Page images
PDF
EPUB

quin of states and empires. When therefore our Lord used this expression of the Prophet Daniel, in the closet connection with his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, and in connection too, with the coming of the Son of Man ; which coming he had declared would take place, before his Apostles had gone over the cities of Israel, and while some who heard him were still living

what better evidence can possibly be required, that by his coming in clouds-or in the clouds of heaven, he meant to say, that when they saw the awful calamity, which he had predicted, they would see how much they had mistaken the true nature of the Messiah's character they should see the Son of Man, the Messiah, coming in the clouds of Heaven, with power and great glory.

The learned University Preacher has indeed mentioned an ingenious Writer, as very justly observing, that “ Christ

was no more visibly present at the destruction of Jerusalem, " than at the Earthquake at Lisbon--or the siege of Gibraltar." And the fact may be admitted without the smallest detriment to Christianity; for if the Gospel History had been attended to, as an History, and as an History of the great Controversy concerning the nature of the Messiah's Character they would not have interpreted our Lord's language as predi&ting a personal appearance, at the destruction of Jerusalem-but only as a declaration that by that awful event they would have the fullest proof that no such person as they had expected under the character of the Messiah would appear, and that the coming of the Son of Man--as the Messiah-- instead of being connected with their obtaining the empire of the world, would, as the Prophet had foretold, be in vengeance--or in the clouds of Heaven. It must also be added, as well.worthy of the judicious Reader's attention, that the verse under consideration, contains a direct and explicit answer to the question of the Disciples, What shall be the sign of thy coming ? Why says our Lordthen shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven---the Son of Man coming—not in the splendour of victory, and with the trophies of conquestbut in clouds in the execution of those judgements; the particular signs of which he had, at length detailed, in the preceding part of the Chapter.

If there is satisfactory evidence from the comparison of our Lord's language, in these two verses, with that of the prophecy of Daniel, that he borrowed it from him'; it will

naturally naturally and necessarily follow that the Disciples could not possibly understand him, in any other sense than as describing temporal calamities and temporal calamities only, in opposi. tion to the opinion which they, in common with the rest of their countrymen, had hitherto entertained, that his coming as the Messiah would be to render them yictorious over all their enemies. It is indeed difficult to imagine how our Lord, as a Jew, and as one claiming a character so very dif, ferent from that which they had expected, could have expressed himself, more fully-or in a manner better calculated to make an impression upon their minds upon a subject which, in its own nature, was so delicate and so disagreeable, than by the adoption of a language which was familiar to them, and the authority of which they could not dispute.

To suppose, on the contrary, that these verses were intended to describe the final Judgment of the world, is indeed violently to sever them from their manifest connection-not only with the preceding verses--but, as will presently appear, from the subsequent context ; which, in the strongest terms which language can convey, asserts that all the things, which he had before been describing, would be in that generation. It would be to violate all the rules of probability and just cris ticism and to charge the Evangelical Historians with such a confusion of ideas and such a perversion of language as would render them utterly unworthy of any regard ; for, as the learned University Preacher has very justly observed when

ever the same word is used in the same sentence-or in “ different sentences, not far distant from each other; we

ought to interpret it precisely, in the same sense,, unless " either that sense should involve a contradiction of ideas

or the Writer expressly informs us that he repeats the word * in a fresh ac

acceptation. In pursuing this examination--the judicious Reader will probably have litile reason to doubt that the connection is continued in the 31st verse. And he, viz.-ihe Son of Man, say's the Evangelist, shall send his Angels--or rather his Messengers--as the Greek word properly signifies, and as it is translated in Mark i. 2. vii. 24. with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather his Elect, from the four.winds from one end of Heaven to the other.

* See Edwards's Predictions of the Apostles, page 14:

If this verse be, as soíně havé supposed, descriptive of the preservation of the Elect, in the midst of the calamities which had been predicted, as coming upon the Jewish nation, it may, perhaps, not be undeserving of notice, that this is not the only intimation of such a preservation, in the chapter under consideration; for in the 13th verse it is said. He that shall endure to the end-i.e. he that shall continue faithful to me, as the expected Messiah, the same shall be saved. And, in the 22d verse, it is said, -Except those days shall be shortenedthere shall no flesh be saved--but for the EleEt's sake those days shall be shortened. St. Luke says expressly-When ye shall see these things-the calamities which he had before been describing, begin to come to pass--then look up for your redemption draweth nigh.

But though, it from hence clearly appears that the faithful adherents of the Messiah, were to expect deliverance from the calamities which were coming upon the Jewish Nation-yet the judicious Reader will, perhaps, be inclined to think it more probable, that as the two preceding verses are descriptive of the total subversion of the Jewish state and government, in order to make way for the reign of the Messiahấor of the establishment of the kingdom of God-the Evangelist intended to point out, under the character of Angels—or Messengers the sending forth his Apostles and other Missionaries to announce, throughout the world, the glad tidings of the kingdom of God, and to make converts to the Religion which he was about to offer to the general acceptance of mankind. This sense seems to be very strongly confirmed by the prophecy of Daniel, already mentioned, which connects the coming in cloudsor in vengeance with there being given to the Son of Man, the Messiah, dominion, and glory, and a kingdom which seems necessarily to imply, the use of all proper means

such as the sending of the Apostles and other Ministers, to gather converts from the four winds from every quarter of the globe, to become the subjects of his kingdom. *

connection * Bishop Newton, upon this verse says, " this is all in the stile and *** phraseology of the Prophets, and stript of its figures meaneth only, that " after the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ by his Angels or Ministers, will *** gather to himself a glorious church out of all the nations under Heaven. * The Jews shall be thrust out, as he expresseth himself in another place, '" (Luke xiii. 28, 29.) and they shall come from the East, and from the West, " and from the North, and from the South; and shall sit down in the Kingdom

Q

" of

[ocr errors]

connection appears to be perfectly natural and to harmonize, , most exactly, not only with the whole tenor of the preceding part of the chapter, but what is particularly worthy of notice, with the verses immediately following; for he their leads them, by a most apt and happy similitude to expect the near approach of the kingdom of God-or of the Messiah. Now learn a parable -or instruction from the Fig-tree. * When its branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. St. Mark's expression is very

little different from that of St. Matthew, chap. xiii. 29. So ye, in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is near even at the doors.

The judicious and attentive Reader will perceive that there is some ambiguity in both these passages, both in the original and in the translation--but that ambiguity will, most happily, be completely removed, by comparing them with the corres, ponding passage, in St. Luke, chap. xxi. 31. So likewise ye, when ye see these things, know ye, not that it--but ihat The KINGDOM OF GOD is nigh at hand.

Here is so marked a condescension to the prejudices and peculiar sentiments of the Disciples of Jesus relative to the coming of the kingdom of Godmor of the Messiah, which they expected Jesus, as such, to set up, and so direct a reference to their questionWhat should be the sign of his coming ? that it is truly astonishing how, after comparing these passages together, they could possibly have been mistaken-or how any other meaning could have been affixed to them. But Mr. Mede, though in general, remarkable for his modesty, as a Writer, has been very positive that the kingdom of God has here, a very different meaning, “ I deny not,'' says he, “ but firmly believe, that Christ's kingdom took “ place at his first coming-but I utterly deny that to be the

[ocr errors]

" of God," and he adds," no ever so little versed in history needeth “ to be told, that the Christian religion spread and prevailed mightily after * this period; and hardly any one thing contributed more to the success of " the Gospel,. than the destruction of Jerusalem, falling out iu the very man.

ner, and with the very circumstances so particularly foretold by our blessed “ Saviour." See Dissertations, Vol. II, p. 306.

*“ The opening of the Parable,” says Dr. Townson, " as it stands in " St Luke, shows that Christ did not instance in the budding of the Fig

tree only---but that of all the trees, as a sign of approaching summer.” See his Discourses, p. 48. 8vo. Edit,

66 kingdom

*

is kingdom our Saviour Prophesies of Luke xxi. 31. and " answerably in the other Gospels.'

And the learned University Preacher, in a note referring to this very passage of St. Luke, quotes Dr. Sykes as “ very candidly allowing " that, by the kingdom of God, we are here to understand, " its glorious state and perfection in a future world.” And, what is particularly remarkable—the learned Preacher, has himself, peremptorily asserted, and that without the least appearance of doubt, or hesitation, that " any other inter« pretation would indeed be utterly groundless.” + But upon what foundation has he made this bold and confident assertion ? Is it a groundless supposition—when the Evangelist Luke says-When ye shall see these things—or, as it is in St. Matthew—all these things—that both of them refer to the things, which, in the preceding parts of those chapters, they had been describing ? Is it a groundless supposition that Jesus, who originally began his ministry, by declaring that the kingdom of Heaven was at handwho told his Disciples that they should not taste of death till they saw the Son of Manthe Messiah, coming in his kingdom-who, in this very chapter, continued to hold out the expectation of his coming as the Messiah, at the same time, cautioning them against deceivers who might assume that Character—who, in short, in this connection, told them that this Gospel, this good news of THE KINGDOM, should be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations ? Is it, with these uncontrovertible facts, in view, a groundless supposition, that Jesus should mean by the kingdom of God, the coming, or the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah ? Can it be denied, without denying the most direct and positive evidence--without contradicting the whole tenor of the Gospel History, that the kingdom of the Messiah was still expected, both by the Disciples of Jesus, and by the whole Jewish Nation? And where could it have been expected that he should have asserted its near approach, more naturally, than when he had, by his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, been annihilating, the very foundation of all their hopes, of his being a temporal Prince ? I

But, * See Mr. Mede's Answer to Mr. Hain's Third Letter, 377. + See Edwards's Sermon, p. 33, in the Note.

# It might farther be observed, in opposition to the opinion of these learned men, that it is the grossest perversion of language which can well be

22

imagined,

« PreviousContinue »