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other way, itis all without knowledge or understanding. -Let it suffice for the present, to have thus spoken upon this passage by way of exposition.
A SERMONOF CONSOLATION ON THE COMING
OF CHRIST AND THE SIGNS THAT SHALL
LUKE xxi. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth, distress of nations through perplexity, &c.
In the Gospel for to-day, Christ our Lord gives us a particular declaration of the state of things that there shall be in the world, when the end thereof shall be at hand. Whence we may be instructed as to the time when that great and terrible day shall be near, when our Lord Jesus Christ shall openly come himself unto judgment; so that we may not be compelled to remain in doubt, nor to fluctuate through any uncertain opinions. Nay, he plainly tells us the particular signs which shall be in that latter time, and which shall usher in that great day. And indeed, it is not likely that so great an event as the signal and ultimate change of all things, should not be marked with many and great signs, when the much less important changes in countries and kingdoms take place according to predicted signs.
But, as this Gospel has already been copiously set forth before, so that it is well understood by all, and many are fully acquainted with it, I shall not here speak of the doctrine which it contains, but shall treat of it in another way, to the glory of God and our consolation. For it is to that end published abroad by preaching, and committed to writing. that it may serve and be for a consolation to the faith and hope of us who preach Christ, and of us who believe in him. And although it is calculated to alarm that scum of the rest of mankind whom the signs are intended to awaken, yet, such is its nature, that they are not moved by those signs, but look upon them with an unconcerned security of mind. Wherefore, we shall pay no regard to them, but leave them to our God and their judge who is to come, and who will render unto them their reward; so that they shall feel, in their own external experience, what it is that they would not regard or believe. We however, ourselves, will make this Gospel administer to our profit, by so treating of it, as that it may be to us a sweet and gladdening sermon, and may not be left recorded in vain, nor lose its power and virtue.
And of this consolation we have abundant need; because, it is evident that the signs themselves are sufficiently terrible, and exhibit an alarming sight; and moreover, real Christians are of themselves extremely fearful, and of little courage; whom, when even beholding any examples of the indignation of God, the sound of a leaf may strike almost dead with fear. Whereas, the ungodly are by these things rendered the more secure, and the more hardened; being such, whom no signs, however great and alarming, can move. And this is indeed a lamentable reversion of things. For those to whom these signs ought especially to be a source of gladness, are filled with fear because of them : whereas, those whom God threatens by those signs, have feelings of horn and hearts of stone. Whence it comes to pass, that they cause no concern, and appear to be of no concern to them, to whom all things that speak of and threaten the future wrath and impending indignation of God belong; while, on the other hand, those, who ought not to be alarmed at these signs, but should rather rejoice on account of them, as being messengers not of wrath, but of grace only and consolation,
are wrongly filled with fear by them, and are with difficulty brought to raise their hearts to the conception of those joyful and consolatory thoughts which they ought to entertain.
There are, in this Gospel, two THINGS to be observed by us.
First: that Christ enumerates in order those signs that shall precede the last day, and by which it may be known that it is even at the doors. Secondly: that he predicts those sings for the consolation of his Christians, to the intent that they may expect his coming with a gladly waiting and happy mind.
The first sign, then, which he says shall appear, shall be from heaven in the moon and stars : that is, as he himself explains it, Matt. xxiv. “ The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.” And then that there shall be “ in the earth distress of nations." With such perplexity shall men be filled, that they shall not know which
way to turn themselves, or where to remain, but shall melt away with fear. And moreover, there shall be signs beheld in the sea and in the waters. So that all the creatures and the powers of heaven shall be shaken, and the earth shall quake; as an old building, threatening to fall, afterwards utterly gives way and drags its ruins along with it. So that, a something
a strikingly awful shall forewarn, that the world will soon come to an end, and that the last day is even at the door.
Again, before the last day of judgment, there will be many men whom the devil will drive and torture by an evil conscience and by dire temptations, and will press them into such straits, that they shall not know which way to turn or where to abide. But let the devil thus vex and terrify, yet shall he not hurt those, who are such as God never intended to alarm or condemn like the wicked and ungodly, but who are of a fearful and tender mind, and would willingly receive consolation and be converted, and who can find no comfort or counsel, but as God himself delivers them out of their afflictions of
conscience, and comforts them by his Word. But do thou fear and take heed to thyself, who, with such security and delight, despiseth all those things by which God threatens thee!
Unto this sign pertains that which Christ here saith also that men's hearts shall fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: that is, many shall be troubled in heart, and shall go about as though death-struck with alarm, and having a foretaste of the evils to come, under the fear of which, their hearts shall fail them, and they shall melt away with the greatness of the trouble and sorrow; even as great distress is wont to destroy the natural body, and as a hidden consumption drinks up the marrow out of the bones; as the wise man saith in the Proverbs.
And such signs as these are to be deeply felt, not on account of what they are in themselves, but much more especially on account of what they are unto thee. For if thou despise them, thou shalt feel them much more awfully hereafter: not, however, the signs themselves, but those things which are pre-signified by them : that is, everlasting terror, trembling, pain, and hell fire. For if these signs are to be borne by the righteous upon earth, and to be felt externally and temporally, what shall we say will be borne by those on whose account the signs are given, and whom God especially warns by them? By which, however, they are are not in the least moved, but only become worse, and will do so until they experience what is meant by them; for they only rejoice while the just are grieved and in sorrow.
It is, indeed, a most trying thing to behold such awful and terrible signs, which fill the minds even of many ungodly men with great fear, (as Christ here saith,) at the sight of which they are seized with trouble; and indeed it is by no means a consoling sight. But, if thou be a Christian, look neither at the external appearance of these signs, nor at that which thou thyself feelest, but look at the necessity of thyself and of the whole world. For as to myself, unless that day should at last come, I should wish I had never been born, And if thou fot awhile lay aside every other care, and consider in thy mind what is the present face of things, thou wilt see how it fares with us and with the Gospel in the world which so cruelly persecutes us while driven about by the devil, and so illiberally despises and scorns us; which rises up against us with such curses, reproaches, criminations, and insults, and mocks us with such bitter taunts and geers; which so ungratefully returns our kindnesses, and rages against us with such hostile, virulent, and bitter hatred. Thou wilt see, moreover, with what a number of ungodly, deceitful, and lying men we are surrounded from without and from within; from whom we have to suffer daily violence, injury, rapine, and theft; and so much so, that no trace of discipline, of reverence, of fear, of punishment, or of good morals, is to be seen; and the more men know of the doctrine of the Word of God, the worse they daily become, and will suffer no check or reproof in even a humanly becoming manner, but spurn it with indignation. Therefore, we receive no other reward for preaching the Gospel, than derision, mockery, and diabolical hatred; which is to Christians bitter indeed, and cuts them sharper than a sword,
Ought we not then to pray and stand on our watchtower night and day, and call upon Christ our Lord that he would at length exercise his severity, and send all these things to destruction, so that these detestable iniquities may have an end, and that all such offences may be taken out of the world? For if we be not in the end saved from these things, we shall be by far the most wretched of all mortals that ever were born. We are not only to look at the loss and destruction of a wicked world, and how it is to fare with them, but what grief is brought upon us Christians, and upon God himself, because his Word is so despised, treated with ignominy, and blasphemed, and his preachers loaded with every insult in deed and word, and with every kind of injury: for all preaching to, entreating, rebuking, admonishing and threatening the world, are useless and in vain. Therefore, the sight of these signs ought to be unto us a