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REVIEW OF AN INQUIRY INTO THE GROUNDS ON WHICH
THE PROPHETIC PERIOD OF DANIEL AND ST. JOHN HAS
We did not calculate upon any necessity arising for our noticing these two publications. Not that we thought the inquiry they prosecute unimportant; but the manner in which it is here conducted appeared to us so very loose and inaccurate as scarcely ever to come fairly in contact with the interpretation it combats; while the arguments it advances appeared to us so contradictory as to need nothing more than the plain common sense of ordinary readers to detect their fallacy; rendering any formal exposure of them a work of supererogation. But we have since been informed that others are not of the same opinion; and that many think the arguments of these pamphlets very plausible, and many more are unsettled by them in points which they had before considered as well established. On these accounts a brief exposure of the confusion of mind in which this hypothesis (or negation of hypothesis) has originated, may be seasonable and profitable. Mr. Maitland writes with a most praise-worthy calmness and temper, which prepossess us in favour of his arguments, and unconsciously lead us to expect from such a man the most patient and judicious examination of whatever subject he treats, preparing us to follow with confidence so calm and prudent a leader. This, his moderation and temper, we would endeavour to imitate; and if in the course of our remarks we expose any part of Mr. Maitland's argument with a degree of warmth which seems to overstep this moderation, we beg that it may be attributed to our zeal for the truths which Mr. Maitland assails: and we shall confine ourselves to that severity which consists in exposing the weakness of his arguments; for it is with the book alone we have to do: Mr. Maitland himself we have not even seen, and have never heard him spoken of except in terms which entitle him to every respect from us. But we shall have occasion to shew that these publications are a sort of literary curiosity : for, while their perusal impresses upon our mind the perfect conviction that the author was quite sincere and pains-taking, their attentive consideration obliges us to say, that we have never met with any books of the kind containing so large a portion of inaccurate reasoning and hasty assumption; or so many marks of carelessness, both in consulting Scripture and in applying it for the purpose of illustration. These are grave charges, but we shall be able to substantiate them from the first three pages of the “ Second Inquiry.”
Mr. Maitland begins his Second Inquiry with a quotation from Mr. Irving's Preface to Ben Ezra, p. xxix. as follows: “Now I am not ignorant that there are amongst ourselves men who doubt and disbelieve the interpretation which almost all Protestants give to this period, as containing a term of 1260 years; and that of late a pamphlet has been written by a very worthy clergyman of the Church of England to this effect; but really I have thought this matter so completely set at rest by Mede and Henry More, and the common consent of those who have written since, as not to need any demonstration. And it is manifest, that if in emblematical visions, such as those of Daniel and the Apocalypse, you will interpret the periods literally, you may as well interpret the other parts literally, and insist upon
literal beasts of the character there set forth, and a literal throne, and so of the rest, which no one will be so foolish as to require.” On this Mr. Maitland remarks: “ I may be foolish (for such is the misfortune of many 'very worthy' persons), but I must avow that I do interpret the other parts literally, and insist upon literal beasts of the character there set forth, and a literal throne, and so of the rest; and, as far as I can find, most commentators (with Mr. Irving himself I suspect) do the same.”—This passage in Mr. Maitland's book really filled us with astonishment; and even now that we are transcribing it, we again marvel how any educated man should so blunder, as first to mistake the meaning of Mr. Irving's very clear words, and then either not to know his own meaning, or to express himself so as to convey to his readers what we know he could not have meant! Mr. Irving is speaking, not of the symbols which Daniel saw, but of their meaning ; not of vision, but of interpretation: “If you will interpret the periods literally, you may as well interpret the other parts literally.”. He means (though we are ashamed of being obliged to explain what is already so plain), that, as the times are inserted to give the period of the symbolical beasts of the vision, you must either understand both literally, or both symbolically: and that, if you will insist upon transferring the literal days unchanged into the fulfilment of the prophecy, and make the sanctuary trodden under foot for these literal days, you must also, in consistency, keep the beasts also literal in the fulfilment; and so have a literal goat for the king of Grecia, and a literal ram for the king of Media and Persia! This folly, to which Mr. Maitland has pleaded guilty, we do not impute to him; for he says, page 3, “ I know that the goat which Daniel saw was a type, or emblem, of the king of Grecia :" but such an egregious mistake of Mr. Irving's meaning, and of the sense which his own words convey, demonstrates as great a disqualification for conducting an argument, or for correcting others, as the very folly which his avowal implies.
The carelessness with which Mr. Maitland consults Scripture may be shewn from this same page 3, where we find him writing, “ Undoubtedly the beasts which Daniel saw were emblematical, but nothing can be more literal than the language in which he has described them : let it only be admitted (and I cannot conceive why it should not), that by the word day he means day, as much as by the word goat he means goat, and all further argument on my part would be needless." "Here our astonishment again rose ; for the beasts are described in Daniel's own words, as he saw them ; but the times (“ evenings and mornings”) are the words of the mysterious "saint,” (Palmoni) “ the wonderful numberer, the revealer of secrets. So that in this
passage of Mr. Maitland we have not only the former confusion of literal times and emblematical beasts, but the words of the angel are imputed to Daniel. Mr. Maitland's argument stands thus: Daniel describes emblematical beasts in literal language-the angel spake of certain evenings and mornings: but Daniel describes the beasts in literal language; therefore the angel's evenings and mornings are literal days!!! Or, to put it in Mr. Maitland's own words, “ The beasts were emblematical, but nothing can be more literal than the language in which he (Daniel) has described them ; let it only be admitted that by the word day he (the angel) means day (i.e. literal day of twenty-four hours), as much as by the word goat he (Daniel) means goat, (i.e. not literal goat, but the symbol of Alexander), and all further argument on my part would be needless !!! The fallacy, we see, lies in changing the emblem or type, while he retains the period unchanged, merely because it is given in words. But, to shew the full length of absurdity to which this mistake might be carried, let us take another symbolical vision—that of Peter, for instance (Acts x. 11). Peter sees a great sheet descending, wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts, &c. and there came a voice to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' Now here we might say, with Mr. Maitland, is an emblematical vision, but nothing can be more literal than the language in which he has described it:" let it only be granted that the words Peter hears are to be understood as literally as those in which he has described the vision, and we shall have a command given ; “Rise, Peter; kill and eat Cornelius and the other Gentiles.”
On the use which Mr. Maitland makes of other parts of Scripture, it may suffice to refer to the First Inquiry, p. 5, where he says, “The seventy weeks, which I do not deny to have been proved by the event to be weeks of
“ Yet it seems to me
we cannot possibly assume this : and I have considerable doubt whether any person ignorant of the fulfilment of the prophecy, and conversant with the Hebrew Bible only, would take it for granted that the Prophet was speaking of weeks of days.” And, after some quotations, p.7, "Taking these circumstances into consideration, I submit that we should not naturally expect a Hebrew writer to express a period of four hundred and ninety days by seventy weeks, and should consider it as somewhat singular if he had done so.” This seems to us one of the strongest instances of pertinacious adherence to theory that we have ever met with. Mr. Maitland confesses that the fulfilment of this prophecy is the very reverse of what his theory requires, and yet maintains his theory to be good! And, so far from abandoning his theory, when thus falsified, Mr. Maitland maintains that the prophecy ought to have been differently expressed, and that it
somewhat singular" in its present form! Were we not convinced that Mr. Maitland is a pious, well-meaning man, this passage would call forth our severest reprehension : for what is it but saying, that a prophecy dictated by the Holy Spirit, and to which, by Mr. Maitland's own confession, the Holy Spirit has set his seal in the fulfilment, ought, in the opinion of a poor fallible man, to have been either differently expressed or differently accomplished ? And it is a clergyman of our own church who has had the hardihood to give utterance to such a sentiment !-But we forbear, being persuaded that Mr. M. did not perceive the awful conclusions to which his mode of conducting the argument necessarily leads.
We had noted several other passages deserving exposure; but we are weary of the task; and as we think these will suffice, we pass on at once to the refutation of Mr. Maitland's hypothesis. He rests the chief strength of his argument on the supposed noveltyof interpreting days as years; bringing it forward repeatedly, and asking one of his opponents triumphantly, p. 35, "Can he mention a writer, from the days of St. Paul to those of Wickliffe, who has maintained that days stand for years, either in symbolical prophecies or in any other part of Scripture?” And again, p. 77, “Familiarly as even the most superficial readers have now learned to talk of the prophetic style? of a day for a year, I believe that any such interpretation of the prophetic period of Daniel (or of any other period) was altogether unknown by the Jewish church before the Christian era, by the Apostles of our Lord, by the primitive church, by the Fathers : in short, that no man ever thought of interpreting the days mystically, or that any period of twelve hundred and sixty years was marked out during (to say the very least) the first twelve centuries of Christianity.”—Let him that casts a stone at another, be sure that he himself is without sin. Mr. Maitland has reprehended Mr. Frere for making a general assertion like the above; saying, p. 149, “I cannot help wishing, that, on points which almost preclude the possibility of certain knowledge, writers would use more measured language. I do not believe that Mr. Frere meant to
what was false; but certainly he stated what it is scarcely possible that he should know to be true.” This reproof to Mr. Frere we retort upon Mr. Maitland. But we do more : Mr. Maitland has not brought forward any examples in justification of his reproof; we produce the following in vindication of our retort. Ambrose is unexceptionable authority against Mr. Maitland. On Rev.xi. he says, p. 3083 : “Possumus per tres dies et dimidium, tres annos et semis intelligere.” (“By three days and a half, we may understand three years and a half.”) And again, on Rev. xii. p. 3090 : “ Per tempus vero, et tempora, et dimidium temporis, tempus a passione Christi usque ad finem-mundi designatur.” (“ But by time, times, and dividing of time, is designated the time from the death of Christ even to the end of the world.”) How Jerome interpreted the three days and a half we know not; but all the early
copies of the Vulgate have a very concise interlineary gloss, which, if not Jerome's, is very old: this gloss, over the three days and a half, writes, “ tres annos et dimidium” (“three years and a half”). Nic. de Lyra's Postilla were written more than two centuries before the Reformation; and it says, on Rev. xi., “Hic accipitur dies pro anno: secundum illud Ezek. iv. 'Diem pro anno dedi tibi.' (“Here a day is taken for a year: according to that in Ezek. iv. I have appointed thee a day for a year.'”) And on Dan. xii., “Non determinatur quod illi xlv. dies sint usuales, vel annales secundum illud Ezek. iv. Diem pro anno dedi tibi.” (“. It is not determined whether these fortyfive be ordinary days, or days of years, according to Ezek. iv.,
I have appointed thee a day for a year.'') These few passages sufficiently refute Mr. Maitland, and we doubt not he
may find many more, if he search.
But we now, in our turn, beg to ask Mr. Maitland, “Can he mention a writer, from the days of St. Paul to those of Wickliffe, who has maintained that three days and a half are to be interpreted literal days? Ifhe cannot, as we think it will prove, his whole hypothesis is subverted by the following simple argument. Mr. Maitland, in fairness and consistency, grants that all the times mentioned in the Apocalypse must follow one and the same general rule of interpretation; and he argues at some length,p. 26, that the dead bodies of the witnesses (Rev. xi. 11) shall lie unburied three literal days and a half. Now we request Mr. Maitland for one man tells us it is twelve hours, another tells us it is six But if we, as Englishmen, are at some loss in answering the
vol. 1,-NO. II.