Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

in his hand a book open, 'swears by him that liveth forever, that there should be no longer delay;* but that when the seventh angel should sound his trumpet, the mystery of God' i. e. the design of God, hitherto unknown, respecting the deliverance of the Christians from the oppression of the Jews, should be accomplished. John is commanded to take the little book, containing the divine purposes relating to this subject, and to eat it up, i. e. to make himself thoroughly acquainted with its contents, so as to be able to communicate them to others. (ch. x. 1-11.)

A second exode is introduced for the purpose of designating more particularly the city which was to be destroyed, viz. 'the city where our Lord was crucified.' The two witnesses, mentioned in this exode, are supposed to be Ananus and Jesus,† high priests of the Jews, who made successful exertions to restrain the fury of the zealots during the Jewish war, until they were slain by them, on the night when the Idumeans made their fatal entrance into the city. The death of these persons hastened, as we are informed by Josephus, the destruction of Jerusalem. They are therefore supposed to be introduced merely to point out to the Jewish Christians, who were acquainted with these facts, the city which was to be destroyed, The 1260 days,' or, which is the same thing, the 42 months, and also, the three days and a half,' mentioned in this exode, Eichhorn supposes to be nothing more than expressions used, by poetical licence, to denote an indefinite, or a considerable, space of time. (ch. xi. 1-14.)

At length the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and Jerusalem is overthrown by the Romans. (xi. 15-19.)

The first act now closes with a description of the condition of the Christian church, as it may be supposed to have been, when it had surmounted the obstacles and difficulties of which

Judaism was the cause. One of its enemies was vanquished, but another formidable one'remained. It was weak and feeble, and is represented by the symbol of a newborn infant, which

[ocr errors]

*Probably the true meaning in this place of the phrase or xgoros oux x Oras, which in the common version is rendered that there should be time no longer.' Grotius and Wakefield agree with our author as to the meaning of the phrase.

+ Eichhorn supposes the Apocalypse to have been written after the de

struction of Jerusalem.

Jos. de bello Jud. lib. 4. c. 5.

'a huge red dragon' viz. that old serpent the devil,' is watching to destroy; in conformity to a well known Jewish opinion. But the infant is caught up to heaven; i. e. the church is protected by God.

The wretched condition of the Jews, who were still attach. ed to their old religion, is also represented by the symbol of a woman, the mother of the child, pursued into a wilderness by the dragon above mentioned. The hope, however, is expressed, that the time would come, when the Jews would embrace Christianity and enjoy its advantages; agreeably to the expectation of St. Paul, Rom. xi. 26. This hope is supposed to be implied in the declaration that the woman would be kept in the wilderness only 1260 days, i. e. a considerable time. After this period, she would come out of the wilderness, and dwell in the cultivated and pleasant region, in which christianity was flourishing. (ch. xii. i—-17.)

The second act of the drama now commences, and extends from ch. xiii. to ch. xx. 10., in which Rome is destroyed, i. e. Paganism is overcome by Christianity.

In the first place, the gentile superstition, which was to be destroyed, is denoted by appropriate symbols. The scene is changed from Heaven to earth. A wild beast is seen coming out of the sea, having seven heads, and ten horns, and ten diadems upon his horns, and upon his heads names of blasphemy, denoting Rome, the symbol of idolatry. It receives the power, throne, and authority of the dragon or satan, who had been thrown down from heaven; (ch. xii. 10.) a circumstance introduced to mark it as the enemy and persecutor of Christians. (ch. xiii. 1-10.)

That Rome was intended to be the symbol of pagan superstition is supposed to be more clearly determined by the scene which follows. Another animal, elsewhere called the false prophet, is seen coming out of the earth, who by his frauds and pretended miracles deceives mankind, and reduces them to the worship of the monster, that came out of the sea,* i. e. to prefer idolatry to the worship of the true God. (xiii. 11—18.)

The exhibition of these monsters is followed by an exode, in which the tranquillity and happiness of the worshippers of the

* Eichhorn adopts that explanation of the number of the beast' which is mentioned by Irenaeus; according to which the word AxTuvos, latin or roman, is denoted. The figures of which the Greek letters in this word are significant, being added together, make the number six hundred and sixty six.

only true God, are contrasted with the fury and tumults of their idolatrous adversaries. (xiv. 1-5.)

Then follows a series of predictions, or annunciations, of the destruction of Rome, as being near at hand. Three angels appear, flying through the midst of heaven, of which the first predicts desolation or punishment, as being about to be inflicted--that the hour of God's judgment was come;' the second declares its accomplishment-- Fallen, fallen is Babylon, the great city; the third intimates to whom the punishment relates, viz. the worshippers of idols, 'those who worship the beast and his image, or receive his mark upon their forehead or their hand.' (xiv. 6-13.)

The destruction of Rome is again announced by the symbols of a harvest, and of a vintage. (xiv. 14—20.)

The destruction of the city is yet again represented. Seven angels appear, with the seven last plagues; by the successive infliction of which Rome would be brought to utter ruin. (xv. 1.) An exode is then introduced, in which it is declared that these predicted calamities relate to the idolatrous gentiles. (xv. 2—4.) Then the seven angels come forth from the temple in heaven, ready to fulfil their office; and a loud voice is heard from the temple, commanding them to pour seven vials of the wrath of God upon the city. (xv. 6 to xvi. 1.)

When the first four angels pour out their vials, plagues, designed to express public calamity generally, are represented, (xvi. 2-9.) When the fifth angel pours out his vial, it is made evident, that the plagues just exhibited, relate to the extinction of idolatry, (xvi. 10, 11.) When the sixth pours out his vial, all the obstacles, which might hinder the destruction of Rome, are removed, (xvi. 12-16.) When the seventh pours out his vial, the ruin of the city is completed. (xvi. 17-21.)

The representation of the complete destruction of Rome is followed by an exode, in which this seat of idolatry is designated and described by symbols, more plain and expressive than any which had been before used. (ch. xvii.)

A lament over the fallen city is then introduced, (ch. xviii.) and also a song of triumph over her by the inhabitants of heaven. (xix. 1-10.) A splendid triumphal procession, remarkable for its resemblance in many particulars, to a Roman triumph, is then exhibited, (xix. ii. to xx. 3.) and at length the christian religion reigns without opposition. The description of the flourishing state of christianity under the image of the reign of Christ its founder, closes the second act of the drama. (xx. 4-10.)

The third act then commences and extends from the 11th verse of the 20th chapter to the 5th of the 22nd. In this act the New Jerusalem is represented, descending from heaven, i. e. the happiness of the future life is described.

The scene is first prepared, the dead are raised, and assembled before the throne of God. The books are opened, and they are judged. The good are enrolled as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. (ch. xx. 11-14.) Then the New Jerusalem, the seat of the Messiah's empire, and the symbol of the happiness of the future life, is represented as 'coming down from God out of heaven.' A full and glowing description of this abode of the blessed closes the third act of the drama. (ch. xx. 15. to xxii. 5.)

[ocr errors]

The poem ends with an epilogue; in which an angel declares the words of the book to be true and faithful,' pronounces a blessing on those, who should keep the words of the prophecy of the book; and commands John not to seal them up, because the time of their fulfilment was at hand.'* (xxii. 611.) Jesus Christ confirms the words of the angel; (xxii. 1216.) and John gives an impressive caution to all readers against any alteration of his book, whether by enlarging or abridging its contents, and expresses an eager desire for the coming of Jesus Christ. (ch. xxii. 17-21.)

That part of our author's theory, which makes the cities of Jerusalem and Rome to be only symbols of Judaism and Paganism, as it constitutes the most important, and also, in my opinion, the most vulnerable feature of the system, shall have the protection of the arguments which he has urged in its support.

That the author of the apocalypse did not mean to represent the destruction of cities in the proper sense, our author supposes to be evident from the closing part of the drama. In the third act, the New or Heavenly Jerusalem cannot be supposed to denote a city in the proper sense; but must be considered a symbol of the happiness of the future life. But it would be incongruous, and inconsistent with the ease and ingenuity and success with which the author of the apocalypse has laboured

* A circumstance well worth the consideration of such as suppose that any predictions in this book relate to events still future; or to events of late occurrence. See also, ch. i. 1-3. What should we think of an astronomer, who having calculated an eclipse of the sun, or the return of a comet, should tell us, that the time of its appearance was at hand,' or that it would appear shortly,' meaning thereby sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, or we know not how many hundred years?

New Series-vol. IV.


to make the different parts of the drama correspond to each other, that one of the three cities represented should be used in a symbolic, and the other two in a proper, or literal sense. If, therefore, the New Jerusalem be allowed to be a symbol, the other two cities must be understood in the same manner.

What the symbolical meaning of the cities is, supposing it determined that they are symbols, our author supposed to be indicated with equal plainness. Immediately after the destruction of Rome the millenial kingdom of Christ begins. Now as it is plain that our Saviour never claimed, nor his apostles expected a temporal or civil kingdom, but only a moral or spiritual one-the empire of his religion over the minds and hearts of men, what could have been intended, asks our author, by the destruction of Rome, but the downfal or removal of that which opposed and hindered the moral influence of Christianity upon the mind, and its progress in the world, viz. the Gentile superstition or Paganism.

The same argument is used to shew that Judaism is denoted by the city of Jerusalem, as it was that which opposed and hindered the reception of Christian Religion amongst the Jews. This is confirmed by the manner in which christianity is described after the destruction of Jerusalem ch. xii. For, when Judaism only was abolished, the diffusion of Christianity was, indeed, increased; but was still very limited, compared with the wider and more extensive spread of it, in consequence of the downfal of Paganism.

Our author suggests another consideration to shew that the city of Jerusalem was designed to be emblematical of Judaism. Just before the destruction of the city was to be represented, John is ordered 'to measure the temple and the altar,' but to omit to measure the outer court with its buildings, which were 'to be trampled upon by the gentiles.' (ch. xi. 1, 2.) This commanded, says our author, intimates that the temple and the altar would be preserved; whilst the outer court would be given to destruction with the rest of the city. Now the temple in the proper sense--the material temple-was not preserved, when Jerusalem was made desolate. It must therefore, be supposed to have a symbolical meaning; and it is very obvious what this is. The temple, and the outer court are emblematical of the whole Jewish Religion; the former denoting its pure and spiritual part-its doctrines concerning the unity and perfections of God &c. the latter, its numerous rites and ceremonies. Now the doctrines concerning the unity and perfections of God were, it is well known, incorporated into the

« AnteriorContinuar »