« PreviousContinue »
be shortened.” These words appear itants of the earth are burned AND to me to respect, not the siege of FEW MEN LEFT.” (vv. 6, 7.) This is Jerusalem, but the entire period the time, as appears from the same called “the days of vengeance." chapter, when “the Lord shall punThe shortening of the days at the ish the kings of the earth," and overthrow of Jerusalem could have then the moon shall be confounded had no connexion with the saving of and the sun ashamed, when the the elect, if the christian Jews be Lord of hosts shall reign in mount " the elect” intended ; for these we Zion and in Jerusalem and before know escaped to Pella before the his ancients gloriously.” (vv. 21vengeance was actually poured out. 23.) This connects the signs in And if the words “ all flesh" (ouk the luminaries, and the consumpαν εσωθη πασα σαρξ) are to be re- tion decreed upon the Gentiles, with ferred to the nations generally, and a period directly the reverse of the not limited to the Jews, it does not destruction of Jerusalem and the appear by the history of those times triumph over it of the Gentile powthat all flesh was at all endangered; ers.t or indeed any other nation besides I consequently consider, that the the Jews.* There is however abun- rising up of false christs and false dant evidence in Scripture, that all prophets, (verses 23—26) is not a the inhabitants of the world will be repetition of verses 5 and 1l, but in jeopardy at the close of the tribu- that it has a distinct reference to the lation, when the Lord's controversy last times; and that the effect of with the nations arrives at its crisis. their signs and wonders will be such I will quote only one place : viz. to stagger and entangle the Isaiah xxiv.—“ The earth also is elect; seducing and deceiving them defiled under the inhabitants there- perhaps for a time, but not so as to of; because they have transgressed draw them away unto perdition. the laws, changed the ordinance, May we not already see pretensions broken the everlasting covenant : of this character clearly developed therefore hath the curse devoured in regard to alleged prophets ? and the earth, and they that dwell there is there not some appearance also of in are desolate ; therefore the inhab- false christs ? Though I expect
* It is proper to observe here, that some have limited the term “all flesh” to the Jews ; and have considered the election to be the remnant carried captive, who are nationally preserved for the Fathers' sake. It would suggest some important modifications of my view, could this idea be satisfactorily demonstrated from Scripture.
of I have shown in a former Essay, that the Fathers of the Reformation understood this shortening of the days to refer to the whole period of the domination of the papal Antichrist ; so that instead of the crisis arriving at the end of the six thousand years of the world's duration, it would be anticipated by many years. See my reply to P. R. page 170, Investigator, No. VI.
We are no longer left in suspense in regard to that alleged spirit of prophecy, accompanied by unknown sounds, which has challenged such general attention in this country: the confession of some of the accredited gifted persons, that they were under the influence of delusion, leaves it beyond question that in their case at least “ a lying spirit has gone forth." I have had the opportunity of holding serious conversation with more than one of those who have acknowledged their error; and I doubt not but all who are children of God, though misled for a time, will be recovered from the snare of the fowler. I especially except from this observation the instances of healing, which appear to me to be an entirely distinct question.
§ In regard to false christs, a man has recently distinguished himself at Nottingham and Derby (and is I believe still in prison at the latter place) who calls himself Zion,
that these signs (the latter especi- illustrate either of them by a ally) will be manifested ere long in comparison with lightning, darting a more conspicuous manner; yet and shining through the heavens? has there already enough appeared These are modes of coming which to justify the most jealous circum- would at least fail of being discerned spection; more particularly when by the natural man: for the judgewe consider those words of our ments of God « are far above out of Lord" Behold I have told you
his sight,”i so far as they are confore."
nected with God; and spiritual The Lord warns us, (v. 27) in things “he cannot know, because order that we may not be deluded they are spiritually discerned.”'k by those who assume his name or Yet will the Lord's personal adcharacter, that his coming will be vent be in the midst of judgements:
as the lightning cometh out of the - for wheresoever the carcase is, east and shineth unto the west :” there will the eagles be gathered tothat is to say, with suddenness and gether." These words appear to be splendor. He will not come as an used proverbially, and therefore are obscure individual, first heard of in applicable at all times : for as eagles a corner ; whether it be in the de- and other birds of prey are to be sert or in secret chambers.
found where there is a dead carcase; I only add here, that there is So, when the Church of God shall sufficient evidence in this verse become dead, and exhibit symptoms alone, that the coming of the Lord, of corruption and dissolution, then which is in part the burden of this God will bring her enemies upon prophecy, is a personal coming ; her.* But I believe this to have a and not providential or spiritual, as more special reference to the chris. is so frequently contended. For first, tian body politic, especially the papal the phrase
“ the coming” is in the part; and to intimate, that when she original y rapsola, in evident con- shall have filled up the measure of formity with the question put by the her iniquity, and have given unedisciples, as related in this Gospel; quivocal evidence that she will not as also with verses 38 and 39 where repent of her apostacy and corrupthe same word is used : and it has tions, (an evidence already too justly been observed, that in the plainly afforded,) then those“ Scriptures this word invariably sig- clean and hateful birds” nourished nifies a personal advent. Secondly, Secondly, in her own wilderness,
" shall eat is it consistent with our notions of a her flesh.”+ providential or spiritual coming to IV. I now proceed to a deeply and professes to be the Christ, and to give the only true interpretation of the Scriptures yet offered. His system is sufficiently imposing to the natural man to have drawn after him many zealous followers. I quite concur with Mr. Begg, that the followers of Joanna Southcote are “under the guidance of a false prophet,” and are precisely in the state of mind to be seduced by such pretenders. The followers of the impostor at Derby are chiefly of that sect; one of whom, a person of some education and intelligence, has taken pains to convert the writer of this article.
Mr. Begg likewise informs us, that a certain London Infidel Society sent recently two of their members to Ashton-under-Line, one of whom personated the Messiah ; and that they were greatly caressed by the Southcotians until the cheat was detected.
i Psalm x, 5.
k 1 Cor. ii, 14. * The attack of an enemy is frequently in the Scriptures compared to that of an eagle. See Deut. xxviii, 49 ; Jer. xlviii, 40 ; Lam. iv, 19; Hab. i, 8.
+ I must confess I tremble also for the protestant portion of the Church of Christ ; more especially the established portion of it. Not but the approximation to apostacy
interesting portion of this subject: they cannot be the same with those the signs which are immediately to which are to happen at its terminaprecede the coming of the Lord. tion.
I shall first turn to St. Luke's ac- Others make them still future, yet count.—"And there shall be signs in understand them literally; among the sun and in the moon and in the whom is Mr. Begg.* He grounds his
stars.” Matthew and Mark inform view principally on the circumstance, us what those signs are—“ the sun that Luke distinguishes signs on the
shall be darkened, and the moon earth from those in the heavens ; shall not give her light, and the stars (viz. on earth distress of nations, · shall fall from heaven.” To this &c.") and argues, that this compels St. Luke adds, that there shall be us to understand the former signs of
upon the earth distress of nations the literal heaven, and not as the with perplexity; the sea and the symbols of powers on earth here rewaves roaring; men's hearts failing peated. But both expressions may 'them for fear, and for looking after consistently be figurative; the ce· those things which are coming on lestial phenomena having reference
the earth. Then all three con- to rulers and governors; the earth clude, “ that the powers of heaven and waters to nations and peoples shall be shaken."
distinct from their rulers. The question which first presents Mr. Begg secondly makes “ the itself is,-are these signs to be un- distress of nations with perplexity” derstood figuratively or literally? in Luke's Gospel parallel in the orSome who interpret them literally der of the prophecy with “ the great conceive that they took place previ- tribulation” in verse 21 of Matthew. ous to the destruction of Jerusalem : (P.208.) Now whoever will carefully the sun having been darkened at the compare the two Gospels, will I crucifixion of our Lord; and various conceive be led to a different conother prodigies having followed, as clusion. The parallel passage with related by Josephus. But I have the great tribulation in Matthew already shown that those prodigies (v. 21) is contained in verses 22— are distinctly spoken of in verse 11 24, called “the days of vengeance,
," of St. Luke's Gospel; and further, and said to be accompanied by if they took place previous to the GREAT DISTRESS in the land and commencement of the tribulation, wrath upon tiiis people," the Jews.
is perhaps more rapid and visible in other quarters, and of course the decline of vital piety: but the circumstances in which establishments are placed are such as are calculated first to provoke the rapacity of the birds of prey ; and the pertinacious adherence to obvious abuses and evils is evidently precipitating the crisis. It cannot be denied, that there has been a great awakening in the Protestant Church, and that much piety still prevails; but so it was before the overthrow of the Jewish polity : "the
word of God increased ; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem * greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts vi, 7.) -13;
* It is remarkable, that whilst contending for a literal interpretation of these words, on account of the general analogy and consistency of the prophecy requiring it, this able Writer offers an explanation of verse 20 of Matthew's account, which must startle every literalist. He takes the word winter (xequwvos) to signify figuratively the tempest or outpouring of the last vials of wrath ; and the sabbath to refer to the last sabbatism. (p. 74.) The winter, or tempest, he considers identical with Rev. vii, 14, where the Apostle sees those who came out of THE great tribulation. ΤΗΣ θλιψεως.-I cannot stay to refute this interpretation, further than to observe ; that when a prayer is put into the mouths of his people by the Lord himself, I understand it as a token that it
They both have the same mark of the prophets which literally foretel connexion interwoven with them, signs in the celestial bodies : I
woe unto them that are with child, merely contend, that generally a ' and to them that give suck in those figurative sense is chiefly intended.
days.” The distress of nations with I will instance first Isaiah xiii, 9 perplexity is consequently distinct;
Behold, the day of the and parallel with verse 29 of Mat- Lord cometh, cruel both with thew: which is again evident from . wrath and fierce anger, to lay the the manner in which it is inserted - land desolate : and he shall debetween the signs in the sun, moon stroy the sinners thereof out of it. and stars, and the shaking of the " For the stars of heaven and the powers of heaven,
constellations thereof shall not give I shall next assign the reasons ' their light : the sun shall be darkwhich lead me to conclude the pas- ened in his going forth, and the sage to be figurative. The first is, moon shall not cause her light to that any other than a figurative shine. And I will punish the world sense seems to involve a contradic- for their evil, &c.-Therefore I will tion. I conceive the whole phe- shake the heavens, and the earth nomena described, were they liter- shall remove out of her place, in the ally to occur before the day of ad- " wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in vent, would cause a destruction of the day of his fierce anger.” This this mundane system, and leave no passage is quoted by Mr. Begg to earth for Jesus to visit, nor any support his literal interpretation ; disciples to lift up the head and yet the first verse introduces it to us rejoice in their approaching redemp- “ the burden (or oracle) concerntion. Mr. Begg indeed admits, that ing Babylon;" and the latter verses the stars falling from heaven
declare, that it relates to the connot possibly mean their falling to quest of that empire by the our earth :
(p. 209) and argues Medes." (v. 17.) that these things will after all only Another Scripture which Mr. seem to be literally fulfilled.*
Begg instances to support his view But my chief reason for adopting is Ezekiel xxxii, 7, 8, concerning the figurative interpretation is, that Egypt, and referred by him to the these signs occur so frequently in latter day. “ And when I shall put prophecies relating to other king- 'thee out, I will cover the heaven doms, and the fulfilment has so de. • and make the stars thereof dark ; cidedly proved them to have been I will cover the sun with a cloud, figurative, that the figurative sense and the moon shall not give her becomes as it were the literal one, light: all the bright lights of from its familiarity. I would not heaven will I make dark over thee, say, that there are no passages in and set darkness upon thy land,
will be answered. In this case, however, (to say nothing of the obscurity which still rests on the interpretation of the flight,) it seems to me from Rev. vii, 14, that the persons there described were actually overtaken by the affliction, and came out from the midst of it ; so that their flight was in the winter, after all. I would just add, that, to suit Mr. Begg's view, telu wv ought to be written with the article or preceded by a preposition.
* I should be doing Mr. Begg an injustice were I to leave the Reader to suppose, that I have met all his arguments on this head. Should any still lean to the literal interpretation of these signs, and desire to see what I conceive the best reasoning in support of it that has appeared, I would recommend them to peruse Mr. Begg's Work. " that
saith the Lord God.” But at verse heaven; and it cast down some of 11 it is declared, that this should be the host and of the stars to the accomplished by “the sword of the ground, and stamped upon them :" king of Babylon, &c. who should expressions which again are manispoil the pomp of Egypt." And in festly absurd if literally understood. chapter xxx, it is also said,
Some have considered the interthe multitude of Egypt should cease pretation given of Joseph's dream by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king in Genesis xxxvii, 9, 10, to be the of Babylon"-"and at Tehaphnehes foundation of this figure; and it is also the day should be darkened.” certainly a sufficient ground for it: This specification of person and but the question arises, How came place fixes the fulfilment to the Jacob acquainted with it?-and period when Nebuchadnezzar and I am therefore inclined to go still Tehaphnehes existed.
farther back, and to believe it was Isaiah xxxiv seems to refer to the contained in Genesis i, 14, 15,last days; the kingdoms, upon whom • And God said, let there be lights the vengeance is to fall declared in the firmament of the heavens to therein, being called Idumea; though • divide the day from the night; " the indignation of the Lord is up- and let them be for signs, and for
on all nations and his fury upon seasons, and for days, and for all their armies." (vv. 2, 5.) “And years : and let them be for lights, all the host of heaven shall be dis- &c.” In this passage all the natusolved, and the heavens shall be ral purposes (if I may so speak) for rolled together as a scroll: and all which the sun, moon, and stars are · their host (the stars) shall fall created are specified, independent of · down, as the leaf falleth off from their being for signs.
their being for signs. They are to the vine, and as a falling fig from be for lights, they are to produce the fig tree.—For my sword shall the seasons, and to mark periods of
be bathed in heaven, &c.” Here the time : what other sense remains, latter clause is so evidently a figure, connected with the economy of nathat it at once with me determines ture, in which they can be as signs ? the whole passage not to be literal. I conclude therefore, that in patri
Several clauses are indeed iden- archal times they were looked upon tical in their phraseology with Rev. as significant demonstrations of the vi, 13, 14, where, at the opening of “eternal power and Godhead” of the sixth seal, there was a great Jehovah, of which they continually
earthquake; and the sun became testify in all the earth ; and that black as sackcloth of hair, and the they were also symbols of the gramoon became as blood; and the dations, orders and courses, ap' stars of heaven fell unto THE EARTH, pointed of God in his moral governeven as a fig tree casteth her un- ment of the world ;
the sun timely figs, when she is shaken of a ruling by day, the moon and stars mighty wind, and “ the heaven ruling by night," and, as in the departed as a scroll, &c.”
world to come,
star difThe antichristian power describ- fering from another star in glory.” ed in Daniel viii, is also seen by him Thus Jacob was evidently familiar “ to wax great even to the host of with the symbol, when he said
* Compare Romans i, 20, with Rom. x, 18, Psalm xix, 1–4, and l, l. In Romans x, Psalm xix is quoted as a proof, that the heathen had after all had the glory and power of God silently preached to them ; which according to the fiftieth Psalm daily calls the world ; " so that they are without excuse."