THE STONE CUT WITHOUT HANDS.
The Stone "Cut Out Of The Mountain" is generally interpreted of the kingdom of Messiah, some writers applying it to his first Advent, and others to his second. If the fourth kingdom be the Roman, then the stone was cut "without hands," either at the birth of Christ, or, as Calvin when answering Abarbanel prefers, at the first spread of the Gospel. The reason why a "stone" here symbolizes "the kingdom of the heavens," is because Christ is spoken of in Scripture as a chief corner-stone. The passages in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Matthew, and others, are too familiar to the reader to require quotation. The mountain is supposed to be, either the Virgin Mary, or the Jewish people; without hands, may allude to our Savior's marvelous birth, or to his spiritual independence of all human agency. The ancient fathers, as well as the modern reformers, agree in this allusion to Christ. See Justin Martyr Dial. cum Tryph., section 32; Irenaeus adv. Haer., verse 21; Tertullian, De Resur., page 61; Apolog., page 869; Cyprian adv. Jud., lib. 2. section 17; Augustine in Psalm 98.
The question of the greatest interest is, whether this prophecy has been fulfilled at the first Advent, or is yet to be accomplished at the second. Willet has taken Calvin to task for his "insufficient" answers to the "Rabbine Barbanel," but as they vary only on minor points, it is not necessary to quote the corrections of his thoughtful monitor.
The theory of Joseph Mede, the great advocate of the year-day system, may be noticed here. He supposes the stone cut out at the first Advent, but not to smite the image till the second. This involves the existence of the Roman empire, throughout the whole Christian dispensation -- an admission that Calvin would not make, and should not be hastily allowed. Dr. Todd correctly remarks, "it assumes the Roman empire to be still in existence," and it further assumes that the prophecies revealed to Daniel advance beyond the first Advent of Messiah. Calvin and the older commentators treat them as terminating with the establishment of the Gospel dispensation. Tertullian, indeed, applies this passage to the second Advent, but Maldonatus considers that expositor as "insanus," who thinks the Roman empire to be still existing. Yet both Bellarmine, and Birks argue for its present continuance, and each founds upon it his own views of Scripture prophecy.
As we shall have other opportunities for discussing these questions in our second volume, we simply state that Calvin and our chief Reformers considered all Daniel's prophecies summed up and satisfied by the first Advent of Christ. As they did not adopt the year-day system, they treated these predictions as pointing the Jews to the coming of their Messiah, and as depicting the various kingdoms and sovereigns which should arise, and affect by their progress and dissensions the Holy Land. It never once occurred to them that the Book of Daniel relates in any way to the details of the history of modern Europe, and of either the Court or the Church of Rome.
Another view hinted at, but disapproved by Bishop Newton, is that the third empire relates solely to Alexander, the fourth to his successors in Syria and Egypt, and the stone cut without hands to the Roman dominion. But with this popular writer as well as with Joseph Mede -- the received view of the iron portion of the image is "little less than an article of faith." 1 The stone he reminds us was quite different from the image, so the kingdom of Christ was utterly distinct from the principalities of this world. He asserts that its smiting power was displayed at the first Advent, and is continued throughout the subsequent history of the world. But as Bishop Newton is an advocate of the historical system of interpreting days for years, which Calvin did not uphold, it is unnecessary to quote him further. The reader will, however, derive benefit from consulting the authorities which he has brought forward in rich abundance. 2 As he is a valuable and a popular expounder of prophecy, it is necessary to make this passing allusion to so valuable an author; while the reader of these Lectures must be cautioned against adopting any views of prophecy which are inconsistent with the great principle upon which the Almighty deals with us, in our new covenant through Christ our Lord.
Oecolampadius in his comment upon Daniel 2:44, treats the kingdom of Christ as spiritual and eternal; like other earnest writers, he considers the troubles of his own days as peculiarly the marks of Antichrist. The blasphemy of the Mahometans, and the arrogance of the "Cata-baptists," seem to him intolerable. He is especially vehement against those who urge the necessity of a second baptism, and deny the value of outward ordinances, as the ministry and the sacraments; and argues for the permanence of external ceremonies till the second Advent of Christ.
He considers verse forty-five to relate to the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of mankind to judgment, but does not condemn the opinion of Jerome and other "fathers," who refer it to the incarnation of our Lord. The mountain, says he, is Zion, and the people the Jews, and by his crucifixion, Christ is said to grow into a mountain and fill the earth. He quotes Hippolytus as sanctioning its reference to the second Advent; and objects to the views of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Lactantius, who as Chiliasts turned this passage to their purpose. The gross ideas of some Jews and Christians, respecting a thousand years of carnal enjoyment upon earth, are wisely reprobated, and some very profitable remarks are made upon the spiritual reign of Christ in the hearts and souls of his people. Oecolampadius is on this occasion remarkably practical and searching in his comment; he is not so critical and literal as Calvin, but he develops more of the deep feelings of the mature Christian than any other Reformer does on the Old Testament.
1 Mede's Works, Book 4, Ep. 6 p. 736.
2 See Dissertation XIII. Edit. Lond. 1832.