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Christendom; and now comes that larger testimony which is to go through the whole world—the everlasting Gospel to preach unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people—the sign-the great sign, which marks our own times when our missionary zeal is sending the gospel of the kingdom through the whole world; and, in that very fruit of the divine life, renovated within the Church, we have the admonition of the end, and we have the promise of the beginning of that brighter and more glorious period when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Now our blessed Saviour warns us that faithful minis. ters should have, in preaching this Gospel of the kingdom, much persecution, and so they had. What is the record that is left in the Acts of the Apostles, but the records of Christian sufferings and Christian triumphs ? What is the record of the faithful ministers of Christ ? From that hour to this their path is tracked in blood, while, indeed, it is illumined with heavenly glory; and that which especially took place in the first publication of the Gospel is again to take place, in some measure at least, in its second publication. We are now in our days of quiet, but how long this will continue we know not, for there is a time when that fearful question shall be answered, who is able to make war with the beast, for it is given to him to wear out the saints of the Most High, and he shall think to change times and laws. It was to be accompanied with signs and wonders, which come under our consideration more especially under the second subject, which our Lord's prediction on that Mount of Olives brings before our thoughts.
II. The fall of Jerusalem and its signs and its
wonders. He tells us that Jerusalem should be encom. passed about with armies, and that when we should see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place then know that Jerusalem's desolation is nigh. Now that is to take place, or that was to have taken place twice. Jerusalem has been compassed with armies, and the desolating standard of the Roman idolatrous eagle was planted in the temple of God, and all Christian people at that time in Jerusalem took our Lord's warning, that they should flee to the mountains when that was seen, and the believing Christians escaped the judgment that then was foretold of Jerusalem by our Saviour. The fall of Jerusalem was accompanied by the signs which were given there. The record of that fall, as given to us by Josephus the Jewish historian, testifies to the truth of our blessed Saviour's words, that there should indeed be great signs in heaven and fearful sights; that there should be famines and pestilences in divers places.
These things were fulfilled to the very letter in the first fall of Jerusalem ; but there is to be a second fall of Jerusalem, for our Lord's words have not yet been completely fulfilled. Jerusalem is to be again encompassed with armies, and another enemy of God's people is to come down upon the glorious land. There is a time when Jerusalem shall again be temporarily taken captive; her partially restored people carried away captive out of the city, and the end then coming will be very different from before. In the former fall and siege of Jerusalem she tottered to her fall and she fell to her ruin. In the second siege of Jerusalem she is indeed for a short season to be delivered into her enemies' hands, and then it is they which shall totter and
fall; it is they which will be broken to pieces, for we read in the 12th chap. of the prophet Zechariah. “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people : all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." This is the siege of Jerusalem which has not yet taken place. In the former siege Jerusalem was ruined, but in this the besiegers are to be ruined. We find it again referred to in the 14th chap., “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished, and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives."
Now here we have another sign of the times upon which we should especially fix our attention at this present moment. The Jews cannot be besieged in Jerusalem except they be in Jerusalem, and we are therefore to expect a partial restoration to Jerusalem when it shall again become a Jewish city. When we see that take place, we may indeed take notice that the end is coming. It says in the 102nd Psalm, “Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof," “The time to favour her, yea, the set time is come.” And what our Lord speaks of the abomination of desolation is, I believe, more especially contained in the 11th chap. of Daniel the prophet, where we are told in the 45th ver., that that king of the north, that tremendous power which should come down against Jerusalem “shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain, yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him.” And he who is to be the wilful king, accompanied by antichrist and all his power, shall come into the glorious holy land, shall come unto the glorious holy mountain, shall plant the abomination of desolation there, yet he all not prosper, he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. This time is to be accompanied by fearful sights and great wonders, and miracles, and even fire shall come down from heaven to deceive them that dwell upon the earth.
III. This brings us to the third subject which our blessed Saviour brings before us in that instructive prediction, which is, the times of the Gentiles and their analogies and signs. He does not say the time of the Gentiles, but the times of the Gentiles, the seasons of the Gentiles; each portion of the Gentile dispensation in which some fruit was expected from the Gentiles. Now here we have our Lord speaking of that which was very obscurely delivered in the Hebrew prophets ; a Gentile dispensation. There is a great deal of mistake made on this subject by those who study the prophetic Scriptures. The Gentiles are constantly spoken of in the Old Testament as being joined with the Jews, “The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” God's name is to be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. These are truths that are so plain in the Old Testament that no one could possibly even superficially read its predictions and not see that it was foretold that Gentiles should be brought to the true faith of Christ, to the saving knowledge of God. But that is not what is peculiarly meant by the times of the Gentiles. The ancient Jews believed that the Gentiles should be joined with themselves in the worship of God; but that of which they were ignorant was this, that the Jews were to be cast out and the Gentiles brought in ; that there is to be a Gentile dispensation distinct from, and in place of, the Jewish dispensation. This is that mystery of which the Apostle speaks, that it was unknown in former ages ; that the Jew did not know that he was to be cast out and the Gentile brought in, in his place. It was taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, but it was taught so as to have been then obscure, and even to be still but little attended to by those who have studied the prophetic word. It is referred to in that remarkable first council at Jerusalem where the question of the salvation of the Gentiles was debated—whether Gentiles could be saved without being circumcised and submitting to the law of Moses. Here was the first time that the question was really debated, and St. James alleges the prophets as having declared that they could : he says in the 13th and following verses,