And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand…
A "new song," it is doubtless the song of a new and higher victory. A song is, above all, an expression of the heart, something spontaneous, the irrepressible upspringing of an inward emotion. A bird sings because it cannot help singing, and because its little heart is thrilling with an overflowing joy; and so they who sing the "new song " have had, doubtless, some true experience of a great good and joy which causes them to sing. I think that it is the experience of every thoughtful man that all the real misery springs, in some way, from spiritual wrong. If he have lost friends, which is one of our great natural griefs, yet if sin had not thrust itself into this sorrow, if the soul of the friend as well as one's own had been perfectly true to God, and to right, one would find in the bereavement a cause to rejoice, for to the holy dead God reveals the fulness of His love. It is the conscious want of the love of God, manifesting itself in acts of selfishness, ingratitude, and treason to truth and duty — it is always this that has made the human spirit wail. Selfishness is a constant pain, and love a constant joy. I do not deny the many natural sorrows of life, and that they are sometimes painful beyond human power to endure, but we would be strong from a Divine strength to bear troubles and sufferings which fall to our lot in this life, and they would be only for our discipline and perfection, were we without transgression. These would be outside sufferings. But it is the feeling that we have acted unrighteously, that we have stained our soul's honour, that we have been unthankful to the heavenly Father. It is this that consumes the spirit within us. If we arc raised for one instant by the quick motion of faith, by the absorbing exercise of prayer, by the unselfish act of pure obedience, into the light and liberty of God's presence, we gain inward freedom and peace, we experience an absolute deliverance from the tyranny of evil. We may perceive, then, why the power of sin in our human nature is called in the Scriptures a "bondage." It is pure absolutism. Let the bondsman strive once to free himself, to shake himself loose from his bonds, to change his own nature, and he will see what a grasp evil has. To be freed from the power of evil would soothe all pangs, would wipe away all tears, sorrow, care, and would restore to the life-giving presence and joy of God. Can we not then begin, in some feeble manner I grant, to perceive or imagine what may be the significance of the "new song"? It is in truth a song of freedom, and we need not wonder that it is represented to be like the sound of many waters, the outpouring of innumerable hearts on the free shore of eternity, for God has made the soul to be free and to have no law over it but the law of love. There are, indeed, but few such chords that vibrate in human hearts. Sorrow is one of these. Coleridge said that at the news of Nelson's death no man felt himself a stranger to another; and of these universal chords, that of freedom is also one. Such a spontaneous cry rises from an enslaved nation, whose chains are broken by some God-inspired man. Never shall I forget the mighty shout I heard that went up from the whole people of Florence, gathered together in the great market-square of the beautiful city on the Arno, at the news of a decisive victory gained over the powerful enemy of Italian independence — Austria. A new, unlooked-for joy poured into the hearts of the suffering and long-oppressed Italian people that they were at length free! It made them one. It overflowed their hearts with sudden strength, and men fell upon each other's necks and kissed each other, and their joy found expression in shouts and songs. So it will be a new joy in heaven to be free — to be free from the shameful oppression of evil. The believer may, in some feeble and imperfect measure, in his best times, when Christ his Light is near, be able to conceive of this state of entire victory over, or deliverance from, sin, because he has in the present life yearnings after it, and prophecies of it; but to the unrenewed mind this truth is not quite clear. It is, on the contrary, a thought which gives that mind, when it thinks at all, much uneasiness and confusion. For it has had fleeting tastes of sweetness in this earthly life, and in those pleasures into which God does not come, poor though they be, and it fears to lose those alloyed and swift-passing experiences of happiness in being holy. It would not release entirely its hold upon these, for fear of losing its happiness altogether. But we must let go one to win the other. We must push off from the shore of this world to gain the free shore of eternity; and so complete is the victory of heaven, that not even such an electric thought of evil as has been described, shall pass over the soul. Holiness is happiness. Goodness is joy. Love is freedom. There are no remains of the conflict of temptation. The spell of sin is broken; and as freedom is one of those things that never grows old, so the song of heaven shall be a "new song."
II. But another and higher sense remains, in which it would seem that the song of heaven is called a "new song," arising from the fact that this heavenly freedom which is sung, does not end in ourselves, in our freedom or holiness or joy, but ends in Christ, and in the Divine will in which dwells this pure and mighty power of the soul's deliverance from evil.
(J. M. Hoppin.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.