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that shall at once be proper to the nature of a sign or signal, and yet shall not be its actually appearing; while it shall nevertheless resemble its becoming apparent. In order to be a signal, it must be perceptible by the senses; and if at a considerable distance, as it undoubtedly will be, that is beyond the limits of our atmosphere, must be perceptible by the eye; as sound, the only other medium of perception, cannot be propagated from beyond the circuit of the atmosphere. It is equally impossible, also, to conceive of resembling acts which the seeing of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, and mourning because of it, can denote. All the tribes of the earth are, according to the third law of the figure, to be the agents of the acts, whatever they are, denoted by seeing the Son of Man, and mourning.
What act, then, at once proper to their nature, and yet differing from mourning, while it resembles it, can their mourning be conceived to signify? Or what act, at once proper to their nature, and yet differing from seeing the Son of Man coming in the clouds, while it resembles it, can their seeing him coming in that manner be imagined to denote? Can these interpreters designate any? A seeing of the Romans invading Judea, and besieging, capturing, and destroying Jerusalem, is not such an analogous
act; as, to say nothing of the difference of the object, the act, in order to be analogous, must not be an act of sight, which would be identically the same; but an act of perception, by a different organ at least, or by the intellect instead of the senses. Besides, there is no analogy between Christ's coming in the clouds with power and great glory to destroy his enemies, redeem his people, raise the holy dead, and establish his throne on the earth, and the Roman army invading Judea, and capturing and destroying Jerusalem. No personages, no acts, no events, can be more utterly unlike. The fancy that the passage is metaphorical is thus altogether groundless, and the meaning which it is employed to fasten on it a wild extravagance. Had these interpreters understood the laws of the metaphor, they would not have run into this extraordinary
Another frequent error, is the disregard of the proper characteristics of figures that exist in passages, and ascription to them of functions that are wholly foreign to their nature. There is an example of this in the construction that is often put on Matt. xxiv. 27:
"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."
This is a comparison; or affirmation that the Son of Man's coming shall be like the lightning coming out of the east and shining unto the west. By the second law of the figure, the names of the things compared, the Son of Man's coming, and the lightning's coming and shining, are used in their literal sense; and accordingly the event foreshown in the prediction is the Son of Man's literal coming in visibility and conspicuousness to the eyes of men, like the lightning's coming out of the east and shining unto the west. Nothing can be more clear and indisputable than this. If the names of the agents and acts were not used in their literal sense, there would be no means of knowing what the event is that is foreshown by the prediction, nor what being is to be the agent or subject of it. If Christ is not the being whose act is meant by his coming, who is that being? If the event denoted by his coming is not a real personal coming, visible and conspicuous, like the lightning that flashes from one side of the firmament to the other, what is the event that his coming is used to foreshow? No satisfactory answer can ever be given to these questions.
Yet many writers, wholly unaware of this great law of the figure, speak of the expression as though it were metaphorical, or ascribe to it some other wholly
foreign nature, and construe it as a prediction of the march of the Romans into Judea to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem nearly eighteen hundred years ago. No construction could involve a grosser violation of the figure and the passage. It is impossible, from the nature of the comparison, that the Son of Man's coming can denote anything else than his literal personal coming; precisely as it is impossible that the lightning's flashing from the east unto the west can denote anything but the flashing of that element in that manner. Christ's coming, moreover, in the dazzling pomp of deity, darting avenging fires from his chariot wheels, is to present a vivid resemblance in conspicuousness, though it is immeasurably to transcend it, to a shaft of lightning that leaps from a midnight cloud, and darting to the west fills the whole scene for a moment with a noonday effulgence; but no such resemblance is presented to it by a slow marching army of Romans, who could have no general visibility like a brilliant object in the heavens, but must have been absolutely invisible to all who were not in their immediate vicinity. A just understanding of the figure would have withheld these writers from such a misconstruction of it, and such a violation of the prophecy.
A strict adherence to the laws of figures in the