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accuses or argues against must be sinners, or their advocates or intercessorscriminals obnoxious to the vengeance of inflexible justice; and if so, then there is indeed a display of might and power in overcoming the powerfully sustained arguments of this accuser. The power of Christ is manifested in justifying the ungodly who believe in hini, Rom. iji. 26, and iv. 5. Here there is room for the display of sovereignty; the sovereign power alone being able to pardon the justly condemned criminal. Here too there is indeed a mystery to be solved. It would be no mystery that a just God should declare the innocent to be justified; but it is a mystery that the same just Being should himself provide a way of escape for the criminal ; still more a mys-. tery that this way of escape should consist in an arrangement by which the actual transgressor appears in the light of an innocent person. The cause of rejoicing too is represented to be that the accuser is cast out ; whereas, if he were a mere calumniator or slanderer, it would be a sufficient cause of rejoicing that the falsehood of his representations had been detected ; and in this case the glory of the justification must necessarily redound to the accused, and not to any mediator or intercessor. The war in heaven might in such case have been spared; the work of redemption would not have been required, and there would have been no room for offerings of praise and gratitude to the Lamb. The devil may be the calumniator of the Most High, and as a teacher of self-righteousness and of self-justification he is a liar, and the father of a lie; but as the accuser of sinful man, his charges are but too well founded, and an Almighty Redeemer alone can deliver the transgressor from his vindictive
power. “Who accused them before God day and night.'—Even an evil spirit could hardly be supposed so perversely mad as to prefer, without ceasing and for ages, false accusations before an omniscient Judge; but the principle of legal accusation sustained may be regarded as continually in operation : it is only ejected from the divine scheme of government by the counteracting element of propitiation. The law having been transgressed, there must be on the part of retributive justice an unceasing demand for condemnation ; a demand to be satisfied only by the eternal punishment of the transgressor, or by some adequate vicarious suffering.
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.'—This chorus or loud voice in heaven is not that of the combatants themselves, but of the spectators of the contest; they rejoice that the brethren are triumphant. The war was carried on by Michael and his angels, (Christ and the elements of redemption,) and the victory is theirs ; consequently these angels of Michael, or elements of redemption, must be the brethren alluded to. They have overcome the accuser by virtue of the propitiatory sacrifice of their leader: the LAMB in the work of propitiation; the LION in the contest with the accusing spirit, (Rev. v. 5 and 6.) Apocalyptically, as already intimated,
we do not suppose these brethren to be the beneficiaries of the victory just gained. Christ has laboured, and his followers enter into his labours, enjoying the fruit of his work : he has fought the battle, and his people enjoy the benefit of the victory. Michael and his angels—the intercessor, with all the elements of the economy of redemption—have not been contending for their own sakes with the accuser and his legal elements;—the battle has been fought on account of a world to be redeemed; but this world has not itself been engaged in the contest.
In this heavenly picture we contemplate the battle ground, we see the array of warriors on either side, we learn the issue of the contest, and are taught to whom the glory of the victory belongs ; but the subjects ultimately interested in the event are not presented to our imagination.
It is not the sinner himself that overcomes in this contest, for then the glory would be his :—it is Christ that gains the victory; and it is the work of Christ, with the principles of grace involved in this work, which counterbalances and overcomes the requisitions of the law. The brethren overcome " by the blood of the Lamb,"—the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, 1 Pet. i. 19; the blood of Christ which cleanseth from all şin, 1 John i. 7. This blood could hardly be called for if the charges of the legal adversary were mere slanders; but the question occurs, If these brethren be the elements or principles of the work of propitiation, and not the beneficiaries of that work themselves, in what sense can they be said to have overcome by the blood of the Lamb? This we may understand better perhaps after examining the subsequent clause.
$ 285. “And by the word of their testimony.'—In the account given of the expulsion of Satan and his angels by Michael and his forces, the figure employed is that of a fight. In the relation given of the same contest in this song of victory, it is very evident that the figure is changed ; and that instead of a battle a contest before a judicial tribunal is contemplated. The devil is spoken of as one who argued against the brethren day and night before God; and these brethren we suppose to be elements of intercession belonging to the array of the great Advocate, pleading the blood of the Lamb in behalf of the real defendant, the sinner. The expression might, therefore, be thus rendered, Now is come salvation, &c.; for the legal adversary of our brethren, who argued against them continually before the Judge of all, is cast out; he is no more permitted to plead or to argue on the side of the prosecution in this highest court of judicature. Prior to this expulsion, however, we may suppose the same character to have been continually arguing, as we have before suggested; while on the other side the advocate for the offender, (the Lamb,) with the brethren, or all the elements of intercession, plead for justification as counsel for the defendant. The prosecutor sustains his accusation by the elements of law, together with the evidence
of facts. The offence is not denied on the other side, but the counsel for the guilty party plead a full satisfaction, made not merely in mitigation of punishment, but as a ground of full and entire acquittal. The elements of propitiation, or of vicarious sacrifice, on the part of the desence, plead the atonement of Christ, and by the evidence they offer gain their cause, and overcome the prosecutor in this judicial contest, as Michael and his angels is represented to have done in that of a martial character. The figure differs, but the contest is the same; and the real victor, to whom alone the glory of success is due, must also be the same. So also the beneficiaries are the same; but these last, as in the former case, are not brought forward in the picture. The whole attention of the spectator is supposed to be taken up with the conduct of the trial ; as it sometimes occurs in human courts of justice, that the party on trial is scarcely observed amidst the intense interest excited by the efforts of the counsel on both sides to obtain a verdict.
Under this aspect we may easily form an idea of the character of the testimony of the brethren. The accuser brings his witnesses on the stand to testify to the requisitions of a broken law; the brethren are brought forward by the mediator—the intercessor—to testify to all the power of the propitiatory elements of salvation by sovereign grace. This is the word of their iestimony, by virtue of which they obtain their triumph over the legal adversary.
Here indeed the character of the accuser may appear in the light of a slanderer or calumniator : as, in his efforts to destroy the testimony offered in behalf of the accused, he misrepresents the principles of sovereign grace, places a false construction upon their tendency, creates a false issue so as to conceal their relevancy to the case, and accounts, as it is said of those under his influence, the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, Heb. x. 29.
* By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony ;' that is, the testimony of the brethren.—These are not two powers of salvation, but two expressions of the same power; the one being involved in the other. Δια τον λόγον της μαρτυρίας αυτήν, by or through the speech- the argument —the whole subject matter of their evidence or testimony; of which evidence Jesus Christ is the alpha and omega, and his propitiation the whole substance. Whether we speak of pardon through the atonement of Christ, or of justification through his vicarious work, the logos of the whole testimony is the same.
"And they loved not their lives unto the death.'-Here again the figure changes to a certain degree. In the first clause of the verse these brethren appear as of counsel for conducting the defence, and are said to have overcome by pleading the blood of the Lamb. In the second clause they appear as witnesses, testifying to the truths of redemption ; by which testimony also they are said to have overcome. Lastly they appear as martyrs, ready
to give up their lives in maintaining their testimony. This expression, however, may have a further signification; as if it were said that these elements readily gave up their natural sense to maintain the spiritual sense of their testimony ;—the term wrar, rendered here lives, although in the singular, being applicable to the natural life or soul, in contradistinction perhaps to avevure, as having a more spiritual signification.
§ 286. “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.'— Satan has just been cast out from heaven ; the heavenly system has been freed from the accusing principle : therefore, it is for this system and its elements to rejoice. Here, as in the counsels of the Most High, the element of Christ's propitiation reigns paramount.
“Wo to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea ! for the devil is come down unto you.'—Some editions of the Greek, as that from which we copy, omit the words, the inhabiters, and give the reading, wo to the earth and to the sea ; the difference is not very material, but we are inclined to think our common version to be most correct in this particular. The heavens, and the inhabiters of the heavens, are first called upon to rejoice ; and the antithesis is most complete if we suppose those that dwell in or upon the earth also to be mentioned as subject to the wo, corresponding with the common editions, ουαι τους κατοικούσι την γην και την θάλασσαν. This reading also corresponds best with the denunciation of the three woes, Rev. viii. 13, which are all woes to the inhabiters of the earth ; and the last of which is probably the wo here spoken of as the consequence of the coming of Satan. The elements of the earthly system of self-righteousness and the elements of the sea system, or abyss system of legality, are in jeopardy from the coming of Satan ; because, as the legal prosecutor, the exercise of his functions tends to exhibit the insufficiency of these elements as means of salvation.
• Having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.' -Having great eagerness to accomplish his object. We do not suppose this short time is to be taken in a literal sense. The time given to the tempter to operate upon the mind of every human being individually, must depend upon the life of the individual ; and collectively mankind have been subject to the delusions of Satan ever since the creation of the world. We suppose the idea of time here is to be qualified by the circumstances of the vision. Satan has been cast out of his heavenly sphere of action, and the time is now at hand when such is to be the development of truth that he will also be ejected from his position in the earthly system ; all his powers are therefore now summoned for this last and greatest effort—this third wo of the last trumpet; and in proportion as the final development of truth is at hand, he is the more vehement in his action. In this speedy action, perhaps, also a portion of the wo just pronounced consists; as one trusting
to his own merits or claims to moral perfection is sensible of no cause of alarm till he hears of an accusation about being preferred against him; or as the offender against the laws of society feels himself safe so long as he is not summoned before a tribunal of justice, or so long as his conduct is not the subject of inquisition. The action of the third wo then consists in the immediate trial to which the earthly elements are subjected in consequence of the coming of the accuser or legal prosecutor amongst them. The devil is vehement because the period of his action is short: the inhabiters of the earth have reason to be alarmed because their moment of trial has now
V. 13. And when the dragon saw that Και ότε είδεν ο δράκων, ότι εβλήθη εις he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted
την γην, εδίωξε την γυναίκα, ήτις έτεκε τον the woman which brought forth the man(child) (or the male).
άρρενα. . $ 287. “And when,' &c.—The chorus being concluded, the narrative is here resumed, but the scene presented to the apostle's mind is changed. He had been contemplating things in heaven: he had seen the offspring of the woman safely brought forth and taken to the throne of God; he had witnessed the fight of the woman from heaven to the wilderness; he had seen something of the war in heaven, and had also witnessed the expulsion of the devil and his angels from their heavenly sphere of action. He now, although perhaps still retaining his heavenly position, contemplates what is going on in earth, or, as we say, in the earthly system.
· And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, or, [into the earth, vid. v. 9, he persecuted,' &c.—The first impression seems to be here that the dragon persecuted the woman, because he saw himself cast out of heaven ; but we rather think the sense intended is, as if it were said, When the dragon saw that the earth was allotted to him as a scene of action, then he applied bimself to the persecution of the woman. Perhaps this may be said to arise from the nature of the case: the woman, or economy of redemption in the earthly system, is seen without her child. The element of imputed righteousness is to be discerned only from a heavenly or spiritual view of the gospel mystery. Under a literal construction the economy of redemption, although still nominally retained, must appear fruitless and desolate ; and in that aspect incapable of withstanding the element of legal accusation. In this state, therefore, it must appear as in a wilderness, until
* The devil is very commonly styled the tempter, but perhaps he would be more correctly denominated the trier; the Greek term Aripašu, from Axioa, experiment, sometimes rendered tempt, signifying primarily the action of trying, as in the assay of metals, or putting one to the proof, as in the trial of a person accused. Of temptation, in the ordinary sense, it is said every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts, (James i. 14.)