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ON THE STRUCTURE OF THE APOCALYPSE.
La plupart des plus grands certitudes que nous ayons, ne sont fondées que sur
un fort petit nombre de preuves qui separées ne sont pas infaillibles, et qui pourtant dans certaines circonstances se fortifient tellement par l'addition de l'une a l'autre, qu'il y en a plus qu'il n'en faut pour condamner d'extravagance quiconque y résisteroit; et qu'il n'y a point de démonstration dont il ne fût plus aisé de se faire naître le doute dans l'esprit.... Car quoiqu'on ne pût peut-être démontrer dans la rigueur de la géométrie, qu'aucune de ces preuves en particulier soit indubitable, elles ont néanmoins une telle force étant assemblées qu'elles convainquent tout autrement que ce que les géométres appellent demonstration. Ce qui vient de ce que les preuves de géométrie ne font le plus souvent qu'ôter la replique sans répandre aucune lumière dans l'esprit ni montrer la chose à découvert, au lieu que celles-ci la mettent, pour ainsi dire, devant les yeux : et la raison en est, qu'elles sont dans nos véritables voies, et que nous avons plus de facilité à nous en servir surement, que des principes de géométrie, dont peu de tétes sont capable, jusques la que tout infaillibles qu'ils sont, les geométres eux-mêmes se trompent et se brouillent souvent.--PASCAL.
Every thing that comes immediately from God, is orderly, harmonious, and perfect: his word, as much so as his work. If in either we do not perceive order and perfection, we may rest assured that it is only because we do not yet know the principle by which it is regulated, and that the imperfection is in ourselves, not in the work. Till our own times, the Apocalypse has lain under the imputation of irregularity, and arbitrary, or accidental, arrangement; as the events to which interpreters applied its predictions, did not easily and naturally fall into that order of sequence in which the symbols were placed, and the predictions given. In attempting to explain these supposed irregularities, different systems were invented ; and, as was to be expected in every system but the true one, they generally, in adjusting one seeming irregularity, occasioned disorder in some other portion of the book. Much the same did it fare with astronomy, while they attempted to reconcile the motions of the heavenly bodies with the systems of Ptolomy or Des Cartes ; and even after the true system had been announced by Copernicus, many, unable to shake off old prejudices, adhered pertinaciously to those erroneous notions which had so long prevailed. But when Newton discovered the law by which the motions of the heavenly bodies were regulated, and demonstrated the universality of its application, the whole science of astronomy took a new direction; and his successors have been profitably employed in completing, by their combined exertions, that system which he had fixed on an immovable basis. In our science, of the interpretation of prophecy, we have passed our Copernican ara, which began with Mede, and has been further developed and perfected by his successors, especially during the last fifteen years (whose services to our science may be paralleled with those of Kepler to astronomy); and we only
! waited for some general principle, as universai in its application to our science as gravitation was to astronomy; and which, I verily believe, we have now received, in the system of Times and Seasons, as explained in an article in Number I. of this work. I take to myself no other merit than that of endeavouring to apply this important discovery. I am delighted in finding it not only universally applicable, but explanatory and illustrative wherever it is introduced. I shall therefore now endeavour to fix the structure of the Apocalypse by this system, which I have hitherto found an infallible guide.
In studying the Apocalypse, a difficulty is usually felt at the outset, from an appearance of disorder in the arrangement, by the necessity of returning back, in some succeeding chapter, to periods of time already gone over in a preceding chapter : as in xi. xii. xiii., each of which is to some extent parallel with the other two chapters; or in xiv. 19, 20, xix. 15, where, the treading of the wine-press being in both the same event, the events preceding it must also be paralleled, and the narrative consequently must have returned to an earlier period of time, before xix. 15. A little further examination shews that a certain classification is observed :--that the seasons of the year, namely, firstfruits, harvest, and vintage are kept together in one series, as xiv. ; that the allusions to the tabernacle or temple are kept distinct from the seasons, as xi. xii. xiii.; and that it is in this tabernacle series only that dates are given-as, forty-two months (xi. 2), 1260 days (xi. 3), three days and a half (xi. 9, 11), 1260 days (xii. 6), time, times, and a half (xii. 14), forty-two months (xiii. 5), 666 (xüi. 18). And we further observe, that the seals, trumpets, and vials (which I shall shew to be political events bearing on the church), have all some allusions which serve to attach them to the two regulating series of seasons and times. And also that the times do not extend lower than the period of the beast's supremacy (xiii. 5): and at this period, when the 1260 days expire, the seasons begin, and run on to the end of this present dispensation, and to the beginning of the Millennium. To understand the beauty and propriety of this classification, we must bear in mind the typical history to which it alludes (namely, the tabernacle in the wilderness,) and the fixed times on which its service was performed; and the seasons, which commenced after crossing Jordan and coming out of the wilderness. During this time series of 1260 days, the church is represented as in the wilderness,“ in a place prepared of God, nourished from the face of the serpent” (xii
. 6, 14; fed with manna ;) having no seasons to fix her feasts, but numbering them by the return of months. Now the Mosaic ordinances, though given in the wilderness, all looked forward to the time of their settlement in the land; and the great feasts of the Jewish year, though fixed to certain days of the month, were in fact regulated by the seasons, for it was necessary to present at each of them certain fruits of the ground. This shews us the propriety, and, if we may so speak, the necessity, of placing the series of seasons (xiv.) at the end of the 1260 days, or wilderness period ; and at the head of that period of time in which the mystery of God is unveiled and finished, regulating the order of each event in that series.
Chap. xiv. ushers in that portion of the Revelation which the slightest inspection shews to be the most important of the whole book. It begins with the visitation on Babylon, and runs on to the overthrow of all the powers of evil, to make way for the kingdom of Christ. All the preceding revelations point onwards to this time; and all the Old-Testament Prophets look forward to it, as “the last days," “the time of the end," "the day of the Lord,” &c. Now the Prophets are commanded to seal up the vision till the "time of the
end” (Dan. xii
. 4). when the wise shall understand (Dan. xii. 10): “In the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (Jer. xxiii. 20, xxx. 24). I therefore conclude this to be the period when the prophecy is unsealed : which is also indicated by internal evidence in the Apocalypse itself; for angels of the vials are sent expressly to reveal to the Apostle (who represents the church) the events of this time (xvii. 1, xix. 9, xxi, 9, xxii. 8). At this time too, in xv. 4 it is said "thy judgments are made manifest;" and this time of unsealing the prophecy is also the announcement of the coming of Christ (xvi. 15, xxii. 7), previous to his actual coming (xi. 18, xxii. 12)*.
The great festivals of the Jewish year were the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles; at each of which every male was obliged to appear before the Lord (Ex. xxiii. 14, 17; xxxiv. 23; Lev. xxiii. 5, 15, 34,39). The Passover was on the fourteenth of the first month-nearly answering to our Easter; but as it was necessary to wave a sheaf of corn as first-fruits of the harvest “on the morrow after the sabbath" (Lev. xxiii, 11, 15), and as the Feast of Weeks was numbered,
seven weeks from the time of putting the sickle to the corn” (Deut. xvi. 9), these feasts were, in fact, regulated by the harvest; the calendar being adjusted to the seasons by intercalating another month, called the second Adar, if the harvest was too backward to allow of offering a sheaf on the regular 14th of Abib; and Abib (which means green ears) received its name from being thus connected with the ears of corn offered as first fruits. The third great feast, that of Tabernacles, was also called the Feast of Ingatherings (Ex. xxiii. 16), because it was held seven days after they had “gathered in the corn and the wine” (Deut. xvi. 13); and therefore it also depended upon the seasons, and might be delayed, if necessary, by intercalating six days in the preceding months.
* That such a time of unveiling the mystery would arrive, Newton had the sagacity to perceive; and he also assigned the true reason why these prophecies were not understood before: “The time is not yet come,” says he, “ for understanding them perfectly, because the main revolution predicted in them is not yet come to pass .“ Till then, we must content ourselves with interpreting what hath been already fulfilled.”
This principle is carried into the Apocalypse, and explains why chap. xiv., with its series of seasons, is placed at the head of that period in the revelation when the mystery of God is unveiled and finished, regulating the order and fixing the relative time of each event in that series. Our Lord sanctioned this principle in his discourses to the disciples ; instructing them to take warning from indications of the same kind: “The fields are white for harvest” (John iv. 35): “When the fig-tree putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near” (Mark xiii. 28). Thus, in the Apocalypse, the reaping (xiv. 15) is when the “harvest is ripe;" the vintage (18), when the clusters are “fully ripe :”indicating to us that we are to seek for signs of the Lord's coming in the state of his people ; and take our warning of coming judgments from the state of the world, rather than from any calculated epoch or period. For the same wise end the time of the great period of 1260 was not known with certainty till its expiration, when the seasons began ; and it is only by a retrograde calculation that we have fixed its commencement, and determined thereby the earlier periods of the first four seals.
Those who agree with me thus far will think it their wisdom and duty to study the Apocalypse in the same order in which its mystery has been unfolded, and consider chap. xiv. as the calendar, or index, regulating all the other parts of the book ; and so much the more when they perceive that this period, to which such importance is given in the Revelation, includes this very time in which we now live. The series of events being given briefly in chap. xiv. in the order of the seasons of the year, and the characteristic“ signs of the times" indicated, the same series is repeated, with its political emblems, to give it time, in chapters xv. xvi. xvii., and again repeated with its ecclesiastical emblems, to give it place, xviii. xix.; and in each of the three series some corresponding links of connection are given, to bind them all together as one history. “ Babylon is fallen,” xiv. 8, connects it with xviii. 2; and both point on to the infliction of this threat, xvi. 19, xvii. 16. “The wine-press trodden without the city,' xiv. 20, connects with xvi. 16, and xix. 15. So also the seven angels coming out of the temple (xv. 6, as also 7, 8), are ecclesiastical emblems introduced in the political series; while King of kings (xix. 16, xvii. 14) are political emblems introduced in the ecclesiastical series, and serve the same purpose of binding together all the several series.
There is in the Apocalypse a sort of double action—the first a sign and premonition of the second-which it may be as well to mention here, though it is found in many other parts of the book. One instance has been already mentioned-viz. the announcement of our Lord's speedy coming, xvi. 15, xxii. 7, xiv. 14, (answering to the sign of the Son of Man, Matt. xxiv. 30); and his coming with reward, xi. 18, xxii. 12, (Matt. xxiv. 30, latter clause.) So also there are two earthquakes (xi. 13-19); the first of which shakes, the second of which overwhelms Babylon. The shaking of the first is compared to a mighty wind bringing down untimely figs (vi. 13); but in the following verses (14-17) language is used which carries the mind on to the final earthquake (xi. 19, xvi. 18—21), in which “ every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” Upon mature consideration, I think that both earthquakes are included in vi. 13—17; the whole period, from the expiration of the 1260 days till the treading of the wine-press, being considered as one act of judgment on Babylon : to the whole of which I believe the sealing extends; the “ untimely figs” seeming to intimate that the precocity of wickedness outruns, as it were, the purpose of God, provoking his judgments before the proper time; while the slow growth of the wheat, and the backwardness of the season in his church, does, as it were, restrain and delay the complete destruction of Babylon, till the harvest of the earth is fully ripe. “Let both grow together till harvest” (Matt. xiii. 30) 66 The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself.... but when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (Mark iv. 29).
For studying the Apocalypse with advantage, we should always bear in mind the class of persons for whose instruction it was intended. It was not for unbelievers, for they would not receive it: it was not for Jews, for they would never read it : it was not for worldly men, for to them it would have no interest. It is therefore vain to expect in the Apocalypse any thing applicable to the infidel, the Jew, or the worldling, beyond those general judgments denounced in it against all the wicked. But the Apocalypse was intended for the instruction of true Christians, or the real church of God. We accordingly find that the end kept constantly in view throughout the book is to shew the final triumph and glory of the church; and all political changes and revolutions are noticed only in their bearings on the church, as advancing or retarding this expected consummation. The prophetic visions of the Apocalypse (ch.iv.) open with a display of the adoration due to its Creator by the whole creation, and