Revelation 5:1
The theophany of Revelation 4. is continued in this. We are permitted to see more of the high court of heaven, and to witness the purpose of its session, the centre of its adoration, and the transactions in which its members share. We have surveyed the throne and him that sat thereon, the rainbow above the throne, the crystal sea, the burning torches, the elders and the cherubim, and their worship of God. But now the vision is enlarged, and we behold the seven-sealed book, or scroll, held in the right hand of him that sat on the throne; then the coming forth of a mighty angel, who challenges all in that august assembly, and all everywhere, be they who they may, to open the book. Then follows the hush of awful silence, which is the only response the angel's challenge receives; whereat St. John weeps much. Then is heard the voice of one of the elders, bidding him "Weep not," and at once the chief portion and purpose of the whole vision is disclosed. St. John sees, fronting the throne and attended, as was he who sat thereon, by the living ones and the elders, the "Lamb as it had been slain." Strange, incongruous, and almost inconceivable is that figure, with its seven horns and seven eyes. Great painters, as Van Eyck, have tried to portray it, but they have rather lessened than enlarged our conceptions of the truths which the symbol as it stands here in this vision so vividly sets forth. Here, as everywhere in this book, it is the ideas, and not the forms which symbolize them, which are of consequence. And, then, the Lamb is represented as coming and taking the book out of the hand of him that sat upon the throne; whereupon the first adoration of the Lamb takes place. The "living ones" and the elders, each now seen with harp and censer of gold full of odours - they, together, sing the "new song." And, lo, on the outskirts of this heavenly scene, gathering round and enclosing the whole, appear now myriads of angels, and they lift up their voices in like holy adoration of the Lamb. And now a third burst of praise, and from a yet more varied and multitudinous choir, is heard by the enraptured seer. From the heavens above, from the earth beneath, and from the regions of the departed - from those whom the earth covered over in the quiet grave, and those whom the sea had swallowed up, - there arose their anthem of praise to God and to the Lamb. And with the united "Amen" of the four living ones and the elders, as they prostrate themselves in worship, this vision of the adoration of the Lamb ends. Observe Christ as -

I. THE CENTRE OF ALL REVELATION. We behold him:

1. In his premundane glory. We cannot know, and yet less comprehend, much of this. Only that he came forth from God, was in the beginning with God; that he dwelt in the bosom of the Father, in glory which he had with the Father before the world was. But what words could make this clear to our minds? We wait to understand.

2. In his Incarnation. We trace him from the manger at Bethlehem, all through his earthly life and ministry, to Gethsemane, Calvary, and the tomb. And we see him rising from the dead and afterwards ascending to the right hand of God. But we are permitted also to see him as -

II. THE CENTRE OF HEAVENLY ADORATION. See where he is - "in the midst of the throne," standing on that central space immediately in front of the throne, the Centre of all that holy throng, on whom all eyes rest, to whom every knee bows, and every tongue confesses. And what a circle that is! See its members. But he is the Centre; to him their adoring worship is given. Are we in sympathy with this? Is he the Centre of our heart's worship and love?

III. THE REVEALER AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE PURPOSES OF GOD.

1. God has such purposes. The book held in his right hand is the symbol thereof. It contains his mind, his will, his decrees. Nothing is left to chance. All is ordered and settled.

2. But that book is sealed. Completely, absolutely; this is the meaning of the seven seals. If one seal were removed, which by man it can never be, but a portion of those purposes would be disclosed. "His ways are past finding out."

3. But it is essential that that book should be taken and opened. Hence the angelic challenge, and St. John's tears when none was found to accept that challenge. What would the world be without the revelation of God? We know; for "the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." Would that we thought more of our own obligation to the revelation of God's will, that we might, as we ought to, be more eager that others should possess it who now have it not!

4. The Lord Jesus Christ comes forward. There can be no manner of doubt that he is meant. Though described as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," yet he is seen as a Lamb - a little Lamb (ἀρνίον), and with the marks of its slaughter yet upon it, the scars and wounds of his sacrifice yet visible. He advances and takes the book. And so we learn that he is the Trustee, the Depositary, the alone Revealer of the Divine will. All truth is in his keeping.

(1) Of prophecy. It was he who opened, and yet opens, the minds of his disciples, that they should understand what was foretold concerning him.

(2) Of the gospel. It is he who shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But especially is meant here:

(3) Of providence - how God would deal with the Church, the world, with individual souls. This book discloses all this; he shows to us what God has done and will do.

5. But he is not only the Revealer, but the Administrator of the Divine purposes. As he opens each seal that which he discloses is at once accomplished. He is seen controlling and ruling all. What joy to think of this! For he is -

IV. PERFECTLY QUALIFIED TO BE ALL THIS. Observe in the vision his seven horns. This means:

1. He has fulness of power. The horn is the symbol of strength. Hence "seven horns" mean fulness of strength. Christ is "mighty to save." The gates of hell shall not prevail against him. They will, they do try, as they have long tried, but in vain. For:

2. He has also the fulness of the Spirit. The Lamb was seen with "seven eyes," and these are explained as denoting the same as the seven torches (Revelation 4:5), the seven, that is, the perfect, full, complete power, though diverse in working, of the Spirit of God. For Christ's victory is to be achieved, not over human bodies, but over human spirits, and his power must and does correspond to the opposition he has to meet. And over all the earth his Spirit goes: has not that Spirit come to us, and when he comes the human spirit ceases to resist, and is blessed in yielding?

3. And he has all right. "Thou art worthy:" so sing all the heavenly choirs.

(1) The Lamb is seen "as it had been slain." The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is represented perpetually in Holy Scripture as the righteous ground of our redemption. The forgiveness of man's sin was to be by no mere gracious letting the guilty go free, let what will come of the Law which he has violated. Not so, but in and by the sacrifice of Christ, the Law was magnified and made honourable; by no means "made void," but established. We linger not now to explain this - if, indeed, any one can fully explain it - but we simply assert what Scripture everywhere affirms. Moreover:

(2) He is commissioned by God. He receives the book from him. God "sent forth his Son," "gave his only begotten Son."

4. And his is fulness of lore. "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us by thy blood" - this is the overwhelming thought which prostrates the souls of all his redeemed ones in an agony of insolvent gratitude; that he, Son of God, who was with God and was God, that he should have been content to come hither to this thorn-strewn earth of ours, and to live here the life of a poor, meek man, and then to die upon the cross for us - "herein is love;" and herein is also his supreme qualification to reveal and administer the will of God.

V. THEREFORE IS THE ADORATION OF THE LAMB. Let us join in it. We shall do so if we remember what he has revealed, and that he is the Administrator of all our affairs. - S.C.







A book... sealed with seven seals.
I. THE SEALED BOOK.

1. The Divine throne.

2. The Possessor of the throne. There is no name given, but there is eternal glory in this nameless majesty.

3. The right hand of Him who sat upon the throne.(1) The right hand is the symbol of wisdom. God's hand and His council are synonymous expressions (Isaiah 14:27; Acts 4:28).(2) The right hand is the symbol of power. All that infinite wisdom hath contrived, omnipotent power will certainly perform.(3) The right hand is also the symbol of Divine operation. In all the means and instruments employed He is still supreme.

4. The wonderful book.

5. The writing of the book.(1) The writing implies the immutability of His counsels and all His precious promises.(2) The writing implies the manifestation of His counsels — the design of God, that His will should be revealed, or made known to the world.(3) The writing implies their value and importance. They are worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance as a ground of hope and consolation to the Church.

6. The form of the writing — "It was written within and on the backside." The allusion implies the number and variety of the counsels, works, and dealings of God. It also implies the fulness of the writing.

7. The sealing of the book.(1) The sealing is expressive of Divine authority. This book proceeds from the throne, from God's right hand; it comes in His name, it is clothed with His prerogative, invested with His glory, and enforced by His omnipotence.(2) The sealing of the book is expressive of darkness. While a writing is sealed, the meaning is unknown.(3) The sealing of the book implies distance — the distance of time between the giving and fulfilling of Divine prediction.(4) The sealing of the book implies Divine certainty. What is written in the king's name, and sealed with his ring, may no man reverse.

3. The number of the seals — "It was sealed with seven seals." This implies the holiness, depth, fulness, and perfection of the counsels and covenant promises contained in the book of God's right hand.

II. THE HEAVENLY PROCLAMATION.

1. The agent employed. He is called "an angel."

2. His glorious power and excellence. This was "a strong angel."

3. The wonderful proclamation — "The angel proclaimed with a loud voice."

4. The great subject of the proclamation — "Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?"

III. THE UNAVAILING APPEAL.

1. The field of inquiry is vast and boundless.

2. The universal appeal.

3. The subject of inquiry is expressed again, and more fully and gloriously declared to the world. The work to be performed is great and marvellous, and variously expressed in the Book of Revelation. The qualifications for the work are also great and marvellous.

IV. THE SORROW OF THE APOSTLE — "And I wept."

1. If the book cannot be opened, how could the apostle refrain his voice from weeping and his eyes from tears? The darkness that rested on the Church's future history filled his heart with sorrow and deep foreboding fear.

2. The greatness of his sorrow — "And I wept much." There is a sacredness in sorrow, that fills the heart with awe. Yea, there is a majesty in overwhelming woe that commands the sympathy and homage of the heart.

3. The apostle repeats the reason of his sorrow; for the mind of the afflicted loves to linger on the cause of the affliction and the greatness of his grief: and he wonders that any one should feel such indifference to his melancholy tale, and take so little interest in what is so sadly interesting to him.

(James Young.)

Homilist.
I. IT IS CONDUCTED ACCORDING TO A VAST PRECONCERTED PLAN. The Almighty never acts from impulse or caprice, but ever from plan or law; and this plan is truly vast. "It is written within and on the backside." All that shall happen through the vast futurities of individuals, families, nations, worlds, is mapped out on the pages of this wonderful book. Predestination is no special doctrine of the Bible; it is written on every part of nature; it includes as truly the motions of an atom as the revolutions of a world — the growth of a plant as the conversion of a soul. True philosophy, as well as Christianity, resolves everything but sin into the predestination of Infinite Love.

II. THIS VAST PRECONCERTED PLAN IS SEALED IN MYSTERY.

1. It transcends all finite intelligence.

2. It is frequently the source of great mental distress.

3. It is an inestimable means of spiritual discipline: it sobers, humbles, stimulates.

III. THAT THE MYSTERY OF THIS PLAN IS TO BE EXPOUNDED BY CHRIST. He discloses the eternal purposes in various ways.(1) In His creative acts. Stars, suns, and systems are but the palpable forms or diagrams of Infinite ideas.(2) In His redemptive operations.(3) In His judicial conduct. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." In the last day what new disclosures will be made!

(Homilist.)

I. THE APOSTOLIC VISION.

II. THE APOSTOLIC PROCLAMATION.

III. THE WEEPING APOSTLE. This gives humanness and pathos to the scene. We too, like John, have shed tears as we wrestled to solve some dark, difficult problem in the government of our righteous but most merciful God.

IV. THE CONSOLING ELDER.

V. THE VICTORIOUS LION.

(James Nelson.)

I. HOW BENEFICENT IS THE FACT OF OUR GENERAL IGNORANCE OF THE FUTURE! It is this ignorance of the future which alone makes it possible for life to be a school of goodness, a training-ground for faith, hope, and a host of other qualities which are among the noblest that adorn the human soul. Could we see in the aggregate the sorrows which await us, the mere sight would crush us. Did we foresee the happiness which the "Hand that was pierced" is keeping for us, the present, with its limitations, and pains, and duties, would become intolerable to us. If we could foresee the certain victory or certain defeat of each battle we fight for justice, truth, and right, where would be our courage, our faith, our patience? But God has purposely hidden in His own wise and loving counsel such things as whether our lives are to be long or short; whom we shall marry, or whether we shall be married at all; whether we shall succeed or fail in examinations, or in business; whether we shall have health or sickness. And He has hidden these things in order that we may feel our dependence upon Him, and confide ourselves to His keeping; that we may give ourselves to the doing of His will, and leave to Him to choose the inheritance of friends and circumstances which the future may have in store for us.

II. WHILE IGNORANCE OF THE FUTURE IS GENERALLY BENEFICENT, OCCASIONS MAY ARISE WHEN A KNOWLEDGE OF THE FUTURE BEYOND WHAT CAN BE GAINED BY EXPERIENCE AND FORESIGHT IS OF THE HIGHEST ADVANTAGE. This supposition is bound up in our belief in a supernatural revelation, such as the Bible professes to give, Such a revelation must deal, among other things, with the facts of the unseen world of which experience can give us no authentic information, and also with events of the future of this world's history beyond the power of the wisest merely human foresight to predict. A revelation of this kind would plainly not be given unless it were needed, but serious doubt as to the need seems hardly possible. While ignorance of the future on our part is needful, it is no less needful to our welfare that Some One should know our future; and, also, not less needful to our comfort that we should be assured of this knowledge on His part. The growing child is still dependent on the knowledge of its future needs which leads parents to train and educate it with a view to its well-being and happiness. But the best knowledge and truest foresight of parents will not enable them to predict with certainty the future events of the child's life. This third and highest kind of evidence brings into full view the question that is of infinite and eternal importance for every individual: How do I stand related at this moment to this living and reigning Saviour? Only one relationship can be right and safe, that of humble submission, of trustful loyalty, of reverent affection.

III. WHAT EFFECT OUGHT OUR KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST'S COMPLETE MASTERY OVER THE FUTURE TO HAVE UPON OUR FEELING AND ACTION? Should not this glorious truth infuse into our feeling a deep peace? Should it not inspire us with quiet confidence and a lion-like courage — a mighty hope and an invincible patience?

(Arthur James, B. A.)

I. "A BOOK, WRITTEN WITHIN AND ON THE BACK WITH SEVEN SEALS."

1. It is the book of redemption. Its central thought is the Cross, which is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

2. This book is complete; it is "written within and on the back," both sides of the parchment covered. God's plan of redemption is round and full. Its last word is "Finis," and there is room for no other.

3. The book was "close sealed with seven seals." In the ages before Christ the great problem was how God could be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly. Three sentiments were struggling in all human breasts: the conviction of sin, the intuitive apprehension of death, and the trembling hope that God, in some wise, would deliver. The solution of the difficulty was hid within this volume of the Divine decrees — hid by the Father, to be revealed in fulness of time unto us.

II. A LAMB AS IT HAD BEEN SLAIN. And this Lamb took the book out of the right hand of God and opened it. The opening of this book of the Divine decrees concerning the redemption of man is like daybreak after an Egyptian night. As to this Lamb observe —

1. He bore in His person the tokens of death. Our Lord Jesus wears in glory the honourable scars of His service on earth. Why did the Lord Jesus die? That so, in our behalf, He might triumph over death: That so He might prevail to open the book of life end immortality.

2. The place where the Lamb stood is significant: it was "in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders." Where else should He stand who ever liveth to make intercession for us, the Mediator of the new covenant, the only One between God and men. John Bunyan was at one time sorely troubled to know how the Lord Jesus could be both man and God. "At last that in Revelation 5:6 came into my mind: 'And, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the elders stood a Lamb.' — 'In the midst of the throne,' thought I — there is the Godhead; 'in the midst of the elders' — there is the manhood; but, oh, methought this did glister! It was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction."

3. He had seven horns. The horn is the emblem of power. The name of Jesus is The Mighty to Save.

4. He had seven eyes, which are the fulness of the Divine Spirit sent forth into all the earth. We are now living under the dispensation of this Spirit, who goeth to and fro everywhere like multitudinous eyes to see into all hearts and perceive all secret imaginations, ever watchful for truth and righteousness, to the end that all souls and all nations presently may be brought under the peaceful sway of the Lamb. The horns of Divine power and the eyes of Divine wisdom are grandly and perpetually co-working towards this consummation so devoutly to be wished.

III. OH, THEN WHAT A SONG, when heaven and earth shall join in ascribing praises to Him that was dead, but is alive again, and liveth for evermore, and hath the keys of death and hell!

1. It will be a new song. The fresh mercies of God call, even here, for perpetual renewals of thanksgiving. Stale praises are in no wise better than stale manna. But how will it be in the kingdom? The songs yonder must keep pace with the perpetually new unveilings of Divine love.

2. And it will be a universal song, joined in by "the redeemed tenantry of heaven end earth, the angels of the sky, and grateful inmates of the ocean and the air."

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

The book of futurity is what was sealed with seven seals. It is a dark and mysterious one for us also. The future is closed to us, and must remain so. How foolish the wish to raise this thick veil. Every joy, being foreseen, would lose its attraction; every pain and loss would become an insufferable torture. Through God's grace the future is hid from us; and they are foolish who pretend to proclaim it. And yet the seals are broken. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has come to open the book and break its seals. Fate is no longer cruel darkness to us Christians. Whatever darkness may lie before our feet, at every step which we take into the future the guiding stars shine above us, and at our side stands the faithful guide. And how do these holy superscriptions of our life run?

1. We read first the words, Walk before God. In everything that thou doest, ask what is good, what is true before God. How does He speak to thee by His voice, conscience? You bear in yourselves the dominion over all that approaches from without, whether with allurements or threats. You bear in yourselves the measure of things.

2. Perceive, then, this the second inscription and precept of life. It is: "All things are yours!" The Divine and exalted right of man over all creatures is here proclaimed to us. And this includes his freedom and his dominion — the freedom of his soul from the outer world, and the dominion of his spirit over it. Is it not, then, you who turn misfortune into prosperity, and acquire strength in trial, and in exercising patience learn courage and self-conquest, the highest work of man? Is it not you who ennoble good fortune, and place it in the service of the Spirit, and use it in order to lead yourselves farther, and to lessen the want round about you, and to fashion everything that is near you into a life worthy of man?

3. Now you perceive, in fine, the third superscription of the book of life: "The fruit of the Spirit is love!" It puts forth, perhaps, many and beautiful flowers, and the powerful stem raises itself and extends its wide shadowing branches over the extent of the earth; but the ripe fruit of the Spirit is love, and that alone. We feel, everything else is only falling flowers, only brilliant appearance; love alone remains. We feel it is cold, and solitary, and joyless in the world without love. And our liberty and moral power also against the world and fate, how can we preserve them if we stand not firmly bound together in the fellowship of the brethren? — one extending the hand to the other whenever he sinks down, one comforting the other in word and deed when a heavy blow falls upon his head.

(Dr. Schwarz.)

I. THE SOLUTION OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD. God, like the painter, poet, builder, works by plan. Is the conflict of life purposeless? Evidences of plan and purpose — in nature. Everywhere there are proofs of an intelligent mind and Divine purpose. This truth is stamped on our lives from first to last. We are limited, dependent, controlled everywhere. Life itself is not ours to determine, nor its particular form and circumstances. Even where we have a choice, the circumstances between which we choose are not in our power. The duration of life is determined apart from our choice. If thought is ours, the power to think is given. Again, the great variety there is among men, modified, too, by so many circumstances of birth, education, etc., variety in regard to temperament, position, success, anticipation. And so in regard to the inner life and the life and course of the Church. Wise builders always work by plan. The wisest are most like God.

II. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP.

(R. V. Pryce, M. A.)

I. THERE IS IN THE DIVINE MIND A PLAN OF UNIVERSAL DESTINY.

1. Destiny is planned.

2. Destiny is comprehensive. The scroll was full of writing.

3. Destiny is effective. The book was in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. It was not carelessly thrown on the ground.

II. THE PLAN OF UNIVERSAL DESTINY IS CONCEALED.

1. It is concealed by the mystery in which it is inherently involved.

2. It is concealed by the intellectual inability of man.

III. THE PLAN OF UNIVERSAL DESTINY SOMETIMES AWAKENS MENTAL ANGUISH ON THE PART OF MAN.

1. Men often experience mental anguish as they contemplate the mystery of destiny. Fears of —

(1)Disappointment.

(2)Misapprehension.

(3)Sympathy.

2. There is much to console the mental anguish which the thought of destiny may awaken.

IV. THE PLAN OF UNIVERSAL DESTINY IS REVEALED BY CHRIST IN HIS MEDIATORIAL RELATIONSHIP TO MANKIND.

1. Destiny is unsealed by strength.

2. Destiny is revealed by humiliation.

3. Destiny is revealed by sacrifice. Lessons:(1) That all the events of the future are arranged according to a wise and comprehensive plan.(2) That in contemplation of the future, all mental distress which may arise should be consoled by the revelation which Christ has made.(3) That Christ is above all created intelligence in His mediatorial relationship to the future.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

I. I notice first, that under any really feasible interpretation, THE JUDICIAL ELEMENT MUST, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, BE INCLUDED. Different minds have discerned in this symbol "the Book of the Secret Decrees of God," "the Book of Destiny," "the Book of the Inheritance," "the Book of Universal History," "the Book of the Future," or "the Book of Providence." But every one of these interpretations — different but not contradictory — carries a reference to judgment in its right hand. Whatever more may be "written within and on the back side," the handwriting of Christ against His enemies is undoubtedly there. Its very position, it has been well shown, is an indication of its judicial character. It lies "in the right hand of Him who sat upon the throne"; in that hand "which teaches terrible things," and is "full of righteousness," and at which Christ is set "until His enemies are made His footstool." As each seal is opened, ministers of Divine retribution are seen going forth. Effects like these could only follow the opening of a Book of Judgment.

II. I observe next, THAT EVERYTHING IN THE VISION, IN WHICH THIS SYMBOL OCCURS, SEEMS TO SPEAK TO US OF THE DOMAIN OF PROVIDENCE. Those prelusions of the consummation of all things, of which Providence is so full, salute us here. It is the "Lamb," the redemptive heart of Providence; the "Lion," the avenging arm of Providence; the "root of David," the kingly power in Providence, who prevails to open the book. He is the Lord mighty to save or destroy. And finally, His power to deal with this great mystery of time, the oppression of the righteous by the wicked, is represented as a joy to all who are embraced in the great scheme of Providence. It should be borne in mind that this worship, like the vision in which it occurs, was revealed as consolation for John. He was in tears because no man could unseal the book. It is a most suggestive fact, that the first word of the consolation comes from one of the representatives of the redeemed. It was one of the elders who said to the exile, "Weep not!" To that elder and his companions the seals on the book had caused no anxiety. The secret of the Lord was in their hearts. They knew that there was one eye from which the things written in that book were never hid. In the light which breaks upon him now, the tears of the captive-prophet have disappeared. The mystery which lay upon his soul is unloosed. The book is in the hands of his Lord. "What no man in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth" could do, has been done by Christ. He has prevailed "to open the book, and to loose the seven seals." The joy of the seer seems to palpitate up into the throngs of heaven. And if we would know the character of that book, we must open our minds to the thoughts which find expression in this song.

1. The song is first of all a song of thanks: "Thou hast redeemed us." There was such power in His sympathy, that it penetrated, and used for redemption purposes, every peculiarity of nature, and race, and sphere. There was such power in His grace, that it broke down, in their hearts, the might of indifference, and enmity, and lust, and sin.

2. Again, the song of the elders is more than personal thanksgiving. It is a prophecy of consolation as well. It is sung for John and the suffering Church.

3. Besides being personal thanksgiving and prophecy, the song of the redeemed is worship of the Redeemer. And it is the judicial aspect of His work they praise. The object of this worship is seated on the throne of the universe. The song is often quoted as if it were an acknowledgment of His worth as a sacrifice: "Thou art worthy...for Thou wast slain." But it is more, by being less, than this. "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, for Thou wast slain." The fact that He was slain is celebrated here, only because it imparts the right to open the book. The singers take their stand on the fact that He is judge, because He is first of all sacrifice. He is worthy to unloose the seals of judgment, because He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We are accustomed to connect the death of Christ with the outflowings of His mercy; the connection here is between that death and the outflowings of His justice. In the depths of this song I find the great faith, that there is a Judge in the earth who judgeth righteously, and Christ the crucified is He.

(A. Macleod, D. D.)

But these prelusive judgments are little known. The book is sealed with seals. We do not see its contents, or we do not see them as what they are. The retributions it reveals are not known as retributions. Our knowledge at the best is limited, our insight dim and poor, and the "thoughts" of the Judge "are very deep."

1. The habit of expecting from the future what is already by our side is one cause of our blindness to the retributions of the present. We underrate the present, and are surprised when it brings a judgment to our door. Every age, I might say every day, is a judgment-day. "Every morning doth He bring judgment to light." Even while I write these words the term of probation for some life, or scheme, or institution, or nation, is coming to a close. Over a thousand spheres of action, the judgment hour is striking.

2. Our subjection to sense, and the consequent tendency to judge according to appearance, is another cause of the dimness which seems to lie on the world of retribution. "Appearance" is no mark of well-being in the sphere of Providence.

3. A third cause of our blindness to such events is the foregone conclusion that retribution is only present when the last results of sin have been reached. Judgment manifests itself in the partial as well as in the complete developments of evil.

4. A fourth cause which seals up the prelusive judgments from our view is the mistaken conceptions of retribution which we entertain. We are wrong in our notions of its nature and manifestations. Even when retributions are present and palpable to the senses, we will not believe them to be outbreakings of the Divine wrath on sin. We suffer ourselves to be blinded by phrases which hide out the truth. We say — we think we have explained them when we say — they are the accidents of circumstances, or the natural fruits of evil. We do not see that there can be no such accidents. We do not sufficiently remember that the natural fruits of evil are themselves a doom. We insist on extraneous and formal dooms. Retributions must come forth clad in miraculous and visible garments. It must be a handwriting on the wall, a portent in the heavens, a sounding of trumpets in the sky. But this is merely the aberration of our ignorance. Retribution can only on rare occasions be clothed in formalities like these. Its manifestations, for the most part, and of necessity, are not miraculous, but natural. It is at work when we, who are in its presence, see only decay, or disease, or accident.

(A. Macleod, D. D.)

Four volumes are mentioned in the Scriptures as belonging to God's celestial library.

1. The "book of the living" (Psalm 69:28), in which are enumerated all items of personal human history, as God has decreed them (Psalm 139:16).

2. The "book of the law" (Galatians 3:10), in which are included all God's demands for obedience and duty.

3. The "book of remembrance" (Malachi 3:16), in which are noted all the incidents of each believer's continued experience (Psalm 56:8).

4. The "book of life" (Philippians 4:3), in which are recorded all the names of those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and no others (Revelation 20:15). Of these perhaps the likeliest to be the one John now saw in God's right hand was the first, containing the secret decrees of Divine providence concerning human life and the destiny of nations.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. THE BOOK OF MYSTERY.

1. It is instructive to inquire where the seer saw the book.

2. It is also instructive to notice the fulness of Divine counsels contained in the book.

3. The carefulness with which its contents are secured.

II. A STARTLING CHALLENGE AND THE PROFOUND SUSPENSE.

1. By whom made.

2. The nature of the challenge.

3. The profound suspense.(1) What a stern rebuke to all the daring speculations of unaided reason concerning the future purposes of God!(2) How painful the thought of the unbroken seals to the apocalyptic seer!

III. THE CONSOLING ANNOUNCEMENT.

1. The character of the announcement.

2. The ground of the consolation.

IV. A MARVELLOUS SCENE.

1. A symbolic representation of our Lord in heaven.(1) "In the midst of the throne," etc. Christ is the central figure of all the heavenly hosts.(2) "A Lamb as it had been slain," etc. Christ's death is the ground of all heavenly glory.

2. "A symbolic representation of the investiture of Christ with full control of all the purposes of the Father.(1) These purposes are symbolised in the book.(2) The investiture is symbolised in Christ becoming possessor of the book.

3. A symbolic representation of the joy which will fill all heaven and earth and sea when Christ is thus honoured.(1) The song now sung was a "new song."(2) The inspiration of the song was the worthiness of Christ to take the book and to open its seals.(3) The theme of the song — redemption through Christ's blood; the exaltation of the saved to the positions of kings and priests, blessed hope of reigning over the earth.Learn —

1. That all the events of the future, as well as those of the past, are under the supreme control of our Lord as Redeemer.

2. That to Christ we owe every ray of light that this book sheds on the future.

3. That while terrible judgments are announced in the book against the wicked, the issue will be most glorious for the Church of Christ, and the result of Christ's administration will be the triumph of holiness.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

1. The plan of the Divine government is settled and adjusted with as much certainty and precision as if it had been put upon record, or written in a book.

2. The work of Messiah is a great and glorious under. taking.

3. There is a mixture of good and evil in the temper and conduct of the best of men. John wept when he had no proper occasion for sorrow. In so far as his grief sprung from inattention to Christ it was criminal; but in so far as it manifested his public spirit, and sprung from a fear lest the Church might be destitute of any branch of knowledge that might be advantageous for her, it was truly generous and patriotic, and therefore much to be commended.

4. There is a constitutional fitness in the person of Christ for the work of mediation. He is both the root and the offspring of David; He is a daysman who can lay His hand upon both, and make up the breach between them; and as there is no other medium of friendly intercourse with God, it nearly concerns us to be savingly acquainted with Him, as the way, the truth, and the life.

(R. Culbertson.)

Luther got much of his insight into God's matters by this means. It is said of Sir Philip Sidney that when he met with anything that he well understood not, he would break out into tears.

(J. Trapp.)

The Lion of the tribe of Judah... hath prevailed to open the book. —
1. Whereas John is comforted by one of the elders, we see that the Lord never leaves His own comfortless.

2. Where He says, "Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah," etc., we are taught for all solid comfort to look up to Christ the fountain thereof; and as Samson got honey out of his slain lion, so shall we the sweetness of comfort from Him.

3. The elder speaks of Him in His titles out of Moses and Isaiah; and so do all faithful teachers speak of Him according to the Scriptures.

4. Christ is said to be not only a Lamb for meekness, innocence, and patient suffering, but also a Lion for power and prevailing against all His foes and ours, which is both a comfort to His own and terror to His enemies.

5. Also where He is said to be of the tribe of Judah, and so to be man of our nature and come of men; it is likewise greatly to our comfort that He has so dignified our nature in His person, wherein now it is glorified, passing by the angels.

6. Where He is called "the Root of David," who was also a Branch or the Son of David, we see as He was man; so likewise God, and the root or stock which bears up all the faithful and can never fail.

7. He is said to have prevailed to open the book, etc. — to wit, with the Father-as our Mediator and Advocate, which is to our great comfort, that whatever (for the good of His Church) He seeks of the Father, He prevails therein; yea, whatever we shall seek in His name, it shall be granted us.

8. He prevails to open the book and the seven seals thereof. It is He, then, only who is "The Word," as the Wisdom of the Father to decree, so the Word to declare, and the Power to effectuate, that Great Prophet of His Church who came from the bosom of the Father to reveal the Lord's counsel, and His goodwill to men: hear Him.

(Wm. Guild, D. D.)

I. JESUS IS CALLED A LION BECAUSE OF THE UNPARALLELED COURAGE WHICH BELONGS TO HIM. The work which He undertook to execute was one of incomparable magnitude. Had it been proposed to the mightiest archangel that stands before God's throne, he would have shrunk in timidity from the task. For what was it? It was to reconcile things apparently incongruous, and to perform things apparently impossible. It was to satisfy the demands of justice, and yet, at the same time, yield abundant scope for the exercise of mercy. It was to secure pardon to a condemned race, and yet maintain inviolate the honour of the law which had sentenced them to condemnation. And, in addition to all this, it was to combat single-handed the powers and principalities of hell. Who among the sons of the mighty could have presumed that he was equal to such a work? And yet, behold, in the fulness of time, One born of a woman undertakes this mighty office. The difficulties and dangers of the work were not hidden from Him. Yet did not the prospect, awful as it was, deter Him from engaging in the service. Nor, when the very worst was immediately in view, did it shake the intrepidity of His purpose. Of His courage, even as of His love, it may be said that it was "stronger than death."

II. COURAGE, HOWEVER, AS WE ALL KNOW, MAY RESIDE IN A BOSOM TO WHICH THE POWER OF ACCOMPLISHING WHAT IT UNDERTAKES IS DENIED. There may be the will to do and the soul to dare what the hand is incompetent to execute. But it was not thus with the blessed Jesus, who undertook the bold work of saving lost men. His strength was equal to His courage, and He had power to execute all that His boldness purposed. Being God as well as man, no burden was too heavy for Him, no trial too severe.

III. THE IDEA SUGGESTED BY THE METAPHOR UNDER CONSIDERATION MAY WELL ANIMATE YOU TO STEADFASTNESS IN THE WORK OF THE LORD. Like your Divine Master, you too shall have powerful opposition to encounter, and formidable enemies to contend against. But the example which He has set may well arouse you to activity.

(J. L. Adamson.)

It is needless to say to the Biblical student that this imagery has its base on Genesis 49:8-10.

I. THE VICTORIOUS LEADERSHIP AND POWER OF JUDAH. Of Judah, the old man says that he shall be chief amongst his brethren. "Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise;... thy father's children shall bow down before thee." He is to be a victorious power. "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies... from the prey thou art gone up." His is to be a legislative and regal power. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet." He is to be the true centre of government, the rallying point of the world's hopes; "to him shall the gathering of the people be." Let us trace the history to see the facts that fulfil the prophecy. Two hundred years after the old man's dying words were spoken, we find the children of Israel going up out of Egypt, and God gives directions about the order of their encampment. "On the east side shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch" (Numbers 2:3). Why is Judah assigned the principal place in the front of the tabernacle? Why is he here the chief tribe? Why should not Reuben, the first-born, be appointed here? There is no explanation to be given except that for his sin he had been displaced, "and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright," and "Judah was made the chief ruler" (1 Chronicles 5:1, 2). Again, in Numbers 7:12, when the offerings were to be made, Nahshon... of the tribe of Judah was assigned the dignity of offering first. When the tribes had passed into Canaan the remnants of the people were to be overcome, and Israel requires of the Lord who shall be put in the forefront of the fray, who should lead to battle. "Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the lands into his hand" (Judges 1:2, 3). Still later the tribe of Benjamin revolt (Judges 20:18) and the people "went to the house of God" and "asked counsel of God. Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first."

II. But this all-conquering and all-controlling power of Judah but symbolised THE REAL ROYALTY AND SUPREME SWAY OF JESUS CHRIST, and hence we go on to the New Testament — the family record of the Lord Jesus, "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David." The old promise of Jacob in Genesis was that this regal might, this conquering splendour, should abide with Judah till the Peace-bringer, the Shiloh, should come (Genesis 49:10).

(J. T. Gracey, D. D.)

The Lamb is said here to prevail to open the book. We often suppose that He prevailed by His sacrifice to alter the Divine purposes. We often say that the Divine will, or justice, or purity, demanded something of man which he could not render. That he was doomed to destruction for that failure; that the Lamb interposed to avert this sentence; that He paid the creature's debt; that so He satisfied the mind of Him who sat on the throne; that many threads are woven into this theory which are drawn from the practical faith of men, from their experience of their own wants, from the lessons they have learnt in Scripture, I gladly own. But that that practical faith has suffered, and does suffer cruelly, from the speculations which have been mixed with it; that the hearts of men crave for a satisfaction which this scheme of divinity does not afford them; that if they would listen to the teaching of Scripture they would find that satisfaction, I must maintain also. How naturally men conscious of evil wish to change the purpose of a Power which they think is ready to punish this evil; how eagerly they seek for mediators who they suppose may effect this change; how they may arrive at last at the conception of a Kehama who by prayers and sacrifice can bend the will of the gods wholly to his will, the mythology of all nations proves abundantly. Christian theology scatters such dark imaginations by revealing the Highest Ruler as the All-Good, Him who sits on the throne as a Being like a jasper or a sardine stone to look upon; by revealing the Lamb that was slain as the perfect sharer of His counsels; the perfect fulfiller of His will; the perfect revealer of His designs to mankind; the perfect Redeemer of the world from the dominion of false, hateful, cruel gods which they had imagined, and which upheld all falsehood, hatred, cruelty in the rulers; the perfect stoner of man with the Father of Light, in whom is no variableness nor the shadow of turning.

(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

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