SIGNS OF OUR TIMES.
To sum up the conclusions we have reached so far. Divine wisdom has seen fit to order human history according to a chronological plan, measured, not only by days and weeks and months, but by solar, lunar, and calendar years; by cycles which harmonize solar and lunar movements; and by periods which are days and weeks and months and years of larger cycles, created by the revolution, not of the sun and moon themselves, but of their orbits. The lapse of six thousand years of history, and the science arising from four thousand years of astronomical observation, as well as the light afforded by the fulfilment of nine-tenths of the predictions of Scripture as to historical events, enable "the wise," or the godly students of the works and word of God, to understand in these days His revealed purposes as regards the times and seasons of the redemption of our race, as earlier students could not do. To encourage us to such studies we have the definite promise that "the wise shall understand" in the time of the end much that was, for kind and wise purposes, hidden from earlier generations. This promise is in its context especially connected with chronologic prophecy; but a comprehension of the true scale and scope of this, an understanding of the times and seasons of sacred predictions, determines to a very large and important extent their true historic meaning and application. The chronological prophecies of Daniel are all included within a period of "seven times," or 2,520 years, and the greater part of them relate to its second half; one prediction, however, and that the most important in the book, measures
the interval from the restoration of the Jews after their captivity in Babylon to the first advent of Christ. This last prediction of "seventy weeks" was fulfilled on the scale of a year to a day; and led up to the advent and death of Messiah, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem as foretold, running out, as regards the central event, the crucifixion, to a day, when measured on the lunar scale from its Nehemiah starting-point.
This accurately fulfilled chronological prediction determines the scale on which all such predictions are to be understood in Daniel and in similarly symbolic prophecies- a day is to be regarded as meaning a year. It determines, too, the fact that lunar as well as solar years are employed in these predictionsa fact which can be otherwise proved also.
The great week of "the times of the Gentiles "is the lifetime of the fourfold image, and of the four wild beast empires of Daniel-Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome; the last in its two stages, first pagan, and secondly Papal. The four pagan empires did actually, as a matter of fact, last half "seven times" (lunar), i.e., 1,260 lunar years ; and the second half of the great week has been occupied by the rise, culmination, and decay of the Papal empire of Rome.
The great chronologic prophecies of Daniel are not to be measured from one special year to another, but from one era to another, because the rise and fall of nations-the great movements of history-must in the nature of the case occupy more or less extended eras. An event like the crucifixion might be and was predicted to a day. Historical movements, like the birth and death of nations, cover many years, or decades, or centuries, in proportion to their greatness and duration. The fall of Israel and Judah covered a period of 160 years, and their restoration and recovery is likely to extend over an equally prolonged period, at least. The captivity era of Israel and Judah marks the beginning of the "times of the Gentiles," and the present era of their elevation and emancipation indicates the close of that dispensation.
This great week was bisected by a third era, signalised by the rise of the two anti- Christian powers, the Papacy and Mohammedanism; and the present restoration era of the Jews is marked by the gradual decay and fall, under Divine judgments, of both these iniquitous systems.
The chronology of these events confirms most wonderfully this general view, and evidences most marvellously the hand of God in history, and the inspiration of Bible prophecy.
On both lunar and solar scales, the opening and closing eras are separated from each other by "seven times," or 2,520 years; and their years of crisis also correspond. Both are consequently separated from the bisection era by half that interval, the oft predicted "time, times, and a half," or 1,260 years.
The era of the "time of the end" is longer than the earlier eras, because the 2,520 years and its half run out on both lunar and solar scales. It seems to cover 235 years, of which about 187 are already expired. It dates back to the establishment of Protestantism in Europe, and includes all the stages of modern Jewish emancipation, of the great anti-Papal democratic French Revolution, as well as of all subsequent anti-Papal and anti-Moslem revolutions and changes. The system indicates several more dates in this century as probably critical in these movements; and several also in the early part of next century, as terminal in character.
Concurrent with the fall of the apostasies and the renaissance of the Jewish people, there has taken place within the last hundred and fifty years a most notable revival of true faith and practical godliness among the reformed Churches everywhere, so that there is now an immensely larger number of truly converted and renewed men and women in the world than ever before. There has been a revival of the spiritual Israel even more marked than that of the natural Israel; and this has been accompanied by an influential and widely spread evangelization of the heathen, and by a marvellous circulation of the Scriptures, missionary and Bible societies having all sprung into existence during this "time of the end."
An entirely unprecedented progress has also been made in the elucidation and comprehension of the prophetic Scriptures, so that a large and annually increasing number of Christians are looking for "that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
Our blessed Master, when reproving the Jews for not recognising Him as their Messiah, blamed them for not understanding the signs of the times. They wished Him to give them a sign from heaven, something wonderful, something supernatural, something miraculous. He refused and said: "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."
Did He object to their wishing for signs? No; for He gave such in abundance to His disciples and to the multitude, and He appealed to the witness borne by these signs to His Messiahship. He objected to their refusal to discern the signs that abounded on. every hand in the shape of fulfilled prophecy, chronologic and otherwise, gracious miracle, and moral and spiritual revelations. He objected to their craving for the supernatural, the sensational, instead of taking to heart the abounding signs that were actually present.
He subsequently gave signs of His second advent in glory to His disciples, and charged them, saying, "When ye see these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." After His resurrection He upbraided the two disciples on the road to Emmaus for not believing all that the prophets had spoken of the Christ - His sufferings as well as His glory. It is evident, therefore, that He wishes His people to study and comprehend prophecy, and to be alive to every true sign of the times.
Remarks on this subject are too often made, which betray a want of intelligent comprehension of the nature of the signs that are, according to Scripture, to indicate "the time of the end." A careless reading of our Lords prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives seems to be the cause of much of this misapprehension. His prediction of wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, are quoted as if they and such like things were to be the signs of the end of the age. A little accurate attention to the order of His statements would at once show that, so far from this being the case, He mentions these are the characteristic and common events of the entire interval prior to His coming. Wars and calamities, persecution and apostasy, martyrdom, treachery, abounding iniquity, gospel preaching, the fall of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of Israel, which has, as we know, extended over eighteen hundred years,-all these things were to fill the interval, not to be signs of the immediate proximity of the second advent. How could things of common, constant occurrence be in themselves signs of any uncommon and unique crisis? What commoner all through the ages than wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes? These, as marking the course of the age, can never indicate its close, to do which something distinctive is evidently requisite. Many who perceive the folly of thus looking at every great natural calamity as a sign, go to an opposite extreme, and expect wonderful, unprecedented, supernatural, and impossible signs, basing their expectations on a literal interpretation of the symbolic hieroglyphs of the Apocalypse. Such signs would be so grotesque and absurd in character, that it is an insult to human intelligence, not to say to Divine revelation, to assert that they are to be expected. There is one simple and all-sufficient answer to this childish conception of the signs of the last days. Our Lord and His apostles alike furnish the reply. Our Lord says: "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." [#Luke 18:26-30.]
And the Apostle Paul confirms this: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." [#1Thess 5:2, 3.]
If such signs as are imagined by some were to precede the advent, the state of society predicted in these passages could not by any possibility exist. If monstrous, unheard of, supernatural, portentous events were to transpire, would they not be telegraphed the same day all over a startled world, and produce such a sense of alarm and expectation that buying and selling, and planting, and building, and marrying and giving in marriage, would all be arrested together, and "peace and safety" would be far from any ones lips or thoughts ? And if one of the apocalyptic prodigies is to be thus fulfilled, all of course must be so. Conceive a succession of such supernatural prodigies, and a world asleep in fancied security, and overtaken by sudden destruction! No; there was nothing special to alarm the antediluvian before the day that Noah entered into the ark; nothing special to startle the men of Sodom ere the fire from heaven fell ; and like as it was in those days, so will it be in these. All going on just as usual, no stupendous sign to attract the worlds attention. "None of the wicked shall understand" the true state of affairs, only the "wise," enlightened by the word of prophecy.
It will be objected, perhaps, But if the signs of the times which we are expected to recognise are neither ordinary natural events, nor extraordinary unnatural ones, what are they? Scripture abundantly answers this inquiry. They are special, but perfectly natural events, occurring in a predicted order, and at a predicted time, various and widely differing events occurring in special combinations. They are not sudden, startling, supernatural phenomena, but definite stages in long progressing natural movements, whose history was written twenty-five centuries ago by Daniel.
Hear a parable! A man, wholly ignorant of the actual length of human life, is told that his existence will consist of four stages, infancy, childhood, youth, and full age, and that this fourth stage will have two sections, maturity and decay. Certain general particulars of the three earlier divisions are given to him, and much fuller particulars as to the characteristics and events of the fourth. He is told that its first portion will be marked by a certain perfection of strength and intelligence, by the ability to do great things physical and intellectual, by a power of self-multiplication and of ruling others, by the acquisition of wealth and influence, respect and honour; and that after a time a change will come, there will be manifested a loss of vigour, a failure of power, a gradually increasing feebleness, necessitating a gradually decreasing sphere of action; and moreover, that in this second stage of adult life, disease of a fatal character will be slowly developed in his system, having certain very definite symptoms, which will arise in a given order. He is told that the last symptoms which will usher in the great change will be a loss of sight, a difficulty of breathing, paralysis of the nervous system, and lastly, failure of the hearts action. He is told that when all these things come to pass he may know that a rapid and momentary passage will take him into a better stage of things. All this falls out in due order. His feeble infancy merges into a merry childhood, and that again into brilliant, glowing youth; in his early maturity the world rings with his achievements, but later years bring, as foretold, infirmity, disease, and gradual decay.
What now is the ground of the old mans conviction that his earthly existence is all but over? What forbids him, to look for recovery, or even to hope for cure? Not his own impressions or feelings; not any sudden or new pain, that may rouse him for a moment to more vivid and distressing sensation; not any freshly developed stage of his malady. None of these things, but the irresistible inference, deduced from seventy or eighty years of experience, that every part of the prediction given him must be fulfilled in its season.
If now, in addition to its other causes, that prediction had contained an anagram, which, when interpreted by the right clue, would give the chronological duration of his illness; and if by some chance the clue to the anagram came into the old mans hands, and on reading the riddle he found that it amounted to a statement that his fatal complaint would last for rather more than twelve years, he would have still clearer grounds for the conviction that his end was near. His illness had already endured for that time within a few weeks or days; he might and would still be ignorant of the day and the hour of his decease, because the exact date of the first incipient commencement of his fatal malady might not be discernible to memory. It had come on gradually and by stages, he cannot at present recall exactly how or when, he well remembers when he first sought advice about it, when he first adopted a certain mode of treatment, when it forced him to give up his business, when he was obliged to take to his bed, and when his sight began to fail; but the first beginning is not so easily fixed. Still, he knows it was about twelve years ago; and the time, taken in conjunction with all the other features of the case, settles the question. But he has yet further confirmation, for the prediction had announced that immediately before his dissolution his first-born son, a prodigal who had forsaken his fathers house in the days of his youth, and who had been ever since a lost wanderer, would return to his home. Now already, after years of silence and oblivion, he has heard from that prodigal. His first letter was from New Zealand, and spoke of his return. The second arrived from Ceylon, the third from Aden; once more he wrote from Port Said, and then from Malta, and his last letter had been dated from Southampton. He had reached England, he had got so far on his way home, he might be expected at any hour. The old man says to himself, " It has all come true; I shall breathe my last in his embrace."
If now a friend said to him: "Perhaps you are mistaken: you had often thought yourself dying before. Do you not remember how, soon after your illness began, you used to think you were very near the end, and how again and again you have formed wrong anticipations, that have been falsified by the events? Your symptoms are not much worse than they have been for years; you may rally yet and live on "-what would the old man reply? "True, I did some time since prematurely anticipate the close, but that was before I clearly deciphered that anagram which limits this illness of mine to twelve years. You know I have already been ill about twelve years; besides, hearken! are not those the footsteps of my long lost son?"
Now what are the grounds of that old mans conviction? They are deduced from the long course of bygone events, compared with present ones-events which had all been predicted to him in the order in which they had occurred.
The four stages of life had come in their turn, they had borne precisely the characteristics attributed to them. The last, as indicated beforehand, had proved to be by far the most important of the four; not only longer than all the others put together, but amazingly more influential over the then existing generation, and over generations yet to come. The disease and decay of its latter portion had insidiously invaded his constitution as predicted; every symptom of the illness had been clearly marked and developed in the predicted succession. It had now run a course of rather more than twelve years, and every present indication presaged an early dissolution; and, lo! the prodigal, who had seemed so hopelessly lost, returns! Somewhat similar in character are the signs of these times, the signs of the fast approaching "end of the age." Of this nature is the evidence which compels us to conclude that we are on the eve of the great and long-predicted change. There is nothing supernatural, nor will there be, nothing extraordinary, nor will there be, until the epiphany of the Son of man in glory startles a sleeping world as a thief in the night. Each of time signs taken separately and singly, or occurring in any other connexion, or at any other time, might argue nothing remarkable; but occurring as they do, as links in a predicted series, as the closing stages in a long movement, and at the precise periods indicated twenty-five centuries ago, they become to "the wise" clear signs that the end of the present state of things is at hand. To the world they seem, as they are in themselves, perfectly natural and ordinary events, easily to be accounted for by second causes, and having about them no special providential character or evidential value as signs of the approaching end; but to the understanding they portend the near approach of "that sudden destruction" which impends over guilty and Christ-rejecting world, and over a corrupt and apostate Church, as well as the glorious deliverance speedily to arise to the true people of God. Yet there is nothing in them to interrupt the worlds dream of "peace and safety," or to disturb the scoffers conviction that "all things continue as they were."
A little reflection will show that we have six separate and distinct sets of signs, each sufficient by and of itself alone to indicate that we are on the verge of the establishment on earth of the eternal kingdom of the Son of man-that eternal reign of righteousness and peace, of which the millennial sabbath is only the portal and introduction. We have:
I. Political signs. II. Ecclesiastical signs. III. Jewish signs. IV. Mohammedan signs. V. General social signs. VI. Chronological signs.
I. The POLITICAL, SIGNS lie in the wonderful fulfilment of the broad outline of Gentile history given by Daniel twenty-five centuries ago, in the succession, order, and events of the four great empires. There neither is nor can be the slightest doubt in the mind of any educated man, that in that part of the world in which the people of God, natural and spiritual, have existed, and in which the redemption of mankind has been wrought, four great universal empires have succeeded each other since Daniels day, nor that the fourth has been in every sense the greatest of them all.
ROME, the city which gives its name to the fourth, was in Daniels day a mere cluster of huts, surrounded by a wall of mud, and inhabited by a handful of discontented and turbulent outlaws. Its existence was unnoticed and unknown beyond the limited sphere of the barbarous tribes of its own neighbours in Italy. Yet its matchless might and dominion, its iron like strength and power, its universal and long-lived empire, are foreseen and foretold as the fourth in succession from that founded by Nebuchadnezzar. The ruins of Babylon, the monumental writings of Medo-Persia, the statues and temples and literature of Greece, are with us to this day, and we are ourselves a fraction of the empire of Rome. We ride over ROMAN roads, we visit ROMAN baths, we use the Latin tongue of ROME; ROMAN law is the basis of our jurisprudence; we are a witness to ourselves of ROMAN dominion to the ends of the earth; while the Church to which most of the continental nations still belong is the Church of ROME, and the professedly infallible teacher to whose doctrine they bow is the Pope of ROME, who claims supreme dominion to-day over two hundred millions of mankind.
Unlike the ancient oracles of an idolatrous priesthood obscure, enigmatical, and having reference only to petty present or proximate matters, these simple, sublime, far-reaching oracles of God stretch over empires and ages. They arch in under one vast, unbroken vault the infinitely numerous and ever-varying changes among nations and peoples, from Daniels day to our own, and to still future days, and comprehend the whole in one marvellously clear and simple outline, with a fourfold division.
The fourth or Roman section of the history is represented in this prophecy as divided into two parts; the first a united empire, and the second a tenfold commonwealth of kingdoms under Roman sway.
Now it is clear that the Babylonian empire passed away even in Daniels own lifetime; that the Medo-Persian fell before Alexander the Great, A.D. 330; that Greece in its turn passed under the all-embracing, all-crushing power of Rome, shortly before the first advent; that the first stage, or empire of Rome, ceased with Romulus Angustulus in the fifth century; and that the commonwealth of ten Gothic nations which then arose, and has ever since existed in the sphere of the old empire of Rome, owning for ages a voluntary subjection to the Roman pontiff, has already been in existence for between twelve and thirteen centuries. In a word, the first half of the Roman dominion ended in the fifth century, and the second, extending to the present day, has already lasted as long as the four pagan empires put together. Judging then from these broad outlines alone, whereabouts are we in the lifetime of the image of Gentile monarchy? How much of the prophetic programme remains unfulfilled? May we not feel absolutely certain that since all the foretold events, stretching over twenty-five centuries of history, have been accomplished in their time and in their order, the minute fraction that remains will be the same? How near then must be the great change? Whereabouts are we? The reply of this first witness is clearly-on the very verge of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth, at the second coming of Christ.
It should be noted that the first coming of Christ is not glanced at in the prophecies of the succession of Gentile monarchies. That coming made no change in their history at the time of its occurrence; Pagan Rome was in the plenitude of its power when that event took place, and it continued to be so for centuries afterwards. The first advent did not crush, grind to powder, and extinguish for ever Gentile monarchy, as is evident from the fact that it continues until this day. Christ Himself was put to death by Roman authority, the object of His first advent having been to save, and not to govern the world. That first advent is described in the prophecy of Daniel ix., but is not mentioned in the visions of chapters ii. and vii. It resulted in the establishment of the present spiritual kingdom of God in the hearts of men; but very different will be the results of the second advent, which it is predicted will follow on the close of this Gentile age.
"In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never he 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 for ever."
Now if no other line of evidence existed, if this grand outline of prophecy which has now become so largely fulfilled history stood alone, if we had nothing in Scripture to guide us but this one broad political outline, ought not every believer in inspiration to feel satisfied that we are living in the very end of this age? Heaven and earth shall pass away, but Gods word shall not pass away. Four empires, and four only, fill the interval from the fall to the restoration of the throne of Judah in the person of Davids Son and Davids Lord; four great universal empires, and four only, are to be governed by Gentile rulers, who resemble wild beasts in their cruel ferocity and in their ignorance of God. Four such empires, and four only, precede the coming in glory of the Son of man, and the setting up on earth of the kingdom of the God of heaven, the kingdom which is to replace all others and stand for ever. We live not only at the close of the fourth, but at the close of its last form, the Roman Papacy. Already that power has ceased to exist as a secular government. What is to come next? Scripture says the glorious kingdom of God! But there are plenty of confirmatory signs, and we will consider next the
II. ECCLESIASTICAL SIGNS. The professing Christian Church is, and has been for fifteen hundred years, that is, since the days of Constantine, a great and important institution and organization in the sphere of the old Roman empire. Germs of corruption were apparent even in the days of the apostles; inspiration foretold that they would develop, till the professing Church, on the removal of the old Roman empire, would, while retaining the name of Christ, become a mighty anti-Christian system-a system energised and utilised by Satan for his own diabolical purposes. It was foretold that this apostasy would be headed and governed by a specially evil and wicked ruling dynasty, which would succeed the Caesars at Rome. The apostles Paul and John present different but harmonious prophetic portraits of this evil power, both distinctly associating it with Rome. Daniel, in his much earlier vision relating to the succession of Gentile monarchies, also introduces (ch. vii.) this very same power as ruling throughout the whole period of the tenfold state of Rome, over its commonwealth of nations, and as causing the destruction of the whole Roman earth, by its boastings and blasphemies, at the second advent of Christ. The other Christian apostles confirm this account of the time of the destruction of the apostasy, presenting it, as Daniel does, as the terminal event of this age, an event synchronising with the marriage of the Lamb.
History tells us that gross corruption, worldly ambition, and carnal strife rapidly developed in the Church after imperial Christianity was introduced by Constantine, and that a ruling ecclesiastical system did arise at Rome on the fall of the old Roman empire in the fifth and sixth centuries; that this power, the Papal dynasty, did become a supremely wicked one; that it has fulfilled with marvellous exactitude every feature of the prediction; that like the ivy, from lowly beginnings on the ground, it climbed, by means of the very obstacles that thwarted its progress, ever higher and higher, till in the course of centuries it over-topped all the branches of the great tree of the European common-wealth, and the humble Christian bishop became, in the Roman pontiff of the middle ages, king of kings and lord of lords in Latin Christendom. It tells of the centuries during which this great Papal apostasy continued to corrupt the gospel, oppose the truth, and persecute the saints, as predicted; and it tells us that for three hundred years since the Reformation this ecclesiastical system and its head have been rapidly losing power and influence, until some 150 millions of Protestants now exist in the world, free from its domination, while an immense number of infidels have in Latin Christendom equally thrown off its yoke. After listening to and pondering the testimony of this ecclesiastical witness, we ask ourselves, If this great predicted Roman apostasy has thus arisen, culminated, and been moreover for upwards of three centuries sinking, falling, and decaying, what remains? The reply is inevitable: One more stage, and only one; its destruction as predicted, by the brightness of Christs coming. The apostasy of the Christian Church has run its course. The final act of the long drama is due. [#Dan 7:2, 26; #2Thess 1:9, 10.]
Further. If, instead of looking at the ruler of this great ecclesiastical apostasy, we look at the Church he so long ruled, the result is the same. That Church is represented as a woman riding the Roman wild beast (#Rev 17.); i.e., an ecclesiastical system identified with the secular power of Rome, influencing and guiding the tenfold commonwealth on the one hand, and upheld by it on the other. In "the time of the end" the mutual relation is changed; the ten kingdoms get tired of their burden, rebel against their would-be guide, throw off her yoke, hate her, spoil her, and consume her. At last a voice from heaven cries, "Come out of her, My people, . . . that ye receive not of her plagues"; and then adds, "Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen: one hour is her judgment come, in one hour she is made desolate."
History tells us how the Gothic and Frankish kingdoms that arose in Europe on the fall of old Rome voluntarily gave their support and allegiance to the Romish Church for well-nigh a thousand years; how as the result of her gross corruptions they ultimately came to despise, loathe, and reject her teachings, her government, and her rule; how first one and then another of them have during the last three hundred years thrown off her control, appropriated her revenues, destroyed her priesthood, despoiled her monasteries, refused her claims for support, and forsaken her company. Reviewing carefully the history of this Roman Church as foretold by inspiration, we ask, What then remains not fulfilled ? The answer comes again more clearly than ever-only her final fall under Divine judgment; that final fall of Babylon which synchronises with the marriage of the Lamb.
We summon next a third witness, who has no connexion with the two previous ones, and who looks at the question from an altogether different standpoint; and we seek to ascertain how his testimony bears on the question of "the signs of the times." He knows little of political or ecclesiastical questions, for he is a Jew; but he boldly says: "These are the last days, and I will undertake to prove it from
III.%"JEWISH Signs. Long ago, six hundred years before the Christian era, my nation lost its independence; it fell under Gentile rulers. But its fall was illumined by hope, for our restoration had been predicted a thousand years previously by the same God who had also foretold our fall. Many particulars were associated with our fall in sacred prophecy, and they all came true. Many more were associated with our restoration, and one by one they have been coming true for the last 150 years. Not a single jot or tittle has failed of the threats of judgment; all came on our people and lasted through ages. And now the promises are coming upon us; one by one they have been fulfilled, and there remain unfulfilled but one or two, and even of these we are already receiving the first instalments-the conversion of our people and their restoration to the land of promise. We cannot from our experience doubt that the day is near at hand when the throne of Judah will again be established on earth, and when Messiah, Son of David, will be King over the whole world. You need not take my word for it; judge for yourself! Compare the condition of the Jews in Europe and the wide world today, with what it was only two centuries ago! Then our portion was, and for ages had been, homeless exile, perpetually renewed banishment, cruel and constant massacre, ruthless spoliation, social contempt and degradation, destruction by torture and fire and sword; we were despised until we became despicable, oppressed until we became wicked, crushed down until we lost the power to rise, deprived of all chance of culture till we sank into almost brutal ignorance; we were enslaved and ill-treated till we hardly remembered we were men: and this for long, long centuries! Now all is changed, and our portion in most lands is as good a one as that of the Gentiles themselves. In some few countries we are still reminded of olden times occasionally, when our people by their financial dealings excite popular prejudice; but this is the exception, not the rule. Everywhere we are now emancipated, possessed of civil, social, and religious liberty, and of citizenship in all lands; we take our places in every class, even among the legislators and judges of the Gentiles; we teach their youth, we conduct their press; we enjoy honour and power, rank and wealth, and perfect equality with our Gentile neighbours. Further, we have once more AN INTERNATIONAL BOND OF UNION, and are one of the most rapidly rising, fast multiplying, vigorous, and advancing nations on earth. We can compete with Gentiles in the mart, in the study, in the senate, whenever we get fair play; and we are getting it everywhere now. Our restoration to our own land is but a question of time, and probably of a short time. If our revival, uplifting, and restoration mark the terminus of your Gentile age, then you may be very sure its years are few!
So speaks the Jewish witness, and every fact he indicates is a true sign of the times. And there is further confirmation still in connexion with the land of the Jews, as well as with their people. For eighteen centuries it has lain desolate and forsaken of its sons, occupied and oppressed by strangers, and its condition was indicated by our Lord Himself as especially a sign of the times. "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles; until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." The condition of Palestine, be it observed, is a wholly independent question to that of the state of the Jews. Since the close of the Jewish war 1,800 years ago, the Jews have had no more to do with it, practically, than the Chinese. It has passed under the power of one Gentile nation after another, and no improvement in the condition of the Jews has as yet had any direct influence on the fate of Palestine. For the last twelve centuries it has lain desolate under Mohammedan despotism and for nearly 400 years it has been wasted by Turkish tyranny. But the cruel grasp that has held it so long is fast relaxing; paralysis has smitten away its strength; the slightest effort would remove the weak and unwelcome constraint; yea, it would have failed long since had not outsiders upheld the arm and steadied the hand. It must evidently, as all admit, resign its hold ere long.
But perchance some other Gentile power may succeed the Turk? It does not follow that Jerusalem must cease to be trodden down by Gentiles, because it ceases to be trodden down by the Turk.
True; but this decay of Turkish power is represented elsewhere under the figure of the drying up of the Euphrates, and that figure points back to Cyrus capture of Babylon, when the river Euphrates was actually dried up, that Israels liberator might enter Babylon and set the captive people free. Of this Cyrus it was said, "he shall build My city; he shall let go My captives." He is a type of Christ, who is now by His providence drying up the anti-typical Euphrates-i.e. the Turkish power- that He may effect a greater deliverance.
Furthermore, facts indicate that it would be impossible permanently to replace the Turks in Jerusalem by any nation except the Jewish one. The powers of Europe would not suffer any one of themselves to possess it. When the eastern question comes to its solution, as it soon must, the probability is that the best course, even from a merely political standpoint, will be seen to be a Jewish occupation, under European guarantee, as is the case of Belgium. In any case, the condition of Jerusalem, and of the eastern question generally, seems to agree with all the rest in indicating that we have nearly reached the close of the "times of the Gentiles."
IV. MOHAMMEDAN SIGNS. This set of signs, though closely connected with the previous one, is yet to a certain extent independent, and may be regarded apart. The testimony of the Moslem witness to the chronological character of our days harmonizes with that of the other witnesses, but has distinctive and confirmatory features of its own. Not only must it be considered in connexion with the land of Israel, as above indicated, but independently as a vast anti-Christian system, parallel with the Papacy in some respects, though contrasted with it in others, having opposed the truth, and persecuted the saints, and being doomed to be "broken without hand," and to come to its end, with none to help it (#Dan 8:11).
When we remember what the Mohammedan power is and has done in the world; when we remember that the Apocalypse-which reveals, not only, like Daniel, the outward and visible action of the potentates and powers that influence the destiny of myriads of mankind for many generations, but goes further and shows their origin, whether from above or beneath-distinctly declares that this system, like the Papal system, originated with SATAN, and issued from the bottomless pit; when we remember that its sway at one time extended from the walls of China to the Atlantic, and from the Danube to the Nile; when we remember that it well nigh extinguished Christianity throughout the whole of northern Africa, and cruelly persecuted it in all the rest of its dominions; when we remember that one hundred and fifty millions of men are still believers in its Christ-rejecting creed, and that millions more of nominal Christians are still the victims of its oppressions and cruelties: then its present and rapidly progressing decay, and the consequent gradual liberation of its Jewish and Christian victims, and the near prospect of its total extinction in Europe, become "a sign of the times," gigantic in its importance, and carrying a weight which a thousand brief and passing signs could never do.
Every fresh stage in its fall is a confirmatory sign, as is every fresh manifestation of the decay of the Papal nations, and of time increasing spread and ascendency of the Protestant powers.
V. GENERAL SOCIAL SIGNS. But confirming all these great and principal signs, derived from the history of nations and the course of ages, we have also more specific ones of a different nature: such as the moral character both of the Church and of the world in the days in which we live; the prevalent philosophy of this time of the end; the inventions and arts of this nineteenth century, with its habits and customs ;-foretold, some of them eighteen, and some of them twenty-five centuries ago. As these are more frequently recognised as signs of the time than the others to which we have alluded, we do not dwell on them at any length here, though to reflecting minds their testimony is clear and conclusive.
In #1Tim 4:1-3 we have a prophecy of Pauls of "the latter times," an expression which may refer to any part of the second half of the times of the Gentiles, though it is never used with regard to the first half. Paul in this passage describes the characteristic features of the Papal apostasy, which deluged Europe with superstition during the middle ages.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats."
In 2 Timothy Paul predicts later events still, the perilous times of "the last days," an expression markedly distinct from the previous "latter times."
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high- minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
Now while certain of the features here enumerated are evidently not peculiar nor distinctive of any one special period of history, yet a high state of civilization has a tendency to produce, not exaggerated individual cases, but a general prevalence of selfishness, pride, luxury, and corruption. The old Roman civilization, with which Paul was acquainted in the city of the Caesars, was not certainly lacking in individual instances of these things, though it had also features of a very different character. But there were to intervene between those early days and "the last times" long ages of semi-barbarism, during which all that old civilization would cease to be-ages which would be distinguished by other crimes, and especially by superstition and by a Christianized idolatry. But "the last days" were to witness the revival of the crimes incident to high civilization, with certain special classes of sins super-added. Boasters, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, despisers of those that are good, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, and especially "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," "ever learning, and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." That these features are all singularly characteristic of the nineteenth century none can question. Its latest and most popular philosophy is agnosticism,-a confession that after all its vast and far- reaching discoveries, after all its profound researches, it is unable to reach any knowledge of the truth on the highest of all subjects. Agnosticism is simply know- nothing-ism. It is more: it is not only an assertion that nothing is known, but that nothing can be known; it puts an extinguisher on even the attempt to know Him, whom to know is life eternal. Our age has "a form of godliness," a Christian Church is established in most of the states of Latin Christendom, and is sustained by the different powers of Europe; but where is the power to maintain purity in the Churches, or righteousness in the laws of Christendom? Where is the power to arrest war and bloodshed, rapine and slaughter? Where is the power to subject the counsels of nations to time law and will of God, to produce in society any sort of resemblance to the kingdom of God? The religion of these last days has well been called a baptized heathenism; it is Christian in creed, but too often heathen in practice.
Another feature of the philosophy of these last days is given by Peter, and is singularly characteristic of our times.
"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."
As Darwin, esteemed by many, the apostle of the nineteenth century, puts it: "All things continue as they were since the beginning of the creation; there is no need for miraculous intervention, no room for supernatural action. We live under a reign of law; as it was in the beginning, so it is now, and so it ever shall be as regards the succession of physical phenomena. One form of life is evolved out of another in endless succession; in physical, mental, moral, and religious spheres, all things continue as they were," or rather, change so slowly and gradually, that no sudden catastrophe need ever be apprehended; on the contrary, "we may count on an assured future of great length." Such is the fashionable creed, such the universal doctrine. But its teachers are, as time apostle states, "willingly ignorant" that all things have not continued in one long, uninterrupted succession, They are willingly ignorant of the all-important fact that a flood once broke in on ungodly men, and "took them all away." They are willingly ignorant that the invariable law of death has been conquered by the glorious fact of resurrection. If the combined voices of the most universal and ancient traditions and of the most authentic and well attested history demand credence for any fact, they demand credence for these two; and these two facts once admitted, Divine intervention-the control of the law by the Lawgiver -is demonstrated, and the occurrence of such a crisis as is predicted in Scripture is seen to be not only possible, but in the light of analogy likely. If what is called the course of nature has been interfered with in the past, it may be again interfered with in the future, and in the near future.
Daniels prophecies also, though dealing principally with the course of nations and the lapse of ages, give us two or three general social signs of the state of things at the close of this age, and it cannot be denied that these apply to the nineteenth century as to no previous one. He does not say the power of steam will be applied to locomotion, and the art of travel will be revolutionised; but, looking at the result, rather than the cause, he mentions in half a dozen simple words the most characteristic feature of the nineteenth century-"many shall run to and fro." Now to an eye that could embrace in one glance the civilized world, all its seas and all its shores, all its roads and all its rivers, all its towns and its cities, what would be the first and strongest impression produced on considering the scene? Surely that of ceaseless motion; many running to and fro, like ants around an anthill.
Innumerable travellers cross and recross each others paths, not creeping or crawling, but rapidly running in every direction; trains flying with amazing speed by day and by night all over the land; steamers, crowded with hundreds and even thousands of passengers, traversing every sea and every ocean; huge floating hotels, thronged with guests, plying in multitudes on the great rivers of the great continents; railroads, level, elevated, and underground, passing over and under each other in the million-peopled cities of different countries; the whole scene swarming with men and women in motion: many running to and fro! No previous age of the worlds history could have presented this spectacle; it is unique, it is becoming ever more marked, as year by year hundreds of miles of fresh railroads open up new districts, and as population and emigration increase, and as commerce spreads. Ten thousand persons travel now where one travelled formerly; even ladies and children think little of circumnavigating the globe for pleasure. There is no unmistaking this sign of the time of the end; it is distinctive, and so conspicuous and unprecedented as to be a subject of constant comment. How few, as they point to it with pride and pleasure, remember it is a Divine mark of the time of the end, and associated with the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead!
Nor is the second prediction less remarkable and distinctive, "Knowledge shall be increased." Education in most of the countries of Christendom is now compulsory, and the result is that every child can read, on the one hand, while literature floods every home, on the other. All that is going on all the world over is known by the masses of the people as well as by their rulers day by day. The news of events transpiring in India and Australia is published in London before the hour of the events arrives, for telegraphic messages travel faster than the sun! Every discovery is immediately published throughout the earth, popularized and turned to universal account. The higher education, unattainable to saint or sage, king or conqueror in the earlier ages, is now at the service of the common people; and an intelligent English schoolboy in these days knows more of the elements of true science, of the system of the universe, of the laws of matter, of the past and present condition of the globe on which he lives, than did the wisest philosophers of the olden time. As "knowledge is power," the result is, that nature with her mighty forces is every year becoming increasingly the helper and the friend of man, to the rapid increase of the physical well-being of the race. The knowledge of these days is real knowledge, an acquaintance with the facts and forces of nature, a rediscovery of the records of the past, and, above all, an immensely widespread acquaintance on the part of mankind with "the volume of the book," containing that Divine revelation which imparts the highest of all knowledge, the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Brief was the Bible of Daniels day, and few were the copies of it! Yet only where it had enlightened the minds of men did any true moral or spiritual knowledge exist. Age after age elapsed, and the New Testament was added to the old. But how few comparatively were still the copies!
And owing to the uneducated condition of the masses, how few could study the copies that did exist In the dark ages the Bible might almost as well not have existed, so little were its glorious revelations understood. And there followed ages when to read and study it brought torture and death, and when, alas! editions were printed to be burned. Only since the Reformation has the world really possessed the book, and only within the last century have Bible societies existed to multiply versions and editions, and to distribute by millions all over the world this king of books. The increase of knowledge which has resulted is almost inconceivable. It has rendered it difficult for us to realize the ignorance of other ages. The increase of knowledge is not to be measured by the amount of light possessed by individuals only, but still more by the number of individuals enlightened. The universality of education, and the marvellous results of the combination of steam power with the mechanical ingenuity that has perfected the printing press, has filled with the light of knowledge the whole civilized world, in a way and to a degree that is absolutely peculiar to the nineteenth century, and especially to its second half.
If this expression, "knowledge shall be increased," be taken as referring especially to a knowledge of the meaning of the prophetic Scriptures (a signification which its context quite justifies) then also it is characteristic of these days, and of these alone. The early Fathers understood the predictions about the second coming of Christ, but they were inevitably in the dark, as indeed they were intended to be, as to the meaning of the prophecies about antichrist, and the events of the second half of the times of the Gentiles. Light dawned gradually after history began to fulfil the predictions; each stage of accomplishment has made the meaning of the prophecies clearer, and since the Reformation progress in a true knowledge of their meaning has been solid and rapid. Now, in the close of this "time of the end," the clouds of obscurity have completely rolled away; the whole plan and order of events, the succession of empires, the limits of chronology, the scales of measurement, the nature of fulfilments, all have become, in the combined light of facts and of analogies, so clear, that he who runs may read; and the fulfilment of ancient Messianic predictions in the first advent of Christ is scarcely more clear than the fulfilment of the predictions of antichrist in the history of the Papacy, and those of the incipient restoration of Israel in current events.
VI. CHRONOLOGICAL SIGNS. As our long section on the chronology of the "times of the Gentiles" and of the sanctuary cycle and other periods has gone very fully into the chronological character of the days in which we live, we need not dwell on it here further than to recall in a very few sentences the multiplied signs of our times derivable from this source. Though the impressions of multiplicity and complexity may to some extent be left on the mind by the perusal of our chronological section, it is possible nevertheless to gain a very simple and comprehensive view on the subject. Sacred prophecy presents us with only four main periods, extending into days still future; all these four, starting from different and widely severed dates in the past, converge in our days, indicating thus that they are the last days of this age.
The four periods are:
1. The twenty-five centuries of the "times of the Gentiles."
2. The twenty-three centuries of the sanctuary cycle.
3. The twelve and a half centuries of the duration of the apostasies.
4. The 360 years or less from the Reformation era.
The initial eras of these periods are perfectly clear. Time first dates from the Babylonian captivity era; the second, from the Persian restoration era; the third, from what we may call the Gothic era of the breaking up of the old Roman empire; and the last from the Reformation era of the sixteenth century. No one will question that the days of Nebuchadnezzar are removed by twenty-five centuries from the present time, nor that the days of Xerxes and Artaxerxes are similarly removed by twenty-three centuries. No one can question that the Papal and Mohammedan powers rose at the end of the sixth century, which is twelve and a half centuries distant from our days; nor that the Reformation took place in the beginning of the sixteenth century, while we are living at the end of the nineteenth: in other words, that a "time" has already elapsed since its first stages, and will soon have done so since its last. Without descending therefore to any detail at all, it is plain to the most superficial observer, that all the four main periods of chronologic prophecy converge in our days and expire within a comparatively few years.
We have seen that the testimony of this broad, superficial view of the subject is only confirmed by a more close and accurate examination; that all these periods have earlier and later dates of close, according to whether they are measured from the earliest point in their respective commencing eras or from the latest, and according to the scale on which they are measured; and that while incipient stages of the closing movements are reached at the earlier terminations, the final ones seem destined to bring the full close. The God of providence and Author of inspiration has seen fit to assign chronological limits to historical episodes, as much as to day and night, cycle and season; He who adjusts the axial and orbital revolutions of the globe to harmonize with the physical requirements of nature and of man, has in His wisdom and goodness adjusted also the revolutions and changes of history, the duration of empires and of kingdoms, the birth of new eras and the dates of closing revolutions, within a view to the moral and spiritual good of the human race, and the manifestation of His own glory. Further, He has been pleased to reveal His chronological purposes as well as His moral purposes, and to make plain to His people in these days the fact that in those eternal counsels "the mystery of God" is well nigh finished, and the manifestation of His kingdom at hand.