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thoughts were accordingly committed to paper solely with this view. But, previously to the completion of the task which I had imposed on myself, Mr. Fleming's Discourse was reprinted; and, independently of this, my observations and my extracts were found to be too bulky to be inserted in the work intended for their reception. In these circumstances, I entertained serious doubts, whether it would be the wiser course to commit the manuscript to the press or to the flames. Indeed, averse as I then was to the investigation of such a subject, and accustomed to employ my mind upon studies altogether of a different nature, I should certainly not have commenced the elucidation of Mr. Fleming at all, had I not been forcibly influenced by the following reasons. I was led to understand, that some very scanty extracts from Mr. Fleming had been circulated with great industry"; that they had, by means of studied misrepresentation, been described as highly unfavorable to the French nation, and countenancing the idea of their conquest, if not of their destruction; and that, in consequence, a considerable impression; injurious to the cause of liberty, and favorable to the views of those who urged the prosecution of the present war, had been made upon the minds of many individuals. . It was conceived that the Deity, by the voice of his prophet in former ages, had manifested his displeasure against the people of France, and had signified his intention of inflicting on them the most signal punishment”. Regretting that such an opinion should be in any degree prevalent 3 persuaded that the words of this writer, when examined, would admit of no such interpretation; convinced that too great a diversity of methods had already been employed to inflame the passions of men against the people of France; I thought that to print the words of Mr. Fleming at some length, and to comment
1 Among other modes of circulation, passages from Mr. Fleming's Discourse were inserted in several of the ministerial papers. That his meaning was originally viewed as adverse to the French, may also from this circumstance be inferred : the extracts were first brought into public notice by a member of the senate and the administration, and a zealous advocate for the present war. 2 Being myself little struck with the prophetical remarks of Mr. Fleming, I certainly should not have commented upon them at all, had they not become the objects of general curiosity. I may add, what I know to be a fact, that they excited, in personages of the most elevated rank in this country, the most marked attention.
upon their genuine import, might be attended with salutary e.ects. The freedom and independence of the French nation, I believed to be intimately connected with the liberty of mankind, and all their most valuable interests. Impressions, unfavorable to this cause, had been made on the minds of many. This particular impression, to the disadvantage of the French revolution, drawn from the contemplation of prophecy, I hoped to be able altogether to erase; whilst at the same time I was happy in being able to circulate ideas of an opposite tendency. These, then, were the reasons, which led me to commence this work; and I thought it improbable, that any other publication, similar to my own, would issue from the press. But although the greater part of the two first chapters is occupied in considering the import of Mr. Fleming's interpretation of a single prophecy in the Apocalypse; yet, as a crowd of passages, more or less interesting, were in a short time discovered by me in the commentators, and as my own knowlege of the subject Was gradually augmented by reading and reflection, I was induced, imperceptibly, to extend my plan, and at length to enter on an extensive examination of many of the unaccom/lished firoshecies of scrifiture 3. Thus the elucidation of Mr. Fleming became an object of very inferior moment; and I long hesitated, whether all which I had written respecting him should not be omitted. If there be unaccomplished prophecies in different parts of Holy Writ, as there certainly are; and if the general meaning of many among them be capable of being penetrated; no man, who regards himself as a member of civil society, earnestly solicitous for the moral and religious welfare of mankind, can be warranted in treating them with a careless indifference. Neither can any well-intended endeavor to illustrate them, however imperfect, be justly viewed as in any degree censurable. : If,’ says a late writer, the words of prophecy really have their completion near our own times, we ought with integrity to speak out, when we can at all apprehend
3 After coming to a resolution of publishing my thoughts in a separate pamphlet, I fully purposed to comprise the whole within a. single sheet. By gradual accessions it has, however, branched out into three distinct works, and of these one consists of two octavo volumes. Of the two unpublished works the one is mentioned in the advertisement: the other, which would form a bulky pamphlet, relates to the causes of infidelity, and to the effects which the French revolution is likely ultimately to pro
duce with respect to Christianity.
their i:.terpretation; and that, without fear and reserve *.” Certain, indeed, it is, that he, who is animated with an inflexible zeal for the interests of mankind, will not be intimidated from uttering what he believes to be important truths, from his knowlege of their being distasteful to the rulers of nations. In such a situation, he is not without authoritative examples to direct his conduct. The prophet Jeremiah, the apostle Paul, and the great founder of Christianity, were not deterred from the publication of bold and salutary truths, though they plainly foresaw, that they should, in consequence, encounter the charge of sedition, and excite the determined hostility and cruel persecution of their infatuated countrymen, and of the unprincipled governors under whose jurisdiction they lived. Amid those scenes of desolation and carnage, which have recently occurred in so many different parts of the European world; in the midst of a war, during the prosecution of which the multiplied outrages of the continental despots, and the circumstances of danger in which France has been placed, have provoked many individuals in that country to a long series of the most criminal excesses, and have furnished others among them with pretexts for usurping a degree of authority, decidedly detrimental to the interests of freedom, and calculated to generate a desire of change”; the
4 Morsels of Criticism, by Edward King, Esq. p. 442. 5 “It was,” said Mr. Sheridan, “the infamous club of Pilnitz, the associated society of despots, that, in the unprovoked attack on the infant liberty of a people, awakened terror, distrust, and cruelty. They trembled for their freedom, and they thought every moment that treachery was about to rob them of it. Nothing is so cowardly as fear and panic ; nothing so humane as courage. When the French were under the influence of this, terror, cruelty and oppression rose. To what other cause than this can the change be attributed In the beginning of the revolution, a system mild and lenient to a degree perhaps of extravagant refinement, was embraced, but was quickly superceded by the fears which external danger and domestic distrust inspired. Terror was only to be allayed by spreading terror, and suspicions by suspicion.” To the preceding passage, which is from a speech of Mr. Sheridan (Woodfall's Parliam. Reports, vol. II. p. 183,) I add the following extract. “The numerous executions and repeated massacres in Paris and the departments have excited universal indignation, and thrown an odium on the whole French nation. It is Jiecessary, however, to make some allowance for situation and circumstances; to calculate the degree of degeneracy and even cruelty, superaduced by ages of slavery and oppression; to recollect the horrors of a oreign war, new in its kind, and unheard of before in point of extent; to
friend of peace and liberty cannot but lament much that is passing in the world, and may perhaps, occasionally, feel unwelcome apprehensions respecting the final issue of events. The following volumes, it is presumed, are not altogether unadapted, to mollify such uneasiness, and to quiet such fears. Of many persons it is undoubtedly the belief, that the same Great Ruler of the universe, who has conducted events so as to terminate in the French revolution, has also, in the prophetic visions of St. John, in some degree given previous notice of the accomplishment of this revolution. But should it be thought, that the book of Revelation affords not the slenderest clue for tracing out those events, which were formerly pointed out by the commentators, and which are now become historically true; still will some of the passages, which were published by them a number of years ago, and which remarkably coincide with the important changes that have recently taken place, be probably conceived not undeserving of preservation, as literary curiosities". It may be added, that many of the volumes, to which I have had recourse, are scarce; and that the present work would never have appeared at all, had not the writer of it happened to possess uncommon opportunities of access to treatises and to commentaries, illustrative of the prophetic parts of the sacred volume. But, when in possession of these opportunities, to have made no attempt for serving the cause of truth and freedom, would perhaps have been a culpable omis. sion. It is remarked by bishop Newton, that ‘the prophecies, though written by different men in different ages, have yet a visible connection and dependency, an entire harmony and agreement one with another. At the same time that there is such perfect har. mony, there is also great variety; and the same things are foretold by different prophets in a different manner, and with different cir.
keep in mind the enormities always engendered by civil commotions, and the madness necessarily excited by the temporary deprivation and the dread of approaching famine. After all, these must only be considered as tending to alleviate, rather than to justify, the excesses that have been committed; but, upon due investigation, it will perhaps be discovered, that the guilt and disgrace attach solely to a bloody and triumphant faction, now laid in the dust, and that the crimes, which have stained the annals of France, have been perpetrated by a few individuals, rather than the whole pation.”
61 particularly refer to the passages contained in ch. VIII.
cumstances7. Upon these observations, it is hoped, the following sheets may serve to throw some additional rays of light and evidence. - Nor am I altogether without the hope, that they may lead some individuals to bend a share of their attention to the prophetic writings, who have hitherto treated them with levity and with neglect; and that it may thus, perhaps, be the occasion of their seeing the evidences of Christianity placed in so strong a light, as to corroborate their belief, or to dissipate their scruples *. To those who are examining these evidences, bishop Butler recommends, that they should “ set down every thing, which they think may be of any real weight at all in proof of it, and particularly the many seeming completions of prophecy: and they will find,” adds the prelate, ‘ that, judging by the natural rules, by which we judge of probable evidence in common matters, they amount to a much higher degree of proof, upon such a joint review, than could be supposed upon considering them separately, at different times; how strong soever the proof might before appear to them, upon such separate views of it. For probable proofs, by being added, not only encrease the evidence, but multiply it”. If this reasoning be solid, any work, by which persons may be incited to inspect with care a number of the principal scriptural predictions, cannot but be of service. Another passage from the same sagacious prelate may also deserve to be cited, as it serves to display the great importance of the \ subject, which is treated of throughout a large part of the present work. After observing, that ‘it requires a good degree of knowlege, and a great calmness and consideration, to be able to judge, thoroughly, of the evidence for the truth of Christianity, from that part of the prophetic history, which relates to the situation of the kingdoms of the world, and to the state of the church, from the establishment of Christianity to the present time;’ he says, “but it appears, from a general view of it, to be very material. And those persons, who have thoroughly examined it, and some of
7 Diss. on the Proph. vol. III. p. 421. 8 ‘I have ever thought,’ says bishop Warburton, “the prophecies relating to Antichrist, interspersed up and down the New and Old Testament, the most convincing proof of the truth of the Christian religion, that any moral matter is capable of receiving.' Warburton's works, 4to, vol. VI. p. 383. 9 Analogy of Rel. Nat. and Rev. 1750, p. 399.