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The uncertainty of the day of judgment,
considered and improved.
MARK xiii. 32. 33.
Angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the
know not when the time is.
Hese words are spoken by our Saviour of the day of judgment ; for though, in this chapter, as
likewise in the xxivth of St. Matthew, and the xxist of St. Luke, which are parallel to it, our Saviour discourseth very particularly and largely concerning the eminent appearance of his power and justice in the destruction of Jerusalem, which may perhaps sometimes in fcripture be called his coming; yet it is plain likewise, that he discour seth there concerning his coming to judgment at the end of the world. For we find in the xxivth of St. Matthew, that after our Saviour had foretold his disciples of the utter ruin of Jerusalem, they came afterwards to him, to enquire more particularly about it; ver. 3. And as he sat upon the mount of 0. lives, the disciples came unto him privately
, saying, tell 145, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the fign of thy coming, and of the end of the world where there are two several questions, to which our Saviour returns a distinct answer. The first, when those things he had been speaking of before should be ? that is, the things which related to the destruction of Jerusalem, for of that only he had been speaking of before. The other question was, concerning the sign of his coming, and of the end of the world.
The reason of their joining these two questions together, seems to be this, (as is very probable from many VOL. VIII.
texts of the new testament) viz. that the Apostles did think (and our Saviour permitted them for a long time to remain under this mistake) that the end of the world, and the general judgment, would be presently after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Now to this second question of theirs, concerning the end of the world, and our Saviour's coming to judgment, he gives an answer in the latter part of that chapter, ver. 29. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. Not that the general judgment of the world was immediately to follow the destruction of Jerusalem ; for there were many other things to intervene, as is manifest from St. Luke, chap. xxi. 24. That the Jews should be led captive into all nations, and Jerusalem Jhould be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. And though these things be expressed in a few words, yet they comprehend a long tract of time ; for the captivity of the Jews hath continu. ed for above 1600 years, and is not yet at an end. And then after the accomplishment of these things, it follows, that there shall be signs in the sun and the moon, and then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And then he tells them in conclusion, that these things should begin to come to pass, that is, some of them should happen, before the end of that generation; and so they did, for the destru&tion of Jerufalem was about forty years after. But when the end of all should be, that is, when the day of judgment would happen, he could not tell them the precise time, ver. 36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, 10 not the angels of heaven, but the Father only; and it is added in St. Mark, neither the Son.
Now by that day and hour, is meant that famous and terrible time of the general judgment of the world, which St. Peter calls, by way of eminency, the day of the Lord, 2 Peter iii. io. The day of the Lord will come, as a thief in the night; that is, it will surprize men suddenly and unexpectedly, because no man can tell when it will be; it will steal upon the world, as a thief does into a house by night. But of that day and hour
knoweth no man, no not the Angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take
heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is.
Having thus cleared all difficulties concerning the general nieaning of the text, that it is to be understood of the day of judgment, and not as some learned men have thought, of the destruction of Jerusalem ; I shall now consider the words more particularly, and they con-tain in them these two things.
First, The uncertainty of the day of judgment, as to us, and all other creatures. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Secondly, That the confideration of the uncertainty of the time, should make us very careful to be always prepared for it. Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. I shall speak as briefly as I can to both these.
First, Our Saviour here declares the uncertainty of the time, as to us, and all creatures, when the general judgment shall be. And to express this the more emphatically, he tells us,
1. That God only knows it. Of that day and hour, Seis od sv, iho Tátrip, none knows, but the Father. For though we translate it, no man, yet in the Greek it is more general, none knows but the Father, that is, God only. For the word Father is several times in the New Testament not used personally, in way of distinction from the Son, and the holy Ghoft; but fignifies the Deity, the Father being Fons & principium deitatis, " the fountain " and principle of the Deity."
Of that day and hour; the word 'pse is not here to be taken strictly for tlie measure of time, commonly called an hour; this were to make our Saviour's expression very fat, after he had denied that the day is known, to deny that they know the hour : for if they do not know the day, much less the hour. Now in thefe kind of speeches, the expression ought to rise, and that which is most emphatical ought to be said in the last place; fo that it should rather have been, they know not the hour, no, nor the day; but áp here does undoubtedly fignify the appointed season or time; and so the four seasons of the year are by the Greeks called öp: ; and in this sense the word is most certainly used by the Evangelist St. John, chap. vii. 30. But no man laid hands upon him, speaking of Christ, because his hour was not yet come, that is, the time appointed for his fuffering; and that which in the text is called hour, is in the next verse cal led respos, which fignifies a particular season, or appointed time. Ye know not when the time is, that is, the time which God hath particularly designed and appointed for this great work of judging the world.
2. He excludes from the knowledge of it, those who were most likely to know it, if God had not absolutely reserved it to himself. Of that day and hour knows none, no, not the Angels, neither the Son.
(1.) Not the Angels, which are in heaven; though they be creatures of fo perfect a knowledge, though they be the ministers of God, and do continually attend up. on him, and behold his face, and understand much more of the works of God, and his providence in regard to the affairs of the world, than we that live here below in so much error and ignorance, that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the duft: yet the particular time, when God will judge the world, he hath reserved as a secret to himself, and not communicated it so much as to the Angels, who are designed to wait upon the great Judge of the world, and to make his train in that folemnity. So our Saviour tells us, Mat. xxv. 31. That the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy Angels with him. And fo likewise the Apostle, 2 Theff. i. 7. That the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty Angels.
But this is not only hid from the Angels, but which is yet more, from the Son himself. of that day and hour knows none, no not the Angels which are in heaven, neither the Son. This seems strange indeed, that 'the Son of God, who came froin the bolom of his Father, and therefore is more likely than any to know his secrets, that he whom God had ordained to be the Judge of the world, into whose hands he had committed that great trust and authority, should not be acquainted with the time of this judgment: Nay, that he, in whom
are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and in whom the divinity does subftantially refide, Thould not know this time, this seems incredible, but that he himself hath told us fo. It was indeed a common saying a. mong the Jews, that the time of the end of the world was revealed to none: But yet, one would think, the Son were always excepted. Nay, how can it well be otherwise, if we believe him to be God? and indeed the fathers, in their disputes with the Arians, have mightily puzzled themselves about this text.
Some, and those of no fmall account, have understood these words, as if our Saviour only intended to put off his disciples from a more particular enquiry about this matter ; not that he was ignorant of the day. of judgment, but that he did not know it, so as to reveal it to them ; which is by no means to be admitted, not only because it looks too like the equivocation of the Jesuits, but likewise because the same may be said of the Angels; since it is no otherwise denied of tlie Angels, that they know this time, than it is of the Son. Others say, that his human nature was not ignorant of the day of judgment, but that it did not know this of it self, but by virtue of its union with the divine nature. But our Saviour absolutely says, that the Son did not know it. And therefore others more reasonably have distinguilhed between his human nature and divine, and though as God he could not be ignorant of any thing, yet his human understanding did not know it. And it is not unreasonable to suppose, that the divine wisdom which dwelt in our Saviour, did communicate itself to his human soul according to his pleasure ; and so his human nature might át fome times not know some things. And if this be not admitted, how can we understand that passage concerning our Saviour, Luke, ii. 52. That Jesus grew in wisdom and stature; or as the word viroxía may more fitly be translated, in age, and in favour with God and man? For if the human nature of Christ did nécessarily know all things by virtue of its union with the divinity, he could not then, as man, be said to grow in wisdom.
And this I think may be sufficient for the clearing of this difficulty, concerning the Son's not knowing the