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I contend, for similar reasons, that the thousand years, or millennium, of the Revelations, is not a strict chronological period :* that it is not necessary to suppose it to be so, the symbolical character of the context is perhaps argument sufficient; and, that it is impossible to make it so, the just and natural interpretation of the Scriptures to which it refers seems abundantly to prove. My opinion is (and my reasons will be seen in the Exposition and Concluding Remarks), that by this term is meant, that first division of the seventieth prophetical week already mentioned, in which the Gospel was to be preached, and the Church erected chiefly by the instrumentality of the Apostles; and, that by the time of the end, the consummation, &c. is meant that other period, which occurred between the termination of this first, and the final establishment of the Christian Church, and in which the wars, earthquakes, persecutions, &c. predicted by our Lord and the Prophets actually took place; and, at the conclusion of which, the legitimate objects of our Scriptural prophecies had all been secured.
Another principle, and one on which I lay the greatest stress in this case is, the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture, and to which, I am of opinion, as already remarked, sufficient attention has not been paid. In this, I think I find the periods already noticed; and indeed every thing else contained in this interesting portion of Scripture, marked out, defined, and limited, in such a
* I am of opinion, that if this had occurred to Grotius or Hammond, the book of Revelations would have been satisfactorily explained long ago.
manner as to leave no possible doubt as to its object and end; and to afford a very strong presumption that the views here proposed are correct in the main. That I have been so fortunate as to succeed in every particular of Scriptural application, I will not affirm.* To expect I should perfectly succeed where every one else has, since the first ages of the Church, utterly failed, would be to evince a mind as ill acquainted with itself as with the difficulties of this subject; but, if I have succeeded in discussing and applying for the first time principles, which, when matured by further investigation, may tend eventually to unravel every particular of this interesting portion of Scripture, I shall have the pleasure to reflect, and reason to be thankful, that I have been enabled to render so important a service to the Christian Church. The difficulties which have attended this book, and which have in many instances proved the source of much error, and indeed of much doubt, in the Church, have not, I think, hitherto received a satisfactory solution; while perhaps no good reason can be adduced to shew, that future events are to supply this defect. If the view I have taken of them be the just one, this book will not only appear easy, intelligible, and pointed in its declarations, but will afford the strongest evidences to the truth of Christianity itself, and the best possible helps
* I must lay a particular request upon the reader, to spare no pains in examining the passages of Scripture cited in my exposition of the Revelations; because I believe he will, by so doing, very much increase his knowledge of the bearing of this book, and of prophecy in general, and be much better qualified to judge on the nature of my results than he otherwise possibly could.
for the interpretation of prophecy in general. Two considerations naturally arising out of my view of this prophecy will, I have reason to expect, be made the subject of heavy censure, and perhaps of abuse, with many. One is, I have not been able to find any mention either of the Pope or of Popery ; the other, a belief that the whole of the prophetical Scriptures has long ago been fulfilled. My answer to both of these charges must be : I have had neither point to gain nor hypothesis to serve in these matters. I was naturally led to my conclusions by the operation of my principles upon the text of Scripture, without any endeavour or even expectation on my part to come to such results. If, however, my conclusions should prove to be just, I do not think we shall have much to lament on this score. The views alluded to (and which may now possibly become superannuated) have had the trial of a considerably long period, and yet they have produced no useful results to the cause of truth : and, if I may be allowed to offer an opinion, I should say, they have been the causes of great and lamentable evils; the one in keeping up an irritating and unchristian state of feeling, without at the same time offering instruction likely to be accepted; the other in affording an almost inexhaustible source for the most rash and most unprofitable theological speculations.
The quotations occasionally introduced from the Fathers have proved a great source of interest, and indeed of astonishment, with me : they have seemed to assure me, that in the earlier days of the Church the views here proposed on the Revelations were
those very generally, if not universally, held. If so, the sneer of Gibbon* will in future lose all its point; the Book itself will be vindicated, as to the place it has ever held in the Canon; and the Fathers will be found to have known much more on this interesting subject, than either Mr. Gibbon or his abettors have known themselves or been pleased to allow to others. Justin Martyr and Irenæus have fallen particularly under the lash of this elegant and acute infidel writer. I will not say that the Fathers are in every respect perfect models of Scriptural interpretation; but I will affirm, that it will be difficult to suggest to the notice of the theological student, writers in many respects so truly valuable, and from whom he will reap so much real benefit. The latter (Irenæus) has, I believe, been misunderstood and misrepresented, as I have shewn in my Exposition ; and if so, what he is said to have received from ancient and apostolic persons will be allowed to have its due weight with those, who are more anxious for the furtherance of Divine truth, than for the perpetuity of the sneers of an elegant but mistaken sceptic.
I will only add, in conclusion, that I have not purposely neglected the views of others on this interesting portion of Holy Writ. If indeed I have not occasionally mentioned them, the reason has been, I have had neither leisure nor space to review their several bearings; besides, I was less willing to appear in the shape of a controversialist than of an inquirer. It is infinitely more congenial to my feel
* Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. i. chap. 15.
ings, and, I trust, more useful, to endeavour to point out what is right, than perpetually to be dwelling on what I may suppose to be wrong. To the temperate remarks of all on these subjects I shall lend a very willing ear, and shall be ready to give up the views I now hold on them, when good proof of their unsoundness shall have been made out.