Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

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 war.* Besides these, as Josephus informs us, no less than ninety-seven thousand were made captives and dispersed 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 ;f and the whole Jewish people continue to this hour scattered over all the nations of the earth.

With respect to their city, it has remained for the most part in a state of ruin and desolation, from its destruction by the Romans to the present time; and has never been under the government of the Jews themselves, but oppressed and broken down by a succession of foreign masters, the Romans, the Saracens, the Franks, the Mainalukes, and last by the Turks, to whom it is still subject. It is not therefore only in the history of Josephus, and in other ancient writers, that we are to look for the accomplishment of our Lord's predictions ; we see them verified at this moment before our eyes, in the desolated state of the once celebrated city and temple of Jerusalem, and in the present condition of the Jewish people, not collected together into any one country, into one political society, and under one form of government, but dispersed over every region of the globe, and every where treated with contumely and scorn.

There was indeed one attempt made to rebuild their temple and their city, and restore them to their ancient prosperity and splendour. It was made too for the express and avowed purpose of defeating that very prophecy we have been consider ing; and the event was such as might be expected from the folly and presumption of the man who dared to oppose the designs of Providence, and to fight against God. This man was the emperor Julian, who, as you all know, was first a Christian, than apostatized from that religion, professed himself a pagan, and became a bitter and avowed enemy to the Gospel. This prince assured the Jews, that if he was successful in the Persian war, he would rebuild their city, restore them to their habitations, re-establish their governinent and their religion, and join with them in worshipping the great God of the uni

He actually begun this singular enterprise, by attempting to rebuild their temple with the greatest magnificence. He

verse.

* Bell. Jud. I. 2, 3, 4, 7, &c.

† Josephus Bell. Jud. I. vi. c. 9.

assigned immense sums for the structure; and gave it in charge to Alypius of Antioch, who had formerly been lieutenant in Britain, to superintend the work. Alypius exerted himself with great vigour, and was assisted in it by the governor of the province. But soon after they had begun the work, dreadful balls of fire bursting out from the foundations in several parts, rendered the place inaccessible to the workmen, who were frequently burnt with the flames; and in this manner, the fiery element obstinately repelling them, forced them at length to abandon the design. The account of this extraordinary miracle we have not only from ancient Christian writers of credit, who lived at the very time when it happened, but from a heathen author of great veracity, Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote the history of Roman affairs from Nerva to the death of Valens, in the year 378. Though he wrote in Latin, he was a Greek by birth. He had several honourable military commands under different emperors ; was with Julian in his Persian expedition, in the year 363, and was a great admirer of that emperor, whom he makes his hero; yet acknowledges that his attempt to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem was defeated in the manner I have mentioned.* The fact is frequently appealed to by the Christians of those days, who affirm that it was in the mouths of all men, and was not denied even by the atheists themselves ; and “if it seem yet incredible to any one, he may repair (say they) both to witnesses of it yet living, and to them who have heard it from their mouths ; yea, they may view the foundations, lying yet bare and naked.” And of this, says Chrysostom, all we Christians are witnesses ; these things being done not long since in our own time. I

Such are the testimonies for this miracle, which are collected and stated with great force by the learned Bishop Warburton, in his work called Julian; and most of them are also admitted by Mr. Gibbon, who, in his recital of this miracle, acknowledges that it is attested by contemporary and respectable evidence; that Gregory Nazianzen, who published his account of it before the expiration of the same year, declares it was not disputed by the infidels of those days, and that his testimony is confirmed by the unexceptionable testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus. ||

I now proceed to the explanation of the next chapter, the

* Ammianus Marcellinus, l. xxiii. c. 1. p. 350.
+ Sozomen. Hist. Eccles. 1. v. c. 22. p. 632. D. 633. B.

Chrys. adv. Judæos. Orat. iii. p. 436.
History of the Roman Empire, v. ii. p. 388.

25th of St. Matthew, which begins with presenting to us two parables, that of the ten virgins, and that of the servants of a great Lord entrusted with different talents, of which they are called upon to render an account. As these parables contain nothing that requires a very particular explanation, I shall content myself with observing, that they they are designed to carry on the subject with which the preceding chapter concludes; namely, that of the last solemn day of retribution ; and the object of both is to call our attention to that great event, and to warn us of the necessity of being always prepared for it. Thus in the parable of the ten virgins, the five that were wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps, and when the bridegroom appeared, they were ready to receive him, and went in with him to the marriage. But the five that were foolish took no oil with them; and while they went to procure it, the bridegroom unexpectedly came, and the door was shut against them. The application is obvious, and is given by our Lord himself in these words, “ watch ye therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour when the Lord cometh.”

In the same manner, in the parable of the talents, he that had received the five talents, and he that had received the two, did, during the absence of their Lord, so diligently cultivate and so considerably improve them, that when at length he came to reckon with them, they returned him his own again with usury, and received both applause and reward; while that slothful and indolent servant, who had received only one talent, and instead of improving it, went and hid it in the earth, when his Lord came and required it at his hands, was severely reprimanded for his want of activity and exertion, and was cast out as an unprofitable servant into outer dark

وو

ness.

This, like the former parable, was plainly meant to intimate to us that we ought to be always prepared to meet our Lord, and to give him a good account of the use we have made of our time, and of the talents, whether many or few, that were entrusted to our care.

After these admonitory parables, and these earnest exhortations to prepare for the last great day, our blessed Lord is naturally led on to a description of the day itself; and it is a description which for dignity and grandeur has not its equal in any writer, sacred or profane. It is as follows : “ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory : and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the

goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world ; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took me in ; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he also say unto those on the left hand, Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in ; naked, and ye clothed me not ; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal."

Such is the description which our divine Master gives us of the great day of account; and so solemn, so awful, so sublime a scene, was never before presented to the mind of man.

Our Saviour represents himself as a great and mighty King, as the supreme Lord of all, sitting on the throne of his glory, with all the nations of the earth assembled before him, and waiting their final doom from his lips. What an astonishing and stupendous spectacle is this ! He then at one glance, which penetrates the hearts of every individual of that immense multitude, discerns the respective merits or demerits of every human being there present, and separates the good from the bad with as much ease as a shepherd divides his sheep from his goats. He next questions them on one most important branch of their duty, as a specimen of the manner in which the inquiry into the whole of their behaviour will be conducted ; and then, with the authority of an almighty Judge and Sovereign, he in a few words pronounces the irreversible sentence, which

consigns the wicked to everlasting punishment, and the righteous to life eternal.

Before I press this important subject any further on the hearts of those who hear me, I must make a few observations on the description which has been just laid before you.

The first is, that all mankind, when 'assembled before the judgment seat of Christ, are divided into two great classes, the wicked and the good, those who are punished, and those who are rewarded. There is no middle, no intermediate station provided for those who may be called neutrals in religion, who are indifferent and lukewarm, who are “ neither hot nor cold,” who do not reject the Gospel, but give themselves very little concern about it, who, instead of working out their salvation with fear and trembling, leave that matter to take care of itself, and are at perfect ease as to the event. These men cannot certainly expect to inherit everlasting life. But they hope probably to be considered as harmless inoffensive beings, and to be exempted from punishment at least, if not entitled to reward. But how vain this hope is, our Saviour's representation of the final judgment most clearly shows. They who are not set on the right, must go to the left. They who are not rewarded, are consigned to punishment. There are indeed different mansions both for the righteous and the wicked ; there are different degrees of punishment for the one, and of reward for the other; yet still it does not appear that there is any middle or intermediate state between punishment and reward.

The next remark, and which has some affinity to the last, is, that we are to be examined at the bar of our great Judge, not merely as to our exemption from crimes, but as to our performance of good actions ; substantial and genuine Christian virtues are expected at our hands. It will not be sufficient for us to plead that we kept ourselves clear from sin, we must show that we have exerted ourselves in the faithful discharge of all those various important duties which the Gospel requires from us.

Lastly, it must be observed, and it is an observation of the utmost importance, and which I wish to impress most forcibly upon your minds, that although charity to our neighbour, and indeed only one branch of that comprehensive duty, viz. liberality to the poor, is here specified, as the only Christian virtue, concerning which inquiry will be made at the day of judgment; yet we must not imagine that this is the only virtue which will be expected from us, and that on this alone will depend our final salvation. Nothing can be more distant from truth, or more dangerous to religion, than this opinion. The

« AnteriorContinuar »