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element appears to be comparatively harmless, and even itself the means of eternal life; as when the deluded disciple goes about to meet the requisites. of divine justice by means of his own providing. “There go the ships," Ps. civ. 20.— Through the instrumentality of human works, it is supposed to become, like the sea, the instrument of enriching those depending upon its resources.
The test, however, of the second vial is applied to it.—The real character of judicial wrath is exhibited—every soul of man that doeth evil is seen to be subject to its action. Obedience to the whole law is required; the neglect of one commandment is a breach of the whole : the want of a love of God, is a breach of the first and great commandment. Self-examination opens the eyes to the character of this exhibition, and the sea now becomes a. sea of blood ; or, according to the Greek, blood is generated. Without shedding of blood, or loss of life, there is no remission of sin: the transgressions of the sinner legally call for the loss of his eternal life.
• And it became as the blood of a dead body,' (carcase.)-The blood of a living animal is the element of life ; but that there may be no misapprehension in this respect, this blood of the sea is represented as that of a dead body-blood in which putrefaction is just about commencing.
* And every living soul died in the sea ;' or rather, all soul of life.'— The deadly, putrefying quality of this sea of blood, is communicated to every thing in it, or dependent upon it. So a just development of divine truth applied to the element of judicial wrath, in the earthly system, shows it to be not only incapable of giving eternal life, but to be actually such, in its own nature, as to destroy all tendency to life in every principle connected with it.
We have thus, in the exhibition of the effusion of these two vials, on the one hand an illustration of the noisome, unclean and offensive character of all pretensions of man to a righteousness of his own; and on the other hand an illustration of the unremitting character of judicial wrath. The disciple, in the first picture, sees the folly of his dependence upon his own merits ; and in the other he sees, even upon his own legal principles, the necessity of looking for some means of escape from impending danger. In this extremity he falls, as we shall perceive, into another error, the subject of correction by the test next administered.
Vs. 4-7. And the third angel poured Και ο τρίτος εξέχεε την φιάλην αυτού out his vial upon the rivers and fountains εις τους ποταμούς και εις τας πηγάς των of waters: and they became blood. And υδάτων και εγένετο αίμα. Και ήκουσα I heard the angel of the waters say, art righteous, O Lord, which art, and toù ayyéhov tūv idátov léyovtos: Sixalog wast, and shall be, because thou hast εί, ο ών και ο ήν όσιος, ότι ταύτα έκρινας. judged thus. For they have alied the ότι αίμα αγίων και προφητών εξέχεαν, και blood of saints and prophets, and thou αίμα αυτούς έδωκας πιεϊν· άξιοί είσι και are worthy. And I heard another out of ixovou roù Ivoiuoirpiou légorioz: rai, the altar say, Even so, Lord God Al- níque o Trós nortozqutog, úlrIiroi zui mighty, true and righteous (are) thy dixoldi oi xpicais cou. judgments.
$ 359. “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers,' &c.The disciple, convinced of his defilement in the sight of God, as illustrated by the ulcerous sore produced by the first vial, and having his eyes opened to the impending danger, figured by the sea of blood, seeks some means of cleansing himself from the guilt of sin, by atoning sacrifices of his own providing. With the more ignorant part of mankind, these means of ablution are supposed to consist in corporeal sufferings and privations. With the more intellectual portion they consist in mental sufferings, or mental acts of humiliation and penitence. In all they constitute what we suppose to be represented by the rivers and fountains of the earth, as in contradistinction to the one means of atonement: the pure river of the water of life, Rev. xxii. 1, and the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, Zech. xjji. 1.
We have had something like this under contemplation before, Rev. viii. 11, when the third part of the rivers and fountains became wormwood, ($ 200.) The present picture appears to be a further development of the same truth : showing that any atonement of man's providing, equal to bis guilt in the sight of God, must involve the loss of eternal life—not only being incapable of giving life, (as bitter water, or sea water, is unfit for the purposes of natural life,) but still more, absolutely demanding the eternal death of the sinner. The pouring out of the third vial appears to be figurative of the exhibition of the nature of divine wrath. As a test trying the validity of these human means of purification--this third element of the earthly system—and showing the entire inconsistency of such pretended provisions of self-redemption with the salvation of the sinner.
6 And they became blood.'—A principle of doctrine exacting from the simner himself an expiatory suffering equal to his guilt, must be in effect a principle denouncing vengeance, instead of proclaiming pardon ; no one being able, by supererogatory performances to atone for actual omissions of duty. As it is not possible to atone for a past transgression by the subsequent performance of that which it is only one's duty to perform, and which would be a duty to perform if there had been no previous transgression. Nor can we suppose it possible to expiate a neglect of duty by the performance of something which is not a duty. Even if this were possible, the penalty of sin being equal to its guilt, and this guilt being infinite, the proposed atonement must result in the loss of eternal life. Whether the blood of these rivers be, like that of the sea, the blood as of a dead body or otherwise, the element is equally inconsistent with the salvation of the soul.
§ 360. “And I heard the angel of the waters say,' &c.—The ministering spirit of the element of propitiation, is here represented as speaking ; a figure equivalent to the expression, that such is the nature of the case. The nature of perfect justice is exemplified in the peculiarities just now set forth ; any earthly means of atonement, as soon as the truth is exhibited, being manifestly means of vengeance.
· For they have shed,' &c., or, they have poured out.—The verb translated shed is the same as that rendered poured out when applied to the action of the vials, indicating an exactness in the correspondence of retribution. They have poured out the blood of the saints and prophets, therefore thou hast justly poured out blood to them to drink. As it might be said of one who, rejecting the blood of the covenant, preferred trusting to an atonement of his own working out. Upon his own principles it is but just for him to suffer the loss of eternal life, since, as a matter of faith, he receives thereby the fruit of his own doings. Apocalyptically, however, we suppose elements of doctrine to be referred to here, as elsewhere. The inhabiters of the earth are those making use of the fountains and rivers of the earth : these are said to have poured out the blood of the saints and prophets ;-and, comparing this passage with Rev. vi. 9-11, we find the time now to have come for executing the vengeance there alluded to, upon those that dwell on the earth. We accordingly suppose these prophets and saints, like the souls under the altar, to represent clements of truth, ($$ 161, 162 ;) elements of the testimony furnished both by the Old and New Testaments, of which the spiritual sense is now to be vindicated ; these elements being figuratively spoken of as human beings, (martyrs :) as other elements are spoken of as rivers, fountains, blood, &c. In a literal sense, it was only the inhabitants of Palestine and its vicinity that had ever been favoured with the presence of the prophets; and even the martyrs of Jesus, in the apostle's time, had suffered persecution only in a small part, comparatively, of the Roman empire. Blood representing life, and life being put for spirit, the earthly elements are said to have shed blood, &c., because the earthly system is sustained by depriving the elements of Scripture testimony of their proper spiritual sense. The earthly system of doctrine is built upon the letter of revelation ; this privation, therefore, falls back eventually upon the elements of the earth, showing their inconsistency with God's plan of salvation, and their incompatibility with his way of eternal life. The letter killeth-the earthly system adopts the letter-abides the results of the literal interpretation ; and thus, when the truth is manifested, shows itself to be a ministration of death unto death; a ministration of condemnation, as the opposite of that of justification, (2 Cor. iii. 9.)
And I heard another out of,' &c., (P2ov fx to.)—These words are not in all editions of the Greek. The passage might be rendered, And I
heard from the altar, saying—virtually, a message from the altar. As the principle of atonement, (the angel of the waters,) called for the destruction of the errors in the earthly system pertaining to that portion of the mystery of salvation ; so the principle of sacrifice, (the voice from the altar,) calls for the same destruction of error, or pronounces it to be just and right. Christ is represented by the altar, as well as by the temple, by the sacrifice, and by the priest or sacrificator. In Christ, any offering of the disciple is sanctified, set apart, and made holy and acceptable to God; and it may be said that Christ himself requires the destruction of errors opposed to the true principle upon which alone sacrifices are to be offered to the Most High. We suppose this voice or message from the altar also to be
put something in the nature of the case. Every sacrifice, it is said, must be salted with salt, (Lev. ii. 13 ; Mark ix. 49 ;) that is, every sacrifice, to be acceptable to God, must possess a preservative principle. He that offers his own merits to God, offers a corrupt thing. The merits of man have no preserving principle in them. He who offers to God the merits of Christ, or who pleads the merits of Christ as an offering in his behalf, offers an incorruptible sacrifice. Such we suppose to be the requisition of the altar service. This service calls for the destruction of all errors of doctrine incompatible with this principle of sacrifice; consequently, it virtually lauds that divine justice which, by a due exhibition of its wrath, destroys all pretensions of man to an atonement of his own making. We admit our analysis of this passage to be very imperfect, but we think the general purport of these exclamations corresponds with the ideas here suggested.
Vs. 8, 9. And the fourth angel poured Και ο τέταρτος εξέχεε την φιάλην αυτού out his vial upon the sun; and power was trì còv 12.10v• xui idóan avto zurueriou given unto him to scorch men with fire. noiş úvýpozzouz ev nupi
. kuì izoruarioAnd men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which your oi uv 90.701 xa que pezu, zı az. hali power over tliese plagues: and illey φήμησαν το όνομα του θεού του έχοντος repented not to give him glory.
εξουσίαν ετι τις πληγές ταύτας, και οι
μετενόησαν δούναι αυτω δόξαν. § 361. ' And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun ;'—or, concerning or about the sun. The general direction was to pour the seven vials upon the earth, as our translators have it; but the Greek preposition employed on this occasion and in relating the pouring out of the three first vials is tis, with an accusative, signifying unto rather than upon; corresponding with our idea of applying a chemical test to the object to be tried. On the other hand, in relating the pouring out of the four last vials, the Greek pre position is łni, which primarily signifies upon ; but which, as we have seen, ($ 231,) is frequently used to express about, concerning. We are
inclined to think the term upon carries with it too literal an association of ideas in the first case, and in the last it does not comport with the sense of the text. The fourth vial was poured out about the sun ; that is, figuratively, upon the medium of vision through which the sun is perceived: the sun itself may be supposed to be unchanged or unaffected, but its action after the pouring out of the vial is very different, or appears very differently from what it was before ; the development is therefore something about, or concerning, the sun.
We do not suppose the erroneous system spoken of as the earth to be a heathen, a pagan, or infidel system ; we take it to be something in the visible church of Christ-professedly a Christian system—and as such, possessing features corresponding apparently or nominally with certain prominent features of the gospel plan of salvation. The earthly system, indeed, is formed from a certain construction of scriptural revelation ; it is not a scheme of what is commonly called natural religion; we must expect therefore to find in it characteristics resembling those of revelation. It has its supposed position of safety, the land ; it has its element of apprehension, the sea ; it has its means or supposed means of atonement, its rivers and fountains ; and it has also, as we now find, its sun of righteousness, or rather its mistaken view of the Sun of righteousness.
“And power was given to him to scorch,' &c.—We have supposed, at the pouring of the last, or third vial, the inhabiters of the earth to have been trusting to their means of atonement, such as the earth afforded; these means proving to be those of blood, we contemplate these inhabitants as still trusting to some other earthly resources, one of which we may imagine to be their sun of righteousness ; or what they suppose to be the action of such a sun. The development of truth, or a just exposition of the wrath of God, is now brought to bear upon the erroneous views heretofore prevailing upon this subject. Men have supposed this action to consist in its communicating to them an intrinsic goodness or righteousness ; making them literally as righteous, or morally perfect, as the source whence that righteousness or perfection is imparted. In forining this erroneous conception, they have deluded themselves by their estimate of the sun, in the same manner as they have done in their estimate of the sea. In order to cope with the element of divine justice, they have brought down their views of that justice to their own standard of imperfect obedience; so, in order to countenance their misapprehended intrinsic participation in the perfection of the Sun o righteousness, they have brought down that perfection in an equal degree to the standard of their own imperfect moral attainments. The test being administered, the truth is exhibited, that this righteousness of the spiritual Sun is a perfect righteousness, that there is nothing in human attainments at all corresponding with it. The murky exhalations from the earth are chased