Page images
PDF
EPUB

Apocalypse, which I have endeavoured to bring before you, is not a mere question of idle speculation, but of deep and practical importance. If this book be a moral myth or allegory, as some have thought; if its predictions have been all long ago fulfilled in the Jewish wars and the destruction of Jerusalem, as others tell us; if the apostacy be already come, the witnesses slain, the beast and the prophet long ago revealed in the mediæval corruptions of Christianity, or the ambitious usurpations of the Court of Rome; then it must be admitted that the prophecy does less intimately concern us than it would do if we should adopt the explanation of it for which I have been contending. Not that, under any circumstances, we should be justified in treating this sacred book with the practical neglect which is so commonly shown for it; for, whatever be its interpretation, and particularly if we regard it as predicting the existence of religious corruptions which are still in the midst of us, the Apocalypse must ever be read as a sacred mine of spiritual instruction and holy warning."-(p. 261.)

Now nothing can be more untrue, than that, on the Protestant interpretation," the prophecy less intimately concerns us” than it does if viewed on Dr. Todd's scheme.

Interpreted as it is, for instance, by Mr. Elliott, or, as it had been long ago, by Mede and Newton, Cuninghame and others, the book lays before us an inspired history of the Church, from the Apostles' days down to the moment of Christ's coming. We follow, in its pages, the decay of Paganism and establishment of the early Christian Church ;-its corruption ;—the rise of Mahomedism ;—the Reformation ;—and the war which Popery has waged against the saints. And we find ourselves placed towards the close of this wonderful history, and watching for the occurrence of some of its greatest events. What can “ more intimately concern us," than to know that we are living in that critical period of the Church's history, when the Euphrates is drying up,--when the “ three spirits like frogs” are going abroad, and when the sudden appearance of our Lord himself, evidently draweth nigh?

But where does Dr. Todd place us ? True, he may say, that he makes the history commence with the Second Advent of Christ; and this greatest of all events,-he may add,—may occur no one knows how quickly.

But this will be a deception. The effect of the adoption of his system on the mind of any of his readers will be of a totally different kind. It is not the single event of Christ's second coming, which he holds out; for, of this he might justly say, that “ the day or the hour knoweth no man.” But he accompanies and surrounds this one event, by all the circumstances predicted in the Apocalypse,-the whole of which, he tells us, will occur" in a short space." But, even supposing their acting out to occupy only “ a short space”-it is quite clear that their approach must necessarily imply a considerable preparation. As, for instance, when he tells us that the eleventh chapter signifies, that Jerusalem shall be

Jews, ande rebuilt jtitude of es shall are, the

repossessed by the Jews, and inhabited by faithful believers in Christ; that the temple shall be rebuilt; and the city “ inhabited as towns without walls, for “ the multitude of men and cattle therein :”—and all this, before the Two Witnesses shall arise, or be slain ;-does he not clearly postpone, in every one's view, the accomplishment of these prophecies, or even the commencement of that accomplishment, for many years, perhaps centuries. Every one knows, that Jerusalem is not now occupied by faithful worshippers of Christ,—that the Temple is not rebuilt ;—and that there is not even the slightest symptom of the approach of these events. Hence on Dr. Todd's view, we postpone all idea of the Two Witnesses, of their prophesying, death, and resurrection, until the coming in of a state of things for which there is not at present even the least apparent preparation !

So again, when Dr. Todd insists upon making the Second Woe literal and future, and tells us to expect an actual army of two hundred millions of horsemen, (there being, probably, at this moment, not six millions of horses on the face of the whole earth ;) and when he adds, that in the fulfilment of this Woe, “ the countries in the region of the Euphrates are destined to become the scene of the last great struggle between the prince of this world, and the people of God,”—is it not clear, that he thus removes the whole prophecy, practically, to a prodigious distance,-to a distance, in short, which takes away all personal interest ? We may admit, without difficulty, that the Second coming of Christ may occur at any time; but we cannot expect “ a great conflict near the Euphrates," when no combatants are yet prepared ; nor can we look to see the Gentiles surrounding the delivered Jerusalem with armies, when Jerusalem, as yet, is not delivered, and when no movements for her deliverance are even thought of.

Dr. Todd's scheme, therefore, is, in reality, a scheme for getting rid of the Apocalypse ;--that is, a scheme for representing it as a book in which our great grand-children may, by possibility, have some concern; but which, to us, speaks only of events which are at a prodigious distance. But how does Dr. Todd reconcile this with the plain declarations of the Book itself ?

A very singular discrepancy,—we might almost say, contrast,is apparent, between Dr. Todd's preliminary Lecture, and those which contain his interpretation. In his opening view of the subject, his object is, to show, that “ the Apocalypse is not inexplicable," and that “it was given for the present use of the Church.” Hence he commences by reminding us that “ the express words of “ the book itself tell us that the revelation of futurity which it con“ tains was given to the Church for this especial purpose, “ to show

ess, D, then, in of a prophetilment de hereaf

“ unto God's servants the things which must shortly come to “pass.” (p. 8.) And he combats the supposition that the book is a myth, or an allegory, by asking, “ How then are we to explain " those passages in which St. John describes himself as commanded “ to write those things which must be hereafter ?-in which he “ speaks of the time of the fulfilment as approaching ?-in which “ he proclaims himself a prophet?(p. 22.)

Thus far, then, in opposing the idea that the study of the book is useless, Dr. Todd is sound and orthodox, because he rests on the plain and clear meaning of God's word. But the moment he begins to interpret, then the erroneous system which he has adopted, compels him to evade the force of the very words which he has above quoted ; and to do the greatest violence to the plainest language of the prophecy, even while he professes to adhere to its literal meaning.

His interpretation, as we have seen, is this :

1. The first seal,—the very first action of the prophecy,-he makes to prefigure our Lord's second advent. But this, the commencement, being still future,—it follows that the whole is still future, and that nothing has yet come to pass, of all that the apostle predicts.

2. But he also tells us, that the meaning of the second woetrumpet is, that “the countries in the region of the Euphrates, once the seat of such mighty empires, are destined, at some

future period, to recover their political power, and to become the “ scene of the last great struggle.” (p. 152.) And from these countries, now almost uninhabited, he expects the army of two hundred millions of horsemen to issue forth.

3. And the prophecy of the Two Witnesses, he interprets to mean, “that two prophets will be raised up within the Jewish “ branch of the earth, after the apostacy and rejection of the " Gentiles, who will continue to prophesy, clothed in sackcloth, “ during the entire period of 1260 days, the period of Antichrist's “ dominion,"_previous to which time, he had already told us, Jerusalem will be inhabited again, and the temple rebuilt ;the 144,000 “ sealed ones” being literally Jews, dwelling at Jerusalem.

Thus, adopting Mr. Todd's view, we should look, indeed, for a literal fulfilment of the prophecy, but only after great and mighty changes, among nations and kingdoms; the commencement, or even approach of wbich, is not yet visible. So that, in fact, the first seal is to be opened, and the first rider to go forth, some hundreds of years hence !

Clearly, then, while Dr. Todd does, at the beginning, insist upon 1846.

4

T

the duty, and the privilege, of studying this prophecy,-he makes its study, by his interpretation, a matter of no more interest to men now living, than the chronicles of the days of Nimrod. The remoteness of the whole history, from our own times and affairs, necessarily reduces the whole to a mere theory.

But how does all this consist with a literal interpretation ? For, if there be any one thing in the whole book of the Revelation which is made quite clear, it is this, that the prophecy was not of things distant two thousand years,—but of events then shortly to appear upon the stage.

It is quite evident that this one point must be of the greatest interest in any prophecy. For, of what use could a prediction be, of which it was left in doubt, whether it concerned our own times, or the men of a thousand years hence? But the Divine Giver of these predictions is not thus unreasonable. He does not leave these matters in doubt. When he shews to Daniel events far distant, he plainly says, “ The thing is true, but the time appointed is long"-"the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end." Here was a clear warning against expecting any speedy fulfilment.

Now still more distinct and positive is the language of the Apocalypse. The very error into which Dr. Todd has fallen, of postponing the fulfilment two thousand years, is so carefully guarded against, that the Doctor really has no excuse. Again and again is the assurance given, that the events predicted are shortly to begin to appear.

At the very opening, the purpose of the book is expressly stated : The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.(ver. 1.)

Again, immediately after :~" Blessed is he that readeth, and “ they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things " that are written therein, for the time is at hand.(ver. 3.)

A sketch of the then present state of the Church is next given, and then the Voice says to the Apostle ;—" Come up hither, and “ I will shew thee things which must be hereafter,”-or, as it may be correctly rendered, the things which must be after these things." (Chap. iv. ver. 1.)

Thus does the book open. Is it possible, that the Apostle, after these warnings, could have believed, that he was about to learn, not what should happen shortly,—but, what should begin to occur two thousand years after ?

But the prophecy at last draws to a close. And here again, a fresh caution is given, against the error of Dr. Todd. Again the reader is warned, that the time is not distant, but at hand.

“ The Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew “ unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold! I come quickly.(Chap. xxii. 6, 7.)

A second time is the assurance given,

“ Seal not up the sayings of the prophecy of this book," (as those of Daniel were sealed, being distant) “ for the time is at hand.“ Behold, I come quickly." (Verses 10, 12.)

And a third time, in the very last words written, is the warning repeated,

He that testifieth these things saith, SURELY, I come QUICKLY.” (Verse 20.)

How is it possible, then, for Dr. Todd's system to be admitted, in the face of all these plain, positive, and repeated injunctions ? He argues long and vehemently, in favour of receiving the Apostle's words in their literal sense. Therefore the sun, moon, and stars are to be literally understood, and to suffer a literal one-third eclipse. Literal locusts and earthquakes are to visit the earth, and it is not quite clear whether we are not to expect a literal beast with ten horns,—or if not, why this passage is to be made an exception! And yet, when the Apostle speaks in the plainest and most direct terms, using no symbol whatever, but declaring that he is about to declare « things which must shortly come to pass," “ events which are at hand,—Dr. Todd, with all his fondness for the literal meaning, is of opinion that events “ at hand” may mean, events more than a thousand years distant! and " things which must shortly come to pass,”-things separated from the Apostle by more than twenty centuries !

We have no fear of this system. It is too plain and palpable a violation of every canon of Biblical interpretation, and too irreverent in its mode of dealing with the word of God, to have any chance of acceptance with the humble-minded and sincere enquirer into the intent of Prophecy.

are toe. Literauite clear or if not the

« PreviousContinue »