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Is it that the Apocalypse is a syllabus of the civil and ecclesiastical history of the world since the days of Christ in minute detail? So one would think from reading the work of Prof. Stuart. In varied forms, he repeats and assails this idea from the beginning to the end of his work.
Now that it is possible, in applying the Apocalypse to the papacy and to the civil power, to descend to an improper degree of minuteness of detail, we freely admit; and that this has often been done, we have not the slightest disposition to deny. But we confidently affirm that such minuteness of detail is not a fundamental or necessary part of the system. Nay, the system may be presented in' much greater perfection without it, than with it. Still further; it is much less liable to objection on the ground of a necessary undue minuteness of historical detail than the system that Prof. Stuart advocates.
Its fundamental idea is one of the grandest and most sublime historical generalizations of which the mind of man is capable. It is beyond all doubt true, that out of the city of Rome has grown an ecclesiastical power that stretches back, with dread continuity of history, nearly to the age of the Apostles. It is a no less noto
, rious fact that from a very early age this ecclesiastical power has acted in adulterous connexion with the civil power—first with that of imperial Rome, till by the sword of the barbarians that power was slain, and afterwards with the revived Roman imperial power under Charlemagne, and with the European civil system to which that power gave rise. A dread unity of fundamental malignant principles has run through this vast system from the beginning to the present day.' None in the history of this world has ever wielded
power so vast, for so many ages, and for ends so malignant. Nowhere on earth can be found such a true and perfect embodiment of the principles of hell. By no power have such, inconceivable and unutterable corruptions of human society ever been effected. No other power has ever been so drunken with the blood of the saints. Without a figure, we assert that Rome has been for long ages the centre of deeds worse than could be done in hell itself. In hell there is no want of malignity against God, but nowhere except in a world of mercy, and by men professing to stand as God's exclusive vicegerents on earth, could such enormous deeds of mingled lust, licentiousness, sodomy, fraud, treachery, assassination, gluttony, intemperance, blasphemy, and sanctimonious hypocrisy, be perpetrated, as may be found clustering around the dark history of that apostate power whose centre is at Rome. There is a dread sublimity in the idea of carrying out moral evil, on a great scale, for long ages to its highest degree of perfection, in order to show to the moral universe to what results the principles of sin, when fully evolved, legitimately conduct. For, studying this fearful science, there is no point of vision in the
universe for a moment to be compared with Rome. Like the summits of the Himmaleh Mountains, this system of evil that centres there, towers in solitary and dread magnificence above all other systems of evil that ever cursed this world,-yea, it pierces the clouds, it mounts up to heaven, it reaches to the very throne of God, and calls aloud for the fiercest displays of omnipotent wrath,
If now the inspired writer had said in few words, and in simple prose, that such an ecclesiastical power should arise, whose centre should be at Rome, and which, in guilty league with the civil power, should from age to age corrupt and debase society, and oppress and murder the saints of God, would it have been in any sense, a minute syllabus of the civil and religious history of Europe ? If then he had added, God shall at length judge and destroy this guilty system in the fierceness of his omnipotent wrath, and in so doing convulse and terrify the world; that he shall thus prepare for himself a pure church, arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, through whom he will subdue the world to him self and reign, would this involve an undue minuteness of historical detail? And yet this and nothing else is the essential and fundamental idea of the system of our fathers, which Prof. Stuart rejects and condemns as involving a minute syllabus of the history of the world.
Now, in order to radically overthrow this system, it is essential that it be stated, not in its weakest and most defective, but in its strongest and most unexceptionable form, and in that form be shown to be untenable. For any such statement and proof we look in vain in the work of Prof. Stuart. He seems to assume that if chapters 13–19 are applied to papal Rome, and the civil system in league with her, a detailed epitome of the civil and religious history of the world since the days of Christ is of necessity involved. In his preface he traces the disagreement of original and independent expositors to the fact that the Apocalypse is “regarded principally as an epitome of civil and ecclesiastical history.” He affirms that confidence in such expositions is generally withheld, and must continue to be withheld so long as this mode of interpretation is pursued.
Again in § 12, Vol. i., p. 208—after stating his views of the end to be gained by the book, and the mode of effecting it, he thus proceeds:
“ How can we, then, when such a design and such a method of accomplishing it stand out with marked prominence in this picture-how can we attribute to John a mere syllabus of the civil and ecclesiastical history of remote ages, a history of civil commotions and tumults, or the mere description of literal famines and pestilences, of earthquakes and of tempests? In the name of all that is pertinent and congruous in prophecy, I ask, what have these to do with the object which John had
before him? Or are we, as some have slily hinted, to regard him as in a state of hallucination when he wrote the Apocalypse? Or if any one alleges that some notice of the great apostasy in the church was surely to be expected, then may I ask again : In what way could it console or encourage John's readers, to be told that at some future day a great part of the church would become heretical, or act the part of apostates, and persecute and destroy true Christians as badly as the heathen were then doing? And is this consolatory to poor fainting spirits, filled with dread lest the light of divine truth might be quenched in the blood of its friends, and anxious for one ray of hope that the church would yet rise and triumph over all its enemies ? . It would in fact seem not unlike some degree of hallucination, to engage in making such disclosures, with the expectation of reviving the drooping spirits of suffering Christians by them. It is out of reasonable question, then, that we should take, and be able to support, such a view of this subject as the popular exegesis demands. In truth, it requires us virtually to set aside the idea, that John had in view any present, important, and appropriate object in the writing of his book; or if he had such an object in view as appears to lie upon the face of that book, then, according to the exegesis which we are controverting, he took the strangest course imaginable in order to accomplish it, i. e., he wrote a syllabus of the civil and ecclesiastical history of distant ages, the highest end of which, in respect to those whom he addressed, could be only to gratify their prurient historical curiosity.
“Such a view of the book will not bear a sober examination. It is too improbable, incongruous, and inapposite to the necessities of the times. A church bleeding at every pore, and ready to faint or to apostatize—such a church addressed by a grave writer who has a superintendence over its concerns-and merely or principally told what things will happen in distant future ages, things civil, ecclesiastical, and even appertaining to the natural world, most of which were to be developed a thousand years or more after all the members of that church were dead! Nothing short of the most express testimony of John himself, that he meant to address them in such a strain, ought to satisfy us that he has done it."
Here then we are told that the popular exegesis of this book demands such a view of the subject. That is, if we understand it, if we apply the latter portions of the book to papal Rome, and not to pagan Rome, it involves all this, and is totally at war with all that is pertinent and congruous in prophecy. It implies that John had no present, important, and appropriate object in writing his book, or else that he took the strangest course imaginable, in order to accomplish it, i. e., he wrote a syllabus of civil and ecclesiastical history of distant ages, the highest end of which in respect to those whom he addressed, could be only to gratify their prurient historical curiosity. The same ideas are repeated again in g 28; and indeed in every variety of form in both volumes they occur again and again. Not unfrequently, too, reference is made to the
popular exegesis of the book in a manner adapted to render it ridiculous. He speaks of it as involving.“ merely imaginative and ever floating exegeses.” He speaks of 6.volumes without number, of prophetical or theological romances, that have already been poured forth under the excitement and guidance of such views as I have now.been characterizing.” He says, “it is high time for all men to call to mind that the apostles did not occupy themselves with writing conundrums and charades."
Any intelligent person who is accustomed to apply the Apocalypse to papal Rome, is not likely to be much shaken by such a mode, either of argument or of ridicule. He will reflect that the general view he adopts does not, by any necessity, involve any absurd or ridiculous minuteness of detail. He will reflect that it is just as possible to interpret symbols generally, when applied to papal Rome, as when applied to pagan Rome. He will remember, too, that Professor Stuart does not dismiss with ridicule the fundamental ideas of Eichhorn, and others, concerning the book ; although they are, undeniably, connected with most ridiculous errors of detail. He retains their ground-work, and rejects what he deems their errors. And does not even-handed justice demand that the same measure shall be meted to the other view ? Ought it not to be stated with discrimination and precision, and separated from all pon-essential adjuncts? And if it can be done, ought it not to be shown that, in no form, does its fundamental idea admit of defence ?
But when it is nowhere stated with that discrimination and precision which the subject demands; when it is assailed by scattered assertions, here and there, from the beginning to the end of the work, its advocates may feel themselves harassed and disquieted, but they will not be convinced. Especially will it seem to them in bad taste, to say no more, to assail with ridicule the system which cheered the minds and sustained the hopes of such men as Edwards, Bellamy, Hopkins, Newton, Fuller and Scott, at least until it has been thoroughly and effectually subverted by fair argument.
But the intelligent advocates of the view thus assailed, though they will not, as easily they might, return ridicule for ridicule, will not rest here. Not only do they see that the deep foundations of their belief have not been shaken, but as before intimated, they see that their view is so inwrought into the fundamental structure of the Apocalypse, that it is impossible to remove it without doing violence to the book. The proof of this is simple, brief, and direct. .
, None of those against whom we now reason, deny that the events of the twentieth chapter are future. Satan is not yet bound. The millennial reign is yet to come. No less plain is it that the closing conflict of the nineteenth chapter is the immediate antecedent and cause of the binding of Satan and the millennial reign.
As the defeat of Bonaparte in the battle of Waterloo was the immediate antecedent and cause of his capture and confinement in St. Helena, so the defeat of Satan and the destruction of his forces in the last great conflict, is the immediate cause of his capture and confinement in the abyss.
Again, it is no less plain, that the main organs of his antecedent power have been two, the beast and the false prophet. To the beast the dragon gave his power, and his throne, and great author. ity (13 : 2). And the second beast, i. e. the false prophet, exercises all the power of the first beast (13: 12). Moreover they are powers of long duration. For these identical agents of Satan are the leading combatants in the final battle, that precedes and introduces the millennium. Then, and then for the first time, are they taken and radically destroyed. Let any one who doubts, read and
The inference is irresistible. They are both alive now. And if they are, then as Rome is definitely declared to be the centre of the system, the Romish Hierarchy under the Pope is the false prophet, and the civil system in league from age to age with this hierarchy, is the beast, and the general view which we have given of the scope of chap. 13–19 is undeniably true.
This argument, we have said, is simple, brief, and direct. It
face of the book. True, it is but one; but one such argument is enough. At mid-day there is but one sun in the
heavens; but let him who can eclipse it. The Pacific is but one ocean, but let him who can, stride across its limitless expanse. The Andes are but one chain of mountains, but let him who can leap their sky-piercing summits. So this one argument, simple, magnificent, and sublime, is enough for ever to settle the question.
If any should suggest that the beast and the false prophet in ch. 19: 19, 20, are merely generic symbols, and not the identical beast and second beast spoken of in ch. 13, we reply that this assertion is in direct conflict with the express words of the Apostle. He declares as plainly as language can declare, that they are the same; yea, he takes special pains to identify them. What are the most striking acts and characteristics of these two great conspirators against God and man in ch. 13? The second beast makes an image; both conspire to compel men to worship it. The beast has a mark; both conspire to compel men to receive it. The second beast deceives those who dwell on the face of the earth by lying wonders, wrought before the first beast. Had it been the purpose of God to identify these conspirators, what more could he do than to say, they are those by whom these very guilty deeds were done? But this is the very thing he has said —
“ The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet, that WROUGHT PRODIGIEs before him, with which he DECEIVED them that had received the MARK of the beast and them that worshipped his IMAGE” (19: 19, 20).