Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Lukexxi. 5. how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, Jerusalem,
Mark xü.l. and saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones

and what buildings are here !
cluded in, either of those events. They imagined, perhaps, &
great and awful change in the physical constitution of the uni-
verse, which they probably expected would occur within the
term of their own lives; but they could have no conception of
what was really meant by the expression which they employed,
the coming of Christ. “ From their very childhood,” says a
judicious and penetrating commentator, “they imagined that
the temple would stand to the end of time: and this notion
was so deeply fixed in their minds, that they regarded it as im-
possible for the temple to be overthrown, while the structure
of the universe remained. As soon therefore as Christ told them
that the temple would be destroyed, their thoughts instantly
ran to the consummation of all things. Thus they connect
with the destruction of the temple, as things inseparable, the
coming of Christ and the end of the world." Rosenmüller ob-
serves on this passage, “it is certain that the phrase » ouvTÉNELA
Toữ aiūvos, is understood in the New Testament (Matt. xiii.
39, 40. 49. xxviii. 20.) of the end of the world. The disciples
spoke according to the opinions of their countrymen, and be-
lieved that the end of this world, and the beginning of a new
one, would follow immediately upon the destruction of the
temple(6).

The coming of Christ, and the end of the world, being there,
fore only different expressions to denote the same period as
the destruction of Jerusalem, the purport of the disciples
question plainly is, When shall the destruction of Jerusalem
bommand what shall be the signs of it? The latter part of the
question is the first answered, and our Saviour foretells, in the
clearest manner, the signs of his coming, and the destruction
of Jerusalem. He then passes on to the other part of the
question, concerning the time of bis coming. History is the
only certain interpreter of prophecy, and by a comparison of
the two, we shall see with what stupendous accuracy the latter
has been accomplished. Our blessed Saviour foretells, as the
first sign of his coming, that there should be false prophets,
(Matt. xxiv. 4, 5.) adding (Luke xxi. 8.) the time draweth near;
and we find, in a very short time after, this prophecy began to
be realized. Very soon after our Lord's decease, Simon Magus
appeared, and bewitched the people of Samaria, &c. (Acts viii.
9, 10.) See also Acts xxi. 38.

or the same stamp and character was also Dositheus, the Samaritan, who pretended that he was the Christ foretold by Moses.

About twelve years after the death of our Lord, when Cus. pius Fadus was procurator of Judea, arose ap impostor of the name of Theudas, who said he was a prophet, and persuaded a great multitude to follow him with their best effects to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide for their passage ; and saying these things, says Josephus, he deceived many: almost the very words of our Lord.

A few years afterwards, under the reign of Nero, while Felix was procurator of Judea, impostors of this stamp were so frequent, that some were taken and killed almost every day. Jos. Ant. b. xx. C. 4, and 7. It was a just judgment for God to deliver up that people into the hands of false Christs, who had so wil. fully rejected the true one.

The next signs given by our Lord, are, Wars and rumours

Еe

Mark xiii. 2. And Jesus answering, said unto them, Seest thou these Jerasalem.

great buildings?
of wars, &c. These may be seen in Josepbus, (b. xviii. c. 9. War.
b. xi. c. 10.) especially as to the rumours of wars, when Caligula
ordered his statue to be set up in the temple of God, which the
Jews having refused, had every reason to expect a war with the
Romans; and were in such consternation on the occasion, that
they even neglected to till the ground: but their fears were
soon dissipated by the timely death of that emperor.

“ Nation shall rise against nation." This portended greater
disturbances than those which took place under Caligula, in the
latter times of Claudius, and in the reign of Nero. It foretold
the dissensions, insurrections, and mutual slaughter of the Jews,
and those of other nations, who dwelt in the same cities to-
gether; as particularly at Cesarea, where the Jews and Syrians
contended about the right of the city, which ended in the total
expulsion of the Jews, above 20,000 of whom were slain. The
whole Jewish vation being exasperated at this, flew to arms,
and burnt and plundered the neighbouring cities and villages
of the Syrians, making an immense slaughter of the people.
The Syrians, in return, destroyed not a less numher of the
Jews. "At Scythopolis they murdered upwards of 13,000 ; at
Ascalon they killed 2500; at Ptolemais they slew 2000, and
made many prisoners. The Tyrians also put many Jews to
death, and imprisoned more: the people of Gadara did like-
wise, and all the other cities of Syria in proportion, as they
hated or feared the Jews. At Alexandria the Jews and Heathens
fought, and 50,000 of the former were slain. The people of
Damascus conspired against the Jews of that city, and assault-
ing them unarmed, killed 10,000 of them.

« Kingdom against kingdom." This portended the open wars
of different tetrarchies and provinces against each other. That
of Jews and Galileans against the Samaritans, for the murder
of some Galileans going up to the feast of Jerusalem, while
Cumanus was procurator. That of the whole nation of Jews
against the Romans and Agrippa, and other allies of the Ro-
man empire, which began when Gessius Florus was procu-
rator; and that of the civil war in Italy, while Otho and Vitel-
lius were contending for the empire. It is worthy of remark,
that the Jews themselves say, “ In the time of the Messialı,
wars shall be stirred up in the world; nation shall rise against
nation, and city against city.” Sohar Kadash. Again, Rab.
Eleasar, the son of Abina, said, “When ye see kingdom rising
against kingdom, then expect the immediate appearance of the
Messiah.” Berashith Rabba, sect. 42.

“ There shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes
in divers places.” And we find a famine foretold by Agabus,
(Acts xi. 28.) which is mentioned by Suetonius, Tacitus, and
Eusebius, which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cesar;
and was so severe at Jerusalem, that Jospephus says, (Ant.
b. xx. c. 2.) many died for lack of food. Pestilences are the
usual attendants of famines; as the scarcity and badness of
provisions generally produce epidemic disorders. There were
several earthquakes likewise in those times to which our Lord
refers ; particularly one at Crete, in the reigo of Claudius; one
at Smyrna, Milctus, Chios, and Samos. See Grotius; one at
Rome, mentioned by Tacitus; and one at Laodicea, in the
reign of Nero, in which the city was overthrown, as were like-
wise Hierapolis and Colosse. See Tacit. Annal. lib. xii. and
lib. xiv. one ; at Campania, mentioned by Seneca ; and one at
Rome, in the reign of Galba, mentioned by Suetonius, in the

Mat. xxiv.2. See ye not all these things?

Jerusalem. Luke xxi. 6. As for these things which ye behold,

life of tbat emperor. Add to all these a dreadful one in Judea,
mentioned by Josephus, (War, b. iv. C. 4.) accompanied by a
dreadful tempest, violent winds, vehemert showers, and conti-
nual lightnings and thunders; which led many to believe that
these things portended some uncommon calamity.

“ That there shall be fearful sights and great signs from
heaven,” (chap. xxi. 11.) Josephus, in his preface to the
Jewish war mentions that a star hung over the city like a
sword; and a comet continued a whole year. The people
being assembled at the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth
hour of the night, a great light shone about the altar and the
temple, and this continued for half an hour. The eastern gate
of the temple, which was of solid brass, and could hardly be
shut by twenty men, and was fastened by strong bars and bolts,
was seen at the sixth hour of the night to open of its own ac-
cord! Before sunsetting there was seen, over all the country,
chariots and armies fighting in the clouds, and besieging cities.
At the feast of Pentecost, when the priests were going into the
inner temple by night, to attend their service, they heard first
a motion and noise, and then a voice as of a multitude, saying,
“Let us depart hence.” What Josephus reckons one of the
most terrible signs of all was; that one Jesus, a country fellow,
four years before the war began, and when the city was in
peace and plenty, came to the feast of tabernacles, and ran crying
up and down the streets, day and night: “A voice from the East,
a voice from the West! a voice from the four winds! a voice
against Jerusalem and the temple! a voice against the bride-
groom and the bride! and a voice against all the people!"
Though the magistrates endeavoured, by stripes and tortures,
to interrogate him, they could obtain ito answer but the mouro-
ful cry of, “Woe, woe to Jerusalemı!” and this he continued
to do for several years together, going about the walls, and
crying with a loud voice, " Woe, woe to the city, and to the
people, and to the temple !” and, as he added, “Woe, woe to
myself,” a stone from some sling or engine struck him dead on
the spot!

Tbese were indeed fearful signs and wonders ; and there is
not a more credible historian than the one who relates them,
who appeals to the testimony of those who saw and heard them.
But an additional evidence is given to his relation by the Ro-
man historian Tacitus, who presents ils with a summary ac-
count of the same occurrences; and as “ the testimonies of
Josepbus and Tacitus confirm the predictions of Christ, so the
predictions of Christ confirm the wonders recorded by these his-
torians (c).” But these were only the beginnings of sorrows,
(Matt. xxiv. 8.) and from the calamities of the nation in general,
Christ passes to those of the Christians in particular, (xxiv. 9.
Mark xiii. 9, 11. Luke xxi. 13, 14. 15.) We need look no fur.
ther than the Acts of the Apostles for a melancholy proof of the
truth of their predictions. But although the followers of
Christ's religion were persecuted beyond measure, it is a re-
markable fact, and a signal act of Divine Providence, that none
of the Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. So
literally was that assertion fulfilled, “There shall not an hair
of your head perish.” And, notwithstanding the persecutions
and calamities of the Christians, it was prophesied, '“ This Gos-
pel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a
witness unto al nations, and then shall the end come.” And
accordingly we find, from the writers of the history of the

Mat. xxiv.2. Verily I say unto you,

Jerusalem. Church, that before the destruction of Jerusalem the Gospel was not only preached in the Lesser Asia, and Greece, and Italy, but as far northward as Scythia, as far southward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia and India, and as far westward as Spain and Britain. Agreeably to this, Eusebius (d) informs us, that the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the world, and some of them (probably either St. Simon or St. Paul,) passed beyond the ocean to the Britannic Isles. Theodoret likewise affirms, that the Apostles had induced every nation and kind of men to embrace the Gospel, among whom he reckons particularly the Britons; and St. Paul himself de clares, the Gospel " is come into all the world, and preached to every creature under beaven;" and (in Rom. x. 18.) he elegantly applies to the lights of the Church these words of the Psalmist, “Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” And all this was fulfilled to convince every nation of the crying sin of the Jews, in crucifying the Lord of glory, and of the justice of God's judge ment upon them. And then came the end, the time of the de. struction of Jerusalem, and of tho Jewish polity, when the abomination of desolation stood in the holy place. The verses (15 and 16 of Matt. xxiv.) are explained by the parallel passage in Luke xxi. 20, 21. The Roman army, is the desolation of abomination spoken of by Daniel the prophet, chap. ix. and xi. and it'is so called, from its ensigns and images, which were abomi. dations to the Jews; and Josephus informs (e) us, that after the city was taken the Romans brought these ensigns into the temple, placed them over against the eastern gate, and there sacrificed to them.

" Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains." This counsel was remembered, and wisely followed by the Christians afterwards. And we find it accordingly most providentially ordered, that Jerusalem should be encompassed with armies, and yet that the Christians should have favourable opportunities of making their escape. Josephus (sect. iv. p. 1102. edit. Hudson) tells us that Cestius Gallus, in the 12th year of Nero, if " he had been inclined to break through the walls of the city by force, he instantly would have taken it, and put an end to the war;" but, contrary to the expectation of all, and without any just cause, he departed. Vespasian was deputed in his place, as governor of Syria, and to carry on the wars against the Jews; apd when he had subdued all the country, and was preparing to besiege Jerusalem, the death of Nero, and soon afterwards that of Galba, compelled him, from the disturbances and civil wars that ensned in his own country, to defer for some time bis plan of operations against Jerusalem. These apparently incidental delays enabled the Christians to provide for their safety; and Eusebius and Epiphanius inform us, that all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem, and fled to Perea, and other places beyond the river Jordan. Josephus also remarks, after the retreat of Cestius Gallus, “ Many of the illustrious Jews departed from the city, as from a sinking ship.” After this period, when Vespasian was confirmed in the empire, Titus surrounded the city with a wall, thirty-nine furlongs in dimensions, strengthened with thirteen forts, so that, Josephus says, “ with all means of escaping, all hope of safety was cut off from the Jews.” So marvellously did our blessed Saviour ensure, by his prophecy, deliverance to those who believed on him, and had faith in his promises: and so always “ The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of tempta

Lake xxi.6. the days will come, in the which

Jerusalem tions," 2 Pet. ii. 9. The houses of the Jews, as well as those of the Greeks and Romans, were flat upon the top, forming continued terraces from one end of the city to the other, which generally terminated at the gates. Our Saviour makes use of the expressions in Mark xiii. 15. and Matt. xxiv. 18. to signify that the departure of the Christians must be as sudden and hasty as Lot's from the destruction of Sodom.

“ For then shall be great tribulation.” No history can furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews : Rapine, Murder, Famine, and Pestilence within; Fire and sword, and all the horrors of war without. Our Lord wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for any humane person to read the relation of them in Josephus, with. out weeping also. St. Luke, chap. xxi. 22. calls these the days of vengeance, that all things which were written might be fulfilled. These were the days in which all the calamities predicted by Moses, Joel, Daniel, and other prophets, as well as those foretold by our Saviour, met in one common centre, and were fulfilled in the most terrible manner on that generation. These were the days of vengeance in another sense, as if God's judgments bad certain periods and revolutions; for it is remarkable, that the temple was burnt by the Romans on the same month, and on the same day of the month, on which it had been burned by the Babylonians. See Josephus, War, b. vi. c. 4. Josephus computes the number of those who perished in the siege at eleven hundred thousand, besides those who were slain in other places, War, b. vi. c. 9.; and if the Romans had gone on destroying in this manner, the whole nation of the Jews would in a short time have been entirely extirpated: but, for the sake of the elect, (the Jews,) that they might not be entirely destroyed, and, for the Christians particularly, the days were shortened.

Josephus relates, that the Jews themselves first set fire to the porticos of the temple, and then the Romans ; when one of the soldiers, neither waiting for the word of command, nor fearing to perpetuate such an action, but hurried on by a divine impulse, threw a burning brand in at the golden window, and thereby set tire to the buildings of the temple itself. But Titus was still for preserving the holy place, but the anger and hatred of his soldiers against the Jews overcame their reverence for their general ; a soldier in the dark set fire to the doors, and thus, as Josephus says, “ the temple was burnt, contrary to the will of Cesar.” The Romans burnt the extremest parts of the city, and dug up the foundations of the walls, reserving only three towers, and a part of the wall, as a memorial of their own valour, and for the

better encampment of the soldiers. Afterwards, we read in the Jewish Talmud, and in Maimonides, that Terentius Rufus, who was left to command the army, did with a ploughshare toar up the foundation of the temple, thereby signally fulfilling the prophecy of Micah iii. 12. Eusebius too, affirms, that it was ploughed up by the Romans, and that he saw it lying in ruins. So literally were our Saviour's words accomplished in the ruin, and desolation of the city and of the temple. Josephus further asserts, that there was no part of Judea which did not partake of the calamities of the capital city. The Romans pursued, and took, and slow the Jews every where, fulfilling again that prediction, Wherosoever the carcase is (the Jewish nation, morally and judicially dead,) there will the eagles (the Romans, whose ensign was an eagle) be gathered together.

Jerusalem also, according to the prediction of our Lord, was 'lo bo trodden down by the Gentiles. Accordingly it has never

« AnteriorContinuar »