Imágenes de páginas

of all the different sects of the Jews, he embraced that of the Pharisees; and at the age of twenty-six he made a journey to Rome, to obtain from Nero the release of some Jewish priests, who had been thrown into bonds by Felix the procurator of Judæa. He succeeded in this business; and on his return to Jerusalem found his countrymen resolved on commencing hostilities against the Romans, from which he endeavoured to dissuade them, but in vain. He was soon after appointed by the Jewish government to the command of an army in Galilee, where he signalized himself in many engagements; but at the siege of Jotapata was taken prisoner by Vespasian, and afterwards carried by Titus to the siege of Jerusalem, where he was an eye-witness of every thing that passed till the city was taken and destroyed by the Romans. He then composed his history of the Jewish war, and particularly of the siege and capture of Jerusalem, in seven books; which he first wrote in Hebrew, and afterwards in Greek, and presented it to Vespasian and Titus, by both of whom it was highly approved, and ordered to be made public. And it is in this history that we find the accomplishment of all the several facts and events relative to the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem, which our Saviour foretold forty years before they happened, and which have been above recited. This history is spoken of in the highest est terms by men of the greatest learning and the soundest judgment, from its first publication to the present time.

The fidelity, the veracity, and probity of the writer, are universally allowed; and Scaliger in particular declares, that not only in the affairs of the Jews, but even of foreign nations, he deserves more credit that all the Greek and Roman writers put together.* Certain at least it is, that he had that most essential qualification of an historian, a perfect and accurate knowledge of all the transactions which he relates; that he had no prejudices to mislead him in the representation of them; and that, above all he meant no favour to the Christian cause.For even allowing the so much controverted passage, in * In Prolegom. ad opus de Emendatione Temporum.

which he is supposed to bear testimony to Christ, to be genuine, it does not appear that he ever became a convert to his religion, but continued probably a zealous Jew to the end of his life.

From this account it is evident, that we may most securely rely on every thing he tells us respecting the siege of Jerusalem: and that nothing can more completely demonstrate the truth of our blessed Lord's predictions, than the uncorrupt, impartial, and undesigned testimony given to their completion by this justly celebrated historian.

Here then we have a proof, which it is impossible to controvert, of our Saviour's perfect knowledge of future events, which belongs solely to God, and to those inspired and sent by him; which of course establishes, in the clearest manner, the divine mission of Christ, and the divine origin of our religion.

The only pretence that can possibly be set up against this prophecy is, thst it was not delivered by our Saviour previous to the destruction of Jerusalem, but inserted afterwards by St. Matthew and the other evangelists, subsequent to that event. This may undoubtedly be said, and any thing may be said by those whose trade is objection and cavil: but can it be said with the smallest appearance of truth? Is there the slightest ground to support it? Most certainly not. It is a mere gratuitous assertion without the least shadow of proof; and an opposite assertion is a sufficient answer to it.— We deny the fact; and call upon our adversaries to prove it, if they can they have never so much as attempted it. Not even the earliest enemies of our faith, those who were much nearer the primitive ages, and much more likely to detect a fraud in the evangelical writers (if there were any) than modern infidels, even these never intimate the slightest suspicion that this prophecy was inserted after the event.

But besides this, there are good grounds to believe, not only that the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where this prophecy is related, were written and published before the destruction of Jerusalem, but that


the writers of them were all dead before that event. is also well known, that both St. Peter, and St. Paul, who allude in their Epistles to the approaching ruin of Jerusalem (which they learnt from our Lord's predictions,) and who had seen and approved the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke were put to death under Nero, and Jerusalem was not taken till the succeeding reign of Vespasian.

It should be observed further, that although this prophecy is by far the fullest, and clearest, and most distinct, that our Lord delivered respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, he plainly, though briefly alludes to it in several other parts of the Gospels.† And these occasional predictions of that event are so frequent, and so perfectly agree with this larger prophecy, they are introduced so incidentally in the way of parables, or in answer to some question; they arise, in short, so naturally from the occasion, and are so inartificially inter⚫ woven into the very essence and substance of the nar. rative, that they have every imaginable appearance of having formed an original part of it, and cannot possibly be considered by any good judge of composition as subsequent or fraudulent insertions.

Indeed such a fabrication as this would have been the silliest and most useless fraud that can be imagined.— For it is very remarkable that the sacred writers make no use of this prophecy as a proof of our Saviour's divine powers, or of the truth of his religion. They appeal frequently to the ancient prophecies concerning him, to his miracles, and above all to his resurrection, as evidences that he was the Messiah, and the Son of God; but they never appeal to the accomplishment of this prophecy in support of those great truths, though certainly a very natural and important proof to be adduced in favour of them,

But that which ought, with every reasonable man, to be decisive of the question, is this, that three of the

Newton on

*Acts ii. 19. 1 Pet. iv. 7. Phil. iv. 5. 1 Thess. ii. 16. Proph. v. 2. p. 225. Jortin's Remarks, vol. i. p. 49.

Matth. xxii. 1-7; xxiii. 33-39. Luke xix. 41-44; xiii. 1-5 ;

&c. &c.

evangelists out of four concur in giving us this prophecy, as a part of their history of our Lord, and as actually delivered by him at the period assigned to it, which we know was nearly forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Now we have no more reason to doubt their veracity in this point than in any other; and if, on the strength of their character, on the evident marks of integrity, simplicity, and truth, which appear appear in every page of their writings; and above all, if in consequence of their undergoing the bitterest sufferings as an evidence of their sincerity, we give implicit credit to what they tell us respecting the life, the death, the doctrines, the miracles, and the resurrection of Christ, there is the very same reason for admitting the genuineness of this prophecy. It stands on the same solid grounds of their veracity and probity, as the rest of the Gospel does; and when men lay down their lives, as they did, in confirmation of what they assert they have surely some right to be believed,

We may then safely consider this prophecy as an unquestionable proof of the divine foreknowledge of our Lord, and the divine authority of the Gospel; and on this ground only (were it necessary) we might securely rest the whole fabric of our religion. Indeed this remarkable prediction has always been considered, by every impartial person, as one of the most powerful arguments in favour of Christianity; and in our own times, more particularly, a man of distinguished talents and acknowledged eminence in his profession, and in the constant habit of weighing, sifting, and scrutinizing evidence with the minutest accuracy in courts of Justice, has publicly declared, that he considered this prophecy, if there were nothing else to support Christianity, as absolutely irresistible.*

See Mr. Erskine's eloquent speech at the trial of Williams, for publishing Paine's Age of Reason; to which I must beg leave to add the weighty and important testimony f that most able and upright judge, Lord Kenyon, who, in his charge to the jury on the same occasion made this noble cONFESSION OF


"I am fully impressed with the great truths of religion, which, thank God, I was taught in my early years to believe; and which the hour of reflection and enquiry, instead of creating any doubt, has fully confirmed me in." How

But our Lord's predictions respecting this devoted city do not end even here. He not only foretels the entire destruction of Jerusalem, but the continuance of its desolation and subjection to heathens, and the dispersion and captivity of the Jews for a long period of time. For if we turn to the parallel place in St. Luke, we shall find him expressing himself in these words, respecting the Jews and their city; "they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."* That is, not only vast numbers of the Jews shall perish at the siege of Jerusalem, partly by their own seditions, and partly by the sword of the enemy, but multitudes shall also be made captives, and be dispersed into all countries; and Jerusalem shall remain in a state of desolation and oppression, trampled upon and trodden down by heathen conquerors and rulers, till all the Gentiles shall be converted to the faith of Christ, and the Jews themselves shall acknowledge him to be the Messiah, and shall be restored to their ancient city.

The former part of this prophecy has been already most exactly fulfilled, and is an earnest that all the rest will in due time be accomplished. The number of Jews slain during the siege was upwards of one million one hundred thousand, and near three hundred thousand more were destroyed in other places in the course of the wart. Besides these as Josephus informs us, no less than ninety-seven thousand were made captives and dis persed into different countries, some into Egypt, some to Cæsarea, some carried to grace the triumph of Titus at Rome, and the rest distributed over the Roman provinces; and the whole Jewish people continue to this hour scattered over all the nations of the earth.

vain are all the idle cavils of the whole tribe of infidels put together, when con, trasted with such a declaration as this from such a man!

Since this note was written, the public has to lament the loss of this truly great man. But he is now at rest from his virtuous labours; and he will long be remembered and revered, not only by his own profession, but by all descrip tions of men, as the firm friend and intrepid protector of the laws, the constitution, the morals, and the religion of this country.

* Luke xxi. 24. † Bell. Jud. 1. 2, 3, 4, 7, &c. ‡ Jos. Bell. Jud. 1. vi. c. 9.

« AnteriorContinuar »