« PreviousContinue »
worthy to be taken notice of, that with respect to the events of the five preceding periods, of which the scriptures give the history, profane history gives us no account, or at least of but very few of them. There are many fabulous and uncertain accounts of things that happened before ; but the beginning of the times of authentic profane history is judged to be but a little before Nebuchadnezzar's time, about an hundred years before. The learned men among the Greeks and Romans, used to call the ages before that, the fabulous age ; but the times after that they called, the historical age. And from about that time to the coming of Christ, we have undoubted accounts in profane history of the principal events ; accounts that wonderfully agree with the many prophecies that we have in scripture of those times.
Thus did the great God, that disposes all things, order it. He took care to give an historical account of things from the beginning of the world, through all those former ages which profane history does not reach, and ceased not till he came to those later ages in which profane history related things with some certainty : And concerning those times, he gives us abundant account in prophecy, that, by comparing profane history with those prophecies, we might see the agreement:
2. This period being the last period of the Old Testament, and the next to the coming of Christ, seems to have been remarkably distinguished from all others in the great revolutions that were among the nations of the earth, to make way for the kingdom of Christ. The time now drawing nigh, wherein Christ, the great King and Saviour of the world, was to come, great and mighty were the changes that were
brought to pass in order to it. The way had been preparing · for the coming of Christ from the fall of man, through all the
foregoing periods : But now the time drawing nigh, things began to ripen apace for Christ's coming ; and therefore divine Providence wrought wonderfully now. The greatest revolutions that any history whatsoever gives an account of, that ever had been from the flood, fell out in this period. Almost all the then known world, i. e. all the nations that were round about the land of Canaan, far and near, that were
within the reach of their knowledge, were overturned again and again. All lands were in their turns subdued, captivated, and as it were emptied, and turned upside down, and that most of them repeatedly, in this period ; agreeably to that prophecy, Isa. xxiv. 1. « Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty ; ho maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof."
This emptying, and turning upside down, began with God's visible church, in their captivity by the king of Babylon. And then the cup from them went round to all other nations, agreeably to what God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah, xxv. 15
-27. Here special respect seems to be had to the great ré. volutions that there were on the face of the earth in the times of the Babylonish empire. But after that there were three general overturnings of the world before Christ came, in the succes. sion of the three great monarchies of the world that were after the Babylonish empire. The king of Babylon is represented in scripture as overturning the world : But after that the Baby. lonish empire was overthrown by Cyrus; who founded the Persian empire in the room of it; which was of much great er extent than the Babylonish empire in its greatest glory. Thus the world was overturned the second time. And then, after that, the Persian empire was overthrown by Alexander, and the Grecian empire was set up upon the ruins of it; which was still of much greater extent than the Persian empire : And thus there was a general overturning of the world'a third time. And then, after that, the Grecian empire was over thrown by the Romans, and the Roman empire was established; which vastly exceeded all the foregoing empires in pow. er and extent of dominion. And so the world was overturned the fourth time.
These several monarchies, and the great revolutions of the world under them, are abundantly spoken of in the prophecies of Daniel. They are represented in Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold, silver, brass, and iron; and Daniel's interpretation of it, in the second chapter of Daniel ; and then in Daniel's vision of the four beasts, and the angel's interpretation of it in the seventh chapter of Daniel. And the succession of the Per
sian and Grecian monarchies is more particularly represented in the 8th chapter in Daniel's vision of the ram and the he goat, and again in the 11th chapter of Daniel.
And beside these four general overturnings of the world, the world was kept in a constant tumult between whiles : Anđ indeed the world was as it were in a continual convulsion through this whole period till Christ came. Before this period, the face of the earth was comparatively in quietness : Though there were many great wars among the nations, yet we read of no such mighty and universal convulsions and overturnings as there were in this period. The nations of the world, most of them, had long remained on their lees as it were, without being emptied from vessel to vessel, as is said of Moab, Jer. xlyiii. 11. Now these great overturnings were because the time of the great Messiah drew nigh. That they were to prepare the way for Christ's coming, is evident by scripture, particularly by Ezek. xxi. 27. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is, and I will give it him.” The prophet, by repeating the word overturn three times, has respect to three overturnings, as in the Revelation, viii. 13. The repetition of the word wo three times, signifies three distince woes; as appears by what follows, ix. 12. “One wo is past ;" and xi. 14, “ The second wo is past, and behold the third wo cometh quickly."
It must be noted, that the prophet Ezekiel prophesied in the time of the Babylonish captivity ; and therefore there were three great and general overturnings of the world to come after this prophecy, before Christ came; the first by the Persians, the second by the Grecians, the third by the Romans; and then after that, Christ, whose right it was to take the diadem, and reign, should come. Here these great overturnings are evidently spoken of, as preparatory to the coming and kingdom of Christ. But to understand the words aright, we must note the particular expression, “I will overturn, overtum, overturn it." i. e. the diadem and crown of Israel, or the supreme temporal dominion over God's visible people. This God said should be no more, i, e, the crown should be
taken off, and the diadem removed, as it is said in the foregoing verse. The supreme power over Israel should be no more in the royal line of David, to which it properly belonged, but should be removed away, and given to others, and overturned from one to another : First the supreme power over Israel should be in the hands of the Persians; and then it should be overturned again ; and then it should be in the hands of the Grecians; and then it should be overturned again, and come into the hands of the Romans, and should be no more in the line of David, till that very person should come, that was the son of David, whose proper right it was, and then God would give it to him.
That those great shakings and revolutions of the nations of the world were all to prepare the way for Christ's coming and setting up his kingdom in the world, is further manifest by Haggai, ii. 6,7. “ For thus saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land : And I will shake all nations, ; and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts." And again, ver. 21, 22 and 23. It is evident by this, that these great revolutions and shakings of the nations, whereby the thrones of kingdoms, and armies were overthrown, and every one came down by the sword of his brother, were to prepare the way for the coming of him who is the desire of all nations.
The great changes and troubles that have sometimes been in the visible church of Christ, are in Rev. xii. 2, compared to the church's being in travail to bring forth Christ ; so these great troubles and mighty revolutions that were in the world before Christ was born, were, as it were, the world's being in travail to bring forth the Son of God. The apostle, in the 8th of Romans, represents the whole creation as groaning and travailing in pain together until now, to bring forth the liber, erty and manifestation of the children of God. So the world as it were travailed in pain, and was in continual conyulsions for several hundred years together, to bring forth the first born child, and the only begotten Son of God. And those mighty revolutions were as so many pangs and throes in order
to it. The world being so long a time kept in a state of war and bloodshed, prepared the way for the coming of the Prince of Peace, as it showed the great need the world stood in of such a prince to deliver the world from its miseries.
It pleased God to order it in his providence, that earthly power and dominion should be raised to its greatest height, and appear in its utmost glory, in those four great monarchies that succeeded one another, and that every one should be greater and more glorious than the preceding, before he set up the kingdom of his Son. By this it appeared how much more glorious his spiritual kingdom was than the most glorious temporal kingdom. The strength and glory of Satan's kingdom in these four mighty monarchies, appeared in its greatest height : For those monarchies were the monarchies of the Heathen world, and so the strength of them was the strength of Satan's kingdom God suffered Satan's kingdom to rise to so great a height of power and magnificence before his Son came to overthrow it, to prepare the way for the more glorious triumph of his Son. Goliath must have on all his splendid armor when the stripling David comes against him with a sling and a stone, for the greater glory of David's victory. God suffered one of those great monarchies to subdue another, and erect itself on the other's ruins, appearing still in greater strength, and the last to be the strongest and mightiest of all: That so Christ, in overthrowing that, might as it were overthrow them all at once; as the stone, cut out of the mount: ain without hands, is represented as destroying the whole image, the gold, the silver, the brass, the iron, and the clay; so that all became as the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
These mighty empires were suffered thus to overthrow the world, and destroy one another : And though their power was so great, yet they could not uphold themselves, but fell one after another, and came to nothing, even the last of them, that was the strongest, and had swallowed up the earth. It pleased God thus to show in them the instability and vanity of all earthly power and greatness; which served as a foil to set forth the glory of the kingdom of his Son, which never shall pe destroyed, as appears by Dan. ii. 44. “ In the days of these Vol. II.