« FöregåendeFortsätt »
It is important however to observe, in regard to the epistle of Justinian, in which he constitutes the pope the head of the church, that certain passages of it, particularly those which are to the point in hand, are called in question by Comber, in his work on the “Forgeries of the Councils," p. 251, who declares them to be spurious. His reasonings, however, are by no means conclusive. For he argues on the improbability of the emperor's having thus constituted the pope head of all the churches (including of course those of the eastern empire;) whereas it appears from other documents, as the Novels of Justinian, (nov. 131, ch. 2.) that he really did consider the pope pre-eminent, however plausible the reasoning of Comber may be in the abstract. *
3. In reference to the chronological system of Mr. Cuninghame, viewed as a whole, it has been urged against it that he departs from what is supposed (by those who make the objection) to be the obvious order and structure of the Apocalypse in the arrangement of the Seals, Trumpets and Vials. Thus nolatrous apostacy of the Christian church, and the removal of that particular impediment which hindered the manifestation of the Man of Sin. This impediment he considers was "the coercing power of the coercing law of the Roman empire.” The first step in the progress of its removal he states was the Emperor Constantine's withdrawing his presence from Rome, and constituting Byzantium the capital of his empire"by which he gave the Roman bishop space for expansion: whilst the ample immunities and privileges which he received from succeeding emperors were plainly no other than a removal of the coercing power, so far as it was exercised by the imperial head.” He then shews, that certain of these privileges and immunities were conferred by the edict of Gratian and Valentinian II. A. D. 378; that then followed another edict of Theodosius II. and Valentinian III. A. D. 445; and next he comes down to the identical decree of Justinian, 533, constituting the pope head of all the churches, and directing that all ecclesiastical business should be laid before him; and declares, “ Thus was the coercing power removed, so far as it was exercised by the head of the empire." Sac. Cal. vol. i. p. 153, and a Review of Faber in the Investigator, vol. iv. p. 302. He attempts nevertheless to carry the period down to a later date, by showing that all ihe ten kingdoms of the Western empire did not as yet submit to the Pope's authority. The insufficiency and inconsistency of his reasons for this may be seen in the same Review, and in Mr. Cuningháme's Critical Examination.
It is also now objected by Mr. Faber, that the decree of Justinian in regard to the western Empire, which was the seat of the papacy, had no more authority than a piece of waste paper; forasmuch as that emperor had no power over it at the time of its promulgation. Mr. Habershon however says, – The Empire of the West being extinguished, he, as sole remaining emperor of the Roman world—as conqueror (by means of his generals Belisarius and Narses) of the Arian nations of the West, &c.—was undoubtedly the legitimate authority for regulating the ecclesiastical concerns of the whole empire." P. 21. And Mr. Faber admits above, when pursuing another point, that Justinian did constitute the pope head of all the churches, and direct that all ecclesiastical business should be laid before him, &c.”
* The whole reasoning of Comber may be seen in Mr. Bickersteth's “Practical Guide," or in the Investigator, vol. iv. A searching reply to it may likewise be found in the preface to Mr. Cuninghame's last published work-- "The Fulness of the Times,” &c. to which works the reader who desires to investigate this matter is referred.
the writer of the series of interesting and able Essays on Prophecy in the Christian Guardian for 1830, which already have been adverted to, says—“We shrink from all interpretations which tell us that although St. John, according to the ordinary meaning of his language, represents the opening of the seventh seal to be the signal for the sounding of the seven trumpets,yet that in fact these trumpets began to sound many centuries before the opening of the seventh, or even of the sixth seal.” (p. 369.) Certainly the view which appears, at first sight, to present itself to the reader of the Apocalypse is, that the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets, which do not begin to sound until the seventh seal is opened; and that the seventh trumpet, in like manner, contains the seven vials, which are none of them poured out until the seventh trumpet has sounded. This principle is followed by Mede, Newton, Whiston, Faber and others, excepting that in the diagrams to some of the later editions of Mede he makes six of the vials to be poured out during the sounding of the sixth trumpet, and the seventh vial only at the sounding of the seventh. Mr. Cuninghame, however, makes the series of the trumpets begin, (so far as the chronological order of them is concerned,) and four of them to have sounded, between the opening of the second and third seals; and he fixes the opening of the sixth seal and the sounding of the seventh trumpet to A. D. 1792. Mr. Frere also deviates from the principle just adverted to, and makes the Seals and Trumpets run nearly in two parallel streams; the first seal and trumpet beginning in the fourth century, and the last beginning each of them in 1792, at which time also he dates the effusion of the first vial. Weighty reasons are adduced by both these writers for deviating from what appears to be the obvious construction; which reasons ought not to be discarded without due consideration. At the same time the order contended for by the writer in the Christian Guardian appears the most natural and free from complexity, and he consequently proposes to read the entire Apocalypse "consecutively as one harmonious whole, and as a connected and well-arranged narrative, only broken by one or two episodes, which are introduced for the most necessary purposes.” He accordingly advances an interpretation of the book conformable with this proposition, for the particulars of which I must refer to that volume of the periodical before named.
4. One other circumstance affecting the arrangement and interpretation of the chronological prophecies remains to be noticed, and that of considerable importance. It is contained in the dissertation of Mr. Habershon on the “Prophetic Scriptures." His principal proceeding is, to examine into the peculiarities of those chronological periods mentioned in the Old Testament, which are avowedly fulfilled. In the first of those which he examines, viz. the sojourning of the children of Israel and their affliction in Egypt, -he discovers the following particulars: viz. first, that two durations are assigned to it;* secondly, that their commencement is at separate periods; but, thirdly, that they have one common termination; fourthly, that the exact time of their commencement could not have been known with certainty until after the deliverance from Egypt; and lastly, that the period of commencement was in neither instance from the time when the prophecy was given. The Babylonish captivity of seventy years is also shown to have been a lwofold period, viz. from the captivity of Judah in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar to the decree of Cyrus, B. C. 606 to 536; and from the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar to the decree of Darius Hystaspes, B. C. 588 to 518.7 There are other chronological periods noticed in the work, with their respective peculiarities; but the two just instanced are the most important, and afford a sufficient specimen of the whole. It will be evident to the judicious student of the word of God, that what we find to be the character of the fulfilled periods of God's word may, by a just analogy, be transferred to the unfulfilled; and that if, as regards the last of the instances above cited, in an event which is unquestionably a type of the Church's spiritual deliverance from Babylon, there were clearly two commencements and two terminations of the predicted period of captivity, there can be no hesitation in applying the above principles to its antitype, viz. to that more remarkable deliverance of the same people which is yet to take place from their last and heaviest captivity. Indeed it may be that all the unfulfilled periods will be found to partake more or less of the peculiarities of those which are fulfilled; and if this be the case, then Mr. Habershon will have been led to furnish the church with a principle of interpretation by which many of the conflicting dates and epochs adduced by different expositors may after all be reconciled; and it will be found, (as with many other truths of divine revelation, when they come to be understood,) that what appears now to be perplexed and contradictory, only requires the right clue to be found, in order to digest and arrange them in their proper places. I
* In Gen. xv. 12–14, and Acts vii, 6, 7, it is declared to be 400 years; in Exodus and Gal. iii. 17, it is declared to be 430 years. The former period is dated from B. c. 1921, and the latter B. c. 1891, and both terminate B. c. 1491.
+ The reconcilement of these two periods may be seen in Prideaux's Connections, Vol. i. p. 254.
# Whiston has long since conjectured that the 1290 and 1335 years mentioned in Daniel xii. have a different commencement from the 1260 years, and
5. In conclusion, it must not be forgotten that there are two methods by which it has pleased God to make known to his Church, when he purposes to accomplish a prophecy. The one is by assigning an event as the epoch from which a certain period of time is to be reckoned, (as in the instances just considered,) which time is to elapse before that which is more especially the subject of promise is to come to pass. The other is by a delineation of certain characteristics,-moral, political, and otherwise,—which shall signalize the time, when the thing foretold is about to be accomplished. These characteristics are abundantly scattered throughout the old and New Testaments: and as they are within the observation and comprehension of every individual, learned or unlearned, who can but read the word of God, or hearken when it is read; so doubtless all will be rebuked who do not give heed to the signs of the times, and are not by them led to trim their lamps and gird up their loins, and be found in the posture of watchfulness for their Lord. The limits of the present volume do not permit my entering upon the direct exposition of any of those prophecies which bear directly on the characteristics of our Lord's advent being at hand.* All I can say in this place is, that I am most firmly persuaded that we are living in that awful period designated in Scripture as the last time, and the last days. Every succeeding year serves to increase the evidence on this head, and to give clearness and precision and intensity to those signs which already have been noticed by commentators. Even worldly men are so affected by some of the signs of our times, as to feel seriously persuaded that some tremendous crisis is at hand. It therefore more especially behoves the professing people of God to be upon the watchtower, and to observe what is passing around them, and be prepared for the future, that that day may not overtake them as a thief in the night.
The signs of the times, though they will not inform us of the day and the hour, and perhaps not of the year, of our Lord's advent, will nevertheless afford an unequivocal demonstration that it is at hand. Not that I would be thought to undervalue the chronological marks: they are perhaps the most valuable notices when correctly understood, and will doubtless serve to fix the period with greater precision, though perhaps not with the exactness which some expect.
therefore are independent periods; and also that there are two independent periods of 1260 years. But his conjectures are not rested on any scriptural basis. Mr. Faber also makes, in the last edition of his work, the 1290 years and the 1335 years to be distinct periods; but instead of their following each other by successive intervals, as they apparently do in the Scriptures, he dates the 1290 years from A. D. 70, the 1260 years frim a. D. 604, and the 1335 years from 1861, and to terminate A. D. 3199! Mr. Habershon has at least the credit of scriptural analogy for what he advances; tbough, how far he makes a correct use of it, in his application of the subject to ibe unfulfilled prophecies, is another question. His work, however, will be found in many respects well worthy of perusal, and is among the best mo:lern treauses on prophecy.
* The Reader who is desirous of information ou tbese points will find several of them noticed in the "Essays of Abdiel,” page 121-114.
The more prophecy is studied as a whole, with the rest of Scripture, the more will it serve to confirm the faith and animate the hope of the believer. Each fresh discovery of its meaning, each fresh or more complete accomplishment of its promises, yea even the rectification of formerly-indulged errors, will tend greatly to encourage and establish him. I have adverted with disapprobation more than once in the course of this volume to the work of an able writer on the subject; I am happy however in being able to illustrate my last remark by a quotation from his work which I admire and approve:
“Time, which wears out and destroys almost every thing else, only contributes to stamp the value and to augment the influence of the benefits of Prophecy. Like wine, it improves by age, and acquires with it not merely ripeness and maturity, but also excellence and strength. It is therefore from this circumstance alone possessed of amazing powers: it is a motion continually accelerated: it is a weight perpetually descending, and therefore constantly increasing its force and impulse as it descends.” (Whitley's Scheme of Prophecy, p. 52.)