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interest in favour of the book. But let it not be thought, that the insertion of it in this place is to gratify literary vanity. Had the Bishop ascribed to the author the praise of that talent and ingenuity with which he has so eloquently adorned the memory of Joseph Mede, I might be thought liable to
I this imputation : but he confines his commendation to the simple course pursued by the writer in searching the Holy Scriptures for an explanation of the symbols, and in applying them in a spiritual sense: and this is all the commendation I desire. 1
I proceed to state the rules, or canons, which in the former work were proposed by me, as the chart and compass to direct my course, in the untried sea upon which I was about to embark. It is necessary to repeat them, as they form the basis of interpretation adopted in the present work.
In entering upon this most important consideration, the question which first commanded my attention was,-“ From what source can we reasonably expect to derive the safest and surest means of understanding the figurative prophetical language of the Apocalypse ?” The proper answer appeared obvious, and attended with little or no difficulty: for, if the Apocalypse be of divine revelation, an uniformity must be expected to subsist between this and other portions of sacred Scripture. If the same divine Spirit which dictated the preceding prophecies, were also the Inspirer of the apocalytic visions, a mutual relation must subsist between them; and the light derived from the one must contribute most beneficially to the elucidation of the other.
1 Introduction to the Study of the Prophecies, &c. at the Warburtonian Lecture; by R. HURD, D.D. &c.: consult Sermon X. in which it appears, that the Bishop had at that time a strong predilection for Mede's system of interpretation. And it may be thought extraordinary, that in his latter years he should speak so favourably of another book, the tendency of which is, in many parts, to show the invalidity of Mede's deductions. But the learning and genius of this distinguished prelate, were not superior to his candour and rectitude of mind. At one time, he admires the genius of a writer who seems to force his way over all impediments in pursuit of truth: at a later day, he acquiesces in the better fortune of another, who pursues an humbler and more sure course for the attainment of his object.
This then was the first principle, upon which I resolved to ground my method of investigation ;to compare the language, the symbols, the predictions of the Apocalypse, with those of former revelations; and to admit only such interpretation, as should appear to have the sanction of this divine authority.
A second controlling principle seemed necessary. For, as the language, symbols, and predictions thus interpreted by the assistance of Scripture, were to be applied afterwards to historical facts, a preliminary question seemed to occur ;-to what kind of history are they to be applied ? To profane history, or sacred ? to the extensive and boundless mass of the gentile history, or, exclusively, to that of God's chosen people? To assist me in answering this question, I had recourse to the preceding prophecies of the Old and New Testament. How have we been authorized to explain these? In what kind of his
tory do they appear to have been accomplished ? The answer was at hand--the history of the Church of God. For, in this sacred history we find the divine prophecies principally, and almost exclusively fulfilled : for, whenever sacred prophecy is seen to deviate from this its peculiar object, it is in such instances only, wherein the fortunes of God's people have become necessarily involved with those of heathen nations. When the people of God were to become subservient to the four monarchies, the character, and succession, and fates of those monarchies were predicted : but the main object continually kept in view, was their deliverance from these successive yokes, by the superseding dominion of the Messiah. This supreme and universal dominion, gradually and finally to prevail, appears to be the grand object of all sacred prophecy : and revolutions of worldly power among the Gentiles, seem to be noticed only at those times when they impede or promote it.' Therefore the prophecies of the Apocalypse appeared to be applicable principally, if not solely, to the fates and fortunes of the Christian Church; to the progress or retardment of that kingdom of the Messiah, which, when these predictions were delivered, had already begun to obtain its establishment in the world. And I conceived myself obliged to adopt, as a controlling principle of interpretation, that unless the language and symbols of the Apocalypse should in particular passagés direct, or evidently require another mode of application, the predictions were to be applied to events occurring in the progressive kingdom of Christ.'
1 See Bishop Hurd on Prophecy, serm. 2d and 3d. And the extension of divine prophecy to the nations, may be observed to take place in exact proportion to their increasing connexion with the Jews. First, Moab, Edom, Amalek, the Philistines, &c. are noticed; then Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, &c.; afterwards the four great monarchies; and lastly, the Gog and Magog, the distant and barbarous nations.
In the wide field of universal history, innumerable events may be selected by the industry of investigators, seeming to bear resemblance to the figurative pictures of holy writ. Instances of wars, famines, conquests, and revolutions, may be separated from that infinite mass of information, appearing to assimilate to images presented in prophecy. Some restriction is therefore necessary to guide investigation, and to serve as chart and compass through such extensive and difficult seas; and what can be deemed more proper than this principle, which derives its authority from the analogy of sacred Scripture ?
A third controlling principle seemed also requisite, arising from a consideration of the nature and
1 There are discoverable in scriptural prophecy, and generally acknowledged by divines, two advents or comings of our Lord; 1st. his personal appearance in the flesh ; 2dly. his progress to complete dominion, by the subjection of all his enemies. The first of these had already taken place when the apocalyptic prophecies were delivered. The latter, therefore, is the object to which we are principally to look, when we attempt to assort these predictions. Accordingly, the subject of this prophetical book will appear to be generally, the fates and fortunes of the Christian Church, from the ascension of our Lord, and the preaching of his Apostles, to the great consummation of all things.
kind of that kingdom, which had thus appeared to be the grand object of the prophecies. It is a kingdom not temporal, but spiritual ; “not a kingdom of this world,” (John xviii. 36.) not established by the means and apparatus of worldly power and pomp, not bearing the external ensigns of royalty; but governing the inward man, by possession of the ruling principles; “ The kingdom of God,” says our Lord, “ is within you.” (Luke xvii. 21.)
Such a kingdom may be in a great degree independent of the fates and revolutions of empires; affected only by those changes in the political world which are calculated to produce the increase or decline of religious knowledge, and of pure profession and practice. Wars therefore, and conquests, and revolutions of vast extent, and of great political import, may be supposed to take place, even in the Christian world, without becoming the proper object of Christian prophecy. The inhabitants of the Christian world may be subdued by a ferocious conqueror; the sufferings of the vanquished may be such as result from ferocious conquest; the faithful servants of Christ may undergo their common share in this calamity, may suffer grievously in their property and in their persons : yet, in such times of general distress, if their religion be not denied them; if they enjoy those consolations, which, under such afflictions, their religion is designed to bestow; if, corrected by the awful visitation, not only they, but Christians of looser practice, and the inhabitants of
1 Ου μετα παρατηρησεως. Luke xvii. 20.