« PreviousContinue »
pleted the re-constitution of Jerusalem, is the expulsion of Manasseh by Nehemiah, in the high priesthood of Joiada, or after B.C. 413. It must, therefore, have been in the course of the seventh week from B.C. 458, and probably near its end.
(9). The last week is the part of the prophecy which has caused the most embarrassment. It is plainly necessary, in its interpretation, to admit either a breach of eontinuity in the seventy weeks, or an inversion of the regular order in the clauses of the prediction. But the doubt or obscurity which hangs over this part, which may, perhaps, as Primasius long ago suggested, be still future, cannot affect the previous clauses of the vision.
(10). The general coincidence of the prediction with the events is therefore plain, on either view of the chronology. The improbability of such a double coincidence, as occurs on either hypothesis, is, on a moderate calculation, more than twelve hundred to one; and hence both the true significance of the weeks, and the fulfilment of the greater part of the prophecy, rests on the most solid and convincing evidence.
It is one strange and mysterious feature of the present times, that Christian writers should be found who cast aside the universal judgment of the Church from the beginning, on passages the most vital to the faith of Christ; and this apparently from no other cause than their own inability to explain fully its minor details. The prophecy of the seventy weeks has, from the first, been reckoned among the most conspicuous testimonies to the sufferings of Christ and his rejection by his own people. The leading outlines of the prediction are eminently clear, and their correspondence with the history of our Lord and the calamities of the Jews is
of the most striking character. To scatter doubts and suspicions against a truth so evident, because we have, not the patience to decide on the minuter details of. chronology, nor discernment enough to fix each clause of the prophecy in its true place, is nothing less than to overturn the pillars of the Christian faith in order to rear an altar to our own pride. Such rash speculations cannot fail to produce the most deplorable effects, if ever they shall obtain a wide currency in the Church. Already a large class of divines, in their zeal for tradition, decry, as rationalistic and presumptuous,all reliance on the internal evidence of divine truth. A second class, we have seen, have busied themselves in attempting to prove that the supposed fulfilments of Scripture prophecy are deceptive and untrue. Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation, and our Lord's own prophecy, are, in their view, entirely unfulfilled. The plainest correspondence between the predictions and events can be boldly explained into the mere effect of dishonest artifice, and those who are less incredulous derided for their amusing simplicity. With such principles, what anchor is left for the faith of the Church ? These writers, or most of them, profess to believe that, in the last days, lying signs and wonders will be permitted to appear. And what a fearful preparation have they unconsciously made for the wide success of those awful delusions, whenever they may arise! The school of tradition, under pretence of exploding rationalism, will have cut off all appeal to moral and internal evidence. The Futurists, on the other hand, will have done their utinost to sweep away the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. The evidence of miracles alone will be left to us; but how should antiquated miracles, two thousand years ago, counteract the present impression of Satanic wonders ? Those
who have adopted, on trust, the declamations of the “ Tracts for the Times" against the internal evidence of the Gospel, and, along with these, the maxims of the Futurists, will be left as hopeless victims, bound hand and foot, and surrendered to the spirit of delusion, whenever the last Antichrist shall seek to build his empire on the ruins of the Christian faith.
BEFORE passing from the prophecies of Daniel to those of the New Testament, there are some general maxims to be drawn from the interpretations already established, which have a most important bearing on the parts that remain still in dispute. These laws of interpretation I will now endeavour briefly to unfold, as they result, by an easy induction, from the previous steps of this inquiry.
I. THE LAW OF DEPARTURE is the first of the maxims which are established by the facts that have been already proved. It may be thus stated: “Every detailed prophecy must be viewed as commencing with the chief present or next preceding event, at the time when it is given, unless direct proof to the contrary can be brought forward." The vision of the great image was given at the commencement of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, and it opens with the empire of Babylon in the height of its power. The next vision, of the four beasts, dates from the first year of Belshazzar; and it opens with the same empire of Babylon, but its first prophetic action is the plucking of the eagle wings of the lion. The third vision, of the ram, was in the third year of Belshazzar, and the seventh of Cyrus in Persia ; and it opens with the triumphant conquests of this latter prince. The prophecy of the Scripture of truth was in the third year of Cyrus at Babylon; and it opens with the reign of that prince, as successor to Darius, and with a retro
spective allusion to the first year of Darius, which was only four years previous. Lastly, the prophecy of the seventy weeks, though it actually commences with the decree of Artaxerxes, yet begins virtually with the decree of Cyrus, only two years after its own date. For it is plain, that before the event, that decree, from its general accordance with the terms of the prophecy, and as forming the close of the captivity, would be viewed by the faithful Israelites as the probable date of the main term; and, therefore, is practically, if not strictly, included in the prophecy. And the actual date itself is only eighty years later than the vision--a short period when compared with the range of the predicted events.
These five visions of Daniel all concur, therefore, in suggesting the maxim of interpretation I have given above: and the same conclusion may be drawn from the reason of the case alone. In fact, if the commencement of an historical prophecy were to be taken indefinitely, backward or forward, we shall have scarce any means whatever of fixing its true interpretation. The correspondence of one single event with the terms of the prophecy can, in very few cases, be so striking and decisive as to insure, of itself, the truth of the application. We are left in just the same uncertainty with the pilot who has nothing but the ship’s way to guide him, and yet is ignorant of the place from which the vessel but last parted. Every reason that can be assigned for the revelation of these prophecies to the Church concurs with the testimony of fact in establishing this first law of interpretation.
II. THE LAW OF CONTINUITY is the second general maxim which may be derived from the previous inquiry. Each prophecy of Daniel, so far as we have at present traced its certain meaning, proceeds in continuous order,