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Chapter XXXIX.—Concerning Those Who Come in the Name of Christ. The Terrible Signs of His Coming. He Whose Coming is So Grandly Described Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, is None Other Than the Christ of the Creator. This Proof Enhanced by the Parable of the Fig-Tree and All the Trees. Parallel Passages of Prophecy.
As touching the propriety of His names, it has already been seen50155015 See above: book iii. chap. xv. and xvi. pp. 333, 334. that both of them50165016 The illam here refers to the nominum proprietas, i.e., His title Christ and His name Jesus. are suitable to Him who was the first both to announce His Christ to mankind, and to give Him the further name50175017 Transnominaret. of Jesus. The impudence, therefore, of Marcion’s Christ will be evident, when he says that many will come in his name, whereas this name does not at all belong to him, since he is not the Christ and Jesus of the Creator, to whom these names do properly appertain; and more especially when he prohibits those to be received whose very equal in imposture he is, inasmuch as he (equally with them50185018 Proinde.) comes in a name which belongs to another—unless it was his business to warn off from a mendaciously assumed name the disciples (of One) who, by reason of His name being properly given to Him, possessed also the verity thereof. But when “they shall by and by come and say, I am Christ,”50195019 Luke xxi. 8. they will be received by you, who have already received one altogether like them.50205020 Consimilem: of course Marcion’s Christ; the Marcionite being challenged in the “you.” Christ, however, comes in His own 415name. What will you do, then, when He Himself comes who is the very Proprietor of these names, the Creator’s Christ and Jesus? Will you reject Him? But how iniquitous, how unjust and disrespectful to the good God, that you should not receive Him who comes in His own name, when you have received another in His name! Now, let us see what are the signs which He ascribes to the times. “Wars,” I observe, “and kingdom against kingdom, and nation against nation, and pestilence, and famines, and earthquakes, and fearful sights, and great signs from heaven”50215021 Luke xxi. 9–11.—all which things are suitable for a severe and terrible God. Now, when He goes on to say that “all these things must needs come to pass,”50225022 Compare, in Luke xxi., verses 9, 22, 28, 31–33, 35, and 36. what does He represent Himself to be? The Destroyer, or the Defender of the Creator? For He affirms that these appointments of His must fully come to pass; but surely as the good God, He would have frustrated rather than advanced events so sad and terrible, if they had not been His own (decrees). “But before all these,” He foretells that persecutions and sufferings were to come upon them, which indeed were “to turn for a testimony to them,” and for their salvation.50235023 Verses 12, 13. Hear what is predicted in Zechariah: “The Lord of hosts50245024 Omnipotens: παντοκράτωρ (Sept.); of hosts—A.V. shall protect them; and they shall devour them, and subdue them with sling-stones; and they shall drink their blood like wine, and they shall fill the bowls as it were of the altar. And the Lord shall save them in that day, even His people, like sheep; because as sacred stones they roll,”50255025 Zech. ix. 15, 16 (Septuagint). etc. And that you may not suppose that these predictions refer to such sufferings as await them from so many wars with strangers,50265026 Allophylis. consider the nature (of the sufferings). In a prophecy of wars which were to be waged with legitimate arms, no one would think of enumerating stones as weapons, which are better known in popular crowds and unarmed tumults. Nobody measures the copious streams of blood which flow in war by bowlfuls, nor limits it to what is shed upon a single altar. No one gives the name of sheep to those who fall in battle with arms in hand, and while repelling force with force, but only to those who are slain, yielding themselves up in their own place of duty and with patience, rather than fighting in self-defence. In short, as he says, “they roll as sacred stones,” and not like soldiers fight. Stones are they, even foundation stones, upon which we are ourselves edified—“built,” as St. Paul says, “upon the foundation of the apostles,”50275027 Eph. ii. 20. who, like “consecrated stones,” were rolled up and down exposed to the attack of all men. And therefore in this passage He forbids men “to meditate before what they answer” when brought before tribunals,50285028 Luke xxi. 12–14. even as once He suggested to Balaam the message which he had not thought of,50295029 Num. xxii.–xxiv. nay, contrary to what he had thought; and promised “a mouth” to Moses, when he pleaded in excuse the slowness of his speech,50305030 Ex. iv. 10–12. and that wisdom which, by Isaiah, He showed to be irresistible: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s, and shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe himself by the name of Israel.”50315031 Isa. xliv. 5. Now, what plea is wiser and more irresistible than the simple and open50325032 Exserta. confession made in a martyr’s cause, who “prevails with God”—which is what “Israel” means?50335033 See Gen. xxxii. 28. Now, one cannot wonder that He forbade “premeditation,” who actually Himself received from the Father the ability of uttering words in season: “The Lord hath given to me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season (to him that is weary);”50345034 Isa. l. 4. except that Marcion introduces to us a Christ who is not subject to the Father. That persecutions from one’s nearest friends are predicted, and calumny out of hatred to His name,50355035 Luke xxi. 16, 17. I need not again refer to. But “by patience,”50365036 Per tolerantiam: “endurance.” says He, “ye shall yourselves be saved.”50375037 Comp. Luke xxi. 19 with Matt. xxiv. 13. Of this very patience the Psalm says, “The patient endurance of the just shall not perish for ever;”50385038 Ps. ix. 18. because it is said in another Psalm, “Precious (in the sight of the Lord) is the death of the just”—arising, no doubt, out of their patient endurance, so that Zechariah declares: “A crown shall be to them that endure.”50395039 After the Septuagint he makes a plural appellative (“eis qui toleraverint,” LXX. τοῖς ὑπομένονσι) of the Hebrew לְחֵלֶמ, which in A.V. and the Vulgate (and also Gesenius and Fuerst) is the dative of a proper name. But that you may not boldly contend that it was as announcers of another god that the apostles were persecuted by the Jews, remember that even the prophets suffered the same treatment of the Jews, and that they were not the heralds of any other god than the Creator. Then, having shown what was to be the period of the destruction, even “when Jerusalem should 416begin to be compassed with armies,”50405040 Luke xxi. 20. He described the signs of the end of all things: “portents in the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity—like the sea roaring—by reason of their expectation of the evils which are coming on the earth.”50415041 Luke xxi. 25, 26.
That “the very powers also of heaven have to be shaken,”50425042 Luke xxi. 26. you may find in Joel: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth—blood and fire, and pillars of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”50435043 Joel iii. 30, 31. In Habakkuk also you have this statement: “With rivers shall the earth be cleaved; the nations shall see thee, and be in pangs. Thou shalt disperse the waters with thy step; the deep uttered its voice; the height of its fear was raised;50445044 Elata: “fear was raised to its very highest.” the sun and the moon stood still in their course; into light shall thy coruscations go; and thy shield shall be (like) the glittering of the lightning’s flash; in thine anger thou shalt grind the earth, and shalt thresh the nations in thy wrath.”50455045 Hab. iii. 9–12 (Septuagint). There is thus an agreement, I apprehend, between the sayings of the Lord and of the prophets touching the shaking of the earth, and the elements, and the nations thereof. But what does the Lord say afterwards? “And then shall they see the Son of man coming from the heavens with very great power. And when these things shall come to pass, ye shall look up, and raise your heads; for your redemption hath come near,” that is, at the time of the kingdom, of which the parable itself treats.50465046 Luke xxi. 27, 28. “So likewise ye, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”50475047 Luke xxi. 31. This will be the great day of the Lord, and of the glorious coming of the Son of man from heaven, of which Daniel wrote: “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven,”50485048 Dan. vii. 13. etc. “And there was given unto Him the kingly power,”50495049 Dan. vii. 14. which (in the parable) “He went away into a far country to receive for Himself,” leaving money to His servants wherewithal to trade and get increase50505050 Luke xix. 12, 13, etc.—even (that universal kingdom of) all nations, which in the Psalm the Father had promised to give to Him: Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.”50515051 Ps. ii. 8. “And all that glory shall serve Him; His dominion shall be an everlasting one, which shall not be taken from Him, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,”50525052 Dan. vii. 14. because in it “men shall not die, neither shall they marry, but be like the angels.”50535053 Luke xx. 35, 36. It is about the same advent of the Son of man and the benefits thereof that we read in Habakkuk: “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people, even to save Thine anointed ones,”50545054 Hab. iii. 13.—in other words, those who shall look up and lift their heads, being redeemed in the time of His kingdom. Since, therefore, these descriptions of the promises, on the one hand, agree together, as do also those of the great catastrophes, on the other—both in the predictions of the prophets and the declarations of the Lord, it will be impossible for you to interpose any distinction between them, as if the catastrophes could be referred to the Creator, as the terrible God, being such as the good god (of Marcion) ought not to permit, much less expect—whilst the promises should be ascribed to the good god, being such as the Creator, in His ignorance of the said god, could not have predicted. If, however, He did predict these promises as His own, since they differ in no respect from the promises of Christ, He will be a match in the freeness of His gifts with the good god himself; and evidently no more will have been promised by your Christ than by my Son of man. (If you examine) the whole passage of this Gospel Scripture, from the inquiry of the disciples50555055 In Luke xxi. 7. down to the parable of the fig-tree50565056 Luke xxi. 33. you will find the sense in its connection suit in every point the Son of man, so that it consistently ascribes to Him both the sorrows and the joys, and the catastrophes and the promises; nor can you separate them from Him in either respect. For as much, then, as there is but one Son of man whose advent is placed between the two issues of catastrophe and promise, it must needs follow that to that one Son of man belong both the judgments upon the nations, and the prayers of the saints. He who thus comes in midway so as to be common to both issues, will terminate one of them by inflicting judgment on the nations at His coming; and will at the same time commence the other by fulfilling the prayers of His saints: so that if (on the one hand) you grant that the coming of the Son of man is (the advent) of my Christ, then, when you ascribe to Him the infliction of the judgments which precede His appearance, you are compelled also to assign to 417Him the blessings which issue from the same. If (on the other hand) you will have it that it is the coming of your Christ, then, when you ascribe to him the blessings which are to be the result of his advent, you are obliged to impute to him likewise the infliction of the evils which precede his appearance. For the evils which precede, and the blessings which immediately follow, the coming of the Son of man, are both alike indissolubly connected with that event. Consider, therefore, which of the two Christs you choose to place in the person of the Son of man, to whom you may refer the execution of the two dispensations. You make either the Creator a most beneficent God, or else your own god terrible in his nature! Reflect, in short, on the picture presented in the parable: “Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they produce their fruit, men know that summer is at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is very near.”50575057 Luke xxi. 29–31. Now, if the fructification of the common trees50585058 Arbuscularum. be an antecedent sign of the approach of summer, so in like manner do the great conflicts of the world indicate the arrival of that kingdom which they precede. But every sign is His, to whom belong the thing of which it is the sign; and to everything is appointed its sign by Him to whom the thing belongs. If, therefore, these tribulations are the signs of the kingdom, just as the maturity of the trees is of the summer, it follows that the kingdom is the Creator’s to whom are ascribed the tribulations which are the signs of the kingdom. Since the beneficent Deity had premised that these things must needs come to pass, although so terrible and dreadful, as they had been predicted by the law and the prophets, therefore He did not destroy the law and the prophets, when He affirmed that what had been foretold therein must be certainly fulfilled. He further declares, “that heaven and earth shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled.”50595059 Luke xxi. 33. What things, pray, are these? Are they the things which the Creator made? Then the elements will tractably endure the accomplishment of their Maker’s dispensation. If, however, they emanate from your excellent god, I much doubt whether50605060 Nescio an. the heaven and earth will peaceably allow the completion of things which their Creator’s enemy has determined! If the Creator quietly submits to this, then He is no “jealous God.” But let heaven and earth pass away, since their Lord has so determined; only let His word remain for evermore! And so Isaiah predicted that it should.50615061 Isa. xl. 8. Let the disciples also be warned, “lest their hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this world; and so that day come upon them unawares, like a snare”50625062 Luke xxi. 34, 35. [Here follows a rich selection of parallels to Luke xxi. 34–38.]—if indeed they should forget God amidst the abundance and occupation of the world. Like this will be found the admonition of Moses,—so that He who delivers from “the snare” of that day is none other than He who so long before addressed to men the same admonition.50635063 Comp. Deut. viii. 12–14. Some places there were in Jerusalem where to teach; other places outside Jerusalem whither to retire50645064 Luke xxi. 37.—“in the day-time He was teaching in the temple;” just as He had foretold by Hosea: “In my house did they find me, and there did I speak with them.”50655065 Hosea xii. 4. One reading of the LXX. is, ἐν τῳ οἴκῳ μου εὕρεσάν με. “But at night He went out to the Mount of Olives.” For thus had Zechariah pointed out: “And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives.”50665066 Zech. xiv. 4. Fit hours for an audience there also were. “Early in the morning”50675067 Luke xxi. 38. must they resort to Him, who (having said by Isaiah, “The Lord giveth me the tongue of the learned”) added, “He hath appointed me the morning, and hath also given me an ear to hear.”50685068 Isa. l. 4. Now if this is to destroy the prophets,50695069 Literally, “the prophecies.” what will it be to fulfil them?
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