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25 “ And there will be signs in the sun, and moon, and stars : “ and on the earth there will be a constant holding of nations in “ perplexity, the sea, and the tossing thereof, roaring, 26 men “ (dying away) swooning from fear and expectation of the things “ which are coming upon the world : for the powers of the hea“ vens will be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man “ coming in a cloud, with much power and glory. 28 And when “ these things are beginning to come to pass, stoop upwards, and “ lift up your heads; for that your redemption is drawing “ nigh.”
29 And he spake a parable unto them; “ Look at the fig-tree “ and all the trees. 30 When they have now shot forth, upon “ seeing it, ye know of yourselves that the summer is now “ near. 31 So also, when ye see these things beginning to come “ to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Verily “ I say unto you, This generation shall not be passed away, un“ til all things be come to pass. 33 The heaven and the earth “ shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
34 “ But take ye heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be “ made heavy in surfeit, and drunkenness, and cares that apper“ tain to this life; and that day come upon you suddenly. “ 35 For as a snare will it come upon all that are sitting on the “ face of all the earth. 36 Be ye watchful therefore, at every sea“ son praying that ye may be accounted worthy to have escaped “ from all these things, that are about to come to pass, and to be “ set before the Son of man.”
PRELIMINARY MATTER. IT is usual with commentators to regard the discourse delivered on mount Olivet, on the evening of Wednesday in Passion-week, exclusively in the light of a prophecy : but though it cannot be denied that the name of a prophecy, and one of the most illustrious of prophecies, is justly due to it—a very slight perusal of its contents is sufficient to satisfy us, that it comprehends much which is not prophetical, as well as much which is; that along with predictions of coming events, exhortations, directions, commands, and instructions are largely intermixed, closely indeed connected with those predictions, but, on no construction, to be considered, or treated as prophecies themselves. Nor is the proportion of this part of its contents, small, in comparison of the rest. On the contrary, were we to detach from the context every thing purely didactic or preceptive, we should be surprised, perhaps, to find how little would be left which was strictly and essentially prophetical.
That two very distinct lines of argument then, run through the discourse, from first to last, the business of one of which is to communicate the knowledge of future facts, and that of the other to counsel, to admonish, to warn and advise in a variety of ways, it would be impossible to deny, with the evidence of the discourse before us, to testify to the peculiarity of its own structure. It becomes a natural inference from this fact, that as prediction is one thing, and counsel or admonition is another, these two lines of argument cannot each be directed to an end and a purpose, properly the same; though as they are combined together, and run parallel with each other, the end of the one may possibly be connected with that of the other, and both may conspire to some one and the same purpose in common.
Nor is the combination of prophecy with precept more certain in the present instance, than the subordination of the final end of the prophetical to that of the moral or preceptive part of the discourse; there being no notice given in reference to the fu
ture, nor any disclosure made of some event to come, on which notice or disclosure a practical admonition is not founded; whence it is an obvious inference, that the prophecy of the future in all such instances, was delivered for the sake of the precept annexed to it, and without the observance of the precept, the knowledge of the future communicated by the prophecy beforehand, would fail of its effect. Thus at the very outset, we find it predicted that “ many should come in the name of Christ;” but plainly for the sake of the practical warning connected with the foreknowledge of that event, “ Be“ ware lest any one deceive you,” and “ Go ye not “ after them.” Again, the hearers are told,“ they “ should hear of wars, rumours of wars, and dis“ quietudes,” but they are told at the same time “ to see to it and not to be alarmed.” They are forewarned to expect persecution for themselves, with all its consequences; but solely, that “ they “ might look to themselves” betimes ; that “ they “ should lay it up in their hearts not to take “ thought beforehand, what they should speak; not " to practise beforehand to answer for themselves ;" that “ in their endurance they should get them their “ lives.” When they are told, they should see “ the “ abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel “ the prophet, standing where it ought not;" it is for the sake of the admonition, immediately subjoined—“ Let him that is reading understand it." If they were to behold Jerusalem beginning to be encircled with armies, and if they might thence conclude that her desolation was drawn nigh; it is solely for the sake of the practical directions which follow, and were to be observed as the consequence of the inference-" Then let them who are in Ju“ dæa,” &c.
The grounds of the induction, indeed, are so obvious in every part of the discourse, that we need not pursue it through each of its particulars : nothing being clearer than that the Divine foreknowledge of the speaker is exerted in all these revelations of the future, for no purpose but to guide, to direct, to influence, in some way or other, the conduct of those to whom he was speaking, under such circumstances of situation as they should find themselves placed in, when the events foretold came to pass. In some instances, this subordination of historical light to practical admonition, is so decided, that the future fact which supplies the ground of the precept is intimated by the way, while the practical direction, which presupposes it, stands forward and prominent. The conduct to be pursued at the time of the event, not the simple knowledge of the event beforehand, was uppermost in the thoughts of the speaker, in such cases, and that which he was most desirous to impress on his hearers. This characteristic of the discourse is especially true of that part of its predictions which relates to the appearance of false Christs.
The subordination of the prophetical to the practical part of the discourse being thus presumptively established; the final end of the former of these, if its several disclosures are directed to any common end, will naturally be subservient to that of the latter, if this also has some common object in view. That the prophetical inatter of the discourse, down to a certain point at least, is directed to a specific end and purpose, may, I think, be inferred from two very significant passages, which occur in it, at distinct intervals; one of them in a negative sense, serving to the same effect, as the other in a positive; the first, Matt. xxiv. 6: Mark xiii. 7: Luke xxi. 9 : “ But the end is not as yet,” or “ But the end is not “ immediately :" the other, Matt. xxiv. 14: “ And “ then will the end come.”
It is observable of the first of these allusions to the end, that it makes part of the narrative of the prophecy in the account of each of the Evangelists; that the first allusion to that subject, formed a break in the order of the delivery of the prophecy—a comparison of St. Luke's narrative of it with that of the other two, shewing, that when our Lord had begun to speak, and for some time continued to speak, in such terms as they all agree in ascribing to himupon arriving at the first of these allusions to the subject of the end, he made a pause: and it is equally observable, with respect to the second, that, having resumed his discourse, and continued it substantially to the same effect in each of the Evangelists—there is every reason to believe he made another pause, when he had pronounced the words of Matthew xxiv. 14. which closes with the allusion to the end in question a second time.
Now it would not be easy satisfactorily to account for the introduction of the negative clause, in the first of these instances, or for that of the affirmative in the other, under such peculiar circumstances; except by supposing that the principal design of the disclosures and communications either already made, or about to be made, of the course of future events, was to enable the hearers, for whose benefit they