Page images
PDF
EPUB

kingdom in its conquests." To tread down, break in pieces, and stamp under foot, are not the emblems of extremination, but of entire subjection. And this was the constant object of the Roman power. The prophecy describes their conduct to those who resisted, and Dr. Todd confounds it with their treatment of those already subdued. The contrast, however, is marked by their own poet, who gives the Roman maxim :

[ocr errors]

Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos."

“They were remarkable for moderation, &c., to those who submitted to their sway." But the question is, their conduct to those who resisted. Does this bear out Dr. Todd's contrast? Let us hear one or two witnesses. First, let us listen to the remarks of Gibbon

upon

the Roman moderation and gentleness in conquest. “The Romans (he says), who so coolly and so concisely mention the acts of justice exercised by the legions, reserve their compassion and eloquence for their own sufferings." He then adds, in striking agreement with the prophet, “ Observe with how much indifference Cæsar relates, that he put to death the whole senate of the Veneti, who had yielded to his mercy; that he laboured to extirpate the whole nation of the Eburones; that forty thousand persons were massacred at Bourges by the just revenge of his soldiers, who spared neither sex nor

age!"

A second witness shall be Plutarch, on the capture of Athens by Sylla. “ The soldiers flew with drawn swords through the streets, so that the number of the slain could not be reckoned; but even now the multitude of those slaughtered is measured by the place to which the blood flowed. For, to pass by those who were slain in the other parts of the city, the blood

[ocr errors]

which was shed in the forum deluged all the Ceramicus, as far as the Dipylon. Many add, that the blood, passing through the gates, flooded the very suburbs !"

After such testimonies, whatever Dr. Todd may affirm of Roman gentleness towards the vanquished will do little to disprove their prophetic character-devouring cruelty towards those who resisted their sway.

The censure of Dr. Todd upon his predecessors recoils, then, in full weight, upon himself. And it is curious to notice again that the symbols which he thinks so unsuitable, Gibbon, though believing the prophecy to be a forgery, adopts as the most suitable of all to describe the Roman conquests. “ The arms of the republic advanced with rapid steps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the ocean; and the images of gold, or silver, or brass, that might serve to represent the nations and their kings, were successively broken by the IRON monarchy of Rome.”

To sum up the whole:-Of the five characters in the prophecy, four clearly apply to the Roman power. Of Dr. Todd's objections, drawn from the future destruction of the empire, the first confirms the received view; the second is a pile of errors, and, if true, would be nothing to the purpose; the third is refuted by the plain words of the prophecy, suppresses half the historical truth, and is refuted by the ablest advocates of Rome themselves. The last, from its peculiar concentration of errors, seems to defy summary.

IV. Before closing this important subject, it may be useful, now that all the objections of the Futurists on this point have been exposed in their weakness, to add a few general remarks, and to confirm and establish still further this grand basis of prophetic truth. The brief summary already given should be more than enough to convince every candid mind; but there are several indirect con

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

firmations which have been in general little noticed, and which throw further light on the same truth.

1. The time at which these prophecies were given is a strong indication of their true nature. They reach from the second year of Nebuchadnezzar to the third of Cyrus, through the seventy years' captivity. With Nebuchadnezzar that subjection of Judah began, which has continued ever since. The return under Ezra was only “a little reviving in their bondage.” And this subjection continued to the time of our Lord. “Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cæsar's.” The rule of Judah began, therefore, at this time, its long suspension of more than two thousand four hundred years; and the first seventy, in which these prophecies were given, was an earnest, and in some sort a type, of the whole period. But other prophets had announced fully the glory of Israel at the close of that long rejection. It remained only, now the time of "indignation" was begun, to exhibit, for the benefit of the Church of God, the grand outlines of God's providence during the time of Gentile rule. It would plainly be of the highest importance that the depression of the people of God should be seen to have an appointed limit, and that the succession of their persecutors and oppressors was strictly bounded and defined. Such accordingly is the clear purpose of these two first visions. They show that only four grand ruling empires were to intervene before the coming of Messiah's kingdom. To deny the continuity and strict succession of those empires is, therefore, no less than to make void and defeat the main object for which the visions were clearly given. They are a compressed summary of God's providence in the government of the world, given to the Church at that very moment when

it began to be permanently subject to Gentile domination.

2. The successive degradation of the parts of the IMAGE is another evidence of the same truth. This striking feature of the prophecy has clearly a deep moral significance. The head is of gold, the most precious of metals; the feet are mixed with clay-miry clay : and the declension is gradual, not abrupt or sudden. It is clear that all the kingdoms are worldlythat is, such as reject, oppose, or corrupt the truth of God. It is also clear that the close intercourse of the visible Church with the Gentile kingdoms began with the dispersion of the captivity. The symbol plainly intimates that nations brought into contact with divine truth, and not heartily embracing it, become the more debased the longer that rejection of truth continues. The Gospel is a savour of death unto death to those who despise it. The ruling kingdoms of the world (the faithful among them excepted), by their contact with the Church for two thousand years, are successively degrees from the gold to the miry clay. The brilliance and glory of the natural man sinks into the miry, sensual debasement of the Socialists and scoffers of the last days. Such being the main purpose of the symbol, it follows at once that the four empires are successively continuous ; for the debasement is gradual, from gold to silver, from silver to brass, from brass to iron, from iron to the miry clay. There is no room for “ gap" or omission, without destroying the faithfulness of the moral portrait, and emptying the symbol of all its divine beauty and wisdom.

3. The peculiar use of the ordinals is a further decisive proof of continuity in the four kingdoms. Even were they used simply, they could naturally bear no other

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

construction. But in each vision one of them is so employed as to fix their significance beyond a doubt. Thus, chap. ii. ver. 39, we read, “ Another third kingdom of brass ;" and in chap vii. ver. 5," Behold, another beast, a second." Had the ordinal stood alone, it might have been possible to explain it away, as merely denoting another. But this gloss is now expressly excluded, and the Spirit of God plainly teaches that the terms of order have their full and proper meaning, and denote the real order of the four empires.

4. The remarkable correspondence of the symbols, on the common view, is a further argument. This, indeed, has no novelty, but it may be useful to place its various particulars before the eye at one view. We may notice these as the chief.

(1). The breast and arms of silver, answering to the twofold character of the Medo-Persian empire.

(2). The brass, corresponding with the well-known title of the Greeks, “xalxoxítwves;" and with their distinguished eloquence (1 Cor. xiii. 1).

(3). The iron, corresponding no less with the unconquerable firmness and warlike prowess of the Romans.

(4). The eagle wings, with the account of Nebuchad.. nezzar (chap. ii. 4).

(5). The man's heart, with Belshazzar's terror and late repentance (chap. v.)

(6). The bear raising itself on one side, with the later superiority of the Persians above the Medes.

(7). The three ribs, with the three successive conquests of Lydia, Armenia, and Babylon.

(8). The four wings of a fowl, with the speed of Alexander's conquests.

(9). The teeth of iron and nails of brass, with the double connexion of the Roman power with the Greek empire of brass and the Latin kingdom of iron.

1

« PreviousContinue »