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The plan, which I have pursued in the following work, is the same as that which I adopted in my Dissertation on the 1260 years. It was finished in the spring of the year 1806 : and, instead of altering the text, such events as have since occurred, that appeared worthy of our observation, I have animadverted upon in the notes.
The longer I have considered the subject, the more I am confirmed in my former opinions. The passing train of events, the long period of time during which the abo. minations of Popery have been suffered to prevail from whatever precise era the appointed three times and a half ought to be computed, the very spirit of the age itfelf, all serve to shew, that we cannot be very far removed from what. Daniel calls the time of the end. At least, whatever may be thought of the other particulars, this last, I mean the spirit of the age, seems to me sufficiently deci. sive. “When the Son of man cometh,” said our Lord, “ shall he find faith on the earth ?" The present age has been boastfully termed the age of reason : and, when we consider the sense in which it has been so termed, we can scarcely avoid esteeming the appellation synonymous with the age of unbelief. Individual unbelief indeed has existed in all ages of the church: but never was there an age, in which infidelity has been so widely and so systematically diffused; never was there an age, to which the emphatic question of Christ so closely applied, as the present. Nor am I at all singular in my opinion. The question of our Lord, as it has been well observed by a late eminent divine, certainly “ gives us reason to expect, that, at the coming of the Son of man, faith shall
scarcely be found on earth. It is obvious therefore to conclude, that, in proportion as the faith decays, the coming of Christ is drawing near. The scoffers of the last days may insolently demand of us, as it was foretold they should, where is the promise of his coming ? and object, that there is no sign of it, for that all things continue as they were. But this cannot now be said with truth. All things do not continue as they were. There hath been a marvellous change of late in the affairs of this world and in the state of religion, with which all serious men are alarmed, justly apprehending that some still greater event is to follow. The signs of the times, to those who can read them, are many *.”
Some have supposed, that the 1260 years are already expired, and that their expiration took place about the commencement of the French revolution. As yet I have seen no sufficient reasons to induce me to assent to this opinion. According to the most natural interpretation of Dan. xii. 6, 7, the interpretation adopted by Mr. Mede and other eminent expositors, the interpretation which best harmonizes with parallel prophecies, the Jews will begin to be restored so soon as the three times and a half shall have expired. But the Jews have not begun to be restored. Therefore we scarcely seem warranted in supposing that the three times and a half have expired. However this may be, I have little doubt that the wonderful shaking of nations during these · last eighteen years is preparatory to the return and conversion of God's chosen people, and to the final overthrow of his congregated enemies.
In citing the various prophecies which relate to these events, I have adhered to no one translation in particular, but have given that version of them, by whomsoever proposed, which appeared to me best to express their true meaning. Any material variation from the established translation is noticed and defended in the margin. On this account, as well as for another reason, I have found it expedient to cite the prophecies in question at full length. In our common version, one and the same.
connected prediction is frequently broken into apparently unconnected parts by the arbitrary division of chapters.' Hence, the general design of the prophecy is greatly obscured; and by cursory readers, who pause at the termination of each chapter as if the subject were there completely finished, can scarcely be understood. In the following work, what I conceive to be parts of one prophecy are arranged accordingly; and several chapters are frequently commented upon collectively, as jointly forming only one complete whole. The usual method of treating the subject by selecting detached texts, instead of considering the unbroken predictions of which these texts are mere parts, has always appeared to me extremely defective. I have therefore departed from it, and think myself fully justified in doing so.
At one period it was the humour of the day to spiritualize the prophecies, as it was called : that is to say, those prophecies, which in their plain and obvious acceps tation relate to the restoration, the conversion, and the future glories, of the house of Israel, were referred to the original propagation and final universal extension of Christianity. But, according to such a mode of exposi. tion, there is scarcely any thing which the ancient pro. phecies may not be made to declare. Its extreme licence affords a sufficient confutation of it. I entirely think with the late Bp. Horsley, that the plain literal meaning of the prophecies which respect the future fortunes of the Jews ought to be strenuously maintained by all who study them. They are occasionally indeed written in the lana guage of symbols; and, when this is the case, they must no doubt be interpreted accordingly. But the literal application of them is not thereby affected. The political and spiritual revival of the house of Israel may be exhi bited to us under the imagery of the birth of a child or of a resurrection from the dead. But, although the language in this particular be metaphorical, the proper house of Israel, not the Gentile Church of Christ, must be intended, unless we wholly depart from the obvious sense of the prophecy. The literal mode of exposition recommended by Bp. Horsley, in opposition to the licence of spiritualizing, has been adopted by Mr. Bicheno, as well
as by myself : and, though I cannot agree with him in all points (if I could, the present work had been superfuous), I certainly think, that in his treatise on the restoration of the Jews he has thrown much light, perhaps more light than any of his predecessors, on the subject.
In a work written on the plan of the present one, it was impossible to avoid a certain degree of repetition : but I could not give up the plan, because I am persuaded that it is best calculated to attain to the knowledge of the truth. In my preliminary general statement, I have detailed, in one unbroken narrative, what I conceive may be collected from prophecy relative to the great events which will take place after the expiration of the 1260 years. But this, unless supported by proofs, would be no better than a sort of theological romance. The proofs therefore follow in their order. Each prediction is given at. length, and each is separately considered. Now, since all these predictions relate to the same period, though there is a considerable degree of variety in them, there must likewise be much sameness; and of this character of the predictions the several commentaries upon them must unavoidably partake. The subject however is of so much importance, that, by those who really wish to study it, I shall readily be excused for discussing it so largely.