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unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days !
From general signs the Lord advances to particular. “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”! This was a sign from without. But there was one yet more imminent within. In stating this He confirms His Prophet; 2 showing that “no prophecy in the Scripture cometh of any man's own resolution,” 3 that “the prophecy came not in old time of the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And He bids us, in an instructive parenthesis,' not to content ourselves with mere reading, but strive also to discover the true meaning of what we read, We must read with the understanding; using all those helps which God has given us in His Church to the right interpretation of His Word. This desolating abomination, or “abomination that maketh desolate,”? which finally caused the desolation of Jerusalem, seems to have been the usurpation of the Temple by a party among the Jews called Zealots, who installed themselves even in the Holy Place, and whom the Jews, ever prone to turn to idols, preferred to God. When this sign is seen, there is no time to be lost. As Lot fled to the mountain out of sinful Sodom, so the Lord bids His servants to flee out of Jerusalem into the hill country for refuge. Let those within the city depart out. Let not those in the provinces enter in.
“For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” 10 In like words to those He had employed in a former discourse," He warns men against a covetousness
i St. Luke xxi. 20.
? See Bp. Butler, Anal. Part II. ch. vii.
3 2 St. Pet. i. 20. Hooker, Ser. v. 2.
* Referring, it may be, to the like phrase in Dan. ix. 25.
51 Cor. xiv, 15.
? Dan. xi. 31 ; xii. 11. See also ix. 27. This referred in the first in. stance to the setting up of the statue of Jupiter in the Temple by Antiochus
Epiphanes, 1 Macc. i. 54, where the same phrase is applied to that idol. Our Lord shows that has this further reference.
8 See the remarkable passage in Josephus, B. J. iv. vi. 3.
9 Abominations in the 0. T. are synonymous with idols. 1 Ki. xi. 5, 7; 2 Chron. xv. 8.
10 St. Luke xxi. 21, 22,
which might cost them their lives. To be childless was in the Old Testament a woeful thing, but now to be barren would be a blessing; not only because of the special suffering to nursing-mothers, but because children would seem to be but born to this trouble.
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. Matthew xxiv. 20-28. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since 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 elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there ; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders ; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth : behold, he is in the secret chambers ; believe it not. 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. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
The Lord encourages His servants to pray, because in answer to their prayers the difficulties attending their escape should be mitigated, instead of being aggravated as they would be if this should happen in a winter season, or on the Sabbath-day when the gates would be shut and no man allowed to go beyond a few furlongs.? Most solemn and circumstantial are the terms in which two other of the i St. Luke xxiii. 29.
bath , .. but merely as referring to ? About 2000 cubits, or less than the positive impediments which might three-quarters of a mile, was a “Sab. meet them on that day, the shutting bath day's journey.” Alford notes of gates of cities, &c., and their own that this was “not said as any sanc- scruples." tion of observance of the Jewish Sab
Evangelists confirm this account. “In those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” ? “ And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations : and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." 3 No siege of any city ever had, or shall ”
, have, equal horrors. Had the tribulation lasted much longer, the Christians also, or those who would become such, must have been consumed; but for their sakes, for the sake of His Church, the Lord predicted that it should be shorter than the sins of the Jewish nation deserved. They should
. not be utterly exterminated. The fulfilment of part of this prophecy we are even now witnessing. What a standing miracle is the people of the Jews! Their condition, as a fulfilment of prophecy, is an argument no unbeliever has ever been able to explain away. The Lord, referring to what He had told them before,* (of which He now again foretells them,) warns them against those adventurers in religion whose cleverness should not only impose upon the credulity of the world, but even try the faith of the Church. “ Take heed that ye heed them not." 6 Some of these appealed openly to the crowd ;7 others in private to the more refined. Christ when He comes, whether in the fall of Jerusalem, or at the end of the world, will need no usher to announce Him. He will proclaim Himself, as unmistakably and universally as the lightning. As surely as the eagles discover their prey, so surely shall the Romans come
And, -to give the Lord's proverb another application, -His faithful ones will ever know where to find
Chrysostom, cited by Bp. Wordsworth, notes that “St. John has recorded none of these predictions, lest he should seem to write prophecy from history; for he lived for a long time after the destruction of Jerusalem. But these prophecies are recorded by the Evangelists who wrote before the taking of Jerusalem, and saw nothing of what they wrote."
2 St. Mark xiii. 19.
3 St. Luke xxi. 24.
6 Hooker, Ser, y. 2. St. Mark xiii. 23.
: Acts v. 36, 37; xxi. 38.
& Job xxxix. 30. See also Deut. xxviii. 49; Hos. viii, 1. The Roman standards, it must be remembered, were surmounted with this sign.
Him who laid down His life for them, and even gives them His flesh to eat.1
THE SAME SUBJECT continued.
St. Matthew xxiv. 29-31. St. Luke xxi. 28.
St. Matthew xxiv.— Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken : and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven : and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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.
St. Luke xxi.- And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
The word here rendered immediately means no more than in due course. It intimates that the one event shall surely succeed the other. The fall of Jerusalem shall be followed, at whatever interval, by the end of the world. The Lord mentions some of the signs, remoter and more near, which shall precede or usher in His second Advent. “ There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.”3 Great personages and states are sometimes spoken of in the language of prophecy under these same figures.* Or they may refer to actual portents, filling men's minds I St. John vi. 51-56.
3 St. Luke xxi. 25, 26, paraphrased 2 Gerhard observes that Christ here in Bp. Heber's hymn beginning, “ In speaks after the manner of the Pro- the sun and moon and stars, &c.” phets who describe distant judgments • Is, xüi. 10; Eze. xxxii. 7, 8. as though they were close at hand.
with fear, producing a feeling of general uneasiness and uncertainty. The Disciples had asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming ?”] The Lord tells them, He Himself will be the sign. He will appear again in His human
? nature. They shall look on Him whom they pierced. All, throughout the world, who have not mourned for sin, shall mourn at this near prospect of punishment, when they shall see the Saviour whom in His great humility they slighted, appear in His glorious majesty to judge both the quick and dead." Then He who now sends His visible angels or messengers, the ministers and stewards of His mysteries, lifting up their voice like a trumpet 5 in all the world, shall send His actual invisible Angels 6 to gather together those that have obeyed the calling from all the quarters of the earth. These so long oppressed may now lift up their heads. Their Redeemer, who shall deliver them from the slavery of sin, from the usurped dominion of the devil under which they have long pined, is drawing nigh.
THE SAME SUBJECT—continued.
St. Mark xiii. 28-32. St. Matthew xxiv, 37-41.
St. Mark xiii.-Now learn a parable of the fig tree ; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near : so ye in like manner, when
shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
St. Matthew xxiv.—But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that
I V. 3 al St. Luke xxi. 7. Advent. 2 1 Thess. iv. 16.
5 Num. X. 8; Is. lviii. 1. 3 Zech. xii. 10-12.
6 St. Matt. xiii. 41, 49, * Collect for the First Sunday in