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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 calanities 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 evils, 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 xviii. 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 likew 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. When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, 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 pla gue, 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. But the persecution which will be exercised by Antichrist against the Christians, will exceed in severity and cruelty the persecutions of all past ages. But this dreadful period will be shortened by the mercy of God for the sake of his elect, and reduced to three years and a half.
Christ having thus carried on his predictions to the ruin of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews, which is to last to the latter time of the world, the sequel of his discourse naturally falls upon the transactions of that last period. “ Then if any man," says he, “ shall say to you: lo, here is Christ, or there; do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it you before hand. If therefore they shall say to you: behold, he is in the desert, go ye not out: behold, he is in the closets, believe it not.” Here is a full warning, which ought to be taken notice of, against the false Christs and false prophets that will rise up in the last age; the chief of whom will be Antichrist and the false prophet his attendant. And what is very alarming, they will have power of showing great signs and wonders, in so much as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. We shall see the same confirmed, by the Apocalypse, in the two above-mentioned impostors.
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 days,” says St. Peter, “there shall come deceitful scoffers, 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, covetuus, 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 niockers, walking according to their own desires in : sensible, that Christ is not only the protector of his beloved EL spouse, the Church, but also the avenger of the injuries done - to her. This power he has frequently exerted. The four E preceding ages furnish us with the most evident proofs of it, Es under the respective four vials of the wrath of God. She was És revenged in the punishment of her persecutors, the Roman e emperors, in the first age "The Arians, who impugned her
faith and harassed her cruelly in the second age, felt also the ex avenging hand of the Son of God, whom with his Church
they had blasphemed: after sore calamities, they were doomed to sink into annihilation. The third age exhibited to us a
most conspicuous exertion of a two-edged sword of Christ, in at the destruction of the cruel idolatrous Romans, for their
having spilt the blood of his and his spouses children. The * fourth age was distinguished by the punishment of the Greeks
for their rebellion against the same Church, and the world still sees them groaning under slavery for their inflexible
obstinacy. Such having been the conduct of the supreme i guardian of his Church through the course of all the Christ* ian ages, is it not an object of consideration highly interesting
to the protestants, lest some such disaster should also be their † fate? The Saviour of mankind waits with patience for the
return of his strayed sheep, but their obstinacy at last forces his hand to strike. Unhappy children of the reformation! refuse not to hear the wholesome advice of the prophet Isaiah: “ Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near," lv. 6. Hear the voice of God speaking of Israel, and make the application : “ Return, O virgin of Israel, return to thy cities," Jerem. xxxi. 21. And again: “ Be converted, 0 house of Israel, and do penance for all your iniquities; and iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new heart, and
a new spirit: and why will you die, ( house of Israel ? For e I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God;
return ye, and live." Ezech. xviii. 30, 31, 32. But if, deaf
to all admonitions, they continue hardened in their own ways, on what remains to be done but to lament their misfortune, and
in bitterness of soul turn our eyes from the pouring out of the following vial:
The pouring out of the fifth Vial of the Wrath of God.