William Cuninghame.

A dissertation on the seals and trumpets of the Apocalypse, and the prophetical period of twelve hundred and sixty years online

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MARK xiii. 37.

Slontion :

















MARK xiii. 37.

Hontion :







M'INTOSH, Printer, Lomlon Society's Office, Spitalfields, Loniloii


The following are the circumstances which gave
rise to the volume now submitted to the public. I was
for some years engaged in a controversy with Mr. Fa-
ber, carried on through the medium of a respectable
periodical work, upon the subject of the commence-
ment and end of the twelve hundred and sixty years,
and some other points connected with the study of
prophecy. Since the close of the above controversy,
I have frequently been advised to re-publish my
papers in a separate volume. But to this it seemed
to me that there were strong objections, as it would
be impossible for any reader to understand what I
had written, without seeing Ukewise the papers of my
respectable opponent. Being sensible, however, of
the great practical importance of the inquiry into the
true era of the above prophetical period, I was
desirous of laying before the public the substance of
what I had written on the subject. But I felt the
strength of the following remarks, which I met with
some years ago, in a review of Archdeacon Wood-
house's Translation of the Apocalypse : " It is
" comparatively easy to give, to interpretations of
" detached parts of the Apocalypse, an appearance of



" truth, which would totally vanish, were they con-
" sidered in connection with the general frame of the
" book. We will not say that the only fair method,
" but we must say that by much the fairest method,
" of interpreting the prophecies of the Revelation,
'* is to compose a continued comment upon the book,
" The reader then feels that he is in some deg'ree
" put in a condition to judge for himself; the conse-
" quence, at any rate, is either a readier detection
" of error, or a more perfect conviction, if the
" interpretation be satisfactory."*

Influenced by a sense of the justice of the above
observations, and having for twelve years turned
my attention to the study of prophecy, I there-
fore determined to aim at giving a connected
view of the whole prophecies of the seals and
trumpets of the Apocalypse, so far as they appear to
have been accomplished ; and to embody in it the
substance of my argument respecting the twelve
hundred and sixty years ; but in such a way as to
divest that argument of the shape and appearance of
controversy. In what manner the above design has
been executed, the public will decide. I could have
wished that more time had been devoted to the exe-
cution of my purpose ; but being much engaged in
secular affairs of various kinds, I had not a choice
in this respect. What is now submitted to the public,
with the exception of the Preface, some of the Notes,
* Christian Observer, vol. v. p. 557, for ISOO.

and the last chapter, was written in the intervals of
business, between the middle of June and of January
last; and I cannot but feel that some parts of the
work have been finished in rather a hasty manner.
But I thought it better to let it go forth as it is, than
to delay the publication of it for another year.
Should this volume reach a second edition, I shall be
glad to avail myself of any critical remarks which
may be made upon it to render it less imperfect.

In this work, I take for granted, that the four
beasts seen by Daniel in the seventh chapter of his
prophecies, signify the Babylonian, Medo- Persian,
Grecian, and Roman monarchies ; and that the
little horn of his fourth beast is a symbol of the
papal power ; and likewise that the Babylon of the
Apocalypse is the church of Rome. These may be
considered as first principles in the study of pro-
phecy, of which no well-instructed protestant ought
to be ignorant ; and it is not reasonable to expect
that every one who takes up his pen on the subject
of prophecy, should return back to prove anew those
first principles which few persons call in question,
and which have already been established in the
writings of the ablest commentators.*

* I have deemed it proper, in this edition of my work, to leave
out all that part of the preface of the first edition, containing stric-
tures on the opinion of the author of A Christian's Survey of all the
primary Events and Periods of the World. The position of that
writer, with respect to the little horn of Daniel's fourth beast, has


In tliese pages the reader will find frequent mention
of the second personal advent of our Lord. 1 am
aware that it is the common doctrine of the present
day^ both among" private Christians and the teachers
of religion, to interpret, in a figurative sense, many
of those passages which I suppose to refer to that
great event. But I have the support of the greatest
writers on prophecy in understanding them literally ;
and the opinion which I now hold on this point, is
not only the result of a long and most attentive con-
sideration of the prophetical scriptures, but was
slowly and reluctantly formed, in opposition to early
prejudices. In the continued prevalence of the
opposite sentiment, which places the second advent
of our Saviour, at the close of the millennium, and
thus supposes it to be yet many ages distant from our
times, we may discern the symptoms of that spirit
of unbelief which our Lord assures us^ shall mark
the period when he appears again. '' Nevertheless,
'' when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith
'' in the earth ?"* by which is meant, not faith in
the doctrines of his Gospel in general, but in the
particular promises which relate to the second advent.

been overthrown by the events of the last four years : and with regard
to his opinion concerning the 12C0 prophetical days, the reader will
find some remarks in the prfeface to this edition. Under these cir-
cumstances, it appears to me qilite unnecessary to re-publish my
forinoer strictures, a great part of which are no longer applicable to
the existing state of thirt^s. 2d Edition.
* Luke Xviii. 8.


On this point I shall introduce the following' quo-
tation from King's Remarks on the Signs of the

'' On the one hand, the Jews would not appre-
" hend, nor believe, the words of holy prophecy
" written concerning our Lord's first coming, in his
" state of deep humiliation and suffering, being
" dazzled with bright apprehensions of what was
" written concerning his second coming, his coming
''in glory; and on the other hand, the Christian
*' world are now in the contrary extreme, too back-
*' ward to believe and apprehend what is really
" written in the same words of holy prophecy con-
" cerning his second coming upon earth in glory ^
'' being blinded by their constant habit of contending
*' against the Jews chiefly for the former, and by
" the presumptuous mystical application which has
" taken place, by means of applying those holy
" words that relate to the latter, merely to the
" fancied prosperity of the Christian church on
" earth ; though such fancied prosperity is a mis-
" application of the words, in direct contradiction
*' to all the warnings of our Lord himself and of
" his holy Apostles."

I shall now state some of the principles upon
which I proceed in interpreting the Apocalypse.

\st. I assign to the same symbols the same mean-
ing ; or where there is any variation of signification,
* Pages 86 and 27.


I endeavour to fix the meaning on the principles
/ of analogy.

2d. I apply no prophecy of the Apocalypse to
more than one series of events : i. e. I deny that the
principles of a first and secondary sense, however
it may be admitted in interpreting the unchrono-
logical prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, &c. can be
allowed in explaining the Apocalypse.*

3d. I apply symbols of the same nature, or homo-
geneous, to similar objects.

4z/i. I do not attempt to explain every minute part
of a symbol, but content myself with endeavouring
to seize its great outlines. This rule is well known,
and carefully observed by all judicious expositors of
the scriptural parables. Now I consider the symbols
of the Apocalypse in the light of prophetical pa-

bth. In ascertaining the places of the different
visions, and their chronological coincidence, I pay
strict attention to the internal marks mentioned by
Mr. Frazer, in his excellent rule for that purpose,
which is as follows :

"The internal marks inserted in the prophecies
'' of the Revelation, may be fitly compared to the
" corresponding loops in the curtains of the taber-
'^ nacle : by observing them, the Levites discovered
"^ the place of each separate curtain, and joined them

* The first and second of these principles are nearly the same with
two of Mr. Faber's rules.


" together, so as to form one tent. So by these
" marks, the attentive reader is able to discover the
'' place of each separate vision — whether it carries
'' on the collateral prophecy, or gives a collateral
" representation of times already mentioned ; and
" to connect them so as to form one connected pro-
*' phecy.

*' Now I find, that after the seventh trumpet
" sounds (Rev. xi. 15), and a brief summary is
" given of the events contained in it in the three
'' following verses, it is said (ver. 19), I saw the
" tabernacle of the temple of God in heaven opened.
" This expression I consider as a mark inserted like
" the loop in the edge of the curtain, where the
*' series of the narration is broken oft\

" Accordingly the same words are repeated (Rev.
" XV. 5), like the corresponding loop in the edge
'' of the other curtain ; then it is said, ^nd the
" seven angels came out of the temple having the
" seven plagues : which shews that the first of these
'^ vials follows after the sounding of the seventh
" trumpet."

To conclude, whether any advances are made, in
the following pages, towards a more perfect expla-
nation of this mysterious book, it is not for me to
judge. But as I cannot hope to have avoided mis-
takes, 1 would desire to imbibe the spirit of the
following passage, from Archdeacon Woodhouse's
Introduction to his work on the Apocalypse ; —

" Truth, in this important research, is, I hope, as
*' it ought to be, my principal concern ; and 1 shall
" rejoice to see these sacred prophecies truly inter-
" pretcdj though the correction of my mistakes
'' should lay the foundation of so desirable a super-
" structure."

March, 1813.


THE work now offered to the Public in a second
edition, was composed in the year 1812, while the
French power was yet unbroken, and during- the
campaign of Bonaparte in Russia. The author,
having long entertained a persuasion, that the
events of our own times are rapidly unfolding the
intricacies of the prophetic roll of the Scriptures,
has for many years been in the habit of associating
an attentive view of all the passing scenes, which
in this age, have astonished and confounded the
anticipations and calculations of human wisdom,
with the study of the divine word of inspiration.

If, however, it be difficult, as in many cases it
confessedly is, to interpret predictions, which are
already completely fulfilled, it certainly is a more
arduous task, to apply prophecy to events, which
are only in part developed. Some indeed, are so
convinced of the impossibility of success in such an
undertaking, as to reject as rash and illegitimate,
all attempts, to read in the sacred volume the occur-
rences of our own times. But it may be shown,
from the scriptures, that this opinion is wrong. —
Our Lord reproved the Jews, for not discerning the


signs of their own times. Now what were these
si^ns, but the strict correspondence of the events
which they beheld, with the prophetic annunciations
of a former ag-e ? Again, our Saviour, after pre-
dicting in highly figurative language the poHlical
convulsions, which in the last ages were to be the
foreiunners of the second advent, says to his churchy
'' When ye see these things begin to come to pass,
*' then lift up your heads, for your redemption
'* draweth nigh."* But how, in this case also, are
believers to discern the accomplishment of the pre-
dicted signs, unless by comparing the words of
Christ with current events ?

Indeed^ the sentiment I am now refuting, though
it comes to us under the specious guise of humility
and self-diffidence, is in realitv founded on indolence
and sloth, and partakes largely of that spirit of
unbelief, which has usually pervaded the minds of
the great body of mankind, under the most unequi-
vocal indications of the wrath of the Almighty, and
when his judgments have been most conspicuously
poured forth, on a profane and thoughtless world.

What has been said, may be sufficient to vindicate
the legitimacy of the inquiries pursued in this volume.
But when the observations already made, with respect
to the great difficulty of this department of sacred
researches are considered, it will not be matter of
surprise, that 1 should in my first edition, have
* Lnke xxi. IS.

fallen into very important mistakes. These errors
are acknowledojed in their proper places, and it is
therefore unnecessary for me to mention them more
particularly here. I shall however, observe, that '
though the late mighty political changes in Europe^
have entirely contradicted some of my former anti-
cipations, they seem to be in no degree inconsistent
with my general theory. On the contrary, the
present pacification of the nations which occupy
the territories of the western empire, the great
theatre of the Apocalyptic prophecies, appears to
fill up an important chasm in the exposition I had
previously offered, of the vision at the beginning
of the seventh chapter, which 1 consider, to be the
great key to the present state of the world. In other
respects also, my views of the characters of the
present period; of its place in the chronology of
prophecy, and of the nature of the events that are
approaching, not only remain unchanged, but are
more and more confirmed by the events of the last
four years.

The interval which has elapsed since the first
publication of the work, has afforded me an oppor-
tunity of carefully reviewing its principles. But
whatever errors I have been led into with respect to
the meaning of particular passages, I have not as
yet seen reason to abandon any one of my canons of
interpretation ; and after having considered all the
objections that I have met with to my general


arrangement of the seals and trumpets, I remain sa-
tisfied of its truth. Yet I know too well how
painful and difficult was my own perception of the
system I have attempted to develop in these pages^,
which has been slowly and gradually matured during
a period of sixteen years, to expect that even if true,
it will make a very rapid progress in public opinion.
I am content to leave its fate to time. So far as my
theories are just they will ultimately prevail. If they
be false, they will deservedly sink into oblivion among
the ephemeral novelties of the day. Feeling as I do
very little anxiety on this point, I have not thought
myself called upon to answer the strictures made
upon my interpretations by more recent writers,
where I am unconvinced of their solidity. To un-
dertake such a task would swell the present volume
to an undue size, and for the same reason (as well as
from a sense of the dangers and unprofitableness of
controversy,) I have abstained from any discussion
of the merits of those theories of prophecy which
have lately appeared. The opinion of the more
judicious and enlightened of the students of this
branch of sacred literature, will decide between these
systems and the one contained in this volume.

I am bound here, however, to observe, that the
judgment already pronounced on my work by two very
able reviewers, has very far exceeded the expectations
I had formed when I first gave it to the public: and
as neither of them are known to me ; I take this


opportunity of expressing my thanks to them for the
indulgent manner in which they treated it.

In the preface to my first edition were contained
strictures upon certain opinions advanced in an ano-
nymous work on prophecy, which has since been
avowed by Mr. Granville Penn. That gentleman, in
the Preface to his Dissertation on Ezekiel's Prophecy
of Gog, has done me the honour to notice my obser-
vations. I deem it therefore to be incumbent upon
me, to make a very few short remarks on what he
has said, for as I was myself the assailant in this
instance, were I to make no reply, it might be
construed into want of respect for Mr, Penn. Of
the two primary points at issue, between the great
body of Protestant Commentators and the author of
the Christian's Survey, which formed the principal
subject of my strictures, the first relates to the
meaning of the symbolical little horn of Daniel's
fourth beast, which by the almost unvarying consent
of these Commentators has been applied to the papal
power, but is by Mr. Penn supposed to describe the
late empire of France.

As events have occurred which prove Mr. Penn's
exposition of that symbol to have been fallacious, it
seems quite unnecessary to prolong the controversy
respecting it. The French power has perished, but
the body of the Roman empire survives. Nay the
papal monarchy, thejinal and absolute extinction of
which was pronounced by Mr. Penn to have taken


place in 1810,* exists still in 1817. That these
events have also disappointed my conjectures, I have
already freely acknowledged. But while they are
fatal to Mr. Penn's system, they leave the body of
mine entire, and overthrow only some conclusions
which were not essential to it.

I shall here, however, as Mr. Penn thinks it in-
cumbent upon me to do it, give a concise view of
the reasons on which is founded the application of
the above symbol to the papal power.

\st. The little horn was seen to arise after the
other horns. f Now the rise of the ten Gothic horns
took place before the end of the fifth century. But
that of the papal power cannot be dated earlier than
the beginning of the sixth century, consequently it
rose after the horns, and in this respect the type
answers the supposed antitype.

2d. The horn was little, and always remained so.
Mr. Penn avers that this is to be interpreted in
respect of the shortness of its duration. But in the
very next vision, viz. that of the ram and he goat
(Dan. viii.), the first horn of the he goat, symbolizing
the individual power of Alexander the Great, is
represented as being notable mTH or great, though
he reigned only twelve years. We may hence infer,
that the size of a horn denotes not, as Mr. Penn
supposes, the period of its duration, but its intrin-
sical physical power. The smallness of the auoma-

* Christian's Survey, p. 90. + Dan. vii. 24.

XV 11

lous horn of the fourth beast indicates therefore, not
its more recent origin, but that its physical power
when compared with that of the others is small.
This corresponds with what history testifies of the
papal dominion. The influence of that power has
never arisen from its physical force, but from its
policy and cunning, pointed out by the eyes of the
horn :* and from its spiritual pretensions, symbolized
by its mouth speaking great things, whereby it ob-
tained a paramount control over the minds of men,
which even in the present period they have been
unable entirely to shake off.f

* Dan. vii. 8.

+ The lale papal bull against Bible Societies, which I here insert,
is in some measure illustrative of the meaning of the expression, that
this horn had a mouth speaking great things. The following is a
copy of this bull.

Translation of the Bull against Bible Societies, issued from Rome,

June 29, 1816, by Pope Pius VII. to the Archbishop of Gnczn,

Primate of Poland.

" Venerakle Brother,

" Health and apostolic benediction.

" In our last letter 1o you we promised, very soon, to return an
" answer to yours, in which you have appealed to this holy see, in
" the name also of the other bishops of Poland, respecting what are
" called Bible Societies, and have earnestly inquired of us what you
" ought to do in this affair. We long since, indeed, wished to comply
" with your request ; but an incredible variety of accumulating cou-
" cerns have so pressed upon us on every side, that till this day we
" could not yield to your solicitation.

" We have been truly shocked at this most crafty device, by which



3d. The power of the horn is commensurate in
time^ with that of the beast, in Rev. xiii. which is

" the very foundations of religion are undermined ; and having,
" because of the great importance of the subject, convened for con-
" sultation our venerable brolhren, the cardinals of the holy Roman
" church, we have, with the utmost care and attention, deliberated
" upon the measures proper to be adopted by our pontifical authority,
" in order to remedy and abolish this pestilence as far as possible.
" In the mean time, we heartily congratulate you, venerable brother;
" and we commend you again and again in the Lord, as it is fit we
" should, upon the singular zeal you have displayed under circum-
" stances so hazardous to Christianity, in having denounced to the
" apostolic see, this defilement of the faith, most imminently dan-
" gerous to souls. And although we perceive that it is not at all
" necessary to excite him to activity who is making haste, since of
" your own accord you have already shewn an ardent desire to detect
" and oppose the impious machinations of these innovators; yet, in
" conformity with our office, we again and again exhort you, that
" whatever you can achieve by power, provide for by counsel, or
" eflfect by authority, you will daily execute with the utmost earnest-
*' ness, placing yourself as a wall for the house of Israel.

" For this end we issue the present letter, viz. that we may convey
" to you a signal testimony of our approbation of your laudable
" exertions, and also may endeavour therein still more and more to
'• excite your pastoral solicitude and vigilance. — For the general good
"imperiously requires us to combine all our means and energies to
" frustrate the plans which are prepared by its enemies for the de-
•' struction of our most holy religion ; whence it becomes an episcopal
" duty, that you first of all expose the wickedness of this nefarious
<' scheme, as you already are doing so admirably, to the view of the
" faithful, and openly publish the same, according to the rules pre-
" scribed by the Church, with all that erudition and wisdom in which
" you excel ; namely, " that Bibles printed bi/ heretics are numbered
" among prohibited books, by the rules of the Index (No. II, & III.) ;
" for it is evident from experience, that the Holy Scriptures, when


admitted by Mr. Penn himself to denote the Roman
empire, in its divided state. The duration of the

'• circulated in the vulgar tongue, have, through the temerity of men,
"produced more harm than benefit:" (Rule IV.) And this is the
" more to be dreaded in times so depraved, when our holy religion is
" assailed from every quarter with great cunning and effort, and the
" most grievous wounds are inflicted on the Church. It is therefore
" necessary to adhere to the salutary decree of the Congregation of
" the Index (June 13th, 1757), that no versions of the Bible in the
" vulgar tongue be permitted, except such as are approved by the
" apostolic see, or published with annotations extracted from the

Online LibraryWilliam CuninghameA dissertation on the seals and trumpets of the Apocalypse, and the prophetical period of twelve hundred and sixty years → online text (page 1 of 32)