Page images
PDF
EPUB

it is impossible to interpret with any certainty or assurance of truth. For if we admit that ten or twenty centuries may pass before one clause is fulfilled, how shall we be assured, by any resemblance of a few events at that time, that the seeming correspondence is not delusive, and that twenty or thirty centuries more have not to elapse before the true fulfilment? Where sound reason and ascertained facts teach the same lesson, we may safely lay down the following rule-Every symbolic prophecy is to be viewed as commencing from the time when it is given, or at least from the nearest main event, unless some strong reason to the contrary can be assigned.

3. The character of the symbols is another instructive feature in this prophecy. The empires of the world were first presented to the Gentile monarch as an image of terrible brightness-a fit emblem of their aspect to a worldly eye, and which conveyed also a secret warning of their idolatrous departure from the truth of God. Next to the inspired prophet the same empires are exhibited as beasts of prey, to denote the cruelty, ambition, and persecuting spirit by which they would be characterized to a fearful extent, until the redemption of the world's kingdoms and Messiah's visible reign. But now the second and third of those empires are represented by fresh animals, the ram and the goat-not beasts of prey, but animals for sacrifice. The main reason seems to be, that both these empires are here directly introduced as favouring the Jews, and restoring or promoting the temple sacrifices. With regard to Cyrus, whose conquests are mainly prominent in the history of the ram, this is plain from Scripture alone, and applies also to Darius and Artaxerxes, his succes

And with regard to Alexander, who is equally prominent as the notable or conspicuous horn of the

sors.

goat, the same appears from Josephus (Antiq. ch. 8). The passage deserves to be quoted, as it illustrates the whole subject. After mention of the dream of Alexander, in which he saw a person, habited like the high priest, inviting him to the conquest of Asia, it proceeds thus

" When he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priest ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrin fice to God, according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the other priests. And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was glad therewith, be dismissed the multitude for the present, but the next day called them to him, and bid them ask what favours they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefachers, and pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired ; and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do what they requested.”

It is clear that the present vision was the prophecy referred to, since this alone contains the direct statement: “ The rough goat is the king of Grecia, and the great horn is the first king." We have, therefore, both the evident seal of God's providence attesting the application to Alexander, and a simple explanation why the emblems here adopted are animals of sacrifice.

4. The main outline of the vision, as revealed to the prophet by the angel, should also be carefully observed. The empire of Babylon was already in its decline, and Daniel had twice been shown that another was to succeed. The name of Cyrus had been predicted as the deliverer of the Jews from Babylon, in prophecies with which he was familiar, and must by this time have risen into threatening notoriety at the court of Belshazzar. When the vision, therefore, described the conquests of the ram, and the angel expounded it of the kings of Media and Persia, the prophet would at once perceive what power was denoted by the breast and arms of silver, and the second beast like a bear, and apply the words to their true and immediate object-Darius the Mede, and Cyrus, with the conjoint empire which they were actually rearing.

Again, at the date of this vision the temple was in ruins, and its offerings had long ceased. The words of the heavenly dialogue would therefore plainly teach him that there was to be a time of restitution, followed by a second desolation, at the close of which the sanctuary was to be finally cleansed. The prophet might, however, be slow to apprehend the fact of such a renewed indignation of God against his favoured people. Hence all the words of the angel are adapted to impress this truth on his mind. “ Understand, O son of man, for the vision is until the time of the end." "I will make thee know what shall be in the future time of the indignation; for it will be unto the time of the end." "Shut up the vision, for it will be for many days.” The part of the prophecy which relates to the second dispersion, till the first restoration was completed, and national sins were again threatening to bring down repeated and still heavier judgments, was naturally to be shut up till a latter time. Such is the clear and simple explanation of the words of Gabriel to the prophet; and it is plain how far they are from giving any countenance to the strange theory of the lecturer.

To sum up the whole inquiry, there is perhaps no part of God's word, the true meaning of which is established by a stronger and fuller combination of internal and external evidence than the verses I have now examined.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

The authority of every age of the Church; the consent-
ing judgments of Infidels, Jews, and Christians; the
full evidence of profane and sacred bistory, and signal
mercies conveyed through the prophecy to God's ancient
people, all combine to seal the reality and truth of the
fulfilment. To assail an interpretation established on
such solid evidence with rash and frivolous objections,
is no light offence against the cause of our holy religion.
Its certain tendency will be, to spread through the
Church a habit of superficial and presumptuous scepti-
cism, and to prepare thousands and tens of thousands
for open apostasy from the faith, in that approaching
hour of temptations which is coming upon the whole
world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."

[merged small][ocr errors]

CHAPTER V.

SUPPLEMENTARY OBJECTIONS.

BEFORE proceeding to the next vision, there are two further objections which it seems desirable to remove; though, since they are drawn from the later part of the previous visions, they properly belong to a further stage of this inquiry. These are the alleged identity of the two little horns, and the use of the word kings as equivalent to kingdoms. I will now examine them in succes. sion.

III. THE TWO LITTLE HORNS.

The following extract will show the nature of Dr. Todd's argument :

“ But, as we have already seen, there exists no reason whatsoever for supposing the fourth beast of the former vision to be the Roman empire; nor have commentators been able to discover in the Roman power the marks attributed in prophecy to the predicted kingdom. The more legitimate process of reasoning, therefore, would seem to be to inyert the argument, and to say, that since the identity of the two prophecies appears from a comparison of the prophecies themselves, and since it is expressly declared in one of them that the kingdom from which the little horn is to spring is not the Roman empire, therefore the kingdom from which the other little horn is to spring cannot be the Roman empire either."

The credulity of scepticism is proverbial, and the above paragraph is an instance. The application of the fourth beast to Rome, besides the concurrence of all ages of the Church, has been shown capable of strict demonstration from the sequence of the prophecy and from the words of Scripture alone. Dr. Todd, by his

« PreviousContinue »