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is incorrect. Supposing the two periods were the same, there is nothing whatever in the prophecy of St. Luke to “compel commentators to look beyond the destruction by Titus." The prediction asserts that the treading down of Jerusalem and the times of the Gentiles end together; but it nowhere affirms that they also begin together. For anything which is contained in this prophecy, the times of the Gentiles might begin centuries earlier or later than the actual treading down.
Finally, Mr. Burgh is persuaded that the times of the Gentiles must denote the three and half years which he assigns to the infidel antichrist. This is a fourth assertion, equally baseless with the rest. There is no conceiva! principle by which the times of the Gentiles can be limited to such a period. It may be variously expounded-as the time of prevailing Gentile power, or the time of peculiar favour to the Gentile nations; but in no way can we extract from the phrase the meaning which Mr. Burgh would assign it. Such a construction becomes evidently absurd, when we examine the scope and connexion of the passage itself in which it occurs.
Thus it appears that the whole argument is composed of two erroneous assertions, of one false premise, and one groundless inference. It needs, therefore, no further examination.
The remaining objection, drawn from the visions of Daniel, differs from the one in the “Latter Days” only by resting on premises still more faulty, and which have been amply refuted in the sixth chapter. It is needless, then, to dwell further on its details. The result of this inquiry shows that the application of our Lord's words to the past fall of Jerusalem rests on three solid arguments; and that of the objections brought against it, some directly confirm its truth, and the others are made up of misstatements and false reasonings.
V. THE TRUE PLACE OF TRANSITION in the prophecy is the next question which has to be determined, and, perhaps, the most important. Our reasonings hitherto have all tended to prove that the opening of the prophecy must be referred to the days of the apostles, and the close to the second advent. This also corresponds exactly with the twofold inquiry of the disciples, “ Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" But, since the lapse of time has proved that these events. are separate by near two thousand years, our conclusions will again be rendered doubtful, unless it can be explained how the prophecy passes from the first subject to the second. This is not plain on the first inspection. In that case, there would have been no temptation, on the one hand, to convert the second advent, and the sound of the last trumpet, into a mere figure; or, on the other, to rend violently the opening of the prophecy from its connexion with the existing temple and its ruin. Yet a careful scrutiny will, I believe, supply us with a full and consistent explanation.
1. First, if the prophecy in St. Luke be, as I have endeavoured to prove, a partial comment on the words of the prediction, as actually delivered, we must naturally look to this Gospel for the key to our difficulty: and here the solution meets us at once. There is a clear transition in the words of the twenty-fourth verse : 6 Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
The interval of desolation here implied must extend from the ruin of the temple and the city to the future. restoration of Israel; and therefore will comprise nearly eighteen hundred years. This is exactly the transition : which was needed, in order to preserve both the beginning and the close of the prophecy in their unforced and
natural meaning. The prediction will thus be composed of two parts, which exactly answer to the two questions of the disciples from which it arose.
Every feature in St. Luke's prophecy is in full harmony with this view. The previous verses correspond, in their minutest characters, with the events of the apos
On the other hand, those which follow have an exact accordance with the descriptions given us in other Scriptures of the times just before the second advent. The explanation, so far as this Gospel is concerned, is satisfactory and complete.
2. Let us next compare the two other Gospels, where alone the main difficulty is found. The verses Matt. xxiv. 20-28, Mark xii. 18-23, which include the mention of the great tribulation, correspond, in their order, with the verses of transition in St. Luke. They do not, however, appear in his Gospel; partly, because he has already recorded (Luke xvii. 23, 24) a very similar statement made by our Lord on another occasion; and partly, because the Holy Spirit seems to have designed, in St. Luke's Gospel, which was written later, to give a further key to the Church for the right understanding of the prophecy. We may hence conclude with a strong assurance, that the transition in St. Matthew and St. Mark, from the days of Titus to the time of the end, is to be found in the mention of the great tribulation.
This is confirmed also by direct reasons :—for the description of the time of trouble in St. Matthew answers exactly to the verses in Luke iv. 21-23, which clearly relate to the Jews at the time of their dispersion; yet it also corresponds to the words of Daniel (xii. 1), which connect it immediately with the resurrection; and St. Matthew himself states that it is followed immediately by the signs of the second advent.
3. The first mode which suggests itself of reconciling
these statements, is to suppose that the tribulation here described is viewed as extending through the whole Christian dispensation. But this view, though very simple, is attended by two weighty, and, I think, insuperable objections. First, the whole Christian dispensation can with no propriety be said to be “a time of trouble, such as never was nor shall be." Such a description of it must be felt, by every plain mind, to be most unnatural, and even directly untrue. Not only all the emphasis of the phrase perishes, but it may be affirmed, with more reason, that the times of the Gospel have been times of assuaged suffering to mankind. And even if we restrict the phrase to the Jews only, the peculiar intensity of suffering ascribed to those days cannot certainly have been fulfilled through the whole course of eighteen centuries.
Next, a comparison with St. Luke shows clearly that this intense tribulation is not ascribed to the whole interval in question. There is no direct or implied assertion that it lasts while the times of the Gentiles are fulfilling. It is there connected with the first dispersion of the Jews, and with the approach of the second advent, with an implied pause existing between them.
4. We have, therefore, still to seek for a more complete explanation; and this is to be found, I believe, in one mysterious clause of the discourse, which, from its peculiar nature and its plain connexion with the prophetic times, at once awakens a suspicion that it may furnish the true key, when correctly explained. I allude to that remarkable phrase, - For the elect's sake the days shall be shortened.”
These words occur in the exact point of the discourse which corresponds to the transition in St. Luke. They also suggest at once the notion of some interruption of the natural order and sequence of times, such as the twofold application of the prophecy seems to require.
There is clearly implied in these words a natural or regular course of events different from that which will actually come to pass. If we can form a correct judg. ment on the scheme of Providence which would naturally ensue, were the days unshortened, we shall then be able to interpret this singular phrase.
Now there seem only two standards to which reference can here be made—the fixed times of prophetic chronology, or the unrestrained course of divine equity and righteousness. Let us consider each of these in succession.
First, our Lord had before announced to the Jews that they were filling up the measure of their fathers, and that all the righteous blood shed from the beginning of the world should be required of that generation. The commencement of vengeance on the Jewish people was thus fixed to a time within a single generation from the death of Christ. Again, the national deliverance and glory of the Jews, it will be here taken for granted, from the evidence of many prophecies, is inseparably connected with the return of Messiah. The time of that return, whether or not it be virtually revealed, is certainly fixed in the divine counsels, and as certainly is not less than eighteen centuries after the first coming of our Lord. Now it might be expected, in the regular course of the sacred chronology, that the whole of this defined prophetic interval should be filled with the heaviest infliction of wrath on the Jewish nation, whose unbelief continues unchanged through its course. The whole has a plain unity in its prophetic character, and it might have been supposed that it would be marked by the same uniform and unbroken bitterness of most intense visitation. But this, our Lord's declaration implies, will not be the case. The woe will begin in its bitterness, but it shall be maimed or cut short in its course. Instead of continuous destruction, “they shall be led away captive into all nations." A lighter burden shall be laid