Sidor som bilder

From the preceding observations, it follows that Christ divides the history of his Church into seven periods, in each of which he describes three different sorts of transactions under the respective seal, trumpet, and vial. The Lamb holds a book sealed with seven seals, which he opens one after another. This book contains the history of the formation and propagation of Christ's Church, together with the opposition made to the establishment of it; and a part of this account is disclosed at the opening of each seal. To every seal corresponds a trumpet, which is sounded by an Angel. The sound of a trumpet naturally indicates an alarm; and such is the nature of the trumpets in the Apocalypse. They always announce events that are alarming to the Church, such as persecutions, intestine convulsions occasioned by heresies, &c.. After the trumpets follow the vials of the wrath of God. These convey the punishments which Christ inflicts on the enemies of his people. Hence it appears that the seals, trumpets, and vials, unfold the three kinds of events which distinguish each age of the Christian Church. One may remark in the history of the Jews, that nearly the same sort of economy was observed in the divine dispensations towards that people. They were favoured with the special assistance of God, but they had algo their trials, their persecutions, &c. and at other times they saw their enemies laid prostrate by the divine hand before them.

When almighty God thinks fit to reveal future

events, he generally expresses them in obscureterms, that leave the meaning more or less uncertain. This seems to be done in order to prevent the daring presumption of some men, who might attempt, if the prophecies were clear, to obstruct and hinder their accomplishment. Others of mankind of a more timorous disposition, would be alarmed and over-much terrified at disasters which they foresaw were impending upon them. On another hand, if futurity was clearly foretold, it might seem to intrench upon that liberty, which God has been pleased to grant to man, of directing his own conduct and actions. For these reasons the generality of prophecies are covered with a veil of darkness and uncertainty. Obscurity is therefore a general characteristic of prophecy, but it is peculiarly so of the Apocalypse, as every commentator has acknowledged. This book appears at first sight impenetrable. Let any one dip into it without having a key to open to him the meaning, and he will see nothing but a continued series of the most mysterious enigmas. Hence it has happened that so many different explanations have been invented. But the same obscurity was the occasion that the ancient fathers were so sparing in their interpretations of this prophecy. They have here and there explained a particular passage, without attempting the whole, and sometimes only given a moral exposition of it. But in this we need not wonder, because as the Apocalypse is the history of Christ's Church through the whole time of its

existence, so few events had happened when they wrote, that the greatest part of the book must have appeared to them inexplicable. Hence we see the advantage of the present times for unravelling the mysteries of the Apocalypse, when so considerable a share of them has been fulfilled. Whoever looks back into the history of the Church, and compares attentively the facts with the expressions of St. John, will see a distinct analogy and connexion between them. It must however be allowed, there remain yet very many obscurities, which, if we have not always sufficiently cleared, we hope the indulgent reader will consider the difficulty and excuse the defect.

The principal help for removing the obscurities of the Apocalypse, arises from a right understanding of its general tendency. If a wrong system be adopted, the difficulty of reconciling the different parts of the prophecy becomes insuperable: and this has appeared fully in the attempts of several interpreters. But, when the plan of the book is discovered and ascertained, the difficulties decrease, and the obscurities gradually disappear. Thus a surprising light breaks in upon the Apocalypse, when we view it as the history of Christ's Church divided into seven periods or ages, as we have above explained. A second means of removing difficulties is, the taking notice of the order of the different parts that compose this prophetic book. St. John gives all the Seals together, then all the Trumpets, and lastly the Vials in the same manner. b

Under the seven seals a series of transactions is related, which belong to the seven successive ages of the Church, and which terminate with the great day of judgment. The same course is observed in the trumpets and the Vials. But we must however remark, that, after finishing with the trumpets, he does not proceed immediately to the vials: nevertheless he observes the same rule, namely, in returning, after the seventh trumpet, to relate a new series of events; but which are confined to the first, third, sixth, and seventh ages; these ages being the most interesting to the Church, as the three first of them exhibit the history of idolatry, and the last or seventh' relates to the general judgment. This narrative is given in the chapters xii. xiii. xiv. ; and as it is joined to that of the trumpets, it partakes of the nature of them, that is, it describes events that are alarming to the Church, with the addition however of some incidents or promises that administer comfort in those alarming circumstances.

The prophet having thus carried us on to the end of time, begins again with the first age, and rehearses under the seven vials, in chap. xv. xvi. a new course of transactions that runs through all the seven ages. This narrative being terminated, he returns back, as he had done after the account of the trumpets, to a new course of history, relating to the first, third, sixth, and seventh ages, beginning at chap. xvii. and ending with verse 10th of chap. xix. This piece of history is of such a nature as

agrees with that of the vials to which it is joined, that is, it is a rehearsal of divine punishments; to which are annexed exultations on these victories of Christ over his enemies. This being done, the prophet, according to his custom, begins again a new narrative of events, of the same nature as the preceding, and which also belong to those interesting ages, the first, third, sixth, and seventh. This narrative begins at verse 11th of chap. xix. and continues to the end of chap. xx. Finally, the two last chapters conclude the prophecy with an account of the other world, as it will be after the close of all time. Hence then appears the order observed in this incomparable prophecy of the Apocalypse. As the whole history of the Church therein contained, is divided into seven ages, so it is related, not indeed all that part together which belongs to each age, but in seven different series of events, six of which reach from the first age to the last day, and the seventh is the description of the next world. The first of these series is given under the seals; the second under the trumpets; the third in the chapters xii. xiii. xiv.; the fourth under the vials the fifth in chapters xvii. xviii. and part of chapter xix.; the sixth in the rest of chapter xix. and in chapter xx.; and the seventh in chapters xxi. and xxii. This sevenfold division is conformable to the constant use made in the Apocalypse of that mysterious number seven, as, of seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven Churches, seven candlesticks, seven spirits, &c.

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »