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When this was written, in the year 1857-no one could foresee how soon the mightiest struggle, and the most glorious victory as yet recorded in human annals, would save the United States from this fearful trial, and secure the future existence of an absolute self-governing freedom not to be permanently kept in check by any local Cæsarianism.
We rise from a perusal of Theodor Mommsen's History of Roine with the conviction that it is a very valuable contribution to our knowledge of the progress and decline of that remarkable commonwealth; exhibiting far more fully and accurately than any other work with which we are acquainted the condition of the masses, their religious faith, their degree of culture, their advance in the arts of life, their literary and social privileges, and, in short, all those elements which go to make up the sum of their happiness or misery. Both in this respect, and in the skillful dramatization of the narrative of the political events, it is by far the most natural and life-like delineation of the ancient Romans. We hope that the author may be permitted to continue it, if not through the history of the Western Empire, at least to the point where Gibbon's great work commences. The American publishers deserve the thanks of the reading public for introducing the work to them in a style, upon the whole, superior to that of the English edition. They are, moreover, entitled to special commendation for appending to the last volume an index to the entire work. Strange as it may seem, the English edition, a part of which has been a number of years before the public, is destitute of one; and in this, we believe, it follows the original German issue. An omission of this kind is certainly scarcely pardonable in any work of permanent value, and intended not for rapid perusal, but for close study, comparison, and consultation. But it is the less excusable when the equally flagrant offense is committed of inarrowing down the table of contents to the bare heading of chapters. Our own opinion is, that no labor expended in perfecting the appliances for reference in a historical or scientific work, or even in a book of travels, is thrown away. The admirable arrangement of Prescott's works might well be imitated in all sirnilar cases; in which not only is the alphabetical index exhaustive, but in the extended table prefixed to each volume a separate line is generally given to the subject
of each page. On the other hand the reader of Kirk's Charles the Bold, until the long deferred publication of the third volume, was absolutely without any means of referring to any given topic contained in the first two volumes.
We must, in conclusion, express our regret at the method which Dr. Mommsen has adopted regarding the authorities upon which his history is based. Not that we approve the plan of overburdening the text with a mass of notes, critical and illustrative, so numerous and detailed as to break in upon the continuity of the narrative proper-a fashion not a little in vogue among his own countrymen. But the practice of the modern school of French historians, of omitting all reference to the writers to whom they owe their information, is far more objectionable. Not only is it unfair to the reader, who, after all, is scarcely to be expected to put implicit faith in statements which the historian disdains to support by alleging his grounds, but it is highly demoralizing to the writer himself. It cultivates recklessness of assertion, careless and superficial investigation, inaccurate and unwarranted generalizations; for it relieves the historian of all fear of that immediate detection which is sure to overtake him if he bases his false assertions on garbled quotations. Independently of these considerations, such a method is a positive injury to the progress of scientific investigation. It entails upon subsequent writers the task of beginning again virtually at the same point where their predecessors commenced, and of laying again the same foundations, instead of rearing a superstructure upon the foundations laid by others. The earlier part of Roman history, in particular, treats of so many controverted questions, and turns so much upon struction that is to be put upon obscure passages, or the credit that must be given to conflicting assertions of classical writers, that no other method but that of constant and ample citation would seem to be appropriate.
Art. II.-AN INQUIRY INTO THE MEANING AND AIM
OF MATTHEW XXIV, 1-36. In order to ascertain the true meaning of our Lord's prophecy in this chapter, the most important point unquestionably is, the starting point. And to start right, we must set out from the stand-point of Jesus and his disciples. The disciples, as will appear, regarded both his predictions and their own question from one stand-point, while Jesus regarded them from a point of view entirely different from theirs. Both these facts must enter as elements into the interpretation, in order that we may ascertain the true point of departure.
It will be assumed, at present :
1. That this portion of the discourse was designed, 1) To guard the disciples and their successors against deception, hence that initial, “ Take heed ;” 2) To introduce suitably the grand theme of the discourse—the general judgment.
2. That, with these ends in view, Jesus corrects some of their mistaken ideas concerning the two great coming events in the world's history : 1) The establishment of his mediatorial kingdom on the earth ; and, 2). The winding up of that kingdom at his second personal coming “to judge the quick and the dead.”
3. That every passage in the discourse is to be construed as relating to the one or the other of these events, according to its obvious meaning rather than its local position.
4. That the seeming confusion of the two events arises mainly from these facts: 1) The two events are carried along side by side through this portion of the discourse, sometimes one being referred to, sometimes the other, so as to make the contrast more apparent, and enable the disciples to discriminate more readily and certainly between them. 2) The transitions from one thought to another, as was common in our Lord's sayings, and as was characteristic of the Aramaic language in which he probably uttered them, were abrupt, leaving the mind of the hearer to supply the connecting thoughts. 3) We have no report of the discourse in the language in which it was spoken, but only a translation of it into a language quite different in its structure and genius. 4. We have no full report of the discourse in any language, not even by Matthew, but only a pretty full outline; as is evident from a comparison of the three evangelists reporting it.
5. That this mixed portion of the discourse is continued through the thirty-fifth verse, when the former subject is dropped, and the latter carried forward to the end of the twenty-fifth chapter.
It is believed that, bearing these propositions in mind, it will not be difficult to ascertain the meaning and application of every part of the discourse, so that the whole shall appear consistent, harmonious, and adapted to the ends contemplated. We shall not need the theory of double prophecy, though some prophecies may have a double meaning; we shall not need to correct the translation, though in some instances the translation could be very much improved. We shall want a little help, and only a little, from the fragmentary reports of Mark and Luke; and shall find great assistance in ascertaining the stand-point of Jesus and his disciples, by a careful study of what had just before taken place in the temple.
According to this theory of interpreting the discourse, it will appear that the beginning and the ending of Messiah’s kingdom are the two principal subjects considered; that the notions of the disciples concerning these two events were defective, confused, erroneous; that in correcting their dangerous mistakes, our Lord shows that in connection with the first of these events, and for which he had now come, Jerusalem and Judaism should perish; but in connection with the second, and for which he would come again, the world should be destroyed. And we should remark in passing, that, while the destruction of Jerusalem, and the consequent subversion of Judaism, was by no means the first fact in the establishment of Christ's kingdom, it was nevertheless an essential fact. It completed the transfer of God's line of operations in subjugating the world from Judaism to Christianity. It was the formal relinquishment of the former, and adoption of the latter in its stead.
It is quite evident, from a comparison of the different reports of the transaction, either that Matthew has misstated the
question of the disciples, or that they did not understand the full import of their own inquiry; that Peter, and James, and John,
and Andrew, did not mean all that their words meant. But if we suppose that Matthew gives the question as they asked it, and that Mark and Luke give it as they meant it, then the statements harmonize. And they harnionize not only with each other, but with Christ's answer also; which answer, upon any other supposition, will be found irrelevant.
1. What was the question, as the disciples intended it?
Mark and Luke agree substantially, and Mark's statement of it is this: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled ?” But according to Matthew, the latter member of the question is in these words: “And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world !” It appears, then, that the disciples understood Christ's coming and the end of the world, whatever their ideas of those events might be, as part of these things” which Jesus had just predicted; and that all “these things -second advent and the end of the world included would be fulfilled in the fulfillment of his prediction.
But it is not at all likely that by “the end of the world” they meant the destruction of this mundane sphere; or, that by “thy coming,” they had any idea of his coming, as he applies it, to wind up the affairs of his kingdom by the general judgment. For, 1. They shared fully the prevalent Jewish expectation of a temporal kingdom, or at least a terrestrial kingdom. This expectation they never abandoned until some time after his resurrection, possibly not until the day of Pentecost. 2. They did not understand as literal Christ's predictions of his own death and resurrection. . 3. His mysterious utterances in the temple, only a few minutes before, were yet fresh in their minds. They had heard his terrible denunciation of the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees; they had listened to his pathetic lamentation over the doomed city; they had heard him tell the people that he was about to leave them, to return no more until they should be prepared to welcome him back as the expected Messiah; and they had just now heard him predict the utter overthrow of their beautiful temple.
In view of all these considerations, it is probable—alınost certain-1. That by the end of the world," (ouvrenelaç toï aíôvos,) the disciples understood and meant the termination of the present order of things, involving the overthrow of all hostile powers,