DUMFRIES, Va., October 18, 1838.
MR. BEEBE: - Believing as I do, that you possess a willingness, and that you are at all times prepared to give such information as may be necessary, to enable the less experienced to judge right, I wish you to give your views on the latter clause of the sixth verse of the fourth chapter of Revelations, and the latter clause of the twenty-eighth verse of the seventh chapter of Luke. The above request is made from a good motive, and not for information alone. Yours,
REPLY: WE feel a pleasure at all times in answering the honest enquiries of our subscribers, when such enquiries are made after truth, and when the subject of enquiry is one on which we feel prepared to offer an opinion. There are many things recorded in the vision of John, very much like some things written by our beloved brother Paul, hard to be understood; the precise illustration of which, no man; unless peculiarly taught of God, can give, with any good degree of certainty. It would have pleased us more, had our “Subscriber” submitted his enquiry concerning Rev. iv. 6, to brother Trott, or to some other more experienced and expert expounder of the deep things of divine revelation. But seeing he has called on us for an opinion, our opinion he shall have.
The text, Rev. iv. 6, reads thus: “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts, full of eyes before and behind.” The latter clause only seems to be the subject of the present enquiry; and on this part we will endeavor to be tile more particular in the following remarks; we must, however, be indulged to make some remarks on the connection.
In closing the preceding chapter, the Amen, the faithful and true witness, announces to the Elder, or angel of the church of the Laodiceans, that he stands at the door and knocks, &c.; and after this he looked, and behold a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice he heard, directed his attention to things which must be hereafter, posterior to the date of John’s vision. Then follows the vision of the throne, connected with, and round about which was seen the four beasts mentioned in the text to be explained. We propose to consider the subject thus:
First. The throne.
Second. The sea of glass.
Third. The four beasts.
Fourth. Their eyes before and behind.
First. By the throne, we understand the gospel church. “I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” - Psa. ii. 6. Again. “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? “ - Isa. lxvi. 1. “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” - Heb. i. 8. That the gospel church is intended by the figurative terms, Zion, and heaven, we think will not be disputed; and that she is immovable, as set forth in the epistle to the Hebrews, is, to us, equally evident. “Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,” &c. - fish. xii. 28. Daniel ii. 44. The gospel church may be viewed as the throne of Christ, from many considerations; among them the following: A throne is the place of power and kingly authority. The church is denominated a strong city; and she is the peculiar place of his kingly dominion. A throne is the seat of kingly government. Christ is set in Zion, where he administers the government of his people. A throne is a place of beauty; and the church is called the perfection of beauty. A throne is a place of glory; and Christ has made the place of his feet glorious. A sovereign’s power and dominion is displayed immediately from his throne; so Jesus displays all his mediatorial glory in his connection with the church; and not through Mission Boards, or any other worldly establishments.
But as our limits require us to be brief, we pass to the next item to be considered.
Second. The sea of glass like unto crystal, we understand to represent the glorious, unsullied gospel, breaking forth from the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel was set forth by a molten sea, standing on twelve molten oxen. 1 Kings vii. 23 - 26. And to set forth its clear and transparent quality, it is compared to crystal. Rev. xxii. 1. Again, Rev. xv. 2. The victorious saints of God who are now contending with the New School Anti-christ, are represented in their ultimate triumph over the new things of the day, viz: the beast, his image, his mark, and the number of his name, as standing on a sea of glass, mingled with fire, or, as we understand the prediction, brought back to the primitive faith and order of the gospel of Christ, and standing on that Jerusalem platform, in the defence of which they now have to contend with the beast, and the image, and the mark, and with all the number and variety of his name. When God shall have thus restored his captive people to their original purity, the church will blaze forth in the most refulgent brightness, like the pure crystal, no mixture of human inventions, or scholastic divinity; it will be the pure gospel glass, in which the saints, beholding the glory of the Lord, shall be changed into the same likeness, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Third. We now come to the clause embracing the subject on which our “Subscriber” sues for light. The four beasts in this text should have been rendered by our translators, as in Ezekiel i. 5, living creatures; as the living creatures in Ezekiel’s vision, and the four beasts in this case, are evidently designed to represent the same things. It has been thought that by the four and twenty elders were designed the twelve patriarchs of Israel, and the twelve apostles of the Lamb; and that the four beasts mentioned in connection with them, had reference to the four evangelists in the New Testament. But to this illustration of the beasts, or living creatures, we are not prepared to subscribe, as the properties belonging to living creatures, to us appear to represent more fully the general characteristics of the gospel ministry. The four beasts were round about, and in the midst of the throne, as gospel ministers are round about, and in the midst of the church of Christ, but always are immediately connected with the gospel church. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace, day nor night; ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence.” - Isa. lxii. 6. Here the gospel ministry are represented as being in and belonging to the church, or throne of the Messiah, and yet stationed on her walls around the throne, and like the four beasts, they hold, not their peace, day nor night. The beasts rest not from saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord, &c., which is the sum and substance of all purely gospel preaching; the ministry ascribes all holiness to the Lord; it hails him in his government on the throne, presiding over all the affairs of his church, as the Lord, ascribing to him that homage implied in the acknowledgment of his Godhead, setting forth also his divine attributes, as the Almighty, Eternal, Omnipresent, and Everlasting, that was, and is, and is to be. And by this uniformity of doctrine, all the ministry connected with Messiah’s throne, or church, is to be designated from that diversity of strange jargon displayed in the false ministry of anti-christ, poured out of the dragon’s mouth like a flood, through Mission Boards, and flowing from any and every other source than that of the throne, or church of God and the Lamb. See Rev. xxii. 1.
The number of the beasts, or living creatures, seems to have reference to the four quarters of the world, where the gospel is to be published by the ministers of Christ, as the molten oxen looked to the four points of the compass, and the angels, or messengers, (Matt. xxiv. 31) should gather the elect of God from the four Winds, from one end of heaven to the other. See also the foundation and gates of the holy city, Rev. xxi. 12 - 24, with many other like expressions in the scriptures. The four beasts present the appearance of the faces mentioned in Ezekiel i. 10. First, the face, or likeness of a lion; displaying that christian boldness which is always characteristic of the ministers of Christ, which has led them, in the face of the most severe and malignant persecution and oppression, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; with a boldness like that of the lion, they have braved the edicts of kings, laughed at the bulls of Popes, faced the most enraged inquisitions, embraced the stake, and evaporated in flames, for the defence of the sentiments now contended for by the Old School Baptists.
Second. They had the face or likeness of a calf, or ox. This figure is more frequently used to denote gospel ministers, than any of the others here mentioned, and undoutedly represents to us, not only that Christ’s ministers are men of grace, by their chewing the cud, and of their connection with a gospel church, by the divided hoof, but the work, the patience, the strength, and subjection to the yoke, and to the Master’s orders, as well calculated to distinguish the true ministry from the wild ass’ colt, and from the progeny of the horse-leech. The movements of the living creatures, Ezek. i. 12, was straight forward; wherever the Spirit was to go, they went; they turned not, when they went. So also is the course of the Old School ministry; straight forward, undeviating, uncompromising; and where the. Spirit is to go, they go. They wait not, like some of our young Seminary lads, panting for the work, and waiting for a moneyed call; they go; and their going is like lightning. Ezek. 1. 14.
Third. They had the face of a man. So have the ministers of Christ the same principles of corrupt nature to combat with as any of their brethren. To look upon them they are like other men, and they are provided with wings to cover up this deformity, while ministering in their holy vocation; they are not for making a display of themselves; they would wish to veil their face before the throne, or church, and to preach not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, in the spirit of the theme of the beasts, Holy, holy, holy, &c.
Fourth. They are like a flying eagle. The eagle is remarkable for his strength of perception; their sight is perhaps more keen, and their vision more acute and strong, than that of any other creature on earth; and the flying eagle looks at the meridian sun, and mounts upward in its flight towards heaven, until the weaker optics of those who behold can trace him no farther. So with the ministers of Christ; their eyes are fixed on the Sun of righteousness; and in setting him forth in the presence of the saints, they take their flight towards heaven, and often they are enabled to surpass the common understanding of the weaker saints.
Fifth. The four beasts were full of eyes before and behind. The Lord never sends out blind men to preach his gospel; but such only as are by him provided with spiritual discernment; men who have no occasion to apply to humanly devised Colleges or Theological Seminaries for leather spectacles, to qualify them for the Master’s service. They are full of eyes; consequently they have no place for more. They have eyes before, for they are to go straight forward, looking unto Jesus, the finisher of their faith, and keeping him fully in view, they are to press towards the mark. They look forward with pleasing anticipation of the final triumph of the truth over error, of the saints over anti-christ, and of the church over Babylon. They have also respect to the recompense of reward which awaits all that love the appearing of Christ. They have eyes behind; they look back to the record of the purpose, love and decrees of God from the ancients of eternity, to the record of the law and the prophets; also to the rock whence they were hewn, and the pit whence they were digged; and also they look retrospectively on the trials, conflicts, persecutions, sufferings, and the deliverances and victories of the people of God. We are not informed of their having side, or squint eyes, to observe the lying vanities, or to look to the loaves and fishes which anti-christian teachers live upon; for they are not to be attracted to the right hand nor the left, but move forward like an army with banners, or like a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.
They are full of eyes within. These they require as watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem. Not only are they to watch the movements of the enemy without, and give the alarm when necessary, but they are to watch the internal movements of the church of God, to feed the flock, to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and to warn, rebuke and instruct in righteousness, according to the measure of the gift of the Spirit given to them.
When the four beasts, or gospel ministry, give glory, honor and thanks to him that sits upon the throne, or who presides over Zion, as the Head over all things to the church, which is ever the case when they preach the gospel, then the four and twenty elders fall down before him that thus presides, before the throne, and exclaim, Worthy art thou, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power, &c. Thus simultaneously with the preaching of Christ, the prophets, who represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and the apostles of the gospel dispensation, contribute their testimony, in unison with, and confirmation of the pure gospel preached, and Cast their crowns at his feet; thereby signifying that all the authority by which the former prophesied, and the latter ruled in judgment, was derived from, and belonged to him that sits in his holy hill of Zion.
With a few reflections, we close. The prediction in the above subject related to a period of time subsequent to that designated by the Laodocian Church and in them are disclosed things which must be hereafter: not things which may; but which must be; and probably have reference to the present time, for the fulfillment of some of the things spoken of After the struggle of the saints with the beast and the image,. the church is again discovered with her head above water, in the fifteenth chapter, restored to her sea of glass, having obtained a final victory over the beast, over his image, over his mark, and over the number of his names; having the harp of God, and singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. From the signs of the times indicated in this subject, we are led to look for a continuance of the struggle now going on between the saints and the powers of darkness, for a little season; after which Babylon shall sink like a millstone, and be found no more at all; and the old fashioned saints, taught in the old school of Christ, shall be clearly displayed in the ancient faith and order of the gospel, and in their ultimate triumph over the New School, or the image of the beast. “If any man hath an ear, let him hear.”
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 459 – 466