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sort, yet Miracles being, by their very nature, open and liable to abusive interpretations, and Prophecy well secured from them, for this, and for the more weighty reasons given above, we conclude (as the crown of all) with the unerring declaration of the holy Apostle PETER; who, in his second general Epistle to the Churches, alluding to this twofold evidence for the truth of Revelation, namely MIRACLES and PROPHECY, after he had ended what he thought fit to say of the first, proceeds to the other in these words-we have also A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY-ἔχομεν ΒΕΒΑΙΟΤΕΡΟΝ τὸν ΠΡΟÞHTIKON λóуov-a word, that may be more firmly relied on, and whose existence is more durable. The word, Bebaιóтepov, including both these senses. And we have shewn that the nature of PROPHECY contains these two qualities.
And they being most eminently comprised in the CAPITAL PROPHECY here described and characterised; a more particular explanation of it may be naturally expected in this GENERAL VIEW of the Christian Religion.—
"We have not followed cunningly devised fables" (says the Apostle, ver. 16.) "when we made known unto you the COMING AND POWER of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his Majesty.
17. "For he received from God, the Father, honour and glory, when there was a VOICE to him, from the exceeding glory-This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
18. "And this voice which came from Heaven, we heard when we were with him in the mount.
19. "WE HAVE ALSO A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light, shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts."
*There are few places, in the Scriptures of the New Testament, plainer than this before us; and yet there are none where interpreters have wandered further from the Apostle's meaning.†
This hath been principally owing to a mistake of the subject. These Interpreters supposed that St. PETER was here speaking of the PERSONAL CHARACTER OF JESUS; and thence concluded, that THE MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY, whereby he strengthens his argument, respected the Prophecies of the OLD TESTAMENT, which establish that PERSONAL CHARACTER.
But the Apostle is treating of a different thing; namely, of THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL IN GENERAL.
Which shews, that the more sure word of Prophecy regards a Prophecy of the NEW TESTAMENT.
One mistake produced, of course, another. For, on supposition,
From this place to the end, abridged and altered from Sermon On the Rise of Antichrist.-R. W. † See the altercations between Bishop Sherlock and Dr. Middleton, and their respective Advocates.
that the personal Character of Jesus was the thing meant, it would follow, that by the power and coming of our Lord, we are to understand his FIRST COMING; and then, indeed, the word of Prophecy must needs signify a Prophecy ALREADY FULFilled. But nothing is more certain than that the Character here given of that Prophecy, to which the Church is admonished to take heed, or pay its attention, confines us to one, but now, just beginning to attest its divine original -it is a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts; that is, till a long series of events (yet in the womb of time) shall arise, to give testimony, by degrees, till the whole evidence concludes in one unclouded blaze of conviction. So that the power and coming of our Lord must needs mean his
Yet amongst the Interpreters just before censured, there are some more eminently absurd* than the rest. One of these is even desirous to have it believed, that by this more sure word of Prophecy is to be understood the Prophecy of ISAIAH, chap. xlii. ver. 1. although the Apostle has characterised this to be a light shining in a dark place, &c. i. e. not as convictive evidence at present, yet being a Light, though shining in a dark place, it deserved our attention, till greater lights should arise, which would afford full conviction.
Now, could this be the Character of a Prophecy of the Old Testament; especially one of ISAIAH's, most of whose Predictions referred to, and had their completion in, JESUS, their great object? The dawn and day-star, here spoken of by the Apostle, as of a very distant light, was, in the time of that Prophet, already risen in the hearts of his countrymen, or it would never rise.
Let us, therefore, look out for some more reasonable Paraphrase of the sacred Text.
"That you may be assured" (says the Apostle) we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we described to you the power of our Lord at his SECOND COMING, you should recollect what we have frequently told you, of his FIRST; having been eye-witnesses of the Majesty and Miracles attending it, when there came a voice to him from the exceeding glory, &c.-Now, the MIRACLES, which accompanied, and confirmed his mission, on his FIRST COMING, are surely sufficient to gain credit to what we have, as often, told you, of his SECOND. And, of this capital Truth, God hath been graciously pleased to add still stronger evidence; by giving us A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY."
-But the general subject of the EPISTLE will further support the truth of this Paraphrase.
-It is a farewel address to the CHURCHES, on his having received intimation, from the holy Spirit, of his approaching Martyrdom.
See Mr. M.
The Apostle begins with repeating to them [from ver. 3d to the 15th] that elegant summary of Christian Religion,* as was his wont, on all occasions, to inculcate. But, at this juncture, CONSOLATION being what the afflicted Church most needed, he takes his topic from the REWARDS, now supposed to be approaching, at the second coming of our Lord in the consummation of all things. PERSECUTION had soothed the sufferers into this flattering error, which was now become general, and not likely to be soon redressed, while they continued unable (as they yet were) to distinguish the two parts of which this PREDICTION, concerning the second coming of our Lord, was composed. Each part had its distinct completion, commencing at different periods. The first, when our Lord came to judgment, on the JEWISH PEOPLE, in putting a complete period to their ECONOMY, by the destruction of their TEMPLE; The other, when he was to pass judgment on the whole race of mankind, and make a final end of the MUNDANE SYSTEM.
Or rather, to speak with more exactness, this prediction of the SECOND COMING was delivered in two Prophecies joined together; and, in imitation of the Jewish mode, mixed and interwoven with one another; generally as little understood, at the time of the delivery, as all those of a like import were, which had either a secondary sense, or included a double subject. But for a larger account of these, and particularly of the sort now in question, I beg leave to refer the Reader to the sixth Section of the sixth Book of this Work.
Such was the Error, which (as we say) gave birth to the consolatory Epistle here explained. But as all ERRORS, together with the accidental good, which, by the directing hand of Providence, they are made to produce, are easily attended with much evil; so it was here.
At first, the Error produced sobriety, vigilance, and perseverance in the FAITH. But afterwards, it had a contrary effect. There shall come in the last days (says this Apostle) scoffers, working 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.†
After the censure of this Impiety, the Apostle proceeds to upbraid their ignorance of the natural constitution of the Earth; which is physically ordained to bring on its own destruction, by FIRE, in some future period; as heretofore, by the destruction of WATER: and that the delay of this dreadful Catastrophe, which affords these scoffs of Impiety, is not owing to the Lord's slackness in the performance of his promise; but to his long-suffering; that all might come to repentance. He then describes this final dissolution of all things, by fire.§ Out of which (he tells them) shall arise (according to the promise of † 2 Peter iii. 3, et seq.
↑ Verse 9.
See the Sermon on this text.
§ Verses 10-12.
PROPHECY) a new heaven and a new earth, wherein shall dwell righteousness. And with this the FAREWEL EPISTLE concludes.
Such being the subject of it, who can doubt but that a true account of the reasoning in the latter part of the first chapter is here given? and, consequently, that the Apostle's purpose is not to speak of indefinite Prophecies already fulfilled IN, or UNDER, the OLD TESTAMENT, but of some precise Prophecy to be fulfilled under the NEW; in order as the several parts of it (extending through a course of many Ages) should come into existence.
TO THIS the Church of Christ is bid TO TAKE HEED, as to a more sure word of prophecy. But had the description ended here, it would have been much too vague to enjoin our attention in so earnest and particular a manner. The Apostle, therefore, goes on to give it this characteristic Mark-that it was A LIGHT SHINING IN A DARK PLACE. A Prophecy, of which the principal parts were, at that time, surrounded and partly involved in obscurity and darkness; but yet, emitting so many scattered Rays, as to make a careful observer inclined to think some great scene was just beginning to open, which would amply reward our attention to this light shining in a dark place, by the change of its condition, first into a dawn; and then, into still clearer day-spring.
The Apostle having thus prepared our way to this SURER WORD, or superior excellence of PROPHECY, proceeds to acquaint us with the very IDENTICAL PROPHECY he had in his eye; which will now appear to be no other than the predictions of St. Paul and St. John concerning ANTI-CHRIST, or the future fortunes of the Church, under the usurpation of the MAN OF SIN; a prediction elegantly called, by way of eminence, THE Word of PropHECY. For this Man of Sin began to work before the writing of this farewel Epistle. So St. Paul assures us—THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY (says he) DOTH ALREADY WORK. St. Peter, therefore, towards the conclusion of his Epistle, recurring again, as his subject required, to God's long-suffering, in the delay of his second coming to judge the world, adds, even as our beloved PAUL also, according to the WISDOM given unto him, hath written unto you as also in all his Epistles, SPEAKING IN THEM OF
THESE THINGS IN WHICH ARE SOME THINGS HARD TO BE UNDER
STOOD, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.‡ Now what are these OBSCURE PARTS in St. Paul's Epistles, here characterised, but the Prophecies in St. John's Book of the REVELATIONS concerning ANTICHRIST, § abridged by St. Paul in his Epistles, and referred to by St. Peter. ... ... ... ... ... ...
2 Peter iii. 13.
† 2 Thess. ii. 7.
12 Peter iii. 15, 16.
§ See SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S "Observations upon the Apocalypse of St. John," chap. i. See the remainder of this argument in Discourse Ồn the Rise of Antichrist.—R. W.
[As bishop Hurd, in the preceding note, signed R. W., has referred the reader, for "the remainder of the argument," to the " Discourse on the Rise of Antichrist," and that portion of bishop Warburton's Works not being generally accessible to students, it has been deemed desirable in this place to append that part of it which has not been already introduced, as a suitable conclusion to the ninth book.]
THE RISE OF ANTICHRIST.
Now this Book of the Revelations, containing Predictions darkly and enigmatically delivered, hath yet such strong marks of the Divinity about it, as may well justify St. Peter's character concerning it, of a light shining in a dark place; while his direction to take heed to it, and to contemplate the subject-matter of it, bespeaks his charitable attention to the pastoral care. For several of the Prophecies having already had their completion, even in those early times, frequent attention to this light was useful, to confirm their Faith in the past, and to support their Hopes in the future.
The principal subject of this famous Book relating to one great Event-The future fortunes of the Church, under the usurpation of THE MAN OF SIN, is elegantly called, by way of eminence, the WORD OF PROPHECY. It began fulfilling even before Peter wrote his Epistle; for St. Paul, speaking of the MAN OF SIN, to the Thessalonians, says, the Mystery of iniquity doth already work.* It is therefore, with the greatest truth as well as strength of Colouring, called A LIGHT SHINING IN A DARK PLACE. Just so much was seen of the busy mystery of iniquity, now beginning to work, as was sufficient to fix men's attention, and to put them on their guard against its delusions.
The Apostle too, for the further encouragement of those whom he exhorts to give early attention to this ray of light, adds, that a time would come when the surrounding darkness should be dispersed, and Day pour in upon the present obscurities in this WORD OF PROPHECY: on which, in the mean time, they were patiently to wait-until the DAY DAWN, AND THE DAY-STAR SHOULD arise. This long wish'd-for Day at length appeared, with REFORMATION on its wings: A Blessing, which redeemed Reason and Religion from the harpy-claws of Monkish Ignorance and Superstition. The restoration of abused Science, which accompanied it, is well described by the Day dawning; as the defecation of polluted Religion is by the Day-star rising in their hearts.
At this important Æra, the great Mystery of Iniquity was clearly revealed; Antichrist was fully laid open and exposed; and such Evidence given by Prophecy to the truth of the Christian Faith, as must, while Reason remains amongst men, strike conviction on the hearts of the unprejudiced. For what but the Spirit of God was
• Second epistle, ii. 7.