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-Charge to John. 199 archangel, and the trump of God : for the trumpet shall sound.” And when the service of the temple opened in the morning, it was with the sound of the trumpet: then the great door was opened, and the service proceeded. So, likewise, when the year of jubilee commenced, it was ushered in with the sounding of the silver trumpet. The people were mustered in their camp by the sound of the trumpet; and thus also were alarmıs given to the host. The trumpet, therefore, is well used in this vision, both as breaking the silence of the church, and calling it to still higber revelations; and likewise as introducing our Lord in the character of High Priest, which we shall find he assumeth to himself in this vision. With respect to the style in which he announceth himself, we have nothing to add to the large exposition which we gave of it in our last lecture, where we delivered it as our judgment, that the eighth verse was the proper announcement of him who speaks with the trumpet voice; and that the first clause of the eleventh verse, if it be a part of the original text, is only a repetition, for the connection's sake. Most likely it was introduced by some transcriber, and may have been first inserted in the margin, to shew the continuity which had been interrupted by the ninth verse, and afterwards drawn into the text itself. But as our object is to use the Authorized text and version both, though we take the advantage of whatever light hath been cast upon either by critics and commentators, we would now. take
" the First and the Last,” did it not occur in another part of our text (verse 17), and in a connection which gives it still more interest; and therefore, without adding any thing in this place to what hath been said in Lecture Il. upon the style of the annunciation, we come to the injunction laid upon the Apostle, What thou seest, write in a book.”
The whole Apocalypse is bere expressed by the word “ what thou seest;” which confirmeth me the more in my interpretation of the second verse, as referring, not to this book at all, but to the former writings of the Apostle : identifying him with John the Apostle, and nullifying the vague and unfounded speculations which have been gone into, to mystify the authority of the book, by casting doubts
of its author. This injunction to write what he was about to see in a book, and send it
to the churches, doth stamp the matter of this prophecy with an importance beyond that of any other portion of Scripture. In this provision, that no part of it should be lost, there is not only a security that no part of it would be suffered to be lost, but there is also an exquisite value given to every jot and tittle of what was seen. And what à commendation of it to the churches, that by special injunction of Christ the seer should be commanded to write it fairly out, and, for security's sake, send it, not to one, but to seven Christian churches ! Why these seven churches should have been chosen, in preference to all others then existing, we can see no other reason than that which is mentioned in our former Lectures; to wit, that they were found in such various conditions as to afford excellent instances for the counsel, reproof, consolation, and other attributes and functions of the common Bishop: so that, when he should bave given his charge to each, that seven-fold charge should present a complete charge to all the ministers of all the churches in all time to come, and contain a complete body of principles and rules for the regulation of the church, and a complete picture of our Bishop's care, and a full and sufficient warning of our various temptatious, as also a complete exhibition of the manner in which we must be delivered out of them. Much have I thought upon the various theories which have been given of these seven churches, as if they were symbolical of seven successive states of the Christian church, or as if they represented seven integrant portions of the Christian church. But all such hypotheses I have come to reject, not as erroneous in their principle, but limited in the application of the principle. Universality and completeness is doubtless the mystery of the number seven, whether applied to churches, or to spirits, or to seals, or to trumpets, or to vials; and when applied to the church, it is beyond a doubt the universal church that is intended. So far from objecting to this symbolical use of the number seven, upon which these hypotheses are founded, I object to the hypotheses because they, do not fully express the symbol. If succession, indeed, had been a part of the vision, there might have been a ground for laying out
that succession in seven parts; but from this we are ex. pressly prevented, by having given to it the completest
unity in respect to time which can be given; by its being made the time present, the now, of the Apocalypse; and containing the things which are, in contradistinction from the rest of the book, which contains the things which must be hereafter (i. 19; iv. l). It is an universality,
() therefore, also in respect of time; which is not to be obtained by a succession, but by a universal present, a now, extended over all the duration of the church. A specialty of application it had, no doubt, to those seven churches, as every prophecy hath to some event therein predicted : but as no prophecy is thereby made of any. private interpretation, so these seven epistles are not the less universally applicable because they are specially appropriate. Moreover, though they have a special application in time, as we shall shew beyond question, to the season of the persecutions of the church under Paganism, which preceded the exaltation of Christianity to become a national institution in the days of Constantine; yet are they not by that specialty of application in respect of time the less to be used as the great document of our Bishop's mind unto all his churches in all times, till he shall come again. It is the Bishop's charge to his one church, in many several places subsisting, and of many several members composed. Such is our idea of this vision, which we shall bave occasion to explain more fully as we proceed.
After this introductory annunciation of Himself and charge unto his minister, we have the person of Christ exhibited to us in such a guise as in all points to befit the character in which he appeareth and acteth. The form, and figure, and features, which he assumes at the head of each vision, are not for sublime effect, but for much information and exact teaching assumed. Whether as a robed Priest, with various peculiar and striking additions to his person, as in this vision; whether as a Lamb slain, yet living still, as in the next vision (chapter vi.); whether as the mighty Angel with the golden censer ministering the prayers of saints, and shedding down fire on the earth ; or as the Angel clothed with the rainbow coming to take possession; or as the Word of God riding forth from heaven against his enemies ; or in whatever other form or figure Jesus is represented in this book, it is
always chosen with Divine discernment, and adapted
Sublime and appalling as such a sight must have been, it was not assumed, as hath been said, either for sublime or terrific effect, but for fully and completely expressing the nature of that office which he was about to discharge in dictating these epistles to the churches. What that character is, we have now to learn, by perusing point by point the sight which is so carefully described to us in these verses.
And first let us look at it as a whole, and then consider it in parts.-As a whole, the vision exhibiteth one person, and three distinct objects-which are, the seven candlesticks, the seven stars, and the sharp sword going out of his mouth. And of these objects we have an express interpretation given to the first two, verse 20 : “The seven stars are the angels of the seven
churches, and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches." And of the third, the sharp two-edged sword, if we have not in this book so explicit an interpretation, we can yet gather it beyond a question from various parts of Scripture : for we may lay it down, that whatever symbol or mystery in these visions is not explained by a direct interpretation, is so treated, not that it might be left in the dark, or, as they say, for time to explain it; but because it needed no explanation, but might well enough be gathered from a general knowledge of Scripture language. I am convinced in my own mind that an interpreter of the Apocalypse needs little or no apparatus of hieroglyphical or symbolical learning, but simply a sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures in the original tongues, and a thorough acquaintance with the prophecies of the Old and the New Testament, and, above all, with that part of the word of God which standeth in forms and times and seasons and figures, such as the Mosaiac economy, with the, institutions of the Jewish state. But as for any knowledge derived from sources other than the Scriptures-such as the use of hieroglyphics in the picture-writing of the East- I give little authority to it; believing that Scripture is the only interpreter of Scripture; and that there is a unity of language, as well as a unity of subject, from the beginning to the end of the volume. Now, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, iv. 12,. it is written: “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword;" and in the Epistle to the church of Pergamos, which needed the wholesome excision of discipline, it is said, Rev. ii. 16, “Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and fight against thee with the sword of my mouth." And in the vision of victory, where he comes forth by his name The Word of God,“ a sharp sword goeth out of his mouth, with which he smiteth the nations." There can be no doubt, therefore, that the sword proceeding out of the mouth signifies the word of his power, with which he will slay the wicked: as it is written Isaiah xi. 4; shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked." It signifies the word as a word of judgment, and not as a word of mercy. The symbol of a sharp two-edged sword