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General View of the Apocalypse.
The Book of Revelations contains a general statement of the dispensations, which were ordained unto the Church during the times of the gospel. There is no portion of Scripture which affords a more distinct view of the glories of Messiah's Kingdom. To understand the interpretation of this book, it is necessary in the first place to consider the general outline or plan upon which it is constructed; for unless this be correctly understood, the prophecies will be much obscured. The book is described as “the revelation (or unfolding of the mystery) of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants, things which must shortly come to pass.”
The blessing which is pronounced upon him “that readeth, and upon them that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein,” affords ample encouragement; for, it is added, the time is at hand;” intimating, that when that book should be understood, the time of the consummation would be nigh.
Commentators have generally treated of the Book of Revelations, as if it were a continued history; and, as if each part or symbol arose from out of that which precedes it, marking the regular order of succession, and the chronology of the different events. The difficulties and perplexities which attend this mode of interpretation, are such, that many intelligent and sober minded Christians have been led almost to conclude, that it was not possible, in the present state of light and knowledge, to assign to this book any fixed or determinate meaning. And thus, with many, a discredit has been thrown upon all attempts at the interpretation of it. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we advert to the complex, and difficult schemes, which are to be found in commentaries. To form an adequate judgment of some of those learned productions, a very accurate knowledge of history is indispensable: and it is a work of no small labour, to comprehend the scheme of symbols which is insisted upon as a preliminary in others. The majestic simplicity, which marks the Sacred Volume in every part of it, forbids the belief, that the Spirit of God should have delivered for the instruction of the Church, a book which is not to be understood upon much easier and plainer principles. If it were not so, the word of prophecy would stand in the wisdom of the learned of this world, whereas
it is written "He will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the prudent,” and hè " bath chosen the weak things of the world to eonfound the things that are mighty.” That a general knowledge of history is necessary for applying prophecy to the events of which it treats, is not intended to be denied, but it is confidently maintained, that the broad and prominent events in the history of the Church, are the events which alone are to be looked to, and that the affairs of the nations are no further introduced than is absolutely necessary, for setting forth a sort of general outline of the history of the Church of Christ. All the other books of prophecy are constructed upon this plan, and it seems absurd not to apply to the Book of Revelations, the same rule of interpretation, which obtains in all other places. In the other books, instead of a long continued historical detail of minute eircumstances, the broad outline only is set forth. Separate and comprehensive views are taken, one after the other, in separate and distinct prophecies, each adding further particulars not contained in that which went before it, but, at the same time, each extending quite through the general subject, and carrying it on to the consummation of the mystery in the millennial day. The subjects follow one another, but they do not arise, the one out of the other ; they begin and end separately, each is perfect in itself, and each for
the most part goes down to the end, that is, to the Millennium ; a brief examination of some of the prophetical books will establish this position.
As the prophet Isaiah stands first among the prophets in the canon of Scripture, his book shall be first referred to, and it will be found to contain many prophecies, having this common mark, that from whatever time they may commence, they terminate in the Millennium-for example-Chapter i. is a distinct prophecy, setting forth the iniquity of Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord's anger; his judgment upon them, their restoration as at first, and the destruction of the transgressors, and of the sinners together in the last days. Chapters ii. iii. and iv. form another complete prophecy concerning Judah and Jerusalem; the several events spoken of are the same as in the preceding prophecy, but the order in which they are detailed, is varied, and additional circumstances are mentioned; the subject, however, is carried on to thé al establishment of the glorious Zion of the latter day, that is, the Church of Christ, in Millennial glory. Chapter v. is a separate prophecy, regarding the Lord's vineyard--the Jewish nation. Chapters xiii, and xiv, form another propbecy, the burden of Babylon, alluding primarily to the ancient city of Babylon, but having also a special further reference
to the mystic Babylon of the gospel day. The final 3 deliverance and establishment of Zion, and her thanks
giving for the fall of her enemies, conclude the subject. Chapters xv. to xxxv. describe the Lord's judgments upon the several nations by which Zion has béen - afflicted, and her latter day glory; and here will be found particular and subordinate prophecies, each in itself distinct, applying to the different nations separately, but they centre, and are suipmed up in Chapters xxxiv. and xxxv. wbicb describe, in general terms, the judgments upon the nations collectively, and the glory of the Lord's ransomed ones, when finally brought into Zion : other examples might be adduced from Isaiah, if it were necessary.
The book of Jeremiah abounds with similar instances. Chapters ii. to vi. form one prophecy, setting forth the transgression of Judah, and conveying to her the promise of deliverance, and establishment in Zion, in the last days. Chapters vii. to x. inclusive, are another prophecy, which ends with the children of Judah turning to the Lord, and calling upon bim to avenge them of the heathen, who have afflicted them in the days of their tribulation. Chap
ters xi. and xii. afford another prophecy to the same Er effect, but setting forth with more distinctness their
final deliverance and their return to their own land.