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339

XVIII.
THE PROPHECY ON THE MOUNT.
Matt xxiv., xxv.

WE have seen that though the Saviour's public ministry is now closed, He still has a private ministry to discharge—a ministry of counsel and comfort to His beloved disciples, whom He soon must leave in a world where tribulation awaits them on every side. Of this private ministry the chief remains are the beautiful words of consolation left on record by St. John (xiii.-xvii.), and the valuable words of prophetic warning recorded by the other Evangelists, occupying in this Gospel two long chapters (xxiv., xxv.).

This remarkable discourse, nearly equal in length to the Sermon on the Mount, may be called the Prophecy on the Mount; for it is prophetic throughout, and it was delivered on the Mount of Olives. From the way in which it is introduced (vv. 1-3) we see that it is closely connected with the abandonment of the Temple, and that it was suggested by the disciples calling His attention to the buildings of the Temple, which were in full view of the little group as they sat on the Mount of Olives that memorable day—buildings which seemed stately and stable enough in their eyes, but which were already tottering to their fall before

"... that Eye which watches guilt

And goodness; and hath power to see

Within the green the mouldered tree,

And towers fallen as soon as built."

340 Thus everything leads us to expect a discourse about the fate of the Temple. The minds of the whole group are full of the subject; and out of the fulness of their hearts the question comes, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" From the latter part of the question it is evident that the coming of Christ and the end of the world were closely connected in the disciples' minds with the judgment that was about to come upon the Temple and the chosen people—a connection which was right in point of fact, though wrong in point of time. We shall not be surprised, therefore, to discover that the burden of the first part of the prophecy is that great event to which the attention of all was at that moment so pointedly directed. But since the near as well as the distant event is viewed as the coming of the Son of man, we may give to what may be called the prophecy proper as distinguished from the pictures of judgment that follow, a title which embodies this unifying thought.

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