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Matt. xxiv. 23-28, is easily explained on a similar principle. The evangelists frequently omit sayings of our Lord at the time of their second recurrence, when they have recorded them already on some former occasion. Examples of this kind are numerous in the Gospel harmonies. The argument, therefore, which is advanced to prove the sameness of the discourse in Luke xvii. and Matt. xxiv., is altogether baseless; and the historical parallel between Luke xxi. and the prophecy in the two other Gospels is demonstrably complete and true.
II. THE TRUE POINT OF DEPARTURE is the next principle which needs to be clearly ascertained. This, surely, is not less plain than the former truth. The whole occasion, and all the attendant circumstances, prove that the prediction begins from the time of the apostles themselves. It is not a greater violence to turn the advent at the close into a mere figure, than to wrest the beginning of the prophecy from its plain reference to the temple then standing, and to its approaching overthrow.
Where a truth is very evident, it is sometimes difficult to place it in a clearer light. But, since the whole of the Futurist exposition depends on this one point, it is necessary to dwell upon it with more exactness of detail.
1. First, the previous circumstances give clear evidence that the prediction referred to times close at band. Our Lord had just been denouncing judgment, for the last time, on the Jewish nation. He had made a severe appeal to their conscience on the guilt of their unbelief. He had warned them that actually they were then filling up the measure of their fathers' sins. He had declared solemnly that all the righteous blood shed from the beginning of the world would be required
of that very generation. He had just uttered the warning—“ Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!” To his own disciples he had renewed the statement, and told them that of those goodly buildings not one stone should be left upon another. On their inquiry,“ When shall these things be?” he delivers the present prediction, and announced their own sufferings and trials. Who can fail to see, from all these circumstances, that His words refer properly and directly to the troubles which immediately followed, within thirty years, and cannot possibly commence at the distance of eighteen centuries ?
2. The question of the disciples is another decisive proof. Our Lord had declared of that very temple which they saw, that it should be entirely overthrown. Their inquiry at once followed: “Tell us when shall these things be?” Our Lord would have given no answer to their question, unless his words related to the overthrow of the same buildings of the temple, which had attracted their admiration just before.
3. The words of Matt. xxiv. 8, seem to be another conclusive argument for the same application. Troubles which should come on the Jews at the close of eighteen centuries, could with no propriety be called the beginning of sorrows. That term would naturally apply only to the first troubles which came on the Church, or on the Jewish nations after the time when the prophecy was given. :. 4. The whole of the opening part of the discourse manifestly requires the same construction. It begins with a practical direction, which must, beyond doubt, apply to the disciples themselves : “ Take heed that no man deceive you." And this practical warning is confirmed by a prophetic statement, which was literally fulfilled in that generation. The whole scope of this
part of the discourse is to inculcate patience under
6. The words of Luke xxi. 24, are equally conclusive:
, the same conclusion. We have seen, in the predictions of Daniel, that they commence, in each case, from the time when the prophecy is given, or the next preceding event which is of a prominent kind. The same maxim applies here, since no sufficient reason can be given for supposing this uniforin law to be contradicted in the prophecy before us.
These various proofs are still further confirmed by the mutual admissions of the Futurists themselves. AH the others who touch upon the subject agree, with the universal judgment of critics, that the three passages correspond, and thus condemn the novel hypothesis, by which, in the “ Latter Days," they are severed from each other. But Mr. Mac Causland, on the other hand, agrees with the general opinion of commentators, by maintaining, in the strongest terms, that the pro
phecy in St. Luke is “a direct and indisputable announcement of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus." These two premises, which, separately taken, are owned by the Futurists themselves to be undisputably certain, need only to be combined to disprove and overturn their whole theory.
On the whole, it seems impossible to read the opening of the prophecy, in connexion with all the previous context, without attaining the full and certain conviction that our Lord here refers to the events which followed in the very next generation after his words were spoken ; and that he never could have designed his discourse to commence its application after near two thousand years.
III. The chief difficulty, however, still remains to be removed; for the close of the prophecy clearly refers to the last days. Now, it will be a great help towards a more distinct view of the subject to understand the relation between St. Luke's account, and that in the other Gospels. This may be viewed, I believe, with much reason, as AN INSPIRED PARAPHRASE on the words of the prophecy.
It has been shown already, that the three accounts are, beyond all doubt, historically parallel. Between St. Matthew and St. Mark there is also a very general agreement in the words of the prediction. But in the account of St. Luke there are much more numerous deviations. How are these to be explained ?
The first solution which offers, is to suppose that each evangelist has given us only a part of our Saviour's words. But, when we seek to apply this principle in detail, it is encumbered with the greatest difficulties. The discourse, made up by inserting the clauses in one evangelist supposed to be omitted in another, assumes an air of tautology, which we cannot reconcile with
the divine simplicity of all our Lord's sayings. It seems necessary, then, to allow, in one or other, considerable verbal deviations,
Now the verbal correspondence between St. Matthew and St. Mark is so full and complete, that either of them seems to be, with a few omissions, an exact transcript of our Lord's actual discourse. On the other hand, the words in St. Luke often differ from both in those parts where they exactly agree with each other. And since his Gospel was written some years later than theirs, and is supplementary in its character, it would seem that it is designed, in part, as a paraphrase on the actual words of the prophecy. When two literal accounts of that discourse had already been given to the Church, a narrative, which might serve, in some measure, the office of an inspired comment, would, perhaps, be more suited to the purpose of the revelation than a third repetition of the exact words of the prediction. And this view would also accord with that gradual unfolding of truth which has been seen to prevail through the whole course of sacred prophecy.
This explanation of the peculiar features in St. Luke's account of the discourse seems greatly confirmed by one simple remark. There are two points in the prediction of our Lord, as given in the two other Gospels, which are the most difficult to explain. One of these is the meaning of the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. The other is the nature of the transition from the first times of the Church to the second advent. Now these are the two chief points where St.
uke varies from the other evangelists; and, in each case, he substitutes a simpler expression for one which is more obscure. No other explanation than that which is given above seems to meet all these features of the different narratives of the three Gospels.