« VorigeDoorgaan »
the Christian Church depending on causes, of which the operation must necessarily be gradual. It is enough for us, if the later prophecies place in a clearer light the true meaning and scope of the more ancient; and enable us to form a more accurate judgment with regard to the probable manner and period of their accomplishment.
(4) The next point to which allusion was made, in considering the peculiar characteristics of ancient prophecy,-namely, the extent to which the affairs of temporal kingdoms are made the subject of prophecy,—is very important considered with reference to the interpretation of the Apocalypse; because on the determination of this question must in a great measure depend the truth of the systems of those interpreters, who have, either altogether or in a great measure, looked to temporal events and the affairs of temporal kingdoms for the accomplishment of the prophecies of the Apocalypse.
Now it appears, from the consideration of the ancient prophecies, that temporal events are not alluded to, nor are the affairs of temporal kingdoms mixed up with the subjects of ancient prophecy, any farther than as they were calculated to afford instruction to the chosen people, or were connected, either with the fates and fortunes of this people, or with the destinies of the Christian Church. This is true with respect to all the ancient prophecies in general, but particularly those of Daniel, in which the greatest empires which ever existed are made the prominent subjects of prophecy; but it is only in connection with, and in subordination to that, which was the main subject of his prophecy,--the history of the chosen people, and the rise, the pro
gress, the corruption, and the final triumph of the Redeemer's kingdom.
If such, therefore, be the reason of the introduction of temporal subjects into ancient prophecy, much more may we expect to find it in the prophecies of the Apocalypse, especially when we consider what is the great subject of it, namely, the history and destinies of the Redeemer's kingdom ; and that this subject, as it may be expected to occupy a more prominent place in the scheme of Christian prophecy, so must it necessarily, in a great measure, exclude other subjects which are not immediately connected with it.
(5) Again, another remark which was made with regard to ancient prophecy, relates to the peculiarity of the genius and character of the prophetic style: and this peculiarity, it was remarked, is common to the prophecies of the Old and the New Testament, as well as of the Apocalypse. It is evident, therefore, that one great source of illustration of the language and imagery of the Apocalypse must be derived from the language and imagery of ancient prophecy, and of the preceding prophecies of the New Testament; which, as they were delivered either by our Saviour himself, or by those who were inspired and commissioned by him, serve at once to illustrate the prophetical language of the Old Testament, and to justify us in our application of it to the Apocalypse. And the same remark may be made with regard to the application, which has been made of the prophecies of the Old Testament by the inspired writers of the New, and to the evidence which we derive from them with regard to the typical character of the Levitical dispensation, the imagery of which con
stitutes the basis of so large a portion of the imagery and language of the Apocalypse.
(6) The last remark which was made connected with the prophecies of the Old Testament, was with regard to the spiritual character of ancient prophecy. And if it is necessary to keep this subject continually in view, in order that we may form an accurate judgment of the true genius and character of ancient prophecy, how much more when it is considered with reference to the prophecies of the Apocalypse,—which derives its greatest beauty and interest from its connection with the progress and prospects of religion to the end of all things, and from the assurance, which it gives us, of the future triumphs and glories of the Church ;--subjects which are described in sublime, though dark and mysterious language, by the Prophets under the old dispensation, but of which the more complete developement was suited to that book, of which the great object was to give a prophetic view of the progress of the great scheme of man's redemption to its final completion in the glories and the happiness of eternity!
Such appear to be the principles by which we must arrive at the true meaning and purport of the prophecies of the Apocalypse: and surely it opens a sublime and magnificent view of this mysterious book, when we regard it as a continuation of the great scheme of ancient prophecy, as it is connected with the kingdom of the Redeemer, from the beginning of the divine dispensations; and as carrying it on to the time, “ when the mystery of God shall be finished.” Such a view of this wonderful book,
i Rev. x. 7.
at the same time that it enables us to avoid the difficulties which encumber the opinions of those persons, who would apply it to objects unworthy of such a revelation-affords the best answer to the charges of inconsistency, which may be reasonably urged against the systems of those persons who apply the prophecies of the Apocalypse to temporal objects; and to events, which, however great in themselves, must be regarded as of minor importance, when they are considered with reference to the fates and fortunes of that kingdom which is from everlasting to everlasting.
Compared with these objects, the destinies of the greatest empires sink into nothingness in the sight of Him," with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day;" and, on the other hand, what we account as nothing, may, for reasons unknown to us, be deemed by the Almighty Father worthy of the attention of his prophets from the foundation of the world. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the dust of the balance?.” Indeed, we appear to degrade the scheme of prophecy below the station which it occupies in the oracles of God, and to involve the application of it in great uncertainty, when-overlooking that which is the great end and object of prophecy, and the intimate connection and uniformity which we may believe to pervade this, as well as all the other divine dispensations,— we apply the prophecies of the Apocalypse to persons and objects, which do not appear to have been intended to be comprehended in it, or to have any necessary connection with that religion, of which the great, and indeed the sole object, is—the spiritual happiness and the eternal destinies of man. Indeed, how magnificent does the whole scheme of prophecy appear, when we consider its extent, the dignity of the Person who is the great subject of it, and the sublime objects which it involves, to the final close of the divine dispensations: and how sublime is the view which we take of the oracles of God, when we behold the Prophets fearlessly appealing, for the truth of their predictions, to the prescience and the omnipotence of Him, “who declares the end from the beginning”;” and makes the most intricate and amazing events, as well as the powers and destinies of the eternal world, subservient to one great end, -the fulfilment of the great and mysterious purposes of his Almighty will! But such a view of the prophetical character of the Apocalypse is also entirely opposed to the opinions of those interpreters, who would apply it to events which appear to have no necessary connection with the subject of it, when it is viewed as a continuation of the great scheme of prophecy relating to man's redemption, and as carrying on that scheme through all the various changes and destinies of the Christian Church to the end of all things. For we cannot believe that this book of prophecy would be opened with so much solemnity and awe, unless it was for the purpose of unfolding events of the highest interest, and of unspeakable importance to man. This mode of considering the subject, -at the same time that it invests it with a character of interest, which is most attractive to those who take delight in the devout contemplation of the divine dispensations
1 Isai. xl. 15.