And before the throne there was a sea of glass like to crystal: and in the middle of the throne, and round about the throne…
I. A FEW THOUGHTS RESPECTING THESE AWFUL INTELLIGENCES OF WHOM WE READ IN THE TEXT. Every manifestation of the glory of God has usually been accompanied with the presence of these living creatures. In the column of fire at the gate of Eden were seen the mystic forms and evolutions of these wondrous beings. In after times, God was addressed as dwelling between the cherubim. In the holiest of all, there was the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. The symbol of the Divine presence seems associated with them. It is to be remembered that the Oriental court was framed on the principle that it was the pattern of the Divine. The monarch was the visible representative of God. His laws, like those of God, were immutable. No one without permission could see his face and live; and the highest princes of the realm stood in his presence. In the court of our sovereign the most exalted personages — the highest in title, rank, and wealth — minister to royalty. Their very greatness is necessary to qualify them for service, and thus they manifest the glory of the monarch. Those created beings who stand before God in an official character are represented as possessing all possible perfections. They are the highest order of created intelligences; they are the ministers of the great King — and yet between them and God how great, how inconceivable the distance! The impropriety of terming these living creatures "beasts" has been admitted by every writer — the term is utterly at variance with their character and perfections. They are evidently official personages. All their acts are official. That these living creatures possess the highest capacities may be presumed from their dignified station. Their penetrating and comprehensive knowledge is intimated by their being "full of eyes, before and behind." They see the past as well as the present; they can look all ways and see all things. They have, in its perfection, the faculty of introspection, for they have "eyes within." This singular statement is but the symbol of their knowledge of themselves, as well as of outward things.
II. A FEW SUGGESTIONS RELATIVE TO THE FACULTY OF INTROSPECTION. Man is related to the outward and to the spiritual world to the things that are seen and to the things that are unseen — to the things that are temporal and to the things that are eternal. He has an outward and an inward life — the sense of sight and the faculty of introspection. Man is "fearfully and wonderfully made"; he has the faculty of introspection, but through disuse it becomes dimmed, or paralysed, and dead. Christ comes., that men may see. "He opens blind eyes." The regenerated men is the spiritual man, with the full use of spiritual powers, with the faculty of spiritual discernment. But more particularly —
1. Man does not recognise his own spiritual nature. He does not know how awful and mysterious that nature is. His outward life overshadows his inner life. His body is the prison-house of his soul. The spiritual man has "eyes within." He communes with his own heart; he listens to the utterances of his spirit; he is familiar with the sorrows and joys of his soul. We may well pray, each for himself, Open Thou my eyes that I may see myself.
2. Man does not study the phenomena of his own mind. He thinks, but he thinks about his calling, about his trade; his thoughts are like his tools, his implements, he does not employ the powers of his mind on spiritual realities, or make his thoughts the chariot in which he can ascend to God. If we had eyes within we should see that there is nothing more wonderful than thought. We should see "that as a man thinketh in his heart so is he"; that if he thinks worldly thoughts, he is worldly; that if he thinks sensual thoughts, he is sensual; that if he thinks spiritual thoughts, he is spiritual; that thoughts are of moment and of the utmost importance.
3. Men do not know their own hearts. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" There is only one Being who knows it. If our eyes were opened, we should cry out, "Create in me a clean heart, O God."
4. Men do not form a correct estimate of their own capabilities. "Man," says Pascal, "is the scorn and the glory of the universe." You have a nature that can only find its completeness in God, and therefore you can only find your satisfaction in Him. You have capabilities that you do not conceive of, for joy or for misery. You can become a partaker of a Divine nature, or you can sink into the most fearful degradation and infamy.
(H. J. Bevis.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.