« PreviousContinue »
said of God that he was.
Before the mountains were brought forth, ere ever the dust of the earth was formed, even from everlasting, he was God. In the present duration it may be said of God that he is. All created existences are dependent upon
his being; there cannot be a greater absurdity in denying the existence of the world, than in denying the existence of its author; for if God is not, beings of any other order cannot exist.–And with equal propriety it may be said of him that he is to come. • From everlasting to everlasting he is God.'-— Though eternity is often described by different epochs, it is not because it admits of a succession of parts, and is, therefore, divisible into different portions like time: any idea that we can form of eternity, must spring from our notions of time; and, therefore, in condescension to our weakness, and usual habits of thinking, the eternity of God is described by those chronological terms which are usually employed to distinguish the different periods of time. But in this duration there cannot be any succession of parts ; properly speaking, there is neither past nor future in eternity, but only a continued
Hence the generation of the Son is represented as if it were a continued act : ' Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten thee,' (Heb.) this day I am begetting thee, Psal. ii. 7; and the eternal procession of the Spirit is described in the same way: the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father,' John xv. 26. With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as yesterday.
The chapter is concluded with an account of the happy influence of the ministrations and example of the living creatures, upon the temper and exercise of the elders ; introductory to which, we are told, as in ver. 9, that they give glory to him that sitteth on the throne. It is impossible either to add to the essential dignity and glory of God, or to detract from them. • If thou sinnest, what dost thou against him ? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him ? if thou be righteous, what givest thou him ? or what receiveth he of thine hand ? thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy
righteousness may profit the son of man,' Job xxxv. 6, 7, 8. But such things can neither profit nor injure God. The reciprocation of gifts between God and men must be very different both in their spring and consequences, with respect to these different parties. When God makes a bequest unto man, he bestows upon him something which he did not formerly possess; he either adds to the number, or increases the measure and value, of the endowments of the recipient; and whatever he gives, in the most absolute sense of the expression, is of his own proper goods. But when men give unto him, they only return to the great Proprietor what he had been pleased to confer. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee,' 1 Chr. xxix. 14. Their giving glory to his matchless excellencies, amounts to nothing more than a pious and believing acknowledgment, that these excellencies are exclusively his own. It is in this manner that the living creatures give glory to him that sitteth upon the throne. They only acknowledge that his holiness is without any stain, that his power is irresistible, and that his duration is without a beginning and without an end.
They are said to give him honour. It is difficult to draw the proper line of distinction between the expressions glory and honour ; the former is supposed to have a special bearing upon the character of the object of worship, as delineated in the song of praise ; and the latter, upon the relation in which he stands to the workmanship of his hands, as marked in the close of the chapter. When praise and adoration are ascribed to God for what he is in himself, we are then said to give him glory; and when they are ascribed to him for what he is unto us, we are said to give him honour.
They are likewise said to give thanks. A due estimation of benefits, a proper discernment of the hand that confers them, and a disposition to be grateful, are included in the exercise of thanksgiving. These ministers of Jehovah know that they are indebted to him for their several endowments, and that they have nothing valuable in prospect, but what they expect
to receive from the same bountiful and gracious hand; and, therefore, in the most grateful acknowledgments, they make it their endeavour to shew forth his praise.
All this glory, honour, and thanksgiving, they ascribe to him that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever. The object of their adorations is not an idol, or any imaginary divinity: he is the living God, the true God, and an everlasting King.
Now, these exercises of the living creatures are represented as having the best influence upon the minds of the elders : for when they give glory, and honour, and thanks, the four and twenty elders fall down and worship. As the echo answers to the sound, or the note in the musical scale to the chord that is touched, so the exercise of the elders corresponds with that of the living creatures. The song is no sooner begun by the one, than the note of praise is instantly swelled by the loud and harmonious voices of the other. Accounting, however, that they are unworthy to stand in the presence of such a holy Lord God, they prostrate themselves before him. This posture bespeaks their high veneration of the object of worship, and their very humble apprehensions of themselves. In the exercise of the warmest affection, the most profound reverence, and the deepest humility, they sing the praises of him that liveth for ever and ever.
As a further token of the sincerity of their homage, and of the complete subjection of their spirits to God, they are likewise represented as casting their crowns before the throne. In the preceding context, they are described as sitting upon thrones, and wearing crowns of gold; but they have not forgotten from whom all their spiritual honours were received, nor by what sort of tenure they are held. They consider themselves as spiritual vassals, who are indebted to their liege sovereign, both for their honours and their lives; and that it cannot be a hard or a degrading service to do homage to him for both. It is probable, that the allusion is to a vassal prince doing homage to a superior for his crown. He can never acknowledge, by a more expressive sign, the tenure by which it is held, than when he lays it at the foot of the throne of his sovereign. In like manner, these spiritual princes do homage to the King of kings, for the honours which they wear ; they do it with a willing and a ready mind. Indeed things are accounted valuable by them only in so far as they can be subordinated to the great purposes of the Divine glory. It is in this way that they estimate even life itself. Hence, their persons as well as crowns, are laid at the foot of the throne.
These symbolical actions were accompanied with such language as sufficiently explains their meaning, and shows with what reverence and cordiality they dedicated their persons and honours to the service of God. Thou art worthy, O Lord, say they in the beginning of ver. 11, to receive glory, and honour, and power. The matter of this ascription is substantially the same with the declaration of the living creatures, only instead of the word rendered thanks, the elders make use of a term which our translators have rendered by the word power. They address the object of their adoration, as worthy of the highest homage-on account of his infinite and matchless excellencies--his near and intimate relation to the different orders of created beings—and his supreme and absolute authority over them. All these are necessarily implied in their language. But the form of the address is somewhat different from that which is used by the living creatures. It runs in the second person, and partakes of the formal nature of an address, or ascription of praise ; whereas the other runs in the third person, and appears as if it were a simple declaration or assertion. You are not however to suppose, that, because ministers are appointed to assist the devotional exercises of the people, they may warrantably neglect the cultivation of a spirit of devotion in themselves. It is the duty of ministers, as well as people, to stir up every devotional feeling in the soul. But as in all the different branches of their public services, they appear in a ministerial, rather than in a devotional character, so the language of the living creatures contains only a warm, animated
declaration of truth, while that of the elders glows with the heat of devotion, and runs in the form of an immediate address to the throne. Fellow-mortals are the immediate objects of all those exercises which are strictly ministerial. The
great end of preaching is to beget right sentiments and feelings towards God. And the labours of these symbolical ministers were followed with these desirable consequences among their hearers; for when they proclaimed with a loud voice, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, all the chords of the religious feelings of the elders were sensibly touched. A secret but powerful agency accompanied their ministrations, and produced the best effects among those that heard them.
But, though this ascription of praise is the highest that can be presented, it amounts only to an acknowledgment, that the object of their worship was worthy to be praised. In the very act of adoration, they proclaim both their unworthiness and their incapacity for the work; and that they never could serve God with a vigour of spirit, anywise proportioned to the dignity and excellency of his character. They only say,
Thou art worthy to receive glory, and honour, and power.
Besides the implied reasons for worship contained in this ascription, two others are explicitly stated in the close of the verse :-First, they ascribe praise to him, because he is the Maker of all things; for thou hast created all things. To create is to produce something out of nothing; "the things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear,' Heb. xi. 3. Creatures may mould and fashion pre-existent matter into a variety of shapes and forms. Of the same lump the potter may make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour; but it is beyond the power of men or angels to add a single particle of dust to the system of matter, or a single intelligent being to the world of spirits. The title of Creator belongs exclusively to God; and as he is the maker of all things, he must be their proprietor, and have a just claim to their homage and services.
They ascribe praise to him, in the second place, because he