by Sir Robert Anderson
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The Coming Prince
Sir Robert Anderson
TO living men no time can be so solemn as "the living present," whatever
its characteristics; and that solemnity is immensely deepened in an age of progress
unparalleled in the history of the world. But the question arises whether these days
of ours are momentous beyond comparison, by reason of their being in the strictest
sense the last? Is the world's history about to close? The sands of its destiny,
are they almost run out, and is the crash of all things near at hand?
Earnest thinkers will not allow the wild utterances of alarmists, or the vagaries
of prophecy-mongers, to divert them from an inquiry at once so solemn and so reasonable.
It is only the infidel who doubts that there is a destined limit to the course of
"this present evil world." That God will one day put forth His power to
ensure the triumph of the good, is in some sense a matter of course. The mystery
of revelation is not that He will do this, but that He delays to do
it. Judged by the public facts around us, He is an indifferent spectator of the unequal
struggle between good and evil upon earth.
"I considered all the oppressions that are done under
the sun; and, behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no comforter; and
on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter."
And how can such things be, if indeed the God who rules above is almighty and
all-good? Vice and godlessness and violence and wrong are rampant upon every side,
and yet the heavens above keep silence. The infidel appeals to the fact in proof
that the Christian's God is but a myth. 
The Christian finds in it a further proof that the God he worships is patient
and longsuffering– "patient because He is eternal," longsuffering because
He is almighty, for wrath is a last resource with power. But the day is coming when
1. According to Mill, the
course of the world gives proof that both the power and the goodness of God are limited.
His Essays on Religion clearly show that skepticism is an attitude of mind
which it is practically impossible to maintain. Even with a reasoner so clear and
able as Mill, it inevitably degenerates to a degrading form of faith."
The rational attitude of a thinking mind towards the supernatural" (he declares)
"is that of skepticism, as distinguished from belief on the one hand,
and from atheism on the other;" and yet he immediately proceeds to formulate
a creed. It is not that there is a God, for that is only probable, but that if there
be a God He is not almighty, and His goodness toward man is limited. (Essays,
etc., pp. 242, 243.) He does not prove his creed, of course. Its truth is
obvious to a "thinking mind." It is equally obvious that the sun moves
round the earth. A man only needs to be as ignorant of astronomy as the infidel is
of Christianity, and he will find the most indisputable proof of the fact every time
he surveys the heavens!
This is not a matter of opinion, but of faith. He who questions it has no claim
whatever to the name of Christian, for it is as essentially a truth of Christianity
as is the record of the life and death of the Son of God. The old Scriptures teem
with it, and of all the writers of the New Testament there is not so much as one
who does not expressly speak of it. It was the burden of the first prophetic utterance
which Holy Writ records; (Jude 14) and the closing book of the sacred Canon, from
the first chapter to the last, confirms and amplifies the testimony.
"our God shall come and shall not keep silence."
The only inquiry, therefore, which concerns us relates to the nature of the crisis
and the time of its fulfillment. And the key to this inquiry is the Prophet Daniel's
vision of the seventy weeks. Not that a right understanding of the prophecy will
enable us to prophesy. That is not the purpose for which it was given.
But it will prove a sufficient safeguard against error in the study. Notably
it will save us from the follies into which false systems of prophetic chronology
inevitably lead those who follow them. It is not in our time only that the end of
the world has been predicted. It was looked for far more confidently at the beginning
of the sixth century. All Europe rang with it in the days of Pope Gregory the Great.
And at the end of the tenth century the apprehension of it amounted to a general
panic. "It was then frequently preached on, and by breathless crowds listened
to; the subject of every one's thoughts, every one's conversation." "Under
this impression, multitudes innumerable," says Mosheim, "having given their
property to monasteries or churches, traveled to Palestine, where they expected Christ
to descend to judgment. Others bound themselves by solemn oaths to be serfs to churches
or to priests, in hopes of a milder sentence on them as being servants of Christ's
servants. In many places buildings were let go to decay, as that of which there would
be no need in future. And on occasions of eclipses of sun or moon, the people fled
in multitudes for refuge to the caverns and the rocks."
2. Prophecy is not given
to enable us to prophesy, but as a witness to God when the time comes." – PUSEY,
Daniel, p. 80.
And so in recent years, one date after another has been confidently named
for the supreme crisis; but still the world goes on. A.D. 581 was one of the first
years fixed for the event, 1881 is among the last. These pages are not designed to perpetuate the folly
of such predictions, but to endeavor in a humble way to elucidate the meaning of
a prophecy which ought to deliver us from all such errors and to rescue the study
from the discredit they bring upon it.
3. Elliott, Horae Apoc.
(3rd Ed.), 1., 446: and see also ch. 3, pp. 362-376.
No words ought to be necessary to enforce the importance of the subject, and yet
the neglect of the prophetic Scriptures, by those even who profess to believe all
Scripture to be inspired, is proverbial. Putting the matter on the lowest ground,
it might be urged that if a knowledge of the past be important, a knowledge of the
future must be of far higher value still, in enlarging the mind and raising it above
the littlenesses produced by a narrow and unenlightened contemplation of the present.
If God has vouchsafed a revelation to men, the study of it is surely fitted to excite
enthusiastic interest, and to command the exercise of every talent which can be brought
to bear upon it.
4. Elliott, 1., 373. Hippolytus
predicted A. D. 500.
And this suggests another ground on which, in our own day especially, prophetic study
claims peculiar prominence; namely, the testimony it affords to the Divine character
and origin of the Scriptures. Though infidelity was as open-mouthed in former times,
it had its own banner and its own camp, and it shocked the mass of mankind, who,
though ignorant of the spiritual power of religion, clung nevertheless with dull
tenacity to its dogmas. But the special feature of the present age – well fitted
to cause anxiety and alarm to all thoughtful men – is the growth of what may be termed
religious skepticism, a Christianity which denies revelation – a form of godliness
which denies that which is the power of godliness. (2 Timothy 3:5)
Faith is not the normal attitude of the human mind towards things Divine, the earnest
doubter, therefore, is entitled to respect and sympathy. But what judgment shall
be meted out to those who delight to proclaim themselves doubters, while claiming
to be ministers of a religion of which FAITH is the essential characteristic?
There are not a few in our day whose belief in the Bible is all the more deep and
unfaltering just because they have shared in the general revolt against priestcraft
and superstition; and such men are scarcely prepared to take sides in the struggle
between free thought and the thraldom of creeds and clerics. But in the conflict
between faith and skepticism within the pale, their sympathies are less divided.
On the one side there may be narrowness, but at least there is honesty; and in such
a case surely the moral element is to be considered before a claim to mental vigor
and independence can be listened to. Moreover any claim of the kind needs looking
into. The man who asserts his freedom to receive and teach what he deems truth, howsoever
reached, and wheresoever found, is not to be lightly accused of vanity or self-will.
His motives may be true, and right, and praiseworthy. But if he has subscribed to
a creed, he ought to be careful in taking any such ground. It is not on the side
of vagueness that the creeds of our British Churches are in fault, and men who boast
of being freethinkers would deserve more respect if they showed their independence
by refusing to subscribe, than by undermining the doctrines they are both pledged
and subsidized to defend and teach.
But what concerns us here is the indisputable fact that rationalism in this its most
subtle phase is leavening society. The universities are its chief seminaries. The
pulpit is its platform. Some of the most popular religious leaders are amongst its
apostles. No class is safe from its influence. And if even the present could be stereotyped,
it were well; but we are entered on a downward path, and they must indeed be blind
who cannot see where it is leading. If the authority of the Scriptures be unshaken,
vital truths may be lost by one generation, and recovered by the next; but if that
be touched, the foundation of all truth is undermined, and all power of recovery
is gone. The Christianized skeptic of today will soon give place to the Christianized
infidel, whose disciples and successors in their turn will be infidels without any
gloss of Christianity about them. Some, doubtless, will escape; but as for the many,
Rome will be the only refuge for those who dread the goal to which society is hastening.
Thus the forces are marshaling for the great predicted struggle of the future between
the apostasy of a false religion and the apostasy of open infidelity.
Is the Bible a revelation from God? This is now become the greatest and most
pressing of all questions. We may at once dismiss the quibble that the Scriptures
admittedly contain a revelation. Is the sacred volume no better than a lottery
bag from which blanks and prizes are to be drawn at random, with no power of distinguishing
between them till the day when the discovery must come too late! And in the present
phase of the question it is no less a quibble to urge that passages, and even books,
may have been added in error to the Canon. We refuse to surrender Holy Writ to the
tender mercies of those who approach it with the ignorance of pagans and the animus
of apostates. But for the purpose of the present controversy we might consent to
strike out everything on which enlightened criticism has cast the shadow of a doubt.
This, however, would only clear the way for the real question at issue, which is
not as to the authenticity of one portion or another, but as to the character and
value of what is admittedly authentic. We are now far beyond discussing rival theories
of inspiration; what concerns us is to consider whether the holy writings are what
they claim to be, "the oracles of God."
5. I cannot refrain from
giving the following extract from an article by Professor Goldwin Smith, in Macmillian's
Magazine for February 1878:
"The denial of the existence of God and of the future state, in a word, is the
dethronement of conscience; and society will pass, to say the least, through a dangerous
interval before social science can fill the vacant throne…But in the meantime mankind,
or some portions of it, may be in danger of an anarchy of self-interest, compressed,
for the purpose of political order, by a despotism of force.
"That science and criticism, acting – thanks to the liberty of opinion won by
political effort – with a freedom never known before, have delivered us from a mass
of dark and degrading superstitions, we own with heartfelt thankfulness to the deliverers,
and in the firm conviction that the removal of false beliefs, and of the authorities
or institutions founded on them, cannot prove in the end anything but a blessing
to mankind. But at the same time the foundations of general morality have inevitably
been shaken, and a crisis has been brought on, the gravity of which nobody can fail
to see, and nobody but a fanatic of materialism can see without the most serious
"There has been nothing in the history of man like the present situation. The
decadence of the ancient mythologies is very far from affording a parallel…The Reformation
was a tremendous earthquake: it shook down the fabric of mediaeval religion, and
as a consequence of the disturbance in the religious sphere, filled the world with
revolutions and wars. But it left the authority of the Bible unshaken, and men might
feel that the destructive process had its limit, and that adamant was still beneath
their feet. But a world which is intellectual and keenly alive to the significance
of these questions, reading all that is written about them with almost passionate
avidity, finds itself brought to a crisis the character of which any one may realize
by distinctly presenting to himself the idea of existence without a God."
In the midst of error and confusion and uncertainty, increasing on every side,
can earnest and devout souls turn to an open Bible, and find there "words of
eternal life"? "The rational attitude of a thinking mind towards the supernatural
is that of skepticism ."
logia tou theou (Romans 3:2). The old Hebrew Scriptures were thus regarded
by those who were the divinely-appointed custodians of them (ib.) Not only
by the devout among the Jews, but, as Josephus testifies, by all, they "were
justly believed to be Divine," so that men were willing to endure tortures of
all kinds rather than speak against them, and even "willingly to die for them"
(Josephus, Apion, 1., 8). This fact is of immense importance in relation to
the Lord's own teaching on the subject. Dealing with a people who believed in the
sanctity and value of every word of Scripture, He never missed an opportunity to
confirm them in that belief. The New Testament affords abundant proof how unreservedly
He enforced it upon His disciples. (As regards the limits and date of closing of
the Canon of Scripture, see Pusey, Daniel, p. 294, etc.)
Reason may bow before the shibboleths and tricks of priestcraft– "the
voice of the Church," as it is called; but this is sheer credulity. But if GOD
speaks, then skepticism gives place to faith . Nor is this a mere begging of
the question. The proof that the voice is really Divine must be absolute and conclusive.
In such circumstances, skepticism betokens mental or moral degradation, and faith
is not the abnegation of reason, but the highest act of reason. To maintain that
such proof is impossible, is equivalent to asserting that the God who made us cannot
so speak to us that the voice shall carry with it the conviction that it is from
Him; and this is not skepticism at all, but disbelief and atheism. "It pleased
God to reveal His Son in me," was St. Paul's account of his conversion. The
grounds of his faith were subjective, and could not be produced. In proof to others
of their reality he could only appeal to the facts of his life; though these were
entirely the result, and in no sense or degree the basis, of his conviction. Nor
was his case exceptional. St. Peter was one of the favored three who witnessed every
miracle, including the transfiguration, and yet his faith was not the result of these,
but sprang from a revelation to himself. In response to his confession,
7. Mill, Essays on Religion.
"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,"
the Lord declared,
"Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but
my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)
Nor, again, was this a special grace accorded only to apostles.
"To them that have obtained like precious faith with
us," (2 Peter 1:1)
was St. Peter's address to the faithful generally. He describes them as "born
again by the Word of God." So also St. John speaks of such as
"born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)
"Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth"
is the kindred statement of St. James. (James 1:18).
Whatever be the meaning of such words, they must mean something more than arriving
at a sound conclusion from sufficient premises, or accepting facts upon sufficient
evidence. Nor will it avail to urge that this birth was merely the mental or moral
change naturally caused by the truth thus attained by natural means. The language
of the Scripture is unequivocal that the power of the testimony to produce this change
depended on the presence and operation of God. Pages might be filled with quotations
to prove this, but two may surface. St. Peter declares they preached the Gospel
"with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;"
(1 Peter 1:12)
and St. Paul's words are still more definite. "Our Gospel came not: unto
you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost."
And if the new birth and the faith of Christianity were thus produced in the
case of persons who received the Gospel immediately from the Apostles, nothing less
will avail with us who are separated by eighteen centuries from the witnesses and
their testimony. God is with His people still. And He speaks to men's hearts, now,
as really as He did in early times; not indeed through inspired Apostles, and still
less by dreams or visions, but through the Holy Writings which He Himself inspired;
and as the result believers
are "born of God," and obtain the knowledge of forgiveness of sins and
of eternal life. The phenomenon is not a natural one, resulting from the study of
the evidences; it is supernatural altogether. "Thinking minds,"
regarding it objectively, may, if they please, maintain towards it what they deem
"a rational attitude;" but at least let them own the fact that there are
thousands of credible people who can testify to the reality of the experience here
spoken of, and further let them recognize that it is entirely in accordance with
the teaching of the New Testament.
kai en dunamei kai en pneumati agio (1 Thessalonians 1:5.) "But also
in power, even in the Holy Ghost." There is no contrast intended between God
on the one hand, and power on the other, nor yet between different sorts of power.
To object that this referred to miracles which accompanied the preaching is to betray
ignorance of Scripture. Acts 17 represents the preaching to which the Apostle was
alluding. That miraculous power existed in Gentile Churches is clear from 1 Corinthians
12 but the question is, did the gospel which produced those Churches appeal to miracles
to confirm it? Can any one read the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians and retain
a doubt as to the answer?
And such persons have transcendental proof of the truth of Christianity. Their faith
rests, not on the phenomena of their own experience, but on the great objective truths
of revelation. Yet their primary conviction that these are Divine truths does
not depend on the "evidences" which skepticism delights to criticize, but
on something which skepticism takes no account of.
9. God is omnipresent;
but there is a real sense in which the Father and the Son are not on earth but in
heaven, and in that same sense the Holy Spirit is not in heaven but on earth.
"No book can be written in behalf of the Bible like the Bible itself. Man's
defenses are man's word; they may help to beat off attacks, they may draw out some
portion of its meaning. The Bible is God's word, and through it God the Holy Ghost,
who spake it, speaks to the soul which closes not itself against it."
10. Such faith is inseparably
connected with salvation, and salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Hence
the solemn words of Christ, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them
unto babes" (Matthew 11:25).
But more than this, the well-instructed believer will find within it inexhaustible
stores of proof that it is from God. The Bible is far more than a textbook of theology
and morals, or even than a guide to heaven. It is the record of the progressive revelation
God has vouchsafed to man, and the Divine history of our race in connection with
that revelation. Ignorance may fail to see in it anything more than the religious
literature of the Hebrew race, and of the Church in Apostolic times; but the intelligent
student who can read between the lines will find there mapped out, sometimes in clear
bold outline, sometimes dimly, but yet always discernible by the patient and devout
inquirer, the great scheme of God's counsels and workings in and for this world of
ours from eternity to eternity.
11. Pusey, Daniel,
Pref. p. 25.
And the study of prophecy, rightly understood, has a range no narrower than this.
Its chief value is not to bring us a knowledge of "things to come," regarded
as isolated events, important though this may be; but to enable us to link the future
with the past as part of God's great purpose and plan revealed in Holy Writ. The
facts of the life and death of Christ were an overwhelming proof of the inspiration
of the Old Testament. When, after His resurrection, He sought to confirm the disciples'
But many a promise had been given, and many a prophecy recorded, which seemed
to be lost in the darkness of Israel's national extinction and Judah's apostasy.
The fulfillment of them all depended on Messiah; but now Messiah was rejected, and
His people were about to be cast away, that Gentiles might be taken up for blessing.
Are we to conclude then that the past is wiped out for ever, and that God's great
purposes for earth have collapsed through human sin? As men now judge of revelation,
Christianity dwindles down to be nothing but a "plan of salvation" for
individuals, and if St. John's Gospel and a few of the Epistles be left them they
are content. How different was the attitude of mind and heart displayed by St. Paul!
In the Apostle's view the crisis which seemed the catastrophe of everything the old
prophets had foretold of God's purposes for earth, opened up a wider and more glorious
purpose still, which should include the fulfillment of them all; and rapt in the
contemplation, he exclaimed,
"beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded
unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24:27)
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"
True prophetic study is an inquiry into these unsearchable counsels, these deep
riches of Divine wisdom and knowledge. Beneath the light it gives, the Scriptures
are no longer a heterogeneous compilation of religious books, but one harmonious
whole, from which no part could be omitted without destroying the completeness of
the revelation. And yet the study is disparaged in the Churches as being of no practical
importance. If the Churches are leavened with skepticism at this moment, their neglect
of prophetic study in this its true and broader aspect has done more than all the
rationalism of Germany to promote the evil. Skeptics may boast of learned Professors
and Doctors of Divinity among their ranks, but we may challenge them to name a single
one of the number who has given proof that he knows anything whatever of these deeper
mysteries of revelation. The attempt to put back the rising tide of skepticism is
hopeless. Indeed the movement is but one of many phases of the intense mental activity
which marks the age. The reign of creeds is past. The days are gone for ever when
men will believe what their fathers believed, without a question. Rome, in some phase
of its development, has a strange charm for minds of a certain caste, and rationalism
is fascinating to not a few; but orthodoxy in the old sense is dead, and if any are
to be delivered it must be by a deeper and more thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.
These pages are but a humble effort to this end; but if they avail in any measure
to promote the study of Holy Writ their chief purpose will be fulfilled. The reader
therefore may expect to find the accuracy of the Bible vindicated on points which
may seem of trifling value. When David reached the throne of Israel and came to choose
his generals, he named for the chief commands the men who had made themselves conspicuous
by feats of prowess or of valor. Among the foremost three was one of whom the record
states that he defended a tract of lentiles, and drove away a troop of the Philistines.
(2 Samuel 23:11, 12)? To others it may have seemed little better than a patch of
weeds, and not worth fighting for, but it was precious to the Israelite as a portion
of the divinely-given inheritance, and moreover the enemy might have used it as a
rallying ground from which to capture strongholds. So is it with the Bible. It is
all of intrinsic value if indeed it be from God; and moreover, the statement which
is assailed, and which may seem of no importance, may prove to be a link in the chain
of truth on which we are depending for eternal life.
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