The Columbian Year and the Meaning of the Four Centuries

The Columbian Year and the Meaning of the Four Centuries

An address delivered by Alonzo T. Jones, on Columbus Day 1892, revised to date.

THE subject announced for to-day’s celebration throughout the whole land, as you doubtless are aware, is “The Meaning of the Four Centuries.” It is an excellent subject. It is well to know the meaning of any century. It is well to know the meaning of all the centuries. It is excellent for us who are here to-day, to know the meaning of these four centuries. CYMFC 1.1

And if we would know indeed the meaning of these four centuries, it is evident that the proper means to discover that would be to consult Him who is the King of all the centuries, and more than that even, the King of eternity. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the meaning of these four centuries no less than all the others. He has told us some things in regard to these; and the best that any one ever can tell is what he learns from the Lord. CYMFC 1.2

To call your attention to what He has said, I will read first from the fourth chapter of Daniel and the seventeenth verse. This is part of the record that the king of Babylon made in describing a vision that he had had, and what was done in that vision. He was telling what certain ones— “watchers” and “holy ones”—who came down from heaven said: “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” This is repeated in four other places in this book. So it is here five times stated that God rules in the affairs of men, in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will. This is true of this nation as well as of that nation. And he would have us know the meaning of this as well as of that. CYMFC 1.3

There is another place, in Acts 17, that tells us the Lord’s mind upon this subject, to a certain extent: Verses 23-26. Speaking of the One who among the Athenians was the “Unknown God,” he says: “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath; and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” CYMFC 2.1

The Lord has determined the bounds of the habitations of the inhabitants of the earth and the times before appointed. And then in the 27th verse he gives the object of this: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” Not “if they might feel after him and haply find him;” but if “haply they might feel after him and find him.” When they feel after him, there is no “hap” about their finding him. Every person in every nation who feels after God will find him. That is settled. CYMFC 2.2

Then this scripture shows plainly that the object that God has in distributing the nations over the face of the earth is that they should seek and know him; feel after him and find him, though he is not far from every one. There is another place that tells the same thing, although in other words, and makes it more definite than even this text. Deuteronomy 32:7-9: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is hips people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” CYMFC 2.3

Then the Lord expects that a portion of the inhabitants of the earth will turn to him in response to his love, his calling, and the care and dealing that he has had with them in every nation; and that portion which turns to him becomes his people. When he determined the bounds and the habitations of the people upon the earth, he did it with the idea of Israel and his inheritance, in view. Also when he tells us to remember the years of old and consider the years of many generations, he would have us turn our attention to the centuries. CYMFC 3.1

It is not only true that the Lord has this purpose in view for every nation—that they should feel after him and find him; but it is his purpose for every nation as long as there remain any there who will seek the Lord. Genesis 15:13-16: “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” CYMFC 3.2

That land was given to Abram and to his seed; but he could not inhabit it as yet because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. There were among the Amorites at that time some who feared God, and there were others who might yet turn to the Lord, feel after him and find him; and the Lord would not root up that nation as long as there were any in it who might find him and his blessing. But when they had gone so far away from the Lord as to fill up the cup of their iniquity, so that there were no longer any of them feeling after God that they might find him, then the Lord brought his people into the land and rooted out those who inhabited it, that his people might dwell there. CYMFC 3.3

When any people have gone so far as to seek wholly, not the Lord and his ways, but their own ways, then God’s purpose is finished with that nation; there is no further use for them on the earth, and they will be swept away. This is but the statement in another form of the principle under discussion, and it is clearly illustrated in the history of the nations. CYMFC 4.1

Turn to Jeremiah 27:1-7. Word was sent to all the nations round about Palestine, telling them: “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, till the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.” CYMFC 4.2

When that time came, and Babylon reached the height of its glory, they turned away from the Lord, Nebuchadnezzar had sought the Lord and found him, and proclaimed him to all the nations; but his son and his grandson turned away from the Lord. And finally there was that blasphemous feast at which Belshazzar was slain, and the kingdom was taken away and given to the Medes and Persians. Read the full record in the fifth chapter of Daniel. CYMFC 4.3

In the eighth chapter of Daniel we have another state- ment. Verses 5-9 and 20-23. When is the time that the kingdoms which followed Media and Persia were overthrown?—“When the transgressors are come to the full.” Just as the Lord said to Abram concerning the Amorites—when they had filled up the measure of their iniquity. CYMFC 4.4

Again in Daniel 11:1, 2, and 10:20, we read the words of the angel: “Also I, in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him. And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all, and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” “Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.” CYMFC 5.1

This angel was there with Daniel in the third year of Cyrus. Daniel 10:1. Cyrus was the successor of Darius the Mede, and the angel had stood with Darius to strengthen him; and to Cyrus he had said, “I will open to you the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut.” Isaiah 45:1-5. But the angel now says, I will return to the prince of Persia, and I will stay there a certain length of time, and when I am gone forth, then the prince of Grecia shall come. When the angel went forth and stood no longer by the Persian ruler as he had stood by Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, then that nation was really left to its own devices, so that when the prince of Grecia came against it, all he had to do was to move onward. And it is a mystery even to this day that that monarch of the Persians, who contended with Alexander the Great, should do the things that he did do—things that would really be ridiculous in any commander; things that the veriest tyro in soldiery would know ought not to be done. But the secret of it was, that when the angel had gone forth from Persia, he went to the nation that was coming against Persia; the power and guid- ance of God were transferred from Persia to Grecia; and the power of Persia perished, and that of Grecia succeeded to its place in the world and in the grand purpose of the Lord. CYMFC 5.2

When the Amorites had filled up the measure of their iniquity, their place was given to Israel, the people of God. When Israel, following the way of the heathen, filled also the cup of iniquity, God brought up the kingdom of Babylon, and took all away. When Babylon had filled up the cup of its iniquity, the power was transferred to Persia. And when the angel was turned away by the wickedness of the Persians, then the prince of Grecia comes in and sweeps it away. CYMFC 6.1

And how long was the power of Grecia to continue? When was it to be broken?—“When the transgressors were come to the full.” That nation stands until it has filled up the measure of its iniquity, and then the power is transferred to another kingdom. That power to which it was transferred was the Roman, as we learn from Daniel 11:14. “And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south; also the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.” This nation is pointed out as a nation of robbers—the children of robbers, as says the margin of the text. CYMFC 6.2

These are the ones to whom the kingdom is now given, and what for?—“The children of robbers shall exalt themselves to establish the vision.” When this nation comes upon the scene, then there enters that which establishes the vision, that which is one great object of the vision, the one chief landmark in the line of vision which God has given through the prophets for all time. CYMFC 6.3

By this mere sketch there is seen the secret of God’s purpose with the nations. He presides in the kingdoms of men and giveth them to whomsoever he will. Why?—That they should seek him if haply they might feel after him and find; and as long as any one remains in the nation that will seek him, that nation will stand. But when all fail to do this, then it will be given to another people that they may seek him. CYMFC 6.4

It is the truth that there is no principle announced in the Scriptures concerning either men as individuals or men as grouped in nations, that will not be illustrated in the life of individuals or of nations. There is no principle in the Scriptures that has been announced in vain for the children of men. CYMFC 7.1

Every principle of God, announced for the salvation of the individual, will be illustrated in the life of individuals in every nation. So that in the grand consummation there will be those out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people who will be brought there through the power of the salvation and the light of God that is in the world. Revelation 7:9, 10. CYMFC 7.2

Now it is true that nations, as such, are not saved in the kingdom of God. But there are principles which God has announced for the good and the guidance of nations in this world, the place of their existence. This is as true of nations in their sphere as it is true of individuals in their sphere. And the principles which God has announced for nations will be illustrated before all the nations, as certainly as the principles for individuals will be illustrated before all individuals. CYMFC 7.3