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Commentary On Daniel Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Thirty-Fourth.

Three things remain to be explained by us in expounding the Fourth Beast. First of all, Three horns were taken away from its face; Secondly, The little horn, which rose among the ten, appeared with human eyes; Thirdly, It spoke magnificently, or uttered swelling words. With regard to the three horns, it is sufficiently evident from the testimony of the angel that they were three kings; not because this ought to be referred to persons, as I yesterday disproved, but because the Romans were accustomed to send to each province, rulers like kings who there exercised the supreme authority. Those who extend this prophecy to the end of Christ's Kingdom, think that a dispersion which happened about three or five hundred years after the death of Christ is intended; but they are greatly mistaken. Clearly enough the whole strength of the Roman Empire was exhausted and the provinces gradually cut off, till it became a kind of mutilated body; but we yesterday showed the incorrectness of any explanation of this oracle, except concerning the state of the Church at the first Advent of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel. At that time, it is well known, nothing had been subtracted from the boundaries of the Empire. For Julius Caesar was formidable not only to the Gauls, but also to the Germans; and besides this, the affairs of the East were at peace. After his death, although Octavius or Augustus had suffered two very destructive slaughters, especially under Quintilius Varus, who had been sent into Germany with a powerful army, yet he also extended the boundaries of the Empire, especially in the East. He also subdued the whole of Spain, where no commotion afterwards took place. As, therefore, at that period no province had been cut off from the Roman Empire, what is the meaning of the expression, Three horns were cut off and removed from the face of the beast? The solution is not, difficult. Only let us observe how the little horn is compared with the first stature of the beast. It first appeared with ten horns; when the little horn arose its figure was changed. The Prophet then says -- a part of the horns was cut off, as the senate then ceased to create proconsuls. For we know how Augustus assumed to himself certain provinces, and he did this for the purpose of creating' presidents at his own will, and of constituting a strong force, ever at hand, should any one rebel against him. For he did not care so much about provinces as about an army, should any tumult arise. He was desirous, therefore, of throwing a bridle over them all, lest any one should dare to attempt a revolution. Whatever was thus added to the little horn was taken from the ten horns, that is, from the whole body, as the state of the monarchy was entirely changed. There is nothing forced in this exposition. We must also contend for a definite or fixed number being put for an uncertain one; as if the Prophet: had said -- a part of the power of the beast was abstracted after the rising' of the little horn. Thus much for the first clause.

He now adds, The eyes in this small horn were like those of men; and then, it spoke mighty things, With respect to the eyes, this expression implies -- the form of a human body was exhibited, because, the Caesars did not abolish the senate nor change at once the whole form of the government; but, as we yesterday said, they were content with power; and as to splendor, titles, and pomp, they readily left these to the consuls and the senate. If any one considers the manner in which those Caesars, who are doubtless intended by the little horn, conducted themselves, their conduct will appear like a human figure. For Julius Caesar pretended, although he was dictator, to obey the senate's authority, and the consuls asked the opinion of the senators, after the ancient manner. He sat in the midst, and permitted many things to be decreed without interposing his will. Augustus also abused the shadow of the tribunitial power only for the purpose of ruling the Empire. Thus he submitted to the consuls; and when he wished to be elected to that office, he became a candidate with the other competitors, and put on the white robe like a private citizen. Tiberius also was a great pretender, and while plotting schemes of tyranny, was neither open nor ingenuous in his plans. So also the eyes of a man appeared in the little horn, that is, after this change took place and the senate and people were deprived of their liberty. He who held the government of the republic was not formidable, as an entire beast, but was like a private man as to outward form.

The Prophet adds, The small horn had a loud sounding mouth For although, with the view of conciliating favor, the Caesars conducted themselves like men, we know how atrociously they threatened their enemies, and how imperiously they either hindered or committed whatever they lusted, as it seemed good to them. There was, then, a great difference between their mouth and their eyes. For, as we already said, the splendor and dignity of the empire was in the power of the consuls and senate at the beginning. Meanwhile, by insidious arts, the Caesars drew towards themselves the whole power, till no one dared to do anything, except at their bidding. Many interpreters explain this as blasphemy against God, and impiety; and the angel will touch upon this point at the close of the chapter. But; if we weigh the whole expression judiciously, what I say will appear correct, and the loud speaking here mentioned by the Prophet will signify, that pride with which the Caesars', were puffed up, imposing silence on all men and allowing no one to open their mouths contrary to their will. The Prophet's words are very well explained by this fact; for the three horns being removed from the ten, means some part of the empire was separated from the main body; then, the small horn being endued with human eyes, implies a kind of modesty, as the Caesars acted like private persons, and left outward show with the senate and people; and thirdly, when the mouth of the little horn spoke swellingly, trepidation seized upon all the Romans, and especially whoever enjoyed any reputation, hung upon the nod of the Caesars, who imposed the vilest slavery, and received the foulest and most shameful flattery from the whole senate. It now follows, --

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