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First. The symbolic agents are such as were known to the prophet and those whom he addressed, and their actions and phenomena such as are natural. Thus the chief of them are the sun, the moon, meteors, the air, the earth, the sea, rivers and fountains, a city: and the phenomena ascribed to them such as are proper to those objects respectively, such as obscuration to the sun, dimness and bloodiness to the moon, a fall to meteors, lightnings, thunders, darkness to the atmosphere, earthquakes to the land, a fall to a city ;-appearances and events, which being real and common, a visionary exhibition was not requisite in order to a knowledge of their nature.
Next. They are accompanied by an express designation of the persons or communities which they are employed to represent, and always exhibit an indisputable mark that they are symbols, not metaphors, in their insusceptibility of conversion, like metaphors, into similes, or allegories, which differ from metaphors only as they exhibit the particulars of resemblance at large, and are accompanied by a notice of the persons or subjects which they are employed to illustrate. Whether a prediction, therefore, be simply metaphorical, or symbolic, in which, like the visionary emblems of the Apocalypse, the actors, actions, and effects are represented by agents and phenomena of a different species, may be determined by introducing the term of comparison. If the expression may be translated in that manner into a mere simile, without varying the sense, it is a metaphor. Thus the meaning of the metaphor, Judah is a lion's whelp, is the same as of the simile, Judah is like a lion's whelp. But the prediction of Isaiah, “ All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heaven shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their hosts shall fall down as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree," is as obviously symbolical, as no term of comparison can be inserted between the heavens and their hosts and the events predicted of them, and those events themselves are compared to a different class, of which a scroll, the leaves of the vine, and the fruit of the fig-tree are the subjects.
Similes and metaphors are founded on partial, not like symbols on general resemblances; and are used only for illustration, not as representatives. Types are founded on more general resemblances, and used according to the following laws :
1. No mere fictitious agents are made representatives of real agents in typical predictions. Nothing out of the circle of realities is used as an emblem, except symbols that are exhibited in vision, and endowed in that manner with a sensible existence. A mere non-existence cannot represent a real one.
2. No person is exhibited as a type of another, except in a relation or station which he has himself sustained. Had not David been a king, he could not have been used as a type of the Messiah as king. Had not Elijah been a prophet, he could not have been employed as a type of John the Baptist. Had not Abraham been a believer, he could not have served as a representative or exemplar of believers.
3. No action of a person except one that he has already exerted, is made a representative of an analogous act of another person or community, and for a similar reason. It were to make a nonentity the pattern or representative of a reality. A return of the Jews, for example, to their own land, cannot be made a type of any other analogous action, either of that or any other people, unless such a return from dispersion have actually taken place.
4. The Son of God in his exaltation, is never exhibited as a type or representative of any other being; nor any action of his, as a type of the action of any other being. And the reason is obvious. It were inconsistent with his deity to be made a representative of any dependent being. It were inconsistent with the peculiarity of his person, station, and agency, as the incarnate Word, to be made the representative of the Holy Spirit.
5. Were one of his acts to be made the symbol of another and different agency, to be exerted either by himself or the Spirit, still, agreeably to the third law, it could not be used as a iype, until he had exerted it. Before his coming in the clouds visibly to every eye, can be a type of any other agency, he must so come in the clouds, and exert all the acts, and fulfil all the conditions predicted of that appearance.
X. All the agents and phenomena exhibited in the visions of the Apocalypse are symbolic, except the interpreting angels and those bearing the trumpets and viols, whose office is merely to assist the revelation. Thus the silence of half an hour, after the opening of the seventh seal, the angel flying through midheaven saying, with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth," and the voices from heaven, are doubtless as representative as any of the other agents and phenomena presented to the senses of the prophet.
XI. The symbolic agents attending the throne of the Almighty, and serving in his presence, are to be distinguished from those that appear on the earth. The former, such as the living creatures, the elders, and the angels uniting in their worship, ministering at the altar, and fulfilling other offices in the divine presence, are to be regarded as representatives only of agents there, not on earth. The latter, such as the hosts of Michael and Satan warring in the atmosphere, the angels having power over the four winds, the majestic shape ascending from the east bearing the seal of God, the gigantic form robed in a cloud and crowned with iris splendors that descending set,
Upon the stormy ocean his right foot,..
On the green land his left, and others of the like nature fulfilling their offices on earth, are in like manner representatives only of agents here.
XII. In complex symbols, the representative person is to be distinguished from the symbolic accompaniments, which are merely designed to show his office, character, and relations. Thus, under the first seal, the rider of the horse is the symbolic agent, the bow but denotes his office, and his station and movement on the horse, that he is in the successful excercise of that office. In like manner in the cherubim of Ezekiel, it is doubtless the face of man that denotes the order of intelligences to which the cherub belongs, while the face of the lion, the eagle, and the ox, the wings and the innumerable eyes, are employed merely to denote the vast sublimation of their sensitive nature, expansion and refinement of faculties, and strength and perfection of character to which they are there exalted.
XIII. Symbolic agents that are representative of men, denote an order and succession of agents, acting in the same relations, and exerting a similar agency. That such is the office of the principal symbols is indisputable, as of the ten-horned wild beast, which denotes the united civil rulers of the western Roman empire after its division into ten kingdoms, through a period of many generations; of the image, which symbolizes a similar union of the numerous ecclesiastical rulers and teachers of the same empire through successive ages; the seven-headed dragon, the monster locusts and horsemen; as is manifest from the period through which their agency continues; the woman clothed with sunbeams, her son, the witnesses, the horsemen of the first four seals, the angels flying through the midst of heaven, the angel clothed in a cloud, and the angel bearing the seal of God. The offices they sustain, the agencies they exert, and such of their periods as are specified, require that construction. And thence this method of representation is requisite throughout, in order to a due proportion of the agents and their agency to each other. As a vast body and succession of men is denoted by a wild beast, whose term of life, according to analogy, must be short ; and as the period of its agency is for that reason represented by a proportionably short duration, so in order to concinnity and likelihood, other classes and successions of men are required to be represented by single agents, and long periods of agency by periods that are short.
XIV. Accordingly the periods ascribed to those representative agents, the wild beast, the witnesses, the star-crowned woman, are denoted by terms proportionably diminished, by the substitution of days for years, and months for a number of years equal to their number of days.
XV. In interpreting symbols like those drawn from the physical world, embracing many classes of objects, they are to be contemplated as a whole, and a counterpart sought sustaining towards them an analogy as a whole; not considered in detail, as the elements differ of which they consist, and as though each, notwithstanding its relations to the whole, retained its own peculiar meaning. Thus though mountains, trees, grass, are used in other Scriptures to metaphorize classes of men, or men in general, it does not follow that they bear a similar signification in a symbol of which they are a part; or that it is to their having such meanings as metaphors, that symbols in which they are united owe in any degree their significance. The assumption that they still retain their metaphorical meaning is preposterous, and has been a fruitful source of error in the exposition of the Apocalypse. As there is no counterpart to the physical, except the social world, symbols drawn from the one, embracing a variety of objects, like a landscape, a country, the earth, of course denote an analogous union of agents in the social world, either religious, or civil
, or military. When the whole, therefore, thus of necessity denotes men, it is preposterous to regard that representation as the office of only a part; or the signification of the whole as the consequence of the unsymbolic meaning of subordinate portions. It is the union of the whole in the symbol and thing symbolized, that constitutes the analogy ; not any separate adaptation of the particulars of the one, aside from that union, to represent the particulars of the other. More, perhaps, of the errors of expositors are traceable to the neglect of this obvious law than any other. The question is perpetually raised by them, What do mountains, trees, seas, hills, rivers, denote in other Scriptures, and on the assumption that their import when united in a symbol, is to be determined by their meaning when used separately as metaphors or similes.
XVI. The import ascribed to a symbol is to be limited to that which it naturally involves, irrespective of any peculiar or metaphorical use of its agents, actions, or terms, which other passages may present. Thus to harvest the grain crops of a season, is to cut them from the stalk, bind them in sheaves, and gather them together, in order to preservation and appropriation to use. It denotes nothing more. When used, therefore, to symbolize an agency on men, it is to be interpreted as simply representing them as gathered together from their scene of life, in order to some subsequent destiny. But whether good or evil, if determined, is to be determined from something else than the mere symbol. To infuse into it a higher meaning, because a harvest is thought to denote in other passages the gathering of men for destruction, is to create a sense for the symbol, not to interpret it; to superinduce a foreign meaning, not to unfold that with which it is itself fraught.
XVII. The station of the heavenly sanctuary is to be conceived as over Patmos, at a great elevation, whence the apocalyptic earth, from the Euphrates to the west and north of Europe, was visible; the throne as in the holy of holies, and the apostle as at first in the sanctuary whence the holy of holies, the inner sanctuary, the veil being withdrawn, might be seen; afterwards at the vestibule or court, from which the earth with all its great objects, seas, rivers, mountains, forests, and cities might be beheld, and often on the earth itself.