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We now come to the last in order of the books of the sacred volume, the Revelation of St. John, which, from its nature and subjects, must require our very particular attention.
Sir Isaac Newton has remarkably expressed himself, speaking of a particular era predicted in the Revelation : “ The event will prove the Apocalypse; and this prophecy, thus proved and understood, will open the old prophets, and altogether will make known the true religion, and re-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 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 has declared to his servants, the prophets ; and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever. * There is already so much of 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, turn men's eyes upon considering the predictions, and plainly interpret them. Till then, we must content ourselves with interpreting what has already been fulfilled.”
Sir Isaac Newton further remarks: “ Among the interpreters of the last age, there is scarce one of note who has not made some discovery worth knowing; and thence I seem to gather that God is about opening these mysteries,” &c.
Such were the encouraging observations of one of the wisest of uninspired men, above a century ago : and, certainly, much successful labour has, since that time, been employed upon the Scripture prophecies: wonderful events, too, have happened in the history of mankind events which, though their sudden and dazzling brightness confused, at first, the observations of expositors, cannot but afford important lights for discovering the true meaning of prophecy, when calmly viewed in a more settled state.
The Revelation, Chapter i. 5-8. IN St. John's preface to the Apocalypse, the second advent of Christ is plainly recognised as the grand expectation of the church, and as the final object of all prophecy. Speaking of Jesus Christ, he denominates him “the faithful Witness, the first-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.”
“ Unto him," he says, “ that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Amen."
failure as an event propitious to the Gentile world? So did it speak of the restoration of the Jews, when their fulness should come in, as being, to this same world, a season of still greater good! At the first, the Gentiles, in the abandonment of the Jews, were to be so far favoured as to “provoke Israel to jealousy;” but afterwards, when he should be merciful to his land and his people,” and “have avenged their injuries,” the Song of Remembrance, to which he refers, exclaims,“ • Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people," which clearly intimated that they would be no less sharers in this great and glorious dispensation than the Israelites themselves.
This St. Paul explains in the fifteenth verse, “ For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead ?” Thus it must be the apostle means to point out, according to the sure word of prophecy: and the comparison of the ancient oracles on this subject leads to the conclusion, that, by “ life from the dead,” the apostle means the resurrection of the dead, literally; and that this “ first and blessed resurrection,” the great event for which all nature and nations long, is intimately connected with the restoration of Israel: that the same Redeemer who comes to Zion to turn away iniquity from Jacob, comes, at the same time, to raise the dead that sleep in him, and to gather together all his elect, and establish the glorious promised kingdom, which will be "riches," indeed, unto the world.
Again; the apostle says, verse the twenty-fifth:
“ For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."
A man is said to be wise in his own conceits when, in the absence of real knowledge and information, he persuades himself that he does understand, and, pleased with his fancied discoveries, vaunts his own false conceits in the room of true wisdom. To prevent this, St. Paul would unfold a mystery.
A mystery signifies some hidden truth, some secret in the plan or proceeding of God which revelation can alone explain. The mystery was this: this partial blindness or hardness (for the apostle admits not that it was universal) was only to last“ till the fulness of the Gentiles was come in,” “ and so,” or, “and then all Israel shall be saved." By the word “ fulness” is intended, I conceive, that remnant which was then begun to be gathered, and still is being gathered, by the preaching of the Gospel. They are a body of people taken to "fill up,” as it were, the gap or scissure made in Israel by the cutting off of so many of the natural branches : when the number decreed shall be completed, then will the end come of the present dispensation of Christ's kingdom, which will be succeeded by a more glorious dispensation, to commence with the general restoration of Israel.
Some, by “ the fulness of the Gentiles," understand their coming in, in a mass, in contradistinction to this gathering of a thinly scattered people, which has hitherto been all the real effect of the preaching of the Gospel in the Gentile world. That such an event will take place is clear from prophecy; but then the conversion of all nations is an event predicted as subsequent to the restoration of Israel ; but the “fulness of the Gentiles" here spoken of, will have come in previously to that event. Besides, the use of the word we render “fulness," in the New Testament, for the mass or generality, in opposition
Verily I say to you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” But, “ the kindreds of the nations wail because of him.” And so in our Lord's prophecy, " and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with power and great glory.” How clearly does this point out to us the apostate nations of the professed Christian world; and prophecy has fully informed us, that these nations have indeed, generally, cause to wail at the Redeemer's coming.
Some Remarks on the Epistles to the Seven Churches, parti
cularly Chapter ii. 25, 8c.; and iii. 20.
In the first vision of the revelation, contained in the second and third chapters, we have several things to note, as intimating the second advent of our Lord, and the events which are then to take place :
10. “ I was in the Spirit,” says the apostle, on tlie Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. 11. What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches that are in Asia.” 12. “And I turned to see the voice of him that spake with me: and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks,” [or,“ stands for lamps."] 13. And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14. His head and his hairs were like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were