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and least likely to be deceived; but at the same time it is intimated that the elect, or the chosen people of God, would not be deceived, though some who had the reputation of being numbered among them would fall from their profession. Such observations were made by our blessed Saviour, in order to induce self-examination among those who should make a profession of being His disciples.
It is needful indeed to beware of self-deception in a matter of such vast importance. We cannot be too diligent in examining ourselves, whether we be in the faith;36 or, whether we are truly believers in Christ, who being reconciled to God by a reliance upon the obedience unto death of His beloved Son, are made partakers of the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost; and are thereby enabled to walk humbly with our God, so as to maintain continual intercourse with Him in the spirit of our minds, and to walk circumspectly before Him, in obedience to His holy will and commandments, day by day. These are the called, and chosen, and faithful,37 who alone will be owned by the Son of man at His appearing.
That His disciples might not be seduced by deceivers, our Saviour warned them, Behold, I have told you before of the manner in which
36 2 Corinthians xiii. 5.
37 Revelation xvii. 4.
these false Christs will act. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth. For the Son of man will not collect His followers together in desert places. And again, if they say, Behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For He will not appear to merely a few select persons as the Messiah, as He did at the time of His first coming. 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. His glory will at once be displayed far and wide with splendour and majesty; swiftly and manifestly as the shining of the lightning, which at once illuminates the whole face of the sky. There will be no concealment, and no secret collecting together of His forces, in the way that conspirators act; no dark plots of people meeting in private rooms; no place of assembling together appointed in the desert. For the Son of man will then publicly appear in His own real character, to the dismay of His enemies; and to the joy of His people, who will hail His coming with delight, and be attracted to Him, in like manner as wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But this similitude may not only denote the public and instantaneous assembling of the people of God to their Lord and Saviour at the time of His appearance; it may also be made use of to intimate the self-interested views of
the false Christs and false prophets; whose only concern would be about the prey that they might obtain; who would seek only their own worldly advancement and emolument, as eagles fly to a carcase.
The appearance of these pretenders to a character which they are unable to sustain, will be in a time of great tribulation and affliction to the world; and will be the forerunner of great changes in it. For 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. What is spoken of the sun and moon and stars, is generally supposed to refer to the great ones of the earth, its kings and princes. But it may relate particularly to the subversion of Popery and Mahometanism; and other false religions, the profession of which is less extensive. St. Luke speaks on the subject in still more awful language, There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. In the midst of all this agitation of the world,
38 Luke xxi. 25, 26.
the Son of man will appear. At such a time, His second coming will be announced. Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. He will be manifested in the way that has long been foretold. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire.39 And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. And before the assembled world He will own them to be His peculiar treasure, and then will take them to be with Himself, to enter into the joy of their Lord.
Let us now consider more particularly, the subjects to which the text directs our attention; in the
First place, The manner of the second coming of Christ.
Secondly, The effect that will be produced by it upon the people of the world in general. And
Thirdly, The special purpose for which He will come.
In the consideration of each of these topics we may find something applicable to ourselves,
39 2 Thessalonians i. 7, 8.
by the blessing of the Spirit of God. Let it be our prayer that He may be pleased by His grace to bring home the subject to each of our hearts and consciences.
First, With regard to the manner of the second coming of Christ; it is said, They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. We have reason to believe then that as He went up to heaven in a human form, and was seen ascending until a cloud received Him out of the sight of His astonished disciples; so He will descend in a human form. The clouds of heaven will open, and disclose to the wondering view of the children of men the Judge of all the earth, as the Son of man, appearing in human nature, and as the Son of God, invested with Divine power and glory. When He came to dwell with men on earth at His first advent, He appeared only in the lowest state of abasement and humiliation. Then He made Himself of no reputation, He emptied or divested Himself of the splendour of His Divine Majesty, aud became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; for then He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. This was the errand of mercy which brought the Son of God into our world, which led Him to condescend to be the Son of man.
40 Acts i. 9. 41 Philippians ii. 7, 8. 42 Hebrews ix. 26.