REVIEW OF THE HISTORY CONSIDERED.
The Gentile Kingdoms from Greece to Rome Papal
AT this point we feel inclined to put to ourselves and our readers the high priests question to Stephen, "Are these things so?"
Is it really true that, more than twenty-five centuries ago, our Father in heaven unveiled in symbolic vision to His servant Daniel in Babylon the political future of this evil world? And is it really true that so far the events of all subsequent ages have slowly and perfectly fulfilled the predictions up to a point immediately preceding the close? Is this a fact that cannot be called in question, a fact that candour and common sense themselves are compelled to admit? Because if so, it is a most astonishing fact, and one that carries with it conclusions most momentous!
It is indeed a fact so wonderful, that a little incredulity is excusable; yet when one retubrns involuntarily to re-examine the evidence by which it is established and proved, the most careful scrutiny fails to reveal a flaw. Let us consider.
Four great successive world-ruling Gentile empires were, according to the Divine programme, to intervene between Judahs fall and Judahs restoration. Babylon, brief and single; Medo-Persia, double in origin and longer in duration; Greece, one notable king, and then four kingdoms; Rome, one vast, terrible, all- subduing empire, and then ten separate kingdoms. In the midst of these last a strange, new kind of dominion was to spring up and last for 1,260 years-a wicked, blaspheming, idolatrous, persecuting power, which, after a long career of iniquity and cruelty, would be first gradually consumed, towards the end, and then suddenly destroyed by the brightness of Christs coming, and succeeded by the everlasting kingdom of the Son of man and the saints.
Such was the sketch presented in the far away days of ancient Babylon.
Have events falsified or fulfilled it? Let us glance at this chronological chart, hanging on the college wall to teach students the course of history from the earliest times to our own day. It was originally published in Germany, and was designed with no idea of illustrating prophecy, but simply to convey the facts of history. It represents the successive kingdoms that have existed among men, as so many rivers of different hues running down across the centuries, now mingling their streams and then again dividing; numbers of them absorbed at times into great lake-like empires which swallowed up all their neighbours for a time, and broke up again into fragments when their day of dominion was over. The chart traces the course of all nations from the remotest times to the present day; but as the Daniel outline does not go beyond the days of Nebuchadnezzar, we present here, for convenience sake, only that chronological section of it which dates from the eighth century before Christ, and which covers the twenty-five centuries of the "times of the Gentiles," and only that geographical portion of it which represents the sphere of the four great empires contemplated in prophecy. Is there any general correspondence to be noted between the facts of history as here presented and the foreview of Daniel in Babylon?
The first glance gives the reply; there is a most marked and unmistakable correspondence; We see the many rivers of divers nationalities traversing the centuries perpendicularly, and there are certain lake-like expansions crossing the chart horizontally, in which many of the rivers merge, and from which others again emerge. These represent the old-world empires which devoured the earth in their day of dominion; how many such does the chart present?
Four, and only four. BABYLON, comparatively small and very brief in duration, up there at the top of the chart, in the early ages of humanity, swallowing up however Syria, Assyria, Phonicia, Judah, Israel, Egypt, the principal nations of the then known world; MEDO-PERSIA, larger and longer; GREECE, wider by far, but short and breaking up quickly into a few main divisions; and lastly, broad and long and all embracing beyond the rest, ROME, the most conspicuous empire on the whole chart, as it is the most prominent subject in prophecy and history. Rome, the iron empire, that lorded it so long over the known world, far reaching, long lasting, mighty by its mental force as well as by its military power, its impress resting even to this day on the world it once governed, on the laws and literature of western Europe. The great central subject of Daniels prophecy is beyond all question the great central object on the chart of history, as it appears to the eye of the mere secular historian; and as surely as Divine prediction said, " This shall be," so surely do historic records reply, "This has been.". As to the first half of the prophetic programme, there can be no doubt that the historian, as he looked back, saw the very same succession of events which the prophet saw as he looked forward-four great successive Gentile empires.
And what as to the second half of the story, so curiously contrasted to the first in character? The rule of ROME was to endure to the end, but to undergo a strange transformation. No other world-wide Gentile empire was to replace Rome, as Rome had replaced its predecessors; the glorious kingdom of God was to arise on its fall, and Gentile empire to cease for ever. But long prior to this fall, the one empire of Rome was to become multiple, tenfold-a commonwealth of kingdoms, yet a Roman world still. It was to break up, not into two, nor into four, but into ten independent co-existing kingdoms, which were to last for over twelve centuries; varying continually in number, extent, and mutual relation; never again coalescing into one, never subdividing into forty or fifty fragments, never forming into one great federation like the United States, but continuing in isolated independence, to average ten in number right on the end, owning all the time a voluntary submission to Rome under a new aspect.
This was a very singular prediction, and it may well have suggested to students perplexing and insoluble questions before it was interpreted by events. Again we earnestly scan the chart, to see how to the eye of the mere historian, who knows nothing of Daniels predictions, the story of western Europe during the last twelve or thirteen centuries presents itself. We observe that the lower half of the chart is occupied by ten or twelve constantly changing, oft mingling and afresh dividing streams, which never merge into one common lake as before, but preserve their separate courses. We see that by confluence these streams are sometimes reduced to less than ten, and by separation sometimes divided into more than the normal number, but that on an average that number is strictly maintained throughout the whole twelve centuries. Prominent among all these Gothic kingdoms of western Europe, and carrying on the dominion of old Rome after the deadly wound of Gothic conquest, we note the scarlet line of the Roman Papacy, which, though just one among the rest of the ten kingdoms- as to its secular power, and a small one as to its territorial extent, was yet, as we know, for long ages the ruler over all the rest; was, as we know, through its blasphemous spiritual pretensions, the acknowledged head of Latin Christendom, the bond of union in the Roman Catholic world all through the middle ages.
Further. The prophecy affixes chronological limits to the secular dominion of this last ruling power of the Roman world; it was to cease to exist as a horn, or temporal power, after 1,260 years, in this "time of the end." We run the eye down to the bottom of the chart, and, lo! we see the line of the Papal dominion turned aside, and merging, as Tuscany and Naples had previously done, in the broad, newborn stream of a united Italy. We see it disappearing from among the secular powers of Europe, obliterated, absorbed, defunct! We run the eye back to the origin of the stream, and see it emerging from the Gothic flood in the sixth century, and running onward with steady flow through twelve and a half centuries of time; then vanishing and disappearing altogether. Could prediction and fulfilment agree more closely? The future was sketched in words by the prophet; the past is here, sketched in form and colour by the historian; and the two absolutely agree together.
The recent unification of the German empire and of the Italian kingdom have brought hack the number of the states occupying the sphere of old Rome to the normal ten. Were Hanover, Bavaria, Wortemburg, and Saxony separate kingdoms, as not long since, or were Belgium and Holland one united kingdom of the Netherlands as formerly, the number of states in Roman Christendom would not be ten. Were Bohemia and Hungary separate from Austria, as once, or were Switzerland part of that empire, as it was for centuries, the number again would not be ten. At the foot of the chart we see the actually existing state of things, and no calculation can make either more or less than ten kingdoms, the divisions of the Roman world at the present day; the German empire, the Austrian empire, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain. If only those streams which can be traced back into the old Roman empire be counted, it will be seen at once that this has been the average number of thekingdoms of Latin Christendom through the last twelve centuries.*
* The northern nations, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, and the eastern nations, which territorially belong to the Greek and not to the Roman empire, (though subject to it in its golden days,) do not of course enter into the calculation of the kingdoms occupying the territory of Rome proper. There is as permanent a distinction between the geographical spheres of the four empires, as between their chronological period. Neither overlap each other: i.e., the body of each "beast" is distinct from his dominion for a time over other "beasts." Each empire actually governed all in its day of dominion, but it had, nevertheless, its o~vn proper sphere, Dan. vii. 12. "They had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged." Persia remains distinct from Greece, and Greece from Rome. _____________________________________________________________________________________
We hesitate not to assert that it is impossible for a candid reader acquainted with the book of Daniel to let the eye drink in the meaning of this historical chart, carrying, the mind back as it does over the complex history of countless millions of mankind in different lands and ages for two and a half millenniums, without being impressed, first, by the contrast between its upper and lower portions, the earlier and later sections of the history; and secondly, by the correspondence of both halves with the outline revealed two thousand five hundred years ago to Daniel. The two agree together, and utter with one voice the same programme: first, four empires; then ten kingdoms.
Now in the nature of the case there seems no reason why these two stages should have occurred in this order, why they should thus have been distinct and successive; no reason why Charlemagne or Napoleon should have so signally failed to reunite the broken fragments of the territory of old Rome; no reason why for twelve centuries every effort to do this should have proved utterly futile; no reason why ten instead of twenty or thirty should have been the average number of the kingdoms of Latin Christendom: no reason why the power of the Papacy should have lasted twelve and a half centuries. These things cannot have been brought to pass by human will, any more than they could have been foreseen by human intelligence in the days of Daniel. They are far too great, too complex, too unmanageable to have been manipulated by man, and far too manifold to have been merely imagined. Did any mere man ever venture or even pretend to predict the political and chronological features of history for thousands of years in advance? The only credible and rational account of the matter is the true one: that these revelations were inspired by God, to whom there is neither past nor future, but an eternal present; that holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
But the more profoundly reflection impresses this fact on the mind, the more firm and broad and immovable becomes the foundation for the further and inexpressibly glorious conclusion. The long series of events condensed into Daniels brief but pregnant sentences has all but reached its end, and as surely as Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome pagan and papal followed each other in a sorrowful succession of God-ignoring and man-oppressing empires, filling the earth like wild beasts with war, rapine, bloodshed, misery and death, ruling in unrighteousness and rioting in iniquity, to the confusion and despair of humanity,-so surely shall they be followed, and that right speedily, by the kingdom of the Son of man and of the saints-the blessed, peaceful, glorious, long foretold, long prayed for, and long expected KINGDOM OF GOD.
This is no fantastic fiction of dreamy philosophers, no vague imagination of mystic or theorist; it is simply the inevitable inference from the unquestionable facts of the case. If a long and complex series of events, comprising the history of scores of nations for over thousands of years, has fallen out in entire harmony with biblical prediction so far, would it not be madness to doubt that the brief remainder will do the same? The outline given was clear and comprehensive; there was nothing hazy or obscure about its commencing, central, or closing events. It did not consist of generalities that might mean anything or nothing: four great Gentile empires, and four only, were to rule over the people of God; and the fourth was to be broken into ten, and to last in that broken condition to the end. In the midst of the fragments was to be developed a strange, new, and evil politico-religious power, which would exalt itself against God, oppose the truth, destroy the saints, and after 1,260 years bring down Divine judgment on itself and its confederates. Such a power and such a state of things had never existed in Daniels day, and they must have been well- nigh inconceivable to his mind; yet he foretold them, and we know that they came. Succeeding centuries, as they have rolled over the world, have only fitted the events of history into this framework of chronologic prophecy. His chronology is marked by features which link it in entire harmony with much that we know of the works and of the word of God, and leaves us no room to doubt that the end of the present phase of Gods providential government of the world is close at hand, and that the Jewish people, the Gentile nations, and the Christian Church are all three about to enter on entirely new experiences.