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THE VISION

Of the Company of the Servants of God, or of the elect and faithful Church to be preserved under the ruins of the Seventh Seal, or of the Trumpets, exhibited under the type of the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed out of all the tribes of Israel, at the beginning of the Seventh Seal.

The vision of those who are sealed is introduced twice: First, in this place, in the beginning of the trumpets, in the first prophecy; again, as the contrast to the beast, when possessed of power, in the second prophecy, c. xiv.; and 122that with a double view;—here, for the purpose of preserving them under the ruins resulting from the trumpets; there, for the purpose of extolling them on account of their faith maintained to God and the Lamb, when the other inhabitants of the world, deserters and revolters, had received the mark of the beast. From which it clearly appears, that the prophecy of the beast contemporizes with the events of the trumpets; but to what extent, is to be decided by some other means, namely, not beyond the end of the sixth trumpet, in which the months of the beast conclude with the days of the mourning witnesses. c. xi. v. 14. It is our present design to hold the torch of interpretation to the first vision of the sealed ones, which regards their preservation. Hereafter, when we arrive so far, we shall treat of their commendation.

“After these things,” says he, (that is, when the vision of the sixth seal is ended, and the seventh, which is that of the trumpets, is about to begin,) “I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, restraining the four winds of the earth, that they might not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.”

The sense is, He saw angels who presided over the winds, that is, over the storms of war and calamities, which, from whatever part of the 123world they were about to issue forth, were to be restrained as long as it pleased God; but at his nod, whenever he gave the signal, were to be let loose on the whole world. Not indeed the same with the angels of the trumpets, but those who were at their sounding, to let loose those winds, now from one and now from another part of the world, to ravage and destroy the Roman state. For the parable of the winds in the prophets implies warlike movements, and hostile attacks and invasions; as Jer. c. xlix. v. 36. “I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and I will scatter them towards all those winds; and there shall not be a nation to which the outcasts of Elam shall not come.” Also, c. li. v. 1, 2. “Behold I, saith the Lord, will raise up upon Babel, &c. a destroying wind; and I will send out upon Babel winnowers, and they shall winnow her, and shall make empty her land.” And likewise, c. xviii. v. 17. “As an eastern wind will I scatter them, (that is, the Jews,) before the enemy,” namely, the king of Babylon. Hither likewise, it seems, may that passage of Daniel be referred, c. vii. 2, 3. “Behold the four winds of heaven strove on the great sea, and four great beasts ascended out of the sea;” that is, from the conflict of nations on every side, rushing among each other with war 124and the sword, and contending for dominion and empire, four great kingdoms arose.

“And I saw,” says he, “another angel ascending from the rising sun, having the seal of the living God, (perhaps therefore Christ the Lord,) and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, (namely, by letting loose the winds which they had restrained,) saying, ‘Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till I have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads;’” that is, do not let loose the winds, nor give them the power of going forth, and raging over the world. He names the earth, sea, and trees, agreeably to the image of winds, as those objects to which the winds are wont to do damage; to the earth, by the ruin of buildings; to the sea, by shipwrecks; to trees, by manifold injury and laceration.

“Hold!” says he, “till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads;” that is, until we have distinguished them by a mark impressed, as the elect assembly of God, on which those destroying winds, which were to consign to ruin the remaining society of men, should have no power; but over which, marked with his seal, Divine Providence would continually watch, lest in this ruin of the Roman state, which 125the trumpets would effect, this holy progeny should be extinguished. For the event was to be ordered, that they should not go without punishment who injured them, as having transgressed the limits of the right granted them by God; and farther, that the injury, if any should befall them, should be immediately recompensed by God. There is an allusion to the passage in Ezekiel, c. ix. where those who are sighing and exclaiming for the abominations of Jerusalem, are sealed by an angel for this purpose, that they might not sustain equal destruction with the impious and reprobate, from those who were to smite them. And, in truth, the event which relates to this declaration, (if any one will consider the state of the times of which we are speaking) will appear like a miracle;—that it could have been possible, when the Roman empire was desolated and destroyed, by so great a havock of cities and their inhabitants, so that its ancient population being nearly extinct, it was inhabited by a barbarous people, and by nations who were aliens to Christ; yet that the Church, in the very same place, in the midst of these evils, and while, as it were, the world was falling into ruin over its head, should still endure; nay, even that the beast in the same time, (as we shall hear in its place,) while idolatrous worship was defiling the whole of Christianity, should nevertheless 126nourish in its bosom an undefiled assembly such as this, and that in the name of a reverence for God. Of such importance was it to have been protected by the seal of God.

“And I heard,” says he, “the number of those which were sealed—a hundred and forty-and-four thousand were sealed of all the tribes of Israel;” that is, twelve times twelve thousand, being twelve thousand of each of the tribes.

For as in the beginning, we saw the theatre of the visions, or the Apocalyptical Assembly, described according to the image and state of the ancient synagogue, and great part of this book of types has a reference to the same; so that, as false Christians in the epistles to the churches may on that account be spoken of as false Jews, so likewise here, the universal church of the Gentiles, secured by the seal of God, is figured under the type of Israel, the twelve apostles of the former aptly corresponding with the same number of the patriarchs in the latter.

Nor is it thus done undeservedly; as for other causes, so chiefly because the church, which, from the time of the rejection of the Jews, was collected out of the nations, succeeded in the place of Israel, and became (if I may so speak) the substitute of Israel, and was to be accounted in that state by God, until his ancient people, having at length obtained mercy, “the fulness of 127the Gentiles should have come in;” that is, the “innumerable multitude out of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues,” which at last, when the signature of this Israel was finished, John testifies that he saw singing praises to God and to the Lamb. This indeed is that doctrine (I speak of substitution), which the Apostle Paul means to teach in Romans, c. xi. when he inculcates that the fall of the Jews should bring salvation to the Gentiles, and their rejection should be the reconciliation of the world. Not that by other means the Gentiles were not called in their own time, since the whole chorus of the prophets exclaims that the Gentiles should be gathered together to the glory of Israel, and should be converted to the Lord, (which the Jews themselves, either in ancient times or at the present day, did or do distrust,) but that, not by this calling, which was made by anticipation or surrogation, and as an incitement to emulation, if the Jews had not renounced Christ. An intelligent person will understand what I mean. “It was necessary,” says the apostle, Acts c. xiii. “that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but since ye put it from you, and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles.”

That testimony of Amos, quoted by James in the Council of the Apostles, Acts, c. xv. (not to 128notice this likewise), seems to have been intended of the anticipated conversion of the Gentiles, i. e. of that which would precede the restoration of the Jews; and on that account, was then, perhaps, preferred to the other prophecies, which might have been otherwise understood of the adoption of the Gentiles among the people of God. For he intimates, not only that the name of the Lord should be called on the nations, (i. e. that the Gentiles should become his people,) but also, that this should take place partly at a time when the tabernacle of David should yet lie in ruins; that is, that the kingdom of Israel should not yet be restored by Christ. “After this,” says he, “I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up, that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the nations upon whom my name is called;” that is, that the rest of mankind, together with those nations upon whom, even before that period, my name would be called, should at length seek after and worship the true God. For instead of what is now read in the Hebrew text, “that they should inherit the remainder of Idumea,” it seems to have been formerly written, that “the residue of men should seek after the Lord.” Nay, from the Hebrew reading which now obtains, the same 129inference may he collected of the anticipated adoption of the Gentiles into the people of God, namely, in this sense,—that the Jews being brought back, when the tabernacle of David, which had fallen down, should at last be restored, the remains of Edom as well as the Gentiles, upon whom the name of God was long previously called, should be admitted by hereditary right. Therefore, some of the Gentiles would become the people of God before the restoration of the tabernacle of David. But of this enough.

With respect to the number of the sealed, the number twelve is a mark of the apostolical family, which denotes the apostolical progeny, by multiplying thousands of each tribe as well as all together; a progeny, we may suppose, though increased to many thousands, yet by no means degenerate, but representing their parents in faith and sanctity. For, doubtless, as “to have the number of the beast” (of which we shall hereafter hear), signifies being of the people or followers of the beast,—so, to bear the number of the apostles, signifies being the legitimate offspring of the apostles. The analogy of the New Jerusalem shows this to be the truest interpretation of the multiplication by twelve, in the structure of which, and in the dimensions of its gates, of the area of its foundation, of the circuit, length, breadth, and height of its walls, the same 130number twelve, or the multiplication by twelve is adopted. And that we might have no farther hesitation to what that twelve-fold multiplication refers, lo! it is expressly said, of the twelve foundations of the wall, that they were inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. c. xxi. v. 14. “Of the tribe of Judah, of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Aser, Naphtali, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph, and Benjamin, of each of these tribes were sealed twelve thousand.” The tribes are in no other part of Scripture enumerated in this order, although in other places they are reckoned in various modes. For besides that Dan does not appear with them at all, nor is the name of Ephraim spoken of in the rest, there is a departure here from the rule of all the enumerations which are made elsewhere, and neither the order of nativity, nor dignity of family is preserved; but the last are blended with the intermediate, and the younger sons of servants are preferred more than once to the elder children of wives, so that it can by no means be doubted but that some remarkable mystery of a typical kind lies concealed under such a novel and unusual order. This, with God’s favour on our undertaking, we think that we have discovered, and it is in this manner:—

First, Dan is rejected from this type, and 131Ephraim is passed over, in silence, as the standard bearers and leaders of the Israelitish apostasy (Jud. c. xvii. and xviii.), and the same as were the patrons of the public idols in Dan and Bethel, in the time of the kingdom. They were therefore, altogether unfit to represent the followers of a purer religion.

But that, nevertheless, the number of twelve might be complete, Levi is substituted in the room of Dan, and the name of Joseph with the omission of that of Ephraim. The number being thus constituted, the sons of wives and servants, independent of the accustomed dignity of the family, are intermingled, and the children of servants are adopted as those of their mistresses. “For in Christ there is neither bond nor free,” but all are of equal estimation. Since, then, the sons of Leah, both natural and adoptive, are double the number of Rachel, for there are eight of the former, and only four of the latter, therefore such an order is observed in reckoning them, that the four sons of Leah might be compared in a double mode, alternately with the two of Rachel: But on both sides, those tribes are preferred as more excellent than the rest, which some transaction, either of their own, or of their offspring, related in the Holy Scriptures, respecting the true worship of God, and zeal towards Him, had rendered worthy of commendation.

132

The family of Leah are at the head of the first troop in virtue of the prerogative of Christ, the Prince of the company, as sprung from that stock. In the following manner:

First Quaternion of the Sons of Leah. { 1. Judah Second Quaternion of the Sons of Leah. { 7. Simeon
2. Reuben 8. Levi
3. Gad 9. Issachar
4. Aser 10. Zabulon
First Couple of the Sons of Rachel. { 5. Naphtali Second Couple of the Sons of Rachel. { 11. Joseph
6. Manasseh 12. Benjamin
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