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THE Treatise, now offered to the Public, was written in the course of the years 1818, 1819, and 1820. Since its rough completion in the last of those years, it has, from time to time, been thoroughly revised and reconsidered: and, although, even after a reasonable accurate observance of the Horatian precept, I pretend not to exhibit it as a faultless monster; yet I can truly say, that my object in not expediting its publication was, that I might subject to the jealous severity of mature judgment every position, which it undertakes to establish.
I. My wish is, that it should be considered as superseding my Dissertation on the Prophecies relative to the period of 1260 years.
The individual, who possesses not sufficient fortitude to rectify mistakes into which he may once peradventure have been betrayed, ought never to lay his hand upon the volume of prophecy : for, as we are expressly taught, it is only by the running to and fro of MANY, that knowledge of this description shall be increased! Yet, to avoid the weariness of perpetual reference and explanation, I have thought it best, writing as if I had never before written on such a subject, tacitly to correct those expositions which age and reflection have led me to deem erroneous : and, for the same reason, I have omitted that frequent discussion of the theories of other commentators, which served only to encumber and confuse my own statement. Wherever I can sufficiently establish a point of interpretation, my arguments, virtually, alike set aside, both any former mistaken opinions entertained by myself, and any expositions of other writers from whom I have been induced to differ.
II. The present Treatise rests on the same foundation as its predecessor, the Dissertation on the period of 1260 years : but that foundation has been greatly enlarged and extended.
i Dan. xii. 4.
Its predecessor rested on the chronological basis of the three times and a half: the present Treatise rests upon the grand master-number of seven times, produced by the duplication of the three times and a half, and hitherto almost universally overlooked. Yet the period, marked out by this palmary number, comprehends what our Lord styles the times of the Gentiles : it constitutes what Mede has well denominated the sacred calendar and great almanack of prophecy : it is the chronological measure of Daniel's great compound metallic image: it is also, unless I greatly mistake, the chronological measure of the Apocalypse itself down to the commencement of the predicted thousand years of blessedness: and, upon its ample surface of 2520 prophetic days, are spread almost all the smaller numbers both of Daniel and of St. John.
III. In prosecuting my enquiries, I have worked upon four very simple and very reasonable principles.
1. When the definite meaning of each prophetic symbol has been established with as much evidence as the subject admits, an expositor must never allow himself to vary from that meaning.
Thus the four great beasts of Daniel's vision, and the ten-horned beast of the Apocalypse, are all equally said to come up from the sea'. Now let the sea, viewed as a symbol, denote what it may; all these beasts alike come up from the antitype of that symbol : and the antitype in question must be some one thing definite and explicit, to the exclusion of all other things. Hence it is plainly unwarrantable to ascribe a different meaning, to the sea as hieroglyphically employed by Daniel, and to the same sea as hieroglyphically employed by St. John: and hence it is abundantly clear, that nothing can be deemed the true antitype of the figurative sea, except that which may be justly reckoned the common matrix of the four great successive Empires, the Assyrian, the Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman.
2. The principle of homogeneity must never be violated : or, in other words, homogeneous prophecies must be interpreted homogeneously.
Thus the four first apocalyptic seals are strictly homogeneous. Hence they must all be homoge
· Dan. vii. 2, 3. Rev. xii. 1.