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  • THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
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    IV. THE APOCALYPSE, OR BOOK OF THE REVELATION

    This is generally allowed to be written by John the evangelist, author of the gospel and of the three epistles lately reviewed; and that it was written while he was an exile in the isle of Patmos; and published after his return, about A. D. 96. It is undoubtedly the latest piece of the New Covenant: after which the divine Spirit has not thought proper to add any thing farther to the Christian code. This, therefore, finishes and seals up vision and prophecy under the New Testament, as Malachi does under the Old.

    The book opens with a splendid appearance of the Lord Jesus, as the Ancient of days, in his sacerdotal vestments; who dictates to John seven epistles, or letters, which he orders him to send to seven churches in Asia Minor; viz., Ephesus, Smyrna Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

    After these, there are a profusion of hieroglyphic [symbolic] representations; accompanied by a tissue of most solemn prophecies, supposed to regard not only the church, but the different governments of the world, from that time to the day of judgment. Several of these prophecies appear to have been already fulfilled, some in the act of being accomplished, and others remain which respect future ages. The book is written with great dignity and majesty of figure, metaphor, and coloring: and several of the prophecies in it bear a striking similitude to some in the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel. Obscure as it is, God pronounces a blessing on all them who shall read it; and because it closes the canon of the New Testament and revelation in general, God thus speaks: --

    "If any man shall ADD unto these things, God shall add unto him all the plagues that are written in this book. If any shall TAKE AWAY from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book," Rev. xxii, 18, 19.

    With this apostle the reader may well add, "Unto him that LOVED us, and WASHED us from our sins in his own BLOOD, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to HIM be glory and dominion for ever and ever, amen," Rev. i, 5, 6.

    All these books collectively, whether given to the Jewish or Christian church, are sometimes termed THE SCRIPTURES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT; and generally through all Christian countries, and in almost all languages, The Bible from a Greek word Biblos, a BOOK, as being the only book that teaches the knowledge of the true God; the origin of the universe; the creation and fall of man; the commencement of the different nations of the earth; the confusion of languages; the foundation of the church of God; the abominable and destructive nature of idolatry and false worship; the divine scheme of redemption; the immortality of the soul; the doctrine of the invisible and spiritual world; a future judgment; and the final retribution of the wicked in the pains of eternal perdition, and of the good in the blessedness of an endless glory.

    From this Bible, or collection of sacred writings, the following principles have been extracted; which, though they do not contain every particular, yet they exhibit the grand principles of revealed religion; and, in several cases, the reasons on which they are founded. I have endeavored to deduce them in their dependent and progressive order, that the mind may be easily and gradually led from primitive to secondary and ultimate truths, through the whole economy of divine justice, mercy, and grace, as far as these things are revealed to us in the sacred writings, or seem fairly deducible from the different parts of divine revelation.

    This is a desideratum, or thing to be desired, but not yet furnished, which few catechisms, creeds, or confessions of faith attempt to supply, though in them we might reasonably expect to find such principles.

    I have seen most compositions of this kind; but have not found in any of them such a condensed synopsis, or general view of those principles, on which every Christian must found his faith, if he wish it not to stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. Bodies of divinity, so called, are out of the question; as being by far too voluminous for the purpose; nor do they in general contain principles, but rather systems of doctrines, most of which are founded on party creeds.

    These Scriptures we know to be revelations from heaven: --

    1. By the sublimity of the doctrines they contain; all descriptions of God, of heaven, of the spiritual and eternal worlds, being in every respect worthy of their subjects and on this account widely differing from the childish conceits, absurd representations, and ridiculous accounts, given of such subjects in the writings of idolaters, and superstitious religionists, in all nations of the earth.

    2. The Bible is proved to be a revelation from God, by the reasonableness and holiness of its precepts; all its commands, exhortations, and promises having the most direct tendency to make men wise, holy, and happy in themselves, and useful to one another.

    3. By the miracles which it records: miracles of the most astonishing nature, which could be performed only by the almighty power of God: miracles which were wrought in the sight of thousands, were denied by none, and attested through successive ages by writers of the first respectability, as well enemies as friends of the Christian religion.

    4. By the truth of its prophecies, or predictions of future occurrences, which have been fulfilled exactly in the way, and in those times, which the predictions delivered many hundreds of years before had pointed out.

    5. By the promises which it contains -- promises of pardon and peace to the repentant, of divine assistance and support to true believers, and of holiness and happiness to the godly, which are ever exactly fulfilled to all those who by faith plead them before God.

    6. By the effects which these Scriptures produce in the hearts and in the lives of those who piously read them; it being always found that such persons become wiser, better, and happier in themselves, and more useful to others: better husbands and wives; better parents and children; better governors and subjects and better friends and neighbors. While those who neglect them are generally a curse to themselves, a curse to society, and a reproach to the name of man.

    7. To these proofs may be added the poverty, illiterate and defenseless state of our Lord's disciples and the primitive preachers of his gospel. The Jewish rulers and priesthood were as one man opposed to them; they sought by every means in their power to prevent the preaching of Christianity in Judea; the disciples were persecuted everywhere, and had not one man in power or authority to support them, or espouse their cause; yet a glorious Christian church was founded even at Jerusalem; thousands received and professed the faith of Christ crucified, and many of them gladly sealed the truth with their blood. When they had preached the gospel throughout Judea, they went to the heathens, preached the gospel in different parts of the Lesser Asia, Greece, and Italy. In all these places they had to contend with the whole power and influence of the Roman empire, then entirely heathen, and the mistress of all the known world! Christian churches, nevertheless, were founded everywhere; and even in Rome itself, the throne of the Roman emperor! Here they were as defenseless as in Judea itself; they had to contend with all the idolatrous priests, with all the Greek philosophers, with the secular government, and with the many millions of the deluded and superstitious populace, who, instigated by furious zeal, endeavored by the most barbarous acts of persecution to support their false gods, idols, temples, and false worship: yet, before the preaching of these poor, comparatively unlearned, and totally defenseless men, idolatry fell prostrate; the heathen oracles were struck dumb; the philosophers were confounded; and the people were converted by thousands; till at last all Asia Minor and Greece, with Italy, and the various parts of the Roman empire received the gospel, and abolished idolatry! Had not this doctrine been from God, and had not He by his Almighty power aided these holy men, such effects could never have been produced. The success, therefore, of the unarmed and defenseless apostles and primitive preachers of Christianity is an incontrovertible proof that the gospel is a revelation from God; that it is the means of conveying light and life to the souls of men; and that no power, whether earthly or diabolic, shall ever be able to overthrow it. It has prevailed, and must prevail, till the whole earth shall be subdued, and the universe filled with the glory of God. Amen.

    All these are proofs which cannot be contradicted, that these Scriptures are a revelation from God; and, consequently, the only complete directory of the faith and practice of men.

    "The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament," said an eminent scholar, " have God for their Author, the Salvation of mankind for their end, and Truth without any mixture of error for their matter."

    As a revelation from God, they have stood the test of many ages; and as such maintained their ground against every species of enemy, and every mode of attack. Truth is mighty, and must prevail.

    This revelation is now complete. God will add nothing more to it, because it contains every thing necessary for men, both in reference to this world and that which is to come: and he has denounced the heaviest judgments against those who shall add to it, or diminish any thing from it.

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