Page images
PDF
EPUB

5. In concluding this first Part of my last æra, I must say a few passing words on three briefer Comments, published in the interval between Bossuet's and that of Daubuz ; and which, though less elaborate than the four preceding, are too important to be altogether overlooked : – I mean those by Cressener, Sir I. Newton, and Whiston.

That by Dr. Cressener, entitled ' A Demonstration of the First Principles of the Protestant Applications of the Apocalypse," and first published A.D. 1690, well answered to its Title. Its one grand subject is the Apocalyptic Beast of Apoc. xiii and xvii. And in a series of connected propositions he incontrovertibly establishes, against Ribera, Alcasar, Malvenda, Maldonatus, and Bellarmine, that the Apocalyptic Babylon is not Rome Pagan, as it existed under the old Pagan Emperors ; nor Rome repaganised, as Ribera would have it to be at the end of the world : but Rome idolatrous and antichristian, as connected with the Beast, or Roman Empire in its last form, and under its last head; which last head is the seventh head revived, after its deadly wound with a sword : with and under which the Beast exists all through the time of the Witnesses ; in other words from the date of the breaking up of the old Empire into ten kingdoms, until Christ's second coming to take the kingdom. The 6th, or Imperial head ruling in St. John's time, must, he argues, have fallen at the latest at the time of the Herulian chief Odoacer, and Ostrogothic king Theodoric, reigning in the 5th century : and he concludes (here exception might be taken I conceive against him) that the 7th head was the Herulian and Ostrogothic, which continued but a short time; the 8th being the revived secular imperial, confederated with

described as one larger than the common cubit, being “a cubit and a hand breadth :” which common cubit Potter, after Villapandus, makes to be 23 feet. This admitted, and that the proportion of the large cubit to the common is as 5 to 4, then the length of each side of Ezekiel's city will be 4500 * * 24 feet

1126 X 5x5, or 14012 feet. On the other hand, as St. John's 12,000 furlongs are to be considered as giving the cubic dimensions of the Apocalyptic New Jerusalem, “ its length and breadth and height being equal," therefore the cubic root of 12,000, which is 23 nearly, (for 23 x 23* 23=12,167) gives the length of one of the sides : which 23 furlongs being 23 x 625=14375 feet, this measure will only by just a little exceed the length of one of the sides of the Apocalyptic City.—The coincidence is remarkable. But there is this objection, that the assumed size of Ezekiel's cubit is by no means certain ; it being generally deemed of much smaller dimensions. So Calmet; who computes it at I feet instead of 24.

a Roman ecclesiastical head, (somewhat as under the old Emperors :') i. e. the secular Western Emperors combined with the Popes. And he argues for Justinian's æra as that of the commencement of the last head.-Altogether Cressener's Book was an important accession to the Protestant cause and Protestant argument, against the Romanists.

Sir I. Newton's brief Apocalyptic Comment, appended to his Treatise on Daniel, was not published, I believe, till the year 1733 ; six years after his death. It seems, however, to have been written some considerable time before : his thoughts having been seriously directed to these prophecies as early as 1691.2 Brief as is the Comment, being of not much more than seventy pages, it yet contains much valuable matter, and exhibits much careful and original thought ; so as might have been expected from such an author. Alike on the Seals and Trumpets he expresses his general agreement with Mede. But the following differences occur. 1. He expounds the first Seal, as well as the three next, not of Christ, but of Roman Emperors : 3 (I presume with reference to the triumphs of Vespasian and Titus, as I shall have to observe again presently; for the difference involves matter of importance:) also to Mede's view of the seventh Seal, as comprehending the seven Trumpets, Sir Isaac adds, “ and also the half-hour's previous stillness from the threatened four winds of heaven ;" (the same that were let loose afterwards under the four first Trumpets :) which stillness he explains historically of the respite during Theodosius's reign, from 380 A.D. to 395; an important approximation, I conceive, to the true meaning 2-2. Dissatisfied with Mede's particular and somewhat fanciful distribution of the Gothic ravages over the four first Trumpets, he makes the distinction of the four winds the principle of distinction in them ; 1st as figuring Alaric's ravages on the Greek provinces East of Rome; 2nd as the Visigoths' and Vandals' on the Western Gallic and Spanish provinces ; 3rd as the desolations of Southern Africa by the Vandal wars, from Genseric down to Belisarius ; 4th as the Lombard wars in Northern Italy. 3——3. In the 5th Trumpet he thinks the double mention of the locusts' quinquemensal period of tormenting, in verses 5 and 10 of Apoc. ix, may be meant to signify two periods of 150 years each, as the times of the Saracens. 4–4. The Turks' hour day month and year, he calculates as 391 years, not 396, as Mede; viz. from Alp Arslan's first conquering on the Euphrates, A.D. 1062, to the fall of Constantinople, in 1453.

· The Emperor being Pontifex as well as Imperator. ? In the biographical Notice of Sir I. Newton in the British Cyclopædia, a letter of his is given, dated Cambridge, Feb. 7, 1690-1, containing the following extract : “ I should be glad to have your judgment on some of my mystical fancies. The Son of Man, Dan. vii, I take to be the same with the Word of God upon the white horse in heaven, Apoc. xix : for both are to rule the nations with a rod of iron. But whence are you certain that the Ancient of Days is Christ ?"

* He says indeed at p. 278, (of Edit. 1733 ;) “ The four horsemen, at the opening of the four first seals, have been well explained by Mr. Mede :" who made, we have seen, the first horseman to be Christ. But this was a mere lapse of the pen. For Sir I. expressly elsewhere gives to the first Seal, as well as to the other three, a Roman solution. So p. 256 ; “ The visions at the opening of these (the first four) seals relate only to the civil affairs of thc heathen Roman Empire.” At. p. 274 he speaks of“ the wars of the Roman Empire, during the reign of the four horsemen that appeared on opening the first four seals :” and at p. 277; “ The Dragon's heads are seven successive kings ; four of them being the four horsemen, which appeared at the opening of the four first seals."

In Apoc. xii and xiïi Sir I. Newton generally agrees with Mede; explaining Apoc. xii of the times of Diocletian and Constantine, Apoc. xiii of those of the Latin Papal empire: the first Beast being this Latin Papal decem-regal empire, its name and number Aateixos ;' the second Beast however (a singular explanation !) the Greek Church.& And then he intimates peculiar views on the Little Book, seven Epistles, and seven Vials. The Vials Mede ought, he judges, to have made correspondent with, and explanatory of, the Trumpets. The

1 " These wars (in which Valens perished) were not fully stopped on all sides till the beginning of the reign of Theodosius, A.D. 379, 380; but henceforward the Empire remained quiet from foreign enemies, till his death A.D. 395. So long the four winds were held; and so long there was silence in heaven.” He adds; " And the 7th Seal was opened when this silence began.” Pp. 294, 295.

2 Till my present abstracting of Sir I. Newton's Treatise, I had not been aware of the very near resemblance of my own views on the holding of the winds, and the halfhour's silence, to Sir I. Newton's. See my Vol. i. pp, 227, 299.

3 Sir I. Newton, p. 296–302. • " About five months,” he says, “ at Damascus, and five at Bagdad ;" altogether 300 years, from A.D. 637–936 inclusive. Ib. 305.

Pp. 282–284.—Sir I. Newton gives us in his connected Treatise on Daniel bistorical abstracts illustrating the division of the ten kingdoms, and progress of the Papal power in respect of imperial law and historic fact, so careful and valuable, that no Apocalyptic student should be without them. I have referred to them in my Vol. iii. at p. 135 and elsewhere.

6 “ The second Beast which rose up out of the earth, was the Church of the Greek Empire.” P. 283. In the distinction of earth and sea, he makes the earth the Greek Empire. So p. 281.

5

Epistles he adjusts to the state and times of the Church indicated in the series of figurations of the future that followed : the particulars as stated below.1 The Little Book he considers, like Mede, to be a new prophecy; the Angel-Vision of Apoc. x being an introduction to it : but that, as being when first tasted sweet, afterwards bitter, its commencement should be considered as agreeing with Apoc. xii, and the glorious prefiguration there given of the fall of Paganism in the Roman empire : the sequel of it being the bitter times of the Beasts 1260 years, and the Witnesses' prophesying sackcloth.2

Besides all which I wish to direct particular attention to two characteristic and important points in this Comment of Sir I. Newton ; the one regarding the distant past, the other the then quickly coming future. 1. He, first of Expositors, if I mistake not, institutes a careful and critical investigation into the evidence external and internal of the date of the Apocalypse ; 3 inferring it thence to be coincident with Nero's persecution, not Domitian's : (quite incorrectly, as I think I have shown :) 4 which being so, a Roman explanation was obvious of the 1st Seal, in harmony with Mede’s Roman explanation of the 2nd ; this latter having reference to the wars of Trajan and Adrian.—2. He insists, with regard to the so far evident imperfection of the understanding of the Apocalypse and some of Daniel's prophecies, that it was itself a thing foreseen and predicted ; Daniel having been directed to seal up his last prophecy till the time of the end. And he adds that this time of the end was Apocalyptically marked as that of the 7th Trumpet, at whose sounding the mystery of God should be finished; the preaching of the everlasting Gospel to all nations being further

| The Epistle to Ephesus Sir I. Newton makes to depict the state of the Church during the four first seals, and before Diocletian's persecution ; when the only “ somewhat” of charge against it was, “ Thou hast left thy first love:"—that to Smyrna, with its ten days tribulation, had reference to Diocletian's persecution, depicted in the 5th Seal :- those to Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, wherein mention is made of the heresies and evils of Balaam and the woman Jezebel, and of the Church's works not having been found perfect before God, figured the gradual apostacy under Constantine and Constantius :--that to Philadelphia, the faithful under Julian's persecution : --that to Laodicea, the Church's subsequent lukewarmness, so increased as that God would spue it out of his mouth ; a state answering to the development of the apostacy soon after the opening of the 7th Seal, or at the end of the 4th Century.

Pp. 271, 272. 3 At the beginning of his Apocalyptic Treatise, pp. 236—246. 4 In my opening Treatise on the Date of the Apocalypse, Vol. i. pp. 37, 38, and the additional notice in the Appendix to that volume.

marked, both in the Apocalypse and in Christ's prophecy, as a preliminary sign accompanying it : and that the measure of success, albeit imperfect, that had crowned the prophetic researches of the immediately preceding age, seemed to him an evidence that the last “main revolution" predicted, when all would be explained, was near at hand.”1—I must add, not from his own published Comment, but from Whiston's, the further remarkable fact, that Sir Isaac expressed a strong persuasion, with reference of course to the expected “ main revolution" of the seventh Trumpet, wherein “ they were to be destroyed that destroyed or corrupted the earth,” —that the antichristian and persecuting power of the Popedom, which had so long corrupted Christianity, must be put a stop to, and broken to pieces, by the prevalence of infidelity, for some time before primitive Christianity could be restored.2 An anticipation surely, fulfilled as it was soon after in the facts and the character of the expected great Revolution, when it actually broke out, that must be deemed not a little remarkable!

The Apocalyptic “ Essay" by Whiston (Newton's successor in the Mathematical Professorship at Cambridge) was first published, as appears from the date appended to Whiston's original Preface, in the year 1706 : a second Edition following in 1744, under Whiston's own eye, improved and corrected. 3—The following points in it appear to me deserving of notice. While strongly contending for the Domitianic date of the Apocalypse, he yet explains the 1st Seal retrospectively of Christ's triumphingin Vespasian and Titus' overthrow of Jerusalem:

1 " The time is not yet come for understanding the old prophecies, (which he that would understand must begin with the Apocalypse,) because the main revolution predicted in them is not yet come to pass. In the days of the voice of the seventh Angel the mystery of God shall be finished. Among the interpreters of the last age there is scarce one of note who hath not made some discovery worth knowing: whence I gather that God is about opening these mysteries.” Pp. 252, 253.

2 “ Sir I. Newton had a very sagacious conjecture, which he told Dr. Clarke, from whom I received it ; that the overbearing tyranny and persecuting power of the Antichristian party, which hath so long corrupted Christianity, and enslaved the Christian world, must be put a stop to, and broken to pieces, by the prevalence of infidelity, for some time before primitive Christianity could be restored :"_which, adds Whiston, writing A.D. 1744, seems to be the very means that is now working in Europe for the same good and great end of Providence." (2nd Ed. p. 321.) N.B. The title-page of the 2d Edition bears date London 1744; Whiston's own conclusion of its 3rd Part, at p. 324, Jan, 20, 1743-4.

3 Whiston died A.D. 1752.-A little before his death, he drew up a brief Adderdum to his Second Edition, occupying in my copy of that Edition from p. 325 to 332; and bearing date at the end, May 7, 1750.

« PreviousContinue »