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Scripture. And these it shall now be our endeavour to lay before you.
We arrange them under three heads ; first, The sanction of blessing ; secondly, The sanction of knowledge; and thirdly, The sanction of fear.
1. The sanction of blessing is contained in these words (i. 3): “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein, for the time is at hand ;” and in these words (xxii. 7): “Behold I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Than this sacred benediction, with which the book is so solemnly opened and concluded, there can be nothing higher or better, or more worthy to commend it to the minds of his people. It is not like those benedictions with which the apostolical epistles are ordinarily in. troduced ; being not the general expression of good will and invocation of grace and peace, but a positive and special promise of blessing resting upon the book itself, which cannot, so far as I remember, be found appropriated to any other book of Scripture whatsoever. Nor is it in the room and stead of the ordinary apostolical benediction which we find given, in verse 5, by the Apostle unto the churches, to whom he was commanded to send the precious gift in deposit, or rather in trust for circulation amongst all the churches of Christ. The blessing, therefore, twice repeated, is nothing else than a sanction given to this book, in order to preserve it safe in the heart, and holy in the veneration of the church : and it consisteth of two parts; the one the promise, the other the reason of it. The promise is unto him that readeth or peruseth, which I consider to have a special reference to the officebearers, the ministers, and doctors, and readers of the church, whose office it is to choose out, in the public services of the church, the parts of Scripture to read, and to prelect upon in the hearing of the people. It doth in like manner apply to heads of families, to masters of schools, and all others to whom the same dignity appertaineth. And let all such know that, despite of vulgar prejudices, and even ecclesiastical examples, there is a blessing in preferring rather than in postponing this book to the other books of Scriptures. I say ecclesiastical example, because,
if I err not, there is not one of the lessons of the Church of England taken from the Apocalypse. For this exclusion I cannot well account; but certainly it hath been sorely punished in those frequent attempts of ignorant churchmen to bring about an alliance or union between her and the Roman harlot. The remedy ought to be promptly applied by the extraordinary diligence of her ministers to take a larger proportion of their subjects of discourse from this book. Now I can trace a very marked contrast between the feelings towards the Revelation which I find in Scotland and in England. In my native land it is looked to as the most profound and deeply concerning book of Scripture, and for a minister to take his subjects of discourse from it endears him to the people. In this, the land of my abode, which I have much reason to honour, I find that, as well in the Church as amongst the Sectaries, there is a decided preference of the other Scriptures; and I am told it is not unusual both in schools and in families to pass this book over in their ordinary readings. Against all such undervaluings I present these words of the eternal and unchangeable God : « Blessed is he that readeth the words of this prophecy ; and the man, who giveth no heed to God thus promising a blessing upon
that which should of itself be our delight, will not give much heed to a creature's voice : and if he did, it were only to enhance his sin in rejecting the voice of God for the voice of a man. But, oh reader ! after these words have met thine eye, know that if thou be not desirous and delighted to read this book, thou rejectest the blessing of thy God, and settest his good and gracious promise at nought. Of what kind the blessing is, will better appear in the sequel.-" Blessed also are they that hear the words of this prophecy.” This hath reference to the congregations, or families, or audiences of any kind, in whose hearing the chapters and verses of this book are read out, for the subject of lectures or sermons, or simply for a lesson of Divine truth. And it ought to carry its weight with all upon whom God's name is named, and who take upon them the profession of Christ Jesus. I trust it proceeds from my own caution and timidity, rather than from any real dislike among the people, but certain it is I have an intuitive perception, or a suggestion of the Spirit, almost every time I preach from this book lead.
ing me to put forward this promise of God, as my warrant, and their encouragement to hear me patiently. And after all
my caution, O my soul, declare how, by the learned and the unlearned amongst the ministry, by the pious and profane amongst the people, I have been treated as a fool and a babbler, or something worse, for my perseverance in this cause. But, be thou patient, win thine own crown, and be an example as well as a voice unto this incredulous and doubting generation. Let me find acceptance amongst you, Oye children of the daughter of my people! I bring with me a heart both leal and true to the kingdom and the Church of Scotland. I come amongst you in the name of the Lord, seeking nothing but that together we may inherit this blessing ; you of hearing, I of reading and expounding this blessed book.
But this is not all: something more than reading and hearing is necessary, in order to win the prize of this blessing; which is added in these words, “ And keep those things which are written therein." These are not words of course, but describe some very high degree in the school of Christ; as is manifest from the words of the demonstrating angel, Rev. xxii. 9: “ I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book.” Now, it is no mean degree to be placed in the same company with the angel of Christ, with his beloved disciple, and with the prophets : and it doth indicate to me this great truth, that under the expression, “ the keeping of the sayings of this book," God doth contain such an act of faith as under our dispensation is parallel with the faith of the prophets under the Old Testament, and of the Apostles under the New ; that this book is the Christian prophecy, to keep which, in every age of the church, will try men's faith, as the faith of Isaiah and Jeremiah and the old prophets were tried.
For in no other way can I find the worthiness of coupling those who keep it with the ancient prophets and with John. I do see, moreover, in this use of the expression by the demonstrating angel, that another great truth is taught us ; namely, That as that heavenly angel was Christ's messenger, to proceed forth into the visible spheres, and as John was Christ's messenger to the visible .church, and as the prophets had been God's messengers to the various nations to which they were sent, so those who keep the sayings of this book should be his messengers to the generations of men, in the midst of which they should be called. For how otherwise could there be any fellowship of service between them and the angels ? It is not a fellowship of mere dignity, but a fellowship of dignity arising from the commonness of the service. “I am fellow-servant of thine, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the sayings of this book.” Between the angel, the apostle, the prophets, and the keepers of the sayings of this book, there must be a community of service : and this is the principle which we would lay hold of for explaining what is signified by the word “ keeping ;" for there is no difficulty in the other words, “ the things written therein." Keeping must signify such a conservation and preservation of it in our hearts, as that no power, visible or invisible, shall be able to bereave us of the faith thereof, or prevent us from expressing and acting thereupon. He riseth into the noble degree of a conservator of this prophecy's integrity, who is not ashamed of the testimony thereof, nor hesitates to express his belief, by referring to this book, but rather seeks occasion so to do, and finds pleasure when such an occasion arrives. What will ye say to this, my heedless brethren, who look askance upon every thing which deriveth itself from this dubious source ?--Oh my God! when these thy promises I meditate upon, I seem to niyself to have done no adequate honour to this blessed book; and in time to come I ask thy grace to enable me both to be inore faithful and bold for thy sake, and for the sake of a headless, unbelieving generation of men. -Now that I see the power and meaning of this blessing; I will serve thee for the inheritance of it: by keeping the prophecy, and ever declaring it, I will humbly seek to attain the good degree of being a warning voice, a prophetic voice to the people where thou castest my lot. And, oh! make this word of thy servant to enkindle in many hearts the glorious ambition of being fellow-servants with the prophets, and with the apostles, and with the angel which shewed these things !- If now I be asked to give some more particular description of what the blessing here promised is, and why such ones should only partake thereof, this will appear in the other part of this sanction,
which is the reason of it expressed by these words, “ for the time is at hand;" and in the parallel passage by these words, “ Behold I come quickly.”
The reason why the coming of Christ is described as being about to be in a short time, we have explained under the second head, by shewing that this is merely a relative expression of which God only can judge the propriety, who knoweth the times and seasons before appointed; and that seeing he hath chosen thus always to speak, men had better not cavil but meekly reverence his word: but why this speedy coming should be in both cases connected with the blessing, is another question upon which we have an observation or two to make, in order completely to elucidate the nature of this sanction. For my part, I can see no connection between the blessedness of keeping the sayings of this book and the coming of Christ, except in believing that the blessedness which cometh with him, shall in some way or other fall to the lot of those who are full of the perusal and the faith of this revelation of Jesus Christ. And if this book be written, according as its name bears, on express purpose to unfold the coming of Jesus Christ, it is but reasonable to believe that without careful heed to its instruction, that glorious event will drop out of our mind. For if the church might keep that blessed event in mind, without the constant help of this book, why was it given, and why hath it in its name embodied the claim to do this thing which no other book of Scripture doth claim to do, namely, To shew unto God's servants the coming of Jesus Christ? I am the more confirmed in this opinion, that the blessedness here spoken of is no vague nor general good, but the particular good attendant upon the hope and realized in the coming of Christ, by two considerations: the first, That the blessing of Christ's second advent is always described as pertaining to those who look for him, to those who watch for his coming, to those who are ready to receive him with oil in their lamps, to those who are keeping their garments, &c.
Whereas the miserable judgments of that awful event are described as alighting upon all others who are not filled with this glorious hope. And, as if to shew us that it depends upon no other thing whatever, those taken into glory and those left to shame, are represented as being in all other respects