Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

|>e understood, not the sinal consummation of all things here below, but the end of that age, the end of the Jernsti state and polity j the subversion of their city, temple, and

[graphic]

The real questions therefore here put to our Lord by the disciples were these two:

1st. At what time the destruction of Jerusalem was to take place: "Tell us, when shall these things be!"

'2dly. What the signs were that were to precede it s "What shall be the sign of thy coming?'

Our Lord in his answer begins sirst with the fignt, of" which he treats from the 4th to the 31st verse, inclusive.

The sirst of these figns is specisied in the 5th verse, "Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many."

This part of the prophecy began soon to be sulsilled} for we learn from the ancient writers, and particularly from Josephus, that not long after our Lord's ascension several impostors appeared, some pretending to be the Messiah, and others to foretel suture events. The sirst were thofe whom our Lord here says Jbould come in his name, and were therefore falfe Chrijh. The others are alluded to in the eleventh verse, under the name of falfe prophets .. "Many salse prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many." Of the sirst sort were, as Origen insorms usf, oneDositheus, who said that he was the Christ foretold by Mofes; and Simon Magus, who said he appeard among the Jews as the Son of God. Besides several others alluded to by JosephusJ. . - . .»

The same historian tells us, that there were many falfi prophets, particularly an Egyptian, who collected together

* The wordsliMi (here translated the world) frequently meansnothing more than an age, a certain definite period of time. See Matth. xxiv. 6. 14. Mark xiii. 7, Luke xxi. g, compared with ver. 20. Hebrews is. *6.

f Origen: Adv. Cels. L 1 and 6. . $ De Bell. Jud. 1- i . p. 70$.'' . , ahcve thirty thousand Jews, whom he had deceived*, and Theudas a magician, who said he was a prophet, and deceived many; and a multitude of others, who deluded the people even to the last, with a promise of help from <k>d. And in the reign of Nero, when Felix was procurator of Judæa, such a number of these impostors made their appearance, that many of them were seized and put to- death every dayf.

The next signs pointed out by our Lord are these that follow. "Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet: for nation shall rife against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be samines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places: all these are the beginning of sorrows."

• That there were in reality great disturbences and commotions in thofe times, that there were not only rumours of wars, but wars actually existing, and continued dissentions, insurrections, and massacres among the Jews, and other nations who dwelt in the same cities with them, is so sully attested by all the historians of that period, but more particularly by Jofephus, that to produce all the dreadsul events of that kind which he enumerates, would be to transcribe a great part of his history. It is equally certain, from the testimony of the same author, as well as from Eusebius, and several prosane historians, that there were samines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. It is added in the parallel place by St. Luke£, "that searsul sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." And accordingly Jofephus, in the presace to his history of the Jewish war, and in the history itself, enumerates a great variety of astonishing signs and prodigies, which he says preceded the calamities that impended over the Jews, and which he expressly assirms, in persect consormity to our Saviour's prediction, were signs manisestly intended to forebode their approaching destructions. And these

* Jos. Antiq. 1. so. c. 6. and c. 4. s. 1. Ed. Huds.
f Ib. c 7. s. 5. p. 89a. f Luke ui. 11.

§ Jos. Prœm. sect- 11. p. 957. De Bell. Jud. 1. vi. c f- s. 3. p. 1*81-82. & L 7, c ' 30.

accounts are consirmed by the Roman historian Tacitus, who says that many prodigies happened at that time; armies appeared to be engaging in the sky, arms were seen glittering in the air, the temple was illuminated with flames issuing from the clouds, the doors of the temple suddenly burst open, and a voice more than human was heard, ** that the gods were departing;" and soon after a great motion, as it' they -were departing*.

The sign next specisied by our Saviour in the ninth and the four following verses, relates to the disciples themselves. ** Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and {hall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." The parallel passages in St. Luke and St. Mark are still stronger, and more particular. St. Mark says, they shall deliver you up to the councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against ihemf." St. Luke's words are, "They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sakes." That every circumstance here mentioned was minutely and exactly verisied in the sufferings of the apostles and disciples after our Lord's decease, must be persectly well known to every one that has read the Acts of the Apostles. You will there see that the lives of the apostles were one continued scene of persecution, affliction, and distress of every kind; that they were imprisoned, were beaten, were brought before councils, and sanhedrims, and kings; were many of them put to death, and were hated of all nations, by the heathens as well as by the Jews, for the sake of Christ; that is, for being- called by his name. The very name of a Christian was a crime; smd it expofed them to every species of insult, indignity, and cruelty.

.. To all these calamities was, to be added another, which we sind in the tenth verse. "Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." The meaning is, that many Christians, terrisied with these

* Tacitus, 1. v. p. »5- 'Ed. Lips.

f Mark xiii. 9- \ Luke xxi. i».

persecutions, shall become apostates from their religion, and renounce their saith; for that is the meaning generally of the word offend in the New Testament. That this would sometimes happen under such trials and calamities as the sirst Christians were expofed to, we may easily believe, and St. Paul particularly mentions^ sew who turned away from him, and forsook him; namely, Phygellus, Hermogenes, and Demas*. The other circumstance here predicted, "that the disciples should betray one another," is remarkably verisied by the testimony of the Roman historian Tacitus, who, in discribing the persecution under Nero, tells us, "that several Christians were at sirst apprehended, and then, by their dfcovery, a multitude of others, were convicted, and cruelly put to death, with derision and insultf.

It is a natural consequence of all this, that the ardor of many in embracing and prosessing Christianity should be considerably abated, or, as it is expressed in the twelfth verse, that the love of many Jhould wax cold; and of this we sind several instances mentioned by the sacred writers^.

"But he that shall endure unto the end (adds our Lord in the thirteenth verse) the same shall be saved." He that shall not be dismayed by these persecutions, but shall continue sirm in his saith and unshaken in his duty to the last, shall be saved, both in this world and the next. It is, we know, the uniform doctrine of scripture, that they who persevere in the belief and the practice of Christianity to the end of their lives, shall, through the merits of their Redeemer, be rewarded with everlasting lise. And with respect to the present lise, and the times to which our Saviour here alludes, it is remarkable, that none of his disciples were known to perish in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

Another sign which was to precede the demolition of the temple and tha city of Jerusalem was, that the Christian religion was sirst to be propagated over the greater part of the Roman empire, which in scripture, as well as by the Roman writers, was called the world. "This gof

- z Tim. i. 15. iv. to. f Tac, Ann. 1. Ij.
$ 1 Tim. iv. 16. Heb x. 45.

pel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Then shall come what is called in the third verse the end of the world; that is, the Jewish -world, the Jewish state and government.

And accordingly St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossi.Uk, speaks of the Gofpel u being come onto all the world, and preached to every creature under heaven*." And we learn from the most authentic writers, and the most ancient records, that the Gofpel was preached within thirty years after the death of Christ, in Idumæa, Syria, and Mesopotamia; in Media and Parthia, and many parts of Asia Minors in Egypt, Mauretania, Ethiopia, and other regions of affrica; in Greece and Italy; as sar north as Scythia, and as sar westward as Spain, and in this very island which we inhabit; where there is great reason to believe Christianity was planted in the days of the apostles, and before the destruction of Jerusalem. And this, it is said, was to be "for a testimony against them;" that is, against the Jews; for a testimony that the offer of salvation was made to them in every part ef the world where they were dispersed; and that, by their obstinate rejection of it, they had merited the singal punishment which foon after overtook them. .. vob

ij

'Our Lord then goes on to still more alarming and mo?e evident indications ot the near approach of danger to the Jewish nation. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet*, stand in the holy place (let him that readeth understand); then let them that be in Judæa flee into the mountain." The meaning of this passage is clearly and sully explained by the parallel place in St. Luke: "when ye (hall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." The abomination of defolation therefore denotes the Roman army which besieged Jerusalem, and which Daniel also, in the place alluded to, calls the abomination -which makes defolate. .

* Col. I 6. ty f Chap. ix. 17.

« AnteriorContinuar »