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held the Son of God, as he is delineated in the first vision, and heard from him the utterances which are ascribed to him, if instead of beholding such a vision, it was the work of his mere fancy; while on the other hand if he beheld such a vision, no room existed without an equal violation of truth, for the introduction in the delineation of it, of any fanciful additions. But the apostle expressly asserts that that to which he gave his testimony in the Apocalypse, was that which he saw and heard ; and so far from
; being the inventor of the symbols, and decorating them with their accompaniments for the purpose of gratifying the taste of his readers, he exhibits himself as unaware of their full design, and as needing and enjoying the aid of an angel to unfold the principle on which they are employed, and interpret their significance. To suppose him, therefore, guilty in these representations, of an attempt to betray his readers into the belief, that mere pictures drawn by his fancy, were the work of the Almighty, is to suppose him wholly devoid of reverence toward God, and truth toward men, and exhibit his pretence to inspiration as deceptive.
IV. THE LAWS OF SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATION.
The distinguishing characteristic of the Apocalypse is, that it foreshadows what it reveals, not by words, like ordinary prophecies, but by representative agents and phenomena exhibited to the senses of the apostle. A knowledge of the principle on which those signs are used, is indispensable therefore in order to their interpretation. To overlook or misconceive it, is as fatal to the interpreter, as a similar negligence or error were to the just construction of ordinary language. He would no more necessarily misjudge, who should regard written words, as signs of something else than the significant voices which they represent, than he errs in the solution of symbols, who misconceives the species of objects they are employed to denote.
What then is the principle of symbolization? What is the law by which one set of agents and phenomena, is used in the place of another, in making to the senses a mystical representation of the future? Are the signs chosen from the class of objects which they are employed to represent, and on the ground of a similarity of nature; or from another but in some respects a resembling class, and on the ground of analogy ?-the question, the reader will soon perceive, on the decision of which, the whole interpretation turns. For the principle on which they are
used, is undoubtedly in all cases the same. If a victorious warrior be a representative of bodies and successions of conquering warriors; if a civil magistrate be a symbol of a combination or series of civil magistrates of a similar character ;—then must an animal also be taken as a precursor of a herd and succession of similar animals; and monster shapes like the locusts and horsemen of the fifth and sixth trumpets, and the seven-headed and two-horned wild beasts, be regarded as foreshowing the appearance on the theatre of the world, of races of similar monsters. Otherwise there can be no uniform law of symbolization, and thence no certainty of interpretation. It were as incompatible with a demonstrable meaning, that symbols should be used without any rule of relationship or significance; as that sounds, or letters and written words, the representatives of sounds, should be used without any established and uniform meaning. As the letters of the alphabet, had they no fixed character either as consonants or vowels, and were no more marks of one set of vocal accents than another, could not serve as signs of the voice, nor be instruments of representing audible expressions of thought and feeling; and as written words could form no intelligible language, had they no settled meaning, and sustained no uniform relations to each other, so neither can the symbols of prophecy, if the principle on which they proceed, be not invariably the same. To suppose their relationship to the objects which they represent is without any uniformity, is to suppose there is no clue whatever to their meaning, To assume that their relations in different cases are precisely the reverse of each other, is to assume that true and false constructions are equally probable. The principle of representation therefore, the relation of the sign to the thing signified, is undoubtedly in all cases the same, not various and opposite; and the rule of construction as universal, as certain, and as simple, as are the laws of the signs by which the voice is represented.
But that relation manifestly is not a similarity of nature. A wild beast is not a representative of a herd or succession of wild beasts of the same species. There are no seven-headed and ten-horned monsters in the forests or cultivated tracts of the Roman empire ; nor horses with lions' heads, and tails hung with a growth of serpents. A symbolic sea in like manner, is not a representative of a literal sca; nor a fountain or river, of some real fountain or stream of the apocalyptic earth. It were as erroneous and absurd to impute to the symbols such a relationship in this instance, as in the former. It were to miscon
ceive the nature of symbolization, as he would misconceive the nature of a simile, who should regard it as a comparison of a thing with itself, instead of some other object of an analogous nature—as a lion with a lion, a tempest with a tempest; instead of man or some other creature, in respect to courage with a lion, or passion with a whirlwind. It were entirely to set aside the mysteriousness of symbolization, and treat it as merely equivalent to a verbal description of the things which it denotes. If a fountain be the representative of a fountain, what enigma is there in the symbolization? What is the object of presenting it in vision? Why is not a verbal description as suitable a means of foreshowing it, as a visible exhibition? If the drunken sorceress borne on the wild beast, be a precursor of a succession of such sorceresses; what mystery is there in the sign? What veil is left on the meaning ? What peculiar need is there of wisdom to its interpretation ? But that that is not the relation of the sign to the thing signified, we know by the interpretation given of many of the symbols by the great Revealer himself, and the attending angels. A star we are told by the Redeemer, is a symbol of the messenger or minister of a church, not of a succession of stars; and a candlestick of a church itself, not of a multitude or series of candlesticks. A horn represents a succession of kings, and the drunken sorceress, a great combination of nationalized religious teachers and rulers. The ground of symbolization is indisputably therefore, not a similarity of nature, but analogy ;-general resemblances by which objects of one species, may be employed to represent those of another. A combination of bloody and tyrannical rulers, is symbolized by a ferocious wild beast, because their temper and agency toward individuals, communities, and nations, is like that of a ravenous brute, that kills and devours inferior and harmless animals. A vast multitude united in a single community, or under one government, is represented by a sea, because of its resemblance to such a collection of waters, and relationship to inferior and tributary communities, like that of a sea to the fountains and streams that devolve into it; while lesser communities, and distant dependent tribes, are symbolized by streams and fountains, because of their analogous relations to some great central community toward which they tend. In like manner a volcanic mountain precipitated into the sea, projecting its burning elements over the waters, destroying the fish, and firing the ships, is employed to symbolize the intrusion into a great empire of a hostile nation, establishing a separate government, and sending out from its capital devastating expeditions into the neighboring territories.
The symbols of the Apocalypse, and of all the prophets, are accordingly taken in all cases, where the subject is of a nature to admit it, from objects or phenomena of a different class from those which they are employed to represent, but that present striking resemblances in their chief characteristics; and the fact that they are drawn from one department, whether of civil life, the animal kingdom, or the material universe, which may serve as a representative of another, is an infallible token that they are signs, not of things in that department, but of something analogous in some other sphere of the religious or civil world. Thus when symbols like the first four seals, are drawn from the military and civil chiefs of the Roman empire, they denote, not such actors and actions in that civil and military state, but analogous agents and agencies in some other body of men, embracing like that empire, all varieties of good and bad, and sustaining resembling relations to each other; and in those instances denote the ministers of the church. When like the first four trumpets, they are drawn from the material universe, they indicate analogous agents and events in the world of men; and in those instances in the Roman and neighboring civil and military empires. Babylon the metropolis of an idolatrous persecuting kingdom, is employed as a symbol of a resembling organization of apostate and persecuting teachers professing to be true ministers of God. A woman clothed in a robe of sunlight, crowned with stars, crying out in the endeavors of childbirth, and bearing one who should rule the nations, is a symbol of the church in fervent desire and successful endeavor that one of her offspring may be advanced to the throne of the empire, and give release from persecution. When the relation of The teachers and rulers of the nationalized church to the civil powers of the empire, during the twelve hundred and sixty days, is to be represented, a drunken sorceress is exhibited as borne by a monster wild beast, the symbol of the rulers of that empire. The woman clothed in sunlight, driven from society into a desert, is the emblem of the true people of God frowned on and persecuted by the antichristian rulers, and compelled to refrain from the expression of their evangelical faith before the world, and retire into seclusion. The true ministers and worshippers in their relations as assertors and vindicators of the gospel in opposition to antichrist, are symbolized by the witnesses clothed in sackcloth, bearing testimony to the truth, and
enduring persecution and martyrdom; while faithful ministers and true servants of God, proclaiming great truths, assailing and defeating antichrist, and fulfilling important offices for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom, are denoted by angels descending from the sky.
Similar relations of the representative agents and agencies to those that are represented, are seen in the other symbols. Stars and lamps that radiate light on the eye, are used to denote agents that communicate spiritual light to the mind, chap. i. 20, iv. 5; the influence of an irritating material cause on the body, to indicate the agency of harassing political causes on the mind, xvi. 2; the torturing influence of poisonous animals on the body, to symbolize the torturing inflictions on the church of cruel conquerors who exercise an antagonist religion, ix. 10; and the deadly agency of venomous animals, to represent the deadly influence of false religious teachers, ix. 19, 20. The agency of material causes destroying the life of animals, is employed to denote the violent agency of men in destroying fellowmen, xvi. 3, 4; the violent destructive action of powerful physical agents on the vegetable world, to symbolize the violent and resistless agency of masses of men destroying classes and multitudes in the political world, viii. 7; the tinging of symbols of communities with blood, to denote that those whom they represent are to become besmeared with blood by the slaughter of one another, or of foreign masses invading or repelling them, xvi. 3, 4, 5; and the infusion of a deadly element into the symbol of communities, to indicate the generation in them of dispositions prompting them to a destructive agency on other communities, viii. 10, 11.
This law of analogy in characteristics of nature and agency, in contradistinction from a sameness of species, thus holds throughout the Apocalypse. The only deviations in any degree are, when the agents to be represented are of a nature that cannot properly be symbolized by any thing else than themselves, such as separate spirits, saints raised from the dead, the deity, the incarnate Word in his station as King of kings and Lord of lords. There is obviously nothing in the whole circle of the social or material world, that can properly symbolize the spirits of the martyrs. There is no other order of beings that has undergone an analogous change in its mode of existence. There is no other within our knowledge capable of such a change; and to have employed an arbitrary sign, that sustained no resemblance to them, would not only have misled or given no