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take place ; but allows, from the time of uttering the predic-
tions, to the end of the world, for all the fifty particulars to
occur. But if a time be fixed, at or near which they must
happen, the immense improbability that they will take place
exceeds all the power of numbers to express. This, more-
over, is on the supposition of every thing being under the
disposal of that fiction of unbeUe^ a blind chance. How
infinite does the improbability appear, when it is remembered
that ''all events are under the control of a Being of matchless
wisdom, power, and goodness, who hates fraud and decep-
tion ; who must especially hate it when attempted under his
name and authority." This is enough, one would think, to
silence for ever all pleas of chance, as fiirnishing an unbe-
liever the least opportunity of escape from th6 evidence of
prophecy. What then is the conclusion to which, by the con-
siderations presented in this lecture, we are authorized tocome?

* jiregoryi Letters.

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First: That in the Bible, there is a great variety of
prophecy relative to the Messiah, which has been so re-
markably fiilfiUed in Jesus Christ, and so entirely unfulfilled
in any other individual of whom we have any history, that
the correspondence necessarily proves the predictions to have
been given by inspiration of God, and Jesus Christ to be the
person to whom that inspiration, in the uttering of those
predictions, referred.

Secondly: That the Bible, in thus containing genuine
prophecies scattered through its several books, contains a
revelcUion from Ood, and exhibits numerous and wide-spread
impressions of the seal of divine authority.

LcLStly : That Jesus Christ, being thus pointed out and
honoured by the Spirit of God, breathing on the lips of holy
men, who in various centuries before his coming concurred
in rendering him their testimony, as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost, was and is to come, no other than what he
said — ^the Son of God — ^the Saviour of sinners — " King of
kings and Lord of lords."

"Behold (saith He) I come quickly: blessed is he that
keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." " He that
confesseth me before men, him will I also confess before my
Father who is in heaven." But " how shall we escape if we
n^lect so great salvation?"


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Our blessed Lord was a prophet, as well as the grand sub-
ject of prophecy. Not only did he possess omnipotence to
eall up the dead &om the sepuldure, but omniscience also to
bring forth from ttie darkless of the future what to uninspired
man lies as secret as the mysteries of deaA. By prophecy,
as well as miracles, he established the divinity of his mission.
In die latter, his appeal was to the seises of eye-witnesses :
'^ The works thai I do, they bear witness of me,^ In the
former, it was to the testimony of subsequent history : ^^Now
IteUyou before it come to pass, thai when it is cometopassj
ye may bdieve that I am heP He jn^cted not only his
own suflferings, and death,- and resurrection, but the manner
and circumstances attending them ; the treachery of Judas ;
Hie denial of Peter ; the particulars of his ignominious treat-
ment in the council of the Jews, and under die hands of
Pilate and his soldiers. He foretold the rapid s[»read of the
gospel ; the persecutions of his disciples ; the precise manner
of Peter's martjrrdom ; the continuance of John till after the
destruction of Jerusalem ; the rejection of the Jews, and the
bringing of the Gentiles into the church of Grod.

But none of oiur Saviour's prophecies are more impressive
than those concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, contained
in the Gospels of Mark and Luke ; but most at large in the
twenty-foiurth chapter of Matthew. These we select as the
subject of our consideration at present ; believing we- shall be
enabled to show, by most impressive evidence, that Jesus did
indeed possess the spirit of prophecy, and consequently was
divinely commissioned in setting up the faith of the gospel.


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There is but one preliminary question to be answered, at
the commencement of this investigation : Is it well ascer-
tained that these prophecies were published before the de-
struction of Jerusalem 7

This has been already settled, in our lecture on the subject
of authenticity; in which it was shown that the several books
of the New Testament were written in the age to which they
are referred, and by the men whose names they bear. It will
be sufficient to state in this place, that of the three evangelists
who have related these prophecies, Matthew and Mark are
well ascertained to have died, and there is good reason to
suppose that Luke also was dead, before tfie destruction of

The Gospel of Matthew, which contains the most com-
plete account of the predictions in question, is commonly
acknowledged to have been written first. Its date is about
the eighth year after the death of Christ. The destruction
of Jerusalem being in the seventieth year of the christian era,
the prophecies in relation to it were published by Matthew
about thirty years, and were declared by our Saviour about
thirty-seven years, before their fulfilment. Several years
elapsed, also, between the publication of the same prophecies
by Mark and Luke, and tfie events to which they relate.
John, the only one of the four evangelists that lived and
wrote subsequently to the ruin of the holy city, is the only
one that omits an account of the predictions concerning it
But we have the most satisfactory evidence that no suspicion
of an ex post fa^^to origin can justly attach to these prophe-
cies, in the important fact, that although familiarly quoted
by the early christian writers as striking evidence of the pro-
phetic character of Jesus, we read of no writer against
Christianity in the primitive centuries having attempted to
paralyze the argument by maintaining that they were not
published till Jerusalem was destroyed. If enemies, so near
the events predicted, had nothing to say; will any deny us



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the privil^e of proceeding in our present mvestigadoa un^
embarrassed by any question on this head?*

There is a history of the destructiop of lerusal^u, wfaidi,
if it had been composed for the express purpose of attestii^
the complete acc(»nplishment of our Lord's predictions^ could
have hardly been made more aj^opriate to our present
object It was written by an eye-witness of the tragedy ; «
learned witness ; a witness who, having been first an emineixt
leader among the troops of Judea, and then a priscmer to tiab
Roman commander, and continually kept about his person
for the sake of his services, cannot be accused of having
written without accurate information. BQs book was com^
posed at Rome ; and having been presented by the author to
the emperor Vespasian, and to his son Titus, who had caai-
manded at the si^;e of Jerusalem, the latter not only desired
its publication, but subscribed his own hand in confirmiOion
of its correctness. It was abo presented to, and approved by^
several Jews, who had been present at the scenes described.t
We could not desire a jpoote oomi^ete attestation of the
fulfihnent of our Saviour's prc^>hecies than this book affords^
And yet the writer was a Jew to the day of his death, and
consequently an enemy of Christianity, and could have had
no design in favour of the prophetic spirit of its founder. I
speak of Josephus. It is r^narkable that c«ie of the most
minute prophecies in the Bible should have, from an enemy,
the most minute of histories to show its fulfilment No great
event in pro&ne history is related with so much attention to
all the particulars connected with it, as is the destmcticm of
Jerusalem by this Jewish writer. When we consider these
things, and remember the extraordinary manner in whidi
Josephus was several times protected from almost inevitable
death, we may clearly discern the hand of a wise Providence,

* On this subject, see some excellent remarks in Paley's Evidences, Part
ii. c. i.
t Josephus* Life, § 65, p. 23.— Contr. Apion. b. i. f 9.

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LEcrruRE viif. 219

pfeparin^ the way of the gos^. A witness was preserved
and chosen of Grod, to write an account of the divine judg-
ments upon Jerusalem, whose testimony neither Jews nor
Ileathens could d^iy or suspect. We proceed to compare his
statements with the prophecies in question.

I. Let us begin with those ev^its which the Saviour
foretold as signs of approaching desolation. Thus it is
written : *• TaJce heed thai no man deceive ymi^ for many
shall come in my name^ sayings I aafn Christ, and shall
deceive m4inyP* Here are two distinct predictions. Many
pretenders to the character of the Messiah, and their sticcess
in deceiving many. As the prophecy draws nearer to the
chief event, it enlarges on this particular sign : " There shall
arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great
signs and wondersP Here it is intimated, that as the great
catastrophe should approach, these deceivers would multiply;
and that they would pretend to signs and miracles. The
very places where they would appear, and whither they
would lead their followers, are also pointed out. " If they
shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert; go not forth :
Behold he is in the secret chambers ; believe it no/."t

Now it is worthy of note, that, until the day when these
words were uttered, there had been no events in Jewish
history in any manner corresponding with those which they
describe. Two years, however, had not elapsed before their
ftdfilment began. Simon Magus, very soon after the crucifix-
ion, was heard boasting himself as the son of God ; deceiving
the people of Samaria with sorceries ; to whom they all gave
heed, saying this man is the great power of QodX Another,
named Dositheus, a Samaritan, pretended that he was the
Christ foretold by Moses. In about the tentli year after the
death of Christ, appeared one Theudas, who assured the
peojde that he was a prophet, promising to show a miracle
in dividing the waters of Jordan.§ "By such speeches,"

♦ Mat xxiv. 4, 5. t lb. xxiv. 26. t Acts, viii. 9, 10.

§ The impostor, menlionetJ above, must not be confounded with him of t! -^

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says Josephus, in the very words of the prophecy, " he
deceived many^^ As we approach nearer the final event,
(A. D. 55.), these deceivers multiply. " The country was
filled with impostors who deceived the people," and " persuar
ded them to follow them into the vnldemess ; where, as they
said, they should see manifest wonders and signs/'t Not
only were the people thus seduced into the deserts, but also
into " the secret chambers^ The inner apartments of the
temple were the secret chambers referred to in the prophecy.
Josephus relates that a great multitude whom the Roman
soldiers destroyed in the " chisters'^ of the temple, had been
led there by a false prophet, who had made a public procla-
mation, that very day, that God commanded them to get
upon the temple, and that there they would receive miracu-
lous signs for their deliverance. At that crisis, " there was
a great number of felse prophets."! Thus have we have all
the particulars of the prophecy, so far as it has been quoted :
— Many false Christs aiid prophets, deceiving many ; pre-
tending to signs and wonders ; leading their followers into
the deserts and secret chambers ; and midtiplyhig as the
destruction drew near.

II. " Ye shall hear of wars and rimwurs of wars : see
thai ye he not troiMed : for all these thifigs must come to

same name, spoken of by Gamaliel, Acts, v. 36. There were two noted
characters of the name of Theudas. The one referred to by Gamaliel appear*
ed about thirty years prior to the time of the council which that learned
Pharisee addressed. But he was a mere insurrectionist, making no pretension
to any of the honours of that great prophet whom the Jews were expecting.
The nersop referred to in the text, appeared in Judea in the time of Cuspius
Fadus, the governor, and professed to be inspired, to be a prophet, and to
have the gift of miracles. Judas of Galilee, or the Gaulonite, mentioned also
by Gamaliel, was a political partizan, in opposition to the enrolment made,
by Cyrenius in Judea, whose doctrine was that the Jews were free, and
should acknowledge no dominion but that of God. Neither he, nor the elder
Theudas, can with any propriety be numbered among " false Christs,'' ot
" false Prophets," such as the Saviour spoke of in the prophecy under consi
deration. See Lardner, i. 221—325.

♦ Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, b. 20. c. v. 1. t lb. c. viii. 5.

t Josephus' Wars of the Jews, b. C. c. v. § 2 and 3.


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f€LSSj Imt the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against
nation, and kingdom against kingdomJ^* At this time,
the Jews were at peace among themselves, and with all
notions. To human view there was so little, reason to
expect a war, that even some years after when the emperor
Csdigula ordered his statue to be set up in the temple, and
diere was danger of slaughter, on account of the resistance
of the Jews, Josephus remarks that " some of them could
not believe the stories that spoke of a war.^t Nevertheless,
such became in a short time the rumour of war, that the
fields remained uncultivated on account of the public anxiety.
The country was soon filled with violence. In Alexandria,
CJdBsarea, Damascus^ Ptolemais, Tyre, and almost every other
city in which many Jews and Heathens were mingled, fierce
contentions arose, and dreadfiil slaughter ensued. Li the
wards of the Jewish historian : " The disorders all over
8yna, were terrible. For every city was divided into parties
armed against each other ; and the safety of the one depended
on tfie destrudaon of the other. The days were spent in
slaughter, and the nights in terrors.^t In addition to these
calamities, the Jewish nation rebelled against the Romans;
Italy was convulsed with contentions for the empire ; and,
as a proof of the troublous and warlike character of tfie
period, within the brief space of two years four emperors of
Rome sufiered death.§

III. Another class of signs was predicted, as follows:
^ There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes,
in divers places.^W These, together with the signs previously
mentioned, the Saviour said would he ^^ the beginning of
sorrows,^ There came a famine not long before the war,
which extended all over the country of the Jews, and lasted
with severity for several years.ir Both before and after this
there were &mines in Italy, wlxich are mentioned by histo

• Mat xxiv. 6, 7. t Wars, &c. b. 2. c. x. S 1.

t Wars, &c., b. 3. c. xviii. § 1 and 2. % Keith on Prophecy.

a Mat xxiv. 7, 8. U Acts xi. 25^-^0. Ant b. 20, c. ii. 6 ; c r ^


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nans of those days.* Pestilences raged in various places, as
the fiill time for Jerusalem's cup of trembling drew nigh,t
Josephus speaks of one at Babylon. Five years before the
destruction of the holy city, there was a great mortality at
Rome, while various parts of the empire were visited with
similar calamities. Earthquakes were also among the signs
of the times. Of tfiese, the heathen historians, Tacitus,
Suetonius, Philostratus, &c., speak of many. Crete, Italy,
Asia Minor, and Judea, were visited at diflTerent times, and
some of them repeatedly, with earthquakes.^: Josej^us
describes one, in Judea, as so extraordinary in its awfiilness,
that "any one (he remarks) might easily conjecture that
these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were

IV. To the signs already mentioned, we find, in Luke's
account of these prophecies, the addition of ^^ fearful sights^
and great signs from heaven?^ These sights and signs
Josephus sets himself to the work of narrating, with as much
particularity as if he had been specially bent upon making
good the words of Christ. He relates that just before the
desolating war, " a star resembling a sword stood over the
city, and a comet that continued a whole year." At the
feast of unleavened bread, and " at the ninth hour of the
night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy
house, that it appeared to be bright daytime ; which light
lasted .for half an hour." " The eastern gate of the inner
court of the temple, which was of brass and vastly heavy,
and had been with diflSculty shut by twenty men, and had
bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, was seen to be
opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the nighf*
This, the learned of Jcmsalem understood as a signal of
approaching desolation. Moreover, "before sun-setting,
chariots and troops of soldiers, in their armour, were seen
running about among the clouds and surrounding cities."

♦ Ant b. 3. c. XV. 3. t Lardner, iii. 499. t lb. iii. 499.
f Wars, &€., b. 4. c. iv. f ^


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« At the feast of Pentecost, as the priests were going by night
into the inner court of the temple, they felt a quaking, and
heard a great noise, and after that they heard the sound as
of a multitude, saying : ' Let us remove hence.' " But the
sign which Josephus considered the most impressive, was
that of a man named Jesus, who, four years before the war,
at a time of entire peace, having come to the feast of taberna-
cles, began suddenly to cry aloud : " A voice from the east-^
a voice from the west — a voice from the four winds — a, voice
against Jerusalem and the holy house — ^a voice against, the
bridegrooms and the brides ; and a voice against the whole
people." With this cry he went through all the city, day and
night No severity of punishment ; no acts of kindness
could silence this voice. He spoke neither good nor ill to
any, whether they gave him food or scourging. For seven
years and five months, his solemn cry continued ; until its
warning was just about to be fulfilled. A little while before
the city was taken, as he was going round upon the wall, he
cried with his utmost force : " Wo, wo to the city again, and
to the people, and to the holy house f and just as he added,
" wo to myself also," a stone from one of the engines killed
him immediately.*

However incredible the narrative of these signs may seem
to some, it is not a little in its confirmation that the Romsui
historian, Tacitus, speaking of the same time and place,
says : " There were many prodigies presignifying their ruin,
which were not to be averted by all the sacrifices and vows
of that people. Armies were seen fighting in the air with
brandished weapons. A fire fell upon the temple from the
clouds. The doors of the temple were suddenly opened. At
the same time there was a loud voice, declaring that the
gods were removing, which was accompanied with a sound as
of a multitude going out. All which things were supposed
by some to portend great calamities."t Whether all these

♦ Wars, &c. b. 6, c. v. f 3.

t Lardner, iii. 613. Tacit. Hist b. 5, c. ix.~xiii.


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things did really take place, or whether some or all of timi
were not the conceits of superstitious and exdted minda, I
shall not discuss ; nor is the question at all material to owe
present object Certain it is that they were regarded as reati-
ties at the time, and consequently were in effect ^^fearfui
sights and great signs from heavenP to the Jews, whale^^er
they may have been in reaUty. It required as much of the
spirit of prophecy to predict that the Jews should bdiieve
such things to have occurred, as to predict any thing else
that did certainly occur. Whatever we may conclude,
therefore, concerning the singularly concurrent testimony
of the Jewish and Roman historians, the pr<^hecy of liie
Saviour was most impressively fulfilled.

V. Prom the calamities of the nation and city, our Lard
contmued his prophecy to those of his own followers : ^^ Be-
fore all these, they shall lay their hands on you and p^frse-
cute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into
prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my
nam^s sakeJ^* " They shall kill you; and ye shall be hated
of all nations for my nam^s sakeJ^t ^^Itoill give you a
m^outh and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be
able to gainsay nor resist^l For the proof of the accom-
plishment of all this, the Acts of the Apostles afS^rd abundant
evidence. Remember how Saul m,ade havoc of the church,
entering into every house; punishing the christians in every
synagogue, and persecuting them even unto strange cities.
Peter and John were delivered to councils. Paul was brought
before kings* The former were also imprisoned. Paul and
SUas were not only imprisoned but be(aen.h There was
given them indeed a wisdom, which their adversaries were
not able to gainsay ruxr resist The very discourses of
Peter that caused his^ persecution sidKlued thousands intp
obedience to the faith of Christ.! The murderers of Stephen

♦ Luke, xxi. 13. + Mat xxiv. 9. t Luke, xxi. 15.

f Acts, viii. 3 — xxvi. 10, 11. — iv. 5. — xviii. 13. — ^xxiv. and v. — iv. 3.

U Acts, ii. 41.


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Were not able to resist the wisdom with which he spake.*
^The jailor that incarcerated Paul and Silas in the evening,
was their convert before the morning.t Felix trembled, and
Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian, under the
Speech of Paul. Stephen and James were put to death.
There is reason to beUeve that none of the original apostles
or evangelists, but John, died a natural death. Christians
were counted as the fifth of the world, being literally hated
for the very name they bore. About six years before the
destruction of Jerusalem, arose the tremendous persecution
imder Nero, when it was enough that any one was called by
the name of Christian, to lead him to torture. Tacitus bears
witness, not only to their exquisite gaifferings, but also to the
feet that they were held in universal hatred on account of
their religion and name.t

TI. " Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one
'atwther, arid hate one another; and because iniquity shall
abound, the love of many shall wax coW^ The apostle of the
Getitiles, in his epilstles, complains of Demas, and Phygellus,
and Hermogenes, and many others in Asia, who turned away
from him ; and ihat when he first appeared at the bar of Nero,
Ho mmt stood with him, but all forsook him.l And Tacitus
speaking of tfie persecution by Nero, says : ^^ At first, those who
were seized confessed their sect ; and then, by their indica-
tion, a great multitude were convicted J^^

Vn. Immediately after the prediction of the outward
persecutions and internal defections by which the servants
of Christ were to be troubled, there follows this remarkable
prophecy : " This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached
in all the world, for a witness unto all nations ; and then
shall the lend comeP** The end, referred to, was that of the
Jewish polity, which entirely ceased at the destruction of the
Jewish metropoUs and temple. Jesus prophesied that before

♦ Acts, vi. 10. + Acts, xvi. 3a-4. t Lardner, iii. 498. Tac. Ann. 15. c. 44.
f Mat xxiv. 10—12. ' II 3 Tim. i. 15.— vi. 10.~iv. 10. IT Ann. b. xv.
•♦ Mat xxiv. 14.


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this, that is, in forty years from the time when he uttered
these words, the gospel would be preached in all the world
Of all that was then in futurity, what could have been moi:e
improbable, or to human view, more impossible than thi$?
The gospel was then received but by a handful of unlettered^
Jews. In a few days after, its author was crucified as a
malefactor; his disciples were scattered and discouraged;
his enemies triumphant, and the gospel seemed at an end.
When the infant church was gathered together in Jerusalem,
immediately after the ascension of its Head, the niunber of
the disciples that could be collected, was but one hundred and
twenty. What, but the omniscience of God could have
foreseen, that in less than forty years that church would be
extended into all countries of the known world? But thus
it came to pass : " It appears from the writers of the history
of the church, that before the destruction of Jerusalem, the
gospel was not only preached in the Lesser Asia, and Greece,

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriEvidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... → online text (page 19 of 36)