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Recovering the classic, Protestant interpretation of Bible prophecy.

CHAPTER XVII

ANSWERS TO OBJECTIONS.

WE believe that the system of chronologic prophecy which we have in the foregoing pages to some extent expounded is a strictly biblical one, though in no one passage or book of Scripture is it plainly set forth as a whole. Its various parts are found in the Bible, embodied in Levitical ordinances, involved in Old Testament histories and simple Gospel records, or revealed in prophetic visions. It lies latent in the Bible, as all science lies latent in nature, and can only be presented in a systematic form after numerous observations of apparently disconnected phenomena have been combined into wide generalizations. So this system, though not as a whole set forth anywhere in Scripture, has its basis laid deep in the inspired writings, and results from a careful comparison of Bible statements with each other, with the facts of nature, and with the actual providence of God in history. We do not assume that we have expounded or even discerned within perfect accuracy all the features of this system, but believe, on the contrary, that passing years will clear up many of its remaining obscurities, and reveal more clearly the exactness of its adjustments. As the late Rev. T. R. Birks wrote of our former work on this subject, so we feel as to this one, though it is more exact and more thorough on this point than its predecessor; it is "probably a penultimate and not an ultimate arrangement of the times of sacred prophecy." We believe it to be in advance of any previous exposition of the subject both in comprehensiveness and in accuracy, but we do not claim for it that it is final. The unfoldings of history within the next few years will do much to confirm or to shake its credibility; and we are content that it should be judged in the light of proximate events. But we are anxious to secure from all lovers of truth, of whatever shade of opinion on these subjects, a candid examination of the facts we have observed and here arranged, and in order to do this must now remove out of the way certain stumbling-blocks which might hinder some readers.

1. The first and main objection which will be felt by many is the apparently strong and well-founded one that this exposition, and especially our remarks on the future dates of the series-cautious and interrogative as they are- come dangerously near an unjustifiable attempt to fix the time of the second advent. It will be alleged that the clear, unambiguous statements of Scripture prove that to do this is impossible, and even to attempt it foolish and reprehensible for that it is evidently not the purpose of God that the time of that supreme event should be known; that Christ and His apostles founded their exhortations to constant watchfulness on the ground of our ignorance of the time of His return that He used the most emphatic expressions on the subject, saying, "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father"; and again, "Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is." [#Mark 13:32, 33.] It will be urged that even after His resurrection He said, in reply to the question of His disciples as to the time at which He would restore again the kingdom to Israel, "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power;" and that consequently we must be wrong in attempting to indicate from the prophecies of Daniel the chronologic date of the end of this age.

This objection appears at first sight so weighty and well grounded, that unless we can completely remove it, and even draw from these very passages an argument in defence of our position, we might as well refrain from publishing this book. We could neither expect nor desire these solemn statements to be lost sight of, nor the objection founded on them to be waived. It must be met, and we need hardly add there is no difficulty in its removal. Had it been otherwise this investigation would not have been undertaken. Had it been true, as some assert, that in face of these solemn and emphatic Scripture assertions we ought to be silent on this question of the time of the end; had it been true, as is assumed in this objection, that these statements apply as fully to the last as to the first generation of the Christian Church; had it been true, as the objection also implies, that the God who has given chronologic prophecy in Scripture does not intend the gift ever to become of practical value to His people, by permitting such prophecy to be understood; had these things been true, we should never have undertaken the search of which the results are here presented. That research was commenced and continued under a conviction that the exact reverse is the truth; that so far from fearing to intrude into forbidden regions by such sacred studies, we might look for Divine light in pursuing them, seeing it is promised that in this "time of the end" the saints shall understand, as previous generations could not do, the chronologic predictions of Scripture.

We are the more careful to examine and remove this popular objection, because its results are widespread and serious. On the one hand, it disinclines many sober- minded Christians to study the subject at all, because they conceive light on it to be unattainable; and on the other, it drives not a few to the adoption of the futurist system of interpretation-a system which we earnestly believe to be seriously injurious to the Church, as depriving her of a much-needed bulwark to her own faith, and of an invaluable advantage in the present conflict with infidelity, by robbing her of the cogent and unanswerable argument of fulfilled and fulfilling prophecy. Futurism, by insisting on the literality of the symbols of time employed in symbolic prophecies, makes the predicted periods to be only a few years in duration; and thus finds no difficulty in assigning them all to the future, and in asserting that there are no chronologic prophecies relative to the Christian dispensation, and that the Church is left in ignorance as to her own present position in the stream of time. This is to rob the "more sure word of prophecy" -that "light that shineth in a dark place "-of some of its brightest rays, and to deprive this incredulous age of the great and ever-present miracle, with which, by the true, interpretation, it is confronted.

It should be recognised that this objection is of course a fundamental one, and lies against all study of chronologic prophecy in the light of history, independent of any specific results arrived at. If we are bound to shrink with a religious horror from definite conclusions, we say not as to the day or hour, but as to the general period of the second advent, it were a clear folly to enter on investigations which must needs issue in such conclusions. There can be no question that the great historical predictions of Daniel lead up to the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth, that is, to the end of all Gentile monarchy-including that of antichrist; to the cleansing of the sanctuary, or Holy Land, from all Gentile oppressors, to the first resurrection and to the era of blessedness: in a word, to events which, as we learn from other Scriptures, are synchronous with the second advent.

Now these predictions contain distinct chronologic statements; so that the more closely we study and the more clearly we understand them, the more nearly we must needs approximate to a knowledge of the position of the second coming of Christ, not only in a series of historical events, but in a definite period of time. Hence if such knowledge be dangerous, such study should be avoided, for moral and mental danger must be shunned as cautiously as physical risk. If the ice be thin, we must refrain from going on it; if the vessel be unseaworthy, we ought not to embark. But we are not at liberty to refrain from the study of chronological prophecy, any more than from the study of any other part of Scripture. It is especially commended to us as a subject to which we do well to take heed, as one which both saints and angels in other days desired to look into, as one which carries with it peculiar blessing; and it is one in connexion with which there is the special promise that it shall be understood in this "time of the end." It cannot therefore be a duty to neglect it lest we should receive light, lest we should come to understand with some clearness "what manner of time" the Spirit of God has signified as the duration of this present Gentile age. There must be some explanation of this seeming inconsistency!

It should moreover be remembered that our Lord Himself made use, not only of the expressions on which the objection we are considering is founded, but also made use of others which inculcate the opposite duty of observing "the signs of the times," and of drawing from them the legitimate conclusions as to the proximity of His return. He not only said, "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man," but He also said, "When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors"; "when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." Our Lord thus inculcated constant watchfulness and hopeful expectation, on two distinct and contrasted grounds: first, on that of His people’s ignorance of the exact time of His return; and, secondly, on that of their knowledge, derived from fulfilled predictions, that it must be close at hand. He said, "Ye know not," and He said, "Know ye." He taught the same double truth in His parables. On the one hand, it was uncertain whether it would be in the first, second, or third watch of the night that the Lord of the servants would return to his household; on the other, it was "after a long time" that the master, who had taken his journey into a far country, came and reckoned with his servants. Again, there would go forth the midnight cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" and then the indefinite waiting of the virgins would give place to immediate expectation.

The real question is, Which of these two attitudes better becomes Christians at the end of the nineteenth century? Should ours be merely the watchfulness based on utter ignorance of the times, or should it not rather be the earnest expectation and hope based on knowledge? Each in its season is good and right, for each has been expressly commanded; but for which is this the season? It is clear that the two states of mind cannot co-exist, they mutually exclude each other. Surely the explanation of the apparent inconsistency is, that the former style of watchfulness was adapted to the first disciples of Christ and to the early Church, and the latter to the Church of these last days. The statements about not knowing the times and seasons are applicable to those who as a matter of fact did not know them, but actually expected the return of Christ in their own day; and the statements about knowing them, to those who have learned by experience that a period of eighteen hundred years at least was appointed in the councils of eternity to intervene between the departure of Christ and His return in glory.

It is self-evident that in respect of their knowledge of the true length of the Christian dispensation, these two classes, owing to the lapse of time, occupy wholly different ground, and that, but for chronologic prophecy, the Church of these last days would be exposed to fearful disadvantages compared with the early Church. The true length of this age was of course from the first known to God, but He did not reveal it to the early Church. He gave them general promises, like, "Behold, I come quickly"; "Yet a little while, and the coming One shall come, and will not tarry"; but He did not specify whether the interval was to be brief, according to human reckoning, or only according to the Divine scale of "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years." Did He therefore deceive them? No; but He allowed them to remain in ignorance of things it was better for them not to know, and that because He loved them, and sought their comfort and sanctification. Had they been informed beforehand of the predestined twelve centuries of apostasy and persecution, they would have been deprived of the cheering hope that they might be of the number who would be alive and remain at the second advent. What help would it have been to the martyrs under pagan Rome to look down the long, dark vista of ages, and behold the worse martyrdoms under Papal Rome? What present influence could an advent promised at the end of well-nigh two thousand years have had in cheering and strengthening and purifying the early Church? None! The knowledge would have paralysed faith and hope and courage. Their ignorance was best for them, and God, in mercy, did not remove it.

But we of these last days are not ignorant of the facts of the case. A strange and momentous historic drama of which they little dreamed, the great apostasy of the Christian Church, the long ages of Papal usurpation, corruption, and persecution, all lie open before our eyes on the page of history.

"A knowledge of the limits of the great anti-Christian apostasy would not now deprive us of hope, but the very contrary; in fact, we need some such revelation to sustain our faith and hope to the end of the long delay; without the chronological data afforded us by the prophecies of Daniel and John, we should be in a position of fearful temptation to doubt and despair. The early Church was entirely ignorant of the length of the interval which we know to have occurred, and this knowledge absolutely prevents the general promises of the nearness of the second advent from having the same power over us that they had over it. Those statements cannot convey to us, after a lapse of well-nigh two thousand years, the impressions they conveyed to the primitive saints. They seemed to justify them in expecting the coming of Christ in their own day; but each succeeding generation would have less and less ground for such an expectation; and when the promise was already one thousand years old, who could avoid the reflection, ‘Since it has included one thousand years, it may include another’? We, after nearly two thousand years, could not, as we read the promise, escape the conviction, that, having already included two thousand years, it was perfectly possible that two thousand more were yet to come. Each century of delay would thus increase the heart-sickness of hope deferred, and the Church of these last days might well hang down her head in the sorrowful but irresistible conviction that her redemption might still be at an immeasurable distance; she could have no well grounded hope that the Lord was, in any strict sense, ‘at hand.’

"Now one generation of His saints is as dear to God as another; we may be sure He did not secure the holiness and happiness of the early Church at the expense of ours, nor conceal what might be a blessing to us, because the knowledge might not have been a blessing to them. No; He provided some better thing for us, than that we should float uncertainly on the stream of time, not knowing whether we were any nearer to the future than to the past advent of Christ. He revealed, but revealed in a mystery, all the main events of this dispensation, and nearly two-thirds of its duration; He revealed them in just such a way, as best to secure a renewal of hope that should give consolation, and revive in these last times a ‘patient waiting for Christ.’ Since continued ignorance of the true nature and length of this dispensation, as determined beforehand in the counsels of God, could have produced the very opposite effects designed by the permission of temporary ignorance, we have every reason to conclude that God would in due time replace this latter by knowledge, and give a gradually increasing understanding of the inspired predictions." [See "The Approaching End of the Age," p. 87.]

The change from utter ignorance to comparatively full knowledge on the subject of the chronologic measures of this Gentile age has been, and was doubtless intended to be, gradual and progressive through its entire course. It has been secured by a gradually increasing comprehension of the symbolic prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse. These have slowly become clear in the light of history, and their true scale, suspected and vaguely suggested, but always wrongly applied by earlier generations of students, has since the Reformation been demonstrated with ever- increasing distinctness. In the focussed light of all the facts mentioned in our chronological chapter, our position in the time of the end seems indicated with such a measure of exactness, that knowledge ought assuredly to be to us a far mightier motive to patient waiting for Christ than ignorance.

We add on this point some of the weighty and last words of another, whose cautions and reverent spirit, combined with clear, intelligent grasp of these subjects, has never been excelled.

"We are often reminded that the secret things belong to the Lord our God; and doubtless, even in searching God’s holy prophecies, the spirit of that caution may be transgressed by a vain curiosity and irreverent boldness. But when the words are perverted into an absolute prohibition, the rest of the verse supplies a conclusive answer. The things that are revealed belong to us and to our children. Surely every part of God’s word is a revelation. To number it among the secret things which are best honoured by neglect is really to fling back the Divine gift in the face of Him who bestows it. He solemnly declares that all inspired Scripture is profitable for us, and that whatever is written therein is written for our learning. Who are we that we should pretend to be wiser than God, or profess that some of His revealed sayings would have been more wisely kept back from us? as if our neglect were to remedy the unwise loquacity of the Spirit of God!"

Perhaps the most common objection to the study of chronologic prophecy is based upon our Lord’s words, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power" (#Acts 1:7).

"These words however, when searched narrowly, are a strong warrant for an inquiry into the times and seasons of prophecy, while they suggest a needful caution for its due exercise. The words are not general, as our version seems to imply, but special. ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father bath reserved in His own power.’ There is here a direct allusion to a text familiar to the apostles, and which explains the true meaning of the answer.

Daniel (#Dan 12) had heard two angels put the inquiry, ‘How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?’ The Son of God replies with a solemn oath, that ‘it shall be for a season, and seasons, and half a season; and when He shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.’ The prophet then asks for further light, but receives the answer, ‘The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’

"The answer then of our Lord to His apostles on earth is only the echo of His reply to the prophet in the vision. The event spoken of is clearly the same in both, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, and the end of the scattering of the holy people. The seasons of delay before the event were sealed till the time of the end; until then the Father, by the lips of the Covenant Angel, had expressly reserved them in His own power. The disciples asked the time of that restoration. Our Lord, as if pointing them to the words of Daniel, introduces the very term employed in the vision, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.’ As if He had said, ‘The time of which you speak follows certain seasons of predicted delay; and these seasons have been reserved at present from a complete revelation, until the Father Himself, at the time of the end, shall begin to unseal them.’

"We have thus a threefold and fourfold answer to the objection. First, the words are not general as to all times, but refer specially to the three times and a half which were to be sealed and closed until a later period. Secondly, they are not general as to Christians, but relate with a marked emphasis to the apostles themselves, and Christians in their day. ‘ Such knowledge,’ our Lord implies, ‘may be hereafter given to others, but it is not for you. Another work is assigned you, to found the Church, and spread the gospel through the world.’ It is only when the faith of the Gentiles begins to decay that the Father will unseal the times of that blessed hope which will be as life from the dead to the unbelieving world. And hence, further, they are a secret assurance that there will be other Christians of a later age, to whom these times will be unsealed, as those of Jeremiah were to Daniel himself, shortly before their close.

"The words of Christ, ‘Of that day and that hour knoweth. no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father,’ are also viewed as a clear censure on all these inquiries. How far the spirit of this caution extends may require much spiritual wisdom to determine: but conclusions loosely and rashly drawn from it have nothing to sustain them. First, the assertion is strictly true only of the time when our Saviour spoke; for surely with regard to the Son of God, they must have ceased to be true when He was risen and ascended into glory. Our Lord Himself, since they were uttered, has received in His human nature immeasurable wisdom and we may infer that His Church also, though in measures infinitely short of His own, will receive from age to age a like increase. Again, the words refer to the day and the hour, not to the year, much less to the generation in which that great event will occur. Minute conjectures on the time of the advent may still he forbidden us, and the spirit of the caution may extend itself beyond the strict letter; but still the spirit of the previous verse, ’When ye shall see these things begin to come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors,’ has a voice not less plain, and speaks with the same authority. The first generation of the Church there is made a precedent for the last, and leads us to expect that Christians, whenever that generation has come, will be able to ascertain it, and may know by clear signs that the Lord is really near at hand." [Rev. T. R.. Birks: "Thoughts on the Times and Seasons of Sacred Prophecy."]

2. The second obvious and easy objection which will be alleged against our exposition is the repeated failures which have attended previous attempts to demonstrate the limits of the prophetic periods and to indicate the probable date of the end of this age. A little consideration will show the baseless nature of this objection.

The frankly admitted fact that the study of chronologic prophecy has led to premature anticipations of the end, is no more an objection to its divinely intended use, than is the still more conspicuous fact that the general promises of Scripture as to the coming of the Lord have done the same. Not more than twenty generations have elapsed since the study of chronologic prophecy began to be pursued; while sixty generations at least have been exposed to erroneous anticipations based on non-chronologic predictions. If we are justified in declining investigation of the revealed "times and seasons," because such investigation has led to some false anticipations, we should also be justified in paying no attention to the general promises of Christ’s speedy advent which have thus led to tenfold more numerous disappointments. The fact is, that such disappointments are no argument against the value of either class of predictions, but are, on the contrary, an intended and inevitable result of both the one and the other.

It is perfectly evident from all the statements of the New Testament on the subject that the Lord desired all the generations of His Church to live in continual expectation of His return. It is equally certain that in the Divine councils a period of about nineteen centuries was appointed to elapse before that event should take place. What wonder then that promise and prophecy were so bestowed as to secure the maintenance of watchfulness through all the nineteen Christian centuries? That this is what has been done is evident from the objection that premature and mistaken expectations of the end have always prevailed in the Church. Such is the case, and there are instances on record in which these expectations have done temporary harm, by unsettling the minds of the weak and unstable, as in the Thessalonian Church for instance, in very early days, and among the Millerites and others in America in recent times. But such premature anticipations have as a rule had, as they were designed to have, a beneficial effect on the different sections of the Church in which they have prevailed. They have tended to cheer and strengthen those who have sincerely entertained them; to encourage separation from the world, study of Scripture, and practical earnestness in the work of evangelization. These were the effects intended, and history testifies that these have generally been the effects produced.

It must not be rashly and wrongly assumed that God has intentionally deceived His people on this point. He has simply withheld from them, and for a time, light which He might have given, but which it would have been injurious for them to have received too soon. Tender seedling plants cannot bear the blaze of the noonday sun, and a wise husbandman shields them from it until it will be beneficial rather than harmful; in due time it will be the best tonic they can have, and absolutely indispensable to the final ripening of the fruit. So as to this truth of the appointed length of the Christian dispensation. There was a time when the infant Church would have withered and drooped under it; the fore-view of eighteen hundred years of apostasy and persecution would have destroyed its hope, and have been too severe a test of its faith. To the Church of these last days, on the other hand, light as to the limits of this age of long suffering with sin is not only good but indispensable. That such light should dawn on the Church, and brighten gradually as needed, was by Divine wisdom arranged for and secured by the use of two sorts of predictions: general ones, adapted to earlier ages, and chronological ones, intended for the last days. That the latter should not be prematurely understood was secured by the use of symbols for the periods of time, as well as for the events. Church history proves that this prevented premature discovery, and present experience proves that it has secured the right reading of the mysterious revelation by the light of its own fulfilment in these last days, when its comprehension is a needful aid to faith and hope.

Why should we deem it unlikely that God should on this subject allow the truth to be concealed for a time? How much scientific truth of immense practical value to mankind did He permit to remain unknown until this nineteenth century! It was reserved for this "time of the end" for the wise to understand many things. What if early attempts to understand chronologic prophecy were erroneous? Do we doubt and despise the conclusions of astronomy because the astrologers of other days had erroneous notions? Do we ridicule the early and clumsy attempts to adapt to each other steam-power and machinery because they did not immediately produce such power-looms and locomotives as those of our own day? Why then despise early and incorrect attempts to read the riddle of prophetic chronology?

As this point is one of considerable importance, we will give a further answer to the objection in the well-chosen words of the author previously quoted.

" These successive anticipations are just what it was reasonable to expect. Only by this gradual approach to a correct view of the times and seasons could the two main purposes have been fulfilled-growing knowledge of the prophecy, with a constant and unbroken expectation of the Lord’s coming. The fact therefore is so far from refuting the theory, that it might rather be viewed as a direct corollary from its truth. The objection, in reality, assumes that the Church must either be in total ignorance of the times, or vault at once unto the possession of exact and perfect knowledge. Either she must entirely renounce the use of the prophetic dates, as having no connexion with her past history, and float in a complete uncertainty concerning her own place in the stream of providence, or else may claim to decide with unerring exactness on the very year in which particular events shall he fulfilled. Now this is a monstrous alternative to propose; neither Scripture nor reason lend it the slightest warrant. . .

"Let us now suppose that the year-day theory is the Divine instrument for conveying to the Church this partial light. Every exposition based on it must then partake of two opposite characters. Compared with the exciting prospect of the instant coming of Christ, as entertained in the Thessalonian Church, it would be a protraction; measured by the event, or by a full and perfect knowledge, it would be an anticipation. It would serve as ballast to those who were shaken in mind and troubled by a false impression of the imminent nearness of the judgment; and it would be a wholesome stimulus to the slothful servant who should say in his heart, ‘My Lord delayeth His coming.’ Now these, which are the very marks of its practical worth, form the two counts of the inconsistent indictment which has been laid against it. ‘It interferes with the expectation of the advent.’ That is to say in reality, it serves from age to age for a partial corrective of false anticipations, like that of the Thessalonians. ‘It has repeatedly failed in its predictions, ministered occasion to the scoffers, and thrown discredit on the study of prophecy.’ In other words, it has not prematurely revealed the whole interval while the end was still distant, nor given more light to earlier generations of the Church than was profitable for them to receive. It has ministered occasion to the scoffer, and in so doing has fulfilled the prediction that none of the wicked shall understand; while, by the gradual approaches to a just estimate of the times, it has fulfilled the contrasted promise, that knowledge shall be increased, and that the wise shall understand. The opposite objections urged against it are the very proof of its adaptation to the wants of the Church. . .

" The successive failures, as they have been called, are no real failures in a practical sense. They are only waymarks in the progress of the Church from that entire ignorance of the times in which she was purposely left in the apostolic age to the full and certain knowledge that the Bridegroom is at hand, which shall prepare her, like the wise virgins, to enter in with her Lord to the marriage feast."

But we must go further than this, and remind those who object on the ground of false anticipations, that to the system here expounded may be traced many true anticipations of a very remarkable character-anticipations which can hardly be accounted for save on the ground of the truth of the system which led to them. Some of these anticipations were absolutely correct; others correct within a year or two; and it should be remembered that the growth of light is always gradual, and that only within the last few years has astronomy lent its aid to chronological calculations. In the earliest ages of the Church chronologic prophecy was, as it was intended to be, absolutely an enigma; Bible students felt it to be so, and only occasionally hazarded remarks on the subject. Only in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries did any real light begin to dawn. A great step was made when the year- day principle of interpreting the periods was recognised; though for some centuries they were dated from altogether wrong starting-points, and attention was directed exclusively to the second half of the great week, the dates of the captivity era never being used as starting-points, nor the whole "seven times-" taken into account. The era of the Reformation witnessed a great advance in prophetic interpretation, as it was then that the true character of the Papal antichrist was first generally recognised. Aritius, an expositor who died in 1574, saw and taught the year-day theory, but dated the 1,260 years from Constantine’s establishment of imperial Christianity, AD. 312 ; he consequently expected the period to run out in his own days. David Chytr├Žus, in 1571, suggested that the period might perhaps be measured from Alaric’s destruction of Rome, AD. 412, and so run out in AD. 1692; he thought it more likely that it was dated from the edict of Phocas, 606, and hence that it would run out in 1866. Pareus, writing in 1608, fixes on the same date, as did also many later expositors; they were justified by the result, for the four years 1866-70 were, as we have shown, critical and terminal in the existence of the temporal power of the Papacy.

Robert Fleming, in his work on "The Rise and Fall of Rome Papal," published in the year 1701, anticipated the years 1794 and 1848 as great crises in the downfall of the Papacy, even as we know they proved to be; and he added, "Yet we are not to imagine these events will totally destroy the Papacy, for we find it is still in being and alive when the next vial is poured out." There were no signs when Fleming wrote at the commencement of the eighteenth century, of the awful revolutionary crisis that was to arise ore its close, still less of the events of the revolutionary year 1848. He was led to select them solely by chronologic prophecy; and so were the numerous writers who, long before the years 1866-70, pointed out that those years were destined to be most critical ones in the downfall of despotic power and Papal usurpation, many of them definitely predicting the cessation of the temporal power. Similarly the date of the Greek insurrection, and of other stages in the fall of Turkey, have been foreseen and indicated beforehand by students of the prophetic word.

3. One objection likely to be raised against this whole exposition is, that it deals with so large a number of events and of dates, and that some of them do not seem to be of first rate importance. It will be said that with three scales of measurements, and a variety of points to measure from and to, it is easy to make out anything, and that the very multiplicity of coincidences decreases confidence in the worth of any of them. Now while such an impression may naturally arise from a first and perhaps superficial survey of the subject, yet closer study and more careful examination will turn it from an objection to a powerful corroboration. The best reply is a glance at the diagram, which shows

I. That the still unfulfilled chronological periods announced in Scripture, and here considered, are four, and four only.

i. The 2,520 years or "seven times," or great comprehensive week of the prophetic calendar.

ii.Its latter half, the 1,260 years, or three and a half times of the Papal and Mohammedan apostasies.

iii. The shortened form or the 2,300 years of the eastern sanctuary cycle dating from the Persian restoration era.

iv. The final time of #Rev 10.

Hence there is no great multiplicity of periods. The other prophecies alluded to, such as the sixty-five years to the fall of Ephraim, the seventy years of Judah’s captivity, and the 490 from the Persian restoration era to the Messianic era at the first advent, are all of course fulfilled predictions, and bear on the question of the end of this age mainly as affording lessons as to the style of fulfilment to be expected at the close of the longer periods. It is from them we learn the two great principles: that all the different astronomic measures of the year are employed in chronologic prophecy; and that such predicted periods extend, not merely between specific years, but also between eras of wider extent.

II. A glance at the diagram shows also that the commencing and closing eras of these long periods, the briefest of which extends over more than three centuries, are, though actually long, relatively very short. To the periods themselves they bear just such a relation as infancy and old age generally bear to mature life, such a relation as the growth and the decay of an oak tree bear to its whole existence-in other words, a natural relation. National changes are as a rule slow. Vast empires are not consolidated in a year, and world-wide dominion does not suddenly collapse; the movements of history are as gradual as are the processes of nature. It is difficult to decide the year in which the youth stops growing, and "coming of age" has to be fixed at an arbitrary point. So the rise and fall of empires cannot be assigned to exact dates, but must needs occupy eras more or less prolonged.

On the other hand, it is no less certain that in such eras several dates will naturally stand out as critical, some more decidedly so than others but many will mark stages of development and decay. Surely no objection should lie against an exposition because it takes into account facts so harmonious with the laws of nature! If it would be accepted as a proof of Divine inspiration that a predicted period should prove to have elapsed between any two given dates, is not the proof strengthened when it is demonstrated that the same period similarly extends between all the corresponding crises of the commencing and terminal eras? Not only did the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity elapse between Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion of Judah, B.C. 605, and the decree of Cyrus, B.C. 536, they also elapsed between the final destruction of Jerusalem, B.C. 587, and the fourth year of Darius, B.C. 517. Not only did seventy weeks extend from the edicts of Artaxerxes to the cutting off of "Messiah the Prince," but they also extended between the different crises of the Persian restoration era and the Messianic era. This principle, proved by history to have governed the accomplishments of the fulfilled predictions, we have applied to the still partially unfulfilled predictions, and the result proves that it holds good so far, leading to the anticipation that it will do so to the close. As to the three astronomic scales, we know that they are all employed both in human computations and in Divine predictions; that the two fulfilled predictions to which we have just alluded were, for instance, actually measured on both lunar and solar scales; hence we feel warranted in using all three, and the result shows that they are intended to be so applied.

As regards the character of the events which we have pointed out in the critical eras, it should be remembered that they are indicated only as links in a chain; they must not be considered as isolated events, but as units in a group, members of a series. Standing alone, some of them might seem comparatively unimportant, but collectively they make up historical movements whose critical nature cannot be questioned. Strike out half the dates if you will, you cannot strike out the historical movement as a whole; it is there, prominent in the records of history, conspicuous as a fulfilment of prophecy. Each of its stages derives its importance from its relation to all the rest. The abdication, for instance, of Charles X. and of Louis Philippe, and the fall of Napoleon III., may not have been occurrences of the first magnitude; but they were clearly links in the chain of events which overthrew Papal supremacy in Europe, and that overthrow is an event of supreme importance to the human race, and of vital connexion with the themes of prophecy. So as to Kainardje, Carlowitz, the Crimean War, and the Treaty of Berlin; looked at as standing alone, they may rank as comparatively unimportant in their influence on the history of the people of God; but looked at as stages of the overthrow of the once mighty and dreaded anti-Christian Turkish empire, as the first fatal blows to a power which still hinders the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, their important relation to the prophetic programme cannot be fairly denied.

Each of the events of a series, if taken singly and separately, may lose entirely the character it bears when regarded in all its connexions. A destructive swarm of locusts, for instance, is no unusual occurrence in Egypt, and an objector might well refuse to regard it as any special Divine judgment. But when it occurs as one of ten plagues, which issue in a predicted result so remarkable as the exodus of Israel from Egypt, who can refuse to recognise its true character? So as to the various stages of the judgments under which. the Papacy and Mohammedanism are perishing. They resemble the plagues of Egypt in this respect, that they arc distinct and successive inflictions, from no one of which is there any real recovery, whose effects are consequently cumulative, though the end in view, the utter destruction of the adverse power, is not accomplished exclusively by them, but by direct Divine interference at last.

Moreover careful examination will show that these events, which fell out at the various closes of the prophetic periods, as measured from their successive starring- points, comprise really all the critical stages of the movement in question which have happened so far. Will any one indicate events haying a vital connexion with the fall of the Papacy and Mohammedanism, other than those which sacred prophecy has thus indicated?

It may be said that we have not alluded to the Reformation, which has the most important factor in the decay and the fall of the Papacy. That is true; but the Reformation was a spiritual, and not a political movement. The periods of Daniel start from and lead to political changes. The Reformation changed the hearts of men and the creeds of Churches, and led in the end to political changes also, but not at the commencement. It does not fall within the chronological range of the "time of the end"; for it is removed as we have seen by a whole prophetic "time" of three hundred and sixty years. from the close of the "times of the Gentiles"; and it is consequently made the subject of a separate chronological prediction.

4. Some again may object to the system here developed, on the ground that it is somewhat complicated, involving research and calculation, and lacking in that notable characteristic of all truth, simplicity. It will be alleged that it is the glory of both the moral law and the gospel that children can understand and obey them, and that the ignorant and unlearned can appreciate them; while neither of these classes could follow the reasonings or grasp the conclusions of this investigation. The answer to this objection is that Scripture avowedly contains, not only milk for babes, but solid meat for those of mature intelligence; even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

It is the same with nature; the fundamental and essential laws on which existence depends lie on the surface, and commend themselves to the least developed intelligence. But has nature no precious secrets which she yields only to patient observation, earnest research, and continued meditation and reflection? And are these long-ignored causes and unperceived laws destitute therefore of practical importance? Let the discovery of steam and electricity in the nineteenth century be a reply!

Could the science of geology have been understood and turned to account by simply surveying the surface of the ground? Could the marvellously complex laws of chemistry have been grasped by considering merely the mechanical properties of matter? Can superficial and uncultivated readers appreciate, or even perceive, the literary excellence of Dante or Shakespeare? And are we to imagine that, while human compositions are adapted to the highest intelligence, that the book of God can be fathomed with facility by the weakest and most uncultivated minds? That were a conception altogether derogatory to the dignity of inspiration! Ought we not rather to expect in the oracles of God heights and depths of hidden wisdom which shall utter themselves only to those who earnestly seek wisdom, "watching daily at her gates, and waiting at the posts of her doors " ? Simplicity of result in nature arises from arrangements of extreme complexity; as, for instance, the movements of the moon or the planets. To calculate the motions of only three bodies in space in accordance with the laws of gravitation and motion is, as is well known, a problem passing human intelligence.

The result of the chronological calculations and historical adaptations which we have endeavoured to indicate is simple enough, and may be expressed in a sentence. It has pleased God to order the revolutions of history in harmony with that law of completion in weeks, by which He has ordered many of the revolutions of nature, and according to which He arranged the typical ritual service of the Jewish people. The Gentile dispensation of the four great empires, n-hose nature, course, and close is revealed in Daniel, is a great week, beginning with the rise of the typical, and ending with the fall of the anti-typical Babylon, and bisected by the rise of the Papal and Mohammedan powers. This great dispensational week and its sections are measured from the different crises of its commencing era on the different natural scales, the longest of which, the solar, alone is final. There is surely no great complexity in this result, though to establish it requires study and research. Herein however the parallel with nature is too exact to warrant objection.

Index Preface 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Appendix A Appendix B





About Me

Historicism.com is owned and operated by me, Joe Haynes, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I serve as a pastor in a church plant in Victoria since 2013. My wife, Heather, and I have five kids. In 2011, I completed a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Northwest Baptist Seminary at the Associated Canadian Theological Seminaries of Trinity Western University. Feel free to visit my blog at Keruxai.com.
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