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We shall consider, in this place, the following questions:
First, Is the Apocalypse a Divine Book? and, By whom was it written ?
Second, At what time was it written ?
IS THE APOCALYPSE A DIWINE BOOK? AND BY WHOM WAS IT WRITTEN ?
I. The book claims to be of divine origin. It is said to be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he [i. e., Jesus Christ] sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”—Rev. i. 1, 4. This is the pretension of the book itself. John, the author, styles himself the “brother” of the churches, – their “companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus.”—See verse 9. This description certainly will apply, with much propriety, to John the apostle. The author of the book further states, that he was banished to “the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”—Werse 9. Was it not true that the apostle John was banished to that island on account of his devotion to the Christian religion? We shall see, as we proceed. There are but two other instances in the book in which the author mentions his name, viz., xxi. 2, and xxii. 8. Apocalypse, – the most consistent and valuable, we think, of an we have ever seen, – yet he was manifestly troubled and "...] in his judgment in interpreting certain parts by his theologic: system, or creed, especially his belief in endless misery, and th: 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 preachers 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 2 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 did, 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
government. Let the reader forgive the writer this brief allusion to personal matters. They never can appear to others as they appear to himself. 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 encouragement, 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