« הקודםהמשך »
the prophecy of this book : because the time is at hand,” —the time when the mysterious purposes of God, with regard to the great scheme of man's redemption, shall have their final and glorious accomplishment. To this blessed event every faithful believer will direct his most anxious thoughts; watching, with an interest proportioned to its unspeakable importance, the means by which the Father of mercies is accomplishing his gracious purposes for the salvation of mankind; and looking forward, with ardent faith and lively hope, to the final triumph of the religion of the Redeemer over all the powers of darkness. The final issue of this great contest between the designs of the great enemy of souls and the merciful purposes of God for the salvation of men, is an event which no religious person can view with indifference. In proportion to the interest which he feels in his own salvation, in the same degree will he regard with the most lively gratitude every stage in the progress to that glorious consummation, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ; and amidst the darkness, which must encompass even our clearest views in this world, he looks forward, with the most ardent expectation and the most lively interest, to that blessed state, in which it will be one of the especial privileges of the saints in light to be admitted to a nearer view of the wonderful mercies of redemption, and to know and adore the great Author and Finisher of their salvation to endless ages. Whatever privilege, above the rest of mankind, the inspired writer of this book might have enjoyed in being admitted to these divine revelations, and in being made the instrument of their communication to the world; yet with respect to the great purport of the mysterious prophecies which are contained in this book, the humblest Christian, in the present day, has more opportunities of judging than even the chosen servant of the Redeemer, who was selected as the instrument of these revelations. In these respects, “ he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater” even than this favoured Apostle. Under the overpowering interest of these sublime revelations St. John fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who shewed him these things. But he was directed to Him, who is himself the great Author of these revelations, and the great subject of prophecy. May these considerations preserve us from indifference at least, much more from profaneness and ridicule, in the consideration of the mysterious subjects of this prophecy! The divine and blessed Author of this revelation has closed it with this solemn warning, Surely I come quickly. “ To every mortal, short is the time leading to that awful instant, when he * shall stand before the presence of God! Be it our endeavour, by the assistance of his Holy Spirit, so to direct our thoughts and actions, that we may have confidence in our Redeemer, and be of the number of those who love his appearing! Thus may we be enabled cordially to unite with the beloved Apostle in his concluding prayer: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus?.”
CONCLUSIONS FROM THE PRECEDING EXAMINATION WITH
REGARD TO THE PROPHETICAL CHARACTER OF THE
Such then are the grounds, on which it has been attempted in the preceding chapters to establish the principles, by which we ought to be guided in the examination of the great scheme of Scripture prophecy; and the manner in which these principles ought to be applied to the interpretation of the prophecies of the Apocalypse. We have seen, that the Redeemer and his everlasting kingdom have been the subject of prophecy from the beginning ; its great and leading object under the former dispensations. It was the great subject of joyful expectation to holy men before the Law. the great and leading subject of prophecy under the Law; and was represented in the typical services, of the Jewish Law, which were only the shadows of good things, but of which the body was of Christ'. But more than this, the Redeemer is not only the great subject, but he was also the Agent of ancient prophecy; and he was not only manifested to the holy men of old in those appearances, which have been well described as the preludes of his incarnation', but he appears also as overruling and disposing the events of the Church and the world, with reference to the bringing in and the final triumph of that dispensation of mercy, which was to be built on the Incarnation, the Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of the Son of God. These circumstances afford conclusive evidence of the spiritual character of ancient prophecy. But,
Col. ii. 17.
2 See W. Lowth on Ezek. i. 26.
, amongst other arguments in support of this view of it, it is more especially evident from the double sense which pervades so large a portion of it, and from the sublime terms in which many of the prophecies are expressed; which are of such a character, that, at the same time that they are occupied with events connected with the immediate and distant fortunes and destinies of the chosen people, they evidently look beyond them to some future and more glorious fulfilment. Another remark, which was made with regard to the peculiar characteristics of ancient prophecy, and which is a strong additional proof of its spiritual character, relates to the immense range which is occupied by many of the ancient prophecies; comprehending events, of which the peculiar character could, at the time of their delivery, have been but dimly guessed at, and of which the nature even in the present day is involved in great obscurity; because they evidently look forward to a very distant stage of the divine dispensations. All these circumstances, it was remarked, lead us to the expectation, that this obscurity would be cleared up and these difficulties removed in some subsequent dispensation of prophecy; which would reveal to us more clearly the main object and intention of ancient prophecy, and with a degree of light, proportioned to our peculiar condition, as living under the Gospel, the last and most perfect of the dispensations of God. We have shewn how these
remarks are applicable to the prophecies of the Apocalypse; and we have endeavoured to prove, in an examination of this mysterious book, how much the true genius and character of ancient prophecy may be illustrated, and the true end and object of the apocalyptic prophecies established, by viewing it as a portion of the great scheme of prophecy,— extending from the first promise of the Redeemer to the final close of the divine dispensations.
There were also other remarks made with regard to the genius and character of ancient prophecy, considered in connection with the prophecies of the Apocalypse; namely, with reference to the extent to which temporal subjects are introduced into ancient prophecy, to the genius and character of the prophetic style, and to the spiritual character of ancient prophecy. These and other remarks on the genius and character of ancient prophecy, considered especially with reference to their application to the prophecies of the Apocalypse, were illustrated in an examination of that book; and we endeavoured to establish, in this comparison of the apocalyptic prophecies with the prophecies of the Old Testament, the true spiritual object and character of the prophecies of the Apocalypse.
This will be made more evident by a brief review of the prophecies, which constitute the main subject of the Apocalypse.
1. In the first place, with regard to the great Agent in the apocalyptic prophecies, we behold the Redeemer himself,—the same Divine Person who had appeared inspiring and directing the prophets under the old dispensation,—again appearing as the author and inspirer of this later prophecy; and