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fixion, from which extracts have already been made. This discourse, it will be remembered, was made in reply to the earnest application, " Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ? " The discourse consists of a minute exposition of the signs of these events, of a definite statement of the time within which these events would occur, and of emphatic warnings to his disciples to be watching and prepared for them.
In St. Matthew, these warnings are enforced and illustrated by three impressive parables, having all the same general design, but each teaching its peculiar les
They all enforce the indispensable necessity of preparation for these great events; but each refers to a different kind of preparation, or at least presents a different view of the preparation required. The first parable, that of the Ten Virgins, inculcates upon the disciple preparation by attention to himself, — by a due provision of oil for his own lamp; the second, that of the Talents, by faithful service of his Master; and the third, that of the Sheep and Goats, by acts of kindness towards others. Each is incomplete without the rest : together they constitute an informal and figurative, but most impressive, summary of duty ; the first presenting one's duties to himself, the second his duties to God, and the third his duties to his fellow-men. The circumstance that the last is not formally introduced by our Lord as a parable, like the other two, has led many to mistake its character ; but in this respect it does not differ from many of his other parables, even such as are expressly stated by the Evangelists to be parables. Thus,
Mat. xiii. 3, “ And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow.”
Luke xviii. 1, “ And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint ; (2) Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man.”
Luke xviii. 9, “ And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others : (10) Two men went up into the temple to pray ; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican."
Luke xx. 9, “ Then began he to speak to the people this parable : A certain man planted a vineyard and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.”
Among the parables not formally introduced are the familiar ones of the Great Supper, the Prodigal Son, the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Pounds, &c.
We might perhaps judge somewhat differently, if our Saviour's common mode of teaching had not been by parables. But not only do we read in Matthew,
Mat. xiii. 34, “ All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them : (35) That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables"; but we find these words in his very last discourse to his disciples : —
John xvi. 25, “ These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs [marginal translation, parables] : but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs [parables), but I shall show you plainly of the Father.”
Taken as a parable enforcing a particular class of duties, (which, if performed to others, the Saviour will
regard as performed to himself,) the latter part of Mat. xxv. has great force, beauty, and pathos ; but taken as a literal description of a general judgment, it is unnatural and improbable. Does anyone, who takes even the most literal view of a day of judgment, actually suppose that at that day the whole examination will have respect to mere acts of kindness towards others, and that it will be conducted in the figurative language and with the special pleading which we find in this passage, and which even give to it so much of its excellence as a parable ?
The limitation of time, in this most important discourse, is given by all the three Evangelists; each of
hom omits some other particulars recorded by the rest. It is given by all in the most clear and explicit terms, and with great uniformity of language. The Greek scholar will observe, that in the original this language is even more emphatic than in our translation. It is immediately followed, in all the three Evangelists, by the most solemn attestation to its truth, “ Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” The question and the answer, as given by Matthew, who has recorded the discourse most fully, but with no material variations from Mark or Luke, are as follows :
Mat. xxiv. 3, “ And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be.? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ? (4) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (6) And ye shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars : see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (7) For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. (8) All these are the beginning of sorrows. (9) Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for
be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (11) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (12) And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (13) But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
“ (15) When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand,) (16) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: (17) Let him which is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house : (18) Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (19) And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (20) But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath-day: (21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (22) And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved : but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (23) Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there ; believe it not. (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before. (26) 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. (27) 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. (28) For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
“ (29) 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: (30) 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. (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.
“ (32) Now learn a parable of the fig-tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (33) So likewise ye, when
shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (34) VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS, TILL ALL THESE THINGS BE FULFILLED. (35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (36) But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (37) But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (38) 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, (39) And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (40) Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (41) Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (42) Watch therefore : for ye
know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
Is there any thing in all this tlaat looks at all like the prediction of entirely distinct events thousands of years
To remark particularly upon the signs which are here