Images de page
PDF
ePub

existing circumstances of the world, or of the Jews, which contradicts this assertion, or renders it incapable of being verified?

The language of Christ is expressed with all possible strength. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my word shall not pass away. That is, says bp. Newton, Heaven and earth shall sooner or more easily pass away; the frame of the universe shall sooner or more easily be dissolved, than my words not be fulfilled. And surely the prediction of the Jews remaining as a separate people was a fact of sufficient importance, and sufficiently interesting to the persons whom our Lord was addressing, to account why he annexed to it an affirmation thus striking and solemn.

To

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. excite an habitual vigilance in Christians of every age appears to have been the primary aim of this admonition. From the manner in which our Lord introduces the expression, that day, it is, however, evident, that he is still speaking of the same period, of which he had been treating in the preceding verses. The verse, then, must be explained so as to harmonise with the rest, and accordingly may, in this manner, be paraphrased. Beware of falling into habits of intemperance and extravagance. Be cautious of being so besotted by sordid interest and the cares of this life; that you should in consequence engage in criminal pursuits and criminal combinations, adverse to the general happiness of mankind, and to the practice of Christianity, and thus should not discern the Signs of the Times, nor perceive the approach of that momentous period, when the way

48It is a common figure of speech in the oriental languages, to say of two things that the one shall be and the other shall not be, when the meaning is only, the one shall happen sooner or more easily than the other. As in this instance of our Saviour.' Bp. Newton, vol. II. p. 318. But St. Luke expresses himself, on a like occasion, without a figure (xvi. 17), it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail.

shall be prepared for the establishment of that religion in spirit and in truth, and those, who uphold what is antichristian and oppressive, shall be subjected to the heaviest and most unlooked for calamities. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the earth. When that period arrives, and unexpectedly will it arrive, those, who obstinately cling to antichristian abuses, shall be destined to fall a snare to the devices themselves have planned.

In the parallel chapter of Matthew (xxiv), in v. 41, 42, and 43 it is said, Watch, therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for, in such an hour as ye think not, the son of man cometh. Bp. Newton observes, that Christ is said to come upon any notable and illustrious manifestation of his providence49;' and accordingly the context here directs us to understand his coming of that splendid display of justice, when, as we are told in this chapter, the symbolic sun, and moon, and stars will all be darkened.

Strongly is this interpretation of these three verses confirmed by the manner in which a parallel passage is applied by St. John. In the war of Armageddon, the antichristian kings are to experience an irreparable defeat; and, in the account of this war, the following caution is inserted; Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth. Here, says Daubuz, Christ himself is plainly represented as speaking. With a reference to the exhortation of Christ, which has just been quoted from Matthew, I cite also the following passage from Dr. Hartley. How near the dissolution of the present governments, generally or particularly, may be, would be great rashness to affirm. Christ will come in this sense also, as a thief in the nights?

[blocks in formation]

On the order of time, in which the events predicted by our Lord are to follow each other, somewhat may be farther noted. The powers of heaven shall be shaken. The antichristian powers shall be removed from the political universe. And THEN shall they see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And quickly af terwards the religion of Jesus shall have a glorious prevalence. AND WHEN THESE THINGS BEGIN TO COME TO PASS; when a part of the oppressive governments of the world shall be destroyed (probably those of this character in Europe), and the Christian religion is in consequence beginning to produce its natural effects; THEN look up, and lift up your heads; for your deliverance draweth nigh. But Matthew says, that the sun shall be darkened AFTER the tribulation of those days. What then is the conclusion we draw from the comparison of the two passages? Since from Matthew we gather, that the tribulation and persecution of the Jews are entirely to cease, before the antichristian governments of the world shall be completely darkened; and since from Luke we learn, that what is called their deliverance in an event subsequent to the commencement of the destruction of these governments; it is probable, that an interval of time will elapse, between their being tolerated and freed from all considerable oppressions, and their return to their own land and acceptance of the gospel of Jesus. To the expectations of reason this, indeed, is perfectly consonant.

From the explication which has been offered of our Lord's prediction, it will, I hope, appear, that however awful and terrifying may be the aspect which they wear, when first surveyed, and however they may have been thought to threaten human kind in general; yet that they do, when narrowly inspected and justly interpreted, cease to afford ground of alarm to the philosophic philanthropist and genuine Christian; though they are, indeed, fitted to communicate a degree of seriousness and solicitude to every mind, and are calculated to inspire with the most painful reflexions and the deepest dismay all the sons of

[ocr errors]

usurpation and of plunder, however elevated their power, however ancient their claims, and however artfully they may have sheltered themselves under the forms of law or the profession of Christianity. But persons of this description regard not the divine oracles. It were well, if, in the ears of such, the tremendous words of the apostle Paul were loudly sounded. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work, which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. These words St. Paul applied' (I am now quoting from bp. Hurd) to the unbelieving Jews; of whose mockery, and of whose fate, ye have heard what their own historian witnesseth; and if we equal their obdurate spirit, that prophecy may clearly be applied, and no man can say, that it was not intended to be applied to ourselves.—' Let us, then, on a principle of self-love, if not of piety, keep the sayings of this books4, concerning THE MAN OF SIN. From many appearances, the appointed time for THE FULL COMPLETION of them may not very remote. And it becomes our prudence to take heed, that we be not found in the number of those, to whom that awful question is proposed, How is it, that ye do not discern the signs of this times?' This cautious and courtly prelate here assumes an apostolic plainness; and seems, for a moment, to be forgetful of his episcopal station, and to divest himself of his natural character. To many of those, with whom his lordship associates, a more suitable lesson of caution and of advice he could not have possibly offered.

be

52 Acts xiii. 40, 41.

53 Vol. II. p. 228. Josephus tells us, that, in the last dreadful ruin of his unhappy countrymen, it was familiar with them, to make a jest of divine things, and to deride, as so many senseless tales and juggling impostures, the sacred oracles of their prophets; though they were then fulfilling before their eyes, and even upon themselves.' Hurd, p. 226.

54 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein. Rev. i. 3.

55 Luke xii. 56.

[ocr errors]

My next quotation is from another classical scholar, who has likewise contemplated the signs of the times with an attentive eye, and who also was educated in the bosom of the church and in the university of Cambridge; but whose principles of conduct have been perfectly opposite to those of the bishop of Worcester. There is,' says Mr. Wakefield, a season, when inactivity were a crime and public admonition, even at the hazard of personal comforts, rises into an indispensable obligation; to those, at least, who are desirous that their master should not be ashamed of them at his second coming. I am expecting with trembling solicitude, amidst the incessant occupations of a literary life, that alarming catastrophe, which the signs of the times indicate, in my mind, to be rapidly approaching."

To the reasons which have before been stated"?, to account why the preceding exposition of the prophecy of Jesus has not been embraced or noticed by any of our English commentators, it may be added, that most of them have been too contracted in their inquiries, and have been little careful to collect the light which has been struck out by foreign writers on the subject: and that their vernacular version, upon which too implicit confidence has been placed, is, in some important points, erroneous.

56 Spirit of Christianity compared with the Spirit of the Times, p. 26. 57 In p. 396.

« PrécédentContinuer »