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need of refutation. It is, indeed, true, that certain great outlines of the Revelation itself are so broad and palpable thật they cannot be mistaken; and a plain, unlettered reader of his Bible, who had never dipped into a cominentator, would be at little loss to understand the general scope of the prophecy. A very small portion of information would further enable him to refer the seat of the Harlot to the city of Rome; and he would form some plausible conjectures, perhaps, as to some other features of the prophecy. But, at the point from which expository interpretation sets out, discrepancy begins. Expositors are agreed as to the outlines which stand in no need of their labours, and no further. They can therefore take no credit for agreement among themselves so far ; and beyond those unquestionable way-marks of interpretation, we may ask, On what single point are they agreed ?
. If it would be unfair,' remarks Mr. Maitland, to exact a precise conformity respecting the minute details of the Seals and Trumpets -if it would be too much to expect perfect agreement as to all the lesser circumstances even of that which has been fulfilled—yet, might we not expect agreement if we should ask, when, and how (not on what day, but in what century, and by what sort of facts,) was the prediction connected with any given Seal, fulfilled ? Suppose, for instance, we should ask what was the period of the fourth seal, from three writers, whose piety, learning, and industry, have justly, and even necessarily, placed them high in the public estimation. Mr. Faber would refer us to some period prior to the year A.D. 325; Mr. Frere would answer that it began A. D. 536, and ended 556; and Mr. Cuninghame would tell us, that it began in the thirteenth, and ended in the latter part of the seventeenth century.
• Let the reader compare the different views which these expositors have given of the Seals and Trumpets, as they stand in the following table; and let him say, whether they agree even in the “ general outline.”
of the first 3
Includes the 26th Aug. 1792, 7 Ends 1941.
to 1822-3. Looking at the discordant opinions which this table exhibits, I must say, that they do not appear to be trifling differences about subordinate matters of detail; of this, however, let the reader judge.' pp. 48–50.
For other instances, not less glaring, of total discordance in the opinions of modern expositors, we refer our readers to this ably written pamphlet. With regard to the main subject of Mr. Maitland's Inquiry, we certainly feel compelled to admit, that the received interpretation of the prophetic period of 1260 days, as so many years, is shewn to rest upon a very slender foundation; and it is not a little surprising, that almost the only position which has obtained a very general acquiescence among expositors, should be one which yet remains to be proved. As to the commencement and termination of that period, scarcely two expositors agree. Mede and Bishop · Newton, to say nothing of the living, differ almost three • centuries. Yet, if fulfilled, as it is now supposed to be, we might expect that a prophecy so explicit in its terms, should cease to be uncertain in its application. In such a case, it
has justly been remarked, that general conviction is the only
test' of right interpretation,—such as shall give satisfaction to that' various multitude whose verdict is beyond partiality ' or passion, and for whose wisdom, encouragement, and ad'vance in the faith, all revelation was given.'
• This general conviction,' observes Mr. Maitland, thanks be to God, we have in some cases. We can, and we do, look to fulfilled prophecy as a bulwark of our faith. After the prophet had said, “ Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a child,'' ages rolled on; and while it was still future, we know not how much, or by how many, it was understood ; but we know that w when the fullness of the time was come,” and the prediction was accomplished, the Church of God was not suffered to remain in darkness. She was not left to wander up and down, asking, “ Is this He that should come, or look we for another ?" No,-from the day of Simeon to this hour, her joyful acclamation has been, « Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." His disciples know well, when and how he was numbered with transgressors, and how his grave was made with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.
• But there is no need to argue this matter. We point the infidel to the captive Jew and the wandering Arab; but who challenges him with the slain witnesses? We set before him the predicted triumphs of Cyrus; but do we expect his conversion from the French Revo. lution and the conquests of Napoleon ? We send him to museon the ruined city of David, and to search for the desolate site of Ba. bylon; but who builds his argument on the opened seals of the Apocalypse ? And why is this? I do not speak hastily, and I would not speak uncharitably, but I cannot suppress my conviction, that it is because the necessity of filling up a period of 1260 years, has led to such forced interpretation of language, and to such a constrained acquiescence in what is unsatisfactory to sound judgement, that we should be afraid not only of incurring his ridicule, but of his claiming the same licence which we have ourselves been obliged to assume. I firmly believe that the error lies, in adopting an interpretation which requires us to spread the events predicted respecting three years and a half, over more than twelve centuries; and which thus sends us to search the page of history for the accomplishment of prophecies still unfulfilled.
If ever the same efficient use is to be made of the predictions of the Apocalypse, in the argument with the Jew or the infidel, that we are now able with confidence to make of those of the Old Testament, it will not be by help of expositors. The appeal must be to the text, not to the gloss. And it is a reasonable expectation, that the overthrow of the Mystical Babylon will be an event as legible in the records of history, as the destruction of the Assyrian capital or that of Jerusalem. Such an event would form a signal not to be mistaken; a hand-writing in the heavens, which it would not require another Daniel to interpret. And sooner or later, this visible attestation of the truth of the whole chain of prophecy will, we doubt not, take place. · The error to which Mr. Maitland refers, if it be an error, cannot, however, be assigned as the full explanation of the perplexity and discordance of expositors. Admitting the whole of the predictions in the eleventh chapter to be as yet unfulfilled, the Revelation doubtless comprises a prophetic outline of events extending through more than twenty centuries ; and it is to events occurring in the earliest part of the series, that much of the discrepancy which he has pointed out, relates. His pamphlet, we consider nevertheless as highly deserving of attentive perusal, independently of the immediate subject of his inquiry. It will at all events serve to correct a considerable degree of misapprehension on the several points referred to; and it will answer a most important end, if it merely tend to promote a more sober spirit of inquiry, and to check the rashness and dogmatism of modern interpreters.
With regard to the fashionable use of the sacred prophecies, we must say, that we consider this new prophetic science as entitled to little more respect, and certainly as not more harmless, than the exploded science of judicial astrology. Nor can we entertain a doubt, that some at least of those writers who now essay to conjure by the Apocalypse, would, in another age, have conjured by the stars. The Church stands in no need of fortune-tellers to teach her either her duty or her destiny; and we firmly believe that the prophetic intimations of future events were designed to regulate curiosity, rather than to minister excitement to that morbid propensity which prompts us to pry into the future. But the Church knows what she has to look for. As all the prophecies of the Old economy converged to one event, in which they terminated; so, the one event which remains, the only one worthy of employing the devout expectation of the pious, is, the Second Advent of the Saviour. The Book of Revelation, apart from the Commentaries which have darkened its counsel, is admirably adapted to impress the mind with the certainty and glory of that event. Rapidly passing over intermediate events, the prophet dwells and expatiates on the consummation which will wind up the whole drama. Prophetic history may be compared to a shrouded figure, whose own features are undistinguishable, but we can clearly see what she points to ; and it is upon that object, not upon herself, she wishes to fix our attention. But, in the Commentary, the attitude and drapery of the figure engross the whole attention. And, on the part of the readers of such works, the real object of interest, is some imaginary sign of the times, that may be interpreted into a chronological mark, --some passing event or political interest,-a war with France, or with Turkey,- Bonaparte or the Young Napoleon, to whom all the prophets are anxiously looking, to save the credit of their predictions respecting his father. And they mistake this feverish spirit of political speculation for spirituality of mind and the temper of faith!
We believe that these speculations are any thing but favourable to true spirituality. Nor is their effect upon the individual, the worst practical consequence which sometimes ensues. Opinions and expectations grounded on the delusive interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy, are made, in some instances, the rule of conduct, and the test by which public affairs and religious undertakings are to be judged of.' Thus, according to the scheme the individual has adopted, and the predilections which have disposed him to that scheme, as the fear of Popery, or of Infidelity, predominates, he will be found declaiming against Catholic Emancipation, or denouncing knowledge as the antagonist of faith; he will be the advocate of this institution as having upon it the prophetic mark, or will refuse bis countenance to that, as not in accordance with his auguries. For the sympathies, as well as the exertions, will, in such cases, be governed by the leading idea impressed on the imagination; whether it be the doom of Britain or that of Babylon, the evangelization of the world, or the gathering in of the elect..
Of the direct tendency of such studies' to warp the judgement, and to generate mischievous errors, we could not, perhaps, have a more striking illustration than is furnished by a pamphlet just published, entitled “ Dialogues on Prophecy," which purports to be a report of the conversations recently held at a sort of prophetic conclave. Philalethes, it appears, had been lately reading the works of Mr. Cuninghame and Mr. Frere, and he finds it very perplexing, that they should both differ. not only from each other, but also from Mr. Faber; he is therefore led very naturally to suspect, that no great good is to be derived from such works. The answer he receives from Anastasius, occasions him to exclaim :
• But you surely do not mean that the study of the prophecies is as essential a branch of theology as the doctrine of justification or the other great and leading doctrines which you have mentioned ?
Anastasius first replies by affirming, that God has united • them' (that is, the study of the prophecies' and the doctrine of justification) 'in his word ; ' . and what he has joined to• gether, let not man put asunder.' This indirect answer certainly seems to place a belief in the doctrine of justification