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REVIEW OF BOOKS.
An Inquiry into the Grounds on which regard to correcting the mistakes the Prophetic Period of Daniel and St. of the expounders of prophecy. John has been supposed to consist of The detection of a false date, the 1260 Years. By S. R. Maitland, Curate of Christ Church, Gloucester.
demolition of an assumed fact, or London : Hatchard. 8vo. 1826. the correction of an erroneous A Reply to the above Inquiry. By a principle or criticism, though the
Member of the Church of England. writer should do no more, may London: Hatchard. 1828. 8vo. A Defence of the Students of Prophecy,
tend to shake an extensive fabric against the Attack of the Rev. Dr. of error, and suggest a more ex. Hamilton. London: Nisbet. 1828. cellent method to some happier 8vo.
inquirer. That it is easier to detect evil Considering the difficulties which than to provide a remedy, is one attend the interpretation of proof those current sayings, which phecy, it cannot be matter of pass for axioms in the world ; and surprise, that many mistakes have which it would not be worth dis- been, and are committed, and puting, did it not occasionally that many erroneous principles exert an injurious influence, by maintain a powerful struggle for an improper application. It is existence. It is long before the frequently employed as an apo- simplest truths are generally aclogy for indolence, and it is some- knowledged; and even after they times quoted as a sufficient excuse are admitted, their application to for passing by unheeded valuable numerous subjects is not readily discussions, because they may perceived. It is scarcely possifrom necessity have assumed a ble to look at the prophetic field, controversial form. What may be but through the medium of a prestrictly applicable to the human vious system or theory, which body, or the body politic, where puts its own construction on its many evils present themselves facts and phenomena, and classi. almost without examination, and fies, combines, or separates them, for which it would be very diffi. as they support, or oppose it.cult to find a cure, will not apply We object to hypothesis, and in its full extent to the detection yet become hypothetical ; we of erroneous principles and sys- argue against theory, and yet tems, and to the substitution of universally theorise. We detect truth in their place,
errors in the principles and rea. It may be unhesitatingly af. sonings of others, and yet fall firmed, that it is impossible to into similar mistakes ourselves. detect and expose error, without This ought not to render us inrendering service to the cause of different or hopeless; but to teach truth. He who discovers a blunder us modesty and diffidence in our in a philosophical experiment, own judgment, and while we not only corrects a mistake, and freely examine the opinions of destroys all the conclusions which others, to treat the authors even have been derived from it; but of those mistakes which we exprepares the way for a more pose, with all possible courtesy perfect system. Thus it is in and respect. While we maintain
the claims of truth, and wage war would nevertheless recommend with error, it becomes us to re- them to their consideration. When member, that we ourselves are the author of the Reply shall learn fallible.
to use the language of ordinary In a former article on pro- civility, in speaking of those who phecy, in vur January number, differ from him, and of Religious we presented to our readers some Magazines, we think it will be an views which had occurred to us improvement. We assure him, that on the subject, which has of late the style he has frequently employoccupied more than a common ed, in this and some other publicaportion of attention. Our chief tions, is exceedingly injurious, object in that article, was to guard both to his respectability as a against injurious extremes-pre- Christian, and to his influence as cipitate conclusions, respecting a writer. the meaning of unfulfilled pro One of the leading mistakes of phecy on the one hand; and dis- the early Protestant writers on like to all examination of the prophecy, was their maintaining, prophetio record on the other. We that the person or office of the then also invited the students of Pope was antichrist. There was prophecy to consider certain views no difficulty in showing, that he contained in the republication of was an antichrist; but there was Tower's work by Mr.Vint, and some considerable difficulty in proving, dissertations furnished in addition that he was exclusively the Antito it by the learned editor himself. christ. Of this the supporters of We now resume the subject, in the popedom naturally took adconnexion, with calling attention vantage; for as they also held to the pamphlets, whose titles are that Antichrist was a person, they prefixed to this article. We en- endeavoured to find him in various tirely disagree with Mr. Maitland, individuals, including Luther bimwho, though he has written in- self, who were opposed to the geniously, has, we think, entirely Roman See, or the Catholic faith. failed in showing, that the period Hence have arisen the numéof Daniel and John is of no longer rous attempts to find in the letters duration than 1260 literal days. of a name, the number 666. This The pamphlet, by a Member of mystical number has been, by the Church of England, intended various processes, found in "Antias an answer to Mr. Maitland, christ"_" our holy Father the may be so, for ought we know ; Pope;" in particular Popes, such but as we do not understand it, as “ Leo the Tenth," in the we cannot pronounce an opinion general name of his kingdomupon it. The author has certainly Lateinos, in that of some of his not written for the use of the un- inost eminent supporters-Ludo. learned ; as it is to us more un- vicus-Lewis XIV. It has been intelligible than the visions of the spelled in Napoleon Bonaparte, Apocalypse themselves. The and many others. Reply to Dr. Hamilton, our All these attempts are very unreaders will consider in connexion satisfactory, and seem as yet to with that work, which we have have thrown little light on this already recommended to them. dark enigma. No interpretation We apprehend, that neither of which has been brought forward these writers will quite agree with has given us any satisfaction. So the sentiments of this article; we that we doubt whether the proper mode of meeting the difficulty has ism of the prophecies to one yet been found.
church or body; instead of reIt is a singular circumstance, garding them as descriptive of a that the term Antichrist, though systeni, existing and operating in peculiar to the writings of the a vast variety of modifications. Apostle John, does not once We do not question the title of occur in the Apocalypse. Nor popery to the pre-eminence among does it ever occur in any of those the many Antichrists. It is the prophecies which relate to the first born and chief-the ArchApostacy of the last times. The antichrist - MYSTERY - Babylon term is too general to describe the Great, the MOTHER OF HARthat modification of anti-chris- LOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF tianity, which characterises the THE EARTH. This very descrippapacy. No doubt can be en tion, however, shows, that the tertained of its correct and legiti- prophets looked beyond Rome mate application to the papal and Popery. Babylon of old was system in all its ramifications. an empire, as well as a city; the That there is some reason, how- captivity and the oppression of ever, for its entire omission in the people of God were found those prophecies, which treat of beyond its brazen gates and its the Roman and Greek Apos- massive walls. The Metropolis of tacies, we cannot doubt, and Babylon the Great, may have should like very much to see a been Rome; and there, no doubt, satisfactory explanation of this reigned the scarlet whore in all circumstance by some of the in- her abominations. But she is requirers into prophecy.
presented as the prolific mother As we have referred to the of many sons and daughters; all Greek Apostacy, we would sug- bearing more or less of her feagest another circumstance worthy tures-abettors of her iniquities, of attention at present. Why are and doomed to share in her the prophecies relating to the man plagues. She has her empire of sin, and his destruction, sup- over“ peoples, and multitudes, posed to relate chiefly, if not en and nations, and tongues ;" she tirely to the Roman or Western has her connexions with “ the Church? Why should so large Kings of the earth;" her intera body as the Greek Church, course with “ the merchants of scarcely less superstitious, ido- the earth;' and the earth itself, or latrous, secular, anti-christian, oc- the great body of the people, is cupy so small a portion of the “ corrupted with her fornicaprophetic visions, or rather per- tion.” haps of our understanding of those . We submit, whether the leadvisions? May not the reason be, ing idea of those prophecies, that we restrict too much our which relate to Antichrist and the ideas of the Apostacy, that we Apostacy, is not the secularizing apply it to particular men or of the kingdom of Christ, or the churches, instead of applying it to mixture of spiritual and tema departure from certain great poral things together, so as to principles, wherever that depar- render that earthly, which is altoture is to be found ?
gether heavenly and divine; and We feel perfectly satisfied, that that wherever this secularization a great deal of error and of false takes place, a portion more or less reasoning have been propagated of Antichrist is to be found. This by restricting the Antichristian. we are convinced is the origo mali, and till it is ascertained and Spirit of the living God, on the corrected, the bitter waters which fleshly tables of the heart.” flow from it cannot be healed. The government, the laws, the We apply it not exclusively to ordinances, the promises, and Political Churches, though in threatenings of this kingdom, are them the evil is established by all of a heavenly nature, and can law. They are all a practical only operate upon, or be enjoyed contradiction of our Lord's solemn by, a spiritual people. The testimony-as they are all in- means of promoting its interests tended to prove, that Christ's and defending its rights, are not kingdom is of this world. But carnal, but spiritual; for if it there may be secular Dissen, were of this world, then might ters and dissenting churches, as its subjects fight; but, in conwell as secular Churchmen and sequence of its purely spiritual churches.
character, every man who taketh The church, during the former the sword to defend or extend it, dispensation, existed in an earthly is doomed, by its spiritual head, state. So much was this the case, to perish by the sword. that the phrase, “ The kingdom of The grand mistake of the Jews, God,” is never once, in Scripture, which gave rise, along with many applied to the Jewish Church. other evils, to many false Christs The people, as a body, were car- and anti-Christs, was their looknal or worldly; the constitutions ing for an earthly, instead of a by which they were governed, beavenly dispensation, under the were generally adapted to their Messiah. With this leading error character; their ordinances were our Lord had to contend against carnal, their temple worship, his own apostles. And those their inheritance, their promises, apostles had, in the same manner, and their threatenings partook to contend against false apostles much of an earthly nature.
and Judaizing teachers, whose In opposition to this state of constant aim was to mix up the things, the ancient prophets pre- two dispensations—the earthly dicted—that “ the God of heaven and the heavenly; by which the should set up his kingdom,” which distinctive character of the latter the Great Founder of it declares, would have been entirely destroy“ is not of this world ;” but is ed. These were the corruptors of emphatically " the kingdom,” or the Gospel whom Paul so in“ the reign of heaven." Celestial flexibly resisted, and of whom in its origin and final destination- John evidently speaks as many men are born into it, “not by antichrists. blood, nor by the will of the flesh, This secularizing spirit lowered nor by the will of man, but by the doctrines, corrupted the ordiGod.” It can neither be enjoyed nances, and unspiritualized the nor seen “unless men are born of whole system of Christianity. water and of the Spirit of God.” Jews, under the specious pretence Its subjects « are all righteous,” of regard for the high authority of who need not " to teach every the Old Testament, deprived the man his neighbour, and every New of all its distinguishing man his brother, saying, know the glory. The lovers of a vain and Lord ; they all know him, from deceitful philosophy among the the least even to the greatest;" Gentiles, tampered with its prinhaving the divine “law written, not ciples and laws; and, pretendon tables of stone, but by the ing to recommend them to men of taste and enlargement of mind, gratify the lust of power, what sunk them to the level of human might we expect when the field of wisdom and earthborn principles. ambition became more extended Worldly men and deceivers, under and inviting. The description the Cbristian garb, disliked all given by Eusebius of the progress that is pure and heavenly in the of corruption is worthy of being Gospel, and endeavoured to re- given in this place. Having deduce it to a scheme which might scribed the flourishing state of be held and gloried in by the car religion during the early period of nal, the ambitions, and the pro- its progress, he says, “ But after fane.
that, our affairs, through too much This disposition to make hea- liberty, ease, and security, degevenly things earthly, and to con- nerated from the proper rule of vert the spirituality of Christianity piety; and after that, one pursued into something which, under a another, with open contumely and Christian name, might be subser- hatred ; and when that we imvient to the purposes of earthly pugned ourselves, by no other gratification and ambition, was than ourselves, with the weapons the spirit of antichrist which John of spite, and sharp spears of opdeclared was in world, even when probrious words, so that bishops he wrote; which Paul denomi- against bishops, and people against nates, “ the mystery of iniquity,” people raised sedition. Last of all, and describes as “already work- when cursed hypocrisy and dising." The operation of this prin- simulation had risen even to the ciple appeared in the grievous brim of malice, the heavy hand wolves,” described by the apostle of God's high judgment, after his of the Gentiles, “who entered wonted manner, began by little among the very elders of the and little to visit us. So that the apostolic churches, “who spared persecution that was raised against not the flock, speaking perverse us, took its first original from the things, to draw aside disciples brethren of our own camp. Still after them.” It appeared in the we were touched with no sense or Diotrephes of John, who lorded feeling thereof, nor sought we to it over the people of Christ ; in pacify God; but heaped sin upon " the false teachers” of Peter, sin, thinking, like careless epiwho, “ through covetousness, cures, that God neither cared, nor with feigned words, made mer- would visit our iniquities. And chandize of them; in the ungodly they who were our shepherds, men of Jude, who turned the laying aside the rule of piety, grace of God into lasciviousness," practised contention and schism and who “ spake great swelling among themselves ; aggravating words,” and “who separated contention, threatenings, mutual themselves from others;" and in hatred, and enmity; every one “the many deceivers who con- proceeded in ambition much like fessed not that Jesus, who came tyranny itself."* in the flesh, is the Christ.”
Such was the progress of the If this was the state of matters apostacy before the end of the before the end of the Apostolic third century, according to the age, we may be prepared for a testimony of one who knew the great increase of deterioration im- evils he describes, and who was mediately after. If even then far from being disposed to exagthere were numerous attempts to make gain of godliness, and to: * Eccles. Hist. Lib. viii. cap. i.