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النشر الإلكتروني

CHAPTER II.

THE DESIGN, USE, SCHEME, AND STRUCTURE, OF

PROPHECY.

As in the Epistles, we learn some things more completely which are scarcely to be fouud in the Gospels, so in St. Jobn's Revelation we learn some things which are scarcely to be found in the Gospels and Epistles. If the Gospels and Epistles concern more particularly the formation of a man's private character, the Revelation is taken up with instructions for the formation of a man's public one. If the Gospels and Epistles are to correct the vices of individuals, the Revelation is to correct the vices of public bodies and systems. He who wishes, therefore to be a perfect man, thoroughly finished unto all good works, must not study a portion of Scripture, but “all Scripture which is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” If man is born for society, he reforms his private character that he may have a good public one. In reading the Gospels and Epistles, therefore, for the means, let him not forget to study the Revelation for the end. Charity or universal benevolence is a public principle, and charity, is the end of the commandment, but charity without its first-born, civil and religious liberty, cannot exist.

St. John sets out with declaring, that Christ “ hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.” Rev. i. 6. And this is the subject of the prophecy, that, as kings ourselves, we are to bave no other kings in our spiritual kingdom; and, as priests ourselves, we are to have no other priests. To worship a civil and ecclesiastical rabbi, is to give up the kingdom which we have received, and to have our names erased from the book of life. xiii. 8; xiv, 9-11. Not to worship a civil or ecclesiastical rabbi, is to “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” xiv. 12. Prophecy condemns two parties; the state for making itself a church; the church for making itself a state. The state makes itself a church when it has “full power, from time to time, to visit, reform, correct, amend, all errors, heresies, and enormities,” in the church "whatsoever they be; which by any power or spiritual authority or jurisdiction, are, or lawfully may be, reformed, ordered, corrected, or amended.” xiii. 7,8. The church makes itself a state, when “ it exercises all the power” of the latter “ before it.” xiii. 12. The former is the case when a person or persons essentially civil enjoy an ecclesiastical power, as in churches subservient to the state ; the latter is the case when a person or persons essentially ecclesiastical enjoy also a civil power, as the Pope and German prince-bishops. The kingdom of Christ, which is a spiritual one, must not use a civil power itself, nor suffer one to be used in it. If it render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, it must also render to God the things which are God's. If the saints are to rule the world in an ecclesiastical capacity, they must not themselves use a civil one, which belongs to Cæsar, as the papists do (Rom. xiii. 4, 5; Rev. xi. 5); nor must they, on the other hand, suffer Cæsar to reform, correct, or amend, all errors, heresies, and enormities, in the church, which is a vengeance wbich belongs to God (Rev. vi. 10; Rom. xij. 19; Heb. x. 30), as a national church does. The saints are to “ take the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever and ever,” not by means of a civil power from without or within (Rev. xi. 5.), but by making all civil power useless.

Prophecy shows us through what variety of untried circumstances we are to pass to this bappy issue. It declares to us by what methods and on what conditions God will bring about this blessed period. Christ being discovered in heaven in possession of the new dispensation, and the object of it being briefly stated that it has “made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth,” the process intended to bring about this object immediately begins (v.7—10). Christianity starts forth as a rider on a white horse (vi. 2.), and three successive judgments follow after it to make it effectual (4-8). The fifth period discovers the first-fruits of its labour (9, 10.). The pagan religion falls on the sixtb (12–17). And the Christian religion becomes the religion of the empire on the seventh (viii. 1). But with the transmission of the first fruits of the intercourse of our Lord with the Roman empire, to heaven (xii. 5; vii. 9–17; xiv. 1-5), after the unsuccessful attempt of the pagan cause to ruin Christianity in its birth by the Diocletian persecution (xii. 4.), the • kingdom of our God” has no sooner come than it is gone (10. 6. 14). The secularization of the spiritual empire takes

place by its speedy association with the civil power, which soon relinquishes its part of nursing-father, or impartial tolerator and patron for the unnatural office of hasband; and having removed its confidence from the only Head to take up the sword for its promotion, it is doomed if not to perish by the sword at any rate to suffer from it (xiii. 10). The Goths, the Huns, the Arian Ostrogoths and Visigoths, successively inundate the apostacising kingdom ; the third part of the spiritual empire becomes the property of an Arian chieftain (viii. 7-12); and bad not the barbarians finally adopted the Catholic religion, the whole of it would have been entirely “ carried away by them.” (xii. 15, 16). These judgments do not impede but accelerate the apostacy, The Barbarians have only removed the obstacle to the manifestation of the lawless one; and on the destruction of the Ostrogothic kingdom by the generals of Sustinian, A. D. 553, the pope remains sole dictator to the spiritual empire of the West. The kingdom of Christ admits an ecclesiastical rabbi by the arms of a civil one, and the emperor of the Romans and the Gothic decemvirate of kings unite with bis holiness to destroy those who will not be their slaves (xiii. 7. 12; xvii. 12. 13. 17). The first woe of the Saracens, sent upon the worshippers of the civil and ecclesiastical usurpers to reclaim them from their bondage, announces that the apostacy or harlotry has commenced (ix. 1-12). This not effecting the desired reformation, but another usurper, the German emperor of the Romans, created by his boliness (xiii. 15–17), being added to the former ones, another woe of the Turks destroys the political existence of the third part of the apostates. (ix. 14—19.) But the effects of the slavery to illegitimate authority cannot be immediately effaced. The rest of the men do not repent of their idolatry, demonolatry, murders of the saints, fornication, and frauds, the consequence of their obedi. ence to another dominion than that of Christ. (ix. 20, 21). The gospel must be preached over again to the world (x. 8-11), Our Lord, therefore, ever mindful of his covenant with his church, opportunely visits the empire by the Reformation, and awakes, by the outcries of the reformers, his kingdom to its situation. (x. 1–4). But God had not been left entirely without a witness. With the desertion of our Lord by the church for whoredom with the civil power, there was still some few who clung to his allegiance. These had ever since been, though obscurely, altesting his truth. (xi. 1–4). Breaking therefore now from their retreat (xv.5-8; xiv. 6,7), as though raised up by Him, they become authors of a revolution in the church (xiv. 8—13), the woeful as well as sweet effects of which have been felt to the present day, and will be felt through all ages. (xvi. 1; X. 10). The wars of the Reformation (xvi. 2), the four general wars succeeding them (xvi. 3), the contincntal revolutions succeeding the American war (xvi. 4-7), the era of Buonaparte and his fall (xvi. 8-11), and other events still to come, may all be said, to owe their origin entirely to the impulse which was given to the world by the doctrines of the reformers. Tbese effects, together with the witnesses, are therefore sent to produce the desired repentance of the rest of the men. But the witnesses, after the fifth plague has not produced its intentions (xvi. 11), instead of converting seem only to have irritated them. A war with the power whose authority they controvert is the consequence of their protests (xi. 7-10; xvi. 13-16; xvii. 14); and they are suppressed for three years and a half. (xi. 9). With their sudden reipstatement in their rights, the rest of the men repent (xi. 13); the second woe of the Turks passes away (xi. 14; xvi. 12); and the last woe is sent upon the men, by which all Antichristian power is put an end to. (xi. 19; xiv. 17–20; xvi. 17-21; xvii. 16; xix. 19-21). With the last firm but passive resistance to illegitimate interference of the civil power in the affairs of the church at the battle of Armageddon, it seems that that kingdom of liberty is for ever realised which the freemen of Christ, of the first three centuries, lost in the moment they produced it. As by sufferings the Christians overthrew the Pagan religion, so by sufferings must the Christians overthrow the Antichristian religion; and when the civil power withdraws its protection from the false church, as we are assured it will do (xvii. 16), the false religion falls immediately. Christianity at last starts forth with its pristine purity, and with an impulse which nothing can resist (xix. 11-16), produced by the increase of knowledge, which the witnesses, in concur. rence with the revolutions in society since the Reformation, have effected (xvi. 1); and the necessary consequence is, that the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and that be sball reign for ever and ever (xi. 15). An ineffectual attempt, indeed, is made by a northern power to enslave the churches of Christ again,

after they bave been “ brought back from the sword” of the emperors and their Gothic decemvirate of kings, and they “ all dwell safely without walls” of national establishments 6 and bars and gates” of corporation and test acts (Rev. xi. 19; xvi. 21; Ezek. xxxviii, xxxix); but the speedy “ revelation of our Lord from heaven in flaming fire to take vengeance on those who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," puts a final stop to any recurrence of the like proceedings. “I will plead against him," says our Lord, “ with pestilence, and with blood; and I will rain upon him and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great bailstones, fire, and brimstones.” (Ezek. xxxviii. 22; 2 Thess. i. 8). The saint's patience had now been tried long enougb; the short season which they had to rest till their blood was avenged is now expired. (vi. 10, 11; xix. 2). The time is come for the dead to be judged, and the saints to be rewarded (xi. 18.). The church in heaven, which had been waiting only till its corps was completed (vi. 11) by the victors over Antichrist (xv. 2; 88. 4), are now ready to meet their Lord at the wedding by their resurrection. (xix. 7, 8, 9; xx. 4; xxi. 2, 9, 10). The judgment takes place. (xi. 18; xx. 11–15.) Our Lord descends with his revived and caught up church (xxi. 2, 9, 10; xx. 4, 6; Thess. iv. 16, 17) to reign with it a thousand years prior to the resurrection of the rest of the dead, the wicked. These then rise, Gog and Magog for number (xx. 5, 8), and being surprised after a little while in a conspiracy against our Lord's immortal church, they meet their “ second death” of fire from heaven never to rise again (xx. 9, 10), while the saints reign through all the rest of eternity on the renovated earth. (xx. 6; xxi. 1-8).

Such is the process by which our Lord has thought proper gradually to mingle earth with heaven, and an important lesson is therein learned, that “ the kingdom of heaven does not come by observation,” but by man's own exertions to bring it about in co-operation with God's Holy Spirit. Christ must be the Desire of all nations (Hag. ii. 7) before he come. The world must understand and submit to the spirituality of his reign. (si. 15; xis. 21). The church must repent of its demorolatry, and its pious frauds, and its fornication, and its covetousness (ix. 20, 21) in order that the kingdom of this world may become

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