« ÎnapoiContinuați »
be mistaken in so construing them ? Does there not seem to be in them before our eyes that budding of the fig-tree which our Lord spoke of;? and which he who might see was to mark it, and know therefrom that summer would be nigh at hand ? ?
II. THE APPLICATION.
But if it be so, then the solemn question suggests itself, In what spirit and manner may we best prepare to meet this coming future? The thought of the nearness of the consummation is of itself unspeakably awakening and solemn; and the rather when we consider further that purposes of God's providence, whose fitness for their appointed work will not betray itself till the work and the time for doing it be come. ..
. . But, without any presumptuous confidence, if there be any signs, however uncertain, that we are living in the latest period of the world's history, that no other races remain behind to perform what we have neglected, or to restore what we have ruined, then indeed the interest of modern history does become intense.”
It will be interesting to compare Tertullian's view of the signs that were to precede and foreshow the consummation, and coming of the “diem Domini magnum, diem iræ et retributionis, diem ultimum, nec ulli præterquàm Patri notum, et tamen signis atque portentis, et concussionibus elementorum, et conflictationibus nationum prænotatum.” Then he proceeds to the unrolling of the prophecies, in order to fix the æra.
And 1st of Christ's prophecy in Matt. xxiv, about Jerusalem being trodden of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled; (“donec adimpleantur tempora nationum, allegandorum scilicet à Deo, et congregandorum cùm reliquiis Israelis :”) on which he adds, that both John and Daniel and the whole Council of the Prophets predict signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and on earth the straitening of the nations, and powers of heaven being shaken ; and that then the Son of Man is to be seen coming in the clouds with power and great glory : so that these signs, like the sign of the budding fig-tree, should make Christians lift up their heads, as knowing that Christ's coming and the time of the resurrection are at hand.
2. He notes St. Paul's prophecy in 2 Thess. ii, of the apostasy and the man of Sin, or Antichrist, who is to be revealed, and reign, and then to be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming.
3. The prophecy connected with the vision of the souls under the altar in Apoc. vi; a passage already quoted in my Vol. i. p. 207. Whence he inferred that first Antichrist was to appear and conflict with the Churéh of Christ, then the vials of God's wrath to be poured out on the apostate harlot-city, and then the devil to be bound, the souls of the martyrs to reign with Christ, and afterwards the general resurrection to take place.
2 They who are fond of quoting Christ's saying to the disciples then alire, " It is not for you to know the times and the seasons,” and again, “ That hour and day knoweth no man,” as if a prohibition of all calculation of prophetic times before their fulfilment, should remember this saying of Christ also, intended specially for such of his servants as might be living near the time of the end. We are meant, it would seem, to know the nearness of the Advent, when at hand, though not the exact time; and if negligent in marking the signs given, may subject ourselves justly to the same rebuke as the Pharisees and Sadducees of old, “Are ye not able to discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. xvi. 3.) Is not Daniel an example for imitation on this point? Dan. ix. 2.
there is to be expected antecedently a time of sifting and trial, such as perhaps has never yet been experienced. For our Christian Poet's exquisite language does by no means adequately express the probable severity of the coming crisis. Ere the sabbatism of the saints begins, something much more is to be looked for than the mere gusty closing blasts of a long tempest, or billowy heavings of the sea before a calm, as“ it works itself to rest.” The final conflict between Christ's true Church and Antichrist, and their respective chiefs and supporters, both visible and invisible, is set forth in prophecy as most severe. As a nation, as a church, as individuals, may we best prepare to meet it?
And here it is that the moral of the Apocalyptic prophecy, its philosophy of the history of Christendom, if I may so call it, becomes unspeakably valuable. We have elsewhere had the philosophy of the same history traced by human pens; and lessons at the same time drawn from it in the way of instruction and direction for the future: for example, in a work by the late celebrated Frederick Von Schlegel professedly on the subject : 2 a writer of no common eloquence, or common reputation. But if we compare the two outlines of historic philosophy together, the human and the divine, what a contrast will appear; and how true the one ; how superficial and delusive the other !
In his general abstract notions indeed of the philosophy of history and its objects, Schlegel has much that
1 " The groans of Nature in this nether world,
Which heaven has heard for ages, have an end.
Winter Walk at Noon. My reference is, as before, to the English Translation by Schlegel's devoted admirer J. B. Robertson, Esq. The Lectures which make up this Work on the “Philosophy of History,” were delivered at Vienna in the year 1828, the year before his death.--I shall freely make extracts in the Notes. It will familiarize the reader with a new point of view in which to consider the Apocalypse.
is admirable. He lays it down that, as the highest object of philosophy is the restoration of God's image in man, so the great object of the philosophy of history must be to trace historically the progress of this restoration ;
- that it is his object and intention, through that all-ruling Providence which regulates the whole course of human destiny, ultimately to accomplish it ;---that Christianity, God's own heaven-sent religion, is the regenerating principle, whence whatever may already have been accomplished has proceeded, and whence alone man's final and perfect regeneration is to arise ;:that the bindrances and obstructions in the way of its accomplishment have arisen from the fearfully powerful, though most mysterious, influence in the world of the Spirit of evil, alike God's enemy and man's, and man's * endowment with free-will, to choose, as he may please, the guidance of the one Spirit or the other ; 5—further, that it belongs to the province
1 Preface, ad init. 9 Lect. xv; Vol. ii. pp. 196, 198. “Without the idea of a Godhead regulating the course of human destiny,”—such is his eloquent language, —“of an all-ruling Providence, and the saving and redeeming power of God, the history of the world would be a labyrinth without an outlet, a confused pile of ages buried upon ages, a mighty tragedy without a right beginning, or a proper ending :” adding that this is the melancholy impression produced on the mind by several of the great ancient historians, particularly the profoundest of them all, Tacitus.
3 Lect. x; Vol. ii, 9. Speaking of Christ's divine mission for the redemption of the world, he says ; “ If we once remove this divine keystone in the arch of universal history, the whole fabric of the world's history falls to ruin; for its only foundation is this new manifestation of God's power in the crisis of time.
Without faith in the truth of Christianity, the world's history would be an insoluble enigma,” &c. And again, pp. 4, 5; “From its very origin, and still more in its progress, it entirely renovated the face of the world :"-" It has shone ever brighter with the progress of ages, and has changed and regenerated not only government and science, but the whole system of human life.”—This statement however is much modified afterwards as to the past. So p. 38, after saying that at the Constantinian revolution Christianity“ might have become a real generation of the Roman state,” he adds that “the old Roman state-policy,” &c, continuing prevalent prevented it ;—and again, p. 56, “ the Romans whose polity and public life Christianity was unable totally to regenerate.”
* Schlegel is very strong in his statements on this point. So Lect. xv. p. 199; “That man only who recognizes the whole magnitude of the power permitted to the wicked principle, according to the inscrutable decrees of God, from the curse of Cain, and the sign of the curse in its unimpeded transmission through all the false religions of heathenism-all the ages of extreme moral corruption and crime,-is alone capable of understanding the great phænomena of universal history, in their often strange and dark complexity.”
• This is Schlegel's third principle, (the two others being God's all-ruling and releeming providence, and the Evil Spirit's pouer of tempting to evil,) of which
of the Philosophy of History to mark God's wrathful judgments on the world, when thus led astray from Him ;' and to mark also the interpositions and proceedings of Divine Providence, (especially as illustrated from time to time in the rise and conduct of any remarkable particular nations or individuals,?) with a view to the fulólment of its designs, whether of judgment or of mercy.-Such, I say, is Schlegel's generally just idea of the Philosophy of History; and the reader has but to recal what has gone before in this Commentary, or to glance at the illustrative Chart prefixed to it, in order to be convinced how eminently, on such an idea of it, there attaches a high degree of the philosophic character to the historic prefigurations of the Apocalypse. It is in the application of the principle that the marked contrast appears between these and Schlegel's sketches : nor, I think, can I better place the moral lessons of this holy book in relief and distinctness before the reader, than by setting forth its philosophy somewhat fully in direct contrast with the other.
The German philosopher then, agreeably with his religious creed,directs himself by the Romish standard in his judgment of things that concern religion and the Church. After the first four centuries, notable for the diffusion and final triumph of Christianity over Paganism in the Roman Empire, he traces the Church visible
the recognition is essential to the philosophy of history. So Lect. xv. p. 197 : "Without this freedom of choice in man, this faculty of determining between the divine impulse, and the suggestions of the Spirit of Evil, there would be no history; and without a faith in such principle no philosophy of history.”
At p. 247, Vol. i, after noticing Condorcet's theory of the perfectibility of man, as the liberalism of historic philosophy, he well adds, “But man's corruptibility is as great as his perfectibility.”
! "This idea of divine justice and of God's judgments on the world, exemplified in history, belongs undoubtedly to the province of historical philosophy.” Lect. x. Vol. ii. p. 7.
* Ibid. p. 5. 3 See too my observations on some of these points, in the General Introduction to this Work, Vol. i. pp. 106-109.
4 Schlegel was by birth a Protestant. But in his thirty-third year, A. D. 1805, he renounced Protestantism, and embraced the Romish faith. "It was in the venerable minster at Cologne,” says his translator, “ that there was solemnized in the person of this illustrious man the alliance between the ancient faith and modern science of Germany."'-- It is to be remembered that German Protestant. ism was then scarce anything but Neology. VOL. IV.
and established (already at that time, in respect of its ac-
"5 when the Church, “ like the all-embracing vault of heaven,” with its pure faith sheltered and shed kindly influence on all :8 and the Papal power, founded on and adapted for unity, after having grown up towards the end of this era to unprecedented greatness, used this great power only so as to preserve Christianity from being lost in a multitude of sects :-in all which he thinks to mark the presence and operation of God's animating Spirit, as well as
| I use Schlegel's language, at the beginning of his Lecture xiii. · Beginning of Lect. xiii. So Schlegel in one sentence adopts the two Apocalyptic images of a tempest, and an inundation, whereby to symbolize the great Germanic barbaric irruption. Compare Apoc. vii. 2, xii. 15 : also Vol. i. p. 300. and Vol. iii. Note ', p. 50, where the same images are further illustrated.
3 Lecture xiii, p. 127. He particularizes the reigns of “ Charlemagne, Alfred, and the first Saxon kings and emperors of Germany, as exhibiting the paramount influence of religion on public life, and constituting the happiest era, the truly golden period of our annals :” and he exemplifies, among other things, in the earlier “spiritual chivalry of the Templars and Knights of St. John, consecrated to warfare in the cause of God," and the chivalry of the first crusades. At p. 176, he calls the early middle age thoroughly Christian." Gregory the Seventh is moreover the especial subject of his eulogy. 4 Ibid. 126, 127.
5 Lect. xiv. p. 153. 6 Lect. xii. pp. 115, 116.
7 Lect. xiv. p. 183.