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If there be any deeps in Divine Scripture wherein the ele. The Difiphant may swim, they are surely to be found in the Book culty of the of the Revelation: wherein many great wits have both Revelation. exercised and lost themselves.
Arias Montanus, that learned Spaniard, whose labours are famous for that noble edition of the whole Sacred Volume of God, when he comes to illustrate the Revelation, with his Commentary shames himself with his improbable glosses; and, by his ridiculous abstracts *, moves both the wonder and pity of the judicious of either religion. Castellio, whose elegant and painful version of both Testaments hath wont to pass with the learned for an useful paraphrase, when he comes to this Book of the Revelation, is not ashamed to pass a non intelligo † upon it. Master Junius, though given to this last age for a great light to the Holy Text, yet professes himself in many of these mysteries I to be in the dark : and no marvel, when Deodati grants § that there are some parts of this book still reserved under God's secret seal; the explication whereof is utterly uncertain. And, amongst ourselves here at home, onel, whom no mau will envy the reputation of one of the greatest Clerks in his age, when a plain man came seriously to him, and asked his opinion concerning an obscure passage in that book, answered, “ My friend, I am not come so far.”
Yet, I know not how it comes to pass, such is the nature of our inbred curiosity, that there is no book of the whole Scripture, wherein men are so apt to spend both their time and judgment: like as every man is apt to try his strength, in lifting at an over-heavy weight; and to offer at the string of that bow, which is much too strong for him to draw.
Whereapon have issued those strange obtortions of some particular prophecies to private interests. Mr. Brightman, a learned
* Arias Montanus, in his Commentary upon the Revelation, ridiculously interprets the several prophecies by abstracts: as Terrestris industria, paganica rusticitas, &c. † Cujus vir millessimam partem intelligo. Castel. Annotat. in Apocal
Mysteria valde obscura. Jun. Præfat. $ Deodati : Argument of the Revelation.
Il Dr. Andrews, Bishop of Winchester.
and godly Divine, thinks to find not England only, but Cecil and Walsingham there. A Belgic Doctor, in the Synod of Dort, thought to find Grave Maurice there. Joannes Brocardus thinks to find Venice there : and a grave Divine, whose name I will spare, was so confident to find the Palatinate there, both in the loss and recovery of it, as that he would needs present his thoughts to the judicious eyes of King James himself, with small thanks for bis labour. Neither wanted there some, that made full account to find the late victorious Gustavus Adolphus therein plainly designed. As if the Blessed Apostle, now in his Patmos, overlooking all the vast continent betwixt us, should have had his thoughts taken up with our petty occurrences in this other side of the world. What should I tell how many, both of our own and foreign Divines, have baffled and shamed themselves, in predefining, out of their mistaken constructions, the utmost period of the world; and have confidently set God a day for his Final Judgment ! The true Im- As, for this place which we have in hand, how rocky portance of and shelvy it is, appears too well in those ribs of splitthe point con- ted vessels, which lie still scattered on the sands. troversed.
Not that I think the opinion of our new Chiliasts so deadly and pernicious in itself, as to make shipwreck of their own or others' faith. Far be it from me, to be guilty of so much uncharity, as to lay so deep a charge upon my fellow Christians : for, what prejudice is it to me, if the souls of Martyrs get the start of me, in resuming their bodies a thousand years before me; if, in the mean while, my soul be at rest in a paradise of bliss? And what can it import any man's salvation, to determine whether the Saints reign with Christ on earth or in heaven; while I know that, in either, they are happy ? Surely, in its own terms, the tenet seems to carry no great appearance of offence.
But all the danger is in that train of strange Paradoxes and uncouth Consequences, which it draws in after it; specified in the following Discourse: and in the ill uses, that are made too commonly of it, by some ill advised and mistaken clients. Whereof some vainly imagining this Reign of the Saints already begun, cast ofl Scriptures and Ordinances as utterly useless; and please themselves, in a conceited fruition of their happy Kingdom, and an immediate conversation with the King of Glory. Others, construing all mutations which befal the Church, as either the harbingers or several stages of their Saviour's approach to his new Kingdom and theirs, applaud themselves in their imminent and already-descried glory; rejoicing to tell us how far he is on his way: and, lest we should appeal to our own eyes in so important a case, tell us that this object is not for our discerning, but for qualified persons only t; men, not like the ordinary sort of professors, who are of a low, poor, pusillanimous spirit, but for such only, as are deeply engaged in the Church's cause, and sharers in her troubles and sorrows: whereas, certainly, if those which suffer most may be allowed to be the most quick
* Five Lights at Walton.
+ Zion's Joy in her King. pp. 24, 25, &c.
sighted, it may easily be known whose eyes we may best trust for intelligence. Hence have followed heavy censures and harsh entertainments, of the otherwise affected ; and an insultation upon dissenting brethren, as the oppressed and down-trodden enemies of this Kingdom of Christ. I desire not to aggravate either these or any
other inconveniences, which do usually attend this opinion: as one, that wishes rather to heal, than to corrode the public sores.
Let me, therefore, pre-engage my reader not to mis- The Intentake my Discourse or my Intentions. For my part, I am tion of the persuaded in my soul, that the coming of our Saviour is Author in near at hand: and that, before that Great Day, God hath the followdecreed and will yet effect a more happy and flourishing condition of his Church here on earth, than we yet see;
course. which I do humbly pray for, and hopefully expect; ambitiously suing to my God, that my poor endeavours might be thought worthy to contribute any thing to so blessed a purpose. But, for the particularities of the time and manner, I both have learned and do teach silence. And, if any man think he hath sufficient intimation of either or both of these, in the words of Holy Scripture: yet, since those clauses are involved in some obscurity and may afford multiplicity of sense, my desire and whole drift is, to beseech him to suspend his judgment concerning these so deep and intricate doctrines, till God shall be pleased to clear them by apparent events; and, in the mean time, to rest contented, with those evident and unquestionable truths of the Gospel, which the Church of Christ hath hitherto unanimously taught and maintained: wherein he shall do that, which may happily conduce both to the Church's peace and his own.
That this one That Prophecies, especially before they are fulfilled, difficult place of Scripture
are no other than riddles, needs no other proof, than, alone, express- amongst other, the two dark passages of the Revelaeth this Thou- tion: the one, concerning the Number and Name of sand Years
the Beast, 666: the other, concerning the Thousand Reign.
Years' Reign of the Saints: either of which, I may boldly say, many have guessed at; but no man living hath yet been ever able fully to unfold.
Our business is with the latter ; set forth by the Beloved Disciple and Evangelical Propbet, St. John, towards the shutting up of his Divine Revelation *
Out of the literal sense whereof, not a few, in these latter times, have been raised to such a confidence of the speedy accomplishment of this new Kingdom, as if they did already see the clouds breaking under the glorious feet of their Returning Saviour, and the chairs of this blessed state set ready for their enthronization. How many have I heard, joyfully professing their hopes of an imminent share in that happy Kingdom! Yea, some have gone so far, as already to date their Letters from New Jerusalem, and to subscribe themselves glorified: whose ungrounded credulity may receive some just correction, if they shall but see the strange variety of construction, which this supposed earthly sovereignty hath undergone, from men as wise, in their own opinion, as themselves.
Whereunto that I may make the better way, I shall lay this for an undoubted ground, That there is no passage in the whole book of God, wherein this Millenary Reign of Saints is punctually expressed, save only this of the Revelation.
For, as for those Sixty-six Texts alledged by Alstedius, and the late Herald of Zion's Joy, they are too general to make out such a specialty, both of the term and the personal administration, which is
* Rev. xx, 4, 5.