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respects, and to give different views of it, according as two sets of men, the true worshippers and the false, were affected by the fortunes of the Christian church, this shifting and opposite face of things could not be exhibited together; but was to be set forth in several and successive, though contemporary, visions. Hence, the prophecy is thought to proceed, when, in fact, it stands still, and only presents another prospect of the same transactions.
But I enter no farther into the mysterious contexture of this book ; through which, however, the clue of the synchronisms, if well pursued, would safely conduct us. It is enough to my purpose to have shewn, That, as the language of the Revelations is intelligible, so the method is not involved in such intricacies, but that, in general, a regular, a consistent, and, what is more, a true* conception may be formed of it. Whence no sober man needs be discouraged from reading this book; or will be in danger, I think, of losing either his wits, or his reputation, in the study of it. For
* I am not ignorant that many interpreters have thought otherwise. But possibly they have not enough attended to the advice, which Mr. Mede used to give to such of his friends as did not enter
ed the patience, or the sagacity, to understand this great inventor, before they objected to him, they would perhaps have seen cause to acquiesce in the method, pointed out by him, instead of attempting in various ways, and to little purpose, to improve upon it.
what should hinder a book, though of prophecies, from being understood, when its method may be clearly defined, and its language decyphered? Provided always, that we only interpret a prophecy by the event, and do not take upon us to determine the event by a premature construction of the prophecy
With this apocalyptic key then (of which so much has been said,) this key of knowledge, in my hands, it may, now, be expected that I should open this dark parable of the Revelation, by applying so much of it, at least, as respects Antichrist, to apostate Papal Rome. But, besides that there would not, in what remains of this course, be room enough for a detailed account of the prophecies, other reasons restrain me from entering immediately on a task, not less easy perhaps, than amusing. For interpreters, I think, have generally been too much in haste to apply the prophecies, before they had sufficiently prepared the way for their application : So that, leaving many doubts unresolved, which men of thought and inquiry are apt to entertain on this subject, or not laying before them all the reasons and inducements, which should engage their attention to it, their clearest expositions are not received, and possibly not considered.
With regard, then, to the prophecies, concerning Antichrist, though the chief obstructions in our way seem fairly removed, and it be now evident that there are certain grounds, on which the most abstruse of them may be reasonably interpreted, yet, because the application of them is a work of time and industry, many persons, before they undertake it, may desire to know, What GENERAL ARGUMENTS there are, which may assure them, beforehand, that their labour will not be misemployed, and that Papal Rome is, in fact, concerned in the tenour of these prophecies: And, when this demand. has been made, they may further wish to be informed, To what ENDS OR uses this whole inquiry serves; of importance enough, I mean, to encourage and reward their vigorous prosecution of it?
These desires and expectations are apparently not unreasonable: And to satisfy them, in the best manner I can, will be the scope and purpose of the two following Lectures.
-How is it, that ye do not discern this time
So much having been said on the manner, in which the prophecies, respecting Antichrist, may be interpreted; I imagine that now, at length, ye are disposed to ask, On what GENERAL GROUNDS we affirm, that the church of Rome is actually concerned in them.
To resolve this question, it will be sufficient to set before you, in few words, some of the more obvious notes, or characters, by which Antichrist is marked out in the prophecies: such, and so many of them, as may convince you, that they are fairly applicable to the church of Rome; and that, taken together, they cannot well admit any other application.
Of these prophetic characters,