by Sir Robert Anderson
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The Coming Prince
Sir Robert Anderson
SECOND SERMON ON THE MOUNT
THE connecting link between the past and the future, between the fulfilled and
the unfulfilled in prophecy, will be found in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The chief Messianic promises are grouped in two great classes, connected respectively
with the names of David and of Abraham, and the New Testament opens with the record
of the birth and ministry of Messiah as "the Son of David, the son of Abraham";
(Matthew 1:1) for in one aspect of His work He was "a
minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto
the fathers." (Romans 15:8) The question of the Magi, "Where is
He that is born king of the Jews?" aroused a hope which was part of the national
politics of Judah; and even the base Idumean who then usurped the throne was sensible
of its significance: "Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."
And when the proclamation afterwards was made, first by John the Baptist,
and finally by the Lord and His apostles, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand,"
the Jews knew well its import. It was not "the Gospel," as we understand
it now, but the announcement of the near fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy. And the testimony had a twofold accompaniment. "The
Sermon on the Mount" is recorded as embodying the great truths and principles
which were associated with the Kingdom Gospel; and the attendant miracles gave proof
that all was Divine. And in the earlier stages of the ministry of Christ, His miracles
were not reserved for those whose faith responded to His words; the only qualification
for the benefit was that the recipient should belong to the favored race. "Go
not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying,
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead,
cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." Such was the commission under which the twelve went forth
through that little land, to every corner of which their Master's fame had gone
before them. (Matthew 4:24, 25)
1. Matthew 2:3. It must
not be imagined that it was any religious emotion which disturbed the king.
The announcement of the Magi was to him what the news of the birth of an heir is
to an heir-presumptive. The Magi asked, "Where is He that is born King of
the Jews?" Herod's inquiry, therefore, to the Sanhedrin was, "Where
should Messiah be born?" and on being referred to the prophecy which
so plainly designated Bethlehem, he determined to destroy every infant child in that
city and district. Herod and the Sanhedrin had not learned to spiritualize the prophecies.
But the verdict of the nation, through its accredited and responsible leaders, was
a rejection of His Messianic claims. The acts and words of Christ recorded in the twelfth chapter of Matthew were
an open and deliberate condemnation and defiance of the Pharisees, and their answer
was to meet in solemn council and decree His death. (Matthew 12:1- 14) From that
hour His ministry entered upon a new phase. The miracles continued, for He could
not meet with suffering and refuse to relieve it; but those whom thus He blessed
were charged "that they should not make Him known." (Matthew 12:16) The
Gospel of the Kingdom ceased; His teaching became veiled in parables, and the disciples were forbidden any
longer to testify to His Messiahship. (Matthew 16:20)
2. Cf. Pusey, Daniel,
3. Matthew 10:5-8. The
chapter is prophetic, in keeping with the character of the book, and reaches on to
the testimony of the latter days (see ex. gr., ver. 23).
The thirteenth chapter is prophetic of the state of things which was to intervene
between the time of His rejection and His return in glory to claim the place which
in His humiliation was denied Him. Instead of the proclamation of the Kingdom, He
taught them "the mysteries of the Kingdom." (Matthew 13:11) His
mission changed its character, and instead of a King come to reign, He described
Himself as a Sower sowing seed. Of the parables which follow, the first three, spoken
to the multitude, described the outward results of the testimony in the world; the
last three, addressed to the disciples, speak of the hidden realities revealed to spiritual minds.
4. In our own time the
Jews have had the temerity to publish a translation of the Mishna, and the
reader who will peruse its treatises can judge with what contempt and loathing the
Lord must have regarded the religion of those miserable men. The treatise Sabbath
will afford an invaluable commentary on the twelfth of Matthew. The Mishna
is a compilation of the oral traditions of the Rabbins, made in the second century,
A. D., to prevent their being lost by the dispersion – the very traditions, many
of them, which prevailed when the Lord was on earth, and which He so unsparingly
condemned as undermining the Scriptures, for then as now the Jews regarded them as
possessing a Divine sanction. (Cf Lindo's Jewish Cal., Introd.; Milman's
Hist. Jews, Book 18.)
5. Matthew 13:3, 13. "From
the expression ardzato in
Mark, compared with the question of the disciples in ver. 10, – and with ver. 34,
– it appears that this was the first beginning of our Lord's teaching by parables,
expressly so delivered, and properly so called. And the natural sequence of things
here agrees with and confirms Matthew's arrangement against those who would place
(as Ebrard) all this chapter before the Sermon on the Mount. He there spoke without
parables, or mainly so; and continued to do so till the rejection and misunderstanding
of His teaching led to His judicially adopting the course here indicated, choris
par. ouden elalei
autois." – ALFORD, Gr. Test, Matthew 13:3.
But these very parables, while they taught the disciples in the plainest terms that
everything was postponed which the prophets had led them to look for in connection
with the Kingdom, taught them no less clearly that the day would surely come when
all should be fulfilled; when evil should be rooted out, and the Kingdom established
in righteousness and peace. (Matthew 13:41-43) They thus learned that there was to
be an "age" of which prophecy took no account, and another "Advent"
at its close; and "the second Sermon on the Mount" was the Lord's reply
to the inquiry, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the
6. As were also the interpretations
of the Parables of the Sower and of the Tares.
The twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew has been well described as "the
anchor of apocalyptic interpretation," and "the touchstone of apocalyptic
systems." The fifteenth verse specifies an event and fixes an epoch, by which we are
enabled to connect the words of the Lord with the visions of St. John, and both with
the prophecies of Daniel. The entire passage is obviously prophetic, and its fulfillment
clearly pertains to the time of the end. The fullest and most definite application
of the words must therefore be to those who are to witness their accomplishment.
To them it is that the warning is specially addressed, against being deceived through
a false hope of the immediate return of Christ.
7. Matthew 24:3. "As
He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him." Compare Matthew
5:1 "He went up into a mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto
Him." The Sermon on the Mount unfolded the principles on which the Kingdom would
be set up. The King having been rejected by the nation, the second Sermon on the
Mount unfolded the events which must precede His return.
A series of terrible events are yet to come; but "these are the beginning
of sorrows"; "the end is not yet." How long these "sorrows"
shall continue is not revealed. The first sure sign that the end is near will be
the advent of the fiercest trial that the redeemed on earth have ever known. The
fulfillment of Daniel's vision of the defilement of the Holy Place is to be the signal
for immediate flight; "for then shall be the great tribulation,"
(Vers. 15-21. Compare Daniel 11:1.) unparalleled even in Judah's history. But, as
already noticed, this last great persecution belongs to the latter half of Daniel's
seventieth week, and therefore it affords a landmark by which we can determine the
character and fix the order of the chief events which mark the closing scenes foretold
8. Alford, Gr. Test.,
vol. 4., Pt. 2. Proleg. Rev.
9. Matthew 24:4, 6. That
is, the final stage of the advent; not His coming as foretold in 1 Thessalonians
4 and elsewhere, which has no signs preceding.
To refer verse 5 to the times of Barcochab involves a glaring anachronism. The primary
reference in vers. 15-20, and, therefore, of the earlier portion of the prophecy,
was to the period ending with the destruction of Jerusalem.
With the clew thus obtained from the Gospel of St. Matthew, we can turn with confidence
to study the Apocalyptic visions of St. John. But first it must be clearly recognized
that in the twenty-fourth of Matthew, as in the book of Daniel, Jerusalem is the
center of the scene to which the prophecy relates; and this of necessity implies
that the Jews shall have been restored to Palestine before the time of its fulfillment.
Objections based on the supposed improbability of such an event are sufficiently
answered by marking the connection between prophecy and miracle. The history of the
Abrahamic race, to which prophecy is so closely related, is little else than a record
of miraculous interpositions. "Their passage out of Egypt was miraculous. Their
entrance into the promised land was miraculous. Their prosperous and their adverse
fortunes in that land, their servitudes and their deliverances, their conquests and
their captivities, were all miraculous. The entire history from the call of Abraham
to the building of the sacred temple was a series of miracles. It is so much the
object of the sacred historians to describe these that little else is recorded… There
are no historians in the sacred volume of the period in which miraculous intervention
was withdrawn. After the declaration by the mouth of Malachi that a messenger should
be sent to prepare the way, the next event recorded by any inspired writer is the
birth of that messenger. But of the interval of 400 years between the promise and
the completion no account is given."
10. The question of their
restoration to a place of blessing spiritually has already been discussed.
The seventy years from Messiah's birth to the dispersion of the nation were
fruitful in miracle and prophetic fulfillment. But the national existence of Israel
is as it were the stage on which alone the drama of prophecy can, in its fullness,
be displayed; and from the Apostolic age to the present hour, not a single public
event can be appealed to as affording indisputable proof of immediate Divine
intervention upon earth. A silent heaven is a leading characteristic of the dispensation in which our
lot is cast. But Israel's history has yet to be completed; and when that nation comes
again upon the scene, the element of miraculous interpositions will mark once more
the course of events on earth.
11. Clinton, Fasti H.,
vol. 1., p. 243.
On the other hand, the analogy of the past would lead us to expect a merging of the
one dispensation in the other, rather than an abrupt transition; and the question
is one of peculiar interest on general grounds, whether passing events are not tending
towards this very consummation, the restoration of the Jews to Palestine.
12. There is, doubtless,
what may be called the private miracle of individual conversion, and the believer
has transcendental proof not only of the existence of God, but of His presence and
power with men.
The decline of the Moslem power is one of the most patent of public facts; and if
the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire be still delayed, it is due entirely to the
jealousies of European nations, whose rival interests seem to render an amicable
distribution of its territories impossible. But the crisis cannot be deferred indefinitely;
and when it arrives, the question of greatest moment, next to the fate of Constantinople,
will be, What is to become of Palestine? Its annexation by any one European state
is in the highest degree improbable. The interests of several of the first-rate Powers
forbid it. The way will thus be kept open to the Jews, whenever their inclinations
or their destinies lead them back to the land of their fathers.
Not only would no hostile influence hinder their return, but the probabilities of
the case (and it is with probabilities that we are here concerned) are in
favor of the colonization of Palestine by that people to whom historically it belongs.
There is some reason to believe that a movement of this kind has already begun; and
if, whether by the Levant becoming a highway to India, or from some other cause,
any measure of prosperity should return to those shores that were once the commercial
center of the world, the Jews would migrate thither in thousands from every land.
True it is that to colonize a country is one thing, while to create a nation is another.
But the testimony of Scripture is explicit that Judah's national independence is
not to be regained by diplomacy or the sword. Jerusalem is to remain under Gentile
supremacy until the day when Daniel's visions shall be realized. In the language
of Scripture, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times
of the Gentiles be fulfilled." But long ere then the Cross must supplant the Crescent in Judea, else it is
incredible that the Mosque of Omar should give place to the Jewish Temple on the
Hill of Zion.
If the operation of causes such as those above indicated, conjointly with the decay
of the Moslem power, should lead to the formation of a protected Jewish state in
Palestine, possibly with a military occupation of Jerusalem by or on behalf of some
European Power or Powers, nothing more need be supposed than a religious revival
among the Jews, to prepare the way for the fulfillment of the prophecies.
13. Luke 21:24. That is,
till the end of the period during which earthly sovereignty, entrusted to Nebuchadnezzar
twenty-five centuries ago, is to remain with the Gentiles.
"God has not cast away His people;" and when the present dispensation
closes, and the great purpose has been satisfied for which it was ordained, the dropped
threads of prophecy and promise will again be taken up, and the dispensation historically
broken off in the Acts of the Apostles, when Jerusalem was the appointed center for
God's people on earth, will be resumed. Judah shall again become a nation, Jerusalem shall be restored,
and that temple shall be built in which the "abomination of desolation"
is to stand.
14. The following extract
from the Jewish Chronicle of 9th Nov., 1849, is quoted in Mr. Newton's Ten
Kingdoms (2nd Ed., p. 401): "The European Powers will not need to put themselves
to the trouble of restoring the Jews individually or collectively. Let them but confer
upon Palestine a constitution like that of the United States…and the Jews will restore
themselves. They would then go cheerfully and willingly, and would there piously
bide their time for a heaven-inspired Messiah, who is to restore Mosaism to its original
15. Gentiles were then admitted
within the pale, not on an equality, but in some sense as proselytes had been received
within the nation. The Church was essentially Jewish. The temple was their place
of resort (Acts 2:46; 3:1, 5:42). Their testimony was in the line of the old prophecies
to the nation (ibid. 3:19-26.), and even when scattered by persecution, the
apostles remained in the metropolis, and those who were driven abroad evangelized
only among the Jews (ibid. 8:1, 4, and 11:19). Peter refused to go among Gentiles
save after a special revelation to him (ibid. 10.), and he was put on his
defense before the Church for going at all (ibid. 11:2-18. Comp. chap. 15.)
16. Scattered among the
people will be a "remnant," who will "keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17); Jews, and yet Christians;
Jews, but believers in the Messiah, whom the nation will continue to reject
until the time of His appearing. It must be obvious to the thoughtful mind that such
prophecies as the twenty-fourth of Matthew imply that there will be a believing people
to be comforted and guided by them at the time and in the scene of their fulfillment.
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