Imagini ale paginilor

or unfold the mere outward drapery of stupendous mysteries, which angels cannot soar to, and which the human imagination cannot of course comprehend. But to argue in this

way is to argue most illogically. The divinity of the book rests upon its own basis ; the explanation of the book is to be decided on just and proper principles.

I must notice here, that there is a special benediction pronounced upon those who read it. Many people say'Oh ! the Revelation is full of dark things we ought not to meddle with. But what does the Spirit of God say ? “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” Shall we say it is wrong to read what the Spirit of God has thought it right to record ? Shall we say that the difficulty of interpreting the book is a reason why we should not even read, still less try to understand, what the Spirit of God has inspired ? Shall we hold it perilous to study what the Holy Spirit has pronounced it blessed to read, and, by fair inference, possible to understand ? We may read it in a presumptuous spirit—that is sinful; but to attempt to understand it, in å reverent and prayerful spirit—that is blessed. Lay aside the presumption, that dictates as eternal truths its own hasty conclusions ; but do not give up the prayerful study and perusal of the book, on the very vestibule of which the Spirit of God has written—“Blessed are they that read and hear the words of this prophecy.” Far be it from me to conceal, that there is an awful and a solemn anathema pronounced upon all who shall attempt to subtract from or add to “the things that are written in this book.” At the close of it it is said—“If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This is an awful announcement, which ought to solemnize the mind of every

student of it: but if it be perilous to misinterpret it, can it be safe not to read it at all ? Would not the legitimate conclusion be, not to lay it aside, because there is an ana

thema on him who perverts it, but to open the book, and diligently study it, and pray for the Spirit of God to enlighten our minds, and lead them to a sober and true exposition, and then we shall be lifted from the anathema that descends upon the wilful misinterpreter, and shall be placed under the blessing that lights on him who reads and understands it?

I regard this book, not as a dark and inexplicable hieroglyphic, which it is humility and duty to leave unopened, but as a light that shines on the dark and troubled waters of time—those waters over which the church of the redeemed is ploughing her arduous and perilous way; not like a light upon the stern, leaving useless brilliancy in her wake, but a light upon the prow, showing before the beacons it is our safety to avoid, and the course it becomes our duty to pursue, till that day break upon the waste of waters, when the great Pilot himself shall enter into the vessel, and say to the stormy waves around it—"Be still ;" and guide her to a haven of perpetual peace.

Now while I feel that there is much, in the past history of the interpretation of this book, to make us cautious and prayerful, I still think there is nothing to warrant neglect. Edward Irving, one of the most gifted minds, but all but fatally shipwrecked, it is true grafted upon this book the most extravagant and monstrous delusions; and because he left behind him explanations as unsound as mischievous, it is argued, that we should not attempt to study and understand where so gifted a genius has failed. But it seems to me that misinterpretation in the past, instead of being a reason for neglect, is only a new reason for more prayerful and earnest efforts after just and proper interpretation for the future. Abuse is not certainly a reason against use ; past error in the pursuit of truth does not make future success impossible; and may it not be true, that the failures of former expositors shall prove the surest pioneers of success on the part of those that follow ? Every ship that is wrecked in our Channel serves to show to succeeding navies the safe course they are thereafter to pursue. It is thus that the failures of gifted minds who have preceded us as interpreters, will help us to make nearer approximation to a clear exposition of that beautiful and holy book, which the Spirit of God has written for our learning. If the people would study the Revelation more, their ministers would be likely to indulge in fancies less. It is because you know so little about the book, that ministers have been suffered to make so many misinterpretations of its meaning. Study well its history and contents, ponder prayerfully its predictions, and your knowledge will be the best check upon the imagination of the minister. Light in the pew necessitates light in the pulpit. The Bible in the hands and hearts of the people is the surest guarantee for truth from the lips of the preacher. I know that some excellent Christians entertain the notion, that their personal salvation is all they have to do with. Far be it from me for one moment to undervalue the necessity of a deep and solemn interest in our personal acceptance before God. What shall it profit a man if he should be able to explain all the mysteries of the prophets, or gain the whole world, and inflict on his soul that loss which never can be retrieved ? But, my dear friends, while this is true, and ought to be felt to be true, are we to forget that there is an end even higher than the safety of the soul-not indeed in reference to us, but in reference to God? The glory of God is the end of the universe, and ought to be the first aim of intelligent creatures. If I address members of other communions, let me lay before you a piece of splendid philosophy, as well as true theology, by telling you the first question and answer contained in the catechism which our Scottish children are taught from their earliest infancy. “ What is the chief end of man?” Not, to save himself ; that is not said. " The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” We are called on to consult the glory of God first, and our salvation next. Yet it is in the pursuit of the former that we never can lose the latter. And whilst, therefore, our personal acceptance before God is an essential thing, which no interest can be a substitute for, which no duty can supersede, we must recollect that if God has revealed a book to evolve His glory, it is not for man, surely not

[ocr errors]

for a Christian, to say, I have no interest in that glory, nor shall I take any part in making the meaning of the mysteries which reflect it intelligible to others.'

There are various classes of interpreters, who take different views of the Apocalypse. One class consists of Professor Lee, one of the best Hebrew scholars in England, and Moses Stewart, an able scholar in America, who believe that the whole of the Apocalypse was fulfilled in the first three or four centuries of the Christian church. This belief I think as untenable as it is absurd. Let any person read the Apocalypse, not in the light of criticism, or with the opinions of learned men, but in the exercise of his own unbiassed judgment, and he will see there are prophecies which have not been performed, visions of glory which have never dawned upon our world, and scenes to be realized, and circumstances to evolve, and dates to be reconciled, of which there is no trace of fulfilment in the past, and certainly no appearance in the present.

There is another class of interpreters, however, who take just an opposite view from that of those to whom I have alluded : - these consist of Burgh, Todd, and Maitland, studious and learned men, who believe, that with the exception of the first three chapters, not one single particular of the rest of the Apocalypse has yet been fulfilled. Moses Stewart and Dr. Lee believe that it was all compressed within the first three or four centuries—Burgh, Todd, and Maitland believe that it must all be compressed into the last three or four years of the Christian æra.

There is another class, represented by Mr. Birks, an able and acute writer on the subject of prophecy, and Mr. Elliott, (in his Hore, which will occupy a place, in reference to unfulfilled prophecy, that Newton's Principia has occupied in reference to science,) and many other living ministers of the age, who believe that much of the Apocalypse has been fulfilled, but that much more remains yet to be fulfilled ; and that it is our duty

; to review the first, that we may see light shed on the history of the past, and to study the second, that we may learn duties, responsibilities, and privileges, in the prospect of what is yet to come.

I may mention, that some of one class especially, known by the name of Futurists, (that is, persons who believe that the whole of the Apocalypse yet remains to be fulfilled,) are actuated in their views by strong sympathy with Romish tenets—I say so, because it is obvious from their writings, that some of those (though not all) who believe the Apocalypse will be fulfilled entirely in the future, have adopted that reasoning because they love and would justify the Church of Rome. It has been the belief of the soundest divines, since and before the days of Martin Luther, that the Babylon delineated there, the woman stained with crimes and intoxicated with the blood of the saints, is the great Western apostacy: but these Tractarian Futurists do not like this interpretation ; it is fatal to their views ; it rebukes their sympathies ; they cannot, however, get rid of the book, and therefore they have tried to get rid of the interpretation, and thus be left free to welcome Rome as their sister, and proclaim the Vatican “Christ's holy home." But it must be evident that all such reasoning is false in its premises, and must therefore be pernicious in its conclusions. And I do hope, if you will give me your patient attention, in the course of a few succeeding Sunday evenings, that you will be satisfied that the main views of Mr. Elliott- I do not say all -are as rational as they are scriptural and instructive.

In expounding this book, I must beg to suggest some necessary cautions.

We must not seek to be explicit in that which God's Holy Spirit has been pleased to leave dimly revealed. Rash hands must not tear, but sacred hands must reverently draw aside the Apocalyptic veil ; we may not “rush in where angels fear to tread ;" we must not dogmatize where the Spirit of God has not spoken decidedly. We must be content to be ignorant in many places, thankful to be instructed in others, and patient students throughout the whole.

There is one most important point I wish to impress upon you, and it is this: we must not do as Edward

« ÎnapoiContinuă »