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phecies which remain yet to be fulfilled. Few words will show the reasonable foundation of this rule, which I am sorry to observe so frequently transgressed. They shall be borrowed from Sir Isaac Newton: "God gave these, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men's curiosity, by enabling them to foreknow things; but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own providence, not the interpreter's, be then manifested thereby to the world."1
Having thus informed the reader of the connexion subsisting between my former publication and that which is now before him, I shall state the circumstances under which the latter was undertaken.
After the publication of my first volume, many years passed away, during which my engagements, in other and paramount duties, so completely superseded my apocalyptical studies, that I had almost forgotten their results. My interest in the subject was however unexpectedly renewed in the year 1818, by a communication from the Rev. Dr. Van Mildert, then regius professor of divinity at Oxford, and now Lord Bishop of Durham. In this communication, which was introduced between us by a common friend highly esteemed by both, I was informed, that the professor was then reading a work, recently published by Mr. Slade, of Cambridge, for the use of students in divinity, and as a companion to Ellsley's notes on the Gospels; that being much
1 Sir Isaac Newton on the Apocalypse, p. 251.
pleased with it, as far as he had gone, he intended to recommend it in his ensuing lectures; and added, that the series might be very happily completed, by an abridgment (on the same plan, and for the same class of readers) of my work on the Apocalypse,— to be made by me, or some one under my direction, and embracing, if I should think proper, any additional matter from other sources, which might promote the object in view. The professor, to whom I was at that time personally unknown, added most obligingly, that " he should be very glad to hear from me, if I should find the matter worthy of my attention, and to communicate his ideas more fully."
This proposal, coming from a person, whose reputation for ability, learning, and judgment in theological researches was so eminently established, could not be otherwise than highly gratifying to me. Therefore entering into correspondence with him, I professed myself most willing to undertake the work proposed, provided it might be conducted under his direction. In answer to this, I received from the professor a few general observations on the subject; and he kindly added, that, when he should be sufficiently at leisure, he would read my book a second time, and then give me his thoughts upon the method to be pursued more particularly.
In the next letter, the professor informed me that he had read my dissertation and commentary entirely through, with such other works of the same kind as he could easily refer to. "And the result," says he, "has been, to confirm me in my opinion, that the plan I had taken the liberty to suggest to
you, cannot be placed in better hands." He then proceeds to advise, that a concise abridgment of the dissertation should precede the annotations. In the next place he recommends, in order to keep the work in due compass, that the columns, containing the original text and twofold translation, should be omitted, since, whatever is important in the improved translation, may be introduced into the annotations. 66 Respecting the annotations themselves, I should be inclined to say, that a mere abridgment of your own commentary, or selections from it, might fully answer the purpose, did it not seem desirable that the work should bear the aspect of a Synopsis Criticorum, so far as relates to commentators of good repute, such as Mede, Daubuz, Vitringa, Hammond, Newton, Lowman. This will make it more conformable to the plan adopted by Elsley and Slade; and it will enable the student in some measure to form his own judgment on questionable passages, while it will not preclude you from specially directing his attention to that interpretation which you deem preferable. Perhaps there is no book of Scripture, in which we can less expect to concur with any single commentator who has taken it in hand, than this of the Apocalypse ; therefore it may be sometimes the safest, as well as the easiest course, to offer the reader a choice of different expositions."
For these directions, so judiciously suggested, and agreeing perfectly with my own notions on the subject, I returned my sincere thanks, and cheerfully entered upon the task.
I had proceeded in it so far, as to complete the proposed abridgment of the Dissertation, and nearly half of the notes, when my progress was impeded by a severe and protracted illness.
On resuming my labours, after a long interval, yet sooner than I ought to have done, it appeared to me, for the first time, that my work might be deemed not sufficiently accordant with those of my respected predecessors, Ellsley and Slade. This difficulty however was soon removed by the following consideration.
The difference in the subjects treated by us respectively, must necessarily occasion considerable difference in our method of treating them. They, in their departments, had very few prophecies to develop and explain; and these are delivered, for the most part, in literal and plain language. The expositor of the Apocalypse has little else than prophecy upon his hands, predictions couched in symbolical terms, and forming difficult enigmas. It was easy for them to bring into a short compass the opinions of preceding commentators, and either leave them to the reader, or assist him by observations of their own. My task required that I should examine each prophecy by analytical deduction, and by such means, and the concurring assistance of former writers, lay before the student the best exposition in my power. And this exposition could not be accomplished without a frequent reference to my former work, in which the opinions of the best commentators had already been diligently canvassed.
I was no sooner reassured upon this subject, than
another difficulty appeared, not so easily overcome. This arose from my comparing the part of my work so far accomplished, with that upon which I was now to enter. The first contained the explication of those prophecies, which are generally supposed to have already received their fulfilment in history. In this department, the interpretation of a prediction is greatly assisted by a conviction that the fulfilment is probably to be found in the range of history. And the sure test of its truth is at hand; for the right assortment of the event is to be proved, by its agreement with the symbolical picture of it, as exhibited in the historical narration.
The prophecies upon which I was now about to enter, I knew to be of a more difficult character, as containing predictions fulfilled in part only, and destined to receive their final completion in events yet to come. Such arise out of the Βιβλιαριδιον, the little book, seeming to run the space of the 1260 years.
In these the cautious interpreter has found difficulties, which seem not yet surmounted, by writers of more daring genius, who have ventured to ascertain the commencement and termination of these prophetical eras.
When I resumed my studies, I had gone through the easier part of my engagement, and had to face one of more arduous character. At that time my health was unequal to the undertaking, and after some feeble and unsatisfactory attempts, I abandoned it for the present, contenting myself with leaving what I had already effected (a portion