Revelation 8
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
There was silence... half an hour. No one certainly knows what these words mean. Every one can see that they tell of a pause, an interval between the opening of the seventh seal and the sounding of the first of those trumpets of which this eighth chapter mainly speaks. It may be - as one great expositor suggests - that during that Lord's day in which St. John was in the Spirit, and during which he saw in stately procession the series of magnificent visions, or heard, one following the other, the varied voices which spoke - it may have been that for about half an hour of that thrice holy day no voice, whether from the throne, or from the living ones, or from the holy angels, or from the multitude of the redeemed, or from the distracted and despairing enemies of God, was heard. All was still, still as is often the half hour before the thunderstorm bursts. As before the rattling peal, and the lightning flash, and the tornado of rain and wind, there is a hush, the air all but motionless, no movement anywhere, not even the rustling of a leaf or the swaying of the corn, a solemn pause as if the elements were gathering up their strength preparatory to the rush and rage of the tempest that is so soon to break; so here, all that had preceded, the visions and voices of which the former chapters tell, so awful and soul subduing as many of them were, seem to have said to all the inhabitants of heaven, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Angel and the four cherubim, martyred saint and redeemed multitude, - all are still. "There was silence in heaven." We venture not to affirm what exact events in the history of the Church, or of the world as it affected the Church, are pointed at by this silence; conjectures, several most ingenious and interesting, have been made by this interpreter and that, but who out of them all is right? or if any of them be so, who can say? The key to the complete unlocking of the symbols of this book seems either to have been host, or at any rate put aside for the present. But we can readily see that there was good reason for the silence spoken of. As the judgments of God went on, blow after blow falling upon the cruel enemies of the Church; as the righteous wrath of God arose and overwhelmed the persecutors of his people; - must not they who beheld all this have felt that in the presence of such manifestations of God speech and all utterance were out of place? What could they do but "be silent before the Lord, for he was raised up out of his holy habitation"? And besides this solemn awe, what wonder and amazement there must have been at the overthrow of their seemingly invincible toes! Think of the power of Rome only at this period. Her laws were administered from Britain to the Euphrates, from the Baltic to the equator. She was the incarnation of earthly power. And there would be also the silence of adoring, worshipful love. That amid all that wild fury of bloodshed and destruction God had known how to deliver and preserve his own. And there would be the silence of expectation, of eager intent, gazing forward to see what next would be revealed. As men hold their breath, and their hearts almost stand still, and their lips utter no word, in presence of some near anticipated terror, so here - there was silence like to that. And though we cannot explain it, yet is this silence in heaven very suggestive to us here on earth. Once and again, when our Lord marked some glaring fault in those about him, he would rebuke it by holding up the contrast which was presented in heaven. When, for example, the scribes and Pharisees murmured at his receiving sinners, our Lord told them that in heaven there was joy over one sinner repenting. And so amid the din and clatter of this noisy age, and men loving to have it so, it is well to be reminded that in heaven there became silence for a while. For that which had place in heaven has much need to have place here. We sing -

"In sacred silence of the mind,
My heaven, and there my God, I find." But it is to be questioned if many believe this. Therefore they seldom cease what Carlyle calls "that chaotic hubbub, in which their souls run to waste." "Out of silence," he adds, "comes thy strength. Speech is silvern, silence is golden; speech is human, silence is Divine." The absence of it causes much mischief. Therefore we plead for the following of the heavenly example here told of - for intervals of quiet, for times of silence, for seasons of meditation, reflection, thought. It is well there should be the "Selah" - the pause, which we so often are directed to in the psalms. Our Lord sets us the example. He was wont to secure such seasons by his retirement to mountains and groves, where all night he would commune with God. For lack of such silences moral fibre is weakened. If a locomotive is to do its work, it must cease its noisy letting off steam. Great talkers are rarely great doers. Words waste strength. How often our Lord strictly charged those whom he had healed not to go and talk about it! The temptation to do so would be great, but if yielded to all the spiritual blessing would be lost. Hence he so "straitly charged them." Little good - so the 'Pilgrim's Progress' tells us - was got out of the Mr. Talkative of whom the book tells. But silence stores up strength. And the Spirit's work is hindered. How often the birds, which our Saviour said snatched away the good seed which had been sown - how often they take the form of idle foolish talk, which, entered into at the very doors of the sanctuary, render hopeless all prospect of holy impression being retained or good purpose fulfilled! The Lord was wont to take people aside when he would bless them. It is so now. And when men would resist the Spirit they shun these silent seasons. The accusers of the woman taken in adultery could not endure the Lord's silence, his answering them not a word, and hence they heap their questions upon him, and demand an answer; for any answer would be less terrible than that dread silence. Would we grow in grace, such silences are essential. The habit of retreat, of quiet before God, must be cultivated. All growth is silent. Who hears the springing of the corn, the unfolding of the flower, the increase of the body in stature? And so is it with the growth of the soul. Like the noiseless building of Solomon's temple, of which Heber sings -

"No hammer fell, no ponderous axes rung;
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung." And so in the building up of spiritual character, in growth in grace, silence, stillness, must be secured. Spiritual worship is silent in its essence, though not in expression. Submission is silent. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it" (Psalm 39.). So was it with Aaron, "the saint of the Lord;" when in one awful judgment stroke he saw his two ungodly sons smitten dead, it is told that he uttered not a word. Knowledge of God demands silence. "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." We must be still would we know God to be God. He is not in the earthquake, nor the fire, but in the still small voice. O blessed silence, O grace and might of holy quietness, sweet stillness of the soul, in which the footfall of God is heard, and his voice speaks joy, and the angels of patience and hope visit us, and Faith renews her strength!

"Silent Spirit, dwell with me;
I myself would silent be." And to encourage us to seek these quiet hours, how often does God take us apart from the noise and rush, the everlasting din and bustle, of our common life! Seasons of sickness are designed to be such times of silent retreat, when we may "commune with" our "own heart upon our bed, and be still," and so have leisure to attend to the life within. Sabbaths, these days of the Lord in which we should be, as St. John was, "in the Spirit," are they not God's messengers to us, saying, "Rest; be silent from thy common speech, thy common work; meditate on things eternal; let there be pause in the activities of thy daily life; imitate as best thou canst the season of silence of the saints in heaven"? And the unseen world, the place of the departed, that intermediate condition in which till the resurrection the souls of believers rest, this also is merely another divinely given retreat for the soul - a going down into silence, as the psalm calls it. White robes are theirs (see Revelation 5.), which tell of the love of God to them, and that they are cleansed in the blood of Christ, and rest, quiet, calm, in the presence of the Lord. Sleep for all the bodily powers, but not for the soul. That - now that the once busy hands and feet are at rest, and the heart throbs no more, and the tongue utters no word, none, though often we here long

"For the touch of a vanished hand,
For the sound of a voice that is still" - that now lives unto God, where "he hath hid his beloved in his pavilion from the strife of tongues." There, the Martha-like activity over, we may, like Mary, sit at the Master's feet and share in that "good part," as here on earth was but rarely possibl

The process of the conquest of evil is varied. It is now by severity of judgment, now by the gentleness of mild rebuke or moderated chastisement. Again the voice of the teacher arrests attention, and the appeals of truth stimulate to righteousness. Hidden behind all is the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, working all things according to the counsel of his holy will. His hand is unseen, and the revelation is needed to show and assure men that there is a Divine power at work, though it be hidden. The revelation of the Divine judgments against evil has thus its high purpose apart from the purposes answered by those judgments themselves. Throughout the whole the cry may well arise, "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof." The purposes contemplated by the pictorial representations congregate mainly, if not exclusively, around the Church - the smitten, suffering, enduring Church. The earthly powers, waging their warfare under the leadership of the prince of evil, Apollyon the Destroyer, do not read the holy books. They are truly sealed books to them. And the imagery is only to be interpreted by the Church when she is driven by the persecuting oppressive power of the world to seek consolation. The purpose then concerns the Church mainly, if not exclusively; and we may conceive that purpose to be achieved -

I. IN THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE CHURCH TO PATIENT ENDURANCE. For the Name of the great Lord the believing people suffered much. They were weak in presence of their so great foes. Only the assurance of a final triumph could embolden them to endure patiently.

II. IN THE SUPPORT OF THE CHURCH IN ITS HOLY WARFARE AGAINST THE OPPOSING EARTHLY SPIRIT. Fierce indeed was the conflict, and again and again it is so; but throughout the whole shines the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. His eye is open upon the sufferers, and his aid is pledged for their defence.

III. IN WARNING THE FAITHFUL AGAINST THE EVILS OF APOSTASY. Great are the subtle powers which seek to undermine and sap the fidelity of the godly. Only by many means, of which this is one, can the obedient host be stimulated to faithfulness.

IV. The end is further reached IN THE DEEP AND ABIDING COMFORT OF THE SORROWFUL BELIEVERS in all their antagonism to evil and to the worldly power which is set against them. - R.G.

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour, etc. This portion of the dream of John, like other portions, has Jewish elements of thought brought into strange and grotesque combinations. In dreams there are no new objects or elements of thought or emotion, but old ones brought into unique forms by an ungoverned imagination. Whilst they are evermore difficult, if not impossible to interpret, they are at all times available for the illustrating and impressing of truth. The words may be fairly taken to illustrate soul silence. "There was [followed] silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." That is, silence for a time. It is suggested -

I. THAT SOUL SILENCE OFTEN FOLLOWS GREAT EXCITEMENT. The opening of the seals, the unfolding of the wonderful dispensations of the Divine government up to the close of the world's history, must have excited the feelings and strained the faculties of the spectators to an unusual intensity. The soul lake was no longer without a ripple; it was heaved into swelling surges. It is ever so in soul life; after great tumult there comes a calm. This is always and pre-eminently the case with the genuinely faithful and holy. From the storms of remorse, secular anxieties, and social bereavements, the soul of the genuinely Christly rises into a "peace that passeth all understanding." In truth, in the case of all regenerate souls, great excitement is often the condition of peace and tranquillity. It is not until the storms of moral conviction become so terrible that the spirit cries out, "Lord, save, or I perish!" that the omnific voice, "Peace, be still!" will take effect, and there comes a "great calm." Blessed silence this! How grand is such a silence! It is the highest gift of man, nay, Divinity itself.

"How grand is Silence! In her tranquil deeps
What mighty things are born! Thought, Beauty, Faith,
All good; - bright Thought, which springeth forth at once,
Like sudden sunrise; Faith, the angel eyed,

Who takes her rest beside the heart of man,
Serene and still; eternal Beauty, crown'd
With flowers, that with the changing seasons change;
And good of all kinds. Whilst the babbling verse

Of the vain poet frets its restless way,
In stately strength the sage's mind flows on,
Making no noise: - and so, when clamorous crowds
Rush forth, or tedious wits waken the senate-house,

Or some fierce actor stamps upon his stage,
With what a gentle foot doth silent Time
Steal on his everlasting journey!"

(Barry Cornwall)

II. THAT SOUL SILENCE IS OFTEN FOUND ABSORBING WORSHIP. "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets," etc. Here begins a new series of visions. The seven trumpets follow the seven seals, and this series extends to the close of the eleventh chapter. The "seven trumpets" are given to the seven angels or ministers that stand in the presence of God. But it is not with these seven angels or messengers that we have now to do; they will engage our attention further on. Our concern at present is with the angel connected with the altar - "the angel that stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer [add] it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne." This symbolical representation of worship is derived from the Jewish temple, and it may illustrate to us the fact:

1. That the prayers of saints on earth are of great practical interest in the spiritual universe.

(1) They are offerings that are acceptable to its Supreme Ruler. "And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God." True prayer is acceptable to the Infinite Father.

(2) In rendering them acceptable to God, his highest spiritual ministers are deeply engaged. Here is an angel standing towards the altar with a golden censer, receiving incense that he might give it "with the prayers of all saints." Elsewhere, in numerous passages of Holy Writ, angels are represented as rendering spiritual assistance to good men. May they not be constantly doing so by inbreathing those heavenly thoughts that will inspire the soul with the holiest devotions?

2. That the prayers of saints on earth exert an influence on the things of time. We are told, "the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were [followed] voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake." The prayers have gone up, and the sprinkling of the ashes earthward symbolize their effects on the earth. What convulsions, what revolutions, the prayers of the saints have effected on this earth ere now! and what they effect now they wilt continue to do. Now, in the midst of all this devotion there would seem to be a period of silence. The profoundest hush, the deepest silence of the soul, are found in worship. Here all its faculties work harmoniously, and all its sympathies flow as a deep river without a ripple on its surface. "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." The realization of the Divine Presence can never fail to hush the soul into profound tranquillity, and in this tranquillity its grandest possibilities germinate and grow. "Silence," says an illustrious thinker, "is the element in which great things fashion themselves together, that at length they may emerge full formed and majestic into the daylight of life which they are thenceforward to rule."

III. THAT SOUL SILENCE OFTEN SPRINGS FROM HIGH EXPECTANCY. "And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." And as the angels raised their trumpets to their mouths ready to blow, a breathless expectancy would be excited. In earnest waiting there is generally silence - waiting for the last breath of a friend, waiting for the verdict of a jury which decides the deliverance or the destruction of a human life. Holy souls that now witnessed the scene of the trumpets about to utter a blast felt that great things were coming, that stupendous events were rolling up on the wheels of Providence, and there was "silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." What wonderful things are before us all! Were we all earnestly waiting for these things, waiting for the "manifestation of the sons of God," waiting the advent of him who is to wind up the affairs of the world, how silent should we be! - D.T.

And I saw the seven angels. These holy beings are continually spoken of in Scripture, and in no book of the Bible more frequently or emphatically than in this. From their first mention in connection with the touching story of Hagar and her child, which we read of in Genesis, down to their constant ministry, now of mercy, now of terror, which we read of in these closing pages of the Bible, we are continually meeting with references to them. It, therefore, cannot but be important to us to understand what we may on this most interesting but most mysterious subject. For we cannot think that their work and ministry are finished, and that now they have nothing to do with us, nor we with them. We feel sure that the reverse is the truth. True, there has been much of mere imagination in the representations that have been given of angels by poets and painters both. They have been the makers of men's common ideas concerning angels, and have caused not a little misunderstanding and misreading of the Scriptures on this theme. Jewish fables and legends of various kinds have been mingled with the plain teaching of God's Word, and hence the whole subject has come to be wrapped in a haze of difficulty and doubt, leading, in many cases, to complete denial of the existence of angels at all. But a careful study of the Scriptures will show that the truth as to the angels is one full of consolation and of sacred impulse; of solemn warning also; in short, that it is part of that truth which is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof," etc. Consider -

I. THE REALITY OF THE ANGELIC WORLD. And there can be no doubt but that

1. The Scriptures plainly assert it. They are spoken of there in clear and positive manner as to their high dignity, their sanctity, their power, their blessedness, their heavenly home, their employments, their vast numbers, and their immortality. All this is told of the holy angels. But there are evil angels likewise, who are represented as serving under their prince Satan, as the holy angels serve under God. They are evil and wretched, and full of all malignity and wickedness.

2. And all this is not mere accommodation, on the part of the Scriptures, to popular ideas and beliefs. This has been long and loudly asserted. No doubt there were all manner of strange beliefs on the subject of the spirit world. The ancients peopled the universe around with all kinds of strange inhabitants, and the Jews were only less credulous on these matters than the heathen around. Hence it is said that our Lord and his apostles accommodated themselves to these ideas, and represented the various facts of nature and providence as if angels or demons were employed about them, but not teaching that such actually was the case. But this theory has only to be stated for its untenableness immediately to appear. And the plain teaching of Scripture would have been more readily received had not poets and painters - those mighty manufacturers of so much, and manifold, and often mischievous mistake - persisted in always representing angels in one way - beautiful youths with wings. Milton is very great upon their wings. But the result of this has been to relegate the whole doctrine of angels to the region of myth and imagination, and to rob the Church of the comfort and help the real truth as it is given in the Bible would afford. The fancies and fables of heathendom were but one more out of the many instances in which, as St. Paul describes them, they were feeling after the truth.

3. And why should there be any doubt as to the reality of angels? Is not all life, from the lowest zoophyte up to the most gifted of the sons of men, one continual ascent? But why should the progression halt with us? why should there not be an ascent beyond, as there is up to, ourselves? All analogy leads us to think there is, and to be on the look out and expectation for orders of beings that may span the vast distance which must forever separate us and God. The Bible and analogy confirm one another. But a more important and difficult inquiry relates to -

II. THEIR NATURE, ORIGIN, AND HISTORY. Who and what are they?

1. Much has been assumed concerning them, but resting on very slender foundations; as:

(1) That they existed long before the creation of man, in vast throngs, sinless and blessed, in attendance upon God.

(2) That they were altogether different in nature from man.

(3) That some of them kept not their first estate, and hence are reserved in chains unto the judgment of the great day.

(4) That Satan, their chief, dared to rival God, and with his confederates to "defy the Omnipotent to arms." Milton represents Satan as telling how God -

"... to be avenged,
And to repair his numbers thus impaired,
Whether such virtue, spent of old, now failed
More angels to create (if they at least
Are his created) or to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature formed of earth, and him endue
With heavenly spoils (our spoils)." But may it not be that:

2. Angels are perfected men - " the spirits of the just made perfect"? Young, the author of the 'Night Thoughts,' thus sets forth this belief -

"Why doubt we, then, the glorious truth to sing?
Angels are men of a superior kind;
Angels are men in lighter habit clad,
High o'er celestial mountains winged in flight,
And men are angels loaded for an hour,
Who wade this miry vale and climb with pain
And slippery step, the bottom of the steep." But on such a theme as this we want Scripture, and not poetry, to tell us what we are to believe; and from Scripture we gather:

(1) That there is no being higher in nature than man except God himself. For man was created in the image and likeness of God. Now, is an angel more than this? Could he be more without being God? Hence, however blessed and glorious the condition of angels may be, in nature they are not and cannot be higher than man.

(2) And if they be a different order of beings from men, beings of another nature and kind, why, then, were men created at all? If the motive of our heavenly Father in creating man was, as we believe it to have been, to gather round him a race of pure, holy, happy beings, his children, on whom he might lavish his love, and in whose blessed companionship he might forever rejoice; if there were already such a race of beings in existence, why was man formed? Why was he made to pass through all the manifold miseries of this life, its unnumbered sins and sorrows, if already there were an infinite host who from the first were already what man can only become after so many and so great struggles and trials and cares? If all the sanctity and blessedness of the angelic character could exist without all man's preliminary sorrow, for what reason, then, was unhappy man created? But if, on the other hand, it be true that there is no other entrance to the angelic state than this weary life of ours, and if in order that we may be angels it is necessary that we first be men, then the mystery of life, often so mournful a mystery, has some light shed upon it, and we can bear it more patiently. But if all that man is to be could be attained without his trials, as on the common belief in regard to angels it could, then, may we not ask, "To what purpose is this waste?"

(3) These angels are in Scripture called men. See the angel that wrestled with Jacob; that appeared to Joshua, to Manoah; the three angels that came to Abraham, are called "the three men;" the angel that appeared as a writer to Ezekiel and passim both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

(4) And there is no proof that they were only men in appearance and not in reality. Why should they not be what in appearance and name they seem to be?

(5) And our Lord said that in the resurrection we shall be "as the angels." And in the Epistle to the Hebrews we are said to have "come to... myriads of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn,... and to the spirits of the just made perfect." But do not these three expressions tell of different facts in connection with, not different, but the same persons? Certainly "the spirits of just men made perfect" are the same as "the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn," and if so, they are the same as the "myriads of angels."

3. And all this is not set aside by the statements in 2 Peter and in the Epistle of Jude. In both these Epistles it is said that God "spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down into hell." It is on these statements, amplified and enlarged by Milton and others, that the popular belief is based. But it is to be noted that the two statements in these Epistles are but copies one of another or of some common document. Place the passages side by side, and this will be evident, the writer of 2 Peter probably copying from Jude. And it is not to be forgotten that the canonical authority of these two Epistles is the least and lowest of all the Scriptures. But even were it not so, the source whence their statements on this question are taken is well known. They are a quotation from the apocryphal Book of Enoch - a book of no authority and little worth, but which was familiar to those to whom these Epistles were written; and, hence, illustrations drawn from it, whether true or not, would serve the writers' purpose, and are therefore made use of. It therefore cannot be allowed that these two isolated statements - though they are one rather than two, and of such doubtful authority - should set aside what Scripture and reason alike teach on this most interesting theme.

CONCLUSION. See some of the consequences of this understanding concerning the angels.

1. The future life becomes far more real to us. For now that we have identified the angels, as we think has been done, with "the spirits of just men made perfect," we are delivered from that vagueness of idea as to those who have gone away from us through their having died in the Lord. They are no longer formless, incorporeal, unimaginable beings, mist and cloud-like rather than human, but we know that it is as the disciples believed - the angel, the spirit of their Master resembled him. His resurrection body did resemble his former material body so that he could be recognized as we know he was.

2. And we know some of the occupations of that heavenly state. So long as we regarded angels as a different order of beings from redeemed men, we could not regard their work as that which one day shall be ours. But looking upon them as ourselves as "we shall be," we can see what vast store of holy employ and sacred service awaits us. See their manifold service as shown in this chapter only. Heaven is not an everlasting sitting on "green and flowery mounts," an "eternity of the tabor," as one has described it, but a life of holy and blessed service for God and for man. - S.C.

To them were given seven trumpets. Many instruments of music are mentioned in the Bible, but the trumpet is the one that stands out prominent amidst them all. There are stringed instruments, of which the chief is the harp; and there are those whose sound is produced by striking the stretched skin of which they are made, as the cymbals; but none are named so frequently as the trumpet. In Numbers 10:1-10 there are given express commands for their construction, and throughout the Bible, from the giving of the Law at Sinai down to the sounding of the last trump, and this vision of the seven trumpets, we continually meet with them. We are, therefore, justified in attaching significance to them and regarding them as symbolizing truths God would have us learn. For he commanded both their making and their use. They played a prominent part in connection with the divinely ordained worship both of the tabernacle and the temple, and the whole land of Israel echoed at divinely appointed seasons with their spirit-stirring notes. A glance at a concordance will show bow constantly and on what occasions they were used. What, therefore, may we learn from them? They teach -

I. GOD HAS A MESSAGE FOR US. Had they been a merely man-devised instrument, we could not have said this; but when we find that they were adopted by God in his service, we cannot err in regarding their clear, loud notes as telling of his message and will. And, in fact, they were used to indicate to Israel the advent of seasons of worship - the new year, the new moon, the jubilee, and other occasions when God commanded his people to render special service. And these special messages remind us of God's great message to mankind, which he has given to us in his Word. He has not left us unthought of, uncared for, uninformed. It was not likely that he would. He has made known to us his will.

II. THE MANNER OF THAT MESSAGE. Such truths as these are suggested by this trumpet-symbol.

1. How urgent! The trumpet blast was startling, arousing; its clear, loud note penetrated the dullest ear, and reached those afar off, and forced all to listen. And such message of urgency God's Word brings to us. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead!" - so it speaks to us. "How shall we escape if we neglect," etc.? It is no mere matter of indifference, but life and death hang upon it. And:

2. How warlike! The trumpet note was emphatically the music of war. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:14) represents as a blessed condition not then attainable, and a land all unlike his own, "where we shall hear no sound of trumpet." And in this vision of the seven trumpets war is their most prominent meaning. And thus we are reminded of our Lord's words, "I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword." God's Word is a battle summons, a call to "fight the good fight of faith." It is what we do not like, but which we must accept, would we share those rewards which are given "to him that overcometh."

3. How terrible! The hosts of Midian fled in dismay when the blast of Gideon's trumpet burst on their startled ears. Terror seized on them and made them an easy prey. And in this chapter it is the terribleness of the judgments of God upon his enemies which the seven trumpets tell of. And God's Word is terrible to those who know him not. The Bible is a dreadful book to the impenitent man when awakened, as one day he will be, to his real condition before God. It is like the prophet's scroll to him, written within and without, of sorrow, lamentation, and woe. To the froward it shows itself froward. But:

4. How animating to the hearts of the people of God! The trumpet, like the loud cheering of troops as they dash forward in the fight, heartens them; and the trumpet sound was designed to do this. And God's Word is full of heart-cheering truth to all them that trust in him. And:

5. How joyful was the sound when it proclaimed, as so often the trumpet did, the advent of some glad festival, some "acceptable year of the Lord," the jubilee especially! And in the Feast of Tabernacles the general hilarity was heightened by the frequent sounding of the silver trumpets by the priests. "Blessed are the people that hear the joyful sound" - this is said of God's message of grace, and such joyful sound is the characteristic note of the gospel. And:

6. flow irresistible is the trumpet sound! The lofty massive walls of Jericho fell down fiat before the trumpet blast. The dead, so insensible to all else, shall hear that call; "for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised." "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." And so today where God's Word comes in power, dead hearts are roused and sleepers awake. O blessed power of God's Word, that it will, it must, have obedience rendered to it! "He speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it stands fast." But if resisted now - as too often it is - the obedience that will have to be rendered at the last will be to the word, "Depart, ye cursed!" But now it bids us "come." Let us hear that. - S.C.

A new series - another - opens upon the view of the holy seer. These are scenes in which is symbolically represented the method by which the Divine providence will execute those sovereign purposes which are specially contemplated in the redemption of the persecuted Church in its struggle with the various developments of evil in the world. Not always does evil present itself as an antagonistic power. It is soft, subtle, and alluring, drawing the feet of the unwary believer into ruinous paths by "the baits of pleasing ill." This aspect comes into prominence in the course of the revelation. But, as the book is an unfolding of the methods of conquest in all the conditions of danger, so now those which relate to the progressive triumph of the truth of the providential chastisements, are set in order. The space over which the sounding of the trumpets reaches is great; the seventh in Revelation 11. declaring, as in other places, the final triumph, and so completely rounding another setting forth of the one idea of the book - the triumph of Messiah, "conquering, and to conquer." Another series of "seven" is before us - "seven angels," having "seven trumpets;" but "another angel" is first and intermediately present, having a golden censer, with the incense of which mingles "the prayers of the saints." Afterwards, from the same censer, coals of fire are taken and cast on the earth, and "thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake" follow. They are represented to us in vast cosmical changes, the disturbances of the affairs of men in answer to the cry for judgment. But the judgement of the Lord need not always be of severity - certainly the end of the Lord is to be very pitiful. Mercy, redemption, recovery, salvation, blessing, are the ultimate ends in view. Thus must all be interpreted. The lesson taught is the certain Divine response to humble prayer. Here the Church finds -

I. ENCOURAGEMENT TO PERSEVERING INTERCESSION on behalf of the ungodly and unsubdued world.

II. A MOTIVE TO PATIENT ENDURANCE of the antagonism which evilness always suggests. Evil is at enmity against righteousness, even though it be not violent in its methods.

III. A HELP TO FAITH. Faith has respect to the promise of God, and beholds its fulfilment. Here the setting forth of the Divine response to prayer becomes the cheering encouragement to perseverance.

IV. A STIMULUS TO UNWEARIED LABOUR. If the certainty of success is not the ground of faith, it is its appropriate stimulus. Thus is the Church in all ages to be cheered. - R.G.

The vision of the opening of the seven seals is completed. We are not told what took place when the seventh seal was opened, only that then there was a solemn pause - " silence in heaven for half an hour." Alter the opening of the sixth seal the progress of events was interrupted, that the mark and impress of God might be put upon the Israel of God - those out of the Jewish nation who were to be delivered out of the impending judgments. Then was shown, also, the beatific vision of the great multitude of the saved out of all nations. Then comes the opening of the seventh seal (ver. 1); but of its contents we have no record; perhaps in this world we never shall have. We are told only of the "silence" that ensued. That silence may point to the blessed calm of heaven, where God hides his people "in his pavilion from the strife of tongues." And also to the amazement and fear which had fallen on the foes of the Church, a little while before so loud and fierce, now so still in awful fear. And now begins a new series of visions, not succeeding the former in order of time, but parallel and simultaneous, and running up to the same issue. This new series is that of the seven trumpets. Seven angels are seen to whom the trumpets are given, but ere they sound there is seen that of which these verses (3-6) tell - the angel at the golden altar, the altar of incense which stood before the throne. To this angel is given much incense, which he mingles with that which is already on the altar. This vision is not alone mysterious, but full of interest and instruction. It teaches us much concerning prayer.

I. THAT IT IS CHARACTERISTIC OF ALL SAINTS. God's holy ones, his saints, all of them pray. Their prayers are represented as being on the altar before the throne. There are none of the holy ones whose prayers are not there. Prayer is common to them all. "Behold, he prayeth," was the Lord's unanswerable argument to Ananias, that Saul the persecutor was really converted. And it is ever a sign that a man belongs to the company of the "holy ones," the saints.

II. THEY ALL PRAY IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Their prayers are on the altar. The altar sacrifice ever tells of Christ and of his perfect sacrifice, the ground of all our hopes, the source of all our salvation, and the basis of all our prayers. And hence the prayers of all saints are represented as resting on the altar, as the incense, type of all such prayers (ver. 8), rests thereon. The name of Christ may not be uttered in word, but when any appeal to God as he is made known to us only in Christ, and especially in Christ on the cross, and when they pray in the spirit - the lowly, meek, trusting spirit - of Christ, then, though his blessed name may not be mentioned, their prayers are really in his name, and find acceptance thereby. The Lord's prayer does not name Christ, but assuredly it is a prayer in his name. And thus all true prayer is in him, and rests on the altar of his sacrifice.

III. THAT THE BLESSED ONES IN HEAVEN JOIN THEIR PRAYERS WITH OURS. There is a communion of saints. Great question has arisen as to who the angel was that is seen in this vision, standing at the altar with much incense. Some, as Hengstenberg, affirm that he represents no one; that he is to be regarded as having no symbolical significance, but as only belonging to the form, not the substance, of the vision. Others, the Church of Rome, that he is one of the angel intercessors; and hence is deduced that Church's doctrine of the worship of angels and saints. Others again, Protestants, in order to avoid this doctrine, say the angel is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ; that he is here interceding for his people as he is wont to do. But in this book the Lord Jesus Christ is never called an angel, nor represented as taking the place or form of an angel. Further, the "much incense" is said to be "given to" the angel, just as the trumpets were given to the seven angels. But the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for us, not on the ground of any excellence that is given to him, but on the ground of his own inherent worth, and what he himself has done and suffered on our behalf. He has redeemed us by "his own blood." Furthermore, it is to be noted that that which the angel brings to the altar is the same as that which is already there. Incense is "the prayers of saints," and their prayers are incense. That, therefore, which the angel brings is not something different from what is on the altar, but merely an addition of the same kind. But that which Christ gives to our prayers is a worthiness and acceptableness such as they have not of themselves, and cannot have until given by him. It is by no means the same, but far other as the angel's was not. And the angel brings his incense to the altar, as do the saints themselves; his prayers and theirs are accepted on the same ground. Hence, for these reasons, we cannot regard the angel spoken of here as being the Lord Jesus Christ. But we regard the angel as one of the blessed in the presence of God, one eminent in prayer, one to whom the spirit of grace and supplication had been given in large measure, and so he had "much incense." And he joins on his prayers, unites them with the prayers of all saints. No doubt he had often done so when on earth, and now he does so in heaven. There he had with them besought God to bless and keep his Church in sore peril and distress, and this prayer he continues. Why should this not be? We know the angels sympathize with the people of God on earth. There is joy amongst them over every sinner that repenteth. They, therefore, must know what transpires here, and how can they do otherwise than be in fullest sympathy with the "prayers of all saints"? Can we think that they cease to care for those they loved on earth now that they themselves are in heaven? The mother in heaven for her children left here? Do those who loved on earth lose that love yonder? God forbid! Hence we look on this "angel" as one of the blessed ones who is uniting his much prayer together with that of all saints, and together their prayers, as the streaming cloud of fragrant incense, a sweet odour of acceptableness, rise up before God.

"The saints on earth and all the dead
But one communion make,
All join in Christ their living Head,
And of his grace partake."

IV. SUCH PRAYERS MOVE THE HAND THAT RULES ALL THINGS. The answer of these prayers comes in the form of command - for we must assume such command - to sprinkle the enkindled incense on the earth. Hence the angel takes the golden censer and "fills it with the fire of the altar, and casts it upon the earth." And then at once are heard voices and thunders, and the lightning flash, and earthquakes are seen - signs similar to those with which God came down upon Mount Sinai. So now he is about to interpose in response to the prayers which have been presented to him. And the seven angels prepare themselves to sound, lift their trumpets to their lips, and are about to peal forth their terrible blasts. It is all a vivid picture of the prevalence of the prayers of the people of God. Mighty things are these prayers, weapons of resistless force, fearful for the ungodly when their answer involves the sinner's doom, but blessed always for those who pray. Why do we not avail ourselves far more than we do of this Divine force? This vision bids us pray, pray perseveringly and unitedly, pray in Christ's name; and it shows us the holy ones in heaven praying with us, and how our prayers prevail. Who, then, would not pray? - S.C.

Revelation 8:6-13; 9; 11:14-18

I. ALL THESE TRUMPETS TELL OF WAR. The first six are proclamations of war, and the symbols that follow on their sounding set forth varied aspects of war. The last proclaims war ended and victory won.

II. BUT WHAT WAR? There can be little doubt that, as in all prophetical writings, facts within the immediate or near horizon of the writer form the basis of his predictions, and furnish the groundwork of the great moral and spiritual truths, and of the future historic facts to which, by way of resemblance, they direct our thought. Therefore:

1. The wars of the period in which the writer lived and wrote must be looked to - "the things which are and which are about to happen" (Revelation 1:19) - for the primary explanation of the vivid, mysterious, and manifestly applicable symbols which the visions connected with these seven trumpets present to us. Let Josephus be consulted, and in his pages will be found more than enough to furnish material for all the awful images which we find here. The dread drama of the Jewish war was in full action. The massacres and desolation, the poisoning of the very springs of life, the torture, the inroads of locust-like hordes of Arab, Idumaean, and other armies, - all the appalling horrors which St. John speaks of, were all there; his imagery was ready to hand, and, as an intense Jew, the calamities that befell his people could not but have roused in him deepest sympathy, and made his words burn, and his thoughts glow, as they do in this wonderful book. That he was far removed from the immediate scene of these events would make no difference. And besides the Jewish war, there were the civil wars which were distracting the Roman empire: rebellions and revolts; this general and the other determined to mount the imperial throne, let the cost in bloodshed and the risk be what it might; - such were the surroundings of St. John's life, and to them we primarily look for the explanation of what he says. But we cannot doubt, either, that:

2. The wars which led to the fall of the empire find their foreshadowing here. The historic expositors affirm that these alone are what St. John meant, and that the successive invasions under Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odoacer, and, after them, of the Saracens and Turks, are what is here portrayed. They ask of those who doubt their interpretation, "Now, if it had been intended to predict these events, could they have been more clearly and accurately described?" Certainly the correspondences are close, and the examination of them is so interesting that more sober conclusions are apt to be abandoned. But remembering the purpose of this book, the comforting and strengthening of the persecuted Church of his own day; and the method of all prophetical writings, to lay hold on present and near facts; - we cannot think that, however much foreshadowed these then distant facts might have been, they were in the mind of the apostle when he wrote. For not to these wars only do these symbols apply, but to:

3. All war. If a deterrent from war be needed, as it often is, then the study of these vast canvases on which the Divine artist has painted successive pictures of the horrors of war cannot but be advantageous. The first shows the devastation it causes; the trees and the growing grass and corn destroyed by the wild war storm which is likened to hail and fire mingled with blood. The second, the destruction of commerce. A great mountain, symbol of some vast earthly power - burning, set on fire with rage and lust of conquest - is cast into the sea, the highway of commerce. The waves are dyed red with blood, the fish die, the ships perish. The third, the overthrow of cities and civilization generally. On the banks of rivers the chief cities of the world have for the most part been placed. The historic interpreters point out how as Genseric, with his Vandals, made the shores of the Mediterranean his chief battleground, so, as this third picture represents, Attila fell - swiftly like a stone, burning like a torch, with fury - upon the riverside cities and populations which lay at the bases of the mountains, the springs of the great rivers, and made their life bitter to them. Yes, it was so; and it is what all war does and has done. Cities and civilization suffer irreparably, must do so. The fourth, political overthrow. The sun, moon, and stars - symbols of government, of kings and the chief rulers of men - these cease to rule and fall from their high places when the fortune of war goes against them. It was so amongst Jews and Romans alike. The fifth - a more dreadful picture than any and more completely drawn (Revelation 9.) - tells of the intolerable tortures which war - child of hell and the pit and the devil that it is - inflicts upon the miserable people amid and upon whom it is waged. They are not exterminated but tortured, as if with the stings of scorpions. They would fain die, but may not; they live on and suffer. The invading armies, like locusts for number, power, and destructiveness, waste and ruin and oppress them day by day. What a picture of war is here! And the sixth, - this tells of the destruction of human life and the deterioration of human character which war causes. One third part of the human race perishes, and the rest, instead of repenting themselves of their sins, become hardened. Whatever special war it was that St. John had in his mind when, with such seeming particularity of place and time and circumstance, he wrote concerning this sixth trumpet blast, it is certain that the effects told of are the common accompaniments of war. If the career of the Turks and their conquests be, as is asserted, the wars here meant, and which extended from A.D. for nearly four hundred years, and which, according to the year-day theory, is just the period which the one year and month and day and hour spoken of would signify, then the resemblance is doubtless striking, even to the identification of the "brimstone, fire, and smoke" with the gunpowder which was first used in the siege of Constantinople. But there is no need to limit the reference of the vision to those circumstances, as it will apply to many similar ones. But all these visions are descriptions of war - those "wars and rumours of war" which our Saviour foretold should be ere the end come; and the comfort for God's troubled people is in that which the seventh trumpet declares, that through and by, amid and in spite of them, the kingdoms of this world fall to Christ. There is comfort in this - just that comfort which the Church in the apostolic age and many times since has sorely needed. Were it not for this final declaration, how wearyingly, how despairingly, should we look on all the turmoil and disasters which have resulted from the ever-recurring wars which men have waged! We could see no reason or end in them. But when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet the outcome of all is seen, and the result recompenses for all that has gone before. But yet more should we see in these visions the setting forth of:

4. God's war with the ungodly. This is what we most of all should learn from them.

(1) And they show how, in order to subdue "the unruly wills of sinful men," God is wont, when milder means fail, to send judgments of a very awful kind. Every one of these visions sets forth such judgment of God.

(2) And when one will not suffice, another is sent. The dread procession of them seems never done passing by.

(3) And they become more and more terrible. There is a manifest enlargement in the scope and severity of these successive judgments. The ominous cry of the eagle which is heard after the first four trumpets have sounded declares this as does the consideration of the judgments themselves. Such is God's way: who can deny that it is so?

(4) But in wrath he remembers mercy. The judgments are not universal, nor exterminating. The reiterated mention of the "one third part" as being the sufferers, not the whole, shows wherefore and with what hope in regard to men's repentance they were sent.

(5) But, alas! they seem to fail in their purpose. After so many and so terrible visitations men did not repent; they seemed only, like Amon, to sin "more and more." But it should seem as if, when God's judgments, as in the case of the plagues of Egypt, no longer merely fell on what was outside their life, no longer merely tormented them, but now smote that life itself, as did the judgment of the sixth trumpet, the last of these dread visitations, then some kind of repentance was produced. But we cannot certainly say.

(6) Victory, however, is the outcome of all. How could it be otherwise? Can man forever defy the Almighty? Blessed be God, he cannot, and sooner or later rebel man will have to lay down his weapons and own Christ Lord of all.

CONCLUSION. But wherefore will man wage this war at all? God desires it not, but has sent the message and the ministry of reconciliation. We, then, as "ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." - S.C.

In wrath the Lord ever remembers mercy. In the sounding of four of the seven angels this idea is most prominent. Afflictions of various kinds are seen to rest upon the earth, but they are confined in each case to one third. It is not a final overthrow, nor is it a vision of destruction. In the disturbance of the material world is portrayed the upheaving in the spiritual, and the gentle threat of the Divine displeasure. The avenging his own elect is a call to men to forsake evil, while it is an encouragement to the faithful to endure. By the disturbance in all the world, or material sphere, men are warned against placing their confidence in these things which may be so shaken. The judgments are chastisements - a part suffers for the good of the whole. The eye is plucked out to save the whole body. Here a portion - a third part - suffers that the whole perish not. These restricted judgments or chastisements of the Lord have their great use -

I. IN AWAKENING THE ATTENTION OF MEN TO THEIR SPIRITUAL CONDITION. Truly a voice as of a trumpet! In the carelessness of spiritual slumber great evils may silently lurk beneath the surface. The sharp probe of pain awakens the slumbering spirit, and leads to inquiry and self examination.

II. IN STIMULATING TO REPENTANCE. He also finds the way of disobedience to bring pain to him; and will be urged thereby to turn from the evil path and to seek the ways of obedience, wherein are rest and peace.

III. IN THE PREVENTION OF FURTHER SINFULNESS. They are the hedge of fire, warning off from forbidden paths. No vindictiveness or harsh severity prompts him who with fatherly hand chastises his erring and mistaken children.

IV. These chastisements have their final use as disciplinary processes IN ADVANCING RIGHTEOUSNESS. The clear declarations of Scripture in the classical passages on chastisement declare the end to be "that we may be partakers of his holiness." Sharp is the piercing pain, keen the edge of suffering; but the good features of the character called into play in bearing up under sorrow are developed thereby: and the spirit, checked from walking in the wrong path, is stimulated to choose the right and the good. That which applies to the individual life applies also to the life of tribes and nations of men. To these the present passage relates. Judgments on "the third part" are designed to he corrective and admonitory to the whole. - R.G.

Revelation 8:7-13; 9; 10
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up, etc. We take these verses, extending from the seventh verse of the eighth chapter to the end of the tenth chapter, together, because they all refer to the "trumpets," and are records of a portion of John's most wonderful dream. A dream can be recalled, narrated, but seldom, if ever, rightly interpreted. It is generally, perhaps, uninterpretable. Pietistic simpletons and speculative pedants have propounded their interpretations and are still doing so; and what literary rubbish is the result! But though a dream may be incapable of interpretation, it can generally and usefully be used as an illustration of great truths. Thus we endeavour to use all these mysterious and multifarious visions that John had in Patmos. This vision serves to illustrate -

I. SOME OF THE WONDERFUL REVOLUTIONS THROUGH WHICH OUR WORLD IS CONSTANTLY PASSING. After the sounding of each of the seven trumpets, what a series of marvels was evolved! There are two classes of marvel here.

1. Those in the material sphere. As the first four seals were introduced by the cry of "Come," it has been observed that the first four trumpets are followed by judgments on natural objects - the earth, the sea, the rivers, the lights of heaven. What followed the blast of the first trumpet? "There followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." "Trumpets," says Moses Stuart, "the usual emblems of war and bloodshed, are chosen as emblems of the series of judgments now to be inflicted." Does the language here literally refer to some physical events that will befall this earth? From the character of the whole book, which is metaphorical, this is not likely. But events of an astounding character are suggested as occurring on this earth. After this the second trumpet sounded, "and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood." The words suggest the idea of some volcanic mountain discolouring the ocean so that it appears as blood, destroying a great portion of the creatures that lived in its depth and that floated on its waves. Then, with the sounding of the third trumpet, another terrible event occurs: "And there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters," etc. The greater part of the rivers that roll over the earth, and the wells that spring from beneath, were embittered and poisoned, and many of the human race expire. When the fourth trumpet sounded the heavens are terribly affected. "The third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was [should be] darkened," etc. But all the terrible events that followed the blasts of these four trumpets seem only preparatory for some more terrible judgments that were to follow. "And I beheld [saw], and heard an angel [eagle] flying through the midst of [in mid] heaven, saying with a loud [great] voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of [for them that dwell on] the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which [who] are yet to sound!" Whatever particular revolutions the blasts of the four trumpets here refer to - if any - one thing is certain, that great changes are taking place constantly in those regions of matter mentioned here - the earth, the waters, the heavens. Geology shows this. What our earth is today, its mountains, its valleys, its rivers, and its oceans, as well as its animal and vegetable productions, is the outcome of changes that have been going on through countless ages. Nature is constantly building up and pulling down. "The mountains failing come to nought," etc. Astronomy shows this. The telescope discovers shattered planets, stars that, perhaps, shone brightly once in our heavens, also new orbs and comets. All things are in a state of flux and reflux. According to Peter, all the changes that have been only tend to a greater change. "The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt," etc. What is the practical lesson to be drawn from all these tremendous revolutions? "Trust in him who liveth forever,"

"There's nought on earth that does not change;
All things are shifting on the stream;
Whatever comes within our range
Seems just as fleeting as a dream.

There is no rest but in thy Word,
No settled hope but in thy Name;
Root then our souls in thee, O Lord,
For thou art evermore the same."

2. Those in the spiritual sphere. There are three more trumpets sounded which have been designated woe trumpets, and their blasts seem to introduce wonderful things in the spiritual domain. That there is a spirit world is too universally admitted to require proof. It comes to our credence, not merely as a matter of philosophic reasoning, but as a matter of consciousness. This spirit world, of which each human being is a member, as well as the higher order of intelligences in the universe, though invisible and impalpable, is ever active and all influential, the spring and sovereign even of all material forces and phenomena. What is matter but the creature and servant, the effect and evidence, of spirit? Great and mysterious changes in the spirit world seem to follow the sounding of the fifth trumpet. Moral evil appears:

(1) In forms alarming. "I saw a star fall from heaven [from heaven fallen] unto the earth: and to him was given [there was given to him] the key of the bottomless pit [the pit of the abyss]," etc. A messenger from heaven, like a bright star, descended and exposed the region of moral evil - he opened the "bottomless pit." Moral evil is indeed a pit.

(a) It is fathomless. No one can explain its origin and its countless intricate ramifications; it is the "mystery of iniquity."

(b) It is consuming. It is like a "great furnace." In whatever spirit moral evil exists, it burns, it gives pain, and works destruction.

(c) It is obscuring. "The sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." The passions and thoughts which sin generates in the spirit mantle the moral heavens in gloom. How often is this bottomless pit covered up in the soul, hid alike from self and society! Thank God, Heaven sends a messenger, like a star, from heaven to open it and to enlighten it. Do not let us took for this bottomless pit beneath us, or anywhere external; it is within us, if sin be in us.

(2) In forces terrific. "And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power," etc. Orientals dread an advent of locusts as one of the most terrible visitations; grass, trees, plants of all description, fall before them. The locusts here sketched are of an order the most terrible. A modern writer describes the locusts here as "malicious as scorpions, ruling as kings, intelligent as men, wily as women, bold and fierce as lions, resistless as these clad in iron armour." These awful forces that go forth amongst men to inflict torture and ruin were

(a) All in connection with the "bottomless pit." They were, so to speak, bred in the depths of that moral pit, and became the servants of that pit. Whatever inflicts pain on humanity is forged in the depth of that bottomless pit. "Whence come wars?" etc.

(b) They tended to make life intolerable to man. "In those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die." Death is universally regarded as the greatest evil, but such is the state of misery here that it is sought as a relief. How often is the life of a man rendered intolerable because of his sins, and he has recourse to the razor, the rope, the river, or the poison! From the "bottomless pit" of our own sins rise those tormenting fiends that render life intolerable.

(c) They were under the direction of a controlling agent. "And they had a king over them [they have over them a king], which is the angel of the bottomless pit [the angel of the abyss]," etc. The meaning of the words "Abaddon" and "Apollyon," both in Hebrew and Greek, is "destruction." All these locusts - in other words, all the forces that torment humanity - are inspired and directed by one great spirit, the spirit of destruction, which goes to and fro through the earth like a lion, seeking whom it may devour. Greater and more terrible changes in the spirit world seem to follow the sounding of the sixth trumpet. In this second "woe" the spirit of destruction takes a wider sweep. It goes forth from the four parts of the earth, it increases the number and the terror of its messengers. "Two hundred thousand thousand," a countless number, and they appeared as horses with heads of lions, panoplied with fire, and breathing smoke and flame. By this greater destruction is wrought amongst men - it strikes down a third part of the race. Thus ever the agencies of torture and ruin that visit man, working in connection with the "bottomless pit" of sin, multiplying in numbers and magnifying their malignant proportions. The trial that gives pain to the sinner today, may be only as an insect compared with the trial that, like a lion, may torture him tomorrow. So long as the "bottomless pit" remains within, torturing fiends will increase in number, and augment in malignant passion and strength. More strange changes in the spirit world we find following the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Before the blast of this seventh trumpet, however, there is the advent of another wonderful messenger from heaven. This messenger is robed in a mystic cloud, a rainbow encircling his brow, his face bright as the sun, his feet like pillars of fire, having in his hand a "little book." He seems to take possession of the whole world, plants one foot on the sea and the other on the earth, breaks forth with the voice of a lion, and his utterances were followed by seven thunders, from which a voice out of heaven sounded, saying, "Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not." Again this wonderful angel or messenger from heaven, surrounded with all this mystic grandeur, whilst standing on the earth, lifts up his hand to the heavens, and swears "that there should be time no longer." After this the seventh trumpet sounds, proclaiming that the mystery of God was finished. In the tenth chapter three things are powerfully struck upon our attention.

(1) A proclamation of the end of time. "Time shall be no longer." Time is but limited duration. What is time to man on earth becomes eternity to him when he quits it. It is but a mode of being. In truth, whenever a human spirit rises from the material to the spiritual, from the particular to the universal, time with him is no longer; he is flee from all its limitations. He moves no longer on a little river or creek; he is afloat on the immeasurable ocean.

(2) The communication of a new revelation. What was contained in this "little book" that had not appeared before? Something vital to man's interest. Such Divine books or rolls are constantly coming to us. They come to man in every day's experience, in true thoughts, and in spiritual intuitions.

(3) The personal appropriation of truth. The angel said, "Take it, and eat it up." Divine truth is not something for intellectual speculation; it is not something for memory, but diet for the life. It must be transmuted into the moral blood and sent through the heart into every fibre of our being. These "seven trumpets," then, suggest and illustrate those revolutions which are everywhere going on, not only through the material, but through the spiritual states of being. In sooth, those that occur in the material are but the results and symbols of those which are transpiring in the great world of mind. In the inner world of soul what revolutions are constantly going on in every man's experience! Big schemes like mountains burning with fire cast into the sea, bright stars of hope and promise falling from the firmament of the soul, fire and smoke issuing from the "bottomless pit" of evil within, smoke that obscures all that is bright, terrible and tormenting forces, like armies of locusts, devouring every budding leaf, and, with a scorpion's sting whose virus rankles in all the nerves of the heart, so that men sometimes seek death and cannot find it. "Voices and thunders." Strange shapes with "thunderous voices" in the heavens. Ah me! these changes are no dreams, they are visions neither of the day nor the night; they are the great realities of the spirit world.

II. THE SPIRITUAL PERSONALITIES BY WHICH, UNDER GOD, THESE REVOLUTIONS ARE EFFECTED. Here are "seven angels" with their "seven trumpets." That there are, in the great universe of God, countless spiritual existences, varying endlessly in faculty, position, force, and occupation, admits of no question by those who believe in the Divinity of the Scriptures. It is here suggested that to these may be ascribed all the changes that take place in the history of our world. Is it not more rational to trace all these changes to the agency of such spiritual personalities than to what scientists call the laws and forces of nature? The "force of motion" is in the spirit, not in matter. Matter is inert; it has no self moving energy. Or, further, is there anything more unreasonable that a high order of spiritual existences should work all the changes we see in earth and sea and sky than the fact that all the products of civilization are the results of the agency of man? Is it not the human spirit, acting through its physical organization, that has covered the earth with architectural buildings, not only piled up the huge cathedrals, castles, palaces, and countless public edifices, but also innumerable residences of every size and shape? Was it not the spirit in man that constructed the bridges, that spanned broad rivers; tunnelled through huge mountains a way for mighty oceans to meet and mingle; covered every sea with the fleets of nations; transformed wildernesses and deserts into fertile meadows, vineyards, and gardens; constructed engines to hear men over sea and land almost with lightning velocity? If the human spirit has worked and is working such wonders as these, is there anything unreasonable in supposing that a higher class of spirits can direct the winds, kindle the lightnings, launch the thunders, roll the planets, and heave the ocean? Manifestly not. The universe teems with spiritual personalities, and matter everywhere is the creature, the symbol, and servant of spirit. The dream suggests two things concerning the work of these spirits.

1. Their work is departmental. Each had his own trumpet, and each produced his own results. The same trumpet was not used by all. This seems to be the Divine plan. Each living creature endowed with activity, from the tiniest to the greatest, has its own sphere and scope for action. One cannot do the work of another. It is so with men. In all temporal enterprises men themselves act upon this principle; the master mind in manufacture and commerce gives to each man his part; and this is the plan of God with us all. To each man he has given a mission, and that mission none can rightly discharge but himself. The higher spiritual existences, it would seem, act in this way. In the material department, it may be, one has to do with the management of the winds and stars and all the inorganic spheres. To another class is given the management of life, vegetable and animal. Thus, too, it may be in the moral realm. "He giveth his angels charge over us" - some to instruct the ignorant, some to console the sorrowful, some to strengthen the wavering, some to encourage the feeble and oppressed.

2. Their work is gradual. All the trumpets do not sound at the same time, and from the first to the last numberless ages might intervene. The great Maker and Manager of the universe works out his great plans by what appears to us slow degrees. He is in no haste; he has plenty of time at command. How gradually this earth progressed from chaos to its present condition! How gradually the human race advances in knowledge, in civilization, and in morality! How unlike our method! If we have a work on hand, the more important we deem it, the more impatient we are to realize its accomplishment. The sense of the brevity and uncertainty of life impels us to this haste. But "one day with him is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Does not this teach us to be concerned more with the moral character of our work than with its results? Our question should be, "Is it right?" not, "What will be the issue?" The results will not appear in our time, not for ages on, it may be. A good act is like an acorn dropped into good soil; it will require countless ages fully to develop itself. In the motive is at once the virtue and the reward of all labor. Does it not also teach us to be patient in well doing, to be hoping ever? Our work, if right, is Divine, and if Divine, it cannot fail. "Be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."

III. THE GRAND PURPOSE TO WHICH ALL THE REVOLUTIONS ARE DIRECTED. All the revolutions here referred to have a bearing on the minds of men, breaking the monotony of their sinful condition, rousing their fears, so terrifying them as to make their existence so intolerable that they sought death as a relief. And then it is stated that a new revelation from heaven is given them - a "little book" that was to be appropriated. Moreover, it is stated that the grand purpose was the finishing of the "mystery of God." And what is that mystery but the moral restoration of mankind? It is a glorious thought that all the changes that take place in the universe are for the benefit of souls - that all is moral discipline. Nature is a grand school in which the great Father makes his children "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." "Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living." Evil is not an end. Good is the end, and evil is ever rushing to it like streams and rivers to the ocean world. The evils of this world, like the furious storm that spreads devastation over sea and land, will one day die away in a clear sky and a pure atmosphere, and leave the world all beautiful and blight. (See also the three following homilies.) - D.T.

And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven,... Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth! The true reading of the text is given in the Revised Version. It was not "an angel flying," but a solitary eagle or vulture, that St. John saw. Hovering high overhead, a mere speck in the sky, and its harsh cry sounding as if it uttered over and over again the ominous words, "Woe, woe, woe!" Now in vision, but often in reality, he had doubtless seen such hovering bird, and heard its bitter cry. And when we think of this vision, and remember who they were on whom the judgments of God were coming, we are reminded of our Lord's words, "Wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together" (Matthew 24:28). For he and his apostle had the same scenes in view, the same sinful people, and the same dread judgments of God. Both beheld both the body and the bird - the eagle of judgment and the corruption that it would seize upon. When our Lord spoke, and yet more when his apostle wrote, the ill-omened bird was clearly visible, and its woeful cry could be distinctly heard. What the Lord said St. John saw. "For in the lands of the East, when a wild beast falls in the desert, or a horse or camel on the highway, there is for a time no stir in heaven. But far above human ken the vulture is floating poised on his wings and looking downward. His eye soon distinguishes the motionless thing, for he hunts by an eyesight unequalled in power among all living things, and like a stone he drops through miles of air. Others floating in the same upper region see their brother's descent, and know its meaning. One dark speck after another grows swiftly upon the horizon, and in a few moments fifty vultures are around the carrion. Now, thus inevitable, swift, unerring, as the vultures' descent on the carcase, is the judgment coming of the Son of man to corrupt communities and corrupt men" (Stopford Brooke). Given the body, the bird will not be far off; where the carcase, there the vulture. In God's government it has ever been so, is now, and will be in all ages, in all lands, and under all circumstances.

I. THIS EAGLE HAS OFTEN BEEN SEEN. It has long hovered over and at last descended upon:

1. Corrupt communities. As the inhabitants of the earth in Noah's day, on whom "the Flood came and swept them all away;" the cities of the plain ere the fire storm felt; the Canaanitish nations whose judgment was long delayed "until the iniquity of the Amorites was full." It hung over Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah, over Babylon in the old age of Daniel, and over the Jewish nation when St. John beheld it "in mid heaven." And over Rome the eagles of judgment were indeed gathering. For she had become so corrupt and hateful to God and man that there was nothing for it but to let the long delayed sentence be executed, and in the pages of this Book of the Revelation, and in those of the secular historian, he who will may read of, perhaps, the most tremendous fulfilment the worm has as yet ever seen of the inexorable law that "wheresoever the carcase is, there," etc.

"Rome shall perish - write that word
In the blood that she hath spilt;
Perish hopeless and abhorred,
Deep in ruin as in guilt." Yet further illustrations. The Reformation, which was the judgment of the Catholic Church; the French Revolution, etc.

2. Corrupt men. "The mills of God," says the poet," grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small." Many imagine that the great laws of God will be, no doubt, fulfilled amid nations and Churches and other bodies of men, but they will not take note of individuals. That, however, is not true, though many think it is. Look over the lives of the many bad men and women of whom the Bible tells; but where amid them all can the sinner find any encouragement to go on in his sin? Are they not all of them illustrations of God's law of judgment? And so universally is this law recognized that no poorest novelist will write his wretchedest story, and no tawdry theatre dare represent on its stage a drama which ignores or fails to pay homage to this law. They all know and confess that over the vile and bad the vulture of judgment hovers, and will swoop down on them ere long. And today this law is at work. See that blear eyed, ragged, shivering, and every way disreputable looking wretch who is reeling out of the gin shop, and, as he staggers along, poisoning the air with his foul breath and yet fouler words - what a wreck the man is! Health gone; and character, and home, and friends, and livelihood, and all that made life worth having, gone; and life itself going likewise. The vultures of judgment have plucked him bare of all, and they are at their awful work still. Go into the wards of our hospitals, and amid many whom misfortunes and not sin have brought there, you will yet see not a few dying a miserable death, horrible to look at, to listen to, to speak or even think of. Go to the cells of our prisons, to lunatic asylums, to convict yards, or where mounting the steps of the gallows on which they are to suffer the last penalty of the law, - in all such places, and amid all such scenes, and branded as it were on the brow of all such transgressors you may read the eternal law, "Wheresoever the carcase is, there," etc. That eagle St. John saw, and -

II. IT IS GOOD THAT IT SHOULD BE SEEN. In the physical world, if there were no scavengers, no agents whereby what is corrupt and corrupting could be rendered harmless, life could not go on. And so in the moral world, floods and sulphur fires, and Joshua-led armies, hosts from Babylon or from Rome, French Revolutions and the like, - it is awful, terrible, but still beneficent and essential work that they do upon the moral and spiritual corruptions against whom they have been sent. But blessed is that sinful community and that sinful man who sees the eagle in mid heaven, and fears and turns from his wickedness and so lives.

III. MEN SOMETIMES THINK THEY SEE IT WHEN THEY DO NOT. Poor Job - his friends, his comforters, would have it that his dreadful sufferings were judgments of God upon him. It was the common and cruel, though baseless, belief of their day. "Lord, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was horn blind?" There we find the same notion yet living on, even in our Lord's day. And it is not dead yet. But, thank God, there are many sorrows and distresses which are not judgments at all, any more than the hard lesson which a master may set his pupil to learn is a sign of his displeasure. It is not so, but a means of discipline and improvement and honour to the pupil; therefore, and for no other reason, is it given. And so with not a few of the sorrows God sends to us, as he sent such to Job.

IV. AND OFTEN FAIL TO SEE IT WHEN THEY MIGHT AND SHOULD. Job, and many another since, failed to see it. He asserts that there are villains - godless, cruel, all that is bad - and yet they prosper wonderfully. "They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. There are no bands in their death, and their strength is firm:" so said another perplexed one. There seems to be the corrupt and corrupting carcase, but no vulture descends upon it. The body there, that is certain, but not the bird. But let such perplexed ones remember:

1. The bird may be invisible. It may be so far up in the sky, so far away, that our limited eyesight cannot travel so far, it is out of our range. That may be. Or:

2. It may be restrained. God is "long suffering, not willing that any should perish." Or:

3. It may have already descended, and be doing its work, and you not know it. Conscience may rend and tear like a vulture, and the man may carry a very hell within him - thousands do - that makes all outward prosperity a mockery, and powerless to relieve. There is not one drop of water in it all wherewith he can cool his tongue, so tormented in this fire is he. Read 'Macbeth.' And:

4. If it come not now it will fasten on him the moment he reaches the next world's shore. Ah, yes; if a man have made his soul carrion like, the eagle of judgment will find him sooner or later in trouble; from without or within, here or yonder - there is no escape. Remember, then:

(1) They are fools who make a mock at sin.

(2) Turn from it, and pray for the heart to love and dread the Lord, and to diligently live after his commandments. - S.C.

Before the fifth angel sounds his trumpet, a vision is granted of a flying eagle, which, with "a great voice," declared "Woe for them that dwell upon the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are yet to sound!" Corrective judgments have already been manifested, but the full fruits of evil, in themselves judgments and designed for correction and restraint, have not been developed. The voice of the great eagle anticipates them, and prepares for their delineation. The general principle, therefore, claims thought at present - woe follows from the working of evil.


1. The laws of righteousness are absolutely and only good.

2. They describe the true path of the human life.

3. In the observance of the true laws of life - the laws of righteousness - conditions of blessedness are secured; for it cannot but be that life held according to the laws of life is only good.

4. Any departure from the laws of life - righteousness - must bring a proportionate disturbance, pain and sorrow.

II. THE DIVINE WISDOM AND BENIGNITY SHOWN IN MAKING THE CONSEQUENCES OF WRONG DOING PAINFUL. By this means men are warned away from wrong. The sharp pain of burning is a merciful provision. The hand incautiously laid in the fire might be consumed for want of the sharp twinge of pain to apprise of danger. It is well that the way of transgressors is hard. The prickly hedge guards the path of life, lest men straying from it should fall into untold evils.

III. THE PAINFULNESS OF WRONG DOING A JUST WARNING AGAINST TRANSGRESSION. Although virtue that is founded on a mere escape from the evils of disobedience is a low form of virtue, it is nevertheless a worthy motive for avoiding that its consequences are painful.

IV. THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OF WRONG DOING AN ADMONITORY INDICATION OF THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE, and a worthy expression of it. It is a testimony on the level of the human heart. Higher testimonies to be given. But the cold and thoughtless arrested by these means.

V. IN PUNISHMENTS BY PAIN LIES THE PLEDGE AND FIRST ELEMENT OF MORAL CORRECTION. The punishment and bitterness of evil not a final end. High moral purposes are graciously contemplated. "Woe, woe, woe!" is the sad prediction of the ever coming bitterness of all wrong doing. - R.G.

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