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means undervalue a knowledge of the original languages in which the Bible was written ; but we are persuaded that it is not absolutely essential to the knowledge of divine truth. If men will but use the common version to the highest advantage to which it may be put, we have no fear that they will fail to get a proper perception of the meaning of the sacred writers. With these reflections we submit the work to the public. It has been prepared for publication in this form at the urgent request of many friends. If it shall be the means of doing any good, however small, let the praise be given to Him by whom our
life has been spared, and our strength measurably continued.
January 1, 1848.
We shall consider, in this place, the following questions:
First, Is the Apocalypse a Divine Book? and, By whom was it written ?
Second, At what time was it written ?
IS THE APOCALYPSE A DIVINE BOOK? AND BY WHOM WAS IT WRITTEN ?
I. The book claims to be of divine origin. It is said to be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he [i. e., Jesus Christ] sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”—Rev. i. 1, 4. This is the pretension of the book itself. John, the author, styles himself the “brother” of the churches, – their “companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus.”—See verse 9. This description certainly will apply, with much propriety, to John the apostle. The author of the book further states, that he was banished to “the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”— Verse 9. Was it not true that the apostle John was banished to that island on account of his devotion to the Christian religion ? We shall see, as we proceed. There are but two other instances in the book in which the author mentions his name, viz., xxi. 2, and xxii. 8. Apocalypse, – the most consistent and valuable, we think, of any
we have ever seen, – yet he was manifestly troubled and warpet
in his judgment in interpreting certain parts by his theological system, or creed, especially his belief in endless misery, and o popular notions of a future judgment. The devotion to creeds has done more to prevent the Apocalypse from being fitly interpreted than any other cause. It has produced the most extravagant and perverted views of it; and the variety and enormity of these views have led thousands to conclude that the work is altogether inscrutable to human wisdom.
But is this book absolutely dark, so that it is impossible for us to get at the meaning at all ? Is it impossible to do anything to throw light on the chaos? We think not. If anything can be
done, ought we not to do it? Those preachers who seek to
create excitement and alarm — who operate upon the fears of the weak and uninstructed — do not fail to resort to this book. Its sublime metaphors and allegories, when misapplied, furnish them with rich subjects. Why should not a counter effort be made to explain it 3 Let us apply the principles of sound criticism to the interpretation, and we may do something towards bringing out the true sense of the book. Let us gain what light we can now, and wait for the advancing day to bring us more. With these feelings we have entered upon the effort before us. It is proper here to state, that the first form in which this
commentary appeared was in detached articles in a weekly | religious paper, conducted by the author. For many years after |
entering the ministry, we paid little or no attention to the
Apocalypse. When we glanced at it, as we occasionally did, it seemed an utter confusion of metaphors—Alps rising on Alps— without order, without design, and defying the power of man to interpret it. Whether divine or not, we were persuaded nobody could understand it. But as our attention was drawn more and more to it, in consequence of its repeated use by those who opposed the doctrine of the restitution of all things, we began to see here and there (as we thought) glimpses of its meaning. The first true thought that struck us, and that was many years ago, was this—that the account of the judgment of the “dead small and great,” in the conclusion of the 20th chapter, must have its reference to things that transpired before the kingdom of God came with power, because the immediately succeeding passage described the descent of the New Jerusalem, and the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom in the world;— this fact gained, formed a basis for others. The next point was brought to our attention by reading an English publication, viz., that the scene described in the 20th chapter is laid on the earth; for the angel mentioned in the first verse came down from heaven to earth, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and therefore the bottomless pit was painted in the scene as being on the earth, or why should the angel have brought the key 2 He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil and Satan, (the four terms evidently signifying the same thing,) whom he seems to have found on the earth, and bound him, and, without carrying him away anywhere else, cast him
into the bottomless pit. It was the power with which these facts