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before the arrival of a period, that to the whole world of idolatry, European and barbarian, shall come with. a civil ruin, of which the subversion of Jerusalem was but a type; and with a physical destruction, that can find no parallel but in the inevitable fury of the Deluge.

Yet, vague as those combinations of all the forms of public calamity may appear, we are not left without the means of approaching a more distinct conception. It will be shown in the course of the volume, that this final infliction bears a very singular resemblance to the procedure of the French Revolution; the dif ference being chiefly in magnitude. The commencement of the French Revolution in Atheism and anarchy, the spirit of hostility to all nations, the sudden. change of the whole people into a soldiery, the indignities offered to the popedom, the captivity of sovereigns, the suspension or change of laws and establishments, and even the means by which those horrors were partially combatted and restrained-all find their counterparts in the final plague. The chief distinctions are, that the latter, instead of being limited to Europe, incomplete, and apparently under the sole influence of human means, will be universal, complete, and, at least towards the close, palpaby influenced by the action or presence of the Deity.

CAUSES OF THE FAILURE OF INTERPRETATION.

Of all the Books of Scripture the Apocalypse has most consumed the labour of Commentators, and with the least valuable results. To this day there is no satisfactory interpretation; and though parts have been cleared, yet they have been so remote from each other, so frequently conjectural, and so little capable of throwing light on the general prophecy, that the Apocalypse has hitherto remained, in the strongest sense, debateable ground; an unfertile and undefined district,

in which every new comer may set up his claim, but no one establish his possession.

Of the acquirement and vigorous understanding of many among the interpreters, there can be no doubt; but so obvious has been their failure, that at length the attempt has been looked on as exhibiting little more than a strong determination in the experimentalists, a love of tasking themselves with insuperable difficulties, something of a theological hardihood, pardonable for its waste of time only in the honesty of its motives. With the world, the Apocalypse has, in consequence, become nearly a dead letter. The more pious, who believe in its divine inspiration, place it apart from the general study of Scripture, as a book for whose use they must wait until some happier age. The multitude, who, like Gallio, "care for none of these things," lay it by, as an old matter of dispute with which they have no concern, or forget its existence. The scoffers and half-learned taunt religious men with the acknowledgment of a "sacred document," of which the meaning cannot be ascertained after the labours of eighteen hundred years; or indulge themselves with making mirth of its strong Orientalisms and mysterious symbols. Thus, in the present state of our knowledge, the book is practically valueless; it makes no impression on the Christian world, none is so seldom quoted even in the pulpit, and the man who quoted its authority on any public question would probably be looked on as doing no very distinguished honour to his own understanding. Yet, with all this, the Christian, in the possession of the Apocalypse, holds in his hand the most distinct, complete, and wonder-working instrument of Divine knowledge that was ever communicated to earth; the clearest elucidation of Providence, and, not less, the most convincing and vivid evidence of the truth of Christianity.

Sufficient reasons may be found for this failure of

the commentators. They have in general,—and I am sure I make the observation in perfect respect for their learned and pious labours,-been too much influenced by the great names of Sir Isaac Newton and Joseph Mede. The system of almost all among the multitude of commentators whom I have consulted, has been formed on that of those distinguished men. Yet Newton's treatise was but a sketch, and apparently a hasty one, appended to his "Observations on Daniel." Mede's more diligently laboured work is yet singularly strained, obscure, and gratuitous. Both have the grand disqualification, that they wrote at a time when those events which are the absolute key of the whole prophecy, had not yet occurred. The natural result of determining, under such circumstances, to find a meaning for every part, was error; and to adopt their authority was but to propagate their error. In the arrangement of the prophetic visions, and their mutual dependance, both were wrong; and a misconception of this rank must be fatal to the formation of any true system. Yet, in an important portion of the past, the predictions immediately relative to the rise of the popedom, their interpretation is not to be shaken; though their credit as discoverers may be impaired by the same application of the prophecy so early as the twelfth century.

Perhaps a reason remains why the sagacity of even later writers should have been still baffled. It may be the Divine will that no prophecy should receive a full explanation at a time distant from its final fulfilment. A prophecy, convincingly interpreted at a remote period, would be, if the phrase be allowable, a history of the future; it must interfere with human will, and thwart that most admirable part of Providential government by which general good is forced out from the individual and spontaneous waywardness of man. The predictions of the Jewish prophets were chiefly capable of immediate interpretation; but it was be

cause their purpose was immediate, the punishment of the people for their idolatries, or the Divine retribution on the head of their oppressors. But their predictions of the distant Messiah were wrapped in a cloud which, though no longer obscured to us, was thick darkness to the multitude. It may thus be almost a maxim, that no prophecy can be accurately interpreted until it is either past, or on the point of being fulfilled.

The circumstances which led me to the task are briefly these.

Some years since, in a casual reading of the Apocalypse, I was struck with the apparent reference of the eleventh chapter, that of "the two witnesses," to one of the most extraordinary events of our time or any other, the abjuration of religion by a government and people! a circumstance perfectly alone in the history of the world. But I further found that this event was declared to mark the conclusion of an æra, on which the whole chronology of the Apocalypse was fixed, the well-known "twelve hundred and sixty years," which in their turn were declared to mark the papal supremacy from the time of its commencement until the cessation of its "power over the saints," its power of persecution.

This abjuration occurred in 1793, the first year of the French Republic; reckoning 1260 years back led to their commencement in A D. 533. On referring to Bishop Newton's work to ascertain whether this date had been noticed; I found a note mentioning the opinion of Dr. Mann of the Charter-house, then deceased, that the year 533 was to be considered as the true epoch of the papal supremacy. On reference to Baronius, the established authority among the Roman Catholic annalists, I found the whole detail of Bp. Newton on the Prophecies, vol. ii. p. 305.

*

*

Justinian's grant of supremacy to the Pope formally given.*

Baronius has been a suspected authority, where the honour of the popedom is concerned. But his statement was, at least, proof of the Romish opinion of the original epoch of the supremacy; and it received an unanswerable support from the books of the Imperial laws, in which the grant of "primacy and precedency over all the Bishops of the Christian world," is registered and repeated in a variety of forms. The entire transaction was of the most authentic and regular kind, and suitable to the importance of the transfer. The grant of Phocas was found to be a confused and imperfect transaction, scarcely noticed by the early writers, and, even in its fullest sense, amounting to nothing beyond a confirmation of the grant of Justinian. The chief cause of its frequent adoption as an epoch by the commentators, seemed to be its convenient coincidence with the rise of Mahometanism.

From this point I laid aside all commentators; and determined to make my way alone, to form my opinions without bias, and discover whether the difficulties of the prophecy could not be cleared off by an inquiry on the common principles of interpretation. The difficulties were less stubborn than I had conceived; and the present arrangement and interpretation were soon decided upon.

Subsequently, I read all the commentaries that I could meet with; and the crowd of writers on this subject would be scarcely suspected by those who have not made the same experiment. But, admiring their frequent ingenuity and literature, I found but little to add to my own interpretation, and nothing to alter.

Where I could make use of them in illustration or reference, they will be found in the shape of notes.

Baronii Annal. Cen. 6.

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