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has endeavoured to omit no work of importance that he was acquainted with, because it opposed his own views.
It has been a material object with the author, to avoid as much as possible a controversial spirit; his main object being the edification of the reader.
The sum of the author's views, and in which sum, so generally and scripturally is it expressed, there are few Christians who cannot concur, may be given in the words of a prayer used at the most impressive and affecting season, in the church to which he belongs. May every reader heartily and fully present this prayer at the throne of grace. "That it may please thee shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
May the gracious Redeemer bless this little effort, to the increase of scriptural knowledge, the benefit of his own church, and the good of every one who reads it.
E. BICKERSTETH. Watton Rectory, August 17, 1839.
REV. EDWARD BICKERSTETH,
RECTOR OF WATTON, HERTS.
DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIEND,
The feelings of my heart, combined with the circumstances of the case, prompt me to inscribe this volume to you, who are instrumentally the cause of its appearance, and to whom I am indebted for many suggestions afforded me during its progress. I may indeed truly assert, that I should not have entered on the work but at your solicitation; and had you not urged on me the undertaking, as a duty which I owed to the Church of Christ. Not that I would have any infer from this, that you fully accord with all that the book contains: for though I believe that we have been led into the same views in the general, and I trust by the guidance of the Spirit of God; yet am I bound to acknowledge that there are in the latter chapters some particulars, concerning which you either differ or are disposed to hesitate.
In regard to the topics of the two latter chapters, I would state farther, in the way of apology for their appearance, that had I not been in a measure compelled to treat of them, by the course which was previously laid down for me, I should not have entered upon them at all. I have several times, in the course of this volume, drawn the attention of the reader to the circumstance, that Prophecy may be divided into two principal portions; viz. that which, in the main, is delivered in plain and literal terms, and that which is involved in symbols and mystical expressions. As regards the former portion, my mind is, in the general, fully persuaded; and as I consider it as plain
to be understood, and as susceptible of demonstration, as any other subject of divine revelation, so I have not hesitated to treat it with the same degree of confidence and decision that I should discuss the doctrine of justification. In regard, however, to the other portion, the meaning of which, independent of its application, is not always so apparent, I confess my own mind is not on several points decidedly made up; and I have therefore felt reluctant to commit myself on topics, which I do not clearly and convincingly see my way in. Much injury has been done to the cause of prophetical interpretation by writers publishing their views too hastily; insomuch that some have no sooner caught a glimpse of what they have imagined to be the correct meaning of a passage, than they have immediately given it to the world, and have almost as quickly been led to recall or to modify their statements. I have seen, however, that a work of the description which I have been induced to undertake would be exceedingly defective, did it not comprehend both classes of Prophecy; and I have therefore resolved at least to prepare for the student such information concerning the latter class as I possessed, or was within my reach; preferring on these points rather to assume the functions of the historian than of the expositor. If indeed I must speak the truth, there is a lamentable want among professing Christians of ordinary information on all subjects connected with Prophecy; the consciousness of which deters many from entering seriously upon its investigation; and it has consequently been a special object with me throughout, that the laborious minister, who is prevented by his numerous avocations from reading many works, may have at hand something like a summary of the history of prophetical interpretation, together with the principles brought into view, on which all prophetical interpretation should proceed.
It is almost superfluous, after the above statement, to add, that I am greatly indebted for many things, both in the way of exposition and of information, to the writings of others. if I have not always quoted their works by name, it has been because I have omitted in many instances to take extracts; and my recollection sometimes fails to supply me even with the name of the author to whom I stand indebted. I have occasionally also been obliged to take authorities at second hand, from the want of access, in a country town, to the original authors: though I trust that I have in no case done this where the matter quoted is of fundamental importance to the argument in hand. At the same time, however, that I make these acknowledgments, I feel myself equally called upon to declare, in regard to the first class of prophecies to which I have alluded, that my opinions have been formed almost entirely upon a careful and independent study of the Scriptures.
In referring to the works of contemporary writers, I have occasionally felt it a duty to the reader to speak of their works, or of particular points in their works, in the language of animadversion. But I nevertheless most freely acknowledge, that I by no means consider myself entitled to act the censor; and there is scarcely one of those, whose writings may fall under observation, to whom I am not disposed to acknowledge my inferiority.
I ought likewise to apologize for some inadvertencies and repetitions which will be found in the work. These must be placed to the account of the large demands which have been made upon my time from other quarters during its progress, and which have frequently not only distracted my attention, but drawn largely, I fear, upon your patience and that of the much respected publishers of the work. And after all, my dear friend, I cannot but feel, that you have entrusted this important work to very feeble hands; and that the reader will not only speedily discover this, but marvel that you have not rather undertaken it yourself. Had I been aware, indeed, before I was well advanced in it, that your “Practical Remarks on the Prophecies” would have been so greatly enlarged as they have been subsequently in your “Practical Guide, I should altogether have declined the undertaking, and have urged you instead to have still more largely extended that publication; which I am persuaded would have been far more acceptable and instructive to the religious public, than any thing that can be advanced by me.
Such, however, as the work is, I now send it forth to the Christian Church, humbly thanking our blessed Master who has enabled me to bring it to a conclusion. It is an encouraging circumstance to me to know, that the little volume published under the title of Abdiel's Essays, of which you have first betrayed me to be the Author, has been owned of the Lord in directing serious attention to the solemn truths of prophecy;* and it is still farther encouraging to find the numbers daily increasing of able and pious ministers, who, from your writings and those of others, are becoming sensible of the duty of investigating this important branch of Scripture, and are beginning to be persuaded of the pre-millennial advent of our Lord. I earnestly beseech him still more abundantly to bless our mutual labours, to the setting forth of his glory, and
* One or two sections of the above mentioned work have necessarily been repeated, with some alteration, in this volume.