Page images

27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the son of man be.

In this passage Christ does not seem to refer to any thing which he had said in the preceding verse, but to assign the reason for the exhortation which he had given them in verses 16, 17, and 18. to flee from Jeru salem and the plain country, with the utmost speed: for, says he, the calamities which I shall bring with me at my appearing will be as rapid and extensive as the lightning, which no sooner appears in the east, than it shines to the west. Flatter not yourselves, therefore, with the hopes of escaping, if you delay your flight, or only remove to a small distance: for I shall instantan eously visit the whole country.

28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.


Wherever mine enemies are, there will I visit and prehend them, as the eagle seizes his prey. In this there may perhaps be an allusion to the Roman standards, which were eagles.


1. In the sufferings of the Jews we see the natural effects of a vicious character upon a people. Where men have been bred up in false notions of religion by corrupt teachers; where they have been taught to consider it as consisting not in pious affections, and in the discharge of moral duties, but in the observance of rites and ceremonies; there we must expect that the charac

ter will be corrupt, and the manners vicious; that there will be much pride, insolence and sensuality, in prosperity; and much dissension, injustice and cruelty, when the passions are roused by adversity.

Such was the conduct of the Jews, and such will be the conduct of other nations, when corrupted by the same means, and reduced to the like circumstances of distress. Let them, therefore, take warning from the example of this people; and if they wish to avoid the same fate, let them remove the causes which necessarily lead to it.

2. We have here an example of the mercy as well as of the severity of God; of his severity, in destroying so many thousands of the human race who had corrupted themselves and their religion, and in suffering them to perish by such dreadful means: of his mercy, in permitting a remnant to live, although they had deserved the same punishment, to be the objects of his future beneficence. Thus God never forgets the principles of benevolence, when most provoked by the sins of his people; or the covenant wherein he has promised never to suffer his goodness utterly to depart from them. Let us bless him that this remnant still subsists, as an incontrovertible evidence to Christians of the truth of their religion, and a solemn warning not to abuse their privileges; since no advantages of this kind which they may enjoy will save them from the judgments of God; and let us pray that the season may soon come, when God may remove from this oppressed and afflicted people the marks of his displeasure, under which they at present lie, and restore them to his favour and their country again. In the mean time,

3. Let us behave towards Jews with tenderness and humanity. If their fathers stained their hands with the blood of our master, and that of his followers; if they were guilty of a great crime in rejecting the Messiah, and their descendants still persist in the same unhappy delusion; these circumstances can afford us no just reason for regarding them with abhorrence, or treating them with cruelty: they are objects of pity, rather than

of hatred, as men who have fallen into a pernicious error. To suppose that we are authorised to treat them with severity, because they have been treated with severity by God, is to put ourselves into the place of God, and to suppose that whatever is right for him to do, is equally right for us. To deprive them of all civil rights, and to behave towards them, as if they were unworthy of any place in society, is to make them thus unworthy: for we take away from them one powerful motive to behave well, the desire of preserving a good name; and by impressing them with a sense of unjust treatment, confirm their prejudices against the Christian religion. Let us rather study, by kindness and confidence, to secure their good-will to ourselves and to the gospel, that their minds may be open to the evidence that Jesus is the Messiah,

Matthew xxiv. 29----42.

29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.

In this figurative language Jesus foretels the overthrow of the Jewish state, both ecclesiastical and political, which was to take place immediately after the distresses which he had before mentioned, and to accompany the destruction of Jerusalem. Such language was common with the prophets, when they foretold the destruction of cities or states. Thus the prophet Isaiah, xiii. 10, 13, when speaking of the destruction of Babylon, says, "The stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their lights; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not

cause her light to shine. I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts." Joy and prosperity, on the other hand, are prefigured by an increase of light in the sun and the moon. Thus the same prophet says, xxx. 26, "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound." The reason for using this language is obvious: for as the sun and moon are the sources of great benefit and comfort to mankind, the darkness of these luminaries is a fit emblem to represent any great calamity, such as the destruction of a city, or the overthrow of an empire. The powers of the heavens, here mentioned, signify the same thing as the host of heaven, in other parts of Scripture, or the heavenly bodies.

30. And then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven, i. e. a proof of his being or dwelling in heaven.

When the Jewish state was in being, and the Jewish rulers lived in prosperity, the disciples of Jesus were persecuted, and their master seemed to lie under the infamy brought upon him by his execution as a malefactor: he still suffered the disgrace of the cross, and appeared to be in a state of degradation: but when the Jewish people and government were thus severely punished for crucifying and rejecting the Messiah, it appeared that Christ was in a state of the highest favour with God: his cause obtained a most signal triumph; his wrongs were completely avenged; and he himself was exalted to heaven. To be exalted to heaven is a proverbial expression among the Jews, for a state of prosperity and honour, which has already occurred in the language of Christ, when speaking of Capernaum: We are not to be surprised, therefore, to find him applying it to himself here, and saying that the destruction of Jerusalem would afford evident proof that he was in heaven.

And then shall all the tribes of the earth, rather," of the land," i. e. Judæa,


The calamities which the Jews, not only of Jerusa lem but of the land of Canaan, shall suffer from the invasion of the Romans, and the total destruction of their government, shall cause them great grief.

And they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

My great power and glory shall be as conspicuously displayed by the destruction of Jerusalem, and the other circumstances which will accompany that event, as if they saw me coming upon the clouds of heaven, to punish my enemies. When the prophet Isaiah represents God as about to punish the Egyptians, he speaks of him as riding upon a swift cloud for that purpose, Isaiah xix. 1. In that case there was no visible appearance of Jehovah upon a cloud; but it was language which the prophet adopted, in order to express the evident hand of God in the calamities of Egypt. The same thing may be said of the language of Christ upon the present occasion.

Some persons, indeed, understand Christ here to foretel his own visible appearance in the clouds of heaven, for the destruction of the Jewish nation; in the same manner as he shall appear at the day of judgment; but there is no occasion for such an interpretation. It is a virtual, and not a personal appearance, of which he here speaks: he has referred to it more than once, during the course of his ministry. Thus, when sending forth his apostles, he says, Matt. x. 23, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the son of man come," i.e. not before the destruction of Jerusalem; and Matt. xvi. 28, "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the son of man coming in his kingdom;" meaning hereby, that some of his apostles should live to see the destruc

« PreviousContinue »