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individual Nebuchadnezzar exclusively. however, expounds it to be the Babylonian empire, and Mr. Maitland, the Babylonian and Persian empires viewed together as a single monarchy.
Secondly, on Dan. ix., Mr. Maitland “holds it plain from the event that the seventy weeks' are sevens of years, or that the period is 490 years.” Mr. Burgh reckons the sixty-two weeks as past; but the seven weeks are future in his first edition, and past in the second. Dr. Todd " is not convinced that the first part even is fulfilled;" while Mr. Tyso is convinced that the whole period is 490 days, and future.
Thirdly, on Dan. xi. 1-20, Dr. Todd asserts that “the disagreement of commentators," and their “ widely discordant systems," prove it to be altogether future. But Mr. Mac Causland declares that “the unanimous concurrence of commentators," and the “universal assent of mankind,” show “the precision and accuracy of the prediction," and "guarantee the truth of its fulfilment."
Fourthly, Mr. Mac Causland regards the passage, Luke xxi. 8-24, as an indisputable announcement of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus," and quite distinct from those in Matt. xxiv, and Mark xiii., which he maintains to be future, Mr. Burgh, on the other hand, and Maramensis, another Futurist, use the passage in St. Luke as one main argument to prove the prediction St. Matthew and St. Mark unfulfilled ; nay, Mr. Burgh calls the opposite view “one of the interpretations made out for the year-day theory !"
What egregious self-contradiction is here! Surely these ultra-literalists are bent on securing, for one prediction at least, a figurative fulfilment; for there is not one stone laid on another in the temple of prophecy which they do not strive to throw down. II. THE DISCORDANCE OF PROTESTANT INTER
PRETERS is the second presumption brought against the truth of their views. See, for instance, Attempt &c., p. 22; First Enq., pp. 48-56; Burgh. Lect. Apoc., pp. 39-44; Donnellan Lect., pp. 136, 137; Mac Causl. Latt. D., pp. 13, 14.
This objection is very plausible and popular, and well adapted to leave a deep impression upon superficial minds. The Futurists, who urge it, are open, indeed, to a crushing rejoinder: but at present I will only make a few remarks, that seem directly to meet the objection, and prove its weakness.
Supposing, then, that the general principle of the received interpretations is true, and that the visions of Daniel and St. John range over two thousand years, what is the degree of accordance that could be reasonably looked for among the Protestant expositors ? If, in fact, they fall short of this, there is a solid presumption against their theory, but not otherwise. The following points need, therefore, to be carefully weighed.
1. The prophecies themselves, on this view, reach through more than half the time of the world's history; and this, too, the half which is by far the most eventful to the Church, including the rejection of the Jews, the call of the Gentiles, the restoration of Israel, and both advents of the Messiah. This wide range of the prophecies would alone warrant us to expect considerable variety, even supposing the main hypothesis to be true.
2. The number of distinct predictions is very great; those of Daniel alone include at least one hundred and twenty particulars, and those of the Apocalypse more than twice the number. How, then, without a miracle, could there fail to be many and great diversities, among the soundest expositors, where the predictions are so numerous and the events have so wide a range?
3. These prophecies are chiefly symbolical. The
whole of nature thus becomes a divine language to express the various events of Providence. Now the language of parables, as Christ himself teaches, excludes the careless from knowledge, while it is doubly instructive to the faithful inquirer; we might reasonably expect increased variety of judgment and interpretation from this cause.
4. The Apocalypse is full of typical allusions to other Scriptures, on which the true exposition very greatly depends. Extensive knowledge of the word of God, and a close attention to these allusions, are eminently needful, before a successful interpretation can be given. Here is another source of mistakes, and therefore of discordance.
5. Some of these prophecies, or parts of them, are declared to be sealed till the time of the end. This of itself seems to imply that the knowledge of them would not at once be given to the Church, but gradually in the latter times. Here we have a further explanation of the divergence of interpreters. The divine purpose of revealing the prophecies by degrees could not otherwise have been fulfilled. Thus Sir Isaac Newton observes “ All this is as much as to say that these prophecies of Daniel and John should not be understood till the time of the end: but then some should prophecy out of them in an afflicted and mournful state for a long time, and darkly, so as to convert but few; but, in the very end, the prophecy should be so far interpreted as to convince many. • Then (saith Daniel) many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. It is, therefore, a part of this prophecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of the world; and therefore it makes for the credit of the prophecy that it is not yet understood. But if the age of opening these things be now approaching, as by the great successes of late interpreters it
seems to be, we have more encouragement than ever to look into these things.”
We may here observe, in passing, how far this cautious reasoner was from adopting the rash conclusion of those who would infer, from partial discordance, universal error. Those who have traced carefully the progress of interpretation since his time, will see in it a fresh proof of the correctness of his judgment.
6. The interpreters whose discordance is made the ground of objection are scattered over many countries, and through nearly four centuries, are extremely various in their habits of thought, and differ widely in piety, power of thought, and soundness of judgment. When to this we add all the previous causes of divergence, can it be surprising that several schools of interpretation should exist, and that each should include many partial variations ?
No presumption, therefore, can justly lie against the Protestant interpretation, unless it can be shown that, in the most popular and approved expositors, there has been no general approach to a fixed interpretation of the ymbols, and to definite results in their historical application. But, after perusing more than thirty of the most noted, from the Reformation downwards, I assert, without hesitation, that the reverse is true—that a gradual progress towards fixed and consistent interpretation does exist, and may be traced by any one who reads them, not to cavil at their mistakes, but to learn the true meaning of God's word. But besides this fact, which many perhaps are unable to confirm for themselves, I will adduce two or three of a simpler kind. These will show the little reliance that can be placed on the judgment of the Futurists, when their object is to expose the discord of Protestant interpreters.
1. Mr. Burgh and Mr. Maitland dwell at length on
the numerous expositions given of the seals. This is natural, since on that subject the divergence of opinion is great. The symbols themselves, indeed, would lead us to expect it: they are silent and voiceless, and bear many tokens of peculiar mystery. But Mr. Maitland proceeds further to ridicule the symbolical expositions of the sixth seal as a gross insult to common sense. ” “ To be sure (he says of one of them), if we may go so far from the plain letter of Scripture, it may easily admit of any construction. Surely, if these prophecies are holy Scripture, it is high time that the common sense of the Christian Church should be aroused to seek after some interpretation which may do less violence to the word of God.” (Att., p., 22). In short, nothing but the danger of “ violating the chronology” of a system, in Mr. Maitland's view, could have led to so absurd an exposition.
Now, of the two Futurists who have expounded this chapter, and who of course have no
“ chronology” to warp their judgment, one maintains spontaneously that precise interpretation of the symbols which Mr. Maitland rejects as absurd.
Mr. Mac Causland reasons
“ From these prophetic descriptions of the overthrow and annihilation of the several political communities of Babylon, Idumea, and Egypt, and which are for the most part identical in expression with the passage of the Revelations, we may collect, in the first place, that the scene pourtrayed in the opening of the sixth seal is symbolical ; and, in the next place, that the purport of it is. the subversion of the existing powers, and the desolation of their seals of empire; and that therefore the sun, moon, and stars, &c., are emblematic of those things which are to be shaken." - Such, then, is the probable purport of the symbols--constituted authority deposed,