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ix a kindred subject, the mysteries of the Divine decrees, he said to one of his brother confessors, in the midst of much disputation, “Sir, in these matters I am so fearful, that I dare not speak further than the very text doth, as it were, lead me by the hand !.” And to this may be added the expression of a conviction not less deep, that in the careful and diligent study of the Prophetic Volume as a whole, beginning from the Old Testament and going on to the New, will be found that which will serve as a sure guide to “ lead” us“ by the hand,” so far as we may be permitted to penetrate, onward into the inner depths and mysteries of the last and most deeply mysterious volume of Inspired Prophecy;
-a volume which will then be seen not to stand by itself, an insulated portion of Divine Revelation, but to be indeed the solemn winding up and final consummation of the whole.
The Author has been content throughout to trace what would seem to him, on the best consideration which he was able to give to the subject, to present the true outline of interpretation, without entering on a detailed examination of counter-theories, which he has not the less carefully studied, though he has seldom distinctly referred to them. It may be said emphatically of prophetical exposition, that refutation and controversial discussion are interminable, and in too many cases not less interminable than
1 Life, by Glocester Ridley, p. 553.
Preface. unsatisfactory in their result. The Author felt, at the same time, that the most attentive consideration was due to the arguments which had been recently urged, with an ability and force of learning which gave them more than ordinary weight, against the commonly received interpretations of the principal visions, in particular, of the book of Daniel, and some points connected with them. Into the consideration of the arguments in question he was disposed to enter the more freely and unreservedly, because he felt that he might discuss them as with friends, on the common ground of an appeal to authorities recognized alike by both; and in the spirit of the saying to which they whose friendship he is privileged to claim would cordially respond, “ Amicus Plato, sed magis amica Veritas.” Of the service rendered to the cause of sound interpretation and accurate historical inquiry by the spirit which their labours would encourage, it is needless to speak; and those who are most sensible of its value will be the most desirous to guard it from all that may appear questionable in its application to any portion of Holy Writ.
The Author would wish to observe that while, from the nature of his design throughout, he has been compelled to give, in many instances, the result, rather than the detailed process of investigation on which it rests, this has been particularly the case in regard to the subject treated of in the Sixth and part of the Seventh Lecture. To have drawn
xi out fully the argument in support of the interpretation on which the Author has there ventured, grounded on the historic and prophetic records of the Old Testament, would have made it necessary for him to embody in the Lectures, to an extent disproportionate to their general design, a complete dissertation on the sacred symbols there referred to. He has, therefore, contented himself, in that part of his subject, with indicating generally, as far as was possible, the conclusion at which, on a careful investigation of Scripture, he had arrived, without attempting a discussion which would require much larger limits.
With regard to the Notes contained in the Appendix, references to them will, in almost all cases, be found in the notes at the foot of the pages; in a few instances only, notes have been added in the Appendix without such reference. It is presumed, throughout the Lectures, that the reader has before him the chapter of Daniel, or of the Revelation, which is under consideration in the Lecture; and therefore, where the verse only is specified in the foot-note, the reference is to the chapter thus immediately in view.
The Author has only, in conclusion, to request of his reader that he will be content to follow on with him in his course of inquiry, while he himself endeavours to follow the inspired Text in its sacred leading from point to point; not caring to anticipate results, in this portion or that, in regard
Preface. to its probable coincidence or disagreement with one class of expositors or another; but rather judging this only, viz., how far the interpretation maintained or suggested seems to be borne out by the text, or by other Scripture referred to for its illustration. And he humbly trusts that these pages, however through their manifold imperfections they may fall short of the object which they have in view, in aiding the reverential study and right understanding of God's holy word, may, nevertheless, tend at least to strengthen and deepen the impression that, whether it be permitted to us more or less fully to discover its mysterious import, it bears evidently stamped upon it, in the wonderful harmony which pervades it in its vast extent and varied composition, the undoubted marks of having proceeded from one Divine Author. And to the thoughtful and religious mind these disclosures of God's Almighty Providence and “manifold wisdom,” as exhibited in the visions of Prophecy, and made “known by the Church,” will seem to demand of us, His creatures, the more and more attentive contemplation and study, amidst the perils of the latter times, and as the ends of the world draw near.
June 16, 1849.