidable enemies to contend against. But the example which He has set may well arouse you to activity. (J. L. Adamson.)
The all-conquering Christ
It is needless to say to the Biblical student that this imagery has its base on Genesis 49:8-10.
I. The victorious leadership and power of Judah. Of Judah, the old man says that he shall be chief amongst his brethren. “Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise;… thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.” He is to be a victorious power. “Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies … from the prey thou art gone up.” His is to be a legislative and regal power. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet.” He is to be the true centre of government, the rallying point of the world’s hopes; “to him shall the gathering of the people be.” Let us trace the history to see the facts that fulfil the prophecy. Two hundred years after the old man’s dying words were spoken, we find the children of Israel going up out of Egypt, and God gives directions about the order of their encampment. “On the east side shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch” (Numbers 2:3). Why is Judah assigned the principal place in the front of the tabernacle? Why is he here the chief tribe? Why should not Reuben, the first-born, be appointed here? There is no explanation to be given except that for his sin he had been displaced, “and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright,” and “Judah was made the chief ruler” (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). Again, in Numbers 7:12, when the offerings were to be made, Nahshon … of the tribe of Judah was assigned the dignity of offering first. When the tribes had passed into Canaan the remnants of the people were to be overcome, and Israel requires of the Lord who shall be put in the forefront of the fray, who should lead to battle. “Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the lands into his hand” (Judges 1:2-3). Still later the tribe of Benjamin revolt (Judges 20:18) and the people “went to the house of God” and “asked counsel of God. Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first.”
II. But this all-conquering and all-controlling power of Judah but symbolised the real royalty and supreme sway of Jesus Christ, and hence we go on to the New Testament--the family record of the Lord Jesus, “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.” The old promise of Jacob in Genesis was that this regal might, this conquering splendour, should abide with Judah till the Peace-bringer, the Shiloh, should come (Genesis 49:10). (J. T. Gracey, D. D.)
The book of the Divine purposes opened, not altered
The Lamb is said here to prevail to open the book. We often suppose that He prevailed by His sacrifice to alter the Divine purposes. We often say that the Divine will, or justice, or purity, demanded something of man which he could not render. That he was doomed to destruction for that failure; that the Lamb interposed to avert this sentence; that He paid the creature’s debt; that so He satisfied the mind of Him who sat on the throne; that many threads are woven into this theory which are drawn from the practical faith of men, from their experience of their own wants, from the lessons they have learnt in Scripture, I gladly own. But that that practical faith has suffered, and does suffer cruelly, from the speculations which have been mixed with it; that the hearts of men crave for a satisfaction which this scheme of divinity does not afford them; that if they would listen to the teaching of Scripture they would find that satisfaction, I must maintain also. How naturally men conscious of evil wish to change the purpose of a Power which they think is ready to punish this evil; how eagerly they seek for mediators who they suppose may effect this change; how they may arrive at last at the conception of a Kehama who by prayers and sacrifice can bend the will of the gods wholly to his will, the mythology of all nations proves abundantly. Christian theology scatters such dark imaginations by revealing the Highest Ruler as the All-Good, Him who sits on the throne as a Being like a jasper or a sardine stone to look upon; by revealing the Lamb that was slain as the perfect sharer of His counsels; the perfect fulfiller of His will; the perfect revealer of His designs to mankind; the perfect Redeemer of the world from the dominion of false, hateful, cruel gods which they had imagined, and which upheld all falsehood, hatred, cruelty in the rulers; the perfect stoner of man with the Father of Light, in whom is no variableness nor the shadow of turning. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
A Lamb as it had been slain.
The Lamb and the book
I. God has a plan for the construction of His Church.
1. The plan is on a large scale. It fills a “book.” Redemption is God’s greatest effort.
2. God is resolved to work out the plan. “Right hand”--symbol of executive energy.
3. The plan is an infinitely difficult one. “Sealed with seven seals.” How to reconcile man to God, the great mystery of the universe.
4. The plan is essential to the happiness of humanity. John “wept” when no one could open the book.
II. Christ is the administrator of God’s plan for the construction of His Church.
1. He is qualified by appointment. “My servant.”
2. He is qualified by character. “Lamb.”
3. He is qualified by suffering. “Slain.”
4. He is qualified by perfection of ability. “Seven horns,” etc. Perfection of knowledge and power.
III. The administration by Christ of God’s plan for the construction of His church is productive of universal joy.
1. The joy of the Church (verses 8-10).
2. The joy of the angels (verses 11, 12).
3. The joy of the creation (verse 13).
4. The joy of God. “This is My beloved Son, etc. (B. D. Johns.)
The Lamb in the midst of the throne
I. The blessed object which John beheld is heaven.
1. The title given Him is most endearing.
(1) A favourite one with the inspired writers (Isaiah 53:7; Joh 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19, etc.). St. John uses the expression nearly thirty times, and always in most important connections.
(2) An appropriate and expressive title.
2. The position He occupies is pre-eminently striking.
(2) Dignified. And if such be His position in heaven, should He be placed in the background upon earth?
3. The attributes symbolically ascribed to Him are highly imposing. These are power and wisdom.
II. The special act which He is represented as performing.
III. The feelings of joy and adoration with which the circumstance referred to was regarded.
1. By the redeemed.
2. By the angelic hosts.
3. By the whole intelligent creation. (Expository Outlines.)
The Lamb in the midst of the throne
I. The lamb in the midst of the throne. The designation of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, appealed to one class of associations in the apostle’s mind; the appearance of a lamb as it had been slain, to another. The design was to combine the two, as better calculated than each one singly to convey the full impression of the person who had prevailed to open the sealed book. A lamb was selected by God from the period of the Fail as best calculated, by its natural meekness and innocence, to typify the real propitiation for sin which tie had provided from the foundation of the world. As such He was foretold by Isaiah, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” As such He is pointed out by John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” and as such He is described by Peter, “Ye were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” The Book of Revelation records the triumphs of the Lamb. The Old Testament had given the history of the preparation for His coming; the New had tracked His sorrowful course on the earth; all that was now needed was to trace the effects of the death of Christ upon future ages of the world, and throw out some intimations of its blissful and inter-ruinable reward. “A Lamb as it had been slain, in the midst of the throne,” suggests that certain indications remain in the glorified person of the Redeemer in the midst of its purity and splendour, of its oblation on the Cross. Were the sufferings of Christ the foundation of the glory that should follow? Is His exaltation in proportion to His humiliation? Then must the glory of His person be in proportion to its shame, and the radiance of His scars pre-eminently bright. This becomes the everlasting memorial to the redeemed of their title to those realms, and of the ever-living intercession within the veil. Justice requires the detention of this memento of their chartered bliss.
II. The acceptance of the challenge by the Lamb to open the sealed book. AS the rising sun chases from a whole hemisphere the gloom and silence of night, burnishes the billows, gems the crystal caves, tinges the forests, gilds the waving corn, enamels the flowers, fringes the clouds, empurples the sky, fills cities with life, homes with mirth, and groves with songs; so the appearance of the Lamb on the throne turns the stillness of creation into life, the gloom into day, the silence into songs. The joy that spread through the whole creation when the Lamb took the sealed book intimates that all creation was interested in its contents. The book in the hand of Christ insured its fulfilment. (G. Rogers.)
Christ in heaven
1. There is a wide difference between the present and former condition of the Saviour.
2. The exaltation of Christ has made no change upon the spirit and disposition by which He is actuated.
3. Jesus Christ is invested with a threefold office. He is here symbolised by a Lamb, which naturally reminds us of His sacrificial work and of His priestly character; but, as this Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, He must be a king and a prophet as well as a priest.
4. Jesus Christ is a Divine person.
5. Saints are under peculiar obligations to praise and honour God.
6. See the true and direct way for relief to the burdened mind. Is the soul afflicted with a deep sense of guilt? Look to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (R. Culbertson.)
The appearance of the Mediator in heaven
I. That the mediator appears as the centre of heavenly society.
1. The position is indicative of the pre-eminence of Christ. While on earth He was despised and rejected of men; in heaven He is the centre of enjoyment and worship.
2. This position is indicative of the attraction of Christ. We are assured that Christ is not merely the centre of the society of heaven because of His royal dignity, but also because of the beauty of His character, the glory of His redemptive work, the wealth of His mercy, the depth of His condescension, and the wondrous achievements of His grace in bringing so many to the promised kingdom.
3. This position is indicative of the supreme life and activity of Christ. The Redeemer stood in the midst of the throne and of the company of heaven; thus indicating His rising up from the grave, His entrance upon a life which should never again yield to death, and His readiness for the redemptive work of the future.
II. That the mediator appears with the tokens of redemptive suffering. “A Lamb as it had been slain” (verse 6).
1. This figure indicates the gentle spirit of Christ. He deals tenderly with wounded spirits, now that He is in heaven, even as He did when on earth.
2. This figure indicates the painful sufferings of Christ. Here then is great encouragement for all penitent sinners, in that humanity is represented in heaven, and in that Christ can never forget the humiliation He endured to bring them to God.
III. That the mediator appears as executing the most important work.
1. He accomplished a work vastly important to mankind. Surely nothing could be of greater importance than that man should have light cast upon destiny.
2. lie accomplished a work which none other being could achieve. All created intelligences had been challenged to open the book which they saw in the Divide hand, but were not equal to the task. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Christ the expounder of the mystery
I. Christ, as the expounder of the mystery of the Divine government, occupies a central position, and assumes the most extraordinary aspects.
1. The position He occupies. He is in the “midst of the throne”; He is in the very centre of the intelligent creation. He attracts all--lie enlightens all--lie governs all--He blesses all with new life and beauty.
2. The aspect He assumes. In His person are combined the marks of suffering humanity and the attributes of perfect Divinity.
II. Christ, as the expounder of the mystery of the Divine government, awakens, in all classes of holy mind, ineffable delight.
1. Here is humility: they “fell down before the Lamb.” The profoundest reverence mingled with their joy.
2. Here is harmony: here are “harps”--emblems of music.
3. Here is acceptableness: “golden vials full of odours.” Its breathing ecstacies ascend as fragrant incense to God.
4. Here is prayerfulness: “the prayers of saints.” Death terminates the saint’s need of prayer for certain objects, such as forgiveness, deliverance from error, and victory over foes, but not the spirit of prayer--the spirit of felt dependence upon God.
III. Christ, as the expounder of the mystery of the Divine government, is deemed worthy of the office, because of his redemptive achievement.
1. He has redeemed. The redemption of man consists in a deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.
2. He has redeemed by sacrifice. What was the sacrifice? A few self-denying efforts?--a world? No; His life. “By Thy blood”; by the sacrifice of Thy life--Thyself.
3. He has redeemed, by sacrifice, all classes. “Out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” The atonement is designed to redeem the world, and some of all its multitudinous sections have been thus redeemed, and millions more are to follow yet.
4. He has redeemed all classes, by sacrifice, to the highest honours. They are priests, in relation to their Maker, offering up the sacrifice of a devout and grateful soul; they are kings, in relation to their race, wielding a governing influence over their thoughts and hearts. A true Christian is a moral sovereign. (Homilist.)
The Lamb in glory
I. Jesus in heaven appears in His sacrificial character; and I would have you note that this character is enhanced by other conspicuous points. Its glory is not diminished, but enhanced, by all the rest of our Lord’s character: the attributes, achievements, and offices of our Lord all concentrate their glory in His sacrificial character, and all unite in making it a theme for loving wonder.
1. We read that He is the Lion of the tribe of Juda; by which is signified the dignity of His office, as King, and the majesty of His person, as Lord. The lion is at home in fight, and “the Lord is a man of war.” Like a lion, He is courageous. Though He be like a lamb for tenderness, yet not in timidity.
2. Further, it is clear that He is a champion: “The Lion of the tribe of Juda hath prevailed.” What was asked for was worthiness, not only in the sense of holiness, but in the sense of valour. One is reminded of a legend of the Crusades. A goodly castle and estate awaited the coming of the lawful heir: he, and he only, could sound the horn which hung at the castle gate; but he who could make it yield a blast would be one who had slain a heap of Paynim in the fight, and had come home victorious from many a bloody fray. So here, no man in earth or heaven had valour and renown enough to be worthy to take the mystic roll out of the hand of the Eternal. Our champion was worthy.
3. In this wonderful vision we see Jesus as the familiar of God. To Him there is no danger in a close approach to the infinite glory, for that glory is His own.
4. We observe, in addition to all this, that He is the prophet of God. “He who unveils the eternal will of the Highest is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
5. Our Lord always was, and is now, acknowledged to be Lord and God. Yet, in the glory of His Deity, He disdains not to appear as the Lamb that has been slain. This still is His chosen character. Write, then, the passion of your Lord upon the tablets of your hearts, and let none erase the treasured memory. Think of Him mainly and chiefly as the sacrifice for sin.
II. In the second place, note that, in this character, Jesus is the centre of all. “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.” The Lamb is the centre of the wonderful circle which makes up the fellowship of heaven.
1. From Him, as a standpoint, all things are seen in their places. Looking up at the planets from this earth, which is one of them, it is difficult to comprehend their motions--progressive, retrograde, or standing still; but the angel in the sun sees all the planets marching in due course, and circling about the centre of their system. Standing where you please upon this earth, and within human range of opinion, you cannot see all things aright, nor understand them till you come to Jesus, and then you see all things from the centre. The man who knows the incarnate God, slain for human sins, stands in the centre of truth.
2. The Lamb’s being in the midst signifies, also, that in Him they all meet in one. Christ is the summing up of all existence. Seek you Godhead? There it is. Seek you manhood? There it is. Wish you the spiritual? There it is in His human soul. Desire you the material? There it is in His human body. Our Lord hath, as it were, gathered up the ends of all things, and hath bound them into one.
3. Being in the centre, to Him they all look. As the Father’s eyes are always on Jesus, so are the eyes of the living creatures and the four-and-twenty elders which represent the Church in its Divine life and the Church in its human life. All who have been washed in His blood perpetually contemplate His beauties.
4. All seem to rally round Him as a guard around a king. All things ordained of the Father work towards Christ, as their centre; and so stand all the redeemed, and all the angels waiting about the Lord, as swelling His glory and manifesting His praise.
III. Thirdly, our Lord is seen in heaven as the Lamb slain, and in this character He exhibits peculiar marks. None of those marks derogate from His glory as the sacrifice for sin; but they tend to instruct us therein.
1. Note well the words: “Stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” “Stood,” here is the posture of life; “as it had been slain,” here is the memorial of death. Our view of Jesus should be two-fold; we should see His death and His life: we shall never receive a whole Christ in any other way.
2. Note, next, another singular combination in the Lamb. He is called “a little lamb”; for the diminutive is used in the Greek; but yet how great He is! In Jesus, as a Lamb, we see great tenderness and exceeding familiarity with His people. He is not the object of dread. A lamb is the most approachable of beings. Yet there is about the little Lamb an exceeding majesty. The elders no sooner saw Him than they fell down before Him.
3. He hath seven horns and seven eyes. His power is equal to His vigilance; and these are equal to all the emergencies brought about by the opening of the seven seals of the Book of Providence.
IV. Jesus appears eternally as a Lamb, and in this character He is universally adored.
1. Before He opened one of the seals this worship commenced. We trust Him where we cannot trace Him. Before He begins His work as the revealing Mediator, the Church adores Him for His work as a sacrifice. Jesus our Lord is worshipped not so much for what benefits He will confer as for Himself.
2. That adoration begins with the Church of God. The Church of God, in all its phases, adores the Lamb. If you view the Church of God as a Divine creation, the embodiment of the Spirit of God, then the living creatures fall down before the Lamb. No God-begotten life is too high to refuse obeisance to the Lamb of God.
3. The Lamb is not only worshipped by the Church, He is worshipped by angels. What a wonderful gathering together of certain legions of the Lord’s hosts we have before us in this chapter I
4. Nay, it is not merely the Church and angelhood; but all creation, east, west, north, south, highest, lowest, all adore Him. All life, all space, all time, immensity, eternity; all these become one mouth for song, and all the song is, “Worthy is the Lamb.”
5. Now, then, if this be so, shall we ever allow anybody in our presence to lower the dignity of Christ, our sacrifice? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lamb in the midst of the throne
I. The scene in heaven.
1. A redemption scene. There is not one person or one object in the heavenly mansions but stands closely connected with the wonders of redeeming love.
2. A rejoicing, blissful scene. Let us mark here not merely the fact that it is a scene of triumphant song, but especially the object that causes the gladness, and the difference in the mode of expressing it. We have here four different songs. First, the song of the living creatures; secondly, the song of the elders; thirdly, the song of the angels; fourthly, the song of all creation. But the one grand question is, who is the object of praise? Clearly, in all cases, the Lamb on the throne; all eyes are turned to Him; all hearts fixed on Him. He is the life, the soul, the all in all of these songs. Heaven is full of triumph. The universe is glad in its exalted and crowned Saviour.
3. A communion scene. Observe how clearly this is set forth in the terms of the text. The Lamb is in the midst of the throne; but the elders, the living creatures, the angels, are all holding fellowship with the Lamb, and with one another. He is the object of all their love, the centre of all attraction, the source of all their light, and life and joy. The Eternal Three are holding their blessed communion of love, into the depths of which no creature may penetrate. But the four living creatures, the elders, the angels, are holding intercourse with that Lamb, and with one another. All are linked to the throne by love. Now remember that God’s family are partly on earth, and partly in heaven; some at home with their Father, others still pilgrims and sojourners in a foreign land. But Jehovah has no greater love for the saints now in glory than for you. Jesus is not more certainly in the midst of the Church in triumph than in the midst of her in tribulation. There is not a more certain fellowship with Him around the throne than in this vale of tears. There is positively no other opening up of the wells of salvation to the glorified saints than to us. The grand thing is, the Lamb is the same, the life and love are the same. Yes, and all the more you can feel your own poverty, necessity and sinfulness, the more will you exalt the Lamb as your all; and then the sense of your necessity, and the sight of His riches and glory endearing Him to your soul, will bring Him near to your heart.
II. The connection between these things and certain other things here specified of the Lamb on the throne, as the foundation of them.
1. The most prominent is the death of the Lamb. He appears a Lamb as it had been slain. It is in His death that all the virtue is found which produces the results to which we have directed your minds. The death of that Lamb is death to all our fears; for we see how He that spared not His own Son will with Him also freely give us all things. That death of the Lamb is also the death of a guilty conscience; for while reposing on this Lamb of God, the effect of His righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever. His death is even the death of death itself; for as we fix our faith on the throne, we hear Him say, “I am He that liveth,” etc.
2. The attitude of the Lamb. He stands in the midst of the throne. This is manifestly His attitude as the intercessor of His people. He has entered in once for all into the holiest of all, there to appear in the presence of God for us. A soldier of old, who was accused of being a traitor to his country, came into the presence of his sovereign, showed the scars on his breast, the memorials of his courage while fighting in the thickest of the battle, and was there received with applause in the face of all his accusers.
3. The freshness of the Lamb slain is a wonderful sight. The Lamb appears standing, bleeding still, as if the sword of justice had been just then drawn from the wounds it inflicted, and the blood were still streaming from the victim. It is not like the blood of bulls and of goats, that could grow cold, and hard, and unfit for sacrifice; but through eternal ages the Father sees that blood, and saints behold it, in all the power of a recent death. By faith the sinner ever sees it too, and has no fear it shall ever lose its efficacy with God.
III. The connection of both these former heads of discourse with the special work of communion to-day.
1. Now you see prominently here that we are alike showing forth the cross and crown-rights of our glorious Immanuel. I have little fear that you forget His death on a day like this; but I am certain that we do often overlook His exaltation. And now we put ourselves afresh under His sway, and vow submission to His law as a rule of life and holiness.
2. There is an inseparable connection between this and all the consolations of the believer. The Lamb has not only the seven crowns or seven horns, but He has also the seven eyes, or seven spirits of God. Christ has all authority and power in heaven and on earth, and He has all the spiritual graces to bestow. The power would be useless without the spiritual influences to shed forth, and these again would be in vain without the rightful authority to bestow them. But Christ has both.
3. Another thing is the hope of the Church in the second coming of the Lord. (John Walker.)
The slain Lamb, beheld in heaven by the redeemed
I. There will be a glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus in the heavenly world.
1. The manifestation of the Saviour’s person.
(1) In His exalted human nature.
(2) In connection with His divinity.
2. The manifestation of the Saviour’s offices. We speak here of a manifestation to the minds of the redeemed.
(1) In this manner, for instance, they will be led to know and meditate upon His priesthood; a capacity in which He gave Himself as a sacrifice for us. And the redeemed, gazing upon Him thus, will dwell with enlarged comprehension upon the wonders of His dying love, in its source, in its process, and in its results.
(2) In this manner, again, they will also know and meditate upon His royalty; a capacity in which He undertook the government of all beings and of all worlds, that their redemption and the purposes of the Godhead might be completed and performed.
3. In the heavenly world the manifestation of the Saviour’s person and offices will be unchanging and eternal. Yes, there will be no shrouding of Him, there will be no withdrawal of Him, there will be no separation from Him. He is the Root of the tree; and that Root will never dry or fail to circulate its fertilising influences. He is the Shechinah of the temple; and that Shechinah will never be obscured or extinguished, He is the Sun of the firmament: and that Sun will never be clouded, or decline, or set, or cease from pouring out the beams of its “high, eternal noon.”
II. The glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus in the heavenly world will produce animating and delightful influences on all to whom it is revealed.
1. From the manifestation of the Lord Jesus there will be secured purity. The character of the Lord Jesus Himself is that of unsullied purity; and it is impossible but that there should be an assimilating influence exercised upon all those who are brought spiritually to commune with Him. Surely these who have been redeemed by His precious blood from our apostate race, will find, in their contemplation of Him, reasons for incessant and invariable conformity to His likeness. Besides this, we must remember the nature of those employments, in which He will engage them while they shall dwell before Him. And so it is, according to the conclusion of inspiration, that “we shall be like Him” because “we shall see Him as He is”; and we shall be like Him for ever, because we shall see Him for ever.
2. This manifestation will also be found to secure pleasure.
3. The manifestation of the Saviour’s presence in the heavenly world also, we find, secures praise.
(1) It is the praise of worship.
(2) It is the praise of gratitude. (J. Parsons.)
The Lamb in the midst of the throne
I. The vision is set before us to remind us of the method of atonement; it is by the blood of Jesus, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Amid all the error abounding in this world there are few so infatuated as to maintain that they have not committed sin. Hew is this sin to be forgiven? By our repentance and reformation, may possibly be the reply. But till there is a work of grace upon the heart there can be no genuine repentance, no godly reformation. There may be feelings of remorse and regret; but these are not penitence. But granting, for the sake of argument, that man could of himself wring out a true repentance, still it can be shown that there is nothing in that repentance to make atonement for past sin. In no case can it make any amends to the insulted justice of God. Perhaps you now say that you trust in the mercy of God. You trust, you say, in the mercy of God; but how is this mercy to be exercised? Mercy is not the sole perfection of God. Holiness and justice--these are as essential to His nature as benevolence. How, then, can God be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly? Human reason can give no intelligent, no satisfactory answer to this question. The mind feels that it has nothing to rest on; no truth on which the understanding can settle and the heart repose, till such time as it sees “a Lamb as it had been slain, in the very midst of the throne of God.”
II. The vision is set before us to remind us of the character of Jesus, of His meekness and gentleness, so fitted to win the human heart. The question under the last head was, How is God to be reconciled to man? The Question under this head is, How is man to be reconciled to God? How is his confidence to be won and his heart engaged?
1. I remark that in order to the gaining of the feelings of the heart it is needful that the conscience be pacified. A troubled conscience always leads the mind to avoid, as if instinctively, the remembrance of the party offended. There cannot be true and filial love in a mind in which conscience has not been appeased, nor can there be any of those allied graces, such as faith and confidence, hope and joy, which ought to fill and animate the soul. Not only so, but in order to gain the heart there must be a free, a full, and an instant forgiveness. It must be free; for it cannot be purchased or earned by us. It mast be full; for if anything were left unforgiven the conscience would still reproach. Observe how all this is secured in the very view here presented to our fatten. The Lamb, the image of gentleness, in the midst of the throne, shows that God is pacified, and the blood that flows from it proves that this has been done in strict accordance with justice. The conscience, the law in the heart, is satisfied, for God Himself, the law-giver, is satisfied. The believer, as he looks to the object set up, can say, “It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?”
2. But secondly, in order to gain the heart there must be a lovely object presented to it. Such an object is presented in Jesus, a Lamb as it had been slain. The character of our Lord, set forth as an object on which the faith and affection of mankind may rest, has in itself everything that is grand and attractive. Just as fleece is a beauty in shape and colour that pleases the eye, and a sweetness of sound that delights the ear, so there is a moral loveliness that should draw towards it the affections of the soul. But here, in the character of God set forth in the face of His Son, we have all kinds of beauty meeting and harmoniously blending. In the Mediator the Divine and human natures are united in such a manner that the one does not destroy or overpower the other, but each retains its own properties, while the whole is a unity. The brightness of the Father’s glory, without being shorn of a single ray, is seen in Christ under a milder lustre. Coldness and indifference are dispelled when we think that in drawing near to Jesus it is man coming to man. Unbelief vanishes when we realise that we have a brother’s heart beating for us on the throne of glory. While our hearts are naturally drawn by sentiments and sympathies towards every brother man, there are certain men of classes of men towards whom we are attracted with greater force; as, for instance, towards all whose sensibilities are quick and whose feelings are tender. And if the persons have themselves been in trouble, if their heart has been melted and softened by fiery trial, our hearts go towards them in yet fuller assurance. Disposed at all times to love such, we are especially drawn towards them when we ourselves are in trouble. It is by this attracting power that believers are drawn so closely to their Saviour. The brotherliness of His human nature, as well as the holy love of His Divine nature, are brought out before us in almost every incident of His life. The forsaken lift up their head and are comforted in communion with Him who was Himself forsaken. Every one acquainted with man’s nature knows that if his heart is gained it must be gained by love. It must be by presenting a loving object. Such is the loving object set before us--a Lamb as it had been slain.
III. The vision is set before us to remind us that Jesus is the grand source of joy to the saints in heaven. As it was the view of Christ crucified that first gained the heart of the sinner, so it is a view of the same object seen in the visions of faith that continues to keep and fix his regards. The faith that saves does not consist of a single glance; “looking unto Jesus” is the habitual attitude of the believer’s soul. Led to love the Lamb of God when on earth, trained by the Spirit of God and by all the dispensations of God to love Him more and more, he finds when he has crossed the dark valley of the shadow of death that the first object that meets his eye, and the most conspicuous, is a Lamb as it had been slain. But we cannot utter that which is unutterable, or describe that which is indescribable; and so we cannot picture or so much as conceive of that joy unspeakable and full of glory which the believer feels on his first entering into the presence of his Saviour, and which he is to enjoy for ever. True, there will be enjoyments not flowing so directly, though still proceeding indirectly from Him. There will be joys springing from the holy affections of confidence and love, which Christ by His Spirit plants in the breasts of His people. These graces, flowing, overflowing, and ever increasing, will be a source of great and ever-deepening happiness throughout eternity. Again, there will be joys springing from the glorious society of heaven, from the company of saints and angels. The question has often been asked, Where is heaven? We may not be able to answer it geographically, but we can answer it truly. It is where Jesus is. “Where I am, there ye shall be also.”
1. A man must be born again before he can enter the kingdom of God.
2. Oh, that I had but lived in the days when Jesus sojourned on the earth! is the wish that will sometimes rise up in our breasts. Oh, that I had but seen His sacred person i Oh, that I had but heard His gracious words! These wishes, if proceeding from a sincere and sanctified heart, may yet be gratified, lie who was dead is alive, and behold He liveth for evermore. As He was on earth, so is He now in heaven. (J. McCosh.)
The Zion--the lamb
He looked for a lion; he saw a lamb; the Greek says “little lamb”--lamb, emblem of meekness; little lamb, emblem of apparent meekness; slain, emblem of sacrifice. And yet this lamb had seven horns and Seven eyes; the horns, emblem of power; seven horns, emblem of perfect power; eyes, emblem of wisdom; seven eyes, emblem of perfect wisdom. We continually make this mistake; we think that it is might that rules; we look for a lion. We think that the power in government is to be found in congresses, presidents, kings, armies, and have not yet learned that the power is in homes and wives and mothers. The disciples, when Christ came, were looking for a lion. They believed that the Messiah would appear suddenly, and the hosts of heaven would gather about Him and the hosts of paganism would gather against Him, and in one terrible last battle He would conquer and ride victorious over a bloody field. But when the angel told the watching shepherds the Messiah was come, the angel also said to them, “This is the sign of His Messiahship--that He is but a babe, and a babe cradled in s manger.” “Because Thou hast died, and hast purchased us unto God, Thou art worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and glory and honour and blessings.” Power belongs to love. The most potent of all earth’s potencies love. Only love has any right to power. It is not the lion, it is the lamb that conquers. The eagle is dead, the lamb lives on for ever. To the “lamb” belongs the world’s wealth. It is not the greedy, ravening lions that acquire wealth, it is the lamb. Only the lamb is worthy to receive riches. They do not belong to shrewd selfishness, but to large-minded love. No man has a right to wealth save he who holds it as a trust and administers it in love. It is only love that is worthy to be rich; nay, it is only love that really has riches; for we have not what we hold in our hand, but what ministers to life. It is love serving and sacrificing itself for others that alone is worthy to be rich, that alone is truly rich. It is love only that is wisdom. The cynic and the misanthrope pride themselves on their knowledge of human nature. They know just as much of it as a man might know of the cold earth who did not know there were any seeds beneath the surface. It is love only that is wise; for love sees the possibility in human nature which eyes blinded by cynicism fail to see. It is love which sees a future statesman in a rail-splitter. It is love which sees the emancipator of Europe in the monk. Love looks beneath the surface and sees the Divine in humanity. Wisdom belongs to love. It was the Lamb that saw in the publican Matthew the great biographer: the Lamb that saw in the recreant and unstable Simon the great Apostle Peter. And to the “Lamb ,t belong the glory, and the honour, and the blessing--not to power, not to wisdom, save as power and wisdom are used by love to make itself impart more. There are ranks and hierarchies of glory. Conscience is a great glory--conscience that sees righteousness and understands it; and faith is a great glory--faith that rejoices in the invisible and the eternal; and hope is a great glory--hope that beckons on the man to a larger and nobler and yet larger and nobler achievement. But best and highest of all is love. And so to love will come the song of universal blessing. To the lamb, and the little lamb as it had been slain. We worship Thee, O God, not for Thy power, though that power we might fear; nor for Thy wisdom, though that wisdom we must admire; we worship Thee for Thy love. (Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
The lamb on the throne
The first impression of these words must have been one of the most startling originality. To that old world the idea of a lamb on a throne was a contradiction in terms. I do not mean that the ancient earth was a stranger to gentleness. To combine in one nature the elements of the lion and of the lamb would be as natural for Livy as it was for the writer of the Apocalypse. But the old Pagan world, like the pre-Christian Jewish world, could never say of this element of gentleness, “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory”; the kingdom, the power, and the glory were not for it. The part of man’s nature reserved for them was the self-asserting part. No nation that I know had a lamb as a symbol of its greatness. The Roman would have understood an eagle on the throne, for his ideal was the soaring of ambition. The Jew would have understood a lion on the throne, for his Messiah was a physical conqueror. But the lamb was ever victim, the symbol of the vanquished, the sign of the dependent soul. Its place was not the throne, but the altar; it could never be the emblem of dominion. It suggests to us that even in our days we have a strong view of Christ’s exaltation. What is our view of Christ’s exaltation? It is that He has vanquished His Cross, ceased to be a servant, and become once more a king. St. John says it is the Cross itself which has been exalted, it is the Servant Himself who has been ennobled. No one will deny that at the present hour Christ occupies a different position in the world from that which He held in the first century of our era. He has passed from the foot to the head of the social ladder; He has become the name that is above every name. This will be admitted by all classes--believing and unbelieving. What is the cause of this transformation? It is that Christianity exerts more physical power over the world in our days than it did in the days of St. John? Assuredly not. In point of fact it does not exert more physical power. There are laws in every Christian land as to the regulation of Christian worship, but no individual man is compelled to worship. Why then is it that, in some sense, men of every creed and of no creed bow down before the name of Jesus? It is because the thing which the old world disparaged is the thing which the new world prizes. We are living after the resurrection; but let us never forget that it is the resurrection of the Crucified. The Christ who has risen from the grave is not Christ who has triumphed over suffering; it is a Christ in whom suffering has triumphed. And let us begin by asking what was that kingdom which the seer of Patmos had in his mind when he claimed for Christ the throne of universal dominion. If the empire to be conquered be a physical one, it is not a lamb that will do it. No man who looked for a physical conquest could for a moment have conceived the simile of a world held in restraint by the power of a sacrificial life. But suppose now we test the logic of St. John’s words by another empire. For there is another empire--a kingdom more unruly than the physical, more hard to subdue and more difficult to keep; it is the dominion of the human heart. The kingdom to be conquered, then, is the heart; we may consider this as settled. The next question is, How is the conquest to be made? Now, at the time when St. John wrote there had already been three attempts to deal with the problem of the heart. They may be described under the names Stoicism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Stoicism proposed to quell the passions of the heart by plucking out the heart altogether; it sought to get rid of temptation by getting rid of feeling. Buddhism proposed to quell the passions of the heart by teaching that the heart itself was a delusion, that every pursuit of human desire ended in the discovery that the object was a shadow. Judaism proposed to quell the passions of the heart by the restraining hand of fear; it proclaimed the presence of a lawgiver; it set up an embankment against the flood;. it kept the tree of life by the cherubim and the flaming sword. Now, to these three methods there is one thing in common--they all achieve their end by contracting the object of their search. Their aim is to conquer a certain tract of country; they do conquer it, but they reduce it to the ashes in the process. Can any of these systems be said to possess the throne of the heart? It is a conquest without a kingdom, a victory without a prize, a triumph that has been only purchased by the mutilation of what was made to be beautiful. Now, this is not the conquest which any man desires. Even in the physical sphere, what a potentate seeks is an extended, not a contracted possession. In the sphere of the heart it is the same. The reason why we object to lawless passion in the soul is that it contracts the soul. We do not want to cure either by plucking, withering, or stunting the flower; we wish to expand it. We wish to cure lawless passion on the homoeopathic principle--by creating passion on the other side. It is more life and fuller that we want. You want a counter-passion, an opposing attraction, a positive stimulus pushing the other way. The desire of the flesh can only be met by the desire of the spirit--the thing called love. Now, remember that to St. John light is ever the analogue of love. He applies the two names as synonymous descriptions of God. And why? Because to his mind there was an identity between the process of the redemption of the flower by light and the redemption of the heart by love. The light conquers the flower. It conquers, not by contracting, but by expanding the flower. But there is one other thing which must be added to this; it conquers by dying for the flower; ere it can bring out the bloom it must itself be slain. For, what is the process by which the flower is kindled? It is an act of death on the part of the kindling substance. So far from waiting till it grows, it must itself be the principle of its growth. It must go down to it in the dark and in the cold, must take part in its darkness and its coldness. If it reaps the glory of its resurrection, it is because it shares the ignominy of its grave. It sits upon the throne by reason of its sacrifice. Such is the thought which St. John sees in light and transfers to love. He sees Christ sitting on the throne of human hearts--King, by the most infallible mode of conquest, and by a conquest that enhances the value of the possession. (George Matheson, D. D.)
The mere crucifixion of any slave has in it that which would excite compassion; but this event has no parallel in the history of the world; never was a death like the death of Jesus.
1. As we look at this Lamb of God, let us mark the direful malignity of sin.
2. But we see in the Lamb slain, not only the work of sin, but the work of love. Review the whole history of this Lamb of God, and as we feel that He crowned all this love by dying in our stead, that we might have life, let us ask ourselves what return of love ought we to make to Him who loved us even unto death (Romans 12:1). (Bp. Stevens.)
Having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits.--
Union with Christ by the Spirit
The mystical scene before us is the appearance of the Lord, once crucified, once sacrificed, and now the Conqueror, in the heavenly sanctuary; at, and then upon, the heavenly throne. It is the ascension, it is the triumph of the Lord ascended, shown to us in sign and symbol, from the point of view of heaven. It is a new fact, a new phenomenon, in the holy region. The Lord of propitiation, of redemption, is seen here as the immediate fountain-head for earth, the sacred point of radiation downward, of the sevenfold Spirit. To the Spirit, I venture to believe, refer not only the seven mystical eyes but the seven horns, the symbol of perfect spiritual power. I wish to speak of our union by the Holy Spirit with our exalted Lord; of the life of the true members in their Head through the Divine Lifegiver, that Head being the Lamb that was slain. Now, the union of Christ with His people and of them with Him is a truth which may be described, in the light of the New Testament, as not only a great truth of spiritual life, but the truth of truths. It is related to all other kindred doctrines as that which combines, harmonises, and explains them. It appears as the end where they appear as means. Hither they gather and converge. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. That word, “the Spirit of Christ,” reminds us of Him who is the earthward eyes, who is, as it were, the effluent presence for His Church below, of the exalted Lamb. The Paraclete comes, and behold He mediates and makes for the Christian’s soul and self a presence of the Lord which somehow is better, far better, for the Christian in this his pilgrimage and tabernacle than even the joy and glory, if it were granted, of His Saviour’s corporeal proximity. It is “in the Spirit” that the saint, that is to say the genuine Christian here below, “has access” in Christ unto the Father. It is those who are “led by the Spirit” who are in truth and deed, not in a certain sense, but in reality and nature, “the sons of God” in His Son. It is “by the Spirit” that they “mortify,” they continuously do to death, “the deeds of the body,” in the power and name of Christ. It is “by the Spirit” that they “walk” in Christ. It is “because of the Spirit dwelling in them,” a truth full of deep significance as to the nature of the body of the resurrection, that “their mortal body shall be quickened” in the day when their Lord from heaven shall change it into likeness to His own. Of that harvest the indwelling Spirit is the first-fruits. Of that inheritance He is the earnest. So the sevenfold One is sent forth into all the earth, as the eyes, as the presence, of the exalted Lamb of the blessed Sacrifice. It is by Him, and by Him alone, that that presence is in the Church and is in the Christian. “Sent forth into all the earth”: from the presence of the blessed, from the heaven of heavens, into all the earth; from the heart of God to the heart of man; from amidst the song of the heavenly elders to you and to me, to the concrete circumstances of our life to-day, to the stones and dust and thorns and pollutions in our path, to the snares and the illusions, to the crowds and to the solitude, of earth. Yes, He is sent forth into the present, the visible, the temporal. He is intended, He intends Himself, to be no dreamy abstraction above our heads and hearts, but to be the inmost Friend, the living strength, the infinitely ready and versatile resource and expedient, of the hour of your temptation and of mine. Over the real “deeds of our body,” He is able to give victory. Our tremendously real “infirmities,” He is here and now able to subvent, to “help,” to transfigure into strength, as to us who look for Him He “makes perfect in our weakness” the strength of the Lamb who has overcome. He is able so to undertake our feeble, our erring steps, that we shall “walk by the Spirit,” and, in a blessed reality of deliverance, “not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,” yea, in all the range of the meaning of that phrase. He is able, and indeed He is willing, here and now, to take and shew to us the things of that Christ of whom He is the eyes and presence here below. He is able to make all the flying days and hours of inestimable and never-returning time sacred to us, and yet to take out of them all anxiety; to fill the heart with the things eternal and yet to open to it as no other touch can do all that is truly rich and beautiful in the things of this life. He is able, in a word, having united us to Christ, to make that union “a living, bright reality, a possession” that we use as well as have, in the whole of life. “All these things worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” And, meanwhile, He worketh thus as the eyes, as the presence, of the Lamb. All is drawn from, all is related to, Christ, still Christ, Christ glorified, Christ crucified. Ah, be that in its turn recorded and remembered. Of whom is this Holy One the presence? Whose life, and love, and peace, and power does He convey and mediate to the heart and life He has Himself regenerated, breathing where He listeth, but so breathing that “thou hearest the sound” of the heavenly wind in the being that He vivifies? It is not a merely abstract Christ, if I may use the phrase. It is not merely archetypal goodness, righteousness, truth and beauty, It is the Lamb that was slain. It is the propitiation. It is the sinner’s Prince of peace. (H. C. G. Moule, M. A.)
The seven eyes of the slain Lamb
The eye seems a singular symbol for the Spirit, but it may be used as suggesting the swiftest and subtlest way in which the influences of a human spirit pass out into the external universe. The teaching of this emblem, then, is: “He, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received the promise of the Father, sheds forth this.” The whole fulness of spiritual Divine power is in the hand of Christ to impart to the world.
I. The “slain Lamb” is the Lord and Giver of the spirit. He “hath the seven spirits of God.” Whatsoever there is, in Deity, of spirit and power; whatsoever of swift flashing energy; whatsoever of gentleness and grace; whatsoever of holiness and splendour; all inheres in the Man Christ Jesus; unto whom even in His earthly lowliness and humiliation, the Spirit was not given by measure, but unto whom in the loftiness of His heavenly life that Spirit is given in yet more wondrous fashion than in His humiliation. But it is not as the recipient, but as the bestower of the Spirit, that He comes before us in the great words of my text. All that He has of God He has that He may give. Whatsoever is His is ours; we share in His fulness and we possess His grace.
II. Look at the representation here given of the infinite variety of gifts which Christ bestows, The number “seven,” of course, at once suggests the idea of perfection and completeness. So that the thought emerges of the endless, boundless manifoldness and wonderful diversity of the operations of this great life-spirit that streams from Jesus Christ. Think of the number of designations by which that Spirit is described in the New Testament. In regard to all that belongs to intellectual life, He is “the Spirit of wisdom” and of “illumination in the knowledge of Christ,” He is “the Spirit of truth.” In regard to all that belongs to the spiritual life, “He is the Spirit of holiness,” the “Spirit of liberty”; the Spirit of self-control, or, as rendered in our Bible, “of a sound mind”; the “Spirit of love.” In regard to all that belongs to the practical life, “He is the Spirit of counsel and of might”; the “Spirit of power.” In regard to all that belongs to the religious life, “He is the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba! Father!” the “Spirit of grace and of supplication”; the “Spirit of life.” So, over the whole round of man’s capacity and nature, all his intellectual, moral, practical and religious being, there are gifts which fit each side and each part of it. Whatsoever a man needs, that he will find in the infinite variety of the spiritual help and strength which the Lamb slain is ready to give. It is like the old fable of the manna, which the Rabbis tell us tasted upon each lip precisely what each man chose. So this nourishment from above becomes to every man what each man requires. Water will take the shape of any vessel into which you choose to pour it; the Spirit of God assumes the form that is imposed upon it by our weaknesses and needs.
III. The unbroken continuity of the gifts which the slain Lamb has to give. The word “sent” might be rendered “being sent,” expressive of a continual impartation. Ah! God’s Spirit is not given once in a way and then stops. It is given, not by fits and starts. There are variations in our receptiveness; there are no variations in its steady efflux. Does the sun shine at different rates? Are its beams cut off sometimes, or poured out with less energy, or is it only the position of the earth that makes the difference between the summer and the winter, the day and the night, whilst the great central orb is raying out at the same rate all through the murky darkness, all through the frosty days? And so the gifts of Jesus Christ pour out from Him at a uniform continuous rate, with no breaks in the golden beams, with no pauses in the continual flow.
IV. The universal diffusion of these gifts. “Seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” The words are a quotation from a remarkable prophecy in the book of Zechariah, which speaks about the “seven eyes of God,” running “to and fro over all the earth.” There are no limitations of these gifts to any one race or nation as there were in the old times, nor any limitations either to a democracy. “On My servants and on My handmaidens will I pour out of My Spirit.” In olden days the mountain tops were touched with the rays, and all the lowly valleys lay deep in the shadow and the darkness. Now the risen sunshine pours down into the deepest clefts, and no heart so poor, no illiterate so ignorant but that it may receive the full sunshine of that Spirit. Every Christian man and woman is inspired, not to be a teacher of infallible truth, but inspired in the true and deep sense that in them dwells the Spirit of Jesus Christ. All of us, weak, sinful, as we are, ignorant and bewildered often, may possess that Divine life to live in our hearts. Only remember it is the slain Lamb that gives the Spirit. And unless we are looking to that Lamb, slain as our hope and confidence, we shall not receive it. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The sevenfold offices of the Holy Spirit
The seven operations of the Holy Ghost are--
1. First as the Convincer of sin. There is a certain consciousness of sin which may be without the Holy Ghost. There is scarcely any man who is not aware that he has done many wrong things. But there are two things in that man’s sense of sin which prevent its being real repentance. He does not view his sins as grieving God, still less as having crucified Christ.
2. Then the Holy Ghost will show that man the real and only ground of all pardon. He will show him that Christ has been to this world to this very end, to bear our sins.
3. Then comes the great, blessed office of the Holy Ghost, to be our Comforter. First He makes us so to accept God’s mercy that we rest in our forgiveness. And when the Holy Ghost has given us this first and chief comfort, then He will continue to be our Comforter every day in all our other sorrows. Other comforters generally try to remove our sorrow by making us forget it, or by putting something in its place. The Holy Ghost does not do that. He finds the elements of His comfort in the sorrow. He turns it into joy.
4. Then the Holy Ghost is the Great Teacher. He teaches as none else can ever teach. And for this reason He has the mind of God. And when He comes into our mind, He makes that mind to conform to the mind of God.
5. And He sanctifies. That is His great aim--to imbue us with Himself, to make us like God. In the Divine alchemy every metal turns to gold. A higher motive; a whole heart; a humble spirit; an untiring love; an inward communion of all thoughts--that changes, that purifies, that elevates. The old nature becomes gradually the new man, and God Himself sees us in Him; sees His own image, and He is satisfied.
6. From that time we carry within us wherever we go an inward light, a spring of joy, a voice which says so gently and yet so distinctly, “This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
7. And, finally, in all these wonderful and living ways, the Holy Ghost puts a seal upon us. He impresses us in our inner and outer life, with that image of the superscription of God--that badge of our high calling. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Golden vials full of odours.
Golden vials full of odours
I. The prayers of God’s people are as sweet to Him as incense.
1. This is not due to any natural excellence or merit which they possess in and by themselves. Christ Jesus possesses such an abundance of precious merit that He puts fragrance into our supplications. I think it is Ambrose who uses a very pretty figure concerning believers’ prayers. He says we are like little children who run into the garden to gather flowers to please their father, but we are so ignorant and childish that we pluck as many weeds as flowers, and some of them very noxious, and we would carry this strange mixture in our hands, thinking that such base weeds would be acceptable to him. The mother meets the child at the door, and she says to it, “Little one, thou knowest not what thou hast gathered”; she unbinds this mixture and takes from it all the weeds and leaves only the sweet flowers, and then she takes other flowers sweeter than those which the child has plucked, and inserts them instead of the weeds, and then puts back the perfect posy into the child’s hand, and it runs therewith to its father. Jesus Christ in more than motherly tenderness thus deals with our supplications.
2. Note well, that true, acceptable intercession must be composed of the prayers of saints. “Golden goblets full of the prayers of saints.” Nothing is here said of the prayers of officials, hirelings, and functionaries. And who are the saints? They are men whom the Lord has made holy by the power of His Spirit, whose nature He has purified. Then, in the matter of intercession, one of the most important things is the character of the person. We must, by the Spirit’s power, maintain the saintly character; we must walk apart from worldliness and covetousness; we must put aside uncleanness, anger, wrath, and every evil thing, or else we shall not be able to present unto the Lord such sweet odours as His soul delighteth in.
3. Note next, that these prayers must be compounded of precious graces; for they are compared to incense, and, as you know, the incense used in the temple was made up of divers sweet spices, compounded “according to the work of the apothecary.” In prayer, that which is sweet to God is not the words used, though they ought to be appropriate; not anything perceptible to the outward senses, but in secret qualities, comparable to the essence and aroma of sweet spices. Let us bless God that the Holy Ghost is the believer’s apothecary. He helps each believer’s infirmities, and makes for us a mixture of all choice graces, so that when we pray our pleadings are accepted as sweet incense.
II. Blended prayers are peculiarly acceptable to God. “The prayers of saints.” The prayers of a saint are sweet, but the prayers of saints are sweeter. United prayers possess the power of harmony. In music there is melody in any one distinct note; but we have all recognised a peculiar charm in harmony. Now, the prayers of one saint are to God melody, but the intercessions of many are harmony, and to God there is much that is pleasing in the harmony of His people’s prayers. No two children of God pray exactly alike. There is a difference of tone. If taught of God each one will pray graciously, but there will be in one prayer what there is not in another. If all the fruits of the garden be luscious, yet each one has its own special flavour. All the bells may be of silver, and yet each one will have its own tone. Now, if these varying tones are melted into one, what masterly harmony they make! Therefore, the Lord promises great things when two of us agree as touching anything concerning His kingdom.
III. And now, lastly, let us blend our prayers, however faulty and feeble they may be, with the general supplications of the period. If united prayer be sweet to God, oh, let us give Him much of it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The perfume of prayer
There is an exquisite beauty in this thought that true prayer is fragrance to God. The pleadings and supplications of His people on the earth rise from lowly homes, from sick rooms, from darkened chambers of grief where loved ones kneel beside their dead, from humble sanctuaries, from stately cathedrals, and are wafted up before God as the breath of flowers is wafted to us in summer days sweet fields and fragrant gardens. And God “smells a sweet savour.” Prayer is perfume to Him. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
They sung a new song.
The heavenly singers and their song
I. First, behold the worshippers; for, remember, that we must be like them if we are to be with them. It is a well-known rule that heaven must be in us before we can be in heaven.
1. The first point about the worshippers is this, they are all full of life. I should not like to dogmatise upon the meaning of the four living creatures; but still they do seem to me to be an emblem of the Church in its Godward standing, quickened by the life of God. At any rate, they are living creatures; and the elders themselves are living personages. Yet alas, that it should be needful to say so trite a thing; but the dead cannot praise God! “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day.” Yet how many dead people there are in this great assembly to-night! Those in heaven are all full of life; there is no dead worshipper there, no dull, cold heart that does not respond to the praise by which it is surrounded; they are all full of life.
2. And further note, that they are all of one mind. Whether they are four-and twenty elders, or four living creatures, they all move simultaneously. With perfect unanimity they fall on their faces, or touch their harps, or uplift their golden vials full of sweet odours. I like unanimity in worship here.
3. Note, next, that as the heavenly worshippers are full of life, and full of unity, so they are all full of holy reverence. In heaven, they fall down before the Lamb; should not we serve God better if we did more of this falling down to worship the Lamb?
4. Note, next, that while they are all full of reverence, they are all in a praising condition: “Having every one of them harps.” They did not pass one harp round, and take turns in playing it; nor was there one who had to sit still because he had forgotten his harp; but they had, every one of them, his harp. I am afraid those words do not describe all God’s people here to-night. Where is your harp? It is gone to be repaired, is it not? Where is your harp? You have left it on the willow-tree, by the waters of Babylon, so you have not one here.
5. They are all ready for prayer. Are they not crying, “O Lord, how long”? Why should they not pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”? They would understand that prayer better than we do. We know how God’s will is not done on earth, but they know how it is done in heaven. Well, they, all of them, had “golden vials full of odours.” Are we always furnished and prepared for prayer?
II. Now, having thus spoken of the worshippers, I want you to hearken to their songs.
1. It is rather an unusual thing to take a hymn and treat it doctrinally; but, for your instruction, I must take away the poetry for a moment, and just deal with the doctrines of this heavenly hymn. The first doctrine is, Christ is put in the front, the Deity of Christ, as I hold. They sing, “Thou art worthy, Thou art worthy.” Next, the doctrine of this hymn is that the whole Church delights in the mediation of Christ. Notice, it was when He had taken the book that they said, “Thou art worthy to take the book.” To have Christ standing between God and man is the joy of every believing heart. But now, notice, in the Church’s song, what is her reason for believing that Christ is worthy to be a Mediator. She says, “Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain.” We rejoice in our Mediator because He died. Well then, notice that they sing of the redemption which His death effected, and they do not sing of the redemption of the world. No, not at all: “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” So much about the heavenly hymn doctrinally.
2. Now about it experimentally: “Thou hast redeemed us to God.” I have said that you cannot sing this song unless you know something of it now. Have you been redeemed? Has the embargo that was on you through sin been taken off you? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? For every man who believeth in Jesus Christ has the evidence of his eternal redemption. That was their experience: “Thou hast redeemed us.” They felt free; they remembered when they wore their fetters, but they saw them all broken by Christ. Have you been set free?
3. Thus have l spoken of the song doctrinally and experimentally: now let me speak of it expectantly. There is something to be expected: “And we shall reign on the earth.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The singing legions of God
Evidently more is made of music in heaven than we are wont to make of it here on earth.
1. There was first the believers’ song. Its theme was redemption, the salvation of the soul through the blood of the Lamb. So its singers were the ransomed.
(1) This song was “new” necessarily, for the theme was absolutely fresh in celestial history. There had been sin in heaven, and there had been justice wrought on those who had sinned. Some of the angels had fallen from their high estate. No atonement was ever made or offered in their behalf. Here was therefore a subject never before celebrated in the songs of God’s house. It was exclusive also, for only those who knew what it meant could sing it with the spirit and the understanding. Emphasis must be laid upon the expressions of personal acknowledgment. “Thou hast redeemed us”; “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests.” The experience of each child of God is individual. Reminiscence is a part of his duty, and it always leads to gratitude, and starts a new song.
(2) It was a great song. For the multitude of singers was simply innumerable. So the sound rose “like mighty thunderings, and the voice of many waters.”
(3) It was likewise a royal song. The redeemed do not say “we shall reign,” but “we are reigning.” Christians are the regal and the regnant race in the world now.
2. Next came the song of the angels. The theme of this was the character and rank of Jesus Christ. Observe the vast numbers of the singers, and the stress they put on their strain with a “loud voice” “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels,” etc. Observe the vast ascription of honours to Christ: Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb,” etc. This seems to include everything that mind can conceive of supreme ownership and control. They lay the universe down at His feet. Observe the special reason they suggest for their surrender. It is as “the Lamb that was slain” that they exalt Him to the eminence. These angels had no part in the atonement, but they knew just where Christ’s greatest exploits had been done. They had for ages “desired earnestly to look into” this mystery of His humiliation; now they understood what it meant.
3. Then the choir of creatures begins the anthem assigned to them; and now the theme is the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:13). Just notice the very singular voices employed in this choir. Birds and beasts, and worms and fishes--oh, wonder! how will such creatures be able to sing together? God is to listen, and He will understand them and be satisfied. God hears and loves what does not ever reach us; our silences may be full of singing to Him.
4. Now we reach the grand chorus with which the singing concluded. Led by representatives, whose mysterious nature and office we cannot altogether explain, it would seem as if the whole three choirs burst forth into one final ascription: “And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.” (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The new song
I. A new song. If a new tune be started in church there is only here and there a person that can sing it. It is some time before the congregation learn a new tune. But not so with the new song of heaven.
II. A commemorative song. We are distinctly told that it makes reference to past deliverances. Oh! how much they have to sing about.
III. It will be an accompanied song. I love the cymbals, for Israel clapped them in triumph at the Red Sea. I love the harp, for David struck it in praising the Lord. I love all stringed instruments and organs, for God demands that we shall praise Him on stringed instruments and organs. There is, in such music, much to suggest the higher worship.
IV. An anticipative song. Why heaven has hardly begun yet. All the world is yet to be saved. After that there may be other worlds to conquer. Mightier song as other garlands are set on the brow of Jesus. Mightier song as Christ’s glories unfold. I stayed a week at Niagara Falls, hoping thoroughly to understand and appreciate it. But, on the last day, they seemed newer and more incomprehensible than on the first day. Gazing on the infinite rush of celestial splendours, where the oceans of delight meet, how soon will we exhaust the song? Never! never!
V. An unanimous song. There will, no doubt, be some to lead, but all will be expected to join. It will be grand congregational singing. All the sweet voices of the redeemed. Grand music will it be when that new song arises. God grant that at last we may all sing it. But if we do not sing the praise of Christ on earth, we will never sing it in heaven. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The worship of heaven
I. It is jubilant. “They sang.” Singing is the natural language of joy. The worship of heaven is not mechanical, not irksome. It is the outbreaking of the soul into rapture, of gratitude, admiration, reverence and love.
II. It is fresh. “A new song.” There is nothing monotonous in heaven. Souls have an instinctive craving for variety, and the Creator has amply provided for this instinct. In the life of souls in heaven, there is something fresh every hour--fresh sceneries, fresh occurrences, fresh engagements, fresh connections, fresh thoughts; it is a “new song.” Heaven is ever fresh. (Homilist.)
The perfect song
Love and joy are said to make a musician. How few become proficients here; but in heaven every one will be perfect. (W. Wayte Andrew.)
Thou art worthy to take the book.--
Jesus, the delight of heaven
I. The bright ones before the throne adore the Lord Jesus as worthy of the high office of mediator. They put in no claim for worthiness, but by their silence, and their subsequent song when Christ came forward, they admitted that He alone could unfold the purposes of God and interpret them to the sons of men. Notice care fully to what they ascribe this worthiness--“Thou art worthy to take the book, and open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain.” As mediator our Lord’s worthiness did not merely arise from His person as God and perfect man: this fitted Him to undertake the office, but His right to claim the privileges written in the Magna Charta which God held in His hand, His right to take possession for His people of that seven-sealed indenture lies in this, that He has fulfilled the condition of the covenant, and hence they sing, “Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain.”
II. In heaven they adore the Lord as their redeemer. “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood.” The metaphor of redemption, if I understand it, signifies this. A thing which is redeemed in the strict sense belonged beforehand to the person who redeemed it. Under the Jewish law lands were mortgaged as they are now; and when the money lent upon them, or the service due for them, was paid, the land was said to be redeemed. An inheritance first belonged to a person, and then went away from him by stress of poverty, but if a certain price was paid it came back. Now “all souls are Mine” saith the Lord, and the souls of men belong to God. The metaphor is used--and, mark, these expressions are but metaphors--but the sense under them is no metaphor; it is fact. We come back to God again, to whom we always and ever did belong, because Jesus has redeemed us unto God by His blood. And notice that the redemption they sing about in heaven is not general redemption. It is particular redemption. “Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Oh, may we have a share in this particular, efficient redemption, for this alone can bring us where they sing the new song.
III. In heaven they praise Christ as the donor of their dignities. They are kings and reign. We too are kings; but as yet we are not known or recognised, and often we ourselves forget our high descent. Up there they are crowned monarchs, but they say, “Thou hast made us kings.” They are priests too, as we are now, every one of us. The priesthood of God’s saints, the priesthood of holiness, which offers prayer and praise to God--this they have in heaven; but they say of it, “Thou hast made us priests.” What the saints are, and what they are to be, they ascribe to Jesus. They have no glory but what they received from Him, and they know it, and are perpetually confessing it.
IV. They in heaven adore the Saviour as divine. Depend upon it, you never will go to heaven unless you are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God. They are all doing it there: you will have to come to it, and if you entertain the notion that He is a mere man, or that He is anything less than God, I am afraid you will have to begin at the beginning and learn what true religion means. You have a poor foundation to rest upon. I could not trust my soul with a mere man, or believe in an atonement made by a mere man: I must see God Himself putting His hand to so gigantic a work. I cannot imagine a mere man being thus praised as the Lamb is praised. Jesus is “God over all, blessed for ever.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood.--
The song of redemption
I. What the heavenly singers think of their Redeemer, or whom they take Him to be. The very words, “Thou,” “He,” “Him,” imply that their Redeemer is a person--a living being--who has willed their good, and to whom grateful acknowledgments are due. But whom do these saints take their Redeemer to be? They call Him “Lord” and they call him “Lamb.” They would not call Jesus “Lord,” especially in the presence of the Eternal Throne, and in the very same breath with which they say, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come,” if they were not assured that He still thinks it is no robbery to be equal with God. They would not call Jesus “Lamb” if they did not recognise In Him that true human nature which He wore on earth, when John called Him “the Lamb of God,” and in which He made Himself an offering for sin.
II. How this song describes the manner and the nature of redemption. “Thou wast slain.” Death is a very common thing in this world’s history. Nor is it even an uncommon thing to be slain! In this wicked world life has been the frequent victim of violence. There is nothing, then, in the purity of Christ’s character to make it surprising that “He was slain.” But numerous as have been the martyrdoms of the world, and honoured and blessed as are the martyrs before God, there is only one of them whose honours are celebrated in heaven. And He is Jesus Christ. There must be something peculiar in His martyrdom, something to single it out from every other. The next note of the song reveals the peculiarity of the death of Christ--“Thou hast redeemed us by Thy blood.” If Christ has ten thousand fellow martyrs, He has not one fellow redeemer. He gave His life a ransom for many, and by that ransom the many are redeemed. The words of the song of redemption, while they distinguish the death of Christ from every other, teach us the true nature of the redemption of which the gospel tells us. It is a redemption by blood, and of consequence we know that it must be a redemption from guilt. The poet and the sentimentalist may dream of a redemption of which he has some vague sense of need, but which he does not understand; the gospel believer rejoices in a redemption which is felt by him a simple reality, and in virtue of which he stands pardoned and sanctified before his Maker
III. Consider The Perfected Fruits Of Redemption As Celebrated In This Song Of Heaven.
1. “Thou hast redeemed us to God.” There is something remarkably instructive in this little phrase--“to God.” They were lost to God--His creatures, but, in the strictest sense of the terms, “unprofitable servants,” “cumberers of His ground.” Again, they were enemies to God. And in that position they were separated from God, both by their own enmity and by the legal liabilities of their guilt. They had wandered from their centre, and, consequently, out of their orbit, they were wandering in darkness; the moral world within them was reduced to disorder, chaos, and death. But now restored, the light of God shines full upon them, and order, beauty, and life again adorn and animate the soul. Redeemed to God, they are redeemed into a state of nearness to Him whose infinite fulness supplies a universe with good, and are the objects of His love whose favour is life, whose loving-kindness is better than life.
2. They have been made kings unto God. That is, they have been exalted to a state of royal, or more than royal honour. They may have been slaves on earth, they are kings in heaven.
3. And, as their song intimates, they are priests likewise. They realise in its fullest import the prayer of David (Psalms 27:4). Not some, but all the redeemed are priests unto God. Such are the perfected fruits of redemption.
IV. Consider the praise which is offered to Christ on the ground of the redemption which He has wrought. The very angels, with voices whose number is ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, say “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,” etc. It is not the redeemed alone that say this--there can be no suspicion that grateful emotion exaggerates the benefit, or is too lavish of its praise. They that needed no redemption sing the praise of the Redeemer as well as those who were redeemed by His blood. There is no high quality manifested in the works of creation and providence which does not shine forth more illustriously in the work of redemption. Do you speak of power? It is here in all its irresistible might, as well as there, though in other forms. Do you speak of wisdom as manifested in the creation and government of the world? In the work of redemption you have the perfection of wisdom (Romans 11:33). Do you speak of holiness and righteousness? The song of creation and the song of providence will both embrace these attributes in tones of varied praise. But the song of redemption will speak of them with a fulness and emphasis all its own. Both Sinai and Calvary will be summoned to bear witness that God is a holy and righteous God. In conclusion, the very idea of song of redemption involves in it two great lessons.
1. It teaches us that we need redemption.
2. You are taught by this song of heaven that you are worth redeeming. Christ adjudges every one of them of more value than a world. (John Kennedy, M. A.)
The death of Christ an inexhaustible theme of wonder and praise to the Church
1. Who He was that was slain.
2. This memorable decease was no casual event. The true spring, both of His death and of that eternal purpose by which it was foreordained, was no other than the free, unmerited, and sovereign love of a three-one God to sinners.
3. According to all the principles that are capable of influencing human nature, the highest evidence of love that can be given is “for a man to lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13; Romans 5:7). But they for whom Christ died were neither righteous nor good.
4. Our matter of praise and wonder is still increased when we consider how Christ died.
(1) As to what He suffered, it was not simply death such as ordinary persons undergo. He may be said to have begun to die as soon as He was born. And He died ten thousand deaths in one.
(2) If we take a view of the manner in which He suffered all this, it was not leas wonderful. Though His sufferings were thus severe, He was far from repining or murmuring under them.
5. We have additional matter, both for praise and wonder, when we consider what great designs He had in view, and actually accomplished by being slain.
(1) He appeased the justice of God and made way for our restoration to His favour.
(2) He “blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross.”
(3) He broke down “the middle wall of partition” that was betwixt Jew and Gentiles, and so made way for the introduction of the posterity of Japheth, to “dwell in the tents of Shem.”
(4) He overcame all our spiritual enemies who held us in bondage and stood in the way of our enjoying the benefit of that redemption which He purchased for us.
6. We have matter of the highest praise, as well as of the deepest wonder, when we consider that though Christ was once slain, He is now alive, and is “set down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”
1. The people of God have a ready answer to all the charges that the law of God brings against them, and to all the accusations of conscience; for Christ was slain.
2. There is no want of spiritual provision in God’s house for any sinner that is willing to make use of it.
3. Here is a strong incitement to the duty of mortification.
4. We see here a plain and patent way, yea, a new and living way, opened and consecrated for us, into the presence of God, through the veil of the flesh of a slain Redeemer.
5. There is good reason why all who profess to be Christians should submit with cheerfulness to the government of Christ as King of Zion.
6. The disciples of Christ need never be at a loss for a subject of sweet meditation by themselves, nor for a subject of sweet counsel, as they go to the house of God in companies.
7. Here is a broad and sure foundation for the faith of every hearer of the gospel, of whatever character or condition he be. The Lamb of God was slain, and, through His death, eternal life is freely offered. (John Young, D. D.)
The song of redemption
I. The need of redemption.
1. It is proved by the conduct of the species; by the various modes of expiation to which men of all ages and nations have had recourse.
2. It finds an evidence in the breast of every individual.
II. The sufficiency of redemption by the blood of Christ.
1. The victim was provided by Jehovah Himself. Infinite goodness and love had nothing more to give.
2. Nor should it ever be forgotten that the vicarious suffering was endured to its full extent--to blood and to death!
3. We may rely on the competency and perfection of redemption by the blood of Christ, inasmuch as its success has already appeared in the actual salvation of so many of Adam’s race.
III. The truth of man’s redemption by the blood of Christ.
1. One objection advanced by the enemies of the atonement of Christ is, “that repentance and amendment constitute of themselves an acceptable and adequate means of reconciliation with God.” Confidently as this maxim is advanced, we do not see that it takes place in the governments and legal institutions of men.
2. Another of the most plausible of those objections adduced against the doctrine of redemption by the blood of Christ is “that we can perceive no reason for, or connection between, the shedding of that blood and the acceptance and salvation of men.” But is the statement in this objection true? Might we not say that when the Son of God became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, an act of obedience so stupendous became a reason or consideration not only why God should highly exalt Him and give Him a name above every name, but also why He should forgive and accept all who repent and believe in Him?
IV. The practical influence of this momentous doctrine.
1. It is eminently qualified to impress us with holy fear.
2. It should inspire us with the fullest confidence.
3. It should compel our gratitude and praise. (James Bromley.)
The Lamb slain worshipped in heaven
The death of Christ for the redemption of sinners constitutes the distinguishing peculiarity of His work and the high ground for His adoration.
1. Like the chapter before us, the Scriptures everywhere teach us to regard the death of Christ in a peculiar manner. While the Scriptures have recorded the history of His birth, of His life, of His sufferings and conversation, they have manifestly done this only in explanation of His character and to give us a just view of His amazing condescension; and all these things they concentrate to one point, as they gather them all around the crowning matter of the whole--His amazing death! He became incarnate that He might be able to die.
2. The manner in which He met death was peculiar. He met it as no living man could have expected; as no righteous man that we know of ever did. How would you expect Christ to die, who lived without sin, if a life of holiness was His main work here, and if He had no more of difficulty to encounter with the king of terrors than falls to the lot of the righteous? He had more. And hence He quailed at the prospect. Willing to die, ready, He still trembles; in agony He prays, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.”
3. The sacred Scriptures uniformly speak of this death in a manner totally different from that in which they mention the death of any other being. Isaiah, Abel, Zecharias, Stephen, Peter, James, Paul--not one of the whole army is spoken of as making atonement for sin or any procurement of eternal life. But, on the contrary, the death of Christ is uniformly mentioned as having such an intention and such a result.
4. On the ground of this death the Scriptures found the argument for even the common morality of life.
5. The holy Scriptures uniformly expect to affect us most, and to furnish us the highest lessons of holiness, by affecting our hearts with the contemplation of the death of Christ. They want faith to fix there. Christ loved me and gave Himself a ransom. They expect to furnish an antidote to the love of sin by leading us to faith in Him who died to expiate it.
6. This death of Christ is an incomparable manifestation of Divine love, and hence is calculated to have an unequalled moral influence. All else must yield to it.
1. This is the adoration of heaven. Hearts on earth ought to assort with hearts in heaven over every contemplation of the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God.
2. As love constitutes the mode in which God seeks to save us, and at the same time constitutes the highest manifestation of His unfathomable perfections, the religion, whereby we hope to be at peace with Him, must very much consist in the same kind of affection. Open your heart to God, just where God opens His heart to you. Consent to love Him as His child.
3. There is no occasion for that gloomy despondency which sometimes feels that it may not confide in Christ, because it has nothing but a heart to offer. Christ wants nothing but your heart.
4. You need not fear to worship Christ. He is worshipped in heaven.
5. Finally, what unequalled humility and penitence become us at the communion-table! (I. S. Spencer, D. D.)
The Redeemer’s sufferings
I. The remembrance of the Redeemer’s sufferings is constantly kept up by the blessed inhabitants of heaven.
II. With what peculiar advantages do the worshippers above pursue their researches into the mystery of the cross of Christ.
1. The inhabitants of heaven enjoy an undisturbed leisure.
2. They possess perfect, inward rectitude and vigour. No irregularity of thought, no languishing of affection, can invade them.
3. They are wonderfully illuminated in the knowledge of those Divine truths, which are supposed in the gospel mystery, and on which it is built.
4. They have the fulness of evangelical illumination.
5. The presence of the Lamb, or of the Mediator in His human nature, in the midst of them.
6. The presence and experience of the glorious fruits of His death.
III. The happy and precious effects which constantly attend those perfect views of the Redeemer’s sufferings, in the minds of saints and angels.
1. Their views of these wonderful sufferings are the chief means of their beatific vision of God.
2. While the blessed thus look upon the Three-One God, they love Him with an increasing, and most joyful and pure love. They rest, delight, and rejoice in God with ineffable pleasure.
3. While they thus love God supremely, they are knit together in the most endeared mutual affection to each other; each member of that vast assembly passionately loves the whole, and is beloved by all.
4. These inward feelings are attended with most perfect acts of worship to God, and expressions of kindness to each other. (J. Love, D. D.)
Redemption to God by blood
These words show that, naturally, we are in a state of bondage, and under condemnation. We are enthralled by sin, from which we need to be redeemed by price and by power. Then the words call attention to the wonderful personage by whom we are redeemed. None but Emmanuel, the eternal Word Incarnate, was adequate to the work. Note another truth: That the theme of praise in heaven and on earth is one. Here the strain is learned: there it is consummated.
I. Christ redeemed us To God, to be His property, His children, His freedmen; to live with Him and for Him.
1. We are redeemed to God for our own happiness; we are brought near to Him, united to Him, made like to Him. In God’s favour is life: His lovingkindness is better than life. How shall guilty sinners obtain peace with God? By washing in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. Our iniquity is forgiven, our sin is covered. Again, the Redeemer brings us into the family of God. Adoption is bestowed on us as an act of free grace for His sake. The prodigal sons are welcomed back to the plenty and endearments of their Father’s house. We have boldness to enter into His presence by the blood of Jesus. But further, besides reinstating us in the favour and family of God, Christ restores within us His image. Our eyes are opened that we may see Him, and our hearts renewed to love His holiness. Once more, we were brought to the enjoyment of God. Being freely justified, we have a right to be happy; and amidst the tears which bereavements cause, and the anxieties which arise from blighted harvests and empty stalls; when health fails, and friends forsake, and life is a-departing, may we not joy in the God of our salvation?
2. Let us view our redemption to God as it respects His glory. For example, God’s power is magnified. For the Son to bear the sins of an apostate world is more than to poise the earth upon nothing, and stretch out the heavens like a curtain. He bruised Satan’s head, magnified the law, punished sin, and saved sinners. Divine holiness, likewise, and justice and truth, are glorified. How marvellously were all the promises and all the threatenings accomplished! And rather than one jot or tittle should fall to the ground, the sword was awaked against Jehovah’s Fellow! Comparable with this, where is there an evidence of truth and righteousness? We are redeemed, also, to the glory of God’s wisdom. Finally, what shall be said of the mercy and the love which shin’s, as they nowhere else shine, in redemption?
II. The text tells us of the price by which Christ redeems us to God, not by the simple fiat of power, or by the bare exercise of mercy, nor by any compromise or unworthy concession, nor with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with His own precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Scripture uniformly testifies, that the ransom which the Son of Man paid was His own life. But it is very worthy of regard how frequently it is described by this name of blood. In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, you may see what a value was attached to blood under the Old Testament. Why is the Saviour’s blood thus prominently, in both dispensations, pressed on our attention? One end which this mode of expression serves is to certify to us the reality of His death. We see His heart pierced, and the blood drawn off; and we know that the penalty has been borne, and our peace secured. I suggest two additional reasons for this interesting phraseology.
1. That we may be constantly reminded of the manner of His death. It was not natural, but affected by violence. It was not by hanging or suffocation; it was bloody. Conscious of innocence, of benevolence, of the greatest love to His enemies, the buffetings of His body were only emblems of the grievous wounds with which His soul was stabbed.
2. In order to affect us, to excite to penitence, gratitude and love. (J. C. Herdman, M. A.)
Hast made us unto our God kings and priests.--
The kingly priesthood of the saints
I. The Redeemer’s doings.
1. He made us kings and priests, virtually, when He signed the covenant of grace.
2. But He did not stop there. It was not simply agreeing to the terms of the treaty; but in due time He filled it all--yes, to its utmost jot and tittle.
3. Christ finished the great work of making us what we are, by His ascension into heaven. If He had not risen up on high and “led captivity captive,” His death would have been insufficient. He “died for our sins,” but He “rose again for our justification.”
II. The saints’ honours.
1. His royal office: a Christian is a king. He is not simply like a king, but he is a king, actually and truly. However, I shall try and show you how he is like a king. Remember his royal ancestry. Again, the saints, like monarchs, have a splendid retinue. Kings and monarchs cannot travel without a deal of state. If you had eyes to see, you would perceive a body-guard of angels always attending every one of the blood-bought family. Now, notice the insignia and regalia of the saints. Kings and princes have certain things that are theirs by perspective right. For instance, Her Majesty has her Buckingham Palace, and her other palaces, her crown royal, her sceptre, and so on. But, has a saint a palace? Yes. I have a palace! and its walls are not made of marble, but of gold. Have Christians a crown too? Oh, yes; but they do not wear it every day. They have a crown, but their coronation day is not yet arrived. They have been anointed monarchs. They have some of the authority and dignity of monarchs; but they are not crowned monarchs yet. Kings are considered the most honourable amongst men. They are always looked up to and respected. A monarch generally commands respect. Ah! we think that worldly princes are the most honourable of the earth; but if you were to ask God, He would reply, “My saints, in whom I delight, these are the honourable ones.” Lastly--
1. Kings have dominion: and so have the saints.
2. Saints are not only kings but priests.
We are priests because priests are Divinely chosen persons, and so are we. “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” But we have that calling and election; we were all ordained to it from the foundations of the world. Then next, we are priests, because we enjoy Divine honours. None but a priest might enter within the vail; there was a court of the priests into which none might ever go, except the called ones. Priests had certain rights and privileges which others had not. Saint of Jesus! heir of heaven I thou hast high and honourable privileges, which the world wots not of! Then another remark shall be, we have a Divine service to perform. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Kings by the grace of God
(with Proverbs 16:32):--Wilberforce was once asked, who was the greatest man he had ever known. He replied, “Out of all comparison, Pitt, but I never think of his superiority without reflecting, that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” So real, earnest, supremely noble, is a true Christian life. The best things in it are not those which dazzle by their glitter and their glare. It was an old heathen saying, “the wise alone are kings.” Of those who have been made “wise unto salvation,” it is infinitely more true that they alone are kings. They have been made kings unto God by Jesus Christ. From Christ’s pierced hand we receive a royal sceptre to reign on earth. The song of the redeemed in heaven is descriptive of our dignity in this world, and our glory in the next, as “kings unto God.” This royal honour, with the sovereign power it insures, we are slow to appropriate. It is a truism, perhaps, to say that to lead a healthy Christian life, we must live by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, seeking the accomplishment of right objects in a right spirit, subduing the world, the flesh, and the devil, in a way that men cannot do who live “after the law of a carnal commandment.” We are under great temptations of living so that we may make money, and gain influence and power, and this to the almost total exclusion of the grander requirements of self governance. Christ has made us kings, and the first subject He gives us to rule is our own spirit. The man “who ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.” To rule our spirit, to get the ascendancy over ourselves, to be able, under all circumstances, to do the thing that ought to be done, not only in the right way, but under the influence of the right motives--this ought to be the life-long endeavour of every true Christian. No grander empire, no brighter crown can be won. The ruler of his spirit is the only real potentate. He who has no command of himself is “like a city broken down and without walls”--defenceless, open to the attack of every enemy, an object of reproach to every beholder. The man in such a plight is weak at the very place where he should be strong; and this weakness impels him to play the coward, when he ought to be valiant in the fight. He flees from himself and seeks company. He can live in turmoil, business, amusement, and enjoy his activities there; but he sadly lacks the courage to seek a solitude--to close and grapple with the enemy, the evil which he consciously knows and feels is gaining the tyranny over him. Hence it is that some of the earth’s greatest heroes have been the basest moral cowards, because they have shirked self-discipline and self-control. “For a man to overcome himself is to overcome the world; for a man is a microcosm, a little world,” So, when Epictetus was asked, “Who is free?” he replied, “He who masters himself”--with much the same tone of expression as Solomon, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” This leads to the inquiry, wherein lie the rebelliousness and disobedience of the spirit we are to rule? Our spirit is loosed from law by transgression. Our foes are those of our own household: sinful thoughts, carnal desires, unholy dispositions. These must be repressed, subjugated, conquered. We are to do battle with the inward corruptions and propensities of our degenerate nature. The town of Mansoul is like a besieged city, having within its citadel an enemy not unwilling to help the besieger; sometimes, indeed, really anxious to put into his hands an important battery or stronghold. Incessant watchfulness, untiring warfare is needed, until the traitor has been either expelled or crushed. Of all the faculties of the human soul we may affirm that they are good servants but bad masters. Every one of them must be ruled and regulated by right reason and God’s pure counsel, so as to perform its proper work at the right time, and in the spirit of loving obedience to our Redeemer-King. Our judgment must not be overthrown by wild desire or vaulting ambition, yet covetousness is good, if I “covet earnestly the best gifts”; and ambition is good, if its object be to excel in all that is pure and lovely and of good report. The ambition that would wade remorselessly through slaughter to a throne, if directed to a worthy end, would become an enthusiasm for goodness and God, which could say of itself, “The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up.” Stiff-necked stubbornness and firm determination to have our own way are not evil in themselves. They are good, ennobling, and Christ-like, when with unflinching courage we seek through their action the God-like and the true. When, in doing our own will, we are doing God’s will, there is only one road to go, and that is straightforward, without bend or divergence to the right hand or the left. It was thus that Christ, our Lord, was so self-possessed--so thoroughly master of Himself It was His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him. And herein He left us an example. The gospel of Christ does not propose to root out our desires, or even to repress them in any way. It proposes rather to purify, regenerate, and intensify them, only turning them away from what is selfish and mean to what is worthy and good. Christ has made us kings, not unto ourselves but unto our God; not for our own selfish ends, but for His glory and the good of men. Therefore, we are to get the governance of our spirits, to make them nobler and loftier, more Christ-like in character, more unselfish in aim. Of one of our English kings it was said that, “endowed with a great command over himself, he soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendancy over his people.” This is the royal road to real power. Every one of us has his own battle to fight; the battlefields may vary, but the conquest in every case is to be for self-conquest, for rule of spirit, for the inheritance of the conqueror. The struggle, taxing and tasking all our energies, becomes through Christ a triumph. Made kings by Him, we are made more than conquerors through Him. Our very struggles for self-mastery become a possession, crowning us with a glory which apart from them we could never acquire, and we come to realise in our own experience that “he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.” (Wm. Leitch, B. A.)
Royal prerogatives and royal giving
I. Power. His power is applied in three directions.
1. Selfward. One of the first blessings conferred by the gospel is self-control. Our kingship is not merely prospective. We are to live like kings.
2. Manward. The most Christian nations are to-day the most powerful.
3. God-ward. By our relation to Christ we are raised to a rank where we may treat with heaven. The Christian has power with God.
II. Great possessions. Who would not be a Christian?
III. Administration. The whole question of royal right, duty and responsibility, may be summed up in one word, administration. And this word, with its sublime right of meaning, applies with full force to the Christian. In a high and kingly sense, and in a sacred, priestly sense, he is administrator for the kingdom of God in this world. True Christians are not only royal livers but royal givers. (J. C. Allen.)
All saints kings and priests
It was a “new song”--new, because its topics were new; for what so new and strange as God incarnate shedding His blood upon the Cross, and by virtue of that offering redeeming the most distant nations of the earth, and making them, however low in estate, to reign kings and priests upon the earth--new, because it is the song of the new creation; the song of those to whom “behold all things have become new,” new hearts, new lips, new hopes, new graces.
I. Kings--that is, half, the lasting, eternal half of their Christian greatness. They are kings, because they are members of that Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords. This royalty of Christ on earth, thus partaken by the Church His body, is clearly stated in many passages of Holy Scripture. To Christ as man, all “power was given both in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18); and, again, “all things are delivered unto Him by His Father” (Luke 10:22). He is “the heir of the world,” so that all is of right His. And it is the Father’s good pleasure to give this kingdom to His little flock (Luke 12:32), that is, the Church; whereby the meek, that is, the little ones (Matthew 5:5), the saints of God, become in Him the rightful inheritors of the earth.
II. Thus are they kings; but they are also priests. In earlier days, before the blood of sprinkling had been shed, and men made members of the great High Priest, they had no access to God themselves. If they desired to approach Him it could be by some intermediate help, some priest who, deprecating the wrath of God by the blood of victims, might on their behalf offer prayers for them, and, if it might be, become the channel of blessing to them. But Christ being come, the only true Priest (Hebrews 9:7-14; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-22) and the single Victim of price, the access to God is opened, the veil rent, the entrance to the holiest unclosed. Thenceforth may every member of His body exercise a child’s right of approaching his Father. In connection with the great doctrine, which in its consequences is obviously of great importance to the whole theory of the Church, its powers, and privileges, there are, in these distracted days, two main errors, held on two opposite sides, both of which are of imminent danger. The one of these is the doctrine of some of the liberalising or neologian party, the other, that of the Roman Catholics. The former, or neologian party, so hold fast the doctrine of the separate priesthood of Christians as to deny and disown altogether all authority and power and priestly offices as exercised towards some Christians by others; thus making each single Christian his own standard of doctrine, life, authority, and worship. The latter, or Roman Catholic party, so hold the existence of authority and priestly offices within the Church, exercised towards Christian people, that they really deny, in a great many important points, the royal priestliness of single Christians. The former reject lawful and necessary authority, for the sake of vindicating the personal rights of baptized people; the latter tyrannise over the just and inalienable rights of baptized people, for the sake of maintaining an excessive And unscriptural authority. (Bp. Moberly.)
We shall reign on the earth.--
The reign of the saints on the earth
I. The fact that the Church of God will eventually triumph over every obstacle, and that all its members will partake in the joys of its bloodless victory, is as certain as anything in revelation. According to heathen mythology, Astraea, the daughter of supreme power anal law, and therefore the protector and benefactor of men, dwelt with them during the golden age, in free and familiar association. On the introduction of the silver age which followed, she ceased such friendly intercourse, and made her abode chiefly among the lonely mountains; and though she occasionally still visited the abodes of men, it was only amid the shades of evening when she could not be seen. But when the brazen age began, she fled to heaven to return no more. Such is the classic myth; and well does it display the hopelessness in which heathen fable finds and leaves the human race. But we have the fact, not the fable; and the fact, thank God, is far more cheering than the fable. ‘Tis true the golden age has passed away, and the silver age has come, and, worse than that, the brazen and the iron age. It is true also, that because the fine gold has become dim and the pure gold adulterated, a curse has fallen on our world, and the Divine favour has been in a measure withdrawn. But still, not wholly. Though in measure God has turned away His face from us, yet, with loving-kindness and tender mercy is He gathering us again to Himself. The origin and history of the Church of God and Christ are proof. Every civilised nation this moment on the earth is in possession of Christianity, in one degree or another. Christianity made them civilised; for though in some cases, in a measure, civilised before its introduction, alas, what a civilisation! how false and how impure!
II. The form or mode of this dominion--how the saints shall reign upon the earth. When we would rightly understand these words of promise, that the “saints shall reign upon the earth,” we must east out of our minds everything that panders to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and look for a meaning more spiritual and heavenly.
1. The saints shall reign, as reigning implies holiness. Every true servant of God, in a measure, now reigns over sin and Satan--over an evil nature, and over the Prince of this world; and so far forth, therefore, he reigns in holiness.
2. They will, in the next place, reign numerically. Now the true and undoubted servants of Christ are a small minority in the world; and yet, even now they exert a mighty influence. But, in the happy times to which we are permitted to look forward, what is now but partial will be almost total. Christians will have the control of all things; it will belong to them of right, numerically, and it will belong to them because of their fitness to use it. They will fashion public opinion, because, in fact, they will constitute the public.
3. Again, they will reign because their Master will then triumph. He is triumphing now in every individual that is converted to God, in every increase of holiness in the Church, in every new introduction or further spread of the gospel in heathen or Mahometan lands. But His triumph then is to be more marked and decisive.
4. Lastly, the saints will reign in millennial times, as reigning implies happiness. The great English dramatist makes one of his monarchs say, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”; and no doubt there is much truth in it; but still, the secret conviction of poor human nature is more faithfully expressed in the proverbial phrase, “Happy as a king.” On the strength of this we may say, that when it is foretold that the saints shall reign upon the earth, it is meant to be intimated by the figure, in conformity with this universal feeling, that they shall be highly blessed and enjoy great felicity. Can it be doubted that such will be their lot? (W. Sparrow, D. D.)
The voice of many angels round about the throne.
The great festal gathering and song of heaven
I. The complacency with which Christ looks back on His own atoning work and sufferings.
II. The perpetual efficacy of the Saviour’s sacrifice.
III. The continued identity of Christ’s person as God-man mediator.
IV. Redemption is the grand theme of adoration for unredeemed angels as well as for the redeemed family of God.
V. The pre-eminent dignity and bliss of the ransomed saints.
VI. The unity which pervades the heavenly ranks.
VII. The vision seems intended to prepare the Church on earth for her own sufferings, and reconcile her to her approaching tribulation. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
The hymn of the angels and of creation:
I. First let us understand the attitude and position of the angels. They are round about the throne of God, around the elders--that is, the Church--and around the living creatures. They are, therefore, the sentinels and the guardians of Divine and human things. So they stand equally around the emblem of eternal power, around the fourfold forms of life, around its drudgery as well as its ambition, and around the Church, distressed and broken and divided and betrayed. No thought of fear dims the lustre of their eyes, nor lessens the precision and the emphasis of their song. And it is worthy of notice that they secure ample leisure for worship. It is a lesson that ought not to be lost upon our hurrying age. Thank heaven, there are still secluded corners of our land where the shriek of steam-engines, the clamour of crowded streets, the driving of pulse and brain, is unknown; where the valleys laugh and sing with the standing corn, where the hilltops are silent as the seas, and where jaded brains may shape some thought of God. But heaven is busy too, and there is work enough to be accomplished. There are sinners lost in the wilds of the hill, and in loathsome dens of the city, who will need to be brought home. There are claims and needs and dangers of the Church the world over--energies to be cherished, works to be encouraged, impurities to be purged, sorrows and disappointments to be assuaged. And with all these interests in hand their eye is upon the throne, for here only do angels and men alike behold, and thence only receive the interpretation of life and the wisdom and guidance for work. And well were it, not only for its honesty, but even more for its progress, if the commerce of England and Scotland and Ireland were directed by the laws which abide in God. Only those who obey can worship, and only those who rightly worship can truly live. And so--
II. The central thought of the angels, like that of the Church, was the worthiness of Christ. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” And as it was in the mind of the Church, so here again this worthiness is associated with sacrifice. For most men suffer only when they must, and they fail to perceive that sacrifice at once tests what we are, and makes us what we ought to be. In this way Christ’s sacrifice proved His essential worth, and, beyond this, proves to-day His permanent worth to His people. It is not His power alone. That never elicits adoration. It is the goodness that reigns paramount within Him which men worship and love.
III. The response of creation. The poet of Palestine had said, many a year before St. John lived, that there is neither speech nor language throughout the earth in which the voice of the firmament is not heard. “The songs of the spheres” was another method of expressing the same truth. The sky vibrates with praise as the great stars stand out in their places. “Earth, with its thousand voices,” said Coleridge, “praises God.” And while these call to man, whatever his tongue or his worship, man the world round feels that he must respond. He cannot help worshipping. Under the gaslight, and in the heated atmosphere of some remote meeting-place in the big town, he may lustily proclaim that God is nothing to him. But when the gas is out and the cheering companions are gone, when he is alone on the mountain-side, and the thunder booms out its terror above and the lightning flashes death around him, a voice within answers the voices without, and the infidel is compelled to pray. And as man must worship, so his worship adopts a more expansive form than that which angels take as yet (Revelation 7:12). His eyes, too, are indeed filled with the image of the Lamb. What mind can forget Calvary and Olivet? But away beyond the present fact he contemplates the continuous recognition, and age upon age he hears the same hymn. And further yet, and fuller, the worship of the Lamb broadens into the worship of the Godhead. It is offered to “Him that sitteth upon the throne.” And it expresses the spiritual history of every saint. We see ourselves in this hymn. When first our life lay before us, and we took it up and placed it upon the altar of God’s salvation, Jesus Christ was all, was everything to us. Then as faith deepened and threw up the greater and stronger life, we saw Jesus in all things. And then we beheld the love of the Father to be as great and tender as the love of the Son, and the strength of the Holy Ghost gathered round us and within us, and God in His blessed Trinity embraced all things. (W. M. Johnston, M. A.)
Christ the object of angelic worship
I. The homage here represented as rendered to the Saviour by the angelic hosts.
1. Angels are the worshippers to whom our attention is more particularly directed in the text.
2. The nature of the homage which they render Him. The particulars here specified relate rather to the natural than the moral attributes of our Saviour, to His greatness rather than His goodness; that is, to His prerogatives and glories which He most obscured in His humbled state, or of which He then emptied Himself, as the Scripture expresses it.
3. The ground of this homage. As a person inherently possessed of all Divine excellences and glories, the Son of God, in common with the Father, has an incontestable title to the worship and obedience of the heavenly hosts. He has a further claim as the author and preserver of their existence, and as the source and dispenser of all their happiness. It is not, however, on this ground, strong as it is, that the homage manifested in the text is rendered Him. Look to the passage and you will at once perceive that the basis on which the Son of God is worshipped, both by the representatives of the Church and by the angelic hosts, is His death or sacrifice. But does the death of Christ give Him any new or peculiar claims to the homage of the heavenly hierarchies who are not immediately interested in its benefits? Unquestionably it does, and some of these claims it is not difficult to discover. His death was not only in itself the most extraordinary event that ever took place, it afforded incomparably the most magnificent display that ever was exhibited of generosity and kindness, of compassion and tenderness. It is an essential part of true excellence to admire excellence in another, and the admiration ought to be proportioned to the measure of excellence displayed. What a resistless impulse, then, must it communicate to the adoration and praise of the holy angels, to contemplate the death of the Son of God. Recollect next the display of the Divine character and perfections exhibited in the death of Christ, and you will see in it another reason to ampel the hosts of heaven to honour and adore Him. Consider, again, that while the death of Christ contributes so much to advance the honour of God, it contributes not less to promote the happiness of man. “They rejoice over one sinner that repenteth.” In further illustration of this topic, I might add that it is the opinion of the great Mr. Howe, and of some other eminent divines, that angels, though not redeemed by Christ, are confirmed in happiness in consequence of their union to Him. It is further certain that in Him angels and saints are united in one harmonious and happy association, and that it has pleased the Father by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” And these wonderful arrangements furnish angels with another reason to worship and serve “the Lamb that was slain.”
II. The argument suggested by their conduct to induce us to render the Lamb a similar homage.
1. We have a direct and personal interest in His death. If His matchless love excites, as well it may, the admiration even of creatures not immediately interested, and impels them “to prepare new honours for His name,” what words can express the claims which He has to our admiration, gratitude, and praise?
2. We are still in circumstances of danger. Many and formidable are the enemies who seek our ruin, numerous and painful are the toils and hardships we must encounter ere we reach our “Father’s loved abode.” There is one, and only one, who can protect you amid your multitudinous dangers, and bring you to the land which you wish to reach. “Jesus Christ, the captain of salvation, having been made perfect through sufferings, will conduct you to glory,” if only you will confide in Him. What an argument to love and trust, to adore and praise Him!
3. I might remark that, allowing He has conferred on angels higher capacities and higher joys, our happiness has been procured by Him at a price far more costly. To communicate to angels existence and happiness required nothing more than a simple volition of His irresistible will, a single word of His omnipotent voice. It was not thus that the happiness of the apostate race could be restored, that the redemption of our lost world was to be achieved.
1. How inconceivably glorious must heaven be, and how worthy of our earnest desire and our constant pursuit!
2. How reasonable that we should render Divine honours to the Lord Jesus.
3. How important that we cultivate a love to the exercises of heaven.
4. This subject suggests a test by which we may ascertain whether we are fit for heaven. To ascertain your meetness for heaven you have then only to inquire whether you take delight in devotional exercises and in holy pursuits and enjoyments.
5. This subject shows us the folly of the irreligious. Think of heaven with all its joys and splendours. Contrast with this hell with its horrors, a place of outer darkness and of gnashing of teeth. (R. Balmer, D. D.)
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.--
The worthy sacrifice of Christ
I. Contemplate Christ as He is represented under the character of a lamb. The lamb is an appropriate symbol of innocence and meekness. Never were the lamb-like virtues brought to so severe a test, and never were they so strikingly portrayed. A recluse in his cell may reason justly on the duties of forbearance and forgiveness, but it is difficult to carry into practice the dictates of sober solitude, yet Jesus gave not only the theory but the practice of every possible virtue.
II. Meditate on the death of Christ.
1. He was slain decretively in the purposes of Jehovah.
2. He was slain emblematically by the sacrifices under the Levitical dispensation.
3. He was slain instrumentally by the hands of the Jews.
4. He was slain really by the justice of God for the sins of His people.
III. Celebrate His praise.
1. He is worthy of the trust and confidence of His people.
2. He is worthy of the adoration and praise of the redeemed spirits above.
3. He is worthy the adoration of the purest intelligences of the universe.
4. He is worthy of the final conquest of the world. (T. Adkins.)
Christ the Lamb slain
I. The wonderful person of the glorious sufferer will furnish occasion of unceasing admiration to the great multitude before the throne.
II. The multitude before the throne will have occasion to give glory to the great Redeemer when they contemplate the mysterious nature of His sufferings.
III. Similar acknowledgments will be called forth when the saints in heaven remember their sins as the procuring cause of the Saviour’s sufferings.
IV. The sufferings of the Redeemer are considered by the multitude before the throne as the result of a plan contrived by the infinite wisdom of God in His eternal counsels.
V. The sufferings of the Redeemer are considered by the multitude before the throne as the genuine effect of His own uncontrolled and sovereign pleasure. To Himself alone, and to the free exercise of His own good will, this act of grace and humiliation must be referred.
VI. The sufferings of the Redeemer are considered by those who stand around the throne as affording the brightest manifestation of the Divine perfections.
VII. The sufferings of the Redeemer present new occasion of admiration and triumph to the multitude before the throne, because thereby redemption is completely purchased. (John Russell.)
Glory ascribed in heaven to the Lamb
1. The sacrifice of Christ has had the effect of developing the hidden perfections and glories of God in what may be considered their Christian and evangelical aspect, both in the Church above and in the Church below, consequently all glory is due to Christ upon this principle.
2. The elementary state cud high reward of heaven is the result of our Saviour’s work, and consequently the glory must be due to Him.
3. The relationship in which the triumphant Church will stand to her Lord will induce these sentiments, and lead to this triumphant song. In what relationship does He stand to us here? “God with us.” In what relation does He appear to the Church above? “God with them.” (J. Dixon.)
The worthiness of Christ to receive man’s riches
I. Because He is the original proprietor of it. The gold that any man holds in his hands is his in a very secondary sense; his property a few years ago was in the possession of others, and a few years hence it will pass from him into other hands. All material wealth belongs to Christ.
II. Because He has enabled you to procure it. Why have you wealth more than others? Has it come to you through heirdom, legacy, or your own industry? In either case you have it through Christ.
III. Because He gives you the qualification to enjoy it. Who gave you the unmiserly spirit, the bodily health, the mental capacity by which you can enjoy your riches?
IV. Because He will make the best use of it.
1. The best use of it for yourselves. There is no better investment. Your contributions to Him serve you in many ways.
(1) Serve to test your character.
(2) Serve to detach you from materialism.
(3) Serve to ennoble your character. It is a great thing to be trusted, to be thrown upon your honour. Christ trusts you.
2. The best use of it for the world. When you are gone Christ’s Church will be here working with the means you have entrusted to it, and working to spread truth, virtue, and happiness through the world. (Homilist.)
Praise a duty
No other duty is enjoined so often in the Scriptures as praise. The Bible is full of music. The woods in the summer days are not so full of bird-notes as this sacred book is of voices of song. Christian life can realise the Divine thought for it only by being songful. The old fable of the harp of Memnon, that it began to breathe out sweet music the moment the morning light swept its chords, has its true fulfilment in the human soul, which, the instant the light of Divine love breaks upon it gives forth notes of gladness and praise. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11