« PreviousContinue »
that the Lord takes of his own faithful remnant, by separating them from others, that they might not be hurt thereby.
These spiritual plagues are expressed under the notion of four winds, ver. 1. which drive away unstable professors, who are not rooted by faith in Christ, just as the wind drives loose and light things before it. Those winds are said to be four, with allusion to the four quarters of heaven, east, west, north, and south; implying, that the devil sets upon the chuich of Chrilt from all airths at once, so that she is like a city besieged by enemies from all quarters. The instruments in the hand of God, for plaguing the visible church with those spiritual judgements, are/our. Some fay they were four evil angels, like those that were sent to be a lying spirit in the mouth of Abab's prophets, to persuade him to go up to Ramoth-Gilead, to his destruction. Others think that they were good angels, because they restrained the winds until the faints were sealed. But we need not insist to determine this difference, feeing we find God, the great Lord and Sovereign, sometimes making use of good, and sometimes of bad angels, as the executioners of his wrath.
But now in the 2d and 3d verses follows the consolation of the saints of God, his little remnant, who are keeping their garments clean, and keeping the word of his pati;nce. The eyes of the Lord are running to and fro through the whole earth to shew himself strong in their behalf, and his care about them is thus expressed. And I saw another Angel ascending from the east, having the fe<?l os the living God : and he cried with a loud voice to the four Atigels to whom it -was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the tarth, neither the sea, nor the trees, tdl we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. Where, fpr explication, we may notice these following particulars.
1. T^ great agent that interposes for the safety of the saints, when the four noxious winds are blowing away the generality of proftssors; and that is another Angtl: not any created angel, like the four mentioned in the ut verse, but the glorious Angel of the covenant, Jesus Christ? who was sent before Israel to opi-.n the way into the land of Canaan, concerning whom God says to Israel, Exod. xxiii. 21. "Beware of him, and obey his voice : for my name is in him." This I fay is tht: Angel hrre spoken of, for he is the head that looks to the welfare of his members, " And he is given to be head over all things unto the church, which is his body;" and all the faints are in his hand, and none shall pluck them out of his or his Futhei'i hand.
2. We may notice from wjiat airth this Angel doth arise and
appear; appear; he afcends from the eaft, with allusion to the natural fun in the sirmament, who arifes from that airth, and fpreads his light and influences toward the west. The coming of Christ is compared to lightning coming from the east. He is "the light of the worldl; the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the wotld." Some obferve that the entry of the temple, by which the prince was to afcend, Was upon the east ; and fo it may fgnify, that when Christ comes, for the htlp aQd relief of his church, he appears in a princely and fovereign way ; and when he doth fo he acts like himfelf, " the Prince of the kings of the earth/'
3. This Angel is the Lord-keeper of the privy feal of heaven, for he had the feal of the living God. This fhews that he is his Father's great trustee, who has all power in heaven and in earth committed unto him. On the fame account the keys of the houfe of David, or the government is laid upon his fhoulders : If. xxii. 24. "he fhall hang upon him all the glory of his Father's houfe, the oflspring and the uTuc, all vesfels of fmall quantity : from the veffels of cups even to all the vesfels of flagons." The care of God's particular kingdom, of his chofen generation, royal priesthood, peculiar people, and holy nation, is committed to him.
4. We may obferve how Christ executes his authoritative trust ; he cries with a hud'eoice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the feu. His crying may signify Christ's authority, the eminency of the danger, and his care to have the hurtful winds restrained for a feafon. Thofe to whom he directs his cry, are the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the fea; whereby we are made to understand, that all the angels, both good and bad, are fubject to the authority and command of him, who is " the head of all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion," &c. None of them all can act but by orders from him. Christ in heaven is looking to the welfare of his church and people upon earth in time of danger, when they themselves have no thought about their own hazard.
5. We have the particular ch:irge given to the angels by Christ, which I have mainly in view, ver. 3. he faid to them Hurt not the earth, neither the fea, nor the trees, till we have
ftilled the fervants of our God in their foreheads.
Where we have, iff, A prohibition, idly, The party immediately concerned in the prohibition. And, ^diy, The reafon thereof.
ist, The prohibition: Hurt not the earth, neither the fea, nor the trees, for a time. Where you lee the judgement is not abfolutely averted nor difcharged, but only fufpended, until pro
rif'on be made for the safety of God's peculiar people. Observe, that any favour shewed unto the wicked, or any suspension of divine vengeance with respect unto them, is owing unto the truly godly that live among- them; if it were not for the elect's fake, God would make short work with the rest of mankind : " Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a vtry small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah."
idly, We have the piny immediately concerned in the prohibition ; the earth, the sea, and the trees. By whom in general we are to understand professors of different kinds, against whom the bensil of those hurtful winds was levelled, and who were to sustain great hurt and injury thereby to their souls, when God's time of loosing them lhould come. What fort of professors of religion are particularly pointed at by the earth, the fie, and trees, shall be declared afterwards.
idly, We have the reason of the restraint that is laid upon the hurtful winds, that they are not suffered to blow for a while, viz. Until we have sealed the servants of our God in their fireheadf. Where we have,
(1.) The objects of the divine care, the servants of our God. It is Christ that is speaking, and he speaks in the c;ipacity of s public head, in his own name, and in the name of all his faithful friends and followers, faying, Our Cod, because he is the head of the whole mystical body, and stands in a joint relation to God with his members and people, according to John xx. 17. " I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." she character that he gives them is, that they are the servants of God; and the reason of. this designation is, because they were such as feared ■i name, Neh. i. 11. and because they "kept the command\nents of God, and the testimony of Jesus," when the flood cast out of the mouth of the old serpent was sweeping away the bulk of visible professors unto a course of apoitacy.
(2.) We may notice what was to be done to or for the servants of God; why, they are to be staled, i. e. they are tobe separate or distinguished from others that were to be doomed to destruction; much like that, Ezek. ix. 4. 6. Says the Lord to the man who had the writer's inkhorn by h;s side, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midit of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the tudst thereof;" and then, it is added, " Come not near any man tponwhom is the mark." In short, this discovers the particular care that God has of his own remnant, and the special providence vidence that God exercises about them, when his judgement; are in the earth.
(3.) Notice the viGbility of this seal ; they are scaled on their foreheads. Thus, Rev. xiv. 1. the hundred forty and four thousand who siand with the Lamb on mount Sion, they are said to " have his Father's name written in their foreheads;" i. e. they had a visible profession of the name of God in the world, and were not ashamed to confess him before men. So here this seal is set on the foreheads of the servants of God; i. e. as they had been faithful to his cause and interest, when others had deserted him and his truth; so he would visibly own them as his before the world, and would not be ashamed of them, and would make his regard for them evident to all men, by the singular care he took of them, when his destroying judgements were in the earth.
(4.) The reason of their being thus sealed is here implied, viz. that they might not be hurt, i. e. that they might be preserved from the danger and hazard of these pestilential winds that were to blow in a little upon the visible church. Thus 1 have endeavoured to open the text and context a little.
From the 2d and 3d verses we may observe these few things.
Objlrv. r. That Christ, the glorious uncreated Angel of the covenant, is the protector and guatdian of his church and people. He is that other Angel, who has a watchful eye upon his remnant, that they may not suffer hurt by the winds that were to blow, Psal. xci. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them," Psal. xxxiv. 7. " The angel of his presence saved them : in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and he bare them, and carried them all the days of ohi," If. lxiii. y. In which the prophet refers to Exod. xxiii. 20. 21. where God fays to Moses, "Behold, I fend mine Angel before thee to keep thee in the way, ami to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice:—for my name is in him." This is he that was with the church in the wilderness, and this is he that is with the New Testament church, even he who "rideth upon the heavens by his great name J Ah, for the help of his people, and in his excellency on the ikies;" and therefore will make all things,even the most cloudy dilpensations, " work together for good to tr-em that love God, and who are the called according to his purpose.''
Obstrv. 2. That Christ's appearances foT his church makes day
to break from under the darkest night. Hence here likened
ufitathc fun ascending from the east, dispelling the darkness
» of of the nighr. Luke i. 78. "Through the tender mercies of our God, the day-spring from on high hath visited us." He brings healing in his wings.
Obsirv. 3. That however the glory of Christ may be clouded and obteured by the errors of man, and the mills of hell, yet, like the fun in the firmament, he is always in the ascendant. This prophecy here is thought to have a particular respect unto that period of the church, when, after the ten Romish Heathen persecutions, a swarm of heresies brake out in the church, calculate for obscuring the glory of his person and righteousness; and yet at tht fame time he is ascending, and, in the issue, all these mists serve only as a foil to set forth his glory with the greater lustre. Thus the wrath of men and devils, and all their errors and delusions, shall praise him ; and what will not answer this end he will reltrain. And therefore "let the children of Zion Be always joyful in their King," he will-prevail.
Obfrrvj. 4. That our glorious Redeemer is a person of the highest interest, credit, and authority, in heaven ; for here we are told, that he hath the seal of tht living Gcd. God has "hung upon him all the glory of his house •," he hath "highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." Oh what unspeakable consolation is here, especially considering that he got this authority, and executes it, for the good of his church!
Observ. 5. That such is the power and authority of our Redeemer, that all the executioners of the divine anger against the children of men, or the rotten professors of the visible church, are under his empire and command; for here we fee he restrains the four angels, to whom ic was given to hurt the earth, and the sea, and the trees. Angels and principalities and powers in heavenly places do obeilance unto him, and are his winged messengers, and as a flame of fire to obey him : and as for wicked men and devils, they are under the chains of his powtr nud providence ; he lules in the raging of the sea, and when the waves thereof roar, he Itilleth [km, and fays, " Hitherto llialt thou come, but no farther."
Observ. 6. That when the danger is great and mo.1 imminent toward his church ;ind people, that is the season wherein he moil readily interposes sorhtip and deliverance. When the four angels were just ready to let loose the four hurtful winds, whereby good and bad, chassand corn, might have been swept away together, then he gives the cry to stop until the servants of God were fenled, and provision-made for their safety.
Vol. III. G "Now