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away; the infinite difference between the righteousness required and the imperfect righteousness of man is exhibited. Human pretensions to perfection, like plants without root, are scorched and withered away.
The Sun of righteousness, (the Lord our righteousness,) rises with healing in his wings, to the humble disciple looking to the protection of that imputed righteousness, which, like the wings of the parent bird, are as a shield and buckler to those trusting under their shadow. But to those trusting in a righteousness of their own, although they may esteem or term it an imparted righteousness, the manifestation of the character of this Sun must be as the coming of the day which shall burn as an oven, when all these pretensions of human pride and self-dependence shall be as stubble; for the day that cometh shall burn them up, leaving them neither root nor branch, (Mal. iv. 1.) Corresponding with this imagery, both of the prophet and of the apostle, we suppose the administration of the fourth test to be the means of dissipating this fourth error pervading the earthly system. As the preceding delusion was one concerning the doctrine of the atonement, so the present may be said to be one concerning the doctrine of justification.
$362. And men were scorched,' &c.-We are to bear in mind that this term men is to be considered throughout the Apocalypse as a figurative appellation of doctrinal principles, dependent upon the earthly system.— These principles are described as exposed to a trial corresponding with that of the fire spoken of by Paul, 1 Cor. iii. 13, which is to try every man's work. The subject of the Apocalypse is a development of truths to be made manifest in this life-something distinct from the particulars of a future state of rewards and punishments, which are to be made known only in another state of existence. We cannot suppose it to be the intention of this book to show that these rewards and punishments are to be administered in this life; which would be the case if we were to understand the action of these vials in a literal sense, and the men spoken of as literally human beings.
And blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues.'-Blasphemy against God we have already noticed as a pretension tending to place one's self upon an equality with God, (§ 303.) This trial by heat, or this action of the sun, causes the blasphemous character of the pretensions in contemplation to appear-the blasphemy being a consequence of the scorching. The tendency of any doctrinal principle to rob God's ame of the glory due in the work of salvation, may be considered blasphemous. To maintain the doctrine that the disciple, by a certain infusion of righteousness, or perfection, becomes righteous or perfect as God is righteous or perfect, is something of this blasphemous tendency. A just exhibition of the action of the Sun of righteousness in justifying the sinner by imputed righteousness (not by imparted or infused righteousness,) while it scorches or dries p the false pretensions adverted to, tends to show also their real character.
The name of God, we suppose to have particular reference to his great, his mystic name-Jehovah our righteousness, or the Lord our righteousness. The blasphemy of this name must consist in something opposed to its exaltation above every other name that is named-something, in fine, showing the righteousness of the creature to be equal with that of the Creator, and consequently denying this name of God (the Lord our righteousness) to be of the glorious and sovereign character represented in the Scriptures. Here we may say the manifestation of the Sun of righteousness, in his unclouded majesty, has the power of exhibiting the folly and wickedness of the earthly pretensions designated as the men.
Which hath power over these plagues ;'-according to the Greek the men spoken of blasphemed the name of the God having power over these plagues. The plagues are tests calculated to detect the falsehood and wickedness of the pretensions to which they are applied;-God has power to withhold these tests, and to delay their application; but, what is more, he has power, in the exercise of his grace as a sovereign, to forgive and to purge away even the iniquity of these false pretensions. These men, in the hardness of their hearts, instead of humbling themselves before him who has this power over the instrument, appear to be excited only to blasphemy by the tortures they undergo;-as if the sinner, when convinced of his transgressions, and awakened to a view of the coming wrath, should blaspheme the God he had offended, instead of seeking to obtain his mercy and forgiveness.
And repented not to give him glory.'-The word translated repented, μɛterónour, is applicable to a change of mind, or a change of views, and, especially in Scripture, to that mental change which constitutes a conviction of sin, of unworthiness, and of the need of mercy. This figure, with the preceding, appropriately exhibits the unchangeableness of the false principles in contemplation; especially in respect to the glory to be ascribed to God as the God of salvation. It is not in the nature, we may say, of the elements of self-righteousness, to change in this respect; their tendency is to ascribe that glory to the redeemed which belongs solely to the Redeemer.*
*The action of this fourth vial corresponds with that of the fourth trumpet, the development being the same in kind, but differing in degree. Darkness was then the result; the plague was negative; the rays of the sun were not then perceived: here on the contrary they are perceived, and act in a destructive manner upon the objects against which they are directed. So at the opening of the sixth seal, the sun became black as sackcloth of hair; its light was not exhibited-its plague was negative only. To the convinced sinner, ignorant of the gospel plan, the Sun of righteousness affords no ray of light; but to the self-righteous, who rejects the offer of salvation by imputed righteousness, who goes about to establish a righteousness of his own, the same Sun may be said to be manifested as a fire that is to try his every work.
Vs. 10,11. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and
they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores, and repent
ed not of their deeds.
Καὶ ὁ πέμπτος ἐξέχεε τὴν φιάλην αὑτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν θρόνον τοῦ θηρίου· καὶ ἐγένετο ἡ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐσκοτωμένη, καὶ ἐμασσῶντο τὰς γλώσσας αὑτῶν ἐκ τοῦ πόνου, καὶ ἐξλασφήμησαν τὸν θεὸν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐκ τῶν πόνων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑλκῶν αὑτῶν, καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων αὑτῶν.
§ 363. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat (throne) of the beast.'-Our common version renders the word pórov here, by a word which does not give a full idea of the meaning. The beast, as appears from the account before given of him, assumes all the attributes of sovereignty ;—with these he has a throne, and this throne is that given him by the dragon, or accuser, (Rev. xiii. 2.) The throne is that which exhibits the individual occupying it as a sovereign. As such, we suppose the throne of the beast to be that principle which places self in the light of a sovereign. The test, the vial of wrath, being brought to act upon this principle, shows the kingdom peculiar to' such a principle of sovereign power to be a kingdom of darkness.
The beast derives his pretensions to sovereignty from the accuser, and the accuser's power depends upon the false assumption, that the law still remains to be fulfilled by the disciple, ($297.) This false assumption, therefore, we may consider the principle of sovereignty in question—the throne of the beast-for if man be not amenable to the law the power of the accuser ceases, and the beast no longer enjoys the possession of a throne ;-so the claims of the self-righteous errorist to the glory of his own salvation, can be sustained only upon this supposition of the continuance of the legal economy.
God's throne is a throne of grace, Heb. iv. 16; and grace is the opposite of works-so the throne of the beast, as the opposite of that of God, may be denominated a throne of works. The principle upon which God exhibits his sovereignty, is that of giving freely-giving where there is no claim of merit. The principle of the beast's claim to sovereignty, on the contrary, is that of enjoying even eternal life as a right-a reward of merita matter of wages. Against this principle a true and just exhibition of the wrath of God is brought to bear ;-love to God, as the motive of every action, is shown to be an indispensable requisite of the law; and the absence of this motive is proved to be an overt transgression of the law. The subject of the law is thus demonstrated in all things to have come short of his duty. The existence of the element of righteousness, or merit, is proved to be
wholly incompatible with the reign of the beast, (self,) and consequently
his kingdom is full of darkness-for, as we have supposed ($ 192) light in a spiritual sense to be put in this revelation for righteousness, so we suppose darkness in the same spiritual sense to be put for the absence of righteousness; our views of natural, intellectual and spiritual darkness corresponding with those we have already expressed of a similar classification of the term light.
As the throne of God is a throne of grace, so the kingdom of God is a kingdom of light, or of righteousness; because his imputed moral perfection is the pervading element of the position of grace, constituting this kingdom: a position of marvellous light, indeed, as it is well called by an apostle.— So, as the throne of the beast is a throne of works, (works of darkness, Rom. xiii. 12,) his kingdom must be one in which an entire absence of this element is manifested as soon as the truth is duly, exhibited; for, as it is said, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified;” “If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead in vain," Gal. ii. 16-21. Until this exhibition of truth be made, the kingdom of the beast may be supposed to have appeared as a position of light-its inhabitants walked "in the light of the sparks of their own kindling." The vial of divine wrath being now poured out, the light that is in them proves to be darkness; their fancied righteousness proves to be iniquity; and having no other resource, it may be said of them, "Darkness covers their land, and gross darkness the people," -a condition to which allusion appears to be made in the admonition of the prophet, Jer. xiii. 15, 16: "Hear ye and give ear, be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains; and while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness."
And they gnawed their tongues for pain,' (præ labore, Leusden.)— The elements of the system of the beast are here personified as subjects of the kingdom-inhabiters of the earth; they bite their tongues in the anguish of labour, or according to Beza, præ dolore; an equally strong figure of vexation and disappointment; as the persecutors of Stephen were cut to the heart, and gnashed upon him with their teeth when they could not gainsay his statements.
And blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and sores ;' or, more strictly, out of their labours and out of their ulcerous sores. These vain pretensions of works and of self-righteousness being themselves acts of blasphemy, or the immediate causes of that blasphemy, their true character is exhibited by the application of the test, (the effusion of the vial.)
And repented not of their deeds.'-As we remarked of the men scorched with fire, these elements of the beast's kingdom, like the elements of the earthly system, are unchangeable in the nature of the case; the only
remedy to be administered is the destruction of the whole kingdom, by destroying its ruling principles.
Thus far, however, the kingdom of the beast is not supposed to be overthrown-the blasphemous, mercenary, and vainglorious system of self still continues to be wondered after by the inhabiters of the world. It is proved to be a kingdom of darkness, devoid of the element of righteousness; but its final destruction is yet to be revealed.
V. 12. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates;
and the water thereof was dried up, that
the way of the kings of the east might be
Καὶ ὁ ἕκτος ἐξέχεε τὴν φιάλην αὑτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν ποταμὸν τὸν μέγαν, τὸν Εὐφράτην· καὶ εξηράνθη τὸ ὕδωρ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα ἑτοιμασθῇ ἡ ὁδὸς τῶν βασιλέων τῶν ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν ἡλίου.
§ 364. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates.'-The judgment of this vial is preparative-the last blow upon the kingdom of the beast left it in a state of darkness, (a system of salvation without the justifying element of righteousness.) Preparation is now made for its entire overthrow, to be effected apparently by the conquest of its capital. The figure seems to be borrowed from the manner in which the kingdom of Chaldea was conquered by the Medes and Persians. Babylon was the capital of this kingdom, and the capture of Babylon was equivalent to the overthrow of the Chaldean dynasty. Media and Persia lay to the east of Babylon, and the establishment of the Persian monarchy in this capital may be regarded as a preparatory step towards the restoration of the captives of Judah to the land of their fathers-the order for rebuilding of the city and temple going forth at the commencement of the reign of Cyrus, (Ezra i. 1–5, Dan. ix. 25.) This event also happened about the year of the world 3500, at which period the typical history of the Old Testament ceases and the voice of prophecy is silenced-the end of types and shadows having then
Corresponding with these historical facts, the termination of the apocalyptic dynasty of the beast is about to be effected by the destruction of the apocalyptic Babylon; a destruction for which the preparatory step is now taken by the drying up of the great river of this figurative capital; the river constituting the principal resource of the city, although eventually proving, by its drying up, to be the immediate instrument of the destruction of the capital, consequently of the overthrow of this whole empire, or system of delusions. This overthrow of the system of the beast we suppose to be a necessary preparation for the exhibition of truth, afforded under the figure of the new Jerusalem; as the taking of Babylon was formerly a prelude to the restoration of the Jews and the rebuilding of the temple.