« AnteriorContinuar »
The special duties in regard to these men, which are required of those who fear God, are earnestly to contend for the faith, (Jude 3,) to take special heed unto prophecy, (2 Peter i. 19, and iii. 2) to continue in the diligent study of the scriptures, (2 Tim. iii. 13-17,) and to “turn away” from those who are seduced by this spirit of Antichrist; (ibid. iii. 5, and 2 John 10,) yet "of some to have compassion, making a difference; and others to save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 22, 23.
THE TEN KINGDOMS;—THE NAME OF THE BEAST:-THE TWO
WITNESSES;--THE PROPHETICAL DATES.
THERE are a few important features connected with the prophecies concerning Antichrist, as contained in Daniel and St. John, which were not dwelt upon in the former chapter, in order that the main subject of inquiry might not be interrupted: they cannot however be passed over without a more distinct notice, and it is purposed therefore to advert to them in the present chapter. The first to which the attention of the reader is requested is
THE TEN KINGDOMS.
I. The fourth beast of Daniel vii., it will be recollected, is represented to the prophet as having ten horns, (v. 7;) which horns are explained to be "ten kings that shall arise," (v. 24;) and from a comparison of versés 17 and 23 it will be seen that the word king is used synonymously for kingdom. The beast of Rev. xiii. is likewise represented as having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, (v. 1:) on which beast, with some alterations in his aspect, the harlot, as we have seen, of chap. xvii. is represented sitting “as a queen;" and in this chapter again, the ten horns are explained to be ten kings who had received no kingdom as yet. V. 12.
* I have not taken notice of the particulars in Daniel vii. viii. and xi. and other prophecies brought forward in the previous sections of this chapter which may be considered to apply specially, or else in a secondary sense, to infidel antichristianism. For as particular features of the prophecies seem more especially to suit popery, or Mahometanism, though a sort of family likeness may be traced in all; so is it in regard to the infidel Antichrist; some portions appear intended for it more especially, though a certain similitude will doubtless be found in many others. When, e. g. at the French revolution, the Christian Era was abolished, and weeks were changed to Decades, we seem to see the horn that thinks to change times and laws. At that time also we especially see “a mouth opened in blasphemy," and the majesty of the people exalted above every thing that is called God and that is worshipped," as is stated of the Man of Sin. "And various similar points of resemblance may no doubt be traced.
1. From these premises the early Christian fathers concluded, that, as the Roman empire in its entire state corresponded to the fourth beast of Daniel, so it was to be broken up into ten different states; and (what is of still greater importance to observe,) they concluded, that, however the mystery of iniquity were already working, yet that Antichrist would not be manifested to the church in those decided characteristics whereby he should be known, until after this partition of the empire. They concluded indeed, that, as Antichrist was himself to obtain the dominion and exalt himself above all that is called God and that is worshipped, so the withholding cause mentioned in 2 Thess. ii. 6, which prevented the man of sin from being revealed, was no other than the continuance of the Roman empire in its integrity,
As regards the expected division of the empire into ten kingdoms, Jerome, upon Daniel vii., declares it to have been the opinion of all ecclesiastical writers before his time. And abundant testimony may be adduced, that they likewise considered the Empire in its entire state, (or, in other words, the supreme power of the emperors,) to have been that which withheld. Thus Tertullian, asking this question, Who is it that "letteth?” answers—Who but the Roman State? the division of which, when it is scattered among ten kings, shall bring
in Antichrist, and then shall that wicked one be revealed.” De Resur. Carnis, Cap. xxiv. Chrysostom, in his fourth Homily on 2 Thess. ii. says of the same words—"That is the Roman Empire: when that is taken away, then he (the antichrist) shall come.” Many others might be instanced; but I come down again to the times of Jerome, because it was in the latter period of his life* that those irruptions of the barbarian nations into the Roman Empire took place, which finally terminated in its entire conquest and dismemberment. And that he held the opinion just stated, and considered that he now beheld that very event come to pass which was to bring in the manifestation of Antichrist, is evident from the following passage in his epistle to Gerontia, written when Rome was taken by Alaric: “He who hindered is taken out of the way, and we consider not that antichrist is at hand, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth."* Certainly it is from the period of the breaking up of the empire by the Gothic and Vandalic powers that we may trace the great advance of Papal usurpations, and the recognition and establishment of some of the most marked features of it by authoritative decrees.
* He died about A. D. 420.
2. With regard to the number of kingdoms into which the empire of the Beast was to be divided, some interpreters consider that the number ten is to be understood in a figurative or tropical sense, as signifying an indefinite or large number; which meaning it undoubtedly has in some places of scripture; e. g. Gen. xxxi. 7. Numbers xiv. 22. Neh. iv. 12. Job xix. 3. Zech. viii. 23. Such was the view taken by Dr. W. Fulke, in 1557, as may be seen in his exposition of the New Testament on 2 Thess. ii. 6; and Mr. Cuninghame, in the present day, lays it down as the chief principle which he regards, and all that can be reasonably required of an Expositor to prove; though he proceeds nevertheless to shew, that these kingdoms have actually been about ten in number. The principal objection to viewing the number ten in this instance, as an indefinite but large number, is the circumstance that such a mode of interpretation violates the principle of homogeneity. For if the ten horns are to be explained on this principle, why should there not be a mystical interpretation given to the number seven in the seven heads of the beast? Besides which, the fact that the little horn, which arises in the midst of the ten, plucks up three of them, seems clearly to indicate that the numeral ten is not to be understood in a mystical, but in a literal sense.
3. Most interpreters, therefore, look for ten kingdoms exactly, and seek them in the western empire, which they consider to be more properly Rome, but some discrepancy exists in the lists which they have brought forward, arising principally from their fixing on different periods at which the enumeration ought to be dated. Mede and Whiston, for example, date the final division of the empire from A. D. 456, Dr. Allix places it in A. D. 486, Mr. Faber fixes on A. D. 568,7 and Bishop Newton dates from the beginning of the eighth century. The principle of territorial division, which supposes
* See more to this effect in Mede and Bishop Newton. + Mr. Faber fixes on this date as being that of the establishment of the last of the ten Gothic horns; the Lombards having then settled themselves in Pannonia. But Mr. Cuninghame, in his “Critical Examination of Faber," &c. successfully shews that he errs in this respect by 42 years, and that the true date of their establishment is A. D. 526.
# The Rev. S. R. Maitland lays considerable stress upon this circumstance, as an argument against the application of the prophecy to those kingdoms into which the western empire was divided at the period which has been named; and observes:-"Let the reader only look at the various lists which
the ten kingdoms, as at first divided, to continue through all their political mutations, appears to be the correct mode of proceeding in this matter. Sir Isaac Newton advocates this principle in reference to the four beasts of Daniel vii., (Obs. on Dan. p. 13.) on the ground that the lives of the three first beasts are said to be prolonged for a season and time, (Dan. vii. 12.) after their dominion is taken away.
And so likewise the gold, the silver, and the brass, in the image of Dan. ii. are said to be broken together with the iron and clay: (v. 35.) therefore they must be viewed as having still existed according to the ancient territorial boundaries of those empires. Bishop Newton and Bishop Hurd both follow this principle, in their interpretation of the image and the four beasts; and Mr. Frere, who likewise adopts it, extends its application to the ten kingdoms.f (Comb. View, p. 160.) On no other principle can the prophecy be successfully applied to Papal times. For the kingdom of the Heruli, in Italy, which has been numbered among the ten, was overthrown within twenty years after its establishment. That of the Visigoths in Spain is considered to have ended in 714: the kingdom of the Angles, in Britain, was broken by the Danish and Norman conquests; * and indeed the Franks or French may be considered as the only people of Europe whose succession from the original conquerors of the western empire has not been interrupted.
have been made by learned men, and I think he will have no doubt, that if the number mentioned by Daniel had been nine or eleven, the right number would have been found among those petty kingdoms, whose unsettled state. renders it so easy to enumerate them variously.' Enquiry, &c. p. 41. The same argument might be applied with equal force to the tribes of Israel, which yet are always spoken of as twelve, notwithstanding their temporary changes. Sometimes we find, in the holy scriptures, in the enumeration of these tribes, Joseph divided into Ephraim and Manasseh, and thus made two of; sometimes Dan is omitted, and sometimes Levi; so that in this instance the lists do not agree, and had the number been eleven or thirteen it might have been found. There are great discrepancies also among interpreters in the enumeration of the four kingdoms which comprised the four horns which arose when the great horn of the goat was broken, Dan. viii. 8. Certainly a fifth might, in this instance, be found, were it needful; and yet we know that the goat was Greece, from the text itself; and that the partition must be dated from the death of Alexander. This objection therefore has no weight in reference to the ten kiugdoms.
* It may be well here to make another observation respecting the image of Daniel ii. Some writers consider the “toes” of that image to symbolize the same ten kingdoms as the ten horns of the fourth beast of chap. vii; to which it is objected, that in such case the ten kingdoms should be divided among the eastern and western empires, supposed to be symbolized by the two legs, and not that the ten toes should be all on one foot. It appears, however, questionable to me, whether the Holy Spirit has here intended us to look for an enumeration of ten kingdoms in the toes, any more than for ten kingdoms in the second empire, symbolized by the breast and arms of silver, because those arms must have had ten fingers appended to them. The numeral ten is not mentioned in the vision, but only "he toes” of the image indefinitely; and the object of their mention appears to be merely to shew to the church the character of the fourth empire in the last days of its existence, just before it is pounded to pieces by the little stone; viz. that though there will remain the strength of iron in it, yet that there will likewise be found a principle of weakness and disunion in the kingdoms which comprise it, so that though they may combine together for certain political ends, they cannot cordially cohere.
† Mr. Frere makes the following remark relative to the four beasts, as an additional argument for applying the principle of territorial division, viz. "that because the kingdom of Babylon formed the first beast, and Asia Minor with Upper Asia formed together part of the third beast, therefore these three provinces are decidedly excluded from the second beast, and are represented as
4. In the mean while, however the application of this partition of the empire into ten kingdoms may seem to want exactness, as applied to the condition of papal Rome at some particular periods, there are two or three remarkable facts which must not be lost sight of by the student of prophecy, and which are far more difficult to account for, if we reject this application, than are the discrepancies already noticed. First, there did occur, just previous to or about the period from which the most respectable expositors have dated the revelation of the papal Antichrist, a disruption of the Roman empire, which was divided into several petty kingdoms. Secondly, the number of these kingdoms has been enumerated at ten, in the general, by writers whose prejudices would naturally have led them to dispute the fact, and by writers also who have had no eye to prophecy. Among the former class may be named the Roman Catholic expositors; as Calmet, who on Rev. xiii. 1, admits that the Roman empire was by the incursions of the northern nations dismembered into ten kingdoms: and he refers to the testimony on this point of Berengaud, Bossuet, and Du Pin. Bishop Walmesley likewise,
three ribs in the mouth of the bear, or flesh that he had seized to devour; the representation pointing out, that these three provinces would be overrun and subdued by the Medes and Persians.” Page 138.
* A consideration of considerable interest to the inhabitants of this country is, whether Britain can with propriety be at all considered as one of the ten horns of the western Roman empire. A series of prophetical papers, evidently written by an able hand, appeared in the Christian Guardian for 1830, the author of which contends for its exclusion principally on the ground that England was only subdued by the Romans A. D. 78, and was abandoned by them about the time of Theodosius, and that the western or proper Roinan empire, as left by Theodosius to Honorius, never exercised any dominion in the island. Page 135. It is surprising that Mr. Faber did not likewise exclude Britain; for he says-"In regard to the Anglo Saxon horn, I conceive, on every just principle of consistency, that we have no prophetic concern save with Hengist's original kingdom of Kent. The common idea, that the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy constitute jointly the single Anglo Saxon horn, strikes upon my own apprehensions as intolerable.” Sac. Cal. vol. i. p. 152. And yet the awkwardness does not seem to occur to Mr. Faber, that on this view, in all the transactions of this country with the papacy as a horn of the Papal beast, the guilt was incurred, and the judgment was consequently provoked, on the inhabitants of Kent only, and not on Britain in general.