4. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
4. Et tu Daniel, claude, vel, obsera verba, sermones, et obsigna librum ad tempus finis; discurrent multi, et augebitur scientia.
We have already explained |the time of the end| is a period previously fixed on by God, and settled by his own counsel. The following word refers to tracing out and running to and fro, but not necessarily in a bad sense, while it also signifies to investigate. Interpreters explain the angel's meaning, as if many should be unworthy to receive this prophecy from Daniel; and hence it was to be closed up and only enigmatically delivered to a few, because scarcely one in a hundred would attend to what he had delivered. I think the Holy Spirit has a different intention here. The angel's advice is this, There is no reason why this prophecy should cause despondency or dismay, because few should receive it. Although it should be universally despised and ridiculed, nevertheless shut it up like a precious treasure. Isaiah has a passage nearly similar, (Isaiah 8:16,) Close up nay law, seal the testimony among my disciples. Isaiah's spirit would be broken when he perceived himself an object of universal derision, and God's sacred oracles trodden under foot; thus he might lose all courage and decline the office of a teacher. But God affords him comfort: Close up, says he, nay law among my disciples, and do not notice this profane crew; although they all despise thy teaching, do not suppose thy voice deserves their ridicule; close it up, close it up among my disciples, says he; how few soever may embrace thy teaching, yet let it remain sacred and laid up in the hearts of the pious. The Prophet afterwards says, Behold nay children with me. Here he boasts in his contentment with very few, and thus triumphs over the impious and insolent multitude. Thus at the present time in the Papacy and throughout the whole world, impiety prevails so extensively that there is scarcely a single corner in which the majority agree in true obedience to God. As God foresaw how very few would embrace this prophecy with becoming reverence, the angel desired to animate the Prophet, lest he should grow weary, and esteem this prophecy as of little value, in consequence of its failing to command the applause of the whole world.
Close up the book, then but what does the phrase imply? Not to hide it from all men, but to satisfy the Prophet when he saw but few reverently embracing the teaching so plainly laid before him by the angel. This is not properly a command; the angel simply tells Daniel to hide or seal up this book and these words, offering him at the same time much consolation. If all men despise thy doctrine, and reject what thou dost set before them, -- if the majority pass it by contemptuously, shut it up and seal it, not treating it as valueless, but preserving it as a treasure. I deposit it with time, do thou lay it up among my disciples. Thou, Daniel; here the Prophet's name is mentioned. If thou thinkest thyself to be alone, yet companions shall be afterwards added to thee who shall treat this prophecy with true piety. Shut up, then, and seal it, even, till the time of the end; for God will prove by the event that he has not spoken in vain, and experience will shew me to have been sent by him, as every occurrence has been previously predicted. It now follows, --
Many shall investigate, and knowledge shall increase. Some writers take this second clause in a contrary sense, as if many erratic spirits should run about with vague speculations, and wander from the truth. But this is too forced. I do not hesitate to suppose the angel to promise the arrival of a period when God should collect many disciples to himself, although at the beginning they should be very few and insignificant. Many, then, shall investigate; meaning, though they are most careless and slothful, while boasting themselves God's people, yet God should gather to himself a great multitude from other quarters. Small indeed and insignificant is the apparent number of the faithful who care for the truth of God, and who shew any eagerness to learn it, but let not this scantiness move thee. The sons of God shall soon become increased. Many shall investigate, and knowledge shall increase This prophecy shall not always be buried in obscurity; the Lord will at length cause many to embrace it to their own salvation. This event really came to pass. Before Christ's coming, this doctrine was not esteemed according to its value. The extreme ignorance and grossness of the people is notorious, while their religion was nearly overthrown till God afterwards increased his Church. And at the present time any one who will carefully consider this prediction will experience its utility. This can scarcely be fully expressed in words; for, unless this prophecy had been preserved and laid up like an inestimable treasure, much of our faith would have passed away. This divine assistance affords us strength, and enables us to overcome all the attacks of the world and of the devil.