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shall be found written in the book of life, as St. John has just told us; which indicates, that few will stand the trial and gain the crown of martyrdom, in comparison to the number of those who will give up the cause.—Then Daniel asked,
V. 6. “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ?
V. 7. “And I heard,” says he, "the man, that was clothed in linen, that stood upon the waters of the river, when he had lifted up his right hand, and his left hand to heaven, and had sworn by Him who liveth for ever, that it should be unto a time, and times, and half a time.”
Here, then, the answer is given in the most solemn manner, and God called to witness, (which shows the importance of the thing,) that this dreadful period will last for a time, and times, and half a time, or three years and a half. That by the expression of a time, the prophet means a year, appears from another passage, where the same prophet, speaking of the sentence the Almighty had passed upon Nabuchodonosor, he says: “ They shall cast thee out from among men, and thy dwelling shall be with cattle and with wild beasts, and thou shalt eat grass as an ox, and shall be wet with the dei of heaven: and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” Dan. iv. 22. The seven times here fixed for the duration of that proud king's punishment are acknowledged by all interpreters to mean seven years. The same period of three years and a half, as we have before observed, is given to the persecution by St. John, when he says: “And the holy city they shall tread under foot two and forty months.” Apoc. xi. 2. Here it is expressed in months, and again in the same manner: "and power was given to him (Antichrist) to do two and forty months." Apoc. xiii. 5. We likewise see the same period expressed in days for the duration of Henoch’s and Elias's preaching, which may be naturally supposed to equal the tinie of the Church's oppression: “And I will give unto my two witnesses and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty da v:." Apoc. xi. 3. In fine, Daniel, speaking of the Church's sufferings at this time, says: “ from the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination unto desolation shall be set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days,” xii. 11. Upon which St. Jerom writes thus :-" Therefore from the time that the continual sacrifice shall be taken away, and that Antichrist, being master of the world, shall prohibit the worship of God, to the time of his destruction, there will be three years and a half, that is, 1290 days.” In Dan. xii. There can then be no real doubt, that the time of Antichrist's persecution is confined to three years and a half, or 1260) days, and not extended to 1260 years, as some moderns have pretended, with a view of calumniating the Catholic Church. For, though in some particular places of the scriptures, a day may be found to denote a year, or a month to denote a month of years, that is, thirty years, or a week to signify a week of years, or seven years; yet there is no instance of a period of time mentioned in scripture under the three denominations of years, months, and days, that is not to be taken in its natural sense. Besides, the nature and circumstances of the case, as appears from the preceding history, evince the same; and in this sense it has been understood by the fathers of the Church. “That the reign of Antichrist,” says St. Chrysostom, “will last three years and six months, the scripture in several places testifies, but particularly the Apocalypse of St. John." Hom. 49. in Matt. 24.- See also St. Irenæus adv. Hær. 1. 5. c. 30. St. Cyril, Catech. 25. S. Hyppol. de consum. sæculi, St. Austin de civ. I. 23. c. 25. St. Jerom, Theodoret, and others.
But to resume the instructions given to Daniel concerning this interesting time.
Chap. xii. 7. “And when the scattering," continues he, “of the band of the holy people shall be accomplished, all these things shall be finished.” That is, these severe trials and calamities will be put an end to, after that the Christians shall have been scattered for an appointed time, by flying into deserts and caverns, as formerly, for shelter from the face of persecution. But in the mean time,
V. 10. “Many shall be chosen, and made white, and shall be tried as fire." The Christians will be tried, and made white or purified, as silver in the fire: such will be the severity of the persecution. Conformably to Daniel speaks also the prophet Zachary: “And there shall be in all the earth, saith the Lord, two parts in it shall be scattered, and shall perish: but the third part shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined; and I will try them, as gold is tried,” xiii, 8, 9. This persecution will be distinguished, as we observed before, by seven particular scenes more shocking than the rest; that are intimated by the seven thunders, which St. John heard speak, but was not permitted to write what they said, Apoc. x. 3, 4.-Daniel proceeds,
V. 10. " And the wicked shall deal wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the learned shall understand.” The wicked therefore will make no advantage of the times, but will continue to be wicked, through hardress of heart; nor will they understand, through their own wilful blindness, the ineaning of those scourges and trials sent upon mankind: whereas the learned, who are truly virtuous and instructed in these prophecies, will understand the reason of the divine judgments, and will turn them to their own profit, and to the gaining of an immortal crown.
Notwithstanding the dreadful aspect, under which appears Antichrist's persecution according to the preceding account, we should not however be dejected or dismayed. Confidence in the mercies and providence of God should allay our fears and support our fortitude. That all bountiful Being, in his severest judgments, never forgets mercy; and when he sends trials, he furnishes assistance proportioned to the exigencies. We have already seen that the archangel Michael will come, by the order of God, to the defence of the Christians, and will check the exorbitant power of Satan. Besides, we are assured that boisterous storm will not last beyond three years and a half. But the principal support in these extreme distresses will be, the abundant graces infused by the Almighty into the hearts of the faithful, which will inspire them with the most heroic fortitude and invincible constancy. These dispositions will also be nourished and animated by the incessant preaching of the ministers of God, who will be enabled to enforce their exhortations with many shining miracles. Among these apostolic labourers, Henoch and Elias will signalize their zeal. By such means not only the faithful will be supported, but many conversions made. The Church therefore at this period, though in appearance so much oppressed, will shine more glorious than in any former age, by the number of Christian champions, who will not fear to make open profession of their faith, will baffle by their invincible fortitude all Antichrist's arts and torments, and will soar in triumph to heaven with the crown of martyrdom.
It would seem that as the Christians will be fully instructed in the prophecies relating to the time, some of them, perhaps under their torments, will admonish Antichrist of his impending fate; in a similar manner as the above-mentioned king Antiochus was forewarned, by three of the seven Machabees whom he put to death, of the divine vengeance that would soon overtake him. The fifth of them, in his tortures, said to
Antiochus: “Whereas thou hast power among men, though thou art corruptible, thou dost what thou wilt: but think not that our nation is forsaken by God. But stay patiently a while, and thou shalt see his great power, in what manner he will torment thee and thy seed.” 2 Mach. vii. 16, 17. Antichrist raging with fury at hearing from the expiring Christians the supreme decree which dooms him with all his men to be slain by Jesus Christ and his celestial army of saints, he resolves upon the most daring and most impious scheme, that ever entered the heart of man, and which, by the concur-, rence of Satan and his false prophet, he puts in execution.
Chap. xvi. 13. “And I saw," says St. John, " from the mouth of the dragon, and from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.
V. 14. “For they are the spirits of devils working signs, and they go forth unto the kings of the whole earth* to gather them to battle against the great day of the Almighty God."
The dragon or Satan, the beast or Antichrist, and the false prophet, send forth, each of them, an unclean spirit or devil. These they depute to all the kings and potentates, to all the great and little states of the earth, to gather them to battle against the great day of the Almighty God, that is, to engage them to assemble their troops and join Antichrist, who has determined to encounter with the omnipotent God, by whom they will on that great day be crushed and utterly destroyed. What audacious temerity, surely, the advice of Satan, to dare challenge the Almighty to battle! But what wonder that those proud angels who had rebelled against their God in heaven, should now excite mankind to a similar impiety? These three ambassadors, spirits of devils, conceal themselves under human shapes, and, like frogs, which are amphibious, proceed both by land and sea to every state on the continents and in the islands, and by their power of working signs or wonders, impose upon the princes, and prevail with them to embark in the mad design of their great master Antichrist.
The earth was now reeking every where with the blood of Christian victims. The persecution raged with the utmost violence, and daily swept away multitudes. The pastors especially are picked out for slaughter, being more obnoxious on account of their zeal, in opposing Antichrist, in animating the Christians, and fortifying them under their conflicts. And this
* In the Greek, “the kings of the earth and of the whole inhabited
is exhibited to us with strong colours by the prophet Jeremy: “Howl, ye shepherds,” says he, “and cry: and sprinkle yourselves with ashes, ye leaders of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and dispersion are accomplished, and you shall fall like precious vessels. And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the leaders of the flock to save themselves," xxv. 34, 35. But this persecution was to be distinguished in a particular manner by the martyrdom of the two great messengers of Christ, his two witnesses, Henoch and Elias. Their Saviour and master had assigned them 1260 days, or three years and a half, to prophecy or to perform the function of his special ministers; during which time he screened them from all attempts of Antichrist and other enemies. But that period being now elapsed, he withdraws that special protection from them, and requires that they shall finish their work by sealing it with their blood. He therefore delivers them over into the power of Antichrist.
Chap. xi. 7. “And when they (the two witnesses) shall have finished their testimony," says St. John, “the beast, that ascendeth out of the abyss, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them.” Henoch and Elias then having finished their testimony, or time appointed them to give testimony to Christ by their preaching, they are to be put to death by order of Antichrist, who is impelled to it by Satan, the beast that ascendeth out of the abyss, or bottomless pit.
V. 8. “And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is called, spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified.” Their dead bodies lie exposed in the streets of the great city, which is Jerusalem, as appears by what is added, where their Lord was crucified; and our Saviour had said: “it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” Luke xiii. 33. Jerusalem is styled, spiritually or mystically, Sodom and Egypt: Sodom, because, as that city was burned by fire from heaven for its iniquities, so was Jerusalem doomed by heaven to be burned by the Romans in consequence of its crucifying its Lord. Jerusalem is also styled Egypt, in allusion to the persecutions the Jews suffered under the Pharaohs in Egypt, and which they will suffer in a more severe manner at Jerusalem under Antichrist.
V. 9. “And they of the tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, shall see their bodies for three days and a half: and they shall not suffer their bodies to be laid in sepulchres.
V. 10. “And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice