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4th. The laws of symbolic representation.
These means are all valuable, and of such a nature that, when brought to bear in their full force, they can scarcely fail to coinpass the solution of the problem. The limits of the present work forbid us from attempting any thing more than the application of the three first. These means, however, will be destitute of any effectual result if the first representation be not apprehended. The fact that this condition has not been fulfilled in respect of the Revelation, and that the first representation which it makes has not hitherto been understood, appears to us to have been the grand barrier in the way of its successful interpretation. It is perfectly clear, for example, that if the allegory has been regarded as one, while there are two, no advance could ever be made in the interpretation of the whole book, no matter how efficient the above means of elucidation may be. The second sense would stubbornly refuse to discover itself in the absence of the first. But if the allegory be twofold, and the two first representations which it makes have been apprehended, we are then on the track at least which conducts to the successful issue. We have made the elementary step and we are in a position to bring the above means of interpretation to bear on the solution of the problem with their full and legitimate effect. We have laid the foundation upon which the superstructure of the second sense may possibly be reared, and without which it can never be reared.
CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH THE DELIVERY OF THE
ALLEGORY, WHICH TEND TO SUGGEST THE SECOND
It usually occurs that there are certain circumstances connected with the delivery of an allegory, which have a tendency to point out the second and real sense of it. Let us take, for example, the allegorical dreams of the butler and baker, interpreted by Joseph in the Egyptian prison :
“ And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said unto him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three branches : and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof bronght ripe grapes : and Pharaoh's cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand.”-Gen. xl. 9-11.
“ When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was all
manner of bake-meats for Pharaoh ; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.—ch. xl. 16, 17.
The second sense of these allegories, it is apparent, is naturally suggested by the circumstances in which they were delivered, viz., in prison, by a butler and baker, lying under the king's displeasure. These circumstances together, it may be, with others not recorded, were sufficient to awaken the mind of Joseph, who was endowed with a superior wisdom by God, to the real sense.
The parable of the good Samaritan, delivered by Christ, in answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? is likewise an obvious illustration in point. The second sense is plainly perceptible here, from the circumstance that the allegory is an answer to the above question.
Now there are some circumstances connected with the delivery of the Revelation, which throw a very considerable light on the real sense of its double allegory. Of these the most prominent are,
1st. The title.
3d. The dedication of the book to the seven churches.
Let us collect from these in order, the light they are calculated to yield.
Firstly, in regard to the title, it is given as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants, things which must shortly come to pass.” Rev. i. 1. It is apparent,
from these words, that the allegory is a prophecy of events, which it is natural to infer concern the servants of God. This then determines the nature of the allegory; it does not foreshadow doctrines or spiritual truths, but “things to come to pass,” i. e. as is naturally to be understood, it predicts events about to take place in the world's history; it has obviously to do with facts, and not with the principles of action. It does not move, then, in any transcendental region, but it shoots forward on that plain matter of fact track upon which history is afterwards to follow it with slow and measured steps. It predicts events to happen, the decree of which is registered in heaven, “things which must come to pass.”
But they are said shortly to come to pass; a qualification which has been a great stumbling-block to many an interpreter, and also to many an ordinary reader. It has been this in two respects. In the first place, the prophecy has generally been applied to events which do not shortly come to pass, which seems to be a contradiction of the title. In the second place, the coming of the Son of Man to judgment, is, as appears from many parts of the book, obviously the main event predicted, and yet this is not an event of which it could be said with truth, that it “must shortly come to pass.” The title thus stands, apparently in contradiction with the great mass of commentators who have written on the book, and who apply it to events which do not shortly come to pass, and it stands in contradiction with itself, if the literal sense of the words be taken, for the principal
event predicted is the coming of the Son of man in judgment, which did not shortly come to pass. The explanation which is rendered of this apparent contradiction, viz., that the meaning is, that some of the events will shortly come to pass, or that the train of events predicted will begin shortly to move on, is to many minds not a satisfactory one. It cannot be denied that a certain violation is done to the natural import of language by this explanation. Still it is by no means a violation of truth, for it is sufficient for the correctness of the statement, that some of the events do shortly come to pass.
Yet the natural inference is, that this shortly coming to pass is a characteristic of the events, and as such it is not truly a characteristic. If the expression is taken as a simple statement, involving no characteristic, then the explanation is a perfectly satisfactory one. It is sufficient for truth, that some of the events shortly came to pass. If the expression be regarded as necessarily containing in it a characteristic of the vents which the natural sense of the language implies, then the explanation is not a satisfactory one.
It appears to us that a better solution of this difficulty may be rendered in this manner. This is essentially a symbolical book, and although there are expressions in it to be literally taken, it is only where they cannot bear a symbolical sense. The law of the book is the symbolical sense. Even where literal language in the most absolute manner might be expected, that is, in the case of a formal interpretation rendered, we find even here a symbolical meaning