« הקודםהמשך »
bloodless triumphs of the gospel of peace, of which we read in the history of the church-most unmeetly so called : rather does it seem to be a record taken from the archives of Pandemonium. The right of persecution,-of judging and condemning men of understanding for advocating doctrines drawn from Scripture, and for holding to that divine authority as a sufficient and the supreme rule of faithwas openly maintained, unscrupulously acted on, and unsparingly exercised. The inquisition, at least, has been heard of throughout the world ; and that name has enough of horror associated with it, to the natural sense of man, to stamp that power as persecuting, which
used such an engine, and claimed it as its own. The men of understanding, whose consciences would not be coerced by it, fell indeed, as men may put others to the torture and to the stake, but they were thereby tried, and purged, and made white ; and, losing their lives for the sake of the gospel, their tribulation wrought the triumph of their faith.
In the vision of the four beasts, expressly designative of four successive kingdoms, the little horn, arising out of the fourth or Roman kingdom, is symbolical, as expounded by the prophet, of a king diverse from the first (i.e. from the rest into which the Roman empire was divided); and the nature of that peculiar kingdom, or mode of government is thus described, “And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hands until a time, times, and the dividing of time.” This persecuting power, by which the saints were to be worn out, or before whom the men of understanding, who knew their God, were to fall, is represented under the symbol of a horn and the name of A KING.—The king of the north and the king of the south, so fre
quently named in this very vision, do not, in either case denote merely an individual monarch, but, under the same designation, a succession of kings. In both visions, the introduction and establishment of the Roman power is evidently marked, and in both the same great kingdom is represented as still existing under a new and distinct form, emanating from the original empire; and from the same correspondence of time, name, authority and character, there seems to be no reason to doubt, nor is there any need of a laboured and learned disquisition to shew, that “the king" delineated in the succeeding verses, of whom mention is made in immediate connexion with the long-continued persecution and consequent purifying of the men of understanding, is the same with the king, or form of spiritual domination, characterised by Daniel as the persecutor of the saints, into whose hands they were to be given for a time, times, and half a time, or, the time of the end, or, according to the words of this prophecy, for a TIME APPOINTED,
-a time, times, and an half, xii. 7.
And the king shall do according to his will: and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous
things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished : for that that is determined shall be done.“ Under the name •ķing,' says Mede, must be understood the Roman state, under what kind of government soever.” This may especially be inferred, as no other power is said to stand up, or any other empire to arise but that which polluted the sanctuary of strength, took away the daily sacrifice, and placed the abomination that maketh desolate. To Rome, republican, imperial, or papal, or under some other form of government, the description has to be applied according as each and every part of it may warrant. Somewhat greater
obscurity may, however, naturally be looked for in the delineation of a persecuting government in Christian times, than in that of a king,—or succession of kings, of Egypt or of Syria, who made no profession in the belief of Scripture, and owned not the divine origin of the prophecies which they were instrumental in fulfilling. Now, however, that the whole character of the prefigured power can be seen, and the whole of the history of its long and high dominion can be told, down to its seemingly approaching close, the likeness may be recognised without any clearness of vision but that of fidelity and truth.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, and the desolation of Judea by the Romans; after the propagation of the Christian faith, or the destruction of many by men of understanding who knew their God; after the long, numerous, and general persecution of the preachers of the gospel, and the believers in Jesus,-falling, as they did, by the sword and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil many days, or years ; after the conversion of Constantine, and their being thereby holpen with a little help; and after a hypocritical profession of faith became prevalent in the church, when external enemies were no more to be dreaded,—what new form of government arose in the Roman empire to take up, for an appointed time, the office of persecutor, and thus to try some of them of understanding for the term of ages ?. What power became the most conspicuous and the most influential in Christendom, after the empire became Christian? Or why, from that time to this, can sit for the portrait which the prophet has portrayed, and shew the parallel in every feature? The papacy, in its history, fills up the space; and comes up completely to the character.-It exercises not the uncontrolled sway which once it did. Its harsher features may be seemingly softened, where its power
is broken. The thunders of the Vatican are no longer heard, where they would not be a terror but a jest. Yet still popery, by the use it made of power while possessed of it, has left impressions, in the history of the world, of its true character, which no sophistry can disguise, which time cannot efface, and which are closely fitted to the words of this prophecy, and of others besides.
“ The prophet was speaking of the persecutions which would be permitted for the trial and probation of the Church, after the empire was become Christian; and now he proceeds to describe the principal author of these persecutions. There would spring up in the church an anti-christian power, that should act in the most absolute and arbitrary manner; exalt itself above all laws, human and divine; dispense with the most sacred and solemn obligations; and in many respects enjoin what God had forbidden, and forbid what God had commanded. This power was to continue in the church, and prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done."* Daniel had previously prophesied that, after the subdivision of the Roman empire into ten kingdoms, another king was to arise who shall speak great words .against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand, until a time, and times, and the dividing of time. But the judgment shåll sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end. The Apostle Paul, to allay the fears of the Thessalonians that the day of Christ was at hand, assures them that “that day shall not come except there come a falling away, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." 2d. Thess. John, in the Apocalypse, prophecies, in like manner, of "a beast, or form of tyrannical domination, to whom was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, and them that shall dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues and nations." Rev. xiii. 5—7.
* Bishop Newton.
These analogous predictions seem obviously to point to one object. The king that was to do according to his will, was to exalt himself and magnify himself above every God, to speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and to magnify himself above all. As if looking to this prophecy, and drawing from this pattern, the apostle describes that man of sin who was to be revealed, as opposing and exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, &c. And on a farther comparison of predictions which contain an inherent proof of their parallelism,“ he was to speak great things and blasphemies.. He was to open his mouth in blasphemy against God, and to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven; and it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them," &c. There is thus an identity in character and in power, as there is also in duration. The king“ was to prosper till the indignation be accomplished;" and in answer to the question by Daniel (xii. 6), how long (shall it bé to) the end of these wonders ? it is answered by the angel, for a time, times, and the dividing of time