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In the publication of a book on the Apocalypse, the author will undoubtedly be expected to assign some reasons for offering to the public an additional volume on a part of Scripture which has employed the pens of a numerous corps of commentators, many of whom are justly esteemed for their learning, piety, critical talents, and skill in the exposition of prophecy. The subsequent circumstances are therefore stated, in the hope that if they do not amount to a complete justification of the author's conduct, they will nevertheless be admitted, by the candid and considerate, as an apology sufficient to preserve him from severe censure.
In the year 1817, a course of monthly lectures was preached in London, at Ely Chapel, professedly to the Jews, or on subjects which in general had an especial reference to that interesting people. These lectures had been established and preached for several years previously, by various clergymen who were desirous of using means for promoting the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. The subject proposed for the last lecture was, “A concise and To connected View of the Book of Revelation.” The clergyman who engaged to deliver it was a diligent student of this mysterious book, and well qualified to execute the office he had accepted at the desire of his brethren. But before the period arrived in which he was to fulfil his engagement, he was compelled to decline it, in consequence of ill health ; and I was requested to preach this Lecture, in the place of my clerical friend. This circumstance led me to deliver a course of Lectures on the Book to my own congregation. The reasons for my publishing the substance of these Discourses, I shall now take the liberty of stating.
In the first place, it is my decided opinion that the Apocalypse is not sufficiently read and studied. A special blessing has indeed been promised by the Author of the Book to those in every age, “ who “ read and hear the words of this prophecy, and keep “ those things which are written therein.” But the study of this part of sacred Scripture becomes continually more interesting and important, as its prophecies gradually receive their accomplishment by the lapse of time. A very great proportion of these predictions have now actually been fulfilled; and others, of the highest interest and consequence to the Church, are undoubtedly on the eve of their completion. If, therefore, another publication on this mysterious, sublime, and comparatively obscure Book, should be the means of its being more read and studied, it cannot but be admitted, that a valuable and important end will be obtained. ry
It may be further remarked, that no separate work on the whole Book of Revelation has yet been published, which entirely meets my approbation. Expositions written many years ago are now become defective, in consequence of the subsequent fulfilment of some of the prophecies. To those more recently published which have fallen under my notice, objections might be stated, sufficient to render another volume on the entire Book, a desideratum to such as are desirous of understanding its interesting and momentous contents.
To these remarks it may be added, that, as scriptural predictions are not perfectly understood previously to their accomplishment, the last Exposition of this necessarily obscure and difficult book, if the author have the wisdom to use the help and assistance of his predecessors, ought to be the best. The Revelation contains a chain of prophecies from the time in which the Apostle John was favoured with “ the visions of the Almighty" to the end of the world. The illustration of these prophecies, therefore, must necessarily have employed the talents of learned and pious expositors of the Scriptures through a long succession of generations. Hence every succeeding writer reaps the advantage of the labours of those who have preceded him; and his principal business, in respect of the predictions that have been accomplished, is to adopt the expositions which have been given by the generality of sober and judicious commetators, in opposition to private or fanciful interpretations. But the predictions of this Book continue to receive their successive fulfilment during the lapse of ages; and as they are accomplished in their order, they are decisively explained and illustrated ; but not before. With these views of the exposition of prophecy, I presume that the interest and importance of a volume on the Book of Revelation in the year 1821 will not be superseded by any former works that have been published on the subject.
In writing this book I have made use of some of the most judicious and approved commentators. In the prosecution of iny work I have had on my table at different times, Mede on the Apocalypse ; Sir Isaac Newton, and Bishop Newton, on the Prophecies; Archdeacon (now Dean) Woodhouse on the Apocalypse; Dr. Bryce Johnston's Commentary on the Revelation; Faber's and Cuninghame's Dissertations on the 1260 years; Frere's Combined View of the Prophecies; Holmes on the Revelation; Fuller's Expository Lectures on the Apocalypse ; Bogue on the Millennium: together with Scotts, Doddridge's, and Guyse's Commentaries, &c. &c. Of the majority of these expositors I have made more or less use
in various parts of the volume. But this liberty has been more especially taken with Bishop Newton, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Faber. Where my sentiments have coincided with the views of several of the writers above mentioned, the substance of their language has been frequently adopted. On this account the Book in respect to its composition is less original than it might have been, had I taken the pains of reducing the sentiments of former commentators to my own language. This circumstance, however, will not render it the less valuable. I have not noticed all the passages for which I am indebted to some of these writers with the marks of quotation. In many cases indeed, where I have used their assistance, I have so far altered and abridged their language as to render it unfair for positive citation. In fact, as my object has been to publish a useful volume, rather than an original one, I have not scrupled to make use of former commentators as far as they suited my purpose. There cannot, indeed, be much originality in the exposition of this Book, except in the illustration of prophecies which have lately received their accomplishment. In this point of view, Mr. Faber, in his interpretation of the seventh head of one of the apocalyptic beasts, is an original expositor. He is the first writer who has illustrated the prophecy by its fulfilment; and in my opinion he has clearly demonstrated the genuine exposition of the prediction that refers to the seventh short-lived head of the seven-headed beast, that represents the secular Roman empire.--In truth, I have not affected an originality that would have rendered the book less satisfactory to the judicious, or less profitable to my readers in general. I beg therefore cordially to acknowledge my obligations to the authors of whose works I have made use in composing this volume ; and to return to those of them who are still living my grateful thanks for the assistance their writings have afforded me.