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THE scriptural reader is generally deterred from the study of the Apocalypse, by the difficulties he encounters, on opening this mysterious book. These difficulties are two-fold, in part arising from the metaphorical language in which it is written, and in part from the events to which it relates; nor are they effectually removed by any treatise that the writer has yet met with.
The reason of this admits of easy explanation, as arising almost entirely from the prevailing attachment to the plan of political interpretation in a prophecy, the subject of which is altogether spiritual. The progress of true religion in the heart of man, or the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth, and not the fortunes of the Roman empire, as Archdeacon Woodhouse justly observes, is the subject of this prophecy.
Non res Romanæ, perituraque regna.'
Many indeed admit the truth of this statement, which it seems almost impossible to deny; but then it is contended, that some political events are vitally connected with the progress of our religion, and inseparable from its history; while it is supposed that no precise or evident fulfilment of the prophecy can be founded upon events so vague and indefinite as changes of opinion, or moral revolutions.
Readily allowing that there are political occur
rences closely interwoven with the history of Chris tianity, such as the rise of the Saracen empire with the Mahommedan religion; still the writer 'conceives that there are two ways of viewing these events, one of which regards their political, and thẻ other their spiritual influence. The relative advantage of each mode of exposition, the reader will find compared as he proceeds, and the superiority of the spiritual clearly displayed; while in regard to precision and distinctness of fulfilment, he will also find the political and the spiritual view contrasted in Note A in the Appendix.
One difficulty in the spiritual plan of interpretation is certainly to be regretted; it is one however, arising, not out of the nature of the subject, but from the want of any standard work, to which the reader can be referred for a compendious view of the spiritual progress of our religion. To select this out of works of general history, is a task requiring much time and labour; and to look for it 'even in ecclesiastical histories, demands more leisure than the generality of readers can bestow; as these also contain much that regards the political history of the church, besides other matters foreign to the subject in question.
To obviate this difficulty, the reader is now presented with an Epitome of Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, as translated by Dr. Maclaine, occupying in Dr. Coote's late edition, six 8vo. vols. but here abridged, by excluding most of the details of church government, with the history and succession
of popes; the particulars of the different heresies and controversies; the description of various rites and ceremonies, besides an abundance of other matters, not essential to the subject of the prophecy; while the remainder is compressed into the narrowest compass, consistent with perspicuity.
The arrangement adopted in the Epitome, is nearly the same as that in the original, except that the division of the history into eastern and western, is more distinctly marked, as it is also in the prophetic account; and the chronological order differs in a few instances, where the prophecy evidently comprises a longer period than a century; such is the case in the sixth Trumpet; in which, besides other circumstances that denote this, intimation is given of a wide chasm in the series of events, by the omission of what was uttered by the voices of the seven Thunders.
The other source of difficulty in the study of the Apocalypse, was stated to be the nature of the metaphorical language, in which the prophecy is written. To remove this, a glossary of the principal symbols employed, is prefixed to the exposition, with scriptural authority for the meaning attached to each; in order that the reader may distinctly see that this language is not explained in an arbitrary or fanciful manner, to suit the views of the expòsitor, but in strict conformity with the custom of our Saviour himself and his apostles, who constantly made use of the same metaphors.