Aries, the Ram
Cassiopeia, the Enthroned Woman
Cetus, the Sea Monster
Perseus, the Breaker
THE BLESSED OUTCOME
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
This is the myriad-voiced response of the heavenly world to the triumphant song of the redeemed after the Church has run its earthly course. It immediately follows that time, now near at hand, when the great voice from the sky, as of a trumpet, shall say, to all the holy dead and to all God’s saints, “COME UP HITHER.” The whole scene represents that heavenly condition of the elect to be realized at the fulfilment of the apostolic word, which says, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). It is the same scene to which Jesus himself referred when He said: “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (Luke 17:37). And it is precisely this scene that is signified by the eighth sign of the Zodiac – the last of the quaternary relating more especially to the Church.
The text celebrates the worthiness, glory, and dominion of the Lamb, who is further described as appearing to have been slain, but here as standing in the midst of the throne, having the perfection of strength and wisdom, and the fullness of spiritual and divine energy operative in the world for the complete salvation of His people; for this is what is meant by the “seven horns and seven eyes – the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” And in the sign of Aries we have this same Lamb, or Prince of the flock, the Son of man as the Head, Sacrifice, and High Priest of the Church, lifted up upon the path of the Sun, looking forth in the repose of power, and working that very translation and glorification of His people which the Scriptures everywhere set before us as the blessed hope of all saints.
To this interesting presentation, then, let us now direct our attention.
THE SIGN OF ARIES
The figure here is that of a vigorous Ram.
It is called Aries, the Chief, the Head; as Aryan means the Lordly. So Christ is the Chief, the Head and Lord of His Church. The English name, Ram, means high, great, elevated, lifted up. In Syriac the name is Amroo, the Lamb, the same as John 1:29, where it is said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;” also the Branch, the Palm-branch, recognized by the Jews as denotive of Christ’s royal coming to His Church. The Arabic calls this figure Al Hamal, the Sheep, the Gentle, the Merciful.
The principal stars included in this figure are called El Nath or El Natik, and Al Sharetan, which mean the Wounded, the Bruised, the Slain. Over the head of the figure is a triangle, which the old Greeks said exhibited the name of the Deity, and its principal star bears a name signifying the Head, the Uplifted, hence the Lamb exalted to the divine glory, to the throne of the all-holy One.
It is unreasonable to suppose that all this could have happened by mere accident. There was manifestly some intelligent design by which the whole was arranged. And the entire presentation is in thorough accord with what the Scriptures say concerning the Seed of the woman. As the Son of man He is continually represented as the Head and Prince of the flock, the Lamb – “the Lamb that was slain” – the Lamb lifted to divine dominion and glory. In His pure, meek, and sacrificial character the Scriptures style Christ “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” In His exaltation He is represented as “the Lamb in the midst of the throne.” In the administrations of judgment upon the wicked world He is contemplated as the Lamb, whose wrath is unbearable. As the Bridegroom and Husband of the Church He is also the Lamb, to whose marriage-supper the Gospel calls us. As the Keeper of the Book of Life in which the names of the saints are written, the Lifter of the title-deed of our inheritance, and the Breaker of the seals by which the earth is purged of usurpers and the mystery of God completed, He is presented as “the Lamb.” As the consociate of the eternal Father in the joy and sovereignty of the world to come, in which the saints glory for ever and ever, He is still referred to as “the Lamb,” by whose blood they overcome and in whose light they live world without end. And in whatever attitude He appears, back of all He is still the Lamb.
THE MYTHIC STORIES
The mythic stories concerning Aries still further identify him with the Lamb of the text.
This noble and mysterious animal was given by Nephele to her two children, Phrixus and Helle, when Ino, their mortal stepmother, was about to have them sacrificed to Jupiter. It was by seating themselves on its back and clinging to its fleece that they were to make their escape. Nephele means the Cloud. She is reputed the queen of Thebes; and Thebes was the house, city, or congregation of God.
We thus have the cloud over God’s house, or congregation, precisely as the Scriptures tell of the cloud of God’s gracious manifestations to His ancient people – in their deliverance from Egypt, in their journeyings in the wilderness, and in their worship in the tabernacle and the temple. God visibly dealt with them as their merciful Guide, Instructor, Protector, and Ruler; and His gracious presence was almost uniformly manifested in the form of the cloud. Also in Job’s time “thick clouds” were His covering. It was by these cloud-manifestations that He called and formed the congregation of His people, assembled them around Him, and kept them in communion with himself as His Church or city.
The two children of the cloud are therefore the same with the two Fishes in the preceding sign; that is, the multitudinous twofold Church, which is born of these merciful divine manifestations. These children were all under sentence of death. So the Church, consisting of men who had fallen under the power of incoming sin, was in danger of being sacrificed. From such a fate believers are delivered by means of the blest “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
This Lamb was furnished to these children from the same cloud of which they themselves are born; and so Christ was begotten by the power of the Highest coming upon and over-shadowing the Virgin of Nazareth, and upon himself at His baptism and transfiguration.
The safety of these children of the cloud rested exclusively in this Lamb, and so the name of Jesus is the only name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved.
Both of them in fact were safe, and carried far aloft from Ino’s reach and power, so long as they both continued firmly seated on this Lamb; and so the Church is lifted far above all condemnation by virtue of its being planted on Jesus Christ as its Help and Redeemer.
Helle, one of these cloud-children, became giddy in the heavenly elevation to which she was lifted by this Lamb, lost her hold upon his back, and fell off into the sea, thereafter called Hellespont, or Helle’s Sea; and so the antediluvian Church apostatized and was drowned in the flood; as likewise the Israelitish Church, becoming giddy in its sublime elevation, let go its hold on the Lamb by rejecting Christ, and dropped from its heavenly position into the sea of the common world.
Phrixus, the more manly part of this mystic cloud-seed, held on to the mystic Lamb, and was brought in safety to Colchis, the citadel of reconciliation, the city of refuge. So likewise there has ever been a true people of God remaining faithful amid the apostasies around them, who never let go their hold on the Lamb of God, and are securely borne to the citadel of peace and salvation.
Nephele’s Lamb was sacrificed to Jupiter as those who were saved by him would have been without him; and so Christ, the true Aries, was sacrificed for us, and died in our stead. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” And it was this Lamb of Nephele that yielded the Golden Fleece, which made him who possessed it the envy of kings, and which constituted the highest treasure to be found by the children of men.
And this, again, is a most striking image of the heavenly robe of Christ’s meritorious righteousness, the sublimest and most enriching treasure and ornament of the Church, which ever sings –
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”
It is wonderful to see how these traditional legends of the constellations interpret on the theory that they have come from prophecies and sacred beliefs touching the promised Seed of the woman and the Church which He has purchased with His blood.
It is also worthy of remark that the Egyptians celebrated a sacred feast to the Ram upon the entrance of the Sun into the sign of Aries. They prepared for it before the full moon next to the spring equinox, and on the fourteenth day of that moon all Egypt was in joy over the dominion of the Ram. Everybody put foliage or boughs, or some mark of the feast, over his door. The people crowned the ram with flowers, carried him with extraordinary pomp in grand processions, and rejoiced in him to the utmost. It was then that the horn was full. The ancient Persians had a similar festival of Aries. For all this it is hard to account except in connection with what was prophetically signified by Aries. But taken in relation to what the Scriptures foretell of the Lamb, in the period when He shall take to Him His great power for the deliverance and glorification of His Church, we can easily see how this would come to be one of the very gladdest and most exultant of the sacred feasts. It is when the Lamb thus comes upon the throne, and appears for the taking up of the deeds of the inheritance, the gladdest period in all the history of the Church and people of God is come. Then it is that the songs break forth in heaven in tremendous volume of Worthiness, and Blessing, and Honour, and Glory to the Lamb for redeeming men by His blood, and making them kings and priests unto God, and certifying unto them that now they “shall reign on the earth.”
And when we turn to the accompanying Decans of this sign, the very work and doings ascribed to the Lamb in this entrance upon His great power are still more specifically set before us, in which the joy in Him on the part of His Church and people comes to its culmination. The first of these is
This is nothing less than a picture of the true Church of God lifted up out of all evils, bonds, and disabilities, and seated with her glorious Redeemer in heaven. The figure is that of a queenly woman, matchless in beauty, seated in exalted dignity, with her foot on the Arctic Circle, on which her chair likewise is set. In one hand she holds aloft the branch of victory and triumph, and with the other she is spreading and arranging her hair, as if preparing herself for some great public manifestation. Albumazer says this woman was anciently called “the daughter of splendour,” hence “the glorified woman.” Her common name is Cassiopeia, the beautiful, the enthroned; or, as Pluche derives the name, the Boundary of Typhon’s power, the Delivered from all evil. The constellation itself is one of the most beautiful in the heavens.
“Wide her stars
Dispersed, nor shine with mutual aid improved;
Nor dazzle, brilliant with contiguous flame:
Their number fifty-five.”
Four stars of the third magnitude, form the seat upon which this woman sits. The star on her right side is on the equinoctial colure, and on a straight line with Al Pherats in Andromeda’s cheek to the north pole. The constellation embraces a binary star, a triple star, a double star, a quadruple star, and an extraordinary number of star-clusters of similar constituents to the general field of greater stars.
About three hundred years ago there occurred in this constellation what was a great mystery to astronomers. A star, surpassing in brilliance and splendour all the fixed stars, suddenly appeared on the tenth of November, 1572, and, after shining in continuous glory for sixteen months, disappeared, and has never since been seen, just as the Church disappears in the shadow of death, or is presently to be caught away to the invisible world.
And if there is any one constellation of the sky, or any figure among these celestial frescoes, specially fitted to be the symbol and representative of the Church, particularly in its enfranchised and glorified condition, it is this. The names are equally significant. The first star marking the figure of this woman is called Shedar, which means the Freed, and Ruchbah and Dat al Cursa, signifying the Enthroned, the Seated. On her right hand is also the glorious star-crowned King, holding out his sceptre toward her, whilst all the accounts pronounce her his wife, just as the Scriptures everywhere describe the Church as affianced to Christ, hereafter to be married to Him as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
Cassiopeia is universally represented as the mother of Andromeda; and so the Apostle refers to the heavenly Church as the mother of the earthly Church. The Jerusalem that is above “is the mother of us all.” The whole presentation is that of deliverance and heavenly triumph, precisely as we speak of the Church triumphant; and the ready-making is for the great marriage ceremonial. (Compare Rev. 19: 7, 8.)*
The perfection of this woman’s beauty, fairer than Juno and the envy of all the nymphs of the sea, likewise answers exactly to the Scripture descriptions of the Church: “Thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I put upon thee, saith the Lord” (Ezek. 16: 14).
Christ is to present it to himself, “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5: 27).
Cassiopeia is an enthroned queen; and this is also uniformly the biblical picture of the Church when once it comes to enter upon its promised glory. John saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and they reigned with Christ.
And it was further said that so “they shall reign for ever and ever.” The Church is “the queen in gold of Ophir” of which the Psalmist (45:9) so enthusiastically sung.
“Let us rejoice and exult
and give Him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure” –
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Revelation 19:7, 8
But when the time comes for the Church to enter upon her royal exaltation and authority, another very important and marked event is to occur. John beheld it in apocalyptic vision, and writes: “I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the Dragon, that old Serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years are fulfilled; and after that he must be loosed a little season” (Rev. 20: 1–3). And this is pictorially given in the second Decan of Aries.
The picture is that of a great sea-monster (Cetus), the true Leviathan of Job and Isaiah, which covers the largest space of any one figure in the sky. It is a vast, scaly, beast, with enormous head, mouth, and front paws, and having the body and tail of a whale. It is generally called “the Whale” on our planispheres. It is an animal of the waters and marshes, and the natural enemy and devourer of the fishes. It is the same which the sea-god sent to devour Andromeda, and hence the particular foe and persecutor of the Church. It is a downward constellation, bordering on the lower regions. One of its characteristic stars, Mira, situated in the neck of the scaly monster, is the most wonderfully variable and unsteady in the heavens. From a star of the second magnitude it dwindles away so as to become invisible once in about every three hundred days, and Hevelius affirms that it once disappeared for the space of four years. It is a striking symbol of the arch-Deceiver, and, singularly enough, its name means the Rebel. And what is specially remarkable in the case is, that the doubled end of the Band which upholds the Fishes, after passing the front foot or hand of the Lamb, is fastened on the neck of this monster, and holds him firmly bound. The name of the first of the Cetus stars, Menkar, refers to this; for Menkar means the chained Enemy. And so the name of the second star, Diphda, means the Overthrown, the Thrust-down.
Satan is loose now. Peter writes: “Your adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (Pet. 5: 8). God speaks of him, and puts the confounding questions: “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with an hook? Or his tongue with the cord which thou lettest down? Canst thou put a hook into his nose? Or bore his jaw through with a thorn? Will he make many supplications unto thee? Will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? Wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? Or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? Shall thy companions make a banquet of him? Shall they part him among the merchants? Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? Or his head with fish-spears? Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? None is so fierce that dare stir him up” (Job 41: 1-10). But he whom no man can take or bind, the Lamb has in His power, and will yet lay hold upon, and fasten with a great chain, from which he cannot break away. By the same power with which He upholds the Fishes He restrains the devouring Enemy; and with that same power He will yet fasten up the monster for final destruction. Of old, Isaiah prophesied of a day when, “the Lord with His sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing Serpent even Leviathan that crooked Serpent, and He shall slay the Dragon that is in the sea” (Isa. 27:1). And here we have the same fore-pictured in the stars, showing how the enthroned Lamb will bind and punish Leviathan, even as the written word of prophecy describes. The sign in the heavens answers precisely to the descriptions in the Book, proving that one is of the same piece with the other, and that both are from the same eternal Spirit which has moved to show us things to come.
But in still greater vigour and animation is this whole scene set out in the third accompanying side-piece to this sign of the enthroned Lamb. Micah (2: 12, 13) prophesies of a time when the flock of God shall be gathered, their King pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them; and says that this shall be when “the Breaker is come up before them.”
Whatever may have been in the foreground of this prediction, it is agreed that “the Breaker” here must needs be Christ, the very Lamb of our text, breaking the way of His people through all the doors and gates of their present imprisonment and disability, and dashing to pieces all the antagonizing powers which stand in the way of their full deliverance and redemption. So the Lamb in the Apocalypse is the Breaker of the seals and of apostate nations, the same as the Son in the second Psalm. And this Breaker, in these very acts, is the precise picture in this constellation.
Here is the figure of a mighty man, stepping with one foot on the brightest part of the Milky Way, wearing a helmet on his head and wings on his feet, holding aloft a great sword in his right hand, and carrying away the blood-dripping head of the Gorgon in his left. His name in the constellation is Perets, Græcised Perses or Perseus, the same as in Micah’s prophecy – the Breaker. The name of the star by his left foot is Atik, He who breaks. The name of the brightest middle star in the figure is Al Genib, the One who carries away, and Mirfak, Who helps. And when Perseus comes to the meridian the most brilliant portion of the starry heavens opens out its sublimest magnificence in the eastern hemisphere.
Now, one of the most beloved and admired of all the hero-gods of mythology was this Perseus. He was the son of the divine Father, who came upon Danæ in the form of a shower of gold. No sooner was he born than he and his mother were put into a chest and cast into the sea: but Jupiter so directed that they were rescued by the fishermen on the coast of one of the Cyclades, and carried to the king, who treated them with great kindness, and entrusted to them the care of the temple of the goddess of wisdom. His rising genius and great courage made him a favourite of the gods. At a great feast of the king, at which the nobles were expected to make some splendid present to their sovereign, Perseus, who was so specially indebted to the king’s favours, not wishing to be behind the rest or feebler in his expressions than were his obligations, engaged to bring the head of Medusa, the only one of the three horrible Gorgons subject to mortality.
These Gorgons were fabled beings, with bodies grown indissolubly together and covered with impenetrable scales. They had tusks like boars, yellow wings, and brazen hands, and were very dangerous. Their heads were full of serpents in place of hair, and their very looks had power to turn to stone any one on whom they fixed their gaze.
To equip Perseus for his expedition Pluto lent him his helmet, which had the power of rendering the wearer invisible; and Minerva furnished him with her buckler, resplendent as a polished mirror; and Mercury gave him wings for his feet and a diamond sword for his hand. Thus furnished, he mounted into the air, led by the goddess of wisdom, and came upon the tangled monsters. He,
“In the mirror of his polished shield
Reflected, saw Medusa slumbers take,
And not one serpent by good chance awake;
Then backward an unerring blow he sped,
And from her body lopped at once her head.”
Grasping the same in his left hand, he again mounted into the air, and
“O’er Lybia’s sands his airy journey sped;
The gory drops distilled as swift he flew,
And from each drop envenomed serpents grew.”
By this victory he was rendered immortal, and took his place among the stars, ever holding fast the reeking head of the Gorgon.
It was on his return from this brave deed that he saw the beautiful Andromeda chained to the rock, and the terrible monster of the sea advancing to devour her. On condition that she should become his wife, he broke her chains, plunged his sword into the monster that sought her life, fought off and turned to stone the tyrant Phineus who sought to prevent the wedding, and made Andromeda his bride, begetting many worthy sons and daughters, and by varied administrations of miraculous power changing portions of the earth and its governments and rulers, returning betimes to bless the countries that honoured him.
PERSEUS AND CHRIST
No natural events in the seasons or in the history of man could ever serve as a foundation for such a story as this. Here is a divine-human son, begotten from a golden shower from Deity, a child of affliction and persecution from his very birth, but predestined by the heavenly powers to live and triumph. By his high qualities he is made the keeper and conservator of the temple of wisdom and sacred worship. Out of devotion to his king he undertakes to destroy the Gorgons as far as they are destructible. For this he descends into hell, and brings forth armour from thence.
He is in communion with the divine wisdom, and thereby is girded in splendour and led unerringly. He is winged, and given a diamond sword, as Heaven’s messenger and herald to undo the powers of evil and administer deliverance and posterity. He wounds the dire Gorgons in the head, and carries off their power. He punishes Leviathan with his “sore and great and strong sword.” He breaks the bonds of Andromeda, and makes her his bride amid high festival, at which he puts down all opposition. And thereupon he goes forth to countries far and near, punishing and expelling tyrants and usurpers, rooting out untruth and corrupt worship, and blessing and rejoicing the city and kingdom of heroes.
All this interprets with wonderful literalness and brilliancy when understood of the promised Seed of the woman, the Lamb that was slain, going forward at the head of His people as the Breaker, bringing death and destruction to the monsters of evil, setting wronged captives free, and joining them to himself in glory everlasting. Nor is there anything else of which it will interpret or that can adequately account for the existence of the story.
And that we are so to understand this figure is still further manifest in the facts and names in the reeking, snake-covered head grasped by the hero. Medusa means the Trodden under foot. The name of the principal star in this head, Al Ghoul, contracted into Algol, means the Evil Spirit. The same is also a variable star, like Mira. It changes about every three days from a star of the second magnitude to one of the fourth, and makes its changes from one to the other in three and a half hours. Rosh Satan and Al Oneh are other names of the stars in this head, which mean Satan’s head, the Weakened, the Subdued. And the invincible Subduer and Breaker is none other than “the Lamb,” the biblical Peretz, the Persian Bershuash, taking to himself His great power, and enforcing His saving dominion and authority for the full redemption of His people.
THE CHURCH’S HOPE
With great vividness, beauty, and fullness does this sign of Aries thus symbolize the blessed outcome of the Church, whose earthly estate and career were signified in the three preceding. Out of the sacrificial death and mediation of the Seed of the woman, the slain Lamb, the Church obtains its being. By the unfailing stream of the spiritual waters, which pour down from heaven as the fruit of His mediatorial intercession, it is quickened into life and celestial fellowship. By the bands of royal power with which He has been crowned at the right hand of eternal Majesty it is upheld, directed, and governed amid this sea of earthly existence, turmoil, danger, and temptation. Helpless in its own strength, despised, hated, threatened by the serpents of Medusa’s head, and exposed to the attacks of the monster lord of this world, it is still sustained and preserved by the right hand of Him whose is the dominion. And the time is coming when He who walks amid the golden candlesticks and holds in His hand the seven stars shall lift the title-deed of its inheritance, and call its members up from this doomed world to meet Him in the air, whilst He proceeds to punish and dash in pieces all enemies, cutting off Medusa’s head, putting Leviathan in bonds, and lifting the chained Andromeda to Cassiopeia’s starry throne.
And then it is that all heaven rings with the song, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing;” whilst all creation thrills with “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
Dear friends, may I not here turn to ask, Have you been brought into fellowship and communion with this Church and congregation of the Lord? If so, then thank God for it, and be glad before Him that He has bestowed upon you so great a favour. Bless His name for the grace that has led you into those holy gates, and for the treasures and dignities of which He has thus made you heirs. Trials, dangers, and disabilities may be upon you now, but the Lamb is in the midst of the throne to uphold, protect, and comfort you, and by His blood and intercession you are safe. Cling to Him and His golden fleece, and no malignity of the Destroyer shall ever be able to touch a hair of your head. Wait and pray on in patience and in hope; the victorious Perseus comes for your deliverance and to share with you His own triumphant immortality.
Or does the present moment find you still lingering without the gates, and far aside from the assembly and congregation of God’s flock? These starry lights that look down so lovingly upon you are hung with admonitions of your danger, and in diamond utterance point you to the better way. “There is no speech nor language, their voice is not heard; but their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world,” marking out the tabernacle of the Sun of Righteousness, in which alone there is covenanted safety and salvation for exposed and helpless man. In full harmony with the written Book night by night they hold forth their pictorial showings to corroborate the testimony of Prophets and Apostles, that the erring seed of Adam may learn wisdom, enter the chambers of security, and shut themselves in to life and glory against the time when the Breaker shall come. The light-bearers in the sky join with the light-bearers in the Church in giving out the one great testimony of God: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).