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1. A prophetic general history of the judgments and providence of God during the period of his covenant of grace; or, in other words, an anticipated history of the Church of Christ, from the promulgation of his gospel to the end of the World.
2. That this general history is methodically divided by proper episodes, into distinct prophecies, or particular histories of her different enemies, and her warfare with them respectively, as they should successively rise in the world, during her probationary and militant
3. That being written, for the most part, in the most ancient, mystical, figurative, and obsolete of dialects, those histories were not intended, by their divine author, to be fully understood, until the events foretold should come to pass; and being compared with the true signification of their proper figures, the truth of prophecy, and the Almighty power of Gon might be demonstrated; and his holy Fear, the necessary means of their salvation might be duly impressed on the hearts of mankind. Warmed with these sentiments the great Lord Bacon had earnestly advised all following commentators," to sort the prophecies, by separating those which relate to past from those which relate to future events, and to confine their comments to the former, until the latter by being fulfilled, should come to their aid, and enable them by comparing and applying the figures to their proper events to
understand them". Nor has that pious and profound philosopher Sir I. Newton been wanting in fore-warning them " of the danger of becoming (false) prophets, by attempting to explain such prophecies as had not been fulfilled" And yet, strange it is to tell, the united voice of these great men has not been heard, or if heard, has been treated with neglect if not contempt, more especially by modern commentators; for these, although many of them learned and pious men, in their dissertations upon the apocalypse, have so mixed and confounded the different histories of the several enemies of the church of Christ, by their erroneous and licentious constructions and applications of the signs of different to one and the same power, and the signs of those which are yet to come, to those which are past, that the most inquisitive and intelligent mind, taking them as their guide, can derive no satisfaction or solid conviction either of the design, utility, or truth of the prophecies, from their works.
PROPHECY is generally understood to be an anticipated history of events from the beginning of the world to the end of time. It may be classed among the first, and greatest of miracles, ever presented to the human mind. It is almost coeval with the world itself. God himself vouchsafed to foretel to Adam his own future state, and that of his descendants, immediately after his disobedience and fall*.And it was that God, who has since inspired
Gen. iii. 15-20.
"his servants the prophets," from Noah to John the divine, with the spirit of prophecy; by impressing their minds with a perfect view of the great and prominent events which were to come to pass in the world to the end of time a miracle as much above the power of man to perform, and as utterly incomprehensible to the human intellect, in its natural state, as curing the blind, raising the dead, or the conception of a virgin.
Having said so much, it is scarcely necessary to anticipate the reader's judgment, by informing him, that I have not followed the track of former commentators; but on the contrary reversed their method of explaining this truly important part of the WORD OF GOD. I have first sorted the different prophecies which have been fulfilled from those which have not. I have then carefully, and I trust, critically, I am sure honestly, considered and translated, the figures and allegories, of a
procy already fulfilled, from their mysterious into what I conceived to be their true literal prophetic meanings supported as well by a just typical resemblance of the figures to their proper objects, as by other texts of scripture, where they are used to convey a similar or the same sense. Pursuing this method, at the first view of the context, it was easy to perceive they did not refer to any of the enemies of the church, foretold in the preceding part of the Revelation, such as the Pagan Roman Emperors and Mohamedan powers, whether Saracen
or Ottoman, whose persecutions had been before foretold under the first five trumpets. Nor had I travelled far, in this method of construction, before the descriptive figures appeared to bear a strong aspect and typical resemblance to some exploit, action or policy, of the Church of Rome. And as I travelled on, the Light of Truth, at every step, appeared brighter and brighter; and when I had reached the end of my journey, the just resemblance of every sign to its proper object, together with the general agreement, harmony, and strict unison of every figure, poured into my mind. conviction irresistible, that the sole, separate, and complete prophetic history of the Church of Rome was contained in the first eleven" verses of the xiii chapter of the Revelation.”
I will no longer detain the reader in the porch of the following dissertation, save only to request, that as my only aim is to rescue that awful and important part of the Word of God, the APOCALYPSE, from the oblivion into which it has been too long sinking, partly by the neglect and mis-constructions of those whose more especial duty it has been to support it, and partly by the slanders of those who have had no hope of deriving benefit from its divine blessings; if the reader, I say, knows any thing better, or should discover any errors I may have committed, he will candidly impart them; if not, that he will apply them, with me, to that glorious purpose for which they
were given by " the lip of truth, which shall be established for ever." Proverbs xii. 19.
In this course of seeking after the truth, I have freely treated of such parts of the prophecies as refer to the lately past and present events; but in respect to those which refer only to the future, I have treated of them much in the words of the prophet without enlarging upon them, with design only to prove the regular order of their succession, and their connexion with the past, leaving a particular explication of them to others, when the events shall come to fulfil them. My comments on the first are cheerfully submitted to the critical consideration of the pious and the learned, because I know it is thence I may hope for a refutation of the errors I may have inadvertently and in haste committed; and as to the latter, I have to entreat the reader to consider them as only conjectures arising out of the probable and not scientific meaning of the prophecies; for I hesitate not to subscribe to the opinion of the great Sir Isaac Newton, that "the design of "God in giving the prophecies was not to gratify the curiosities of men by enabling them "to foreknow things; but that after they were "fulfilled they might be interpreted by the " events and his own providence, and not that "of the interpreter's; and that thus it might "be manifested to the world."