WE have in the foregoing pages, traversed a considerable range of subjects; we have endeavoured to elucidate the fundamental principles of progressive revelation and progressive interpretation, and we have under their guidance traced the historic fulfilment of two of the main symbolic prophecies of Scripture. In this fourth part of the work we have directed attention to a variety of facts, in the realms of physiology and astronomy, and shown their connection with another series of facts, the facts of Biblical chronology. We have traced, very imperfectly, but still sufficiently to demonstrate its existence, a system of times and seasons running through nature- organic and inorganic, -and through Scripture -historic and prophetic:-a system which consequently we have ventured to call, a Divine system of times and seasons. We have shown that this system is characterized by soli-lunar dominion causal and chronological, and by a marked and peculiar septiformity; that a law of completion. in weeks can be traced alike in Scripture, in physiology (normal and abnormal), in history, and in astronomy.
We have endeavoured to avoid mere hypothesis, and to build on the basis of solid unquestionable facts. It remains in conclusion to show the bearing of the facts of this Divine system of times and seasons, -
I. On some of the main controverted points of prophetic interpretation dealt with in the
earlier part of this volume;
II. On the evidence of the inspiration of Scripture; and,
III. On the profoundly interesting question of the chronological point now reached in human
history, and the nearness of "the end of the age."
I.The Divine system of times and seasons, which we have traced, strongly discredits the futurist system of interpreting the symbolic prophecies of Daniel and St. John, and in the fullest and most remarkable manner confirms the Protestant historic system. We have shown that if the true meaning of the chronologic statements connected with these prophecies can be determined it would of itself and without the aid of further argument, settle the question at issue between these two schools of interpreters; inasmuch as the nature of the predicted Antichrist is decided by the duration of his existence. If the 1260 days of his dominion be (unlike all the other features of the prediction) literal then the futurists are right in looking for a future division of the Roman earth into ten kingdoms with a coincident future rise of an individual Antichrist, whose advent shall precede by three and a half years that of Christ; and in denying that these prophecies have already received their fulfilment. But if the 1260 days be (like the predictions in which the period occurs) symbolic, then the little horn and the ten horns, having a duration of i 260 years attached to them, and their rise immediately succeeding the break-up of the undivided Roman Empire, the fulfilment must be looked for in the past; and can only be found in the history of the Papacy, and its relations to the kingdoms of Christendom, and to the true Church of Christ, during the last twelve centuries. In consequence of this, its great importance, we dwelt at some length on the evidence in favour of the year-day system of interpretation, and we must now direct special attention to the confirmation of its truth afforded by the Divine plan of times and seasons, which we have been investigating.
The period which, -as marking the duration, and therefore the nature of the great Antichristian Apostasy, -is the disputed period, is seven times designated by expressions synonymous with half a week of years: "forty and two months," 1260 days, etc. Now this alone would prove nothing, because weeks on an almost infinite variety of scale, are found, as we have shown, in the word and works of God. But this half week leads up to a certain terminal point, the establishment of the kingdom of the God of heaven, the overthrow of Antichrist and his armies, the cessation of the treading down of the holy city. These same events mark the termination of one of the weeks we have considered, the last of the three great dispensational weeks, the times of the Gentiles; this also ends in the establishment of the kingdom of God, the overthrow of Babylon and the beast, and the Second Advent of Christ. That is, we find a whole week of "seven times," or 2520 years, leading up to THAT; and we find also a half-week of "time, times and a half," leading up to THAT. Nor can we question that the latter is half of the former? that the half-week of years, is symbolic of a half-week of prophetic times, or years of years? that the predicted 1260 "days" represent the 1260 years which are the last half of the Gentile dispensation?
If this be so, if this period be the solemnly momentous and important last half of the last great dispensation, the twelve centuries which have rolled over Christendom since the rise of the Papacy, including the dark ages, the Reformation, and the modern revival of primitive Christian doctrine, and spread of missionary enterprise, with the coincident rise and spread of infidelity, then it is easy to understand the prominence assigned to it in the prophetic word. But if it be literally half a week of years, it is a brief half without a corresponding half and no reason consistent with the wisdom and goodness of God can be assigned for the great importance which is attached to it in Scripture.
And when, further, TURNING TO THE SCROLL OF HISTORY, WE SEE THAT THE GREAT WEEK OF THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES WAS, AS A MATTER OF FACT, BISECTED BY THE RISE OF AN ANTICHRISTIAN POWER, accurately fulfilling the conditions of the prophecy, and whose political existence demonstrably did endure 1260 years, or half a week on the year-day scale, it seems almost impossible to resist the conviction that this is the scale employed and this the Power foretold.
It is a further argument in favour of the year-day system., that the periods of symbolic prophecy, interpreted in accordance with it, form parts of a great septenary system, the previous links in the chain being found in other portions of Scripture, and the subsequent ones in the movements of the universe. In the law, in the prophets, and in the Psalms, we found the week of days, the week of weeks, the week, of months, the week of years, the week of weeks of years, the week of decades, and the week of weeks of decades. Now the dispensational "seven times," and its half; the 1260 years, are a week and a half-week of prophetic times, or years of years, the next step in advance and they are followed by the week of millenaries, and by the higher and vaster weeks marked out by the revolutions of the solar system. But for the clue afforded by the prophetic times interpreted according to the year-day system, the true measures of the dispensational divisions of history, would probably never have been surmised. Is it likely that a key which has unlocked so much, should be a wrong key, that the period which has proved a clue to the entire labyrinth, should itself have been misapprehended?
But further, THE FACT THAT. THESE PERIODS OF DANIEL, INTERPRETED ON THE YEAR-DAY SCALE, ARE FOUND TO BE NATURAL ASTRONOMIC CYCLES OF SINGULAR ACCURACY AND BEAUTY, UNKNOWN TO MANKIND UNTIL DISCOVERED BY MEANS OF THESE VERY PROPHECIES, SEEMS ALONE TO SETTLE THE QUESTION THAT THIS IS THE TRUE SCALE. Is it not most natural and suitable, that great events, deemed worthy of prediction by the Spirit of God ages before they occurred, should have had their fore-ordained duration marked off by the occult movements and coincidences of those orbs, which together constitute God’s glorious chronometer? Taken literally, the periods of symbolic prophecy, are astronomically nothing. Interpreted on the year-day principle, they are natural cycles, as distinctly marked out as such, as our ordinary months or years. Would this be so, were the brief symbolic period, everything, and the antitypical, the year-day period, nothing? Taken literally, 2300 days are astronomically nothing; while 2300 years form precisely the largest secular soli-lunar cycle known.
When these dispensational, chronologic, and astronomic harmonies, are allowed their due weight in determining the true scale of prophetic chronology, only one conclusion seems possible. The system employed is that of denoting a year by a day; not brief; but long periods, are therefore predicted, not passing events occupying only a few years, but stupendous ones, enduring through centuries, and affecting many generations of men. And these events are not to be looked for in the future, they are already for the most part fulfilled. This conclusion overthrows the entire futurist system, and fixes the application of the main symbolic prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse to the past and present, rather than exclusively to the future.
We invite futurist expositors of the prophetic word, to consider all the arguments on this subject which we have adduced, and either to refute them, or to acknowledge their force. Prophetic discussion and controversy are often feared and deprecated, because they have in other days degenerated into strife, and occasioned separation among brethren. These, however, are happily, not necessary results of searching the Scripture on this or any other topic, and they are evils from which humility and a real desire to discover the truth of God, will effectually preserve sincere inquirers and students.
We are strongly of opinion that the questions at issue between presentist and futurist interpreters of prophecy, should be both patiently studied, and fully discussed, both from the platform and by the press, with a view to their removal..
One system or other must be erroneous; surely it is not hopeless to discover which! No generation of Christians could ever have attempted the tusk with such a prospect of success as our own; not only is there a special promise to the wise in the time of the end, that they shall understand these things, but the very nature of the case makes it clear, that if the historic system be the true one, we are in a better position to prove it, than our predecessors could be, for every fresh fulfilment that can be indicated, strengthens the proof. That most notable event the downfall of the Temporal Power of the Papacy exactly 1260 years after the edict of Phocas, ought to provoke a calm and thorough re-examination of the subject, on the part of our futurist friends.
"The days are at hand," and the effect of every vision, and the testimony of the Church on this great subject should be as clear and as unanimous as possible for if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare for the battle? The world Will never give heed to the warnings of the prophetic word, while the ministers of that word differ diametrically among themselves as to its true meaning; nor will Christians be roused to any such deep and real conviction of the nearness of the end as will produce practical results, by the exposition of varying and inconsistent views. At this eleventh hour, if ever, the predictions of the word of God ought to be clear to wise and humble students, nor should such rest content without an honest endeavour to compare and resolve their differences.
We humbly hope that our own discoveries as to the epact measures of the prophetic times, may be helpful in the consideration of the question; and that, the year-day system 01 interpreting the chronologic statements of symbolic prophecy, -that main pillar of the Protestant historic view, may, in the light of the confirmatory evidence of its truth afforded by this investigation of the Divine system of times and seasons, be generally received among students of prophecy, as a truth which has been demonstrated.
II. The facts we have adduced have also an important bearing on the fundamental question of the inspiration of Scripture, and thus indirectly on the subject of Christian evidences. We have shown that nature is characterized by a septiform periodicity, and that many of its revolutions are regulated by a law of weeks; also that Scripture, in a great variety of ways, embodies the same septiform system. Now it must be borne in mind that the existence of this system in nature, has only been recognised of late years. Modern science, -with its careful and all-embracing scrutiny of investigation into natural phenomena, with its reverential attention to even the minutest details of physical function, with its rich accumulations of tabulated records of observed facts, and its unprejudiced candour in submitting all its theories to the test of experiment, -has come to perceive, and for the first time, a law of septiform periodicity in nature. Mankind in all ages must of course have been practically familiar with certain obvious and universal instances of its prevalence; but the wide extent of its operation, its exactness, and the variety of the spheres in which it may be traced, is matter of very recent discovery. The papers contributed by Dr. Laycock to the Lancet which we have quoted, were written less than forty years ago; and even now the subject is imperfectly understood.
It is thus abundantly evident that the writers of Scripture, in attributing to their Mosaic legislation, embodying in their historical narratives, and in concealing in their symbolic prophecies, this same septiform system, or law of completion in weeks, were not adopting a principle already acknowledged in the world at large, or even known to the men of science of their day. They were entirely ignorant of the recently discovered septiformity of nature, and the exact harmony of their writings with this widely operative, but to them utterly unknown principle, must, on their part, have been perfectly undesigned.
On the other hand, it is equally impossible that this harmony should be the result of chance: the use of the system in Scripture is too thorough and all-pervading to admit of such an explanation. It does not consist in a few minor arrangements enacted by a single legislator; it is the consistent and complex system underlying the law and ritual, which, for three thousand five hundred years have been obeyed by an entire nation; a system running unperceived through the historical records of the Old Testament, and lying hidden under mystic expressions, in its symbolic prophecies-prophecies understood at the time neither by those who gave, nor by those who received them, and whose true scale has only become apparent in these latter days, in the light of their own fulfilment. Creation, history, and Mosaic law, agree with the predictions of the prophets and apostles, and with the words of our Lord Himself, in recognising this system. It pervades Old and New Testaments, and harmonizes Jewish and Christian predictions. The actual events of redemption history, are found to be in chronological harmony with the octave or New Creation and Jubilee reckoning of the Law; the chronology of the types of Leviticus is the chronology of Christianity anticipated. Intentionally then, and of set purpose, and in the most consistent way, the septiform law so prevalent and controlling in nature, is employed by the writers of Scripture, though they cannot have derived it from nature. Whence then did they derive it? How came they thus to employ it? There is only one reply! Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Further; we have seen that the septiform divisions of time in the Old Testament, run on constantly to an octave, and give a glad and glorious prominence to the eighth day and the fiftieth day, in connection with observances intimating that a new and better economy was destined to succeed the Jewish; that in a New Creation, to follow the old, and in that alone, would full purity and peace, perfect joy and liberty be found. Would Jewish legislators and prophets have invented or conceived such an idea as this? Would they, of their own accord, have embodied in their law, in their history, in their prophecies, a silent testimony that Judaism was destined to be succeeded and set aside by a better order of things? Would they who held themselves to be the sole and peculiar people of God, have incorporated in their sacred books, a chronologic system, which points with no obscurity to the passing away of Judaism? No! Such a system cannot have originated in the Jewish mind, and yet the books are, as regards their human source, unquestionably Jewish. The fact can be explained only by admitting, that these Jewish minds were inspired, and these Jewish pens guided, by Him who from the beginning foresaw and planned the end, who intended Christianity to succeed Judaism, the heavenly to follow the earthly, the substance to replace the shadow.
It may be urged, that though the law of septiform periodicity in vital function was unperceived by the ancients, that yet conspicuous celestial phenomena, such as the lunar quarters, may account for the Bible use of the week, without supposing inspiration. But the plea has no force, for the lunar quarter is not so near seven days as to make the observance of the week compulsory or inevitable, and as a matter of fact, it is not observed by two-thirds of mankind. China and, till quite recently; Japan, and all heathen nations, do not recognise the septiform division of time. Unlike the day, the month, and the year in this respect, the week is not marked out by an obvious and complete celestial revolution. Its observance evidently springs from a higher source, even the direct primitive mandate of the Most High: it has been imposed on man from Eden onwards (as well as indelibly impressed on his physical constitution), by the Creator Himself directly, , and not indirectly, as the day, month, and year.
Again, what but inspiration of God can account for the fact that the prophetic periods of Daniel and St. John are found to be accurate soli-lunar cycles? and that their very epacts form a septiform series of periods as we have shown? Was Daniel acquainted with these facts? Could John have adapted his writings to the discoveries of modern science? Impossible! Candour must acknowledge that in the existence of such a system of times and seasons as we have traced, in the Bible, there is a proof of the Divine inspiration of the authors of that volume. Man never originated its holy and harmonious laws, with their wonderful septenary system of typical times and seasons, fulfilled, and still fulfilling, in the sacred events of Redemption Story. Man could not have invented its equally wonderful prophecies, unfolding as they do the whole plan and course of history, alike in its grand outline, and in its minor detail, and including even, in many cases, the accurate chronology of the things foretold. Man can never have been the author of a system of times and seasons which involves the co-ordination of things celestial and terrestrial; the mutual adaptation of the periodicity of vital phenomena, the sacred seasons of legal type, the periods of prophecy and the chronology of history, with the periods of the revolutions and cycles of sun and moon and planet, or those of the movements of the whole solar system. Man can neither foretell the future nor control it; man cannot order on a definite plan, the course of ages, or so direct the revolutions of the moral world, as that they shall harmonize with those of the material universe. Such operations can be accomplished only by Omnipotence, such acts can be attributed to God alone. The sacred volume, -that unfolds the Divine world-system, including the course and chronology of the ages of history, of ages future at the time when it was written, as well as of ages past; foretelling periods since fulfilled, and found, 2000 years after their prediction, to be celestial cycles, -must be from God, and he who refuses to acknowledge this, is bound to find some other satisfactory explanation of facts which true science cannot deny, nor common honesty ignore. And this evidence may be adduced in favour of each portion of the sacred volume; the Pentateuch and the prophets, the historical books of the Old Testament and the gospels of the New, the Psalms and the Epistles and the Apocalypse, all are more or less pervaded by the same system of times and seasons. A Divine unity pervades the volume in this as in other respects, and the chronology of the Bible, independently of any other line of evidence, proves it to be the word of God.
III. And finally, the Divine system of times and seasons, which we have been investigating, has an evident bearing on the deeply important and profoundly interesting subject of the nearness of the end of the age, -of the close of these Times of the Gentiles, and the simultaneous inauguration of the "Times of restitution of all things, of which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
It bears on this question mainly by the evidence it affords of the existence of a definite and predetermined chronological system, in the providential dealings of God with man; in the proof it gives that this system is a system of weeks, and that the great week of this third er Gentile dispensation, has almost run its course. Further, by confirming as we have seen that it does, in the fullest way, the year-day system of interpreting the chronology of symbolic prophecy, it brings the celebrated half-week of the great Antichristian apostasy into perfect harmony with all the other weeks of Scripture and of nature, determining its character thus by its duration, and leaving no doubt as to the power intended. The fulfilments which this system enables us to trace in the past, are so many guides as to the future, so that by its help chronologic prophecy, instead of being a puzzling mystery, is felt to become emphatically a light shining in a dark place, -a light which throws its beams back over the complex mazes of history, and forwards over the transcendently interesting events of the rapidly approaching crisis, which is to usher in the sabbath of humanity.
We must therefore briefly review the evidence of the nearness of the end of the age which is afforded by chronologic prophecy, and confirmed by non-chronologic predictions, and we must show, that while there is irresistible evidence to prove that the end is near there are positively no data to enable us to fix on any exact year, as the probably predestined time of the consummation. According to the testimony of the sure word of prophecy, the end is near, but none can say how near, or determine its actual epoch.
First, then, in proof that it is near, let the measures of the three dispensations be remembered, and the wide and almost universal range of the law of completion in weeks. "Seven times" and seven times only are appointed as the period of Jewish degradation and dispersion. He who predicted the four hundred years affliction of the seed of Abraham at the beginning of their history, and who when those four hundred years were fulfilled, delivered Israel from Egypt, and judged the nation which had held them in bondage, predicted later on, that for a great week of 2520 years, Gentiles should rule over and afflict the Jewish people, and that at the end of that time Gentile monarchy should be destroyed, and the kingdom restored again to Israel, in the person of their Messiah. Independent Jewish monarchy fell as we know in the Babylonish captivity, since which event the tribes of Israel have existed only in bondage or dispersion. In about forty-five years from the present time (1879 A.D.) the great week of the Times of the Gentiles will have run out, even measured from its latest possible commencing date, the final conquest of Jehoiachin by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 598. The great image of Gentile monarchy has but a few years longer to exist; the period of Gentile supremacy is all but ended; the great but hidden dispensational prophecy of the "seven times" clearly teaches that we are near the end of the age.
And secondly, let the measures of the Antichristian apostasy, which is predicted under seven different aspects, be remembered. Half a week is assigned as its duration, half this great dispensational week of seven times-1260 years. Like, all the other periods we have considered, this half-week may be dated, as we have seen, from a variety of starting-points; either from the decree of the Emperor Justinian constituting the bishop of Rome head of all the Churches, and so delivering the saints into his hands, (A.D. 533), -when it ends in the French Revolution, A.D. 1793; or from the decree of the Emperor Phocas, conceding to Boniface the Third, not only the primacy of the Church of Rome and all the Western Churches, but that of Constantinople and all the Eastern Churches (A.D. 606), which makes it run out at the recent complete destruction of the Papal temporal power and dominion (1866- 70); or the period may be dated from the year A.D. 663, when Vitalian, the bishop of Rome, enjoined the services of the Church to be read in Latin throughout all Christendom, when the half-week would (like the whole week) expire, in A.D. 1923. We have seen the two first measures of this period expire, and we have seen the events predicted take place. The prophecy implies a brief succeeding period before the close, "they shall take away his kingdom, to consume and to destroy it to the end:and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him." We have seen the kingdom taken away; we wait to see the full consumption and destruction, and the establishment of the kingdom of the Most High. The prophecy of the "time, times and a half," by its fulfilment, proves, that we are close upon the end of the age.
And thirdly, the prediction relative to the cleansing of the sanctuary does the same. The Holy Land, the Holy City, and the site of the Temple or Sanctuary of God at Jerusalem, are to be finally "cleansed" 2300 years from some starting point which is not exactly defined, but which appears from the prophecy to be closely connected with the restoration of Judah from Babylon; that is, Jerusalem is, after that period, to cease to be trodden down of the Gentiles, the times of the Gentiles having been fulfilled. Dated from the earliest possible starting point, the commission given by Artaxerxes to Ezra, B.C. 457, this period expired as we have seen in 1844, which was a marked epoch in the fall of that Mohammedan power which has long defiled the sanctuary and trodden down Jerusalem. But dated 145 years later, from the era of the Seleucid , this period measured in lunar years expires, seventy five years later, in A.D. 1919. We have noted various indications in the condition of Palestine and of Israel, and in the political events of our own day which seem to indicate that the cleansing of the sanctuary and the restoration of Israel are not distant. When these shall take place, when the Moslems, now driven out of Bulgaria, shall be driven also out of Syria, when the nations of Europe, actuated it may be merely by mutual distrust and political jealousy, or it may be by higher motives, shall conspire to reinstate the Jews in the land of their forefathers, then the last warning bell will have rung; then the last of the unfulfilled predictions of Scripture as to events prior to the great crisis, will have received its accomplishment, then the second advent of Israel’s rejected Messiah to reign in conjunction with his risen and glorified saints as King over all the earth, will be close at hand, then the mystery of God will be all but finished, and the manifestation of Christ immediate. How long a time may be required to bring about this restoration of Israel-who shall say? Never within the last 1800 years has it seemed so likely as now, for never, since it first arose, has Moslem power lain so low as it does at the present moment. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE POWER AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE, LIKE THE ANNIHILATION OF THE TEMPORAL DOMINION OF THE PAPACY, SHOULD BE AS A TRUMPET-BLAST TO CHRISTENDOM, PROCLAIMING THAT THE DAY OF CHRIST IS AT HAND.
The sanctuary cycle of 2300 years, equally with the two previous prophecies, indicates that the end is near.
Though differing as to many minor details, students of chronological prophecy with one consent agree in this conclusion. which is in itself a. strong argument that it rests on a solid basis of revealed truth. The fact that many premature anticipations of the end, have by the event been proved mistaken, is sometimes adduced as a proof that all expectations based on chronologic prophecy, are of the nature of vain and foolish speculations, deserving only of ridicule and contempt from sober-minded practical Christian people. But when viewed in the light of the revealed purpose of God, to make known the future only by degrees, and only as the Church was able to bear it, the fact alluded to, is merely a proof that the symbolic language in which these chronological predictions were expressed, has answered its divinely intended purpose, and disguised, till nearly the time of its accomplishment, the true meaning of the prophecy. To the early generations of the Church it was not given to understand these chronologic prophecies at all; later generations made a good guess at their general drift and scale; the Reformers obtained approximately true ideas of their scope and application; to many of the prophetic expositors and commentators of the last two centuries very clear light was granted, and (in spite of the obscurity which rash futurist speculations have cast over the subject) it may safely be said that in our own day the light has become so strong, clear, and bright, that the historic and doctrinal portions of Scripture are scarcely more simple and comprehensible than are its main prophetic outlines, to those who carefully study them.
And further, though foolish speculators have brought ridicule on the study of prophecy, by carnal, presumptuous, and baseless attempts to fix the day and the hour of the Second Advent, and though even cautious and learned students have often erred in their anticipations, yet it must in all fairness be granted on the other hand, that no sooner was the historic system of interpreting the Apocalypse received, and the true scale of enlarging the miniature periods of symbolic prophecy adopted, than some remarkably correct anticipations of future events were made and published. Since then, expositors of chronologic prophecy have proved over and over again, that they are on the right track, even though they may have erred in the application of certain principles, or in selection of certain data, on which to base their calculations. And it is evident that even when they had rightly accepted the year-day system, and when they had correctly apprehended the meaning of the symbols employed, and duly applied them to the events intended, they were by no means secure from minor errors. The very fact that all the prophetic periods have double, and some of them triple and even fourfold eras of commencement and conclusion, -coincident with definite stages of development and decay in the Powers symbolised, leaves room for such errors, and accounts for them, without detracting from the value of the system employed. And if such false anticipations are noted, correct ones should in all fairness be remembered also. One of the earliest and most remarkable of these is that of ROBERT FLEMING, who in his work on the "Rise and Fall of Rome Papal," published in the year 1701 (a hundred and seventy-eight years ago), anticipated the years 1794 and 1848, as critical years in the downfall of the papacy; he added "yet we are not to imagine that these events will totally destroy the papacy, although they will exceedingly weaken it, for we find that it is still in being and alive, when the next vial is poured out." Is it not a proof that this expositor was working on right lines, and had seized the true clue, that he should thus have fixed nearly a century beforehand, on the close of the 18th century, as the commencement of the era of Divine vengeance on the Papal power, and have pointed out within a single year, the very central period of that signal judgment? The year 1793 was that of the Reign of Terror, and of the temporary suspension of the public profession of Christianity in France, the first of Papal kingdoms; and five years later the Papal government in Italy was overthrown, and the Pope carried captive to Sienna. There was not a sign in the political heavens when Fleming wrote, that such events were impending; he foresaw them solely in the light of chronologic prophecy, and had he weighed a little more maturely the relative importance of the various Pope-exalting decrees and acts, which form the starting-points of the prophetic 1260 years, he would have fixed on that of Phocas, as the most important, and have added to the above two accurate and correct anticipations, a third, that the years 1866-70, would be years of even more decided crisis in the history of the Papal apostasy, and would probably witness the entire and final overthrow of the temporal sovereignty of the Popes. A very considerable number of expositors agreed, in indicating long before their arrival, the remarkable years A.D. -1848, and A.D. 1866-70, as years of crisis in the downfall of despotic power in Europe, and of Papal usurpation; while this half-century as the appointed period in which should be finished the long- continued exhaustion and decay of the Ottoman Empire, symbolised by the drying up of the Euphrates, has been indicated by an equally large number. Mr. Habershon, in his "Dissertation on the Prophetic Scriptures," published in 1834, pointed out that the year A.D. 1844 ought to be a year of crisis in this process, which, as we have seen it proved to be, the year in which the persecuting sword of Islam was by the power of the Christian nations of Europe, forced back finally into its sheath, since which Ottoman independence has never been a reality.
Let those who have justified themselves in turning from any deep or thorough study of the prophetic word, on the plea that interpreters differ among themselves, and that their prognostications have often proved false, remember that this must have been the case with regard to each one of the chronological prophecies that have now passed into the realms of history. Though each one has, as we can see, been fulfilled with marvellous exactitude, error would have been not only possible, but almost inevitable, in any attempt to fix beforehand the exact date of the predicted event. Had Israel in Egypt, or Moses in Midian, endeavoured to discover beforehand the precise year in which the 400 years of affliction and bondage predicted by God to Abram as to- befall his seed, would terminate, they would have been sorely puzzled to select a commencing epoch. Was it to be dated from the call of Abram, or from the day the promise was given? or from the birth of Isaac, the promised seed? or from the descent into Egypt? or from the commencement of the cruel treatment of the children of Israel by the Egyptians, when there arose a king who knew not Joseph? There was a wide choice of possible commencing epochs, and it was easy to select a wrong one! The event proved that none of these was the real starting-point; that while the call of Abram was the terminus a quo of the main period, modified by an addition of thirty years (#Ex 12:40-42, #Gal 3:17), yet that the main period itself started from neither of the above- mentioned probable epochs, but from the time when Isaac was five years old; and to this day it is a matter of conjecture what the event was which marked that year, though there is little doubt that it was the casting out of the bond-woman and her son, on the occasion of the mocking of the heir of promise by the natural seed. This mocking, or "persecuting" (Gal iv. 29) is the first affliction of Abraham’s seed of which we have any record, and its result demonstrated that it was in Isaac the seed was to be called. The 430 years would thus start from the grant of the land, to Abram’s seed, and the 400 from the act showing which of the two seeds of Abram was to possess it. The important allegorical meaning attributed to this casting-out of Ishmael, confirms the impression that it was the starting-point; but the fact cannot be proved, , and all we know is that the Exodus (which took place on the self-same day that the 430 years ran out-Exod. xii. 40) was 405 years after the birth of Isaac, so that the 400 years dated from Isaac’s fifth year. How could Israel in Egypt possibly have guessed that? Their prophetic students (if they had any) would most likely base their calculations on the supposition, that the period started from the year the prediction was given, -twenty or twenty-two years before the true point. And when the 400 years from that epoch expired, sceptics and objectors may have derided them, and they themselves may have had their faith in the Divine prediction and their long-cherished hope of deliverance sorely tried, by the fact that their expectation had failed! But God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent; hath He said, and shall He not do it? When the appointed period ended, the promised deliverance came. Little as Pharaoh and all Egypt feared their degraded bond-slaves, or the God they professed to serve; little as either tyrant or captives foresaw any impending crisis of judgment and deliverance, suddenly and unexpectedly it came. In the short space of a few weeks, or months, Egypt was covered with confusion and horror and death. The fruits of the earth were blasted and devoured by locusts, the waters of the Nile were turned to blood, the cattle were destroyed throughout the land, filthy insects and noisome diseases afflicted the Egyptians, vermin filled their houses and their fields, thunder and lightning and fire and hail devastated the land of Ham, a horror of great darkness prevailed for three days, death raised a great cry in Egypt, and at last its proud monarch and all his hosts perished in the Red Sea, while Israel sang unto the Lord, who had triumphed gloriously, and who, according to his faithful word, had brought forth the people whom He had redeemed.
A longer bondage is now drawing to a close, and a greater Exodus awaits both the natural and the spiritual seeds of Abraham; its date is similarly fixed in the purpose of God and similarly defined by chronologic prophecy, and though some students may mistake its exact era, and be discouraged by an apparent failure of their hope, and though the world may exult, and the mockers say, Where is the promise of his coming? yet the vision is for an appointed time, at the end it shall speak and not lie, or be found false; therefore we will wait for it, "for it will surely come, it will not tarry."
It was the same, both with the chronological prophecy of the seventy years’ captivity in Babylon, and with that of the four hundred and ninety years, from the restoration to Messiah the Prince; both were clear in their main tenor, but both obscure as regards their exact termini. As to the "seventy weeks," even when its true year-day scale was understood, it was impossible to fix its commencing date with any certainty, because there were several edicts of restoration issued by the Persian kings, any one of which might well have been supposed to mark the starting-point of the 490 years; and there was no deciding whether the terminal event was to be the birth, or the maturity and presentation to Israel, or the death, of Messiah. Even now, in the light of the historic fulfilment, it is not altogether easy to affix the exact limits of these 490 years, though it is plain that such was the interval, because several important termini seem to possess claims to be the intended ones.
IN SHORT IT IS CLEAR THAT A KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXACT YEAR OF ITS’ TERMINATION, IS NOT NEEDFUL TO AN INTELLIGENT AND CORRECT APPREHENSION OF THE FACT, THAT A GREAT CHRONOLOGIC PROPHECY IS NEAR ITS CLOSE. Daniel understood by the writings of Jeremiah that the seventy years’ captivity had nearly expired, and set himself to pray for the promised restoration. Those who looked for redemption in Israel were right in conceiving that the time for Messiah’s appearance had come, though neither they, nor Daniel, could in all probability have assigned the correct chronological termini of the predictions on which their hopes were based.
This is exactly the position of the students of the prophetic word in our day; they know that they are living in the time of the end, but guided by the experience of these earlier saints, they see also, that the two great partially fulfilled chronological prophecies, that of the seven times, or 2520 years of Gentile dominion, and that of the 2300 years to the cleansing of the sanctuary, have several possible dates of rise and close. (The 1260 years of the duration of the Papal dynasty as a political power, must, since the events of 1870, he placed in the category of fulfilled, rather than unfulfilled predictions.) On this account alone, as well as other grounds, the wise among them refrain from any attempt to assign the precise date of the consummation. These "times" appear to run out first in A.D. 1844-48 and fully in A.D. 1919-23, but whether these are the final dates, and what the exact nature of the terminal event may be, it is impossible to ascertain and foolish to surmise. We are in the position of travelers, approaching a large and to them unknown city, at the end of a long railway journey. They are aware of the distance to be traversed, of the stations to be passed on the way, and of the time required for the transit. The milestones have long shown them that they are rapidly nearing their goal; the time the journey was to occupy has elapsed, and they have observed that the station just passed was the last but one. Yet the terminus in the strange city may have several distinct platforms, separated from each other by short distances; the train may draw up at one or two before it comes to a final stand at the last: they are ignorant of the exact localities in the great metropolis, and hardly know at which station they will be met by their expectant friends. Still they have no hesitation in making their preparations for leaving the carriage, and in congratulating each other with a glad "here we are at last!" They would smile at the man who should dispute their conviction, though they may be unable to decide whether it will be five minutes or ten, or only two or three, before they actually reach their destination. It is a mere question of minutes and miles; if one platform is not the right one, the next may be; at any rate; the long journey lies behind, the desired goal is all but reached. It is easy to be patient, and not difficult to bear a momentary disappointment, because the main result is certain, and the end in any case close at hand.
Let it also be noted that the conviction of the nearness of the end derived from chronologic prophecy, and from a study of the Divine system of times and seasons, is abundantly confirmed by a multitude of predictions, wholly destitute of the chronologic element, as is proved by the fact, that the futurist school of interpreters, who are deprived by their system of all the guidance afforded by chronologic prophecy, are convinced equally with their opponents, that these are the last days.
Space obliges us to select only one or two "signs of the times" of this nature. The angel mentions to the prophet Daniel two very peculiar and definite characteristics of the last days. "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Now if any well informed and intelligent person were asked, What have been the leading and distinctive characteristic marks of the last half-century, as distinguished from any previous period in the world’s history? he would at once reply, "steam locomotion, and the universality of education and spread of scientific knowledge." Where one person travelled formerly, ten thousand travel now; universally, incessantly, and in every corner of the earth, the wheels of locomotion are annihilating distance, and facilitating the running to and fro of millions, making the inhabitants of the most distant quarters of the globe almost like next-door neighbours. And never before in the history of mankind has this or anything like it been the case. Similarly, where one person could read and write in the olden time, ten thousand are fairly educated now; and where one secret of nature was known to the ancients, a thousand are known and turned to practical account by the men of our day. Knowledge is increased as it never was before; indeed, the school and the locomotive might be adopted as the devices of the nineteenth century.
Our Lord Himself gave another sign of the closing days of this age. He said, "This gospel of the kingdom must first be preached among all nations, and then shall the end come."
It may safely be asserted that never since the words were spoken, has the gospel been so widely preached among the nations as it has during the present century. Since the year 1801, when the Church Missionary Society was founded, almost all the Missionary Societies in existence have sprung up, as well as all the Bible Societies. Within the last fifty years, the gospel story has been translated into between two and three hundred additional languages, spoken by six or eight hundred millions of mankind. Colporteurs are distributing it, and preachers expounding it in all lands; and though there are still alas I countless tribes and peoples in the heart of Africa, in the continent of South America, and in the isles of the sea who have never yet heard the gospel message, yet we may say there is no kingdom, no regularly organized civilized "nation" or community, in which it has not been proclaimed, and in which it has not won some trophies. When it has been preached in all nations, then shall the end come.
But perhaps there is no sign of the times more solemnly indicative to the humble student of Scripture, of the approach of the end, than the confident conviction that seems universally to prevail in the professing church, and in the world, that all things continue as they were, and will so continue. Not only is there no expectation of impending judgment, there is a bold assumption that no change in the existing order of things is probable, or even possible.
The very idea of a Divine interference in the affairs of this world is scouted as foolish and fanatical; the testimony of history to past interferences of the kind is superciliously explained away, or plainly pronounced to be myth, not real history, and any faith in the testimony of prophecy is regarded as antiquated folly. The reign of eternal law is proclaimed, while a Lawgiver is ignored, the theory of progressive development is advocated, and the evidences of supernatural interruptions in the past, neglected. The state of popular opinion in Christendom at this hour on this point is foretold with marvellous exactness by the Apostle Peter, and the true antidote to it prescribed. "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were, since the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing in the water, and out of the water; whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water perished. But the heavens and earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But beloved be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come, as a thief in the night."
This peculiar form of scoffing unbelief foretold as to characterize the last days, and most conspicuously characterizing these days, has never before prevailed widely in Christendom. It is an offspring of advanced scientific knowledge, a result and accompaniment of nineteenth-century attainments. The ignorance of other ages made men superstitious. Far from denying the existence of an invisible and immaterial world, far from questioning the possibility of the supernatural, they were slaves to credulity, and groundless apprehensions, and fell easy victims to the false miracles and lying wonders of a cunning and covetous priesthood. Apprehensions of an approaching end of the world, were from time to time widely prevalent in the dark ages. Bold infidelity, general scepticism as to all that is supernatural, gross materialism and positive philosophy, the foolhardy presumption that dares to assert "all things continue as they were since the beginning of the creation" and to argue "and will so continue for ever"-these features are peculiar to the last 150 years, and were never before so marked as they are now.
Were it otherwise, were men willing to heed the testimony of the word of God, were they observant of the fast thickening signs of the end, were they generally expecting the final crisis, we might be perfectly certain, the end would not be near. Such is not to be the tone and temper of the last generation. "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." Never was there a day when men were so firmly convinced, that no supernatural event is to be expected, as they are now. But "when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."
That the end of this Christian age, that end so bright with the glow of coming glory to the true Church, so lurid with the fires of approaching judgment to apostate Christendom, so big with blessing to Israel, and so full of hope for the nations of the earth, -is close at hand, seems for those who accept the testimony of Scripture, beyond all reasonable question.
It is true Israel must first be restored to Palestine; it is true the gospel must probably first be preached more widely even than it now is; it is true that "Babylon" must first fall more completely, as far as we can judge; and it is true that these things take time. But when we consider the progress that has been made in all these directions during the last thirty or forty years-the elevation in the condition of the land and people of Israel, the removal of Jewish disabilities, the formation of the Universal Israelite Alliance, the exploration and survey of Palestine, the decay of the Turkish power; the increase of missions, the opening up of China, Japan, and interior Africa, the revival of evangelical truth and effort in the Protestant Church, and the consequent increase of missionary effort; the separations of Church and State, and the disendowments of national Churches which have taken place; the spread of infidelity in Christendom, and the increase of open ungodliness; the overthrow of despotisms, and the establishment of democratic forms of government in their place, -we feel that supposing we are still thirty or forty years distant from the end of the age, all that is predicted may easily come to pass in the interval. Events in our day move rapidly, as if they too were impelled by steam, so that THE APPARENT RATE OF PROGRESS, AND THE APPARENT DISTANCE COINCIDE WELL.
Unless the entire biblical system of sabbatic chronology, have no application at all to the measures of human history as a whole, unless the moral and chronological harmonies which we have traced between the three dispensations be utterly illusive and unreal, unless the divinely instituted typical ritual of Leviticus, have no chronologic agreement with the long course of redemption history, unless there be no meaning in soli-lunar chronology, unless the employment of great astronomic cycles to bound the duration of historic and prophetic periods be a matter of pure accident, unless the singular septiform epacts of these periods be the result of chance, unless in short the whole system which we have traced out in the word and works of God, be utterly groundless and erroneous-then there can be no question that we are living in the very last days of this dispensation.
And what is the great event which is to close it? Speaking broadly and generally, it is the return in glory of the Son of God to this earth, to establish therein the kingdom of the Most High. Christ when on earth often alluded to the end of the age (or world’, as the Greek is often wrongly rendered in the A. V.), and He did so most definitely in his parting command to his apostles. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always even unto the end of age" (#Matt 28:19-20).
This commission and this promise taken together, clearly imply that evangelistic, missionary, and pastoral labours were to continue under the patronage and in the power of an absent and ascended Saviour, until the end of the age; till then He promises to be with his people; after that, according to a previously given promise, He would come again and receive them to Himself, that where He is they may be also. He with them till the end of the age by his Spirit, while still absent in person; they with Him after the end of age, "for ever with the Lord." The return of Christ, and the rapture of his Church to meet Him in the air, is then the great event which closes this age, and marks the transition to another age-even the millennial; that personal Epiphany which is the event symbolised by the fall of the stone cut out without hands, which destroys the image of Gentile monarchy, and becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth. We are living within half a century of what appears to be the latest close of the Times of the Gentiles, which introduces this millennial reign of Christ.
That the transition from this age to the next, will occupy a period, and not be a point of time, seems likely from analogy, and seems to be indicated in the two brief supplementary periods added to the main one, by the closing words of the angel to Daniel. That there will be marked stages in the accomplishment of the stupendous change from the world that is, to the world that shall be, and that it is impossible to fix their dates, or to determine beforehand the precise order of the various events, revealed as destined to occur in the course of the great crisis and consummation, may be freely admitted, without detracting in the least from the momentous weight and solemn importance of this most blessed conclusion. That the rapture will precede the glorious manifestation of Christ with his saints, and the marriage of the Lamb antedate the destruction of Antichrist and his host, is clear from New Testament prophecy, but what the interval between the two events may be, whether the twinkling of an eye or a longer space of time, there are no data to enable us to determine.
That a period of awful and destructive judgments on apostate Christendom, is to prepare the way for the full establishment of the millennial throne of Christ, and the world-wide recognition of his peaceful righteous sway, is also abundantly clear (#2Thess 1:11; #Rev 19); but the precise nature, duration, and effect of these judgments, it is impossible to define.
And while the chronological revelations of Scripture seem to prove that we are living within a few years of the latest close of all the prophetic periods, there is nothing whatever to forbid the thought that the end may come before that latest close. The main measures of the periods may be from the earlier termini a quo. We may be already far advanced in the supplemental seventy-five years. If the glorious Epiphany were to take place at any time, chronologic prophecy would still have been fulfilled, and as the Rapture of the Church precedes that Epiphany, who shall say how near that blessed hope may be? There is no ground for concluding it will not take place this year or next, any more than for asserting that it will. An intentional and impenetrable obscurity and uncertainty is even now, with all our perception of the Divine system of times and seasons, left around this point, and must be till the event itself shall occur. Each passing year diminishes the number of the few remaining years of this "time of the end," somewhere in the course of which, the advent apparently must take place, and should therefore quicken our hope, and increase our watchfulness: but to the last we shall not know the day or the hour.
This wholesome and divinely appointed ignorance of the exact period, is perfectly consistent with an intelligent apprehension of the true chronological character of the days in which we live, and a profound conviction that they are emphatically and literally, the last days. An approximate knowledge of the truth on this great subject is all we can gain, and it is all that we require; anything further would be injurious. SUCH A KNOWLEDGE WAS ALL THAT WAS EVER GRANTED TO THE SAINTS OF GOD IN CONNECTION WITH THE FULFILMENT OF OTHER CHRONOLOGICAL PROPHECIES IN OTHER DAYS; FOR PROPHECY IS NOT GIVEN TO GRATIFY CURIOSITY, OR TO MINISTER TO MERE EXCITEMENT, BUT TO SERVE HIGH AND HOLY MORAL ENDS.
And our ignorance and uncertainty on the subject, are of a very different nature from those which were appointed for the early Christian church. Just as the patriarchs had the promise and hope of Christ’s first coming, but no clue whatever as to the time of that greatly desired event; while the expectations of the faithful in Israel subsequent to the restoration from Babylon were definitely guided by the chronologic prophecy of the seventy weeks, to the century and decade, though not to the very year of Messiah the Prince, so the earlier generations of Christians, had the blessed hope of Christ’s second coming, but no clue whatever as to its period. The widest possible range was purposely left, for uncertainty on the subject; they were told that the Master might return in the evening, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning, and they had no idea which period was the most probable. For though they held in their hands chronological prophecies containing mystic intimations of the appointed duration of this dispensation, they knew not the language in which the revelation was written, and to them it remained, as the Lord had ordained that it should remain, a hidden mystery.
We are in a widely different position; not a fresh revelation, but new light on old revelations, has by the course of events, and by the enlightenings of the Spirit of God been granted to us. The facts of history have explained the predictions of Scripture; experience has demonstrated the true scale of the chronology of symbolic prophecy, our expectations are consequently confined to a much narrower range. The evening light of the early ages of church history faded away, long long ago, into the "midnight" of the dark ages of the great Apostasy; the "cock-crowing" of the Reformation has already brightened into the dawn of morning light, and our uncertainty is limited to ignorance of the precise moment, at which the Sun of Righteousness will rise in visible glory above our horizon. The scheme of Divine providence has been by degrees unfolded, and the signs of the times assure us, that we are not out in our reckoning. We are far advanced in the last days of the Christian dispensation; and though still ignorant of the day and the hour of our Lord’s return, we know that that great event must be close at hand.
If the uncertainty of the early Christians, was intended to have and calculated to have a sobering, sanctifying and stimulating effect on their minds, what should be the effect of this comparative certainty on ours? If there is immense practical power in the thought, the Lord may come at any time; how much more in the conviction He is sure to come before many years are past. This certainty is one which no previous generation of Christians could have had, because the great prophetic period of 1260 years was never demonstrably , fulfilled before the complete fall of the temporal power of the Papacy in 1870, and the true nature of the Divine system of times and seasons, never before demonstrated, as now. The present generation ought therefore to exhibit fruits of holy living, and earnest service, never seen before, and if this truth were mixed with faith in the heart, it would. Hence our deep regret that futurist expositions should take off the edge of this mightily practical truth; and just as at the Reformation they blinded the eyes of Papists to the true character of the Papacy, and to their consequent personal duty with regard to it, -so they should now blind Protestants to the real nature of the days in which we live; depriving them of the certainty afforded by the sure word of prophecy in this time of the end, and throwing them back on the uncertainty of earlier ages.
A moment’s reflection will show that in the past, while the beginnings of the ages and dispensations had general promises and predictions only, CHRONOLOGICAL PROPHECY WAS ALWAYS PERMITTED TO THROW ITS SOLEMNLY HELPFUL GUIDING LIGHT ON THE CLOSE. The first prediction of this character ever given was that of the 120 years to elapse prior to the flood, that great close of the antediluvian age. The second-the 400 years to the Exodus, marked the close of the entire patriarchal dispensation; the third-the 65 years to elapse before Ephraim’s overthrow, led up to the close of the kingdom of the ten tribes; and the fourth-the 70 years captivity of Judah, marked out by its commencement the close of Jewish monarchy, and by its own termination, the close of the Babylonian Empire; the fifth-the 490 years to Messiah the Prince, led up the close of the Jewish dispensation; and the remaining three great chronological prophecies of the Bible, the 2520, the 2300 and the seven times repeated 1260 years, all indicate the close of the Times of the Gentiles, the oft-mentioned "end of the age." The reason seems to be, that each fresh age has been inaugurated and introduced by miracle on so grand a scale that faith needed for a time no further aid than that afforded by history and promise. But as the era of miracle receded, the temptation to doubt and unbelief strengthened, and God graciously provided the help of chronologic prophecy to sustain to the end, the faith and hope of his people. They who in this day despise that aid, or make it void by fanciful, unhistoric futurist interpretations, cast aside an invaluable weapon for the special conflict of these closing days. An age which rejects the argument from miracle, is confronted by that from the fulfilment of prophecy. As the evidence of the first becomes more questionable on account of its remote antiquity, that of the second becomes more irresistible year by year. Fulfilled prophecy is miracle in the highest sphere, -that of mind. It is the ever growing proof of Divine prescience in the authors of sacred Scripture.
To one who notes the peculiar characteristics of the condition of Christendom in our day, it seems evident, that the testimony which specially needs to be borne throughout its length and breadth at this solemn juncture, is a testimony not only to the goodness but the severity of God. "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God," says the apostle Paul to the Gentile church, speaking of God’s dealings with Israel; "on them which fell severity, but toward thee goodness if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Christendom has no more continued in the goodness of God, than did Israel, and as surely as Israel fell and was cut off in judgment, so surely does a still more terrible doom await the apostate professing Christian church. It needs faith in Divine revelation to believe this, and perhaps few of the clear teachings of Scripture are more generally disbelieved in our day; but unbelief will not make the promise or the threatening of God of none effect, and though myriads may ignore the solemn fact, and though myriads more may-as predicted-laugh to scorn the Divine denunciations of impending doom, it is at hand. If the Bible be true there can be nothing more certain than this, that Divine judgment must close this dispensation, and that in all probability within a brief period of time. Introductory and premonitory vials of wrath, have already been poured out on the Papal kingdoms of Western Europe, and on the Ottoman Empire of Eastern Europe; the sixth vial has been pouring out for the last fifty years, and seems to have all but accomplished its appointed task, of drying up the Euphrates, or wasting away the power of Turkey; the seventh vial brings the fall of Babylon, the marriage of the Lamb, and the final destruction of Antichrist and all his hosts. It is the vial of the con summation, and when it is poured forth the great voice out of heaven proclaims "IT IS DONE."
The political events of the last century have been the swift and sure precursors of the long- foretold destruction with the brightness of Christ’s coming, which awaits the apostate church of this dispensation. But men’s eyes are blinded and they see it not! Let the watchmen who do see it, sound the alarm, if perchance they may awake some to the danger. Let the servants of the Most High preach to an unrepentant world, the preaching that He bids them, for "yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed!" As foretold in the Apocalypse, all the sore judgments that have been sent on apostate Christendom have failed to lead it to repentance (#Rev 9:21; #Rev 16:11), and a contemplation of its actual state affords the strongest of all arguments for a belief in its impending doom. There is such a thing as the measure of iniquity being full; there is such a thing as the long-suffering of God being exhausted!
Let the universality and intensity of the apostasy of the professing Christian church be considered, and the length of time during which it has existed, as well as the way in which it has rejected every call to repentance: It is not the Papal church alone that has become apostate; look at the lands where Christianity took its rise, and established itself in the earliest centuries. What is the state of the Syrian, the Nestorian, the Armenian, the Maronite, the Coptic churches, with their millions of so-called Christian adherents? They are systems in which the grossest ignorance, idolatry, priest-craft, and corruption prevail, and in which the true gospel is almost as much ignored as among the heathen themselves. They who have traversed these lands, witnessed the unmeaning and degrading bodily exercises, and heard the endless vain repetitions which pass in their churches for Christian worship, have marvelled how anything so unlike the religion of Christ and his apostles, can retain even the name of Christianity. It should be remembered also that the majority of the population of these once Christian lands, long ago abandoned even the name of Christ, and under the pressure of Mohammedan conquest and persecution, became avowedly followers of the false prophet.
When from these smaller and more ancient Eastern churches we turn to the great Greek. church with its ninety millions of members, and all its minor subdivisions of Syrian, orthodox and schismatic, Bulgarian and Russian, matters are little better: idolatry is universal, and the prevalent ignorance of the true gospel almost as great as in China or Japan. Do not the very missionary efforts we, as Protestants, are making in all these lands, prove, that we are driven by the appalling facts of the case to regard them as little more enlightened than heathen countries, as possessed merely of the names and forms of Christianity, but as destitute of its spirit and power?
And what pen can paint in its true tints, the dark depths of apostasy in which Papal Europe has long been plunged! Familiarity with its enormity may blunt our sense of its awful guilt, but this continuance in sin only serves to enhance the long slumbering wrath of God. Reformations have separated fragments from an idolatrous and Christless church, but the church as a whole has remained unreformed. Two hundred millions of souls are still bound in its hopeless bondage of soul-destroying error; its blasphemous head still lords it, with ever increasing claims to Divine prerogatives, over all these multitudes. Religion is there, but it is a hollow mocking form: worship is there, but it consists in lip service and genuflexions, it is not worship in spirit and in truth; the word of God is there, but it is locked in an unknown tongue, and studiously withheld from the people; adoration is there, but it is the adoration of saints and angels, of Pope and Virgin Mary, of picture and crucifix, of statues and dressed-up dolls, of shrines and relics, and of a breaden God. Before all these they bow! How low they bow! How low the blind leaders of the blind bend, before the idol-God they create! Dressed in fine linen and gorgeous silk, in lace and scarlet, and robes of glittering gold, they lead the people from the pure spiritual religion of Jesus Christ, to holy sacraments without regenerating power, to holy places of stone and marble, to holy fumes of burnt-wood, to holy days of their own appointment, to holy water which can never wash away sin, to holy candles which enlighten no dark mind, to the mass, to confession, to penance, to indulgences, to extreme unction, to anything, everything, except to God the Judge of all, to Jesus Christ the only Saviour, and to the Scriptures which, testify of Him.
How much longer shall the poison-bearing vine of this Papal apostasy cumber the earth with its rank branches, and destroy men with its fatal clusters of falsehood? How much longer shall this man of sin and son of perdition show himself as God on earth, and blasphemously claim to be infallible? How much longer shall the nations of Europe be by it deceived and deluded into foul superstitions, or driven to revolt against God in open infidelity? Are these things to be suffered to continue under the name of the religion of Christ? Zion has become Babylon, and th9 professing church a harlot; and Babylon has grown old in sin, and become ripe for retribution. All the judgments that have been sent on her, have failed to lead her to repentance, all protests against her corruption have proved powerless to abate one iota of her idolatries and false assumptions. Rome has proved herself irreformable and deserving of the dreadful doom so long decreed against her.
At the door of the apostate church of Rome lies the guilt of having given rise to modern continental infidelity, that plague which is ruining in its turn untold millions. Who shall number the so-called Christians in Europe and elsewhere, who scorn all religion as hypocrisy, and sneer at all sacred truth as legends and lies; who worship only self and mammon and pleasure, and live in the unceasing pursuit of vanity? What thousands of such, openly deride and deny Jesus Christ, and even make a mock at God; they refuse to the Creator a place in his own creation, and question his very existence.
And when we turn our eyes to the reformed Protestant churches of Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and England, what do we behold? The power of godliness to a greater extent, a purer creed, an open Bible, an educated people, a general respect for the things of God, and some vital godliness, some faith. But even here how much of covert or open infidelity, what rationalism, what scepticism, what "broad church" views, what oppositions of science falsely so called! What worldliness, what national sins, what confusion and strife in the church, what loathsome vice and ungodliness in the world! National churches honeycombed with infidelity, even when not relapsing back to Popery under another name, and Nonconformist churches fast admitting the same deadly leaven. Where can we find a Christianity worthy of Christ? Where a church, like a chaste virgin, fit to be his bride?
The Christian church -as a witness for God in the world has failed, like the Jewish nation, and become apostate. There is a little flock, there is a true Church, but its members are scattered abroad and almost invisible in the great Babylon; they are the seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal, they are the called and chosen and faithful who follow the Lamb, they are those who have turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven; they are those who have not the form only, but the power of godliness, those who keep themselves unspotted from the world, and overcome through faith. They are found in every section of the professing church, and the Lord knoweth those that are his-" They shall be mine saith the Lord of Hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels."
But for the rest, -for the vast professing body which bears the name of Christ, it has not continued in the goodness of God, it has turned his grace into licentiousness, its sentence is gone forth, it must be "cut off." The long-suffering of God has been abundantly manifested, it is right that his holy severity should be again revealed. The professing church has long been unworthy of the sacred name it bears, and of the high and holy responsibility of being God’s witness on earth, which belongs to it; it is time it should cease to hold the position it has so fearfully forfeited. Instead of being the instrument of spreading the truth of the gospel among men, it is the worst hindrance to their attaining that knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent, in which life eternal lies; like the Pharisees of old it stands as the great obstruction, neither entering itself into the kingdom, nor suffering those who would, to enter in. The name of God is blasphemed among the nations, by reason of the corruption of the professing church; the light that should have been in it, is become darkness, and great is that darkness! The church is confounded with the world, and the true saints are strangers in its society; it is no longer the pillar and ground of the truth, it is the hotbed of heresy, false doctrine, and corruption of every kind. What contrast can be more complete, than that between the church as Christ intended it to be, and the church as it now exists in the world! An end must come to all this ! Not only does the word of God predict it, not only does our own sense of righteousness demand it, but the solemn analogies of history distinctly intimate it. Let the undeniable fact that past apostasies brought down the judgment they deserved, forewarn men what must be the end of the existing apostasy of the professing people of God. Babylon must fall! Great Babylon must come in remembrance before God; who will give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath, for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities! The testimony of the Apocalypse is full and fearful as to the doom that is now impending over Christendom. He who destroyed Pagan Rome, is about to destroy Papal Rome and all kindred apostasies; He who punished Jerusalem is about to punish Babylon; heaven waits to rejoice over her fall. The harpers on the crystal sea, the myriad martyrs who overcame her specious seductions, and endured her cruel torments, resisting unto blood her soul-destroying errors and superstitions, - wait to make heaven reverberate with the melodious voice of their triumph, over her utter downfall, and fiery destruction. The same severity of God, illustrated of old in the flood, in the plagues of Egypt, and in the fall of Jerusalem, is to be exhibited afresh in the cutting off of the apostate Christian Church; and the analogies of chronology teach us, that the great change and termination of the present state of things is near at hand. When the "seven times" of the patriarchal age of human history were finished, Egypt fell, and the Exodus of Israel took place. When the "seven times" of the Shemitic or Jewish age expired, Messiah appeared; and Israel, having filled up the measure of its iniquity by rejecting Him, was rejected in its turn, and given up by God. to judgment. And now the "seven times" of this Gentile are all but run out; the dispensation of the Christian Church has produced an apostasy worse than any preceding dispensation, -and shall the end be different? Only in this respect, that the judgment predicted is more terrible, as the sin has been more fearful and prolonged! Babylon must fall, and her fall will be great, for "strong is the Lord God who judgeth her."
The prospect of the judgments which are to bring to a close this dispensation, and which are described in terms of appalling strength by inspired apostles (#2Thess 2; #2Peter 3; #Rev 18; #Rev 19), cannot in itself be an attractive one to the Christian heart. It must, when they realize it, excite in his people, the compassions of Christ; and incline them, as they see the ungodly turning from the only way of escape, to weep, as their Master wept over Jerusalem, in the prospect of its coming doom, and to exclaim with Him, "If thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace I But now they are hid from thine eyes!"
Yet, while sorrowing in Christlike compassion, we can also acquiesce in Christlike righteousness with the just judgments of God. It needs but a glance over the wide extent and awful character of the evils which those judgments are to remove, and the unspeakable, multiplied, and universal blessings which they are to introduce; to make a true Christian even from motives of humanity desire the hastening of the day of God. if use had not familiarized us with the miseries born of sin, if our standard of human duty and human privilege, had not been debased by ages of acquaintance with things as they are, if our ideal of the destiny of mankind was the true one, - that it is, "to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever,"-the present state of the wide world would fill us with grief and amazement, and with impatient longings for a change.
Two-thirds of the human race are buried still in heathen darkness, sensual and ignorant as animals, selfish and cruel as wild beasts, bowing down to the creature, and knowing nothing of the Creator; of the other third, a hundred millions, cursed with the degrading creed of the false prophet, are almost equally sensual and equally ferocious and cruel, while they dishonour God still more by blaspheming and rejecting His only Son; two hundred millions are nominally involved in the Papal apostasy, and about ninety millions in the Greek; how little is God. either glorified or enjoyed among these I How little is his character understood, or his will done, or his communion sought! And in the small remainder, , in the Protestant world, oh, what national sins bring national miseries even here, and how little is God either enjoyed or glorified! Take England, with her opium trade, her drink traffic, and her legalized immorality. Heathen China conceives us and our religion to be diabolic rather than Divine, since we deliberately persist in ruining her million-peopled empire for the sake of gold. At home the drink fiend is destroying our people and our national prosperity; sixty thousand drunkards die a miserable and disgraceful death annually in our land; murdered wives and starving children, and an immense and ever-increasing pauper, criminal, and lunatic population, cry aloud for some restraint to be put on the fell destroyer; but they cry in vain; our Government suffer and even encourage the traffic. It is acknowledged on all hands that in the metropolis of the greatest Protestant country in the world, where, if anywhere on earth, pure Christianity is acknowledged, there, instead of God being glorified and enjoyed, his laws are by the masses, trampled under foot, and sin and misery in one form or other abound.
Where in the wide world can we then find purity and peace? Where holiness and happiness? Oh, the foul lives, the defiled consciences, the troubled minds, the broken hearts, the crying oppressions, the multiplied miseries of our race! What a world of sin and woe is contained in that one word, WAR, and in that other word, SLAVERY! What famines and pestilences, and revolutions and massacres arise from MISGOVERNMENT! How truly the whole creation groans, and travails in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God I The deepest and truest compassion for the sufferings of humanity must prompt the cry, How long, O Lord? And apart altogether from the joy that is to be brought to her by the revelation of Jesus Christ, the church must long for his coming, that the creation itself may be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Israel’s conversion, and the world’s jubilee of liberty and gladness, date alike from the coming of the Lord with all his saints, to execute judgment on the ungodly. Of the blessed condition of things which shall succeed, during the world’s millennial sabbath, Scripture gives many a glorious sketch! and though we may be, and must be, unable to image it to ourselves in its detail, we know its broad essential features, and they imply almost all we can desire. Satan, the source of all sin, the great deceiver and seducer of men, is to be bound, imprisoned, rendered perfectly powerless and inoperative; Christ, the source of all blessing, spiritual and temporal, is to reign, to govern the nations of the earth Himself, suffering no sin or oppression, and protecting the poor and needy. The seventy-second Psalm, the thirty-second chapter of Isaiah, and similar scriptures, describe his glorious, peaceful, righteous reign, and its blessed results to mankind.
And while compassion for our fellow-creatures would make us long for the dawn of the day of Christ, how much more, desire for his glory! Can we, who own Him Lord, be content to have Him despised and rejected still by his ancient people Israel, denied, mocked, and insulted by the vast infidel host, displaced from his rightful throne, by this self-styled Vicar on earth, robbed of all his peculiar glories by an apostate priesthood, unknown to the great majority of the sinners He died to save, poorly obeyed and honoured by his best friends and followers, and practically forgotten and disowned by the mass of those who bear his name? Can we be content with a continuance of this treatment of the only begotten Son in whom God is well-pleased? Can we endure to see this treatment still accorded to Him Who for our sakes humbled Himself and became of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross? Is He to have nothing but what He had before, the adoration and love of the heavenly hosts? Or, rather, is not every knee to bow to Him, and every tongue to confess Him Lord, to the glory of God the Father? Are not our hearts impatient for the day when earth shall own her King, and Israel its Messiah, and our blessed Lord alone be exalted? Do we not cry, -
Our longing eyes would fain behold
That bright and blessed brow,
Once wrung with bitterest anguish, wear
Its crown of glory now?
And does not the cry gush from the depth of our souls? The near approach of the day of Christ, must rejoice the heart that adores Him; for never till then will He have his rightful place, os receive from the sons of men, the love and the sub mission which He so richly deserves.
And without being selfish, we rejoice and must rejoice for our own sakes in the prospect of the near approach of the end of the age, notwithstanding its accompanying judgments.
For whatever the exact portion it may bring to others, whatever its immediate and precise effect on Israel, on Christendom, and on the heathen nations of the earth, -and there maybe room for some doubts and differences of opinion as to these, -there can be no question whatever, as to the portion it brings to the true church and to each individual Christian. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," the dead in Christ shall rise, and the living "in Christ" be changed, the corruptible put on in-corruption, and the mortal immortality, when the Lord Himself descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; we shall be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be for ever with the Lord. We shall see Him, and be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is; we shall go in, clad in pure linen, clean and white, to the marriage supper of the Lamb; we shall, as his blood-bought bride, sit with Him on his throne, and share his glory, according to his word, "the glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given them." Simple, clear, abundant, and unmistakable are the predictions with reference to our portion at the coming of the Lord. "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to those that trouble you; and to you Who are troubled REST WITH US when the Lord Jesus shall he revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when He shall come to be GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS, AND ADMIRED IN ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE in that day" (2 Thess. i.6-10). Rest! that is to be one feature of our portion, rest with Christ, rest with the saints and martyrs that are gone before. Rest from conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil; rest from the life and walk of faith, in the more glorious life and walk of sight, for we shall behold his face, and see Him, whom not having seen we love; rest of heart in love’s full fruition, in complete and eternal union with our Lord, -the marriage of the Lamb; rest of mind, in perfect knowledge, for then shall we know, even as also we are known; rest from the burden of this body of humiliation, rest from labouring in vain, and spending our strength for nought, rest from all care and fear, from all strife, and all pain and sorrow; and from the heart- ache produced by the daily sights and sounds of ungodliness. The day of Christ shall bring rest to the weary! Nor rest only, but fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore l The joy of seeing HIM glorified and acknowledged by all, and the joy of being glorified and acknowledged ourselves by Him; the joy of perfect holiness, the joy of possessing a new and incorruptible spiritual body in which to serve Him as we cannot do here, and to enjoy his glory, as would now be impossible. "Beloved! now are we the sons of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is." Ours shall be the joy, not only of being like Him ourselves, but of beholding all those we love like Him also-the joy of seeing eye to eye, and of having every feeling in perfect unison, with all the children of God, the joy of meeting the saints of other days, the patriarchs and prophets and apostles, and the noble army of martyrs; of seeing, crowned with crowns of life, those who loved not their lives to the death-the joy of unhindered communion and worship, the joy of perpetual and perfect service. And all these joys sweetened by the assurance that they are ours for ever, that we shall go no more out from the temple of the immediate presence of God, that we are to be for ever with the Lord! Earth’s millennium is to end, like all previous dispensations, in apostasy and judgment; but to the risen saints no change; no apostasy can ever come. Christ is their life; because He lives, they live also, in Him and with Him indissolubly and eternally one. Their eternal state begins at his Epiphany, at the Second Advent for which we wait.
Men and brethren, are these things so? Have we a hope thus full of glory, and does our hope draw nigh, yea very nigh? "What manner of persons then ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" Ought we not to be persons filled with faith, even as the world is filled with scepticism? Ought we not to be moved with fear for the ungodly around us, and burning with earnest zeal for their salvation? If the day of Christ be so near, how should we employ the brief remaining interval? Many a task which it might have been wise and well to undertake in the earlier days of the dispensation, would be sadly out of place now! This is no time for controversies about ecclesiastical organizations and abstruse questions of doctrine. To proclaim far and wide throughout the earth the everlasting Gospel before it is too late; to lay hold of men and women and pull them out of Sodom ere the fire from heaven fall; to cry aloud as regards Babylon, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues ;" to spend and be spent in seeking to rescue the perishing, this is the work that becomes us. To warn the world that the sword of destruction is coming, to explain to men that the long- suffering of God is for salvation, and that it is nearly over, and to live as though we believed these things-this is our plain duty.
When the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ruin of Palestine were approaching, when fearful judgments were on the eve of being poured forth on the Jewish nation, our Lord forewarned his disciples against laying up treasures for themselves upon earth. He counselled and commanded them to lodge whatever treasures they had beyond the spoiler’s reach. What the position of these early Christians in Palestine was, such is our position now. The judgment of God is at hand, : destruction is about to break forth upon Christendom. In the coming conflagration, the church and her earthly possessions shall be parted. What a burning up of hoarded wealth shall take place then! Let us be warned in time. Let us make haste to lay out all our buried talents in Christ’s service, instead of laying them up for condemnation and confusion of face. Let none of us imitate an unbelieving selfish world. Oh the obstinate folly of those who spend all their strength in gathering worthless fuel for the flames of that great day! Let every Christian bring forth his hidden treasures, if he has any, and use them as they are most needed, without delay, lest that day should come upon us as a thief, and our wealth become a witness against us. There is a deadly famine in the world. Men are perishing in every land for lack of that which we possess. We have, and they have not, the gospel We have, and they have not, eternal life. Let us expend our means and lives in taking to them, or sending to them, that which has saved our souls, that we may be clear from the blood of all men, and may by all means save some. Love to men and love to God alike demand it, and the example of an impoverished and crucified Redeemer points us to this path. Behold the footprints of Jesus! Let us trace and tread them till He comes ! How much there is to be done for a dying world! How little time in which to do it! Let us be up and doing. It is the evening of this dispensation. The harvest-alas, how little reaped-is red with the glow of the setting sun. Who will bring in these waiting sheaves? China’s millions are there; India’s countless idolaters, and Africa’s innumerable degraded sons are there. The children of error and superstition, the mass, the multitude are there. Not a few whom we personally know and love are there. Let us reap while the light lasts. Bring in these golden sheaves! Now, or never, bring them in !
Brethren, let us lift up our heads, for our redemption draweth nigh. We see on every hand the signs, the predicted signs of the nearness of the Advent. Let us not wait till it comes to rejoice in it. Let us rejoice now, because the joy of Christ and of his church is near. Superstition’s fall and error’s flight, the casting out of Satan, and the coming of the King are nigh! Ye graves, how soon shall ye give up your prey! Resurrection life and glory, how soon shall ye burst upon us! Children of the coming kingdom, this is no time for gloom, for mourning, or for tears, -let us rejoice, for our redemption, long waited for -our longed-for redemption is at hand.
And you who neither desire nor dread that day-you who love not our Lord Jesus Christ-you whose busy thoughts, and whose warm affections are still in the world, whose motives and objects and treasures are of the earth, you whose minds are in darkness whose consciences, when they speak at all, accuse; whose hearts and souls are indifferent to eternal truth, destitute of real holiness, dead to Him in whom you live -dead to God through the darkness and the death of your souls, let the light of the gospel you have heard but never understood, now shine at length!
Hear ye the word of the Lord. God who is light and love, "God WAS IN CHRIST, RECONCILING the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though GOD did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, BE YE RECONCILED TO GOD. For He bath made HIM to be SIN for us who knew no sin; that we might he made THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." Oh glorious gospel of the blessed God! Shine, shine in some dark heart through these most joyful words of saving truth! Jesus made sin for sinners! The Son of God suffering in the sinner’s place! The sinner who BELIEVES, -who TRUSTS in Him justified and saved! The darkness is past, the true light now shineth. O thou who hast hated HIM without a cause, He takes thy plate, He gives thee His!
O THOU who hast taken on Thyself our humanity, that Thou mightest bear our griefs, and carry our sorrows, and atone for all our sins, -Thou whose loud expiring cry upon the cross rung through the universe the triumphant truth that our redemption is accomplished, that its battle has been fought, its victory won; the foe vanquished; sin cancelled, made an end of, and known no more, - Thou whose tender sympathies and whose immortal love surpassing knowledge are with us still, whose sacred presence unseen, but ever felt, guards and guides thy redeemed in all their pilgrim way, - Thou who art COMING in the brightness of thy majesty, in the sweetness of thy grace, in the fulness of thy strength, to finish our redemption, and complete thy triumph over all our fears, and all our foes, -Thou whose unchangeable purpose it is to surround thyself with the spotless beauty of a new creation, whose voice shall yet proclaim the renovation of a ruined world, the completion of the conquest of our evil by thy good, the consummation of the moral movement of all these ages carried forward by thine unwearied Spirit in the souls of men, the perfecting of thy redeemed in the holy image of their Redeemer; whose faithful hand shall yet finish the true temple of Jehovah, the living temple of his fulness, and habitation of his glory for ever and for ever, - Thou whose latest promise and last recorded utterance is, "SURELY I COME QUICKLY," and whose coming is now near at hand-Life of our life-Light of our light-God manifested-God with us-our everlasting ALL-we long, we watch, we wait to welcome Thee, -come as Thou hast said-come soon-
"EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS!"