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ANTECEDENT SIGNS OF
OUR LORD: THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, POLITICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL COMMOTIONS.
ST. LUKE, CHAPTER XXI; VERSES 26-28. " And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and 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; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
On the last Sunday evening we entered into an examination of the leading prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the Messiah, and proved that all those predictions which refer to his first coming as the child of a virgin, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief—to be despised and rejected of men,-by a life of suffering and a death of ignominy
to satisfy the claims of law and justice, and thus effect the redemption of the world,-had been fulfilled to the very letter, even in the circumstances which appeared to be trifling and accidental ;-such as the giving him vinegar to drink, the parting of his garments and the casting lots upon his vesture,—the not breaking his legs, the piercing his side, and the making of his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death : all-all were distinctly foreseen by the Prophets: in all, written predictions were literally fulfilled.
Thus far, all Christians are happily agreed.-No believer in Christ would advocate the spiritual or mystical interpretation of the prophecies relating to the first coming of our Lord. History has become their interpreter. It is no longer a matter of faith, but of knowledge. Here we all take our stand in defence of the gospel. In our controversy with infidels, we triumphantly prove the inspiration of the Scriptures, by showing that what was predicted hundreds of years before actually came to pass precisely as foretold. We also successfully maintain our argument with Jews, by showing that the facts which the Prophets foretold respecting the humiliation, birth, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Messiah were literally accomplished in the history of Jesus of Nazareth.
But while there is thus far a perfect agreement among Christian divines and commentators, there is, with respect to that large class of prophecies in the Old and New Testaments which relate to the second coming, the conquests, kingdom, and glory of the Messiah, a remarkable difference of opinion as to the true interpretation. The majority in our day seem to consider these prophecies as altogether metaphorical, ascribe to them only a mystical and spiritual meaning, and seem to suppose that the literal interpretation is too absurd and visionary to be entitled even to respectful examination.
But, on the other hand, JUSTIN MARTYR,* and several other of the earlier Fathers have been followed, by learned and pious men in different ages, and by a large and increasing number in our own day, (who in point of talent, learning, and holiness will not suffer by a comparison with others,) in contending for the same principles of interpretation as applicable to the unfulfilled as well as to the fulfilled prophecies; to those predictions which relate to the second, as well as those which relate to the first, advent of our Lord; -to those which relate to the rebuilding of Jerusalem as well as those which relate to its overthrow ;to those which relate to the glory and the kingdom, as well as those which relate to the humiliation and sufferings, of the Messiah. The longer I live,—the more thoroughly I study
* The well known quotation from Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, clearly proves not only his individual conviction of the truth of the doctrine that Christ will personally reign upon earth for a thousand years, but also, that such was the received belief of the Christian Church in that early period. He grounds the doctrine “upon plain prophecies of the Old Testament, and express words of the New. He professeth that he, and all other Christians, of a right belief in all things, believe it : joins them who believe it not with them who deny the resurrection; or else says, that none de. nied this, but the same who denied the resurrection; and that indeed they were called Christians, but in deed and in truth were none." Chillingworth says; “Whatsoever doctrine is believed and taught by the most eminent fathers of every age of the Church, and by none of their contemporaries opposed and condemned, that is to be es. teemed the Catholic doctrine of the church of those times; but the doctrine of the Millenaries was believed and taught by the most eminent fathers of the age next after the Apostles, and by none of that age opposed or condemned; therefore it was the Catholic doctrine of the church of those times. That doctrine which was believed and taught by Papias bishop of Hierapolis, the disciple of the Apostles' disciples, who, (according to Eusebius) lived in the time of the Apos
I the Scriptures, the more do I feel inclined to adopt the latter as the sounder principle of interpretation. I cannot believe that all the glorious things written in the sacred volume about the Messiah's kingdom upon earth are fulfilled in his spiritual reign over the hearts of believers, or in any state of the church which we are likely to behold under the operation
tles, by Justin Martyr, doctor of the church and martyr; by Melito, bishop of Sardis, who had the gift of prophecy; witness Tert: and Bellarmine acknowledges a saint; by St. Ireneus, bishop of Lyons and martyr :—that doctrine was taught by the most eminent fathers of thal age next to the Apostles and opposed by none." Those who desire to see a fuller statement of patristical authority on this point, may consult Chillingworth's additional discourses on the infallibility of the Roman Church, chapter v.
of existing causes. I cannot believe that all the striking predictions relating to the sudden and overwhelming destruction of false systems of religion and antichristian powers, the restoration of the Jews, and the splendors of the new Jerusalem,—the Millenial reign of Christ with his saints, and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth, are to be fulfilled by the slow process of converting Jews and Gentiles, as it is now progressing under human instrumentality. I cannot believe that those passages of Scripture, which speak of the terrors connected with the Lord's coming-in this chapter aud in the other gospels,were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem; or that those which speak of the mingled scenes of joy and sorrow-of glory to the righteous, and suffering to the wicked, at the glorious appearing of the Lord —will be fulfilled, as according to the common apprehension, either by our going to him at death, or by a display of his divine presence and the holding of a great assize, in heaven or in the clouds, during a short day of twelve or twenty-four hours duration.
On the contrary, I have attempted to show that this earth, which was the scene of our Saviour's humiliation and sufferings, is destined to be the theatre of his kingdom and glory. That, in fulfilment of Job's prophecy, the Redeemer “shall stand at the latter day upon the earth,”—and that holy man (as one of the risen saints,) shall with his own eyes