Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][subsumed]

confines the notice to a few years only, just before the end.

The passage, 2 Pet. ii. 1-12, is still more decisive. No one can read it with attention, unless under some strong bias, and not see that it began to be fulfilled more than a thousand years ago, in the false teaching, blind superstition, and fearful covetousness which had infected a large portion of the Christian clergy.

From all these indications we see clearly that the Epistles do not confine their predictions to the very time of the advent, or overleap all the intervening centuries. And this is a proof that no mysterious cause exists to reverse, in the Revelation, the constant analogy of all the foregoing prophecies. The conclusion is inevitable, so far as internal tokens can be a guide, that its range extends throughout the whole of the Gospel dispensation.

VI. The distinctive character of St. John's writings also points to the same conclusion. This is an argument, the apparent force of which will rise or fall, in proportion as any one is more or less intimate with the actual course of divine inspiration, and the style peculiar to each of the sacred writers.

For instance, the Gospel of St. Luke and the book of Acts, as they proceed from the same author, agree in one common character, by which they are distinguished from the other books of the New Testament. The Epistles of St. Paul, again, have a character of their own, which clearly separates them from those of any other apostle. The same is eminently true of the writings of St.John. His Gospel has, from the earliest times, been marked by the distinct title (το ευαγγέλιον το κατά veupa), the spiritual Gospel. His Epistles share the same charaeter : the peculiar tone which marks the Gospel re-appears in them in every part.

The resemblance or contrast, in all these cases, is not

[ocr errors]

verbal merely : on the contrary, it extends commonly to the whole aspect of the truth conveyed. The selection of the penman seems to be always in strict harmony with the nature of that message which the Holy Spirit, by him, would reveal to the Churches.

In the book of Revelation the same law of divine wisdom may be expected to prevail. Besides the general warrant for this expectation, there is another which is supplied by the opening verses. St. John is there described by this addition : “Who bare record of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, even all the things that he saw." The words perhaps relate properly to the triple character of the book, noted just before. It was the gift of God himself, and therefore 6 the word of God.” Its subject was the unveiled person of the Saviour, and therefore it was “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” It was signified by an angel in visions, and thus came under the description, “all things that he saw.” But still the phrase corresponds so closely to the character of St. John's Epistles and Gospels, that it seems to include a retrospective allusion. In the opening of both works the apostle eminently bears record of the Divine Logos—“ the Word of God.” The phrase thus serves for a memorial to us of that unity of spiritual character which marks all the writings of this beloved apostle of the Lord.

If this principle be once admitted--and it is hard to see on what ground it can be denied-then


distinctive feature of the Gospel and Epistles will serve for a direction to the true character of the Apocalypse. And it will be found that every one mark, without exception, condemns the novel system of interpretation, and establishes the larger view which has prevailed from the beginning

1. First, the most conspicuous feature of St. Joha's writings is their spiritual and heavenly character. Hence the early Church, from their clear perception of this truth, applied to him the symbol of the fourth living creature in the celestial vision, the flying eagle. He scarcely dwells at all on the outward ordinances of the Church; but, alike in the Gospel and the Epistles, he fixes his gaze directly on the pure, and eternal truth-on that which does not vary with the change of dispensations, but “that which was from the beginning," the life which is eternal, and the truth which is immutable and divine.

In all the parts of the Apocalypse of which the sense is undisputed, the same character re-appears.

The divine titles used, and the forms of truth presented to our view, are those which are most spiritual and heavenly.

Now if the Futurist hypothesis were true, this remarkable character will be suddenly reversed when we turn to the predictions themselves. St. John will have passed at once from the high region of spiritual mysteries, which seems his native sphere, to the opposite pole of revealed truth, the literal record of external and material prodigies. We shall have to make at once a mental transition, not less wide than the hiatus of chronology. In the predictions we have to vault forward over eighteen centuries; in the tone of thought we have to recede as far backward, from the latest and most heavenly of the Gospels to the opening of Exodus. That apostle, who scarce records in his Gospel one miracle of our Lord, unless where it is the occasion of some heavenly discourse, or is itself transparent with the divine parable within, will have become the chosen penman to record more sensible wonders than can be found in all the other pages of the word of God. Doubtless we must reason with caution and reverence on the ways of Him, who giveth not account of any of His matters.


But we are only following in the clear footprints of his own divine wisdom, when we affirm that the choice of this apostle for such a message would reverse every precedent which the canon of inspiration sets before us.

Let us now recur to the older and more general view of the prophecy, which regards it as a symbolical history of the whole dispensation. The harmony is at once restored. The Apocalypse, instead of contrasting with the Gospel, becomes the highest and fullest exhibition of its grand feature, spiritual contemplation. It becomes, indeed, “the Gospel after the spirit” of the ascended Saviour, and differs mainly by ranging over a longer period. Every object of nature now becomes instinct with spirit. The radiance of some deep and imperishable truth gleams out from every metaphor, as in the discourse on the true Vine, the living Bread, or the living waters. Nature becomes one treasury of symbols, Providence one mine of moral wonders, all centring in the person of the risen Saviour, and illustrating the declaration in the Gospel, that “the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.”

2. But there are also special allusions, which link the Gospel and the prophecy together, and seem also as if expressly designed for a key to the sacred emblems. The two works both of them open with that peculiar title, “the Lamb of God," which occurs once only in any other book of Scripture. The attendant words in the Gospel, “ that taketh away the sin of the world," point out the extent of the salvation of Christ as not confined to the Jews only. And they are thus like a key, to show that the vision in the Apocalypse (ch. must be explained with an equally comprehensive meaning. The first miracle, of the water turned into wine, is also a clear parable of the richer grace of the Christian covenant. And it thus, by contrast, illustrates the

[ocr errors]

judgments of the Trumpets and the Vials, and the deep moral significance of the embittered and bloodstained waters. The words of our Lord to the Jews, “ Destroy this temple," are a further link of the same kind : “ He spake of the temple of His body.” And the apostle thus supplies a secret caution, that when our Lord from heaven speaks to him again of the temple (Rev. xi. 1,3), our thoughts must not rest, like the Jews, in the material building, but must interpret the words, like the disciples afterward, by the light of the resurrection. The caution to the nobleman, “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe," applies in all its force to those, who, under the Christian dispensation, require miracles as sensible as the Jews in the wilderness, before they can recognize the real fulfilment of the sacred emblems. It forbids us to rest in the expectation of mere outward and material wonders, as if the unveiling of Jesus Christ in His glory could consist in these; and bids us rather contemplate the moral grandeur of God's ceaseless Providence, and its harmony, through every age of the Church, with the mysterious predictions of His holy word.

3. A third feature, very remarkable both in the Gospel and the Epistles, is the entire absence of all special recognition of the Jews. The key-note is found in that opening verse—“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." Throughout the whole Gospel, the Jews, as a nation, are tacitly disowned. Their feasts seem disclaimed as no longer the feasts of God (ii. 13; vi. 4; vii. 2; xi. 55). The holy name of “ the temple is transferred to a higher object (ii. 19, 21). The special distinctions of their worship are set aside (iv. 23). Their national title is applied distinctively to the unbelievers and persecutors (v. 15, 16; vii. 7, 13; ix. 18, 22), to the murmurers and the contentious (vi. 41, 52). Our

« PreviousContinue »