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That this is so, is plain from the fact that although that remarkable symbolical agent, known in this book by way of eminence as to Ongiov, is manifestly spoken of as one and the same agent, yet when the common interpretation is rejected, it becomes necessary to use the expression 10 Oyquov in four different senses.
1. It is used specifically to denote an individual Roman Emperor, i. e. Nero.
2. It is used generically to denote the Emperors of Rome collectively
3. It is used in a still more generic and indefinite sense, to denote the abstract idea of hostile civil power, as existing just before the millennium.
4. It denotes the devil, without any particular reference to civil power at all, or else it is uncertain what it does denote.
Of the first sense Prof. Stuart thus speaks, vol. ii., p. 351.“ That Nero is mainly characterized in XIII., XVI., XVII., we cannot well doubt."
Of the second sense, he says, “the beast generically, considered, represents many kings, not merely one." Insensibly almost, at least so it is to the reader, this specific meaning appears to be dropped, and the more generic one to be employed again in chap.
Concerning the still more generic sense which refers to a time far beyond the era of the pagan Roman Emperors, even on the verge of the millennial day, he thus speakś, “ As soon as the writer dismisses the case of Nero from his consideration, he deals no longer with anything but energetic representations. Persecutions will revive. The war will still be waged. At Last, the great Captain of Salvation will come forth in all his power, and make an end of the long protracted war. Then, and not till then, will the millennial glory dawn on the Church.”
And yet during all of the book from chap. 13 to 20, it lies upon the very face of the language, that John is speaking of one and the self-same beast. Even Prof. Stuart is compelled to admit this; for he says, “ Insensibly, almost, at least so it is to the reader, this specific meaning appears to be dropped,” &c. As the language in question was no doubt intended for the reader, so if it gives him no proper indication of a change in the sense of the words to Oypov, then we have every reason to believe that there is no such change. Most of all are we compelled to believe, that in chap. 19: 19, 20, the beast and the false prophet, who are so carefully identified with those of chap. 13, by a reference to the delusions practised by them, the image, the worship of which was exacted by them, and the sign which they demanded men to receive, are not mere generic representations, totally disconnected from the beasts of chap. 13; but are identically the same with them : so that if the beast of chap. 13, is Nero, then it follows that just before the millennium,
Nero is to encounter Christ, and be taken and cast into the lake of fire.
Concerning the fourth sense of to Onglov, i. e. the devil, Prof. Stuart thus speaks, commenting on chap. 11:7—“ The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them,” i. e. the two witnesses. “Here to Onguor is said to ascend from i
Angiov the abyss; and who is it that dwells in the abyss, and is an enemy to Christians, and can come forth from that place to oppose them? Who but Satan or the dragon ?"
Yet he is forced to admit that the beast of chap. 17: 8 is représented as coming from the abyss. Thus are they clearly identified. Rev. 17: 8, the language is Onglov 8 eldes tv xal oox xoti, και μέλλει αναβαίνειν εκ της αβύσσου. Rev. 11: 7, the words are, το θηρίων το αναβαινον εκ της αβύσσου.
But the general theory of Prof. Stuart as to the slaying of the witnesses, forbids him to admit the identity of the beasts of these two chapters.
Now consider how great, how prominent the part assigned to the beast in this book —consider how he is referred to xat' etoxnu as to ôngiov-consider the distinct individuality of his character and deeds, and can that be a true theory which demands such a fluctuation and confusion of senses, in which one sense is dropped, and another taken imperceptibly to the reader, whilst he clearly does perceive that one and the same agent is spoken of? That is, now specific, meaning Nero; now more generic, meaning the Roman Emperors collectively; now indefinitely generic, meaning certain unknown deceivers to be encountered just before the millennium; and now specific again, meaning neither Nero nor the Roman Emperors, but the devil ? 'Can this be true, especially when the last time the beast appears on the stage, in the closing ante-millennial battle, he is minutely and carefully identified with the beast, who came upon the stage in chap. 13?
Indeed so strong is the evidence that the beast is still alive, that Prof. Stuart is obliged expressly to say, vol. ii., p. 309.-" It is only in the course of time (which is not limited), when the Redeemer himself shall come at the head of his victorious army, that the final extinction of the power of the beast takes place. And yet such is the confusion of idea, of necessity produced by the system, that on the same page, he says, “ The death of Nero was indeed the destruction of the beast for the time being, and it made a temporary end of persecution. But the beast still came up again from the pit; the contest was renewed, and, with many remissions, continued down to the time of Constantine. Rome, as heathen, then finally ceased to persecute. THE BEAST WAS FINALLY SLAIN. » And yet, after all, it seems that the final extinction of the power of the beast was not to take place till more than fifteen
hundred years after, when the Redeemer himself shall come at the head of his victorious army.
Truly this is more obscure than the double sense. We have a quadruple sense of one and the same expression, and without rule or law, nay, against all rule and law; the mind is made to flit from one to the other, and in the confusion of the transitions can retain no definite idea what The Beast is, though it is the most prominent figure in the whole composition.
All this confusion of necessity results from the vain effort to make a crisis and a catastrophe in the days of Nero, where there is manifestly none.
There is plainly but one catastrophe of the Beast, and the false prophet, and that occurs in Chap. 19, at the close. That this is the final catastrophe even Prof. Stuart is compelled to admit. And it is no less plain that this is future. Prof. Stuart is also obliged to concede this. Of course, the beast and the false prophet are yet alive. Their final defeat is yet to come.
The splendor and the terror of the battle of the great day of God Almighty are yet to be revealed. If now, we try to split up into parts a catastrophe that is manifestly simple and one ; if one part lies in the yet distant future, and another part is placed nearly eighteen hundred years in the past, in the days of Nero, and another part in the days of Constantine, how can anything but constant mental confusion be the result? But most manifestly, in the days of Nero there was nothing like a grand catastrophe in history. Much less was the conversion of Constantine anything like a terrific catastrophe, a catastrophe of wrath. And yet the catastrophe of the beast, whenever it takes place, is such a catastrophe.
But apply the passage to the papal power, and to the civil system in league with it, and all is definite and simple. It presents a sublime view of the past, and a glorious victory of God in the future, when the beast and the false prophet shall finally be consumed, in the fierceness of his wrath. From what has been said then, it is plain that this view is so inwrought into the fundamental structure of the Apocalypse, that it is imposslble to remove it without doing violence to the book.
Of this we shall adduce futther evidence as we proceed directly to examine the German theory as propounded and defended by Prof. Stuart.
This theory is based chiefly on certain undeniable principles of interpretation, i.e. That we must regard the circumstances of the writer and his readers, and his end in writing. These, it is alleged, forbid the application of the book to the papacy, as involving a syllabus of civil and ecclesiastical history. The tendency of these principles thus used, is to crowd everything back, as far as possible, into the days of John, and the Christians among whom
he wrote, on the ground that he must have written for their consolation and support, and that what he wrote must have been intelligible to them. But a syllabus of history could have served no end but to gratify a prurient historical curiosity. Therefore he did not write such a syllabus—but was mainly intent on consoling Christians during the Neronian persecutions. This is the substance of the principles and their application. They are indeed presented over and over again in every variety of form, until the mind becomes weary of the repetition. But the essence is what we have stated. Now that the Holy Spirit would, to a great extent, regard the wants of the generation for whom John wrote, cannot be denied; and this he plainly did in the introductory chapters, and in the letters to the seven churches. In these are abundant warning, consolation, and reproof, enough undeniably to meet all present emergencies. But let us remember, that John was the last of the inspired writers, and that by him the canon was to be closed. Of course, the necessities of the coming two thousand or more years before the millennial day, were also to be regarded, as well as those of the generation among whom he wrote. Would they be agonized by no persecutions? Would they never bleed at every porę under cruel tyrants? Would they never need consolation and support? Shall God's communications be expended to a wasteful extent, in view of a persecution under Nero, which even if it did spread beyond Rome, of which there is no certainty, and little probability, was yet so near to its end, that John's book could scarcely reach the sufferers before it was over, whilst the transcendently bloody persecutions of the Church of Rome for long and gloomy centuries, are overlooked ?
But it is alleged that it is the law of prophetic writing to expand what is near, and to give but brief glimpses of the future. Why then is there such a minute and vivid expansion in chaps. 21, and 22, of the most distant future in the book? Is it said that the future glories of God and the church in Heaven would console the church in the days of Nero? And would not the vision of a future glorious triumph of God over the most terrific. enemies that Satan could raise up on earth, also console them? Prof. Stuart, we are aware, asks how could it console Christians to be assured that there would be a great apostasy, and that the nominal church would become a bloody persecuting power ? No one was ever simple enough to suppose that there was any consolation in this. But this is not the whole. It is no less clearly revealed that God will destroy, in a manner equally glorious and terrific, this great conspiracy, against his cause. And is there no consolation in this? Neither is there any consolation in knowing that there will be a great apostasy after the millennium ; but is there none in knowing that God will most signally defeat and destroy its power?
The truth is, we are not competent to say à priori, how much, in revealing the closing historical book of the New 'Í'estament God ought to regard the then present generation, and how much the future. If John were a mere uninspired man, as most of the German commentators suppose, we should not expect that he would see much beyond the horizon of present events. But the foresight of the future, and the judgment what to present, belonged not to John as a man, but to John as an inspired man. He did not call up the splendid panorama of symbols on which he gazed, but the Spirit of God caused it to pass before his mind, and it came and disappeared not as John, but as God, judged and chose.
It is also alleged that John' must have written to be understood by the generation among whom he wrote. No doubt he did to a certain extent. But we know well, that even uninspired men often are conscious of thinking far in advance of the generation in the midst of which they live and write; and we know that they often write far more with a reference to posterity than to those by whom they are surrounded. They expect indeed to be understood in part by the present generation, but not to be fully understood except by future generations. For this reason the illustrious Lord Bacon committed his reputation to the care of future ages-nor did he do it in vain. And shall the thoughts of God, and the vast interests of his eternal kingdom, be cramped down till they can enter the contracted minds of the generation that happens to live when they are disclosed ?
Some things indeed may be very intelligible, but if God speaks like himself, many will not be so; and he may well commit the judgment on them to future ages. And if Prof. Stuart's view of the Apocalypse is true, so he did; for there is not the least evi. dence, or even probability, that the book was ever understood as he now understands it, till since the Reformation.
True, he assumes that the Christians under the persecutions of Nero must so have understood it, and been consoled by it. But of this there is not a particle of proof. Prof. Stuart says, “We cannot, indeed, make out the history of Apocalyptic exegesis, in the apostolic age, i. e. during the first century, from any written documents, for such we do not possess.” But if the book was once understood as Prof. Stuart now expounds it, would all traces of this view, written or traditional, have utterly disappeared ? Yet they have. The earliest traces of any kind of interpretation of the book are visionary and erroneous to such a degree as to injure the authority of the book. Prof. Stuart says, " We only
, know that soon after this age (the apostolic), readers of the Apocalypse began to explain some parts of it in such a literal manner as to throw in the way very great obstacles to the réception of the book as canonical.”—(i., 451.) He refers chiefly to the millennarian views of Papius and others. But in the third century he