THE IRON AND THE CLAY
By D. M. PANTOM, B.A.
The politics of the nations of the world to-day add a fresh, deeply-moving proof of the close approach of the Advent. The first fact is the prevalence of iron power. The metals of Daniel’s Image - world-empire down the ages - remarkably indicate growth in force: silver is harder than gold, and brass harder than silver; and all close in iron, "forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that crusheth all these, shall it break in pieces and crush." So the specific gravity of the metals is graded - of Gold, 19.3; Silver, 10.31; Brass, 8.5; Iron, 7.6; and the Clay, in the last stage, 1.9. Aeroplanes in their thousands, tanks with enormous guns, bombs wiping out whole cities - are all force utterly unknown in previous ages, iron power in days immediately preceding our Lord’s return.
But the second fact is in sharp conflict with the first. The ten nations which compose the final world-empire are seething with political unrest, and even revolution; and every totalitarian State - iron power - is in constant danger of civil war, and of breaking up in self-destruction.
So now we see a lightning photograph of the closing days. "Whereas thou sawest the feet and toes" - the last stages of universal empire - "part of potter’s clay, and part of iron", it shall be a divided kingdom;* - but there shall be in it the strength of the "iron" - it will be mastered by military force and terrorism - "forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay" (Dan. 2: 41). The clay in the iron will mean dangerous internal movements jeopardizing the very existence of each of the ten kingdoms - the ‘ten toes.’ "And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken" - 'brittle' (R.V., margin). That is, always in danger of disintegrating.
[* "The Hebrew for ‘divided’ always signifies unnatural or violent division arising from inner disharmony or discord" (Keil).]
For what is the clay? "Whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay" - iron mingled with brittle earthenware, easily shivered - "they" - the iron powers - "shall mingle themselves with the seed of men" - the proletariat, the political groupings of the working classes. The iron is a tank or machine-gun handled by trained gunners: the clay is the unarmed populace, scattering in a moment from the public squares in their thousands, as easily broken as brittle earthenware. Seventeen centuries ago a shrewd commentator foresaw the fulfilment. "These events," says Hippolytus, "are in the future, when the ten toes of the Image will have turned out to be so many democracies."
No more wonderfully has the appearance of the clay in the iron been fulfilled than in the Orient. "No axiom of international politics," says Lord Curzon, "would have been accepted with less dispute than the belief that absolutism was so innate and deeply-rooted an institution in the East that whatever change of government it might set up, or desire, this would not take the form of representative government or democratic institutions. The change has been enormous. We have seen the Turks in Europe and the Persians in Asia dethroning an absolute monarch and setting up a parliamentary chamber; the Egyptians clamouring for a similar institution; the Indian Nationalists adopting as their avowed program self-government on parliamentary lines; and above all - greatest of all wonders - China committing herself to the summoning of a Parliament."
what is the consequence? Two sovereignties, latently hostile, will rend
every State: the sovereignty of the People: the Iron, strength of empire, hard,
destructive, autocratic; forcibly blended with the Clay, seething political
groups by which the Iron is constantly checked and the State endangered.
"But they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron doth not mingle with clay": the
cleavage is irreconcilable; internal and incessant strife will demoralize
the nations until the end. Doubtless it will be even so in the Empire of Antichrist. The Editor of
The Nineteenth Century stresses one phase of the Clay. "National Socialism is an amalgam of two most powerful mass
movements of modern mankind. Had it not have been nationalized, it would
not have commanded the pervert allegiance of men capable of leadership in a
mighty revolution, and in a revolutionary war of nations. Had it not been
socialistic it would not have commanded the equally fervent allegiance of a
vast multitude of men and women, boys and girls. It is ascendant
everywhere, except in the
So now God acts at last. Absolute power in the hands of incorruptible goodness, and informed by adequate wisdom, is the perfection of government: God Himself assumes the Throne of the World. "A Stone was cut out without hands" - no man-created government - "which smote the image: then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the threshing-floors." The final smashing of the Image reveals the invariable unrighteousness of all governmental forms down the ages, all varieties of human rule. The Stone - equally a mineral, and so an empire - descends; it collides with the Image in sharp and smashing collision; and the entire fabric of human power disappears as chaff. The world-powers were in title, but never in fact, universal: the coming Empire will be absolute and universal: "the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth: the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed."
then appears at last a Theocracy - that is, government by God. Most remarkably it is forecast two to three
thousand years ago. Jehovah chose a
single nation, over which He was to be the King, literally and in personal
(though invisible) government; but
Exactly such also is the destiny of the Overcomers who will reign with Christ, the Man Child "who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12: 5). Grace ceases when judgment descends, and justice replaces mercy. Our Lord makes it exactly clear to Thyatira exactly what an overcomer is, and who will share His Throne. "He that overcometh, and HE THAT KEEPETH MY WORKS UNTO THE END" - for only he is an overcomer who is Christ-like in life and character to the very end, un-backsliding, undefeated - "to him will I give authority over the nations" (Rev. 2: 26). In the words of Archbishop Trench: "That which will be crowned is the keeping of Christ’s works unto the end; for Christ promises here this reward, not to him who enters the list and endures for a time, but to him who, having begun well, continues striving lawfully to the last: ‘to him will I give power over the nations’."
And that power will be inflexible justice. "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO SHIVERS; as I also have received of my Father." But it will not be terrorism. "The breaking will be benevolent: it will be the power of holiness, destroying those who would overthrow the world’s happiness. Our patience is not to be for ever, nor is power forever to be dissevered from righteousness. When our Lord’s attitude changes, so does ours:" (Govett).