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Now, as unbelief is not confined to the schools of Atheism, and as doubt and question are often made of Christian truth where the declared sceptic would be regarded with abhorrence; so this last antichristian form of infidelity is not confined within the visible boundaries of the Church of Rome *. The subtle device of Satan has succeeded but too well amongst members even of Protestant churches ; and it is to this, the most plausible perhaps, but certainly not the least dangerous, form of infidelity, that the modern objection to the study of unfulfilled prophecy-which in my last paper

. I proved to be her legitimate offspring-properly belongs. It is the same spirit which in the Church of Rome forbids the reading of the Scriptures in general, and which any where else dictates what portions of it may be read, and what other parts ought to be passed over as obscure and unprofitable and in both it is equally opposed to the express commandment of God. Read not, on pain of Inquisition,' says

the Papal power : " Search the Scriptures," is the injunction of our Lord Jesus Christ. Prophecy is a dark subject, and it is better to leave it unconsidered, is the favourite maxim of many in this age, who take much credit for their wisdom and prudence; but the words of the Holy Ghost are, “ Ye have also a more sure word of prophecy, unto which ye do well to take heed, as unto a light which shineth in a dark place.How nearly, therefore, both the Papal and Protestant objectors to the utility of the word of God, whether in whole or in part, are allied to the declared unbeliever, it is not difficult to perceive.

But man will look into futurity. The soul which God put within him, when he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” was not made for time; and even in the wreck of its present misery it possesses capacities and desires which may not be satisfied but with the perfection of a new creation's blessedness, and with happiness the duration of which is eternal as its

The future, therefore, is proverbially the inheritance of man : and from the fleeting and melancholy character of his present life he is ever turning away with unsated wish, and directing his inquiries towards coming things, if haply he may find in their infinitude some trace of a stabler and more lasting home. There is but one light which can pierce the murky cloud that conceals eternity from his view, and reveal to the vision of his faith “ a city which hath foundations," "an inheritance which fadeth not away :” and that light is the promise of God, the yet-unfulfilled promise of God. Whatsoever, therefore, is not found written in the unfulfilled prophecies of Scripture, concerning the destinies of these heavens and earth, and of angels and men, their inhabitants, is the invention of man, and entitled to no more credit than the elysium of Virgil or the Purgatory of Dante; yet our intense desire to know what awaits us in the habitations of eternity must lead us into such dreams, if we will reject the only sure and infallible guide into such mysteries. This is the error into which those have gone who maintain the dogma that Christians should not search into the meaning of such parts of Holy Writ as have their accomplishment in events which are yet before us. Having seen, in the course of the present investigation, that this proposition has its origin in infidelity in general, and that it is the special offspring of antichristian unbelief; it will appear the less surprising, that, with a subtlety equalled only by the inconsistency of their argument, its defenders have brought it forward to establish a system on the very subject into the investigation of which they forbid us to enter. Strange as it may seem, it is not the less true, that the very men who hold it rash and imprudent to pry into the mysterious predictions of unfulfilled prophecy, do not hesitate to lay before us a theory of future history, far more minute and particular than any which students of prophetic Scripture, whether ancient or modern, have pretended to know. The glories of a coming Millennium they pourtray in colours as bright as their fancies can supply: the means by which it shall be established, and the characteristics of its dispensation, they relate with the minuteness of storied detail. And as the authority of the Pope, while it forbids in general the reading of the Bible, yet permits “ the faithful,” who are willing to make the undivided sacrifice of their understanding,” and receive the words of God in the monstrous and contradictory sense of his interpreters, to make full and free use of it; so, if we will but first receive the system of those who forbid the reading of unaccomplished prophecy, and promise to twist and alter the words of the predictions till they shall bend to conformity with it, then may we also read even the xxivth chapter of St. Matthew, or the xxist of St. Luke, the parables of our Lord without exception-nay, we may look into the OldTestament Prophets, and into the Apocalypse itself. It is admitted, accordingly, that Jeremiah (xxxi. 31) says of the blessed Millennium, that those who partake of its happiness “shall teach no more every man his brother and every man his neighbour, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know him, from the least of them unto the greatest of them :" but we are to understand the holy prophet as saying, that the glory of that period shall consist in the universal preaching of the Gospel.' The Scriptures declare (Acts i.) that “the same Jesus whom the disciples saw ascend into heaven, shall so come in like manner as he went into heaven” (that is, in his proper person); and (Rev. xx. 4,5; v. 9, 10) “ that he shall reign with his people on the earth :" but by the coming of Christ we are required to understand that he shall remain in heaven; and his reigning VOL. 1.-NO. IV.

own.

See Dr. H. More's Myst. of Iniq. chap. i. p. 2.

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with his saints on the earth, we must believe to signify his sending the Holy Spirit to the place where he is already, the hearts of his people.-Nor do these fanciful theorists stop to fix the relative time of the day of judgment, though upon no better ground than that it suits their system. St. Peter (2 Pet. iii. 13) tells us that the new heavens and new earth mentioned by Isaiah (Ixv. 17), and which all acknowledge to be the Millennial state, are to be established after the passing away of the

“ heavens with a great noise," and the “melting of the elements with fervent heat,” “the burning up also of the earth and of the

works that are therein :" but the system in question has it, that the day of final retribution and the conflagration of the earth are synchronous, and do not take place till after the thousand years of felicity have run their course.—The prophecy above referred to, in Rev. xx., is given in these words : " And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years : but the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” Now, a simple-minded man, who understands the word “death” to mean the separation of the soul and the body, and “living again ” to denote their re-union, would read this passage as predicating of certain persons, therein described, that they would rise from the dead into the perfection of a new life at least a thousand years before certain others. But the system of future history, of which I now speak, will not admit this order of things ; and therefore its supporters have attempted, by the help of sophistry, to explain the passage as teaching that there is but one time for the general resurrection of the dead. Because, say they, St. John“ saw the souls of them that had been beheaded,” &c. “live again and reign with Christ a thousand years,” therefore he means a spiritual resurrection—that is, godly people, who resemble the martyrs in holiness of life, increasing greatly in number and prosperity. So that “souls of those who were beheaded,” &c. mean persons of other men ; and the living again," and "resurrection " of “

“ people once dead, mean the coming into the world by ordinary birth of successive generations !- Finally, reason suggests to us that this beautiful and goodly world, which God made for the habitation of the creature of his love, who was formed after his own image, will not be suffered to fall into the hands, for ever, of God's enemy. And Holy Writ confirms the truth : “ The earth abideth for ever :" “The creation (KTLOL) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (Rom. viii. 21). But the system

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-No. II. 623 in question teaches, that so soon as the general assize is passed, or while it is yet passing, the earth shall begin to consume in its last fires; and that, having received their respective sentences, the righteous shall return with Christ to heaven, and the wicked shall retire to their place of eternal torment; leaving the earth to perish, a trophy of Satan's victory.—These leading things, with many additional minutiæ, the dogmatists give forth as the only rational system of belief with regard to futurity; a system which certainly has this to distinguish it from that of any Chiliast, that it is not founded on that mysterious and dreaded thing the unfulfilled part of prophetic Scripture, but is the legitimate child of human imagination.

And this is the theory of spiritual interpretation, as it has been called, to which those would have us yield ourselves who claim a monopoly of “the wisdom and prudence of the day.” Verily it is not to the wise and prudent, but unto babes, that truth has been revealed. Here, we have already seen, is no system of interpretation, but a system of formal contradiction. Accordingly we find that this allegorical and figurative reading of prophecies not given allegorically or symbolically, has been treated by the true church as heresy, ever since, in the fourth and fifth centuries, it began to insinuate itself along with the other papal errors : and, defended though it be by many in these times " who profess and call themselves Christians,” it is but the echo of the false and hollow theology of the present day to the miserable sneer of the infidel of the last century.

“ The revolution of nearly 1800 years” (says Gibbon, speaking of the hope which the early Christians held of the coming of Christ to the earth to reign with his saints,) “has taught us to be cautious how we press too closely to their literal meaning such expressions of Scripture as describe things to come.” Pr. Hamilton of Strathblane serts that they are “ enthusiasts,” “ led away by their fancy,” " men of poor intellect," and many more things which decency forbids me to repeat, who look for the personal reign of Christ on earth during the Millennium. The difference between Gibbon's version of this sentiment and that of Dr. Hamilton, is only in the comparative scurrility with which it is given ; and here the balance is greatly in favour of the divine. The Holy Ghost says by St. Peter (2 Pet. iii. 3), “ Knowing this first (i.e. as of prime importance, touto #pūrov yıvwokovTES) " that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” In the

remarks which I have further to make upon this most important question, I shall take the liberty of using the terms

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*

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* See Dr. Hamilton's Defence, &c.

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figurative and spiritual, to denote this scheme of allegorizing the language of unfulfilled prophecy; not because I think they convey the full meaning of its definition, but because, being used by the supporters of that system, they are upon the whole the least objectionable I am able to select: and for the same reason I shall employ the word literal to signify what I hold to be the true method of interpreting prophetic language, which, before proceeding further, I shall stop to explain.

Written language is the art of conveying ideas from the mind of one being to that of another, by means of certain signs called words ; and may be divided into two kinds-namely,

: simple and figurative. Simple language is that which presents ideas to the mind of the reader without the assistance of any image besides : as when we say,

“ David the son of Jesse reigned over Israel ;” or, Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.”

Figurative language is that which, by referring to some image or idea with which the mind of the reader is already familiar, and which has some resemblance to the idea intended to be conveyed, enables him more fully to comprehend the latter. Thus, in the sentence, “ He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay ;” by pointing, on the tablet of the reader's memory, to the idea of a flower, which he has seen growing in the loveliness of its bloom and suddenly withering at the stroke of the mower, and to that of a shadow, now seen and in one moment vanished for ever, the notion of the brevity and frailness of our present life is much more strikingly suggested to his understanding than it could have been by counting the short number of its years, or by relating the accidents by which it might not reach even to the end of their limited term.

Now the books of the holy Prophets, like all other writings, whether sacred or profane, are composed in one or other of these forms of language: and as it would be difficult to conceive the perversion of understanding by which any one could suppose the third verse of the First Psalm to assert, that the righteous man shall actually become a tree flourishing by a river's brink, and covered with the honours of branch and leaf and pulpy fruit; so not less gross is the blunder by which some have imagined that the word souls, in Rev. xx. 4, means, not the souls of the persons there described, but, both the souls and bodies of generations afterwards to be born *.

To understand words, then, in their plain and obvious sense, and figures and allusions as they were universally applied in the time, country, and tongue of the writer, I hold to be the common key to all language, sacred and profane, and therefore

See Dr. Whitby's explanation of this passage, also Burkit, &c.

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