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it, must be equally worthless, its elements being entirely incapable of being sustained.
We find in the history of the patriarchs a well of pure water to be considered an essential of life. As such, we consider a well symbolic of whatever is essential to eternal life, comprehending all that is requisite to justify men in the sight of God. Wells are not spoken of, however, as means of ablution; we therefore do not suppose them to represent the element of propitiation or atonement, but rather what was supposed under the old dispensation to be the essential of eternal life, that is, fulfilment of the law. So the wells of the patriarchs were deserving of little confidence, for they held good but for a short time, and were frequently found to be dry.
Accordingly, we suppose the bottomless pit system to represent a selfrighteous scheme for the inheritance of eternal life, which precludes the idea of propitiation; something anterior to the supposition of man's need of an atonement. It is a pit without water, as well as a pit without a bottom. It is a plan of self-justification by works of the law, the elements of which, when fully analyzed and exhibited, show the subjection of man to the law; and thus bringing the elements of the law to act upon the principles of selfjustification, exhibit the sting of death, and operate on the mind a conviction of sin, preparatory to further views of man's insufficiency and of God's gracious purpose.
The true character of the elements of the abyss system is thus exhibited; and such an exhibition is a wo to the inhabiters of the earth, because this development is the first step towards the destruction of the elements of the earthly system generally. Man being thus convinced of sin, the next step, as we shall see, will be to expose the folly, on the part of man, of any attempt to atone for this sin by a propitiation of his own working out; still less can he depend upon any atonement wrought out by a fallen man in his behalf: "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him," (Ps. xlix. 7.) But this we suppose to be the subject of the next wo.*
*The first wo occupies but eleven verses of the ninth chapter; whereas ten verses of the ninth chapter, the whole of the tenth chapter, and thirteen verses of the eleventh chapter, in all thirty-four verses, are taken up with the relation of the second wo; and the third wo appears to extend from the fifteenth verse of the eleventh chapter to the conclusion of the Apocalypse, or at least as far as the end of the twentieth chapter, the remaining two chapters being occupied principally with the description of a scene of triumph and blessedness, the converse or opposite of the scenes represented under the three woes.
We see nothing in this first wo which may not take place in the mind of every disciple, as an exhibition of the true character of certain doctrines: a process in the development of truth entirely distinct from matters of political and ecclesiastical history.
Under the first wo the earthly supply of sustenance is not cut off: men are tormented or tortured by the sting of the scorpion-locusts, but they still depend upon the productions of the earth, the grass, green things, and trees, for the means of life, and perhaps for remedies under their sufferings. So the self-righteous man, even under the conviction of sin, may still depend upon some system of works to furnish the means of eternal life; and analogous with this, the elements of an earthly system may continue to be set off as the means of eternal life, against the principles of legal condemnation exhibited under the character of these venomous locusts.
§ 218. A voice from the four horns,' &c.-We have already supposed the altar to represent the Logos, or sovereign purpose of God, (§ 161;) its material, gold, being indicative of the truth of the doctrine or principle of divine sovereignty involved in this purpose. The four horns may represent the same elements of power as those exhibited under the figure of the four living creatures, in the midst of and round about the throne, (Rev. iv. 6, §§ 126, 7, 8;)—Horns also representing powers, (§ 137,) as the horn of an animal constitutes its weapon, or power of defence or attack. The horns of the altar, accordingly, represent the principles of divine government upon which, or by the aid of which, the plan of redemption is carried into effect. The horns of the altar were made use of for securing the sacrifice to, or upon, the altar, Ps. cxviii. 27: "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." The great sacrifice ever in contemplation with the Most High, is the propitiation of Christ. Apparently, these four horns are so many important principles connecting this sacrifice for sin with the sovereign purpose of God.
The altar of burnt-offering was to have horns upon the four corners, Ex. xxvii. 2, and xxx. 10. Aaron was to offer the yearly sacrifice on the horns of the altar of incense. The horns are not put for the atonement itself, but for something exhibiting the vicarious offering of Christ, as necessarily involved in the purpose of Sovereign Grace. So our trust in the atonement of Christ, as effectual in the salvation of sinners is confirmed by the belief that the sovereignty, the purity, the justice, the mercy of God, all co-operate in showing the intimate connection of such a propitiation with the purpose of grace. As the altar sanctifies the gift, and not the gift the
altar, so the divine purpose sets apart the atonement of Christ; it is not the atonement which sets apart the purpose.
God's sovereignty gives him the right to require and to accept any propitiation he pleases. His purity involves the infinite distance between his perfection and the imperfection of man, showing the corresponding infinite degree of propitiation required. His justice exhibits the necessity of some adequate means, by which its claims may be satisfied; and his mercy affords the assurance that the adequate propitiation required will be provided. The attribute of wisdom being involved in that of mercy or goodness, the counsels of wisdom are those of goodness or loving-kindness, as we find from the general tenor of Scripture, especially from the book of Proverbs.
We lay hold of one of the horns of this altar when, with deep conviction of our sinfulness, we humble ourselves before God; acknowledging his sovereignty, and relying for pardon upon his grace, through the great Sacrifice offered in our behalf. We lay hold upon another of these horns when, convinced of our sins, we feel ourselves deserving of the punishment his justice requires, having no hope but in the same vicarious sacrifice. So, when we contemplate the infinite distance there is between the perfection of the Deity and our unworthiness, and thence infer our need of redeeming mercy, we lay hold of another of these horns; and this, if possible, still more when we look to his goodness and loving-kindness, and trust in his promises of salvation.
219. Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet,' &c.-The sixth messenger or instrument of revelation, is called upon by the four elements just enumerated to loose certain other messengers previously restrained or bound. The whole process refers to a development of truth; the loosing of these angels being a figure of the same kind as that of the opening of the bottomless pit.
Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.' -This river, like the bottomless pit, we take to be the figure of a system. The four messengers (angels) bound in it must be four elements, which as soon as loosed become instruments of revealing the true character of this system, and that of its principles.
The Euphrates bounded the land of Canaan on the east, but was not a portion of the promised territory. It was rather a heathen river. It ran through the city of Babylon, being a means of purification and sustenance, upon which the inhabitants of that city depended; although eventually it became the instrument of delivering the city into the hands of a foreign power. Its figurative use in Scripture seems to be that of an opposite of the river alluded to by David, "the stream whereof shall make glad the city of our God," Ps. xlvi. 4; as it is also probably an opposite of the river
of the water of life, described Rev. xxii. 1, as proceeding from the throne of the Most High.
The term great may be applied to the Euphrates here, to direct the mind to that which is represented by the river; the spiritual river being the great river as distinguished from the literal; or it may be a sarcastic allusion to human apprehensions of the river-that which man esteems great. "Is not this," said the vain-glorious monarch, "great Babylon, which I have built."
As we suppose the river of the water of life to be the real means of purification from sin, so we may take the Euphrates to be a figure of some human system, or pretended means of propitiation-means really calculated to prove the ruin of those depending upon them-the river bearing a relation to the city of Babylon afterwards spoken of, (Rev. xiv. 8,) similar to that borne by the bottomless pit to the earth, (§ 217;) the Euphrates being a source of purification and sustenance depended upon by the inhabiters of the earth. The approaching exhibition of the false and destructive character of this source is a wo, or the commencement of a wo, to the elements of the earthly system spoken of as the men or inhabiters of the earth.
Vs. 15, 16. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen (were) two hundred thousand thousand:
and I heard the number of them.
Καὶ ἐλύθησαν οἱ τέσσαρες ἄγγελοι οἱ ἡτοιμασμένοι εἰς τὴν ὥραν καὶ ἡμέραν καὶ μῆνα καὶ ἐνιαυτόν, ἵνα ἀποκτείνωσι τὸ τρίτον τῶν ἀνθρώπων. Καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς τῶν στρατευμάτων τοῦ ἱππικοῦ, δύο μυριάδες μυριάδων· ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν αὐτῶν.
And the four angels were loosed.'-This call from the horns of the altar is a fiat of the Almighty; the requisition of his attributes being as imperative as his command: and God said, Let there be light, and there was light. He spake, and it was done. The voice said, Loose the four angels, and the four angels were loosed.
Which were prepared for an hour,' &c.—or, more strictly, according to the Greek, which were prepared unto the hour, day, month, and year; the enumeration of these portions of time giving intensity to the expression designed to show that this particular revelation is kept back until the proper moment for it, and the use of the definite article before the word hour marking such an appointed time.* The indefinite article an, of our common version, does not appear warranted by the text of any edition of the Greek. As the four angels holding the four winds of the earth were pre
*This also appears to be the common use of the Greek preposition is, with an accusative, (Rob. Lex. 191,) as 2 Tim. i. 12, ɛię tzɛlryy tùr quégav. See also the use of the same preposition, Jude 6, even without the article: sis xofoir peɣálys ἡμέρας.