And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True…
In the eyebrows of some people there are one or two hairs that are thicker and longer than the others, and stand out like the whiskers of a cat. A good many persons have the round fold in the upper part of their ears ending in a blunt point, like the tip of an animal's ear folded down. At school I knew a boy who had the strange power of moving his ears at will, like a dog or a rabbit; and there was one big lad who could contract the skin of his head so strongly that, by the mere power of his muscles, without moving his head, he could throw off a book laid upon it. Some people have great canine teeth, and others have their face and body covered all over with thick hair. These things are said by scientific men to be the signs of man's origin from the lower animals, and remain as traces in some persons of the stages through which all the human race has passed. The lower animals are our poor relations; and it ought not to be considered strange if we should retain many marks and proofs of the relationship. Every human being has the mark of the beast in him, to show that God has made all animal structures after the same pattern; and united together all His creatures, from the highest to the lowest, by ties of mutual resemblance and sympathy, so that they all might be able to live harmoniously together on the earth. But there is a mark of the beast that ought to make us ashamed — that does degrade us. It is the mark of sin in our souls which destroys the image of God within us, and reduces us to the level, nay, below the level, of the beasts that perish. For the dumb, irrational animals faithfully obey the instincts of their nature, and God can say of them, "The stork in the heavens knoweth its appointed time"; "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib"; but of man He says, "Israel doth not know, My people do not consider." The animals obey in every respect the will of God; they cannot but obey; but we are continually breaking His commandments, and doing things that are contrary to His will and to our own welfare. One of the marks of a beast is impatience and hasty rage if it does not get its own way. The reason is that dumb animals have no other way of expressing themselves; and you find that the more limited the power of utterance, the quicker and more violent is the temper. And when any of us yield to the temptation of indulging in rage and violence and impatience, we show very distinctly upon us the mark of the beast, and forfeit our glorious gift of gentle and dignified speech, and descend to the level of the beast. So, too, with falsehood and dishonesty. Wild beasts steal from one another and deceive one another without compunction, for that is their nature, and in the stern struggle of life they have to be selfish and to take care of themselves at the expense of others. But in us who have a high moral nature, such acts would be wrong. Such marks of the beast in us would degrade us in our own esteem and in the estimation of others. Wild beasts kill each other without any mercy or remorse. And alas! many human beings have this wild-beast nature in them. If they do not go the length of acts of bodily violence, they wound each other in their hearts and characters. They are guilty of many acts of unkindness and positive cruelty to each other. Animals rend the sick or lame animal. Wolves will devour the unfortunate wolf that is wounded in the pack; and, therefore, animals instinctively avoid their fellows when they are hurt in any way, and seek the loneliest solitude in which to suffer or die in peace. All human beings who act in the same way — who, when they discover a weakness or a failing in their friends and neighbours, hasten to crush them altogether; who, if they discern a pin-hole, wish to work it into a huge gap, and, if they can only get their fingers in, long to rend the piece asunder — all such persons have the mark of the beast. It is an awful truth, that the more the image of God disappears in us, the more do the marks of the beast manifest themselves. What is it that can remove the mark of the beast in man, and restore the image of God? The brute elements cannot drop out of man's character by a natural process, however favourable may be his environment; the human race of its own accord cannot grow better, as surely as the bud expands into the perfect flower. Scientific men themselves tell us that the natural process is not necessarily upwards to better things, but may, indeed, be downwards to worse; especially if the surrounding circumstances and conditions of life be degrading. And we might well despair of the future of our race, if it were left to the force of natural evolution alone to work out the beast in man, and let the ape and tiger die. It is here that the power of spiritual religion comes in. The regenerating forces of living Christianity can be trusted to raise and renew mankind. You know that loveliest and most instructive of all the fairy tales — the familiar story of Beauty and the Beast. You remember how the merchant was to be put to death for plucking the bunch of roses in the garden of the Beast, and how his youngest and fairest daughter, whom he loved the most, offered to take his place and suffer his doom. When Beauty first saw the frightful form of the Beast, she was dreadfully afraid, and shrank from him; but by and by, as she got to know him better, she began to feel pity for him, and was touched with his gentleness and kindness. At last she agreed to marry him; and then a wonderful thing happened. Instead of the ugly beast, she saw a handsome and graceful young prince, who thanked her with the tenderest expressions for having delivered him from the wicked enchantment that had transformed him into a beast. The moral of this lovely story, which is as old as the hills and as young as each child in our midst, is that it is love that changes the beast in us into the nobler human nature, that takes away all the marks of the beast in us, and transforms us into true men and women. And so, in the highest sense of all, is it not the pure, disinterested love of Jesus Christ, who consented to take our nature, and die in our room and stead, and who unites us to Himself by an everlasting union, that takes away all the marks of the beasts in us, the old, sinful, degraded nature, and transforms us into His own likeness by the renewing of our minds? United to Christ, we become new creatures; the image of God is restored in us; our faces shine as the face of Moses shone when he came down from his communion with God on the mount. It is said of the great St. , that he prayed earnestly on one occasion, that he might realise in his body, as well as in his soul, the sufferings of Christ; and immediately there appeared in his hands the prints of the nails, and in his side the wound of the spear, which he bore all the rest of his life, but carefully hid, for he did not wish to expose to the eyes of cold curiosity the secret which made him one with his Lord. But not in visible imprint, not in fleshly wounds, do we bear the signs of the cross; no, but in holy affections, in crucified tempers, in heavenly desires, in Christlike meekness and gentleness. The Brahmins of India have a mark upon their foreheads in honour of the god they worship, by which every one can distinguish them. And so those who love the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him have a mark upon their foreheads, by which all men can take knowledge of them that they are keeping company with Him. They have what the high priest of old had inscribed upon the gold plate of his mitre, in a pure and candid and heavenly look, "Holiness to the Lord." And as they grow in likeness to Christ, so this bright sign of their high calling will be more clearly seen, and their outward beauty will be as their inward grace. In the old creation we see how beasts of low type and cruel nature, that wallowed in the mire, were swept away, and creatures of higher organisation and gentler mood appeared on the earth in their place. The wonderful researches of geology have made us familiar with this significant fact, that after forms that were emblems of evil, there gradually rose others that were emblems of good; and the Bible tells us that the new creation will develop this progress on a higher plane; that eventually all serpent-forms of evil will be subdued, and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and a little child shall lead the most ferocious creatures. He who was with the wild beasts in the wilderness of the temptation will change the wilderness of men's souls, with its wild beasts of evil passions and tempers, into a fair and fertile garden, the home of gentle and holy graces. And John shows us, in his glorious vision in Revelation, those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, standing on the sea of glass as the symbol of their purity, and having the harps of God as the symbol of their harmony, and singing the song of Moses and the Lamb as the token of their triumph. They have obtained the final victory over the beast in man; they have risen completely out of the degradation of sin; they have had all the marks of the beast obliterated, and all the image of God restored in their glorified souls and bodies.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.).
Parallel VersesKJV: And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.