Изображения страниц


1. And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

There seems to be a sense in which heaven waits on earth; in which (if I dare say so) God waits on man. Thus heaven now keeps silence as a prelude to earthly events, portents, vicissitudes.

Yet need not this celestial silence convey to us (I conjecture) any notion of interruption in the day and night harmony of worship before the Throne, any more than time interrupts eternity. For because we dare not think of God Who "inhabiteth eternity" as changing to a habitation of time, we thence perceive that time and eternity co-exist, are simultaneous if, that is, they be not rather different aspects of one and the same continuity.

If from the songs of heaven we learn to sing and make melody to the Lord with both voice and understanding, equally from the silence of heaven we may learn somewhat.

Whilst heaven kept silence it appears it may have been looking or preparing to look earthwards. And of old David declared: "I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good." Thus from Angels above and from a saint below, I may study that meekness of righteous indignation, that discretion of holy zeal, which brings not railing accusations nor risks doing harm even by good words.

Silence seems unnatural, incongruous, in heaven. On this occasion and remotely we may surmise it to be a result of the Fall, for when earth first saw the light in panoply of beauty the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy sinless earth, for sinless it then seems to have been whether or not inhabited, called forth instead of silencing an outburst of celestial music.


I think one may view this "silence" as a figure of suspense. Reversing which proposition, I perceive that a Christian's suspense ought to present a figure of that silence.

And if so, suspense should sustain my heart in heavenly peace even whilst fluttering over some spot of earth; and should become my method of worship, when other modes fail me; and should be adopted by my free will, whenever by God's Will it befalls me; and should not hinder heaven from appearing heaven to me, or divorce me from fellowship with angels, or make me speak unadvisedly with my lips. Faithful, hopeful, loving suspense would be rich in evidence of things not seen and not heard; and would neither lag nor hurry, but would contentedly maintain silence during its imposed "halfhour." A shorter time? no, on pain of rashness: a longer time? no, on pain of sullenness.

This silence followed and waited upon an act of our Lord: "when He had opened the seventh seal."—" Unto Thee lift I up mine eyes, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that He have mercy upon us."

"About the space of half an hour."-Not finally, not for long. "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. . . He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people. . . . And the heavens shall declare His righteousness."

The half moon shows a face of plaintive sweetness
Ready and poised to wax or wane;

A fire of pale desire in incompleteness,

Tending to pleasure or to pain

Lo, while we gaze she rolleth on in fleetness

To perfect loss or perfect gain.

Half bitterness we know, we know half sweetness;

This world is all on wax, on wane:

When shall completeness round time's incompleteness

Fulfilling joy, fulfilling pain?—

Lo, while we ask, life rolleth on in fleetness

To finished loss or finished gain.

2. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

Recalling the seven trumpets of rams' horns sounded by the seven priests on seven successive days, whereby was announced and achieved the overthrow of Jericho.

The seven priests blew their trumpets together, the seven

Angels one by one; the seven priests thus appearing as it were equivalent to the single angel; in accordance with St. Peter's declaration : 66 Angels, which are greater in power and might." And as the agency is greater, so apparently the series of events is greater and the result greater; harmonizing with Isaiah's prophecy, when after foretelling "the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall," he adds: "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days."

Jericho, the outpost of the Promised Land; the earthly Israel shouting and going up straight before them: a figure of the spiritual Israel going out with joy and led forth with peace into the heavenly Canaan.

The destruction of Jericho and entering in of the chosen race, whether considered from the historical or from the emblematical view-point, encourages us to face hopefully the awful unprecedented blast of the seven angelic trumpets. Then the Ark of the Lord encamped before Jericho among the thousands of Israel: and Christ our true and sole Ark of Safety has promised His Church: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

His Presence ensures safety and every blessing. Yet it may be-and if such be His Will, Christ grant it may be even so to you, to all, to me-it may be that one day It will ensure these by taking the place to us of any other safety and of every other spiritual blessing. For instance: of old He pronounced, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath," upholding its pious though not its superstitious observance; and again He tenderly bade His disciples, "Pray ye that your flight be not. . . on the Sabbath-day." The Sabbath ranks amongst venerable and immutable Divine institutions, dating back to unfallen man in the Garden of Eden; yet may it be reft from us as regards its outward national observance, though never from the faithful as regards its inward hallowing. Already in England (not to glance at other countries) the signs of the times are ominous: Sunday is being diverted by some to business, by others to pleasure; Church congregations are often meagre, and so services are chilled. Our solemn feasts languish, and our fasts where are they? Yet each for himself, and God for us all, we can if we choose "remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy"; jealous of its essentials, not wedded to its accidents.

So Joshua and his host when summoned to storm Jericho day after day for seven days, must amongst those days have

kept one unexampled Sabbath, if not in the letter yet in the spirit.

3. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the Throne.

4. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

The celestial altar may transcend but can never contradict the terrestrial. One throws light upon the other. To meditate on the altar which we know, seems one safe way of meditating on the altar which we know not.

In heaven "an angel," here a priest ministers; and whether priest or angel, he who stands acceptably before God on behalf of man cannot but represent Christ; "for there is One God, and One Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

There the altar is of gold; here well might it be of gold. Virtually it becomes of gold when it is of our costliest, choicest, best; but not so, if man's house is of cedar whilst the Lord's is of curtains.

There out of a golden censer prayers ascend by fire. For prayer offered in Christ's Name is such a human work as can stand fire, a worthy superstructure raised on the One Foundation (see 1 Cor. iii. 11-15). And since "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," the censer may remind us of that heart which God claims as His own portion (as if He said, "My son, give Me thine heart,") from "the precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold." Or rather let it remind us of the Heart of that Only always-acceptable Beloved Son Who, ever living to make intercession for us, presents before the Throne all our needs out of His own heart.

There much incense goes up as smoke with the saints' prayers. Isaiah in vision beheld the Temple of the Lord filled with smoke"; and perhaps we may compare such smoke to a cloud; figuratively, even to that Cloud which under the elder covenant indicated the Divine Presence. so, this sacred smoke may remind us of that Presence of Christ which is plighted to two or three supplicants gathered together in His Name; and of that blessed Advocacy whereby


Christ and the Holy Spirit deign to effectuate our petitions, rendering them in their degree acceptable like that odour of spikenard wherewith one woman's love filled the house where Jesus supped.

Whereupon the incense and smoke of the incense should kindle us to utmost adoration and love, by thus setting before us Christ Who for our sakes made Himself once for all a whole Burnt Offering, an Offering and a sweet-smelling Savour to the Glory of God the Father; and Who in the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood having left to His Church a perpetual Memorial of His sole sufficient Sacrifice, receives us and our petitions into the "secret place" of that Presence and sets us in heavenly places with His own Self.


No Cherub's heart or hand for us might ache,
No Seraph's heart of fire had half sufficed :
Thine own were pierced and broken for our sake,
O Jesus Christ.

Therefore we love Thee with our faint good will,
We crave to love Thee not as heretofore,

To love Thee much, to love Thee more, and still
More and yet more.

5. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

If I may view this blessed Angel as in any sense representing his and our Lord, then may his casting the fiery censer into the earth recall to my mind a declaration from our Lord's own lips: "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division."

Then also I may take shelter from terrors of fire, voices, thunderings, lightnings, earthquake, in the sympathy of Jesus: loved He us of old, and doth He not love us now? loveth He us now, and will He not love us then?

As the dove which found no rest

For sole of her foot, flew back

To the ark her only nest

And found safety there;

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »