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That the reader may be acquainted with the design and tendency of this publication, it is necessary to lay before him the circumstances under which it was undertaken.
In the first place, I must revert to my former work upon the same subject published in the year 1805. That book had its origin in a resolution formed by me, to study the Apocalyptic prophecies without the usual aid of commentators. The circumstances which produced it were as follows :-In my preparation for holy orders, having gone through the sacred writings of the Old and New Testament, I came to this last and most difficult book. Here I found a pause necessary, to supply me with able and safe aids, before I could venture to proceed. In this difficulty I consulted my theological friends,
I “ The Apocalypse of St. John translated; with Notes critical and explanatory ; to which is prefixed, a Dissertation on the divine Origin of the Book, &c. By John Chappel WOODHOUSE, M.A. Archdeacon of Salop, &c. Hatchard, London. 1805."
and from them I collected, that the writers upon the Apocalypse were almost innumerable, very discordant, and that none of them had afforded general and entire satisfaction. I perceived, that with my present stock of knowledge and attainment, I might expect to be bewildered in the variety and discrepancy of explanation ; and I resolved to defer my acquaintance with this sacred book, till I could approach it with better hopes of success.
In the mean time, I determined to prepare myself, by an extensive and accurate knowledge of the holy Scriptures, of the Christian writings in the early centuries, the Fathers of the Church, and the ecclesiastical historians; and at the same time, to avoid all publications which might prejudice me in favour of any particular interpretation.
For many years, however, my engagements in active duties prevented the accomplishment of my intentions. At length the time arrived, when I could employ my leisure for literature—the “ horæ subseciva” of Cicero-upon this interesting subject. A few years out of twelve were then occupied in such preparative studies, and the remainder in endeavouring to understand, interpret, and arrange the prophecies, as they appear reported in my work.
Having completed my labours, I submitted them to an highly-valued friend, who, having carefully perused them, and suggested some improvements, recommended their immediate publication.
The work, however, did not prove generally attractive; the public mind being at that time preoccupied with the more amusing speculations of other commentators, who found the fulfilment of the prophecies in question in the passing events of the day, or in bold and confident exposure of the future history of the world.
On the other hand, I had my reward, in the approbation of my learned friends, and of some distinguished prelates, to whom I presented copies of the work. Among the latter, I have the pleasure to enumerate the late Bishop Hurd ; and, as his testimony supports the principles on which this, as well as my former work is conducted, I shall not hesitate to lay it before the public. It may be seen in a copy of the book, in the library of Hartlebury Castle, which the Bishop bequeathed to his successors in the see, and is thus written by his Lordship's own hand:
“ This is the best book of its kind that I have seen; it owes its superiority chiefly to two things1. The author's understanding, for the most part, the apocalyptic symbols in a spiritual, not a literal sense. 2. To the care he has taken to fix the
precise import of those symbols, from the use made of them by the old prophetical, and other writers of the Old and New Testament.
Testament. Still, many difficulties remain, and will remain, to the time of the end.
“ R. W. “ March 15, 1806.”
This testimony found its way into some of the literary journals, and could not fail to produce an interest in favour of the book. But let it not be thought, that the insertion of it in this place is to gratify literary vanity. Had the Bishop ascribed to the author the praise of that talent and ingenuity with which he has so eloquently adorned the memory of Joseph Mede, I might be thought liable to this imputation : but he confines his commendation to the simple course pursued by the writer in searching the Holy Scriptures for an explanation of the symbols, and in applying them in a spiritual sense: and this is all the commendation I desire. 1
I proceed to state the rules, or canons, which in the former work were proposed by me, as the chart and compass to direct my course, in the untried sea upon which I was about to embark. It is necessary to repeat them, as they form the basis of interpretation adopted in the present work.
In entering upon this most important considera
1 Introduction to the Study of the Prophecies, &c. at the Warburtonian Lecture; by R. HURD, D.D. &c.: consult Sermon X. in which it appears, that the Bishop had at that time a strong predilection for Mede's system of interpretation. And it may be thought extraordinary, that in his latter years he should speak so favourably of another book, the tendency of which is, in many parts, to show the invalidity of Mede's deductions. But the learning and genius of this distinguished prelate, were not superior to his candour and rectitude of mind. At one time, he admires the genius of a writer who seems to force his way over all impediments in pursuit of truth : at a later day, he acquiesces in the better fortune of another, who pursues an humbler and more sure course for the attainment of his object.
tion, the question which first commanded my attention was,—“ From what source can we reasonably expect to derive the safest and surest means of understanding the figurative prophetical language of the Apocalypse ?” The proper answer appeared obvious, and attended with little or no difficulty: for, if the Apocalypse be of divine revelation, an uniformity must be expected to subsist between this and other portions of sacred Scripture. If the same divine Spirit which dictated the preceding prophecies, were also the Inspirer of the apocalytic visions, a mutual relation must subsist between them; and the light derived from the one must contribute most beneficially to the elucidation of the other.
This then was the first principle, upon which I resolved to ground my method of investigation ;to compare the language, the symbols, the predictions of the Apocalypse, with those of former revelations; and to admit only such interpretation, as should appear to have the sanction of this divine authority.
A second controlling principle seemed necessary. For, as the language, symbols, and predictions thus interpreted by the assistance of Scripture, were to be applied afterwards to historical facts, a preliminary question seemed to occur ;-to what kind of history are they to be applied ? To profane history, or sacred ? to the extensive and boundless mass of the gentile history, or, exclusively, to that of God's chosen people? To assist me in answering this question, I had recourse to the preceding prophecies of the Old and New Testament. How have we been authorized to explain these? In what kind of his