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study of the Apocalypse in the minds of many

sober and thoughtful readers.

The prophecy seems to have been given for these following purposes, which it has accomplished in every age when diligently and reverently studied.

1. To warn the Christian against certain principles of evil which would work in the Church in every age up to the very end. "The mystery of iniquity doth already work.'1

· Even now are there many antichrists.' 2

2. To support the faithful in all their trials and persecutions for righteousness' sake. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.' 3

3. But chiefly to be to the Church a standing miraculous evidence of her superhuman origin ; that its conspicuous fulfilment in Roman Christendom should prove, in every age, but especially in the latter ages of unbelief, and when the great apostacy was drawing near, the reality of Divine fore-knowledge and of prediction, and, therefore, the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' 4

The book is written in the language of symbolism, and is a striking example of picture-writing.

Those who first tried to express their ideas in writing probably drew pictures of the objects, the actions, or the events which they wanted to describe.

The next stage of progress was the invention of


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symbols, which, from some real or fancied resemblance, should always stand for certain well-known objects or express certain familiar ideas.

All language, even in its most advanced and perfect state, bears traces of these two primæval modes of expression. It is full of metaphors, figures, and symbols. But instead of engraving these images of things upon a tablet, or tracing pictures of them upon the bark of a tree, the speaker or writer who has at his command a formed language becomes a word-painter. He forms the pictures in his own mind, and then so clearly describes what he there sees as to reproduce it in the imagination of him who hears or reads his words.

It is, therefore, quite possible for a writer to employ so many figures and symbols as to become wholly unintelligible to the ordinary reader, who has been accustomed to hear things called by their common names, and does not know what the symbols are intended to represent.

The Apocalypse is a book of this kind. It is unintelligible to the reader, however highly educated he may be, who has not taken the trouble to master the language of prophetic symbolism. And it was written in this style probably for the following reasons :

1. That it might not be fully understood by any until it had been in some measure fulfilled, and so might not seem to have been in any degree the cause of its own fulfilment.

2. That its meaning might be hidden from the idle


Preface. or inattentive, and revealed only to those who diligently seek it. That'none of the wicked should understand, but that the wise should understand.'1

But there is no vagueness whatever in its practical meaning to one who understands the language of symbolism.

And the student of the Apocalypse at the present day has this great advantage, that the meaning of many of its more prominent symbols is fixed for him by the researches of unbelieving critics. For example, modern critics affirm of the prophecies of Daniel and others, not that they are obscure because they are written in the language of symbolism, but that they must be after-prophecies because they so clearly describe under symbols the successive rulers of the world and their treatment of the people of God.

The symbols of the Apocalypse are so evidently borrowed from the Old Testament that it cannot be right to take them in any other sense than that in which they were used by the Hebrew prophets, and understood by Christians in the age of the apostles and in the following century.

The amazing differences, therefore, which are found among the interpreters of the Revelation are due to one of two causes : either to ignorance of the language of prophetic symbolism, or to a narrow or mistaken application of it to this or that historical person or event.

1 Dan, xii, 10.

Differences arising from the latter cause, by far the most common of the two, are comparatively of little consequence, because it is more important to know the practical teaching of the prophecy, than to understand by whom or to what extent it has been fulfilled in the history of Christendom.

A blessing is twice pronounced on those who read and practically follow the sayings of this book. Its study has brought upon the author of this volume the inestimable blessing of a deeply rooted conviction of the reality of a Divine Revelation, in an age of doubt and unbelief. It is his earnest wish and prayer that this record of the thoughts of many years may tend, in however small degree, to strengthen the same conviction in the minds of those who read it ; especially of those who, being at the other end of the journey of life, may yet have to face many formidable spectres of the mind'; and to pass, it may be, through some great 'trial which shall come upon the earth, to try them that dwell upon the earth.' 1

All students of prophecy owe a debt of gratitude to the learned Bishop of Lincoln for his laborious critical work on the Greek text of the Apocalypse, published in 1849.

The writer has always used this Greek text, formed by the Bishop from the oldest and most authentic manuscripts. He has compared it with that



1 Rev. iii. 10.

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just published by the Clarendon Press as the text adopted by the Revisers of the authorised version of the New Testament,' and is much gratified to find how closely the two correspond.

There are a few very trifling differences, but scarcely any which can affect an English translation.

The English text in this volume was made some years ago from the Greek mentioned above, and it is almost a literal translation. It deviates from the exact meaning of the Greek words only when such deviation seemed necessary to give to the reader, unacquainted with the original, the full sense and meaning of the prophet's language. The reader will find many repetitions in the following pages ; but these could scarcely have been avoided in a commentary without frequently referring him to other parts of the book. The author's object has not been to produce a literary composition free from defects of style and arrangement, but to convey his meaning with clearness, and to present to the Christian reader a consistent and intelligible explanation of one of the most sublime and wonderful books which can be found in any language, or in the literature of any nation under heaven.



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