« הקודםהמשך »
the pains to study the Apocalypse, we apprehend he will perceive that it throws a new light upon several dark passages of the ancient prophets. Besides, it must be observed, that a prophecy is not always confined to one object, but often relates both to the figure of a thing and to the thing itself, and consequently has two accomplishments, the one inadequate and in part only, the other complete and perfect. How often, for example, is the same scriptural text applied in an imperfect sense to David or Solomon, which is fully completed in Christ, of whom they were figures ? Thus also the return of the Jews from the Babylonic captivity may be deemed a figure of their return from a much longer captivity in the latter period of the world, and both may be intimated together by the prophets: and so of other instances. On these grounds a text, that has been generally applied to the figure, we have sometimes transferred to the thing itself, to show its full and ultimate completion. That part of the Apocalypse, which gives the prophetic history of past ages, we have illustrated with the real history of those times, that the accomplishment may clearly appear. If we have not always mentioned our vouchers, it is because we thought it unnecessary in the case of such short abstracts of history, especially as they are taken from the well known ecclesiastic historians of the times. In regard to the text of the Apocalypse, we have made use of the commonly known English translation made from the Latin vul. gate; at the same time taking notice of any difference, worth observing, between the translation and the original Greek. In fine, we here make our acknowledgments to those friends whom we have consulted, and who have assisted us in discovering and unfolding the mysterious senses of the Apocalypse.
As to the time when this prophecy was delivered to St. John, it is generally understood to have been in the year 95 or 96 of the Christian æra. This holy Apostle, after being immersed in a caldron of boiling oil at Rome, from which he came out unhurt, was banished by the emperor Domitian into the isle of Patmos in the Egean Sea or Archipelago, where, as we learn from himself, Apoc. i. 9. he was favoured with this most admirable and most comprehensive of all prophecies. “St. John was a prophet,” says St. Jerom,“ because being in the isle of Patmos, whither he had been exiled for the faith by the emperor Domitian, he received the Apocalypse or a revelation containing an infinite number of mysteries appertaining to future times.” Lib. I. contra Jovin. He always enjoyed a superior share in the affections of his divine Master, and among many proofs of it, he was indulged with this singular and extraordinary favour, not granted to any of the other apostles. This most instructive book we cannot but earnestly recommend to every Christian, and we hope our recommendation will have the more weight, as it is grounded on the words of the divine book itself: “Blessed is he, that readeth and heareth the words of this prophecy; and keepeth those things which are written in it,” Apoc. i. 3. The obscurity, which covers the Apocalypse, has been the occasion of its having been so little attended to. We have therefore attempted to remove that obstacle: but if we have not totally succeeded, we plead indulgence from the difficulty of explaining a prophecy so sublime, and the most mysterious that is extant. Besides the advantage resulting from a general survey of the history of the Church, another motive for attending to the Apocalypse, is the particular interest every Christian must take in that part of the history, which relates to the present time, and those scenes which are approaching. Much instruction may be drawn from the present state of the Church, as described by our prophetic writer, and caution ought to be the result for what we find is to happen hereafter. If God reveals to us mysteries, it is for our instruction: if he discloses to us future events, doubtless he does it to give us warning to prepare for them. This kind of economy almighty God observed towards mankind from the beginning, that in consequence of such previous admonitions, his faithful servants should withdraw themselves from approaching calamities, while the wicked might impute to their own obstinacy the punishments that fell upon them. This bountiful administration of Providence appeared very conspicuous in favour of the Jews, who were generally forewarned by the prophets of the great events that concerned them. The same course we find the Almighty has pursued in the Christian age of the world. He has not indeed sent a succession of prophets as he did to the Jews. The only considerable prophet Christianity can claim is St. John the apostle; but then he as far excels any one of the ancient jurophets, as his Apocalypse contains more matter, and comjrises a larger field of history. He grasps the whole period of Christianity. He describes the birth of Christ's Spouse, his Church, and gradually conducts her through her whole progress, till she arrives at ihe full possession of her Lord in everlasting glory and bliss. The finger of God appears plainly stamped upon the book of the Apocalypse, it so far exceeds the reach of human composition. The divine pen is
visible in every line, as each sentence is apparently written with such precision and accuracy, that a word cannot be added or retrenched without derogating from the sense. The figures and allegories here employed are truly sublime, grand, and beautiful, and closely adapted in all their parts to the subject. Some of them are borrowed from the ancient prophets, but heightened by superior strokes. St. John's subject, the history of Christ's kingdom, as it surpasses in dignity the object of all preceding prophecies, so he exhibits it in colours that outshine all former prophetic descriptions. This kingdom of Christ, the greatest of all kingdoms, and his government of it, the most perfect of all governments, are described in a style proportionably exalted. The ancient prophets announced the orders and instructions they received from God, and were only favoured with visions in some particular cases: but the beloved disciple of Christ, not only receives from his Lord the verbal account he delivers, but is admitted to see transacted before him every scene of the history which he writes. Again, the ancient prophets chiefly confined their accounts to the temporal transactions of kingdoms; but St. John, after giving the history of the Christian Church, for the whole time of her existence in this world, describes her future triumphant state in the heavenly Jerusalem, the period of which will be equal to that of eternity. Besides, the picture which he there gives of the heavenly Jerusalem is drawn with such exquisite art, is painted with such striking colours, and enriched with such charming scenes, and with such a collection of the choicest, the most valuable, and the most shining objects in nature, that the whole surpasses greatly whatever human conception is capable of imagining or combining together. Such then being the extent, the usefulness, and the excellence of the prophecy delivered in the Apocalypse, what can be more curious or interesting than a history founded upon it ?
DIVIDED INTO SEVEN AGES,
AND DEDUCED CHIEFLY FROM THE
Before we enter upon this prophetic History, it will be necessary to explain the first chapter of the Apocalypse, as it contains the Preface to the whole book, -and, on that account, is essential to the present work.
Explication of the first Chapter of the Apocalypse. Verse 1. “ The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass: and signified, sending by his angel to his servant John.
V. 2. “Who hath given testimony to the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, what things soever he hath seen.”
We are here informed that the book of the Apocalypse is a Revelation, which Jesus Christ, as Man-God, received from God: the purpose of which is to disclose to his servants, the Christians, a series of events very interesting to them, and which must shortly come to pass. This revelation Jesus Christ communicates by the channel of his angel, whom he sends to deliver it to his servant John. The character here given to this servant John shows him to be the Apostle St. John; for he is here said to have given testimony to the word
of God, by his preaching and suffering for the cause of God, and to have also given testimony of Jesus Christ, by bearing witness to what things soever he had seen of his divine Master. And this account of him coincides with what St. John says of himself at the beginning of his first epistle; “ That which we have heard,” says he," which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life—we declare unto you."
We have said that it was Christ who signified or notified this his Revelation, sending it by his angel; which is confirmed by what he himself speaks in the conclusion of the Apocalypse: “I Jesus have sent my angel, to testify to you these things in the churches." Apoc. xxii. 16. But it might be equally said, that God himself communicated this prophecy by his angel; for we likewise read : “ The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things which must be done shortly," Apoc. xxii. 6. which words are quite similar to those above of verse first. However, it is not material whether to God or to Jesus Christ the communication of the prophecy be ascribed, when we consider the divinity of Christ.
Another observation we must here make, is concerning the angel of God or Christ, who is sent to communicate the Apocalypse to St. John. He is generally supposed to be a real angel: but upon close examination we think he will appear to be St. John the Baptist. This personage is peculiarly vested with the character of angel* or messenger of God and Christ, and is denominated such in the ancient prophecies, and by Christ himself:-“ Behold I send my angel," said the Lord by his prophet Malachy, “and he shall prepare the way before my face,” Mal. iii. I. which Christ applies to his precursor, St. John Baptist. “This is he," says Christ, “ of whom it is written : Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee.” Mat. xi. 10. The same is also confirmed by the Baptist's own declaration: “ I am," says he "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord,” John i. 23. which plainly speaks his function of angel or messenger of Christ. A further proof is de rived from the words of the angel himself, who thus speaks to St. John the Apostle: “I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren who have the testimony of Jesus." Apoc. xix. 10. And again, “ I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the pro phets, and of them that keep the words of the prophecy of this
* The word angel signiñes messenger.