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But, the confutation of this very absurd opinion, of these learned men, so injurious to the perspicuity of scripture, and to the interests of Christianity, lies within a still narrower compass, and will, it may be presumed, thoroughly satisfy every unprejudiced and impartial enquirer, that they have totally mistaken the true meaning of this passage ; for, if there, was no other evidence of this--the verse immediately following, would be fully sufficient for the purpose ; especially, when it is recollected, that it has the concurrent tesimony of both the other Evangelists, and is, a direct and explicit answer, to the question of the Disciples-When shall these things be? And what makes this harmonious testimony the more valuable is, that all of them introduce it, precisely, in the same connection, and, almost, in the same words. Matt, xxiv. 34. Verily I say unto_THIS GENERATION shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled. And, as if our Lord had not thought this declaration sufficiently strong, and he was determined it should make, the most forcible impression which language could convey, he adds, what the other Evangelists have likewise recorded, ver. 35. Heaven and Earth shall pass away—but my words shall not pass away.
The late Bishop Newton was so strongly impressed with the emphasis and energy of this language, that he thus forcibly expresses himself upon it. " It is to me a wonder how any man can refer
part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any 16 other distant event, when it is said so positively in the "' conclusion-All these things shall be fulfilled in this “ ration. It seemeth as if our Saviour had been aware of is
some such misapplication of his words, by adding yet greater " force and emphasis to his affirmation, (ver. 35.) Heaven and
imagined. If Jesus meant by THE KINGDOM OF GOD its glorious state and per. fection in a future world---how inapposite was his l'arable of the Fig-tree, in which lie asserts, that as by its budding and putting forth leaves they knew that Summer was nigh---so when the things which he had just been describe iný, should come to pass---they would know that the kingdom of God was nigh at hand. If this language does not convey the idea of its near approach ---then, as has just been observed ---Jarıguage is of no use! If the Gospel had been considered as an history, and particularly as an history of the great controversy concerning the coming annd ihe establishnent of the kingdom of the Messiah; no doubt could have been entertained of the true meaning of the passage in question !
Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. *
It is truly astonishing that this learned Prelate, after having thus strongly expressed his surprize that any one should refer, part of the foregoing discourse, to the destruction of Jerusalem and part to the end of the world-or to any other distant event, should himself, almost immediately afterwards, have asserted that si some of these passages, particularly v. 29, 30, " and 31, in a figurative sense may be understood of the desa “truction of Jerusalem—but that, in their literal sense, they
can be meant only of the end of the world ;" + for nothing can be more evident, than that the Prophets, in a multitude of instances, and after them our Lord, spoke in a metaphorical, or figurative, without in the least regarding the literal sense of their expressions; and that they did so, in the passages
here refered to, is plain from the comparison of them, which has already been laid before the Reader ; for, there is not, the smallest reason for supposing that the Prophets had any view, in those passages to the end of the world, and the general judgment--and that our Saviour himself had no such yiewThis declaration that his prediction would be accomplished in that generation, upon which the learned Bishop very justly lays such stress, is, if any thing can be, a decisive proof : for this expression, it must be particularly observed, will have equal force, whether these verses alluded to, be understood figuratively-or literally, and will equally militate against the Bishop's opinion.
But the learned Prelate has produced his reasons for the application of these Verses to the end of the world, which it will be proper attentively to consider. Hitherto,"
we have explained this xxivth chapter of St. Matthew as “ relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, and without doubt,
as relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, it is primarily,
to be understood. But though it is to be understood of this “ primarily, yet it is not to be understood of this only ; for " there is no question that our Saviour had, a farther view " and meaning in it. It is usual with the Prophets to frame " and express their prophecies so, as that they shall compre.
* See Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, p. 339, 3d Edition, Vol. II.
+ Ibid. p. 347
« hend more thani one event, and have their several periods of
completion. This, every one must have observed, whó “ hath been ever so little conversant in the writings of the “ antient Prophets; and this, I conceive, to be the case “ here, and tke destruction of Jerusalem to be typical of the “ end of the world. The destruction of a great city is a lively
type and image of the end of the world; and we may ob
serve, that our Saviour no sooner begins to speak of the “ destruction of Jerusalem, than his figures are raised, his
language is swelled, and he expresseth himself in such “ terms, as in a lower sense indeed are applicable to the de6 strudion of Jerusalem, but describe something higher in " their proper and genuine signification.” And, after having quoted, at length, Matt. xxiv. 29, 30, 31, he adds, “ These passages, in a figurative sense, as we have seen, may
be “ understood of the destruction of Jerusalem,—but, in their “ literal sense, can be meant only of the end of the world. *
It might, perhaps, be sufficient to confute this opinion, simply to refer the Reader to the Bishop's own words, already quoted. “ It is to me a wonder,” &c.—but this is a matter which is of too great importance to the vindication of the Evangelical Historian, to be passed over slightly. Now the question, in this case is,- What was the true meaning of the prophecies from which the learned Bishop has admitted our Lord to have drawn his language? Did the Prophets, when they predicted the downfall of Babylon,-of Idumea---and of Jerusalem, consider them as types of the last Judgment--or did they not ? Are there the least traces, in those prophecies, of their having alluded to such an event? The destru&tion of a great city, certainly may be considered, as a lively type and image of the destru&tion of the world ;—but unless the Prophets, from whom our Lord borrowed his language, actually did make use of it, as such, the Bishop's reasoning must lose all its force.
But, not to lay any particular stress upon this the Bishop has himself, as it should seem, completely confuted his own opinion, upon this subject, when he says, + that “ Com* mentators (speaking of Matt. xxiv. 29.) generally under
* See Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, page 347, 3d Edition, Vol. 11.
4 Ibid. p. 303.
66 stand * If this is not a direct confutation of the Bishop's own reasoning it will Le difficult to say what is.
66 stand this and what follows of the end of the world, and of s« Christ's coming to judgment --but,” says he, “ the words ! immediately after the tribulation of those days, show evi
dently, that he is not speaking of any distant event, but of
something immediately consequent upon the tribulation “ before mentioned, and that must be the destruElion of Je" rusalem. It is true his figures are strong, but are no 66
stronger than are used by the Antient Prophets, upon “ similar occasions." *
More, perhaps, has been said, in reply to the learned Bishop's reasoning, in favor of a double meaning, than was absolutely necessary, had it not been that the errors of great men are, too often, implicitly adopted, without a close and attentive examination. This appears to have been the fact, in the present instance; for Dr. Macknight, in his Harmony of the Gospels, with a like strength of language with Bishop Newton, has observed, that " our Lord has forbidden us to s understand any part of this Prophecy, primarily, of the so destruction of the world; having connected all its parts, in 56 such a manner, that the things foretold, whatever they are,
must have happened in close succession. For any Inter“ preter,” he adds, " to correct Christ's language here, and
to say that, in the 29th verse, immediately after, signifies of two or three thousand
and that, in the 34th verse, all these things, signifies only some of them, " is a liberty which cannot safely be taken with his 66 words." +
If Dr. Macknight had not read Bishop Newton upon this subject, it seems to be, by no means improbable, that he would never have inserted, in this very impressive passage, the word primarily-but, whether he took it from him or it was the suggestion of his own mind, is not very material. It is of much more consequence, to observe that his reasoning will apply, as pointedly against a secondary, as against a primary signification; which he has, so justly considered as improper and unsafe ; for, it will still remain true, that our Lord has connected all the parts of this Prophecy, in such a manner,
+ See Macknight's Harmony, Vol. II. p. 131, 1st Edition.
that the things foretold, whatever they are, must have happened in close succession, or in that generation. *
It will be unnecessary to dwell upon Dr. Macknight's reasons for the insertion of the word primarily, in the forecited passage ; as they differ, but little, from those of the learned Prelate-but, it is remarkable enough, that his manner of expression shews that he was, very far from being satisfied, of the justness of the distinction." I will not,” says he,
deny that the destruction of the Jewish state may prefigure is the dissolution of the world ; at the same time, I think the
reasons offered above, forbid us'to interpret the Prophecy
primarily of that destruction.” † This is modest enough, - but it will, hereafter be seen, that in his Paraphrase and Notes on St. Paul's Epistles, he refers to this, and the parallel chapters of Mark and Luke, to prove that St. Paul is treating of the day of judgment, in the first and second Epistles to the Thessalonians, without so much as hinting at this distinc, tion-or informing his Readers whether he is considering them in their primary or secondary signification. This is mode of proceeding which cannot be too strongly reprobated, as it is contrary to all principles of sound reasoning, and in deed of common sense. But more of this hereafter,
It is certainly an irksome part of the duty of an enquirer after truth, that he frequently finds himself obliged to differ from persons of the greatest note, in the Christian and literary world: but, if he is influenced, purely by a conviction of the
* The learned and ingenious Author of Letters on Infidelity (Bp. Horne) having observed that " our Lord, Luke xxi. in that figurative and majestie " style, well understood by those who understand the language of Scripture, ” describes the destruction of the Jewish polity and system”---adds--- the “ terms may and do apply to the end of the world, for this obvious reason, " that the two events are in many instances parallel and analogous. His own “ declaration shews plainly of which, he was primarily and immediately “ speaking. This generation shall not pass away till all these things are fulfilled : “ and the figures are those usually employed, in like case, by the Prophets so of old," p. 283:
Here it may be observed, that it may justly be doubted whether the two events are parallel and analogous. Our Lord does indeed shew, plainly, what he was speaking about, by confining the events described to that generation, and this language ought, in all reason, to have been sufficient to prove that the Jewish polity and system were the only matters he had been discoursing about. With respect to his subsequent language ; it will prea sently be fully proved that it has a relation to the same subject, and to that only. † Ibid. p. 132.