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the prospect of their future happiness, dissuaded them from worldly care and ambition, he proceeds :
35. “ Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: verily, I say to you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them; and if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so doing, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”
“ The coming of the Son of Man," in this passage, is clearly the second advent; and the metaphor of the thief choosing the most unexpected time, that he may come unperceived upon his spoil, is often, in subsequent Scriptures, employed to impress us with an idea of the suddenness and of the unexpected season of the Lord's appearing. On this is grounded the duty of constant watchfulness. The church on earth is to be like a family sitting up at night to wait their master's return from a public feast: and we shall often remark, that in view of the Saviour's appearing, the church, as a body, and not the individual, is addressed. The church is considered as one and the same body, a corporation that never dies; and though her individual members die, and are replaced, still, from age to age, it is the same house and the same family, waiting their Lord's return. This will be found the common style of these anticipations of the second advent. Generation after generation have died, r not
having received the promise' of his coming; but they watched and waited not in vain. He discharged them, individually, from their watch, and took them to himself, to wait nearer his presence, where they contemplate, in the paradise above, the glory that is to be revealed in the last day. For this glorious appearing of the great God and Saviour they waited and watched upon earth amid toil and sorrow; but it came not in their day, while they stood in their ward; yet they kept their Lord's command, and watched : and now they wait to come with him when the happy day arrives, and they shall receive their resurrection bodies.
Peter, ever the spokesman of his brethren, inquires whether this particular exhortation, to “ watch with loins girded and lights burning,” like servants sitting up for their master, was intended for them," the apostles and ministers of the word,” alone, or for others also; and our Lord's reply clearly declares, that, though what he said to them he said to all, yet that certainly it concerned, in an especial manner, his apostles and ministers! And on this he grounds a particular exhortation to his ministers, as such
an exhortation which, as on the one hand it clearly shows their awful responsibility, and the dreadful punishment which will ensue to the unbelieving minister; so, on the other hand, it clearly shows the divine institution of the Christian ministry, as a distinct order from the people, and describes their authority and office to be of a nature that may be abused to purposes of tyranny and oppression over their fellow servants, and is not, therefore, an office which their fellow servants may control or dispense with, make or unmake, at their pleasure, according to some modern notions of church government and of the Christian ministry.
42. “ Aud the Lord said, Who, then, is that faithful and wise steward whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Of a truth, I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to beat the men-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken ; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day that he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with unbelievers."
We have a reference also to the final settlement of the Redeemer's kingdom :
“ Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for
I you, shall strive to enter in, and shall not be able : When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know ye not whence ye are.
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
But he shall
I know not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God; and, behold, there are last that shall be first, and there are first that shall be last."
We must not, also, entirely pass over the inference our Lord draws from the parable of the importunate widow and unjust judge:
6. “ And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith, and shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily"-or,“ suddenly.” “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth ?"
This corroborates many ancient oracles, that the day of God's vengeance on the enemies of his people is the day of the Messiah's coming. The passage leads also to a suspicion, that the belief and concurrent expectation of the Saviour's coming will, in the latter days, be reduced
The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, and of the
I perceive, by the Harmony, that the passage next in order, which touches upon the concerns of the second advent, is the declaration of our Lord to Peter, when he had said, in the name of himself and his brethren, “ Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore ?” Matt. xix. 28.
“ And Jesus said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of his kingdom, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Expositors differ in their application of the term regeneration; some connecting it with the present following of Christ and his cause, while he is regenerating the souls of his people; others, with his sitting upon the throne of his kingdom, when he shall “ make all things new.” The latter sense I conceive to be most analogous to the general style of Scripture, and it appears to me to be a phrase exactly parallel to one afterwards used by St. Peter: “ Whom the heavens must receive until the restitution of all things.”
A similar reasoning forbids us to accept the exposition of some, that all here promised refers to the dispensation of the Gospel by the risen Saviour, through the instrumentality of his inspired apostles, as the chief officers of his kingdom, to those of the circumcision at least. Because the Redeemer's sitting at God's right hand in heaven, while the Holy Ghost the Comforter acts personally as his substitute in his church below, is never in Scripture represented as coeval with his sitting as Judge and King on the throne of his kingdom. This always refers to the period of his returning from heaven at the second advent.
What will be the nature of the subordinate rule of the twelve apostles, and of what description its peculiar relation to the twelve tribes, I presume not to explain ; but the simple fact of this rule, and the relation of this rule to the tribes of Israel, seems to be clearly revealed ; and we shall afterwards meet with intimations bearing upon the same subject.
I shall only remark, that the parable of the labourers in the vineyard — receiving each their penny - being found in this connexion, leads to its application, not to the church in general, but to the peculiar servants of the great Shepherd, who have “ left all and followed him," or who have laboured in the cause of the Gospel.