Lawrenceburg, Ky., December 24, 1863.
"Will brother J. F. Johnson, of Kentucky, give through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES his views on Mark xiii. 13,14,19 and 20, more especially on the words, 'But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, [let him that readeth understand,'] and oblige your brother in bonds, if a brother at all?"
BROTHER BEEBE: - I find in the last received number of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES (Vol. 31, No. 23) the above request, and, as I have a little leisure, will try to accommodate my brother, if you think what I write worth publishing. The whole connection reads, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains ... for in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days no flesh should be saved; but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days."
It will appear by referring to the preceding part of the chapter in which this language is recorded that one of the disciples called the attention of the Savior to the magnificent buildings that composed the temple at Jerusalem; and the reply was, "There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?" The Lord then warned them to beware of deceivers, that would come in his name, and told them of fearful signs that should precede the dreadful catastrophe, among which were wars, earthquakes, famines and other troubles, but these were only the beginning of sorrows. He further informed them that they should be delivered up to councils, beaten in the synagogues, brought before rulers and kings for his sake for a testimony against their persecutors, upon whom the indignation of his wrath was soon to be poured out to the uttermost; informing them, however, that the gospel must first be preached among all nations. Let me remark here, that it is evident from the preceding part of this chapter that Jesus was telling of signs that should be developed - circumstances should transpire before the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. The commandments in Matt. xxviii. 19, 20, Mark xvi. 15, and Luke xxiv. 46, 47, correspond precisely with the text just quoted, all of which were literally complied with by the apostles to whom the command was given antecedently to that destruction, as is clearly shown in Col. i. 23, wherein Paul assures us that this gospel was preached to every creature under heaven, and also in Mark xvi. 20, where it is said, "And they (the apostles) went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following." Those commandments were given to the apostles and to none others; therefore all the carping and caviling of Arminians about preaching the gospel to every creature is but the result of an ignorance of the scriptures. Not one, nor the whole of them combined, ever have or ever will contribute one mite in compliance with the requisitions contained in those texts, nor has it been required of any save the apostles, and of course not of work-mongers, who have neither part nor lot in the matter. After informing the disciples that when they were led and delivered up the Holy Ghost should dictate what they should say, Jesus told them of the fratricidal course that some would pursue, and then says, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved."
From this language we may judge of the turpitude, malignity and depravity of sinful man and his native opposition to all that is good. It is a sad reflection that nothing will incite and stir up his hatred to a higher pitch than native goodness. It is a fact too palpable and undeniable that nothing increases the intensity of that hatred more than a spurious religion, one built upon the theory of works, the works of depraved man for the salvation of sinners. The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience, possesses an aptitude in training the minds of graceless professors to hate the truth that is truly astonishing. Almost all the persecutions, perhaps ninety-nine percentage of them that have raged against the saints in all ages, have been set on foot and propelled onward by professors of religion, who, having a form of godliness, deny the power thereof. One making no pretensions to religion, and uninfluenced by false professors, can generally award to the christian, in a good degree, the justice that his character deserves. But no sooner are graceless men initiated into the school of anti-christ than the heart is prepared and the seed of hatred to the true disciple of Christ sown, which seldom fails to produce a copious crop. Against no one is the hatred of work-mongers more implacable than the spotless Lamb of God. Mark, it is not the persons of his followers that are the object of their hate; nay, it is for His Name's sake. Ah, says one, I like the man well enough, but that abominable doctrine that he preaches and holds. Yes, that's the trouble. If they only would know something else besides Christ and him crucified all would be well enough. He spake an immutable truth, one that his followers in all ages have verified, when he said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before you." Christ crucified was the great stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek, and why? The Jews concluded that circumcision and the keeping of the law were the great means of salvation, and by getting the masses to believe that their salvation depended upon the efficiency of those means, the false prophets and priests, as the instruments, were enabled to wield a great power over both their persons and purses; hence it was said in old time, "The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests bear rule by their means," &c.- Jer v. 31.
The Greeks relied upon their wisdom and ingenuity, acquired by learning or scientific knowledge, by the aid of which they had built a magnificent temple, in which they placed a famous goddess. The clergy, by administering in the temple, and other ingenious ones by making silver shrines or cases in which models of the temple and goddess were contained, acquired much wealth. When Christ crucified was preached by the apostles as the way of salvation, their craft was in danger, their ire incited, and they cried out, being full of wrath, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." More recently Arminians have blended the two theories in order to bear rule and acquire wealth. They have fully endorsed the means doctrine, by which, (as the false prophets and priests did,) they exercise much power over such as they get to regard them as "instrumental saviors," and then, instead of a magnificent temple at Ephesus, they have various ones built in different localities; and instead of the famous goddess Diana, they have an imaginary one that wants to save everybody, but can't for want of more efficiency in the means; and instead of silver shrines, (as they prefer using the precious metal otherwise,) they have substituted paper ones, (tracts,) in which to encase the models of their temples and idol; and when the servants of God preach Christ crucified as being amply competent to save his people, they both stumble and (seeing their craft in danger) cry out, Great are our "benevolent institutions." This endangering of their craft, and consequently their gain, soon engenders their hatred toward Christ and his humble followers, [although they use his name for the sake of deceiving,] therefore the saints in all ages have felt the effects of their hatred just in proportion as they have exhibited the image of Christ in the doctrine, ordinances and practice that he has instituted. But the faithful followers of the Lamb who patiently endure the hatred and opprobrium that is exercised toward them have a solacing reflection to sustain them, for it is affirmed by the Savior that "the same shall be saved." How submissively should the despised pilgrims await the consummation of the will of their heavenly Father, with a faith relying upon the assurances that the Captain of their salvation has given them of their final deliverance from the hatred, the persecution, and all other evils that sin or a sinful world can afflict them with. "A faith so much divine may trials well endure." But patience and resignation to the divine will is all-important to the christian.
"What cannot resignation do?
It wonders can perform;
That powerful charm, Thy will be done,
Can lay the loudest storm."
But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains;" and he further adds, "Let him that is on the housetop not come down," &c. This abomination of desolation is spoken of by the prophet Daniel in the ninth chapter of his prophecy, wherein he says, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy." In the same connection we are informed by the prophet that Jerusalem should be built to Messiah the Prince, who was to be cut off, but not for himself. The Lord says, "For the transgression of my people was he smitten." The great work of redemption thus accomplished by him was as the funeral knell of the old covenant, which was to be folded up as a useless garment and laid aside as a threadbare vesture, when the former heavens were to be rolled together as a scroll, their powers shaken to their final overthrow. The great anti-type of all the former types and shadows had appeared, the great sacrifice to which all others pointed being made, the temple worship was soon to cease forever, the magnificent superstructure to be razed to its foundation, so, that not one stone was to be left upon another. It was to cease forever to be a rallying point for the carnal crowd to meet with their significant oblations; no longer were the bellowing herds and bleating flocks to throng the streets of the "holy city" made with hands; all, all were to give place to the one great offering for sin, and instead of carnal ordinances imposed on carnal Jews until the time of reformation, the sacrifices of thanksgiving and solemn praises were to ascend to heaven from hearts smitten with the love of God. To close up the temple service the abomination of desolation was to be seen standing where it ought not. This abomination is spoken of by Daniel in the ninth and eleventh chapters of his prophecy, and evidently had reference to the Roman army which was to desolate the city and people of the Jews. It is said, therefore, in Daniel ix. 26, "And the people and the prince (the Roman soldiery with Titus at their head) shall come and shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." That sanctuary that was held sacred from the tread of a Gentile was to be desecrated by the Roman legions. It was a great abomination in the estimation of the Jews for a Gentile to enter the "holy sanctuary." One of the grave charges made against Paul, when at Jerusalem, was that he had taken Greeks into the temple and polluted the holy place. According, therefore, to their laws and customs, this abomination was seen standing where it ought not. "Let him that readeth understand" seems to have been a caution to the disciples to hasten their flight when those things were seen, and hence it is said, "Let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains," for they could no longer find protection within the walls of the sacred and desolated city; "and let him that is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house," as the housetops were so constructed as to afford the most speedy exit from the city. As another precautionary sign to the disciples the Savior said, (Mat. xxiv. 28,) "For wheresoever the carcass is there will the eagles be gathered together;" and it has been said that when the disciples saw the likenesses of the eagles on the Roman standards they immediately fled, thereby escaping the destruction.
It is said in the 19th and 20th verses, (the last ones on which my brother has requested my views,) "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be; and except that the Lord had shortened those days no flesh should be saved; but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days." It is appalling in the extreme to read the history of Josephus and others, who have depicted the terrible calamity that befell the Jews in that dreadful visitation. Famine, pestilence and the sword raged in their most terrific forms. Famine to that degree that mothers ate their own children; pestilence so alarming that thousands of victims lay prostrated in its pallid wake; the sword so fearful that the streets and avenues of the city were literally flooded with human gore. But why was it that it should exceed in severity anything that had been from the beginning of the creation, or should be? Because the Lord had not before, nor has he since the Jews, favored any nation with so many peculiar blessings as he did them; and likewise no nation has ever proved so recreant; none have more deeply revolted than they. He had raised them from a very small to a very great nation, watched over them with the vigilance of the kindest father, spread his protecting wings over them as a hen would over her brood to protect them, opened his bountiful hand and profusely scattered down blessings from the heavens, and caused the earth to teem with abundant plenitude to supply their wants, shed down the light of revelation like a pillar of fire to brighten their pathway to true greatness. And yet often did they sink into the grossest idolatry, were guilty of the basest lewdness and violent treachery, stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, they forsook their God - would none of his counsels, they killed his prophets and stoned such as he sent to them, and to crown the climax of their ignominy, when the Savior of sinners was sent into the world they betrayed and murdered him. Said he, "They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof; therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices; for the casting away of the simple shall slay them and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." The dreadful judgments that destroyed the Jewish nation should be a fearful warning to nations that have had the light of revelation and abused it. May our own profit by the example.
"But for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days." Is it not astounding to see how soon the hatred and wrath of graceless men are evinced at the bare mention of the name of the elect, when we have recorded in the scriptures so many instances of signal blessings having been conferred upon the ungodly for their sake? Not only were the scenes of death and carnage stayed in the devoted city of Jerusalem on their account, but throughout, the world, in all ages, they have proved to have been a blessing to the very enemies that have been their most cruel persecutors. Why, "for tens' sake," (only ten of the elect,) the great cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would have been saved from the terrible storm of fire and brimstone that destroyed them. Abraham and the children of faithful Abraham (or the elect) were made a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Solomon said, in Prov. xi. 11, "By the blessing of the upright (or elect) the city is exalted;" and the Lord said, in Ezek. xxxiv. 26, "I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessings." Time would fail us to tell of the various instances wherein the elect have been a blessing to their most inveterate persecutors, but let it suffice us to say that, while suffering all this, they ever have been the very salt of the earth, to which it owes its preservation; but still they are regarded and treated by graceless professors of religion as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things.
"But let not all this terrify,
Pursue the narrow path;
Look to the Lord with steadfast eye,
And fight the fight of faith."
Why should not the elect be a blessing to all around them? The spirit that their blessed Lord breathes in them teaches them to love their enemies, bless those who curse, do good to such as hate them, and pray for them who despitefully use and persecute them.
Dear brethren and sisters, though the scowl and hatred of our enemies be upon us day by day, though the hand of persecution and the tongue of calumny may be against us incessantly, let us endeavor to imitate the example of our blessed Lord, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously. Then "fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity; for they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb." - Ps. xxxvii. 1, 2. Read the whole psalm, and then let patience have her perfect work but a little while, and we shall be delivered forever from all the fiery trials that afflict us here. Soon, too, will God avenge his own elect that cry unto him day and night. As sure as God reigns retributive justice will be meted out in due time to all his and his elect's enemies; yea, as certainly as it was at the destruction of Jerusalem. The Lord has said, "Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm," and woe to those who disregard the mandate. His elect, who were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, loved with an everlasting love, blessed with all spiritual blessings in him and kept by his almighty power, must and will be preserved, "though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea."
Then, O my Father's children, trust in him, wait upon him. The tocsin of war will be heard no more forever, and,
"Soon the joyful news will come,
Child, your Father calls, come home."
"The saints should never be dismayed,
Nor yield to hopeless fear;
For when they least expect his aid,
The Savior will appear."
J. F. JOHNSON.