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were to be limited to the overthrow of Jerusalem, (which I have shown it is not,) still it is throughout kept entirely distinct from the Advent, which occurs not until after the tribulation. But there are, on the other hand, one or two considerations directly subversive of such a view. We have seen (p. 404) the circumstance which probably led to the question, "What shall be the sign of thy coming?"-viz. "Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Now if this very desolation of Jerusalem were the Coming of the Lord, the parties on whom the wrath is denounced were those who more immediately witnessed it. Surely the Jews, who were besieged in Jerusalem and afterwards led captive, saw the Lord's coming if any did; and as certainly they did not then say, either of him or of that event, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:" which they ought to have done, had our Lord's words been then fulfilled. Further, the very expression, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, &c." shows that a personal advent is intended, in which they should see him as visibly, as they beheld him them. For if he was "henceforth" to be personally invisible to them, (which none deny) the natural antithesis of this place requires us to understand, that when they should see him again, it would also be personally.
There are one or two further considerations which render this point still clearer. This coming of the Son of Man is in Luke immediately connected with the redemption of the Lord's people: for when the signs which precede it begin to come to pass, they are to lift up their heads and take courage, from the confidence that their redemption draweth nigh. This is in all three Gospels illustrated by the parable of the fig-tree putting forth its leaves, as the indication that summer is nigh at hand; explained in St. Luke of the approach of the kingdom of God: but neither did the redemption of the Lord's people, nor any striking manifestation of the kingdom of God, immediately follow the destruction of Jerusalem. It is, I am persuaded, at this very time in which we live, that the fig-tree is putting forth her leaves; and that, notwithstanding the stormy elements gathering around, the Christian may rejoice at the thought of his speedy and glorious deliverance. The summer of the Church is nigh at hand. Already she may say:-"The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills." And presently she will hear him say, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing is come and the
voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away." (Canticles ii. 8-13.)
Another decided argument for the personal advent being meant is the parables, which follow in the next chapter, and which are a continuation of the prophecy. These are commonly explained (the two last of them more particularly) of the personal advent of Jesus; and indeed the remaining portion of the chapter now under review is, by the generality of commentators, supposed to refer to the same event.*
Verse 31,-"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." This is a verse on which I cannot speak with any assurance. There are three views which may be and have been taken of it. The first is figurative, making it the preaching of the Gospel, by. which the elect of God are called out from the world: and some have referred this preaching to the time previous to the destruction of Jerusalem; and others make it identical with Rev. vii. 1—3, when the four angels restrain the four winds until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. The second makes it the gathering of the Jews, the elect nation of God, who are spread abroad as the four winds of heaven;1 and of whom the Lord says "If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee. The third opinion is, that it describes the gathering of the living saints, who shall then be changed and caught up to meet the Lord. I will only observe, as an important clew to a right interpretation, that whatsoever be the event here described, it takes place after the coming of the Son of Man; and it therefore appears to me to be performed at the same time that the angels gather out of Christ's kingdom all things that offend and do iniquity."
The remaining portion of this chapter, with the parallel places in Mark and Luke, are highly practical. We are informed that the precise day and hour in which the coming of the Son of Man shall take place, is not revealed to any created intelligence, neither to man, to angel, nor to Messiah him
* I have forborne to press another argument on this head; though it is conclusive to my own mind: I mean, the coming being described as "in the clouds of heaven," or "in a cloud." I believe this description of the Advent always sets forth the personal coming in other parts of Scripture, and therefore must be so understood in this place. See especially Daniel vii. 13; Acts i. 9 and 11; Rev. i. 7.
1 Zech. ii. 6.
m Deut. xxx. 4. a Matt. xiii. 41 and 49; xxv. 31, 32.
self. The object of this concealment appears to be to make men watchful; but, alas! such is the perverseness of human nature, that because the day and hour are not known, men make it an argument to discourage believers from entertaining the hope of Christ's appearance altogether, and thus to throw them off their guard. How many professing christians are at this very hour as ignorant and indifferent with regard to the Lord's approach, as the generation in the time of Noah were in respect to the flood! Too many indeed are making secular and carnal concerns the chief business of life; and "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," absorb their attention and affections. Would that warning in St. Mark's Gospel be added, "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares;"I say would this warning be added, if the Lord had not foreseen that his church would stand in need of it? Some are offended at any thing like an intimation, that the religious body can be defective, either in spirit, in practice, or in doctrine; and seem to imagine, that what the multitude of professors think and do is a sufficient standard of doctrine and duty. But I must believe God's word, which rather intimates, that at this time his disciples even will have need to be cautioned against the absorbing and engrossing cares of life;-yea even against so pampering the appetite, that the heart do not become habitually overcharged and indisposed to spiritual things. For according to verse 49 of this chapter, it is not so much drunkenness in the professors themselves that is to be feared, as that they will readily "eat and drink with the drunken;" and thus be drawn into infidel carelessness and security with the ungodly world. I apprehend that verses 40, 41 apply entirely to professors; and if so, that there will be among them men of high pretensions in religious matters, who will one day "sit with vain persons and eat of their dainties," and the next mix with the people of God and endeavour to speak as they speak. It will be from amongst professors therefore, that, when the angels come forth to gather the elect, "one shall be taken, the other left:" one will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air; the other will then be declared to be a hypocrite, and left to the pelting of that storm, which will come with the overflowings of ungodliness.
Awful indeed will be the state of the world in general! "For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth." They not only will not expect it, but will not believe it, though a man declare it unto them. They P Psalm xxvi. 4; cxli. 4.
• Mark xiii. 32.
will ask, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." They will be dreaming of a new era of liberty and happiness by means of political movements and "the march of intellect;" but "when they shall say Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."r
Again, therefore, the Lord urges on his disciples to "watch," and that because they know not what hour their Lord doth come. (v. 42.) He would have them in the same readiness as a man who has received intelligence of the intended visit of a midnight robber; and always be in readiness for his approach whose coming shall be "as a thief in the night."
Verses 45-51. Ministers are more especially called upon to watch for this coming, and, in expectation of it, fathfully to give the household of God, "their meat (doubtless their spiritual food) in due season. There is here a special reference, as I apprehend it, to the need of setting the doctrine of the Lord's advent before their hearers, and exhorting them to look for it when the signs of the times bespeak its near approach."Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily, he shall make him ruler over all his goods." Then comes the dreadful responsibility of those who keep this subject out of sight, "saying in their heart, my Lord delayeth his coming," and so postpone the advent to some remote or indefinite period; smiting their fellow servants, and behaving themselves unseemly. These persons shall be led away with the error of the wicked, and deceived in this respect, so that the Lord will come upon them after all "in the day when they look not for him, and in an hour that they are not aware of, and shall cut them asunder, and appoint their portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" O! how much better to be even mistaken in regard to time, and to bear the reproach of enthusiasm in this matter, than to sit down with the reputation of sobriety, and to be indifferent in regard to the event. In the one case we are at least stirred up to that readiness for the Lord's coming which is pronounced blessed; in the other we run the risk of being confounded with the hypocrite and unbeliever! May the spirit of watchfulness-of watchfulness in regard to this subject in particular and the spirit of prayer, be poured out upon the saints and the servants of God; "that they may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man!"
q 2 Pet. iii. 4.
T 1 Thess. v. 3.
2 Pet. iii. 17.
Parable of the Ten Virgins.
This parable, which begins the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, possesses a peculiar interest, arising from the circumstance that the events which it illustrates are so evidently fulfilling in the present day.
And here, lest I should be misapprehended, I would request the Reader to distinguish between the fulfilling and the fulfilment of a prophecy. I find that unless this obvious distinction be kept in view, what I have written in regard to the signs in the sun, moon, stars, &c. mentioned at verse 29 of the previous chapter, is liable to misconception. I am very far from thinking these things fulfilled: I have a daily increasing conviction, that they have "begun to come to pass," the indications of which are to my mind very decided; but it is still only the budding of the fig tree, and neither the time of full leaf nor fruit.
Now the first thing, with which we have to do in the parable before us, is the very first word-"THEN.". This at once fixes the time of the parable, and consequently the principal action of it, to the period of the coming of the Lord, with which this word so evidently connects it. Let the reader only dismiss the artificial division into chapters and verses, and look at the context, and he will perceive it to be as follows: that in those days which shall be as the days of Noah, (chap. xxiv. 37 -39;)—that in the hour which thoughtless professors think not of, (vv. 42-45;)-that when the evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming, (48-51;)-THEN, shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, &c.
I have already discussed the meaning of the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven," &c.* I shall only here observe, that though it most commonly refers to the period of millennial glory, it frequently in the parables respects only some circumstances in the character or condition of the visible Church. This is obviously the scope of the phrase in the parable now under consideration; so that I would thus paraphrase the first verse."At the period immediately connected with the advent of the Lord, the aspect of appearance, which the Church will then assume in regard to that event, may be compared to ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth, &c."
Our next step must be to inquire into the meaning of the symbols or imagery of the parable; which will enable us after
* See Essay II. of the former Series, Vol. I. of the Literalist.