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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    IV. British Commentaries Reprinted in America


    Another eminent Nonconformist clergyman and commentator, MATTHEW HENRY 25MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714) was born in Flintshire, England. Rather precocious as a child, he later studied law. Because his father was a Nonconformist he was denied the privilege of entrance in either Oxford or Cambridge. But he soon began to preach to a Presbyterian congregation in Chester, in 1686, and was ordained in 1687. A meetinghouse was erected, and he preached in the neighboring villages and to the prisoners in the Castle. In 1686 he began his expository preaching, and combined it with the development of his commentary. In 1711 he went to London, where his responsibilities increased. He wrote numerous works. began his Exposition of the Old and New Testament in 1704, and completed the first edition, up to Acts, in 1710. The Epistles and Revelation were prepared by thirteen Nonconformist divines. So the set was completed, with eleven editions listed in the British Museum Catalogue, and two American reprints, the first in 1828-29. More than two hundred thousand single volumes had been circulated up to 1840.PFF4 119.1

    Henry’s wide influence doubtless gave currency to the postmillennial view. His exposition of Daniel 2 is standard, except that the iron and clay refer to the weakened state of Rome itself, rather than the commonly accepted barbarian kingdoms which supplanted it, and that the stone is the church set up initially at the first advent, to be fulfilled fully when Christ shall overcome all. In Daniel 7 he allows alternate interpretations-either Rome or the Seleucid kings for the fourth beast, with the Little Horn as either Rome (pagan and papal) or Antiochus.PFF4 119.2

    He avoids exact dates for the 70 weeks of years, but regards them as pointing to Christ’s first advent. He makes the 2300 days literal, but allows the 1260, 1290, and 1335 to be either days or years. The exposition of Revelation (by William Tong) makes the 1260 days of Revelation 11 represent years, the time of Antichrist; no attempt is made at dating the period. The two beasts of Revelation 13 are either pagan and papal Rome respectively, or else papal secular power and papal ecclesiastical power. If the former, the wound is inflicted on pagan idolatry, and healed in papal idolatry. The millennium is an indefinite period of peace and prosperity for the church.PFF4 119.3


    THOMAS SCOTT” 26THOMAS SCOTT (1747-1821) was born in Lincolnshire, England. Ordained in 1773, he filled a chaplaincy and several curacies. An accomplished student of the Scriptures in the original tongues, he moved to London in 1785, and in 1788 began his commentary. It was prepared in 117 weekly installments, and was brought forth (1788-92) amid a perpetual struggle with financial difficulties and ill health. Characterized by sincerity, competence, and piety, his work was called the “greatest theological performance of our age and country.” In 1807 he received the degree of D.D. from Dickinson College, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. most popular and widely quoted of early nineteenth-century Bible commentators—in America as well as Britain—wielded an unmatched influence among expositors of prophecy consulted in the nineteenth century. His Commentary (1788-92) was reprinted in 1792, 1809, 1810, and 1812, with numerous subsequent British printings, or editions. The first American reprint (1804-9) came at just the right time for molding the succeeding decades, and was followed by at least eight other printings in the United States. The record is unmatched and its influence profound. Scott was an ardent believer in prophecy and urged his fellow ministers to mark well the signs of the times. He himself preached on prophecy, and emphatically declared the extraordinary character of the times. His interpretation appears in detail on the tabular charts on pages 392-395.PFF4 120.1

    On Daniel, Scott presents the standard Historical School exposition 27For Scott s exposition of the standard Historicist views, see Prophetic Faith, Vol. III, pp. 348-350. He quotes the two Newtons, Lowth, and others. He gives the standard four world powers of Daniel 2 and 7, the commonly accepted division of the Roman fourth into ten kingdoms, with the intermingled clay and iron as the secular and ecclesiastical elements (citing Lowth) of the nations of Europe. The “mountain” phase of the kingdom of God is not yet accomplished. The Little Horn is the “church and bishop of Rome,” with its special period of 1260 years. The exceeding great horn of Daniel 8 is, to him, Rome (though in later editions he changes this to Mohammedanism), and the 2300 year-days of Daniel 8:14 are drawing to their close, their end being “not very distant.” He prefers to begin the 70 weeks of years of Daniel 9 with the seventh year of Artaxerxes, although he is not dogmatic about it, and gives no dates 28In the margin of Ezra 7, in the 1804 edition, is the date 457 B.C., but in the 1830 edition this is changed (possibly by the reprinter) to 458 B.C. in the first part of the chapter. And Turkey is, to him, the power of the latter part of Daniel 11.PFF4 120.2

    In Revelation the first four trumpets are the barbarian incursions upon western Rome, and the fifth and sixth trumpets involve the inroads of the Saracens and the Turks, with the 391-year period of the latter from 1281 to 1672. France is possibly the “tenth part” of the Antichristian “city,” with the “earthquake” as the French Revolution. But Scott prefers to leave this matter undecided. The two beasts of Revelation 13 are the Holy Roman Empire (or papal secular power) and the papal hierarchy, with the two horns of the latter possibly the regular and secular clergy. The second beast is also the false prophet; and the image is the pope. The notorious woman of Revelation 17 is the papal church, supported by the temporal powers of the European nations. She is Babylon, and her name is Mystery. The seven hills are the seven forms of Rome’s government, with the last as papal. The Beast’s special prescribed period is 1260 year-days.PFF4 121.1


    However, on the millennium Scott follows a modified Whitbyanism, or postmillennial theory, which in turn was widely impressed on American students of prophecy by his commentary. Scott was the reliable reflector, in most features, and not the originator, of the standard Historical School of Protestant interpretation, which he gives. But he cites the views of many other noted interpreters on details which were doubtless often followed by his readers, as well as his own conclusions. Scott, therefore, was basic to prophetic study and emphasis at this time.PFF4 121.2


    ADAM CLARKE 29ADAM CLARKE (1762-1832), born near Londonderry, Ireland, was markedly influenced by John Wesley. Joining the Methodists in 1778, he soon became an exhorter, then a regular and very popular preacher, appointed to his first circuit in 1782. The conversion of man was his great aim. He was three times president of the Wesleyan Conference—in 1806, 1814, and 1822. After years as a circuit rider, he lived in London from 1805 onward. From 1815 till his death he devoted himself to writing. Clarke was a most “assiduous scholar,” rising early, and was intensely active, systematic, and versatile. Syriac, Arabic, Presian, and Sanskrit. In 1807 he received an M.A. from the University of Aberdeen, and in 1808 the degree of LL.D. Wesleyan itinerant preacher, commentator, and theologian, had great literary power and capacity, producing many highly valuable works. His eight-volume commentary is dated 1810-25, with another edition issued in England in 1836, and many American editions from 1811-25 onward. These volumes, the result of extraordinary labor and research, had a very wide circulation in their time, though but little now. They were decidedly evangelical in viewpoint.PFF4 121.3

    Clarke presents the standard four kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7, followed by the ten barbarian kingdoms, with the Papacy as the Little Horn, the Willful King, the Man of Sin, and Babylon. However, “Antichrist” embraces any person, doctrine, or system opposing Christ’s reign in the world, in others, or in himself, and is found in Protestantism as well as in Popery. The stone, the church, has been smiting the image through the progressive destruction of all idolatry and will grow into the mountain, he holds, culminating in universal Christianity during the millennium. Present means to this end are the British and Foreign Bible Society and contemporary missions, and the stone kingdom is possibly near its end.PFF4 122.1

    On the Little Horn of Daniel 7 he remarks that if we were certain “when the Papal power began to exert itself in the Antichristian way, then we could at once fix the time of its destruction. The end is probably not very distant; as it had already been grievously shaken by the French” in 1798. If the 1260 years date from the pope’s temporal power, possibly it begins in 755 with Pepin, but he does not regard the dates as necessarily exact. He is cautious in general about time periods, but arbitrarily places the 2300 years at 334 B.C. to A.D. 1966. Citing Prideaux for the 70 weeks, he reckons back from the cross, at J.P. 4746 (A.D. 33), to a starting point at J.P. 4256 (458 B.C.), in the seventh year of Artaxerxes-although his and very popular preacher, appointed to his first circuit in 1782. The conversion of men was his great aim. He was three times president of the Wesleyan Conference-in 1806, 1814, and 1822. After years as a circuit rider, he lived in London from 1805 onward. From_ 1815 till his death he devoted himself to writing. Clarke was a most “assiduous scholar,” rising early, and was intensely active, systematic, and versatile. Studying the classics, the Fathers, and the Oriental writers, he became proficient in Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit. In 1807 he received an M.A. from the University of Aberdeen, and in 1808 the degree of LL.D. margin at Ezra 7 carries A.M. 3547 and 457 B.C., because his margins follow the “received” chronology (of Ussher and Lloyd), as generally found in Authorized Version Bibles since 1701.PFF4 122.2

    Clarke professes to know nothing definite of the meaning of the book of Revelation. He gives various interpretations for what they may be worth, and inserts longer expositions of Revelation 12, 13, and 17 from J. E. Clarke. The items appearing on the tabular chart are taken from the New York 1833 edition.PFF4 123.1


    In addition to the better-known commentaries there were Bible editions printed with expository notes of a more or less extended character, which were doubtless the direct source of prophetic interpretation for many lay readers. Their influence is hard to evaluate, for it might be questioned how often the large-sized “parlor” Bibles, or those of more than one volume, were actually read. Nevertheless, when any query arose the lay person was likely to be vastly impressed by the information he found on the very pages of the family Bible. Several of these might be noticed.PFF4 123.2

    In 1790 the first American reprint of the Catholic Douay Bible carried “annotations for elucidating the principal difficulties of Holy Writ,” and the 1805 reprint, from a later Irish edition, included still more supplementary matter, such as chronological notes and tables. Although Catholics were less likely than Protestants to search the Scriptures for prophetic interpretation, they had available in their Bibles concise and authoritative notes on many of the principal prophecies giving distinctive Catholic interpretations. Some of these are: the Catholic Church as the stone, Antiochus as the Little Horn, a future individual Antichrist, Enoch and Elijah as the Two Witnesses, the church or the Virgin Mary as the woman of Revelation 12, pagan Rome as Babylon, the millennium as the whole New Testament Era, or especially from the fall of paganism.PFF4 123.3

    The Self Interpreting Bible, edited by JOHN BROWN, a Presbyterian minister of Haddington, Scotland (1778), was reprinted in America as early as 1792. It carries an extensive introduction, including background and expository material, and even a detailed chronological table; and the text is accompanied by notes at the bottom of each page. Brown’s concordance, and sometimes his introduction, were incorporated into many later Bibles. His prophetic interpretations (see chart on p. 392) represent the general Historicist view of Daniel as to the four kingdoms, Little Horn, year-day principle, et cetera. But it makes the 2300 days literal, under Antiochus. The stone is the church that will become the mountain in the millennium. The Papacy is the Antichrist, Man of Sin, Babylon; the beasts of Revelation 13 are respectively the Papacy, and the pope and clergy. The seals and trumpets run in continuous sequence, the seventh trumpet (as also the seventh vial) denoting the fall of Antichrist. The New Jerusalem is the earthly millennial state, the two resurrections figurative, ana the advent postmillennial.PFF4 124.1

    Two Annotated Bibles—one with Anglican notes, edited by GEORGE D’OYLY and RICHARD MANT for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (reprinted in New York, 1818-20) and the Cottage Bible, edited by THOMAS WILLIAMS (revised and enlarged by an American editor in 1833, and often reprinted)—both present basically the same interpretations as Brown’s Self Interpreting Bible, although there are some noticeable differences.PFF4 124.2

    An American annotated Bible, the large folio Columbian Family Bible (1822) has brief notes covering the principal prophecies. It makes the Papacy the Man of Sin and the Little Horn of Daniel 7, but in Daniel 8 it has only Antiochus. The church, the stone of Daniel 2, becomes the millennial kingdom (for 360,000 years). Thus the popular postmillennial view is set forth.PFF4 124.3

    These annotated Bibles, like the current commentaries, lent the weight of their influence to old established Historicist interpretations of the outline prophecies, combined with the newer postmillennialism, with the prospect of the approaching golden age of a world church embracing Jews and pagans, and constituting the spiritual kingdom of Christ on earth preceding the resurrection, second advent, and judgment.PFF4 124.4

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