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the great object of this prophecy, the destruction of Jerusalem; after which dreadful event we are here told, that Christ will send forth his angels; that is, his messengers or ministers (for so that word strictly signifies)* to preach his Gospel to all the world, which preaching is called by the prophets, "lifting up the voice like a trumpet; and they shall gather together his elect (that is, shall collect disciples and converts to the faith) from the four winds, from the four quarters of the earth;" or, as St. Luke expresses it, "from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south."

Our Lord then goes on to point out the time when all these things shall take place, and thus answers the other question put to him by the disciples, "Tell us, when shall these things be?" "Now learn," says he, “a parable of the fig-tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

The only observation necessary to be made here is, that the time when all these predictions were to be fulfilled is here limited to a certain period. They were to be accomplished before the generation of men then existing should pass away. And accordingly all these events did actually take place within forty years after our Saviour delivered this prophecy; and this by the way is an unanswerable proof, that every thing our Lord had been saying in the preceding part of the chapter related principally, not to the day of judgment, or to any other very remote event, but to the destruction of Jerusalem, which did in reality happen before that generation had passed away.

"But of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only ;" that is, although the time when Jerusalem is to be destroyed, is, as I have told you, fixed generally to this generation, yet the precise day and hour of that event is not known either to men or angels, but to God only. This he speaks in his human nature, and in his prophetic capacity. This point was not made known to him by the spirit, nor was he commissioned to reveal it.

It is supposed by several learned commentators, that the words, that day and that hour, refer to the day of judgment,

* Vid. Haggai, i. 13. Malachi, ii. 7.-iii. 1. Matth. xi. 10. Mark, i. 2. Luke, vii. 27.

✦ Isaiah, lviii. 1.

Luke, xiii. 29.

which is immediately alluded to in the preceding verse, heaven and earth shall pass away. This conjecture is an ingenious one, and may be true; but if it be, this verse should be inclosed in parentheses, because what follows most certainly relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, (to which St. Luke in the seventeenth chapter expressly confines it,)* and cannot, without great violence to the words, be applied to the final advent of Christ. "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." That is, when the day of desolation shall come upon the city and temple of Jerusalem, the inhabitants will be as thoughtless and unconcerned, and as unprepared for it, as the antediluvians were for the flood in the days of Noe. But as some (more particularly the Christians) will be more watchful, and in a better state of mind than others, the providence of God will make a distinction between his faithful and his disobedient servants, and will protect and preserve the former, but leave the latter to be taken or destroyed by their enemies; although they may both be in the same situation of life, may be engaged in the same occupations, and may appear to the world to be in every respect in similar circumstances.

Here ends the prophetical part of our Lord's discourse; what follows is altogether exhortatory. It may be called the moral of the prophecy, and the practical application of it not only to his immediate hearers, but to his disciples in all future ages; for this concluding admonition most certainly alludes no less to the final judgment than to the destruction of Jerusalem, and applies with at least equal force to both. Indeed the prophecy itself, although in its primary and strictest sense it relates throughout to the destruction of the temple, city, and government of Jerusalem, yet, as I have before observed, may be considered, and was probably intended by Jesus, as a type and an emblem of the dissolution of the world itself, to which the total subversion of a great city and a whole nation bears some resemblance. But with respect to the conclusion, there can be no doubt of its being intended to call our attention to

* Luke, xvii. 26, 27, 35, 36,

the last solemn day of account; and with a view of its producing this effect, I shall now press it upon your minds in the very words of our Lord, without any comment, for it is too clear to require any explanation, and too impressive to require any additional enforcement. "Watch ye, therefore, for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and a wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming; and begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."


MATTHEW xxiv.-xxv.

In my last Lecture, I explained to you that remarkable prophecy respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, which is contained in the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew; and by a reference to the historians who record or mention that event, I proved to you the complete and exact accomplishment of that wonderful prediction in all its parts. And this, in a common case, I should have thought fully sufficient for your satisfaction. But this prophecy stands so eminently distinguished by its singular importance, and the great variety of matter which it embraces, and it affords so decisive, so irresistible a proof of the divine authority of our religion, that it appears to me to be well worthy of a little more attention and consideration. I shail therefore, before I proced to the next chapter, make such further remarks upon it, as may tend to throw new light upon the subject, to show more distinctly the exact correspondence of the prediction with the event, and to point out the very interesting conclusions that may be drawn from it.

And first I would observe, that, in some instances, the providence of God seems evidently to have interposed in order to bring about several of the events, which Jesus here alludes to or predicts. Thus, in the twelfth year of Nero, Cestius Gallus, the president of Syria, came against Jerusalem with a powerful army; and, as Josephus assures us, he might, had he assaulted the city, easily have taken it, and thereby have put an end to the war.* But without any apparent reason, and contrary to all expectation, he suddenly raised the siege, and departed. This, and some other very incidental delays, which took place before Vespasian besieged the city, and Titus surrounded it with a wall, gave the Christians within an opportunity of following our Lord's advice, and of escaping to the mountains, which afterwards it would have been impossible for them to do.

In the same manner the besieged inhabitants themselves

* De Bell. Jud. 1. 2. c. 19.

helped to fulfil another of our Saviour's predictions, that those days should be shortened; for they burnt their own provisions, which would have been sufficient for many years, and fatally deserted their strongest holds, where they never could have been taken by force, the fortifications of the city being considered as impregnable. Titus was so sensible of this, that he himself ascribed his success to God. "We have fought," said he to his friends, "with God on our side; and it is God who hath dragged the Jews out of their strong holds; for what could the hands of men and machines do against such towers as these?""*

In the next place, it is worthy of remark, that at the time when our Lord delivered this prophecy, there was not the slightest probability of the Romans invading Judea, much less of their besieging the city of Jerusalem, of their surrounding it with a wall, of their taking it by storm, and of their destroying the temple so entirely, as not to leave one stone upon another. The Jews were then at perfect peace with the Romans. The latter could have no motives of interest or of policy to invade, destroy, and depopulate a country, which was already subject to them, and from which they reaped many advantages. The fortifications too of the city were (as I have before observed) so strong, that they were deemed invincible by any human force, and it was not the custom of the Romans to demolish and raize the very foundations of the towns they took, and exterminate the inhabitants, but rather to preserve them as monuments of their victories and their triumphs.

It could not therefore be from mere human sagacity and foresight, that our Saviour foretold these events; or had he even hazarded a conjecture respecting a war with the Romans, and the siege of Jerusalem, yet he could only have done this in general terms; he could never have imagined or invented such a variety of minute particulars as he did predict, and as actually came to pass.

It is indeed of great importance to observe the surprizing assemblage of striking circumstances, which Christ pointed out in this prophecy. They are much more numerous than is commonly supposed, and well deserve to be distinctly specified.

They may be arranged under three general heads.

The first consists of those signs that were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem.

And these signs were, false Christs, false prophets, rumours of wars, actual wars, nation rising against nation, famines,

* Newton's Dissert. on Prophecy, v. 2.

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