Matthew Poole on Revelation (cont.)

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Poole on Revelation 5:7, 8.

Robert Nevin's Instrumental Music: 'Our second proof is derived from The Harps of the Apocalypse. The more discreet among the Instrumentalists say little or nothing about these. But there are others who will rush in where the former class fear to tread, and who think they have made a good argument out of these. Their argument is, in brief, this—that, since the use of instruments was commanded under the law, and since it "is freely employed as descriptive of the devotions of the saints in the dispensation of glory" (literally?), it were passing strange if it were excluded from the dispensation which intervenes and unites these two. Let us examine this.

1. It is assumed that the description is intended to apply to the employments of the redeemed in the glorified state exclusively. A moment's reflection might show that this, however common the notion may be, is simply a popular error. John seemed to himself in the prophetic trance to be taken up into heaven. Heaven, in this connection, means the locus of the visions, nothing more. In this view it has its own significance, which we need not take space here to explain. The visions seen there were symbolic representations, in the main, not of what takes place in the world of the glorified, but of what was to take place on earth and in time. John sees a throne, and round about it four living creatures and four and twenty elders. These, without entering into detail, are clearly the representatives of the Church on earth. They have "every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours" (censers with incense.)—Revelation 5:8. These latter are expressly interpreted to mean "the prayers of saints." What saints? Not a select canonized few, employed in the glorified state in interceding for men on earth. No true Protestant will admit the idea. Saints, in New Testament language, is a name for all true believers, and prayer is the expression of imperfection, infirmity, want. The reader may begin to think we are yielding the point, but one short step or two more. 2. As the golden censers full of incense are thus seen by inspired interpretation to be symbolic of the prayers of God's people, common consistency imperatively demands that we understand the harps to be symbolic of the praises of God's people; and it matters not in this case if you extend the symbolism to the state of the glorified, it is but symbolism still. 3. This actually excludes the idea of literal instruments; for a symbol cannot, without the plainest absurdity, be taken as symbolic of itself. 4. This, further, justifies the conclusion, that the instrumental part of the Temple service of old was symbolic. With amazing simplicity the question has been put—"Is it to be imagined, then, that the feelings and proceedings of the saints" (Query, what saints?) "should be shadowed forth under the symbolism of a form of worship that had been for ever abolished?" Yes, of a verity, not only is it to be imagined, but it is to be received as an indubitable canon of interpretation in reference to the Apocalypse, that its imagery has been largely drawn from the abolished economy. Temple, altar, "Lamb as it had been slain," incense, are all there. Would the symbolism be complete without the harps which had been so closely associated with these? Is there anything astonishing in this? Can a minister preach an evangelical sermon without using illustrations taken from that Dispensation which, being God-given, was made glorious, yet now has no glory, by reason of the glory that excelleth? If he can, he has accomplished what inspired apostles never attempted to do. Has the one who puts the question quoted above never himself read or repeated Paul's words, "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually?"

It has been alleged that musical instruments were not introduced for the first time into the worship of the Tabernacle by David—that they had a place there before his time. "The commandment of the Lord by his prophets," it has been said, "which is so much insisted on, was not a commandment instituting or appointing the use of instrumental music in the tabernacle, but a commandment arranging the order and courses of the Levitical singers and musicians." The distinction is somewhat ingenious, yet it seems to us altogether untenable. We find the expressions, "Instruments which I made, said David"—1 Chronicles 23:5: "instruments of David"—2 Chronicles 29:26; Nehemiah 12:36: and "instruments ordained by David"—2 Chronicles 29:27. It might be said, indeed, that these phrases refer to some new kinds of instruments 'invented' by him, and this idea might appear to be favoured by Amos 6:5; but it is by no means clear that David invented any new species of instruments, and there is certainly not a particle of evidence to show that any instruments, except the two silver trumpets, were used in the Tabernacle before his time, whatever may be inferred or conjectured of their use elsewhere. If David did not introduce them—as indeed it is generally conceded he did—then when, and by whom were they introduced?'
[In this post (Matthew Poole on Revelation 5:12.), see, in the "Comments", Dr. Dilday's "A Reformed (and Sober) Demonology".]

Consider out culture...

Thomas Manton's sermons on 2 Thessalonians 2: “Before Christ’s kingdom was set up, the devil did often visibly appear; but since, he playeth least in sight; when God openly manifested his presence by appearing to the fathers in sundry ways and manners, as he did before he spake to us by his Son…so did Satan; visions, apparitions, and oracles were more frequent; and where Christ’s spiritual kingdom prevaileth, the world heareth less of these things; but where it is obstructed, more.”
Poole on Revelation 6:7.

As the Roman Empire was taking on the pallor of death, what was the condition of the Christian Church?

In the "Comments", see Dr. Dilday sermon, covering the seventh through ninth Roman Persecutions.
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

This is certainly one of the most famous images in the Bible; perhaps the most famous image in John's Revelation.

In this post...
The blood of the martyrs yet speaks.

In this post, the breaking of the fifth seal, and the age of the Roman martyrs...

And they were not the last...

John Howie's Scots Worthies: 'During the twenty-eight years of persecution in Scotland, above 18,000 people, according to calculation, suffered death, or the utmost hardships and extremities. Of these, 1700 were shipped to the plantations, besides 750 who were banished to the northern islands, of whom 200 were wilfully murdered. Those who suffered by imprisonment, confinement, and other cruelties of this nature, were computed at or about 3600, including 800 who were outlawed, and 55 who were sentenced to be executed when apprehended. Those killed in several skirmishes or on surprise, and those who died of their wounds on such occasions, were reckoned to be 680. Those who went into voluntary banishment to other countries were calculated at 7000. About 498 were murdered in cold blood, without process of law, besides 362 who were by form of law executed. The number of those who perished through cold, hunger, and other distresses, contracted in their flight to the mountains, and who sometimes, even when on the point of death were murdered by the bloody soldiers, cannot well be calculated, but will certainly make up the number above specified.

Yet, like the Lord's church and people of old, while in Egypt, the more they were oppressed, the more they grew, the blood of the martyrs being always the seed of the church. Yea, to the honour of truth, and the praise of that God whom they served, they were so far from being spent, wasted, or eradicated, that at the Revolution they could raise a regiment in one day, without beat of drum, the ancient motto of the Church of Scotland, Nec tamen Consumebatur, being verified now as evidently as ever:
"Behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed."

"Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).

"These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).

"I saw, under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth?" (Revelation 6:9-10).

"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).'
Thomas Boston's Doctrines of Christian Religion: 'I am to consider the manner and circumstances of Christ's coming to judge the world....

He will come very terribly. In that day the radiant rays of his majestic glory will break out with such an awful brightness, as will cause convulsions of the most formidable horror in the breasts of the ungodly. See Revelation 6:14-17.'

Poole on Revelation 6:13-14.
William Symington's Messiah the Prince: 'Christ, as Mediator, executes the righteous judgments of God on wicked nations and rulers.... The kings of the earth hid themselves from the wrath of the Lamb. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp twoedged sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." [Revelation 2:26-27; 6:15-16; 19:15] We are thus bound to believe that those occurrences by which guilty nations are scourged and chastised for their sins, are not merely brought about in providence, but ordered and directed by the Mediator. And whether, therefore, we behold the desolating sword cutting off the inhabitants, or the blasting mildew destroying the crops, or commercial stagnation obstructing the sources of wealth, or wasting disease stalking with ghastly power over a land, or the upheavings of popular commotion overturning the foundations of social order, we recognise the wisdom, and might, and righteous retribution of Prince Messiah, carrying into execution the divine decree, The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish: yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.'

Poole on Revelation 6:15.
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