Home > Book of Revelation, Daniel's 70 Weeks, Literalism, The 3 ½ years > T. R. Birks on the time periods of prophecy 3

T. R. Birks on the time periods of prophecy 3

July 11, 2011

1 2 3 4

T. R. Birks’ discussion of the time periods of prophecy (part 3 of 4) continues below.

Thomas Rawson Birks, 1810-1883: First elements of sacred prophecy: including an examination of several recent expositions and of the year-day theory
London, W. E. Painter, 1843.

pp. 373-391.



From the numbers of Daniel let us now pass on to consider those contained in the book of Revelation. The evidence which they afford has been, in some measure, anticipated; but there are several arguments which remain still to be noticed.

I. The ten days’ tribulation of Smyrna comes first in order. This, so far as it relates directly and literally to the Church of Smyrna, has its fulfilment unknown, and would not come under the range of the principle in debate. But many writers, with much apparent reason, have supposed these seven Churches to be types of the Church Universal, in distinct stages of its history. In accordance with this view, many have also interpreted these ten days of the ten years’ persecution under Diocletian, the most remarkable in the early times of the Church.

This argument had been stated by Mr. Faber in these words:–“We find by the event that the Apocalyptic ten days’ persecution of the Church of Smyrna means the ten years’ persecution carried on by Diocletian.” Mr. Maitland replies, certainly with some truth, that the interpretation is too much disputed, and received by too few expositors, to be a lawful postulate or basis of argument. He then states that he has found only Bishop Newton and Dr. Hales who agree in this application; that Dr. Clark speaks of it doubtfully; and that Grotius, Capellus, Fleming, Doddridge, Scott, Gauntlett, Junius, Brightman, Brown, Henry, and Guyse, all adopt some different exposition. He then adds–“The question is, whether the apostle does so clearly and certainly use the word day for a year in this passage, as to form a sufficient, though single warrant for our assuming that he has done so in other places.”

These remarks may be conclusive against adopting this passage as a primary and fundamental argument; tout they cannot hinder us from receiving it as supplementary evidence, for the following reasons.

(1). First, Mr. Maitland has not been fortunate in the commentators who have fallen in his way, with regard to the authorities for this interpretation. The three next whom I have examined, and certainly three of the ablest and best known writers on the Apocalypse, Dr. More, Daubuz, and Vitringa, all adopt this reference to Diocletian’s persecution; and Dr. Gill also prefers the same view.

(2). Next, if once we admit the typical character of these Epistles, it is hardly possible to avoid the interpretation in question; for the contrast between Smyrna and the following Churches is one between external violence and internal corruption. We must view the Church of Smyrna, then, as a type of the later times of Paganism. Now the last and most conspicuous of all the heathen persecutions–the crisis, in fact, of the Church’s history, was the persecution of Diocletian; and it is notorious that it lasted just ten years. The presumption, then, in favour of this application is really of the strongest kind, when the Epistles are once allowed to have a typical meaning. The argument, though not fundamental, forms an important supplement to those which have been already given.

II. The time of the locust woe is the next period which has to be examined. And this requires a notice of the maxim laid down by Mr. Faber in the “Provincial Letters,” in his short but lucid defence of the year-day theory.

1. The principle which Mr. Faber there assumes as the basis of the theory is, the systematic employment of miniature in hieroglyphical symbolization. After this, as the second step of the argument, the texts in Numbers and Ezekiel are adduced, with the Seventy Weeks, to furnish scriptural authority for a specific rate of numeral reduction.

This second step is quite plain, and is presented with Mr. Faber’s usual point and clearness. But the principle, however true in itself, is not wide enough to comprehend all the facts of the case. The true basis, I believe, is that which has been already unfolded–the express design of God that the Church should be kept in the constant expectation of Christ’s advent, and the intentional concealment of the times, while still distant, which arose from this as the final cause.

If now we examine minutely the texts themselves, the numbers of Daniel do not, in any one instance, occur among the symbols, but either in direct interpretations, or in visions not strictly symbolical. Even in the dates of Revelation the principle will not apply as an universal test; for the ten days of Smyrna, the forty-two months of the Gentiles, and the thousand years of the millennium, do not come within its operation. These might all be literal or all figurative, so far as this maxim is a guide. However true, then, and useful, as a subsidiary remark, the principle seems open to the attacks of a skilful adversary, when laid down as the fundamental axiom of the whole inquiry.

2. In the period, however, of the locust woe, Mr. Faber’s maxim, for the first time, fully applies. The locusts are a miniature symbol–insects, for men or invading armies. The time of the woe is given in the midst of the emblems themselves. Therefore it is natural to suppose that this also would be expressed in a miniature form. And this is confirmed, if we remember that five months is a natural and common period for the ravages of literal locusts; but that the scourge of conquering or invading armies is seldom limited to so short a time.

3. This conclusion is strengthened by comparing the words of the Angel in the tenth chapter. With a solemn oath He declares “that there shall be time no longer; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, the mystery of God should be finished.” The words clearly import the shortness of the remaining time of delay, compared with the interval already past. The other term of the comparison is the duration of the previous trumpets, which had not been followed by repentance. If we take the five months as literal, the four first trumpets must be still shorter, and the whole space could not much exceed two years. Now this is a time much too short to give room for the contrast in the words of the angel. There could with no propriety ro emphasis be said to be delay, in severe judgments, six in number, within the limits of two successive years. And hence the most solemn oath in the word of God is robbed of the deep solemnity of its meaning.

III. The time of the second woe affords another proof of the same kind, but is involved in greater difficulties, from the various readings or versions of which the text is here capable.

1. The common version is in these words–“The four angels were loosed which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men.”

The form of the phrase is here so peculiar as to strike every reader at once. The common order is inverted, and the period is given as an ascending climax, instead of the usual arrangement. Hence, long before the year-day theory arose, the terms were often understood indefinitely, as if they bore the sense, “prepared for any hour, or day, or month, or year.” Even from the earliest times, what is called the literal sense was far from being so literally plain as to be received by most commentators. The other view, I believe, was more usual.

2. With the actual reading the common version does not appear to be correct. The words should rather be translated as is done by Mr. Faber–“The angels prepared for that hour were loosed both a day, and a month, and a year.” But, in my opinion, the reading is preferable which is adopted by Matthsei, and found in seven or eight of the best manuscripts (***). The translation will then be–“The angels prepared for that hour, and that day, were loosed both a month and a year.” Two of the very best manuscripts of Bengelius agree in this reading; and all the five of Matthaei, of which he says–“Quando hi quinque inter se consentiunt, de integritate textus vix ullo in loco dubitare licet.”

3. There will now appear, in these words, a striking confirmation of the year-day theory; for the time, according to this amended version, a month and year, or three hundred and ninety days, is the exact period named in Ezekiel, where the typical use of days for years is most expressly stated–“I have laid on thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.” This has not the air of a casual resemblance; it is rather an express mark supplied us by the Holy Spirit, and directing us to the true key, by which to interpret these prophetic periods. The character of the times is also similar. The three hundred and ninety years in Ezekiel are a time of unrepenting idolatry on the part of God’s visible Church, the house of Israel, closed by a decisive overthrow and judgment. The month and year of the second woe have the same character. They are marked by stubborn and persevering idolatry (ix. 20), and close with the utter excision of “the third part of men” (ix. 18). The same interval of time occurs nowhere in Scripture but in these two passages. It is difficult, then, to conceive how an indirect discovery of the true meaning could be more complete than is here provided in this type of Ezekiel, and its exact accordance with the features of the second woe.

IV. The treading down of the holy city, and the related numbers, have next to be considered. The passage is as follows:–

Rev. xi. 2, 3. “But the court that is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it has been given to the Gentiles; and the holy city they will tread underfoot forty and two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy one thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”

1. The same remark applies here as in former instances, but with increased emphasis. Two distinct phrases are used to denote the time, and neither of them is the usual and literal form to express the times, on the shorter reckoning. The fact that the same interval is named not less than seven times, and under three various forms, accords fully with the mystical interpretation, and with that only.

2. The time announced for the treading down of the city is forty-two months. Now the literal city of Jerusalem has already been trodden down for one thousand seven hundred and seventy years. To restrain the words, then, to three years and six months of a literal treading down still future, is to make this note of time entirely unmeaning. For our Lord’s own words prove that the treading down, which begun under Titus, will not cease till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. This is certainly not before, but after, the time, times, and a half. Therefore the treading down of the literal city is to be continuous, in one unbroken period, for near eighteen centuries. How, then, could it be defined by a space of three years and six months? On the other hand, a treading down of the visible Church for 1,260 years, while not identical with the literal desolation announced by our Saviour, will bear to it the closest analogy, and range over an interval of time nearly as extensive in its continuance.

3. The allusion to the type of Elias, in the account of the witnesses, is a further presumption that the period is 1,260 years. The time of famine when he prophesied is twice mentioned in the New Testament under the same phrase, three years and six months. The reference to his testimony against Israel is very plain. If the time here were three natural years and a half, the same term as before would naturally be used–three years and six months.

But there is a further argument to be drawn from this reference to Elias. The whole of his history was full of types denoting spiritual truths. The famine was typical of spiritual drought; and the abundant rain at its close, of the outpouring of God’s Spirit in the latter days. The seven thousand who bowed not the knee to Baal typified the remnant of faithful Christians according to the election of grace. Now since the antitype is nearly always on a larger scale than the type, we might infer that the time of the witnesses is not literall three years and six months, but some longer and analogous period.

4. The three days and a half, during which the witnesses are to lie unburied, seems not obscurely to indicate the same truth. Too much stress, perhaps, has been laid on this point by Mede and others; as if the events predicted were impossible to be fulfilled in so short a time as three literal days. The reply of Mr. Maitland on this topic to the statements of Mede is, in several respects, just and convincing. Reasonings of this nature, drawn from the impossibility of events, ought to be circumscribed within the narrowest bounds.

Yet there is one clause of Mede’s argument on this head which seems to me a just and forcible remark, though Mr. Maitland condemns it as revolting or absurd. “How should the half day (Mede inquires) be a competent time to distinguish or limit any of the actions there mentioned? If the Holy Ghost had meant nothing but days, would He have been so precise for half a day?” The reasoning here, when explained, is of that kind which the example of the holy apostles themselves warrants us to employ. In the case of our Lord’s own resurrection, certainly the fraction of a day was not considered in the reckoning; else it would rather have been a day and a half than three days. Now if the witnesses were individuals, is it natural to suppose that the Holy Spirit would describe their resurrection by a minuter scale of time than that of our Lord himself? The case of Lazarus is exactly in point. There we have mention that he had been four days in the grave, but no fraction of a day is recorded. So, too, in the recovery of Hezekiah, a type of the Saviour’s resurrection. In short, we have about thirty passages in Scripture where three days are mentioned to define an interval, and four where four days occur; but nowhere else is the fraction of a day introduced in such a measurement of time. The question of Mede is therefore pertinent, and maybe repeated without either irreverence or folly. “If the Holy Spirit had intended natural days only, would He have used a preciseness in the statement of time, which is nowhere else employed, in nearly forty examples, not even in that most important of all facts, the resurrection of our Lord?”

V. The wilderness abode of the church is another topic of argument, equally striking and important, and suggests many distinct presumptions for the year-day, some of them of the strongest kind.

1. The woman here is clearly symbolical, and denotes the Church at some season of its history. Now the times occur in close and immediate connexion with this symbol, and we may naturally infer that they are symbolical also.

2. The woman is a miniature symbol of the Church. And hence Mr. Faber’s maxim fully applies, as in the time of the first woe. The congruity of the parts in the hieroglyphic seems to require that the time should be presented also in a miniature form.

3. The two distinct phrases employed are another token of the same truth. We have the time, times, and a half, and 1,260 days, both used, evidently to denote the same period; each being, as before, an unusual phrase.

4. The two distinct stages of the flight are a further proof that the period is far larger than the bare letter would imply. The 1,260 days, the time, times, and a half, and the forty-two months in the next chapter, are three different expressions for one and the same general period of time. The previous mention of it is in connexion with other events, which form the immediate preparation for the main era.

Now there are two distinct stages mentioned of the woman’s flight into the wilderness. In the first, she flees simply; in the second, the two wings of the eagle are given her that she may fly into her prepared place. There is no real ground for the prolepsis which some authors have assumed. On the contrary the narrative is more consistent and natural without any such license. The woman begins to flee into the wilderness after the birth of the male child, and before the celestial victory. After the battle is won, and the dragon is cast down and persecutes afresh, wings are given to her for her escape, and she flies into the desert with increased rapidity.

The preparation, then, for her sojourn in the wilderness, alone involves nine or ten distinct and successive events recorded in the prophecy. If the period of that sojourn be only three years and six months, the preparation must be either quite disproportionate to the event, or the steps of the preparation will be crowded into the narrowest compass. The spiritual deliverance, the dejection of Satan, the renewed persecution, the protection given to the Church and her increased rapidity of flight, the flood cast out by the serpent, its absorption by the friendly earth, and the persevering rage of the dragon, will all be crushed into the space of two or three years. This might perhaps be barely possible; but surely nothing but the most distinct revelation could make us receive such an exposition of the true reference of so glorious a prophecy.

In fact, when we read these successive allusions to the time of her sojourn, and compare them with the opening benediction on the readers of this book, we cannot but conclude that this sojourn is not a transitory event of three years just at the very end, but conveys some great truth of standing and permanent benefit to the Church through successive generations. Such it has been, on the mystical exposition–a main-stay of the witnesses for truth in times of darkness and oppression; while, on the other view, it would teach us nothing that had not been already taught us, more simply and plainly, by the prophets of the Old Testament.

5. But there is one further argument to be drawn from this topic, which is peculiarly striking and important. These mysterious times are used here to define the season of the woman’s stay in the wilderness. They refer us, therefore, at once, to the history of the Jews in the wilderness, as the type to which they correspond. The resemblance is further confirmed by two remarkable passages in St. Paul’s writings, where the same analogy is unfolded. (1 Cor. x.; Heb. iv.)

Now, since the events strictly corresponds it is natural to look for the same analogy in the period which defines them. What light, then, is thrown upon this in the typical history? How was the period of its duration determined at the first? The answer is found in that remarkable text which has been quoted before: “After the number of the days that ye searched the land, even forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, forty years; and ye shall know my breach of promise.”

Thus, in the typical history, the length of the Church’s sojourn in the wilderness was determined, expressly and openly, by the year-day principle. It was defined and its limit determined by the divine rule, a day for a year, a day for a year. The event here predicted is the same–a wilderness sojourn of the Church. And hence the Spirit of God seems, as it were, to lead us by the hand, and to point out to us the true key to decipher these sacred numbers, by this parallel event of Jewish history.

This proof becomes yet stronger by the addition of one further remark. There are three main passages only where the principle of a year for a day is clearly and demonstrably affirmed, twice in words, and once by the evidence of actual fulfilment–the texts in Numbers and Ezekiel, and the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. Now to each of these there is a direct and pointed reference in the passages now in dispute. The times of the woman measure her abode in the wilderness, and refer us directly to the only complete type, that of Israel in the desert, and to the text which marks out the time of their wanderings, a year for a day, forty years. The time of the second woe occurs in no other passage of all Scripture, except where Ezekiel lies on his side three hundred and ninety days, and bears, by Divine appointment, the iniquity of the house of Israel, a day for a year, a day for a year, three hundred and ninety years. The three days and a half of the witnesses’ exposure is a broken and fractional time; and though forty passages and more occur where periods of three or four days are mentioned, this exact interval occurs nowhere else in the word of God, except in the half week last mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy (ix. 27), and where it certainly denotes three and a half years. This last correspondence, and the interpretation of the three days and a half to which it leads, was seen and adopted more than twelve centuries ago. Let us only combine together these three distinct marks of designed coincidence; and it is scarcely possible to imagine how constructive proofs can rise to a higher degree of evidence than is here afforded for the year-day interpretation.

Besides, however, the direct evidence which this comparison lends us for the truth of that theory, it also contains a deep spiritual lesson. The delay of the promised blessing, though foreseen in the Divine counsels, yet owing, like the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness, to the unbelief and worldliness of the Church of God. It was unbelief which turned the forty days of search into forty years of wandering. And the similar unbelief and corruption of the visible Church has turned the 1,260 days, expressed on the surface of the prophecy, into those 1,260 years of actual delay and desolation which lay couched beneath the expression, and have been slowly fulfilling in the course of Divine Providence.

VI. The close of the mystery of god, and the oath which announces it, supply another proof, less evident perhaps at first sight, but which, on examination, is of the strongest kind. The passage occurs in Rev. x. 5-7, and should be compared, first of all, with the parallel text, Dan xii. 5-8, as the following argument depends mainly on this comparison.

1. The oath in Revelation, on the most general view of its meaning, denotes the shortness of the delay, and the approaching close of the mystery of God–“There shall be delay no longer.” Now this implies that the six first trumpets have been really a time of long suffering. The natural impression which it leaves is, that the previous delay, in the course of those trumpets, has been of long continuance, and is drawing to its termination. This, of itself, can accord only with the larger interpretation of the times.

2. But the oath in the Apocalypse resembles closely the former oath in the book of Daniel. There is an evident correspondence between them in every part. The speaker is the same; for in each case the context proves decisively that it is no other than the Son of God. The subject is the same; and there are only two passages where the solemnity of an oath is connected with the sacred times. The form of the appeal is the same; only that in Revelation it becomes still more august and full than in the former prophecy. Finally, the substance of the oath corresponds also. In the former it is–“That it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” In the latter the words are ***. That there shall be time (or, a time), no longer; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to the servants, the prophets.” The mystery of God is the rejection of the Jews and calling of the Gentiles (Rom. xi.; Eph. iii.); and hence the closing words of the oath, in each instance, have just the same meaning. The inference is clear that the statement in Revelation is chronological and specific, on less than that which occurs in the former prophecy.

3. This conclusion results also from the words themselves. The rendering, “that there shall be time no longer,” does not harmonize in the least with the context, if expounded in the popular sense, that time shall be swallowed up’ in eternity. Another version has been proposed–“That there shall be delay no longer.” This agrees better with the general drift and purpose of the announcement; but it evidently does not convey the full meaning of the oath, as appears from two reasons. First, the declaration would not then be strictly true, for the narrative of the following chapter implies some measure of delay, even after this announcement; and next, the analogy with the oath in Daniel is almost entirely destroyed. Both these causes require us to seek for a more correct and consistent version.

4. From these remarks we are led at once to the true rendering, and the only one which satisfies all the conditions of the text. “He sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever…that there should be a time no longer; but in the days of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be finished.” This version restores the full harmony of the text, both with its own immediate context and with the oath in Daniel, and does not, like the previous version, involve any license whatever on the idiom of the Greek language.

5. The use of the word ***, to denote specific or defined intervals of time, is too frequent to require justification. For scriptural examples it is enough to refer to Luke i. 57; Acts i. 7, iii. 21, vii. 17; Gal. iv. 4; 1 Thess. v. 1. The term, however, being different from that employed in Daniel, and in chap, xii., there seems an objection at first against applying to it the same interpretation. But this difficulty will be removed entirely by the following remarks.

First, the strict correspondence, in other respects, of the two oaths, requires us, if the word *** taken definitely, to render it by the same word, a time, which, is used in the other passage. In the one, the Angel swears that it shall be for a season, and seasons, and the dividing of a season; in the other, that there shall no longer be a time. Surely this correspondence alone must teach us that the same definite period is intended by either term.

Again, these words are so nearly allied in their meaning, that the difference entirely vanishes in our authorized version. Thus *** is translated in thirty-two places by the word time, and in four others by the word season; and ***, in sixty and fifteen places respectively, by the same terms. A distinction so evanescent can be no sufficient ground for rejecting the proposed exposition.

But, finally, the interpretation here offered really maintains the distinction between these terms. For the Greek words do not differ by denoting a longer and a shorter interval, but only in the aspect tinder which the same interval may be viewed. The one denotes the time in which, and the other after which, certain events are imagined to occur. Thus the former is constantly used to signify an occasion, fit season, or opportunity; as in Mark xii. 2; Luke xii. 42; Acts xxiv. 25; Gal. vi. 9, 10; Heb. xi. 15. And the latter (***) is used itself, and especially in its derivatives, with a secondary notion of delay. The verb derived from it is employed constantly in this sense, both in Scripture and in classic writers (Matt. xxiv. 48, xxv. 5; Luke i. 21, xii. 45; Heb. x. 37). The same period, it is plain, may be viewed either with reference to events fulfilled in its course, or the delay it interposes to other events which will follow on its close. In the former view it is a ***, or season; and in the latter, a *** or time.

Now in Daniel the direct object of the oath is to affirm the continued duration and certain fulfilment of the desolation, and the power of the wilful king. The emphasis rests immediately on the times themselves, and the fulfilment of the predicted events in their season. The word *** is therefore employed. But in the Apocalypse the purpose of the oath is to limit the delay, or the space still to run out before the expiration of the whole period. And hence the word *** is used with equal propriety and distinctness in its application.

6. The way is now clear for a just apprehension of the argument which this passage supplies. The oath in Daniel announces solemnly that events there predicted in the close of his prophecy shall last three times and a half, and that afterwards the restoration of Israel will follow. The present oath, at a later period, resumes the same subject. After the six trumpets have been blown, and the remnant continue stubborn and impenitent, the mighty Angel descends, and announces, with a solemn oath, that not one single time remains to run out before the predicted season shall be accomplished, and the mystery of the Gentile Church and Israel’s rejection shall be completed, Now, the fact that the whole period is thus broken into two distinct portions, that it is made the subject of two distinct oaths, uttered by our Lord with the deepest solemnity, and that the delay in the course of the two times and a half is so great, in man’s judgment, as that the Church needs a renewed warning that it will not be perpetual–all these circumstances form a moral demonstration that the time is not three literal years and a half, but that it must comprise the interval of many centuries.

VII. The duration of the sixth head of the beast furnishes another reason for the longer reckoning, which is stated by Mede in these words:–

“That king, or state of government of the beast, under which the harlot should ride him, followeth immediately on a former, which, in comparison, is said to continue but a short space (Rev. xvii. 10). But if the antichristian state shall continue but three years and a half literally taken, how short must that time of sovereignty be which should occasion the Holy Ghost to insert so singular a note of difference from that which followeth, that it should continue but a short space.”

Mr. Maitland, in reply, denies that the words convey any such implication, and says that if the word short has any correlative sense, it is more natural to refer it to the sixth head, whose duration will have been fixed before the seventh arises.

Let us, however, consider the passage afresh. The words are these:–

Rev. xvii. 9-11. “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth; and they are seven kings, the five have fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come, and when he is come, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.”

Now the sole requisite to the strength of Mede’s argument is the assumption that these words, being an explanation, refer to the time of the prophet. This, I am aware, is disputed or denied by several writers, even among those who adopt the year-day theory; and if their view were just, the argument must be waived entirely. But the arguments of Mede for the other and simpler view, which refers the explanation to the time of St. John, appear to me unanswerable. On this hypothesis, his reasoning from this text is invincible also. The whole time from St. John to the future destruction of the beast will then consist of three intervals–the remaining time of the sixth head, the whole time of the seventh, and the time, times, and a half of the eighth which is of the seven.

The three periods, then, together make up nearly eighteen centuries. The second of them alone is expressly declared to have a short continuance; and hence it must be inferred, in all reason, that it is shorter than either of the others. Unless, then, we assume an enormous disproportion between the sixth and the eighth head entirely opposed to the scope of the prophecy, the time of the latter must be far greater than three natural years.

It is needless, perhaps, to continue the argument further, by a discussion of the chronological meaning of the number of the beast. This would furnish, I believe, another link in the chain of evidence, and harmonize all these mystical dates into one connected system. But the subject is too difficult, and the significance of that mysterious number too various in its aspects, to be suitable for discussion in this place. More than enough as been adduced to show that the year-day theory rests on a surprising combination of scriptural arguments, some of which, it is true, are indirect, and some doubtful; but the great majority are full, clear, and unambiguous. First of all, there are four or five distinct and clear presumptions of a general kind, that the dates have some secret meaning. There are, then, three plain and certain, and one more disputable passage, which supply an express rule of interpretation, and a key at once simple and comprehensive, the direct appointment of God himself. When we further proceed to examine the passages in detail, we find that every one, without exception, yields some peculiar argument in support of this same view; and several of them furnish us with two or three distinct proofs. And besides all these internal evidences for the system, it is found to have a basis in the heavenly revolutions themselves, and to be confirmed by its manifest harmony with the most exact elements of natural science.

There is still a distinct class of arguments which have been left untouched, from the historical nature of the events with which these times are connected. But this is too wide a subject for the present work, as it involves the meaning of nearly every part of the prophetic visions. The previous remarks may be enough to stir up the incredulous to a renewed inquiry, and to exhibit to those, who may have been perplexed by recent and plausible objections, the solid and firm warrant which the Scriptures yield to us for this leading maxim of the Protestant interpretations.