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EXAMINATION OF SEVERAL RECENT EXPOSITIONS,
AND OF THE
BY THE REV. T. ROBIRKS,
FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
WILLIAM EDWARD PAINTER, 342, STRAND.
The whole of divine revelation may be distinguished into three main portions—the Law, the Gospel, and the Word of Prophecy. Each of these has its distinct use, and fulfils an important design in the instruction of the Church of Christ, and its preparation for the kingdom of God. The objects which the prophecies were designed to accomplish are many and various. They serve to link into harmonious union the precepts of the Law and the promises of the Gospel. They give a freedom and dignity to the obedience of the Christian, by admitting him to a glimpse of the counsels of the Most High, and raising him to the high honour of being a fellow-worker with God. They shield the grace of the Gospel from licentious abuse, by exhibiting the severest warnings of judgment to those who corrupt and pervert its sacred privileges. They supply warnings to the careless, and instruction and guidance to the devout Christian. Every spiritual faculty may find in them an appropriate field for its noblest exercise. And especially, in these times, they are the light which God himself has provided the Church, to prepare it for approaching trials, and for its final deliverance and glory.
The Word of Prophecy, again, may be distinguished into two main parts. The first includes the simpler prophecies of the Old Testament, which refer either to the first coming of Christ, to judgments on Eastern nations, or to the future restoration and glory of Israel. The second comprehends the symbolical prophecies of Daniel and St. John, with the prophecy of our Lord, and a few predictions in the writings of St. Paul. Its main objects are the events of the Christian dispensation, from the ascension of our Lord to His return in visible glory.
The following pages relate entirely to the second of these divisions, which is composed mainly of the symbolical prophecies. These refer more immediately to the Church of Christ, in its actual state and present dangers; and a right view of their true meaning is therefore of the highest importance. Their interpretation is also more difficult, from the character of the events to which they relate, and the symbols in which they are conveyed.
The maxims coinmonly adopted by Protestant writers in the exposition of these prophecies have of late been vigorously and perseveringly assailed. If the objections urged against them are of real weight, the effect will be to set aside nearly all their labours from three centuries past, and to compel us to begin the study afresh upon new principles. But if, on the other hand, those objections are worthless, the importance of the whole subject seems to require that they should receive a full and distinct answer. Thus only can the minds of simple Christians be freed from painful doubts about the very foundation on which those interpretations rest which they have been accustomed to receive.
Such is the design of the following work. It is strictly confined to a discussion of the first principles of the Christian prophecies, or the truth of those general maxims on which the best Protestant expositions repose. - It may serve, therefore, as an introduction either to the valuable works which have already appeared, of Mede and Daubuz, Cressener and Vitringa, and more recently by Mr. Faber, Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Frere, and other authors; or to those which may yet appear, based on the same general maxims of interpretation. At the same time, it involves no decision on those secondary details, some of them important, in which these writers may diverge from each other, or from the true and full meaning of the prophecies they have sought to explain. It proceeds, therefore, but a very short distance in this difficult and noble inquiry. The object has been mainly to secure firm footing at every step, and, avoiding more doubtful questions, to establish the first elements of prophetic truth on clear and logical grounds of Scripture evidence and solid reason.
The table of contents will explain sufficiently the order and extent of the subjects which are here examined. Their variety has compelled me to be very brief in the exhibition of each separate objection or argument. There are also, unavoidably, many references to the works examined. Yet I trust that the reasoning will, in most cases, be clear and perspicuous, even to the general reader. It seemed needless, in so elementary a work, to multiply references to authors whose views may have been adopted;