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while so many others have failed? It may be proper say, that we intend to adopt rules of interpretation that we consider large and comprehensive; we mean to test the passage by acknowledged facts; and avail ourselves of a principle which has already been suggested, and from which we expect some assistance. If it is true that some scriptures cannot well be understood till their fulfilment; this scripture may well be considered of that number, and we have reasons for believing that the period of its accomplishment has arrived. These are the general grounds on which our investigations will be conducted.
"And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book, written within and on the back-side, sealed with seven seals." The imagery here introduced, though august and sublime, representing the throne. of the eternal kingdom and him who sits upon it, is nevertheless exceedingly communicative. What object could be more proper to represent the deep and secret counsels of divine wisdom, than a book, closed and sealed with seven seals ?" "It was written within,” but who was the wiser for its pages? It was written upon the back side; but who ever became a renowned scholar, from reading the title of a book? Say that this book contained the wisdom of everlasting ages; yet the world has remained ignorant of its contents, and so must remain, till its author unfolds them, in the way best suited to the designs of his benevolence. "And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof? And no man in heaven nor in earth, was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon." The highest dignitaries of church and state, the civil and ecclesiastical powers, which are frequently denoted in scripture by "heaven and earth," have labored unsuccessfully to develope the counsels of God. "He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud
upon it. His judgements are a great deep. Clouds and darkness form the pavilion of the Most High." "Who hath known the mind of the Lord ?" By these scriptures we ascertain a fact, of fundamental importance to our present subject, and one which synchronizes to perfect exactness, with the figures which we have introduced from the context. The "sealed book" represents the vast plan of heaven, embracing all its departments and all its periods, from the commencement of man's existence to the consummation of his celestial felicity. "And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open, and to read the book, neither to look thereon." The prevailing ignorance of man has proved the fruitful cause of sorrow. It is not a small thing, for beings like ourselves, to "know in this our day, the things that belong to our peace." It is no small privation, to be obliged to plod our weary way in thick darkness, to "grope for the wall like the blind," and to be "shut up unto the faith," which cannot as yet be revealed. O, how many parental hearts have ached and sighed, from the fearful apprehension that the objects' of their regard were forever expelled from divine favor; that some beloved Joseph or Simeon, or more beloved Benjamin, was destroyed by the "roaring lion," confined in the prisons of spiritual Egypt, or devoted to everlasting death. How has the thought harrowed up every feeling of the soul, "rendering society tiresome, nourishment insipid, pleasure disgustful, and life itself a cruel bitter." Remember this, and learn to appreciate the value of that revelation which "brings life and immortality to light."
We have said, and endeavored to prove, in the preceding observations, that "the sealed book" represents the plan of God, while yet unfolded to mortals. We have shown this briefly, and generally, by marking the correspondence between the sign and the thing signified. We shall now go into the discussion of a few particų
lars, which will more illustrate and better support the doctrine of the text. This doctrine may be stated in the proposition, that, "the gospel alone illustrates the design of Deity, clears his whole scheme from obscurity, reconciles seeming discordancies, forbids sorrow, and imparts the purest joy." "The Lion of the tribe of Juda hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof;" therefore "weep not."
First. Nature is incompetent to a full explanation of the purpose and scheme of Deity. It is not always adequate to the task of explaining itself; much less can it be supposed capable of unfolding other and subsequent departments of the kingdom of God. Here the figurative representation in the text comes again before us, and we shall take leave to employ it in the service of the subject. A book may include many chapters, occupied upon many topics, which yet are subordinate to one general subject. The book is to be read as a whole; and the general sense of the author, and his success in writing are to be judged of and decided upon, much less from the introduction, than from the sequel of his work. Who ever expected fully to understand, and perfectly to digest the works of a writer, from merely reading his preface? The thing is impossible, and the idea absurd. Nature, or if you please, our present existence, is the preface to the book of God's designs and operations. We are in the first chapter, so to speak, of a volume, much of which is necessarily yet unread. We have no knowledge of any thing anterior to our present existence. Our natural senses are conversant only with natural objects; they bring us no information from without this visible, mundane system. That there is a power above us is demonstrable from what we perceive; but what that power is, nature leaves us ignorant. Power alone may be variously employed; it may be exerted to do good or evil. A dun obscurity rests upon the page which we now read; and we find
apparent inconsistencies, which our present examination, with our present means, can never remove. Admit that the goodness of the Supreme power is apparent from natural objects and natural provisions, yet what in all nature, can assure us of the undiminished exercise, and everlasting continuance of this goodness? We are situated, in this respect, like him, who would willingly, if he could, take in the whole sense and subject of an author, by consulting a few pages; but finds that to attain this object, he must read on, till he finds that object in the conclusion. The doctrine of a future life is not taught in natural objects. Philosophers have, indeed, discoursed upon a future state, and professed to believe in one; but their arguments amount to but little more than mere conjectures, some of which are less extravagant and more rational than others. rational than others. They probably believed this doctrine, as men have believed many things since, because they desired it, not because they had seen it demonstrated.
The mystery in which the present state of existence is involved may be perceived, though it cannot be removed by this circumstance; the unremitted search after felicity which we never find here, with the aspiring desire that existence may be perpetuated and improved. If man be merely the child of nature; if animal existence constitutes the sum of his being, why does he not find here resources adequate to his wants ? Yet it is so, as all experience daily proves. Man continually pursues the objects which catch his attention, and they either elude his grasp, or fail of satisfying when attained. Survey the whole kingdom of nature; contemplate the heavens with their host of luminaries, and the earth with its beauties, its fruits and flowers, its rocks and mountains, and caverns; contemplate the ocean in all its wonders; and then turn thy thoughts inward ; survey thyself; and inquire, am I not "fearfully and wonderfully made," mentally, as well as corporeally?
Am I thus capable of thought and reflection, thus able to trace effects to their remote causes, to assign the reasons for things? To understand the structure of the universe and the laws which govern it? And is this intelligence to be, in a short time, extinguished foreɣer? Nature can start difficulties which she cannot solve.. This is one of those problems which are reserved for solution, in the subsequent pages of that volume, "which angels desire to look into."
Secondly. Providence is another department of the "sealed book.". -The conviction of this truth has operated with great power upon the minds of all reflecting men. Among sensible Christians, the inequalities observable in the present state, the strange events which transpire, the enormities which are daily committed, and which, apparently pass with impunity, have been accounted as so many indications of a future state, in which the justice and rectitude of the divine government will be more illustriously vindicated. Those who have not enjoyed a special revelation, have, in many instances, been led to a very different result. They have concluded from apparent want of system, order, and justice, which they have discovered in the present state of things,that the world is the work of chance, and all its events entirely fortuitous. But suppose a man to be sound and sober-minded; acknowledging, with all his heart the existence and superintendence of the Supreme Being, yet he will see much for which he cannot account, en principles with which he is acquainted; much that wears the appearance of disorder, and for the develope; ment of which he must arm himself with humility and patience to wait. "We know but in part, and we prophesy but in part." We cannot take in one view, the immense and complicated machinery of providence, containing "wheel within wheel," and all "working together for good." It is the end, and that only, which divine providence has in view, and which his mysterious