Page images


[ocr errors]

besides, the phrase “four conspicuous horns" removes all semblance of truth from these two last objections.

4. The next objection is drawn from chap. xi.; but, as it relates to the same event, it is better to remove it at

It is, in short, that the king of the north (chap. xi.) ought, in propriety, to be the king of the northern division ; while yet commentators expound it to mean the king of the eastern section, or Syria.

The simple explanation is, that two of the kingdoms, the northern and eastern divisions, shortly coalesced into one. This, as I will show presently, is implied in the prophecy itself. After this union, the compound kingdom is called, in preference, the kingdom of the north, for three reasons—from its local position with regard to Judea, in contrast with the king of the south, and by way of distinction from the kingdoms east of the Euphrates. For the fact itself we have only to refer again to Venema: “Lysimachus lost both his life and kingdom in a decisive battle (against Seleucus) in Phrygia, at the plain of Cyrus, 5.c. 281."

5. The short continuance of the fourfold division is the sole difficulty that remains.

“Even with this modification it must be admitted, that within a period of twenty years the very semblance of a fourfold empire was at an end ; and it is surely difficult to conceive that an event so obscure, and which, after the utmost concessions, was of such short duration, can have been the fulfilment of a characteristic so prominently marked in three successive prophecies.”


Here again the visions themselves supply us with a complete answer. What do we there learn of the continuance of these four kingdoms? First, in chap. viii., one only of the four continues prominent to the end of the vision. Next, in chap. xi., two only have their history detailed-Egypt and the kingdom of the north. If the horn from which the little horn springs be the same with either of these, we shall have a twofold

division; if it be distinct from both, a threefold division. In either alternative, the prophecy itself implies the short continuance of the fourfold state. The latter view is that which I believe to be correct, and the vision will then exhibit the four kingdoms as presently resolving themselves into three. Now let us hear Venema's further account:

“From these continual waves of war, stirred up by Alexander's captains, there emerged three most eminent kingdoms, propagated for a long series of yearsthe Macedonian, which Ptolemy Ceraunus possessed after Seleucus, and which then lasted some time in the house of Demetrius; the Syro-Macedonian (xi. 5), founded by Seleucus Nicator; and the Egyptian (xi. 5-8), which Ptolemy Lagi founded and transmitted to his posterity.”

Thus the short continuance of the fourfold division is implied in the prophecy itself; and the division that succeeds, if we adopt the simplest hypothesis as to the ļittle horn, precisely accords with the facts of history.

6. The other part of the objection contrasts strangely with Dr. Todd's line of argument in the second Lecture.

There his object was to set aside at once all the historical interpretations of eighteen centuries, and his reasons were the following:

“We cannot without presumption take upon us to determine whether it may not suit the inscrutable designs of the Most High to pass over without notice ten or twenty centuries, and to crowd. into the events of a few short years the fulfilment of all that is foretold. To determine such questions is to assume that we have been admitted into the secret counsels of God, and that we are acquainted with all the ends he had in view in the revelation of futurity to man. Need I stop to point out the danger and presumption of such reasoning? Need I say that the writers who have adopted it have perverted, rather than interpreted, the oracles of God?” (p. 47).

Here his object is to multiply objections against one particular point in the received interpretations, and the argument is suddenly reversed :

“Within a period of twenty years the semblance of a fourfold empire was at an end; and surely it is difficult to conceive that an event of such short duration can have been the fulfilment of a characteristic so prominently marked in three successive prophecies." (p. 175).

This “prominent characteristic," in all the three prophecies together, occupies just fourteen words of the sacred text. Let us now contrast these two statements.

First, according to Dr. Todd, twenty years are a space of “ so short a duration,” that it is difficult to conceive fourteen words of the prophecy can have been fulfilled in them.

But, secondly, a few short years are an ample space for the fulfilment of all that is foretold. What is “ difficult to conceive” in the case of fourteen words, becomes quite easy and natural in the case of twice that number of chapters. If, in this latter instance, we express any doubt or scruple, Dr. Todd does not think it needful to spend one moment in refuting our dangerous presumption and conspicuous folly!

Surely every unprejudiced mind will exactly reverse the lecturer's conclusions. It is very easy to conceive that three short clauses, scarce amounting to a single verse, may have been fulfilled even within twenty years; and yet it must be highly improbable, and, without the strongest direct evidence, quite incredible, that the whole range of inspired prophecy in two whole books of the canon should be crushed and contracted within the same narrow bound. This would make it entirely overleap the grand outlines of God's providence upon the earth.

The words of Bossuet, slightly modified, apply strongly to such inconsistent objectors: “ Their reason, which they take for their guide, offers them only conjectures and difficulties : the mistakes into which they fall, in denying the fulfilment of the sacred visions, become

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

more intolerable than the truths whose vastness oppresses them; and, to avoid realizing the inconceivable grandeur of prophecy, they run one after the other into inconceivable absurdities.”

I have now examined every objection, and the final result may be thus stated. The first of them relates to the time of the end; and of three premises on which it rests, two are demonstrably false, and the third doubtful. The second relates to the succession of Media and Persia, and its sole basis is a direct misquotation of the prophecy, and a groundless view of the history. The third consists of a long and learned Appendix, to disprove the fourfold division of the Greek kingdom ; and a close examination of the very authorities alleged proves the entire exactness of the prophetic description. The fourth relates to the title, King of the North ; and another clause from Dr. Todd's own Appendix supplies a complete answer. The fifth and last objection is the short continuance of the four kingdoms, a fact implied in the prophecy itself; while the objection is based on an open contradiction of the lecturer's own assertions in another passage.

III. I will now close with a few general and less obvious remarks, which may help to illustrate the opening of this important vision.

1. The change in the dialect is the first remarkable feature in this prophecy. The preceding visions were in Chaldee, but in this and the following chapters the Hebrew is once more employed : and as nothing in the word of God is without a meaning, it is natural to inquire what light this change is designed to throw upon the object of the vision.

Now the former prophecies were not only given during the captivity, and one of them to Nebuchadnezzar himself, but their direct object was the history of the Gentile kingdoms until the reign of Messiah. Hence they were naturally given in Chaldee, the tongue of the ruling nation of the world. There is nothing in them which of itself has any peculiar reference to Israel. But with these remaining visions the case is different. We have mention in all three of the daily sacrifice and the sanctuary, and direct allusions to the history of the Jewish nation. The resumption of the Hebrew tongue is in full accordance with these features. We may infer that in these three last visions the history of God's providence is unfolded in special relation to the Jews and the land of Palestine. Accordingly, while the former visions follow the course of religion, civilization, and worldly power, from the east westward, these last have for their main theatre Palestine and the surrounding countries.

2. The point of departure is the next point observable. The first vision took place in the height of Nebuchadnezzar's power, and the prophecy begins with the empire of Babylon, described as universal. The second vision was in the first year of Belshazzar, and its first prophetic event is the plucking of the eagle-wings, which fitly denotes the shorn ambition and diminished power of the empire under that monarch. This third vision is in the third year of Belshazzar, which was the seventh of Cyrus in Persia, when that conqueror had just begun his career of victory.

His wonderful conquests are accordingly the first event described. Thus, in each case, the prophecy begins with the leading event of the time at which it is given. And, indeed, no other point of departure is so reasonable in itself, or so accordant with the great design of these inspired predictions, to show unto God's servants the things which must shortly come to pass. Once let us admit other points of commencement, at least, without very full and express evidence, and we plainly turn the prophecies into a chaos which

« PreviousContinue »