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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Revelation 5



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THE SEALED ROLL.—The vision of the previous chapter remains. The scenery does not shift, but the attention of the seer is now directed to one feature— the book, or roll, which was on the hand of the Throned One. This roll none in heaven, earth, or under the earth could open; but the Lamb takes the roll to open it, or to unfold its purport to the waiting world and Church; the Church and world praise Him who is the Light, revealing to them all they need to know.

Verse 1

(1) And I saw in the right hand . . .—Better, And I saw on (not “in;” the roll lay on the open palm of the hand) the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne a book written within and behind, fast sealed with seven seals. The book is, of course, in the form of a roll; it lies on the open hand of the Throned One; it was not His will that the book should be kept from any. It is written, not on the inside only, as was the usual way, but, like the roll of the book which Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 2:9-10), it was written within and without. Some have thought that there are two divisions of predictions —those written within the roll, and those written on the outer side. This is merely fanciful; the passage in Ezekiel which supplies a guidance to the meaning might have shown the erroneousness of the thought. Clearly the “lamentation and mourning and woe” inscribed all over Ezekiel’s roll indicate the filling up of sorrows: here the same overflowing writing indicates the completeness of the contents; there was no room for addition to that which was written therein. But what is meant by the book? Numberless interpretations have been offered: it is the Old Testament; it is the whole Bible; it is the title-deed of man’s inheritance; it is the book containing the sentence of judgment on the foes of the faith; it is the Apocalypse; it is part of the Apocalypse; it is the book of God’s purposes and providence. There is a truth underlying most of these interpretations, but most of them narrow the force of the vision. If we say it is the book which unfolds the principles of God’s government—in a wide sense, the book of salvation (comp. Romans 16:25-26)— the interpretation of life, which Christ alone can bestow (see Revelation 5:3-6), we shall include, probably, the practical truths which underlie each of these interpretations; for all—Old Testament and New, man’s heritage and destiny, God’s purposes and providence— are dark, till He who is the Light unfolds those truths which shed a light on all. Such a book becomes one “which contains and interprets human history,” and claims the kingdoms of the earth for God. The aim of all literature has been said by a distinguished critic to be little more than the criticism of life; the book which Christ unfolds is the key to the true meaning of life. The roll is not the Apocalypse so much as the book of those truths which are exemplified in the Apocalypse, as in a vast chamber of imagery. The roll was fast sealed, so that even those who were wise and learned enough to read it had it been unrolled could not do so (See Isaiah 29:11.) There are things which are hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed unto babes.

Verse 2

(2) And I saw a strong (better, mighty) angel proclaiming with (or, in) a loud voice, Who is worthy . . .—We must not let the word “worthy” pass as though it were simply equivalent to “strong enough.” It seems to imply moral fitness (comp. Romans 1:4), which is the true strength in the heavenly world. It was not lack of intellectual capacity so much as the taint of moral unworthiness which hindered the reading of the book. This is in harmony with what we have noticed before. “To commune with God, there is need of no subtle thought, no foreign tongue, no newest philosophy: ‘ the pure in heart shall see Him:’ and Fox and Bunyan can more truly make Him known than ‘masters of sentences’ and ‘ angelic doctors.’” Those who are willing to do God’s will know of God’s doctrine. This thought corresponds, too, with the stress which is laid (in Revelation 5:5) on the victory of Christ. It is not simply as divine Son of God, but also as victorious Saviour and King of His people, that He opens the book: His worthiness has been established in conflict and temptation (John 14:30; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 4:15).

Verse 3

(3) And no man . . . .—Or, better, no one (for it is of more than mankind that the Apostle speaks) was able, in the heaven, nor on the earth, nor under the earth, nor even (still less?) to look thereon. The looking on the book is usually understood of the look cast on the book of one who would read the contents. If so, the thought is, none could open, still less read, the roll. It may, however, be that all who attempted to take the book were unable to face the glory in which it lay. When Christ revealed Himself to Saul he could not see for the glory of that light.

Verse 4

(4) And I wept much, because no man (better, no one) was found worthy to open . . . the book (omit, “and to read”).—The Apostle is not ashamed to call attention to his tears. I, indeed, for my part (the “I” is emphatic) wept much. It was not a failure of faith; it was the outburst of an earnest heart, to which the knowledge of God and the destinies of his fellowmen were very dear. Those who have longed to see the end of oppression, fraud, and sorrow on the earth, to know something of the laws which govern the present, and of their issue in the future, will understand these tears. “The words, ‘ I wept much,’ can only be understood by those who have lived in great catastrophes of the Church, and entered with the fullest sympathy into her sufferings Without tears the Revelation was not written, neither can it without tears be understood.”

Verse 5

(5) And one of the elders . . .—Better, And one from among the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion, which is of the tribe of Judah, the Boot of David, conquered (so as) to open the roll, and the seven seals thereof. The position of the word “conquered” is emphatic, and should receive greater prominence. The verse has been translated, “Behold, one conquered, (even) the Lion . . .” The right to open the roll is thus made to turn, as we noticed before, not merely on the divine Sonship of our Lord, but upon His victory: He conquered, and so opens the secret purposes of God to His Church. The thought is exactly parallel with other scriptures which give emphasis to the work of redemption. It is “for the suffering of death” that Christ is clothed “with glory and honour” (Hebrews 2:9). Similarly St. Paul traces the exaltation of Christ as the outcome of His humiliation, “wherefore (i.e., in consequence of His humiliation) God also hath highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9). Thus Christ, who in conquest is seen to be the power of God, in revealing the true philosophy of history is seen to be the wisdom of God.

The Lion of the tribe of Juda—The lion was the ancient symbol of the tribe of Judah. Jacob described his son as “a lion’s whelp” (Genesis 49:9); the standard of Judah in the Israelitish encampment is said to have been a lion. It was the symbol of strength, courage, and sovereignty.

The Root of David.—The Lion is also the representative of the royal house of David. “Christ cometh of the seed of David” (comp. Mark 12:35 with John 8:42); the prophets have described Him as the Branch, which would spring from the ancient stock (Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 6:12). But there seems also a reference to the deeper thought that He who is the Branch is also the Root (comp. Isaiah 11:10); He is the one who was David’s Lord (Matthew 22:41-45), and “the true source and ground of all power” to David and David’s tribe, and of all who looked to Him, and not to themselves, for strength.

Verse 6

(6) And I beheld, and lo . . .—Better, And I saw (omit “and lo”) in the midst of the throne and of the four living beings, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb (or, a little Lamb), standing as if having been slain. The position of the Lamb is described from the seer’s point of view: the Lamb is not on the throne, but in the middle front of it, and so apparently between the living creatures, and in the midst of the circle formed by the twenty-four elders. The passage is most striking. The Evangelist is told of the Lion which will open the seals: he looks, and lo, it is a Lamb! yes, a little Lamb—for the word is diminutive. There is deep significance in this. When we read of the Lion, we think of power and majesty, and we are right; all power in heaven and earth is Christ’s, but it is power manifested in seeming weakness. The waters of Shiloah are mightier than the Euphrates (Isaiah 8:6-8); righteousness and purity, meekness and gentleness, are greater than carnal weapons (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:11, el al.); the Lamb mightier than the roaring lion which goeth about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But it is a Lamb as if it had been slain. The wound-marks are there, but it is not dead; it is standing, for it represents Him who though He died is alive for evermore; but the signs of suffering and death are visible, for it is not the Lamb, but the suffering Lamb, which is exalted; it is not the Christ, but the Christ crucified, which is the power of God; the Christ lifted up from the earth draws all men unto Him (John 12:32; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24); the corn of wheat which dies brings forth fruit (John 12:24). As such He is the worship of the Church and the world which He has redeemed. (See Revelation 5:8-9; comp. Revelation 7:14.) The reference to earlier Scriptures (Exodus 12:46; Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29; John 1:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8) is not to be overlooked. From the tokens of suffering the seer passes to the tokens of strength and wisdom which he saw in the Lamb. He describes it as “having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth (or, which are being sent forth) into all the earth.” The horn is the strength of the animal which carries it. It is so used in the blessing of Joseph: “His horns are like the horns of a wild bull” (“unicorns” in Authorised version); “with them shall he push the people together,” &c. (Deuteronomy 33:17; comp. Psalms 89:24; Psalms 148:14). The seven horns denote completeness or fulness of strength. The seven eyes, like the seven lamps (Revelation 4:5), represent the Holy Spirit in H’s manifold girts of grace; but as they are described as eyes of the Lamb, they betoken His omniscience who is in heaven and yet, by His Spirit, everywhere (Matthew 28:20); whose eye is on all events, great and small; whose eyes behold the children of men. Note, also, that the seven spirits are ascribed to the Son as well as to the Father. (Comp. John 14:26; John 15:26.) The seven spirits are said to be “sent”; the word is from the same root as the word “apostle.” There is an apostolate of the Spirit as well as an apostolate of the Church; and, if we adopt the version here which gives the present participle, this spiritual apostolate is being continually exerted; the seven spirits are in process of being sent out by Him who says to this one “Go,” and he goeth; to the twelve, “Go ye into all the world,” .and sends His Spirit to confer on His people grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Verse 7

(7) And he came . . .—Better, And He came, and He has taken (omit the words “the book,” and supply) it (i.e., the roll) out of the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne. There is a change of tense (“came,” “has taken”), which seems to be due to the rapt attention of the seer, whose narrative trembles with his own intensity of feeling. He wept awhile ago; now he need not weep. The Lamb conquered; He came; He has taken the roll. He is the wisdom of the Church; among all pre-eminent; all things will be reconciled in Him; the purpose and meaning of all life’s mysteries and sorrows will be made plain in Him. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:24; Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:18.)

Verse 8

(8) And when he had taken . . .—Better, And when He took the roll, the four living beings and the twenty four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp, and golden vials (or, censers) full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (or, the holy ones). It is not the Church alone which is interested in the revelation which will throw light on life’s mysteries and the delay of the kingdom: the whole creation groaneth, waiting for the reign of righteousness; and therefore the four living beings, who represent creation, join with the elders, who represent the Church, in the adoration of the Lamb who holds the secret of life’s meaning in His hand. The vials (which seem to be censers, as they hold the incense) and the harps, it is perhaps more natural to suppose, were in the hands of the four-and-twenty elders, and not of the living creatures. Here, then, we have the praises (represented by the harps), and the prayers (represented by the censers) of the world-wide and age-long Church of Christ. The comparison of prayer with incense is in strict accordance with Old Testament language. “Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense” (Psalms 141:2). The incense held a conspicuous place in the ritual of the Temple. The greatest care was to be taken in the composition of the incense, and the same compound was not to be used anywhere but in the sanctuary. These precautions suggest its typical character. The true odours are the heart-prayers of God’s children. “Of these three sweet ingredient perfumes,” says Archbishop Leighton, alluding to the composition of the Temple-incense, “namely, petition, confession, thanksgiving, is the incense of prayer, and by the divine fire of love it ascends unto God, the heart and all with it; and when the hearts of the saints unite in joint prayer, the pillar of sweet smoke goes up the greater and the fuller.” Every prayer which broke out in sob from an agonising heart, every sigh of the solitary and struggling Christian, every groan of those groping God- ward, mingles here with the songs of the happy and triumphant.

Verse 9

An Opened Book and a New Song

They sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.—Revelation 5:9.

1. The previous chapter of Revelation shows us how creation reveals God’s glory. But what of His love, and His eternal purpose for man? Were there nothing beyond the revelation of God in nature, we could speak of these only with hesitating lips and stammering utterance. Hence, to the vision of the four living creatures, with their ceaseless song of praise for the blessings of creation, there succeeds another vision, which discloses how the revelation of God’s eternal purpose of love is manifested in the Incarnation, and which thus leads up to the adoration of the Lamb and the hymn of thanksgiving for the blessings of redemption. Once more the Seer looks, and sees in the right hand of the Almighty seated on the throne “a book written within and on the back, close sealed with seven seals.” This book wherein are written “the things which are to be hereafter” is best interpreted of the expression of God’s purpose and will. It is “close sealed,” because apart from Christ, God’s purpose is inscrutable.

2. On the unsealing of this book and the revelation of its contents depends the possibility of counselling and encouraging in advance the trembling Churches of Christ; and the heart of the Seer is heavy as he realizes that even in heaven no one can be found who is worthy to open the book. To the cynic, life may be a comedy that provokes to laughter; but to all thoughtful and serious men, if there be no Divinely given explanation of its purpose, it is a tragedy that moves to tears. No wonder, then, that St. John weeps much as he stands before the sealed book, unable to read it himself or to find one to open it and interpret its contents to him. His tears, however, are stopped, for the voice of an angel proclaims: “The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome, to open the book and the seven seals thereof.” The mystery is not destined to remain insoluble. There is One who can unravel it.

3. When the promised figure of the One who is worthy appears, He is seen under the figure of a Lamb, a Lamb “as though it had been slain”—slain in sacrifice, as the word suggests. The lion is the symbol of all that is strong and kingly and majestic, the very type of power and might; the lamb is the symbol of all that is meek and gentle and lowly. Its associations are with suffering and death; it is the animal fittest for sacrifice. The vision thus teaches us that only in Christ and through the Incarnation and Passion are God’s love and purpose disclosed. None but Christ can “open the book.” And it is a thought that is full of significance for us that, even when heavenly voices were proclaiming the victory of the Son of God, the saint could see nothing that looked like strength and power and kingship, but only that which was weak and suffering, and bore the marks of sacrifice and death—“a Lamb as it had been slain.”

4. When the Lamb “takes the book,” when it is seen that there is One capable of revealing God’s purpose and of disclosing His will, at once there is a burst of praise from all created life. All Heaven fell down and worshipped the Lamb with a “new song,” the Hymn of Redemption, a redemption purchased unto God by the sacrifice of His life; the purchase being “men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This new song breaks first from the lips of the heavenly host, from the four living creatures, and the four-and-twenty “elders”; but it is caught up by voices which have not been heard as yet. Created things not only in heaven but also on earth add their harmonies to swell the song. For now, through the salvation which has been wrought by the Lamb, a place has been made for them along with the unfallen angels, the beings unstained by sin; the theme of their rejoicing worship is not the redemption only, but to that they add the creation too, which in the preceding chapter had been hymned by the angels alone. The worship which these had offered “to him that sitteth upon the throne,” and the worship which is offered by earth and heaven to the Lamb, now flow together in one stream. All God’s creatures join to sing the double hymn of creation and redemption, wherein the glory of God is complete.

The meaning of the passage has been obscured by the adoption in the received text of the Authorized Version of an inferior reading which makes the angels sing, “Thou hast redeemed us to God.” It is to this incorrect reading that we owe the luckless misconception by which the kingly angels have been transformed into representatives of humanity. But these beings were regarded by the Seer as superhuman and, consequently, were not objects of Divine redemption. The Revised Version has followed the better reading and translates, “Thou didst purchase unto God men of every tribe,” making the necessary changes throughout the hymn.

It is possible to estimate the greatness of a man’s thought by the effect it produces on other master minds. This test can be applied to the Seer’s vision of the worship of the Lamb, with the utmost confidence in the result. This chapter of the Revelation fired such enthusiasm in the soul of Hubert van Eyck that he produced the masterpiece which called the Flemish school of painting into existence. But it is not necessary to travel to Ghent to view the Adoration of the Lamb in order to realize the force of the inspiration which is inherent in these visions. The massive choruses at the close of Handel’s “Messiah” represent the highest flight of human genius in the endeavour to suggest the mighty volume of praise which the Seer has built up on the great pedal note of Redemption.1 [Note: R. W. Pounder, Historical Notes on the Book of Revelation, 173.]


The New Song

“They sing” are the opening words of the text. Who are “they”? If we look back at the preceding verse, we shall see that those who swelled the chorus of the new song are divisible into two companies, two types of life. There are, first, “the living creatures,” the representatives of nature animate and inanimate, now “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Then there is redeemed manhood. These united together to swell the new song, which extolled the accomplishment of human redemption. As such it was the continuation and final close of the hymn to the incarnate and suffering Redeemer which had ruled the psalmody of heaven and earth from the Fall. When it began in heaven we know not; but we hear it throughout the Scriptures which testify of His coming. It is the melody which the Bible makes everywhere in its heart to the Lord. It first proclaimed from age to age a coming Deliverer; that song became old, and a new one extolled His Advent; and now the hymn of the Incarnation, which indeed can never become old, receives its perfection when it glorifies the attainment of the great end of the Incarnation—the redemption of the human race. That song began in heaven; for only a few upon earth knew the mystery of the Passion, and none knew it in all its meaning, when the Redeemer left the earth. Nor can we extol the finished work of the eternal wisdom and justice and mercy with the same insight into its glory as is vouchsafed above. The song of creation can be magnified worthily only in heaven. Much more is the song of redemption reserved for that higher scene. There only can it be set to fitting music; and hence the new song, “Thou wast slain and didst purchase with thy blood” remains the standard and text of our feebler echoes upon earth.

We know not upon how many points Redemption touches; what unseen worlds, what unborn generations, what undeveloped forms of being it embraces. We know not to what Warfare, to what Accomplishment our Lord referred when He spoke those words, “It is finished.” We know not, in short, as Butler says, what in the works and counsels of God are ends, and what means to a further end, or how what appears to us as final may be initial with Him. But we see enough around us, and within us, to show that it was necessary that Christ should suffer many things, and after that enter into His glory. Enough to learn that we shall find no higher thing above, shall pierce to no deeper thing below, than the Cross and its solemn and tender teachings. If we would climb up into heaven, it is there; if we would go down into hell, it is there also. He alone among men who has clasped this great mystery of grief and love to his bosom sees, if it be as yet but through a glass darkly, how pain and love, yes, joy also, all things that have a living root in humanity, come to bloom under its shadow; how love that cannot die and faith that grows to certainty, and hope that maketh not ashamed, root themselves about it, with all fair things that wither in life, and noble things for which it has no room.1 [Note: Dora Greenwell, The Patience of Hope (ed. 1894), 33.]

1. It was a new song—new, because its topics were new; for what so new and strange as God incarnate shedding His blood upon the cross, and by virtue of that offering redeeming the lost kindreds and nations of the earth?—new, because it is the song of the new creation, the song of those to whom “all things are become new”—new hearts, new lips, new hopes, new graces. And so it is new, and shall be new for ever; no newness to grow old some day; no name of newness to become an anachronism when a few years or a few generations are gone by; but new with an eternal newness, like the everlasting strength and undecaying youth of the Most High. All is new; new to the ancient worshippers of heaven, new to the redeemed who now first join them, new to the saints who daily and hourly enter within the veil, new to the Seer who wrote the word, and new to us who hear it.

It is related of Peter Mackenzie, the Durham miner, who became the noted Wesleyan preacher and lecturer, that when he first started out on his career as an evangelist his purpose was to get a crowd of people together for others to preach to. He would gather the crowd himself, and then get somebody to speak to them. But one day he had a large crowd but no speaker, so they forced him into speaking. He said, “If I must preach, give me my subject,” and they said, “Preach about heaven.” “Very well,” said Peter Mackenzie, and thereupon launched out in a characteristic description of heaven. Right in the middle of his sermon some one shouted out, “Peter, what do they do in heaven?” He paused for a moment, and then said: “One thing they do is to sing. I expect one day to walk along the streets of the eternal city, and come face to face with David playing an accompaniment on his harp to his own great song, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’ I expect some day I shall lead the choir in heaven, and if ever I do, there are two songs I am going to give out. One is No. 749 in the Wesleyan Hymn-book, ‘My God and Father, while I stray’; but if I ever give out that song in heaven, half the angels in the choir will say, ‘Peter, you are in heaven, and you cannot stray.’ Then if I give that out, and they cannot sing it, I will try another, No. 651, in the Wesleyan Hymn-book, ‘Though waves and storms beat o’er my head’; and then, not half the angels, but the whole choir will be on their feet, saying, ‘Peter Mackenzie, this is heaven; there are no storms here.’ Then I think I shall stand in wonder and amazement, and say, ‘What shall we sing?’ and from every angel in the skies will come the answer, ‘Sing the New Song!’ ‘Sing the New Song!’ Then all the redeemed in heaven, from the least unto the greatest, will join in singing an ascription of praise unto Him who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own precious blood.”1 [Note: J. Wilbur Chapman, Bells of Gold, 36.]

2. The new song is sung both by saints on earth and by saints in heaven. It is the song with which the whole company of the redeemed shall enter into the joy of their Lord, sung by the saved as they pass into their full consummation of body and soul. When the judgment is past and the final glory of heaven is attained, we shall all together sing. Those worshippers without us will not be made perfect. That final hymn ear hath not yet heard, nor hath it yet entered into the heart of man, whether in heaven or on earth, to conceive. It cannot be sung till all the singers are made ready; nor shall it be heard but in the New Jerusalem, where He that sitteth upon the throne shall for the last time say, “Behold, I make all things new.” St. John gives us one brief glimpse, but what we then behold is only the beginning; the spirits of the just made perfect were already there in countless multitudes, as we are told, and their number has been swelling onward from that day to this, filling fast the many mansions of our Father’s house. Singers of this song are constantly passing from the outer courts, where they rehearse it, into the Holiest. Each moment adds a new voice to the harmony of heaven, and not one added voice does the Redeemer’s ear fail to distinguish. The ransomed of the Lord are returning to Zion, not merely one by one, but in ever-increasing tribes, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. This door of hope in our valley of Achor gives us a glance that should comfort our life by showing what death is: that it is to the prepared only a passage for his soul, with the same uninterrupted song, scarcely faltering in death, into the presence of Christ and the saints who wait for him.

Dr. Magee, then Bishop of Peterborough, was one of the speakers at a discussion on Pessimism that took place at the Manchester Church Congress of 1888. Christianity, he maintained, was at once both the most pessimistic and most optimistic of all the philosophies of life. “You, the pessimist,” he said, “tell me of the sorrow, the suffering, the misery of humanity; and I tell of the time when death shall be destroyed, and when sorrow and sighing will be done away with, and when men will weep no more. You tell me here of mystery and difficulty and perplexity; and I tell you of the time when we shall know even as we are known, and doubt and mystery, like sin and sorrow and shame, shall fade away in the white light around the throne on which sits the Lamb that died for mankind. There, in the future, lies the completed optimism of Christianity. Here, in the Christian life, though working feebly and imperfectly as it does, is to be seen the evidence of the truth of Christianity that we may take home to our hearts. Let us strengthen this evidence, each one of us, in our daily Christian life, and meanwhile we can patiently await the time when the day of full unclouded vision shall dawn, and the shadows of our fears and doubts shall flee away for ever.”1 [Note: J. C. Macdonnell, Life of Archbishop Magee, ii. 254.]

3. We must be encouraged to learn this new song for ourselves. St. John came down from his Patmos elevation, as he came down from Mount Tabor, but not to forget what he had seen and heard. He was still in the Spirit, though he no longer heard these unutterable things; and we know by the opening doxology of this book what strain it was that lingered in his ears. We also are learning the same song. It is our blessed privilege to sing, in these our probationary days of sorrow, and conflict, and salvation not yet finally secure, the song of confident assurance: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood be glory and dominion for ever.” Redemption from our guilt through faith in the atonement; salvation from our defilement through the washing of His Spirit purchased by His blood; the priestly consecration of dominion over our own souls in the strength of union with Himself—these are the three-one blessings which we may rejoice in by an assured experience in this lower world. If we are taught that song by the Spirit here, and hold fast our confidence unto death, we shall one day sing it new in our Saviour’s Kingdom.

A minister was calling upon a dying man, who would not accept Jesus. He said God was merciful, and he would trust God. “Well,” said the minister, “what will you do when you get to heaven?” He said, “I shall do what everybody else does.” “Well, what do they do?” asked the minister. “They sing,” he said. “Will you sing?” said the minister. “Yes,” he said, “I shall sing.” Then the minister quoted Revelation 14:3 : “And no man could sing that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, they which were redeemed from the earth.” But he had misquoted it. It is not that way; it is thus it should read: “And no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, they which were redeemed from the earth.” You have got to learn it here to be able to sing it yonder. You have got to strike the note to-day to be able to sing it tomorrow. You have got to get into tune now, or be out of tune yonder.1 [Note: J. Wilbur Chapman, Bells of Gold, 38.]

4. One peculiarity of the “new song” lies in those who sing it. For the first time in history it is a united voice—a voice out of “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.” It is not that there has ceased to be a separate tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. It is from out the diversities that the song is heard. It is not the voice of a brotherhood which has been purchased by the elimination of distinctions; it is a harmony pulsating through these. It is a declaration of the fact that humanity is deeper than all its varieties. It is a protest against the belief that any difference of environment can ever counterbalance the points of agreement between man and man. It is emphatically a new song—quite foreign to the spirit of paganism, not native even to the spirit of Judaism. It is the emergence into the world of a fresh thought—the idea of an equal human nature lying below the accidents of time and space—the brotherhood of soul with soul.

It is a delight to a soldier or traveller to look back on his escapes when they are over; and for a saint in heaven to look back on his sins and sorrows upon earth, his fears and tears, his enemies and dangers, his wants and calamities, must make his joy more joyful. Therefore the blessed, in praising the Lamb, mention His redeeming them out of every nation and kindred and tongue; and so, out of their misery and wants and sins, and making them kings and priests unto God. But if they had nothing but content and rest on earth, what room would there have been for these rejoicings hereafter?2 [Note: Richard Baxter.]

5. Four terms (“tribe,” “tongue,” “people,” “nation”) are employed, as if to give emphasis to the universality of redemption, for four is the number of extension in all directions. The suggestion is that the redemption of Christ is world-wide. There is nothing local in it. There is no restriction in its intention, and there is no restriction in its application. It is co-extensive with the earth in its design; it is co-extensive with human nature in its efficacy. There is no disposition, no conformation, no peculiarity of temper or understanding, of state or of heart, which “the purchasing blood” cannot reach and meet. And it will be seen that it has reached, that it has met all. It will be seen that, where it has failed to save, it has not been because it was inappropriate, but only because it was unappropriated; because men would not use it, not because it was even for them useless.

Kindred, tongue, people, nation, will not, it appears, be obliterated from the Communion of Saints. Since in that blessed company similarities and varieties will alike become bonds of affection, motives of sympathy, we see as in a glass what they should even now already be to us who are militant here on earth. For earth holds heaven in the bud; our perfection there has to be developed out of our imperfection here.

By grace love of kindred learns to embrace the whole human family. By grace nations become bound and welded together in the unifying Presence of God (see Zechariah 8:20-23). By grace; but not by nature. Now even kindred often lack warmth, tongues make discord, peoples encroach on one another, nations learn and practise war.—Lord, forgive and help us.

A lesson against antipathies. Every kindred, every tongue, every people, every nation, promises to be represented there and associate there: French with Germans, Italians with Austrians, English with Irish, whites with blacks, all ranks with all ranks, all men with all men,—an alarum against antipathies!1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, The Face of the Deep, 185.]

They are flocking from the East

And the West,

They are flocking from the North

And the South,

Every moment setting forth

From realm of snake or lion,

Swamp or sand,

Ice or burning.

Greatest and least,

Palm in hand

And praise in mouth,

They are flocking up the path

To their rest,

Up the path that hath

No turning.

Up the steeps of Zion

They are mounting,

Coming, coming,

Throngs beyond man’s counting;

They are thronging

From the East and West,

From the North and South;

Saints are thronging, loving, longing,

To their land

Of rest,

Palm in hand

And praise in mouth1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Poetical Works, 256.]


The Opened Book

1. The “new song” vindicates for Jesus Christ the unique place which He has taken in the history of the world. By a supreme act of self-sacrifice He has purchased men of all races and nationalities for the service of God, founded a vast spiritual Empire, and converted human life into a priestly service and a royal dignity. He who has done this is worthy to have committed into His hands the keeping of the book of destiny, to break its seals and unroll its closely packed lengths.

In the opinion of the author of the Apocalypse, life with its problems is a sealed book. That is absolutely in accordance with universal human experience. We are asking to-day the same questions as men asked in the earliest days of which we have any record. Look at that old stone Sphinx lying upon the sands of Egypt, relic of those dim, unmeasured stretches of time prior to the Bible. What is it but an effort to express the insoluble riddle of the world; to set forth the complex consciousness of a mystery, which has seemed at times terrible as a lion, at others fascinating and inconsistent as a woman? The elusive smile that still lingers on its face has done successful battle with the sandstorms of long ages; and, in answer to the perennial questions, What? Whence? Whither? seems mockingly to say, “Nothing is known, nothing.”

We reached Cairo on Christmas Eve (1886), and during the week we saw something of old Cairo under the guidance of friends. Through the kindness of the Sirdar we were able to stay a few days at the deserted villa just under the Pyramids, built many years before by the Khedive for the use of the Empress Eugenie. The Sphinx had at once enthralled Signor; he therefore greatly wished to stay near it, and so be able to see it under various conditions of light. New Year’s Day found him, in its early hours and late, studying this riddle of the ages; “itself a symbol of time,” he said, “strong and calm, inexorable, with a smile that is cruel. No words can have described, or I think ever can describe, the Sphinx. It is not beautiful in the ordinary sense, yet it has some elements of unexampled beauty. It exercises an extraordinary fascination. The line of the cheek, as seen against the sky, is surprisingly beautiful—a sweep of twenty feet, and the expression of the face, battered out of shape as it is, has still something indescribably impressive.” He knew he had undertaken much when he set himself to paint the portrait of the Sphinx; he tried for the massiveness and the weight of this rock-hewn giant, with yet a certain delicacy, and even tenderness, both from the quality of line and from the crumbling surface of the sandstone, at the same time wishing to express what he perceived in it—an epitome of all Egyptian art, its solemnity, mystery—infinity!1 [Note: M. S. Watts, George Frederic Watts, ii. 65.]

2. “I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book … close sealed.” There is a great and majestic Personality seated upon the throne of all things, in whose right hand is a book which contains the answers to all our serious problems. There may be “clouds and darkness” round about Him, but righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” Though the mysteries of birth and death, of whence and whither, of pain and sin, cannot be solved by human reason, there is One who knows. Books do not write themselves; in the right hand of Him that sitteth on the throne there is “a book … close sealed.” “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” It is moral worth that is the looked-for qualification. The angel asks the right question, not “Who knows how to open the book?” but “Who is worthy?” The problems of life are not intellectual puzzles, but paths of duty. Genius will not solve them; their secret may be unfolded in the consciousness of a child. Moral worth will open the book. “No one knoweth … the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.” “And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon.” No one who has tried to untie the knots of the seven seals with reason has been able to give a satisfactory answer.

The Redeemer takes the book; all the problems of life are answered in redemption. “Worthy art thou to take the book.” Why is that? Because human nature is identical in all ages; we are made for God, and unhappy till we find Him; one step out of self is a step into God; “he that abideth in love, abideth in God”; Christ lifts us out of self. We hear the echoes of St. Paul’s cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?… I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Redeemer solves the great problem of life: How can we be delivered from the imperious dominion, the exacting tyranny, of self? By a greater spell He dissipates the Circean enchantments. He ransoms us from the bondage of self by laying down His life, from the flesh-pots of Egypt we loathe and yet love, curse and yet accept, by suffering for us upon the tree. He comes asking nothing but a cross whereon to die. The only life of pure, unselfish, devoted, cleansing, elevating love the world has ever seen is willingly yielded to be broken on the wheel of man’s insensate hate, for the life of the world. He was slain, not for Himself, for He was perfect; but for us, for we are sinful.

Victor Hugo was one of the few novelists who have understood the Atonement. In “Les Misérables” he puts the truth in that oft-told story of the escaping convict, Jean Valjean, hospitably entertained by the good old curé, and robbing him of his silver candlesticks. When the gens d’armes caught and brought him back with the booty in his possession, the curé said, “Why should he not take them, they are his?” Then, when the astonished officers of the law had retired, “Jean Valjean, I have bought you from yourself; go and be a better man.” So Christ’s forgiveness buys us from ourselves, lifts us into a higher life.1 [Note: H. H. Snell.]

3. The Lamb of God, who was slain on Calvary, alone has the power to disclose and to interpret the mind and purpose and ways of God. Christ breaks the seals and gives us to read pages which otherwise had been dark to men. We cannot read the Old Testament except in Christ’s light. Only by an effort of the imagination can we realize how closely sealed and how dark with mystery the Old Testament would have been if Christ had not died and risen again. The truth is as clearly illustrated by the New Testament Scriptures. There are some to-day to whom the New Testament is still a sealed book. Read the Gospels and the Epistles in the light of that death for sin, and every word and deed is translated. The cradle of Bethlehem, the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth, the Jordan water at baptism, the wilderness of temptation, the garden of Gethsemane, and all the riches of grace in sermon and parable and miracle, stand out as the life-story that leads to the cross. It is the Lamb who was slain that unfolds, interprets, and expounds the New Testament.

Thomas à Kempis ever preaches the Cross as life’s great secret and underlying fact. Christ is to him the perfect example of self-abandonment and oneness with God, and His Cross is the universal Cross. His victory is the triumph of all disciples who live in Him. While the mystic generally thinks solely or mainly of the Incarnation, Thomas à Kempis never forgets the Cross, and thereby at once he safeguards personality as well as preserves his religion from ecstatic excesses. Dying to self and living to God—renouncing self and regaining self in the holy Jesus’ love, are the keynotes of his message. The following of Jesus is to him cross-bearing, as the road to inner consolation and peace. “Why fearest thou to take up the Cross which leadeth thee to a kingdom? In the Cross is salvation, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is protection against our enemies, in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the Cross is strength of mind, in the Cross joy of spirit, in the Cross the height of virtue, in the Cross the perfection of sanctity. There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the Cross.”2 [Note: D. Butler, Thomas à Kempis, 133.]

4. Men who come to Christ always find the key to destiny in His hands. He has opened the book, and for them no longer fate but Jesus Christ is lord and master of their lives. It is not only the Lamb, but the Lamb slain that we see; not only love but sacrifice. The Lamb has death-wounds on its body, as it stands in the first pathos of death, slain though not yet fallen. This is indeed the kind of love that conquers destiny. There are many kinds of love—placidly selfish love, good-humoured and easy-going affection, that knows nothing of sacrifice. But this is by far too great a task for such love. The book of destiny remains for ever closed to selfishness. So we come in sight of the ancient truth, old indeed as the world though but slowly apprehended, that man must sacrifice to destiny. To gain either the understanding or the mastery of fate we must give up ourselves. It is a hard lesson, but it is the way in which the world is made, and we must all learn it. It is sacrifice, and sacrifice alone, that avails in the last resort to give either peace or victory.

Many a song of praise had previously been sung on earth and in heaven to the glory of the self-existent and eternal God. Many a psalm had also been chanted in honour of the coming Messiah are He made His advent in our world. When He had completed His work of redeeming love on earth, He ascended into heaven amid the acclamations and songs of thousands of angels. But now the redeemed around the throne behold their Lord, whom they remember as the Lamb slain, the Victim which suffered for their sins, taking up and carrying on the design of God in the administration of His Kingdom, so that He may make all things redound to His Father’s glory and to the completion of human redemption. Then they burst forth in this new song.

The song sung by this great multitude, including even the representatives of nature, now “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God,” is a new song, for it is the song of the “new creation”; and its burden, it will be observed, is not creation, but redemption by the blood of the Lamb, a redemption through which all partaking of it are raised to a higher glory and a fairer beauty than that enjoyed and exhibited before sin had as yet entered into the world, and when God saw that all that He had made was good.

As we see Christ moving on towards Calvary, we tremble as we realize how the fate of the world turned on that cross. By accepting it, He revealed the meaning of man’s destiny, and He conquered it for man. The Lamb slain prevailed to open the book. The revealing power of the cross has showed how through suffering man is made perfect, and changed the mystery of pain to the hope of glory, the bitter cry to the shout of victory, and the victims of life to the sons of God.

“Thou didst purchase us unto God with Thy blood.” The slave of past guilt, of besetting sin, of frailty and futility, of dark despair, Jesus ransomed me. And not by a mere act of sovereignty and might. No, but by breaking the alabaster vase of His unblemished body for me, and by pouring forth the costly spikenard of His blood. Can I ever forget it? will it not be the theme of my praise through the unending years of the future?1 [Note: A. Smellie, In the Hour of Silence, 97.]

Others have been compelled to acknowledge mysteries of reason which prepare for and harmonize with the mysteries ascribed to religion by the Christian Church; they have felt that the Incarnation and Passion are not incredible to those who believe and meditate on the earlier mystery of creation; that the difficulties which beset the one are the same in kind as the mysteries which beset the other; that in the region of philosophical thought an acting is a suffering God, and that whatever inclines a commencing inquirer to reject as absurd a belief in a “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” the same principle if pursued into its philosophical consequences would lead to rejecting the belief of any personal God at all.2 [Note: Life of Sir William Rowan Hamilton, 465.]

O Lamb of God, our Light, of fleece how luminous!

If speech would come, as water-lilies rise

From the deep founts and offer sacrifice,

Then might I hope

In majesty of many a trope

To open unto man the glorious Sign

How Thou the Lamb even as a lamp dost shine.

White must Thou be that we may recognize

Thou art the Host, and there must be

In Thy appearing marks of Calvary:

But deep in thought, untainted by event.

Even as from Thy Father’s Bosom sent,

Thou must be manifest. The great “I am”

Shines through prevailing fleeces, Abel’s Lamb.3 [Note: Michael Field, Mystic Trees, 131.]

An Opened Book and a New Song


Carpenter (W. B.), The Revelation (Ellicott’s New Testament Commentary), 76.

Chapman (J. W.), Bells of Gold, 26.

Gibson (E. C. S.), The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 81.

Jeffrey (R. T.), Visits to Calvary, 43.

Kelman (J.), Ephemera Eternitatis, 242.

Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., i. 92.

Little (J.), The Day-Spring, 229.

Livesey (H.), The Silver Vein of Truth, 106.

Matheson (G.), Sidelights from Patmos, 123.

Milligan (W.), The Book of Revelation (Expositor’s Bible), 82.

Moberly (G.), Sermons on the Beatitudes, 236.

Nicoll (W. R.), The Lamb of God, 55.

Nixon (W.), Christ All and in All, 414.

Philip (R.), Redemption; or, The New Song in Heaven, 1.

Pope (W. B.), Discourses on the Lordship of the Incarnate Redeemer, 393.

Pounder (R. W.), Historical Notes on the Book of Revelation, 172.

Robinson (C. S.), Studies in the New Testament, 261.

Rossetti (C. G.), The Face of the Deep, 181.

Scott (C. A.), The Book of the Revelation, 161.

Simcox (W. H.), The Cessation of Prophecy, 158.

Smellie (A.), In the Hour of Silence, 97.

Spencer (I. S.), Sermons, ii. 464.

Swete (H. B.), The Apocalypse of St. John, 80.

Talmage (T. de W.), Sermons, v. 237.

Vaughan (C. J.), Lectures on the Revelation of St. John, 148.

Waddell (R.), Behold the Lamb of God! 177.

Christian Commonwealth, xxxi. (1911) 265 (R. J. Campbell).

Christian World Pulpit, xiii. 258 (W. J. K. Little); li. 394 (T. Jones); lx. 49 (C. Gore); lxxv. 4 (H. H. Snell).

Church of England Pulpit, lii. 194 (C. Gore).

Church Family Newspaper, Nov. 8, 1912 (C. G. Lang).

Verse 9-10

(9, 10) And they sung a new song, saying . . .—Better, And they sing a new song, saying. The use of the present (“sing”) is another example of that intensity of interest of which the change of tense in the last verse afforded an instance. As he records his vision, he sees it anew; he describes the action as though it were even now taking place, and he still hears the notes of praise. He who knows what it is to have the strains of some rich melody haunt him for days will understand how the prophet would hear the glad chorus burst forth afresh in his ears when he recalled the vision. The new song; the chorus of the redeemed—

“Worthy art Thou to take the roll,

And to open the seals thereof;

For Thou wast slain,

And didst buy to God in Thy blood

Out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,

And didst make them a kingdom and priests,

And they reign upon the earth.”

The English version, “hast redeemed,” and “hast made,” weakens the reference to the completed character of Christ’s redeeming work. It is the great victory in suffering and death which inspires the song, and makes them sing, “Thou art worthy;” and so they speak of that work of Christ as a work truly done: “Thou didst buy (omit “us”) out of every tribe, &c., and didst make them,” &c. The suffering Saviour has died, has broken the bond of the oppressor, has claimed, by right of purchase, mankind as His own; and the price was His blood. It is well to notice the harmony between this passage and the statements of other Apostles: “Ye are not your own;” “bought with a price.” (See 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2 Peter 2:1.) Observe, also, the four terms (tribe, tongue, people, nation), employed as if to give emphasis to the universality of redemption, for four is the number of extension in all directions. With this compare Romans 5:15-19; Colossians 3:11; Hebrews 2:9. We have a right to teach all to say, “He redeemed me and all mankind.” It is instructive to dwell on the climax “they reign,” in contrast with “Thou wast slain.” It is like an anticipation of the now familiar words—

“Thine the sharp thorns, and mine the golden crown;

Mine the life won, and Thine the life laid down.”

“Didst make them a kingdom and priests.” (See Revelation 1:6.) This kingdom and reign is the outcome of Christ’s work. “Every precept of Christianity is quickened by the power of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is by the presence of this power that they are Christians, and it is as Christians that they conquer the world” (Westcott). “They reign on the earth.” Such is the best reading; the tense is present It is not, I think, to be explained away as a vivid realisation of the future; it is a simple statement, which is as true as that the followers of Christ are “a kingdom and priests.” They reign with and in Christ, but they also reign on the earth. Christ gives them a kingship, even sovereignty over themselves—the first, best, and most philanthropic of all kingships. He gives them, too, a kingship on the earth among men, for they are exerting those influences, promoting those principles, and dispensing those laws of righteousness, holiness, and peace which in reality rule all the best developments of life and history. All who traverse these laws are intruders, transitory tyrants, exerting only a phantom power. They are not kings: they may govern, they do not reign. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Ephesians 2:6.)

Verse 11

(11) And I beheld . . .—More literally, And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne, and the living beings, and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands. The chorus of the redeemed is followed by a chorus of angels; for “that which is the highest act of love, towards whatever persons it was manifested, from whatever calamities it saved them, must be the highest manifestation of the divine character and will; therefore must be the cause of delight to all creatures, fallen or unfallen. If the Revelation is true, there can be no breach in the sympathies of any part of God’s voluntary and intelligent universe.” It is needless to observe that the numbers are not to be taken literally; they are simply employed to express the countless throng of that “innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22) which raised the song—

“Loud as from numbers without number, sweet

As from blest voices, uttering joy.”

—Paradise Lost, iii. 346, 347.

Verse 12

(12) Saying with a loud voice . . .—The second chorus: the chorus of angels—

“Worthy is the Lamb,

That hath been slain,

To receive the power.

And riches, and wisdom, and might,

And honour, and glory, and blessing.”

The doxology is seven-fold. We have noticed (Revelation 1:6) the increasing strength of the doxologies in which the redeemed take part. This, though a sevenfold one, does not interrupt that advance of praise; for in this chorus the redeemed do not take part. The definite article is prefixed to the word “power” only; in the doxologies of Revelation 4:11; Revelation 7:12 it stands before each word. This has led some to view the single article as prefixed to all that follows, and to regard all the words as though they formed one word. May it not, however, be used to give emphasis to the “power”? None, above or below, was “able” (same word as “power” here) to open the book (Revelation 5:3); but the Lamb has conquered to open it, and the chorus proclaims the Lamb worthy of that power. Some have thought that the seven terms of the doxology refer to the seven seals which the Lamb is about to open. This seems strained. The notion of completeness is common to this seven-fold blessing and the seven seals; this is the only connection between them.

Verse 13

(13) And every creature . . .—The third chorus: the chorus of the universe. The song of the redeemed, echoed by the hosts of angels, is now merged in the utterance of all. “Every creature which is in the heaven, and upon the earth, and beneath the earth, and upon the sea, and all the things that are in them, heard I saying—

“To Him that sitteth upon the throne,

And to the Lamb,

(Be) the blessing, and the honour,

And the glory, and the might,

To the ages of the ages.”

The song of praise rises from all quarters, and from all forms of creation. The whole universe, animate and inanimate, joins in this glad acclaim. To limit it to either rational or animate creation is to enfeeble the climax which this third chorus forms to the two preceding ones, and is to denude the passage of its fulness and of its poetry. The Hebrew mind delighted in representing every bird and every grass-blade as joining in God’s praise. “Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl,” as well as kings of the earth and all people, were called on to bless the name of the Lord. Christian poets have told us that “Earth with her thousand voices praises God.”

“Nature, attend! join every living soul,

Beneath the spacious temple of the sky,

In adoration join’d; and, ardent, raise

One general song! To Him, ye vocal gales,

Breathe soft, whose Spirit in your freshness breathes.

* * * And thou, majestic main,

A secret world of wonders in thyself,

Sound His stupendous praise, whose greater voice

Or bids you roar, or bids your roaring fall.

Soft roll your incense, herbs, and fruits, and flowers,

In mingled clouds to Him whose sun exalts,

Whose breath perfumes you, and whose pencil paints.”

—Thomson, Hymn to Seasons.

The Apostle who pictured all creation as waiting in eager expectation for the full redemption—the redemption of “the body” (Romans 8:23), looked forward to the time when “the whole universe, whether animate or inanimate, would bend the knee in homage and raise its voice in praise” (Philippians 2:10). The doxology which thus rises from the universe is appropriately four-fold: the definite article (omitted in the English version) must be supplied before each word (“The blessing,” &c.). The two preceding songs were in honour of the Lamb; in this last the praise is addressed to the Throned One and to the Lamb. This linking of the Lamb with God as the Throned One is common throughout the book. Here they are linked in praise; in Revelation 6:16 they are linked in wrath; in Revelation 7:17 they are linked in ministering consolation; in Revelation 19:6-7, they are linked in triumph. In the final vision of the book the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple (Revelation 21:22) and the light (Revelation 21:23), the refreshment (Revelation 22:1) and sovereignty (Revelation 22:3), of the celestial city.

Verse 14

(14) And the four beasts . . .—Better, And the four living beings said, Amen (or, the Amen). And the elders (omit “four and twenty”) fell down and worshipped. The remaining words of this verse are wanting in some of the best MSS., and they spoil thegraphic force of the description. The “Amen” rises from universal nature; the Church of Christ falls down in silent adoration. Thought and feeling assert themselves above all language. There are times when silence is the most eloquent applause; there are times when it is also the most real worship. “Let thy prayers be without words, rather than thy words, without prayer” was a wise precept of an old divine. An English and an Italian poet have given expression to the same feeling of the weakness of words. “O speech !” sang Dante, when telling his final vision—

“How feeble and how faint art thou to give

Conception birth.”

—Parad. xxxiii.

Thomson takes refuge in silence from the overwhelming thoughts of the divine glory:—

“I lose

Myself in Him, in light ineffable.

Come, then, expressive silence, muse His praise.”

Here the inspired seer describes the chorus of praise as dying into a silence born of awe and gratefulness and love.


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 5:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

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