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I now proceed to consider the duty, benefits, and encouragement of a devout and diligent study of the Revelation. These are found in the text, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein; for the time is at hand." We observe,
1. Our Lord Jesus Christ demands this duty, as well as encourages it. The language of this text, and the giving of the Revelation, imply a demand of the duty. And seven times in this book, is the same found in these words, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Four times, when new scenes of Providence open, it is commanded, “ 'Come, and see!" And, annexed to deep prophecies, is the divine command, "Whoso readeth, let him understand." Shall man object, and say, the attempt is in vain?
2. The fact, that a great section of the Bible consists in prophecies of events then future, tacitly enforces this duty. Little is the objector to the study of the prophecies aware how great a part of the Bible he virtually condemns; and to how great a degree his so doing impeaches the wisdom, and undervalues this great mercy of God.
But, if a part of the prophetic Scriptures may be neglected, where shall the line be drawn? All events now future are known to man only by prophecy. It is here alone that we learn a resurrection,-a judgment before the bar of God,-the conflagration of the world,-the certainty, and the eternity of future retributions of bliss and wo! May the prophecies of these events be neglected? If not, who dares to plead for a neglect of those which assure us of the Millennium; of the battle of that great day of God; of the destination of the Jews; of the vials of the last plagues; and of the events of the Revelation?
3. Much of the ancient preaching of a Saviour then to come, was in types and figures not less dark than are most of the prophecies of the Revelation. Israel had their preaching of Christ, in the brazen serpent,-in the water from the rock,-in the sea of brass,—the candlestick, the sacrifices,-the burning of incense,-and the clusters of temple emblems,-"shadows of good things to come!" And would not the very objection, now often made against the study of the Revelation, that it is deep and difficult, have lain with equal weight, at least, against the duty of attempting to discover their Messiah in those
ancient figures? The affirmative is most manifest. We are assured, that "the rock which followed them, was Christ." They had no express information relative to this, nor to any other type of Christ. But they were "shut up to the faith," to find here their Redeemer, or perish. Nor had they one-twentieth part of the facilities which we now enjoy, relative to the construing of such figurative prophecies.*
The condemnation of those who would not investigate that figurative preaching of Christ, was, their want of faith! "To them was the gospel preached, as well as unto us; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." The believers of that day "searched what, and what manner of time," that preaching of the Saviour to come did signify. And the person who trifled then with this duty, was the infidel, on his way to perdition! Such an one, probably, quieted his conscience thus: The construction given to these figurative things, which they say allude to the Messiah to come, appears but fanciful, visionary, and uncertain! Different men may have their different views of them; and one has as good a right to his opinion as another. All cannot be right! and I will believe none of
* I have read from considerable authority, that it is dangerous, if not in vain, to attempt to expound Old Testament types, where inspiration does not expound them. From this principle it follows, that had not the Holy Ghost informed us, that the rock, yielding water to Israel in the wilderness, was a type of Christ, we should have no right to make such a decision. This is a criticism worthy of the German Neologists! Was the rock to be viewed as inexplicable, till Paul was inspired to assure us it typified Christ? And is the same true of all the types of old? Were they of no benefit to the saints of that day? But what is said of the rock implies that Israel should have understood it, and that the pious did thus. "They drank of that rock; and that rock was Christ,"-meaning, a type of Christ. Mr. Edwards assures us, that if God speaks to the understanding of man, it is enough; though he says it not in so many words. The Bible is full of instructions thus communicated. Implicit instruction is no less valuable than express. Christ blamed the Sadducees for not finding in the words of God to Moses at the bush ("I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob "), the doctrine of the resurrection. But according to the writer I have in view, the Sadducees had only to say, that passage says nothing expressly of a resurrection. The sentiment I here oppose virtually justifies all the rejections of types and shadows by infidels of old. For God had not seen fit expressly to explain them then, but had left this to the faith and ingenuity of his people. And most of the types of the Old: Testament are still thus left. Are they then of no use? Was the can-. dlestick in the temple of no use, till Christ explained it in Rev. i. 20 "Be not righteous overmuch; neither be overmuch wise."
them! We have plain scriptural rules of morality enough; and to those I will attend; and I will leave such figurative predictions for those who delight in them. I have no such delight; for to me they are uncertain, calculated to perplex, and are of no solid benefit! Precisely would this have been, as too many have conversed concerning the study of the Revelation.
4. This neglect is to set our own wisdom above the word of God, and against it. Let another class of men select the doctrinal parts of the Bible for proscription, as being too deep and difficult to be understood. Some of the doctrines are not less deep and difficult than are the prophecies; and they are far from being less displeasing to the carnal mind, which is enmity against God! Let one then, deny the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ, because it is dark and mysterious; let another class of men deny the most displeasing parts of the duties of religion; another, the terrors of an eternal hell! These things, and much of our holy religion, are deep; and, to the wicked among men, they seem mysterious. And where will this course of expunging deep and displeasing things from the Bible end, but in gross infidelity? But Christ says, "I testify to every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, (that) if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And, if any man shall take away from the words 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 that are written in this book." When I have heard people openly discourage all critical attention to the Revelation, and felicitate themselves that they never spent their time in thus attending to it, I have thought this passage may well make them tremble! It is a remark of Bishop Newton, that "they who censure, or dissuade from the study of the Revelation, do it, for most part, because they have not themselves studied it, and because they imagine difficulties to be greater than they are. I lately saw the following remark in a religious periodical: "The wisest commentators have scarcely effected more than to puzzle themselves, and bewilder their readers, when they have attempted to interpret the prophecies before they are fulfilled. The times and the seasons, the Father hath put in his own power!"
Was the writer of this clause aware how directly this
sentiment is pointed against Jesus Christ himself? says, concerning deep prophecies, "Let him that readeth understand." "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand." How then can a minister of Christ dare thus to seal the sayings of prophecy, while their events are at hand, or are future; and seal them, because they are future? Christ says again, "Blessed is he that readeth the words of this prophecy, and keepeth those things that are written therein.' Again: "Ye hypocrites, how is it that ye cannot discern the signs of the times?" If the prophecies are not to be studied till fulfilled, they are never to be studied; for, in that case, it never could be known when they are fulfilled. The argument of this writer, drawn from the words of Christ to the Jews, is plausible, but is wholly fallacious. Secret things, it is true, the Father has reserved in his own power; and those, it is not for man to know. This was the case with the point concerning which the disciples inquired, and this remark of Christ was made, "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" God had revealed no such event as the restoring of a temporal kingdom to Israel! And our Saviour kindly turned them off with the above reply; knowing that a few days, and his pouring out his Spirit upon them, would cure them of this their mistake! But did the Saviour mean by this remark to inform us (as this writer takes for granted), that the Father has revealed nothing to man relative to the times and seasons of the great events which are in fact to take place between the present time and the end of the world? If this is a fact, then our writer's remark is correct; not otherwise. But this is not a fact. God has revealed various of those great events, and has expressly informed of the time of them; and more, he has commanded man to study, and understand those things. Which, then, shall we obey; our heavenly Father; or the man who will not study the prophecies? Is there not something here that looks like arrogance and impiety; publicly and indiscriminately to blame all who attempt to understand the prophecies? This has been abundantly done; and it gives no small degree of pain, to see good men uniting in it. Let this writer consider, that notwithstanding what our Lord thus said to his erring disciples on that occasion, the Father had revealed to man "the times and seasons "of many things; such as the return of Israel from Egypt; as well as the time of the flood, 120