Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



and the echo of the voice of prophecy, in the last of the sacred company of prophets, would have died away; while no definite hope of Messiah's speedy appearance could have dawned upon the nation. In this interval their faith and hope would be specially exposed to weariness and decay.

Now this period (B.C. 330-160) is the precise interval on which the visions of Daniel concentrate all the fulness of their prophetic light. They dwell on its events with a minuteness of consecutive detail which occurs in no other part of the sacred visions. The reason of this distinction seems now to be satisfactorily explained. The objection of the infidel becomes a fresh proof of the Divine goodness and wisdom. He, whose name is the Wonderful Counsellor, knew the time when the faith of his people would be specially tried, by the waning out of the old dispensation before the dawning of the new, and, therefore, provided them with a special support in the unwonted clearness of the word of prophecy. The watchers for the morning were thus encouraged to persevere, by the peculiar and manifest tokens of God's continued care over his people, and through the last hours of the weary night were kept still waiting for the consolation of Israel.

VI. There is a further maxim, which is fully established by the previous interpretations—the spiritual importance of the ordinary events of God's providence. It seems to be imagined by some recent authors, that no events, .but such as are miraculous, are worthy of a place in the sacred predictions. All the wars and conquests which have occurred since the fall of Jerusalem are only, it is said, the quarrels and usurpations ofwicked men, to gratify their lust of dominion, and, therefore, are unworthy of all prophetic notice. But this reasoning is scattered to the winds by a simple observation of these inspired

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

predictions. The conflict of good and evil in the world does not exist in the days of miracles only. The importance to the Church of a knowledge of God's providence is the same at all times; or, if there be a difference, the need of such instruction is the greatest when only second causes are visible to a worldly eye. The danger of forgetting the ceaseless presence of Divine power is then far the most imminent. The testimony to God's prescience is more complete in events which bear no outward marks but of mere human agency, than in the prediction of miraculous changes.

The period between the return from Babylon and the coming of our Lord was the interval in which all miraculous tokens of God's presence among the Jews were almost entirely withdrawn. No Urim and Thummim gave answer in the temple; no glory was seen in the most holy place; no inspired prophets, for the main part of that time gave direct messages from God: and yet this was the period on which the inspired prophecies give the most full and continuous details. There was thus, in some measurea spiritual compensation ; and, as signs and wonders; were withdrawn, the prophetic details, and the witness of God's providence, became more complete. At the approach of a more spiritual dispensation, the Church was raised from that evidence of miracles which rested mainly on the Divine power, to that which illustrated the higher attribute of prescient wisdom.

Now this fact is of no small importance. It leads us very plainly to expect that the eighteen centuries under the Gospel, when the outward evidence of miracles should be withdrawn, would be marked by a peculiar fulness of prophetic revelation. If there be any weight in scriptural analogy, the visions of Daniel yield a decisive proof that the Apocalypse is a connected and continuous record of events to occur during the long suspension of the visible theocracy, and while the course of Providence has been moving on in secret, without the direct manifestation of signs and wonders.

The strangeness, again, of the emblems employed in these visions of Daniel, when compared with their demonstrable reference, involves a further lesson of the same kind. We see plainly that the divine purpose for which these symbols are used is not to distract the imagination with some unexampled and grotesque prodigies, but to reveal those moral aspects of the common and ordinary events of Providence which are unseen by the worldly eye, and very slowly apprehended even by the thoughtful Christian. The higher we rise in the clear perception of the divine law, and the true standard of all right action in the word of God, the more defective and even monstrous will those forms of policy and ambition appear, which make up the constant outline of this world's past history. Now this is a practical lesson of far greater worth than any vague expectation, however startling, of material wonders. The perverse appetite for such outward signs, with regard to the moral truths which address the conscience and heart, was, in the days of our Saviour, one of the worst symptoms of Jewish delusion and unbelief. A spirit of the same kind is not less fatal to the right apprehension of these divine prophecies. Like the grotesque and foolish representations of Satan, which were common in the dark ages of the Church, interpretations of this marvel-making character serve only to obscure from us the deep and solemn reality of that stupendous conflict of good and evil, which is ever in full activity in this fallen world. The kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light are not confined to short and unknown seasons of crisis and prodigy. The battle is unceasing, and momentous in its issues, even when the outward course of Providence

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

seems most quiet and unbroken. Immortal souls are not less precious in one generation than another; and every part of the Divine counsels, seen in its true light, reveals to the spiritual eye strange and monstrous forms of evil, and a wondrous and supernatural exercise of Divine love and Omniscient wisdom.

Thus, in whatever light we consider these visions, fresh proofs arise of the hollow and unsubstantial nature of the Futurist theories. At the same time, increasing evidence appears of the harmonious connexion of these sacred prophecies, when we abide by the old landmarks of interpretation, which the Church of Christ has received and maintained from the apostolic age.

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

FROM the visions of Daniel, our present inquiry leads us next to the prophecies of the New Testament. The discourse of our Lord on the desolation of the temple first requires to be examined. This prophecy, from its importance, is recorded in three of the Gospels. It forms the natural connexion between the visions of Daniel and those of St. John; since it directly refers us to the former prophet, and bears a close analogy to the vision of the seals in the other. The same principles of interpretation which have now been examined in the case of Daniel's prophecies, have been applied to this passage also, and call for a careful and deliberate inquiry, before its true meaning can be ascertained.

There is, however, an important difference between this part of our inquiry and those which have gone before. The fulfilment of Daniel's visions, in the parts which have now been examined, is so clear and perspicuous, and so strongly confirmed by a nearly universal assent in all ages of the Church, as to stamp the innovations of the Futurists with a mark of surprising rashness and temerity. In the present instance, on the contrary, there is a real difficulty on every hypothesis, which renders error much more excusable, and makes peculiar caution needful to secure us from false interpretations. And hence several writers, who in general differ widely from the scheme of the Futurists, seem almost ready to adopt their exposition of the present


« PreviousContinue »