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to the prophetic character. As in all things he must have the pre-eminence, so in this instance he was eminently distinguished from other prophets by the clearness, the extent, and the importance of his predictions. He foretold many events which would seem to be regulated by the caprice of men; and others which depend purely upon the will of God. He foretold some events so near at hand, that we find the Scripture recording both the prophecy and its fulfilment. Of this class were the predictions of his own death and resurrection and ascension into heaven, the down-pouring of the Holy Spirit, and the setting up of his kingdom, &c. He foretold other events which took place a few years after the canon of Scripture was closed, and the complete fulfilment of which we learn from contemporary historians. Of this class was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, and the distress and misery that should come upon that devoted people, when the measure of their iniquity should be filled up by their crucifixion of the Son of God; and this is the subject on which I must now endeavour to fix your attention.
We have, as you all probably 'know, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, a remarkable prophecy which our Lord delivered concerning the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem.* We find, from the context, that Jesus had been teaching in the temple and had closed his discourse with a pathetic lamentation over the distress which awaited the Jewish nation. As he was retiring from the temple towards the Mount of Olives, the disciples, struck with the severity of an expression which he had used" Behold your house is left unto you desolate”—as if to move his 'compassion and mitigate the sentence, pointed out to him, as he passed along, the buildings of the temple, and the "goodly stones and gifts with which it was adorned. This led him "to remark, “ Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”-a proverbial expression, denoting the complete destruction of that stupendous superstructure. The multitude probably pressing around our Lord as he went out of the temple, the disciples forbore to ask any particular explica
** We have the same subject also in Mark xüi. and Luke xxi.
CHRIST'S PREDICTION OF THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM. 159
tion of his words till they were come to the Mount of Olives. That mount was at no great distance from Jerusalem, and its site was over against the temple, so that any person standing or taking a seat upon it had the whole building full in view. Deeply impressed with what they had heard, and anxious to receive the fullest information concerning the fate of the city of their solemnities, the disciples next propound the question to their divine master" Tell us,” say they, “when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world”—or Jewish age.
In reply to this enquiry, Jesus first gives them a number of signs, which should attend or precede this great event : such as, that many false Messiahs, or impostors, should arise, deceiving many--that great calamities were to happen during the interval —that his own followers should be severely persecuted, which would be the occasion of much apostacy and treachery on the part of many who bore his name and, finally, that false teachers should arise in the churches, who either from an attachment to the laws of Moses (as in the case of the Judaizers), or from the pride of false philosophy, 'would corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel. Such were the signs that should announce that the time was at hand, when the destruction of the temple should take place. He then foretels the circumstances of the siege.
1. Jerusalem was to be encompassed with armies; or, as it is expressed ver. 15, “ the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, should be seen standing in the holy place." Another circumstance by which our Lord marks the siege is the unparalleled distress that was then to be endured': “ There shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time: no, nor ever shall be,” ver. 21. A third circumstance mentioned is the shortening of the siege for the elect's sake, ver. 22; intimating that the pressure of calamity would be such as must inevitably issue in the ruin or extirpation of the whole Jewish people, should it be protracted. And, lastly, the extent of this distress, which is intimated by a bold figure :: “ As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even to the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be: For wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered
together," ver. 27, 28. Let us now enquire briefly how these predictions were accomplished.
This prophecy of the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem was uttered at a time when Judæa was in complete subjection to the Romans. A governor resided in Jerusalem with an armed force, and the country, no longer at enmity with the masters of the world, was regarded as a province of the Roman empire. There was, indeed,' prevalent among the Jews, a general indignation at the Roman yoke, a tendency in the minds of the people to sedition and tumult, and a fear in the council lest these sentiments should at some time be expressed with such violence as to provoke the Romans to take away their place and nation. It was, in fact, the turbulent spirit, and the repeated insurrections of the Jewish people, which did incense the Romans; and a person well acquainted with the disaffection which generally prevailed, and the character of those who felt it, might foresee that the public tranquillity would not continue long, and that this sullen, stiff-necked people were preparing for themselves, by their murmurings and violence, more severe chastisements than they had endured at the time they were reduced into the form of a Roman province. But though a sagacious and enlightened mind, which rose above vulgar prejudices and looked forward to remote consequences, might foresee such an event, yet the manner of the chastisement—the signs which were to announce its approach-the method in which it was to be adminiştered—and the length of time during which it was to continue -all these were out of the reach of human foresight. There is a particularity in this prophecy, by which it is clearly distinguished from the conjectures of political sagacity. It embraces a number of contingencies, depending upon the caprice of the people, upon the wisdom of military commanders, and upon the fury of the soldiers. The author of a new religion must have been careless of his reputation, and of the success of his scheme, if he ventured to foretel such a number of improbable events, without knowing certainly that they were to come to pass ; and it required not the wisdom of man, but the spirit of prophecy, to foresee that all of them would concur before the generation that was then alive upon the earth passed away; for to that short pe
TESTIMONY OF JOSEPHUS.
riod, Christ had limited the approaching calamities. Yet the Lord Jesus uttered this prophecy forty years before the event took place. The prophecy was not lạid up after it was uttered, like the pretended oracles of the heathens, in some repository, where it might be corrected by the event; but having been brought to the remembrance of those who heard it spoken, by the Spirit which Jesus sent into the hearts of his apostles, after his ascension, it was committed to writing, and published to the world, previously to the time of the fulfilment. We know that the apostle John lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem, and it is not certain whether he wrote his gospel before or after that event: but John has omitted the prophecy altogether. Our knowledge of it is derived from the other three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, whose Gospels were carried by the Christian converts into all parts of the world, while the city and temple were yet standing, and they were early translated into different languages, which were quoted in the succeeding age, and were universally held by the first Christians as books of authority--the standards of faith. In these books, thus authenticated to us, we find various intimations of the destruction of Jerusalem, by parables and short hints, interwoven in the thread of the history, while all the three contain the same long and particular prophecy, with a trifling variety of expression, but without the least discordance or even alteration of the sense. The main part of this prophecy has been most strikingly fulfilled, and there are parts which are fulfilling even in our day.
The accomplishment of the prophecy we learn not from Christian writers only, but from an author whose witness is unexceptionable, because it is not the witness of a friend ;-we have it from a man who seems to have been preserved by Providence in order to transmit to posterity a circumstantial account of this memorable siege. I refer to Josephus, a Jew, who wrote a history of his country, and has also left a relation of that war in which Jerusalem was destroyed. In the beginning of the war he was a military officer, commanding a detachment in Galilee ; but, the place where he was stationed being besieged by Vespasian, he made his escape with forty other persons, after a gallant resistance, and, with his companions, hid himself in a cave. Vespasian, having discovered their lurking place, offered them
their lives, on condition of their surrendering to the Romans. Josephus would have accepted the offer, but his companions refused to give themselves up. With a view to prolong the time, he prevailed upon his companions to cast lots who should die first:—the lots were cast two by two; and he who is Sovereign of the universe, and disposeth the lot, so ordered it that, of the forty, thirty-nine were killed by the hands of one another, and one only was left with Josephus. This man yielded to his entreaties, and, instead of drawing lots which of them should kill the other, they went together and offered themselves to Vespa- . sian. The miserable fate of their companions procured them a kind reception; and, from that time, Josephus remained in the Roman camp, an eye-witness of every thing that happened during the siege ; and to him the world is indebted for a faithful and circumstantial relation of those extraordinary events, in which we find an exact accomplishment of our Lord's prediction.
It would be incompatible with the limits of this Lecture to quote from the pages of Josephus the narrative which he has furnished us of the sanguinary contest which desolated the country before the Roman army began to lay siege to the city, or even of the events that accompanied the siege. Many of our ablest writers, as Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, Drs. Lardner, Jortin, Newcome, and others have done this, and, by setting the narration of the historian over against our Lord's prophecy, they have demonstrated the exact accomplishment of the latter. "To their writings, some of which are now in every one's hands, I refer you; or rather let me recommend it to you to go to the pages of the Jewish historian yourselves, and read them as a commentary on the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, if you have not already done it; keeping in mind, as you proceed, that Josephus was not a Christian, but a Jew.* I must content myself with offering a few general remarks on the prophecy and its accomplishment.
The great Temple which Solomon had built was destroyed, you know, at the time of the Babylonish captivity. Cyrus permitted the two tribes, who returned to Judæa, to rebuild the house of their God; and this second temple was repaired and
* See Josephus's Works, translated by Whiston, 8vo. edition, vol. iv.