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providence of God will make a distinction between his faithful and his disobedient servants, and will protect and preserve the former, but leave the latter to be taken or destroyed by their enemies; although they may both be in the same situation of life, may be engaged in the same occupations, and may appear to the world to be in every respect in similar circumstances.
Here ends the prophetical part of our Lord's discourse; what follows is altogether exhortatory. It may be called the moral of the phrophecy, and the practical application of it not only to his immediate hearers, but to his disciples in all future ages; for this concluding admonition most certainly alludes no less to the final judgment than to the destruction of Jerusalem, and applies with at least equal force to both. Indeed the prophecy itself, although in its primary and strictest sense it relates throughout to the destruction of the temple, city, and government of Jerusalem, yet, as I have before observed may be considered, and was probably intended by Jesus, as a type and an emblem of the dissolution of the world itself, to which the total subversion of a great city and a whole nation bears some resemblance. But with respect to the conclusion, there can be no doubt of its being intended to call our attention to the last solemn day of account; and with a view of its producing this effect, I shall now press it upon your minds in the very words of our Lord, without any comment, for it is too clear to require any explanation, and too impressive to require any additional enforcement. "Watch ye therefore, for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and a wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall
make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming; and begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
IN my last Lecture I explained to you that remarkable prophecy respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, which is contained in the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew; and by a reference to the historians who record or mention that event, I proved to you the complete and exact accomplishment of that wonderful prediction in all its parts. And this, in a common case, I should have thought fully sufficient for your satisfaction. But this prophecy stands so eminently distinguished by its singular importance, and the great variety of matter which it embraces, and it affords so decisive, so irresistable a proof of the divine authority of our religion, that it appears to me to be well worthy of a little more attention and consideration. I shall therefore, before I proceed to the next chapter, make such further remarks upon it, as may tend to throw new light upon the subject, to shew more distinctly the exact correspondence of the prediction with the event, and to point out the very interesting conclusions that may be drawn from it.
And first I would observe, that, in some instances, the providence of God seems evidently to have inter
posed in order to bring about several of the events, which Jesus here alludes to or predicts. Thus, in the twelfth year of Nero, Cestius Gallus, the president of Syria, came against Jerusalem with a powerful army; and, as Josephus assures us, he might, had he assaulted the city, easily have taken it, and thereby have put an end to the war. But without any apparent reason, and contrary to all expectation, he suddenly raised the siege, and departed. This, and some other very incidental delays, which took place before Vespasian besieged the city, and Titus surrounded it with a wall, gave the Christians within an opportunity of following our Lord's advice, and of escaping to the mountains, which afterwards it would have been impossible for them to do.
In the same manner the besieged inhabitants themselves helped to fulfil another of our Saviour's predictions, that those days should be shortened; for they burnt their own provisions, which would have been sufficient for many years, and fatally deserted their strongest holds, where they never could have been taken by force, the fortifications of the city being considered as impregnable. Titus was so sensible of this, that he himself ascribed his success to God. "We have fought, said he to his friends, with God on our side; and it is God who hath dragged the Jews out of their strong holds; for what could the hands of men and machines do against such towers as these ?"+
In the next place, it is worthy of remark, that at the time when our Lord delivered this prophecy, there was not the slightest probability of the Romans invading Judæa, much less of their besieging the city of Jerusalem, of their surrounding it with a wall, of their taking it by storm, and of their destroying the temple so entirely, as not to leave one stone upon another. The Jews were then at perfect peace with the Romans. The latter could have no motives of interest or of policy to invade, destroy, and depopulate a country, which was
De Bell. Jud. 1. 2. c. 19.
Newton's Dissert, on Prophecy, v. 2. p. 276.
already subject to them, and from which they reaped many advantages. The fortifications too of the city were (as I have before observed) so strong, that they were deemed invincible by any human force, and it was not the custom of the Romans to demolish and raise the very foundations of the towns they took, and exterminate the inhabitants, but rather to preserve them as monuments of their victories and their triumphs.
It could not therefore be from mere human sagacity and foresight that our Saviour foretold these events; or had he even hazarded a conjecture respecting a war with the Romans, and the siege of Jerusalem, yet he could only have done this in general terms; he could never have imagined or invented such a variety of minute particulars as he did predict, and as actually came to pass.
It is indeed of great importance to observe the surprizing assemblage of striking circumstances, which Christ pointed out in this prophecy. They are much more numerous than is commonly supposed, and well deserve to be distinctly specified.
They may be arranged under three general heads. The first consists of those signs that were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem.
And these signs were, false Christs, false prophets, rumours of wars, actual wars, nation rising against nation, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, fearful sights, the persecution of the apostles, the apostacy of some Christians, and the treachery of others, the preservation of Christ's faithful disciples, and the propagation of the Gospel through the whole Roman world.
The second head is the commencement of the siege. Under this head are specified the distinguishing standard of the Roman army, the eagle, with the images of their gods and their emperors affixed to it.
The idolatrous worship paid to this standard, called the abomination, for so it was to the Jews.
The planting of this standard, near the holy city, and afterwards in the very temple.
The desolation which the Roman armies spread around
The escape of the Christians to the mountainous country round Jerusalem.
The inconceivable and unparalleled calamities of every kind which the wretched inhabitants endured during the siege; and the shortening of those days of vengeance on account of the Christians.
The third head is, the actual capture of Jerusalem by the besieging army.
And here it is foretold, "that not one stone of its magnificent buildings should be left upon another;" that the temple, the government, the state, the polity of the Jews, should be utterly subverted and lastly, that all these things should happen before the then present race of men should be extinguished.
If now we collect together the several particulars here specified, they amount to no less than twenty-two in number. A larger detail of minute circumstances than is to be found in any other of our Lord's prophecies; and all these we see actually fulfilled in the history of Josephus, and other ancient writers; and it is extremely remarkable that his description of the siege of Jerusalem, like this prophecy, is more minutely circumstantial and more spread out into detail, than the account of any other siege that we have in ancient history. It should seem therefore as if this historian was purposely raised up by Providence to record this memorable event, and to verify our Saviour's predictions. And indeed no one could possibly be better qualified for the task than he, from his situation and circumstances, from his integrity and veracity, and above all from the opportunities he had of being perfectly well acquainted with every thing he relates.
He was born at Jerusalem, under the reign of the emperor Caligula, and about seven years after our Lord's crucifixion. He was of a noble family; on his father's side descended from the most illustrious of the high priests; and on his mother's side, from the blood royal. At the age of nineteen, after having made a trial