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    October 22, 1885

    “The Roman Empire” The Signs of the Times 11, 40, p. 628.

    “AND the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron; forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.” Daniel 2:40.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.1

    It is certain that of those four kingdoms of the prophecy, each is universal in its time and place, and so in the very nature of the case must be successive. Of the kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar it is said, “Wheresoever the children of men dwell.... hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” Of the next kingdom it was said: “And after thee shall arise another kingdom.” The preceding one extending over all civilized countries, when another should arise it must establish its authority and ascendancy, or it could not be recognized as “another kingdom;” and the only way in which it could possibly so establish itself would be by overturning the power which then exerted the universal rule, which, of necessity, would plant itself as the successor in the supremacy. This view is made positive by the words which introduce the next, the “third kingdom of brass, which” should “bear rule over all the death.” By the terms which describe the place of each of these three kingdoms it is literally impossible that more than one of them could be in existence at the same time.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.2

    Having seen the extent of the “third kingdom”—that of the Grecian—it is plain that when the “fourth kingdom” shall arise it must be universal, as was each of the three which preceded it in the description given by the prophet. Especially must this be so, in view of the words in which it is set forth as being “strong as iron,” and as iron that breaketh all things, “so shall it break in pieces and bruise.” This shows that, as iron is the strongest of metals, so the fourth kingdom should be the strongest of these kingdoms. Therefore the fourth kingdom must be stronger than the Grecian under Alexander the Great; and as that bore rule over all the then known earth, this can do no less; and for the fourth kingdom we must look for one that ruled the more widely known world more absolutely than it was ruled by Alexander the Great.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.3

    This fourth kingdom is fairly, and nicely, introduced in the last historical quotation which we gave on the extent of the kingdom of Alexander the Great. We will here reproduce that part of the quotation:—SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.4

    “History may allow us to think that Alexander and a Roman ambassador did meet at Babylon; that the greatest man of the ancient world saw and spoke with a citizen of that great nation, which was destined to succeed him in his appointed work, and to found a wider and still more enduring empire.”—Arnold’s History of Rome, chap. 30, par. 2.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.5

    And every school-boy who has ever read in McGuffey’s old Fifth Reader, knows ofSITI October 22, 1885, page 628.6

    “Rome, That sat on her seven hills, and from her throne Of beauty ruled the world!SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.7

    And how thatSITI October 22, 1885, page 628.8

    “in that elder day, to be a Roman, Was greater than a king.”SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.9

    The Scripture, too, speaks of the widespread power of Rome, saying:—SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.10

    “And in those days there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” Luke 2:1.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.11

    Cesar Augustus was the first emperor of Rome. His name was originally Caius Octavius; but as he was grand-nephew to the great Julius Cesar, and as that great man adopted him into his own family titles and honors, and made him his heir, with the name of Caius Octavius was incorporated that of Julius Cesar, and then his name stood, Caius Julius Cesar Octavianus. Then when he became the sole head of the mighty empire of Rome, as he already bore the name of the “greatest man of the Roman, or perhaps of all the ancient world,” in casting about for a title most befitting his majesty:—SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.12

    “At last he fixed upon the epithet Augustus, a name which no man had borne before, and which, on the contrary, had been applied to things the most noble, most venerable, and most sacred. The rites of the gods were called august; their temples were august. The word itself was derived from the holy auguries; it was connected in meaning with the abstract term authority, and with all that increases and flourishes upon earth. The use of this glorious title could not fail to smooth the way to the general acceptance of the divine character of the mortal who was deemed worthy to bear it.”—Encyc. Brit., art. Augustus and the Augustan Age.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.13

    And as thus he bore the greatest name,—Cesar,—and the most sacred and authoritative title known to the Roman world, his own name now assumed the form Cesar Augustus. He it was who issued the decree “that all the world should be taxed.” Not taxed in the form of levying and collecting money, as we now understand the word, but rather an enrollment, or, as we would not express it, he ordered a census of the empire to be taken.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.14

    To see how fitly Luke’s words describe the extent of the power of Cesar Augustus and of Rome, and to show how perfectly Rome fulfills the prophecy of the fourth kingdom, we shall now present the testimony of the most authoritative writers. We can introduce this no better than with the following words of Gibbon:—SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.15

    “The empire of the Romans filled the world, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his enemies. The slave of imperial despotism, whether he was condemned to drag his gilded chain in Rome and the senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock of Scriphus, or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair. To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every side he was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse without being discovered, seized, and restored to his irritated master. Beyond the frontiers, his anxious view could discover nothing except the ocean, inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of barbarians, of fierce manners and unknown language, or dependent kings, who would gladly purchase the emperor’s protection by the sacrifice of an obnoxious fugitive. ‘Wherever you are,’ said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus, ‘remember that you are equally within the power of the conqueror.’”—Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 3, par. 37.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.16

    In illustration of the absolute power exerted by the emperor, Gibbon subjoins the following two notes:—SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.17

    “Seriphus was a small and rocky island in the Egean Sea, the inhabitants of which were despised for their ignorance and obscurity. The place of Ovid’s exile is well known, by his just, but unmanly lamentations. It should seem, that he only received an order to leave Rome in so many days, and to transport himself to Tomi. Gaards and gaolers were unnecessary.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.18

    “Under Tiberius, a Roman knight attempted to fly to the Parthians. He was stopped in the straits of Sicily; but so little danger did there appear in the example, that the most jealous of tyrants disdained to punish it.”—Id.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.19

    Ovid was banished by Cesar Augustus. Tomi was a “semi-Greek semi-barbaric town,” on the coast of the Black Sea, about ninety miles south of the mouth of the Danube. There, to “the very outskirts of civilization,” he was ordered to go; there he went, and there he remained about eight years, even to the day of his death; and all that was required to either take or keep him there, was the word of the emperor of Rome. Thus far-reaching, and so absolute, was the power of Rome.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.20

    “That imperatorial dignity ... was undoubtedly the sublimest incarnation of power, and a monument the mightiest of greatness built by human hands, which upon this planet has been suffered to appear.”—De Quincey’s Essays, The Cesars, chap. 6, last paragraph, last sentence.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.21

    “But the same omnipresence of imperial anger and retribution which withered the hopes of the poor humble prisoner, met and confounded the emperor himself, when buried from his giddy height by some fortunate rival. All the kingdoms of the earth, to one in that situation, became but so many wards of the same infinite prison. Flight, if it were not successful for the moment, did but little toward his inevitable doom. And so evident was this, that hardly in once instance did the fallen prince attempt to fly, but passively met the death which was inevitable, in the very spot where ruin had overtaken him.”—Id., The Cesars, introduction, par. 12.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.22

    “Rome, therefore, which came last in the succession, and swallowed up the three great powers that had seriatim cast the human race into one mould, and had brought them under the unity of a single will, entered by inheritance upon all that its predecessors in that career had appropriated, but in a condition of far ampler development. Estimated merely by longitude and latitude, the territory of the Roman Empire was the finest, by much, that has ever fallen under a single scepter.... Rome laid a belt about the Mediterranean of a thousand miles in breadth; and within that zone she comprehended not only all the great cities of the ancient world, but so perfectly did she lay the garden of the world in every climate, and for every mode of natural wealth, within her own ring-fence, that, since that era, no land, no part and parcel of the Roman Empire, has ever risen into strength and opulence, except where unusual artificial industry has availed to counteract the tendencies of nature. So entirely had Rome engrossed whatsoever was rich by the mere bounty of native endowment. Vast, therefore unexampled, immeasurable, was the basis of natural power upon which the Roman throne reposed.”—Id., paragraph 8.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.23

    “Its range, the compass of its extent, was appalling to the imagination. Coming last among what are called the great monarchies of prophecy, it was the only one which realized in perfection the idea of a monarchia, being (except for Parthia and the great fable of India beyond it) strictly coincident with the civilized world. Civilization and this empire were commensurate; they were interchangeable ideas and co-extensive... The vast power and dominion of the Roman Empire, for the three centuries which followed the battle of Actium, have dazzled the historic eye.... The battle of Actium was followed by the final conquest of Egypt. That conquest rounded and integrated the glorious empire; it was now circular as a shield.... From that day forward for three hundred years, there was silence in the world; no muttering was heard; no eye winked beneath the wing. Winds of hostility might still rave at intervals; yet it was on the outside of the mighty empire; it was at a dream-like distance;; and, like the storms that beat against some monumental castle, ‘and at the doors and windows seem to call,’ they rather irritated and vivified the sense of security, than at all disturbed its luxurious lull.”—Id., Philosophy of Roman History, par. 1, 2.SITI October 22, 1885, page 628.24

    A. T. J.

    (To be Continued.)

    “Notes on the International Lesson. 2 Kings 13:14-25. The Death of Elisha” The Signs of the Times 11, 40, p. 631.

    NOVEMBER 1. 2 Kings 13:14-25

    AFTER the anointing of Jehu as king of Israel, nothing more is said of Elisha till this record of his last sickness and death—a period of about forty-five years; this covered the whole of the reign of Jehu and his son Jehoahaz, and part of the reign of Joash, the grandson of Jehu. Hazael reigned in Syria all this time, and continued to commit depredations in all the coasts of Israel (2 Kings 10:32; 13:22). He even made an incursion into the kingdom of Judah, took Gather, and “set his face to go up to Jerusalem.” Then Joash of Judah “took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord, and in the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael, king of Syria; and he went away from Jerusalem.” 2 Kings 12:17, 18. Hazael had so persistently oppressed Israel that finally there was left “of the people to Jehoahaz but fifty horsemen; for the king of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing.”SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.1

    THIS was the condition of affairs at the time of our lesson. “Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” Now that Joash is about to lose Elisha from his kingdom forever, he comes to weep over him, and to remember the day when Elisha alone was more than a match for all the armed hosts of Syria. He now begins to realize what a protection Elisha was, and what a power the kingdom is now about to lose. If he had remembered this sooner, he would not have been brought so low. If he had never forgotten it, Israel would have flourished instead of being oppressed. It is ever so. We appreciate our blessings when they are gone. Then, too we act without them as we should have acted when they were with us. But if we would only learn to appreciate our blessings while we have them, then we should not have to do without them; for by the advantage of these, we should but be advanced to other and greater ones.SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.2

    BUT for even this parting token of regard, Elisha, in kindness, shows the king a token of good from the Lord. “And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it; and Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands. And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it; whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.”SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.3

    HAZAEL was succeeded by his son Ben-hadad. “And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael the cities, which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times did Joash beat him, and recovered the cities of Israel.” And Syria never invaded Israel any more.SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.4

    “AND Elisha died, and they buried him.” And that is the obituary of Elisha, the “man of God.” The Bible writers are remarkable for the brevity of the obituaries. It would be well if their way were followed more fully at the present day.SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.5

    “AND the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.” The Moabites were the descendants of Moab, the son of one of the daughters of Lot, by her father, after the destruction of Sodom. Their country lay to the east of the Dead Sea.SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.6

    “AND it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher of Elisha; and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” It is idle to conjecture upon why the Lord wrought this miracle. He has not told us why it was. He has recorded the fact, and that is all we can say about it.SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.7

    WITH the death of Elisha closes the lessons in the Kings, for this year. But the kingdom of Israel continued only about a hundred years longer, until even the Lord could no longer bear with them, and then he cast them out of his presence. In to-day’s lesson, verse 23, we read that for all the sins of the successive kings, yet “the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.” Finally, however, they had so literally “sold themselves to do evil” that the Lord removed them out of his sight, and rejected all the seed of Israel, and they were carried captive into Assyria, and never returned to their own land.SITI October 22, 1885, page 631.8

    A. T. J.

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