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TO THE FIRst AMERICAN EDItion.
THE interest which has recently been awakened on the subject of Prophecy, and the growing attention which continues to be given to this important department of Sacred knowledge, are the causes which have led to the publication of the following work. That this interest and attention should decline for the want of suitable helps to aid those who desire to give this subject that thorough investigation which its importance demands, would be a matter of sincere regret, if not serious injury to the Church of God: and yet, it is undoubtedly true that many are discouraged from entering upon such investigations by the want of such helps; or from not having a clear idea in their own minds of the particular subjects to which their examination should be directed. To supply this deficiency, this work is offered to the Public.
The importance of the Study of Prophecy for many years past seems from some cause to have been overlooked or not duly appreciated. The knowledge of the Doctrines and duties of the Christian system were regarded as alone sufficient to form christian principle, and strengthen the believer's faith. But is such a sentiment in accordance with the word of God? Paul declares to Tim. 2 Epis. iii. 16, “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine for reproof for correction and for instruction in Righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works:” no part is to be overlooked or undervalued; and the Apostle Peter, 2 Epis. 1–19, especially enjoins attention to the prophetical parts.” We have a more sure word of Prophecy to which we do well to take heed as unto a light shining in a dark place;” etc. and the apostle John, in the book of Revelation, which is confessedly the most difficult part of Prophecy, prefaces these mystic visions with this declaration, ch. i. ver, 3, “Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this Prophecy, and keep those things which are written herein.”
And when we consider that the writings of 15 out of 22 of the
authors of the old Testament are almost entirely devoted to the prediction of future events, is it reasonable to suppose that God would have spoken so oiten and so much concerning the counsels of His will unless the knowledge of those counsels was of importance to His Church? And can the Church be guiltless in treating such a large portion of Divine Revelation with so much neglect? Especially should those who minister at the altar, and whose " lips are to keep knowledge," seriously ask themselves, Whether they have declared the whole counsel of God, while they have confined their painful instructions almost exclusively to doctrinal and practical subjects, and have scarce ever attempted to unfold those purposes of God which He hath revealed in His word concerning the future?
The importance of system is felt and acknowledged in all the Sciences. Without it we may have many valuable ideas on any given subject, but they are apt to be undigested and loose, because they stand alone, and are not parts of one great whole which is firmly connected together, and "compacted by that which every joint sup plieth." There is a connection and dependance which all the truths belonging to any subject sustain to each other, and which is necessary to be perceived in order to give stability to our views. One great difficulty, both in the investigation and exposition of Prophecy, and especially unfulfilled Prophecy, is a want of acquaintance with the relation which the events predicted, bear to each other, and the order in which they shall succeed each other. To ascertain this connection, is often far more difficult than simply to decide upon the truths themselves. The present work, which is now offered to the Public, is particularly valued on account of the happy arrangement of the subjects on which it treats. Much has recently been written in this country on that sublime theme—The Millenium—and the various subjects which cluster around it: Discussions have been had on particular points; essays written, and sermons delivered; but it is to be lamented that too little regard has been paid, in all these efforts, to that happy arrangement of the general subject in its details which enables others to see it as a complete system,—as one harmonious whole. The subject having been dealt out so much by piecemeal, has appeared to many as a disjointed theory, and perhaps on this very account has been rejected by them, whereas if the harmony of its parts could have been shown, this prejudice would not have arisen, and the subject would have received a more candid examination. To obviate the evil effects of such desultory efforts, it is hoped that the present work will, by the blessing of God, prove instrumental.
Nor is it one of the least of the excellencies of this work is that it a "Scriptural view of the Redeemer's Personal Presence and Reign on Earth during the Millennium," and other subjects connected therewith. The great object of the au'.hor is not to speak for the Lord, but to show what the Lord himself hath spoken. The reader will therefore be continually referred to the word of God, and will be almost obliged to read the book with his Bible in hand.
This work has passed through several Editions in England, has been translated into the Germa* language, and is now offered to the American public in the hope that it will prove as useful and as acceptable in the New World as it has in the Old. That it will bring many strange things to the ears of many, there can be no doubt: the cindid reader will feel the necessity of examining anew the evidence on which his views on many points have rested, and it is earnestly hoped that this will be done in that spirit of candor and that love of truth which should always distinguish those who desire to be taught of God in all things.
An additional Section on the "Two Witnesses" has been added to the work, to illustrate more fully the principles of interpretation contended for by our author in the Section on " the Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy. (Sect, xvi.) Several interpretations of Rev. xi., concerning the " Two Witnesses," have been given, but all of them according to the figurative mode. An attempt is now made to interpret that prophecy literally, with what success the reader will judge. Let the figurative and literal expositions be laid side by side, and judgment be given which is freest from embarrassments, or which is encumbered with the least difficulties.
Should any one after reading the table of contents throw aside the book, as is sometimes done, under an impression that the work abounds in nothing more than some of those novel speculations in Divinity with which th'e present day is rife; we earnestly entreat such an one first to read attentively the 17th Section of the work in which our author presents us with the views of primitive Christians on these subjects, and he will perhaps discover that the design of this work is not to broach novelties or amuse with fanciful theories, but to " search for the old paths," and to re-establish " the faith fint delivered to the saints."
ISAAC P. LABAGH. Gravesenp, July 6th, 1842.