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God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dung-hill.” It was a glo. rious triumph over the powers of darkness.
The prophecies of Daniel are the most magnificent and ex'tensive of any which were ever delivered. They chiefly re. spect the rise and fall of the four great monarchies of the world, which were to be succeeded by that kingdom which should not be destroyed. They furnish a striking exhibition of the power and destruction of Antichrist, and distinctly assure men of a general resurrection to a life of everlasting shame, or everlasting blessedness. Before him was the map of divine provi. dence; and with such accuracy did he delineate future events, that Porphyry, a bitter enemy of Christianity, could only main. tain his cause by the assertion that his prophecies were written after the events had occurred.
His first prophecy was contained in his explanation of Nebu. chadnezzar's dream. This mighty monarch beheld in vision, a great image, whose head was of fine gold; whose breast and arms were of silver; whose belly and thighs were of brass; whose legs were of iron, and whose feet were part of iron and part of clay. He saw, till a stone was cut out without hands, which smoi? and destroyed the image, and became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. In his explanation, Daniel showed that the head of gold represented the Babyloni. ar empire, which was renowned for its riches; the breast and arms of silver, the Persian empire ; the belly and thighs of brass, the Macedonian empire, which under Alexander, ruled the whole earth; and the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay, the Roman empire, which was stronger than any that had gone before it, but which was composed of a mixture of all nations and which therefore was partly strong and parıly weak. Having thus clearly pointed out these four great empires, he uttered an illustrious prediction of the kingdom of Christ which the God of heaven should set up, and which, imagined by the stone, should break all these kingdoms to pieces, and stand for
Forty-eight years after, the same things were revealed to Daniel, and by him to the Church, under the similitude of wild beasts. By a lion, who shadowed out to him the Babylonian empire; by a bear, the Medo-Persian ; by a leopard, with four heads, the Macedonian, which, after the death of Alexander, was divided into four kingdoms; and by a beast which was dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and which had great iron teeth, and ten horns, the Roman, which should be
divided into ten kingdoms. While he was considering, a little horn arose, in which were eyes like the eyes of 'a man, and a mouth speaking great things, shadowing forth the Man of sin, the papal hierarchy ; which should speak great things against the Most High and wear out the saints. To this suc. ceeded a most sublime view of the universal reign of Christ, and of the coming of the ancient of days to judgment. “Thou. sand thousands ministering unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him ; the judgment was set and the books were opened.”
Besides these Daniel had other visions of the events of na. tions which have long since been realized, and of some, proba. bly which are yet to come to pass; but there is one class of his prophecies peculiarly interesting to the Church. By Ga. briel was revealed to him, with great exactness, the time when Messiah, the prince, should appear. “Seventy weeks,” said he “are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision of prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that, from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the prince, shall be seven weeks and three score and two weeks. And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.” A day, in prophetic language, is a year. The period predicted therefore, was 490 years from the commission given to Ezra by Artaxerxes, to the crucifixion of Christ; or 434 years from the completion of the second temple; which was exactly ful. filled. With the like accuracy also, did this prophet predict the duration of the Man of sin and the reign of the prince of dark. ness ; whịch will be fully seen, when the kingdom, and the do. minion, and the greatness of the kingdom, shall be given to the saints of the Most High.
What a view had this prophet of events in the womb of time! How clearly manifest it is that “known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world ; that he works by a fixed plan, that he determines the end from the beginning; and that, while man is perfectly free and pursues his own pleasure, God sits on the throne accomplishing, in his own time and way, and through the instrumentality of man, his glorious pur. poses. Well might Daniel exclaim in prospect, and we, in the fulfilment of these purposes,
“Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his. And he chan.
geth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings; he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding. He revealeth the deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness and light dwelleth with him.”
In the land of bondage the Church might have been left to perish, but God was with her; and when the time for her deliverance had come, so clearly and fully predicted by his prophets, He provided means for its accomplishment. One hundred and fifty years before, he had declared by Isaiah, that he would raise up Cyrus, who should deliver this people.*
In the ordinary course of human events, this distinguished man came to the height of power. He was the son of Cambyses, the king of Persia ; and as he advanced in life, became an eminent warrior. In conjunction with his uncle Darius the Mede, he besieged Babylon. But it was a city of amazing strength, and its conquest appeared beyond the power of man. Under its walls and through the centre of the city, ran the Euphrates. This had once been turned into a vast lake, exca. vated for its reception, while a passage could be made under its bed to unite two palaces, which stood on its opposite banks. Cyrus resolved to break down the embankment which had been formed, turn the water into the old excavation, and march into the city in the dry bed of the river.
Having fixed his plan, he determined to prosecute it on a night when Belshazzar and all his court were engaged in riot! ing. This Belshazzar was one of the most impious princes
who had filled the throne. That night he drank from the gold and silver vessels which were taken out of the Temple at Jerusalem, he and his lords, and his concubines, making a mock of the God of heaven. For such impiety Jehovah awfully chastised him. For he caused an hand to appear and write on the wall. At beholding it, fear and astonishment seized the king, and he called his magicians, and diviners, and astrologers, but none could read the writing. Daniel, the prophet, was instantly summoned, and he read, “ MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, giving the interpretation “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balance and found wantirg. Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
No sooner was the warning given, than Darius and Cyrus entered the city, and Belshazzar was slain. Thus ended
* Isaiah xlv. 1.
the Babylonian empire. Thus was destroyed the golden head of Nebuchadnezzar's image, 539 years B. C. and thus were fulfilled the many prophecies which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Daniel had delivered against it.
Of the new kingdom of the Medes and Persians, the arms and breast of the great image, Daniel was niade prime minis. ter. His exaltation excited the envy of the presidents and princes; and, when they could find nothing against him, they artfully laid a plan to destroy him for his religion. To the great grief of Darius, he was cast into the den of lions because he would go to his chamber, and three times a day pray to the God of heaven. But God shut the mouths of the lions and he was brought out in safety. His enemies were destroyed and his influence at court was greater than ever.
In a few years Cyrus succeeded to the throne. Daniel had carefully computed the seventy years of Judah's captivity predicted by Jeremiah, and had made earnest supplication unto the Lord that he would remember his people. He showed the king, we have reason to suppose, the predictions of Isaiah re. specting him and the purpose, for which God had raised him up, and earnestly interceded with him to effect the deliverance on which his heart was placed. The king's heart was in the hands of the Lord, and He excited that heathen prince to make this wonderful proclamation, “ The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people, his God be with him and let him go up to Jerusalem.”
Atheists ascribe all things to chance, and earthly politicians glory in developing the secret springs of actions, but the Bible shows us an Almighty Governor sitting on the throne of the universe and wielding the destinies of nations at his pleasure. Nothing is of so much consequence in the eyes of men as a vast, splendid and powerful empire. But the mightiest king . doms are raised
up and destroyed in entire subserviency to the good of the Church. The whole history of the world is but a history of the divine decrees. Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, was raised up to be a furnace for the Church ; and when she was sufficiently purified, Babylon was destroyedthat the Church might not perish in bondage. Her deliverer was predicted ages before his birth, and was conducted to princely power by the hand of God. His acquaintance with the Israelites and the divine purposes was through the eminent prophet who had been miraculously, preserved from death. How awful and glorious is the sovereignty
RETURN FROM CAPTIVITY.
of God! He called the ravenous bird from the east to execute vengeance upon Babylon, and deliver his people. How weak and contemptible are they who fancy they control the affairs of nations! “Surely the princes of Zoan are fools.” The balance of power is in his hands who weigheth kings and nations.
Forty-two thousand people, chiefly of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with seven thousand servants, returned the first year, under Zerubbabel, to the holy land ; 535 B. C. Though of two tribes, they were blended together under the name of Jews—an appellation which they have from that day to this sus
tained. They carried with them all the golden vessels belong: ing to the Temple, which Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged. After : providing themselves suitable habitations, they assembled at Je.
rusalem; celebrated the feast of trumpets ; restored the altar of the Lord for burnt offerings, and commenced rebuilding the Temple. But they soon met with a powerful opposition from the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were a people who were brought by Shal. maneser, when he carried the ten tribes out of their own land, from Babylon, from Cuthah, from Ava, from Hameth, and from Sepharvaim, and made to dwell in the desolate cities of Samaria. These foreigners intermingled with the lower classes of the Israelites, who remained in the land, and formed a mongrel race, claiming connexion with the Jews and Heathen. Being harrassed by lions, they sought protection from Jehovah, the God of the country, and obtained from an exiled Hebrew priest, a copy of the five books of Moses.*
Hearing of the return and undertaking of the Jews, this people came and offered to unite with them; but as they were not of the children of Israel, would not put away their idols, and cared but little about the true religion, the Hebrews would have no connexion with them; which so enraged the Samaritans, that they opposed them with bitterness, bribed some of the counsellors of Cyrus to act against them, and for many years, greatly retarded their work." And when Cyrus and Daniel were dead
* This being the most ancient copy of the Pentateuch, has been consi dered of great importance in relation to biblical criticism. It differs in about two thousand instances from the Jewish copy. But it has been shown in a late learned work of Gesenius, that the Jewish is the original copy, and that all the variations of the Samaritan may be easily account. ed for. The Samaritans are now reduced to less than 200 persons. They
reside at Neplos, the ancient Sychar or Sychem. The Samaritan is the s original Hebrew character.