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They were unwilling to receive a suffering Messiahand they applied to their times predictions which had no reference unto them. They were ignorant of their need of a mediator, and they desired an immediate fulfilment of prophecies which related, as we have seen, to a period after they should have been dispersed " into all nations." This last mistake, however, was not peculiar to those by whom he was rejected, but was entertained by His disciples, and even by His apostles, till the very last hour of his abode among them. Their receiving Him in his humility, as the promised Messiah, did not lead them to a renunciation of their hopes that he would yet take to him his great power and reign. The angel who had been sent to the blessed virgin with the glad tidings of his birth, assured her that the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke i. 32. Notwithstanding, therefore, of his present humility, they still looked for the establishment of his kingdom; and when, on one occasion, He was nigh to Jerusalem, and “they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear," the Saviour spake a parable to correct their mistake. Luke xix. 11. This parable of “a certain Nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom and to return," while it proves their error with respect to the time of Christ's establishing his kingdom of glory, left them every reason to conclude that they were perfectly right in the substance of their expectations—the fulfilment of all the promises made in iheir favour by the prophets, when unto them “shall it come, even the first dominion: the Kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem;" and when “ the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.” The establishment of that kingdom which they thought“should immediately appear” the Saviour gave them reason to expect when he shall return," having obtained the kingdom he has gone to receive. It deserves to be noticed, also, that the case of a nobleman, going into a far country, intrusting his servants with money, that they may testify their
love by a right occupation of his property in the interval, and returning after he has received a kingdom, suggests an idea of subsequent continued residence, which ill comports with the views generally entertain. ed of Christ's coming merely for the purpose of pronouncing sentence upon all. The parable distinctly intimates. that, after a certain time, the Saviour will return to the possession of that Millennial kingdom which the circumstances show believers at that time expected.
Nor did the crucifixion of our blessed Lord destroy the hopes of his disciples, founded, as they were on that “ sure word of Prophecy" to which the Church now gives so little heed." While he lay in the sealed tomb, indeed, these hopes might seem almost annihilated ; and, uncertain whether He were not still within Death's dark domain, the two who journeyed towards Emmaus, in the sorrow of their hearts could only say, “ We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke xxvi. 21.) But no sooner were their agitated bosoms calmed by the assurance of their Lord's resurrection, than the divine promises concerning the erection of his Kingdom recurred to their recollection. The tidings that He lived again at once testified the acceptance of His sacrifice, and proved beyond a doubt, that, in Him, Heaven's most glorious prophecies might yet be accomplished. Their faith in the truth of God's word now remained unshaken ; and again they confi
l dently trusted that the Messiah should fulfil all that the prophets had foretold concerning Him. They questioned not the certainty of the divine predictions, although they were ignorant of the period of their accomplishment. Thus, immediately before Christ's ascension to heaven, and after he had been with them forty days "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”—their last question to him was, “ Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ?” Acts i. 3, 6. Nor did the Saviour reprove them for cherish. ing expectations of a nature inconsistent with his design, as he did on occasions when this was really the case--and as might certainly have been expected had their views been as erroneous as many suppose. On
the contrary, he gave them every reason to believe, (had the slightest doubt rested on their minds) that their hopes were indeed well-founded, but that it was not for them “ to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” The passage clearly proves, that at the period of the Saviour's ascension, his apostles did expect that he should personally restore the kingdom to Israel, and it also proves, (which is of more consequence,) that our Lord fully sanctioned these expectations, although on this occasion he gave
them no information of the time of their ac. complishment.
NEW TESTAMENT PREDICTIONS OF CHRIST'S RETURN
AT THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.
ALTHOUGH in Scripture no express date is given at which the Saviour shall return, and although of that day and hour knoweth no man, yet both He and his apostles have furnished us with certain intimations of a general nature, and of its connection with certain events which prove it to be at the commencement of the Millennium. This is evident from His own declarations, as recorded, Matt. xxiii. xxiv. xxv. and corresponding passages of other gospels, which, being the most direct intimations the Saviour himself has left of the time of his coming, merit our especial notice. Any consistent explanation of these chapters seems altogether incompatible with those systems which place, the personal return of Christ subsequent to the Millennium. Much ingenuity has been exercised, and the most incongruous theories of explication have been formed to bring them into subjection to the current theology on the subject of the glorious advent. With a most culpable negligence of, or recklessness to, the Saviour's statements, these predictions have been tortured into many a meaning, and moulded into many a shape, by those professing reverence for his character and obedi. ence to his laws.
One has not scrupled to assert, that our blessed Lord used a pious fraud in deceiving his disciples ; while others have sinfully in posed upon his language meanings it can never bear. Some have represented the glorious Coming of which he here speaks, as having taken place in the destruction of Jerusalem : others have, with no less inconsistency, supposed His coming to have been in the after extension of the Roman arms; and although it is to be “with the clouds of heaven," it has even been interpreted to mean " the successful preaching of the gospel.” Some again have represented the whole as referring to the consummation of all things; while others jumble together what is said of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple with a supposed reference to the consummation of all things, as spoken of indiscriminately! All this inconsistency and confusion appears to arise from a determination to bring the predictions into accordance with preconceived ideas of the time of the Saviour's second coming. * Attention to them will at once demonstrate the fallacy of all these opinions, and prove that our Lord's return is at the pe
* When Dr. Hamilton occupied so large a portion of his book with the real and supposed discrepancies of Millenarian writers, respecting unrevealed or little known details, he could not be ignorant, that, with half the zeal and industry he has displayed in this, he might easily have formed a volume of such comments upon the palpable inconsistencies of the most approved Antimillenarian authors, with respect to the Scripture declarations concerning the Coming itself. But if, instead of referring directly to the divine standard as the test of our opinions, such a mode of reasoning were adopted in other cases, every truth revealed might be easily overthrown, by simply arraying against it the conflicting opinions of men.
Conclusions unfavourable to the doctrine of our Lord's Millennial reign, drawn from such premises, are not more admissible than would be the attempt to disprove the reality of His resurrection or ascension, by adducing the fact that his disciples afterwards disputed about the necessity of circumcising Gentile converts. But it may be proper still to remind the Rev. Doc. tor, that, if the inconsistencies of its friends can be received as evj. dence against the truth of any doctrine, they must bear with much greater force against that system which has long been openly espoused, and concerning which full opportunity has been thus afforded to its advocates, of maturing, comparing, and correcting their opinions ; than against that which has only recently been rescued from the oblivion to which for ages it has been consigned, and with the details of which Christians are yet but imperfectly acquainted.
riod of the restoration of his ancient people, before the Millennium, as recorded of the Messiah by the Prophets.
For the last time Jesus was now in the Temple, and exposed with unsparing severity the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. He reproves them for their hardness of heart, in persecuting the prophets and rejecting Himself, and denounces upon them coming judgments. He then utters the tender expostulation and lamentation, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not! [Observe what follows.] Behold your house is left unto you desolate ; for I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matt. xxiii. 37-39. He shall not be seen of them whenceforth” till a certain time. As they then saw Him personally, so their not seeing Him whenceforth,” for a specific period, must be in the same sense, and therefore implies His personal absence in the interim. But the duration of this his absence is coeval with that of the Temple's desolation : "Behold your House is left unto you desolate, For, (the reason or ground of its being so, “ for”] I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth.” Still, however, this desolation of their House occasioned by the Saviour's absence is only for a limited time," TILL” they shall call Him Blessed. This clearly refers not directly to the individuals addressed. These were the Scribes and Pharisees, on whom He had just denounced a "woe" of condemnation, as men who could not“ escape
the damnation of hell." ver. 33. Never, therefore, will such call Him “ blessed." They would not do so at the overthrow of their city; they will not do so when raised to punishment. But they were the rulers, and therefore the representatives of the Jewish nation, who, at their conversion, will, indeed, bless that Saviour they have so long execrated : “ye shall not see me, henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the
, name of the Lord.” This exclamation, taken from the 118th Psalm, had shortly before been shouted by the