« AnteriorContinuar »
simony in the west, the Catholic emperor was employing the most unjust and unchristian means of clearing her from all heresies in the east, that of persecution, and the most cruel persecution any christian emperor had yet set on foot, or countenanced. For by an edict which he issued to unite all men in one faith, whether Jews, Gentiles, or Christians, such as did not, in the term of three months, embrace and profess the Catholic faith, were declared infamous, and, as such, excluded from all employments, both civil and military, rendered incapable of leaving any thing by will, and their estates confiscated, whether real or personal. These were convincing arguments of the truth of the Catholic faith ; but many, however, withstood them; and against such as did, the imperial edict was executed with the utmost rigor. Great numbers were driven from their habitations with their wives and children, stripped and nakedl. Others betook themselves to flight, carrying with them what they could conceal, for their support and maintenance; but they were plundered of the little they had, and many of them inhumanly massacred, by the Catholic peasants, or the soldiery, who guarded the passes.”*
It will be seen by this extract, that those who did not give heed to the instruction of the Lord, but endeavored to carry their effects with them, were not only plundered, but “many of them inhumanly mas. sacred."
At the epoch of Jerusalem's destruction, the disci
* Bower, vol. i. p. 334.
ples had from two to five years to make their escape after the surrounding of the city by the Roman army. We think, therefore, that the direction on this subject, given to the disciples, would not apply at that period.
The Saviour, foreseeing that the enemies of the Church would take advantage of the inclemency of winter, — just as they actually did in hundreds of instances, - also that they would fall upon them while assembled for religious worship on the Sabbath, history informs us they actually did, - commanded them to "
pray that their flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.” To illustrate this point, we refer to an incident in the history of the Waldenses, as given by Dean Paul Perrin, (p. 302). Speaking of the persecution of the Vaudois by “sudden and surprising massacres," he says :—"And hereby they caused a dreadful desolation in the valley of Pragela, * * * * just in the season of Lent, in the year afore said, and this after so furious and cruel a manner,
that these poor creatures were forced to fly with a lamentable precipitation, carrying their aged and sick persons and young children upon their backs, and to betake themselves to a high neighboring mountain, which has ever since been called Albergan, from the Italian word ablergo, which signifies retreat or refuge, because this poor people retired thither at that time."
“But this terrible and amazing flight could not be performed with so much diligence but that these assassins and murderers seized upon a great number of these poor and faithful people, made a cruel slaughter and butchery of them; besides that, they carried several of them away prisoners; and again, those poor
souls of them that made their escape, being overtaken by the night upon the mountains, and in the midst of the snow, now wandering up and down in a miserable condition, tormented with hunger and cold, several had their hands and feet frozen, and some were found dead and stiff in the snow. Amongst others, fifty poor little infants were found frozen, some in their cradles, and others in the arms of their mothers, who were dead as well as they."
Again, this tribulation was, as Jesus denominated it, a “great tribulation;" for it is computed that no less than fifty millions of the saints were put to death within the space of 1260 years. Well might it be called great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be."
“ And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elects' sake those days shall be shortened," (v. 22).
“Except those days should be shortened.” What days? The days of great tribulation; namely, the “time, times, and dividing of time," (Dan. vii: 25,) during which the little horn was to “prevail against the saints," or the 1290 days (Dan. xii: 11,) during which the times and laws were to be in the hands of the little horn, (the abomination that maketh desolate). The period of Dan. vii: 25 being synchronous with the period of 1290 days, (Dan. xii: 11), the idea of shortening the days is probably clear.* The saints were
* See exposition of Dan. vii.
to be delivered into the hand of this persecuting power for a definite period of time, during which they were to suffer persecution by fire, sword, etc., or, as Jesus said, “great tribulation ;” and it was these very days of persecution which Christ declares shall be shortened. That this shortening of the days actually took place is evident from the fact that the period, as specified by Daniel, is "time, times, and the dividing of time," (Ch. vii,) or 1290 days, (Ch. xii). The Saviour, standing between the visions of Daniel and the Revelation of John, declared they (the days) should be shortened; and the Apostle to whom the Revelation was communicated, about A.D. 96, when giving the period of the saints' persecution, (Rev, xi, xii, xiii,) presents it shortened to 1260 days.
Why should man, in the plentitude of human wisdom, reject the counsel of God on the subject? If Jesus declares it as the decision of the high court of heaven, that the days should be shortened, where is the man clothed with authority to annul that decision, and say they neither have nor can be shortened ? To prove the divine prerogative to change a given period, we have only to refer to the case of Hezekiah, (Is. xxxviii), where the Lord declares by the mouth of His servant, the prophet, to the king, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.” On receiving this sentence of death, Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed and wept sore. In the sequel, we find the Lord heard his prayer, and added to his days a term of fifteen years.
Again, the Lord declared by the mouth of Jonah, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
But notwithstanding this proclamation, in apparently unequivocal terms, that Nineveh should be overthrown in forty days, God repented Him of the evil that He thought to do unto them, and in consequence of their repentance, prolonged the existence of the city more than forty years. Now, if God had the sovereign right to add to a term of time, he can by virtue of the same divine right abridge its length, or shorten the days. That He reserves to himself that right is evident from the fact, that Jesus declares they “shall be shortened.” Observe, He does not say that for the elects' sake, the tribulation shall be shortened, but“ for the elects' sake,
shall be shortened.” It may be inquired, was not the tribulation itself shortened ? Certainly: but can the tribulation be cut short without shortening the days that measure that tribulation? Were it even possible to do this, it would not coincide with onr Saviour's words ; for it was His explicit declaration that the days should be shortened. We should still have to look for a fulfilment by shortening the days.
But for whose sake shall they be shortened? Ans. “For the elects' sake, whom he hath chosen,” (Mark xiii: 20). Who are the elect? Ans. The children of God. This passage (Matt. xxiv: 22) is the first, I believe, in which the term “elect” occurs in the New Testament. In verse 31, we read, “ 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.” Observe, it is not the carnal Jews that are to be gathered, but Christ's elect. Says Paul, (1 Thess. i: 4,) “Knowing, brethren beloved, your ELECTION of God.” This implies that the