« VorigeDoorgaan »
of the history and triumph of the church may be obtained by a serious study of the book, even though with respect to the means, agents, and circumstances by which that triumph shall be effected, no conclusion can be formed. The times and the seasons” present as great difficulty as the events themselves. They are reserved in the “ Father's power,” and will, in due time, arrive. Our Saviour has given the true reason why coming events have been pre-intimated. “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye might believe.”
Mr. Tyso has, with great care and accuracy, prepared tabular statements of the opinions of some forty or fifty of the best commentators, both on the falfilled and unfulfilled predictions of Scripture. These tahles exhibit the greatest possible diversity of opinion as existing among these various writers, and most clearly prove the necessity either of patience or inspiration. They will serve a valuable purpose, however, if, while they exbibit human fallibility, they check presumption, induce caution, lead to a distrust of merely human wisdom, promote true candour and christian charity, and lead all to a profound submission of themselves at the footstool of Him who " only is wise," and who only knows “the end from the beginning.”
The three books now before as may be appropriately classed together, as prophecy is their theme, and the interpretation of prophecy is their object. They are all composed on anti-establishment principles, and predict the speedy and final overthrow of all religiopolitical institutions. The national churches of Europe are only awaiting some new development of Providence for their final overthrow. Their inherent corruption and mischievous influence will ensure their destruction. Judaism, Mahometanism, and idolatry are on the wane, and will soon be extinguished in utter and eternal darkness. Truth, righteousness, and peace are about to descend and to dwell on earth ; but not till the antagonist principles of Christianity and infidelity shall have been brought into fearful conAict, or the powers of darkness shall have made a furious and bloody onset against the church of the living God. Such, in general, is the substance of the volumes before us. They all indicate that a “crisis” has arrived, and that the mighty changes anticipated are not far distant. This general harmony of opinion as to the results of past and coming providences upon the history and fortunes of the church, is singularly at variance with their several expositions of the prophetic times and symbols of the Apocalypse. In the opinion of one writer, the 1260 days are past ; of another, they are “in transition;" and of the third, they are yet to come. The seals, the vials, the trumpets, the witnesses, The beasts, are differently interpreted by each writer, and accommodated to the several times which they respectively advocate. Mr. Tyso's theory may be characterized as improbable, Mr. Bogie's as feasible, and Mr. Sanderson's as absurd. The venerable « Elucidator" adopts and contends for the literal interpretation of the “ times,” both in Daniel and the Revelations. His whole book is constructed on the principle, that in prophetic, as in historical Scripture, a day means a
day—a week, a week-a month, a month-and a year, a year. We must confess that we are not credulous enough to believe that the 70 weeks, the 1260 days, the times symbolized under the seven trumpets, seals, and vials, &c. &c. have not yet commenced, and that all the stupendous events predicted as to take place in those several seasons, are to be accomplished in the short space of three years and a half!
We admire Mr. Tyso's industry, perseverance, and ingenuity in his attempts to demolish his once favourite and generally received “yearday theory," and to revive the antiquated theory of literal days and years; but we are free to acknowledge that, in our opinion, he has not succeeded in his attempt, and that his “Elucidations" leave the Prophecies in as much obscurity as his “ Inquiry” found them; and that his own name must be added a second time to his lists of discrepant and irreconcilable interpreters of sacred prophecy.
The “ Rector of Lusby" is a disciple of Keith, whose work on the "Evidence of Prophecy” is so well known and justly appreciated. He follows the same line of argument, and adopts the same mode of illustration which that distinguished writer employs in his “ Signs of the Times.” To the latter work, indeed, Mr. Bogie must have been greatly indebted. The difference between the “ Crisis” and the “Signs of the Times" is sufficiently great and obvious to show that the Rector of Lusby is not a more copyist of the “Minister of St. Cyrus ;" but the similarity between them is, in many points, striking. The object of the “Crisis” is to show, as its title imports, that a grand revolution is at hand; that the predictions of Scripture are hasting to their completion, and that the final struggle between the foes and friends of the Church is commencing, which, when terminated, will leave the Church in possession of the earth, and in the enjoyment of her millennial glory. History, both ecclesiastical and profane, has been laid under contribution to furnish illustrations of Mr. Bogie's views. The political events of the last century, according to the “Crisis,” have been the result, not of an ordinary providential agency, but the effect of a designed interposition on the part of God, “to complete the vision,” and to hasten on the glorious era on which the eyes and the hopes of the faithful have been fixed for ages. The progress of knowledge, the march of liberty, the advance of the Gospel, are undermining the thrones of despots, loosening the hold of superstition on state-churches, and leading men to look out for better and purer systems both of political and religious rule. But the author must speak for himself:
“Public opinion exercises a power over governments which it never previously exercised. This is a new feature in the face of affairs, and to this is to be attributed all the changes which we have witnessed in Europe. This will, in time, effect a complete remodelling of society, and thus prepare the way for the spread of the everlasting Gospel, and the amelioration of the whole human race. This is the key to the present state of things. The times of ignorance have passed away, when the people could be swayed by their superiors to whatever side they pleased.”
The effects produced by these changes the author thus describes : “The Christian sees that all things are tending to one end- the spread of the religion of Christ over the whole world. But before that wished for consummation can be achieved, many things which hinder it must be removed. God, in his infinite wisdom, is about to remove the impediments. The Church of Rome, and the national churches generally, are the great obstacles to the spread of the Gospel; they, therefore, are to be removed.”—“Many sincere Christians, both in the Church and among the sects, deprecate the dissolution of the union between Church and State, as injurious to the cause of real religion. We think that they take a false view of the subject. If indeed the Christianity of this nation was wholly confined to the Establishments, and depended on their existence, the case would be different; but it is a fact that cannot be disputed, that the greatest part of the church of Christ in these Kingdoms exists, not in the Established Churches, but among the different denominations of Christians who have separated from their communion. A very small minority of the children of God belong to the Establishment, and even that is owing to the impartation of the leaven of godliness from the Methodists and Dissenters. What injury would, then, accrue to religion from the destruction of the union between Church and State ? Looking at the past, we should conclude that none would. Notwithstanding all the countenance and authority of the State, all the power and patronage of the great, it is confessed even by Churchmen, that had it not been for the voluntary exertions of the Dissenters and Methodists the body of the people would bave been left in ignorance of the Gospel.”—“As long as the Church exists as it is; as long as the sacred function is considered as a mere profession, it can be regarded in no other light than a mere worldly institution, and a hindrance therefore to the success of the Gospel. Its removal, then, ought to be hailed by every true Christian, as a stumbling block removed out of the way, and the signal for a greater effusion of the Gospel light than has ever been witnessed in these islands. Of that there can be no doubt: for Christians of every denomination would be stirred up to make greater exertions; the Gospel would be universally diffused; and a holy rivalry and emulation would soon supply every part of the land with a truly christian ministry. Then would there be no haughty priesthood, no mitred prelate, no lords over God's heritage, no religious distinction of Churchman and Dissenter; but all would be equals in the eye of the law. This is a great step towards bringing all men unto the obedience of faith; a great adrance to the happiness of that time, when all men shall regard one another as brethren, and no distinction of names and parties shall exist, but that of Christians and unbelievers. The walls of partition would be broken down ; the causes of disunion removed, and believers of every denomination brought nearer together, and united in one bond of love. The way of the kingdom is preparing; the stumbling blocks are removed; the pride and worldliness of Churchmen, and the strifes and divisions of Christians, which have been the scandal of religion, and an offence to the world, shall be taken away. While religion, freed from human ceremonies and worldly riches, which have impeded and weighed her down to the earth, shall go forth, adorned with all her native graces, in the sublime simplicity of heaven, and win the hearts of men."
The author anticipates that the grand consummation may be accomplished in thirty years.
“Reflect what mighty changes occurred in Europe in less than thirty years; what great and rapid revolutions have taken place within the last six years; changes which no one would have imagined, ten years ago, he would have lived to see. The next generation will behold more wonderful things, and may see the commencement of the 1000 years. They will not be Roman Catholics, if the church of Christ does its duty; for before they are seven years old Rome may be fallen. Educate them in the christian path, and before thirty years are passed you change the whole face of the Continent. The next generation will be Christian. France, instead of being Infidel, will be Christian; Spain and Porlugal, instead of being Catholic, will be Christian; Ireland will no longer be Popish. Only let Scriptural schools and preaching be established in every land,
and in thirty years you have a new world. Let the church, then, awake ; let her know her time; let Christians exert their moral power, and put forth all their energies, and states and nations will be transformed, and the whole world brought into the subjection of Christ."
We are not quite so sanguine as our author in reference to the time in which these delightful changes shall be effected; but as to their gradual and perhaps not very distant accomplishment, we have not the shadow of a doubt.
In the general sentiments of Mr. Bogie we concur, rather than in his prophetic scheme. Plausible as it is, still there are objections of a serious and weighty character which lie against it. We are not prepared to oppose it “in toto," nor to propose another in its stead. It possesses more probability than many others that have been propounded to the world; but it has always appeared to us, that such prophetic interpreters as Mr. Bogie, and others of his school, fix their attention too exclusively on continental politics, and the terrible freaks of Buonapartean despotism. A casual reader of their writings would be led to conclude that the Bible was designed only for Europeans and Protestants; and that the inhabitants of the distant parts of the earth had but little interest in its predictions or denunciations. The Bible is a book for the world; and the events foretold in its sacred pages concern and affect the destinies of mankind; and the probability is, that many of the symbolical catastrophes of the Apocalypse refer to other times and affect other nations than those described by some of our modern expositors.
We beg, however, to recommend Mr. Bogie's work to the attention of such of our readers as are anxious to discern the “signs of the times." His views of modern politics in their religious bearings are entitled to serious consideration. The historical portions of the “Crisis” arc valuable, not only as affording probable illustrations of prophecy; but as giving interesting information respecting the leading events of modern times, to those whose opportunities of reading and research are few and limited. There is one discrepancy which we are at a loss to understand, and that respects the official designation of the author and the character of his book. The “ Rector of Lusby," convinced that a state religion is injurious! that established churches are the great hindrance to the progress of truth and piety! that their downfall is most devoutly to be desired, and is most certainly at hand! Marvellous! But probably the title-page is incorrect. Either the word “late" omitted before “Rector," or Rector is a misprint for a more scriptural designation.
Mr. Sanderson's “ Essays” refer only to a small portion of the book of Revelations. He considers the Second Beast, the Seven Vials, and Babylon, as descriptive of the English Church, in its character, its history, and its destined overthrow.
The “ Beast" is oddly and absurdly enough considered to represent the supremacy of the crown in spiritual matters; its image, to describe the Book of Common Prayer, and the ecclesiastical polity of the Church; the two marks received by its worshippers, to mean the water of baptism on the foreheads of infants, and the sacramental cup in the right hand of the communicants.
The Vials are interpreted of the profligacy of the court of Charles II. and its influence on the nation; the dead orthodoxy of the Church at that period; the inconsistency of nonconforming ministers taking the benefit of the Oxford Act; the persecution of the Nonconformists and the Presbyterians by Charles; the forced abdication of the throne by James; the Bill of Toleration (which it seems was a death-blow to the Church, and but of little benefit to Dissenters); together with all the subsequent politico-religious movements of all classes of politicians and religionists from that time to the present.
Babylon is regarded as the English Church to the very life, and hence is doomed to speedy destruction.
We object to the English Established Church as strongly as Mr. Sanderson can possibly do; but, with all our convictions of its inexpediency and injustice; its unscriptural character and injurious tendencies; and with all our desires to witness its termination as a political institution; we confess that we cannot see the application of the alleged symbols to that Church, nor derive any hope from the passages quoted, that our desires will be speedily gratified. Our opponents will be more readily convinced and converted by sound arguments and legitimate principles of Scripture interpretation, than by fanciful analogies and conjectural applications of symbolical figures. Prophesying is not reasoning ; nor is conjecture truth. The advocates and supporters of the Church share largely in the denunciations of Mr. Sanderson; but they are not alone in their wretchedness. The poor Wesleyans and Congregationalists are obliged to bear the weight of his indignation : the former are so guilty of Jesuitical practices, and the latter are so inclined to Socinian and Infidel affinities, that they deserve the Prophet's censure! Even their missionary efforts are only new forms of Satanic devices whereby to beguile unstable souls! What next?
Mr. Sanderson is a man of “one idea," and that possesses him. He has renounced the Established Church, and with the zeal of a Neophyte (though his motto on the title-page is “not a novice") he seeks to convert all men to his peculiar notions on ecclesiastical matters. His theological opinions are, in some respects, as unsound as his prophetical: their tendency is evidently hyper-Calvinistical. His uncharitableness is unworthy of him ; nor do we think his apology for turning censor either good or satisfactory. The following quotation, designed to indicate modesty and humility, appears too nearly allied to fanaticism to approve itself to the sober judgment of impartial readers.
“If it be asked, how an obscure individual like myself, and a layman, moreover, can hope to find his way through difficulties which have hitherto perplexed so many learned and able divines, I confess I can give no other account of this matter than that which is given by our Saviour himself; and I entreat the reader also to be content with the same, namely this: 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and pru. dent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.' Let not that, therefore, which seemeth good in the sight of God, appear evil in our sight; that he should reveal unto simple persons, seeking the direction of his Spirit, what he thinks proper to conceal from others, however learned and wise.'