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THE BIBLE CONTAINS PREDICTIONS OF EVENTS, WHICH NO HUMAN SAGACITY COULD HAVE FORESEEN, AND WHICH HAVE BEEN EXACTLY AND REMARKABLY ACCOMPLISHED.
THE subject of prophecy is so extensive, and the difficulty of presenting, with brevity, the argument which it furnishes, so great, that if I had not determined to give a general outline of the evidences of revelation, I should have omitted this topic, as one to to which justice cannot be done, in so short an essay.
But, I would not be understood as intimating, that the evidence from prophecy is of an inferior kind. So far from believing this to be the fact, I am persuaded, that whoever will take the pains to examine the subject thoroughly, will find that this source of evidence for the truth of revelation, is exceeded by no other, in the firmness of conviction which it is calculated to produce. Prophecy possesses, as a proof of divine revelation, some advantages which axe peculiar. For the proof of miracles we must have recourse to ancient testimony; but the fulfilling of prophecy may fall under our own observation, or may be conveyed to us by living witnesses. The evidence of miracles cannot, in any case, become stronger than it was at .first; but that of prophecy is continually increasing, and will go on increasing, until the whole scheme of predictions are fulfilled. The mere publication of a prediction furnishes 131no decisive evidence, that it is a revelation from God: it is the accomplishment which completes the proof. As prophecies have been fulfilled in every age, and are still in a course of being fulfilled; and as some most remarkable predictions remain to be accomplished, it is plain, from the nature of the case, that this proof will continue to increase in strength.
It deserves to be well weighed, that any one prediction which has been fulfilled, is, of itself, a complete evidence of divine revelation; or to speak more properly, is itself a revelation. For, certainly, no one but God himself can foretell distant future events which depend entirely on the purpose of Him, “who worketh all things after the council of his own will.”
If then, we can adduce one prophecy, the accomplishment of which cannot be doubted, we have established the principle, that a revelation has been given; and if in one instance, and to one person, the probability is strong, that he is not the only person, who has been favored with such a communication.
The remark, which is frequently made, that most prophecies are obscure, and the meaning very uncertain, will not affect the evidence arising from such as are perspicuous, and of which the accomplishment is exact. There are good reasons, why these future events should sometimes be wrapped up in the covering of strong figures and symbolical language; so that often the prophet himself, probably, did not understand the meaning of the prediction which he uttered. It was not intended, that they should be capable of being dearly interpreted, until the key was furnished, by the completion. If these observations are just, the study (of the prophecies will become more and more interesting, 132every day; and they will shed more and more light on the truth of the Scriptures.
What I shall attempt at present, and all that is compatible with the narrow limits of this discourse, will be to exhibit a few remarkable predictions, and refer to the events, in which they have been fulfilled. They who wish for further satisfaction, will find it, in the perusal of Bishop Newton’s excellent Dissertations on the prophecies, to which I acknowledge myself indebted for a considerable part of what is contained in this chapter.
The first prophecies which I will produce; are those of Moses, respecting the Jews. They are recorded, principally, in the xxvi. chapter of Leviticus, and in the xxviii. chapter of Deutoronomy; of which, the following predictions deserve our attention.
1. The Lord shall bring, a nation against thee from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand. This prophecy had an accomplishment, both in the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans, and by the Romans; but more especially, the latter. Jeremiah, when predicting the invasion of the Chaldeans, uses nearly the same language as Moses. Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from afar, O house of Israel, saith the Lord, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not.1919 Jer. x. 15.—And again, Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven.2020 Lam. iv. 19.
But with still greater propriety may it be said, that the Romans were a nation from afar; the rapidity 133of whose conquests resembled the eagle’s flight; the standard of whose armies was au eagle; and whose language was unknown to the Jews.
The enemies of the Jews are also characterized as a nation of fierce countenance, who shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young. Which was an exact description of the Chaldeans. It is said, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 17, that God brought upon the Jews, the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age. Such also were the Romans. Josephus informs us, that when Vespasian came to Gadara, “he slew all, man by man, the Romans showing mercy to no age.” The like was done at Gamala.
2. It was predicted, also, that their cities should be besieged and taken. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst. This was fulfilled when Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, came against Samaria, and besieged it:2121 2 Kings, xviii. 9, 10. when Sennacherib came up against all the fenced cities of Judah; and when Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem and burned the temple, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem round about.2222 2 Kings, xxv. 10. The Jews had great confidence in the strength of the fortifications of Jerusalem. And Tacitus, as well as Josephus, describes it as a very strong place; yet it was often besieged and taken, before its final destruction by Titus.
In their sieges they were to suffer much by famine, 134 in the straitness wherewith their enemies should distress them. Accordingly, at Samaria, during the the siege, there was a great famine, so that an asses head was sold for four score pieces of silver.2323 2 Kings, vi. 5.
And when Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.2424 2 Kings, xxv. 3. And in the siege of the same city by the Romans, there was a most distressing famine.2525 Josephus de Jud. Bello.
It was foretold, that in these famines, women should eat their own children. Ye shall eat, says Moses, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters. And again, thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body.2626 Jer. xxvi. 29; Deut. xxviii. 53. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground, for delicateness and tenderness—she shall eat her children for want of all things, secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in thy gates. This extraordinary prediction was fulfilled, six hundred years after it. was spoken, in the siege of Samaria, by the king of Syria; when two women agreed together to give up their children to be eaten; and one of them was eaten accordingly.2727 2 Kings, vi. 28, 29. It was fulfilled again, nine hundred years after Moses, in the siege of Jerusalem, by the Chaldeans. The hands of the pitiful women, says Jeremiah, have sodden their own children.2828 Lam. iv. 10. And again, fifteen hundred years after the time of Moses, when Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans, 135Josephus informs us, of a noble woman killing and eating her own sucking child, and when she had eaten half; she secreted the other part for another meal.
3. Great numbers of the Jews were to be destroyed. And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude. In the siege of Jerusalem, by Titus, it is computed that eleven hundred thousand persons perished, by famine, pestilence, and sword. Perhaps, since the creation of the world, so many persons never perished in any one siege as this.
The occasion of so great a multitude of people being found at Jerusalem, was, that the siege commenced about the celebration of the passover; and the people throughout the adjacent country, took refuge in Jerusalem, at the approach of the Roman army.
Moses also predicted, that the Jews should be carried back to Egypt, and sold as slaves, for a very low price, and described the method of their conveyance thither; And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, where you shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you. Josephus informs us, that when the city was taken, the captives who were above seventeen years of age, were sent to the works in Egypt: but so little care was taken of these captives, that eleven thousand of them perished for want. There is every probability, though the historian does not mention the fact, that they were conveyed to Egypt, in ships, as the Romans had then a fleet in the Mediterranean. The market was so overstocked, that there were no purchasers, and they were sold for the merest trifle.
4. It is, moreover, predicted in this wonderful prophecy of Moses, that the Jews should be extirpated 136from their own land, and dispersed among all nations. And ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth, even unto the other.
How remarkably this has been fulfilled, is known to all. The ten tribes were first carried away from their own land, by the King of Assyria; and next, the two other tribes were carried captive to Babylon; and, finally, when the Romans took away their place and nation, their dispersion was complete.
Afterwards, Adrian forbade the Jews, by a public edict, to set foot in Jerusalem, on pain of death; or even to approach the country around it. In the time Of Tertullian and Jerome, they were prohibited from entering into Judea. And from that day to this, the number of Jews, in the holy land, has been very small. They are still exiles from their own land, and are found scattered through almost every country on the globe.
5. But it is foretold, that, notwithstanding their dispersion, they should not be totally destroyed, but should exist still, as a distinct people. And yet for all Mat, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them; to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them. “What a marvellous thing is this,” says Bishop Newton, “that after so many wars, battles, and sieges; after so many rebellions, massacres, and persecutions; after so many years of captivity, slavery, and misery; they are not destroyed utterly, and though scattered among all people, yet subsist a distinct people by themselves! where is any thing like this to be found in all the histories, and in all the nations under the sun?”137
The prophecy goes on to declare, that they should he; every where, in an uneasy condition; and should not rest long, in any one place. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest. How exactly this has been verified, in the case of this unhappy people, even unto this day, is known to all. There is scarcely a country in Europe, from which they have not been banished, at one time or another. To say nothing of many previous scenes of bloodshed and banishment, of the most shocking kind, through which, great multitudes of this devoted people passed, in Germany, France, and Spain, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; eight hundred thousand Jews, are said by the Spanish historian, to have been banished from Spain, by Ferdinand and Isabella. And how often, when tolerated by government, they have suffered by the tumults of the people, it is impossible to enumerate.
The prophet declares, That they should be oppressed and crushed alway; that their sons and their daughters should be given to another people; that they should be mad for the sight of their eyes, which they should see. Nothing has been more common in all countries, where the Jews has resided, than to fine, fleece, and oppress them at will; and in Spain and Portugal, their children have been taken from them, by order of the government, to be educated in the Popish religion. The instances, also, in which their oppressions have driven them to madness and desperation, are too numerous to be here stated in detail.
6. Finally, it is foretold by Moses, That they should become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word, 138among all nations; and that their plagues should be wonderful, even great plagues, and of long continuance. In every country the Jews are hated and despised. They have been literally a proverb, and a by-word. Mohammedans, Heathens, and Christians, however they differ in other things, have been agreed in vilifying, abusing, and persecuting the Jews. Surely, the judgments visited on this peculiar people, have been wonderful, and of long continuance. For nearly eighteen hundred years, they have been in this miserable state of banishment, dispersion, and persecution.
“What nation,” says the distinguished writer already quoted, “hath subsisted as a distinct people in their own country, so long, as these have done in their dispersion, into all countries? And what a standing miracle is this exhibited to the view and observation of the whole world!”—“Here are instances of prophecies delivered above three thousand years ago, and yet., as we see, fulfilling in the world, at this very time; and what stronger proof can we desire of the divine legation of Moses? How these instances may affect others, I know not, but for myself, I must acknowledge, they not only convince, but amaze and astonish me beyond expression.”
The prophecies, in the Old Testament, concerning Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, and Egypt, are highly deserving our attention; not only because they are expressed in the plainest language, but because the fulfilment of them has not been confined to one age, but has continued for thousands of years, and is as remarkable at this time, as in any former period; but the narrow limits which we have prescribed to ourselves, forbid our entering on this subject.139
It may be safely affirmed, however, that the more closely these prophecies are compared with subsequent events—events altogether improbable in themselves, and of a truly extraordinary character—the more dearly will the impartial and discerning see in them, marks of a divine origin.
The prophecy of Isaiah respecting Cyrus, by name, two hundred years before he was born, is very clear, and no less remarkable.
“That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be built, and to the temple, thy fonndation shall be laid. Thus saith the Lord to Cyrus Isis anointed, to Cyrus whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two leaved gates, that shall not be shut. I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and will cut in sunder the bars of iron, and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know, that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob, my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name, I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.2929 Isa. xliv. xlv.”
We are informed by Josephus, that after Cyrus had got possession of Babylon, this prophecy was shown to him; and that he was struck with admiration at the manifest divinity of the writing. Besides the name of Cyrus, two extraordinary events are foretold; the capture of Babylon, with its iron bars and gates of brass, 140and containing hidden treasures;—and the restoration of the Jews, and the rebuilding of their city and temple. And every thing is so plain, that there is no possibility of evading the. force of the argument.
The prophecies recorded in the book of Daniel; also, are very wonderful. There we have described, the rise and fall of four successive monarchies, or empires; also, a .prophecy concerning the conquests of Alexander the Great, and concerning his successors, embracing so many particulars, that. it assumes the appearance of a history of the events which it predicts. Porphyry, an early and learned opposer of Christianity, was so struck with the coincidence between the predictions, and the history of the events by which they are fulfilled; that he declared that the prophecy must have been written after the events occurred. The infidel can make no complaint of obscurity here, as he commonly does, when prophecies are adduced; the objection now is, that the prediction is too manifest, and circumstantial. This objection of Porphyry, induced Jerome to use the following pertinent language: “Cujus impugnatio testimonium veritatis est. Tanta enim dictorum fides fuit, ut propheta incredulis hominibus non videatur futura dixisse, sed narrasse, præterita.” The meaning of which is, “This objection is a testimony to the truth; for such is the perspicuity of the language, that the prophet, in the opinion of infidel men, seems rather to be narrating past events, than predicting those which are future.”
It will be sufficient to observe, that there is not the least foundation for this opinion of Porphyry, that the book of Daniel was written after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Josephus relates, that the prophecies of Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great, when he 141visited Jerusalem; and that this was the reason of his granting so many privileges to the Jewish people. However this may be, Daniel is spoken of in the first book of Maccabees; and Josephus himself reckons him among the greatest of prophets. And if they had been written at that late period, they never could have found a place in the Jewish canon, as the prophecies of Daniel. These prophecies are also recognised and quoted by Jesus Christ, as the productions of Daniel.
The prophecies which relate to the Messiah are so numerous and interesting, and involve so much critical discussion, that to exhibit them in their proper light, a volume would scarcely be sufficient. I must, therefore, be contented to refer to the most remarkable of these predictions, in a very brief and general way.
1. It is plain, from a cursory perusal of the Old Testament, that frequent intimations are given of the coming of a remarkable personage. From these, the Jewish nation have been led, in all ages, to entertain the expectation of a Messsiah; and from them, the idea of a distinguished person who was to proceed from Judea, seems to have pervaded the surrounding nations. Some of the passages of Scripture, on which this opinion was founded, were, the promise of The seed of the woman;—The seed of Abraham in whom all nations should be blessed;—The Shiloh who was to come out of Judah, before the dominion of that tribe should depart.—The prophet like unto Moses, whom the Lord would raise up;—The king whom the Lord would set upon his holy hill;—The priest after the order of Melchisedek; The anointed One, or Messiah—The righteous branch—The corner 142 stone—The desire of all nations—The Shepherd of Israel.
2. The time of the arrival of the Messiah is designated in prophecy. He was to come before the sceptre departed from Judah, at the end of seventy prophetic weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, from the time of the going forth of the command, to restore and build Jerusalem, and while the second temple was yet standing.
3. The place of his birth, and the family from which he was to descend, were also explicitly mentioned in prophecy. From the evangelical history, and from the acknowledgment of the Jews, it is evident, that they well knew, that the Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem, and to be of the family of David:
4. Things of an apparently contradictory nature: are predicted concerning the Messiah. At one time he is represented as a king and conqueror, whose dominion would be co-extensive with the earth, and’ who would flourish in righteousness and peace forever; at another, he is exhibited as one despised and rejected; a man of sorrow and grief; as wounded and bruised;—as cut of out of the land of the; and as pouring out his soul unto death. These apparently irreconcilable characters, led the Jews at one time, to entertain the opinion, that two Messiahs were predicted; the one a triumphant conqueror; the other a persecuted and patient sufferer.. But, however great the apparent inconsistency, there is an exact accomplishment of both characters, in Jesus of Nazareth. And, certainly, the same cannot be said of any other person who ever lived.
5. It is predicted of the Messiah, that he should be 143 a light to the Gentiles; and that under his administration, the face of the world should be changed; and that peace and righteousness should prevail. Although this prophecy is only in part fulfilled, yet so much has been accomplished in the call of numerous Gentile nations to the standard of the Messiah, and in the benign and salutary influence of Christianity, that we must conclude that it was uttered under the influence of inspiration.
6. It was not only predicted, that Messiah should be cut off, but it is expressly stated, that he should die as a vicarious sacrifice—an expiatory victim for sin and transgression. “Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.”
For the fulfilling of these predictions, I need only refer to the New Testament.
That there is a remarkable coincidence between the language of the prophets and the history of the evangelists, cannot be denied, however it may be accounted for. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah has a counterpart in the sufferings and death of Christ, which has forced conviction on the minds of many unbelievers.
But there are also many particular facts and circumstances foretold respecting the Messiah, which it may be proper, briefly to mention. His forerunner, John the Baptist, is predicted by Isaiah and Malachi. His miracles, his uncomplaining meekness and tranquil submission under cruel sufferings, by Isaiah. His riding on an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass;—his being pierced where the wound should be visible.;—his being sold for thirty pieces of silver, which should be, appropriated to buy the Potter’s Field, by Zechariah. It is predicted in the Psalms, that they would part his raiment and cast lots for his vesture; and that vinegar 144would be given to him to drink. The very words, also, which he uttered on the cross, when forsaken of God, are set down in the xxii. Psalm, v. 1.
It was also predicted in the Law of Moses, by an expressive type, that not a bone of Icing should be broken; the fulfilment of which was wonderful, since the legs of both those crucified with him were broken.
Isaiah foretold, that he should make his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, which was literally accomplished, when Jesus Christ was suspended on the between two thieves; and when he was taken down from the cross, by a rich man, and buried by him, in his own new tomb.
The most of these particulars were fulfilled by the free actions of the enemies of Jesus, who had no idea that they were fulfilling any divine prophecy. It is impossible, that so many circumstances, literally predicted, should have been fulfilled by a mere fortuitous concurrence.
The truth is, the whole ritual law is a prophecy of Jesus. To him the whole Old Testament dispensation had reference. The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, all testify of him. As said the angel to St. John, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Christ himself delivered, while upon earth, many clear and remarkable prophecies. Most of his parables have a prophetic character, and in a striking manner represented the Gospel, the rejection of the Jews, the calling of the Gentiles, and the future condition of the Church. He also foretold, in express words, the treatment which his followers should receive from the world, the treachery of Judas Iscariot, the conduct of 145Peter in denying him three times in one night, and the particular circumstances and exact manner of his own death, and also his resurrection on the third day. But I must pass over all these, at present, and confine my attention to that astonishing prophecy, which Jesus delivered to his disciples on Mount Olivet, concerning the utter destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, and of the whole Jewish, nation. This prediction was uttered about forty years before the events occurred, to which it relates; and was recorded by St. Matthew, according to the common opinion of early writers, thirty, or at least twenty years before it was fulfilled. The same was recorded by Mark, and Luke, a few years after the writing of Matthew’s Gospel, but several years before the occurrence of those prodigious things, which are foretold in it. The testimony of antiquity is, that both these evangelists were dead before the invasion of Judea, by the Romans. John was the only one of the evangelists, or perhaps of the apostles, who lived to witness the fulfilling of his Lord’s prophecy; and it is remarkable, that in his Gospel, this subject is never mentioned.
Let it be remembered, that when this prophecy was delivered by our Saviour, there was not the least human probability of such an event, as the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews were in a state of profound peace; and the power of the Romans was such, that it could not have been conjectured, that one small nation would think of rebelling against them.
I will first collect into one view, all the most remarkable 146particulars of this prophecy, and then show how they were fulfilled. The predictions relate, 1. to the signs and precursors of the desolation of the holy city; 2. to the circumstances of its siege and capture; and 3. to the consequences of this tremendous catastrophe.
1. The signs and precusors of this event were to be, false Christs,—seditions and wars,—famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and extraordinary appearances in the heavens;—the persecution of Christians;—the apostacy of professors; and the great want of charity and depravation of morals among the people.
2. The circumstances of this tremendous judgment of heaven, are such as these: the event should occur before the existing generation had completely passed away;—that it should be brought on by a war waged against the Jews, by a heathen nation, bearing idolatrous ensigns:—that Jerusalem should be utterly destroyed, and the temple so completely demolished, that one stone of that. sacred edifice, should not be left on another:—that multitudes should perish by the sword:—that great numbers should be carried away captives:—that the distress should exceed any thing, which had ever occurred in the world;—and that the divine wrath should be manifest in all these calamities, as it is called the day of vengeance; and it is said, that there should be wrath against the people.
3. The consequences of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, as predicted by Christ, were to be, the dispersion of the Jews through all the nations;—the total overthrow of the Jewish commonwealth, which is expressed by the prophetic symbols of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving her light, and the stars falling from heaven;—the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles;—the rising of 147false prophets, and false Messiahs;—the extent and continuance of these judgments on the Jewish nation; with some intimation of their restoration. The escape of the Christians from these calamities, is also foretold, and directions given for their flight; and on their account, it is promised, that those days should be shortened; and finally, it is predicted that the Gospel should be preached among alt nations.
Let us now proceed to inquire, in what manner these numerous and extraordinary predictions were accomplished; and we cannot but remark, that it seems to have been ordered, specially, by Providence, that the history of the series of events by which this prophecy was fulfilled, should be written by a man who was not a Christian; and who was an eye-witness of the facts, which he records. I allude to the Jewish historian, Josephus, who is an author of high respectability, and of great value to the cause of Christianity.
1. In regard to false Christs, of which the prophecy speaks so emphatically, we learn from the historian, just mentioned, that impostors and magicians drew multitudes after them, into the wilderness, promising to show them signs and wonders, some of whom became deranged, and others were punished by Felix, the procurator. One a these impostors was, that Egyptian, spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles, who drew multitudes of people after him to Mount Olivet, promising that he would cause the walls of Jerusalem to fall down at his word.
Theudas was another, who pretended to be a prophet, and gave out that he would divide the waters of Jordan; but he was quickly routed by Cuspius Fadus, and all his followers scattered. The impostor himself was taken alive, and his head cut off, and brought to 148Jerusalem. In the reign of Nero, and during the time that Felix was procurator of Judea, impostors arose in such numbers, that the historian informs us, “many of them were apprehended and killed every day.”
There were also, at this time, great commotions, and horrible seditions and wars, in various places; as at Cesarea, Alexandria, and Babylonia. There were great contentions between the Jews and Samaritans; and also between the Jews and people of other nations, who dwelt in the same cities with them. Both Josephus and Philo, give a particular account of these disturbances, in which multitudes of the people were slain.
Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, are mentioned by Suetonius, and by several other profane historians, who are cited by Eusebius, by Josephus, by Tacitus, and by Seneca.
That prodigies were frequent, is expressly asserted, by Josephus and Tacitus. The former declares that a star hung over the city like a sword, for a whole year;—that at the ninth hour of the night, a bright light shone round the altar and the temple, so that for the space of half an hour, it appeared to be bright day;—that the eastern gate of the temple, which it required twenty men to shut, and which was fastened by strong bars and bolts, opened of its own accord:—that before sun set, there was seen in the clouds, the appearance of chariots and armies fighting;—that at the feast of Pentecost, while the priests were going into the inner temple, a voice was heard, as of a multitude, saying, Let us depart hence. And what affected the people more than any thing else, was, that four years before the war began, a countryman came to Jerusalem, at the feast of Tabernacles, and ran up and 149own, crying day and night, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the temple. Wo! Wo! to Jerusalem?” It was in vain that by stripes and torture the magistrates attempted to restrain him: he continued crying, especially at the public festivals, for seven years and five months, and yet never grew hoarse, nor appeared to be weary: until during the siege, while he was crying on the wall, a stone struck him, and killed him instantly. Tacitus, the Roman historian, joins his testimony to that of Josephus:—“Armies,” says he, “were seen engaged in the heavens, the glittering of arms was observed; and suddenly the fire from the clouds illuminated the temple; the doors of the inner temple were suddenly thrown open; and a voice more than human was heard proclaiming, the gods are departing: and at the same time, the motion of their departure was perceived.” Men may form what judgment they please of these narratives; but one thing is certain, that the minds of men were, about this time, much agitated and terrified with what appeared to them to be prodigies. There were, fearful sights, and great signs from heaven.
2. The circumstances accompanying the siege and rapture of the city, were as exactly foretold, as the preceding signs. “The abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, was nothing else than the Roman armies, whose ensign was an eagle perched upon a spear: which ensigns were worshipped, as divinities. These stood where “they ought not,” when they were planted, not only in the holy land, but on the consecrated spot, where the temple had stood. But the Christians had been warned, at the first appearance of this desolating abomination, immediately to betake 150themselves to flight; which they did, and instead of going into the city, they retired to Pella, beyond Jordan.
The distress of the Jews, within the city, during the siege, where two or three millions of people were crowded into a narrow space, almost exceeds belief. What with their continual battles with the Romans; what with intestine feuds and tumults; and what with famine and pestilence, the sufferings which they endured, cannot now be conceived. No such distress was ever experienced by any people, before or since.
Jerusalem was hemmed in on all sides, by the besieging army, and notwithstanding the great strength of its fortifications, was taken. Although Titus had given express orders, that the temple should be preserved; yet the mouth of the Lord, had declared, that it should be otherwise: and, accordingly, it was burnt to the ground, and the very foundation dug up by the soldiers, with the hope of finding hidden treasures. After the city had been destroyed, Titus ordered the whole space to be levelled like a field; so that a person approaching the place, would hardly suspect that it had ever been inhabited.
The number slain in the war has already been mentioned; to which we may now add, that the captives amounted to ninety-seven thousand. Josephus, in relating these events, adopts a language remarkably similar to that used by Christ, in the prophecy. “The calamities of all people,” says he, “from the creation of the world, if they be compared with those suffered by the Jews, will be found to be far surpassed by them.” The words of Christ are; There shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be.
That these unparalleled calamities proceeded from 151the vengeance of heaven, against a people whose iniquities were full, was not only acknowledged by Josephus, but by Titus, the Roman general. After taking a survey of the city, the height of the towers and walls, the magnitude of the stones, and the strength of the bands by which they were held together, he broke out into the following exclamation: “By the help of God, we have brought this war to a conclusion. It was God, who drew out the Jews from these fortifications; for what could the hands, or military engines of men, avail, against such towers as these?” And he refused to be crowned, after the victory, saying, “That he was not the author of this achievement, but the anger of God against the Jews, was what put the victory into his hands.”
3. Finally, the consequences of this catastrophe were as distinctly predicted, and as accurately fulfilled, as the preceding events. The Jews, who survived, were dispersed over the world, in which condition they continue until this day. The Christians, availing themselves of the warnings of their Lord, escaped all the calamities of the siege. Jerusalem was trodden down of the Gentiles; and continues thus to be trodden down, until this day.
Jerusalem was rebuilt by Adrian, but not precisely on the old site; and was called Ælia, which name it bore, until the time of Constantine. The apostate Julian, out of hatred to Christianity, and with the view of defeating the prediction, “That Jerusalem should be trodden down by the Gentiles,” determined to restore the Jews, and rebuild their temple. Immense sums were appropriated for the work; the superintendence of which was assigned to one of his lieutenants; 152and the governor of the province to which Jerusalem belonged, assisted in it. “But horrible balls of fire, bursting forth from the foundations, rendered the place inaccessible to the workmen, who were often much burnt, so that the enterprise was laid aside.” The account now given is attested by Julian himself, and his favorite heathen historian, Ammianus. The witnesses are indeed numerous, and unexceptionable; “Annnianus Marcellinus, a heathen; Zemach David, a Jew, who confesses that Julian was, divinitus impeditus, providentially hindered, in his attempt; Nazianzen and Chrysostom, among the Greeks; Ambrose and Ruffin, among the Latins; all of whom flourished, at the very time when this wonderful event occurred. Theodoret, Socrates, Sozomen, and Philostorgius, respectable historians, recorded it within fifty years after the event; and while the eye witnesses of the fact were still surviving.”3030 See Whitby’s General Preface to the New Testament. That part of the prophecy, which relates to the restoration of the Jews, remains to be accomplished, and we hope the accomplishment is not far distant. When this event shall take place, the evidence from this prophecy will be complete, and almost irresistible. This shall occur when “The times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.” The circumstances of this glorious event, are more particularly described by Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, chap. xi. “If the fall if them be the riches. of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? for I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of 153the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved.” The preaching of the Gospel to all nations, has been considered in another place.
After this concise review of some remarkable prophecies contained in the Bible, is there any one, who can persuade himself, that all these coincidences are accidental? or that the whole is a cunningly, devised fable? That man must indeed be blind, who cannot see ‘“This Light which shineth in a dark place:”—“This SURE WORD OF PROPHECY, which holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”154
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