It is only from our modern vantage point that we can separate what is 'rational' in seventeenth-century science from what is not. We must not allow this wisdom after the event to make us condescending about beliefs held by men like Bacon, Boyle and Newton. Only in the course of the century did the laws of nature harden and congeal; meanwhile scientists were of all men the most anxious to demonstrate that science proves the existence of God.
-Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, pg. 89-90.
Protestant scholarship exposed many Catholic superstitions, and popularized the vernacular Bible. Similarly, protestant study of the prophetical books of the Bible was intended to put the science of prophecy on a rational basis. Other prophecies, unless positively assisted by devils, always fooled those who trusted them: Birnam wood did come to Dunsinane in a most unfair manner. The invention of printing, by putting prophecies on permanent record, perhaps helped to expose their ambiguities and fallacies. The feeling of freedom which reliance on such prophecies had given was illusory. But the Bible, if properly understood, really would liberate men from destiny, from predestination. By understanding and cooperating with God's purposes men believed they could escape from the blind forces which seemed to rule their world, from time itself; they could become free. It was in a scientific spirit that scholars approached Biblical prophecy. It was the job of mathematicians and chronologers, like Napier, Brightman, Mede, Ussher and Newton. Such men believed in the possibility of establishing a science of prophecy, just as Hobbes believed in the possibility of establishing a science of politics. Both hopes proved unrealizable: neither is therefore to be despised.
-Ibid, p. 92.