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and express :
examine the second.
66 There is no reason to suppose any part excepted" from the application to the last times. Two arguments in reply will be sufficient.
First, the whole vision of the great image is said to be “what shall come to pass in the latter days." Now the prophet himself expounds the first part of that.vision to denote the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, the actual ruler of Babylon: and it is plain that the vision proceeds from that point of time, in regular order, to the second advent. The phrase here is exactly the same. We have thus the best of all reasons for rejecting Dr. Todd's exposition of the phrase, and that reason is, an inspired comment supplied by the former prophecy. In the next place, the words of the angel are clear
66 There will stand up yet three kings in Persia." The expression admits only of one meaning, without direct and evident perversion. It must denote the three kings next in succession to Cyrus, who was then reigning. It is not only an enormous license, but a flat contradiction of the text, to suppose that three and twenty centuries intervene.
Further, by comparing verses 13, 20, and 21 of chap.x. with verses 2 and 3 of chap. xi., it will be plain that the earthly warfare in the opening of the prophecy is viewed as a direct result of the heavenly or spiritual conflict there revealed. Now this had already begun. It follows that the earthly events of the prediction must also follow close on the time when the prophet wrote.
Both the premises, then, in this third objection, are equally untrue, and opposed to the plain and repeated statements of holy writ.
4. The description of the mighty king is made the next difficulty. “It should be observed (Dr. Todd remarks) that the mighty king is not said to be a Grecian potentate; for aught that appears, he may be a fifth king of The great
Persia; and the opinion which seeks to identify him with Alexander rests altogether on the supposed analogy between this prophecy and the vision of the ram and the goat, where the power symbolized by the great horn of the goat is expressly said to be the first king of Grecia” (p. 170).
This objection is in the worst style of controversy, as if the sole aim of the writer were to perplex the subject, and not to ascertain the truth. “ The opinion rests altogether on a supposed analogy." Does the Lecturer deny the analogy to be real ? Far from it. Does he even think it doubtful ? No; he speaks of it elsewhere as very certain.
Has he forgotten his own admissions ? They form the very basis of his own arguments in part of this same Lecture. “We may observe (he says) a very remarkable correspondence between the structure of this prophecy and the vision of the ram horn of the goat represented in the vision a powerful king, &c. In the angel's prophecy an exact parallel is found for these facts. A mighty king, we read, shall stand up, &c. The circumstance last mentioned is particularly to be noted, as supplying a minute and remarkable point of coincidence between the two prophecies
.... Thus, then, it appears that the same general outline of prophetic history is very plainly given in the two predictions” (pp. 140-142).
The supposed analogy; then, Dr. Todd himself being judge, is a very remarkable correspondence, an exact parallel, a minute and remarkable coincidence, a very plain proof of identity. The objection to the common exposition is, in fact, that it explains the prophecy in exact agreement with what the Lecturer owns to be its unquestionable meaning.
5. The mention of the fourth king supplies another difficulty. “The unbiassed reader would naturally infer from the words of the prophecy, if we date its com
mencement from the time when it was, given, that, between Cyrus and the mighty king, four kings only were to sit on the Persian throne. Yet the murder of Xerxes, the fourth, took place more than a century before the accession of Alexander, and in this interval there reigned no less than nine sovereigns" (p. 171).
There is a curious feature of self-contradiction in most of Dr. Todd's objections. Before, when he was expounding the vision of the image, the four ordinals, all given at length, were so pliable, that they would allow a gap of two thousand years in the midst of the succession ; and the fourth kingdom might denote the fortieth, or, if needful, the four hundreth, in actual order. Now, one single ordinal is grown so expressive as not only to fix its own place, but to exclude the very existence of a fifth or sixth king. Such slippery reasoning does not deserve a refutation.
But, in fact, it is not the unbiassed, it is only the superficial reader, who will draw the inference of which the Lecturer speaks from this passage. The empire of Persia is described to us as at its height of prosperity and greatness under the fourth king, and not as close upon extinction and ruin. The natural inference of a thoughtful reader would be, that other kings were to follow, but that their reigns would be inglorious, and the empire in a rapid decline. For perhaps none of the great empires which appear in history, except that, of Napoleon, ever passed from its height of power to a total overthrow within the lifetime of one sovereign.
6. “St. Jerome (it is further objected) assigns an awkward reason for the omission of these nine kingsthat the prophetic spirit was not careful to follow the order of history, but to touch on each principal evento This is a most dangerous rule to lay down in the interpretation of prophecy.”
What a fatality is here of self-contradiction. No one.
commentator, perhaps, uses, or rather abuses, this principle to such an extent as Dr. Todd himself. His own free license in this respect throws Jerome completely into the shade; for he makes gaps and omissions in the prophecies, not of one century, but of two thousand years, and maintains that the spirit of prophecy does not even care "præclara quæque perstringere." If the rule of Jerome be dangerous, what term shall describe the practice of his censor ?
Even in the restricted form, however, in which Jerome presents it, the admission is overstated. The order of history is strictly observed : and even the seeming break disappears, when we regard this prophecy in its true light, as an inspired comment on the vision of the ram; for in that vision there is no break, but the continuity is preserved. The other character, of “touching on the principal events,” is shared by the inspired prophets with every human historian.
But “it would not be easy, on such a principle, to explain why Cambyses, Smerdis, and Darius were mentioned, rather than some who are left out." I reply, first, that no commentator is bound to explain everything; and, besides proving that the prediction agrees with the events of history, to explain why that prediction itself was not more brief or more full. In the present case, however, there is a reason conspicuous enough. The three first kings are mentioned to fix the place of the fourth: and the expedition of Xerxes is singled out for notice because it was the climax of the Persian empire, and the crisis from which it began to fall; and, perhaps, too, the most celebrated event in all profane history.
7. The division of Alexander's kingdom has been already considered. There is one note, however, on the subject, in this Lecture, which requires some remark, and
which would have seemed more in place in the pages of Voltaire :
“In the mean time I shall only say, that the discrepancies and deficiencies of the original historians have made it less difficult for commentators to shape the history to their peculiar interpretations of the prophecy. This, Bishop Newton unwittingly confesses, with amusing simplicity. There is not (he says) so concise and comprehensive an account of their affairs to be found in any author of those times. The prophecy is really more perfect than any history. No one historian has related so many circumstances, and in such exact order, as the prophecy has foretold them; so that it was necessary to have recourse to several authors, Greek and Roman, Jewish and Christian, for the better explaining the great variety of particulars. In this way the prophecy has been used to give a colour to the history; and the history is then employed as evidence for the interpretation of the prophecy."
The study of prophecy is indeed brought to a strange pass, when a Christian divine can boldly ridicule a bishop of his own Church for refusing to be more sceptical than infidels themselves. For what are almost the next words of the bishop's statement ? “This exactness (he adds) was so convincing, that even Porphyry could not pretend to deny it." The abilities of Porphyry, however, are here far surpassed by the Donnellan Lecturer. He can ridicule the bishop for “amusing simplicity” because he asserts that correspondence of the facts and the prediction which both Porphyry and Gibbon were compelled to own.
But let us analyze the assertion. “The discrepancies of the historians have made it easier to shape the events to the interpretation." The statement is utterly baseless and unwarrantable. The historians of those times are come down to us chiefly in fragments; but their testimony, so far as it survives, is in almost unbroken harmony with each other and with the prophecy. For