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extraordinary signs and prodigies both in the heavens and on the earth here described, evidently speak the majesty and power of him, whose approaching coming they are designed to announce. They therefore necessarily tend to reflect that glory on the Lamb, which was said to be his due. Apoc. v. 12.
The nature of the subject seems to require we should subjoin to the preceding account that other, which our Saviour himself gives of the same or similar prodigies. The assemblage of both will contribute to enlarge our knowledge of that interesting subject; and the comparison of them may serve as a proof, that the expressions used by St. John are to be taken in their natural acceptation, and not in a metaphorical sense, as some might imagine; many of his expressions being similar to those of our Saviour, which have been generally understood in their natural sense.
The account which Christ delivered of the prodigies we are speaking of, is to be found in St. Matthew, chap. 24. St. Mark, chap. 13, and St. Luke, chap. 21. His disciples having asked him by what signs they should know the approaching ruin of Jerusalem, and also what signs would precede the general dissolution of the world, Christ answers both questions. But in the first part of his answer he seems to assign the same prodigies for announcing both those events : as the destruction of Jerusalem may be a very expressive figure of the destruction of the world. And in this sense the holy fathers have explained his discourse. In the latter part of his answer, Christ seems to confine himself solely to the pointing out of the signs, which will be the presages of the approaching end of all things.
He thus begins his discourse: “ Take heed that no man seduce you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am He, I am Christ; and the time is at hand; and they will seduce many: go you not therefore after them.” The appearance of false Christs or false Messiahs was then the first mentioned by our Saviour, and first warning of the approaching fate of Jerusalem. That many such impostors rose up in Judea before the demolition of Jerusalem by the Romans, we learn from Josephus, in his history of the Jewish wars. It is here the opinion of the holy fathers, that Christ intended also to intimate by the preceding words, that false Christs will arise in a similar manner in the last age of the world, and be a sign of its approaching end.
Our Saviour proceeds : “ You shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: See that you be not troubled. For these things must coine to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be pestilences, and famines, and great earthquakes in divers places, and terrors from heaven, and there shall be great signs." These calanuities happened before the ruin of Jerusalem, as the above-mentioned Jewish historian testifies. The same will likewise be experienced, it is supposed, in the last age. But Christ adds: “ Now all these things are the beginnings of sorrows." Though great erils, they are only to be deemed the prelude of greater. Then he goes on : * But before all these things they will lay their hands on you, and persecute you, and put you to death," &c. Here are the persecutions foretold, which fell upon the apostles and first Christians. The same will likewise rage in a more fierce manner hereafter under Antichrist.
* And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many: and because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” From this rise of false prophets or teachers of false doctrine, and the abounding of wickedness, before the fall of the Jewish nation, it is concluded by the holy fathers that similar unhappy circumstances will take place before the finishing of the world. And; indeed, that false prophets or false teachers will then arise, we shall see it again expressed in the sequel of our Saviour's discourse; and that iniquity will likewise abound, is fully intimated by what Christ said on another occasion: “When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on the earth ?" Luke xvii. 8.
" And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come.” A new people of Christians was to be formed by preaching the gospel, before the Jews, the ancient people of God, were rejected, and their city and temple abolished. The gospel will likeu ise be preached with extraordinary zeal in the latter times over the whole earth, to stem the prevalence of imposture and depravity of morals, and to oppose in particular the furious efforts of Antichrist against religion.
" When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, he that readeth, let him understand. Wlien you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an armi, ihen know that the .desolation thereof is at hand." Here
our Saviour points out to his disciples the most immediate sign by which they might know, that the ruin of Jerusalem was near at hand; namely, when they should see an idolatrous army arrive, with its heathenish gods, which are the abomination of desolation, and invest Jerusalem, that city which was always styled the holy place, or holy city. We shall see hereafter that Antichrist will also set up what is called “the abomination of desolation."
“ Then they that are in Judea," continues Christ, “let them flee to the mountains. For there shall be then great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things may be fulfilled that are written. There shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh would be saved: but for sake of the elect, those days shall be shortened. And they (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captives into all nations : and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the gentiles till the times of the nations be fulfilled.” Thus then the calamities and signs having all happened that had been foretold by our Saviour, the fatal time fixed for the vengeance of the Almighty was come, and Jerusalem was taken and razed to the ground by the Roman army under the command of Titus Vespasian; the temple was burned, the Jews slaughtered to an immense number, a few were reserved by Titus to be carried in triumph to Rome, and the rest were sold for slaves, and dispersed into all nations. This happened in the year 70 of the Christian æra. Extreme were the calamities and miseries that people suffered in this war, by the plague, famine, and sword: they were even such as no nation had ever felt before. The Jews must have all certainly perished, had not God in his mercy shortened those days of vengeance for the sake of the elect, that is, for the sake of reserving a remnant of that people, who are to remain in captivity till the times of the nations be fulfilled, that is, till the number of the Gentiles, whom God will call to the Christian faith, be filled up; and then that remnant of the Jews will be converted, and acknowledge Christ for their Messiah.
In like manner, before the last coming of Christ to dissolve the fabric of the world, the calamities of war that will fall upon mankind will be very great, though perhaps somewhat inferior to those the Jews experienced on the above occasion.
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A more full account of all these seducers, and of their infamous character, is given us in the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul. “In the last dars," says St. Peter, “there shall come deceitful scoliers, walking after their own lusts, saying, where is his promise of his coming? for since the time that the fathers slept, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." 2 Ep. iii. 3, 4. " Know also this," says St. Paul, “ that in the last days shall come on dan, gerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasures more than of God; having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof." 2 Tim. iii. 1, &c. The same admonition is given us by St. Jude in his Epistle, v. 17, &c. “But you, my dearly beloved," says this apostle, “be mindful of the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; who told you, that in the last time there should come mockers, walking according to their own desires in
ungodliness. These are they, who separate themselves, sensual men, having not the spirit.”
To proceed with our Saviour's discourse : “And immediately after the tribulation of those days,” says he, “the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved. And there shall be upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves, men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world.” These previous signals of the end of the world are analogous to those described in the Apocalypse, under the sixth seal, as will appear by the comparison of the two texts. See the text of the Apocalypse given above, page 195. Our Saviour says: “The sun shall be darkened." St. John, after the opening of the sixth seal, says: “ The sun became black as sack-cloth of hair." Christ says: “ The moon shall not give her light." St. John says: “The moon became as blood." Christ continues : “ The stars shall fall from heaven." St. John in the above-mentioned place: “ The stars from heaven fell upon the earth, as the fig-tree casteth its green figs when it is shaken by a great wind.” Christ again : “And the powers of heaven shall be moved." St. John: “And the heaven departed as a book folded up." Christ again : “And there shall be upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves.” St. John in the above place: “And every mountain, and the islands, were moved out of their places." Our Saviour proceeds: “Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world.” St. John: “And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and tribunes, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of mountains. And they say to the mountains and the rocks: fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him who sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." Hence it appears that the words of our Saviour may be applied as the best interpretation of the text of St. John contained under the sixth seal.
Thus then it appears that the discourse of Christ to his disciples, and the text of the Apocalypse under the sixth seal, exhibit to us an epitome of the prodigies and disastrous events that will distinguish the sixth or last period of time. They will be sent as so many warnings of the approaching great day of wrath, when Christ will come in his power and ma: