Page images

volent affections towards all God's creatures;) we may qualify ourselves for honour, and glory, and immor, tality;" for those places of irust and power, which we have reason to suppose, shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be confided to such persons as, by their trials, have acquired and given proofs of that genuine virtue which shall eventually persevere, and abide to eternity., For there is ground for thinking, that the virtuous will not be totally occupied with singing hallelujahs, (though the greatness and goodness of God, displayed in various dispensations, will no doubt afford ample ground for their admiration and praise) but will have active employments, places of trust in the world to come. And this may be inferred from several of our Saviour's parables, which give figurative descriptions of this kingdom; as Matt. xxv. to the servant, who by industry had doubled the five talents intrusted to him, his Lord says, Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things : and in Luke xix. in a siinilar parable, to the servant whose pound had gained ten pounds, his Lord says, Have thou authority over ten cities. And in Luke xvi. If ye therefore have been unfaithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches ? evidently implying future employments of trust." Now, if we admit this idea of employments of trust in a future state, it seems naturaily to follow, that the faithful discharge of them will produce improvement in the agent, and a consequent increase of happiness.

I am, Sir,

Yours, &c. Jan. 13, 1806.




DIVINITY of the APOCALYPSE, (continued from
Vol. IX. page 431).



TITH your permission I will endeavour to answer

the remaining objections of Michaelis to the divinity of the Apocalypse, drawn from the non-accomplishment of its predictions. But before we can decide whether the prophecies have, or have not, been fulfilled, it is necessary that we should ascertain their meaning, which can only be done by establishing the legitimate principles of interprétation. In a word, we must ác: quire à grammar of its general laws, and a dictionary of its particular symbols. On this head Michaelis, with some truth, observes, that the true readings of the manuscripts, and the literal and grammatical sense, ought to be much more regarded than has hitherto been done. The Oriental languages and history, he adds, ought to be brought to the interpretation of the book; and he is so far candid as to acknowledge, that until this be done it cannot be fairly decided, that the Apocalypse is not divine; and that the accomplishment of the predictions would be a sufficient evidence, without any additional proof' that the work was the genuine production of the Evangelist.

On the other hand, the learned professor has betrayed a degree of ignorance respecting the most important principles of interpretation, and concerning the most judicious and able commentators. He has not noticed either Mr. Mede's demonstration of the first principles of the interpretation of the Apocalypse, (Mede's works, 1672, p. 581,) nor his key founded thereupon, nor his particular system of interpretation.

This master of prophecy, proceeding upon the axiom that an author is his own best interpreter, made the most wonderful discoveries in the Apocalypse, and which, in the main, have never yet been refuted. (See Bishop


[ocr errors]

Hurd's tenth sermon on the prophecies.) Another great principle of interpretation, and next in weight to the toriner, and which, together with the former, is all-sufiicient for the purpose required, has been likewise slighted by Michaelis, while he vainly ransacked the treasures of Oriental, but natural wisdom. Sed nunc non erat his locus. The principle to which I aHude is this, that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. He that has attended 10 the self-interpreting powers of the Scripture can testity that Scripture is all-sufficient for the interpretation of its mysteries, and that The Concordance will afford a perfect grammar and dictionary to the Apocalypse. St. Paul himself directs us to “ compare spiritual things with spiritual ;” and asserts, that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” i.e. by comparing spiritual things. i Cor. ii. 13. Again, in Rom. xii. 6. she directs us to “prophesy according to the analogy of the faith.” And St. Peter lays it down as a first principle, 10 “ know this first, that no prophecy of Seripture is of private interpretation," intimating that the analogy of the inspired book is the only true key. o Pet. 1. 20.

If I ain not herein mistaken, it follows that Michaelis had no criterion whereby to judge of the fulfilment or nonfulment of the prophecies; and that consequently bis objections thereupon can have little or no weight. But as he proceeds to raise other objections, grounded upon the inconsistency of all interpreters, it becomes necessary to answer his observations, and to shew that the charge of inconsistency is false.

“The first body of commentators, (says he) and the most ancient, applies the prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem; which opinion, (headds) is confirmed by Rev. i. 3. « for the time is at hand.”

That such was the opinion of the first commentators, or that they considered the prophecy accomplished in the destruction of Jerusalem, is not true, as may be proved by the remarks of Irenæus on the number 666, and by a very remarkable passage (overlooked by Michaelis) in Lactuntius de verâ Sapientiâ, $ 7. Speaking of the name of Christ he says, “ Nec ante id publicabitur, ut est sanctis literis traditum, quam dispositio Dei fuerit impleta ; sed quamvis nomen ejus, quod ei a principio pater summus imposuit, nullus alius præter ipsum sciat.” The above is a Vol. X. Churchm. Mag. Feb. 1806.

O clear

clear allusion to Rev. xix. 12, &c. from which it may be gathered that the Apocalypse, considered by Lactantius as Holy Scripture, was not then accomplished. Further, it appears that those passages in the Apocalypse which modern commentators generally apply to Constantine, were so understood at the time, and consequently that the Greek church held the divinity of the book. See Eusebii Eccles. Hist. lib. 10. § 4. and Vita Cone stantini, lib. 3. § 3. with which compare Rev. vi. 12, &c. and Rev. xii.

These testimonies likewise prove the sense of the Greek Church before and during the time of Eusebius; and yet they have been all overlooked by Michaelis in treating of the external evidences. It is true, indeed, that the Apocalypse describes the destruction of Jerusalem, and the spiritual building of the new and heavenly Jerusalem, in its place; but then it does not describe these events prophetically, but historically. They form the rudiments of the prophecy in the same manner that the history of the Paschal lamb forms the rudiments of chap. xv. and as the history of the fall of man is epitomized in chap. xii, to the end of chap. xiv.; and as the ascent of Christ to the right hand of God is likewise identified with the establishment of Christianity in ch. xii. 5.

The truth is, that in Matt. xxiv. one description serves for the destruction of Jerusalem and of Rome, and that, therefore, in the Revelation we ought to find that the prophecy relating to Rome is the history of infidel Jerusalem. See chap. xi. 8. where it has been supposed that Rome is typically called Jerusalem.

“But if we do not apply the prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem, (says Michaelis,) the declaration in chap.i.3. “ for the time is at hand,” was not verified.” Were there any weight in the objection it would be removed, by proving (as I have elsewhere attempted to do) that this and all other scriptural prophecies are repeatedly accomplished. One object of the Apocalypse then might be to console Christians under the persecution of the last Cæsar, with a promise of a speedy and lasting deliverance under Nerva. (Tertulliani' Apol. § 5.) Many reasons might be given for such an application of the prophecy, which would be confirmed by the analogy of Matt. xvi. 28, and xxiv. 34.; and it has been already.shewn that Rev. in one sense, relates to the same time. The prophecy had many ends to answer, one of which was, that

every successive age of the Church might be warned to watch and be prepared for the judicial advent of our Lord.

" The second body of commentators, (says Michaelis) applies the prophecy principally to the time previous to Constantine the Great, and ihe New Jerusalem established by him." Such an interpretation I fully admit, because those particular passages which apply to him epitomize all the following predictions, (comp. chap. vii. with chap. xx. xxi. and xxii.) as does the first seal, which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, epitoinize both the triumphs of Constantine and of Christ. (Comp. chap. vi. 1, 2. chap. vii.2. chap. xix. 11.) Vitam continet una dies.

The third accomplishment of the prophecy which Michaelis proposes, as one of three more generally received, is that of Mede and others, who understand by Babylon, Rome papal. Against this he objects the inconsistencies of interpreters, and on the ground of Rev.i.3. give the preference to the first of the three foregoing hypotheses. Now I apprehend that these apparent inconsistencies, as Bishop Hurd intimates, may be recon-. ciled by the hypothesis, that the epoch of 1960 years was to come on progressively and gradually; and by the same steps and progress, the term of years was to be concluded. “ But why,” says Michaelis, « should we confine the prophecy to Europe?" Because the 2d and 7th chapters of Daniel, corresponding to the Apocalypse, confessedly relate to Europe, and because Rome is clearly designed in chap. xvii, 18; and because the nüme of the beast, which Michaelis himself prefers, is Mattivos, the Western Empire. Asia is dispatched in the three first chapters, and the history of the established Church in Europe follows (see Daubuz). Likewise the Church in the East is plainly declared to be swept away by the fifth and sixth trumpet woes, as that in Africa had been by the third. Had we any doubt that the Latin Empire were designated by the numeral letters of its founder Latinus, we might find a confirmation in numbering the letters of Icelos, one of the Titans, and the first colonist of Europe, in both which names, likewise, the Gentile characteristick of latitude of extent is equally pointed out. (Gen. xiii. 16.) If indeed, after all, there remain some difficulties to be removed, and this were any reason for rejecting the Apocalypse, the same reason would apply equally for rejecting Daniel or any other prophet, whom we do not fully understand.

I have

« PreviousContinue »