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the investigation of the meaning of the prophetic vision: for, at the very commencement of the Book, a blessing is pronounced by the Almighty Himself on all that read, and all that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein.'-We cannot suppose that such a blessing would be connected with the study of this Book, if its words were, in themselves, unintelligible. The very fact that such a blessing has been promised does, on the contrary, not only sanction all fair and legitimate attempts to discover its meaning, but even renders it,' to use Dr Todd's words, the express duty of the Christian Church to study the prophecy lest she should seem to despise that blessing which is promised to its perusal.' -P. 9.
Of the various modes of interpretation, which have prevailed in the Church at various times, Dr Todd gives a very interesting account. These may, without any great impropriety, be ranged under three general heads, or considered as three distinct principles of interpretation-the literal, the figurative, and the historical; and as they are equally applicable to all unfulfilled prophecy, whether recorded in the book of Daniel, the gospels of our Lord, the epistles of St Paul, or the revelation of St John, our observations, in the analysis of the work before us, will, in a great measure, be confined to an explanation of them, and their general bearing on the meaning of the prophecies. For the carrying out of these several principles, in the explanation of the various prophecies and visions in detail, we must refer our readers to the works themselves the lectures on Daniel and St Paul, as well as those on the Apocalypse-where in the Text and Notes they will find the most ample and satisfactory information on the subject; and they will, we think, agree with us that these works must henceforth have an irresistible influence on the opinions of all really catholic minded Churchmen, whose single aim is to discover the true interpretation of the Divine will, and not the support of some peculiar theory, or the advancement of some party purpose.
It may be necessary to observe that in ranging the various principles of interpretation under distinct heads, there must be some slight modification to our meaning; for the three modes just mentioned were, perhaps, never so rigidly defined as not to be mixed together in the slightest degree; but, except in a slight degree, by which the general principle was not perceptibly disturbed, the division is sufficiently marked to justify such classification.
What has been termed the literal interpretation, prevailed during
the first three centuries of Christianity: the figurative succeeded and lasted about a thousand years, that is, till the thirteenth century, when the historical principle took its rise, and has been sanctioned ever since.
1. The literal sense of Holy Scripture,' as Dr Todd justly observes, is commonly defined to be that signification of the words which the Author intended, and which his contemporaries, in the ordinary use of language, would have understood. Or, the literal sense is that signification of the words whereby they immediately denote things.' 'The literal sense, however, thus defined, does not necessarily exclude metaphor, and therefore is to be distinguished from the purely or servilely grammatical sense, which is often not the intention of the writer or speaker at all. The imperfection of human language compels us, even in ordinary discourse, and much more when speaking of things superhuman, to employ in a metaphorical sense, many words which originally denoted sensible or material things. We speak of the light of knowledge,' 'the fury of the storm,' the anger of the waves,' without supposing for a moment that any one would infer that we imagined knowledge to produce material light, or attributed to the winds and waves the passions of mankind. The intention of the speaker, in the use of such metaphors, is, therefore, the literal meaning and signification of his words, as much as if he had employed other words which had no other original or grammatical import. And so also in Holy Scripture, when we read of the eyes of the Lord,' 'the right hand of the Lord,' 'His bowels of compassion,' 'His wrath,' His fury,' and such like expressions, their grammatical meaning is not their literal signification.'-(Preface, pp. vi. vii.)
The early expositors, who adopted the literal principle of interpretation, while they looked upon the prophecies under consideration, as revealed under highly metaphorical language, always interpreted such language in what may be called its literal signification. Thus the prophetical language—'a time, times, and half a time,' or, as it is elsewhere expressed, a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days,' is, according to the literal principle, understood to signify, three years and a half; so, also, they regarded the Apocalypse, as revealing more especially the persecutions of the Church in the last age, that is, during the fearful events which are more immediately to prepare the way for the revelation of Antichrist-the terrible reign of the apostate-and the second Advent of Christ to destroy that Wicked One,
and also to judge the world, and lead His saints to their inheritance. It will be obvious that, in accordance with this view, they considered the various symbols and visions, whether in the Book of Daniel, or in the Revelation of St John, as repetitions of the same great events,the later visions being supplemental to the former, depicting the same events in new points of view, with new circumstances or additional particulars. These were the leading features of this principle of interpretation. But, as every system, how correct soever in itself, if not kept within proper bounds, is sure to run into extravagance and error, so it was with the literal principle of expounding the prophecies. Some of those who adopted it, dwelling too exclusively on what was said of Christ's reign for a thousand years, fell, in many instances, into gross and sensual errors. Although,' as Dr Todd remarks, 'it might easily be shown that the carnal doctrines, said to have been advocated by these heresiarchs, did by no means follow from even the most literal interpretation of the prophecy, and were widely different from the views of the Millenium entertained by the orthodox fathers of the second century; yet it would seem that these latter views were discountenanced, either from being confounded with the heretical opinions, or from being regarded as tending to heresy.' Thus the religious dread of heresy, and perhaps also the difficulty of distinguishing, in a manner intelligible to the vulgar, between a popular error, and the truth of which it was the perversion, led, in the course of time, to the almost total abandonment of the original interpretation of the Apocalyse.'-Pp. 16, 17.
2. About the end of the third, or beginning of the fourth century, the figurative or allegorical interpretation came into general favour among the writers on the prophecies. According to this principle the predictions, especially the Apocalyptic, were considered as referring not so much to actual events, as to moral truths. The various visions were meant, it was asserted, to assure the righteous of ultimate triumph, notwithstanding the apparent or temporary success of the powers of darkness; or, in other words, the Book was explained as representing the momentous contest between good and evil,-between the Church and the world,-Catholicity and Heresy,-truth and falsehood,-light and darkness. It is obvious that this principle allowed its advocates a license to apply the prophecies to particular persons and events, and so it happened that every one referred the predictions concerning Antichrist to whatever was opposed to what, in his own private judgment, constituted the truth. Every party was
disposed to apply these prophecies to those who rejected its own peculiar notions. Dr Todd, in his Lectures on Daniel and St Paul, has given some very curious examples of the practical working of this principle, examples which, we should think, would be rather perplexing to some modern expositors, who represent the Albigenses and Waldenses as the two prophetic WITNESSES, or who designate them as our Protestant forefathers.' Of the former he gives the following
In the middle of the eleventh century, numerous emigrants from Thrace and the East had established themselves in the north of Italy, and especially in the neighbourhood of Milan; and some despising a fixed habitation, or unable to obtain one, itinerated throughout various parts of France and Germany. The doctrines of these sects exhibit various shades of extravagance and error. They are accused of holding that the material world was the work of an evil being, and not of the Supreme Deity; that the Incarnation and Crucifixion of our Lord were therefore visions, or, at least, so far unreal events as to be disconnected with matter; that abstinence from flesh and wine was necessary to salvation; that marriage was a carnal state, and inconsistent with Christian perfection. They are said to have rejected the authority of the Old Testament as the work of the evil principle; and to have condemned the temporal possessions and rank of the Clergy, on the ground that the true Church of Christ should imitate, to the letter, the poverty of the first apostles; they despised all external religion, ridiculed the office and powers of the priesthood, the efficacy of the sacraments, and especially the use of baptism.'-Pp. 28-30. Farther, the Albigenses held that as the evil deity was the author of the visible world, so was he of the visible Church. When the Church of Rome opposed these heretics, they therefore turned round upon her, and maintained that she was the devil's basilica and synagogue of Satan,' and, in the language of prophecy, the mother of fornications.' The other sect was the Waldenses, who certainly cannot be accused of participating in the grave errors of the Albigenses. At first, they had no wish to separate from the Church, and it is known that they disputed most acutely with the Albigenses. They wished to form themselves into an order within the Church, and applied to the Pope for his permission, and also for his sanction to their rules. These requests were not granted, and on this they seceded, and began to maintain the necessity of poverty, to deny the efficacy of the sacraments, and to denounce the Church as the seat of
apostacy, and her clergy as men who had lost their spiritual power by consenting to receive temporal endowments. Thus they arrived at the same point as the Albigenses, although by a different course; and whilst the Church looked upon them as apostates, they were ready to retort upon her the charge, and to aver that she was the great enemy of the saints.
But a more striking exemplification of the figurative principle of interpretation than either of these is mentioned by Dr Todd. The third class of heretics,' says he, amongst whom a similar doctrine prevailed, arose in the bosom of the Church of Rome itself. The great popularity of the sects to whose history I have alluded, afforded a lesson which was not lost upon the Court of Rome; and accordingly, in the beginning of the 13th century, the papal sanction was given to the proposal of certain zealous individuals for the establishment of the mendicant orders, upon principles which embraced every thing that was attractive to the multitude in the discipline of the heretics, while pains were taken to retain their votaries in strict obedience to the papal authority. These orders acknowledged the great principle so vehemently contended for by the Vadois and other reputed heretics, that voluntary poverty was the primary virtue of the Christian religion, the necessary condition of Christian perfection, and the true mode of imitating our Lord and His disciples. * But although the stream of heresy was thus apparently turned into a less dangerous channel, and made subservient to the ambitious projects of the See of Rome; yet the evil broke out afresh in a new and unexpected form. The Franciscan order, especially, soon split into factions, which re-produced all the most fatal errors of the heretics, and set the papal power at defiance. The rule of po
verty admitted of a laxer or of a severer interpretation, and furnished the first great subject of internal division among the brethren of St Francis. The fanatical opinion, also, that the life of St Francis was an exact imitation of the life of our Lord, and that in him were fulfilled many prophecies, especially in the Apocalypse, soon led to serious evils. The spiritual Franciscans, as they were called, who maintained the absolute illegality of all possessions, under any pretence or fiction whatsoever, were also distinguished for an affectation of prophetic powers, and for peculiar interpretations of the Book of Revelation. They insisted that St Francis was the angel whom the Apostle had seen in the vision flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth;