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speak of the goodly stones and gifts with which it was adorned. This seems at the first view a circumstance of little importance; but it shows in a very strong light with what perfect fidelity and minute accuracy every thing is described in the sacred writings. For it appears from the historian Josephus, that there was scarce any thing more remarkable in this celebrated temple than the stupendous size of the stones with which it was constructed. Those employed in the foundations were forty cubits, that is above sixty feet, in length; and the superstructure, as the same historian observes, was worthy of such foundations, for there were stones in it of the whitest marble, upwards of six. ty-seven' feet long, more than seven feet high, and nine broad,*
It was therefore not without reason that the disciples particularly noticed the uncommon magnitude of the stones of this superb temple, from which, and from the general solidity and strength of the building, they probably flattered themselves, and meant to insinuate to their divine Master, that this unrivalled edifice was built for eternity, was formed to stand the shock of ages, and to resist the utmost efforts of human power to destroy it. How astonished then and dismayed must they have been at our Saviour's answer to these triumphant observations of theirs! Jesus said unto them, “See ye not all those things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." This is a proverbial expression, used on other occasions to denote entire destruction; and therefore had the temple been reduced to ruins in the usual way, the prophecy would have been fully accomplished. But it so happened that this prediction was almost literally fulfilled, and that in reality scarce one stone was left upon another. For when the Romans had taken Jerusalem, Titus ordered his soldiers to dig up the foundations both of the city and the tem ple. The Jewish writers also themselves acknowl
* Josephus de Bell. Jud. 1. x. c. 5.
† Jos. de Bello Jud. Į. vii. c. i. p. 170. B.
edge, that Terentius Rufus, who was left to command, the army, did with a plough-share tear up the foundations of the temple ;* and thereby fulfilled that prophecy of Micah.t "Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field.” And in confirmation of this remarkable circumstance, Eusebius also assures us, that the temple was ploughed up by the Romans; and that he himself saw it lying in ruins. The evangelist next informs us, that as Jesus sat on the mount of Olives, which was exactly opposite to the hill on which the temple was built, and commanded a very fine view of it from the east, his disciples came unto him privately, saying, "Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world." The expressions here made use of, the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world, at the first view naturally lead our thoughts to the coming of Christ at the day of judgment, and the final desolution of this earthly globe. But a due attention to the parallel passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, and a critical examination into the real import of those two phrases in various parts of Scripture, will soon convince a careful inquirer, that by the coming of Christ is here meant, not his coming to judge the world at the last day, but his coming to execute judgment upon Jerusalem; and that by the end of the world is to be understood, not the final consummation of all things here below, but the end of that age, the end of the Jewish state and polity; the subversion of their city, temple and government.
The real questions therefore here put to our Lord by the disciples were these two:
1st. At what time the destruction of Jerusalem was to take place: "Tell us, when shall these things be?" 2dly. What the signs were that were to precede it; "What shall be the sign of thy coming?"
* See Whitby in Loc.
† Chap. iii. 12.
Euseb. Dem. Evang. 1. vi. 13.
See Mark xiii. 4: Luke xxi. 7. Matth. xxiv. 4, 5; xvi. 28. John xxi. 22. The word aion (here translated the world) frequently means nothing more than an age, a certain definite period of time. See Matth. xxiv. 6. 14. Mark xiii. 7. Luke xxi. 9. compared with verse 20.
Hebrews ix. 26.
Our Lord in his answer begins first with the signs, of which he treats from the 4th to the 31st verse, inclusive.
The first of these signs is specified in the 5th verse, "Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. ""
This part of the prophecy began soon to be fulfilled; for we learn from the ancient writers, and particularly from Josephus, that not long after our Lord's ascension several impostors appeared, some pretending to be the Messiah, and others to foretel future events. The first were those whom our Lord here savs should come in his name, and were therefore false Christs. The others are alluded to in the eleventh verse, under the name of false prophets: "Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many." Of the first sort were, as Origen informs us,* one Dositheus, who said that he was the Christ foretold by Moses; and Simon Magus, who said he appeared among the Jews as the Son of God. Besides several others alluded to by Josephus.†
The same historian tells us, that there were many false prophets, particularly an Egyptian, who collected together above thirty thousand Jews, whom he had deceived, and Theudas a magician, who said he was a prophet, and deceived many; and a multitude of others, who deluded the people even to the last, with a promise of help from God. And in the reign of Nero, when Felix was procurator of Judæ, such a number of these impostors made their. appearance, that many of them were seized and put to death every day.§
The next signs pointed out by our Lord are these that follow. "Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet: for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places: all these are the beginning of
* Origen: Adv. Cels. 1. 1 and 6. † De Bell. Jud. 1. i. p. 705.
That there were in reality great disturbances and commotions in those times, that there were not only rumours of wars, but wars actually existing, and continued dissentions, insurrections, and massacres among the Jews, and other nations who dwelt in the same cities with them, is so fully attested by all the historians of that period, but more particularly by Josephus, that to produce all the dreadful events of that kind which he enumerates, would be to transcribe a great part of his history. It is equally certain, from the testimony of the same author, as well as from Eusebius, and several profane historians, that there were famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. It is added in the parallel place by St. Luke,* "that fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." And accordingly Josephus, in the preface to his history of the Jewish war, and in the history itself, enumerates a great variety of astonishing signs and prodigies, which he says preceded the calamities that impended over the Jews, and which he expressly affirms, in perfect conformity to our Saviour's prediction, were signs manifestly intended to forebode their approaching destruction. And these accounts are confirmed by the Roman historian Tacitus, who says that many prodigies happened at that time; armies appeared to be engaging in the sky, arms were seen glittering in the air, the temple was illuminated with flames issuing from the clouds, the doors of the temple suddenly burst open, and a voice more than human was heard, "that the gods were departing ;" and soon after a great motion, as if they were departing.‡
The sign next specified by our Saviour in the ninth and the four following verses, relates to the disciples themselves. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." The parallel passages in St. Luke and St. Mark are still stronger, and more par
*Luke xxi. 11.
† Jos. Proem. sect. 11. p. 957. De Bell. Jud. 1. vi. e. 5. s. 3 p. 1281-82. & 1. 7. c. 30. Tacitus 1. v. p. 25.
ticular. St. Mark says, "they shall deliver you up to the councils: and in the synagogue ye shall be beaten ; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them."* St. Luke's words are, "They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake." That every circumstance here mentioned was minutely and exactly verified in the sufferings of the apostles and disciples after our Lord's decease, must be perfectly wellnown to every one that has read the Acts of the Apostles. You will there see that the lives of the apostles were one continued scene of persecution, affliction, and distress of every kind; that they were imprisoned, were beaten, were brought before councils, and sanhedrims, and kings; were many of them put to death, and were hated of all nations, by the heathens as well as by the Jews, for the sake of Christ; that is, for being called by his name. The very name of a Christian was a crime; and it exposed them to every species of insult, indignity, and cruelty.
To all these calamities was to be added another, which we find in the tenth verse. "Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." The meaning is, that many Christians, terrified with these persecutions, shall become apostates from their religion, and renounce their faith; for that is the meaning generally of the word offend in the New Testament. That this would sometimes happen under such trials and calamities as the first Christians were exposed to, we may easily believe, and St. Paul particularly mentions a few who turned away from him, and forsook him; namely, Phygellus, Hermogenes, and Demas.‡ The other circumstance here predicted, "that the disciples should betray one another," is remarkably verified by the testimony of the Roman historian Tacitus, who, in describing the persecution under Nero, tells us, "that several Christians were at first apprehended,
* Mark xiii. 9.
† Luke xxi. 12.
2 Tim. i. 15. iv. 10.