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relative to the great scheme of man's redemption,-throws a degree of light over the principal prophecies of the Apocalypse, which, without enabling us to penetrate into the exact nature of the events foretold, will enable us to comprehend, sufficiently for all purposes of faith, the leading subjects of these revelations. It will shew the connection between the prophecies of this book and many of the sublime, and yet, till they were enlightened by this additional revelation, dark prophecies of the Old Testament; and thus teach us to look upon it as the most explicit commentary upon the destinies of the Church, and the plainest exposition of God's decrees concerning mankind and the divine economy of their salvation through Jesus Christ'. Indeed, that this is the true view of the prophetical character of this book, may be collected even from a cursory examination of it. Many events in the Christian Church, which are spoken of very concisely and obscurely in the preceding prophecies of the Old and New Testaments, are declared distinctly and clearly in the Apocalypse; and many, of which the details appear to be very incomplete and imperfect in the ancient prophecies, are marked out with much greater clearness and fulness than in former revelations. The reason is very obvious : “because,” as has been observed by a learned writer, “this prophecy was intended to make up all the deficiencies of former prophecies, and indeed to give a complete system of the constitution and fates of the Church.... Thus, the destruction of the enemies of Christ in this world is very frequently set forth in the Old Testament as one accident; which nevertheless is clearly
Compare Daubuz, Preliminary Discourse, p. 40.
distinguished by St John into several; especially those two great ones, of the old paganism, and of the subsequent corruptions of Christianity. Yea, and this latter is again subdivided; besides the subsequent destruction of several other enemies. And so the reward of the righteous is often mentioned as one event, which is clearly distinguished here into a first and then a general resurrection, with
many such instances. Nay, even the Revelation contains predictions of many accidents involved, which are afterwards distinguished and explained”.”
It' is in perfect agreement with the most sober and judicious views of Scripture prophecy, to consider it as a growing evidence, which becomes clearer as it advances towards its accomplishment, and upon which every succeeding age throws some additional light. This mode of considering the subject of prophecy in general, is calculated to lead us to a modest, and yet an encouraging view of the great mass of unfulfilled prophecy; and, with respect to the later and more obscure prophecies-if we form our opinion of them by those which are already fulfilled, we shall be enabled to form a more correct judgment of their peculiar character, and at the same time possess a guarantee for their fulfilment. Indeed, when we look back upon the afflictions and trials, which the Church has passed through since the Redeemer left the earth and ascended up to heaven to the right hand of God; and consider the present state of religion in the world, and the troubles which still await it, before the purposes of the Almighty are fulfilled,—it was well worthy the benevolence and wisdom of the great Author of
2 Daubuz, Ib. p. 41.
Christianity, to provide it with a dispensation of prophecy, in which—whatever difficulties may attend the explanation of particular parts of it, both these trials and the triumphant deliverance of the Church out of them all, are so clearly and plainly revealed. When we consider the great corruptions of religion which overspread the world; and behold, on the one hand, the wide extending dominion of the Papal apostasy, and, on the other, the delusions of Mahomet enslaving so large a portion of mankind; and when we see so many nations, even in the present day, the slaves of degrading and debasing superstitions ;-it required something extraordinary to support the faith and patience of the saints; to animate them in the discharge of their duty; and to teach them to look forward to that glorious time, when all the present seeming difficulties of the divine dispensations will be cleared up. And we ought to be thankful to our heavenly Father, who has revealed these things with a degree of clearness, which, at the same time that it is sufficient to encourage faith, is calculated to repress presumption, and to discourage us from searching with unhallowed curiosity into the future and secret purposes of the Almighty will.
There is one consideration, which we ought always to bear in mind with respect to the prophecies of the Apocalypse, namely, that the greater part of them remains yet to be fulfilled; and that, with respect to the most important of those which have been partially fulfilled, a very material part relates to times which are yet future. These considerations ought to teach us modesty in our speculations on these subjects: and this point is urged by Sir Isaac Newton
with great force and power in his Introduction to this mysterious book. “ This prophecy,” he observes, “is called the Revelation, with respect to the Scripture of truth, which Daniel was commanded to shut up and seal, till the time of the end". Daniel sealed it until the time of the end; and till that time comes, the Lamb is opening the seals: and afterwards the two witnesses prophesy out of it a long time in sackcloth, before they ascend up to heaven in a cloud. All which is as much as to say, that these prophecies of Daniel and John should not be understood till the time of the end: but then some should prophesy out of them in an afflicted and mournful state for a long time, and that but darkly, so as to convert but few. But in the very end, the prophecy should be so far interpreted as to convince many. Then, saith Daniel, many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. For the Gospel must be preached in all nations, before the great tribulation and end of the world. The palm-bearing multitude, which come out of this great tribulation, cannot be innumerable out of all nations, unless they are made so by the preaching of the Gospel before it comes. There must be a stone cut out of a mountain without hands, before it can fall upon the toes of the Image, and become a great mountain and fill the earth. An angel must fly through the midst of heaven with the everlasting Gospel, to preach to all nations, before Babylon falls, and the Son of man reaps his harvest. The two prophets must ascend up to heaven in a cloud, before the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ. It is therefore a part of this prophecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of the world'; and therefore it makes for the credit of the prophecy, that it is not yet understood. But if the last age, the age of opening these things, be now approaching, as by the successes of late interpreters it seems to be, we have more encouragement than ever to look into these things. If the general preaching of the Gospel be approaching, it is to us and to our posterity that those words mainly be
1 Dan. x. 21; xii. 4, 9.
ong: In the time of the end the wise shall understand, but none of the wicked shall understand. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein'.
“The folly of interpreters hath been to foretel times and things by this prophecy, 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 much otherwise. He gave this and the prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men's curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that, after they were fulfilled, they might be interpreted by the event, and his own providence, not the interpreter's, be 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 all nations have since corrupted; so the many and clear prophecies concerning
i Dan, xii. 4, 10. Rev. i. 3.