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be shortened." These words appear itants of the earth are burned AND
to me to respect, not the siege of
FEW MEN LEFT. (vv. 6, 7.) This is the time, as appears from the same chapter, when "the Lord shall punish the kings of the earth," and
then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, when the ‹ Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before ⚫ his ancients gloriously." (vv. 21— 23.) This connects the signs in the luminaries, and the consumption decreed upon the Gentiles, with a period directly the reverse of the destruction of Jerusalem and the triumph over it of the Gentile powers.†
I consequently consider, that the rising up of false christs and false prophets, (verses 23—26) is not a repetition of verses 5 and 11, but that it has a distinct reference to the last times; and that the effect of their signs and wonders will be such as to stagger and entangle the elect; seducing and deceiving them perhaps for a time, but not so as to draw them away unto perdition. May we not already see pretensions of this character clearly developed in regard to alleged prophets?‡ and is there not some appearance also of false christs ?§ Though I expect
* It is proper to observe here, that some have limited the term "all flesh" to the Jews; and have considered the election to be the remnant carried captive, who are nationally preserved for the Fathers' sake. It would suggest some important modifications of my view, could this idea be satisfactorily demonstrated from Scripture.
I have shown in a former Essay, that the Fathers of the Reformation understood this shortening of the days to refer to the whole period of the domination of the papal Antichrist; so that instead of the crisis arriving at the end of the six thousand years of the world's duration, it would be anticipated by many years. See my reply to P. R. page 170, Investigator, No. VI.
We are no longer left in suspense in regard to that alleged spirit of prophecy, accompanied by unknown sounds, which has challenged such general attention in this country the confession of some of the accredited gifted persons, that they were under the influence of delusion, leaves it beyond question that in their case at least " a lying spirit has gone forth." I have had the opportunity of holding serious conversation with more than one of those who have acknowledged their error; and I doubt not but all who are children of God, though misled for a time, will be recovered from the snare of the fowler. I especially except from this observation the instances of healing, which appear to me to be an entirely distinct question.
§ In regard to false christs, a man has recently distinguished himself at Nottingham and Derby (and is I believe still in prison at the latter place) who calls himself Zion,
I only add here, that there is sufficient evidence in this verse. alone, that the coming of the Lord, which is in part the burden of this prophecy, is a personal coming ; and not providential or spiritual, as is so frequently contended. For first, the phrase the coming" is in the original ἡ παρεσια, in evident conformity with the question put by the disciples, as related in this Gospel; as also with verses 38 and 39 where the same word is used: and it has justly been observed, that in the Scriptures this word invariably signifies a personal advent. Secondly, is it consistent with our notions of a providential or spiritual coming to
illustrate either of them by a comparison with lightning, darting and shining through the heavens? These are modes of coming which would at least fail of being discerned by the natural man: for the judgements of God are far above out of his sight," so far as they are connected with God; and spiritual things he cannot know, because they are spiritually discerned.”k
Yet will the Lord's personal advent be in the midst of judgements: for wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." These words appear to be used proverbially, and therefore are applicable at all times: for as eagles and other birds of prey are to be found where there is a dead carcase; so, when the Church of God shall become dead, and exhibit symptoms of corruption and dissolution, then God will bring her enemies upon her.* But I believe this to have a more special reference to the christian body politic, especially the papal part; and to intimate, that when she shall have filled up the measure of her iniquity, and have given unequivocal evidence that she will not repent of her apostacy and corruptions, (an evidence already too plainly afforded,) then those " unclean and hateful birds” nourished in her own wilderness, "shall eat her flesh."+
IV. I now proceed to a deeply
and professes to be the Christ, and to give the only true interpretation of the Scriptures yet offered. His system is sufficiently imposing to the natural man to have drawn after him many zealous followers. I quite concur with Mr. Begg, that the followers of Joanna Southcote are "under the guidance of a false prophet," and are precisely in the state of mind to be seduced by such pretenders. The followers of the impostor at Derby are chiefly of that sect; one of whom, a person of some education and intelligence, has taken pains to convert the writer of this article. Mr. Begg likewise informs us, that a certain London Infidel Society sent recently two of their members to Ashton-under-Line, one of whom personated the Messiah; and that they were greatly caressed by the Southcotians until the cheat was detected.
i Psalm x, 5. k 1 Cor. ii, 14.
*The attack of an enemy is frequently in the Scriptures compared to that of an eagle. See Deut. xxviii, 49; Jer. xlviii, 40; Lam. iv, 19; Hab. i, 8.
I must confess I tremble also for the protestant portion of the Church of Christ; more especially the established portion of it. Not but the approximation to apostacy
interesting portion of this subject: the signs which are immediately to precede the coming of the Lord. I shall first turn to St. Luke's account.—“And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the 'stars." Matthew and Mark inform us what those signs are- the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven." To this St. Luke adds, that there shall be 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.' Then all three conclude, “that the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
The question which first presents itself is,—are these signs to be understood figuratively or literally? Some who interpret them literally conceive that they took place previous to the destruction of Jerusalem: the sun having been darkened at the crucifixion of our Lord; and various other prodigies having followed, as related by Josephus. But I have already shown that those prodigies are distinctly spoken of in verse 11 of St. Luke's Gospel; and further, if they took place previous to the commencement of the tribulation,
they cannot be the same with those which are to happen at its termination.
Others make them still future, yet understand them literally; among whom is Mr. Begg.* He grounds his view principally on the circumstance, that Luke distinguishes signs on the earth from those in the heavens; (viz. on earth distress of nations, &c.") and argues, that this compels us to understand the former signs of the literal heaven, and not as the symbols of powers on earth here repeated. But both expressions may consistently be figurative; the celestial phenomena having reference to rulers and governors; the earth and waters to nations and peoples distinct from their rulers.
Mr. Begg secondly makes "the distress of nations with perplexity" in Luke's Gospel parallel in the order of the prophecy with "the great tribulation" in verse 21 of Matthew. (P.208.) Now whoever will carefully compare the two Gospels, will I conceive be led to a different conclusion. The parallel passage with the great tribulation in Matthew (v. 21) is contained in verses 22 24, called the days of vengeance," and said to be accompanied by
GREAT DISTRESS in the land and wrath upon тs people," the Jews.
is perhaps more rapid and visible in other quarters, and of course the decline of vital piety but the circumstances in which establishments are placed are such as are calculated first to provoke the rapacity of the birds of prey; and the pertinacious adherence to obvious abuses and evils is evidently precipitating the crisis. It cannot be denied, that there has been a great awakening in the Protestant Church, and that much piety still prevails; but so it was before the overthrow of the Jewish polity: "the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." (Acts vi, 7.)
* It is remarkable, that whilst contending for a literal interpretation of these words, on account of the general analogy and consistency of the prophecy requiring it, this able Writer offers an explanation of verse 20 of Matthew's account, which must startle every literalist. He takes the word winter (xɛμwvoc) to signify figuratively the tempest or outpouring of the last vials of wrath; and the sabbath to refer to the last sabbatism. (p. 74.) The winter, or tempest, he considers identical with Rev. vii, 14, where the Apostle sees those who came out of THE great tribulation. ΤΗΣ θλίψεως.—I cannot stay to refute this interpretation, further than to observe; that when a prayer is put into the mouths of his people by the Lord himself, I understand it as a token that it
They both have the same mark of connexion interwoven with themwoe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days." The distress of nations with perplexity is consequently distinct; and parallel with verse 29 of Matthew which is again evident from the manner in which it is inserted between the signs in the sun, moon and stars, and the shaking of the powers of heaven.
I shall next assign the reasons which lead me to conclude the passage to be figurative. The first is, that any other than a figurative sense seems to involve a contradiction. I conceive I conceive the whole phenomena described, were they literally to occur before the day of advent, would cause a destruction of this mundane system, and leave no earth for Jesus to visit, nor any disciples to lift up the head and rejoice in their approaching redemption. Mr. Begg indeed admits, that the stars falling from heaven cannot possibly mean their falling to our earth: (p. 209) and argues that these things will after all only seem to be literally fulfilled.*
But my chief reason for adopting the figurative interpretation is, that these signs occur so frequently in prophecies relating to other kingdoms, and the fulfilment has so decidedly proved them to have been figurative, that the figurative sense becomes as it were the literal one, from its familiarity. I would not say, that there are no passages in
the prophets which literally foretel signs in the celestial bodies: I merely contend, that generally a figurative sense is chiefly intended. I will instance first Isaiah xiii, 9 13; Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with • wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give 'their light the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the 'moon shall not cause her light to 'shine. And I will punish the world ' for their evil, &c.-Therefore I will 'shake the heavens, and the earth
Another Scripture which Mr. Begg instances to support his view is Ezekiel xxxii, 7, 8, concerning Egypt, and referred by him to the latter day. "And when I shall put
thee out, I will cover the heaven ' and make the stars thereof dark; 'I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light all the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, · and set darkness upon thy land,
will be answered. In this case, however, (to say nothing of the obscurity which still rests on the interpretation of the flight,) it seems to me from Rev. vii, 14, that the persons there described were actually overtaken by the affliction, and came out from the midst of it; so that their flight was in the winter, after all. I would just add, that, to suit Mr. Begg's view, xeuwv ought to be written with the article or preceded by a preposition.
* I should be doing Mr. Begg an injustice were I to leave the Reader to suppose, that I have met all his arguments on this head. Should any still lean to the literal interpretation of these signs, and desire to see what I conceive the best reasoning in support of it that has appeared, I would recommend them to peruse Mr. Begg's Work.
'saith the Lord God." But at verse
Isaiah xxxiv seems to refer to the last days; the kingdoms, upon whom the vengeance is to fall declared therein, being called Idumea; though the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations and his fury upon all their armies." (vv. 2, 5.) “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host (the stars) shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.-For my sword shall be bathed in heaven, &c." Here the latter clause is so evidently a figure, that it at once with me determines the whole passage not to be literal.
Several clauses are indeed identical in their phraseology with Rev. vi, 13, 14, where, at the opening of the sixth seal, "there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the · stars of heaven fell unto THE EARTH, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind, and "the heaven departed as a scroll, &c.” The antichristian power described in Daniel viii, is also seen by him "to wax great even to the host of
heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them:" expressions which again are manifestly absurd if literally understood.
Some have considered the interpretation given of Joseph's dream in Genesis xxxvii, 9, 10, to be the foundation of this figure; and it is certainly a sufficient ground for it: but the question arises, How came Jacob acquainted with it?-and I am therefore inclined to go still farther back, and to believe it was contained in Genesis i, 14, 15,"And God said, let there be lights
in the firmament of the heavens to 'divide the day from the night; and let them be for SIGNS, and for seasons, and for days, and for years: and let them be for lights, &c." In this passage all the natural purposes (if I may so speak) for which the sun, moon, and stars are created are specified, independent of their being for signs. They are to be for lights, they are to produce the seasons, and to mark periods of time: what other sense remains, connected with the economy of nature, in which they can be as signs? I conclude therefore, that in patriarchal times they were looked upon as significant demonstrations of the "eternal power and Godhead" of Jehovah, of which they continually testify in all the earth; and that they were also symbols of the gradations, orders and courses, appointed of God in his moral government of the world; "the sun ruling by day, the moon and stars ruling by night," and, as in the world to come, <c one star differing from another star in glory." Thus Jacob was evidently familiar with the symbol, when he said
* Compare Romans i, 20, with Rom. x, 18, Psalm xix, 1-4, and 1, 1. In Romans x, Psalm xix is quoted as a proof, that the heathen had after all had the glory and power of God silently preached to them; which according to the fiftieth Psalm daily calls the world; "so that they are without excuse."