Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER I.

CURRENT ARGUMENTS AGAINST RECEIVED

INTERPRETATIONS.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Ever since the time of the Reformation, the following maxims in the interpretation of the sacred prophecies have been generally received by the Protestant Churches :

1. That the visions of Daniel commence with the times of the prophet.

2. That the events predicted in the Apocalypse begin from the time of prophecy, or within the first century.

3. That the fourth beast denotes the Roman empire.
4. That Babylon in the Apocalypse denotes Rome.
5. That the little horn in Dan. vii. denotes the Papacy.
6. That the man of sin relates to the same power.

7. That the prophecy in 1 Tim. iv. is fulfilled in past events.

8. That Babylon denotes, at least inclusively, Rome Papal.

The three following have also been received by the most learned and able commentators of our own country, from the time of Mede down to the present day.

9. That the two woes relate to the Saracens and the Turks.

10. That the two beasts in Rev. xiii. denote the civil and ecclesiastical Latin empire.

11. That a prophetic day denotes a natural year, and a prophetic time three hundred and sixty natural years.

Of these leading maxims, the four first are held by the fathers of the early Church and most of the Roman commentators, as well as by the Reformed Churches. On the other hand, the three last, though generally re

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

B

ceived by interpreters of the English Church, are rejected by many foreign Protestants, especially among the Lutheran divines.

All of these maxims, however, without distinction, have been rejected by several late writers. Mr. Burgh, Mr. Maitland, Dr. Todd, Mr. Dodsworth, Mr. Tyso, and Mr. Mac Causland, and more recently Mr. Govett, are the chief of them whose names have appeared ; and of these, the three first are doubtless the leaders. To these, several anonymous writers may be added. They agree in few points, except in rejecting the conclusions of all previous expositors; and maintain that nearly the whole of Daniel's prophecies and of the Apocalypse are unfulfilled.

Now, if the theories of these writers are entirely groundless, the responsibility which they have incurred is very great, and the effects of their error may prove extremely fatal to the Church. The strongest bulwark against the revived zeal of the Romish Church will have been taken away. when it is most needed; and the danger of a renewed apostasy will have been fearfully increased, at the time when its guilt would be most aggravated, and its punishment most speedy and sure. A spirit of feverish and sceptical doubt, the most fatal to real progress in divine truth, will have been injected, without warrant, into the the minds of thousands; the light which the word of God has thrown, for the benefit of the Church, on half the whole period of her history, will have been quenched in darkness; and her hopes for the future, by a perplexed and fallacious application of irrelevant prophecies, be involved in a chaos of fanciful conjectures and inextricable confusion.

It is not, then, from a light estimate of the mischiefs which these theories are calculated to produce, that I shall endeavour carefully to guard against all controver

!

[ocr errors]

sial asperity; but because truth, however important, is best maintained and most commended to others by a calm and dispassionate inquiry. One subject, indeed, will occur, where the monstrous nature of the paradox which is maintained, and the tone in which it is defended, would justify severe language, and seems almost to require an indignant protest to be joined with its refutation.

For distinctness, I shall call the rival systems the Protestant and the Futurist interpretations. The three last of the maxims given above are rejected, it is true, by many Protestant divines. Yet, since those propositions embody, to use Mr. Maitland's words, “the sentiments which have been maintained by most Protestant divines, and which are held by most (Protestant) writers on Prophecy in the present day," while the oppositeview denies all warrant in the prophecies forany protest against the Church of Rome, the propriety of the title, in the former case, cannot with justice be denied.

The following are the main preliminary objections which the Futurists allege against the Protestant system:

1. The natural or necessary clearness of all fulfilled prophecy.

2. The discordance of Protestant interpreters.
3. The modern or even heretical origin of their views.
4. The historical research which they require.

5. The exaggerated view of passing events on which they are based.

6. Their unsuitableness to convince infidels, or profit the Church.

I. THE NATURAL CLEARNESS OF ALL FULFILLED PROPHECY is the first objection. So Mr. Maitland, First Enq., pp. 43-46; Mr. Burgh, Lect. Adv., pp. 21, 118; Lect. Apoc., pp. 43, 44, Dr. Todd, Lect. iv., pp. 137, 186; and Mr. Mac Causland, Látt. Days, pp. 13, 14,

« PreviousContinue »