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§ 217. The Signs of the Times. (Luke, xii., 54.)

Others, again, were referred by Christ to the signs of the times to learn the import of his appearance, and what awaited them if they neglected it. As they could know from a cloud in the west that a storm was approaching, and from the blowing of the south wind that there would be heat; so (he told them), if they would observe the signs of history as carefully as those of nature, they could discern the approaching judgments of God from the phenomena of the times. But this was precisely their guilt (v. 56), that in their heedless folly they gave no thought to these indications of the evil that was nigh. He called them hypocrites, either because they affected to plead ignorance while the means of knowledge were within their reach, and lacked the disposition to see, not the ability; or because, while the present was serious, and the future threatening, they were utterly unconscious of the value of intercourse with him from their folly in neglecting the signs of the times, and now sought him under the impulse of a merely transient excitement.587587   Cf. Matt., xvi., 1. In a very similar discourse the Pharisees demanded a sign from heaven to accredit his calling; he told them severely, that if they would only consider the sign of his whole manifestation, in connexion with the signs given by God in the events of the times, they would make no such demand. They could foretel the weather from the clouds and sky; but would not see in the events around them the signs of the coming crisis, the approach of the kingdom and judgment of God. ‘This fallen generation seeks a sign from heaven, but no sign shall be given to it but the’ sign of the Prophet Jonah; the whole appearance of Christ, which announces to them, as Jonah did to the Ninevites, the Divine judgments over their corrupt city, calling them to repent.’ His manifestation was above all other signs of the times, and they might discern what was coming from it. He calls them hypocrites because, for want of a right spirit, they would not see the signs before their eyes; which very fact was the cause of their seeking a sign from heaven. This is very similar to the discourse in Luke, and Christ might very well have uttered both in separate but similar connexions. The connexion is entirely apt in both Evangelists, though not so obvious in Luke. To be sure, the one in Matthew follows immediately after the unhistorical second feeding of 4000, but the question in xvi., 1, afforded a very suitable occasion for it; whether the occasion was the same as that mentioned on p. 245, or a different one. It is very possible that the question and answer occurred twice.


Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right!588588   It is true that v. 57 will admit of Schleiermacher’s interpretation, viz., “That which they might know of themselves from within in contrast to the signs of the times without.” But does not what follows presuppose that they had already learned from the signs of the times the true import of Christ’s appearance, and therefore could easily decide for them selves what line of conduct to pursue in order to escape the impending judgments of God. When thou goest with thine adversary,” &c. (v. 58). (Why must another point out to them what they ought to know themselves, viz., that they should agree with the Messiah while he was yet with them on earth; since he would otherwise become their accuser before God,589589   In so far, namely, that their guilt lay in their conduct towards him. and make it impossible to escape the penalty they so justly deserved590590   The parabolic comparison in its complete form is given in Luke, xii., 58, 59, and in its proper connexion; but not in Matt., v., 25, 26. Cf. p. 233. It is obvious that the passage has no reference, as has been erroneously supposed, to the state of man after death.—an allusion to the terrible lot which the Jewish people procured for themselves.)

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