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I saw in my vision by night.
Modes of Communication with God
Since the days of the apostles, the intercourse between Heaven and earth has been maintained through the ordinary channels. God speaks to man through the medium of his conscience--in the Bible, and by the operation of His providence. These are now the appointed means whereby we are to ascertain a knowledge of our duty. Not that our Heavenly Father is less desirous of guiding us into the path of truth, or that we, His children are more abandoned to the perils of the world than were the people of His inheritance in a former age; but the ransom of our souls having been effected through the meritorious sacrifice of the Son of God, the Saviour, having ascended into glory and “received gifts for men”; and instruction, accompanied with the most cheering promises, adapted to the case of every individual, having been imported in the canon of Scripture, the Deity has withdrawn Himself from holding a more immediate communion with His creatures, leaving us, not to ourselves, but to the influence of those aids which He has provided. Though visible conferences have ceased between the inhabitants of this world and their omnipresent Creator, we are still under Divine control, and derive our guidance, our strength, and our comfort from on high. The ancient seers were instructed in different ways. Some were endowed with the gift of prophecy by the action of the Holy Spirit upon the mind, illumining the understanding, and conveying to the person so inspired the requisite acquaintance with events not yet accomplished. Angels were also employed to unfold to men the designs of the Almighty. Daring the ages of prophecy, dreams appear to have been frequently of a supernatural order, and highly significant of some important circumstance. (Charles Popham Miles, B.A.)
And four great beasts came up from the sea.
The Four Beasts
I. THE ELEMENT OUT OF WHICH THE WORLD-KINGDOMS CAME INTO EXISTENCE. “Four beasts came up from the sea.” The sea, when looked at in some of its aspects, is a most fit symbol of the means by which human kingdoms without godliness have made progress in the world.
1. There is the element of treachery. The sea is at one moment calm, and apparently harmless; and the next, sending a nation into mourning by overwhelming her vessels and casting their crews into the depths of the ocean.
2. The element of restless change. From its creation to the present moment its waters have not been at rest for a single hour.
3. The element of destructiveness. The sea is a terribly destroying power. The Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires were destructive rather than constructive forces in the world.
II. THE CREATURES WHICH ARE USED AS SYMBOLS OF THE WORLDKINGDOMS. “Four beasts.” The characteristics of these kingdoms were animal rather than human. There is no true humanity where there is no divinity. These kingdoms of the parabolic vision are symbolised by beasts of prey noted for their strength, and cruelty, and treachery; no animal of a gentle, peaceful nature is found among them; denoting the entire absence of these characteristics in kingdoms without godliness.
III. THE KINGDOM THAT AROSE LAST OUT OF THE SEA OF TIME, EXCEEDED THOSE THAT HAD GONE BEFORE IT IN CRUELTY AND POWER. No mere animal could set forth all its destructive power; it had “iron teeth” and “ten horns.” The longer wickedness goes on unchecked the more its evil tendencies develops themselves, and the more it spreads desolation in the world.
IV. A TRULY HUMAN KINGDOM CANNOT ARISE OUT OF ANY ELEMENT OF EARTH, IT MUST COME FROM ABOVE. “The Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.” The head of every kingdom except Christ’s Kingdom has been a mere man. But the Son of man was from above, and He came to be the head of a kingdom of true humanity. The subjects of His Kingdom become partakers of the Divine natural, and, therefore, this kingdom exhibits none of the characteristics set forth by the beasts. It is a human kingdom because it is a Divine kingdom. Therefore, it is an everlasting kingdom. This vision teaches us:
1. The knowledge of the eternal in relation to human affairs in the ages to come.
2. That God has stretched a measuring line across the bounds of every kingdom. He has appointed the bound of their habitation.
3. Human kingdoms form a dark background to reveal the beauties of the Kingdom of Christ. (Outlines by London Minister.)
The Symbolical Beasts
Let us first attend to the place from which these beasts seemed to issue. It appeared to the prophet that they came up from the sea. We are not to interpret this literally. The sea, here, represents or symbolises something else, and, in a subsequent verse, we are told that it signifies the earth. “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.” Now the word earth is often to be understood, not of this material globe, but of its inhabitants, as in that passage of Jeremiah, “O earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.” And that in Psalms, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice and sing praise.” In this passage it is also to be understood of the inhabitants of the earth, or human society. When, therefore, these kings are said to rise out of the earth, this signifies that they would rise up out of the social state. But these beasts did not simply come out of the sea, when they rose out of it the sea was in a very marked condition. The four winds were striving upon it. Since the sea is the emblem of society, the sea, with the four winds striving thereon, is to be understood of society in a state of very great and violent commotion. Now, whereas the sea is represented as being in this state, when the several beasts came out of it, this clearly intimates that these kingdoms would arise amid great commotions, and that, compared with what was to follow, society might be said to continue in this state, and the earth to have no rest, until this extensive prophecy was fulfilled. In particular, we find the great empires, here predicted, rising to ascendancy amid the hurricanes of civil commotion, and convulsing the world by the shock of their fall. The four beasts which came up out of the sea signified four kings. “These four beasts are four kings that shall arise out of the earth.” In this passage the word king is of equal significance with the word kingdom. This is evident from verse 22, “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms.” Here the fourth beast is called the fourth kingdom, which undoubtedly implies that the three preceding beasts were three kingdoms. Whereas these kingdoms are symbolised by beasts, this was probably intended to describe the qualities by which they would be distinguished. It seems to intimate that all these governments, as to their principles and aims, who would be more characterised by what was common to man with the inferior creation than by those principles which connect, and ally, and link him to creatures holding a higher place in the ascending scale of existence. They are not simply represented by beasts, but by beasts of prey, by the lion, and the bear, and the leopard, and another beast which was dreadful, and terrible, and strong exceedingly. Now beasts of prey are principally distinguished from ethers by two things, they are strong and fierce, they take by violence and use with cruelty. And do not these symbols prove their own divinity? For what has been the character of all the great monarchies since the time of Daniel, as developed in their public character? May not a great part of their history be summed up in this, that they were strong and fierce, that they acquired dominion by violence, and used it in oppression? When brought to the test have not all governments accounted might to be right? Have not nations, up to this date, been known to one another principally as military establishments? Is not the history of empires a history of wars, murders, rapine, and desolation? If there be any variation in these murderous annals, it is when force gives place to policy and intrigue; it is, however, the wild beast still, though crouching in concealment, in order that he may spring unexpectedly upon his unprepared victim. Violence and fraud have been characteristic of every government that has risen hitherto upon the earth, even when individual rulers were personally of good character, and arts, commerce, and science were encouraged. There never was an instance of a government acting steadily on the great principles of truth and holiness. These beasts were four in number, and represented four kingdoms that were to arise upon the earth. That these were the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires is evident from a variety of considerations. In the first place, the symbols, here employed, will be found inapplicable to any other connected chain of history. An individual king may be found to whom some of the symbols apply, but a succession of four monarchies rising after one another will nowhere be found to which these words can with any plausibility be referred. In the second place, the application of the symbols to these four empires is so easy and natural as to show that the former were designedly employed to represent the latter. In the third place, this will appear from a comparison of the seventh with the second chapter of Daniel. These two chapters evidently refer to the same subject. Four kingdoms are symbolised in the second chapter, four kingdoms are symbolised in the seventh. In both chapters these kingdoms are represented as extending down to the period when God would erect His kingdom on the earth. In the second chapter the fourth kingdom is represented as being one of irresistible strength. In the seventh chapter it is described as being dreadful, and terrible, and strong exceedingly. The fourth kingdom, in the second chapter, is represented in its latter stages by ten toes. In the seventh chapter its last form is symbolised by ten horns. There cannot remain, on any mind capable of weighing evidence, the faintest doubt that the second and the seventh chapters relate to the same subject. This being ascertained, it is easy to prove, from the second chapter, that the four kingdoms must be understood of the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires. In the second chapter the head of gold denoted the first monarchy; but Daniel said unto Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou art this head of gold”; the Babylonian empire was, therefore, the first of these kingdoms. Now, in the second chapter, the four empires are symbolised by one image. They must, therefore, have come after one another in the order of immediate succession. The other three kingdoms, then, must signify the three great empires which immediately succeeded that of Babylon. But it is matter of undeniable and immutable fact that the empire of Babylon was succeeded by those of Persia, Greece, and Rome; the Babylonian having been overthrown by the Persian, the Persian being overthrown by the Grecian, and the Grecian being overthrown by the Roman. Notwithstanding of certain minor exceptions that have been stated against it, we regard this theory as one at which we have arrived by the sound and simple exposition of the sacred text itself, and which has been tested by time and proved to be genuine. But while the fate of empires is concealed from man, it is naked and open to the eyes of God. Kingdoms rise and fall by Divine ordination: “Surely their days are determined, the number of their months is with God, he hath appointed them a bound which they cannot pass.” And, from the book of His immutable decrees, it is easy for Him to transcribe any page of the future with as much exactness as the historian can describe transactions that are past. But why, it may be asked, are only these four empires pointed out the prophecy? Why does the Holy Seer confine His revelations to this limited district of the world? Beyond it were myriads of the human race, and old and mighty dynasties, were then existing, elsewhere, or were afterwards to arise. Why in this symbolical representation of empire are not India and China included? Why are the two great continents of Africa and America wholly omitted? For this limitation we may venture to assign two reasons, not indeed drawn by exposition from the Scriptures, but drawn by exposition from the oracles of Providence. From what we see of His actual doings by means of these empires, we are perfectly safe in asserting that they occupy the sole place in these predictions on two accounts:
1. Because they were to exercise the greatest influence upon the church during the period to which this prophecy refers.
2. Because through them God intended to civilize and Christianize the whole earth. It is a fact which will not be denied that these empires have had the principal effect upon the church for good or for evil In the days of Daniel, the church existed only within the limits of the Chaldean empire. Afterwards, we find it within the Persian empire. Then we find it principally connected with the Grecian monarchy, favoured by the great Alexander, and persecuted by more than one of his successors. In the latter days of the Jewish dispensation, we find the Old Testament church connected with the empire of Rome. It was by Rome that Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews driven into exile. The place of their dispersion, and the scone of their sufferings, during a period of nearly eighteen centuries, has been almost exclusively within the limits of the four prophetic monarchies. Within this district the Son of God became incarnate and was crucified. Here the fires of persecution blazed most fiercely against His devoted witnesses. Here the great apostacy from the truth was generated. This district was the battlefield between Christ and anti-Christ during many generations. It is the centre still of all the contests between light and darkness, between God and Satan. It is thus a fact that these four empires have had most effect upon the church for good or for evil; and, therefore, we seem warranted in concluding that they alone are mentioned in these predictions, because of the influential connection in which they were to stand to the church. And it is not less true that these four empires have had the principal effect in the Christianization and civilization of the other districts of the world. Beyond the limits of these monarchies, the four winds have striven on the great sea. There have been wars, and changes, and conquests, but, unless we greatly mistake the matter, there is a very marked difference between the political commotions and changes which took place within the territorial limits of the four empires and those which occurred elsewhere. Beyond this district, we will see one great conqueror after another sweeping over the earth in the same murderous career. But we see no permanent current of civilization following these commotions. We see no advancement amid all these changes. We see the nations living in the same barbarous, or semicivilized, condition in which they were in the times of Daniel. But the commotions which have occurred within the limits of the four monarchies have had a civilizing tendency in the issue. Not to ascend higher, wherever the Romans carried their arms, they carried their noble literature, and left a seed of it behind. Their later conquests were preparatory to the dissemination of the gospel; and to the fourth empire, as the Divine instrument, may be traced the whole of European civilization. Look beyond the limits of these four empires, and wherever we see civilization it will be found to have come from them. Civilization and religion went from them to America, to Greenland, Australia, the isles of the Pacific, and to many spots in Africa. And there can now be little doubt that by means of the fourth empire, in its last form, and of the church within it, God intended to originate those movements which shall result in the Christianization of the world. How thankful should we be unto God that we have been born within the limits of these four monarchies, not merely because the currents of civilization flow there, but because of the streams of life by which they are watered and fertilized. How great and glorious does God appear in connection with this prophecy! How low should we lie in the dust before Him, under a profound feeling of the nothingness of our intellects, when we see His omniscient eye piercing the vista of ages and generations, and unfolding the end from the beginning! When we survey the long and dreary domination of the four predicted beasts, we are apt to be seized with a feeling of despondency. Why has wickedness been permitted to exult so long? But when we remember that the Lord reigneth, and that the past stages of the world are merely preparatory to its future glory, a prospect opens on our view delightful beyond all description. If rays of the Divine glory are seen sparkling out amid the eras that are past, we are prepared for the announcement that, when the work is completed, “the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (W. White.)
Vision, of Four Wild Beasts
The first of these is the Babylonian empire. In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar its symbol was the head of gold, and in the dream of Daniel, the first wild beast which was like a lion and had eagle’s wings. The superior excellence of the head of gold to the silver, brass, and iron of the colossal image corresponds with the superior excellence of the first wild beast, which had the body of the king of beasts and the wings of the king of birds, to the three other wild beasts which came up afterwards out of the sea. A royal dignity belonged to the Babylonian empire which was lacking in its successors. It is true that when Daniel had his dream the Babylonian empire was near its end; but as the stand-point of Daniel in the dream was before the wild beasts came up out of the sea, the interpreter justly spoke of then to Daniel as “four kings which shall arise out of the earth.” In the dream the Babylonian empire was yet to come; but in point of fact it had already come, and was on the eve of passing away. In the plucking of the wild beast’s wings, which deprived it of its soaring ambition, and in lifting it up from the earth and giving to it a man’s attitude and heart, which deprived it of the voracious nature of the wild beasts, there seems to be a reference to the madness and restoration of Nebuchadnezzar. The Judgment which humbled and ennobled the great king, paved the way for the overthrow of the first great world-power. The empire after the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar had never been so glorious; but the change wrought in him had deprived it of the conquering and destructive power of the wild beast. The lion-like ferocity and eagle-like swiftness in pouncing upon the nations had given place to the kindliness and consideration of a brother man. And when the great king died the glory had departed. None of his successors had either his genius or his strength and nobility of spirit; and in twenty-three years the Babylonian empire had ceased to be. The second world-empire is the Medo-Persian. Three reasons seem to place this opinion, which has been common in all ages, on a solid and immovable foundation.
(1) It is historically true. It is admitted on all hands that the empire which succeeded the Babylonian was the Medo-Persian. To suppose, as the higher critics generally do, that the kingdom meant in both dreams is a kingdom of the Medes, is to ascribe to them a grave historical blunder, since the kingdom of the Medes lost its separate existence and became a part of the dominion of Cyrus eleven years before the downfall of the Babylonian empire.
(2) It is the empire meant in the sacred narrative. This seems clear from the following facts. In his interpretation of the mysterious writing which portended the doom of Babylon, Daniel says of one of the words which suggested the Persians: “Perez: thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (v. 28). It is no doubt true that Darius the Mede is mentioned as the first king; but then it is to be noted, not only that Darius the Mede “received the kingdom,” but that he and his councillors regarded the edict as unalterable, “according to the law, of the Medes and Persians”Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15).
(3) It is the only empire which fits the symbols. The symbol of the second empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is “the breast and arms of silver.” The symbol is emblematic of its inferiority to the first empire, represented by the head of gold, and the two arms are the two people who composed it. Its symbol in Daniel’s dream is the second wild beast, “like to a bear, raised upon one side, with three ribs between its teeth, to which it was said, Arise, devour much flesh.” The Medo-Persian empire, like the bear, was powerful and destructive; one of its two people, the Persians, like one of the sides of the bear, was more prominent than the other; it had in its grasp, like the bear with the three ribs in its mouth, the three kingdoms of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt; and it was sluggish, like the bear, and needed to be stimulated in its destructive voracity. The Medo-Persian empire fits exactly both symbols, while the empire of the Medes fits neither. On these three grounds it seems certain that the second empire symbolised in the two dreams was the Mede-Persian. The third world-empire is the Greek or Macedonian. Its symbol in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is “the belly and thighs of brass”; in the dream of Daniel, a leopard with four heads and four wings. The leopard is a fierce animal, remarkable for its swiftness and agility. When the prophet wished to impress his fellow-countrymen with the exceeding swiftness of the horses of the Chaldeans, he described them as “swifter than leopards” (Habakkuk 1:8). This quality of swiftness is here intensified by the leopard “having the four wings of a bird.” The lion, the symbol of the Babylonian empire, had only two wings; but the leopard, the symbol of the Macedonian, had four. The exceeding swiftness of such a wild beast is an emblem of Alexander the Great in his conquering career. The rapidity of his military movements was not only superior to those of Nebuchadnezzar and of Cyrus, but perhaps unexampled in the history of the world. The four heads of the leopard represent the four kingdoms into which the Macedonian empire was divided after Alexander’s death. The third wild beast seems in every, respect an apt symbol of the Macedonian empire. The higher critics generally, on the other hand, take the third wild beast to be a symbol of the Persian empire. I have already given three reasons for thinking that the second wild beast must be intended for the Medo-Persian empire. After the Babylonian empire there was neither a Median nor a Persian empire, but only a Medo-Persian empire; and if the second wild beast refers to the Medo-Persian empire, then the third wild beast must refer to the Macedonian empire, which immediately came, after it. But in addition, the third wild beast is not an apt symbol of the Medo-Persian empire. The four-winged leopard might be looked upon as a fit symbol of Cyrus, though not nearly so apt as a symbol of Alexander the Great, either for rapidity or ferocity; but it is altogether inappropriate to the general character of the Medo-Persian empire. Instead of being like a four-winged leopard, it strikingly resembled the awkward, slow-moving bear. Again, the four heads are not satisfactorily explained of the Medo-Persian empire by supposing that they refer either to its universal dominion--the four heads being understood as the four points of the compasstowards which the empire spread--or to four of its rulers. The heads naturally suggest kings or kingdoms, and the four heads being on the beast at one and the same time suggest four contemporaneous, and not four successive kings. The fourth world-empire is the Roman. The fourth wild beast, as it appeared to Daniel in the dream, is said to be “terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.” There are two striking points of resemblance between this symbol and that of the fourth empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. One is, that both have iron as a characteristic feature. The fourth wild beast had great iron teeth, and the fourth or lowest part of the colossal image was iron; and as iron was an emblem of a breaking and subduing power, it strikingly shadows forth the Roman empire. The other is, that both were marked by the number ten. The fourth beast had “ten horns,” and the iron portion of the image “ten toes.” The ten horns and the ten toes represent the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire would be divided; and here, as elsewhere in Scripture, the definite number ten seems to be used in an indefinite sense for a great many. But while an apt symbol for the divided Roman empire, the number ten seems totally inapplicable to the Grecian empire, which is the favourite view of the higher critics. We come now to what is said about the Little Horn. “I considered,” says Daniel, “the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.” He says also in the 21 and 22nd verses: “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” The general opinion of the higher critics is that the little horn is a symbol for Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the Grecian kings of Syria (175 B.C-164 B.C.), and the arch-persecutor of the Jewish people. But this empire cannot be correct if, as we have already tried to show, the fourth world-empire is the Roman. Ahtiochus Epiphanes belongs to the third world-empire, and not to the fourth. Besides, there are two things in the symbol which show that it could not refer to Antiochus Epiphanes. One is, that the little horn canto up after the ten horns, and was distinct from them. Antiochus, on the other hand, was one of the ordinary kings of Syria. His kingship was not distinct from those of the divided empire. The other is, that the little horn rooted out three of the ten. There is nothing corresponding, or approaching to, this in the history of Antiochus Epiphanes. The little horn means, I have no doubt, Papal Rome. In the fifth century of our era the Roman empire was broken up by the invasion of northern hordes; and amongst the kingdoms into which it was divided the church in Rome, with its bishop, sprang into existence as one of the kingdoms of the empire. This took place in 755 A.D., when Pepin, king of the Franks, granted to the Pope for a temporal dominion the Ex-archate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the Duchy of Rome; and so, according to the prophetic dream, the new kingdom came up after the other ten. It was also a little horn, whether you look at the church in Rome as an ecclesiastical body or at the temporal dominion with which it was invested. The States of the Church, even with the Dukedom of Spoleto, which Charlemagne added in 774 A.D., formed only the central part of the Italian peninsula. In 1870 these States were lost to the Church of Rome, and in 1871 formally annexed to the kingdom of Italy, while the Italian parliament agreed to allow the Pope to live in the Vatican as a sovereign, not subject to the laws of the land, and to grant him an annual appanage of nearly three and a quarter million of lires. So far, then, as temporal dominion is concerned, the Pope has always been a little horn. Again, Papal Rome, like the little horn, is diverse from the other horns of the empire, inasmuch as the spiritual power is combined with the temporal, the ecclesiastical with the political. Another thing noted of the little horn is, that “before it three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots.” This also is true of Papal Rome. Of the various opinions as to what the three extinguished sovereignties were, I am inclined to adopt that of Sir Isaac Newton, that they were the kingdom of the Lombards, the Ex-archate of Ravenna which represented the dominion of the Byzantine emperors, and the Duchy of Rome. Gibbon, in the forty-fifth chapter of his great work, says: “during a period of two hundred years, Italy was unequally divided between the kingdom of the Lombards and the Ex-archate of Ravenna.” And there can be no doubt that it was the Pope, by means of Pepin and Charlemagne, who put down these two sovereignties in the empire. The Duchy of Rome, which he also plucked up by the roots, though small in size, was yet, on account of its prominence and importance in the empire, well entitled to be represented as one of the ten horns. And it is a memorable and suggestive fact that the Pope, alone of all sovereigns, wears a triple crown. Again, Daniel says of the little horn: “Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.” The eye is the symbol of intelligence, and the eyes of a man in the little horn imply that it would be distinguished amongst the kingdoms of the world for its subtle and astute diplomacy. Its intelligence would be that of a man as compared with that of a wild beast. And such extraordinary intelligence has been a distinguishing feature in the worldly policy of Papal Rome. Its diplomacy is unrivalled for duplicity and craft. And no worldly power ever approached it for speaking great swelling words of vanity. This is what is said to the Pope at his coronation: “Receive the tiara ornamented by the three crowns, and know that you are the father of bishops and kings, the earthly governor of the world, the vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ to whom be honour, world without end.” Another feature of the little horn, which belongs also to Papal Rome, is its persecution of the people of God. “I beheld,” says Daniel (v. 21), “and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” In interpreting this, the angel said to Daniel (v. 25): “And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time.” There is no need to enlarge upon the persecutions of the Papacy, as there is no land in Christendom whose soil has not been stained with the blood of the martyrs which she has shed. Happily its power to persecute is for the present, at least to a large extent, taken away. The next thing in the dream is the doom which was to befall the little horn. First of all, there is the sitting of the Heavenly court on the conduct of the little horn (v. 9, 10). There are judgment days in Heaven continually occurring with regard to human affairs. After the destruction of the little horn, the world-wide empire of the Messiah begins. Daniel thus continues his dream (v. 13, 14). (T.Kirk.)
The Vision of the Four Beasts
Let us attempt to get at the practical and permanent principles which underlie this remarkable prophecy, and which are at once profoundly suggestive and exceedingly important.
1. The terribly significant truth, that earthly power, in and of itself, degenerates into brutality. The appropriate symbol of a great empire is a wild beast. The kingdoms of the earth have stood on military conquest. Might has taken the place of right. The sword has been the arbiter of imperial dynasties, and the struggles between rival powers have been as fierce and destructive as the contentions of wild animals in the jungle.
2. The tendency of this brutality is to increase. Note the order in which the four beasts are set. Bad as the Babylonians were, they were outdone by the Persians; these were exceeded by the Greeks; while the Romans were the worst of all. Note that all this while the nations were growing in what has been called culture and civisation. This was a merely superficial thing, and served only to veneer the rottenness and cruelty which were beneath.
3. The restoration of man to humanity must come, not from himself, but from above. He who introduced the healing salt which is yet to purify thoroughly the bitter fountain of our earthly life was sent forth from “the ancient of days.” There are few more striking arguments for the Divine origin of the Gospel, and the deity of its author, than that which may be drawn from the contrast between the character of Jesus and that of His age. Surely, the hope of the world lies in the diffusion of the Gospel of Christ. Wherever the Gospel goes in power, it restores men to humanity by bringing them back to God. Civilisation without the Gospel is only a veneered brutality. (William M. Taylor, D.D.)
Daniel’s First Vision
This first vision of Daniel is confessed on all hands to be an expansion of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had represented human empire in its intelligent, well-proportioned might. It was man’s power as formed, in some measure, in the image of God. The substance, the strength, the character of the several empires were different; the form was one. Daniel’s vision exhibits them on another side. The four winds of Heaven are driving upon the great sea, that representative, throughout Holy Scripture, of our troubled world, and out of it there arise forms of more than human strength. The terrific and wasting power of the world-empires is exhibited under the symbol of brute force. A sort of unity is given to them, in that they are all exhibited at first to the prophet’s eye at once. God shows them to him first, as He Himself sees all things, at once; then, as they arose in fact, succeeding one another. Nor did they arise of their own power. “Not without being acted upon by the winds of Heaven does the sea send forth those beasts; not without being set in motion by the powers above, does the heathen world form itself into those great empires” (Hoffmann.) As the Babylonian empire had been exhibited to Nebuchadnezzar under the symbol of the richest metal, “gold,” so now to Daniel under that of the solid strength of the king of beasts of prey, with the swiftness of the royal bird, the eagle. Jeremiah and Ezekiel had likened Nebuchadnezzar to both. The second beast, the bear, corresponds with the solid, heavy, chest of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. The twofold division and the relative strength of the two sides recur in this symbol also. It lifts itself heavily, in contrast to the winged rapidity of the Chaldean conquests. The “three ribs in its mouth” correspond accurately to the three kingdoms which the Medo-Persian empire swallowed up, the Lydian, Babylonian, and Egyptian. It is bidden, “Arise devour much flesh,” in conformity with the greedy character of the animal: waste of human life was a characteristic of the Persian empire in its heavy aggressiveness. Heaviness was, after Cyrus, the characteristic of its wars. Of the third empire, the characteristics are insatiableness of conquest, and swiftness, and fourfold division. The panther, an animal insatiable above every other beast of prey, gifted with a swiftness which scarce any prey can escape, is represented yet further with four wings. The subdivision of the empire is indicated by its four heads. Its colour corresponds to the brass of the image, its swiftness to the activity of the loins and thighs of the image. Probably the multiplication of the heads was a symbol of circumspection, of manifold, versatile intelligence. But, again, the chief object of interest in the vision is the fourth empire. For the living creature which can represent it there is no name. “In the former beasts,” says Jerome, “there are single tokens of terribleness, in this, there are all.” Of this last empire Daniel sees not only certain characteristics, but a history. Intervals of its history are marked. It embraces a long period. Its characteristic is stupendous strength. Permanent subdual characterised the Roman empire, but it had not the power of consolidating into one the disjointed materials of its greatness. The period after the destruction of the whole fourth kingdom is indicated by the words: “And the rest of the beasts, the other kingdoms, had their dominion taken away; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” (v. 12). This sentence seems to relate to a time after the destruction of the fourth empire, but this, being still future, we cannot explain certainly. The chief object of interest, that chiefly expanded, is that in which all the kingdoms end--the Kingdom of God victorious over the evil of the world . . . It is a sublime picture; man, with his keen intellect, a look more stout than his fellows, overthrowing kings, doing his own will, speaking against God, placing himself over against Him as His antagonist, having, for a set time, all things in his hand; and above, out of sight, God enthroned in the serenity of His majesty, surrounded by the thousands of heavenly beings who serve Him; and near Him, One in human form, born of a human birth, yet, like God, above in the clouds of Heaven, the darkness shrouding Him from human eye, but reigning and to reign for ever, His Kingdom neither to pass away by decay, nor to be destroyed by violence. “God is patient, because He is eternal.” Below, all is tumult; above, all is tranquility; the Heavenly King over against the earthly potentate, until the last blasphemy draws down His lightnings upon him, the voice of his great word ascends, the judgment, of God descends. (E. B. Pusey, D.D.)
The First Two Visions of the Book of Daniel
Two emblems are here used to describe the corruption of human states in past ages, the great image and the four beasts of prey. False religion and worldly ambition, with its natural fruits of cruelty and crime, are vividly portrayed by this twofold emblem. The redemption of man from this twofold fall must begin with their separate members. Let us, therefore, trace, from the emblems themselves, the bright and holy contrast which is waiting to be realised in the coming Kingdom of God.
1. Man, in his state of nature, is dead in trespasses and sins. In the symbols of the prophecy he is an atom of the dazzling, but lifeless image; a member incorporated in the wild beast of prey. The first work of redemption is to deliver him from this state. The bestial nature is then crucified and done away; and he becomes a living member of the body of Christ. He is no longer a lifeless atom of clay in the feet of the image. The breath of a new life has been breathed into his nostrils, and, like Adam in the day of creation, he stands once mere erect in the image of God.
2. The prophecy leads us to contemplate the true character and blessedness of a righteous nation. The closing part of those visions teaches us:
(1) The intense reality of God’s providence here below.
(2) The true standard of national excellence and honour. Not wealth and riches. Not military ambition. Not the cold and heartless theories of political ungodliness; but ordinances of royalty and righteous dominion. (T. R. Birks, M.A.)
Like a leopard.
Alexander the Great
The empire which rose on the ruins of the second monarchy was the Grecian. Alexander the Great subverted the Persian empire. The leopard is remarkable for its swiftness, and for the eagerness with which it springs upon its prey; and we know, also, how rapid were the conquests of Alexander, how eager he was to subdue all nations. This rapidity is symbolized in the vision by the four wings which the leopard had on its back. The leopard with four wings reigned over the vanquished bear. The leopard also prefigured the downfall of the Grecian kingdom. The leopard was seen with four wings upon its back; but besides these wings, it is described as having four heads, and these four heads symbolized its downfall. When Alexander died, his kingdom was divided among his captains, four of them. (W. Wood, A.M.)
The Wings of Alexander the Leopard
During the time occupied in the reduction of the Sogdians, the most heroic opposition was displayed by a company of the people, who, under the command of their governor, Arimazes, had fortified themselves upon a rock, situated near the river Oxus, which was considered impregnable. The Macedonians were as determined to drive them from their stronghold as the besieged were resolved not to be overcome. Alexander summoned the barbarians to yield themselves his prisoners; whereupon Arimazes, conceiving it impossible that his position could be reached, and knowing that he possessed ammunition and provisions sufficient for two years, returned the following laconic and undaunted answer: “Can Alexander, who is able to do all things, fly also? And hath nature, on a sudden, given him wings?” Exasperated at this reply to his message, the emperor gave orders to three hundred mountaineers, chosen from his army, to scale the place of refuge by night. Notwithstanding the perils attending so arduous an enterprise, the men succeeded, after witnessing the sacrifice of thirty-two of their party, who were precipitated and destroyed, in attaining a point higher than that inhabited by the natives. In the morning, when the signal on the peak of the rock wan descried by the Macedonians waving triumphantly over the heads of the Sogdians beneath, Alexander despatched one of his retinue to the governor, with an imperative injuction to surrender. Arimazes, being still ignorant of the extraordinary feat that had been performed, sent back an answer equally insolent with the former; but the officer, instead of returning with the reply, pointed to the soldiers stationed on the height above, and, remembering the nature of the message recently transmitted to his master, exclaimed, “You see that Alexander’s soldiers have wings.” At this, Arimazes surrendered the garrison and supplicated clemency. (Charles Popham Miles.)
Another little horn.
The Little Horn is Antichrist
1. By the ruin or destruction of this little horn, the fourth beast, or human kingdom is said utterly and finally to fall (v.11). Therefore, it cannot represent Mahomet.
2. The destroying of the beast and little horn is described in such forms as are in the book of Revelation, interpreted of Antichrist. (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10-11.)
3. This little horn is conjoined with the ten horns (v. 7,8, 20, 24), accordingly as Antichrist is conjoined with them. (Revelation 13:1-18; Revelation 17:1-18.)
4. The characters attributed to him are the same which are attributed to Antichrist.
(1) He shall speak great things against the Most High.
(2) He advanceth himself above the civil magistrate.
(3) He changeth the laws and times.
(4) He maketh war with the saints, and prevaileth against them. (Thomas Parker.)
The ancient of days did sit.
The Ancient of Days Coming to Judgment
Daniel claimed two offices for the Messiah.
1. He should be a King.
2. A Judge.
These claims rested on the unity of nature--the “ancient of days “ being “brought near “ and taking “hold of, the Son of man; thus making both One and this One offering a propitiation--being “out off,” but not from Himself. The first claim has been met; Christ is the King! He shall be the Judge Kingship becomes the guarantee of Judgeship. We proceed to proclaim a coming judgment.
I. IT IS THE UNIVERSAL EXPRESSION OF OUR RACE.
1. By personal conscience.
2. By relative necessity.
3. By ideal anticipation.
II. IT IS THE UNIFORM TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE. The Bible teaches throughout that “the judgment “ will take place. In this testimony we find three grand facts.
1. All the dead are reserved to judgment.
2. All the living are going to judgment
3. All conditions of life will be known at the judgment.
III. IT IS THE INVOLVED CULMINATION OF REDEMPTION.
1. It will exhibit the personal glory of our Redeemer’s character.
2. It will vindicate the supreme importance of our Redeemer’s mission.
3. It will display the impartiality of our Redeemer’s administration.
4. It will declare the immunities of our Redeemer’s followers. (Joseph Odell.)
The World’s Assize
In metaphors borrowed from the solemnities of earthly tribunals, and particularly from those of the great Jewish Sanhedrim, the prophet describes the process of judgment. As, in that assembly, the father of the consistory sat with the assessors ranged on each side in the form of a semi-circle, with the people standing before him, so here the prophet speaks of God as seated on His throne of judgment, attended by thousand thousands who minister unto Him, whilst ten thousand times ten thousand stand in His presence. We are disposed to regard the language of the text as descriptive of the Great Assize.
I. THE GLORIOUS APPEARANCE OF OUR SAVIOUR.
1. That Christ will re-visit this earth is a fact stated in many passages of Scripture. What shall be the nature of the grandeur and glory of His final appearing, or how it will be displayed, none can tell.
II. ITS ATTENDANT CIRCUMSTANCES. More particularly as to ourselves and mankind at large. Mark how diverse the characters of those around the throne! What an affecting contrast is presented to our minds! (Edward Pizey, B. A.)
Manifestation or God by Fire
Grotius remarks that the ancient thrones and curule chairs had wheels. Those in the text being like burning fire.” Dr. Cox observes: “Prognosticate”; “at once the majesty of the Judge, piercing, penetrating, awful, and the rapid progress of those providential visitations which would bespeak the indignation of a sin-avenging Deity.” “The fire-scattering wheels,” says Keil, “show the omnipotence of the Divine throne of judgment--the going of the judgment of God the whole earth.” He further observes: “Fire, and the shining of fire, are the constant phenomena of the manifestation of God in the world. The fire which engirds His throne with flame pours itself forth as a stream from God into the world, consuming all that is sinful and hostile to Him, and rendering His people and kingdom glorious.”
Thousand thousands ministered unto Him.
Benefits of Meditation on the Holy Angels
The thought that the Christian life consists in the performance of everyday duties on the principles of the Gospel, and with the temper and disposition of the blessed inhabitants of Heaven, may help to restrain us from two serious errors into which, from our extreme frailty, we must confess ourselves but too liable to fall. One error is the disposition to imagine that religion is a matter of so transcendantly high and spiritual a nature as to be quite above and unmixed with earthly things. The other error is the disposition to lower the standard and measure of Christian morality. It is of the highest importance that we pray and endeavour to have our elections deadened to this present world, and our minds drawn up to high and Heavenly things. Habitual reflection on the habits of glorified spirits in the beatific presence of their and our God would greatly tend to wean our affections from mean, unworthy objects, to fill us with humility and awe, and, at the same time, to give us a notion of our true dignity as God’s adopted children in Christ Jesus. The mere thought that there are in existence innumerable glorious immortal spirits--that their God is our God--that let our condition in this world be ever so poor and degraded, yet these blessed angels disdain not to acknowledge themselves our “fellow-servants”; that they care for us, and minister for us as Christians, and heirs of salvation, may well arouse us from the low-born cares and follies of this present world, lead us to consider what we are, and what we are coming to. To be in the presence and favour of the Almighty God, this and this only can constitute the happiness of all reasonable creatures, of angels in Heaven, or of men on earth. To live in the presence of God is the happiness of glorified spirits in Heaven. To live as in His presence is the great rule of holiness to men on earth. It is of great consequence for serious minds to raise their thoughts to high and Heavenly realities; especially to the thought of the innumerable society of good angels, who sing their Alleluias before the throne. (Serrmons by Authors “Tracts for the Times.”)
The Heavenly Service
The curtain of Heaven was lifted up, and Daniel, wrapt in the spirit and vision of prophecy, was favoured with a view of the celestial regions. The scene is laid in the wide etherial of the third heaven. The Ancient of Days appeared upon a burning throne, which, being provided with wheels, was the chariot in which He made the immense circuit of His dominion. A numerous and splendid host of angels and redeemed spirits minister unto Him, and stand before Him. To minister and to stand in Scripture language, mean service. These countless millions, therefore, stand before God to wait His commands, and then they minister unto Him, that is, they flee to do His sovereign pleasure. The truth to be gathered from this part of Daniel’s vision is, that Heaven is a state of exalted service.
I. THE PECULIAR NATURE OF THE HEAVENLY SERVICE.
1. It will be suited to a state of final reward. There will be nothing that will imply a state of probation or trial. When we reach Heaven, all service which had the nature of a means to attaining the end of moral perfection will pass away.
2. It will include all essential duties that are due from the creature to the Creator. Many of the duties of revealed religion will cease in Heaven, because they are designed to effect a temporary purpose only. Through eternity, angels and redeemed will be dependent upon God, and receive all good from Him. Love, and the manifestation of love, will be one portion of this exalted service. A holy fear of, and respect to, the majesty of God is due from the creature to the Creator, and the manifestation of this will be one part of the service of Heaven. A voluntary dependence on God; an absolute and unlimited subjection to His supreme authority; a continued aim at His glory--enter into the duty of the creature towards the Creator.
3. The Heavenly service will be the united service of angels and men. The assembly of Heaven is one, the worship or service is one, the temple is one, the song is one.
4. The Heavenly service will consist in immediate attendance upon God. Here ours is the service of trading for our great Master while He is in a far country. But in Heaven we shall serve in His presence; we shall be His personal attendants.
5. It will be a service of subordinate dominion. The Scriptures assure us that the saints are to be rulers and governors in the world to come. What an honour and satisfaction it will be to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords, as kings and rulers under Him, and this honour shall all the saints have.
6. The Heavenly service will be a sabbath service. The earthly sabbath is a type of Heaven, and it shadows forth the state and employments of the saints there. It is a rest from worldly toil and labour, but not a cessation of all activity and service.
7. The service of Heaven is temple service. The ancient temple was a type of Heaven.
8. The service of Heaven will be a service of praise. To think of God, to admire Him, to behold His glory and rejoice in it, to love and praise Him, will be the sweet employment of Heaven. The Heavenly service is the engagement of spirits freed from sin; pervaded with light, fired with love, enraptured with delight, and bound by sweet and immortal bonds to God and to each other for ever.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS SERVICE WILL BE RENDERED,
1. Without the least reluctance. The service of God will be voluntarily rendered, deeply loved, and highly enjoyed.
2. Without weakness.
3. Without weariness.
4. Without distraction.
5. Without intermission.
6. Without defect.
7. Without end.
If this service will be our happiness and honour in Heaven, let us take care that we deem it our happiness and honour on earth. None who refuse to serve God on earth shall serve Him in Heaven. (N. Gregory.)
One like the son of Man.
Daniel had this vision some fifty years after Nebuchadnezzar had the Vision of the composite image: but his vision harmonizes with it, and is descriptive of the same great kings and monarchies. The kingdom given to the Son of Man is the kingdom which was symbolized by the stone cut out without hands, which grew into a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
I. WHEN THIS KINGDOM WAS GIVEN TO OUR LORD.
1. Our Lord is described as coming with clouds in the day of judgment. But the coming of Christ to the universal judgment is not the coming of Christ spoken of in the text. The coming of Christ to judge the world will be the end of all things; but the coming of Christ in the text must be during the time of the fourth or Roman empire. The coming of Christ to the universal judgment will be to reward or punish mankind; but the coming of Christ in the text is to receive a kingdom for Himself. The coming of Christ to the last judgment will be to utter the final sentence and to fix the eternal state of all the righteous and the wicked; but the coming of Christ in the text refers to temporal events, and to temporal kingdoms.
2. What can the coming be but His coming from earth to Heaven at the triune of His ascension. The prophet does not represent “the Son of Man” as coming in the clouds from Heaven to earth, but as coming with the clouds of Heaven from His former residence on earth towards the Ancient of Days on his fiery throne. The description of Christ’s ascension by the Evangelist is the best explanation of this part of the vision of the prophet.
Again the prophet says, “And they brought him near before him,” i.e., they brought the Son of Man near before the Ancient of Days on His throne. Again, “There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom.” In His hand was put the sceptre of everlasting empire. When, therefore, our Lord ascended on high, and sat down on the right hand of God, then He received His kingdom and glory.
II. THE NATURE OF HIS KINGDOM.
1. It is Divine. It is altogether of God; it is given to the Son of Man by the Ancient of Days; it is set up on earth by the God of Heaven; it is not of this world, it is a spiritual kingdom. As God alone could set up this kingdom in the world, so God alone can make men its willing subjects.
2. It is universal. From the first the greatest opposition was made to the establishment of this kingdom. But in the course of three centuries all opposition was overcome, and Christianity became the religion of the world.
3. It is everlasting. “Of his kingdom there shall be no end.” The subject is instructive, alarming, and consolatory.
(1) It teaches the magnificence of the scheme of salvation by Christ crucified. It teaches who in times past has shed, like water, the blood of the saints. It teaches the folly or the impropriety of attempting to change Popery, or to conciliate Antichrist. Popery cannot be changed. Antichrist cannot be conciliated.
(2) The subject is alarming. It is full of terrors to all who live in sin, and oppose the Kingdom of God. (J. Cawood.)
The Kingdom of the Son of Man
This chapter has been well called “a religious philosophy of history.” It is a philosophy rather than a foretelling of the future, but it is the philosophy of a prophet who speaks for God. Daniel saw four great beasts come up out of the sea of nations. These represent four kings. They are divers one from another; the first is like a lion, and the second like a bear, the third like a leopard, the fourth is dreadful and terrible, apparently indescribable. These beasts have dominion for a time until the Ancient of Days sits upon the throne of judgment. Then the dominion is taken from them and given to one like unto a Son of Man. His dominion is everlasting, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed. Consider this distinction between kings represented as “beasts” and “one like unto a Son of Man.” The four beasts have one thing in common; they are all beasts. They represent the sovereignty of brute force. They are strong, cruel, rapacious. The final kingdom is given to the representative of humanity. But these kings are men. Therefore, it is not enough to say that the Son of Man is human. In the interpretation given to the vision, the phrase is explained thus: “The Saints of the Most High.” Remember that man was made in the image of God: i.e., what distinguishes man from other animals is his moral greatness. He is an animal in his lower nature; but he has a higher nature which makes him “man.” Therefore, this vision describes the victory of the kingdom in which man’s moral nature is redeemed from sin, and is made supreme over the kingdom in which his lower animal nature is victorious. It teaches that the domination of brute force and the sovereignty of selfishness do obtain; but they are judged by God unworthy to continue, and must give place to the domination of redeemed humanity and to the sovereignty of goodness. Only a kingdom represented by a Son of Man can be lasting and universal. One of the most striking thoughts here is that a civilisation which may appear very splendid to man, may appear very unworthy to God. The prophet describes these world-powers from God’s standpoint. He judges the beast unworthy to rule, and gives the dominion to the Son of Man, Now it does not concern us to identify very closely these “beasts” with the world-powers they were meant to represent by Daniel. Probably they were the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar, the Median empire, the Persian empire made splendid for a season by Cyrus Darius. Artaxerxes and Xerxes, and the Greek dominion in Asia connected with the meteor-like glory of Alexander. These were all mighty empires. Some aspects of them appeal powerfully to our senses. No one can consider these ancient empires without being affected by their magnificence. But there is another tribunal before which they must be judged. The eyes from which no secrets are hid look beneath all this dazzling glory; and they see there--brutality! These empires are founded upon the supremacy of man’s animal nature. They rule because they are strong. They have great iron teeth! They devour much flesh. They speak great things. And this is the supremacy of the lower nature. This is a very instructive analysis of greatness. The prophet’s inward vision has been purged when he can see that all selfishness is essentially bestial. “Let us pray to be delivered from deception by dazzle! We admire power and massiveness, whether in individuals, or societies, or empires. Let us be sure to examine what lies behind the glory which appears. Nothing can match the story of the uprising of these ancient empires except the story of their fall. They seemed destined to continue for ever. It looked as if nothing could destroy them. But with startling suddenness they tottered to their fall. So must fall every dominion which is brutal in its foundations, which is founded on strength and selfish instinct rather them on goodness and reason. The only dominion which can be finally triumphant is the dominion of the saints of the Most High. What representative is like unto a Son of Man? The consideration of this phrase leads us to take a big step forward. As Daniel used the phrase, it is probable that there was no definite personal reference. The phrase is “a Son of Man,” not “the Son of Man” and in v.27 it is substituted by “the people of the saints of the Most High.” Doubtless Daniel shared the Jewish hope that the final kingdom was that inaugurated by the Messiah; but here the phrase “Son of Man” is meant only to contrast the human kingdom with that of the beasts, Now, if we compare the usage of the name in the, Gospels, it seems clear that Jesus took the name from this very passage. Daniel may not have meant to describe the Messiah by it; but when the Messiah came He adopted it at once as an admirable description of Himself. This means, therefore, that Jesus considered that He was founding that kingdom which should be universal and everlasting. He was that representative of the race whose sovereignty is guided by the highest principles of reason and goodness, and to which the Ancient of Days will give “dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations and languages should serve Him.” The kingdom which Jesus founded is the kingdom of wisdom and love. It is to take the place of all kingdoms in which man’s lower nature is supreme. It is to be the sovereignty of a redeemed humanity. This philosophy of history has been justified not only by the overthrow of the ancient monarchies, but also by the gradual permeation of modern monarchies by Christian teaching. There is abundant evidence that the nineteen centuries of the Christian era have seen an ever-increasing application of Christian principles. Brute force is not worshipped to-day as it was in the days when Roman legions ruled the world. Character is becoming more and more the object of our praise. An altogether higher standard of duty obtains in every department of life. Selfishness in every form is being condemned increasingly. This transformation must go on until everything that is brutal is destroyed and man’s highest nature redeemed from sin is supreme. The dominion of the Son of Man is to be universal and it is to be everlasting. That is what you and I are to believe! I suppose that we are all prone to believe that the reforms of the past were wise and good, but that it is hopeless to expect much further change. That is the temptation of the devil to little faith, and it must be resisted earnestly. We must be much more worthy of the title, “Saints of the Most High.” And we must have more faith in the triumph of our Saviour’s kingdom upon earth. Think of this prophet away in the pre-Christian times when might was right and all the world seemed against Him. It did require faith to call this might that of a beast, and to speak of a Son of Man to whom the kingdom was to be given. But Daniel could believe it. Surely we can! “To doubt would be disloyalty, to falter would be sin.” Let us be more bold in our claims, more fearless in applying our principles, more confident of victory. The limit of the sovereignty of the Son of Man will not be until dominion and glory and a kingdom are given unto Him, and all people, nations and languages shall serve Him. Therefore, there is very much land yet to be possessed, and there is very much for us followers of the Son of Man to do. I want to ask you whether you belong to this kingdom of the Son of Man? There is a very simple test, “Is Jesus your King or is He not?” If He is, you are in His kingdom. If He is not, you are outside. If He is your Lord, you belong to a kingdom which is everlasting, and you have eternal life! Death will not divide you from His dominion. Death will set your spirit free from the trammels of your sinful fleshy nature, and will usher you into His immediate presence. But if you do not belong to His kingdom, then know that you belong to the kingdom which is essentially brutal, because you are giving the victory to your lower animal nature. Perhaps there are fine qualities in your character which you admire and seek to develop. Perhaps there are splendid moments when the Godlike in you stands erect and declares it will be supreme. But if you reject the Son of Man, you turn away from the only One who can redeem you from sin and make you a saint of the Most High. And so the crown is upon the head of that which makes you like the brutes that perish. That kingdom cannot stand. The Eternal God has judged it; it stands condemned to destruction. (J. E. Roberts, M. A.)
The Majesty of the Messiah
The venerable and saintly minister of a mighty world-empire, august in his unrivalled reputation, his unique position, and his immense personal dignity, with an enthusiasm for God and His laws which had braved the most appalling dangers from irresponsible despots, was just the man to be permitted to see the things which were hidden from the eyes of the rest of the world. There had been brought before him in a vision the survey of a series of vast temporal powers, under the forms of huge, terrific animals, horrible as nightmares, which filled even his calm sad lofty spirit with dread. And then he was reminded that behind and above all these was a greater power still, the everlasting omnipotence of God. He saw the Ancient of Days, the Eternal Being, seated, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool; His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him; thousand thousands ministered unto Him, end ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. And then, in contradistinction to the horror of the typical monsters, one like the Son of Man, in all the beauty and gentleness of a perfect human nature, came with the clouds of Heaven, in all the strength of a Divine power, and came to the Ancient of Days. He had been before among the millions of the Heavenly host, but now His time was come; and to Him was given, not one of the temporal thrones, however splendid, because that would soon pass away and be gone for ever, but dominion and glory and a kingdom such that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him; His dominion was an everlasting dominion, which should not pass away, and His kingdom that which should not be destroyed. It is useless for unbelievers to say that by this magnificent imagery and exalted language Daniel meant nothing but the Hebrew people in a state of improvement. The seer himself shows that he was thinking of nothing of the kind, but of the personal Divine and human Redeemer, when two chapters later he utters the solemn and mysterious words, Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself. He whom the wise and experienced statesman beheld shining bright and glorious in the clouds before the burning throne of the Most High was the very same as He whom Abraham saw, and David and the long line of psalmists and prophets, with different degrees of clearness, certainty, and understanding. It was the very same who was revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, of whom the awful voice from Heaven was heard declaring, “This is My beloved Son; hear Him!” These thoughts which we have gathered from the facts of the predictive element in the Old Testament, and from the life of Daniel, impress upon us with unquestionable force the eternal majesty of the Son of God. The systems and powers of the world, rise and fall, and have their sway, and fill our minds with their seeming importance; but, notwithstanding all the fret and fume of men, it is only the kingdom of righteousness and truth that is eternal, only the city of God that hath unfading foundations, only the Son that abideth ever. The Christian view of prophecy, says Principal Cairns, not only accounts for the individual facts, but for the whole. Prophecy is systematic, progressive, all-inclusive; and these features are accounted for alone by the theory of a revelation of redemption. Christ is the centre; in Him all are connected; the Messianic part of revelation is largest, most important, most like the heart in the economy of the whole. This alone accounts for the progress which is in all directions and towards all issues, but all conditioned by the approach of Christ and by the fulness of the disclosure of His Person and work, and its consequences . . . The world’s kingdoms must go through that crisis of trial and judgment, to prepare the world as s whole for the Heavenly King. With prophecy there is a Redeemer, and with Him a philosophy of history leading upwards. Without prophecy, no redemption, but law, and sin fastened down by law; any streaks in the darkness Like a prophetic glimmer, due to no rising orb, but meteoric, and born of night or chaos: Ought not the Christian, then, to give heed to this “sure word,” which is attested, as it is created, by a power above nature, just where it needs to be? May he not hope as he prays that to others this day may dawn, this morning star arise? (Archdeacon Sinclair, D.D.)
The Supreme Dominion of the Son of Man
I. THE NATURE OF THAT SUPREMACY WHICH OUR BLESSED LORD EXERCISES AS THE SON OF MAN. That this whole vision relates to the Mediatorial Person and Administration of Christ is demonstrably apparent. It is mediatorially that the designation “Son of Man” applies to the glorious Personage whom the Celestial Intelligences are represented as bringing near to the Ancient of Days. The predictions of our Lord’s mediatorial government were grievously misapprehended by the Jewish nation, not excepting Christ’s immediate followers. Rivetted by vivid delineations of Messiah’s power and glory, they overlooked those Scriptures which foretold, His profound humiliation, obedience, and sufferings. The decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem was an offence even to the apostles themselves. (Mark 9:31-32). Christ’s supremacy is intended to command the service of His subjects. Jehovah alone is entitled to this service from all intelligent creatures.
1. It is a spiritual service. External subjection may be yielded in the absence of all those principles and affections which alone invest it with moral character and worth. Human legislation discharges its duty when it uses all competent means for ensuring obedience to positive statutes. It cannot go further. The first demand which Jehovah prefers is, My Son, give me thy heart. Love to Heaven’s Lawgiver is the rudimental principle of obedience to His will. Of this love, mankind, without a solitary exception, are wholly destitute. Against Scriptural views, illustrated by the findings of experience, it is nugatory to oppose the testimony of superficial moralists, or dreamy poets. One main design of the mediatorial supremacy of Christ is to restore to the human soul that best of all affections, the love which is the fulfilling of the law. For this end, Messiah became “the Son of Man.” The love of God our Saviour is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, and becomes the living principle of new obedience.
2. The service which Christ requires from all people, nations, and languages is unreserved. Those who are redeemed by the blood and renewed by the Spirit of Christ, “have respect unto all God’s commandments.” Every requirement in the infallible directory deserves and demands our prompt and faithful observance. A genuine servant of the Son of Man is not satisfied with generalities. A common practice of false teachers in our Lord’s day was the exaltation of some favourite precepts at the expense of others which are specially irksome to flesh and blood.
3. The service which the Son of Man claims is habitual service. Temporary or occasional devotedness of heart and life to Christ is not the kind of obedience which He will ever accept. Wherever living faith is implanted, it is an undying principle of obedience. In this world the servants of the Son of Man are distinguished rather by the sincerity and fervour of their aspirations than by uniform progress in holiness.
II. THE UNIVERSAL EXTENT OF CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY. “All people . . . should serve Him.” The period referred to is after His resurrection. Previously to the ascension of the Son of Man, the gospel kingdomhad been, for reasons infinitely wise and good, confined almost exclusively within Palestine and its vicinity. Whilst other nations professed that measures of traditionary knowledge which a primary revelation and their occasional intercourse with the seed of Abraham supplied, it was little more than sufficient to render their spiritual darkness awfully visible.
III. THE STABILITY AND ENDLESS DURATION OF THE DOMINION OF THE SON OF MAN. The fluctuating and evanescent nature of all earthly power and glory is apparent to the most superficial observer. To a casual observer of human affairs, the destinies of the church may seem to he subjected to those sweeping resolutions which have overthrown the proudest dynasties of the world. When we speak of the stability and endless duration of the dominion of the Son of Man, our contemplations are carried forward “to the end of all things.” Practical lessons:
(1) The obligation of personal subjection to the dominion of the Son of Man. It will avail us nothing to admit the complete, universal, and everlasting supremacy of Christ “over all flesh,” unless we yield, individually, submission to His authority. True religion must begin at home.
(2) The duty of fervent and persevering prayer for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.
(3) The duty of promoting our Redeemer’s kingdom by active and beneficent exertions. (J. Smyth, D.D.)
The Everlasting Kingdom
There is no reason to doubt that the right and true and the holy shall have the victory. All dominions hostile to Christ must give way. All kingdoms incompatible with His must be dissolved. The kingdoms of this world have their symbols in the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the fourth dreadful anal terrible beast; and by a law universally proved, their passions and discord shall precipitate their own destruction. But Christ’s kingdom has nothing anarchical, because it has nothing sinful in it; it has not one element of decay, because into it nothing that defileth can enter. Suns shall grow pale, stars shall become dim; the crescent shall wane, the crucifix shall fall from the hands of him that holds it; and Christ’s kingdom shall extend over all the earth, and all shall bless Him, and be blessed in Him. We see already tokens of that day. I take a bright view of the coming days. What progress do knowledge, science, education, Christianity, the Bible, make everywhere throughout the world at this moment? Do we not see all languages, however diversified, becoming reducible to two, three, or four at the very most--Christians becoming less earthly, and Christianity less alloyed? What are these but the tokens of the approaching glory; voices in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord; messengers sent before to announce that the bridegroom cometh? I see flowers of paradise begin to bloom in many a desert. I see upon all sides the sea of barbarism and superstition begin to ebb, and many a dove take wing, and fly over the length and breadth of the world’s chaotic flood, giving tokens that the Prince of Peace is on His way, warning us that the sound of His approach already breaks upon the ear. Let us hail the twilight; let us urge on, us far as we can, the coming day. (J. Cummings.)
The Son of Man Brought to the Ancient of Days
In the words before us the Son of Man is a prominent object. The government of the Son of Man is a kingdom which shall not be destroyed. The Lord Jesus, in His humanity, is called the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. Who is the Son of Man? It may he suggested that the Son of Man means the material form which the Lord took from the Virgin Mother, and that it is called the Son of Man from its mortal derivation. But this supposition will be undoubtedly corrected if we consult the teaching of the Lord with due attention. The natural, clear, and simple view, then, of the Son is that it means the humanity which the Lord, the Eternal, assumed by the instrumentality of the Virgin, containing in it Divine qualities from God the Father, and human nature, as we have it, with all its imperfections, from the Judean Mother. There may be a son born in time, but there cannot be an Eternal Son. When we speak of the Lord’s humanity, or of humanity in general, we must bear in mind that human nature is not a simple element, but a wonderful organisation of spiritual and natural forms. If the body is a wonderful congeries of organs, still more so is the soul. The portion of humanity which was fallen and in ruins, is called the natural man . . . While from the mother human nature was received in a fallen state, from the Father within there was received the embryo of a Divine human nature. What is that in the Lord which is properly meant by the Son of Man? It is sometimes said that Divine and human are opposite. They are not so; man is a likeness of his Maker. God is an infinite Divine man, (J. Bailey, A.M.)
Christ’s Kingdom--the Kingdom of the Saints
This sublime prophecy carries us on to the final establishment of Christ’s kingdom. Of that kingdom His ascension may be regarded as the pledge and commencement. He reigning even now; shall reign more visibly and fully hereafter. His kingdom is to supplant and supersede all earthly kingdoms. See vision of four beasts (empires) in previous verses. Their thrones to be “cast down” (v. 9), to make room for a nobler one. It shall excel all earthly kingdoms.
1. To be universal--“All people, nations, languages,” etc.
2. To be everlasting--“not to pass away”; “not to be destroyed.” Contrast in these respects the greatest of human kingdoms which stretch only over part of men: carry seeds of own decay: sink before superior force. It is to be the mediatorial kingdom of Christ; distinct from His empire as the everlasting God; for:
I. IT IS “GIVEN TO HIM” (v. 14). By Ancient of Days, i.e., the Eternal Father. This explained in the New Testament (Philippians 2:6-10). Given as the purchase of His blood, and recompense of His obedience Isaiah 53:12; Psalms 110:7).
II. GIVEN TO HIM AS “SON OF MAN” (v. 13). The glory of the Ascension carries us back to humility of the Incarnation (Ephesians 4:9-10). The one is the top stone in “the mystery of godliness,” the other its foundation 1 Timothy 3:16). It was through His death in the flesh He conquered the usurper (Hebrews 2:14). By His sacrifice for sin as our High Priest, He prepared way for His throne us our King. Hence Zechariah 6:13. First the cross, then the crown.
III. SHARED WITH HIS PEOPLE. Saints of the Most High to “possess the kingdom”(v. 18). This was Christ’s design (Titus 2:14). This was His prayer (John 17:22-24). He would not have the kingdom apart fromthem. What love from Him! what honour on us! It is this which makes the subject so intensely practical. We are even now either amongst His enemies or His friends. If the former, how terrible! (Luke 19:27). “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” If the latter, how blessed! (Matthew 24:34). “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.” All of us by nature enemies, rebels, etc. What Christ did to bring us from this state (Colossians 1:20-22). How are we to be savingly connected with His glorious reign? By faith in 1 Peter 2:7-10): by true reception of Him into our hearts John 1:12); by grace of His Holy Spirit (John 3:3, etc.). Are we now the subjects of His kingdom of grace, that so we may be hereafter sharers of His reign of glory? Observe the twofold pledge of His kingdom in the Ascension and the Pentecost, and how closely they come together (next Sunday-week). Christ has taken one part of the pledge (our nature) up to Heaven; He Sends down the other part (His Spirit) to us on earth. The last that the disciples saw of Him on earth was human nature carried up; the next they knew of Him was the Holy Ghost sent down. He holds a pledge from us; we hold one from Him. Both for our assurance--His kingdom shall come.
1. Present duties resulting. Service, obedience, loyalty. He is our king, though absent; has left us work to do; talents to improve; His cause to advance; His enemies to oppose, and still heavenly-mindedness to be cultivated. (See the Collect for the day.)
2. Present comforts suggested. Such hopes for the future, and their influence (1 John 3:1-2). Grounds for patience and expectation Hebrews 10:36-37). What are present sorrows in comparison with such coming joys? (Romans 8:18). Through the cross lies our way to the throne; so it was with Christ; so it must be with us; “He himself went not up,” etc. (See Visitation of Sick.) Let “Thy kingdom come” ever indissolubly link itself to “Thy will be done.” (W. P. Walsh, D.D.)
But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.
The Political Character of the Good Time Coming
“There is a good time coming,” so says the poet, so saith the Scriptures. The golden age of the world is not in the past, it is in the future, the age of immortal light, liberty, peace, virtue, religion, and blessedness are all ahead. The text indicates the political character of that golden age.
I. IT WILL HAVE A GOOD GOVERNMENT. “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.” The word “saints” has become a by-word. They say, “Look at your mitred saints, using evermore their political power against freedom, justice, and the public good. Heaven deliver us from the government of saints!” Be calm! You mistake the counterfeit for the genuine coin. The man whom God calls a saint is a man whom you are made to love, in whose wisdom and goodness you would place your utmost confidence. True saintliness means honesty, brotherliness, disinterested philanthropy, and elevated piety. Sainthood means goodness. A kingdom under such rulers would:
1. Be an educated kingdom. The works of nature, the events of, history, the facts and doctrines of revelation would be universally studied. “All would know the Lord,” etc. It would:
2. Be a virtuous kingdom. Christ is the model and the master of the saints. By His principles they would shape all their laws, by His Spirit they would be inspired in every legislative act. They would not mould their code after Greece or Rome, but after Calvary.
3. It would be a free kingdom. Saints are lovers of freedom.
4. Be a peaceable kingdom. Every subject would do unto his fellow what his fellow would do unto him.
II. IT WILL HAVE A PERMANENT GOVERNMENT. “And possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” Now the expression may not express eternity, but it undoubtedly represents an indefinitely vast period of time. Three considerations support a belief in its permanence.
1. The length of time in gaining it. The instinct of true sainthood is aggressive and imperial. The saints from Abel down have been endeavouring to sway the minds of men by their Heavenly thoughts and aims. After all this, is it not probable that when universal power comes to them, it will be a permanent possession?
2. The firm hold which the morally true takes upon human nature. The false, the unrighteous, the immoral, though recommended by imperial pageantry and enforced by the invincibility of arms, can never take a firm hold upon human nature. Hence the mutation and fleetnees of all human governments. But the government of the saints being that of truth, equity, honour, love, humanity, religion, will take an unrelaxable grasp upon the intellect, heart, conscience, and soul of the people, and will endure from generation, even unto generation.
3. The mediatorial life of Jesus Christ. Why did Christ come into the world, teach, suffer, labour, pray, and die? Why did He rise from the dead, ascend to Heaven, and send down His Spirit? Why? To destroy the works of the devil, to establish rectitude on the earth, and to set up “a kingdom that shall never be moved.” (Homilist.)
The Kingdom of the Saints
The first word spoken by the messenger of the Christ was this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This, too, was the first word of Christ himself. The word “kingdom” is the keynote of the gospel story. In it is the idea of dominion, sway. It expresses an area within which are the greater or the fewer multitudes subject to that sway. It expresses a constitution, out of which comes the origin, the administration, and the enforcement of law; and it expresses further the supremacy of a single person. A kingdom supposes a king. Speak of the miracles of Jesus! He was himself the greatest of all miracles. He opened His mouth, and proclaimed a kingdom. But where is His kingdom? The King that was dead liveth, and is alive for evermore. The saints of the Most High have been taking the kingdom all down the ages, and possessing the kingdom, and they shall possess it for ever, even for ever and ever. There is no time when the saints are not possessing the kingdom. Power is in our minds chiefly when we think of a kingdom, and where power is greatest there is the ruling kingdom among men. We search for this power, and where do we find it? Knowledge, men say, is power. The knowledge which men seek to gain, and do gain, they call power, and it is so. But their knowledge, and all knowledge, is limited--limited as to the faculty by which it works; limited as to the point which it reaches, limited as to the interests which it affects. We are not come yet to the secret of the greatest power. That is the greatest power which, when it goes forth, governs the man, his body, his mind, his spirit. Where is this? Truly in God, but not in God only. There are those of this world who are “of God.” The power is theirs--in form at least, and measure, and degree--which dwells in theFather, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no power besides like theirs, so strong, so far-reaching, so penetrating. How is it that the members of this great body do possess the kingdom? And why is it that they shall possess it for ever? They who are spiritually destitute, who have in themselves nothing, and know it and feel it, and are ever crying to the God of their spirit for the supply of their emptiness out of His fulness--these have the kingdom. All that they are furnished with is from God,sought from Him, given by Him, known to be His gift, and used as His. These are the God-marked of the earth. These are “the children of the kingdom”; they in whose heart and purpose it is to do the will of the Father in Heaven, Why shall they possess the kingdom for ever? Because they have “overcome.” By the power given to them they have overcome evil, and only good remains; and good is the final, the everlasting, the all-absorbing power of this universe. (D. Wright, M.A.)
And shall devour the whole earth.
The Character of Oppressive Power in Religion
A certain great power is introduced in Scripture prophecy, of large extent and long duration, and, in its nature and kind, different from all other powers and kingdoms in the world. The description of it was either intended to be a prediction of that tyrannical power which popery in its most flourishing times established in the world; or, at least, that it is as exact and complete a picture of it as could possibly have been drawn even after the event. The peculiarities wherein this great oppressive power differs from all other tyrannies which have been set up among men are principally these:
1. It is a religious tyranny; a power, sitting in the seat and temple of God. Other tyrannies have used religion; but this is a tyranny founded originally upon mere matters of religion; and carried on through its whole progress, to the utmost length of an universal arbitrary dominion, under the name and title still of a merely spiritual authority. The Church of Rome claims to be itself the whole, the universal Church of God, and to be invested with a power which indeed the real universal Church has no pretence to, even a plenitude of Divine power. It has also fenced itself in, and excluded absolutely out of communion all other Christians.
2. It has been raised and kept up, not by force only, but by sorceries and lying wonders peculiar to itself.
3. It is a tyranny set up over even remote princes, ever all kindreds and tongues and nations. “Exalting itself above all that is called God.” (S. Clarke. D.D.)
The Saints of the Most High.
I. DISCRIMINATING FAVOUR. This is intended as a two-fold contrast--saints in contrast to those who are ungodly, and make no profession at all; and saints in contrast to those who are men-made saints, made saints by human device--not saints really. A saint is a men who is enlightened, and is led to see the way in which sin is put away.
II. THE SECOND THING IN SAINTSHIP IS TO KNOW SOMETHING OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAW AND GOSPEL. And saints are also distinguished by deep downward experiences, and conspicuous deliverances A saint of the Most High is a man that is brought into covenant with God. (James Wells.)
And think to change times, and laws.
The greatest revolution time ever underwent is that which the Saviour himself wrought when He put an end to Levitical time, and introduced His own eternal sacrificial time.
I. TIMES AND LAWS. What were the characteristics of the times the Saviour established?
1. Salvation. A time in which we can be accepted of God.
2. Christ’s time is one of vital and final ingathering.
II. THE TRIBULATION OF THE PEOPLE. “They shall be given into His hand.” What a mercy it is that, if the adversary gain dominion in some measure, yet the sovereignty of God, the hand of God, will protect the people.
III. THE OPPOSITE DESTINY OF THESE TWO CLASSES OF PEOPLE--THE ENEMY AND THE FRIEND. What will become of the man who knows nothing of these Christian times, that knows nothing of the law of faith, the law of liberty. The next verse says, the living God shall take away His dominion. Why are we brought under the law of faith, and thereby under the law of love, and life, and liberty, and righteousness? (James Wells.)
And the kingdom and dominion shall be given to the people of the saints.
The Reign of the Saints
Attend to some preliminary remarks.
1. The doctrine of the text does not require us to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is, at some future time; to return in person to our world and set up a visible and theocratic empire upon all these continents. His kingdom is, and is to be, a spiritual kingdom: an empire that asks and needs no visible manifestation of its Lord, no earthly metropolis, or sceptre, or throne.
2. The Scriptures do not require us to teach or to believe this doctrine even in any absolute, extreme, and unexceptionable sense. The saints as persons, and their great Christian maxims as principles, shall ultimately win such an ascendency over all nations, interests, institutions, and affairs, that this whole world shall become an orderly and well-governed Christian empire.
3. As to the way in which this great conquest is to be achieved. Are the saints of the Most High, after a series of moral victories, wrought with peaceful weapons, and by the aid of the all-conquering Spirit of God, to change their tactics and go forth, in coming times, with their armies, to dislodge the wicked, and settle as victors on all the continents? The Scriptures everywhere discourage such conclusions. We have read history to little purpose if we have not seen that the only revolutions which are permanent and deep are those which take place underneath the surface--penetrating and reconstructing a nation’s thoughts. Accordingly, there are, in every community, natural processes and lawful methods by which to effect, first a moral, and then a civil revolution. It is a great law of nature, a law operating among all the orders of the animate creation, that the superior race shall win ultimate ascendency over the inferior. The earth is covered with a vast framework of social institutions, whose present and special office it is to guard, and administer, and conserve the temporal interests of nations. Will the saints of the Most High, as they advance and take possession of the world, overturn this great edifice of social order? Will they set up in their place the one great institution, the Church, making all offices spiritual? The Papist answers “Yes.” But the Scriptures hold no such language. Since civil order is as indispensable to social well-being as spiritual thrift, the State is an institution as truly Divine as the Church. The one is Christ’s authoritative organisation, for the control and government of things spiritual; the other is His twin organisation, for the management and direction of things temporal.
4. According to all Scriptural intimations, the conquest of the nations for Christ will be a very gradual conquest. Looking into the future, through the prophetic symbols, is like looking over the tops of the mountains to the distant sky. As we gaze we behold one summit behind another, and beyond the farthest the blue heavens. But how far it may be from the first peak to the second, and how far from the last to the firmament beyond, we cannot determine or tell.
5. We may say that the predicted conquest and reign of the saints is to be, and in a two-fold- sense, complete and universal. It will include all races, it will embrace all arts, sciences, trades, interests, governments, usages, compacts, relations. That the people of God will one day possess and govern the world might be conclusively argued:
(1) From the known nature of their religion. Who are the ultimate heirs of the world’s wealth? They who have, and shall continue to have, the qualities that acquire and preserve wealth. And who are these? Not the heathen. For their life is ever a life of idleness, and unthrift, and loss. Not the wicked or worldly, in Christian lands--for though a single generation of these may practice the industries, and observe the moderation, which insure an estate, they can never perpetuate these property-preserving habits. But the religion of the New Testament not only implants the qualities which acquire and retain wealth, it preserves them.
(2) From the actual history of the Church, since it has had its place among the nations. When the Saviour left the world, His disciples were indigent and helpless and weak.
(3) All the indications of Providence point, as with a prophetic finger, to the same grand consummation, the delivery of the world into the hands of the saints. The old religions of the heathen have become confessedly effete and decrepit. Not one of them can ever spread. What is to come when the various tottering systems reel in the tempest, and go down never again to rise? When Antichrist falls, then comes the reign of the saints.
1. In this great work of possessing and governing the world, the people of God must never allow themselves to confine their endeavours to any single achievement, but must preserve a breadth and amplitude of purpose equal to their universal mission.
2. Neglect or debility in any one department of this great work of saintly conquest and control, enfeebles and endangers the whole enterprise. (W. Clark, D.D.)
The Church of the Future
Around the grand mosque of Damascus there clusters a vast accumulation of history. On the spot where it stands to-day, after a lapse of nearly 1,400 years, there was originally erected, in the first century of our era, a heathen temple. In the middle of the fourth century this temple was destroyed by the Roman general Theodosius the Great, and on its ruins, in the beginning of the fifth century, Arcadius, the elder son of Theodosius, built a Christian house of worship. This latter house, though for 300 years the Cathedral of Damascus, became in the eighth century a Moslem possession, and far some thousand years it has been used as a Mohammedan mosque. No visit to Damascus is quite complete without a sight of this historic structure. The most interesting feature, however, of this curious building is not its age, nor its history, nor its present prominence, but rather a single sentence engraved upon the vestibule. The inscription is in Greek characters and reads thus: “Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” There, on this Mohammedan mosque, and after ten centuries of Moslem occupation, cut deep in the enduring stone, the Christian record remains--a record of faith, of hope and of confidence on the part of the Damascus Christians in the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. Almost 2,000 years have rolled away since Jesus Christ opened in Bethlehem the marvellous scene of Divinity in humanity, and still the Church of His grace abides. Other kingdoms have perished, mowed down by the resistless scythe of time--Babylon, Media, Macedonia, Persia, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Rome--each swept away almost as though it had never flourished, while the Church founded on the rock by the humble Nazarene lives and grown And the Church of the future will be more glorious than the Church of the past. “Let us believe and know that Christianity is advancing all the time; that, though men’s hearts may fail them through fear, the Church goes on in God-guided and irresistible movements.” To this happy conclusion of Mr. Gladstone’s must come every intelligent student of history. The world grows bettor from century to century, because God reigns supreme from generation to generation. The golden age of the Church is not in the yesterday of the past, nor in the to-day of the present, but in the to-morrow of the future.
I. In the first place, what will be the attitude of the Church of the future in relation to the PUBLIC WORSHIP? With all confidence may we not say that the Church, come what may, will never cease to worship? The worshipful impulse is as deep as it is universal, as pervasive as it is prevalent. Worshipfulness is a differentiating characteristic of the rightly-constituted soul. And this instinctive worshipful impulse will be more intelligently educated and more reverently developed in the future days of Christianity’s evolution. With the developing years shall come to the Church of God clearer visions and broader outlooks, and a deepened sense of righteousness, with profounder awe in the presence of spiritual realities; and along with this there cannot fail to be developed a more noble, God-pleasing, eternity-piercing worship in the hearts of God’s children.
II. In the second place, what will be the attitude of the Church of the future in relation to the BIBLE as the final and authoritative revelation of God’s will and way to men? Of all the books that fill our libraries and thrill our hearts this is the most wonderful. It is the fullest and richest thesaurus of Divine wisdom and human knowledge. All books, it has been said, are of two classes--books made from other books, and books from which other books are made--and to the latter class, in a pre-eminent degree, belongs this Word of God. And it seems to the truest and most intelligent supporters of the old Book that things are shaping themselves to-day, as never before, for unlimited victories for the Word of God. Certain facts and conditions there are which appear a sure prelude to a superb Biblical renaissance; the publication and distribution of the revised Scriptures, the profound delving and exhaustive research o| historical critics, the patient investigation of modern science; the recent discovery and explorations of ancient cities by faithful archaeologists, and, along with all this, the growing intelligence of the modern Christian Church, which is rejecting, as never before, man-made creeds and formulas. Fear not the controversies now raging about the Bible. The ages of theological agitation and discussion have always been the ages of progress and promise. Better the agitations of the days of Augustine and Athanasius and Luther than the tranquility of the Middle Ages.
III. In the third place, what will be the attitude of the Church of the future in relation to JESUS CHRIST, as God’s Son and man’s Saviour? Here we confront the great problem of Christianity to-day, than which no greater can ever arise--the Lord of Glory; His Miraculous Incarnation, His Spotless Character, His Transcendent Teaching, His Majestic Deeds, His Sacrificial Death, His Glorious Resurrection, His Radiant Ascension, His Position at the Right Hand of the Majesty on High, and His Abiding Presence in human life and history. A truer and more pregnant sentence the great Christlieb never uttered than when he wrote that Christ is Christiania, as Plato was never Platonism, and Mohammed never Mohammedanism, and Buddha never Buddhism. We often speak of Christianity’s unparalleled power, and yet let us remember that, since the stream cannot rise higher than its source, Jesus Christ is the Living Personal Force because of whom all ages and races have been agitated and convulsed. Recall the splendid words of Dr. Wace, in his notable controversy with Huxley: “The strength of the Christian Church is not in its creed, but in its Christ. They see Him there; they hear His voice; they listen and they believe in Him. It is not so much that they accept certain doctrines taught by Him as that they accept Himself, their Lord and their God. It is with this living personal force that Agnosticism has to deal; and as long as the Gospels present Him to human hearts, so long will the Christian faith and the Christian Church, in their main characteristics, be vital and permanent forces in the Christian world.” Here is and ever shall be Christianity’s glory, the Son of God and the Son of Mary--the Christ who on earth matched every sermon with a service and every doctrine with a doing; the Christ who in Heaven is enthroned amid native scenes and clothed with Divine anthority, recognised more and more in the Church and world as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And this Exalted Christ, let us never forget, is the once Crucified Christ. More in the Church of the future, if possible, than in the Church of the past will the Cross be emphasised and glorified. The richest theme of the Church’s future will be God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Much of the preaching in our day, even in Evangelical pulpits, is struck to a lower key.
IV. In the fourth place, what will be the attitude of the Church of the future to the problem SOCIOLOGICAL? A most practical and important question this, also peculiarly suited to our day and generation. Ours is preeminently an age of practical benevolence and utilitarian tendencies. We are unlike all of our predecessors. The Roman craved the display of wondrous power and imperial sway. The Greek delighted to lose himself in the abstruse labyrinth of metaphysics. The Hebrew made it part of his religion to bow down before hoary rites and flaming sacrifice. We live in a stern age of fact; an age in which, as a scholarly master of Sociology has well said, Society is coming to itself and emphasising Sociology, Social ethics, Social politics; an age in which religion means the salvation of the soul, but also, as it meant with Jesus, the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the healing of the sick, and relief, comfort, and help for the whole being. With the deeper life and broader outlook which the coming century will bring to the children of God there will be felt, with a new power, the truth that there is nothing secular which religion cannot both touch and glorify; that God never meant His saints to have one Gospel for Sunday and another for Monday, one religion for the Church and another for the world, one conscience for Caesar and another for Jehovah, that goodness is not a little island here and there in the great ocean of life, but rather the all-permeating salt that fills every part of the bright, broad sea.
V. In the fifth place, what will be the attitude of the Church of the future in relation to CHRISTIAN UNITY? To this interesting question it may be answered that there never was among God’s people, as to-day, such an unity of spirit in the bonds of peace. But the Church may never, should never, become organically one. Men differ too widely in birth and education for this ever to be accomplished. The universal law of God in grace, as in Nature, is unity in diversity. And yet, with absolute fidelity to the great fundamental truths of the Gospel, we shall more and more realise the prayer of the Master, “that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee”; not one in organic union, but one in heart and purpose, in will and work.
VI. In the sixth place, what will be the attitude of the Church of the future in relation to WORLD-WIDE EVANGELISATION? The spirit of missions, which is the Spirit of Christ, is recognised and actualised to-day as perhaps never before. The history of the sacred, self-sacrificing anointing of nineteen hundred years ago repeats itself from time to time. One hundred years ago the Church drew out of its hiding-place, where for centuries it had lain in almost absolute inutility, the glorious commission of its Lord. And to-day everywhere in Christian lands the orders of our Lord are being obeyed and appreciated with something of their far-reaching meaning and transcendent glory. To-day the Bible is within reach of 500,000,000 of the human race, and many things in connection with the missionary cause--the Word of God, the history of the past, the condition of the present, the promises of the future--appear to be hastening “that one Divine, far-off event to which the whole creation moves,” the conquest of the world by the King of Glory and the Prince of Peace! (K. B. Tupper, D.D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Daniel 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12