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COMMENTS ON MATTHEW XXIV. AND XXV.
The testimony of the forty-first and forty-sixth verses of the the 25th chapter of Matthew, is unequivocal—and the Universalists have labored hard to dispose of it. Both Mr. B. and Mr Whittemore have given us an extended argument upon it; but as Mr. W. has considered the passage most at length, I shall most particularly notice his argument, having my eye upon anything material to be found in Mr. B.'s comment, which is not to found in Mr.W.'s. Mr., W. first finds in the clause, “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory,” verse 31st, an indication that the passage refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, Because Christ in some instances is said to come in his glory, when said to come for the destruction of Jerusalem, it is inferred that this coming relates to that event. He quotes the following passage. Matt. 16: 27, 28. “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and then shall he reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom :" and, first, labors to prove that this coming was at the destruction of Jerusalem, and hence, makes an argument to show that the same is true of the passage before us. With regard to this last quoted passage, it appears to me to be a clear case, that that coming of Christ spoken of in the 28th verse, refers to his final coming to judgment; and that in the 29th, refers to something to take place during the life of some then present; a little specimen of the glory of which, he gave in his transfiguration, which is described in the same connexion. That his coming in his glory first spoken of, refers to the final judgment, is clear, from the fact, that it immediately follows a remark, made to enforce the duty of laying down the life in his service, out of respect to retributions after death. He tells his hearers, whosoever shall save his life, shall lose it—and that nothing can be given in exchange for the soul. And then addsFor the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father, and of his holy angels, and then shall he reward every man according to his works. Now why does he speak of the coming of the Son of Man, as an enforcement of the duty of laying down the life, if it was not a coming that was to affect us after death. Then it is a coming, in which he will render to every man according to his works. But every man was not then and there in Jerusalem, to receive according to his works; and those that were, especially the christians, had no adequate recompense in the destruction of Jerusalem. And then the phraseology in the 28th verse, intimates that there is a studied distinction between the two comings. In the latter case it is said, He shall come in his kingdom, and in the former, that he shall come in the glory of his Father with his holy angels. If both clauses referred to the same thing,a pronoun would have naturally supplied the place of the last, and prevented the repetition. And then, there are no instances in the Evangelists, where the coming of Christ " with his holy angels,” is plainly applicable to the destruction of Jerusalem. Or, if Mr. W. will have it, that this is a mere rhetorical flourish, descriptive of God's majesty and glory, then this passage is not parallel with that in chap. 25th. For there it is said, he shall come with all his holy angels, that is, (if we must so understand it) with all his glory; that is, with the highest and most intense display of his glory, that ever will be made. But is it true that his coming at the end of the world, and at the resurrection, will not be connected with more majesty and glory ,than was that? If his train of angels is only a figure for the exhibition of glory, surely the coming spoken of chap. 25th, being the time when all his glory is displayed, must be his final coming. But read the passage according to that interpretation, and notice the tautology.
When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all his glory with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.
But suppose we admit that chap. 16, verse 27, does refer to Christ coming at that age, and that there is a similarity in the phraseology, it is not proved that the passage before us refers to that; because the connexion, as we shall hereafter show, allsolutely determines it to the final coming of Christ. Mr. W.’s next suggestion is, that the subject of discourse, in the 25th chapter, is the same as in the 24th, and that the 24th is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. But that the 24th does not also contain a prophecy of the final judgment, should be proved before the conclusion is drawn. If we should admit that there is a general oneness of design running through the two chapters, it would rather follow that the 24th treats of the general judgment because the 25th does, rather than that the 25th does not because the 24th does not: inasmuch as the 25th contains language, as we shall see, which cannot, without marifest violence, be understood of anything short of the general judgment. I have no wish to controvert any of Mr. W.'s proofs that the 24th chapter, so far as the 29th verse, speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem. But that he is mistaken in applying the remainder of the chapter to that event, I shall show in the sequel. And if I do this, what he says in referring the parable of the ten Virgins, and the parable that follows it, to that event, will be refuted without any further remarks. I shall now proceed to give my views of the whole passage.
In the first place, as to the question, in the beginning of chap. 24th-When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world ? I agree with Mr. W. that the phrase ought to be rendered, “end of the age,” instead of, end of the world. Now let it be borne in mind what event, according to current Jewish notions, the disciples were expecting to take place at the end of the age, and the meaning of this inquiry will be evident. They were expecting the destruction of Jerusalem, for Christ had just told them. And according to current opinions, they were expecting the ap
pearance of Christ in external majesty, to establish his dominion in this world-his subduing all kingdoms to himself-his raising the dead, and sitting in judgment, on Jews and Gentiles, and his completing and confirming the blessedness of the righteous, and inflicting punishment on the wicked. (Vide Wahl on a i on.) Their inquiry of course was as to the time when the resurrection and the general judgment would take place, as well as the destruction of Jerusalem. Is it asked, why Christ in giving his answer, did not correct their mistake as to the taking place of these events contemporaneously with Jerusalem's destruction? I answer, he did, so far as was consistent with his design not to inform the world as to the exact time of his final coming. He first, in answering the broad question, gave a description of Jerusalem's coming destruction, and then, verse 29, began his description of his coming to the final judgment, by informing them that this event would come afterwards, and not in the same connexion-" After the tribulation of those days.” And then he tells them that none knows, and it is not the design of the Father that any should know the particular day and hour of this coming. This is precisely such an answer as he gave to essentially the same question after his resurrection. When asked—Wilt thou now restore the kingdom of Israel ? he answers, It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has put in his own power. Respecting the time when the future judgment was to come, the New Testament everywhere observes a studied silence, except so far as to leave the impression, that however many years, and ages might first elapse, it would come soon, it was to be expected as no distant event. And the last thing which he
says, in the last part of the last book of the Bible, a book by the way, which Mr. W. admits waş.written after the destruction of Jerusalem, is—Behold I come quickly. So we see that the disciples' question and Christ's answer covered both the destruction of Jerusalem and the final judgment.
The two events were connected in their minds; they inquired for the time, and for the signs of their coming; he answered them as to both, as far as he conceived it proper-giving
them particularly the signs of Jerusalem's destruction, but letting them know that the signs of his last coming, would be the coming itself,—that no sign or hint would be given till his actual appearance should burst upon an astonished world; and this to enforce the need of watchfulness. If this view be correct, no one need be stumbled to find the two events so closely blended in the description. For they were still more closely blended in the question, and expectation of the disciples. And so far as it respects the date of each event, Christ was not called upon to give more particular information. As he purposed that no man should know the day and the hour, he served that purpose, and yet countenanced no errors in leaving the subject just where he did. That the disciples' question comprehended Christ's coming to raise the dead, is indisputable. And it does not appear that he evaded that part of the question more than the other. And that two events so distant in time should stand so near together in prophecy, is nothing unusual, as we have already seen.
We come now to examine the description itself, to see whether the last part of the chapter refers to the final judg. ment. One proof that it does, I have already mentioned-i. e. that the description, verse 29, is of what is to take place after those days. All the leading circumstances, according as they actually occurred in Jerusalem's destruction, are enumerated in the previous verses. After there had been a tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world, and such as was never to be again, to the end of tho world, it is said, “after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened,” &c. Now if what is said both before and after the 29th verse, refers to the same event, it should read, after Christ has destroyed Jerusalem, they shall see the Son of Man coming in clouds to destroy Jerusalem. Besides, all before this verse is easily, and for the most part literally applicable to Jerusalem's destruction. And all after that verse is incapable of such an application without being made extravagantly figurative. And then Luke in his report of the same discourse, gives the transition from Jerusalem's destruction to the scenes of the