« PreviousContinue »
prophecy. I hope, however, to make it plain that the error of their views, though less unnatural, is not less demonstrable in this case than in all the former.
The real difficulty to be here surmounted is of the following nature. The prophecy of our Lord, from the time when it was given, and the question to which it is a reply, seems evidently to begin with the troubles of the Jews in the apostolic age. From the whole character of its close, and the parables which follow, it seems equally plain that it reaches to the second advent. And yet both the words of Matt. xxiv. 34, and the apparent connexion of its parts, seem to confine it within the limits of one generation. These three principles, however, are inconsistent with each other, and the question arises, which of them must be modified or abandoned?
Three answers have been given to this inquiry. The first, which is that of Bishop Newton and many others, adopts a figurative construction for the close of the prophecy, and thus dissevers it from all immediate or direct reference to the personal advent. The second, to which Mr. Burgh, Mr. Mac Causland, Mr. Tyso, and perhaps, all the other Futurists adhere, breaks off the connexion with the times of the apostles, and refers the whole to events still future. The third, which is received by Mr. Brooks, Bishop Horsley, and Bengelius, endeavours to establish the fact of a continuation or transition, in the course of the prophecy, from the days of Titus to the time of the second advent. On either of these last views the thirty-fourth verse requires a separate explication.
The opinion of Bishop Newton is chiefly recommended by its apparent accordance with the verse just alluded to, where our Saviour declares, “This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled.”
This argument in its favour is, however, greatly outweighed by the violent and unnatural gloss which must then be put upon all the closing part of the prophecy. It is not one single verse, but nearly one half of the whole prediction, which needs then to be forced from its natural meaning. The verses Matt. xxiv. 29-33, 3653, cannot, without the most palpable wresting, be applied to the fall of Jerusalem. We shall, therefore, by mutual consent, pass over this exposition. The choice will now lie between the second and the third methods of interpreting the prophecy.
The former of these, or the Futurist exposition, seems to be most fully advocated by Mr. Mac Causland in the "Latter Days." This chapter will, therefore, be occupied chiefly with the examination of his statements, along with the direct inquiry into the true meaning of the passage. But, as some of his laws are peculiar to himself, a reference will be needful also to other writers.
According to this respectable author, nothing can be more decisive than the superiority of his own hypothesis to every opposite view. " In our interpretation (he says) all the evangelists harmonize, and all the difficulties of construction which have embarrassed commentators vanish. These latter, by adhering to the commonly received interpretation of the setting up of the abomination of desolation being the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, have become entangled in such mazes of contradictions and anachronisms, that they have been forced into all manner of absurdities of construction." "The commonly received exposition involves us in inextricable difficulties and irreconcilable contradictions, which are all smoothed away by the interpretation that we have been tracing, and which pre
sents all the parts of the prophecy harmonizing and consistent with each other."
These statements, evidently advanced in all sincerity, and by a writer who is perhaps the most courteous and moderate of all the Futurists, might naturally raise the expectations of the reader very high. But a large deduction has always to be made from the glowing description which these writers give of their own theories. The present instance forms no exception; for the hypothesis of the author is, I believe, one of the least defensible which has ever been proposed.
The following is an outline of the theory. The passage in St. Luke, chap. xxi., is only parallel in part to those of the two former Gospels, and properly relates to the fall of Jerusalem under Titus; but the prediction in St. Matthew and St. Mark relates entirely to the last times. The abomination of desolation is still wholly future. All the events there predicted are to take place in that generation which next precedes the second advent, to which also the words of our Saviour, in the thirty-fourth verse, must be tacitly referred.
This solution of the difficulty will be found to diverge widely from the truth, even in its earliest stage. The first basis, in logical order, of a sound interpretation, is that correspondence of the three evangelists, which is here set aside. An inquiry into the true meaning seems to be arranged best under the following divisions. First, the historical parallel between the predictions in the three Gospels. Next, their common point of departure, commencing from the apostolic age. Thirdly, the nature of St. Luke's account, as an inspired paraphrase on the two other evangelists. Fourthly, the true meaning of the abomination of desolation. Fifthly, the true place of transition, demonstrable in the prophecy. And,
lastly, the explanation of our Saviour's words, "This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled."
I. The first basis of a solid exposition is, THE HISTORICAL PARALLELISM OF THE PROPHECY in the three Gospels. This truth is so plain of itself, and has been so universally admitted, that to attempt a proof of it appears almost needless. It is astonishing how Mr. Mac Causland could imagine that an exposition, founded on a contradiction of this first and self-evident principle, could ever satisfy a thoughtful inquirer. The prophecy in St. Luke, compared with that in St. Mark and St. Matthew, has every token which can prove it to be the same. In each case, In each case, it follows the denunciation of woe against the Scribes and Pharisees, which took place on Wednesday in Passion-week, and closed the public ministry of our Lord. It follows, in each evangelist, the same commendation of the poor widow. It was delivered, as each evangelist tells us, soon after our Lord had departed from the temple for the last time. It arose, in each instance, from an exclamation of the disciples on the beauty of the sacred buildings. The question to which it is the immediate reply is given almost exactly in the same words by St. Mark and St. Luke. The whole structure of the prophecy also, in each account, is precisely the same. No marks of identity can be more strong and conclusive than those which the Spirit of God has here brought together. So plain is the truth, that no harmonist, amidst their numerous diversities in other parts, seems ever to have dreamt of separating these passages from each other.
The only reason alleged for this separation is stated in the following passage (Latt. D., p 130).
"The description (Luke xvii. 20-37) is evidently
parallel to those in St. Matthew and St. Luke, which are under consideration; for we have, in each of them, and in the same words, the warning not to pause or return for the sake of worldly possessions, and the admonition to beware of the subtleties of false Christs. In each we have the sign of His real advent conveyed by the same image of a flash of lightning; and in each, too, is revealed the locality of His personal presence, under the figure of the gathering of the eagles...... These remarkable identities of substance and imagery, none of which are to be found in Luke xxi., lead irresistibly to the conclusion, that the same event is pourtrayed in all of them; and that the passage in Luke xvii. (between which and that in Luke xxi. there is NO ONE POINT of resemblance) is the parallel passage in that evangelist to the predictions in question from St. Matthew and St. Mark."
Now, in this reasoning, two things quite distinct are plainly confounded together. The passage in Luke xvii. 20-37, may doubtless refer to the same period with Matt. xxiv. 27, 28. But this by no means proves it to be a report of the same discourse. On the contrary, the whole context shows evidently that it was spoken several weeks previous, during the last journey of our Lord towards Jerusalem.
This close resemblance to each other, in sayings of Christ which were spoken at some distance of time, is of frequent occurrence in the Gospels. There is a wide difference between these coincidences and that which exists between distinct reports of the same discourse. The first is only a verbal, the other is an historical parallel. The relation between Luke xxi. and Matt. xxiv. is of this latter kind, and is vital to the right interpretation of the prophecy.
The omission in Luke xxi. of the words recorded in