Of the Little Book, or, of the other System of Apocalyptical Visions, according to the Rule of the Apocalyptical Key.
The course of the seals being finished, in which the affairs of the empire were described, we come now to the other prophecy, much more noble in its kind, as containing the Fates of the Church, or of Religion. John is introduced to it by the delivery and eating up of the open book, being endued as it were with a degree of the prophetic faculty. |And the voice (says he) which I had heard from heaven, spake again unto me saying,| (viz. that voice, as of a trumpet, talking with him, ch. iv.) |and said, Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel, standing upon the sea, and upon the earth; and I went to the angel, saying unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take and eat it up,| &c. Moreover, as the prophecy now to be revealed, as the knowledge of Divine things and secrets, especially those to come, usually is, was to be sweet and pleasant in its foretaste; but, on account of the calamitous state of the Church, or perhaps, of the obscurity of those allegories and types with which it was covered, it would, like aloes taken into the stomach, greatly wound the mind of him who should unfold and penetrate into its sense. Therefore it is said, that the book to be eaten by the apostle would indeed be sweet in the mouth, -- that is, in first appearance and first flavour, delightful to the mind, -- but when received into the stomach and digested, would bring on bitterness. |And it shall,| says he, |render thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey.| The whole image is taken from Ezekiel, except that, though there is mention of sweetness in the mouth, yet there is no reference, or but an obscure one, to bitterness in the belly.
The book, being thus taken and swallowed, the meaning of the symbol is explained in the clearest and most express words; namely, that on St. John was imposed the gift of another and still more noble prophecy, which should retrace the path of the former, to be received from Christ, and to be brought to the knowledge of the Church. |And I took,| says he, |the little book from the hands of the angel, and ate it up, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was embittered.| -- |And he said unto me;| (this is the meaning of the symbol,) |Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings .|
Such was the inauguration of St. John. Then follows the prophecy, which begins with an act of his, relative to the temple of God. And therefore, by the image of a double court, one measured, and the other rejected on account of the profanation of the Gentiles, demonstrates that there would be in order a double state of the Church.