« PreviousContinue »
of dominion, for which reason the two known, and in Scripture frequently recognized forms of it, are associated together in one symbol.
The compound symbol, viewed in this light, is a beautiful one.
Four living-creatures, emblems of the temporal dominion of the saints, bear up the throne of God; four and twenty elders, emblems of their ecclesiastical dominion, are seated round about it as counsellors, having on their heads crowns of gold. The living-creatures develop, in consistency with this their distinctive character, the portraitures of the four great dominions of the prophecy, and give unto the seven angels the vials of the last plagues of judgment. They are thus, in this last act, instrumental in procuring the temporal victory of the kingdom of God over temporal enemies. The vials destroy the whole temporal power of the enemy. The elders, true to the priestly office, explain to John the mysteries of the visions, and teach him what it is necessary for him to know. At the conclusion of the triumphant song raised by all creation, the living-creatures say, with simple solemnity, Amen : the elders, representatives of the sacerdotal power, fall down and worship him that liveth forever and ever. The perfect homogeneity of the symbol in this distinctive sense of the two members of it, is thus preserved throughout.
This compound symbol is, in the whole form of it, a magnificent one. It forms a perfect representation of dominion, and of the dominion of the saints which bodies itself forth in the highest forms of conceivable dominion, kingship, and priestship with God. The
living creatures, emblems of life, associated throughout Scripture with the throne of God, symbolize it in the one aspect; the four and twenty elders connecting and reaching back to the splendid Mosaic ritual, or, according as the original of the symbol may be held, comprehending the Mosaic and Christian economies together, illustrate it under the other; the joint combination of the rays of light that issue from the glowing cherubim, on the one hand, and the whiterobed, gold-crowned elders, on the other, give a splendor of imagery which is at once dazzling and sublime.
But in the blaze of light there is a mystic diamond that sparkles. What is this? It is the combination of the symbolic numbers four and seven. Four is the number of dominion, and SEVEN is the number of perfection, the multiplication of these numbers together forms TWENTY-EIGHT, the combined number of the living-creatures and the elders. This is a jewel of powerful symbolic lustre. It radiates intensely. The same idea is expressed in the numbers which is contained in the symbols: a perfect representation of dominion is made, or rather, the representation of a perfect dominion. The symbolic sense of the numbers is, at the same time, in eminent harmony with the distinctive sense of each of the symbols. Four is the number of dominion, and it is assigned to the living.creatures, which symbolize the temporal dominion of the saints; four and twenty bears an ecclesiastical association, and it is appropriated to the elders. The combination of both numbers describes A PERFECT
DOMINION with the strongest symbolic emphasis, as temporal and spiritual, fourfold and sevenfold.
The symbol thus contains a whole volume of allusion, and of this volume the first page is in Genesis. and the last and the most profusely lettered and adorned in the Revelation. Proof of that unity of design which displays itself in the Bible of the Great Revealer !
OFFICE OF THE LIVING-CREATURES AS HERALDS OF THE
The words uttered by the four living-creatures, “Come and see,” will be found to afford an important clue to the structure of the prophecy.
What is the reason that the four beasts, or livingcreatures, say to John, in reference to the pictures of the first four seals, “ Come and see”? This is an invitation which is addressed to him solely in reference to these pictures. Why is the invitation inade to him to come and see” these pictures, and not others?
This question is one which has been passed over in silence by the greater number of commentators on the book, as if it were a question not to be asked; and whenever an answer has been attempted to it, such a one has invariably been rendered as to refute itself, either by its being really no answer, or being an ab
Yet a sensible and solid answer must be given to it. It cannot be denied that it is an important question in the consideration of this allegory.
The fact, that the four living-creatures call the prophet's attention to four pictures, cannot be held otherwise than a feature of no small significancy. Nay, it may reasonably be presumed to be, that very feature in the book which we may with justice conceive is, more than any other, designed to develop the prophet's plan and the structure of his piece. What is the main element in the structure of the prophecy? It is, undoubtedly, the delivery of it in a seven-sealed book. Now four living-creatures call the prophet's attention to four pictures in this book. Can this be held to be a feature void of meaning? The natural as well as legitimate conclusion would be, that it has an all-important significancy.
The only conceivable reason that commentators have neglected this important feature in the structure of the piece, and have refused to avail themselves of the aid which it lends in the interpretation, is, that they have been incapable of accounting for it, that is, of giving any reason for its being there, or assigning any meaning to it. Judicious commentators have thought it better neither to attempt nor pretend to give any solution of what was to them inexplicable. They have accordingly passed it over sicco pede. Other commentators, again, with a more daring fancy and less judgment, have ventured on explanations which are either frivolous or absurd. The answer to the above question, then, will solve an important, perhaps the most important, problem in the book; and it will remove what has hitherto been a dark spot in the interpretation. The prophecy of John can
with no justice be said to be explained, so long as the meaning of that which must have been designed is undiscovered. It will, however, in our estimation, do much more than remove darkness; it will kindle light. It will unveil a secret lamp which the prophet has set in this place, which has escaped the attention of all commentators, but which is nevertheless there, as we apprehend, trimmed and ready for burning. To this lamp we shall now endeavor to apply the flame, and we shall scarcely fail to see that its beains throw a steady light over the whole prophecy.
There are two methods of interpreting allegorical composition, the one of which, and we regret to say the worst of which, has been more generally followed than the other. These are those giant means of prosecuting truth, which are known as the deductive and the inductive methods of investigation.
By the former, premises are laid down and deductions are drawn from these. It is the worst of all means for ascertaining the true sense of a symbolical composition, since in the hands of a skilful or ingenious reasoner, almost any interpretation, however unfounded, may be made to wear the aspect of verisimilitude. It has been applied, to a large extent, to the book of Revelation, and it has conduced, along with the misapplication of the inductive process already commented on, to such a multiplicity of senses, as to afford very little prospect of arriving through it at the truth. It has accordingly been nearly as fruitless in ascertaining the true meaning of the Word of God, so far as contained in this prophecy, as till