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riod indeed may not improperly be styled the permitted hour of the powers of darkness; since the true Church is represented as being in an afflicted and depressed state during the whole of its continuance, and since its expiration will be marked by a signal display of the judgments of God upon his enemies and by the commencement of a new and happy order of things.
In the subject which I have chosen so many eminent expositors have preceded me, that I fear my choice of it alone may render me liable to the charge either of needless repetition, or of unwarrantable presumption. Your Lordship however, I am confident, will not prejudge me from the mere statement of my subject: and the candour, which I anticipate from my venerable Diocesan, I feel myself justified in claiming from the Public.
In fact, had I nothing new to offer upon the subject, the discussing of it afresh would have been plainly superfluous; but an attentive examination of the writings of Daniel and
and St. John has led me to think, that in some points my predecessors have partially erred, and that in others they have been altogether mistaken. In the interpretation of Prophecy knowledge is undoubtedly progressive. The predictions of Scripture, extending as they do from the earliest periods to the consummation of all things, although they be gradually opened partly by the hand of time and partly by human labour undertaken in humble dependence -upon the divine aid, are yet necessarily in some measure a sealed book, even to the time of the end. As that time approaches, we may expect, agreeably to the angel's declaration to Daniel, that many will run to and fro, and that knowledge will be increased. Hence it was observed by Sir Isaac Newton, that" amongst the interpreters of the last age there is scarce one of note, who hath not made some discovery worth knowing." Nothing however requires so much caution and prudence, so much hesitation and circumspection, as an attempt to unfold
these deep mysteries of God. An interperate introduction of new interpretations is highly dangerous and mischievous: because it has a natural tendency to unsettle the minds of the careless and the wavering, and is apt to induce them hastily to take up the preposterous opinion that there can be no certainty in the exposition of Prophecy. On these grounds I have ever been persuaded, that a commentator discharges his duty but very imperfectly, if, when he advances a new interpretation of any prophecy that has been already interpreted, he satisfies himself with merely urging in favour of his scheme the most plausible arguments that he has been able to invent. Of every prediction there may be many erroneous expositions, but there can only be one that is right. It is not enough therefore for a commentator to fortify with elaborate ingenuity his own system. Before he can reasonably expect it to be adopted by others, he must shew likewise, that the expositions of his predecessors are erroneous in those
points wherein he differs from them. Such a mode of writing as this may undoubtedly expose him to the charge of captiousness: it will likewise unavoidably increase the size of his Work; and may possibly weary those readers, who dislike the trouble of thoroughly examining a subject: but it will be found to be the only way, in which there is even a probability of attaining to the truth. This plan I have adopted: and it has at least been of infinite use to myself, It has at once compelled me, in the course of writing and revising the present Dissertation, to relinquish, as utterly untenable, many opinions which I had once adopted; and it has confirmed me in adhering to those, which I have retained. In short, it enables me to say, that not a single new interpretation is here advanced without having been previously subjected to the severest scrutiny. Whatever would not bear the test of all the objections, which I was able to alledge against it myself, has been rejected, as still less being able to bear the test of those which others might alledge.
Flattering as the countenance of the great may be, that of the good as well as great is much more rationally satisfactory. Your Lordship's character can be heightened by no testimony of mine. Yet I may be allowed to say, that the favours, which I have received from you, have been rendered doubly valuable, both by the manner in which they have been conferred, and by the recollection of the hand that conferred them.
I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's much obliged and
dutiful humble Servant,
GEORGE STANLEY FABER.