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THE DIVINE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH : being a Cate
chism of the Apocalypse, with a Plan of the Apocalyptic Drama. By the Rev. FREDERIC FYSHE, M.A. 12mo.
London: Nisbet. 1845. A COMMENTARY ON THE SEVENTH CHAPTER OF
DANIEL. By ELIZABETH. London: Sherwood. 1815. PRINCIPLES OF APOCALYPTIC INTERPRETATION. By
the Rev. AUGUSTUS CLISSOLD, M:A. 3 vols. 8vo. (two pub
lished.) London: Newbery. 1845. PROVIDENCE, PROPHECY, AND POPERY, as exhibited in
the First Seven Chapters of the Book of Daniel. By the
Rev. W. WHITE. Edinburgh: Kennedy. 1845. MEDE'S APOSTACY OF THE LATTER TIMES: with an
Introduction by the Rev. T. R. BIRKS. Printed for the Protestant Association. London : Dalton. 1845.
PROPHETIC expositors are now the chief alarmists of the day; and the note of solemn warning which they raise contrasts strangely with the reckless character of the generation to which it is addressed. With one voice they tell us that the storm-clouds that now hover around our religious and political horizon, are not to be chased away by the poor expedients of an hour, but will speedily burst in the fulfilment of some of the most awful threatenings of holy writ! We believe that it is even so; and the marked indisposition of men's minds to receive the warning, serves strongly to convince us of its truth.
But the deeper the gloom, the higher the church of God will hold up its head. He who cannot err has told us in His word, that “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” And surely, if the torrents of Infidelity and Popery that now sweep across the world, attest the presence of the great adversary, so in the efflux of holy light, fast streaming from the long-closed portals of inspired prophecy, we see the promised “ standard” hoisted against him by the Spirit of God. Nay, the light is so conspicuous, and shines so bright and clear, that they who fail to “take heed” will be left wholly without excuse, should they fall under the subtle delusions of the last days. In order, however, to place this fact in the strongest point of view, it may be well briefly to advert to the extraordinary progress which the study of prophecy has made within the last two years.
With the appearance (in 1843) of Mr. Birks's “Elements of Sacred Prophecy,” a new era seemed to dawn. The mists with which the Tractarians had sought to obscure the temple of prophecy were dissipated in an instant, and the truth of the old Protestant interpretation made clear to all beholders. The Futurist hypothesis fell with a crash, never, we trust, to rear its head again. So hopeless, indeed, must their case have been deemed by the Maitlands, Todds, and other leaders of that baneful school, that not one of their number has yet ventured to step forth in its defence, or to question the justice of the sentence by which it has been condemned.
The way was thus prepared for the triumphant reception of a work which seems destined to exert a profound influence—and as salutary as profound-upon the mind of the present generation of the Church. We allude, of course, to the Hore Apocalyptice of the Rev. E. B. Elliott, a work to which frequent reference has already been made in our pages, and which we have more than once recommended to the devout consideration of our readers. Nor has fuller and more careful examination led us to lower the estimate which we, from the first, entertained of this extraordinary book ; on the contrary, if we may judge from the testimonies that have reached us from all parts of the world, we have even underrated its importance. Nor will its hold upon the public mind be diminished by the fact, that, since the period of its publication, the course of events has exactly corresponded with the anticipations of the author, as deduced from the consideration of the prophecy itself.
Immediately following the Hore Apocalyptice there appeared another work from the pen of Mr. Birks, founded on the two first visions of Daniel, and unfolding, in a brief but masterly sketch, “The Four Propbetic Empires, and Kingdom of the Messiah.' This admirable volume not only cast a vivid light upon two of the most remarkable prophecies of Daniel, but also carried forward the hopes of the Church far beyond the period at which in the “ Horæ" they are supposed to be veiled from our sight. We are speaking of the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of the Apocalypse, which, in Mr. Elliott's view, refer solely to the millennium ; but which, according to the larger, and, we doubt not, more correct
! At least three prelates of our own Church have expressed their admiration of Mr. E.'s work; and were we at liberty to publish their remarks, our own encomiums would appear tame in comparison. In Calcutta, it has been recommended right and left by the venerable bishop. In America, Professor Bush's recorded expression of thankfulness, for “having lived in the century that produced it, may be taken as an example of the effect produced on the American mind; while froin France and Switzerland the accounts of its reception are equally striking.
interpretation of Mr. Birks, symbolize the post-millennial glory of the church “ through all the generations of the age of ages.” (See in the Greek, Eph. iii. 20, 21.)
It will be observed that Mr. Birks's labours, though based upon two of Daniel's visions, do in fact embrace a portion of the book of Revelation ; so likewise the work of Mr. Elliott, though nominally “ Apocalyptic,” includes also an examination of the chief prophecies of Daniel. This, however, was no arbitrary arrangement, but resulted from the extremely close connexion that exists between the visions exhibited to the “ man greatly beloved " under the Old Testament dispensation, and the Revelation vouchsafed to the “beloved disciple” under the New. The subject matterGod's providential government of the world--is in each the same; and its leading features and most notable epochs were alike prefigured to them both. So true is the remark of an old writer, that “ in the book of Daniel we have a condensed Apocalypse, and in the Apocalypse an enlarged Daniel.” But while each of these holy books contains in common a rich store of light and hope, each has also treasures peculiar to itself, ever in readiness to reward the devout researches of the faithful servants of God. And from these inexhaustible mines of divine truth, He who foresees the end from the beginning, has permitted the leading interpreters of our own days to draw fresh materials for the guidance and solace of his distracted church. Would that she might duly use them!
But in order that the church might reap the full advantage from the labours of these gifted men, there was still need of a work which should present their grand results in a compact and condensed form. And this desideratum, we are glad to find, has been in a great measure supplied by the excellent little work of Mr. Fyshe—the title of which is prefixed to the head of this article —and which, adopting and uniting the most striking discoveries of Messrs. Elliott and Birks, adds to both much original and important matter of its own. In one--and only one-important particular, we are unable to agree with the author, viz. in his view of the resurrection of the witnesses (Apoc. xi. 7–12); where he diverges from the interpretation of Mr. Elliott on what appears to us most insufficient grounds. As it is obviously impossible to open fully the vast Apocalyptic subject in the compass of a small duodecimo, we must not be understood as recommending Mr. Fyshe's volume as a substitute for the works of other commentators; on the contrary, we are of opinion that it will prove of the greatest use to those who have most carefully studied the expositions that have preceded it. The deep and awful mysteries of the book of Revelation, are not to be taught-like short-hand-in a few lessons; and they cannot be conveyed to the mind of the young beginner in a few oracular sentences. Earnest inquiry and diligent research are not less requisite than a childlike faith, if we would realise the promised blessing, and "understand the glories of that holy book.' The curtain rises slowly upon the majestic scenery of these heavenly visions; and if we would see them clearly, we must wait patiently for the necessary light. We make these remarks to prevent disappointment to those ardent minds which might be led by the tempting conciseness of Mr. Fyshe's work, to enter hastily upon Apocalyptic studies, and should yet fail to attain, all at once, a full conviction of the truth of the views which he offers to their consideration. For as it is no part of Mr. Fyshe's plan to discuss every litigated point, those who will take nothing for granted, had better betake themselves at once to the learned labours of Cuninghame and Faber, Elliott and Birks. But when the student has become familiar with the writings of these eminent men, and has satisfied himself as to the general correctness of their views, we know not how he can better test the clearness of his own, than by asking himself the questions in Mr. Fyshe's “Catechism," and comparing the answers he might be disposed to give, with those that are provided in the text. And thus, while making good the ground already won, he will also be securing a further advance; for it rarely happens that our author's pithy questions and terse replies fail to cast some additional light on the points to which they refer.
Among the more original features of Mr. Fyshe's work, we must notice--besides its catechetical form—his “ plan of the Apocalyptic Drama,” and “table of the principal events prefigured, arranged according to Apocalyptic time.” The former furnishes a bird's-eye view of the different visions, as exhibited in symbolical miniature to St. John, and which are here disposed—somewhat artificially perhaps-in acts and scenes. We almost wish that the aid of the graver could have been put in requisition, in order to convey a more vivid impression of these sublime pictures to persons who are unhappily deficient in that useful faculty of mental vision that goes familiarly by the name of “mind's-eye.”
The " Apocalyptic Time-table” will startle many,—those especially who entertain only vague and unsettled views of the great question of prophetic chronology. It rests, in the first place, on the truly scriptural notion, that the dismal period which began when the Bridegroom and his inspired followers were taken away, must be regarded as the night of the church,—which night will terminate only when the “ day dawns” on the resurrection mor
ning :-a night moreover consisting of twelve hours. With this principle we must now combine another which is founded upon a careful examination of the period denoted by the “ silence in heaven," of Apoc. viii. 1. On turning to the prophecy, we find that its scenes succeeded each other in quick succession up to the point of time when there prevailed a silence for “about the space of half an hour” in the symbolical “ heaven” of the apostle's view; indicating, of course, a corresponding period of tranquillity on the grand arena of the world. But we learn from history, that these halcyon days—terminating with the reign of Theodosiuslasted for a space of seventy-one years. Seventy-one years, we may therefore conclude, occupy about (not exactly) a space of half-an-hour in the scale of apocalyptic time.
“In this,” observes Mr. Fyshe, “ a deep mystery was shadowed out. appears that the visions of the Apocalypse (illustrative of the history of the church, from the commencement of the time denoted by the epistles to the seven churches to the millennium) occupy eighteen centuries, and were seen by St. John in the course of twelve hours, namely, from six o'clock in the evening to six o'clock in the morning of the Lord's day.' On this scale of measurement three centuries would be represented by two hours, 150 years by one hour, seventy-five years by half-an-hour. Seventy-one years might therefore, with the greatest propriety be represented as ' about' that space of time."-(Fyshe, pp. 36, 37.)
Mr. Fyshe's principle, as the reader will now perceive, is not built upon arbitrary or empirical data, but is a combination of a beautiful scriptural figure, with a legitimate canon of apocalyptic interpretation. On applying it to the prophecy, we shall find that it wants now, according to apocalyptic time, not quite eight minutes to six, and that the last of our numbered hours will therefore expire about 1864-5; precisely the point at which the great chronological æras of Daniel and St. John seem to converge and terminate. Well may we exclaim with Mr. Fyshe, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand !"
There is another peculiarity in Mr. Fyshe's table that well deserves attention, viz. the prominence given to the last half-week of Daniel's prophecy (Dan. ix. 27), and which is identified with the outpouring of the last vial (Rev. xvi. 17), or at least with the latest portion of its contents—the " dregs” of that terrible "cup." To enter fully on this important question would involve a discussion of the whole subject of prophetic chronology; we shall therefore merely observe, that according to Mr. Fysh's view, the difference of three-and-a-half years between the compilation (A.D. 530) of Justinian's corpus juris, and his memorable edict (A.D. 533) acknowledging the pope's supremacy,—will be found to define á corresponding and critical period at the termination of the two