« AnteriorContinua »
the Son : therefore the Church of Rome cannot be the Antichrist intended by St. John. As for the identity of Antichrist and the little horn of the Roman beust, it seems to me to have been rather taken for granted, than proved.
Valuable however as Mr. Whitaker's Commentary is in many respects, he is guilty of one inconsistency which must not be passed over unnoticed. While he asserts, that he gives no interpretation of a symbol but what may be justified by some text of Scripture, he very unwarrantably explains the prophecies of the Apocalypse sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally. Thus, for instance, the effusion of the first, the fourth, and the fifth, vials he interprets figuratively; and yet to the effusion of the second and i he third he affixes an absolutely literal ineaning, supposing those two vials to describe a series of wars carried on both by sea and by land. Now it is obvious, that, if we interpret these predictions sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally, we involve them in the same indecision and uncertainty, as if we apply a symbol sometimes to one thing and sometimes to another : for, if the mode of interpretation is in every particular instance to be left to the option of the commentator, who shall draw the line between the literal and the figurative prophecies of the Apocalypse ? The whole book, excepting those very few passages which are avowedly descriptive, must be understood either literally throughout or figuratively throughout: otherwise it will be utterly impossible to ascertain the meaning designed to be conveyed.
The whole of the present Dissertation was written, and the corrections of it were nearly completed, before I had perused Mr. Whitaker's former publication, intitled A general and connected view of the prophecies. I there found, what gave me no small satisfaction, that the mere force of evidence had led two writers, between whom no communication had ever passed, to adopt the same opinion relative to the little horn of the Macedonian he-goat, and the proper method of ascertaining the date of the 1260 years.
Unconnected as we bave been with each other, we have naturally treated the subject with some
degree of difference : and, while I assent in the general to Mr. Whitaker's opinion on these points, I feel myself compelled to protest against his idea, that any of the numbers of Daniel and St. John may be considered as round numbers. The perfect accuracy, with which some of them have been already filled up, affords the best warraut for believing that the rest will likewise be filled up with equal accuracy. Indeed the very notion of a round number is irreconcileable with that of a definite and specific number. Hence I think, that Mr. Whitaker's attempt to harmonize the number mentioned in the cighth chapter of Daniel, with the date which he rightly assigns to the 1260 years, by adopting the reading of the Seventy, entirely fails of success, because the calculation produces 2404 years, instead of 2400 years, which it ought to have produced had it been founded upon just principles even were the reading of the Seventy the genuine reading. * A similar train of ideas had once led me to adopt this very hypothesis of Mr. Whitaker ; but the same reason, which forced me to erase it from my own work, forces me also to reject it in his. On the same grounds, his opinion, that the holy city mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the Revelation is the literal city of Jerusalem, will be found equally untenable, even independent of other objections to which it is liable. The taking of Jerusalem by the Persians in the year 1614, can never be made to synchronize with the delivering of the saints into the hand of the Papal little horn in the year 606 ; nor is it to me at least at all satisfactory to be told, that the nearest round number, which will include the whole time intervening from the year 614 to the year 1866, will be 1260.1 Since the saints are to be given into the hand of the little horn during the precise period of 1260 years, and since the holy city is to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles during the self-same period of 42 prophetic months ; the reign of the little horn and the treading of the holy city under foot must be exactly commensurate. Consequently, if the saints were first given into the hand of the little horn in the
year 606, the holy city must have begun to be trodden under foot in that same year. But the literal Jerusalem did not then begin to be trodden under foot by the literal Gentiles.* Therefore the literal Jerusalem cannot be meant by the holy city; nor the Christians of Jerusalem surrounded with the abominations of Mohammedism by the two witnesses. Mr. Whitaker seems to allow that this prophecy may be understood in a figurative sense, as it is by Bp. Newton, no less than in a literal one : 1, on the other hand, will venture explicitly to assert, that it is incapable of any other than a figurative sense. In short, in the self-same year that the saints were first delivered into the hand of the little horn, the mystic holy city began to be trodden under foot by a new race of idolaters, the mystic witnesses began to prophesy in sackcloth, the mystic woman fled into the wilderness, and the ancient pagan Roman beast revived. So again : in the self-same year, at the termination of the 1260 days, that series of events will commence, by which the kingdom shall be given unto the saints, the power of the little horn shall be destroyed, the sanctuary shall be cleansed, and the beast shall be slain. These synchronisms must ever be kept in view : and, unless they be absolutely perfect, they are in effect no synchronisms. A failure of four years or of eight years, as in the two cases which have been last discussed, destroys a synchronism no less completely than a failure of as many centuries.
* General View, p. 272—277.
2. Dr. Zouch's Work on Prophecy is liable to many of the same objections as the two works of Mr. Whitaker : but it deserves the same commendation and attention from the protestant reader, on account of its severe though just censures of Popery. Differing as I do very essentially from Dr. Zouch in many points, I with pleasure acknowledge my obligation to him for the interpretation of the apocalyptic image of the beast, which I have adopted in the present work : an interpretation so simple, so natural, so perfectly according both with the text and with the event, so little liable to any rea
In strictness of speech the literal Jerusalem began to be trodden under foot long before, even in the year 70; so that Mr. Whitaker's scheme is untenable either way. See Luke xxi. 24. wbich can have no relation to Rev. xi. 2.
sonable objection, that I cannot but wonder how it came to be overlooked both by Mr. Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, and Bp. Newton.
Mr. Kett's History the Interpreter of Prophecy, and Mr. Galloway's Commentary on the Revelation, I have read with much attention : but I have risen from the perusal of them unconvinced. Both of these respectable authors appear to me to have fallen into several considerable errors ; although the general idea, that many recent events are foretold by the inspired writers, is, I think, well founded.
3. Mr. Kett has involved the beautifully simple, and chronologically accurate, prophecies of Daniel in much needless confusion, by his scheme of ascribing to the same prediction a primary and a secondary, and sometimes even a three-fold and a four-fold, accomplishment. Had he more fully considered the nature of chronological prophecy, he would not have fallen into this mistake. Whatever may be the case with insulated predictions, it is physically impossible that a chronological one can admit of inore than a single completion. The only difference between a connected series of chronological prophecies, and a regular history, is this : a series of strictly chronological prophecies is a prospective detail of successive future events; a history is a retrospective detail of successive past events.
As well therefore might we suppose, that, when a history relates one circumstance, it ultimately means another ; as expect to find, in a chronological prophecy, what Mr. Kett terms double links of accomplishment. The thing in both cases is equally impossible. The very circumstance of a prophecy being a chronological one excludes every idea of a two-fold completion. And, when it is further recollected, that Daniel more than once connects bis predictions with certain specific numbers of years, it will appear yet more evidently, that Mr. Kett's system is perfectly untenable.
4. The preceding error cannot be charged upon Mr. Galloway : but, although he escapes this fault, he is repeatedly guilty of another ; I mean the want of a strict adherence to unity of symbolical interpretation.
If a symbol may signify one thing in one part of a prophecy,
and another thing in another part, there never can be even any approximation to certainty in explaining an hieroglyphical prediction. The whole must be mere vague conjecture : for a prophecy, delivered in symbols which admit of no specific definition, may safely bid defiance to the most elaborate efforts of the most acute commentator. This injudicious method of exposition has, I am persuaded, excited a greater degree of prejudice against every attempt to explain the writings of Daniel and St. John, than any other cause whatsoever. It has given a handle to the ignorant and the irreligious to represent these portions of Scripture as altogether unintelligible : whereas figurative language is undoubtedly as plain as any mere literal language, provided only the symbols of which it is composed be accurately and definitely understood ; and for the right understanding of them Scripture itself furnishes a key.
Besides the preceding general objections to the respective schemes of Mr. Kett and Mr. Galloway, I have many particular ones to their application of certain prophecies both of Daniel and St. John to the tremendous infidel power of France ; a power, which nevertheless I cannot refrain from esteeming the long expected Antichrist. But I will not anticipate the observations which will appear with more propriety in the body of my work.
work. For the present, suffice it to say, that I am not conscious of ever having been guilty of the worse than childish vanity of introducing a new exposition merely because it is a new one. The Scriptures contain subjects much too solemn to be trifled with : and a commentator upon the prophecies ought never to displace any interpretation of his predecessors, without first assigning very weighty reasons for it.
With regard to the 1260 prophetic days, I have followed the most usual interpretation, which supposes them to be 1260 natural or solar years. Mr. Fleming indeed is of opinion, that, although these prophetic days be doubtless 1260 years, yet they are 1260 yeurs, each consisting of no more than 360 natural days ; because each great prophetic year contains, not 365 years, but only 360 years. Hence he argues, that the 1260 years,