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Again, the head of gold is the kingdom of Babylon. But the lion is the same first, because that was the kingdom in actual rule at the time, and therefore the most natural commencement; secondly, because the eagle wings answer to the record of Nebuchadnezzar's ambition, and the subsequent weakening, to the history of Belshazzar's fall. The sameness of the three others is then proved as before.
This is confirmed also by the intervening history, Nebuchadnezzar is called the head of gold, and must therefore, for the time, be a representative of the whole image. Presently he is set before us degraded to a senseless and bestial state, and dwelling with the beasts of the field. In the next vision, instead of a fourfold image, we meet with four ravening beasts of prey. What can we naturally infer, but that the same four kingdoms then symbolized by the image are now exhibited under the more suitable emblem of four wild beasts, after the false splendour of worldliness has been cleared away and their moral debasement been revealed ?
The objection from v. 17, the only one which has any appearance of weight, will be presently removed, and found to yield a further proof that the same empires are designed.
3. The first empire is that of Babylon. This is plain from the two clauses of the interpretation :~" Thou art this head of gold," &c.; “ And after thee shall arise another kingdom."
4. The second empire is the Medo-Persian.—This was evidently the next in point of time, and it is a distinct empire-first, because it is symbolized by a distinct and complete emblem, the ram, even while the empire of Babylon continued ; secondly, because the prophet himself tells us, that the kingdom of Babylon was num
bered and finished with Belshazzar; thirdly, because the Spirit of God, by Jeremiah, twice fixes the close of the empire to that same time (Jer, xxv. 11-14, xxvii. 4-7).
It is also a single empire. For first we are told, "the ram having the two horns are the kings of Media and Persia ;" and, secondly, the breast and arms were silver, and made up the second empire. The proof of unity drawn from the symbols is thus complete.
5. The third empire is the Grecian.--For this followed next after the Medo-Persian; and it is one single empire, as is plain from the symbol of the goat and its interpretation—“ The rough goat is the king of Grecia." It cannot therefore be confounded with the Medo-Persian, or broken itself into two successive empires. For by universal consent, the prophecy of the he-goat reaches at least to Antiochus, and must therefore include Alexander's successors. 6. The fourth empire is the Roman.
For this again followed next after the Grecian; and it is recognized in Scripture, no less than in profane history, as the next great ruling empire (Luke ii. 1, Matt. xxii. 17-21, John xi. 48, xix. 12, Acts xxv. 10). The fourth empire is most fully described in the prediction ; and the Roman empire is that which has the longest, closest, and fullest connexion with the Church of Christ. And further, prophecy expressly teaches that the dominion of Rome reaches from the first to the second advent. 66 The woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” And yet immediately after its fall it is added The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his bride hath made herself ready." The fourth empire, then, which occupies the same limits of time, is proved by this also to be the empire of Rome.
Such is a compressed view of the internal evidence. The external is so full that it is needless to quote the authorities at length. They include the Chaldee paraphrase on Zechariah (v. 6) in the century before Christ, Josephus in the first century, the Apocryphal Esdras (2 Esdr. xii. 11), Justin Martyr (Dial. Tryph. $. 32), Irenæus (Adv. Haer. v. 21), Tertullian (De Resurr. p. 61, Apolog. p. 869), Hippolytus, Cyprian, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Athanasius, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Isidore of Seville, Sulpitius Severus, Jerome, Theodoret, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, Augustine, Primasius, Aretas, Andreas, a host of later times, and the Rabbinical writers. The list may be closed with two modern witnesses. Pererius the Jesuit observes" This fourth beast, as all interpret, and as the matter speaks for itself, is the Roman empire." And the sceptical, but learned Gibbon--" The FOUR EMPIRES are clearly delineated; and the invincible arms of the Romans described with as much clearness in the pro phecies of Daniel, as in the histories of Justin and Diodorus."
To this array of proofs and authorities there stand opposed the doubts of Mr. Maitland and Dr. Todd's bolder charges of “a presumptuous perversion of the divine oracles,” and “the absence of all reason whatsoever." Let us examine their objections in order.
II. THE IDENTITY OF THE EMPIRES IN THE TWO VISIONS is doubted by Mr. Maitland, and by Dr. Todd it is positively denied. St. Hippolytus, indeed, in the third century, affirms—“The prophecy will convince all that have any judgment in them, that the four kingdoms in the two visions are the same." In this opinion the whole Church has acquiesced for sixteen centuries. But Dr. Todd has at length discovered two fatal objections.
1. “The four beasts are all spoken of as denoting events still future, 'four kings which shall arise out of the earth.' It follows that the first cannot be identical with the golden head of the image.”
This palmary argument is open to one serious objection--that it proves a great deal too much, as the following examples will show :
(1). The whole vision of the image, without exception-is described three times—“what shall be in the latter days”—“what should come to pass hereafter": “what shall come to pass.” The argument will therefore
prove the head of gold to have been future, as well as the eagle-winged lion, and will convict the prophet himself of giving a false interpretation.
(2). St. Paul declares that“ in Christ all shall be made alive” (πάντες ζωοποιηθήσονται). The words are more distinctly universal than those of Daniel's vision. But St. Matthew tells us that “ many bodies of the saints which slept” had already risen, before the time of the apostle's statement. By the help of Dr. Todd's objection, an infidel may prove either that St. Paul is a false prophet, or St. Matthew a faithless historian.
(3). The same apostle tells us further, that when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, “all Israel shall be saved." Yet who would infer from his words that no one of the children of Israel has been saved before ?
Many other passages might be adduced of the same kind. The future tense, indeed, is constantly employed when the main part of the events spoken of are future, or even simply to denote a future completion. Instances exactly similar are of daily occurrence.
The verse in question, therefore, really confirms the common view of the prophecy. By comparing it with chap. ii. we find that the future terms do not include the present existence of the first of those four kingdoms.
And since the former vision, in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, began with his kingdom, it is natural to think that this vision will commence with the empire of Babylon, but present it to us chiefly as it existed under Belshazzar. Accordingly, the first distinct action in the vision is the plucking of the eagle wings; which strictly corresponds to the political features of Belshazzar's reign, when this prophecy was given.
2. A second objection follows:
6 After the fourth beast was slain, the other three still continued to exist (vii. 12). This has no parallel in the vision of the image, where the iron, clay, brass, silver, and gold are expressly said to be broken to pieces together. But if we suppose that by the three first beasts are meant the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek empires, it will be incumbent on us to suppose those empires to be still in existence ; nay, that they will actually survive the extinction of the Roman kingdom.”
A more confused and confusing argument has seldom been framed: it is a perfect rival to the Grecian dilemma. The objection has two parts which destroy each other, and each of them separately is untrue.
The first argument is to this effect :--the brass, silver, and gold are destroyed along with the fourth beast ; but the three former beasts survive that event; therefore they cannot be the same. The second is of this nature. The three first beasts are not yet destroyed ; but the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek empires are extinct already ; therefore, again, they cannot be the same.
Now since the prophet declares plainly that the head of gold is the empire of Babylon, these two objections contradict and destroy each other. The same thing is assumed as true in one premise and as false in the other.
But to waive this contradiction, let us consider the argument in itself. A few words will explain its real force.