There is this great difference between the works of men and the works of God, that the same minute and searching investigation, which displays the defects and imperfections of the one, brings out also the beauties of the other. If the most finely polished needle on which the art of man has been expended be subjected to a microscope, many inequalities, much roughness and clumsiness, will be seen. But if the microscope be brought to bear on the flowers of the field, no such result appears. Instead of their beauty diminishing, new beauties and still more delicate, that have escaped the naked eye, are forthwith discovered; beauties that make us appreciate, in a way which otherwise we could have had little conception of, the full force of the Lord’s saying, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.” (Mat 6:28-29) The same law appears also in comparing the Word of God and the most finished productions of men. There are spots and blemishes in the most admired productions of human genius. But the more the Scriptures are searched, the more minutely they are studied, the more their perfection appears; new beauties are brought into light every day; and the discoveries of science, the researches of the learned, and the labours of infidels, all alike conspire to illustrate the wonderful harmony of all the parts, and the Divine beauty that clothes the whole.
If this be the case with Scripture in general, it is especially the case with prophetic Scripture. As every spoke in the wheel of Providence revolves, the prophetic symbols start into still more bold and beautiful relief. This is very strikingly the case with the prophetic language that forms the groundwork and corner-stone of the present work. There never has been any difficulty in the mind of any enlightened Protestant in identifying the woman “sitting on seven mountains,” and having on her forehead the name written, “Mystery, Babylon the Great,” with the Roman apostacy. “No other city in the world has ever been celebrated, as the city of Rome has, for its situation on seven hills. Pagan poets and orators, who had not thought of elucidating prophecy, have alike characterised it as ‘the seven hilled city.’” Thus Virgil refers to it: “Rome has both become the most beautiful (city) in the world, and alone has surrounded for herself seven heights with a wall.” Propertius, in the same strain, speaks of it (only adding another trait, which completes the Apocalyptic picture) as “The lofty city on seven hills, which governs the whole world.” Its “governing the whole world” is just the counterpart of the Divine statement—”which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). To call Rome the city “of the seven hills” was by its citizens held to be as descriptive as to call it by its own proper name. Hence Horace speaks of it by reference to its seven hills alone, when he addresses, “The gods who have set their affections on the seven hills.” Martial, in like manner, speaks of “The seven dominating mountains.” In times long subsequent, the same kind of language was in current use; for when Symmachus, the prefect of the city, and the last acting Pagan Pontifex Maximus, as the Imperial substitute, introduces by letter one friend of his to another, he calls him “De septem montibus virum”—”a man from the seven mountains,” meaning thereby, as the commentators interpret it, “Civem Romanum, “A Roman Citizen.”