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of Inspired Prophecy-expositions, to which, as characterised in a very high degree, by learning, ingenuity, piety, and Christian courtesy and candour, I gladly offer the tribute of my unfeigned and respectful admiration. I look upon them as possessed of every desirable qualification, save the all-important one, of accordance with Holy Scripture. For I cannot think, that, as schemes of prophetic interpretation, they have the sanction of the revealed Truth of God. I may be wrong in coming to such a conclusion with respect to them; and mistaken, also, in the views which I have myself put forth. And if so, as an inquirer after truth, I shall be thankful for correction. But, until proved to be in error, I must confess myself unable to agree in opinion with Mr. Elliott and Dr. Cumming; though not unable to love them, as good men—to honor them as good ministers of Jesus Christ – to admire those qualifications, which have won for them a deserved popularity-to rejoice in their usefulness, and to feel persuaded that they and I, although widely differing in our views of Scriptural prophecy, may, without danger, agree to differ; being in holy concord with each other, in regard to “the things that accompany salvation.” And so, while an added Commentary on the Apocalypse, with so many already in the hands of the Christian world, may to some appear superfluous—to others presumptuous, regard being had to the acknowledged excellenceof some previous expositions ; and to others, unwarrantable, in the face of that popularity which Mr. Elliott's scheme has obtained, and that certainty, by which it has been said to be characterised - I trust that, in offering a new view of the visions of St. John to the religious public, I shall not be held to be doing an unreasonable thing; nor an unjustifiable one, if a true view should hereafter be found to have been, at the same time, presented.
It has been the too common practice of Commentators on this portion of Inspired Scripture, to confine themselves to the work of explanation. And an idea has hence gone abroad, and has obtained extensive currency, too, in the Church of God, that the Apocalypse is not a useful Book-not capable of being turned to a practical account, as other parts of the Divine Word are. In the observed absence of endeavor on the part of Expositors, to draw practical instruction from these mysterious disclosures, it is not to be wondered at, that such should be the general impression of the Christian community. That might naturally be deemed a hard-almost an impossible task-on wbich, scarcely any one was seen to enter-from which, almost every one appeared to shrink. But it is not so. The Revelation of St. John has its uses, and its lessons ; and these, neither few in number, nor unimportant in character. A mine of practical truth is there, which, if unseen and unknown, is so, only because it has not been explored. Of this Book, as of the entire Scriptures, it may be truly affirmed in respect to the diligent and pious student, that the deeper he digs, the more he will find. But Commentators have been intent rather on the discovery of its meaning, than of its usefulness. Its import being " hard to be understood,” its application was also not easy to be discovered. And, in their anxiety to obtain an insight into the former, comparatively little regard was had to the latter. They were for the most part content to rest from their labors, when the first business was thought to have been accomplished. The remaining portion of the task was left to other hands. Hence, in the minds of not a few among the pious, the mention of a forthcoming Commentary on the Apocalypse gives birth to suspicion and incredulity, rather than to expectation and confidence. And, as Nathanael asked-Can a good thing come out of Nazareth ? even so, the practical student of Divine Truth finds it hard to believe, that from a soil so barren, hitherto, of what is profitable, products of a really good and useful character are, by any effort, to be educed. He is ready to meet both the Commentator and his work with a smile of derision, rather than with one of welcome. And his expectation in regard to both is first, that they will fail-then, that they will be forgotten.
Of the Expositions hitherto offered, it might, however, be observed, that not one, perhaps, has been without its use, in contributing an additional somewhat, to the stock_of previous information ; so, verifying the angel's promise to Daniel-many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Dan. xii, 4. A little added light has been thrown on the mysterious communications of the Seer of Patmos, as each successive Commentary has appeared ; and, in some instances, more than a little. Such works as those of Mr. Elliott and Dr. Cumming, whether in the main correctly interpreting the Apocalypse or not, can never be regarded as other than truly raluable accessions to the store of Biblical Literature. And now that another contribution is offered, it is so, in the hope, that it will be found to have corrected some errors-to have solved some doubts,-to have removed some difficulties—and to present some additional information to the earnest and devout student of Inspired Prophecy ; above all
, that its practical matter may be of service to those, by whom the expository portion may be deemed incorrect. Yet the writer trusts, that there, he will not be found to have been, either himself deceived, or a deceiver of others : but that what is put forth has the sure support of the previous affirmations of Holy Scripture itself. St. Germain's, Lynn, Norfolk.
Nov. 25, 1850.
Of this Book many explanations have been offered-more, perhaps, than of any other portion of Inspired Scripture; yet with so little success, that the Church of God has failed to obtain, through the long course of 1700 years, a single Commentary, on which it can rest with assured satisfaction. The reader of every Exposition of the Apocalypse, hitherto attempted, will, with the late Dr. Adam Clarke, be "satisfied, that no certain mode of interpreting the prophecies of this Book has yet been found out.” He adds—" I feel myself at perfect liberty to state that, to my apprehension, all these prophecies have been misapprehended and misapplied : and that the key to them is not yet intrusted to the sons of men."
An interpretation of this Book, as of every other portion of the Sacred Volume, in order to its being certain, must be Scriptural. The mind feels itself to be on sure ground, when the position it has taken is discovered to be one sanctioned by Inspired authority. And satisfaction, on any religous subject, is to be obtained in no other way. This alone can render an exposition of the Word of God unquestionable and authoritative—its manifest agreement with what that Word says elsewhere : the evident support, by that word, of the opinions advanced, the doctrines taught, the conclusions drawn. Again an interpretation of this Book, to be successful, must
The explanations hitherto offered, having all failed to produce conviction, as to the meaning of these remarkable prophecies, by giving to them a fixed and determinate signification
must evidently be had to other modes of exposition than those which have been in use until now. Success in this
way becomes possible ; while the pursuance of the beaten track renders a failure certain.
In the course of Lectures, therefore, to which this address is introductory, an interpretation of the Apocalypse on an entirely new plan, is submitted to the Christian world : and an interpretation, based, in all its parts, on plain and express Scriptural testimonies : hence productive, in the mind of the writer, of conviction and satisfaction as to the meaning of these prophecies, at once unhesitating, and complete; and destined, he hopes, to be similarly effective on the minds of those who may hereafter give to these Discourses an attentive perusal. An extremely simple exposition will also be found to be here offered-one, which “the common people” may easily apprehend : an exposition which renders no distortion of Scriptural language from its plain and obvious meaning necessary; and makes no demand on the faith of the reader, which is not made by the Word of God itself. The interpretation now about to be set before the Church of God will also be found consistent in its various parts: one that presents to view an unbroken chain of action, wonderful, and oftentimes awful to contemplate : but, in its final issues, worthy of God, and most beneficial to the universe. It is, indeed, a drama of stupen. dous interest, and unrivalled magnificence, whose successive scenes here rise in long array before the mental vision. But a regular, uninterrupted progress of events, towards a designed end, may be plainly discerned; proving this Book to contain, not a series of unconnected revelations, but a wise, well-arranged, and perfect plan of Divine operation : of which the several parts only require to be suitably combined, in order to the development of a wonderful, beautiful, and harmonious whole.
To the absence of such a combination-the want of a proper, arrangement of the visions of John-the failure of all past attempts to understand, and interpret them, must be considered to be, in great part, attributable. It has been taken for granted that the order of visions is identical with the sequence of events. This, however, is most certainly not the case. Expositors, one after another, having overlooked this important fact, misapprehension of very many of the visions has been the unavoidable consequence.