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ligion, which would cause all the inhabitants of the land to lament. It would be his triumph and their desolation. He describes it under the figure of his coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory.

This is one of those passages which may teach us how such figurative language is to be understood. There was no visible appearance of our Saviour at the destruction of Jerusalem, nor have we reason to ascribe the punishment of the Jews in any degree to his personal agency. No such visible appearance took place before the generation then living had passed away: Yet all the events which it was his purpose to predict occurred during that period. After what has been quoted, he says (verse 34): "I tell you in truth, that they will all take place before this generation passes away." It is, then, the power of God displayed in his cause, which he speaks of figuratively as his own. Thus, likewise, we are to understand his words when he says, in his last charge to his disciples (Matthew xxviii. 18), “ All power is given me in heaven and on earth"; where he ascribes to himself personally the power of God which would be exerted in the support of Christianity.

After the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, our Saviour in the next chapter (Matthew XXV.) represents the kingdom of Heaven, or Christianity, as established and in operation. All are to be judged by its laws, the laws of God's moral government. Some will be rewarded, and some punished, all according to their deeds. After his


enforcing this truth in two parables, follows that most solemn and impressive description, in which he represents himself personally as the Judge of It contains a most important truth enveloped in a most striking figure. It is a scenical representation, adapted powerfully to affect the minds of his immediate hearers, and our own. The naked truth here taught is the most important, the most practical truth of religion,-that which concerns us the most deeply; it is, that our happiness or misery is to be determined by ourselves, by the conformity of our conduct to the will of God, which Christ has revealed. The solemn imagery in which this truth is presented is but an expansion of the figure that our Saviour had before used: "The Son of Man is coming in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then will he render to every one according to his deeds." What was predicted in these words was to take place while some who heard him were still living: "I tell you in truth, There are some here present who will not taste of death, before they see the Son of Man entering on his reign." While the generation then living continued on earth, the kingdom of Heaven was to be established, the Messiah was to assume his reign, and men were to be judged by his laws.* It may be observed, that the figure which connects his judging in person with his assuming his reign, would be obvious

[Compare the note on Matthew xxv. in Mr. Norton's Notes on the Gospels; and in regard to the figurative use of language here illustrated, see, further, his note on Matthew xiii. 36-43.]

to an Oriental; the ancient custom having been for kings to sit in person as judges. Hence, both in the Old and New Testament, the verb "to judge" is not unfrequently used as equivalent to the verb "to reign" or "to rule."

BUT this language is highly figurative; and why, it may be asked, was such language used by our Saviour, language of which the purport is liable to be misunderstood? The answer is, that, in the first place, the ESSENTIAL meaning of the words, that meaning which is of the deepest interest to all, may be readily understood. It is clearly taught, that every man will receive according to his deeds; that our condition in the future life will be determined by our character in the present. To account for the imagery in which this truth is presented, we must look to the intellectual habits and culture of those addressed. The contemporaries and countrymen of Christ clothed their conceptions in language very different from that with which we are familiar. To them, Oriental fashions of speech were vernacular. They were to be addressed through their feelings and imagination. The great body of the Jews, unaccustomed to any exercise of the understanding, had scarcely the power of apprehending a truth presented to them as a philosophical abstraction, in its naked and literal form. An array of figures was required to command their attention. It was necessary that the doctrine taught should be incorporated, as it were, in images obvious to sight, in order to affect their minds. The ideas presented

were to be conveyed in a manner adapted to their conceptions and associations, to their capacity of comprehending and feeling. A teacher, divine or human, who should have explained the truths of religion in the language of Locke or of Butler, would have found no hearers on the shores of Gennesaret or within the walls of Jerusalem. Our Saviour, had he been addressing a small body of philosophers, would undoubtedly have expressed himself in a manner very different from that in which he spoke to the Jewish multitudes, or even to his own disciples. I say in a very different manner; for the essential truths of religion could not have been more distinctly made known by him.

But his language, it may be said, is now liable to be misunderstood by us. Certainly it is so, upon some points of minor importance, if we will not exercise our reason upon the subject; and he is in a great error who supposes that any rule can be laid down for the study of the Scriptures, which shall supersede the exercise of investigation, thought, and judgment. Except in treating of the exact sciences, the very nature of language renders impossible such a use of it as will preclude all liability to be misunderstood. The impression which it makes, the ideas which it excites, in him who hears or reads it, depend upon the previous state of his own mind. In proportion as one is prepared to apprehend a subject as it was apprehended by him who spoke or wrote, he will be more likely to receive the meaning designed. In passing from one age to another, or from one na

tion to another, the significance of language varies with the ever-varying conceptions of men. Our Saviour often left his words to be explained by subsequent events, or to be rightly apprehended as the minds of his hearers acquired power to accommodate themselves to the truth. During his ministry, his Apostles often misunderstood him; and it was not till many years after his ascension, that they comprehended the purport of the simple direction, "Go and make disciples from all nations"; and then only in consequence of a new miracle.

THE language of Christ respecting his future coming and his judgment of men was likewise, I believe, misunderstood by his Apostles. Interpreting it literally, they anticipated a personal and visible return of their Master to earth at no distant period, when he would appear as the Judge of mankind. This is a subject necessary to be explained in connection with the views that have been given of the meaning of Christ, which would be otherwise imperfect and unsatisfactory. At the same time, it is a subject involving considerations of great importance. But its discussion in this place would too much interrupt the train of the present argument; and I shall, therefore, treat of it in an Appendix to this volume.*

I MAY here take notice, however, of the argument founded by Trinitarians upon the conceptions of the Apostles respecting the judgment of mankind [See Appendix, Note B.]


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