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in a standing, some in a sitting, and some in a recumbent, posture: but they have all been constructed under the influence of the same theological principle
Another striking feature in the ancient religious system of the Pagans was the fable of the four ages. The classical writers commonly distinguish these four successive periods, as the ages of gold and silver and brass and iron : but the Hindoos describe the fourth of them, as an age of earth or clay. In the remarkable mythology of this last people, the great universal Father Menu, who, as identified with the Sun, was the person represented by the colossal image, is supposed to preside, either visibly or invisibly, over all the four ages: whence, as a king was esteemed his immediate representative, he also is described, as inseparably connected with them, and as reigning through them all .
See my Origin of Pagan Idol. book iv. chap. 5. 9 XXIX. 3. (4.)
: The Hindoos, having established their period of seventy one divine ages as the reign of each Menu, yet thinking it incongruous to place a holy personage in times of impurity, insist, that the Menu reigns only in every golden age and disappears in the three human ages that follow it, continuing to dive and emerge like a water-fowl till the close of his Manwantara. Asiat. Res. vol. ii. p. 126. All the ages, called Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali, depend on the conduct of the king; who is declared in turn to represent each of those four ages. Sleeping, he is the Kaliage : waking, he is the Dwapara : exerting himself in action, the Treta: living virtuously, the Satya. Instit. of Menu, chap. ix. p. 284. See my Origin of Pagan Idol. book iii, chap. 1.
gold and of silver and of brass and of earth; so both the two notions are curiously and artfully introduced into the composition of the statue, which is exhibited to us as formed out of gold and silver and brass and iron and clay: and, as the influence of the god represented by each colossal statue was thought to pervade all the four ages, though he himself was visible only during the first ; so the king of Babylon, identified with the golden head, is thence by necessary implication described as the ruling soul or principle of the whole image his body, though, like his prototype Menu or Buddha or Sacya, he is visible only during the first or golden age of the image.
I. Such is the poetical machinery of the vision respecting the great image: a vision, which appears to me to have been hitherto very superficially and very imperfectly interpreted. Commentators have satisfied themselves with simply applying the component parts of the statue to the four successive predominant Empires : and, having done this, they have apparently supposed their task to be accomplished. Meanwhile, they have neglected both the chronology and the geography of the image; matters of prime and radical importance : for, when these are fully settled and arranged, the image, viewed under two different aspects, will prove to be every way a grand prophetic calendar, governing and binding together all the other predictions both of Daniel and of St. John, while its age will turn out to be the key or the master-num
ber to the involved smaller numbers of those two inspired writers.
I have intimated, that the image is to be viewed under two different aspects: a circumstance, which results from the plain necessity of considering it both chronologically and geographically. Under the first aspect, it symbolises the four great Empires in chronological succession: under the second aspect, it symbolises the last of them alone, viewed as geographically comprehending, in one vast body politic, the members of all its three predecessors. By a very ancient arrangement, the age of man, the being whose outward figure was worn by the image, has been variously divided either into four stages or into seven. Of these divisions, the first is loosely shadowed out by the four metals: while the second is met by the seven prophetic times, or the three times and a half twice told, which we shall find to be the predetermined age of the image, and to which our Lord alluded under the appellation of the times of the Gentiles.
1. In the discussion of this most curious subject, I shall begin with considering the image under its chronological aspect.
Before such a discussion can be legitimately conducted, it will be necessary to lay down the chronological principles on which the symbol has been constructed.
The golden head is positively declared to be Nebuchadnezzar himself, in his quality of sovereign of the first Empire: THOU art this head
of gold". Hence the rise of the golden head is not the commencement of the Babylonian Empire, like the ascent (in a subsequent vision) of the first great beast from the troubled sea”: but the epoch of it is specifically limited to the age of the individual king Nebuchadnezzar, so that the rise of the golden head is the rise of that particular monarch; and, as the symbol is borrowed from the human form which is born and lives and dies, the rise of the golden head must coincide with the birth of Nebuchadnezzar, who is himself, accordingly, the type or federal representative or animating principle of the four Empires collectively shadowed out by the image. The true date, therefore, from which the age of the statue must be calculated as the grand prophetic calendar, is the birth of the individual king Nebuchadnezzar: Thou art this head of gold.
In a similar manner, the principle of symbolical decorum will forbid us to estimate the three succeeding Empires, as they appear below the golden head upon the perpendicular line of the statue's altitude, from the several points of their respective independent political commencements. The rudiments of all those three Empires had long been in existence, before they became component parts of the image: but, in the present view of the subject, we have no concern with them until they are made:
Dan. ii. 38.