The dream is certain - It contains a just representation of things as they shall be.
And the interpretation thereof sure - The parts of the dream being truly explained.
A Discourse on Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
I shall now consider this most important vision more at large, and connect it with a portion of the previous history of the Jewish people.
The kingdoms of Israel and Judah after a series of the most unparalleled ingratitude and rebellion, against displays of mercy and benevolence, only equaled by their rebellions, were at last, according to repeated threatenings, given over into the hands of their enemies. The inhabitants of the former country were subdued and carried away captives by the Assyrians; and those of the latter, by the Chaldeans.
The people of Israel never recovered their ancient territories; and were so disposed of by their conquerors, that they either became amalgamated with the heathen nations, so as to be utterly undistinguishable; or they were transported to some foreign and recluse place of settlement, that the land of their residence, though repeatedly sought for and guessed at, has for more than two thousand years been totally unknown.
Judah, after having been harassed by the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and others, was at last invaded by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; Jerusalem besieged and taken; and Jehoiachin the king, who had before become tributary to the Babylonians, with his mother, wives, officers of state, and chief military commanders, princes, and mighty men of valor, to the amount of ten thousand; and all the artificers, smiths, etc., to the number of one thousand, with all that were fit for war, he carried captives to Babylon; leaving only the poorest of the people behind, under the government of Mattaniah, son of the late king Josiah, and uncle to Jehoiachin; and, having changed his name to Zedekiah, gave him a nominal authority as king over the wretched remains of the people. Zedekiah, after having reigned nine years, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who, coming against Jerusalem with all his forces, besieged it; and having reduced it to the last extremity by famine, and made a breach in the walls, took the city, pillaged and destroyed the temple by fire, slew the sons of Zedekiah before his face, then put out his eyes, and carried him bound in brazen fetters to Babylon, 2 Kings, chap. 24 and 25. Thus, the temple of God, the most glorious building ever laid on the face of the earth, was profaned, pillaged, and burnt, with the king's palace, and all the houses of the Jewish nobility, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, - the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, - the first of the forty-eight Olympiad, - the one hundred and sixtieth current year of the era of Nabonassar, - four hundred and twenty-four years, three months, and eight days from the time in which Solomon laid its foundation stone!
In the same month in which the city was taken, and the temple burnt, Nebuzar-adan, commander in chief of the Babylonish forces, carried off the spoils of the temple, with the Jewish treasures, and the principal part of the residue of the people; and brought them also to Babylon. And thus Judah was carried away out of her own land, four hundred and sixty-eight years after David began to reign over it; from the division under Rehoboam, three hundred and eighty-eight years; from the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, one hundred and thirty-four years; in the year of the world, three thousand four hundred and sixteen; and before the nativity of our Lord, five hundred and eighty-eight.
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, A.M. 3397, b.c. 607, Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged Jerusalem, and made its king tributary, carried away a number of captives; and among them was the Prophet Daniel, then in his youth, who became, for his wisdom, and knowledge of future events, very eminent at Babylon; and, with some other Jewish captives, great favorites of Nebuchadnezzar the king; who made Daniel president of all the wise men of his city. It was in the second year of the reign of this king, that a circumstance occurred which, though at first it threatened the destruction of the prophet, finally issued in the increase of his reputation and celebrity.
As prophecy is one of the strongest proofs of the authenticity of what professes to be a Divine revelation, God endued this man with a large portion of his Spirit, so that he clearly predicted some of the most astonishing political occurrences and changes which have ever taken place on the earth; no less than the rise, distinguishing characteristics, and termination of the Four great monarchies or empires, which have been so celebrated in all the histories of the world. And as the Babylonian, under which he then lived, was one of these monarchies, and was shortly to be absorbed by the Medo-Persian, which was to succeed it, he made Nebuchadnezzar, the then reigning monarch, by means of a most singular dream, the particulars of which he had forgotten, the instrument that appeared to give birth to a prediction, in which the ruin of his own empire was foretold; as well as other mighty changes which should take place in the political state of the world, for at least the term of one thousand years next ensuing. Nor did the prophetic Spirit in this eminent man limit his predictions to these; but showed at the same time the origin and nature of that Fifth monarchy, which, under the great King of kings, should be administered and prevail to the end of time.
The dream itself, with its interpretation, and the exact and impressive manner in which the predictions relative to the four great monarchies have been fulfilled, and those which regard the fifth monarchy are in the course of being accomplished, are the subjects to which I wish to call the reader's most serious and deliberate attention.
This image, so circumstantially described from the thirty-eighth to the forty-fourth verse, was, as we learn from the prophet's general solution, intended to point out the rise and fall of four different empires and states; and the final prevalence and establishment of a fifth empire, that shall never have an end, and which shall commence in the last days, Daniel 2:28; a phrase commonly used in the prophets to signify the times of the Messiah, and in the New Testament, his advent to judge the world.
Before we proceed to particular parts, we may remark in general, that the whole account strongly indicates: -
The sum of the account given in this chapter is the following: -
A vast image, exceedingly luminous, of terrible form, and composed of different substances, appears in a night vision to the king, of which the following is the description: -
II. Its breast and arms of silver.
III. Its belly and thighs of brass.
IV. Its legs of iron, and its feet and toes of iron and clay. While gazing on this image he sees: -
V. A stone cut out of a mountain without hands, which smites the image on its feet, and dashes it all to pieces; and the gold, and silver, brass, iron, and clay become as small and as light as chaff.
VI. A wind carries the whole away, so that no place is found for them.
In order to explain this, certain Data must be laid down.
1. Prima aetas sub Regibus fuit, prope ducentos quinquaginta per annos, quibus circum ipsam matrem suam cum finitimis luctatus est. Haec erit ejus Infantia.
2. Sequens a Bruto, Collatinoque consulibus, in Appium Claudium, Quinctiumque Fulvium consules, ducentos quinquaginta annos habet, quibus Italiam subegit. Hoc fuit tempus viris armisque exercitatissi mum! ideo quis Adolescentiam dixerit.
3. Dehinc ad Caesarem Augustum, ducenti quinquaginta anni, quibus totum orbem pacavit. Hic jam ipsa Juventa Imperii, et quasi quaedam robusta Maturitas.
4. A Caesare Augusto in saeculum, nostrum, sunt non multo minus anni ducenti, quibus inertia Caesarum quasi Consenuit atque Decoxit. L. An. Flori Prooem.
Geographers have made similar representations, The Germanic empire, in the totality of its dependent states, has been represented by a map in the form of a man; different parts being pointed out by head, breast, arm, belly, thighs, legs, feet, etc., according to their geographical and political relation to the empire in general.
The Chaldean empire, called the Assyrian in its commencement, the Chaldean from the country, the Babylonish from its chief city.
II. Breasts and Arms of Silver. The Medo-Persian empire; which properly began under Darius the Mede, allowing him to be the same with Cyaxares, son of Astyages, and uncle to Cyrus the great, son of Cambyses. He first fought under his uncle Cyaxares, defeated Neriglissar, king of the Assyrians, and Craesus, king of the Lydians; and, by the capture of Babylon, b.c. 538, terminated the Chaldean empire. On the death of his father Cambyses, and his uncle Cyaxares, b.c. 536, he became sole governor of the Medes and Persians, and thus established a potent empire on the ruins of that of the Chaldeans.
III. Belly and Thighs of Brass. The Macedonian or Greek empire, founded by Alexander the Great. He subdued Greece, penetrated into Asia, took Tyre, reduced Egypt, overthrew Darius Codomanus at Arbela, Oct. 2, A.M. 3673, b.c. 331, and thus terminated the Persian monarchy. He crossed the Caucasus, subdued Hyrcania, and penetrated India as far as the Ganges; and having conquered all the countries that lay between the Adriatic sea and this river, the Ganges, he died A.M. 3681, b.c. 323; and after his death his empire became divided among his generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. Cassander had Macedon and Greece; Lysimachus had Thrace, and those parts of Asia which lay on the Hellespont and Bosphorus; Ptolemy had Egypt, Lybia, Arabia, Palestine, and Coelesyria; Seleucus had Babylon, Media, Susiana, Persia, Assyria, Bactria, Hyrcania, and all other provinces, even to the Ganges. Thus this empire, founded on the ruin of that of the Persians, "had rule over all the earth."
IV. Legs of Iron, and Feet and Toes of Iron and Clay. I think this means, in the first place, the kingdom of the Lagidae, in Egypt; and the kingdom of the Seleucidae, in Syria. And, secondly, the Roman empire, which was properly composed of them.
That the two legs of iron meant the kingdom of the Lagidae and that of the Seleucidae, seems strongly intimated by the characters given in the text. "And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron. Forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise," Daniel 2:40.
In Daniel 7:7, the prophet, having the same subject in view, says, "I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it," and in Daniel 8:22; : "Now that being broken," the horn of the rough goat, the Grecian monarchy, "whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power." These and other declarations point out those peculiar circumstances that distinctly mark the kingdom of the Seleucidae, and that of the Lagidae; both of which rose out of the Macedonian or Grecian empire, and both terminated in that of the Romans.
V. "A stone cut out of the mountain without hands."
Two things may be here distinguished:
First, The stone began to strike the image, when the apostles went out into every part of the Roman empire, pulling down idolatry, and founding Christian Churches.
Secondly, But the great blow was given to the heathen Roman empire by the conversion of Constantine, just at the time when it was an epitome of the four great monarchies, being under the government of Four Emperors at once, a.d. 308: Constantius, who governed Gaul, Spain, and Britain; Galerius, who had Illyricum, Thrace and Asia; Severus, who had Italy and Africa; and Maximin, who had the East and Egypt.
In Daniel 2:44, the kingdom of the stone, grown into a great mountain and filling the whole earth, is particularly described by various characters.
For his own cause, God fights in the course of his providence. He depresses one, and exalts another; but permits not his own people to join with him in the infliction of judgments. It is by his own Spirit and energy that his kingdom is propagated and maintained in the world; and by the same his enemies are confounded. All false religions, as well as falsified and corrupted systems of Christianity, have had recourse to the sword, because they were conscious they had No God, no influence but what was merely human.
According to the ancient tradition there were,
And at the termination of the third the endless Sabbath should commence. The comments on this ancient tradition go on to state, that at the termination of each day's work of the creation it was said, The evening and the morning were the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth day; but when the Sabbath is introduced, and God is said to rest from his work, and to have hallowed this day, there is no mention of the evening and the morning being the seventh day. That is left without termination; and therefore a proper type of the eternal Sabbath, that rest which remains for the people of God.
And are we indeed so near that time when the elements of all things shall be dissolved by fervent heat; when the heavens shall be shrivelled up like a scroll, and the earth and all it contains be burned up? Is the fifth empire, the kingdom of the stone and the kingdom of the mountain, so near its termination? Are all vision and prophecy about to be sealed up, and the whole earth to be illuminated with the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness? Are the finally incorrigible and impenitent about to be swept off the face of the earth by the besom of destruction while the righteous shall be able to lift up their heads with ineffable joy, knowing their final redemption is at hand? Are we so near the eve of that period when "they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever?" What sort of persons should we then be in all holy conversation and godliness? Where is our zeal for God? Where the sounding of our bowels over the perishing nations who have not yet come under the yoke of the Gospel? Multitudes of whom are not under the yoke, because they have never heard of it; and they have not heard of it, because those who enjoy the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus have not felt (or have not obeyed the feeling) the imperious duty of dividing their heavenly bread with those who are famishing with hunger, and giving the water of life to those who are dying of thirst. How shall they appear in that great day when the conquests of the Lion of the tribe of Judah are ended; when the mediatorial kingdom is delivered up unto the Father, and the Judge of quick and dead sits on the great white throne, and to those on his left hand says, "I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink." I say, How shall they appear who have made no exertions to tell the lost nations of the earth the necessity for preparing to meet their God; and showing them the means of doing it, by affording them the blessings of the Gospel of the grace of God? Let us beware lest the stone that struck the motley image, and dashed it to pieces, fall on us, and grind us to powder.
Bibles are sent out by millions into heathen countries; but how shall they hear without a preacher; and how shall they understand the things which they read, unless those who know the things of God teach them? Let us haste, then, and send missionaries after the Bibles. God is mightily at work in the earth: let us be workers together with him, that we receive not the grace of God in vain. He that giveth to those poor (emphatically poor, for they are without God in the world, and consequently without the true riches) lendeth unto the Lord; and let him look what he layeth out, and it shall be paid unto him again. For "he that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins." God does not call on us to shake hands with all secular, social, and family comfort, and bid farewell to the whole; and go to the heathen with the glad tidings of great joy: but he loudly calls on us to assist in sending those who, in the true spirit of sacrifice, the love of Christ constraining them, say, "Here are we! O Lord, send us." Let these servants of God run to and fro; that by their ministry knowledge may be increased. Amen.
Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone - On the meaning of the language employed here, see the notes at Daniel 2:34-35. The word “forasmuch” may be taken either in connection with what precedes, or with what follows. In the former method, there should be a period at the word “gold” in this verse; and then the sense is, “In those days shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, etc., “forasmuch,” or “because” thou sawest a stone,” etc., that is, that was a certain indication of it. According to the other method, the meaning is, “Forasmuch as thou sawest the stone cut out and demolish the image, the great God has made known the certainty of it;” that is, that is a certain indication that it will be done. The Vulgate is, “According to what thou sawest, that the stone was cut out without hands, and reduced the clay, etc., the great God has shown to the king what will be hereafter.” The difference in the interpretation is not very material.
Cut out of the mountain - This is not inserted in the statement in Daniel 2:34. It seems, however, to be implied there, as there is mention of the stone as “cut out.” The representation is evidently that of a stone disengaged from its native bed, the side of a mountain, without any human agency, and then rolling down the side of it and impinging on the image.
The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter - Margin, the same as the Chaldee, “after this.” The meaning is simply, in time to come; in some future period. Daniel claims none of the merit of this discovery to himself. but ascribes it all to God.
And the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure - That is, it is no vain and airy phantom; no mere working of the imagination. The dream was all that the monarch had supposed it to be - a representation of coming events, and his solicitude in regard to it was well-founded. Daniel speaks with the utmost assurance also as to its fulfillment. He knew that he had been led to this interpretation by no skill of his own; and his representation of it was such as to satisfy the monarch of its correctness. Two circumstances probably made it appear certain to the monarch, as we learn from the next verse it did: one, that Daniel had recalled the dream to his own recollection, showing that he was under a Divine guidance; and the other, the plausibility - the verisimilitude - the evident truthfulness of the representation. It was such a manifest “explanation” of the dream that Nebuchadnezzar, in the same manner as Pharaoh had done before him when his dreams were explained by Joseph, at once admitted the correctness of the representation.
Having now gone through with the “exposition” of this important passage respecting the stone cut from the mountain, it seems proper to make a few remarks in regard to the nature of the kingdom that would be set up, as represented by the stone which demolished the image, and which so marvelously increased as to fill the earth. That there is reference to the kingdom of the Messiah cannot be reasonably doubted. The points which are established in respect to that kingdom by the passage now under consideration are the following:
I. Its superhuman origin. This is indicated in the representation of the stone cut out of the mountain “without hands;” that is, clearly not by human agency, or in the ordinary course of events. There was to be a superhuman power exerted in detaching it from the mountain, as well as in its future growth. What appeared so marvelous was, that it was cut from its orginal resting place by some invisible power, and moved forward to the consummation of its work without any human agency. That this was designed to be significant of something there can be no reasonable doubt, for the result is made to turn on this. I do not see that any special significancy is to be attached to the idea of its being cut from “a mountain,” nor that it is required of us to attempt to refine on that expression, and to ascertain whether the mountain means the Roman kingdom, out of which the gospel church was taken, as many suppose; or the Jewish nation, as Augustine supposed; or that “the origin of Christ was sublime and superior to the whole world,” as Calvin supposes; or to the mountainous country of Judea in which the Messiah was born, as many others have maintained; or to the tomb of Joseph, as a rock from which the Messiah sprang to life and victory, as others have imagined.
All this belongs to a system of interpretatation that is trifling in the extreme. The representation of the mountain here is merely for the sake of verisimilitude, like the circumstances in a parable. If a stone was “cut out without hands,” it would be natural to speak of it as cut from the mountain or parent-rock to which it was attached. The eye is not here directed to the “mountain” as having anything significant or marvelous about it, but to the “stone” that so mysteriously left its bed, and rolled onward toward the image. The point of interest and of marvel, the mysterious thing that attracted the eye, was that there was no human agency employed; that no hands were seen at work; that none of the ordinary instrumentalities were seen by which great effects are accomplished among men. Now this would properly represent the idea that the kingdom of the Messiah would have a supernatural origin. Its beginnings would be unlike what is usually seen among men. How appropriately this applies to the kingdom of the Messiah, as having its origin not in human power, need not here be stated. Nothing is more apparent; nothing is more frequently dwelt on in the New Testament, than that it had a heavenly origin. It did not owe its beginning to human plans, counsels, or power.
II. Its feebleness in its beginning, compared with its ultimate growth and power. At first it was a stone comparatively small, and that seemed utterly inadequate to the work of demolishing and pulverizing a colossal statue of gold, silver, brass, and iron. Ultimately it grew to be itself of mountain-size, and to fill the land. Now this representation would undoubtedly convey the fair impression that this new power, represented by the stone, would at first be comparatively small and feeble; that there would be comparative weakness in its origin as contrasted with what it would ultimately attain to; and that it would seem to be utterly inadequate to the performance of what it finally accomplished. It is hardly necessary to say that this corresponds entirely with the origin of the Messiah‘s kingdom. Everywhere it is represented as of feeble beginnings, and, as a system, to human view, entirely inadequate to so great a work as that of bringing other kingdoms to an end, and subduing it to itself. The complete fulfillment of the prophetic statement would be found in such circumstances as the following:
(1) The humble origin of the head of this new power hlmself - the Messiah - the King of Sion. He was, in fact, of a decayed and dilapidated family; was ranked among the poor; was without powerful friends or political connections; possessed no uncommon advantages of learning, and was regarded with contempt and scorn by the great mass of his countrymen. No one would have supposed that the religion originated by one of so humble an origin would have power to change the destiny of the kingdoms of the earth.
(2) The feebleness of the beginning of his kingdom. His few followers - the little band of fishermen; the slow progress at first made; these were circumstances strikingly in accordance with the representation in Daniel.
(3) The absence in that band of all that seemed requisite to accomplish so great a work. They had no arms, no wealth, no political power. They had nothing of what has commonly been employed to overthrow kingdoms, and the band of fishermen sent forth to this work seemed as little adequate to the undertaking as the stone cut from the mountain did to demolish the colossal image.
(4) All this feebleness in the beginning was wonderfully contrasted with the ultimate results, like the stone, when cut from the mountain, contrasted with its magnitude when it filled the earth. The Saviour himself often referred to the contrast between the feeble origin of his religion, and what it would grow to be. At first it was like a grain of mustard-seed, smallest among seeds; then it grew to be a tree so large that the fowls of the air lodged in the branches. At first it was like leaven, hidden in meal; ultimately it would diffuse itself through the mass, so that the whole would be leavened, Matthew 13:31-33.
III. It would supplant all other kingdoms. This was clearly indicated by the fact that the “stone” demolished the image, reducing it to powder, and filled the place which that occupied, and all the land. This has been explained (see the notes at Daniel 2:34-35), as meaning that it would not be by sudden violence, but by a continued process of comminution. There would be such an action on the kingdoms of the earth represented by gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, that they would disappear, and the new power represented by the “stone” would finally take their place. As this new power was to be humble in its origin, and feeble to human view; as it had nothing which, to outward appearance, would seem adequate to the result, the reference would seem to be to the “principles” which would characterize it, and which, as elements of power, would gradually but ultimately secure the changes represented by the demolition of the colossal statue.
The only question then would be, whether the principles in the kingdom of the Messiah had such originality and power as would gradually but certainly change the modes of government that existed in the world, and substitute another kind of reign; or, what is the influence which it will exert on the nations, causing new methods of government, in accordance with its principles, to prevail on the earth. Though apparently feeble, without arms, or wealth, or civil alliances, it has elements of “power” about it which will ultimately subdue all other principles of government, ard take their place. Its work was indeed to be a gradual work, and it is by no means accomplished, yet its effect has been mighty already on the principles that rule among the nations and will still be more mighty until “the laws of the kingdom of the Messiah shall prevail in all the earth.” This seems to be the idea which it is designed to express by this prophetic image. If one were asked “in what respects” it is to be anticipated that these changes will be wrought, and “in what respects” we can discern the evidences of such changes already, we might say in such points as the following:
(1) In regard to the methods in which governments are founded. Governments were formerly mostly the result of civil or foreign wars. Nearly all the governments of antiquity were originally founded in the “power” of some military leader, and then held by power. Christianity originated new views about wars and conquests; views that will ultimately prevail. In nothing are the opinions of mankind destined more entirely to be reversed than in regard to “war;” to its glory, its achievements, and the fame of those who have been most celebrated for bloody triumphs.
(2) In regard to the rights of the people. A mighty principle was originated by Christianity in respect to the “rights” of men; the right of conscience; the right to the avails of their own labor; the right to life and liberty.
(3) In regard to oppression. The history of the world has been, to a great extent, a history of oppression. But all this is to be changed by the principles of the true religion; and when the period shall arrive that there shall be no more occasion to use the word “oppression,” as descriptive of anything that shall have an actual existenee on earth, this will be a different world. Then the time will have come, appropriately designated by the demolition of the colossal statue - symbolic of all governments of oppression, and the substitution in its place of what was at first insignificant, but which had vital energy to supplant all that went before it.
IV. This kingdom will be perpetual. This is asserted in the unequivocal statements that it “shall never be destroyed,” and that “it shall not be left to other people;” that is, shall never pass into other hands. There could not be a more positive declaration that the kingdom here referred to will continue through all coming time. Other kingdoms pass away, but this will not; and amidst all the revolutions of other empires this will remain. The lapse of eighteen hundred years since this kingdom was set up, has done not a little to confirm the truth of this prediction. Many other kingdoms during that time have disappeared from the earth, but this remains in its full vigour, and with extending power. It has, at this day, an extent of dominion which it never had before, and there are clearer indications that it will spread over all the earth than ever existed at any previous time. That this kingdom “will” be perpetual may be argued from the following considerations:
(1) From the promises of God. These are absolute; and they are attested by Him who has all power, and who can, with infinite ease, accomplish all that he has spoken. So in Daniel 7:14, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Luke 1:33, “and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Psalm 45:6 (compare the notes at Hebrews 1:8), “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” In Hebrews 1:8, it is, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Isaiah 9:7, “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even forever.”
(2) It may be argued, from the fact that the efforts which have been made to destroy it have shown that this cannot be done by any human power. Eighteen hundred years have now passed away - a period sufficiently long to test the question whether it can be destroyed by force and violence; by argument and ridicule. The experiment has been fairly made, and if it were possible that it should be destroyed by external force, it would have been done. It cannot be imagined that more favorable circumstances for such a purpose will ever occur. The church of Christ has met every form of opposition that we can conceive could be made against it, and has survived them all. Particularly it has survived the trial which has been made in the following respects:
(a) The Roman power, the whole might of the Roman arms, that had subdued and crushed the world, was brought to bear upon the kingdom of Christ to crush and destroy it, but wholly failed. It cannot be supposed that a new power will ever arise that will be more formidable to Christianity than the Roman was.
(b) The power of persecution. That has been tried in every way, and has failed. The most ingenious forms of torture have been devised to extinguish this religion, and have all failed. It has always been found that persecution has only contributed ultimately to the triumph of the cause which it was hoped to crush.
(c) The power of philosophy. The ancient philosophers opposed it, and attempted to destroy it by argument. This was early done by Celsus and Porphyry; but it soon became apparent that the ancient philosophy had nothing that could extinguish the rising religion, and not a few of the prominent philosophers themselves were converted, and became the advocates of the faith.
(d) The power of science. Christianity had its origin in an age when science had made comparatively little progress, and in a country where it was almost unknown. The sciences since have made vast advances; and each one in its turn has been appealed to by the enemies of religion, to furnish an argument against Christianity. Astronomy, history, the discoveries in Egypt, the asserted antiquity of the Hindoos, and geology, have all been employed to overthrow the claims of the Christian religion, and have all been compelled to abandon the field. See this admirably demonstrated in Dr. Wiseman‘s “Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion.”
(e) The power of ridicule. At one time it was held that “ridicule is the test of truth,” and this has been applied unsparingly to the Christian religion. But the religion still lives, and it cannot be supposed that there will be men endued with the power of sarcasm and wit superior to those who, with these weapons, have made war on Christianity, or that infidelity has any hope from that quarter. It may be inferred, therefore, that there is no “external” source of corruption and decay which will prevent its being perpetual. Other kingdoms usually have; and after a few centuries at most the internal corruption - the defect of the organization - developes itself, and the kingdom falls. But nothing of this kind occurs in the kingdom of Christ. It has lived now through eighteen hundred years, through periods of the world in which there have been constant changes in the arts, in the sciences, in manners, in philosophy, in forms of government. During that time many a system of philosophy has been superseded, and many a kingdom has fallen, but Christianity is as fresh and vigorous, as it meets each coming generation, as it ever was; and the past has demonstrated that the enemies of the gospel have no reason to hope that it will become weak by age, and will fall by its own decrepitude.
V. A fifth characteristic of this kingdom is, that it will universally prevail. This was symbolized by the stone that “became a great mountain, and that filled the whole earth,” Daniel 2:35. It is also implied, in the statement in Daniel 2:44, that it “shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms.” They will cease, and this will occupy their places. The “principles” of the kingdom of the Messiah, whatever may be the external forms of government that shall exist on the earth, will everywhere prevail. That this will occur may be argued from the following considerations:
(1) The promises recorded in the Bible. Tlle passage before us is one. Of the same nature are the following: Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the pagan for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Malachi 1:11, “for from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering.” Isaiah 11:9, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Compare Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 45:22, and Isaiah 60.
(2) The world in its progress “loses” nothing that is of value. Truth is eternal, and when once discovered, society will not let it go. It seizes upon great elements in human nature, and the world will not let it die. Thus it is with discoveries in science, inventions in the arts, and principles in morals. There is no evidence that anything that was known to the ancients which was of permanent value to mankind has been lost; and the few things that “were” lost have been succeeded by that which is better. All that was truly valuable in their science, their philosophy, their arts, their jurisprudence, their literature, we possess still, and the world will always retMn it. And what can ever obliterate from the memory oi man the printing-press, the steamengine, the cotton-gin, the telescope, the blow-pipe, the magnetic telegraph? Society accumulates from age to age all that is truly valuable in inventions, morals, and the arts, and travels with them down to the period when the world shall have reached the highest point of perfectability. This remark is true also of Christianity - the kingdom of Christ. There are “principles” in regard to the happiness and rights of man in that system which cannot be “detached” from society, but which go into its permanent structure, and which “the world will not let die.”
(3) Society is thus making constant “advances.” A position gained in human progress is never ultimately lost. “The principles thus accumulated and incorporated into society become permanent. Each age adds something in this respect to the treasures accumulated by all preceding ages, and each one is, in some respects, an advance on its predecessors, and makes the final triumph of the principles of truth, and liberty, and pure religion more sure.”
(4) Christianity, or the kingdom of Christ, is “aggressive.” It makes a steady war on the evil customs, habits, and laws of the world. It is in accordance with its nature to diffuse itself. Nothing can prevent its propagation; and, according to the laws of society, nothing is so certain philosophically in regard to the future, as the final prevalence of the religion of the Redeemer. It may meet with temporary and formidable obstructions. It may be retarded, or extinguished, in certain places. But its general course is onward - like the current of the mighty river toward the ocean. The only thing certain in the future is, that the Christian religion will yet spread all over the world; and there is enough in this to gratify the highest wishes of philanthropy, and enough to stimulate to the highest effort to secure so desirable an end.
This chapter is based on Daniel 3.
The dream of the great image, opening before Nebuchadnezzar events reaching to the close of time, had been given that he might understand the part he was to act in the world's history, and the relation that his kingdom should sustain to the kingdom of heaven. In the interpretation of the dream, he had been plainly instructed regarding the establishment of God's everlasting kingdom. “In the days of these kings,” Daniel had declared, “shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.... The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Daniel 2:44, 45. PK 503.1Read in context »
A most interesting and important history is given in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, dreamed a dream which he could not bring to his remembrance when he awoke. “Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans,” those whom he had exalted and upon whom he depended, and, relating the circumstances, demanded that they should tell him the dream. The wise men stood before the king in terror; for they had no ray of light in regard to his dream. They could only say, “O king, live forever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” “The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses made a dunghill. But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.” Still the wise men returned the same answer, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it.” FE 410.1
Nebuchadnezzar began to see that the men whom he trusted to reveal mysteries through their boasted wisdom, failed him in his great perplexity, and he said, “I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof. The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter.... It is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there in none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” Then was the king “angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” FE 410.2
Hearing of this decree, “Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret.” The Spirit of the Lord rested upon Daniel and his fellows, and the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. As he related the facts, the dream came fresh to the king's mind, and the interpretation was given, showing the remarkable events that were to transpire in prophetic history. FE 411.1Read in context »
Bengel's writings have been spread throughout Christendom. His views of prophecy were quite generally received in his own state of Wurttemberg, and to some extent in other parts of Germany. The movement continued after his death, and the advent message was heard in Germany at the same time that it was attracting attention in other lands. At an early date some of the believers went to Russia and there formed colonies, and the faith of Christ's soon coming is still held by the German churches of that country. GC 364.1
The light shone also in France and Switzerland. At Geneva where Farel and Calvin had spread the truth of the Reformation, Gaussen preached the message of the second advent. While a student at school, Gaussen had encountered that spirit of rationalism which pervaded all Europe during the latter part of the eighteenth and the opening of the nineteenth century; and when he entered the ministry he was not only ignorant of true faith, but inclined to skepticism. In his youth he had become interested in the study of prophecy. After reading Rollin's Ancient History, his attention was called to the second chapter of Daniel, and he was struck with the wonderful exactness with which the prophecy had been fulfilled, as seen in the historian's record. Here was a testimony to the inspiration of the Scriptures, which served as an anchor to him amid the perils of later years. He could not rest satisfied with the teachings of rationalism, and in studying the Bible and searching for clearer light he was, after a time, led to a positive faith. GC 364.2
As he pursued his investigation of the prophecies he arrived at the belief that the coming of the Lord was at hand. Impressed with the solemnity and importance of this great truth, he desired to bring it before the people; but the popular belief that the prophecies of Daniel are mysteries and cannot be understood was a serious obstacle in his way. He finally determined—as Farel had done before him in evangelizing Geneva—to begin with the children, through whom he hoped to interest the parents. GC 364.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on Daniel 2.
Soon after Daniel and his companions entered the service of the king of Babylon, events occurred that revealed to an idolatrous nation the power and faithfulness of the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar had a remarkable dream, by which “his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” But although the king's mind was deeply impressed, he found it impossible, when he awoke, to recall the particulars. PK 491.1Read in context »