LIGHT FOR THE LAST DAYS
H. Grattan Guinness. 1888
During the eight years which have elapsed since its publication, our former volume, "The Approaching End of the Age, Viewed in the Light of History, Prophecy, and Science," has passed through nine editions, numbering fifteen thousand copies, and a tenth edition has just been called for and issued, a satisfactory proof that the sure word of prophecy is receiving increased attention in these last days.
The events which have transpired during those eight years have confirmed the views expressed in our former work, and farther study of the subject has resulted in a deeper conviction than ever of their substantial truth, as well as in a clearer perception of the application of some of the principles on which those views were based.
In the following pages we present, in a fuller and more detached and definite form, the historic evidence of the fulfilment of the main chronologic prophecies of Scripture. The subject was glanced at in the "Approaching End," but owing to the variety of topics there treated, it was very imperfectly expounded. Here it will be found carefully traced out; and we feel confident that the more the details are studied, the more clearly will the truth of the entire system appear.
The demonstration of that system has a double value. It yields strong confirmation for faith, in the first place; and affords important practical guidance, as "a light that shines in a dark place," in the second.
No one who is acquainted with the mental condition of the great bulk of the intelligent classes in these days can doubt that a wide-spread defection from the faith exists already, and extends continually. Infidelity and rationalism in countless forms, both open and concealed, are not only rife in the world, but also in the Church. A great intellectual change has passed over the minds of men within this generation, and its effect has been to a large extent adverse to faith in revelation. Historic criticism, the philosophical mode of treating ancient history, which has been applied since the time of Niebuhr to the books of the Bible, too often rashly and inconsiderately, has done much to produce in the minds of many a state of suspended belief, if not of actual unbelief; while the tendency to hasty generalization on the part of the rapidly developing natural sciences, which has seemed to place nature, the work of God, in opposition to Scripture, His word, has helped to undermine the old foundations.
Truer criticism and truer science are slowly undoing some of the mischief which was all too quickly wrought; but the flood of rationalistic teaching still flows alike from the professors chair and the periodical press, from the pulpit and the platform. An organized diffusion of infidel principles is proceeding in every class of society, and the young are peculiarly exposed to be injured by it. The less the instruction and experience, the greater the danger of being misled by the specious arguments of scepticism, and the greater the need of confirmation and establishment in divinely revealed truth. The ceaseless warfare being waged against the word of God should prepare us gladly to welcome every additional evidence of its inspiration.
Of all the various lines of Christian evidence none is so specially adapted to these last days as that based on fulfilled prophecy. It is as distinctively suited to the close of the dispensation, as were miracles to the commencement. As the age of miracle recedes, and its occurrence at all is in consequence increasingly called in question, the proofs of supernatural power and wisdom arising from fulfilled prophecy accumulate and become irresistible. Each century of Jewish and Gentile history adds to its amount, and the last century especially has done so very largely.
The prophecies of Daniel stand pre-eminent among all others in their evidential value. It is an astounding fact, that not only does his brief book give a fore-view of twenty-five centuries of Jewish and Gentile history, including the first and the second advents of Christ, but that it also fixes the chronology of various episodes of the then unknown future, with a simple certainty which would be audacious if it were not Divine. Would any mere man dare to foretell, not only a long succession of events lying far in the remote future, but in addition the periods they would occupy? This Daniel has done, and the predictions have come to pass.
This great and unquestionable fact can be explained away only on one of three grounds.
1. The accord must be purely accidental and fortuitous; or
2. The events must have been manipulated, so as to fit the prophecy; or
3. The prophecy must have been fitted to the events, and thus written after them, though claiming to have been written before.
None of these three explanations can account for the agreement between Daniels predictions and history, as a moments reflection will show.
1. It cannot be merely fortuitous. It is too far-reaching and detailed, too exact and varied. Chance might produce one or two coincidences of prediction and fulfilment out of a hundred, not a hundred or more without a single exception. Common sense perceives this at a glance. As far as time has elapsed every single point predicted in Daniel has come true, and there remain but a few terminal predictions to be fulfilled in the near future.
2.The events were certainly not made to fit the prophecy by human arrangement. The rise and fall and succession of monarchies and of empires, and the conduct and character of nations, for over two thousand years, are matters altogether too vast to be manipulated by men. Such a notion is clearly absurd. What! did Babylonian and Persian monarchs, and Grecian and Roman conquerors, Gothic and Vandal invaders, medieval kings and popes, and modern revolutionary leaders, all intentionally conspire for long ages to accomplish obscure Jewish predictions, of which the majority of them never even heard?
3. The third and last solution is consequently the only possible alternative to a frank admission of the Divine inspiration of the book, and of the Divine government of the world amid all its castles political changes. Can the prophecy have been written to fit the events? In other words, can it be a forgery of a later date? This is the theory adopted by all the unbelieving critics, who start with the assumption that prophecy in any true sense is impossible. They attempt to assign to the book a date later than the true one, a date towards the close of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, who died in the second century before Christ. They then endeavour to compress all the four empires into the four centuries previous to that date, excluding entirely from the prophecy any allusion to the Roman empire and the first advent of Christ, to say nothing of the second. Multitudinous have been the attacks made on these lines on the fortress of this book of Daniel, for scepticism has realized that while it stands impregnable, a relic of the sixth century before Christ, all rationalistic theories must fall to the ground, like Dagon before the ark. But the fortress stands firm as ever, its massive foundations revealed only the more clearly by the varied assaults it has repelled. The assailants, German as well as English, have been beaten off time after time by one champion after another, earnestly contending for the faith. As the superficial and shallow nature of the linguistic, historic, or critical objections has been demonstrated, one line of assault after another has been abandoned, till all are alike forsaken. But even if this were not the case, and the later date could be substantiated, it would not in the least warrant the sceptical denial of the existence of prophecy in Daniel. The predictions of the first advent and of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem would be in no wise affected by the later date, nor those of the tenfold division of the Roman empire and of the great Papal and Mohammedan apostasies.
Candour is shut up to the conclusion that real, true, and marvellous foreknowledge is, beyond all question, indicated by the predictions of the book, since twenty-five centuries of history correspond with it accurately, in their chronological as well as in all their other features. This being so, the question of inspiration is settled for honest minds. Nor that alone. For the rule of God over the kings of the earth-the fact that history is working out His Divine purposes, and that all the changing kingdoms of the Gentiles are merely introductory to the eternal kingdom of the Son of man and of the saints-is also established beyond controversy.
It was alleged by the sceptical school that the late origin of Daniel was demonstrated by the presence of Macedonian words, and of impure Hebrew expressions; that its spurious character was proved by its position in the canon, as not among "the prophets," but among "Hagiographa"; that it contained historical errors and irreconcilable contradictions; that it had traces of later ideas and usages; as well as-and this was evidently the head and front of the offending- that the predictions were so clear and definite, that they must have been written after the events.
The defence has been twofold. First, a demonstration which leaves nothing to be desired of the utter baselessness of the objections; and secondly, an array of unanswerable arguments in support of the authenticity and date of the book. The contention has given rise to a whole literature, to which we can merely allude in a few sentences. Those who wish to examine into the subject for themselves will find the works of Hengstenberg and Dr. Pusey very thorough and candid, as well as learned, giving not the results of investigation only, but the process, and the fullest reference to original documents.
As the predictions of Daniel lie at the base of the following treatise, we must indicate the nature of the defence, though we cannot do more. Porphyry, in the third century, in his attack on Christianity as a whole, devoted one of his fifteen books to an assault on Daniel. He asserted that it must be the work of a Jew of Palestine, written in Greek in the time of Antiochus; and assigned as the ground of his theory the exact correspondence of events with the predictions, asserting that Daniel "did not so much predict future events as narrate past ones," bearing thus a noble testimony to the prophet! His book was by imperial command condemned to the flames, and we know it mostly from fragments preserved in the writings of Jerome. Spinoza, the infidel Jew, was the first modern to renew this old attack; and then Hobbes and Collins, and other English deists. J. D. Michaelis made however the first scholarly attempt to undermine confidence in the authenticity of Daniel, and he decidedly maintained the genuineness of the greater part of it. The names of more recent opponents are legion, and we need not give them here, but simply indicate the arguments that prove the futility of the objections.
To a Christian mind the highest and most conclusive testimony lies in the fact that our Lord speaks of Daniel as a prophet, and quotes from him. The name by which He most frequently speaks of Himself, "the Son of man," is taken from Daniel vii.
13. Many of His descriptions of His own coming and kingdom are also distinctly connected with Daniels predictions of them.*
* Compare #Dan 7:13-14, #Dan 7:26-27, #Matt 10:23; #Matt 16:27-28; #Matt 19:2; #Matt 24:30; #Matt 26:64; #Joh 5:27; #Dan 12:2. _____________________________________________________________________________________
Surely our Lord would not thus have endorsed an impostor! Josephus tells us that the book was eagerly studied in Christs days; would He have treated it as Scripture, and allowed His disciples to regard it as such, if it were a forgery? The apostles uniformly recognise Daniel as a prophet. Peter alludes to his inquiries as to the "times," and states that he was inspired by the Spirit of Christ. Paul in 2 Thessalonians ii. builds his argument on Daniels prediction of the man of sin and the apostasy. Hebrews xi. 33 alludes distinctly to Daniel and his companions and their heroic deeds; and the whole book of Revelation is so closely connected with that of Daniel, that we might almost style it Second Daniel, or Daniel First Revelation.
The allusions to Daniel as one of the holiest and one of the wisest of men, by his contemporary Ezekiel, show how early he attained his high position in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, and how far the fame of his blameless, holy life had spread, even in his own days. As he most distinctly and repeatedly claims to be the author of his own book, and writes much of it as an autobiography, the very holiness of his character makes the thought of deliberate forgery and falsehood revoltingly inconsistent.
That the book was widely distributed and well known and revered by the pious in pre-Maccabean times can be demonstrated. The very accurate and reliable First Book of Maccabees makes exact, though brief and simple, reference to the stories in Daniel. The dying words of Mattathias to his sons are recorded, in which he encourages them to fidelity to God amid persecution by recalling various Bible histories, and among the rest, that of the Hebrew children in the fire, and Daniel in the lions den. Hence it is evident the book was known and regarded as Scripture at that time. Further, Josephus makes several remarkable and explicit statements on the subject. Speaking of one of the predictions, he says, "Now this was delivered 408 years before the fulfilment," thus recognising the received date as unquestionable, and as generally admitted to be so in his day.
In a still more conclusive and very interesting passage he asserts that Daniels prophecy was shown to Alexander the Great when he visited Jerusalem, and that this monarch took the prediction about a Greek who was to overthrow the Persian empire to mean himself, and was much encouraged thereby in his enterprise, and very favourably disposed towards the Jews in consequence.
Josephus was indeed much impressed by the remarkable fulfilments of Daniels predictions, which even in his day were evident. After expounding several of these he says: "All these things did this man leave behind in writing, as God had showed them to him: so that those who read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, must be astonished at the honour conferred by God on Daniel."
A strong argument in favour of the received date may be drawn from the languages in which the book is written, Hebrew and Aramæn. Both were familiar to the Jews of the captivity era, and to them only; the one was Daniels mother tongue, the other the language in which he had been educated, and by which he was surrounded for the greater part of his life. Hebrew ceased to be used by the Jews in and from the captivity, except as a sacred learned language. It had been entirely superseded before the Maccabean days, and no writer of the time of Antiochus could have counted on being understood, had he written in that language. Daniel reckons on such a familiar acquaintance with both languages, that it is evidently a matter of indifference to him and to his readers which he uses. "The use of the two languages, and the mode in which the prophet writes in both, correspond perfectly with his real date; they are severally and together utterly inexplicable according to the theory that would make the book a product of the Maccabean times. The language is a mark of genuineness set by God on the book. Rationalism must rebel, as it has rebelled; but it dare not now with any moderate honesty abuse philology to cover its rebellion." (Dr Pusey. Lectures in Daniel.) Further, the exact knowledge of cotemporary history evinced in Daniel is such that no writer of the time of the Maccabees could possibly have attained it. Almost every single circumstance mentioned in the book is confirmed directly or indirectly by cotemporary historians, and proved to be absolutely and even minutely correct. In the Maccabean age, as existing remains prove, the utmost ignorance of the history and geography of foreign countries prevailed among the Jews in Palestine, and an exact and comprehensive knowledge of the history of a period so dark and already so remote as the captivity era, did not exist and could not have existed.
And the same may be said of the accurate knowledge exhibited in the book of the institutions, manners, usages, and entire state of things, existing in the Babylonian and Medo-Persian times.
Again, it has been remarked that "the complexion of the prophecies of Daniel corresponds so exactly with what is related in the historical part of the circumstances of his life, that even the most crafty impostor would not have been able to produce this agreement artificially. Daniel occupied high offices of state; he was witness to great revolutions and changes of rulers and empires; and this circumstance is very significantly impressed on his prophecies. The succession of the various empires of the world forms their principal subject. In the representation of the Messianic idea also he borrows his colours from his external relations. Throughout there is apparent a religious, as well as a political gift, such as we meet with in no other prophet."
Lastly, the canon of the Old Testament contains the book of Daniel, and that canon was closed by Ezra the scribe, and Nehemiah, the second Moses in Jewish estimation, about 400 B.C. Hence the prophecies of Daniel were already at that date recognised as inspired writings. It is true the book does not appear in the list of the prophets, because Daniel was not officially a Jewish prophet, but a Babylonian statesman. David, also, though a prophet, was officially a king, and thus his writings, like Daniels, are classed among the hagiographa, or sacred books, rather than among the prophets. The principle of the Jewish arrangement of the canon was, that sacred writings by men in secular office, and not occupying the pastoral or prophetic position, were put in a class apart from the prophets. Hence Daniel appears not in the list with Isaiah, Jeremiah, aud Ezekiel, but rather with David and Solomon, and Mordecai, the writer of Esther. But the Jewish rabbis hold his prophetic revelations in the highest esteem, and the Talmud places him above all other prophets.
There is therefore no question at all for candid minds that the book is authentic, and rightly attributed to the time of the Babylonish captivity; and if so, it must be granted by all that it contains prophecy-definite predictions which have been most marvellously fulfilled.
The importance of this conclusion can scarcely be over-estimated, though it seems to be less appreciated by Christians than by sceptics. They regret their inability to wrest a mighty weapon out of the hands of the Church. But we-what use are we making of it? What execution are we doing with it? Is it not a pity that it is allowed to so great an extent to lie idle?
If eight or nine centuries of fulfilled prophecy drove Porphyry, in the third century, to feel that he must either admit Divine inspiration or prove the book of Daniel spurious, ought not the twenty-five centuries of it, to which we in our days can point, be even more efficacious in convincing candid inquirers and confounding prejudiced opponents? The battle of authenticity has been fought and won; no fresh objections can be invented. Archeological discovery may yet find Daniels name among the Babylonian records; it will certainly produce no evidence against the book which it has already done so much to authenticate. It rests with Christian teachers and preachers to use the miracle of the last days, fulfilled and fulfilling prophecy, for the conviction and conversion of men.
Should this volume increase such a use of "Daniel, the prophet," we shall rejoice.
It will, we trust, in any case confirm the faith of those who already believe, and brighten the hope of those who are waiting for the kingdom of God.
It has been written amid the pressure of many claims, and makes no pretension to literary excellence, though it may be relied on for exact accuracy in its historic and chronologic statements.
Our Missionary Institute-with its three colleges, and its various other enterprises at home and abroad- imposes upon us so much stern, practical work, as well as so much constant financial responsibility, that it is with difficulty we can make leisure for writing. Yet the ever-growing conviction of the shortness of the time for gospel labour, of which the grounds are here indicated, forbids us to relax effort for the multiplication of missionaries in heathendom, and evangelists in destitute districts of Christendom. Should any reader of this volume derive from it such light and help as to deserve a special thank-offering to God, let him remember, not us, but our work! Its opportunities are great, its needs are large. It has already furnished many hundreds of missionaries to the dark parts of the earth, and the number is increased by one every week in the year, on an average. In China and India and Burmah, in Syria and Turkey and Egypt, in France, Algiers, and Morocco, in south, east, west, and central Africa, in North and South America, New Zealand and Australia, in populous London and lonely Labrador, on the newly opened Congo and in the ancient Damascus, as well as in most of the countries of Europe, evangelists from our Institute are preaching Christ. We dare not decrease our work in this practical direction, yet is there much, very much, still unwritten on the sacred themes treated in these pages which, should leisure be afforded, we long to write.
The Institute is evangelical, but undenominational, and consequently unsustained by any denomination as such. It is conducted in faith, and dependent on the voluntary contributions of friends in all sections of the Christian Church. It involves an outlay of many thousands annually, and its circle of supporters is extremely limited; we make bold to plead its cause with all who with us believe that "this gospel of the kingdom must first be preached among all nations for a witness unto them, and then shall the end come." That the end alluded to in this promise is near this book shows; and hence the supreme importance of doing all that in us lies to publish the gospel of salvation to the still unevangelized nations of the earth.
And now, in sending forth this volume on its mission, we commend it to the great Head of the Church, who has promised light in the last days on the mysteries of His prophetic word, humbly praying that He may deign to use it for His own glory and for the good of many.
HARLEY HOUSE, Bow, E.
December, 1887. H. Grattan Guinness.