« הקודםהמשך »
and gratitude to the great Author of his faith ; and which infidelity itself can neither gainsay nor deny. The Christian, therefore, taking his stand, as it were, in the midst of this wonderful scheme,—with the Gospel in his hand, the inspired record of his salvation, and his unerring guide in the interpretation of those prophecies which are already fulfilled, as well as of others, which are in the course of fulfilment,—views the Apocalypse, on the one hand, in connection with those parts of the dispensation of ancient prophecy which have already received their fulfilment; and, on the other, with the expectations which it holds out with regard to the future progress and final issue of the divine plans, connected with the economy of redemption, to the great consummation of all things.
Such a view of the prophetical character of the Apocalypse affords us opportunities of investigating its divine authority, almost beyond what is possessed by any other book in the Bible: and although we find ourselves, as it were, encompassed by a scheme of prophecy commencing with the first dawn of
prophetical revelation, and extending to the end of all things; yet we every where trace a general harmony of design with the great universal plan. If we consider the great doctrines of redemption, we behold them embodied in the Apocalypse in all their majesty and all their power. If we consider this book as a part of the great scheme of prophecy, we behold one uniformity of plan and harmony of design pervading the whole; connecting it with the earliest revelations of prophecy, through all its various stages, to the coming of the Redeemer; and extending this connection through every subsequent period of the
divine dispensations, till it is lost in the fathomless ocean of eternity.
These considerations will shew, that whatever obscurity may attend some parts of the Apocalypse, and, however, some persons may delight to dwell upon this obscurity, as affording a reason for avoiding the study of a book which is attended with considerable difficulty, (though this difficulty is often greatly exaggerated); yet by regarding it as a part of the great scheme of prophecy, and as being essentially the prophecy of the Christian dispensation, we possess a key which will enable us to explain many of its difficulties, and place it in a point of view, which gives an interest to the study of it, which is very delightful to a religious mind. In considering the Apocalyptic prophecies, we ought never to lose sight of that which is the great object of them all,—the Redeemer and his everlasting kingdom. This will throw a clear light, not only over the prophecies of the Apocalypse, but also over the whole subject of ancient prophecy: and though we may not be able to ascertain the express object of particular prophecies, or to point out the exact time or mode of their fulfilment, we shall discern enough for the purposes of faith, and to enable us to perceive clearly the great design of prophecy from the beginning. And how clear and satisfactory is the light which we derive from viewing the prophecies of both dispensations in this connection, if we find the great subject of prophecy, as we advance, opening out gradually to our view; developing the means by which the Almighty will accomplish the great plan of man's redemption; and assuring us of the final triumph of divine mercy over all the efforts
of our great enemy, to defeat the merciful designs of the Almighty Father for the present happiness and the everlasting salvation of man.
The preceding remarks will furnish us with a guide in considering the inspiration of the Apocalypse:
I. And first, with regard to the evidence which we derive from the harmony which it exhibits with the other parts of Scripture, in the representation which it gives of the great doctrines of redemption.
II. And secondly, from the prophetical character of this book.
I. In the first place, with regard to the doctrines of the Apocalypse ;
1. The first thing which strikes us in the opening of this book, is the salutation with which the Epistles to the Churches are opened from the three Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity, from Him, which is, and which was, and which is to come ; and from the seven Spirits which are before the throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Witness, and the First-begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. This, as it has been shewn, is equivalent to the epistolary and plainer language of St Paul, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. But it perhaps more especially connects itself with that revelation of the doctrine, which is contained in the declaration of our Saviour, when he commanded his disciples to go forth in his name to preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It has been observed, that with
respect to the manifestations of the Divine Majesty under the former dispensations, they clearly imply a plurality of Persons in the Godhead; and more especially that appearance which was vouch safed to Isaiah; the appearance, we know of the Redeemer, in his pre-existent state, in which the heavenly hosts are described as singing the song of praise to the three Persons in the Godhead, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. But this great doctrine, which was thus obscurely revealed in the Old Testament, and is fully declared by our Saviour and his Apostles in the New, is invested with a character in the Apocalypse, immediately arising out of its peculiar situation in the divine dispensations, in which the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit are more fully manifested. Thus, in this passage of the Apocalypse, the second Person of the ever-blessed Trinity is described as the Faithful Witness,—the First-begotten from the dead, the Prince of the kings of the earth, titles, all of them intimately connected with the characters, in which he is revealed in this book. In the same manner, in the following vision, he appears as the Lamb, the character under which he is revealed, as having redeemed us by his blood out of every kindred, and people, and nation, and language. In like manner, with respect to the Holy Spirit; he was represented in the vision to the Apostle under the appearance of seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God'. In perfect consistency with this representation, he is joined with the Father and the Son in the salutation to the Churches under the title of the seven Spirits
Chap. iv. 5.
which are before the throne; and the prominent manner in which he is brought forward in this book in conjunction with the Father and the Son, is perfectly consistent with the character under which he is revealed in other parts of Scripture, in connection with his agency in the great scheme of Redemption ; and particularly in that, which is the great subject of the Apocalypse, the propagation of Christianity and the universal extension of the Redeemer's kingdom?
2. But perhaps the most striking feature connected with the doctrines of the Apocalypse, is the manner in which the Son of God is manifested to us in this book; combining all the glories of his pre-existent state with the endearing considerations, which we derive from his incarnation and sufferings; and with the characters of surpassing awe and majesty, with which he is invested by his triumphant resurrection from the grave, and his glorious exaltation at the right hand of God, as the Lord and Judge of mankind! (1) Such he appears, when he is described in the first chapter in the commission to the churches, as the Faithful Witness,—the Firstbegotten from the dead,—the Prince of the kings of the earth,—that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, who cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him; embodying in one description all the most sublime imagery of the Old and New Testaments, to heighten the dignity and affecting majesty of the character, under which the Redeemer is manifested to his Church! Such he is manifested again in the same chapter, when he appears in characters
Compare Isai. xxxii. 15; Joel ii. 28, &c.