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in Scripture and elsewhere, to denote that number of natural days.
The other passages are all taken from the book of Revelation. All of them, except the first, occur in the midst of the symbols, and not in explanatory passages. Two of them are quite indefinite in their significance, when taken alone, and two others are expressed in a manner which varies greatly from the most usual form.
The result, then, of the whole examination may be thus given. Of the five passages in Daniel one must certainly be expounded on the larger scale of reckoning; in three of the others the shorter calculation is not at all more literal than the other; and in the fourth there are several features which tend to except it from the literal exposition. The passages in Revelation, several of them, are indeterminate, like those in Daniel ; and all of them, except one, are found, not in the interpretation of the symbols, but imbedded in the midst of the emblems themselves.
The general argument, drawn from the maxim of literal interpretation, has already vanished almost entirely. There is not a single passage on which its advocates can rest a decisive argument. The only one in Daniel which appears to offer a solid footing is fenced by a special announcement that its true meaning is mysterious; and those in the visions of St. John are so connected with the symbolical language of the prophecy, that it is plainly rash and unwarrantable to decide, without a deeper search, that they must be intended in a barely literal sense. It is now time to examine, more in detail, the presumptions which exist in favour of an opposite view.
IV. THE GENERAL SYMMETRY OF THE SACRED PROPHECIES is a first argument against the shorter acceptation of these numbers. When a declaration of
future events is attended also with one of definite seasons, it is natural to expect some degree of correspondence between the two parts of the revelation: and this presumption of reason is confirmed by a still safer guide—that of Scripture precedent. The chief instances of definite times revealed in Scripture, in connexion with the history of the Church, are the hundred and twenty years' delay of the flood, the four hundred years and four generations of sojourning in Egypt, the forty years' sojourn in the wilderness, the sixty-five years to elapse before Ephraim's captivity, the seventy years' captivity of Judah, the forty years of Egypt's desolation, the seventy weeks before the coming of Messiah, with its minor portions, the three days of our Lord's burial, and the seven years to follow on Israel's restoration. (Ezek. xxxix.) In all of these, except the two last, there is an evident proportion between the time predicted and the general of the events announced; and even in those, the event to which they apply is clearly expressed, and was plainly limited and brief in its own nature.
Now here we have twelve or thirteen specified seasons of time, connected with an interval which extends from the reign of Cyrus to the second advent. And it is plain that, by the shorter reckoning of times, all proportion is lost between the range of the events and the periods which enter into the predictions. If, indeed, there were no features on the surface of the prophecy which suggest the idea of a meaning different from the bare letter, it would be hazardous to reason from analogy against a direct statement. But the reverse of this is evidently true. Even on a general and cursory view of the passages the balance inclines in favour of some concealed meaning. And now the analogy has its full weight. We must reverse the law which prevails in all
the other examples of revealed times, before we can accept the short and contracted interpretation.
The Church before the flood (Gen. vi. 3), the early patriarchs (Gen. xv. 13), the Church in the wilderness (Num. xiv. 33, 34), Israel and Judah under their kings (Isa. vij. 8; Ezra iv. 5), the Jews in their first captivity (Jer. xxv. 11, 12; xxix. 10), and after their return, before the coming of Christ (Dan ix.)--all of them had times prophetically announced, which bore a direct proportion to the season of the delay, or the length of the trial, and the least of which exceeded the average length of one generation. It is not easy to conceive that in these comprehensive prophecies of Daniel and St. John, which clearly contain so many statements of sacred time, the Church would be deprived, for the first time, of a help which had been given her in every main stage of her former history.
V. THE SYMBOLICAL NATURE OF THE BOOKS in which these numbers occur is a further presumption of the same kind. Except in Daniel and the Apocalypse, no definite revelation of time occurs between the time of Cyrus and the future restoration of Israel. Froin the close of the seventy years' captivity to those seven years (Ez. xxxix. 9) which follow the final recovery of the captives of Israel, there is a total blank, with regard to distinct times and seasons, in all the other prophecies. In these two books alone, however, there are at least twenty dates, if each be numbered distinctly, which reveal definite periods of time. These dates form, therefore, a broad distinction between these books and the other prophecies; and conversely, the nature of these books must throw light on the true meaning of the dates contained in them.
Now the one feature which distinguishes these books from the other prophecies is their symbolical character:
an air of mystery pervades them from first to last. Thus in Daniel, three of the visions are directly symbolic. The three histories which are interposed bear distinct marks of a typical meaning. And the last vision, which is the most simple and direct in its form (Dan. X.-xii.), is closed by expressions which plainly import concealment and mystery : “Go thy way, for the words are closed and sealed till the time of the end." «None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."
The same remark applies, in still greater force, to the visions of the Apocalypse. Even those who attempt to literalize them the most are compelled to allow that a large portion is strictly symbolic, and their expositions of much that remains are forced and discordant. No one can read the prophecy without being struck forcibly by the peculiar mystery which prevails in it.
Since the prophetic dates, then, are found exclusively in these two books, which possess, also exclusively, this symbolical and mysterious character, it is a natural inference that those dates have or may have themselves a covert meaning. And the clear statements of our Lord, that the Church was at first designedly kept from a knowledge of the times and seasons, would concur. with this view, and raise it to a weighty presumption against the short reckoning of these prophetic intervals, which limits them within five or six years.
The only direct reply to this argument of any weight is, that these dates occur in the explanations of the visions. But, in the first place, this is not true, as we have seen of those in the Revelation, which are the greater number. In the next place, even the explanatory parts of these symbolical prophecies retain something of the same mysterious character with the rest. For instance, Rev. xvii. is the only chapter in the Apocalypse
of direct interpretation : and there is so much remaining mystery, that the best expositors vary considerably in the details of its meaning; and Mr. Maitland, while seeking to explode the more usual expositions, frankly confesses his entire inability to substitute a better. Hence it would not be surprising, if even the dates which occur in the explanatory parts should still be mysterious, and have their true sense hid beneath the surface, like the other parts of the prophecy.
VI. THE DISPENSATION TO WHICH THEY BELONG is a further presumption in favour of the same view. The dates in question relate, all of them, to the times of the Gospel and of the rejection of Israel. The seventy veeks are the only exception, the meaning of which is demonstrably four hundred and ninety years, and not four hundred and ninety days. But all the others are included between the first and the second advent.
This character is expressly noted for us in the word of God. If we compare Dan. xii. with 1 Pet. i. 10-12, we shall see a distinct assertion of this peculiar reference of the times to the Christian dispensation. It was not for the prophets themselves, but for the Christian Church, that these mysterious dates were revealed. In like manner, in Rev. x. Christ solemnly declares that in the days of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be finished. The comparison of other Scriptures shows that this expression refers to the calling of the Gentile Church in the place of Israel. (Rom. xi.; Eph. iii.) The six first trumpets, therefore, and all the numbers connected with them, including the time, times, and half, must be contained within the limits of this Gentile dispensation.
Now the most distinctive character of this dispensation is, that it is composed of mysterious counterparts to the literal types and ordinances of the older economy.