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In the difficult subject, to which inquiry is directed in the following pages, the boundary between truth and heresy is marked by so faint a line, that it has unfortunately escaped observation. The author consequently deemed it a duty to engage in the following investigation, with a view to determine their respective limits. In discharging the task which he thus undertook, he has been less forcibly impelled by the desire to convey a just view of the subject, than to correct the false and pernicious opinions which have been propagated respecting it.
The peculiar ground on which he rests his claims to attention, are founded, not merely on the labor which he has employed, to disengage the subject from gross and inveterate error; but on the method of proof, by which he has sought to establish its truth, with a certainty which he ventures to consider demonstrative. The inferences which his predecessors in the same field have attained by historical induction, it has been his object to establish by chronological evidence. The results at which he has thus arrived, will, he trusts, be found to have equally gained in their conclusiveness and their precision.
Quæ Chiliastæ carnaliter asserunt esse complenda nos spiritualiter futura credamus : in qualitate promissionum non in tempore discrepantes. S. Hieron. Com. in Esai. cap. Ixi.
TIME AND NATURE
From the marks of wisdom and power discernible in the works of the Deity, Natural Religion is not more surely furnished with evidence of a Great First Cause, than Revealed Religion is supplied with demonstration of a Superintending Providence. The testimony of Prophecy and Miracles, on which Revelation rests the evidence of its truth, is, in this sense, termed in Scripture “ the Demonstration of Wisdom and Power;
;" as the attestation which they respectively afford of the supreme intervention is resolvable into these attributes of the Divinity. Nor is the analogy which exists between the natural and preternatural scheme of Religion confined to these traits of resemblance. So uniform is the divine economy in its nature, and with so equal a hand is it dispensed, that no
1 1 Cor. ii. 4.
age is destitute of one of these species of evidence of the divine interposition. In the delivery of a Revelation, professing to be imparted by God, if it is vouchsafed to one period to behold the Miracles wrought in attestation of his power, it is reserved for another to witness the accomplishment of the Prophecies evincing his wisdom.”
However diversified the subject of Prophecy, which brings this evidence in confirmation of Revelation; however various the organs through which it is conveyed; it has a common object in pointing to a period of repose, when the creation will be relieved from the natural evils with which it is oppressed. With a constant and consistent testimony, it animates our faith with the prospect, and cheers our hope with the promise “ that there is a rest for the people of God ;" in which the moral derangement of the present state will be rectified, and the goodness and justice of the Deity vindicated in his dispensations to mankind. But of the successive Revelations, in which the scheme of God's providence is traced to this great consummation, the Apocalyptic vision is the most circumstantial in its descriptions, and interesting in its subject. As professing to reveal the full and final determination of the Omnipotent, with respect to this world and all that it contains; it becomes an object of that increasing interest, which rises in its
2 See Newton on Proph. Introd. p. 4.
3 Heb. iv. 9.