The United States in the Light of Prophecy - Uriah Smith - ebook

If we read the signs of the times aright, events are soon to transpire of such a nature as to preclude the necessity of any apology for the publication of what is contained in the following pages. The numerous rays of light now shining from the book of prophecy, seem to find their focal point in our own times. The present age is illuminated in this respect above all others. Here we find the most emphatic touches of the prophetic pencil. The events to transpire, and the agents therein concerned, are brought out in a vivid and startling light.

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Uriah Smith

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Table of contents


Chapter One.

Chapter Two.

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five.

Chapter Six.

Chapter Seven.

Chapter Eight.

Chapter Nine.

Chapter Ten.

Chapter Eleven.


If we read the signs of the times aright, events are soon to transpire of such a nature as to preclude the necessity of any apology for the publication of what is contained in the following pages. The numerous rays of light now shining from the book of prophecy, seem to find their focal point in our own times. The present age is illuminated in this respect above all others. Here we find the most emphatic touches of the prophetic pencil. The events to transpire, and the agents therein concerned, are brought out in a vivid and startling light.The question naturally arises, what part the United States has to act in these scenes; for it must seem reasonable and probable that a nation which has arisen so suddenly as ours, made such unparalleled progress, and attained to such a pinnacle of greatness and power, must be a subject of divine prophecy, or at least of divine providence.To this question the following pages undertake to give a brief but scriptural, and so a reasonable and conclusive answer; and to such only as do not believe that God ever foretells the history of nations, or that his providence ever works in their development and decline, can the subject fail to be one of interest.That this little treatise is exhaustive of the subject is not claimed; but some facts are presented which are thought to be worthy of serious consideration, and enough evidence, we trust, produced in favor of the position taken to show the reader that the subject is not one of mere theory, but of the highest practical importance; and so enough to stimulate thought and lead to further inquiry.If the position here taken be correct, this subject is to be one of continually-increasing interest, and information respecting it is necessary to an understanding of our duties and responsibilities in the solemn and important times that are upon us. It is in this light that we especially commend it to the serious consideration of the reader.

Chapter One.

Probabilities Considered.

The United States—what are they? Two hundred years ago, this question could not have been answered; it could not even have been asked. Now it can be answered by the dwellers in every quarter of the globe. Then a few small settlements of earnest men, flying from the religious intolerance of the Old World, dotted a narrow strip of coast line on our New England border. Now a mighty nation, with a vast expanse of territory stretching from ocean to ocean, and from regions almost arctic on the north to regions equally torrid on the south, embracing more square leagues of habitable land than Rome ruled over in its palmiest days, here holds a position of independence and glory among the nations of the earth.

And the sound of this new nation has gone into all the world. It has reached the toiling millions of Europe; and they are swarming to our shores to share its blessings. It has gone to the islands of the sea; and they have sent their contributions. It has reached the Orient, and opened as with a password the gates of nations long barred against intercourse with other powers; and China and Japan, turning from their beaten track of forty centuries, are looking with wonder at the prodigy arising across the Pacific to the east of them, and catching some of the impulse which this growing power is imparting to the nations of the earth.

Less than one hundred years ago, with three millions of people, the United States became an independent government. It has now a population of thirty-eight and a half millions of people, and a territory of three and a half millions of square miles. Russia alone exceeds this nation in these particulars, having forty millions more of people, and four millions more square miles of territory. Of all other nations on the globe whose laws are framed by legislative bodies elected by the people, Brazil, which has the largest territory, has not quite three millions of square miles; and France, the most populous, has not probably, considering her late reverses and misfortunes, a greater number of inhabitants than our own country. So that in point of territory and population combined, it will be seen that the United States now stand at the head of the self-governing powers of the earth.

Occupying a position altogether unique, this government excites equally the astonishment and admiration of all beholders. The main features of its history are such as have had no parallel since the distinction of nations existed among men.

1. No nation ever acquired so vast a territory in so quiet a manner.

2. No nation ever rose to such greatness by so peaceable means.

3. No nation ever advanced so rapidly in all that constitutes national strength and capital.

4. No nation ever rose to such a pinnacle of power in a space of time so incredibly short.

5. No nation in so limited a time has developed such unlimited resources.

6. No nation has ever existed founded on principles of justice so pure and undefiled.

7. No nation has ever existed in which the conscience of men have been left so untrammeled and free.

8. In no nation and in no age of the world, have the arts and sciences so flourished, so many improvements been made, and so great successes been achieved, as in our own country during the last fifty years.

9. In no nation and in no age has the gospel found such freedom, and the churches of Christ had such liberty to spread abroad their principles and develop their strength.

10. No age of the world has seen such an immigration as that which is now pouring into our borders from all lands the millions who have long groaned under despotic governments, and who now turn to this broad territory of freedom as the avenue of hope, the Utopia of the nations.

The most discerning minds have been intuitively impressed with the idea of the future greatness and power of this government. In view of the grand results developed and developing, the discovery of America by Columbus, not four hundred years ago, is set down as the greatest event of all secular history. The progress of empire to this land was long ago expected.

Sir Thomas Brown, in 1682, predicted the growth of a power here, which would rival the European kingdoms in strength and prowess.

In Burnaby's Travels through the middle settlements of North America, in 1759 and 1760, published in 1775, is expressed this sentiment:—

"An idea, strange as it is visionary, has entered into the minds of the generality of mankind, that empire is traveling westward; and every one is looking forward with eager and impatient expectation to that destined moment when America is to give the law to the rest of the world."

John Adams, Oct. 12, 1775, wrote:—

"Soon after the Reformation, a few people came over into this New World for conscience' sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire to America."

On the day after the Declaration of Independence, he wrote:—

"Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men."

In 1776, Galiani, a Neapolitan, predicted the gradual decay of European institutions, to renew themselves in America. In 1778, in reference to the question as to which was to be the ruling power in the world, Europe or America, he said:—

"I will wager in favor of America."

Adam Smith of Scotland, in 1776, predicted the transfer of empire to America.

Governor Pownal, an English statesman, in 1780, while our Revolution was in progress, predicted that this country would become independent, and that a civilizing activity beyond what Europe could ever know, would animate it; and that its commercial and naval power would be found in every quarter of the globe. Again he said:—

"North America has advanced, and is every day advancing, to growth of state, with a steady and continually accelerating motion, of which there never has yet been any example in Europe."

David Hartley wrote from England in 1777:—

"At sea, which has hitherto been our prerogative element, they [the United States] rise against us at a stupendous rate; and if we cannot return to our old mutual hospitalities toward each other, a very few years will show us a most formidable hostile marine, ready to join hands with any of our enemies."

Count d'Aranda, one of the first of Spanish statesmen, in 1783 thus wrote of this republic:—

"This Federal Republic is born a pygmy, so to speak. It required the support and forces of two powers as great as Spain and France in order to attain independence. A day will come when it will be a giant, even a colossus formidable in these countries."1

[1] These quotations are from an article by Hon. Charles Sumner, entitled, "Prophetic Voices about America," published in the Atlantic Monthly of September, 1807.

Of these prophecies, some are now wholly fulfilled, and the rest far on the road to fulfillment. This infant of yesterday stands forth to-day a giant, vigorous, active, and courageous, and accepts with dignity its manifest destiny at the head of powers and civilizations.

Such, in brief, is the answer to the question proposed at the opening of this chapter. Another question immediately follows: Does the prophetic pen which has so fully delineated the rise and progress of all the other great nations of the earth, pass this one by unnoticed? What are the probabilities in this matter? As the student of prophecy, in common with all mankind, looks with wonder upon the unparalleled rise and progress of this nation, he cannot repress the conviction that the hand of Providence has been at work in this quiet but mighty revolution. And this conviction he shares in common with others.

Gov. Pownal, from whom a quotation has already been presented, speaking of the establishment of this country as a free and sovereign power calls it

"A revolution that has stronger marks of divine interposition, superseding the ordinary course of human affairs than any other event which this world has experienced."

De Tocqueville, a French writer, speaking of our separation from England, says:—

"It might seem their folly, but was really their fate, or, rather, the providence of God, who has doubtless a work for us to do, in which the massive materiality of the English character would have been too ponderous a dead weight upon our progress."

Geo. Alfred Townsend, speaking of the misfortunes that have attended the other governments on this continent (New World and Old, p. 635), says:—

"The history of the United States was separated by a beneficent Providence far from this wild and cruel history of the rest of the continent."

Again he says:—

"This hemisphere was laid away for no one race."

If Providence has been thus conspicuously present in our history, we may look for some mention of this government in that Book which records the workings of Providence among mankind. On what conditions have other nations found a place in the prophetic record? First, if they have acted any prominent part in the world's history; and secondly, and above-all, if they have had jurisdiction over, or maintained any relations with, the people of God. And both these conditions are fulfilled in our government. No nation has ever attracted more attention or excited more profound wonder, or given promise of greater eminence or influence. And certainly here, if anywhere on the globe, are to be found a strong array of Christians, such as are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.

With these probabilities in our favor, let us now take a brief survey of those symbols found in the word of God, which represent earthly governments. These are found chiefly, if not entirely, in the books of Daniel and Revelation. In Dan 2, a symbol is introduced in the form of a great image. In Dan 7, we find a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a great and terrible nondescript, which, after passing through a new and remarkable phase, goes into the lake of fire. In Dan. 8, we have a ram, a he goat, and a horn, little at first, but waxing exceeding great. In Revelation 9, we have locusts like unto horses. In Rev. 12, we have a great red dragon. In Rev. 13, we have a blasphemous leopard beast, and a beast with two horns like a lamb. In Rev. 17, we have a scarlet-colored beast, upon which a woman sits holding in her hand a golden cup full of filthiness and abomination.

What governments and what powers are represented by all these? Do any of them symbolize our own? Some of these certainly represent earthly kingdoms; for so the prophecies themselves expressly inform us; and in the application of nearly all of them there is quite a uniform agreement among expositors. The four-parts of the great image of Dan. 2 represent four kingdoms, Babylon, or Chaldea, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The lion of the seventh chapter also represents Babylon; the bear, Medo-Persia; the leopard, Grecia; and the great and-terrible beast, Rome. The horn, with human eyes and mouth, which appears in the second phase of this beast, represents the papacy, and covers its history down to the time when it was temporarily overthrown by the French in 1798. In Dan. 8, likewise, the ram represents Medo-Persia, the he goat, Grecia, and the little horn, Rome. All these have a very clear and definite application to the governments named; none of them thus far can have any reference to the United States.

The symbols brought to view in Rev. 9, all are agreed in applying to the Saracens and Turks. The dragon of Rev. 12, is the acknowledged symbol of Pagan Rome. The leopard beast of Rev. 13 can be shown to be identical with the eleventh horn of the fourth beast of Dan. 7, and hence to symbolize the papacy. The scarlet beast and woman of Rev. 17, as evidently apply also to Rome under papal rule, the symbols having especial reference to the distinction between the civil power and the ecclesiastical, the one being represented by the beast, the other by the woman seated thereon.

There is one symbol left, and that is the two-horned beast of Rev. 13. On this there is more difference of opinion; and before seeking for an application, let us look at the ground covered by those already examined. Babylon and Medo-Persia covered all the civilized portion of Asia. Greece covered eastern Europe including Russia. Rome, with the ten kingdoms into which it was divided, as represented by the ten toes of the image, the ten horns of the fourth beast of Dan. 7, the ten horns of the dragon of Rev. 12, and the ten horns of the leopard beast of Rev. 13, covered all Western Europe. In other words, all the civilized portion of the eastern hemisphere is absorbed by the symbols already examined, respecting the application of which there is scarcely any room for doubt.

But there is a mighty nation in this western hemisphere, worthy, as we have seen, of being mentioned in prophecy, which is not yet brought in; and there is one symbol remaining, the application of which has not yet been made. All the symbols but one are applied, and all the available portions of the eastern hemisphere are covered by the applications. Of all the symbols mentioned, one, the two-horned beast of Rev. 13, is left; and of all the countries of the earth respecting which any reason exists why they should be mentioned in prophecy, the United States alone are left. Do the two-horned beast and the United States belong together? If they do, then all the symbols find an application, and all the ground is covered. If they do not, it follows, first, that the United States are not represented in prophecy; and, secondly, that the two-horned beast finds no government to which it can apply. But the first of these suppositions is not probable; and the second is not possible.

Chapter Two.

A Chain Of Prophecy.

We now enter upon a more particular examination of the second symbol of Rev. 13, with a view to determine with greater certainty its application. What is said respecting this symbol, the beast with two horns like a lamb, is not an isolated and independent prophecy, but is connected with what precedes; and the symbol itself is but one of a series. It is proper therefore to briefly examine the preceding symbols, since if we are able to make a satisfactory application of them, it will guide us in the interpretation of this.

The line of prophecy of which this forms a part commences with Rev. 12. The book of Revelation is evidently not a consecutive prophecy of events to transpire from the beginning to the close of the gospel dispensation, but is composed of a series of prophetic lines, each taking up its own class of events, and tracing them through from the days of the prophet to the end of time. And when one line of prophecy is completed, another is taken up. That a new series of prophetic events is introduced in Rev. 12, is evident; since in the preceding chapter a line of prophecy is completed, bringing us down to the great day of God's wrath, the judgment of the dead, and the eternal reward of those that fear God and revere his name. No line of prophecy can go farther; and any events to transpire in probation, subsequently mentioned, must of course belong to a new series.

Commencing, then, with chapter 12, how far does this line of prophecy extend? The first symbol introduced, which can be applied to an earthly government, is the great red dragon. The second is the beast of Rev. 13, which, having the body of a leopard, we shall call, for brevity's sake, the leopard beast. To this beast the dragon gives his seat, power, and great authority. This beast, then, is connected with the dragon, and belongs to this line of prophecy. The third symbol is the two-horned beast of Rev. 13. This beast exercises certain power in the presence of the leopard beast, and causes the earth and them that dwell therein to worship him. This beast, therefore, is connected with the leopard beast, and hence belongs to the same line of prophecy. No conclusion is reached in chapter 13, and hence the prophecy is not there completed. Going forward into chapter 14, we find a company brought to view who are redeemed from among men (which can mean nothing else than translation from among the living at the second coming of Christ); and they sing a song before the throne which none but themselves can learn. In chapter 15, we have a company presented before us who have gotten the victory over the beast, his image, the mark, and the number of his name—the very things brought to view in the concluding portion of Rev. 13. This company also sing a song, even the song of Moses and the Lamb; and they sing it while standing upon the sea of glass, as stated in verse 2. Turning to chapter 4:6, we learn that this sea of glass is "before the throne." The conclusion, therefore, follows that those who sing before the throne, in chapter 14, are identical with those who sing on the sea of glass (before the throne), in chapter 15, inasmuch as they stand in the same place, and the song they both sing is the first glad song of actual redemption. But the declarations found in chapter 15 show that the company introduced in the opening of chapter 14 have been in direct conflict with the powers brought to view in the closing verses of chapter 13, and have gotten the victory over them. Being thus connected with those powers, they form a part of the same line of prophecy. But here this line of prophecy must end; for this company is spoken of as redeemed; and no line of prophecy, as already noticed, can go beyond the eternal state.

The line of prophecy in which the two-horned beast stands, is, therefore, one which is very clearly defined: it commences with chapter 12, and ends with verse 5 of chapter 14. The student of prophecy finds it one of vast importance; the humble child of God, one of transcendent interest. It begins with the church, and ends with the church—the church, at first in humility, trial, and distress; at last, in victory, exaltation, and glory. This is the one object which ever appears the same in all the scenes here described, and whose history is the leading theme of the prophecy, from first to last. Trampled under the feet of the three colossal persecuting powers here brought to view, the followers of Christ for long ages bow their heads to the pitiless storm of oppression and persecution; but the end repays them all; for John beholds them at last, the storms all over, their conflicts all ended, waving palm-branches of victory, and striking on golden harps a song of everlasting triumph within the precincts of the heavenly land.