« PreviousContinue »
the earthquakes which shake the kingdoms of the worlel, the signs in heaven above, and on the earth beneath; the
* the use of the oriental nations, is delivered; as the rules, which the “ Grecian diviners followed, are deduced in the other. For, light and “ frivolous as this art was, it is not to be supposed that it was taken up
at hazard, or could be conducted without rule; an arbitrary, or ca“ pricious interpretation of dreams, considered as a mode of divination, “ being too gross an insult on the common sense of mankind. But the “ rules, by which both the Greek and Oriental diviners justified their
interpretations, appear to have been formed on symbolic principles, " that is, on the very same ideas of analogy by which the Egyptian hie
roglyphics (now grown venerable, and even sacred,) were explained, “ So that the prophetic style, which is all over painted with hieroglyphic imagery, receives an evident illustration from these two works.
The Book of Revelation has been very properly considered as one great enigma involving many others. If we would unriddle or solve these enigmas, the only proper method of proceeding seems to be to bring every prophecy, and every symbol, and all its parts and circumstances (as far as we possess the means), to those rules of interpretation, which appear to be authentic, exactly as we do with such scripture words and phrases in our alphabetical writing as may be thought of doubtful meaning; and for the illustration of which we make no scruple of subjecting them to the same laws of interpretation as other writings in the same language, nor of comparing them with similar words and phrases in other authors, even though in the writings of these there may be as much rubbish and superstition as may be found in Achmet and Artemidorus themselves.
When we sit down to study an apocalyptic enigma, having first considered the subject, or matter, of the prophecy, and its connexion and bearings with other prophecies, we should then—having, of course, made use of all the assistance which is to be derived from every other part of the sacred scriptures-take every symbol, and every part and circumstance of the symbol, and compare them as well as we can, and as far as we possess materials, with what the writers on symbols have said on the like subjects, and then, after trying the several parts, and considering the various bearings, draw the best conclusion we can. For instance, do I sit down to inquire what is meant by this symbolical representation of the dead bodies of the two witnesses lying in the street of the great city, there to be looked upon by people, kindreds, tongues and nations, for three days and a half; afier which they rise from the dead and stand upon their feet. After considering the connexion, and endeavouring to ascertain who or what are signified by the witnesses, and what by their death, &c. I inquire, What is meant by the great city? Froin attention to other parts of this book, I conclude that it does not mean Rome alone, but comprehends with it its spiritual empire. What is intended by the street, or the plateu, of this great city!—It is not streets, but street, in the singular--The platea, or principal street; which some have called the market-place, or the place of chief concourse, of the great city.-It means, most probably, one of the principal kingdoins of the beast's empire. Some have supposed it to be Germany, and others Spain, but, for many reasons, I think it must mean France. It is said, The spirit of life from God entered into them. I compare this with Ezek. xxxvii, 14, and conclude that this spirit of life from God signi
darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars from heaven? And shall we be unconcerned about
fies nothing more than a resuscitation to political life. It is said, and they stood upon their feet; a posture which, though it does not necessarily indicate immediate action, yet represents them as put into a condition to act, whether it be to resist their enemies, or to engage in any employment to which God may call them. This was after lying dead in the street of the great city three days and a half. It is not said how long those whom the beast killed elsewhere lay dead; in the other streets of the great city they might remain under the power of death for a longer or a shorter time; but in the platea they lie dead exactly three days and a half. The reason why the time of their lying dead bere is exclusively noticed, might be not only because it was sufficient for authenticating the prophecy, to give one şucli fact, but because they were here to rise first.
But what is meant by days here? What do the ancient writers on symbolic terms of time say on this subject? They say, “ These terms " have not always their proper signification; for months are sometimes " denoted by years, and days too; and years and days by months; and “months and years by days: but that this may not become doubtful, " when years are mentioned, if they be proportionable and suitable, " they may be accounted as years; but if any, as months; if over
many, as days. The same rule holds reciprocally for days, for if they “ be many, let them be accounted as days; if less, as months; if few, years;
likewise of months, let them be taken according to the present occasion.”—Artemidorus, Onir. lib. ii. cap. 75. See Daubuz's Prel. Dis. p. 52. Thus, terms of time, in symbolical representations, are to be explained according to the occasion ; the rule of decorum or proportion, as Daubuz says, is to be attended to as a fundamental principle in the explanation of the terms, days, months, and years. Mr. l'aber, indeed, as we have observed, rejects this principle, and says
that all I have said about the decorum of symbols seems to him a mere gratuitous assumption. Seeing that Ezekiel represents the long political death of the house of Israel under the imagery of dry bones, Mr. Faber can see no reason why I should think it an impropriety that the apostle should liave said that the dead bodies of the witnesses lay unburied 105 days, if he had intended 105 years. But every one may perceive at a glance, the vast diference between the case of Ezekiel's dry bones in a secluded valley, and these dead bodies in the street of a great city. It would be a violation of all propriety to represent such bodies as remaining entire, to be looked upon by the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, in such a situation for 105 days. To the people in Lapland the idea would hardly appear decorous; what a glaring impropriety would it then appear to those to whom the prophecy was first addressed, and whose climate was so warın that their dead could scarcely be kept a day unburied !
As I still think with the above writers, that this decorum is to be attended to as an essential rule in interpreting symbolical writings, let us apply this principle. These dead bodies of the witnesses lie in a public sireet of a great city. Ob "ve, they are not dry bones in a secluded valley, like those which Ezekiel saw, (ch. xxxvii.) that would intimate their having been for a very long time in a state of death; but these are kudies still, and lying in a thronged street of a great city. At first sight,
the signs of the times? It is deserving the most serious examination, whether the revolution in France be not the
then, it seems as if these days must signify years for many circumstances forbid us to think that they can mean literal days and that these years are called days for the sake of decorum; for all the other parts of the symbolic picture being in miniature, and the idea of dead bodies remaining entire for years to be looked upon in such a situation being altogether incongruous, the time, whatever its length may be, whether three years and a half, or three centuries and a half, must be so reduced as to bring it to agree with dead bodies so remaining undissolved, and so to be looked upon by the people, and kindred, and tongues, and nations, in the populous street of a great city. Hence, doubtless, the choice of the term three days and a half, and at first sight, I say, it seems probable that these days stand for years. But this, a priori, is not certain. A day may stand for a month; and as it would be unsuitable to represent deud boilies in such a situation for fifteen weeks, the time, according to some certain law of symbols, must be reduced. To say, because days in some other prophecies evidently signify years, that they must, therefore, have the same imeaning here, is altogether a gratuitous assumption. Nay, to say, because days in sorre former parts of the same prophecy undoubtedly mean years, they must therefore have the same signification in every other part of the prophecy, whatever the nature of the subject passed on to may be, or there could be no certainty in numerical prediction, and the prophet would be guilty of a most singular inconsistency, most certainly manifests a very imperfect view of the subject. Prophecies of this kind cannot, in general, be expected to be thoroughly understood and therefore cannot be interpreted with certainty-till after their accomplishment. For prophecy was not given either to make us prophets, or to enable us to know with certainty the exact time of future events, but to be as a light shining in a dark place, shedding light enough to cheer our hopes, though noc sufficient to dissipate all obscurity.
But I am not thoroughly satisfied that these three days and a hulf signify either three years and a half, or three months and a half; both one and the other seem to be too short a time for all that is represented as passing, when we consider that the great transactions of kingdoms and nations are the subject. Nothing appears to have ever taken place in the history of the Christian church, that can at all help me to remove the difficulties which encumber the subject, if either years or months are here signified by days. What may be hereafter cannot be said, but as the overthrow of the French monarchy bears a strong resemblance to the fall of the tenth part of the antichristian city, immediately connected with the revival of these witnesses, will she laws for interpreting symbolical enigmas allow of no other method of interpreting terms of tiine than by the rule of single involution, that is, by days standing for months or sjears, and months and yeurs, &c. for days? Yes, in this very chapter we have not only an example, at ver. 3, of single involution; but at ver, ?, we have also an instance of a double involution, as almost all acknowledge. Forty-two months here signify 1260 years--the very same period of time intended by the 1260 days in the following verse; the nionths are first reduced to days, and then the days are years.. 42 X 30-1260. Now, although this does not immediately remove all my dificulties, yet it at once suggests and sanctions an idea which pos
beginning of the fulfilment of this prophecy. I say begiming, for, according to the prophecies, if this be the
sibly may. If a double involution be admitted, why not a triple, if the nature of the subject and the decorum of the symbols absolutely require it? It must, indeed, be allowed, that thus complicating the enigma makes it more difficult of interpretation; but this is a very slight objection, for it was iniended that it should be involved and difficult of interpretation, or it would not have been presented in an enigma at all; and the probability is, that it was never intended to be perfectly understood, till the accomplishment should furnish the key. Let us try a triple involution. Mr. Daubuz and others have done so, by supposing the three days and a half to mean years, which years they reduce to days, and these days they make years, 34X360=1260. And thus they have made the time during which the witnesses lie dead, exactly the same with that of their prophesying. This idea seems altogether unworthy of the learning and abilities of such men as Mr. Daubuz. But let us try this rule of triple involution in some other way less objectionable. It is certain that the term day, in symbolical language, may stand for a month, as well as a year; suppose then that nıystical months are intended, 34 x 30=105, that is, three months and a half multiplied by the 30 days in a month, make 105 days, which days stand for years, just as the days of the 42 months in ver. 2 do. Now, if the prophecy is couched in an enigma, as will not be denied, by what law for interpreting symbolical enigmas is this method of interpretation, by a triple involution, condemned, any more than that by a double one, which all adopt? I know of none. But whether I am right in my conjecture relative to this particular case, is another question: though I believe I am.
The sum of the whole is this.--From an attentive view of all the parts of this prophecy, and of the events which seem to illustrate it, I am led to this conclusion: The two witnesses appear to have suffered the political death here predicted more than 100 years since. In some of the kingdoms of the beast's empire they were silenced sooner, and in others later.-In one of these kingdoms, (which I conclude to be France) called the platea, or the street of the great city, they were to lie dead for what, in the symbolical style, is termed three days and a half.-- From the extraordinary occurrences of the French revolution, I, as well as Mr. Faber and many others, have been led to suppose that this is the event intended by the earthquake, in which fell the tenth part of the great city.-But, if this be that earthquake, then the witnesses, in that tenth part of the city, are most likely already revived to that political life of which the beast deprived them; and the probability is, that this revival was effected when the Constituent Assembly solemnly recognized the rights of men, and proclaimed liberty of conscience, and of religious opinion, to all the French nation. But, from the time when the witnesses were completely silenced in France, namely, in 1685, to this revival, when they were again free to renew their prophesying, were 105 years; but
the prophecy says, After three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them. This is capable of being reconciled in one way only, which is, by supposing this mystical number to be interpreted something in the same way with the forty-two months in ver. 2, but with this difference, whereas the time there is expressed in a double involution, this, for the sake of preserving the decorum of the syinbols (which is an indispensible law) is expressed in a triple one,
event pointed out by the resurrection of the witnesses, we have as yet seen but the dawn of what is to come, nor shall we perhaps for some time. Black and conflicting clouds will darken the hemisphere and obscure our prospect; but they will spend themselves and vanish. But were we sure that this event is what we conjecture, yet no man could say how long it would be before the spirit of life from God would, by those more excellent operations, and in that larger degree, which we look for, enter into the witnesses for gospel truth; for they may be quickened with political life, and yet remain some time with a small share of spiritual life *. But,
Here the fourth question which this inquiry about the witnesses suggests, arises, What are to be the consequences of their resurrection? Although a general idea may be formed of that which is to take place, yet it does not appear possible to mark out with certainty, what relates to future events, wrapt up in figures like those which follow in this book. But we may conjecture: our part is to compare those events which have taken place with the predictions, and judge how far the prophecies are ful: filled, and not pry into futurity with an over-anxious curiosity.
Ver. 11. And after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them. When their enemies thought them perished for ever, then, as under an impulse from God I, an unexampled zeal for liberty and If this mode of interpretation be thought admissible, then the prophecy appears clearly illustrated; and in iny opinion there can be no solid reasons produced against it. And, considering the remarkable agreement of the number thus produced with events in the history of the Christian church (when no other terms of time, for which days may be used, will do it) it is, at least, sufficient to induce us to think seriously whether or not the French revolution, which has teemed with events the most astonishing (not only as they concern civil society, but as they affect, particularly, the state of religion) and led to consequences which strike all Europe with terror, may not be that key by which we may be enabled to unlock this prophecy respecting the death and resurrection of the witnesses, and to discover clearly what has so long been hidden under the veil of obscure symbols.
* Thus it is to be with the Jews; for after their political resurrection as a people, the great body of them will remain wicked, and therefore experience the heavy judgments of God. Ezek. xx. 33——38. That passage in 1 Sam. xi. 6. must be interpreted in a similar manner.
| The expressions, The spirit of life from God, and a great voice from heaven, are Jewish phrases; for when that people would represent any thing as very great, or out of the common way, they said it was from the