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without any considerable gap or omission. Thus the visions of the image and of the four beasts are continuous, at least for the respective intervals, B.c. 603— A.D. 320; and B.c. 535—a.d.320; or for eight or nine centuries in each case. The visions of the ram and of the Scripture of truth are, in like manner, continuous through the space, в.c. 553-200, and B.c. 534-160, or between three and four centuries. It is true, there is one apparent break in the last of these; but it is apparent only, being supplied by the previous vision, upon which the other is a comment. The general principle is very conspicuous throughout, and we may reasonably gather, from the observed facts, the following inference: "Each separate prophecy is to be viewed as continuous, unless when there can be assigned some strong internal proof that the continuity is broken.”
This same principle, which results from a close induction, so far as we have yet been able to carry it, is confirmed by reason, when we reflect upon the objects for which the prophecies are given. These, as respects the Church of God, are mainly the two following-to guide her hopes with regard to God's providence in all that is future, and to strengthen her faith in the Divine prescience in all that is past. But if we suppose, at pleasure, breaks of indefinite length in the midst of prophecies apparently continuous, both these great purposes are defeated. The Church can then gather no certain anticipations of the future, nor sure conviction of the fulfilment of what is past. Each vision is thus changed, from its true character of a compressed, but simple and comprehensive history, into a chaos of particulars, which each commentator will be able to mould into a thousand fantastic forms, and to interpose ages of separation between events which are the most intimately united in the visions.
III. THE LAW OF PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT is a third principle, which flows naturally from the previous conclusions. The first vision, of the great image, gives a short and comprehensive survey of the world's kingdoms, from the time of the prophet down to the establishment of the visible reign of Messiah. The second. vision traverses the same space; but the emblems are more full, and the historical description is more complete. In the history of the three first empires, features are introduced which did not appear before-the eagle wings of the lion, the ribs or tusks in the mouth of the bear, and the four heads and the four wings of the leopard. The same expansion is still more evident in the account of the fourth empire. A strange and mysterious power is exhibited to us, of which there was no mention in the former vision.
Again, the third vision of the ram is confined to the second and third empires; since the first empire was far gone in its decline when the prophecy was given, and the fourth has its history mainly reserved for the fuller predictions of the New Testament. But the second and third kingdoms are both of them presented here with a much greater variety of distinctive features than in the two previous visions. Again, the predictions that relate to the third empire receive a further expansion in the last vision, of the Scripture of truth, and are there unfolded with an uncommon minuteness of historic detail. The same law, therefore, prevails uniformly in every part. The Spirit of God seems thus, in the word of prophecy, to imitate His own operations in the natural universe. From the seed of the first promise, He unfolds more and more, in successive predictions, the spreading outlines of Divine Providence, and thus bestows on the Church a gradual and evergrowing insight into the counsels of His wisdom. The same principle which
obtains in these visions of Daniel will reappear, with equal distinctness, in the further prophecies of the New Testament.
IV. THE LAW OF PROPHETICAL PERSPECTIVE is a fourth principle which may be plainly detected in these visions. Distant events are described more briefly in comparison with those which are near at hand. The revelations of prophecy thus follow the same law with the natural landscape. In the first vision, the empire of Babylon, which lasted only seventy years, occupies the same space with the two centuries of the Persian monarchy. The five centuries of the three first kingdoms fill nearly the same space with the remaining period of two thousand years. In the second vision we have a similar disproportion. The same law is still more observable in the last chapters. The interval of less than four centuries, from Cyrus to Antiochus Epiphanes, is of greater length than the remainder of the history, though it reaches to the time of the resurrection. The principle was clearly apprehended, and well expressed by Bengelius. "Prophecy (he says) is like the painting of some landscape, which, in the foreground, notes distinctly the houses, bridges, and hills; but, in the distance, contracts into narrow compass valleys, and mountains of the widest extent; for of such a kind must the prospect into the future be, on their part who read the prophecy, and to this the prophecy itself is suited.”
This law, like the former, has an evident basis of reasons, in the great ends for which the prophecies are given to the Church. It may be traced from the first promise in Eden to the latest revelations of the word of God. In the Apocalypse, for instance, how short is the space occupied by the more distant millennium, compared with the description of previous events which were nearer at hand!
These four maxims, drawn by a strict induction from the parts of these visions which are demonstrably fulfilled, and confirmed by every principle of reason, are an important help towards the sound interpretation of the remaining portions. They will serve to exclude many fanciful expositions, and to give unity and steadiness of aim to the course of inquiry. The last of them alone is an effectual refutation of the novel theories of the Futurist interpreters. As the one law of the planetary velocities, when ascertained, extinguished for ever the theory of the vortices, so are these modern expositions condemned at once by their utter contradiction of this evident law of the divine prophecies.
V. There is one further remark of some interest, which, although previously unnoticed, seems to yield an indirect confirmation of the strongest kind to the general conclusions which have been already drawn on the true meaning of the visions.
The inquiry, then, may naturally be made, why the prophecies of Daniel should unfold with such peculiar fulness the events of history between the death of Alexander and the retreat of Antiochus (B.c. 301-168). The fact has already been established. It has even been made, more than once, a source of infidel objections to the genuineness of the whole book. Gibbon alleges that the minuteness of the detail is so unlike the general character of prophecy, as to form a clear evidence that the account was written after the events, and falsely ascribed to the prophet. Now, if a reason can be assigned, à priori, for this remarkable feature of the prediction, a fresh character of unity and completeness will be stamped upon all the previous interpretations.
Such a reason, I believe, may be found in the prophecy of the seventy weeks, combined with the events of sacred history and the general design of the inspired
predictions. From the reign of Cyrus down to the time of Malachi (B.c. 400), the Jews, besides many other tokens of divine favour, had still the direct gift of prophecy continued among them. Their faith would, therefore, have less need of external confirmation. The outward restitution of their polity was completed by Nehemiah, and the promise of Messiah's speedy advent was renewed by the latest of the prophets (Mal. iii. 1). For one generation, these united influences of memory and hope might be reasonably supposed to continue powerful and and efficacious. But hope deferred maketh the heart sick. The latter half of the fourth century before Christ would find them in a state of mind that would eminently call for fresh consolation, and renewed encouragement of their hope in the promise of God. Accordingly, with Alexander's victories, the word of prophecy renews its light with an unwonted and peculiar clearness.
Again, the earliest date which the Jews could naturally assign to the seventy weeks would be the decree of Cyrus, B.c. 536. The shortest interval which they could infer from the prophecy, as having to elapse before the coming of Messiah to be Prince, would be sixty-two weeks, or four hundred and thirty-four years. The earliest date, therefore, which they could assign for his appearance, deduced from the vision, would be B.c. 102. To this we may add thirty years for the interval between Messiah's birth and his public appearance, and thirty more to include the generation of instant and immediate hope; and we find that в.c. 160 is the earliest time at which, from the prophecy, the nation of Israel might be brought into the attitude of definite and eager expectation,
Between these two dates, however, there is left an interval of nearly two hundred years, in which the vivid memory of past deliverance would have grown feeble,