« PreviousContinue »
I proceed, then,
II. To the SECOND, and more considerable cause of the obscurities, found in this prophecy, the Method, in which it is composed.
The other prophecies have, doubtless, their difficulties, arising from the abrupt manner, in which, agreeably to the oriental genius, they are delivered: But then, being short and unconnected with each other, the apparent disorder of those prophecies, has rarely any fenfible effect in preventing the right application of them. The case is different with the prophecies, contained in this book. For, having been all delivered at once, and respecting a series of events, which were to come to pass successively in the history of the Christian
indeed, has been commended for making the opposite declaration: And, it may be, with good reason: For (not to derogate in any respect from the character of this great man) the language of the Scriptures, and especially of the prophetical scriptures, was in no de gree so well understood in his time, as it was in that of Dr. S. Clarke,
Church, it is reasonable to expect that fome certain and determinable method fhould be observed in the delivery of them; and the true secret of that method, whatever it be, must be investigated, before we can, with success, apply any single prophecy to its proper subject.
The first, and most obvious expectation of a reader is, that the events predicted in this prophecy should follow each other in the order of the prophecy itself, or that the series of the visions should mark out and determine the succession of the subjects, to which they relate. But there is reason to think, on the face of the prophecy, that this method is not observed.
A second conclusion would, then, be hastily taken up, that there is no regular method at all in these visions, but that each is to be applied fingly, and without any reference to the rest, to such events as it might be found, in fome tolerable degree, to suit : And then it is plain, that fancy would have too much scope afforded
her in the interpretation of these visions, to produce any firm and settled conviction, that they were rightly and properly applied. Yet, as this idea of the Apocalypse would favour the laziness, the precipitancy, the presumption, and, very often, the malignity of the human mind, it is no wonder that it should be readily and eagerly embraced. And, in fact, it was to this preconceived notion of a general disorder in the texture of these prophecies, that the little progress, which, for many ages, had been made in the exposition of them, is chiefly to be ascribed. 7. But then, lastly, if neither the order of the prophecy be that of the events, nor a total disorder in the construction of it can be reasonably allowed, the question is, By what rules was it composed, and on what ideas of method is it to be explained ?
This question, as obvious as it seems, was not presently asked ; and, when it was asked, not easily answered. The clear light, indeed, which the Reformation had let in
on some parts of this prophecy, and a spirit of inquiry, which sprung up with the rez vival of Letters, excited a general attentioni to this mysterious book. But, as each in terpreter brought his own hypothesis along with him, the perplexities of it were not leffened, but increased by so many difcordant schemes of interpretation : And the iffue of much elaborate inquiry was, that the book itself was disgraced by the fruitless efforts of its commentators, and on the point of being given up, as utterly im. penetrable, when a sublime Genius arofe, in the beginning of the last century, and surprized the learned world with that great defideratum, A Key to the Revelations.
This extraordinary person was, Joseph Mede: of whose character it may not be improper to give a night sketch, before I lay before you the fubftance of his discoveries." i He was a candid, sincere man; disin terested, and unambitious ; ' of no faction in religion or government (both which be
gan in his time to be over-run with fac. tions) but folely devoted to the love of truth, and to the investigation of it. His learning was vast, but well chosen 'and well digested; and his understanding, in no common degree, strong and capacious.
With these qualities of the head and heart, he came to the study of the prophecies, and especially of the Revelations: But, with so little bigotry for the scheme of interpretation concerning Antichrist, that, as he tells us himself, be had even conceived fome prejudice against it [l]: And, what is stranger still in a man of his inventive genius, with so little enthusiasm in his temper for any scheme of interpretation whatsoever, that, when he had made his great discovery, he was in no haft to publish it to the world [m]; and, when at  “ As for me, I am conscious of
weakness and unworthiness; being, when these kind of thoughts first possessed me, looking another way with a prejudice incompatible to this.” General Pref. to Medi's Works, p. 20, from a MS. Letter. [m] He printed only a few copies of his Clavis Apos