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be, may be well understood; and, what is more, parables, which are so expreffed, as to carry an evidence in themselves that they are what they assume to be, of divine inspiration.
SERMON X. :
The Style and Method of the
EZEKIEL XX. 49. - They say of me, Doth be not speak
ALL the prophecies of the Old and
h New Testament are written in parables; that is, in highly figurative terms ; which yet, on examination, have appeared to be explicable on certain fixed and rational grounds of criticism.
So far, therefore, as any prejudice may have been entertained against the prophecies concerning Antichrist, as if the language of them were too abstruse or fanciful to be understood, enough hath
been already said to fhew, that it is not well founded. - It must, however, be confessed, that the book of Revelations [a], which contains the
[a] As to the authority of this extraordinary book (although the discussion of this point be foreign to my present purpose) it may be proper to acquaint such perfons, as have not made the enquiry for theinselves, and are perhaps incapable of making it, with the sentiments, which our ablest writers have entertained of it.
Mr. Mede, 'ă capable inquirer, if there ever was any, says roundly- The Apocalypse hath more hunan « (not to speak of divine) authority, than any other *** book of the New Testament besides, even from the s time it was first delivered.” Works, p. 602.
And to the faine purpose, Sir Isaac Newton u I do not find any other book of the New Teflament “ fo strongly attested, or commented upon fo early, as *** this of the Apocalypse." Observations on Daniel, &c. p. 249. pocesno! .
j .. . Thus, these two incomparable men. What some minute critics þave faid, or insinuated to the contrary, is not worth mentioning ; farther, than just to observe, that, if the authority of this momentous book be indeed questionable, the church of Rome could hardly have failed long fince to make the discovery, or to triumph in it. ..
.. .. 1
most, and the chief prophecies on the subject of Antichrist, is of a deeper and more mysterious contrivance, than any other of the prophetic writings. Whence, our next step, in this inquiry, must be, To trace the causes of that peculiar obscurity; and to suggest, as we go along, the MEANS, by which it hath been, or may be, removed. .
The caufes, are to be fought in the STYLE, and the METHOD, of that book. I say nothing of the subject : for, though the things predi&ted may darken a prophecy, unfulfilled, the event will shew what they are ; and it is not necessary, that we should anxiously inquire into the meaning of a prophecy, till it be accomplished.
· I. First, then, the STYLË of the Revelations (for I mean not to consider it, with regard to the Greek tongue, in which it is · composed, or, to the Hebrew idiom, with which it is coloured) The style, I fày, béing symbolical, like that of the other
prophecies, must, in general, be explained on the same principles, that is, must be equally intelligible, in both. Yet, if we attend nicely to the style of this prophecy, some difference will be found, in the choice of the symbols, and in the continuity of the fymbolic form.
1. To explain my meaning, on the first article, I must observe, That, though the prophetic style abounds in bieroglyphic symbols, properly so called, yet the Israelites, when they adopted that style, did not confine themselves to the old Egyptian stock of symbols ; but, working on the same. ground of analogy, fuperadded many others, which their own circumstances and obfervations suggested to them. Their divine ritual, their civil customs, their marvellous history, and even the face and aspect of their country, afforded infinite materials for the construction of fresh symbols : and these, when they came into common use, their prophets freely and largely employed. Thus, incense, from the religious use of ic