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preliminary form at the French Revolution, at which time infidelity first shewed its open front, and gave demonstration of its tremendous character. But the consequences of this terrible convulsion to the church were most important and beneficial. She was thereby shaken out of the sloth which had crept over her; was driven in her terror to the Scriptures, her only anchor and pole-star; and found, to her joy, that they were no longer a sealed book, but that the mystery of God was drawing to its close, and that the events of every year explained something previously unknown. Multitudes, no doubt, thus strengthened their faith, who have never published the results; but many did immediately publish, and the sudden perspicuity of interpretation is very observable. Bicheno began in 1793; the Rev. E. W. Whitaker in 1795 ; Towers's Illustrations of Prophecy 1796; the Rev. G. S. Faber preached his Sermons on the Vials in 1796, but his Dissertation on the Prophecies was not pul ed till 1806. These works we pass without any particular remark, as they have been in all respects superseded by those which follow; for they only prepared the way to the more exact interpretations which began in 1812, and are still proceeding. Among these, Mr. Cuninghame leads the van, in his Dissertation on the Seals and Trumpets, 1813: in which, though we differ from him in some points, we are prompt to acknowledge the great service he did to the church, particularly in fixing the commencement of the great period of 1260 at the edict of Justinian, A. D.533, and its consequent termination at the French Revolution. A still more important service was rendered to the church by Mr. Frere, who in 1814 published his Combined View of the Prophecies; a work which leaves little to be done in the way of structure--perhaps nothing, but carrying his own principles consistently through into their necessary consequences. In 1816, Mr. Lewis Way was travelling through the Steppes of Russia, and was there led to meditate on the coming kingdom of Messiah; while Mr. Bayford in London was at the same time led into a similar train of reflection; the results of which were afterwards published in Mr. Bayford's “ Messiah's Kingdom,” and Mr. Way’s “ Letters of Basilicus,” which give perhaps the clearest and neatest exposition of the main points concerning the kingdom, any where to be found. Many other works were published during the next ten years, throwing additional light on the doctrines brought forward in the publications we have named. But a new and more powerful impulse was to be given to the study of prophecy than any it had hitherto received; and for doing this, Mr. Irving was made the instrument, who having been led to investigate the subject by Mr. Frere, brought his convictions before the public in 1825, in a discourse preached before the Continental Society, which was published in an enlarged form in 1826, under the title of “ Babylon and
Infidelity foredoomed of God." We are not now in the character of panegyrists, and would endeavour even to make more than due allowance for the partialities of friendship and affection while expressing our opinion of this work; and we think that it is only cold, strict justice to say, that it has done more towards promoting the study of prophecy, and awakening the church to a sense of the approaching crisis, than any, or all, of the publications which preceded it. Since that time Mr. Irving has been indefatigably employed in spreading the “ good news of the kingdom,” and been made the honoured instrument of bringing thousands and tens of thousands into a state of joyful waiting for the coming and kingdom of their Lord.
Last among the means by which prophecy has been unfolded to us, we have to mention “the Times and Seasons :” that is, the typical application of the set times of the Jewish year to the order of events declared in the prophecies. The manner of its application to prophecy was explained in No. I. of this Journal; and, though last in order of discovery, we regard it in importance as among the first and chiefest of the means we possess for understanding prophecy. But it came, most happily, when probability of the highest degree had been attained by other modes of interpretation, and gave to this highest probability the stamp of certainty. If any one think that we are here speaking too confidently, we can only reply, that it is no exaggeration, but our deliberate conviction; and let such an one investigate the system and its application with an unbiassed mind, and we are confident that he will form an estimate of its importance not much lower than our own. We now possess means amply sufficient for understanding and interpreting all the prophecies which bear on our own times, and which therefore affect our own choice and practice; and if we obstinately refuse to employ those means, we must take the consequences of our own folly, and, when overtaken by the judgments, stop our mouths and stand self-condemned, confessing to warnings which we have neglected and despised.
And now let any one, who has heard the popular objections to the interpretation of prophecy, ask himself whether they are not all obviated by the above statement of historic facts, however slight and imperfect it may be. We are thought presumptuous, as if prying into the “ secret things which belong to the Lord our God";" whereas we only endeavour to understand the “ revealed things, which belong to us and to our children.” We are thought arrogant, in expecting to understand more of prophecy than the wise and good men who have lived before us; but this is not the true way of regarding it, for they did seek to understand the prophecies which concerned themselves and their own times, and we do no more. The prophecies now fulfilling
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they would not be the better for understanding, but we can neither act nor believe aright without knowing them : and we have seen in their case, that before each great crisis the prophecies relating to it became intelligible in the use of means which were then provided. Before the great separation from the Papal apostasy at the Reformation, the prophecies relating to it were unfolded : and, now that the Papacy is about to be destroyed by an apostasy still more reckless and direful than itself, this catastrophe, and the character of the principal actors, are now recognisable by a further unfolding of prophecy, which many clear passages of Scripture have promised to those who should live in these times of the end." “ Seal up the prophecy until the time of the end : the wise shall understand,” &c. (Dan. xii.) We assert that this time of the end is arrived, and offer sufficient proof of our assertion ; and this scriptural proof ought to be received as sufficient warrant for our expectations. But we further shew, that we now have not only an accumulation of all the means of interpretation severally possessed by our predecessors, but many which they had not; nay, all that need be wished for or required. It is often asked, “ Had not our ancestors knowledge sufficient for salvation ?' and then inferred, that the same knowledge will suffice to save us, and that therefore we need not seek after more. There is a confusion in this way of speaking, which requires to be explained; and which may easily be done, as it proceeds from using knowledge in an ambiguous, and salvation in an indefinite sense. Faith springing from knowledge saved them, and their salvation was attained through death. Their saving faith rested on knowledge of doctrine-a knowledge at all times necessary, and at all times possessed by the true members of Christ. But we believe a time is near at hand when salvation will be decided before the hour of death, according as a man is ranged under the banner of Christ or that of Antichrist; and, moreover (which is a still more awful consideration), that many who think themselves sincere, and who now appear to rank with the soldiers of Christ, shall be found unprepared for the events which shall burst like a thunder-clap upon the world ; and some timidly apostatize; some, like the foolish virgins, run to buy their oil when they ought to be ready to go in with the Bridegroom. The knowledge of doctrine which in ordinary times suffices for saving faith, will not suffice to save in times like these, which will require knowledge of every kind, and when our Lord has told us the delusions shall be so very plausible as to “ deceive (if it were possible) the very elect. May God preserve us ; enabling us to put on the whole armour of God; to watch and pray always, that we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are coming on the earth, and to stand before the Son of Man!”
ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE APOCALYPSE. I ENTER on the interpretation of this hallowed book with much fear and trembling; knowing that it is the Revelation (or manifestation) of Jesus Christ, which man may not approach but with the greatest solemnity, and with a constant fear lest he should obscure this revelation, or darken counsel by words without knowledge. And although I feel encouraged in my attempt by the promise with which this book opens (i. 3), “ Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein ;” and by the corresponding benediction at its close (xxii. 7);“ Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book ;" yet am I much appalled at the penalty by which its sanctity and integrity is guarded : “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book " (xxii. 18, 19). Under the influence of these mixed feelings of encouragement and awe would I endeavour to interpret this book; and I would earnestly request my readers to cultivate the same feelings in perusing my interpretation. May God so overrule my thoughts, that I incur not the guilt of adding to or detracting from the words of this sacred book! But, if, notwithstanding my care I should in any respect mistake its meaning, not being wilful, I trust to be forgiven by God; and hope that my errors will be discovered and rejected by my readers, and that such demonstrations of man's fallibility may not be allowed to prejudice the reader against any truth which the other portions of these remarks may contain.
This interpretation makes scarcely any pretension to originality, being little more than an attempt to combine in one view the several points of correct interpretation which my predecessors have established. I would gladly acknowledge my obligations to them; but it would have crowded my pages with references, and unnecessarily added to a paper already too long, and which I am unwilling to divide : and for the same reasons I avoid as much as possible fortifying my interpretation against objections which I
may foresee, or stating why I reject other interpretations which have been given already.
The Apocalypse is the manifestation of Jesus Christ. The glory of his Person is first shewn; and then the prophetic history of his future actings in behalf of his church is given, in a series of visions and revelations, which reach to the end of time. In bis actings, he is first exhibited under the character of universal Bishop, or Head of the church (ii. iii.); secondly, as universal Lord, by his angels ordering all things for the final glory of his
church, till he shall come forth in person and take to himself the power and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (iv. -xx). In i. 5–7 there are two doxologies: the first having respect to his character of Bishop and Priest : “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever : Amen.” This song the church may sing during the whole of the present dispensation. The second doxology (ver. 7) is for a future time: “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him : Even so, Amen." This has respect to his Kingly character, which he shall assume, for the deliverance of his church and his ancient people, in the time of their greatest straits, “when they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn”(Zech.xii.10), and when the proud oppressors of the earth shall be humbled, and “wail because of him.” In the latter part of this chapter (i. 13—18) the glorious Person of the Son of Man is shewn, walking in the midst of the churches, clothed in priestly garments, and having the seven stars (or angels of the churches) in his right hand; yet majestic as the “Ancient of Days” of Dan. vii. 9–22: “ His voice as the sound of many waters; his countenance as the sun shineth in his strength ;"" the First and the Last ;' « he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen ; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Such is Jesus Christ, whose manifestation we are now contemplating: Chapters ii. ii. teach us Christ's care over his churches ; but as they contain nothing which relates to our own times, I shall pass them at present, and begin with Chap. IV," the things which must be hereafter" (i. 19).
This revelation of future things begins with a magnificent vision of the final end to be attained by the various acts and manifestations of Providence which are revealed in detail throughout the remainder of the book. This end is, the full display of the glory of God in the accomplishment of his purpose, and the consequent adoration of every created thing: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (iv. 11). This vision I consider, not as an exhibition of things already existing, but of that “which must be hereafter ;” and I think it is placed thus at the beginning of the whole Revelation, to assist our comprehension : just as an architect might exhibit, first, a complete model of an intended edifice, and then take it to pieces, and shew its several parts in detail. And we shall find, that, at the beginning of each new series of visions, the end to be attained by that particular series is in like