« הקודםהמשך »
56 Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass ar away. *
It is truly astonishing that this learned Prelate, after having thus strongly expressed his surprize that any one should refer, part of the foregoing discourse, to the destruction of Jerusalem and part to the end of the world-or to any other distant event, should himself, almost immediately afterwards, have asserted that .. some of these passages, particularly y. 29, 30, " and 31, in a figurative sense may be understood of the desa “ trucțion of Jerusalem--but that, in their literal sense, they " can be meant only of the end of the world ;" + for nothing can be more evident, than that the Prophets, in a multitude of instances, and after them our Lord, spoke in a metaphorical, or figurative, without in the least regarding the literal sense of their expressions; and that they did so, in the passages here refered to, is plain from the comparison of them, which has already been laid before the Reader ; for, there is not, the smallest reason for supposing that the Prophets had any view, in those passages to the end of the world, and the general judgment--and that our Saviour himself had no such yiewhis declaration that his prediction would be accomplished in that generation, upon which the learned Bishop very justly lays such stress, is, if any thing can be, a decisive proof: for this expression, it must be particularly observed, will have equal force, whether these verses alluded to, be understood figuratively—or literally, and will equally militate against the Bishop's opinion,
But the learned Prelate has produced his reasons for the application of these Verses to the end of the world, which it will be proper attentively to consider. “ Hitherto,” says he, "s we have explained this xxivth chapter of St. Matthew as 56 relating to the destru&tion of Jerusalem, and without doubt, 96 as relating to the destru&tion of Jerusalem, it is primarily, " to be understood. But though it is to be understood of this 6 primarily, yet it is not to be understood of this only ; for " there is no question that our Saviour had, a farther view " and meaning in it. It is usual with the Prophets to frame " and express their prophecies so, as that they shall com pre.
* See Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, p. 339, 3d Edition, Vol. II. . + Ibid. p. 347
66 hend e hend more than one event, and have their several periods of “ completion. This, every one must have observed, who “ hath been ever so little conversant in the writings of the " antient Prophets; and this, I conceive, to be the case “ here, and tke destruction of Jerusalem to be typical of the “ end of the world. The destruction of a great city is a lively “ type and image of the end of the world, and we may ob-' “ serve, that our Saviour no sooner begins to speak of the e destru&tion of Jerusalem, than his figures are raised, his " language is swelled, and he expresseth himself in such 66 terms, as in a lower sense indeed are applicable to the de“ struktion of Jerusalem, but describe something higher in 6! their proper and genuine signification.” And, after having quoted, at length, Matt. xxiv. 29, 30, 31, he adds, “ These “ passages, in a figurative sense, as we have seen, may be « understood of the destruction of Jerusalem,—but, in their « literal sense, can be meant only of the end of the world. *
It might, perhaps, be sufficient to confute this opinion, simply to refer the Reader to the Bishop's own words, already quoted. - It is to me a wonder,” &c.—but this is a matter which is of too great importance to the vindication of the Evangelical Historian, to be passed over slightly. Now the question, in this case is,“What was the true meaning of the prophecies from which the learned Bishop has admitted our Lord to have drawn his language? Did the Prophets, when they predicted the downfall of Babylon,--of Idumea—and of
Jerusalem, consider them as types of the last Judgment-or did they not? Are there the least traces, in those prophecies, of their having alluded to such an event? The destručtion of a great city, certainly may be considered, as a lively type and image of the destruction of the world ;--but unless the Prophets, from whom our Lord borrowed his language, actually did make use of it, as such, the Bishop's reasoning must lose all its force. . But, not to lay any particular stress upon this--the Bishop has himself, as it should seem, completely confuted his own opinion, úpon this subject, when he says, + that “ Coms mentators (speaking of Matt. xxiv. 29.) generally under
•'* Soe Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, page 347, 3d Edition, Vol. 11. 4 Ibid. p. 303.
- stand 66 stand this and what follows of the end of the world, and of 56. Christ's coming to judgment,--but,” says he, “the words
immediately after the tribulation of those days, show evi56 dently, that he is not'speaking of any distant event, but of s something immediately consequent upon the tribulation “ before mentioned, and that must be the destruction of Je" rusalem. It is true his figures are strong, but are no 66 stronger than are used by the Antient Prophets, upon “ similar occasions." *
More, perhaps, has been said, in reply to the learned Bishop's reasoning, in favor of a double meaning, than was absolutely necessary, had it not been that the errors of great men are, too often, implicitly adopted, without a close and attentive examination. This appears to have been the fact, in the present instance; for Dr. Macknight, in his Harmony of the Gospels, with a like strength of language with Bishop Newton, has observed, that " our Lord has forbidden us to 66 understand any part of this Prophecy, primarily, of the 66 destruction of the world; having connected all its parts, in 66 such a manner, that the things foretold, whatever they are, rs must have happened in close succession. For any Inter" preter,” he adds, " to correct Christ's language here, and 6 to say that, in the 29th verse, immediately after, signifies 66 two or three thousand years after; and that, in the 34th "verse, all these things, signifies only some of them, 6 is a liberty which cannot safely be taken with his 56 words." +
If Dr. Macknight had not read Bishop Newton upon this subject, it seems to be, by no means improbable, that he would never have inserted, in this very impressive passage, the word primarily-but, whether he took it from him-or it was the suggestion of his own mind, is not very material. It is of much more consequence, to observe that his reasoning will apply, as pointedly against a secondary, as against a primary signification; which he has, so justly considered as improper and unsafe ; for, it will still remain true, that our Lord has connected all the parts of this Prophecy, in such a manner,
* If this is not a direct confutation of the Bishop's own reasoning it will Le difficult to say what is.
See Macknight's Harmony, Vol. II. p. 131, 1st Edition.
that the things foretold, whatever they are, must have happened in close succession, or in that generation. *
It will be unnecessary to dwell upon Dr. Macknight's reasons for the insertion of the word primarily, in the forecited passage ; as they differ, but little, from those of the learned Prelate-but, it is remarkable enough, that his manner of expression shews that he was, very far from being satisfied, of the justness of the distinction. " I will not,” says he, “ deny that the destruction of the Jewish state may prefigure 46 the dissolution of the world ; at the same time, I think the “ reasons offered above, forbid us'to interpret the Prophecy “ primarily of that destruction.” + This is modest enough,
but it will, hereafter be seen, that in his Paraphrase and Notes on St. Paul's Epistles, he refers to this, and the parallel chapters of Mark and Luke, to prove that St. Paul is treating of the day of judgment, in the first and second Epistles to the Thessalonians, without so much as hinting at this distinction-or informing his Readers whether he is considering them in their primary or secondary signification. This is a mode of proceeding which cannot be too strongly reprobated, as it is contrary to all principles of sound reasoning, and in, deed of common sense. But more of this hereafter.
It is certainly an irksome part of the duty of an enquirer after truth, that he frequently finds himself obliged to differ from persons of the greatest note, in the Christian and literary world: but, if he is influenced, purely by a convicțiori of the
* The learned and ingenious Author of Letters on Infidelity (Bp. Horne) having observed that our Lord, Luke xxi. in that figurative and majestie " style, well understood by those who understand the language of Scripture, ! describes the destruction of the Jewish polity and system”---adds--at the “ terms may and do apply to the end of the world, for this obvious reason, " that the two events are in many instances parallel and analogous. His own « declaration shews plainly of which, he was primarily and immediately “ speaking. This generation shall not pass away till all these things are fulfilled : ” and the figures are those usually employed, in like case, by the Prophets 66 of old," p. 283.
Here it may be observed, that it may justly be doubted whether the two events are parallel and analogous. Our Lord does indeed shew, plainly, what he was speaking about, by confining the events described to that generation, and this language ought, in all reason, to have been sufficient to prove that the Jewish polity and system were the only matters he had been discoursing about. With respect to his subsequent language ; it will prea sently be fully proved that it has a relation to the same subject, and to that only. ť Ibid. p. 132.
rectitude réatitude of his sentiments--no blame can fairly attach to hima Besides, it should be remembered, that men of great notes when they commit mistakes, may, by the sanction of their names, stamp a degree of credit, even upon error, which may be of the most serious consequence to the Interests of Truth.
This seems, but too plainly, to have been the case, in the present instance, for, even Mr. Kett, one of the latest Writers, upon the subject of the Prophecy, contained in Matthew xxiv. and the parallel chapters, says 66 By the or parable of the Fig-tree, Our Lord assures his Disciples, 66 that the signs immediately preceding the destruction of 6. Jerusalem, should be so plain, that the most common « attention to passing events, would enable them to see, and “ to avoid the impending evils which he had, as plainly 66 foretold ; and immediately adds, Verily I say unto you, this (6 generation shall not pass away till all these things be ful6 filled. These words therefore seem obviously restricted, " in their primary sense, to the numerous circumstances " which he had most accurately described as signs of that « event, in which his Disciples felt themselves peculiarly, 66 nay personally, interested.”* And yet Mr. Kett has asserted, after having quoted St. Mark's account, that 6 the parallel passages of St. Matthew and Luke plainly. as indicate that this enquiry (of the Disciples) respected the 66 destruction of Jerusalem, the second coming of our Lord, 66 and the end of the world-events," says he, “ which they 66 possibly expected to happen together, and to which the “ reply of our Lord evidently refers.” See p. 199.
The earnestness with which a secondary sense of our Lord's Prophecy, under consideration, has been contended for, by these and other Writers, which might be mentioned, is somewhat extraordinary, as it seems to be productive of no one advantage to Christianity--but rather tends, on the con. trary, to divest it of its simplicity and to incumber it, with insuperable difficulties. The doctrine of a future state, is so clearly and unequivocally taught, in other parts of the New Testament, that there appears to have been no necessity for having recourse to types and secondary senses, to prove
* See Kett's History the Interpreter of Prophecy, Vol. I. pages 247, 248. 3d Edition.