Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Matthew
1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.
[To shew him the buildings of the
"He that never saw the
2. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
[There shall not be left one stone upon
another.] The Talmudic Chronicles bear witness also to this
saying, "On the ninth day of the month Ab the city of Jerusalem
was ploughed up"; which Maimonides delivereth more at large: "On
that ninth day of the month Ab, fatal for vengeance, the wicked
Turnus Rufus, of the children of Edom, ploughed up the Temple,
and the places about it, that that saying might be fulfilled,
'Sion shall be ploughed as a field.'" This Turnus Rufus, of
great fame and infamy among the Jewish writers, without doubt is
the same with Terentius Rufus, of whom Josephus speaks, Rufus
was left general of the army by Titus; with commission, as
it is probable, and as the Jews suppose, to destroy the city and
3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
[And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?] What the apostles intended by these words is more clearly conceived by considering the opinion of that people concerning the times of the Messias. We will pick out this in a few words from Babylonian Sanhedrin.
"The tradition of the school of Elias: The
righteous, whom the Holy Blessed God will raise up from the
dead, shall not return again to their dust; as it is said,
'Whosoever shall be left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem shall
be called holy, every one being written in the book of life.' As
the Holy (God) liveth for ever, so they also shall live for
ever. But if it be objected, What shall the righteous do in
those years in which the Holy God will renew his world, as it is
said, 'The Lord only shall be exalted in that day?' the answer
is, That God will give them wings like an eagle, and they shall
swim (or float) upon the face of the waters." Where the Gloss
says thus; "The righteous, whom the Lord shall raise from the
dead in the days of the Messiah, when they are restored to life,
shall not again return to their dust, neither in the days of the
Messiah, nor in the following age: but their flesh shall remain
upon them till they return and live to eternity. And in
those years, when God shall renew his world (or age), this
world shall be wasted for a thousand years; were, then,
shall those righteous men be in those years, when they shall not
be buried in the earth?" To this you may also lay that very
common phrase, the world to come; whereby is signified
the days of the Messiah: of which we spoke a little at the
thirty-second verse of the twelfth chapter: "If he shall obtain
(the favour) to see the world to come, that is, the
See here the doctrine of the Jews concerning the coming of the Messiah:
1. That at that time there shall be a resurrection of the just: The Messias shall raise up those that sleep in the dust.
2. Then shall follow the desolation of this world: This world shall be wasted a thousand years. Not that they imagined that a chaos, or confusion of all things, should last the thousand years; but that this world should end and a new one be introduced in that thousand years.
3. After which eternity should succeed.
From hence we easily understand the meaning of this question of the disciples:--
1. They know and own the present Messiah; and yet they ask, what shall be the signs of his coming?
2. But they do not ask the signs of his coming (as we believe of it) at the last day, to judge both the quick and the dead: but,
3. When he will come in the evidence and demonstration of the Messiah, raising up the dead, and ending this world, and introducing a new; as they had been taught in their schools concerning his coming.
7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
[Nation shall rise against nation.] Besides the seditions of the Jews, made horridly bloody with their mutual slaughter, and other storms of war in the Roman empire from strangers, the commotions of Otho and Vitellius are particularly memorable, and those of Vitellius and Vespasian, whereby not only the whole empire was shaken, and the fortune of the empire changed with the change of the whole world, (they are the words of Tacitus), but Rome itself being made the scene of battle, and the prey of the soldiers, and the Capitol itself being reduced to ashes. Such throes the empire suffered, now bringing forth Vespasian to the throne, the scourge and vengeance of God upon the Jews.
9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
[Then shall they deliver you up to be
afflicted.] To this relate those words of 1 Peter , "The time is come that judgment must begin at
the house of God"; that is, the time foretold by our Saviour is
now at hand, in which we are to be delivered up to persecution,
&c. These words denote that persecution which the Jews, now near
their ruin, stirred up almost everywhere against the professors
of the gospel. They had indeed oppressed them hitherto on all
sides, as far as they could, with slanders, rapines, whippings,
stripes, &c. which these and such like places testify; 1
Thessalonians 2:14,15; Hebrews 10:33, &c. But there was
something that put a rub in their way, that, as yet, they could
not proceed to the utmost cruelty; "And now ye know what
withholdeth"; which, I suppose, is to be understood of Claudius
enraged at and curbing in the Jews. Who being taken out of the
way, and Nero, after his first five years, suffering all things
to be turned topsy turvy, the Jews now breathing their last (and
Satan therefore breathing his last effects in them, because
their time was short), they broke out into slaughter beyond
measure, and into a most bloody persecution: which I wonder is
not set in the front of the ten persecutions by ecclesiastical
writers. This is called by Peter (who himself also at last
suffered in it) a fiery trial; by Christ, dictating the
epistles to the seven churches, tribulation for ten days;
and the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the
world of Christians. And this is "the revelation of that
wicked one" St. Paul speaks of, now in lively, that is, in
bloody colours, openly declaring himself Antichrist, the enemy
of Christ. In that persecution James suffered at
12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
[The love of many shall wax cold.] These words relate to that horrid apostasy which prevailed everywhere in the Jewish churches that had received the gospel. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3, &c.; Galatians 3:1; 1 Timothy , &c.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
[And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.] Jerusalem was not to be destroyed before the gospel was spread over all the world: God so ordering and designing it that the world, being first a catechumen in the doctrine of Christ, might have at length an eminent and undeniable testimony of Christ presented to it; when all men, as many as ever heard the history of Christ, should understand that dreadful wrath and severe vengeance which was poured out upon that city and nation by which he was crucified.
15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand):
[The abomination of desolation.] These words relate to that passage of Daniel (chapter 9:27) which I would render thus; "In the middle of that week," namely, the last of the seventy, "he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, even until the wing or army of abomination shall make desolate," &c.; or, even by the wing of abominations making desolate....
[Let him that readeth understand.] This is not spoken so much for the obscurity as for the certainty of the prophecy: as if he should say, "He that reads those words in Daniel, let him mind well that when the army of the prince which is to come, that army of abominations, shall compass round Jerusalem with a siege, then most certain destruction hangs over it; for, saith Daniel, 'the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city, and the sanctuary,' &c., verse 26. 'And the army of abominations shall make desolate even until the consummation, and that which is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.' Flatter not yourselves, therefore, with vain hopes, either of future victory, or of the retreating of that army, but provide for yourselves; and he that is in Judea, let him fly to the hills and places of most difficult access, not into the city." See how Luke clearly speaks out this sense in the twentieth verse of the one-and-twentieth chapter.
20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
[That your flight be not in the winter.]
R. Tanchum observes a favour of God in the destruction of the
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
[Those days shall be shortened.] God lengthened the time for the sake of the elect, before the destruction of the city; and in the destruction, for their sakes he shortened it. Compare with these words before us 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise," &c. It was certainly very hard with the elect that were inhabitants of the city, who underwent all kinds of misery with the besieged, where the plague and sword raged so violently that there were not living enough to bury the dead; and the famine was so great, that a mother ate her son (perhaps the wife of Doeg Ben Joseph, of whom see such a story in Babyl. Joma). And it was also hard enough with those elect who fled to the mountains, being driven out of house, living in the open air, and wanting necessaries for food: their merciful God and Father, therefore, took care of them, shortening the time of their misery, and cutting off the reprobates with a speedier destruction; lest, if their stroke had been longer continued, the elect should too far have partaken of their misery.
The Rabbins dream that God shortened the day on which wicked king Ahab died, and that ten hours; lest he should have been honoured with mourning.
24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
[Shall shew great signs and wonders.] It is a disputable case, whether the Jewish nation were more mad with superstition in matters of religion, or with superstition in curious arts.
I. There was not a people upon earth that studied or attributed more to dreams than they. Hence
1. They often imposed fastings upon themselves to this end, that they might obtain happy dreams; or to get the interpretation of a dream; or to divert the ill omen of a dream: which we have observed at the fourteenth verse of the ninth chapter.
2. Hence their nice rules for handling of dreams; such as these, and the like: Let one observe a good dream two-and-twenty years, after the example of Joseph: "If you go to bed merry, you shall have good dreams," &c.
3. Hence many took upon them the public
profession of interpreting dreams; and this was reckoned among
the nobler arts. A certain old man (Babyl. Beracoth) relates
this story; "There were four-and-twenty interpreters of dreams
II. There were hardly any people in the whole world that more used, or were more fond of, amulets, charms, mutterings, exorcisms, and all kinds of enchantments. We might here produce innumerable examples; a handful shall serve us out of the harvest: "Let not any one go abroad with his amulet on the sabbath day, unless that amulet be prescribed by an approved physician" (or, "unless it be an approved amulet"; see the Gemara). Now these amulets were either little roots hung about the necks of sick persons, or, what was more common, bits of paper with words written on them whereby they supposed that diseases were either driven away or cured: which they wore all the week, but were forbid to wear on the sabbath, unless with a caution: "They do not say a charm over a wound on the sabbath, that also which is said over a mandrake is forbid" on the sabbath. "If any one say, Come and say this versicle over my son, or lay the book" of the law "upon him, to make him sleep; it is forbid": that is, on the sabbath, but on other days is usual.
"They used to say the psalm of meetings
(that is, against unlucky meetings) at
III. So skilful were they in conjurings, enchantments, and sorceries, that they wrought great signs, many villanies, and more wonders. We pass by those things which the sacred story relates of Simon Magus, Elymas, the sons of Sceva, &c., and Josephus, of others; we will only produce examples out of the Talmud, a few out of many.
You will wonder, in the entrance, at these two things, in order to the speaking of their magical exploits; and thence you will conjecture at the very common practice of these evil arts among that people: 1. That "the senior who is chosen into the council ought to be skilled in the arts of astrologers, jugglers, diviners, sorcerers, &c., that he may be able to judge of those who are guilty of the same." 2. The Masters tell us, that a certain chamber was built by a magician in the temple itself: "The chamber of Happarva was built by a certain magician, whose name was Parvah, by art-magic." "Four-and-twenty of the school Rabbi, intercalating the year at Lydda, were killed by an evil eye": that is, with sorceries. R. Joshua outdoes a magician in magic, and drowns him in the sea. In Babyl. Taanith, several miracles are related that the Rabbins had wrought. Elsewhere, there is a story told of eighty women-sorceresses at Ascalon, who were hanged in one day by Simeon Ben Shetah: "and the women of Israel (saith the gloss) had generally fallen to the practice of sorceries": as we have mentioned before. It is related of abundance of Rabbis, that they were skilful in working miracles: thus Abba Chelchia, and Chanin, and R. Chanina Ben Dusa; of which R. Chanina Ben Dusa there is almost an infinite number of stories concerning the miracles he wrought, which savour enough and too much of magic.
And, that we may not be tedious in producing examples, what can we say of the fasting Rabbis causing it to rain in effect when they pleased? of which there are abundance of stories in Taanith. What can we say of the Bath Kol very frequently applauding the Rabbins out of heaven? of which we have spoken before. What can we say of the death or plagues foretold by the Rabbins to befall this or that man? which came to pass just according as they were foretold. I rather suspect some magic art in most of these, than fiction in all.
IV. False Christs broke out, and appeared in public with their witchcrafts, so much the frequenter and more impudent, as the city and people drew nearer to its ruin; because the people believed the Messias should be manifested before the destruction of the city; and each of them pretended to be the Messias by these signs. From the words of Isaiah, "Before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child," the doctors concluded, "that the Messias should be manifested before the destruction of the city." Thus the Chaldee paraphrast upon the place; "She shall be saved before her utmost extremity, and her king shall be revealed before her pains of childbirth." Mark that also; "The Son of David will not come, till the wicked empire [of the Romans] shall have spread itself over all the world nine months; as it is said, 'Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth.'"
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
[For as the lightning, &c.] To discover clearly the sense of this and the following clauses, those two things must be observed which we have formerly given notice of:--
1. That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deuteronomy 32:22; "A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell" (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see verses 20,21), "and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains." Jeremiah 4:23; "I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light," &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isaiah 65:17; "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered," &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17, &c.
2. That Christ's taking vengeance of that exceeding wicked nation is called Christ's "coming in glory," and his "coming in the clouds," Daniel 7. It is also called, "the day of the Lord." See Psalm 1:4; Malachi 3:1,2, &c.; Joel 2:31; Matthew 16:28; Revelation 1:7, &c. See what we have said on chapter 12:20; 19:28.
The meaning, therefore, of the words before us is this: "While they shall falsely say, that Christ is to be seen here or there: 'Behold, he is in the desert,' one shall say; another, 'Behold, he is in the secret chambers': he himself shall come, like lightning, with sudden and altogether unexpected vengeance: they shall meet him whom they could not find; they shall find him whom they sought, but quite another than what they looked for."
28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
[For wheresoever the carcase is, &c.] I wonder any can understand these words of pious men flying to Christ, when the discourse here is of quite a different thing: they are thus connected to the foregoing: Christ shall be revealed with a sudden vengeance; for when God shall cast off the city and people, grown ripe for destruction, like a carcase thrown out, the Roman soldiers, like eagles, shall straight fly to it with their eagles (ensigns) to tear and devour it. And to this also agrees the answer of Christ, Luke 17:37; when, after the same words that are spoke here in this chapter, it was inquired, "Where, Lord?" he answered, "Wheresoever the body is," &c.; silently hinting thus much, that Jerusalem, and that wicked nation which he described through the whole chapter, would be the carcase, to which the greedy and devouring eagles would fly to prey upon it.
29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
[The sun shall be darkened, &c.] That is, the Jewish heaven shall perish, and the sun and moon of its glory and happiness shall be darkened, and brought to nothing. The sun is the religion of the church; the moon is the government of the state; and the stars are the judges and doctors of both. Compare Isaiah 13:10, and Ezekiel 32:7,8, &c.
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
[And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man.] Then shall the Son of man give a proof of himself, whom they would not before acknowledge: as proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall now him, whether they will or no, Isaiah 26:11. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that he is the true Messias, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world.
31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
[And he shall send his angels, &c.] When Jerusalem shall be reduced to ashes, and that wicked nation cut off and rejected, then shall the Son of man send his ministers with the trumpet of the gospel, and they shall gather together his elect of the several nations from the four corners of heaven: so that God shall not want a church...
34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
[This generation shall not pass, &c.] Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matthew 16:28, compare John 21:22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city, R. Jochanan Ben Zaccai, who outlived it, R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.
36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
[No man knoweth, no, not the angels.] This is taken from Deuteronomy 32:34: "Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?"
37. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
[But as the days of Noe were, &c.] Thus Peter placeth as parallels, the ruin of the old world, and the ruin of Jerusalem, 1 Peter 3:19-21; and by such a comparison his words will be best understood. For, see how he skips from the mention of the death of Christ to the times before the flood, in the eighteenth and nineteenth verses, passing over all the time between. Did not the Spirit of Christ preach all along in the times under the law? Why then doth he take an example only from the times before the flood? that he might fit the matter to his case, and shew that the present state of the Jews was like theirs in the times of Noah, and that their ruin should be like also. So, also, in his Second Epistle, chapter 3:6,7.
The age or generation of the flood hath no portion in the world to come: thus Peter saith, that "they were shut up in prison": and here our Saviour intimates that "they were buried in security," and so were surprised by the flood.
3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
[Upon the mount of Olives, over against the Temple.] "The east gate of the Court of the Gentiles had the metropolis Sushan painted on it. And through this gate the high priest went out to burn the red cow." And, "All the walls of that court were high, except the east wall; because of the priest, when he burnt the red cow, stood upon the top of mount Olivet, and took his aim, and looked upon the gate of the Temple, in that time when he sprinkled the blood." And, "The priest stood with his face turned westward, kills the cow with his right hand, and receives the blood with the left, but sprinkleth it with his right, and that seven times, directly towards the Holy of Holies."
It is true, indeed, the Temple might be well seen from any tract of Olivet: but the word over against, if it doth not direct to this very place, yet to some place certainly in the same line: and it cannot but recall to our mind that action of the high priest.
7. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
[Be not troubled.] Think here, how the traditions of the scribes affrighted the nation with the report of Gog and Magog, immediately to go before the coming of the Messiah:--
"R. Eliezer Ben Abina saith, When you see the kingdoms disturbing one another, then expect the footsteps of the Messiah. And know that this is true from hence, that so it was in the days of Abraham; for kingdoms disturbed one another, and then came redemption to Abraham." And elsewhere; "So they came against Abraham, and so they shall come with Gog and Magog." And again, "The Rabbins deliver. In the first year of that week [of years] that the Son of David is to come, shall that be fulfilled, 'I will rain upon one city, but I will not rain upon another,' Amos 4:7. The second year, the arrows of famine shall be sent forth. The third, the famine shall be grievous, and men and women and children, holy men, and men of good works, shall die. And there shall be a forgetfulness of the law among those that learn it. The fourth year, fulness, and not fulness. The fifth year, great fulness; for they shall eat and drink and rejoice, and the law shall return to its scholars. The sixth year, voices. (The Gloss is, 'A fame shall be spread, that the Son of David comes,' or, 'they shall sound with a trumpet.') The seventh year, wars; and in the going out of that seventh year the Son of David shall come."
8. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
[These are the beginnings of sorrows.] Isaiah 66:7,8: Before she travailed she brought forth; before the labour of pains came she was delivered, and brought forth a male. Who hath heard such a thing? Does the earth bring forth in one day, or is a nation also brought forth at once? For Sion was in travail and brought forth her sons.
The prophet here says two things:--
I. That Christ should be born before the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews themselves collect and acknowledge this out of this prophecy: "It is in the Great Genesis [Bereshith Rabba] a very ancient book: thus R. Samuel Bar Nachaman said, Whence prove you, that in the day when the destruction of the Temple was, Messias was born? He answered, From this that is said in the last chapter of Isaiah, 'Before she travailed she brought forth; before her bringing forth shall come, she brought forth a male child.' In the same hour that the destruction of the Temple was, Israel cried out as though she were bringing forth. And Jonathan in the Chaldee translation said, Before her trouble came she was saved; and before the pains of childbirth came upon her, Messiah was revealed." In the Chaldee it is, A king shall manifest himself.
"In like manner in the same book: R. Samuel Bar Nachaman said, It happened that Elias went by the way in the day wherein the destruction of the Temple was, and he heard a certain voice crying out and saying, 'The holy Temple is destroyed.' Which when he heard, he imagined how he could destroy the world: but travelling forward he saw men ploughing and sowing, to whom he said, 'God is angry with the world and will destroy his house, and lead his children captives to the Gentiles; and do you labour for temporal victuals?' And another voice was heard, saying, 'Let them work, for the Saviour of Israel is born.' And Elias said, 'Where is he?' And the voice said, 'In Bethlehem of Judah,'" &c. These words this author speaks, and these words they speak.
II. As it is not without good reason gathered, that Christ shall be born before the destruction of the city, from that clause, "Before she travailed she brought forth, before her bringing forth came [the pangs of travail], she brought forth a male child"; so also, from that clause, Is a nation brought forth at once? for Sion travailed and brought forth her children, is gathered as well, that the Gentiles were to be gathered and called to the faith before that destruction; which our Saviour most plainly teacheth, verse 10, "But the gospel must first be preached among all nations." For how the Gentiles, which should believe, are called 'the children of Sion,' and 'the children of the church of Israel,' every where in the prophets, there is no need to show, for every one knows it.
In this sense is the word pangs or sorrows, in this place to be understood; and it agrees not only with the sense of the prophet alleged, but with a most common phrase and opinion in the nation concerning the sorrows of the Messiah, that is, concerning the calamities which they expected would happen at the coming of the Messiah.
"Ulla saith, The Messias shall come, but I shall not see him. So also saith Rabba, Messias shall come, but I shall not see him; that is, he shall not be to be seen. Abai saith to Rabba, Why? Because of the sorrows of the Messias. It is a tradition. His disciples asked R. Eliezer, What may a man do to be delivered from the sorrows of Messias? Let him be conversant in the law and in the works of mercy." The Gloss is, "the terrors and the sorrows which shall be in his days." "He that feasts thrice on the sabbath day shall be delivered from three miseries, from the sorrows of Messiah, from the judgment of hell, and from the war of Gog and Magog." Where the Gloss is this, "'From the sorrows of Messias': for in that age, wherein the Son of David shall come, there will be an accusation of the scholars of the wise men. The word sorrows denotes such pains as women in childbirth endure."
32. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
[But of that day and hour knoweth no man.] Of what day and hour? That the discourse is of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem is so evident, both by the disciples' question, and by the whole thread of Christ's discourse, that it is a wonder any should understand these words of the day and hour of the last judgment.
Two things are demanded of our Saviour, verse 4: the one is, "When shall these things be, that one stone shall not be left upon another?" And the second is, "What shall be the sign of this consummation?" To the latter he answereth throughout the whole chapter hitherto: to the former in the present words. He had said, indeed, in the verse before, "Heaven and earth shall pass away," &c.; not for resolution to the question propounded (for there was no inquiry at all concerning the dissolution of heaven and earth), but for confirmation of the truth of the thing which he had related. As though he had said, "Ye ask when such an overthrow of the Temple shall happen; when it shall be, and what shall be the signs of it. I answer, These and those, and the other signs shall go before it; and these my words of the thing itself to come to pass, and of the signs going before, are firmer than heaven and earth itself. But whereas ye inquire of the precise time, that is not to be inquired after; for of that day and hour knoweth no man."
We cannot but remember here, that even among the beholders of the destruction of the Temple there is a difference concerning the day of the destruction; that that day and hour was so little known before the event, that even after the event, they who saw the flames disagreed among themselves concerning the day. Josephus, an eyewitness, saw the burning of the Temple, and he ascribed it to the tenth day of the month Ab or Lous. For thus he; "The Temple perished the tenth day of the month Lous (or August), a day fatal to the Temple, as having been on that day consumed in flames by the king of Babylon." Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai saw the same conflagration; and he, together with the whole Jewish nation, ascribes it to the ninth day of that month, not the tenth; yet so that he saith, "If I had not lived in that age I had not judged it but to have happened on the tenth day." For as the Gloss upon Maimonides writes, "It was the evening when they set fire to it, and the Temple burnt until sunset the tenth day. In the Jerusalem Talmud, therefore, Rabbi and R. Joshua Ben Levi fasted the ninth and tenth days." See also the tract Bab. Taanith.
[Neither the angels.] "'For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come,' Isaiah 63:4. What means 'the day of vengeance is in mine heart?' R. Jochanan saith, I have revealed it to my heart, to my members I have not revealed it. R. Simeon Ben Lachish saith, I have revealed it to my heart, but to the ministering angels I have not revealed it." And Jalkut on that place thus: My heart reveals it not to my mouth; to whom should my mouth reveal it?
[Nor the Son.] Neither the angels, nor the Messias. For in that sense the word Son, is to be taken in this place and elsewhere very often: as in that passage, John 5:19, "The Son," that is, the Messias, "can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do": verse 20, "The Father loveth the Messias," &c: verse 26, "He hath given to the Messias to have life in himself," &c. And that the word Son is to be rendered in this sense, appears from verse 27; "He hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." Observe that, "because he is the Son of man."
I. It is one thing to understand "the Son of God" barely and abstractly for the second person in the Holy Trinity; another to understand him for the Messias, or that second person incarnate. To say that the second person in the Trinity knows not something is blasphemous; to say so of the Messias, is not so, who, nevertheless, was the same with the second person in the Trinity: for although the second person, abstractly considered according to his mere Deity, was co-equal with the Father, co-omnipotent, co-omniscient, co-eternal with him, &c.; yet Messias, who was God-man, considered as Messias, was a servant and a messenger of the Father, and received commands and authority from the Father. And those expressions, "The Son can do nothing of himself," &c. will not in the least serve the Arian's turn; if you take them in this sense, which you must necessarily do; "Messias can do nothing of himself, because he is a servant and a deputy."
II. We must distinguish between the excellences and perfections of Christ, which flowed from the hypostatical union of the natures, and those which flowed from the donation and anointing of the Holy Spirit. From the hypostatical union of the natures flowed the infinite dignity of his person, his impeccability, his infinite self-sufficiency to perform the law, and to satisfy the divine justice. From the anointing of the Spirit flowed his power of miracles, his foreknowledge of things to come, and all kind of knowledge of evangelic mysteries. Those rendered him a fit and perfect Redeemer; these a fit and perfect Minister of the gospel.
Now, therefore, the foreknowledge of things to come, of which the discourse here is, is to be numbered among those things which flowed from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and from immediate revelation; not from the hypostatic union of the natures. So that those things which were revealed by Christ to his church, he had them from the revelation of the Spirit, not from that union. Nor is it any derogation or detraction from the dignity of his person, that he saith, 'He knew not that day and hour of the destruction of Jerusalem'; yea, it excellently agrees with his office and deputation, who, being the Father's servant, messenger, and minister, followed the orders of the Father, and obeyed him in all things. "The Son knoweth not," that is, it is not revealed to him from the Father to reveal to the church. Revelation 1:1, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him."
We omit inquiring concerning the knowledge of Christ, being now raised from death: whether, and how far, it exceeded his knowledge, while yet he conversed on earth. It is without doubt, that, being now raised from the dead, he merited all kind of revelation (see Rev 5:9, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain," &c.); and that he, conversing on earth before his death, acted with the vigour of the Holy Spirit and of that unspeakable holiness which flowed from the union of the human nature with the divine, the divine nature, in the meantime, suspending its infinite activity of omnipotence. So that Christ might work miracles, and know things to come, in the same manner as the prophets also did, namely, by the Holy Ghost, but in a larger measure; and might overcome the devil not so much by the omnipotence of the divine nature, as by the infinite holiness of his person, and of his obedience. So that if you either look upon him as the minister and servant of God; or if you look upon the constitution, as I may so call it, and condition of his person, these words of his, "Of that day and hour knoweth not the Son also," carry nothing of incongruity along with them; yea, do excellently speak out his substitution as a servant, and the constitution of his person as God-man.
The reason why the divine wisdom would have
the time of the destruction of
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Luke
24. And they shall fall by the edge of
the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and
Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times
of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [Until the times of the
Gentiles be fulfilled.] "
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