« السابقةمتابعة »
Upon these, in addition to many other grounds, we hold that the verses from the twenty-seventh to the thirty-first inclusive, treat of the final and glorious coming of our Lord to judge the world, and we now proceed to enquire what the passage tells us of this momentous event.
First then, we learn that it is to be preceded and announced to mankind by certain preternatural appearances in the material world. These are enumerated in the twenty-ninth verse. "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens," the heavenly bodies, both small and great, "shall be shaken." St. Luke in the parallel passage adds, "and the sea and the waves roaring."
The prophets of the Old Testament, on several different occasions, employ a language precisely similar to this of our Saviour. Isaiah does so in foretelling the doom of Babylon; Ezekiel in foretelling that of Egypt. There are many other examples, but we shall cite only one. In denouncing the divine judgments against the nations which had oppressed Israel, the prophet Joel thus speaks: "The earth shall quake before them, the heavens shall tremble, the sun and moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining." It will be felt by every one, that it would be altogether discordant with the lofty tone of the prophetical phraseology in these places, to suppose that they referred to phenomena of so ordinary a nature and of such frequent occurrence as eclipses of the sun and moon, the accumulation of dark clouds in the sky, meteors, shooting stars, and earthquakes. The sacred penmen must have had before their minds changes of a loftier, more awful, and preternatural character. We do not know that any such portentous events accompanied the manifestations of divine wrath alluded to, and hence, if the impressions are to be interpreted literally, they must be regarded as notices of a remoter and more universal judgment blending itself in the prophet's enraptured fancy with the nearer and more confined inflictions which formed the immediate subject of his song, and as thus looking forward to events which are yet in the womb of time and not to be disclosed until the last day; in short, as anticipations of the Saviour's prophecy now under review. Perhaps, however, they are justly considered, according to the common opinion, as symbolical descriptions of political revolutions, and which have had their accomplishment in the subversion of the particular states with respect to which they were pronounced. But this is far from being certain. We speculate doubtfully on a subject which God appears to have intentionally concealed. It is our duty to restrain unsanctified curiosity, and patiently endure our ignorance until the day arrive in whose light we shall behold all the mysteries of providence unravelled, and all the darkness which now rests on the field of prophecy for ever done away.
Even were the symbolical character of these ancient predictions certain, it is difficult to see how
this should impose a necessity, or even how it should lay a sufficient ground for a similar interpretation of the words of our Saviour. No, my brethren, when our Lord here tells us, "that the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, that the stars shall fall from heaven and all the powers of heaven shall be shaken," he means just what he says. A day is coming when the inhabitants of the world shall awake; but "behold the darkness is not yet passed." Struck with amazement and alarm, they shall raise their eyes aloft, but shall perceive no sun, or see it, perhaps, shorn of its beams, and diffusing a pale and ominous dawn. In vain shall they expect the moon to dispel the gloom of the uncertain night. The whole "firmament shall be shaken;" the stars shall quit, or seem to quit their places, and shoot at random athwart the obscure vault; and on earth the ocean will share the general convulsion of nature, and with the roaring of its waves make awful music congenial with the terrors of the scene.
By what means these appalling prodigies shall be brought about we are not told, and cannot divine. Luther hazards the conjecture, that they will be effects of the decay of nature-irregularities in the worn out machinery of a world, which having served the end for which it was made, is soon to be destroyed, and compares them to the dim eye, the fitful pulse, and convulsive agonies, which precede dissolution in the human body. Perhaps they may be consequences of that hidden and mysterious sympathy which subsists between the natural and moral universe-throes of a creation weary of its long subjection to vanity and sin, and indignantly struggling for its approaching emancipation,-the last and severest pangs of that agony of nature, of which St. Paul speaks, when he says, "that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body."
But to whatever cause conjecture may attribute them, there can be no doubt with respect to their end and design. They are the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens, intended to presage and announce his approach, and warn the inhabitants of the world to prepare for his reception. And oh, my brethren, how impressive it is" to think," and here I use, the magnificent language of Calvin, "to think," I say, "that all the creatures, both above and below, shall thus be made the heralds to summon mankind before that awful tribunal which, sunk in criminal indulgence, they have despised until the last day!"
Again, we learn from this passage that the return of Christ to the earth shall be visible and glorious. Nothing could surpass the humbleness of his first appearance here below. He laid aside his essential glory; no halo beamed around his head; no ray of uncreated beauty beamed from his countenance, to tell who he was, and awe beholders into adoration. He was above the glittering pomps and vanities with which the great and wealthy of this world court the gaze of the mul
titude. Undistinguished in person, of humble | condition, poor in his circumstances, and meek and lowly in his demeanour, was the blessed Jesus; born in a stable and cradled in a manger, the whole tenor of his future life corresponded with the humbleness and penury of his birth. He made no display, he courted not observation, he sought not honour from men, and he received none. Once, and only once, did he permit the celestial glory of his person to shine through the veil of flesh which he had assumed, but this manifestation took place on a lonely mountain, was confined to three eye-witnesses, and brief in its duration; once, too, he condescended to let the people bear him in a sort of triumphal procession into Jerusalem; but then, as if in mockery of worldly pomp, the Son of David rode upon an ass. Even to shield himself from insult and cruelty, never did our Lord reveal his heavenly greatness; and oh! adorable patience, he who could have summoned to his rescue a host of angels, petrified his tormentors with a glimpse of his divinity, or commanded the fire of heaven to consume them in the twinkling of an eye, allowed himself to be reviled, spit upon and scourged, crowned with thorns, and nailed upon a cross!
Our Saviour paid a second visit to the earth, and on this occasion he came, not as he had done before, concealed beneath the mask of a human form, encompassed with the infirmities and burdened with the sufferings of mortality; but he came charged with the high commission, and armed with the authority and the power to execute the vengeance of heaven upon his guilty countrymen, in the very place where they had so contemptuously rejected and so cruelly slain him. Christ was present in person at the destruction of Jerusalem. The several evangelists designate that tragical event as "the coming of the Son of Man," and "the coming of Christ in his kingdom." But although present, he was present unseen. There were many who said, "Lo, here is Christ, and lo, there," but no where the eye could perceive him. He was sought in the desert, he was sought in the secret chamber, but in both he was sought in vain. With an invisible arm did he wield the scourge. Shrouded in a veil of mystery, did he let loose war, famine, pestilence, and murder upon the guilty inhabitants. They fondly expected the Messiah as a Saviour; never could they dream that he was actually there, the executioner of divine wrath against them. If his presence was recognised at all, it was only by the poor remnant of his disciples who remained within the walls, and treasuring his words in their heart, and marking the traces of his hand, were not afraid amidst all the horrors which surround
We look for another return of the Son of Man to the earth, and his advent on this occasion, as we are assured by his own prediction now under review, shall neither be invisible, like the vindictive visitation of Jerusalem, nor inglorious, like his first appearance in the flesh.
That it will be obvious to human sense, is im
plied in the twenty-seventh verse, where it is compared to a flash of lightning, traversing the heavens, attracting and fixing every eye. Nay, we are expressly told in the thirtieth, that "all the tribes of the earth shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven." Wherever in the New Testament the event is spoken of, it is stated in words which involve the same idea, viz. that Christ is to be revealed to the sight of men. It is called his "appearing "—his revelation ;" and what else can mean the language of the angels, who consoled the mourning disciples at his ascension: "While they beheld him," it is written, "he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight;" and while they looked stedfastly towards heaven as he went up, "Behold two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven. This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Nor will this manifestation be visible only: it will be glorious and sublime. Men shall not merely behold the Saviour, but be dazzled and amazed by the brightness of his presence, and the glory and majesty which encompass him. Our text says, "they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory." Our dark and feeble minds, it is true, are unable to form an adequate conception of the excellent majesty of the Son of Man on the great day of his appearing; but if this were possible, it would be done by the glowing language which Scripture employs upon the subject: He shav be seen descending from heaven; troops of angels shall attend him as a retinue; he shall be surrounded with a radiance bright as flame; and the sound of trumpets shall peal through the air. These are but a few traits gathered from St Paul's descriptions of the scene, who never speaks of it but his mind kindles into a holy rapture, and his language assumes a magnificence of tone which cannot fail to thrill every reader who has the slightest pretensions to the possession of a pure and sanctified taste.
And well may we believe that the glory of the Redeemer will justify on that day the prophetic raptures of his apostle. If, when transfigured on Mount Tabor before the three favoured disciples, his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was glistening and white as the snow, so that the glories of the vision dazzled the beholders, and made them afraid, how overpowering will it be when, with a majesty increased in proportion to the dignity of the scene, he shall present himself to the gaze of the world he is about to judge, confounding his foes with celestial radiance, and substantiating his claims to the love and adoration of his saints! Ah, my brethren, if when he tabernacled upon earth, it was hard to discern beneath the human form which he wore, and all the penury, neglect, and suffering with which he was encompassed, the lineaments of the Son of God, who on that day, when he wears the brightness of th
Father's glory, and the express image of his per-midnight on the ear of sleepers, and announcing
son, shall be able to recognize the Son of Man,-
We also learn from this passage, that the last advent of Christ shall be sudden, unexpected, unforeseen. Various and striking are the images employed in Scripture to illustrate this particular quality of our Saviour's advent. It is compared to a flash of lightning, the moment of whose issue from the clouds, human science cannot predict. Again, it is compared to the flood, which surprised the inhabitants of the Old World, supine in sloth, and careless of the approaching danger. Sometimes it is the assault of a thief, who comes by stealth at the darkest hour, when all are fast asleep. It is a snare which entraps the heedless bird. It is the sound of bridal mirth, breaking at
to them that the bridegroom is already at the door. With these similes correspond the admonitions which Christ and the apostles give to their disciples on this subject. "Watch," is the word, which denotes the attitude we maintain towards events which we are sure will come, but of the time of whose coming we are uncertain.
There is something exceedingly impressive in the mystery which Scripture has allowed to hang over the time of our Lord's advent. While in every page the early converts are summoned to watch and prepare for it, as if it were close at hand, they are, at the same time, discouraged and prohibited in the strongest manner from inquiring when it was actually to happen. Our Saviour employed the last words he uttered upon the earth for this purpose; for the farewell admonition which he gave to the witnesses of the ascension was, "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power." The example which he gave in this respect, was faithfully imitated by the apostles, who carefully warned believers away from this subject, as one on which it was equally vain and unprofitable for them to speculate. Now, surely, as this mystery must have been intentional on the part of Him whose book the Bible is, it ought to be considered saIt is true that a cred and inviolable by man. multitude of circumstances, some of a political, others of a moral and religious description, are mentioned in Scripture, as indicative and premonitory of the approach of the latter days; and these doubtless, when present, will fulfil the intention for which they have been recorded, and spread far and wide among men some general expectation of the day of the Lord, like that which prevailed over the world at his first advent. Especially may it be believed, will his faithful followers,-who wait for his appearing, devoutly study the Word, and mark the ways of Providence,-deeply feel this presentiment, as it will derive vigour from their wishes and brightness from their hopes. But even among them, it is probable it will ever be mingled with much doubt and uncertainty; and when strongest, be but like the old man's anticipation of death, which he feels to be drawing on, while it is kindly concealed from him in what precise year or month it is appointed to take place. Upon the unbelieving and impenitent children of this world, it will come with all its appalling preludes, sudden and startling like a peal of thunder, just as the flood overwhelmed the inhabitants of the Old World, while they were "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage."
And finally, we may remark, that this advent of the Saviour, which such awful prodigies are to presage, which is to be accompanied with such pomp and glory, which all the tribes of the earth are to witness and feel, and over whose date, amidst the multifarious assurances afforded by Scripture of the fact itself, such a veil of mystery has been left, must be intended, it is clear, to accoplish some high and important design. Why
comes the Lord in such a solemn and glorious | patient; stablish your hearts, for the coming of manner, taking the world at unawares, and spread- the Lord draweth nigh."
NOTICE OF MRS WELCH,
DAUGHTER OF JOHN KNOX.
"MRS WELCH seems to have inherited no inconsiderable portion of her father's spirit, and she had her share of similar hardships. Her husband was one of those patriotic ministers who resisted the arbitrary measures pursued by James VI. for overturning the government and liberties of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. James had for a considerable time, prevented the meetBeing determined to abolish the General Assembly, ings of that court by successive prorogations. Perceiving the design of the court, a number of the delegates from synods resolved to keep the diet which had been appointed to be held at Aberdeen in July 1605. They merely constituted the Assembly, and appointed a day for its next meeting, and being charged by Laurieston, but the commissioner, having ante-dated the charge, the king's commissioner, to dissolve, immediately obeyed; several of the leading members were thrown into prison. Welch and five of his brethren, when called before the privy council, declined that court, as incompetent to judge the offence of which they were accused, according to the laws of the kingdom; on which account they were indicted to stand trial for treason at Linlithgow. Their trial was conducted in the most illegal and unjust
ing consternation and alarm among all the tribes of its population? He comes to judge the world. A tribunal shall be erected; all mankind, both the quick and the dead, shall appear before him. The angels shall be sent forth to gather his elect from the four winds, and their trumpets shall ring an equally irresistible summons to those who are his foes. Then shall the time of the harvest be come, when the tares are to be separated from the wheat. The righteous and the wicked are now mingled in indiscriminate fellowship, inhabit the same place, are bound together by numerous ties of kindred and relationship, partake the same joys, and suffer alike the ordinary infirmities of humanity and ills of life; but then a complete and final distinction shall be made between them. Read in the fortieth verse:" Then shall two be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left." According to their different characters shall men be ranged on the right hand and on the left." Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the right-clerk went in and threatened them with his majesty's eous into life everlasting."
Remember, then, Christians, that in proportion as you conscientiously perform your part in preparing for this event, you will have the privilege of looking forward to it, not only without fear, but with exultation and joy. "Let the sun be darkened, and the moon refuse her light, and the stars fall from heaven, and all the powers of the heavens be shaken," these prodigies may speak terrors to others, but they are omens of approaching bliss to you. They are the budding of the fig-tree, which tells that the cold and cheerless winter of time is past, and that the summer of eternity is nigh. They are the sweet sounds of the evening bell, announcing to the weary labourers the hour of repose, and the approach of the Master to pay them their hire. They are signals of victory, cheering the faint and drooping soldier with the assurance that his warfare is now past, and that the Captain of his salvation is at hand with the crown to reward his bitter struggles. Surely such a hope as this should have a powerful effect in strengthening and consoling the Christian's heart. What duties so difficult, which this will not enable us to perform; what trials so severe, which this will not enable us to endure; what burden so heavy, that it will not lighten; or sorrow so piercing that it will not soothe? "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also
manner. The king's advocate told the jury that the
displeasure, if they acquitted the prisoners. The greater
were condemned to suffer the death of traitors.
"Leaving her children at Ayr, Mrs Welch attended her husband in prison, and was present at Linlithgow, with the wives of the other prisoners, on the day of trial. When informed of the sentence, these heroines instead of lamenting their fate, praised God who had given their husbands courage to stand to the cause of their Master, adding, that, like him, they had been judged and condemned under the covert of night.
"The sentence of death having been changed into banishment, she accompanied her husband to France, where they remained for sixteen years. Mr Welch applied himself with such assiduity to the acquisition of the language of the country, that he was able, in the
course of fourteen weeks, to preach in French, and was chosen minister to a protestant congregation at Nerac, from which he was translated to St. Jean d'Angely, a fortified town in Lower Charente. War having broken out between Lewis XIII. and his protestant subjects, St. Jean d'Angely was besieged by the king in person. On this occasion, Welch not only animated the inhabitants of the town to a vigorous resistance by his exhortations, but he appeared on the walls, and gave his assistance to the garrison. The king was at last admitted into the town in consequence of a treaty, and being displeased that Welch preached during his residence in it, sent the Duke d'Espernon, with a company of soldiers, to take him from the pulpit. When the preacher saw the duke enter the church, he ordered his hearers to make room for the marshal of France,
and desired him to sit down and hear the Word of God. He spoke with such an air of authority that the duke involuntarily took a seat, and listened to the sermon with great gravity and attention. He then brought Welch to the king, who asked him, how he durst preach there, since it was contrary to the laws of the kingdom for any of the pretended reformed to officiate in places where the court resided. Sire,' replied Welch, if your majesty knew what I preached, you would not only come and hear it yourself, but make all France hear it; for I preach not as those men you use to hear. First, I preach that you must be saved by the merits of Jesus Christ, and not your own; and I am sure your conscience tells you that your good works will never merit heaven. Next, I preach, that, as you are king of France, there is no man on earth above you; but these men whom you hear, subject you to the pope of Rome, which I will never do.' Pleased with this reply, Lewis said to him, Very well; you shall be my minister;' and addressing him by the title of father, assured him of lis protection. And he was as good as his word; for St. Jean d'Angely being reduced by the royal forces in 1621, the king gave directions to De Vitry, one of his generals, to take care of his minister; in consequence of which, Welch and his family were conveyed, at his majesty's expense, to Rochelle.
'the devil never made such a match as that.'_' It's
TO A LADY IN DISTRESS OF MIND.
BY THE REV. HENRY DUNCAN, D. D.,
DEAR MADAM,—Since I wrote you yesterday, I have been favoured with your very interesting letter, which I have read over more than once. As I go from home to-day, it will not be in my power to express myself so fully as I could wish, on the various points on which you require my opinion, but you may be sure I will devote the first leisure hour to you, and meanwhile will comply with part of your request, by hastily and concisely running over some of the more important truths of Revealed Religion, as they appear to my own mind.
The whole necessity of the scheme of salvation rests on our being fallen and guilty creatures; and a clear view of our condition, as the apostate children of Adam, is therefore necessary for our cordial reception of the Having lost his health, and the physicians inform- other doctrines of the Gospel. I must not stop, at present, to say any thing of the appalling mystery which ing him that the only prospect which he had of recovering it was by returning to his native country, Mr Welch hangs over the introduction of moral evil into a world ventured, in the year 1622, to come to London. But governed by a God of infinite power, and wisdom, and his own sovereign was incapable of treating him with goodness. In this world we find it, in whatever way its that generosity which he had experienced from the introduction may be accounted for; but I do not hesiFrench monarch; and dreading the influence of a man tate to say, that no account which ever was given, or who was far gone with a consumption, he absolutely which can be given, is so satisfactory, even to human refused to give him permission to return to Scotland. reason, as that which is recorded in the Bible,-viz. Mrs Welch, by means of some of her mother's relations that man was formed holy and happy, but, that being a at court, obtained access to James, and petitioned him to grant this liberty to her husband. The following free agent, he fell by the abuse of his freedom; “God His hath made man upright, but they have sought out many singular conversation took place on that occasion. majesty asked her, who was her father. She replied, inventions." The fall of our first parents entailed sin John Knox. Knox and Welch' exclaimed he, and misery on their offspring, not only by the immediate right like, sir,' said she, for we never speired his appointment of the Almighty, but in what is usually called the common course of providence, if, in the present inadvice.' He asked her how many children her father had left, and if they were lads or lasses. She said three, stance, there be any difference between these modes of God be thanked!' cried divine agency. The moral, as well, perhaps, as the and they were all lasses. the king, lifting up both his hands; for an they had physical powers of Adam, had, by his apostasy, underLeen three lads, I had never bruiked my three king- gone a great and unhappy change, and as it is a law of doms in peace.' She again urged her request, that he nature that a parent should produce his like, that dewould give her husband his native air. Give him his native air!' replied the king, 'give him the devil!_rangement was communicated to his posterity. Adam • Give that to your hungry courtiers,' said she, offended at his profaneness. He told her at last, that if she would persuade her husband to submit to the bishops, he would allow him to return to Scotland. Mrs Welch, lifting up her apron, and holding it towards the king, replied, in the true spirit of her father, Please your majesty, I'd rather kep his head there.' "Welch was soon after released from the power of "This month the despot, and from his own sufferings. of May, 1622, says one of his intimate friends, received intelligence of the death of that holy servant of God, Mr Welch, one of the fathers and pillars of that church, and the light of his age, who died at London, an exile from his native country, on account of his opposition to the re-establishment of episcopal government, and his firm support of the presbyterian and synodical discipline, received and established among us; and that after eighteen years' banishment a man full of the Holy Spirit, zeal, charity, and incredible diligence in the duties of his office.' The death of his wife is recorded by the same pen. This month of January, 1625, died at Ayr, my cousin, Mrs Welch, daughter of that great servant of God, late John Knox, and wife of that holy man of God, Mr Welch, above mentioned;
and Eve constituted, in fact, the whole of the human race, and their descendants may be considered, in some sort, as a part of themselves, so that all mankind sinned in them and fell with them. The prince of darkness, the great origin of evil, thus gained dominion over the soul of man, and instead of a child of God, he became a child of Satan. God had permitted this awful defection for some wise purposes, in part, doubtless, concealed from our feeble understandings, but, in part, also explained in his Revealed Word. His purpose, in so far as it is revealed, was to give an extraordinary manifestation of his grace, by the deliverance of his fallen creatures from their degradation, and by their restoration to dignity and happiness. Of this scheme of mercy He made an intimation, immediately after the fall, when He declared that the "seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent."
For the accomplishment of this astonishing plan Abraham was selected, and a promise was expressly made to him that the Great Deliverer should appear "In his seed," among the number of his descendants.