« AnteriorContinuar »
this I could easily have done, as is manifest from the First Lecture, wherein, within the compass of thirtyseven pages, I have set forth the whole substance of the Book in an orderly manner. But as I proceeded, there arose in my mind a strong conviction that the thing which the church needed was not so much another exposition, added to the multitude which she already possesseth, of this blessed book, as a practical exhibition of the infinite theological and moral treasures which it containeth ; not so much another scheme of interpretation, or the scheme of former interpreters corrected by the new lights which have been cast upon the subject, as a demonstration of the excellence of the materials whereof it is composed, and their fitness for the edification of all saints. For it is beyond question, that the great body, both of Christian ministers and of Christian people, are deterred from studying and perusing this Book by nothing more than a false notion that it is mysterious and cabalistical, and only for the edification of those who are learned. The Christian church, in respect to it, are in the same state as the church of Je. rusalem was in respect to the Book of God in the days prophesied of by Isaiah: “And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned” (Isaiah xxix. 11, 12). Well knowing, from my own experience, how false and pernicious this notion is; and fully believing the blessing twice.pronounced by God upon those who should read the Apocalypse, or manifestation of Jesus Christ (Rev. i. 3; xxii.7); it hath been my endeavour to do my part to deliver the church from this unworthy and erroneous estimate of a portion of the word of God; from the loss she suffers, and from the guilt she contracts, in habitually undervaluing and neglecting it. To accomplish this most desirable end, I perceived that the means were, not so much, by shewing its object as a connected whole, as by exhibiting the excellence of all its parts; the preciousness of every name of God and of Christ, of every saying, of every figure, and almost of every word; and especially by shewing the connection of the book with the other parts of Scripture, and the light which it casts upon every book in the sacred canon.
These views grew upon me as I proceeded; for in my extempore Lectures I had rather set myself to shew forth the various aspects in which Christ is revealed, than the wonderful depth of Divine doctrine which the words of the Revelation contain. Then I fulfilled the office of one beholding the glories of Christ in these symbolical representations, and describing to my brethren what I beheld : afterwards, as I more and more deeply meditated the language of the record, I passed into the condition of the disciple drinking deeply at the fountain of his Master's wisdom, and desiring to impart the same plentiful supply to others.
As these purposes of doing good service for this wonderful book of God, and for the church, grew in my mind, I felt it necessary to dwell more and more upon the very words of the Revelation, and to gather out the eternal truths of religion and morality which they contain. And so it came to pass, that upon the vision of the churches, which in preaching occupied only two lectures, I have spent more than two-thirds of my whole labour. So far from regretting this, I desire devoutly to give thanks to Almighty God for having diverted me from my own purpose to one which I believe to be more for his glory and for the good of men. He has enabled me to set forth such a portraiture of our great Shepherd's character as I feel assured will bless both the churches and the ministers of the churches; while at the same time I have had ample opportunity of indirectly opening all the other parts of the Apocalypse.
It is now five years since I published my first work on prophetic subjects-entitled, “ Babylon and Infidelity foredoomed”-expository of the Prophecies of Daniel and John in respect to the Christian nations and the world. Since which time there has been one continual series of events accomplishing the things therein laid down; and we seem at present standing on the brink of a great crisis, both in church and state, which all men now begin to apprehend. This day, when I write, the Parliament of Great Britain is dissolved, in order to make way for another which may be more obsequious to the passions of the people ; for it is an idle thing to talk now of any ruler in this nation but the popular voice, of which the Reformed Parliament will be the appropriate organ. . A very short while will unfold very great events.
The time is indeed at hand. In foreign nations we behold the popular voice expressing itself in revolutions, and organizing itself into governments. And one thing is remarkable, that every where it prefers the monarchical form—the citizen king, instead of the Christian king. When the last infidel Antichrist shall arise—the eighth head, which is also of the seven-there shall be ten kings, who will give their power unto him, in order to accomplish the destruction of the Whore of Babylon. Can it be that we also shall have citizen king, and fulfil the same destinies with the rest of the ten kingdoms ? Things look very like it at present. I bless God that there is now a voice lifted up from the ministers of the church, and that the eyes of the congregations are directed forward upon the coming events. God will be glorified by an intelligent church, however few, in the midst of the fires.
It is now four years since I published the Translation of Ben Ezra's book, entitled, “The Coming of the Lord in Glory and Majesty:" and I bless God when I behold the wonderful answer which his church hath given to that voice from a distant land. She knew the voice of truth, though coming through a minister of the Roman church, and received it with cordial welcome. In all the churches, and especially in the churches in Ireland, I have heard the voice, “ Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.” Expositors of the Lord's coming have arisen on every side, and the land is filled with light. The doctrines 'of the church begin to be more and more cleared in our sight; and with the light, life hath revived ; and with the life, power; and with the power, gladness. This is to me by far the most hopeful sign of this land, that the Lord himself hath returned to the midst of us, with the light of knowledge and with the voice of preaching. We have awakened as out of a deep sleep. The walls of our Zion were almost stormed: but at length the watchmen are aroused, and the city is alarmed; and now comes the fearful contention between the powers of Infidelity and of Truth. This kingdom will stand or fall according as the one or the other shall prevail.
The work of which I now present the first portion is one of a larger scope than any which have yet undertaken ; being an endeavour to unfold the whole mystery of God, as it is expressed in this great revelation of Jesus Christ, which is the concentration of all the names, actions, and purposes of God into one. It is not to set forth my scheme, or to gainsay the schemes of others, but to open the deep things of God revealed in this portion of his word—the historical applications in these four volumes do not amount to the twentieth part of the whole;-- it is not to prognosticate concerning time and place, but to apprehend and set forth the wisdom of God, that I have undertaken, and so far completed, this labour. The substance of the web is Eternal Truth, however fanciful some of the figures embroidered upon it may seem to be. Therefore I have entered into no questions with system-builders, because it is not as a system-builder that I am labouring, but as an expositor of the coming and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, which I believe to be the end of this book.