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Apocalypse, – the most consistent and valuable, we think of any we have ever seen, — yet he was manifestly troubled and warped in his judgment in interpreting certain parts by his theological system, or creed, especially his belief in endless misery, and the popular notions of a future judgment. The devotion to creeds has done more to prevent the Apocalypse from being fitly interpreted than any other cause. It has produced the most extravagant and perverted views of it; and the variety and enormity of these views have led thousands to conclude that the work is altogether inscrutable to human wisdom.
But is this book absolutely dark. so that it is impossible for us to get at the meaning at all? Is it impossible to do anything to throw light on the chaos? We think not. If anything can be done, ought we not to do it? Those preacherş who seek to create excitement and alarm who operate upon the fears of the weak and uninstructed — do not fail to resort to this book. Its sublime metaphors and allegories, when misapplied, furnish them with rich subjects. Why should not a counter effort be made to explain it? Let us apply the principles of sound criticism to the interpretation, and we may do something towards bringing out the true sense of the book. Let us gain what light we can now, and wait for the advancing day to bring us more. With these feelings we have entered upon the effort before us.
It is proper here to state, that the first form in which this commentary appeared was in detached articles in a weekly religious paper, conducted by the author. For many years after entering the ministry, we paid little or no attention to the
Apocalypse. When we glanced at it, as we occasionally uid, it seemed an utter confusion of metaphors - Alps rising on Alps without order, without design, and defying the power of man to interpret it. Whether divine or not, we were persuaded nobody could understand it. But as our attention was drawn more and more to it, in consequence of its repeated use by those who opposed the doctrine of the restitution of all things, we began to see here and there (as we thought) glimpses of its meaning. The first true thought that struck us, and that was many years ago, was this — that the account of the judgment of the “dead small and great,” in the conclusion of the 20th chapter, must have its reference to things that transpired before the kingdom of God came with power, because the immediately succeeding passage described the descent of the New Jerusalem, and the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom in the world ; - this fact gained, formed a basis for others. The next point was brought to our attention by reading an English publication, viz., that the scene described in the 20th chapter is laid on the earth ; for the angel mentioned in the first verse came down from heaven to earth, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and therefore the bottomless pit was painted in the scene as being on the earth, or why should the angel have brought the key ? 'He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil and Satan, (the four terms evidently signifying the same thing,) whom he seems to have found on the earth, and bound him, and, without carrying him away anywhere else, cast him into the bottomless pit. It was the power with which these facts
struck our mind, that led us to write the commentary on the chapter referred to, which was published in our religious journal many years ago. It is now two years since we were called again to explain the 20th chapter of the book. In obedience to that request, we republished our former article on the subject, much enlarged. This sharpened our desire for a more careful perusal of the whole book, and we resolved to begin at the commencement of it, and publish our views as far as we could see the meaning. We begun this plan without any design of republishing in book form; but as we proceeded we were more and more encouraged, and grew more and more interested, until we arrived at the end. Our experience in some respects was like that of Dr. Hammond, which we have described in the commentary under Rev. i. 1.
The articles, as they appeared in our religious journal, were written under many disadvantages. The author had been suffering for some time under a nervous debility, produced at first by too great mental action, and irritated exceedingly by other causes. He strongly suspected, in the summer of 1846, that the end of his earthly career was at hand; but he still toiled on, believing he was engaged in a good work. In the belief that death was near, he reviewed the labors of his public life; and although he saw many imperfections in what he had done, he had not a doubt that the doctrines he had defended were the doctrines of the Bible. It was a great satisfaction to him to reflect that he had labored twenty-five years in turning men from darkness to light — from the errors of superstition to worthy views of God and -his moral
appear to himself.
government. Let the reader forgive the writer this brief allusion to personal matters. They never can appear to others as they
We have spoken of the disadvantages under which some parts of the commentary were written. During the writing the author was obliged to make many journeys into the country. He had no other way than to carry his manuscript with him, and hence different parts were written in different places.
We had one settled principle of interpretation, and that was to compare Scripture with Scripture. Although we derived large aid from some commentators upon the Apocalypse, we derived much more from the Old Testament, and from the prophecy of the Lord Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. We always had this encou
couragement, when we came to a dark passage, that the aid which we needed, if not furnished by other writers in the church, we should in all probability find by a patient examination of the prophets. Scarcely anything tended more strongly to convince us of the divine character of the Apocalypse than the acquaintance which its author manifested with the Old Testament, and the reverence he showed for that book. “Let the Bible explain itself,” was our motto. No commentators upon the New Testament can be of one half the advantage to a student in gaining a knowledge of that book, that a thorough acquaintance with the Old Testament would give him. There are parts of the Old Testament which we do not understand, but these parts which we can understand convince us that the book is immensely valuable ; and that those who cast it away, or
in any manner bring it into disrepute, are unsettling, undesignedly perhaps, the foundation of all revealed religion.
It is scarcely necessary for us to say that the whole commentary has been revised from the form in which it first appeared. Many illustrations, facts, and arguments have been added, and the work thereby has been greatly enlarged. The introduction, containing the essays on the authorship of the work, and also on its date, is entirely new. By the arguments advanced under these heads we know not how others may be affected; but we are persuaded that the Apocalypse was written by the Apostle JOHN, and that it had its origin before the destruction of Jerusalem.
It is in our view a divine book. It bears a striking resemblance to the Old Testament, especially to the book of Daniel, although we are aware it has points peculiar to itself. It is becoming every day better understood, and more highly appreciated. It is of vast importance to the understanding of it, that the date should be rightly fixed; and it is a matter of sincere gratification, that commentators, without distinction of sect, are coming more and more to believe that it was written prior to the great and last overthrow of the Jewish nation.
We have proceeded upon the belief that the common English version is as correct a translation of the original, taken all in all, as any other; or, at any rate, that it is sufficiently correct to enable the careful student, even though he be but an English scholar, to gain the sense of the inspired writers. From such a conviction, we have avoided, as far as possible, the sprinkling of our pages with Greek words and phrases. We would by no