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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 histo rians who record or mention that event, I proved to you the complete and exact ac complishment of that wonderful prediction in all its parts. And this, in a common case, I should have thought fully suffi cient 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 irresistible a proof of the divine authority of our religion, that Q..
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 show 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 interposed 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
* De Bell. Jud. l. ii. c. 19.
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 in habitants 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 *?"
* Newton's Dissert. on Prophecy, vol. ii. p. 276.
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 invadingJudæa, 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 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 raze 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 surprising 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 apostasy of some Christians, and the treachery of Q3