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Daniel 7:8

8. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

8. Intelligebam 1010     That is, was attentive. — Calvin ad cornua: et ecce cornu aliud parvum exortum fuit inter alia: et tria ex cornibus prioribus ablata sunt e facie ejus: et ecce oculi quasi oculi hominis in cornua illo, et os loquens grandia.


Daniel proceeds with his description of the fourth beast. First, he says, he was attentive, with the intention of rousing us to serious meditation. For what is said of the fourth beast, was remarkably memorable and worthy of notice. This, then, is the reason why God struck the heart of his servant with wonder. For the Prophet would not have given his attention to the consideration of the fourth beast, unless he had been impelled to it by the secret instinct of God. The Prophet’s attention, then, sprang from a heavenly impulse. Wherefore it is our duty not to read carelessly what is here written, but to weigh seriously and with the greatest diligence what the Spirit intends by this vision. I was attentive, therefore, says he, to the horns, and behold one small one arose among them. Here interpreters begin to vary; some twist this to mean the Pope, and others the Turk; but neither opinion seems to me probable; they are both wrong, since they think the whole course of Christ’s kingdom is here described, while God wished only to declare to his Prophet what should happen up to the first advent of Christ. This, then, is the error of all those who wish to embrace under this vision the perpetual state of the Church up to the end of the world. But the Holy Spirit’s intention was completely different. We explained at the beginning why this vision appeared to the Prophet — because the minds of the pious would constantly fail them in the dreadful convulsions which were at hand, when they saw the supreme dominion pass over to the Persians. And then the Macedonians broke in upon them, and acquired authority throughout; the whole of the East, and afterwards those robbers who made war under Alexander suddenly became kings, partly by cruelty and partly by fraud and perfidy, which created more strife than outward hostility. And when the faithful saw all those monarchies perish, and the Roman Empire spring up like a new prodigy, they would lose their courage in such confused and turbulent changes. Thus this vision was presented to the Prophet, that all the children of God might understand what severe trials awaited them before the advent of Christ. Daniel, then, does not proceed beyond the promised redemption, and does not embrace, as I have said, the whole kingdom, of Christ, but is content to bring the faithful to that exhibition of grace which they hoped and longed for.

It is sufficiently clear, therefore, that this exhibition ought to be referred to the first advent of Christ. I have no doubt that the little horn relates to Julius Caesar and the other Caesars who succeeded him, namely, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and others. Although, as we said before, the counsel of the Holy Spirit must be attended to, which leads the faithful forwards to the beginning of the reign of Christ, that is, to the preaching of the Gospel, which was commenced under Claudius, Nero, and their successors. He calls it a little horn, because Caesar did not assume the name of king; but when Pompey and the greater part of the senate were conquered, he could not enjoy his victory without assuming to himself supreme power. Hence he made himself tribune of the people and their dictator. Meanwhile, there were always Consuls; there was always some shadow of a Republic, while they daily consulted the senate and sat in his seat while the consuls were at the tribunals. Octavius followed the same practice, and afterwards Tiberius also. For none of the Caesars, unless he was consul, dared to ascend the tribunal; each had his own seat, although from that place he commanded all others. It is not surprising, then, if Daniel calls the monarchy of Julius and the other Caesars a little horn, its splendor and dignity were not great enough to eclipse the majesty of the senate; for while the senate retained the name and form of honor, it is sufficiently known that one man alone possessed the supreme power. He says, therefore, this little horn was raised among the ten others. I must defer the explanation of what follows, viz., three of these ten were taken away.

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