« PoprzedniaDalej »
which blacken the whole heavens can be dispersed without a storm. What shall be the character of the storm, and what its issues, no politician can tell, though some may dream of halcyon days, and a golden age to ensue. But the student of prophecy well knows what this day of gloominess portends, that it ushers in the day of the Lord; when he shall arise to shake terribly the earth, to cut off the sinners from among men, to save his people and to destroy their oppressors; the day of vengeance in his heart, and the year of his redeemed being come. "With righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked after which [and not before] the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isai. xi. 4, 9).
Having arrived at this time of the end, when all is about to be accomplished, let us reverently examine into the predictions of the Apocalypse, that from this last revelation of the mind of God we may, by his teaching, receive direction to apply to the interpretation of this book the principles we have enumerated above and may He by His Holy Spirit give us a right understanding to discover the truth, and prepare our hearts to receive it when discovered, that we may grow in grace thereby, and be prepared for his coming and kingdom!
The Jewish people were designed in the purpose of God to typify the Christian church (Gal. iv. 26; Heb. xii. 22), and they were by his providence brought into circumstances to foreshew to us what will be our history if we pursue the same course; their rebellions, apostasies, and punishments foreshewing the consequences of our disobedience to Christ our Lord; and their glory under David and Solomon, notwithstanding the many provocations of Israel, typifying that glory which God has determined to manifest in the latter days upon the earth, when Christ and his church shall hold the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
When the Jews rejected Christ, God rejected them as a people; and put the church, the Israel of God, in their place. For eighteen centuries God had offered them favour, and borne with their multiplied provocations, because he had set his love upon them. For eighteen centuries He hath borne with the Christian people, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. The end is now approaching-it draweth very near. The series of events by which the providence of God has been working out the accomplishment of his purposes towards the church and the world, as announced in his prophetic word, is nearly run out. Only a small portion
of the Christian dispensation remains yet to be fulfilled. And God is about to begin another series of events, fulfilling another page of prophecy, by gathering his church to himself, both of the quick and the dead; and by setting his anointed King upon his holy hill of Zion; and by returning with favour to his longrejected people of Israel, making them once more a praise and a glory amongst all the nations of the earth.
The termination of one dispensation and the beginning of another must of necessity be a time of unprecedented import→ ance; for all the successions are fresh rays of glory, waxing brighter and brighter unto the perfect day and the day we now look for is that which all the former dispensations had in view, in which the martyrs of all past time shall receive their reward, and the expectants of the present time receive their inheritance; the triumph of one band, and the marshalling of another band under their guidance and tutelage. The remaining events, which wind up the present dispensation and usher in the next, are few: which circumstance of itself gives them a deep interest, as it indicates that a short time only of the day of grace is now remaining: but this interest is still further increased by the intrinsic importance and fearful character of these few events: when the church is called both to lift up her head with joy, as knowing that her redemption draweth nigh; and to watch and pray always, that she may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that are coming on the earth, and to stand before the Son of Man. Trials of every kind are at hand; delusions so subtle in their nature as to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect; and persecutions so fierce that it is called the great tribulation, a time of trouble such as has not been before, no, nor ever shall be: " for the devil shall come down having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time: and except these days be shortened no flesh should escape, but for the elect's sake these days shall be shortened."
The few unfulfilled portions of prophecy stand out so conspicuously in the word of God, that the impatience common to all men, acting upon the laudable desire of seeing the glory of God revealed in their own day and generation, has led interpreters of prophecy to overleap, at several of the eventful periods in the history of the church, intervening portions of unfulfilled prophecy, and to suppose themselves arrived within sight of the great crisis to be brought about by the Second Advent of our Lord, which shall rid the world of evil, and usher in eternal blessedness under his reign. Every succeeding period of expectation becomes more probable than the last, by the mere lapse of time. The end is fixed in the purpose of God, and draws so much the nearer every year, though man may have heretofore mistaken the signs of its approach. Warned by past
experience, we endeavour not to overleap any prediction, or distort any event, while we give it as the general confession of all accurate interpreters of prophecy, that very little indeed pertaining to the Christian dipensation, in its present form, now
Prophecy is given in many forms, of which we may enumerate the following as the chief. 1. Simple announcement; as in the greater part of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and our Lord's discourses (Matt. xxiv. &c.): the interpretation of this form of prophecy requires only careful comparison with history. 2. Allegory and Parable; as Isai. v., Ezek. xvii., Matt. xiii. &c.: this form represents moral and spiritual truths by visible objects, and by our known conduct in visible things teaches us what will be the dealings of God in spiritual things, under similar circumstances: the interpretation of this form of prophecy requires nothing more than translating the whole from the language of allegory to the language of reality, from the visible and transient to the invisible and eternal things. 3. Symbols; as Dan. vii., Rev. xii., xiii.: in this form heterogeneous characters and forms are combined to represent unnatural and extraordinary transactions: the interpretation of this form requires the greatest spiritual discernment, and the most scrupulous exactness, first, to fix and define the complex character which the symbol is intended to convey; secondly, to trace the real transactions which the actings by or towards the symbol are meant to foreshew. 4. Types and typical histories; as Joshua, David, and Solomon; or the Passover, the Red Sea, Midian, the Philistines, Jezreel.
Throughout the Scriptures, with the exception of one Book, these forms of prophecy are kept distinct. In Daniel, for instance, the seventh chapter is wholly symbolical, the eleventh is wholly announcement; and the difficulty of interpreting the symbolic form of prophecy is implied in sending an angel to explain the visions, which we do not find done for the other forms of prophecy. In the Apocalypse all the four forms of prophecy are combined; and they operate as a fourfold check upon erroneous interpretation, and a fourfold confirmation of truth. But the full operation of this check, and the convincing force of this demonstration, have been much invalidated by a prejudice which most of us have imbibed unawares, and which continues to operate unconsciously long after we have discovered and endeavoured to discard it,-the prejudice against the full canonicity of the Apocalypse. As long as any vestige of doubt remains, we shall hesitate in giving to every jot and tittle of the Apocalypse the same implicit reverence which we give to all the rest of the word of God, and can receive no instruction from studying it. It is quite notorious that the generality of professing Christians do less frequently read and appeal to the
Apocalypse than to the other books of Scripture; which neglect of the book, by keeping it less in mind, operates in making a distinction between it and the rest. And from hence it often comes to pass, that commentators, having taken their interpretations of prophecy from other parts of Scripture, imperfectly understood, because attempted to be understood without the help of the last and fullest revelation given by the Lord from heaven, have made the Apocalypse give way to their own crude notions of interpretation, instead of correcting their views by its assistance.
At the very threshold of interpreting the Apocalypse, and before any Divine instruction can be derived from this most precious book, we must fully believe in its inspiration; that it is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John." This is easily and completely demonstrable to any one who has spiritual discernment, and will be at the pains of inquiring. One of the most recent interpreters* observes: "That portion of the sacred Scriptures entitled the Apocalypse, or Revelation of St. John, is a narrative of the latest authenticated communication made by the miraculous agency of Divine power to any of the race of man. Of its authenticity, demonstrable by the most irresistible evidence external and internal, no reasonable doubt can be entertained."...." In truth, to adduce all the unimpeachable testimony afforded by the first ages of Christianity to the authenticity of the Apocalypse, would be to cite almost every name celebrated in the ecclesiastical history of that period. And accordingly Sir Isaac Newton, who had applied to that matter all the powers of his great intellect, declares: 'I do not find any other book of the New Testament so strongly attested, or commented upon so early, as this."" pp. 1, 2.
Sir Isaac Newton's name is sometimes made use of to sanction opinions the very reverse of those which he held. Such is not the case in Mr. Lovett's work; but we take this opportunity of pointing out a flagrant instance of misquotation in D'Oyley and Mant's Bible, printed by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, 1830. It occurs in what professes to be an unbroken extract from Sir I. Newton's Observations on the Apocalypse, given in the Preface to D'Oyley and Mant's Commentary. We print the omissions and alterations in italics, the additions in brackets. "The folly of interpreters has been, to foretel times and things by this prophecy [of the Revelation], as if God designed to make them prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the prophecy also into contempt. The design of God was [when] much otherwise. He gave them
* The Revelation of St. John explained; by H. W. Lovett. 1831. VOL. V.NO. II.
this and the prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men's curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but [to the end] that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own providence, not [the wisdom or skill of] the interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the world. For the event of things predicted many ages before will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by Providence. For as the few and obscure prophecies concerning Christ's first coming were for setting up the Christian religion, which [many] all nations have since corrupted; so the many and clear prophecies concerning the things to be done at Christ's, second coming are not only for predicting, but also for effecting a recovery and re-establishment of the long lost truth, and setting up a kingdom wherein dwells righteousness. The event will prove the Apocalypse; and this prophecy, thus proved and understood, will open the old Prophets, and all together will make known the true religion, and establish it. For he that will understand the old Prophets, must begin with this; but the time is not yet come for understanding them perfectly, because the main revolution predicted in them is not yet come to pass. In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets: and then the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever (Apoc. x. 7, xi. 15). There is already so much of [this] the prophecy fulfilled, that as many as will take pains in this study may see sufficient instances of God's providence: but then the signal revolutions, predicted by all the holy Prophets, will at once both turn men's eyes upon considering the predictions, and plainly interpret them. Till [that period] then we must content ourselves with interpreting what hath been already fulfilled. Amongst the interpreters of the last age there is scarce one of note who hath not made some discovery worth knowing; and thence I seem to gather that God is about opening these mysteries," &c.-Newton, p. 253.
With the Apocalypse the canon of Revelation closed, it being the last communication from Christ the Revealer; and it shall receive no addition during the absence of Christ, lest the oneness of the faith and hope in the body of Christ be divided thereby, or lest the latter ages of the church should have advantages above the primitive times. During the whole season of Christ's absence, the Comforter supplies his place; but the Holy Spirit gives no new revelation: he speaks not of himself, but, taking of the things of Christ and shewing them to the church, he thus teacheth all things; and by enlightening the believer to understand the prophecies, he thus will shew things to come (John xvi. 13-15). By this method it is that God