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On all sides it seems to be felt that ours is no ordinary age. It is universally owned that we live in times of infinite importance. Scene succeeds scene, change follows on change, and event thunders on event, with startling and portentous rapidity. Have these things a meaning? Is the age suggestive or significant? Are its facts and phe nomena mere dumb and dead incidents, that rise like air-bubbles on the waves of time, and are resolved into the great element again without a mission or a meaning? Or, are they full of eloquent significance-pregnant lessons—successive acts in the great drama of time, fixing the epochs of the world ? In short, are they “Signs of the Times ?" There is no doubt that they are. The daily journals are witnesses on every side. Analogy dictates the inference that our age is significant; Scripture settles it. Ancient prophecies are every day trans
lated into modern facts. The year 1854 reflects on every page the scenes sketched and foreshadowed upwards of 2000 years ago. God has invariably given signs and warnings in His word of every great and startling epoch of his past providential government; nay more, he has given precise dates, and definite numbers, and exact cycles. Now, what God has done premonitory of great events that have passed from prophecy into history, surely he has not wholly withheld in reference to those yet more stupendous ones that are predicted soon to come to pass. In the case of Noah, 120 years were definitely fixed as the period at the end of which the windows of heaven should pour down, and the fountains of the great deep should be broken up. This prophecy was the exact measure of the time. The duration of the captivity in Egypt was foretold to Abraham 430 years before, and published by Moses; and so exactly was the prophetic epoch fulfilled, that, in the language of the sacred historian, “At the end of 430 years, the selfsame day, it came to pass that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Jeremiah is told that 70 years shall be the duration of the captivity in Babylon; and in Daniel we read that 40 years afterwards he ascertained from this passage the date of the exodus of the Jews from Babylon. The first advent of our blessed Lord was the subject of almost specific chronology. Long before it occurred Daniel said, “ After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be
cut off, but not for himself;" and his prophecy of the advent of the Messiah, and the specific period at which he should come, made so deep an impression upon the wide world, that not only the Baptist, Anna, and Simeon, believers in the word of God, and prayerful and patient expectants of its fulfilment, but, according to Tacitus and Virgil, the very heathen of that day, to a very wide extent, looked for an illustrious and sovereign personage then to appear on the earth. We may surely, therefore, expect, that the crowning act at the end of this dispensation, so frequently referred to, will not be left without premonitory signs and warning dates, unequivocal and emphatic. If signs and dates preceded the cross, surely signs and dates, scarcely less startling and splendid, may be expected to be given as preceding the glory. Jesus, indeed, says, “Of that day knoweth no man.” I believe this refers especially to the generation and the time when that statement was made, and was then, the exact and literal fact. But, however ignorant that generation might be of precise and minute dates, he gives in that very chapter signs by which we may know when the things predicted are just at hand. The day and hour,- that is, the very instant, — none of us are likely to know; the significant and deepening foretokens of its approach Jesus has commanded us to learn, and pronounced their ignorance criminal who do not study, and thus ascertain, the times. The budding of the figtree is given by Jesus as one sign. The Jewish
race, set forth by the fig-tree, blasted at his first advent, shall begin to burst into blossom, and verdure, and beauty, as a premonitory signal of the near approach of his second. “Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?” was one of the earliest questions asked ; and the answer then given just before the day of Pentecost was, “ It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father bath put into his own power.” Evidently present duties, responsibilities, and privileges were to be their first and chief concern. But in the Epistle to the Thessalonians it is obvious, that since the day of Pentecost greater light must have been shed upon the epochs of prophetic chronology; for it is said, “Of the times and the seasons ye have no need that I write unto you, for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” Thus the ignorance of yesterday is inexcusable to-day. The Lord rebuked the Jews of his day for estimating the character of to-morrow from the physical phenomena of to-day; whilst from the moral and significant signs that were showered down in all directions upon them, they refused to form any just induction of the nature and nearness of the approaching future.
Let us glance briefly at some of the prominent and well-known dates, by way of introduction, as an approximate evidence of our place in the world. There is one great date in prophecy, repeated in different formulas, but in all substantially the
šame. We read of “time, times, and half a time;" or, 360 years, twice 360 years, and half of 360 years—making, when added up, 1260 years. We find the same date in another formula; as fortytwo months, equal to 1260 prophetic days, or 1260 literal years. We find it again called 1260 days i. e. prophetic days—or equal to 1260 literal years. These prophetic days represent each of them a year; just as in a plan or a map an inch, or quarter of an inch, is made to represent a mile. We have distinct authority for this. In Numbers xiv. 34,“ After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years.” In Ezekiel iv. 6,—“Thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days; I have appointed thee each day for a year.” Thus prophecy contains its own plan — the measure of its own scale.
Now, this period of 1260 years, thus alluded to in Scripture, is employed in every instance to denote the duration of a great apostasy that should overcast all the horizon of the West, and last throughout a period called in one place 1260 years; in another, forty-two months; in another, “ time, times, and half a time.” You will see that this is referred to in the following passages :-In Daniel vii. 25: “He shall speak great swelling words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they” (that is, the saints of