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The same powerful solvent will resolve the mystery of every symbolic prophecy in the Old Testament. Thus “ the relation of the kingdom of God to the four great world-dominions," is the one idea which will unlock the mystery of Daniel's twofold prophecy, ch. ii. and vii. “The existence of the four worldempires,” is the one idea which will solve Zechariah's prophecy of the Four Chariots, ch. vi. The restoration of the Jews is the key to all this prophet's predictions contained in ch. i.
But, if this principle be so powerful, why--it may be asked—is it not effective to solve the profound mystery which still inheres in the Revelation? The answer to this question is at hand—it has never been applied. It will effectually solve this mystery too, as well as all other allegoric mysteries, provided it be adhered to; it will not, if it be departed from, nor will it, unless the true idea be assumed and applied. And it is not reasonable to expect success otherwise. Now, we hesitate not to say, that if the relation of the fourth world-dominion to the kingdon of God be taken as the ONE IDEA of the allegory, and rigidly adhered to in the interpretation, it will put to flight, as will the light of a sunbeam, all that Cimmerian darkness which has hitherto involved the prophecy. The prophecy will stand forth thereafter and forever in a robe of light. This idea has, indeed, been generally admitted to be the main one, but it has not been admitted to be the sole one. Here a fatal error has been committed, for the value of the idea in so far as its oneness is concerned, which is its sole value,
is vitiated by the compromise, and the unity of the allegory is, in consequence, destroyed. The principle cannot be said to have been adhered to or applied in any proper sense, when Paganism is read in the book, when Arianism is found in it, or Mohammedanism, or infidelity, or Popery, (and not the Papacy,) or when the resurrection is discerned to be in it, or such things as the general judgment of all men, heaven, and hell, are read therein, or when, perhaps, more fatal in its effects on the book, the Devil or Satan is found in it. The resurrection and the final judgment, the heavenly state, and the total destruction of Satan, which is supposed to be represented in ch. xx., can have no bearing whatever on that one idea which pervades the prophecy, and which is essentially a political idea, viz., the triumph of the kingdom of God over the fourth world-dominion. The matters above enumerated, and many more of a similar kind which have passed current as interpreta. tions, thoroughly destroy the unity of idea of the allegory. This becomes like a vessel broken into pieces. These pieces may hold some drops of water, but not more than to toy with the palate, to stimulate,—not to quench the thirst. The capacity of the prophetic vessel to hold the living waters of truth is forever destroyed by the rupture of its unity. When such subjects as the above are admitted into the book, when mere symbols are held to be interpretations which conflict with every conception of the allegory's unity, this principle cannot be said to have been applied to it in any sense as a key of explication, nor to
have had its real virtues tested in any respect. The interpretation itself has not had justice done to it. That light which enters every allegory, and which must enter this one, too, by the great window of “unity of idea,” has been rigorously excluded from this great allegoric pile, and its mystic chambers have therefore been, if not dark, yet dim—scarcely, indeed, lighted up with a “dim religious splendor.” The consequence has been, that the most pains-taking industry has not been able to decipher the hieroglyphics on its walls.
But the symbolic prophecies have a second and independent instrument of illumination in the symbolic language. The terms of this organized language, for it is such, unquestionably, throw no small light on the real sense of the prophecy which is expressed in it. But then again, these hieroglyphics acquire their chief precision, their definiteness, and certainly all their demonstrative force, from the perception of the unity of the allegory. These hieroglyphic signs, it may with certainty be affirmed, are destitute of at least one-half their power when this unity is not discovered. The following comparison, or rather contrast, for such it is, will at once show the relative importance of the former element of interpretation above the other. Consider the parables. How demonstratively fixed is the sense of a parable, solely in virtue of this unity. It is from this quarter that it derives all its light. It has no fixed senses to lean upon at all. How unsatisfactory, on the other hand, has the sense of the Revelation been, destitute
of this principle of illumination, notwithstanding the known senses of the greater number of its hieroglyphics !
Unity of idea, then, we perceive, is an essential principle of the allegory. It is to the allegory what the key-stone is to the arch. Without this fundamental principle, an allegory is no sign-it is an uncompleted arch—it is no bridge of communication at all. With it, it is a real sign, a solid arch, a safe and reliable bridge in every respect-a bridge, also, which has been traversed, in the olden times, more than nowadays, by many a vehicle laden with gold. Many a broad and deep-running stream has it bridged over, and afforded a secure transit across it. But, as a bridge, it is useless unless the arch be complete—unless it exhibit a perfect unity.
We annex to this chapter a table of a few of the parables delivered by the Saviour. They form the groundwork and reveal the principles of the prophetic allegories; they therefore may be consulted with advantage to know the constitution of the other. The table also shows the partial forination, under the parable, of those hieroglyphics in it which have here no other key but unity of idea. The prophetic hieroglyphics have another exponent in the known senses of these signs. The one is sufficient to explain the parable; both are, however, requisite to the explication of the prophetic allegory, which is a much more complicated piece of work than the parable. The former, it is also to be observed, develops unity of conception, both in the subject of the allegory and in
the form in which it is cast. The principle is thus more highly and more artistically developed. At the same time, its existence is sometimes not a little difficult to descry in consequence of a violation which the symbolic prophets sometimes make in the unity of the imagery. The use of a sign which is different but synonymous makes an apparent violation of unity of idea. If we consider, however, that the images are here the signs, the mere change of an image does not in reality violate the unity more than the use of a different but synonymous word violates the unity of a sentence. This variety of imagery has undoubtedly been an obstacle to the interpretation of the Revelation. This is a book which is peculiarly rich in synonymous hieroglyphics, it literally swarnis with them; when these signs which are synonymous, are looked upon as anti-synonymous, new ideas are legarded as developed. Infringements, in consequence, are attributed to the prophet of the main and fundamental principle of conception. But it is altogether a false conclusion to draw, that because the prophet uses a different image or hieroglyphic, he develops a different idea, and violates the chain of unity. He cannot do this, and it is not rational to suppose that he does it. If he did, he would destroy the intelligibility of his composition. This apparent violation of unity of conception results from the fact, that he writes in an organized language, the signs of which have definite senses. When he uses a synonymous sign, he is no more changing his idea, than an author, when he uses a synonymous word. This violation of