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For MARCH, 1827.
Art. I. 1. Babylon and Infidelity foredoomed of God; a Discourse
on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse, which relate to these latier Tiines, and until the Second Advent. By the Rev. Edward Irving, Minister of the Caledonian Church, London.
2 vols. 12mo. pp. 758. Price 10s. 6d. Glasgow. 1826. 2. On the General Structure of the Apocalypse ; being a brief Intro.
duction to its minute Interpretation. By James Hatley Frere,
Esq. 8vo. pp. 48. Price 2s. London. 1826. 3. The Scheme of Prophetic Arrangement of the Rev. Edward Irving
and Mr. Frere critically cramined ; with some Remarks on the present Aspect of Affairs in Reference to the Fulfilment of Pro. phecy. By William Cuninghame, Esq. of Lainshaw, in the
County of Ayr. 8vo. pp. 124. Glasgow. 1826. 4. An Enquiry into the Grounds on which the prophetic Period of
Daniel and St. John has been supposed to consist of 1260 Years.
ter. 8vo. pp. 86. London. 1826. 5. A Practical View of the Redeemer's Advent ; in a Series of Dis
courses. By the Rev. James Haldane Stewart, M.A. Minister of
Percy Chapel, &c. Svo. Price 10s. 6d. London. 1825. 6. The Advancement of Society in Knowledge and Religion. By
James Douglas, Esq. 8vo. Price 98. Edinburgh. 1825. Too many (persons) are apt, first to fancy similitudes be
tween the state of things with one people and another, • and then to draw inferences ; being, perhaps, imposed upon • by a strong imagination in both, which yet must pass with • them for a spirit of prophecy. And, perhaps, they take it • not well, if it do not so with others too. It were, indeed, the • work of another prophet, certainly to accommodate and • make application of what was spoken by a former, to a dis• tinct 'time and people............The affectation of venturing VOL. XXVII. N.S.
• upon futurity, and of foreboding direful things to kingdoms • and nations, may, besides its being without sufficient ground,
proceed from some very bad principle or other.............It is again as groundless, and may argue as ill a mind, to pro
phesy smooth and pleasant things in a time of abounding • wickedness. The safer, middle course is, without God's express • warrant, not to prophesy at all, but, as we have opportunity,
to warn and instruct men with all meekness and long suffer
ing, for which the Lord's ordinary messengers can never want • his warrant.'*
Such is the striking language of Howe in reference to his own times, when, as it should seem, the Church did not want for prophets and expounders of prophecy ;-each had a 'doc• trine, each a revelation,' each an interpretation, as in the Corinthian Church of old. In some instances, he remarks, the prediction imported more heat of anger, than certainty of : foresight,' being dictated by a wrathful spirit that would • fetch down fire from heaven. And in general, the too in' tent fixing of the thoughts upon any supposable events in this
world, argues at least a narrow, carnal mind.' No one will suspect this great man to have been an indifferent or unintelligent observer of the signs of his own times, still less to have been deficient in a devout regard for every part of the sacred volume. But he had witnessed the prejudicial effects of that spiritual astrology which would interpret the Apocalypse after the manner of Moore's Almanack, and keep men 'standing at
a gaze, expecting what should be the height of the French • monarchy or the fate of the Dutch Republic, or of this or
that particular person now on the stage,'--the sure symptom of a sickly mind.' He speaks of some persons in that day, to whom the prophetical parts of Scripture were of more * grateful savour than the preceptive part. Men may be • much inclined,' he remarks, 'to make such a use even of • Scripture prophecies, as to feed this distemper' of their minds.t. On these grounds, he deprecated the prophetical speculations in which it was the fashion to indulge ; and more especially, the rashness with which some persons made their prepossessed fancy the interpreter' of unfulfilled prophecy, drawing it down to the little particularities of the time and place wherein they lived,' and the peremptoriness with which they contended for their doubtful applications, till the event proved them mistaken.
These remarks, coming from one of the greatest of theologians, and one of the saintliest of men, may possibly enforce a degree of attention which would scarcely be yielded to any observations of ours. Had Howe lived in the present day, he would not, we imagine, have found less occasion for bis admonitory observations now, than he did then. Can there be a more striking contrast than is afforded by the very title of Mr. Irving’s volumes, and that of the treatise above referred to ?
* Pref, to " Redeemer's Tears." Howe's Works. vol. iv. + Works, vol. iv. pp. 356, 7.
Babylon and Infidelity foredoomed of God,'— The Re• deemer's Tears wept over lost souls.' It was, apparently, after reading some such 'furious imprecations' as are scattered through Mr. Irving's pages, that the illustrious Author sat down to the composition of that pathetic and masterly discourse.
On one point, however, Mr. Irving seems to agree with Mr. Howe; namely, that it were the work of another prophet, ' certainly to accommodate and make application of what was
spoken by a former prophet.' He is aware, that the authoritative interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy would as much require the gift of prophetic inspiration, as its first delivery did. He modestly disclaims for himself any such high pretensions, pot deeming himself worthy to have revealed to him the im
portant truths' contained in his discourse. That revelation , has been vouchsafed to his friend and master, Hatley Frere, Esq., in whose Divine inspiration he seems as firm a believer as Dr. Reece was in the mission of the Prophetess Joanna. • Only,' he adds, the Lord accounted me worthy to receive the faith of those things which he had first made known to you his more worthy servant.' Our readers will see in how delicate a predicament we are placed. If we should hesitate to receive ihe Apocalypse according to Hatley, we must submit to be stigmatized as those whom the Lord has not accounted worthy to receive the faith of this new revelation. We tremble at the idea of criticising the writings of a prophet, at disputing what the Lord has made known. Whatever Dr. Thomson may allege to the contrary, we have no love for any apocryphal Scriptures. But it seems to us, that the rejection of a new book of inspiration would involve greater guilt than receiving the book of Maccabees into the Canon. Mr. Irving, however, whose warm opposition to the circulation of uncanonical books is well known, supports Mr. Frere in his opinion that the Apocryphal book of Esdras is inspired.
. And now if I should have recourse to a book not reckoned cano. nical, and not worthy, on account of its manifest interpolations, to be so reckoned, it is because I have not been able to resist the evidence which one particular vision brings to its own divinity, nor to shut my eyes upon the light which it casts, not only upon the time of the end concerning which we now treat, but upon the whole eventful history
of Daniel's fourth beast, through all the periods of its wicked supremacy. The vision hath been already referred to, and is contained in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second book of Esdras...... A prophecy is its own evidence, and let this one speak for itself.'
Vol. II. p. 36. According to Mr. Irving's exposition, it speaks more plainly than any one of the canonical books, and Esdras nust be admitted to be a far more highly favoured revealer of secrets, than his Brother Daniel.' We have, first of all, under the symbol of the twelve wings, the twelve Cæsars ; next, ‘ rapidly .but graphically sketched, the condition of the Roman empire • from the time of the Cæsars till the middle time;' then, Charlemagne, the French Revolution, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
• France, therefore, which is the head in the midst, Rome being on the right hand, and Austria upon the left, (for the rest of the subsidiary kingdoms are already devoured,) awakens first into the government of the eagle, and being joined by the other two heads, seizeth Spain and Portugal, the last of the feathers......... This sovereign head was the Emperor Napoleon, wont to consider himself as the successor of Charlemagne.'
• Such,' he remarks in conclusion, · is the vision which • Esdras had of the Roman empire during the last 2000 years • of its duration, and when it is considered how much infor• mation is given in it, and how exact is its accomplishment, it.
may well justify us in having spent a portion of this discourse: • in adding it to the other lights which we are endeavouring to
bring to bear upon the times which are yet to run. Thus, although Mr. Irving is so tolerant as not to insist upon it as a necessary article of faith, that we should receive the prophecies of Esdras as canonical, it is evident that he has no hesitation in acknowledging their genuineness and divinity,' believing them to have been both given by Inspiration and mi: raculously accomplished.
For our own parts, we confess, that, had not the matter been made known to Mr. Frere, and the fulfilment of the prediction been made so plain by Mr. Irving, we should have been disposed to rank the prophecies ascribed to Ezra somewhat below those of Nostradamus. Not being acquainted with any means of detecting the alleged interpolations,' we should have been led to infer, that this book, which professes to have been written in the reign of Artaxerxes, was certainly composed by a writer who had seen the New Testament. From a number of parallel passages, as Arnold remarks, it seems necessary
to conclude, either that Jesus Christ and his apostles copied
from hence, or that this writer transcribed largely from the
other. It seems most probable,' adds the learned Commen, tator, `that the Author was a Jew converted to Christianity, ' who, in hopes of converting others, composed this work ' under the name of a writer for whom the Jews had the high
est esteem.'* Indeed, were we to suppose these prophecies to be genuine, they would be by far the most remarkable for explicitness of any in the Old Testament, and their not being cited by any inspired writer (except Mr. Frere) would be wholly unaccountable." Can it be for a moment supposed, that Saint Matthew was acquainted with the following scriptures ? • Then said I unto the angel, What young person is it that crowneth
them and giveth them palms in their hands ? So he answered • and said unto me, It is the Son of God, whom they have • confessed in the world.' (2 Esd. ii. 46, 7). For my son • Jesus shall be revealed with those that be with him, and they • that remain shall rejoice with him four hundred years. After
shall my son Christ die, and all men that have • life.' (2 Esd. vii. 28,9). Mr. Irving tells us, that a prophecy is its own evidence; and in this instance, at least, the internal evidence is decisive enough. To speak of interpolations, is absurd : the whole book is one homogeneous tissue of fiction and imposture.
Our readers, then, will probably support us in the inference, that the prophetical character of the book of Esdras is not among the important truths which the Lord has revealed' to Mr. Frere. That gentleman, however, entitled his volume, “ A Combined View of the Prophecies of Daniel, Esdras, and “St. John, shewing that all the prophetic Writings are formed upon one Plan.'
Here, canonical and apocryphal Scriptures are boldly intermingled in the very title-page. Mr. Ir ving has been more prudent, without being more consistent. How is it that a hue and cry has not been raised against these philapocryphists for such papistical and heretical doings? Had an Eclectic Reviewer but hinted at such a thing as the inspiration of the second book of Esdras, the whole country would have rung with the cry of, The Canon is in danger.
It is due to Mr. Frere, tu remark, that he is not responsible
• Arnold on the Apocrypha. 4to. p. 660. The learned Author supposes the Pseudo Esdras to have lived in the times of the first heathen persecution. At chap. v. verse 4., the angel is made to say : “ If the Most High grant thee to live, thou shalt see after the third trumpet," &c. Can there be any doubt whence this phrase was borrowed? But a still more obvious plagiarism occurs in chap. ii. verse 42, &c., taken from Rev, vii.