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man, it is built, as we believe, upon a system of fables.* Until the commission of Swedenborg has been first demonstrated, on what principle can his communications be accepted? But if the interpretations of Swedenborg are rejected, because he claimed an authority which he could not show himself to possess, why should those of Elliott or Cumming be entitled to greater credit?
But it may be said, are the images of Holy Scripture without meaning, or at least are we to reject all which are nut distinctly explained? And would not such a rule militate equally against the Antipagan, and the Patristic mode of interpretation? We are far from saying that many statements, pertaining to both these schools, are not open to the objections which we have taken. But we shall show, in the sequel, that the Antipagan system is not equally liable to such a complaint with the Antipapal; and the Patristic does not deal so much in interpretation as in application. To say nothing of the rule of Church authority, to which it is always subordinate, its very principle is rather to use the images of the Apocalpyse as illustrations of God's dealings with his Church, than as a continuous prophecy.
Again, it would be going too far to say that human study and inquiry, when not exceeding the analogy of the faith, and referring continually to the guidance of the Spirit, and the authority of the Church, have no office in the interpretation of the word of God. That which is complained of, is, the lawless spirit which subjects Scripture to itself, instead of being subject to Scripture. For example, when Our Lord predicts the dangers which threatened Jerusalem, He goes on to say: * Im'mediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be 'darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars 'shall fall from hcaveu, and the powers of the heavens shall be •shaken.' Now, these are images so familiar to the Hebrew prophets, that we seem to have authority for interpreting them of some great disasters which were to trouble the political heavens, soon after the destruction of Jerusalem. And, therefore, when these things are described as happening under the sixth seal, there appears to be a justification for the view taken by most interpreters, that this seal refers to those troubles which followed that great judgment on the Jewish people. If it be said that this is a conjectural interpretation, we answer, that it is only a filling up of some details, the main outline of Which has been given on authority. It is like the visions of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament, in which an authori* tative command settles the general meaning of the imagery.
1 At the end of the second volume of Mr. Clissold's work will be found an explanatory paraphrase of the Apocalypse, according to Swedenborg. Mr. Clissold's own work is intended to show that the interpretation thus given of the emblematical language of S. John accords with that which has been given by other writers. So far this would only justify him in saying that Swedenborg had as good a right to conjecture to what events the emblems thus explained were likely to refer, as Mr. Elliott, or any other writer. But then he rests the application of the emblems on Swedenborg's own claim to inspiration. (Preface, p. 21.)
As to Swedenborg's own work, its tendency follows naturally from his principles. Bis system, as most ably described by Mohler in his great work on Symbolism, was a reaction against that gross mass of errors, the Lutheran theory of justification. This, therefore, was the evil against which he supposed the Revelation to be mainly directed. He keeps, indeed, to the popular Protestant view of supposing papal Borne to be Babylon; but he makes the beast from the sea to be the laity. who hold 'the doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law,' and the beast from the land to be their clergy. Again, in the locusts, and the horsemen from Euphrates, instead of seeing the head of a Saracen or a Turk, he sees that of a Solifidian. 'Horses in vision mean visionary reasonings in regard to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.'—(CUssold, vol. ii. p. 347.)
And hence we derive the principles which we would apply to prophetic interpretation. Its main application and ultimate intention ought always to be derived from some competent authority. We should have no right to apply Daniel's vision of the four beasts to four empires, or to understand ten kings by the ten horns, unless the angel had supplied the interpretation. When this main point is given, we may safely observe how well the notion of a wild beast accords with the character of a heathen empire; and that the horn, an image of strength, is a meet emblem for a king. We may go further, and when we find Daniel asserting these kingdoms to have arisen in succession, we may understand them of those four principal sovereignties which in their order have possessed the earth. But we require such an interpretation to set out with; we have no business to fix upon an event at random, and to declare that it was in the intention of the Spirit, because it seems to us to tally with some unexplained image of Holy Writ. This would be to wander into pure conjecture, and to do violence to the word of God.
Our complaint, then, against the Antipapal system of interpretation is, that, beyond any other on record, and to a degree so monstrous as to outrage the common sense of mankind, it has led to this irreverent dealing with Holy Scripture. Let us take a few specimens at random, from the most approved of the works before us. That we may gain a readier hearing, we will abstain from touching upon those which in popular opinion refer more immediately to the Pope, because we have observed the name of that personage to act on many English readers as sulphur does upon bees; it produces an intellectual syncope^ which renders them the prey of the first invader.
We turn, then, to the sixth chapter of the Revelation, where we read that an angel ' cried with a loud voice, as when a lion * roareth; and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their 1 voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, 'I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying
• unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders 'uttered, and write them not.'
So far as the Apostle is our informant, then, we can know nothing of that which these thunders declared, because he was forbidden to write them. But his commentators are more communicative. They appropriate the Apostle's thunder to some purpose, and it bears an important part in the systems both of Mr. Elliott and Dr. Wordsworth. The first is naturally embarrassed with that which is an obvious difficulty to all the Antipapal interpreters, that the Revelation contains no images which they can readily identify with the Reformation. Mr. Elliott, therefore, is obliged to make an emblem of the Reformation out of the angel who ' set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth.' Sea and earth, according to his own acknowledgment, are to be taken in this book as emblems; but here, on the contrary, it is necessary to the purpose to take them literally—so they stand for "insular England," and "continental Christendom." (Elliott, p. 444.) But as this is a small basis on which to rest the argument, the roll of the thunder conies in as a reserve. The thunders were not to be written. Why not? Plainly they must have been bad thunders. Now, who is the bad thunderer? Obviously the Pope. And this accounts for the number of the thunders, for they would naturally re-echo from his seven hills. So then these thunders were the bull against Luther, and thus we have a demonstration that the angel must have been intended to represent the Reformation.
The thunders are just as important to Dr. Wordsworth also, though to his ears they convey a different sound. It appears to be part of his theological system to make Holy Scripture contain, not only a proof of its own inspiration, but literally a list of its own contents. * It was very important,' he says,
• that the Church should receive an assurance concerning the
• number of the books of Scripture. S. John was the fittest 'person to give that; and no place so fit for it as the Apoca'lypse.' (Wordsworth, p. 123.) Now, we have no doubt that this want has often been felt by those who wished to do without the Church's authority; but it was reserved for Dr. Wordsworth, not only to be so ingenuous as to confess, but so ingenious as to remedy, the difficulty. His confidence on the subject leads him into one singular contradiction, which we can only account for by remembering that a volume of sermons is not likely to have the unity of a continuous treatise. In p. Ill, he tells us that S. John's Apocalypse was 'prior in composition to his Gospel;'
yet, in p. 355, he calls the former 'the farewell gift, the last 'bequest of Christ to the Church.'
In conformity with this idea, then, Dr. Wordsworth is determined that the Revelation shall supply him with a list of the books of Holy Scripture: and he first seeks it in the four living creatures, and the four-and-twenty elders. By the first, he says, are meant the Four Gospels; by the last the Old Testament. To us this seems a most erroneous interpretation; but allowing it to be ever so true, how can it be adduced as a proof that 'S. John authenticates the contents, and displays the Divine authority of both Testaments?' (p. 123.) How comes Dr. Wordsworth not to observe that his argument would exclude the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse itself from the Canon of Scripture? These are the very books which, from their circumstances, have most required to be authenticated, and respecting which there has, in fact, been most dispute. Now, Dr. Wordsworth's argument is the strongest which can be brought against their authority: he tells us that it is necessary there should be a list of the books of Scripture, and he adduces a list in which the New Testament consists only of the four Gospels.
Perhaps it was from some consciousness of this defect in his fourth sermon, that he sets himself to find a more complete Canon in his eighth. 'It was very necessary,' he tells us, 'that the Church should know that the Canon of the Scripture 'of the New Testament is composed of the writings of seven 'persons, and sealed by the eighth.' 'I conceive, therefore, 'that the seven thunders here represent the seven apostolic 'and evangelical writers of the New Testament; S. John's
* predecessors in writing, namely, S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, 'S. Paul, S. James, S. Peter, and S. Jude,' (p. 235.) He adds, (p. 237,) * Therefore, by these words, Almighty God sets his 'own seal to the New Testament by the hand of S. John. He 'says to S. John, Bind up the testimony; seal the law among 'my disciples: and what we receive from S. John we receive
* from God. This is a most important result.'
We had always imagined that the proof of the inspiration of Scripture must be found in the authority of the Church, by which its several books have been accepted. But Dr. Wordsworth is not contented with this: he thinks that the authority of Scripture cannot stand unless it is authenticated by some internal and self-derived attestation. And this attestation he finds in the thunders of the prophetic vision. It follows, of course, that since the meaning of this vision is now for the first time revealed to the Church, these divine oracles have hitherto been received without sufficient reason. For, who was aware that they had received any such sanction as we now learn to be essential to their claims?
NO. LXXXII. N.8. D D
Besides, there arises the further difficulty, that if S.John Touches for the other writers of Scripture, there must be some one to vouch for S. John. How is his own Revelation proved to be a part of the Canon, save by the testimony of the Church? If the Church's witness, then, is sufficient to establish S. John's own title, why not also the title of his precursors? What do we gain by propping the elephant on the tortoise, since the tortoise, after all, remains to be supported?
This is a specimen of the untenable arguments and unsustained assertions, into which men of learning and ability are led by the conjectural method of interpretation. We have purposely taken our examples from persons whose habits and attainments might have been supposed to guard them from such results. Such absurdities might have been expected from a mere mob orator like Dr. Cumming; but Dr. Wordsworth is a man of talents and learning, though his present work is too hastily put together, while Mr. Elliott lias evidently bestowed pains and thought, which, if well guided, might have led to a different end. It is not our business to interpret the Revelation, but to comment on those who do so; otherwise, we should observe, that the attempt to find a meaning for this sevenfold utterance of God's voice proceeds from inattention to the Jewish idiom, according to which 'the seven thunders,' as the passage ought to be translated, means nothing more than God's thunder. Bishop Middleton observes, that the article in this case would seem to imply a reference to some Jewish mode of expression, of which, however, he could find no trace. Had he turned to Eisenmenger's 'Entdecktes Judenthum,' (i. 426,) he would have found evidence that the Jews were wont to speak of thunder as 'the seven voices,'—a custom founded on the sevenfold repetition of * the voice of the Lord,' in the 29th Psalm.
But we must give another example or two of the kind of interpretation which we reprobate. What can be more entirely gratuitous than the assertion that the locusts of the fifth trumpet represent the Saracens? The argument is nothing more than Fluellen's—* there is a river in Macedon, there is also a river at Monmouth, and there is salmons in both.' Locusts come out of Arabia, and so do Saracens, therefore one represents the other. Let it be observed, too, that the other images in this book are interpreted, not on the principle of likeness, but on that of relation. If Babylon is used for Rome, it is because the second oppressed the people of the new, as the first those of the old covenant. The locusts, then, even if they could be shown to represent Arabians, would express any power by which the Roman world was afflicted, as the Jews had been by their predatory neighbours; so that nothing implies the locusts to have been Saracens, rather than any other invader.