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under apparently adverse and contrary dispensations. Thus, the promise made to Abraham was accompanied with the intimation, that its fulfilment would not take place for above 400 years, because “ the iniquity of the Amorites
was not yet full.” The same lesson, we have seen, was conveyed by Our Lord's prediction in the xxivth chapter of St. Matthew, and by St. Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians. It is reasonable to conclude, that this was one main design for which the Revelation made to St. John, was delivered to the Seven Churches. Whether they comprehended the whole of the sublime imagery of the scenic representation, or not, they must have understood, that a long course of events, the general complexion of which was dark and awful, had to take place ;--that the warrior on the fire-coloured horse, the more mysterious rider of the black horse, and the ghastly spectre on the livid-green' horse, who closes the dread procession, must all pass; and that still the cries of the martyrs would continue for a season to ascend to heaven, “How long, “ O Lord, holy and true ?" “ But it was said unto them that
they should rest yet a time.” If the symbols were mysterious, the lesson was plain. Little advantage could have accrued to the Church from prophetical speculations concerning the agencies to be employed in bringing about these events, from curiously prying into the precise duration of each symbolic period, or from attempts to scan the features and guess the names of the spectral horsemen. On the contrary, such a misuse of the prophecy would have a tendency to defeat its practical design, and to render uninstructive, and even prejudicial, the disclosures it contains.
And in point of fact, no sooner did this spirit of unlicensed curiosity begin to manifest itself, than the consequences were such as to bring the inspired book itself into suspicion ; so that a book universally acknowledged to be genuine and authentic in the second century, began to be questioned in the third ; not on the ground of any deficiency of external evidence, but because the notions of the Millenarians, professedly founded on the Apocalypse, were gross, extravagant, and mischievous. A prophetic mania, a sort of fifth-monarchy madness, had arised within the Church; and at Arsinoë in Egypt, that land of plagues and heresies, the doctrine of the Millenium, we are told, had gained such ground among the Christians about the middle of the third century, that it ba• nished from their thoughts the most important precepts of • their religion..* The adversaries of these Millenarian fanatics
* Marsh's. Michaelis, vol. iv. p. 475.
were therefore induced, for reasons which Michaelis allows to be weak, to deny that St. John was the Author of the Apocalypse, and, in defiance of all probability and decency, to ascribe it to Cerinthus. Thus, we find, in ancient as in modern times, the Book of Revelation has had its divine character impugned by infidels, and doubted by the pious, owing to nothing so much as what Luther termed the incoherent stuff' made out of their own brain by rash and fanatical expositors, from Papias and Nepos, down to the Prophets of the Nineteenth Century.
We have endeavoured to point out the specific object for which the prophetic revelation made to St. John, was vouchsafed to the Church ; and surely it must be admitted, that, mysterious as are its contents, it was eminently adapted to answer the ends which we have supposed it intended to subserve, and that those ends were every way worthy of the Divine wisdom. But we by no means imagine these to be the only purpose for which the Revelation was given. There is some thing peculiarly instructive in its being the last oracle of Prophecy, the last Divine communication to the world, and, as such, comprising the sequel of this world's sad history, Perhaps this was one reason why the Christians of Asia were favoured with a series of prophetic disclosures, extending so far beyond the times in which they or their descendants could be interested ; to exclude the expectation of any future revelation, and to put a definite bound to hopes relating to this sublunary scene. With the life of St.John, the apostolic age was about to close; the canon of Inspiration was now to be completed for ever; the Church had entered on the “ last time;'' and henceforward, the only great event to be looked for was, that “ blessed hope,” the “glorious appearing” of the Redeemer, and the “ manifestation of the sons of God.”
This standing purpose, the Apocalypse is still adapted to subserve. But it seems to us, that prophetical speculations, which would fix the attention on subordinate and preliminary events,--the mere machinery, rather than the final issue,-have a very opposite tendency. We regard it as altogether a mistaken idea, that the Apocalypse was intended to reveal the times and seasons, otherwise than negatively; that is to say, by it general intimation of the events before which Our Lord's second advent should not take place. There has always been a very prevalent disposition to antedate predicted events, and to raise the cry, the day is at hand; which has given occasion for the scoffs of infidels, as well as troubled the minds of the weak. At the darkest period of the Christian Church, this notion led to all sorts of extravagance. The general Vol. XXVII. N.S.
belief which began to prevail in the tenth century, that the end of the world was at hand, and that Jerusalem was about to become the scene of the final judgement, gave rise to that pilgrimizing mania which produced the Crusades. Among the armies of pilgrims who flocked to Palestine, were kings, earls, and bishops, with great numbers of women, who had formed the resolution to die there, or to await the coming of the Lord. Towards the close of the eleventh century, when, at the preaching of Peter the Hermit, the first masses of European population began to roll towards the East, all classes were infected with the madness; and instances are mentioned in which the poor rustic, having shod his oxen like horses, placed his whole family in his cart, and set out on this expedition ; ' when it was amusing to hear the children, on the
approach to any large town or castle, inquiring if that were • Jerusalem."* Human nature is the same in every age ; and if the same ignorance does not now exist, similar dis lers might be expected to ensue from a revival of either the Millennial fanaticism, or a strong impression that the day of judgement is at hand. In such a case, it is not faith, but the imagination, that is excited, and over-excited, by the fond or fearful persuasion; and the consequence is, that real obligations and immediate duties are neglected for imaginary ones. The Scriptures contain numberless exhortations to work while it is day, and to prepare for the night of death, but rarely for the day of judgement, although they continually caution us against being misled by our expectations with regard to it.
There is much good sense, we think, in the following remarks, taken from a “ Discourse of the Person and Period of Antichrist” by Christopher Ness, in 1679. Let no man marvel that I do but grope in this method! And what have all those learned and holy men fore-mentioned done but groped • at it? Yea, and have missed the mark. Those lights bave
been in the dark. Yea, even those that found the reserve of • forty-five years to retreat to, in their interpretations, seeing * they make the former period of those years to bring with • them some eminent blessedness ; such as the scattering of
the holy people to be accomplished and the witnesses rising • to die no more: which things, experience tells us, are not · fulfilled according to their calculations. However, Gods
* Mills's Crusades. Vol. I. p. 64. + Thus, he refers to the opinion of Mr. Symonds and others, who, dating the 1290 days from Julian's endeavour to rebuild the temple, made them
expire A.D. 1650. Mr. Tillinghast brought them down to 1656. Dr. Goodwin thought, that Antichrist's ruin would begin
time shall not miss, who keeps his word to a day. Exod. xii. • 41. Though we mistake our reckonings, yet God cannot • mistake His, and will make Antichrist's feet slide in due time. Deut. xxxii. 35. This may both comfort and strengthen
Beside the uncertainty of chronology, and our own • aptness to antedate promises, and to postdate threatenings, • it must be considered, that it is much safer to postdate pro• phecies, than to antedate them; for antedating of them brings
a disappointment unavoidable. Then, if hope deferred * make the heart sick," hope disappointed must strike the • heart dead. And such inconveniences have come by those 'several misreckonings already past; besides the atheism it occasions in men's hearts against the word of God.'
(pp. 201-203.) . After all the volumes that have been written in exposition of the Apocalypse, it may be questioned whether the dark parts of the prophecy have received any degree of elucidation as yet from the collective labours of modern Interpreters, or whether the least perceptible advance has been made to a better understanding of the unfulfilled predictions. On the contrary, the writings of Mr. Faber, Mr. Frere, Mr. Cooper, and others, seem adapted only to darken their obscurity, and to throw us further back into a bewildering uncertainty concerning those prophecies which had been supposed to be clearly fulfilled. The Book of Daniel, in their hands, becomes not simply tenfold more mysterious, but intricate and equivocal as the oracles of the heathen. Take for instance the eleventh chapter as expounded by Mr. Irving and Mr. Frere. It is admitted that, down to the 19th verse, the Prophet is discoursing of the Egyptian and Syrian branches of the Greek kingdom, and that the personage alluded to in verses 11-19, is Antiochus the Great. The
20th verse has been thought to describe with equal exactness the character of Seleucus Philopater, his son and successor; and from the 21st to the 30th verses are predicted the character and exploits of Antiochus Epiphanes, the brother and successor of Seleucus. * This prophecy,' Bishop
about 1666, and Christ's kingdom come about 1700. Mr. Brightman, making the beginning of the term of Antichrist to be at con. stantine's accession, had made it expire at 1546 ; in which he was followed by several expositors. Fox, the Martyrologist, taking the 42 months for weeks of years, made them extend from the death of John the Baptist to the era of Constantine; and Dr. Beard supposed the number to relate to the duration of the Roman empire, from its, foundation to its ruin by the Goths. Mr. Ness himself, reckoning from the era of Phocas, fixes the fall of Antichrist as late as 1866.
Newton remarks, is really more perfect than any history: • No one historian hath related so many circumstances, and • in such exact order of time, as the prophet bath_foretold • them. This exactness was so convincing, that Porphyry *could not pretend to deny it; he rather laboured to confirm
it, and drew this inference from it; that the prophecy was so * very exact, that it could not possibly have been written be• fore, but must have been written in, or soon after the time • of Antiochus Epiphanes, all being true and exact to that • time, but no further.' Could it have been believed, that any person of sober mind and with honest intentions, should venture to deny what Porphyry admitted, and to contend that the persovage mentioned as the successor of Antiochus the Great, is not Seleucus, but Louis the Sixteenth of France! Yet, such is the prodigious transition, according to Mr. Irving. by which the prophecy, ‘at one stride,' from Syria to France, overleaping the advent of Christ, the fall of the Roman empire, the rise of the papacy, and all the events of the intervening 2000 years, brings us down to the immediate predecessor ot' - Napoleon Bonaparte !! Mr. Cuninghame asks, with good reason :
• According to what known canon of sober interpretation, is a commentator to be permitted to leave the thread of the prophetic narrative, at a point where there is confessedly no necessary change of the subject, and to skip over a period of 2000 years, and from the eastern to the western hemisphere, from Antiochus of Syria to Louis XVI. of France ?'
101. If we have any readers who have felt disposed to adopt this monstrous scheme of interpretation, we strongly recommend to them the perusal of Mr. Cuninghame's present publication. He is certainly one of the most sober-minded of modern expositors; and whatever may be thought of his attempts at explication, he is at least completely successful in exposing the absurdities of those from whom he differs. But in one of his preliminary remarks, we cannot agree with him.
• Amidst almost endless discordance in the systems of interpreters, the prophetic student will, however, find some grounds of encouragement even in the outset of his inquiries; for, notwithstanding their discrepancies of sentiment as to the minuter shades, he will discover a surprising harmony with respect to certain great outlines. p. 2.
In like manner, Mr. Faber says: The real fact is, that, with the exception of Grotius and Hammond, and one or two • who have followed them, there is no discrepancy among Pro• testant expositors with regard to the great outlines of prophetic interpretation. These bold assertions stand in no