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ultimately succeeded to that of pagan. And churchmen inflicted against men of understanding, the injuries and cruelties which martyrs, in the earlier history of the church, had suffered at the hands of heathens.
From the first great collision between Persia and Greece, the record of the prophet passed at once to the final result; and on the first influential exercise of the authority of Rome over the kingdoms of Syria and Egypt, and the subjugation of Macedon, the things that are next noted are the achievements of the Romans in Palestine. But in that part of the vision under our immediate consideration, the first era of persecution after the preaching of the gospel, and the little help that was afterwards to ensue, are distinctly marked as followed by a long period of trial and affliction, to the men of understanding, or to those who should adhere to the genuine truths of the gospel, as first preached unto the saints, and sealed with the blood of martyrs. They who, like those that had gone—and that, for the truth's sake had suffered— before them, would take the word of God, and no counsel or decree of fallible mortals, for the rule of their faith, and who, like the primitive Christians, would, in the exercise of their own judgment, but in perfect submission to divine authority, have their understanding exercised by reason of use to discern both good and evil, were to be oppressed and persecuted still, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white,
for a time appointed and, subsequently in this and other prophecies, expressly defined. That such a time of trial and of persecution for conscience sake, succeeded to the earlier martyrdom of Christians, and was continued, from age to age, is a truth too prominent and glaring to be questioned or disguised. It is not the 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 faith,— was 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 frequently 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 'king,' 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 of 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 instruction 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 who, 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 shall 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
• Bishop Newton.