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SERMON different respects, and to give different views
of it, according as two sets of men, the true worshipers and the false, were affected by the fortunes of the Christian Church, this shifting and opposite face of things could not be exhibited together ; but was to be set forth in
of a great scheme, and then, in drawing it out at large, for our more distinct information.
But the truer answer to the difficulty I take to be, That the sealed book is represented under the idea of a book, properly so called, which, upon being opened, presents to thie eye the several objects and schemes of the prophecy, distinctly delineated on the roll, or volume, when it comes to be unfolded, and which, therefore, must needs be considered as a large one.
book, on the other hand, is to be regarded, not as a real, but metaphorical book ; and is not produced to be read or contemplated, after a gradual evolution of it, but to be eaten, at once, by the prophet; like that book, to which it alludes, and from which the imagery is taken, in the visions of Ezekiel [ii. 8. and iii. 1, 2, 3.] -- to eat a book, being, in the hieroglyphics, to meditate upon, and to digest, its contents. So that this book, to distinguish it from the other, is named a little book : not, that the revelations, conveyed by it, are less considerable, or less numerous, than the other, but that the use, to which it is put, required only that it should be spoken of, as a book simply; the diminutive form being here suggested in the term Bobrapidooy, that the metaphor of eating it might seem the easier ; and (because the former sealed book was of an immense size) might, under this idea, present itself the more naturally, and give less offence, to the imagination.
several and successive, though contemporary, SERMON visions. Hence, the prophecy is thought to proceed, when, in fact, it stands still, and only presents another prospect of the same transactions.
But I enter no farther into the mysterious contexture of this book; through which, however, the clue of the synchronisms, if well
pursued, would safely conduct us. It is enough to my purpose to have shewn, That as the Language of the Revelations is intelligible, so the Method is not involved in such intricacies, but that, in general, a regular, a consistent, and, what is more, a true y conception may be formed of it. Whence no sober man needs be discouraged from reading this book; or will be in danger, I think, of losing either his wits, or his reputation, in the study of it. For what should hinder a book, though of prophecies,
y I am not ignorant that many interpreters have thought otherwise. But possibly they have not enough attended to the advice, which Mr. Mede used to give to such of his friends as did not enter into his ideas. Expende. My meaning is, that, if they had possessed the patience, or the sagacity, to understand this great Inventor, before they objected to him, they would perhaps have seen cause to acquiesce in the Method, pointed out by him, instead of attempting in various ways, and to little purpose, to improve upon it.
SERMON from being understood, when its method may
be clearly defined, and its language decyphered ? Provided always, that we only interpret a prophecy by the event, and do not take upon us to determine the event by a premature construction of the prophecy.
With this Apocalyptic key then (of which so much has been said), this key of knowledge, in my hands, it
may, now, be expected that I should open this dark parable of the Revelation, by applying so much of it, at least, as respects Antichrist, to Apostate Papal Rome. But, besides that there would not, in what remains of this course, be room enough for a detailed account of the prophecies, other reasons restrain me from entering immediately on a task, not less easy perhaps, than amusing. For Interpreters, I think, have generally been too much in haste to apply the prophecies, before they had sufficiently prepared the way for
. their application: So that, leaving many doubts unresolved, which men of thought and inquiry are apt to entertain on this subject, or not laying before them all the reasons and inducements, which should engage their attention to it, their clearest expositions are not rem ceived, and possibly not considered.
With regard, then, to the prophecies, con- SERMOM. cerning Antichrist, though the chief obstructions in our way seem fairly removed, and it be now evident that there are certain grounds, on which the most abstruse of them may be reasonably interpreted, yet, because the application of them is a work of time and industry, many persons, before they undertake it, may desire to know, What GENERAL ARGUMENTS there are, which may assure them,' beforehand, that their labour will not be misemployed, and that Papal Rome is, in fact, concerned in the tenour of these prophecies : And, when this demand has been made, they may further wish to be informed, To what ENDS OR USES this whole inquiry serves ; of importance enough, I mean, to encourage and reward their vigorous prosecution of it?
These desires and expectations are apparently not unreasonable: And to satisfy them, in the best manner I can, will be the scope and purpose of the two following Lectures.
PROPHETIC CHARACTERS OF
Luke xii. 56.
- How is it, that ye
do not discern this time?
SERMON So much having been said on the manner,
in which the prophecies, respecting Antichrist, may be interpreted; I imagine that now, at length, ye are disposed to ask, On what GENERAL GROUNDS we affirm, that the Church of Rome is actually concerned in them.
To resolve this question, it will be sufficient to set before you, in few words, some of the more obvious notes, or characters, by which