Page images
PDF
EPUB

: So many exact coincidences prove convincingly that the common interpretation of the kingdoms gives the true sense of the prophecy.

5. The silence of the New Testament as to a future kingdom distinct from that of Rome is a further and crowning argument. Neither in the Gospels, nor the Epistles, nor the Revelation, have we any hint that a new and entirely distinct kingdom was still to arise before the advent. The expressions used plainly teach the reverse.

- The woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth." 66 The beast which thou sawest was, and is not." Both these expressions, occurring in the explanation of the visions, teach us that it is the same ruling kingdom from the time of St. John to the last overthrow of worldly powers. At the same time, the various and distinct states of that kingdom, so clearly expressed, remove all semblance of truth from the historical objection, that the Roman empire has perished already. It is so in one sense; but in another sense, equally intelligible, the empire has been revived, and is in existence still, though its power is now shared among its separate kingdoms.

I have now cleared away the Futurist objections to this grand foundation of the Protestant exposition : and I think it is now manifest that Dr. Todd's assertion, There exists no reason whatsoever for supposing the fourth beast to be the Roman empire,” is an instance of reckless boldness of statement and of contempt for overwhelming evidence, almost without a parallel in the history of interpretation.

It is, indeed, much to be regretted that both Mr. Maitland and Dr. Todd were not more careful to compare the prophecy closely with itself before they attempted to elucidate it-to study the elder commenta

[graphic]

tors, instead of ridiculing their “amusing simplicity" and “marvellous interpretations." They might then, , perhaps, have escaped the series of errors into which they have fallen, perversions of history, distortions of the prophecy, and reasonings which are conclusive only against themselves. They would not then have incurred the risk of unsettling, on frivolous grounds, the faith of superficial Christians, of encouraging infidels in a contempt for the divine prophecies, and of paving the way

for a relapse of our own Church into the idolatrous embraces of the mystic Babylon.

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

THE VISION OF THE RAM AND HE-GOAT.

AFTER the Four Empires, the next subject in order is the prophetic history of Persia and Greece, as contained in the former part of two visions (Dan. viii. 1-8, xi. 1-20).

These two passages are so closely related to each other that they may be viewed as one ; and perhaps, of all the predictions of Scripture, this is the most convincing and full. No other prophecy presents, without the veil of symbols, so many events in distinct historical succession, and with a minuteness of description that rivals history itself. No Christian writer, ancient or modern, varies in any important particular as to the events which fulfil the prophecy. The Jewish writers, from Josephus down to the present day, agree in the same application. The most learned infidels, from Porphyry to Gibbon, allow that the same events are described, and make it their chief argument against the genuineness of the prophecy, that it is too clear for a prediction, and must have been forged at a later period. To use their own words, Daniel is, in these narratives, too exact for a prophet. One even of the Futurists themselves admits that, in this part of the prophecy, “the universal consent of mankind guarantees the truth of the fulfilment." Finally, according to Josephus (Antiq. ii. 8), these prophecies were set before Alexander himself by the high priest, and the clear prediction of his conquests contained in them was the cause of peculiar

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

favours which he bestowed on the Jewish nation. From the conquests of Cyrus down to the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes we have a clear, succinct, and almost unbroken narrative, confirmed by all the best contemporary historians.

Two, however, of the Futurists, Mr. Burgh and Dr. Todd, are found bold enough to contradict this universal conviction of Christians, Jews, and Infidels. With a scepticism which throws Porphyry and Gibbon into the shade, they deny the manifest and clear correspondence between the events of past history and the words of the inspired prophet. Yet even here there are degrees of rashness. Mr. Burgh admits the historical sense, as far as to the division of Alexander's kingdom: while Dr. Todd, always foremost in the race of innovation, maintains that not even one syllable of the prophecy has been fulfilled.

I shall reserve a few general observations upon this strange and startling theory till the close of this inquiry. The simplest course is to take the two passages in succession, and, after first summing up the proof of their fulfilment, to expose the emptiness of the objections which have been raised, and then to illustrate, by further remarks, the connexion and meaning of the prophecy.

THE VISION OF THE RAM AND HE-GOAT.

Of this vision the eight first verses, by universal consent, describe the history of Persia and Greece, from Cyrus to Alexander's successors. Nearly twenty particulars are mentioned in regular order, all answering to the well-known facts of profane history.

I. THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF FULFILMENT may be presented in the following brief summary.

1. The date of the vision is the first argument to fix

[ocr errors]

its application. This was the third year of Belshazzar, B.C. 553, six years after the accession of Cyrus, and seven years before his conquest of Lydia (Clinton Fast. Hellen., vol. ii., B.c. 559, 546). The vision would, therefore, most naturally begin with the rise of the Persian empire and the conquests of Cyrus, especially as that monarch had already been singled out for an express mention in the word of prophecy; and such precisely is the fact, according to the usual interpretation. The object of the vision corresponds fully with its date. Let us only realize the state of things when the prophet wrote, and it will be at once felt utterly absurd to refer the whole vision to events not yet fulfilled.

2. The scene of the vision is a second argument. The prophet, apparently in vision only, was “at Sushan, the palace, in the province of Elam, by the banks of the Ulai.” Now Susa, it is well known, was the metropolis of the ancient Persian empire, as may be seen throughout the book of Esther. So in the Persæ, Darius describes the calamity of Xerxes :

«« τόδ' άστυ Σούσων εξεκέινωσεν πεσόν.The obvious inference is, that the vision begins with describing the ancient history of Persia, in the times which immediately followed those of the prophet, and while Susa was still the metropolis.

3. The first object in the vision was a ram having two horns. And this is directly explained : “ The ram having two horns denotes the kings of Media and Persia." Clearly, from the former use of the symbol of a beast, and from all natural propriety, the phrase must signify, not two personal monarchs, but the combined kingdom. We meet with the same twofold character in the breast and arms of silver, which have been proved to symbolize the Medo-Persian empire. This

« PreviousContinue »