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says he, “ that the Apostles were not yet divested of their « Jewish ideas concerning the temporal reign of the Messiah." And on the 7th verse: he says, As our Lord had not yet
ascended into heaven; from whence he should very soon $ send to them the holy spirit, who should instruct them in " every thing the did not directly answer their question, «. but only told them, in general, that it was not for them to « know when he should reign in a more solemn and sensible. € manner ;--that is to say, from the time of the destruction 6 of Jerusalem.” * :- Dr. Benson explains our Lord's reply to the question of the Disciples, in the following manner : " 'Tis hot now "proper to acquaint you particularly with the exact time " and season which my Father hath at his own disposal, and
which he hath nicely calculated to the circumstances of " men and things, for such a discovery you are not at pre“sent able to bear; but (as I have often told you) the holy " spirit shall be poured down upon you, and then' je 'shall o understand the nature of my kingdom; and shall be enabled " to spread it with great swiftnessé and successe; both through " Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts 66 of the earth." +
Dr. Macknight has likewise sufficiently manifested in what manner, he understood our Lord's answer, by the manner in which he has interpreted the question of the Disciples ; for in his. Note on Matt. xvii. 11. he says,_" By the restoration “ of all things the Jews seem to have understood the revival " of the kingdom of David, in their nation, to be accom
plished by the assistance of Elias. Hence the Apostle's
question to Jesus before his ascension into Heaven, • A&ts i. 6. Lord wilt thou at this time. restore the kingdom 66 to Israel ?" There
appears to be much correctness, and good sense also, in Dr. Doddridge's explanation of these verses.
"They (the * It must not be concealed that Mr. Le Clerc adds, " that it relates also " to the last Judgment,” and he says, that it appears from the following " words.” But let the Reader judge for himself, whether this is not said. contrary to his usual judgment; for they are as follow---- But ye shall receite “ power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto
me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the utter. k most parts of the earth. What has this to do with the Day of Jndgment ? + Soe Di. Benson's History of the first planting of Christianity, p. 16. # See Macknight's Harmony oň Luke xvii. 11.
*Disciples) therefore being come together, full of expectation * that he had brought them thither with a view to some re" markable transaction, asked him, saying, Lord, wilt thou $6 at this time, break, the Roman yoke from our necks, and "after all this confusion restore the kingdom to Israel? But 5 he, waving a direct answer to this curious question, and 56 leaving it to the spirit, which was shortly to be given, to is rectify the mistaken notions on which they proceeded in it, " only said to them, cease your enquiries at present on this
head ; since it is not convenient for you now to know those
times or seasons, in which many remarkable prophecies " concerning my kingdom shall be fulfilled; For the Father
hath reserved them in his own power, under his own “ direction and disposal, and hath not expressly determined 66. them in those predictions which certify the events them66 selves.”. See Doddridge in loc. *
But there is no one who appears to have given the sense of the question of the Disciples, and the answer of our Lord, with more accuracy and precision, than the late Bishop Pearce. * Take the Jews from under the Roman yoke, and give "them a king and kingdom of their own : They expected I still that Jesus was to be a temporal king." And on ver. 72 he says,
-56 Our Lord gives them no direct answer to their * question ; but his words 'seem to imply, that when the “ Holy Ghost was come upon them, they should then know " the nature of his kingdom, and till that time, they appear
not to have known it.”. See Pearce in loc,
It has already been observed, that some of these Commenta. tors, when commenting on 1 Thess. V. 1, have given a very
* This learned Writer has given a turn to the meaning of the question of the Disciples which the History does not appear to justify, by making them' express a surprize that our Lord should think of restoring the Kingdom “ to the ungrateful People of Israel, who had been thus shame. “ fully abusing and Crucifying him !". For it appears that the Disciples themselves, still expected him to deliver the Jewish Nation from the Roman yoke. And indeed the sense which Dr. Doddridge has given of the Disciple's views of this matter, is not consistent with his own Note at the foot of the page ; for there he says, “They," to wit, his Disciples, “ “ to have expected, that when the Spirit was in so extraordinary a man
ner poured out, the whole nation of the Jews would own him for the “ Messiah; and so, not only shake off its subjection to the Romans, but “ itself rise to very extensive, and perhaps, universal dominion.” It is yery strange that a Commentator should put two such very different, and opposite meanings, upon the same passage, and in the same page!
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different sense of the phrase the times and the seasons, though they have expressly and particularly referred this language of St. Paul to Aas i. 7. Thus Dr. Macknight, in his Paraphrase on 1 Thess. V. 1. says" However, concerning the time of " the duration of the world, and the particular season at which 6 Christ shall come to judge mankind, &c. brethren, ye have of no need that I write unto you." And, in his Note on this “ verse, he says, “ Times, in this sense, denotes the ages of $6 the duration of the world ;-and Seasons, the seasons, or
proper time for Christ's coming to judgment; for times
denote larger periods—but seasons, the parts of those 6 periods in which particular events take place."
Dr. Benson, in his Note on the verse under consideration, says, “ As to the time or proper season for Christ's coming $? to judgment, it was unknown. So our blessed Saviour “himself declared, Mark xiii. 32. Of that day and hout * knoweth no person, neither the Angels who are in heaven, nor “ the Son--but the Father, i. e. the Father' only, as it is ex“ pressed Matt. xxiv. 36. And again, Aes i. 7. It is not “ for you to know the times and the seasons, which the “Father hath: put in his own power. In which last text, $ we have the very words, times and seasons,
which are “ here made use of; and in the first perhaps, the same thing “ is expressed in other words.”
This language of Dr. Benson is the more extraordinary, as he was the professed and the zealous advocate for the unity of sense of Scripture, and as he has, very properly remarked, that “ It is the business of the Commentator to find out, the 66
one true sense of Holy Scripture, and to set it before his 66 Reader, in as clear a light as he can.' : But the inconsistency of Commentators, in their endeavours to ascertain the meaning of the subsequent part of
* See Dr. Benson's Essay on the Unity of Sense of Scripture, prefixed to his Paraphrase, page 33, and Bishop Watson's Collection of Tracts. Again, he says,
“It appears to me that a critical interpreter of Holy « Scripture should set out with this, as a first principle; viz. that no “ text of Scripture has more than one meaning: That one true sense he should " endeavour to find out, as he would find out the sense of Homer, or any ¢ other antient Writer. When he has found out that sense, he ought to 54 acquiesce in it; and so ought liis Readers too : unlesse, by the just rules " of interpretation, they can show that he has mistaken the passage ; and that “ another is the onc, just, true, and critical, sense of the place." See page xlii,
the chapter under consideration is, if possible, still more glaring. Thus Dr. Macknight, on the expression-Ye have no need that I write unto you, has this Note- This, he
says, because, when he was with them, he had taught 6 them, that it was not for them to know the times or « the seasons, which the Father had put in his own power ;
and had repeated to them Christ's injunction, to watch, 6 because in such an hour as they thought not, the Son « of Man cometh. Matt. xxiv. 43.' So again in his Note on the words so cometh, as a Thief in the night, he says, * This is the comparison by which our Lord himself illustrated " the unexpectedness of his coming, Matt. xxiv. 43." And he adds, in his Note on the 3d verse, as has already been noticed, that “ St. Paul's description is the more affecting " that the verbs are all in the present time---so cometh; " sudden destruction cometh ; representing the certainty and 4 instantaneousness of its coming ;” and for proof of this he quotes Luke xxi. 34. And yet, Dr. Macknight has, in ex. press terms, asserted that “ the whole Prophecy in the xxivth to of Matthew, (to which Luke xxi. is parallel), and every “ expression in it, may, without the least straining, be
applied to the destruction of Jerusalem ;" and,
our Lord has forbidden us to understand any part of this " Prophecy primarily of the destruction of the world; « having connected all its parts in such a manner, that the 65 things foretold, whatever they are, must have happened 66 in close succession."
Again, Bishop Newton, in his Dissertation on the general judgment, says, Vol. VI. page 319, that, “ St. Paul, 1 Thess.
v. 2. to express the uncertainty of it, compares the coming of “ the day of the Lord to the coming of a Thief in the night, " alluding, probably to those words of our Saviour, Matt. " xxiv. 43, 44. If the good man of the house had known in “ what watch the Thief would come, he would have watched,
and would not have suffered his house to be broken up." And, a little lower, in the same page, he says, "The Scrip.
ture asserts, not only that we are ignorant of the time and ! season of the day of judgment--but that it is known only " to God, Matt. xxiv. 36. Of that day and hour knoweth no “ man;" though he had, in his Dissertations on the Prophecies, in the strongest terms, asserted of this very verse, that " the consistence and connection of the discourse oblige us
" to understand it primarily of the destruction of Jerusalem." But what is still more extraordinary, and is absolutely inexcusable in a Commentator-both Bishop Newton and Dr. Macknight, in their interpretation of the chapter under consideration, entirely lose sight of their distinction between the primary and secondary signification of the xxivth of Matthew, and the Reader is left to imagine, that the whole of it relates to the end of the world: Or, at least, no notice whatever is taken of this distinction, in considering the meaning of St. Paul, in the chapter in question. *.
It is an excellent observation of the Bishop of Landaff, that “ When men are desirous of forming systems, they are .: apt to collect together a number of texts, which being taken “ as abstract propositions, seem to establish the point ; but !: which, when interpreted by the context, appear to have no ““ relation to it. There is no greater source of error than this
practice; it has prevailed in the Christian church, from
* When the distinction between a primary and a secondary sense of the xxiith of Matthew and the parallel chapters was first noticed and commented upon, in pages 116 to 123 of this work ; the Author had not seen the Bishop of London's Lectures on St. . Matthew, in which, though he allows thaj the whole of it relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, he nevertheless has recourse to the distinction of a primary and a subordinate signifia cation ; for speaking of the xxivth of Matthew, he says, “ that it contains “ one of the clearest and most important prophecies, that is to be found in " the Sacred writings. The Prophecy is that which our blessed Lord deli-' “ vered respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, to which,” says the Bishop, * I apprehend the whole of the chapter, in its primary acceptation, relates.. At the same time," he says, " it must be admitted, that the forms of ex“ pression, and the images made use of, are, for the most part, applicable “ also to the day of Judgment." But the learned Prelate has admitted that the boldest of these images, the very same metaphors do frequently “ in Scripture, denote the destruction of Nations, Cities, and Kingdoms." See Vol. II. page 158. “ But,” says the Bishop again, “there is a kind of $6 secondary object, runs through alíost every part of the Prophecy," and he thinks that two important catastrophes are judiciously. mixed together ; but if the reader will take the pains---he will soon find that the most impor. tant parts of this Prophecy, are totally inapplicable to the day of Judgment, and that our Lord, by referring all the events before spoken of to that generation---appears absolutely to have forbidden such an application! Besides, the learned Bishop has said this P.rophecy “ contains one of the clearest Pro“phecies that is to be found in the sacred writings"-- but if so--
.-why does he compare it with others that are so “ extremely difficult to separate from each “ other ?! Surely these cases therefore are not parallel. But enough has been said upon this subject--- let the judicious Reader decide which of the two opinions is most for the honor of the Sacred Writings; and which presents the fewest dislieŅlties ?