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3. The last and most conclusive objection, which I shall urge, is, that such un exposition cannot be made to accord with the chronological series of events as detailed by Daniel, in regular succession, in this his concluding prophecy.
We have the authority of our Lord for pronouncing, that the abomination of desolation, mentioned in the 31st verse of the 11th chapter, is to be referred to the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans. Of this Bp. Newton is sensible ; and therefore very justly applies the two fola lowing verses* to the pagan pers. tutions of the primitive Christians. “The Roman magistrates and officers," says he, “it is very well known, made use of the most allur, ing promises, as well as of the most terrible threatenings, to prevail upon them to renounce their religion, and offer incense to the statues of the emperors and images of the gods. Many were induced to comply with the tempta, tion and apostatized from the faith, as we learn particularly from the famous epistle of Pliny to Trajan : but the true Christians, the people who knew their God, were strong ; remained firm to their religion ; and gave the most illustrious proofs of the most heroic patience and fortitude. It may too with strictest truth and propriety be said of the primitive Christians, that, being dispersed every where, and preaching the gospel in all the parts of the Roman empire, they instructed many, and gained a great number of proselytes to their religion : yet they fell by the sword, and by Aame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days ; for they were exposed to the malice and fury of ten general persecutions, and suffered all manner of injuries, afflictions, and tortures, with little intermission for the space of three hundred years.”+
The 34th versef he with equal propriety applies to the days of Constantine. " The most natural way of interpretation," he justly observes, “is to follow the course and series of events. The Church had now laboured
* " And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries : but the people, that do know their God, shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people, shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days." Ver. 32, 33.
+ Bp. Newton's Dissert. xvii. † “ Now, when they fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many skall cleave to them with flatteries." 'Ver. 34.
under long and severe persecutions from the civil power-The tenth and last general persecution was begun by Diocletian : it raged, though not at all times equally, ten years; and was suppressed entirely by Constantine, the first Roman emperor, as it is universally known, who made open profession of Christianity : and then the Church was no longer persecuted, but was protected and favoured by the civil power. But still this is called only a little help : because, though it'added much to the temporal prosperity, yet it contributed little to the spiritual graces and virtues, of Christians. It enlarged their revenues, and increased their endowments; but proved the fatal means of corrupting the doctrine, and relaxing the discipline, of the Church. It was attended with this
peculiar disadvantage, that many clave to them with flatteries. Many became Christians, for the sake of the loaves and the fishes; and pretended to be of the religion, only because it was the religion of the Emperor. Eusebius, who was a contemporary writer, reckons, that one of the reigning vices of the time was the dissimulation and hypocrisy of men fraudulently entering into the Church, and borrowing the name of Christians without the reality."*
Hitherto the Bishop has very clearly explained the meaning of the prophecy: but in his exposition of the 35th verset he has not been equally successful. He supposes, that this passage relates, in the first instance, to the quarrels of the Christians among cach other. “ The Consubstantialists,” says he, “even in the time of Constantine, led the way by excommunicating and banishing the 'Arians. The latter, under the favour of Constantius and Valens, more than retorted the injury, and were guilty of many horrible outrages and cruelties towards the former.” He aftewards applies the passage, in the second instance, to the persecution of the protestants by the papists. “ These calamities were to befall the Christians to try them, and purge, and make them white, not only at that time, but even to the time of the
* Bp. Newton's Dissert. XVII. " And some of them of understanding shall fall” (that is, perish)" in purifying them, and in purging them, and in making them white, even to the time of the end : because it is yet unto the time appointed.” Ver, 35.
end, because it is yet for a time appointed : and we see, even at this day, not to alledge other instances, how the poor protestants are persecuted, plundered, and murdered, in the southern parts of France.”*
The only manner, in which prophecy can be satisfactorily explained is by strictly adhering to its plain unvarnished declarations. It is observable, that in this verse the true Church is represented as being again in a state of persecution, similar to that which she had before endured from the fury of Pagaoism. As, in the first persecution, they, that understood, were to instruct many ; and, in consequence of their zeal, to fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil : so, in this second persecution, some of the men of understanding are, in a similar manner, to perish in attempting to bring about a reformation in the now degenerate Christian world. Hence it is evident, that the men of understanding must, in both cases, be men of the same principles ; that is, men professing and acting up to the pure truths of the Gospel, in contradistinction to the heathens in the former instance, and to corrupt Christianst in the latter instance. Such being the plain import of the prophecy, that part of it, which is contained in the thirty-fifth verse, certainly can have no relation to the quarrels of the Consubstantialists and the Arians. The passage in question describes, not the variously successful and unsuccessful struggles of two rival parties ; but the persecution of men, similar to the first martyrs of the Church, on account of their desire to purify their degenerate brethren. We must look therefore for the accomplishment of the prediction in an age long posterior to that of the Consubstantialists and the Arians.
In our inquiries for this age of persecution we shall be greatly assisted by attending to the very accurate language of the prophet. He tells us, that these men of understanding sball continue in a persecuted state to the time of the end ; because their trials are yet unto the time appointed. But the time of the end commences at the
Bp. Newton's Dissert. XVII. t. These corrupt Christians are styled Gentiles by St. John on account of their having relapsed into the old abominations of Gentile idolatry. Rev. xi. 2.
termination of the 1260 years : therefore the persecution of the second mentioned men of understanding is to continue to the end of the 1260 years. Hence it is manifest, that this persecution is the same as that which was to take place during the reign of the pupal horn, represented by St. John under the images of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, and the flight of the woman into the wilderness. Daniel however, I conceive, meant specially to point out a particular period in the course of the 1260 yeurs ; a period, which should bear a more striking and definite resemblance to the period of heathen persecution, than any
other part of the reign of the horn. These second men of understanding are described by the prophet, as not content with secretly holding their opinions, and assembling their congregations, in the deep recesses of mountains und forests : but as boldly and openly coming forward, like the first men of understanding ; as labouring to propagate their tenets; and as attempting to purge, reform, and make white, a corrupt and degenerate Church. Such a description agrees only with the glorious era of the reformation. The unfortunate and much injured Waldenses,* cooped up in the mountainous regions of
The Abbè Barruel, in the true spirit of a determined Papist, has endeavoured to fix the imputation of Manicheism upon the Waldenses ; as if, even granting that he had been successful, such a charge would warrant the diabolical cruelties of his corrupt church. Grossly however as these victims of persecution have been misrepresented and vilified by the adherents of popery, there are not wanting testimonies in their favour borne even by papists themselves. Bp. Newton cites three of these witnesses, whom, as he justly observes, “ both sides must allow to be unexceptionable, Reinerius, Thuanus, and Mezeray." The testimony of the last-mentioned author is short, but immediately to the purpose.
“ They had almost the same opinions," says he, “ as those who are now called Calvinists." Their real crime is with much simplicity declared by Reinerius, who flourished about the year 1254, and who has the additional recommendation of being at once a Dominican and an Inquisitor general. “They live justly before men,” says be;" and believe all things rightly concerning God, and all the articles which are contained in the creed : enly" - hic niger est, hunc tu, Romane, caveto, only they blaspheme the church of Rome, and the clergy, in whom the multitude of the laity readily place an implicit confidence." (See Bp. Newton's Dissert. on Rev. xi.) Whether the modern Abbè Barruel, or the ancient Inquisitor general Reinerius, be the most deserving of credit, the candid reader must determine for himself. “ As there was a variety of naines,” says Bp. Newton, so there might be some diversity of opinions of them; but that they were not guilty of Manicheism and other abominable beresies, which have been charged upon them, is certain and evident from all the remains of their creeds, confessions, and writings." The Albigenses are frequently considered as a branch of the Waldenses ; but, according to Mosheim, they were an entirely different people. Of the picty of the Waldenses he speaks in very high terms: and even the Albirenses he exculpates from the charge of Manichèism; and seems to think, that their
France and Italy, existed indeed like leaven in a mass of bread-corn ;* but are little known except by their pa. tient suffering for the cross of Christ, and by the relentless bigotry of their blood-thirsty persecutors : while the martyrs of the reformation“ have filled the whole world with their doctrine,” and have raised an edifice against which the agents of Popery have vainly exerted all their powers. The second persecution then of the men of understanding must be referred in a peculiar, I had almost said exclusive, manner to the reformation of the sixteenth century. That it has such a reference in part at least, Bp. Newton himself allows : but, as if conscious that such an acknowledgment would chronologically invalidate his proposed interpretation of the prophecy respecting the king who was to exalt himself above every god, he cautiously adds, " the principal source of these persecutions is traced out in the following verses." Now, upon examining these following verses, we shall not find that they afford us any warrant to suppose, that the king was to be at all concerned in persecuting the men of understanding. In the whole account, which the prophet gives of his character,t not a single hint is dropped, that, like the little papal horn, he should wear out the saints of the Most High. At the beginning of his reign at least, all his exploits are of an entirely different nature, and directed to an entirely different end. They are exploits purely atheistical : for the object of his rancorous aversion, the God of gods, is alike venerated by the adherents and the opponents of the Papacy, by the persecutors and the per. secuted. Toward the end of his reign indeed, it appears, that he will league himself with the false prophet or the Papacy ; that they will jointly engage in a bloody war of extirmination under the pretext of religion ; and that the power of both will be finally broken in Palestine be
opinions were more nearly allied to a mystical sort of fanaticism, than to heresy. " When we examine matters attentively,” says he,“ we find that even their enemies acknowledged the sincerity of their piety; that they were blackened by accusations, which were evidently false ; and that the opinions, for which they were punished, differ widely from the Manichèan system." See Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. Vol. 1. p. 680, 581, 582_V III. p. 120--127. See also Mede's rks, B. 111. Revel. Antichris. p. 722, and Lowman's Paraph. p. 152–156. • Matt. xii. 33.
+ See Dan. xi. 36-39.