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from the Scriptures: for we are told, Acts xi. 28. that Agabus signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world, (which probably means no more than Judæa) which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar. Pestilences usually accompany famines, being the common effect of bad or insufficient food. There were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos; in all which places there were a great number of Jewish inhabitants. Josephus tells us of an earthquake, which happened at the time the Idumeans were encamped on the outside of Jerusalem.
8. All these are the beginning of
The word which we render sorrows signifies the pains of child-bearing, which are slight at first, in comparison of what they become afterwards. Our Lord, therefore, meant to intimate that these evils were inconsiderable, when compared to those which were approaching. 9. 9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
Here our Lord foretels the persecutions to which his disciples would be exposed, both from their countrymen and from other nations. Of the former we have an account in the book of Acts; and of the other, from the Roman historians, particularly from Tacitus, who describes the persecutions of Nero, by whom Peter and Paul were put to death, and in whose time the war against the Jews commenced. What rendered Christians so obnoxious to heathens was their refusing to join in the worship of their Gods, which they represented as no Gods, entitled to no degree of respect.
10. And then shall many be offended, i. e. fall off from the profession of the Christian religion, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
The natural consequence of persecution is to lead many who were slightly attached to Christianity to abandon it through fear, and to make their peace with their enemies, by betraying their friends, which must produce mutual animosity.
11. And many false prophets, "false teachers," shall rise, and shall deceive
These false teachers seem to be different from those mentioned in verse 5th, who are said to come in the name of Christ, and who promised to the Jews civil deliverance. These were persons who corrupted the Christian religion, by introducing false doctrines into it. Such were Hymeneus and Philetus, who said that the resurrection was already passed, and those who represented external worship as a matter of indifference, and allowed themselves to join in worship with idolaters; those who said that Christ had not a human body, and did not suffer in reality, but only in appearance; and several others who are mentioned or referred to in the apostolic writings.
12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
The attachment of many to the Christian religion will be destroyed, when they experience the cruelties practised by its adversaries.
13. But he that shall endure to the end shall be saved.
He that shall persevere in the profession of Christianity, notwithstanding all the evils of persecution, shall be saved from the calamities impending over the Jews. Christ here foretels the safety of Christians at the destruction of Jerusalem. Accordingly, we learn from Eusebius, that the Christians of Jerusalem, being warned by a revelation, meaning probably the prophecy now delivered concerning the approaching war, departed
from the city, and went to dwell in a town named Pella, on the other side Jordan.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, i. e. all the Roman empire, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come, i. e. the end of the Jewish state and polity.
The persecutions raised against Christians shall disperse my disciples, and be the means of diffusing the knowledge of my religion throughout the earth.
1. Let Christians apply to themselves the language which Christ addresses to his disciples; "whenever ye hear of wars and rumours of wars, see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass;" they are links in the chain of causes and effects; they are necessary means for accomplishing the purposes of Divine Providence, which employs them for the same ends in the moral world, as storms and tempests in the natural ----to rectify disorders which have arisen; to open a way of greater regularity and tranquillity in future. Let no one, therefore, be offended at them; let no one imagine, when such calamities are produced, that God has abandoned all care of his offspring, and left them to the workings of their own evil passions: he still presides in the storm, and secretly directs it for advancing his own purposes; he brings good out of evil, and order out of confusion. Let us repose our cares and our fears upon his mighty arm. Blessed is the man, who, in such circumstances, has the God of Jacob for his refuge, who
can look through second causes and inferior agents, to the Great First Mover.
2. If Christians suffer, on account of their attachment to their religious principles; if they are persecuted by enemies, forsaken and betrayed by friends and relatives, let them not be surprised or offended; no new thing has happened to them; it was the lot of the first professors of Christianity; it was foreseen and foretold by their divine master, who says that to be hated of all nations for his name sake, would be the characteristic or distinguishing mark of his disciples; it was the lot of that master himself, and surely it ought to satisfy the disciple, if he be as his master, and the servant, if he be as his Lord. To quarrel with our religious principles, because they expose us to sufferings, is to dislike them for that which ought to recommend them to our esteem: it is an honourable, although involuntary, testimony to their truth and excellence; for calumny and persecution have always accompanied the truth; whereas error and folly have been courted and applauded.---Woe unto you, says Christ, when all men speak well of you!
S. We may observe the wisdom of Providence, in suffering the Jewish state to continue until the gospel had been preached in all the world. This was necessary for communicating it to all nations with sufficient evidence. The historical facts on which the truth of the Christian religion depends, receive great confirmation from the opposition inade to it by the Jews, and from their persecuting, with the greatest severity, those who made a profession of it: for it could not but appear a strong proof of the truth of the gospel history, that the most important particulars contained in it were never called in question by the people among whom they were said to have happened, notwithstanding they rejected the gospel, and persecuted its preachers. It would hence appear also, that it was not, what most other religions had been, a political engine; since it was embraced without the sanction, and in opposition to the opinion, of the ruling power. Thus, through the
fall of the Jews, as the Apostle expresses it, salvation is come to the Gentiles: had the Jews generally embraced Christianity, this would have proved a great stumbling-block to the Gentiles.
Matthew xxiv. 15----28.
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoso readeth let him understand.)
Our Lord, having mentioned the remote signs of the destruction of the Jewish city and government, in the preceding verses, now mentions some that were more immediate. By the abomination of desolation we are to understand, the Roman standards, which had images of the Gods and the emperors fixed in them, and were the objects of adoration to the soldiers. These were, therefore, an abomination to Jews, on account of their detestation of idolatry. They gave them so much offence, that in peaceable times the Romans entered Jerusalem without them; and Vitellius, at the request of some eminent Jews, avoided marching his forces through Judæa, on account of these ensigns. They are called the abomination of desolation, because desolation accompanied the Roman standards wherever they went. These standards are spoken of under this appellation by the prophet Daniel, ix. 27. and in other places of the same prophet. When these were seen in the holy place, i. e. in the territory round about Jerusalem, which was called holy from its vicinity to Jerusalem, the holy city; and that so denominated, on account of its containing the temple of God; they were to be regarded as the signal for flight. The words added in a parenthesis, let him that readeth understand, were probably introduced by Matthew, the author of this book,