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1: And I saw on mount Sion - The heavenly Sion. An
hundred forty - four thousand - Either those out of all mankind
who had been the most eminently holy, or the most holy out of
the twelve tribes of Israel the same that were mentioned,(Re 7:4), and perhaps also, (Re 16:2). But they were then
in the world, and were sealed in their foreheads, to preserve
them from the plagues that were to follow. They are now in
safety, and have the name of the Lamb and of his Father
written on their foreheads, as being the redeemed of God and
of the Lamb, his now unalienable property. This prophecy
often introduces the inhabitants of heaven as a kind of
chorus with great propriety and elegance. The church above,
making suitable reflections on the grand events which are
foretold in this book, greatly serves to raise the attention
of real Christians, and to teach the high concern they have
in them. Thus is the church on earth instructed, animated,
and encouraged, by the sentiments temper, and devotion of
the church in heaven.
2: And I heard a sound out of heaven - Sounding clearer
and clearer: first, at a distance, as the sound of many
waters or thunders; and afterwards, being nearer, it was as
of harpers harping on their harps. It sounded vocally and
instrumentally at once.
3: And they - The hundred forty - four thousand - Sing a new
song - and none could learn that song - To sing and play it in
the same manner. But the hundred forty - four thousand who
were redeemed from the earth - From among men; from all sin.
4: These are they who had not been defiled with
women - It seems that the deepest defilement, and the most
alluring temptation, is put for every other. They are
virgins - Unspotted souls; such as have preserved universal
purity. These are they who follow the Lamb - Who are nearest
to him. This is not their character, but their reward
Firstfruits - Of the glorified spirits. Who is ambitious to be
of this number?
5: And in their month there was found no guile - Part for
the whole. Nothing untrue, unkind, unholy. They are without
fault - Having preserved inviolate a virgin purity both of soul
6: And I saw another angel - A second is mentioned, verse
8; a third, verse 9. (Re 14:8,9)
These three denote great messengers of God with their assistants;
three men who bring messages from God to men. The first exhorts
to the fear and worship of God; he second proclaims the fall of
Babylon; the third gives warning concerning the beast. Happy are
they who make the right use of these divine messages! Flying
- Going on swiftly. In the midst of heaven - Breadthways.
Having an everlasting gospel - Not the gospel, properly so called;
but a gospel, or joyful message, which was to have an influence on
all ages. To preach to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and
people - Both to Jew and gentile, even as far as the authority
of the beast had extended.
7: Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his
judgment is come - The joyful message is properly this, that
the hour of God's judgment is come. And hence is that
admonition drawn, Fear God and give glory to him. They who
do this will not worship the beast, neither any image or idol
whatsoever. And worship him that made - Whereby he is absolutely
distinguished from idols of every kind. The heaven, and the
earth, and the sea, and fountains of water - And they who worship
him shall be delivered when the angels pour out their phials on
the earth, sea, fountains of water, on the sun, and in the air.
8: And another angel followed, saying, Babylon is fallen
- With the overthrow of Babylon, that of all the enemies of
Christ, and, consequently, happier times, are connected.
Babylon the great - So the city of Rome is called upon many
accounts. Babylon was magnificent, strong, proud, powerful. So
is Rome also. Babylon was first, Rome afterwards, the residence
of the emperors of the world. What Babylon was to Israel of old,
Rome hath been both to the literal and spiritual "Israel of God."
Hence the liberty of the ancient Jews was connected with the
overthrow of the Babylonish empire. And when Rome is finally
overthrown, then the people of God will be at liberty.
Whenever Babylon is mentioned in this book, the great is
added, to teach us that Rome then commenced Babylon, when it
commenced the great city; when it swallowed up the Grecian
monarchy and its fragments, Syria in particular; and, in
consequence of this, obtained dominion over Jerusalem about
sixty years before the birth of Christ. Then it began, but
it will not cease to be Babylon till it is finally destroyed.
Its spiritual greatness began in the fifth century, and
increased from age to age. It seems it will come to its
utmost height just before its final overthrow.
Her fornication is her idolatry; invocation of saints and
angels; worship of images; human traditions; with all that
outward pomp, yea, and that fierce and bloody zeal, wherewith
she pretends to serve God. But with spiritual fornication, as
elsewhere, so in Rome, fleshly fornication is joined abundantly.
Witness the stews there, licensed by the Pope, which are no
inconsiderable branch of his revenue. This is fitly compared,
to wine, because of its intoxicating nature.
Of this wine she hath, indeed, made all nations drink - More
especially by her later missions. We may observe, this making
them drink is not ascribed to the beast, but to Babylon. For
Rome itself, the Roman inquisitions, congregations, and Jesuits,
continually propagate the idolatrous doctrines and practices,
with or without the consent of this or that Pope, who himself
is not secure from their censure.
9: And a third angel followed - At no great distance of
time. Saying, If any one worship the wild beast - This worship
consists, partly in an inward submission, a persuasion that
all who are subject to Christ must be subject to the beast or
they cannot receive the influences of divine grace, or, as
their expression is, there is no salvation out of their church;
partly in a suitable outward reverence to the beast himself, and
consequently to his image.
10: He shall drink - With Babylon,(Re 16:19).
And shall be tormented - With the beast,(Re 20:10).
In all the scripture there is not another so terrible threatening
as this. And God by this greater fear arms his servants against
the fear of the beast. The wrath of God, which is poured unmixed
- Without any mixture of mercy; without hope. Into the cup of his
indignation - And is no real anger implied in all this?
O what will not even wise men assert, to serve an hypothesis!
11: And the smoke - From the fire and brimstone wherein
they are tormented. Ascendeth for ever and ever - God grant thou
and I may never try the strict, literal eternity of this torment!
12: Here is the patience of the saints - Seen, in
suffering all things rather than receive this mark. Who keep
the commandments of God - The character of all true saints; and
particularly the great command to believe in Jesus.
13: And I heard a voice - This is most seasonably heard
when the beast is in his highest power and fury. Out of heaven
- Probably from a departed saint. Write - He was at first commanded
to write the whole book. Whenever this is repeated it denotes
something peculiarly observable. Happy are the dead - From
henceforth particularly: 1. Because they escape the approaching
calamities: 2. Because they already enjoy so near an approach to
glory. Who die in the Lord - In the faith of the Lord Jesus. For
they rest - No pain, no purgatory follows; but pure, unmixed
happiness. From their labours - And the more laborious their life
was, the sweeter is their rest. How different this state from
that of those, verse 11, (Re 14:11) who "have no rest day or
night!" Reader, which wilt thou choose? Their works - Each one's
peculiar works. Follow - or accompany them; that is, the fruit
of their works. Their works do not go before to procure them
admittance into the mansions of joy; but they follow them when
14: In the following verses, under the emblem of an
harvest and a vintage, are signified two general visitations;
first, many good men are taken from the earth by the harvest;
then many sinners during the vintage. The latter is altogether
a penal visitation; the former seems to be altogether gracious.
Here is no reference in either to the day of judgment, but to a
season which cannot be far off. And I saw a white cloud - An
emblem of mercy. And on the cloud sat one like a son of man - An
angel in an human shape, sent by Christ, the Lord both of the
vintage and of the harvest. Having a golden crown on his head - In
token of his high dignity. And a sharp sickle in his hand - The
sharper the welcomer to the righteous.
15: And another angel came out of the temple - "Which is
in heaven," (Re 14:17). Out of which came the
judgments of God in the appointed seasons.
16: Crying - By the command of God. Thrust in thy sickle,
for the harvest is ripe - This implies an high degree of holiness
in those good men, and an earnest desire to be with God.
18: And another angel from the altar - Of burnt offering;
from whence the martyrs had cried for vengeance. Who had power
over fire - As "the angel of the waters,"(Re 16:5), had over water.
Cried, saying, Lop off the clusters of the vine of the earth - All
the wicked are considered as constituting one body.
20: And the winepress was trodden - By the Son of God,(Re 19:15).
Without the city - Jerusalem. They to whom St. John writes, when
a man said, "The city," immediately understood this. And blood
came out of the winepress, even to the horses' bridles - So deep
at its first flowing from the winepress! One thousand six hundred
furlongs - So far! at least two hundred miles, through the whole
land of Palestine.