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ELEMENTS OF PROPHECY.
the nobility blotted out with sanguinary violence, and all subordinate powers cast to the ground.” (Latter Days, pp. 98, 101).
Here, then, we see a Futurist, with no chronology to violate, who is led, by comparing scripture with scripture, to that precise view, which, in the Protestant interpreters, Mr. Maitland ridicules as a “gross insult to common sense." The ridicule and sarcasm, therefore, in this case, prove only a very superficial acquaintance with the subject in debate.
2. Mr. Tyso, in his “ Elucidation of the Prophecies," gives a portentous list of forty-seven dates assigned to the 1,260 days, by different authors, and this in disproof of the year-day theory. “By these it will be seen (he adds), that no two of them agree in the same date Decisive time has proved thirty-two of them mistaken."
Now, of the forty-five authors adduced, three are Literalists, and seven reject the year-day theory. Of the rest, five at least agree in one date, three respectively in two others, and two in several. Stranger still, out of thirty-six authors, whose dates, Mr. Tyso says, have been disproved by time, no less than twenty-three assigned those dates after the events. It is plain then, that, whatever has refuted them, time has not. And yet statements so utterly rash and careless are one main reason brought forward by this writer to justify a total rejection of the Protestant interpreters.
3. Dr. Todd asserts, as we have seen, that the expositions of Dan. xi. are throughout so discordant, as to prove that the whole is unfulfilled. 6. The most eminent theologians have laboured upon it, and laboured, as their disagreement proves, in vain." Now, on the nineteen first verses, not one variety of exposition, of any importance, can be found, from the time of Jerome down to the present day; and in the eleven which follow,
not above three or four dissentients appear, except the present writers. Hence Mr. Mac Causland, a thorough Futurist, honestly declares, with scarce an hyperbole, that “the universal assent of mankind has been accorded to the interpretation.”
But the rashness of Dr. Todd's assertion will be manifest in a still clearer light from the following quotation. That very interpretation, which the Futurist divine reckons so obscure as to prove the prophecy unfulfilled, Gibbon, the infidel, affirms to be so plain as to prove that the prophecy was written after the event. Let us hear his own words:
" The author of the book of Daniel is too well informed of the revolutions of the Persian and Macedonian empires, which are supposed to have happened long after his death. He is too ignorant of the transactions of his own times. In a word, he is too exact for a prophet, and too fabulous for a contemporary historian.
“ The first of these objections was urged fifteen hundred years ago, by the celebrated Porphyry. He carefully illustrated the distinct and accurate series of history contained in the book of Daniel, as far as the death of Antiochus Epiphanes; for beyond that period the author seems to have had no other guide than the shadowy light of conjecture. The four empires are clearly delineated: the expedition of Xerxes into Greece; the rapid conquest of Persia by Alexander ; his untimely death, without posterity; the division of his monarchy into four kingdoms, one of which, Egypt, is mentioned by name; their various wars and intermarriages; the persecution of Antiochus; the profanation of the temple; and the invincible arms of the Romans, are described with as much clearness in the prophecies of Daniel, as in the histories of Justin and Diodorus. From such a perfect resemblance the artful infidel would infer, that both alike were composed after the event.”. See Gibbon's Letter to Bishop Hurd (Hurd's Works, vol. v., p. 365).
This one passage alone, with every thoughtful mind, must annihilate the pretensions of the Donnellan lec
turer as a sound or wise interpreter of prophecy. The exact correspondence between the vision and the facts of history, which is plain to the eyes even of the infidel, to his far more sceptical vision appears. faint and obscure; and while not only Christian interpreters, but unbelievers themselves, from the third down to the eighteenth century, are agreed in the meaning, Dr. Todd ventures to assert, that the discordance is so great as to prove the prediction unfulfilled! The points which are specified by Gibbon, for their historical plainness, are all, without one exception, denied by the Futurist divine, on the vain pretence of their impenetrable obscurity.
III. THE MODERN ORIGIN OF THE PROTESTANT INTERPRETATIONS is a third presumption brought against them.. So Mr. Burgh, L. Adv., p. 56; Mr. Tyso, Pref., and p. 68; and Dr. Todd, Lect. on Ant., pp. 28-35. One passage from the last of these writers will be sufficient to explain the nature of the charge:
“ In endeavouring to ascertain the true sense and import of these prophecies, it is natural to inquire how they were received and understood in the primitive Church. The opinion's entertained by ancient Christian expositors must always be regarded as of great importance, not only as having existed before the great theological controversies that have so warped the judgment of modern commentators, but because it is reasonable to think that they, who were but a few generations removed from the Apostles, may have preserved some light, which has since been extinguished.
Certain, however, it is, that, in the interpretation of the prophecies relating to antichrist and the latter times, the ancient Church were much more nearly unanimous than we have been since the introduction of the controversial expositions, wherein the contending parties have sought only to discover their theological opponents in the antichrist or apostasy foretold. It is true there are points in the ancient opinions about antichrist which I am far from undertaking to defend ; but, setting these
aside, there are certain great and leading outlines in which the primitive Church is agreed; and it is admitted by the most learned and zealous defenders of the modern system of interpretation, that, until about the twelfth century, the conclusions wbich they have drawn from the prophecies were utterly unknown to the Church."
A few remarks will expose the real emptiness of this objection, however plausible it may appear at first sight.
1. First, out of the eleven axioms of Protestant interpretation before given, the four first, which are the basis of the rest, have the full and unbroken concurrence of the early Church; while the view of the Futurists on three out of the four is flatly opposed to all primitive tradition.
2. The doctrine which is most open to the charge of novelty, and against which the Futurists aim their chief assault, is the year-day theory, or the mystical interpretation of the 1,260 days. Now, to judge of the weight of this objection, we must first examine the nature of the year-day theory, as maintained by its sounder advocates. Viewed as an hypothesis, it rests on two certain facts and one assumption.
(1). That the Church of Christ was designed to be kept in a continual expectation of the Saviour's speedy return, as the full object of her hope, and the continual motive to diligence and watchfulness. This is plain from numerous passages of Scripture.
(2). That, in the wisdom of God, a long season, as man would account it, of more than eighteen hundred years was to elapse, before the fit and appointed time would be come for that glorious revelation. This is clear from the event alone.
(3). That to sustain this hope to the end, when the lapse of centuries had obscured it, an interval of about two-thirds of its length, and forming its latest portion,
was announced under a form which partially veiled its meaning ; so that, while unintelligible till events began to explain it, it might afterwards, as the time drew nigh, be clearly interpreted on principles drawn from Scripture itself. This assumption is in complete harmony with the two previous facts, and with the actual length of the prophetic period. It is also strongly confirmed by the analogy of the seventy weeks of Daniel, which occupy about three-fourths of the space between Cyrus and the fall of the second temple.
From these two facts, and this one postulate, it would plainly result
First, that this figurative sense of the 1,260 days, even if true, could not possibly be received in the Church till the close of the twelfth century, or within one generation from the close of the period, supposing its commencement to be dated from the birth of Christ. To ante-date it still further) would be manifestly absurd, though natural enough up to this limit.
Secondly, that for three centuries, at least, after its appearance, the notion could only be held vaguely and partially, and rather as a floating suspicion than a fixed doctrine; because, for three centuries after Christ, there would be no events answering to those by which the prophecy describes and marks out the commencement of this period.
Thirdly, that after this time the mystical exposition would be held with greater consistency and firmness; because its commencement might be placed in times of plain corruption and partial apostasy in the Church, without its close becoming so distant as to destroy,
instead of sustaining, the expectation of our Lord's speedy return. Still we might infer from the first maxim that there would be repeated anticipations of the true date.
Now such are the precise facts which history presents