« PreviousContinue »
one God, so there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Chrift Jefus--that it is lawful to fill the world with rebellions and treafons, with perfecutions and maffacres, for the fake of religion and the church; when St. James affures us, (I. 20.) that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God; and when Chrift maketh univerfal love and charity the diftinguishing mark and badge of his difciples, (John XIII. 35.) By this fhall all men know that ye are my difciples, if ye have love one to another-I fay thould any man affert these things fo directly contrary to reafon and to the word of God, and vouch ever fo many miracles in confirmation of them, yet we fhould make no fcruple to reject and renounce them all. Nay we are obliged to denounce anathema against the teacher of such doctrins, though he were an apoftle, though he were an angel from heaven: and for this we have the warrant and authority of St. Paul, and to fhow that he laid peculiar ftrefs upon it, he repeats it twice with great vehemence, (Gal. I. 8, 9.) Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accurfed. As we faid before, fo fay I now again, If any one preach any other gofpel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accurfed. Indeed the miracles alleged in fupport of thefe doctrins are fuch ridiculous incredible things that a man must have faith, I do not fay to remove mountains, but to fwallow mountains, who can receive for truth the legends of the church of Rome. But admitting that any of the Romish miracles were undeniable matters of fact, and were attefted by the best and most authentic records of time, yet I know not what the Bishop of Rome would gain by it, but a better title to be thought Antichrift. For we know that the coming of Antichrift, as St. Paul declares, (2 Theff. II. 9, 10.) is after the working of Satan with all power and figns, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness: "and he doeth great won ders in the fight of men, according to the prophecy of St. John, (Rev. XIII. 13, 14.) and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of thofe miracles which he hath power to do. Nor indeed is any thing more congruous VOL. II.
and reasonable, than that God (2 Theff. II. 10, 11.) fhould fend men ftrong delusion, that they should believe a lie, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be faved.
But to return from this digreffion, though I hope neither an improper nor unedifying digreffion, to our main fubject.
E are now come to the laft act of this difmal tra
Wedy, the deftruction of Jerufalem and the final
diffolution of the Jewish polity in church and fiate, which our Saviour for feveral reafons might not think fit to declare nakedly and plainly, and therefore chooseth to clothe his difcourfe in figurative language. "He "might poffibly do it, as (1) Dr. Jortin conceives, to perplex the unbelieving perfecuting Jews, if his dif "courfes fhould ever fall into their hands, that they "might not learn to avoid the impending evil.” Immediately after the tribulation of thofe days, Jhall the fun be darkened, and the moon fhall not give her light, and the ftars fhall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens fhall be fhaken. Commentators generally understand this and what follows of the end of the world and of Chrift's coming to judgment: but the words immediately after the tribulation of thofe days how evidently that he is not speaking of any diftant event, but of fomething immediately confequent upon the tribulation before mentioned, and that must be the deftruction of Jerufalem. It is true, his figures are very strong, but no ftronger than are used by the ancient prophets upon fimilar occafions. The prophet Ifaiah fpeaketh in the fame man
(1) Dr. Jortin's Remarks on Ecclefiaft. Hiftory, Vol. 1. p. 75.
ner of Babylon, (XIII. 9, 10.) Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land defolate; and he fhall deftroy the finners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the conftellations thereof shall not give their light; the fun fhall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon fhall not cause her light to Shine. The prophet Ezekiel fpeaking in the fame manner of Egypt, (XXXII. 7, 8.) And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the ftars thereof dark; I will cover the fun with a cloud, and the moon Jhall not give her light. And the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and fet darkness upon thy land, faith the Lord God. The prophet Daniel fpeaketh in the fame manner of the flaughter of the Jews by the little horn, whether by the little horn be understood Antiochus Epiphanes or the power of the Romans; (VIII. 10.) And it wared great even to the host of heaven; and it caft down fome of the host, and of the ftars to the ground, and ftamped upon them: And the prophet Joel of this very deftruction of Jerufalem, (II. 30, 31.) And I will fhew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire and pillars of fmoke. The fun fhall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. Thus it is that in the prophetic language great commotions and revolutions upon earth, are often reprefented by commotions and changes in the heavens.
Our Saviour proceedeth in the fame figurative ftile (ver. 30.) And then fhall appear the fign of the Son of man in heaven; and then fhall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they fhall fee the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. The plain meaning of it is, that the deftruction of Jerufalem will be fuch a remarkable inftance of divine vengeance, fuch a fignal manifeftation of Chrift's power and glory, that all the Jewish tribes fhall mourn, and many will be led from thence to acknowledge Chrift and the Chriftian religion. In the ancient prophets, God is frequently defcribed as coming in the clouds, upon any remarkable interpofition and manifestation of his power; and the fame defcription is here applied to Chrift. The deftruction of Je-. E 2 rufalem
rufalem will be as ample a manifeftation of Chrift's power and glory, as if he was himself to come vifibly in the clouds of heaven.
The fame fort of metaphor is carried on in the next verfe. (ver. 31.) And he shall fend his angels with the great found of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. This is all in the ftile and plirafeology of the prophets, and ftript of its figures meaneth only, that after the deftruction of Jerufalem, Chrift by his angels or minifters will gather to himself a glorious church out of all the nations under heaven, The Jews fhall be thruft out, as he expreffeth himfelf in another place, (Luke XIII. 28, 29.) and they shall come from the eaft, and from the weft, and from the north, and from the fouth; and fhall fit down in the kingdom of God. No one ever fo little verfed in hiftory needeth to be told, that the Chriftian religion fpread and prevailed mightily after this period; and hardly any one thing contributed more to this fuccefs of the gofpel, than the deftruction of Jerufalem, falling out in the very manner and with the very circumftances fo particularly foretold by our bleffed Saviour.
What Dr. Warburton hath (2) written upon the famė fubject will much illuftrate and enforce the foregoing expofition. "The prophecy of Jefus, concerning the approaching deftruction of Jerufalem by Titus, is "conceived in fuch high and fwelling terms, that not "only the modern interpreters, but the ancient likewife, "have fuppofed, that our Lord interweaves into it a direct preliction of his fecond coming to judgment. "Hence arofe a current opinion in thofe times, that the "confummation of all things was at hand; which hath "afforded an handle to an infidel objection in thefe, in
finuating that Jefus, in order to keep his followers "attached to his fervice, and patient under fufferings, "flattered them with the near approach of thofe re"wards, which completed all their views and expecta"tions. To which, the defenders of religion have op
(2) Warburton's Julian, Book 1. Chap. 1. p. 21, &c. 2d Edit.
"pofed this anfwer, That the diftinction of fhort and "long, in the duration of time, is loft in eternity, and "with the Almighty, a thousand years are but as yester"day, &c.
"But the principle both go upon is falfe; and if "what hath been faid be duly weighed, it will appear, that this prophecy doth not refpect Chrift's fecond coming to judgment but his firft; in the aboli"tion of the Jewish policy, and the cftablishment of the "Chriftian: That kingdom of Chrift, which commenced
on the total ceafing of the theocracy. For as God's "reign over the Jews entirely ended with the abolition "of the temple-fervice, fo the reign of Chrift, in fpirit "and in truth, had then its firft beginning.
"This was the true eftablishment of Chriftianity, not "that effected by the donations or converfions of Con"ftantine. Till the Jewish law was abolished, over "which the Father prefided as king, the reign of the "Son could not take place; becaufe the fovranty of "Chrift over mankind, was that very fovranty of God "over the Jews, transferred, and more largely ex"tended.
"This therefore being one of the moft import"ant æras in the economy of grace, and the moft "awful revolution in all God's religious difpenfations; "we fee the elegance and propriety of the terms in queftion, to denote fo great an event, together with "the deftruction of Jerufalem, by which it was effected: "for in the old prophetic language the change and fall "of principalities and powers, whether fpiritual or civil, are fignified by the fhaking heaven and earth, the "darkening the fun and moon, and the falling of the "ftars; as the rife and establishment of new ones are "by proceffions in the clouds of heaven, by the found "of trumpets, and the affembling together of hofts and
This language, as he obferves (3) in another place, was borrowed from the ancient hieroglyphics. "For as
(3) Divine Legation. Vol. 2. Book 4. Sect. 4.