Proof of it in the Prediction of the great Apostacy.


For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of Prophecy. THE instances of prophecy which have been stated in the two preceding Discourses, and argued upon, as satisfying the highest conditions of prophetic inspiration, were taken from the Old Testament. The next case which I shall adduce, will be taken from the New. "For the testimony of Jesus is the "spirit of prophecy." The prophetic spirit is an evidence of Christ, by its use, and by its donation. It is a testimony which he brought with him, and vested in his Apostles, as he had sent it forth by the prophets before him; a supernatural sign inherent in his religion, as well as preceding and announcing him. But this prophetic spirit in the New Testatment is eminently "the testimony of

"Jesus" on another account, by its subjects of prediction. For it preserves a great unity and simplicity in the general aim of its revelation, which is directed almost wholly to the condition of the Christian Church, its progress, persecutions, corruptions, and ultimate triumph. Such are, upon the whole, the scope and tenour of the prophecies which accompanied the publication of Christianity. Their collective force, therefore, as an evidence, is in bearing testimony to Jesus, in his religion. How far they support their pretensions to an inspired origin is the material question to be examined.

The case in which I shall consider the inspiration of Gospel prophecy, is that portion of it which describes the corruptions of some reigning power in the Christian Church; a chapter of prophecy which may be shewn, first, to agree in its character with the history of the Church and See of Rome; and next, by that medium of fulfilment, to evince its inspiration. And as the distinguished Prelate, the Founder of this Lecture, had it in view, as one object of his institution, to enforce a special reference to those parts of prophecy which will fall within my present Discourse, by bringing them under your notice I shall comply with that his particular design, and at the same time prosecute the inquiry into the use and inspiration of the Scripture oracles, which I have wished to follow in a settled course and order, and with a more extended view. As to this

one subject of prophecy, on which his mind was intent, he has not only prescribed it to others, but he has cultivated it himself; and that with so much strength of reason, and eloquence of discussion, in one of those learned and argumentative discourses, which he delivered in this place, that the Author has in a manner surpassed the Founder, by anticipating, in this argument at least, with too much skill and success, the purpose of his institution*.

1. The principal document of prophecy to be examined in the case before us is contained in the Apocalypse. But as this is a book of Scripture which unbelievers have set themselves, with more than a common confidence, to assail, and which has been discredited by the mistakes, or indiscretion, of some of its interpreters, who, in the real difficulty of the book, have further embarrassed its interpretation by the vagueness, and by the discordancy, of their opinions upon it, I shall premise, by way of introduction, a few remarks upon the structure and general form of this part of Holy Writ, from which the chief premises of argument are to be


The Apocalypse consists of three parts; 1. The prooemium in which the Divine Author of the ensuing revelation is exhibited in the person of Christ.

* In his Sermon on the Rise of Antichrist.

2. The prophetic and didactic charge given to the Seven Churches of Asia. 3. The extended prophetic revelation, which occupies the book from the fourth chapter to the end, and embraces an ampler period and scene of things. This last comprehensive portion of it is the great field of Apocalyptic prophecy. It consists throughout of a series of visions, communicated under a scheme of symbolical imagery. Persons and actions are drawn in it under the substituted character of a figurative representation. Hence its mysteriousness and first difficulty. Hence also the main objection which has been turned to the prejudice and defamation of the book.

But on general grounds of presumption, there is no reason to think that the Apocalypse, from the nature of its style, is incapable of a rational and satisfactory, that is, a determinate interpretation. As all language abounds in metaphor and other materials of imagery, imagery itself may form the ground of a descriptive language. The forms of it may become intelligible terms; and the combination of them may be equivalent to a narrative of description. Nor is the Apocalypse all mystery and figure. There is an admixture in it of the civil and moral idiom, both in names and phraseology, limiting in some measure the subject of the symbolical representation; and in certain points the book furnishes a key to its own sense, by a positive interpretation given. With these data, the general ænigma of its

figurative and symbolical style has been satisfactorily solved; the metaphor of it has been translated, upon principles neither arbitrary nor precarious; and thereby the objection made to it on account of its obscurity has been answered, so far as that obscurity arises from the scheme and structure of the visions under which its prophecies are conveyed. Those prophecies therefore come before us as a fair document of prediction, as much as others expressed in the more obvious and direct language of civil and historic description, modified, as the prophetic style usually is, by a tropical character.

Moreover, the entire subject of this book is strongly marked by a system of chronological order. Subsequent and coincident periods of time are noted; and the course and succession of events is made a part of the prophecy as well as the events themselves. The effect of this chronological structure is a guard upon the reference of the several prophecies, whereby one of them checks the appropriation of another, and reduces it within a certain position, both as to series of time, and dependence of history. Lastly, the business of the whole work is manifestly to pourtray the state of the Religion and Church of Christ. No man can read it without discovering that this is its aim. It does not deviate into things unconnected with this main design. But the preaching, or the resistance and persecutions, the decline, or the revival and triumph, of the Christian Faith, are distinguishable in every part

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