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and Italy, the great theatres of action then in the world, but
was Ukewise propagated as fer northward as Scjrthia, as far
southward as Ethiopia, as fiir eastward as Parthia and India,
as far westward as Spain and Britain."* The epistles of
Paul, in the New Testament, were directed to churches
then flourishing in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi,
Colosse, and Thessalonica. In the Epistle to the Romans,
he asserts that the christian faith was then (ten years before
the end) ^^ spoken cfthroughoiU the world J^t To the Colos-
sians, about three years after, he asserts that " the gospel had
(then) bee7t preached to every creature under heaven,^ t
meaning that to all nations, without distinction, it had been
published. Tacitus bears witness that, in the sixth year
before the destruction of Jerusalem (Nero's persecution), the
religion of Christ had not only extended over Judea, but
through Rome also; and that its followers were then so
numerous, that " a vast multitude^^ were apprehended and
condemned to martyrdom.^ Thus, impossible as such an

♦ Newton, ii. 257- R t Rnm i. 18. t Col. i. 23. § Tac. Ann. b. xv.

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event must have seemed at the time when this prophecy was
uttered, the end did not come until the gospel of the kingdom
of Christ wds preached " in all the worldP We know not
which should be considered the most impressive evidence that
God was with the gospel; this wmtderfvl fojct^ brought to
pass by such means, and in the tace of such universal and
deadly opposition ; or the prophetic eye by which the Saviour
predicted, in circumstances so unpromising, that thus it
would be.

Vin. The next prophetic sign brings us almost to the
awful catastrophe. " When ye shall see Jerusalem cam-
parsed with armies f^ or, as the expression is in Matthew:
" When ye shall see the abomination of desolation stand in
the holy place,^ " then know thai the desolation thereof is
nighP " Tlien let them which be in Judea flee to the ri^oun-
tains : let him that is on the house-top not come doum to take
any thing out of his house : neither let him which is in the
field return back to take his dothesP*

By the abomination of desolation standing in the holy
place, Matthew expresses the same thing as when Luke
speaks of Jerusalem being compassed with armies. The
standards of the Roman armies had on them images to which
idolatrous worship was paid, and which were therefore an
abomination to the Jews. On this account, we read that a
Roman general, when conducting his army through Judea
towards Arabia, was besought by the principal Jews to lead
it another way.t "Every idol and every image," says
Chrysostom, " was called an abomination among the Jews."
These idolatrous ensigns being connected with a desolating
army, constituted them the abomination of desolation ; and
when the Roman army planted its standards around the holy
city, the abomination of desolation Uterally stood in the holy
pla>ce, or on holy ground. This the Saviour predicted. It
was to be the signal to Christians that the desolation of
Jerusalem was nigh. Then they were to escape with haste

♦ Luke, xxi. 20. Mat xxiv. 15, 16, 17, 18. t Ant b. 18, c. vi. S 3.

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to the mountains. The warning implied that, even after the
city was encompassed with armies, they would have an oppor-
tunity of escape ; but, at the same time, that the opportunity
would be brief. All this came to pass. One would suppose'
that the Christians, in having delayed till the city was sur-^
rounded with a besieging host, would thus have waited till
all escape was cut off. But a remarkable providence took
care that they should await the sign, and yet obey the admo-
nition to flee. Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, at the
commencement of the war, besieged the city ; took possession
of the suburbs ; encamped over against the royal palace ; and
might easily, Josephus says, have got within the walls, and
won the city. Indeed "many of the principal men were
about to open the gates to him." But although the abomina-
tion of desolation Was thus in the holy place, the followers of
Christ were there also. The time of the end, therefore, was
not yet come. An opportunity must be found for them to
flee. The Lord sees to this. Just as the city was ready to
open its gates to the Roman chief, " he recalled his soldiers
from the place — without having received any disgrace ; and
retired from the city, without any reason in the worldP This
the Jewish historian expressly ascribes to a special interposi-
tion of Providence; though he knew not its object. It could
be accounted for on no military or prudential considerations.
Josephus relates that many principal men of Jerusalem em-
braced this opportunity to depart from the city as from a
sinking ship.* A short time after, when the Roman armies
were again approaching with the abomination of desolation
towards the holy place, our historian states that a great
multitude fled to the mountains^ Among these, were
probably the disciples of Christ. But we learn more certainly
from ecclesiastical historians, of the early centuries, that, at
this crisis, all the followers of Christ took rellige in the
mountsdnous regions beyond Jordan ; thus obeying the pro-
phetic warning of their Lord ; so that there is nowhere any

♦ Waro. K- Q ^ -. § 1. f lb. b. 4, c. viii. § 2.

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mention of a single Christian having perished in the si^e
and destruction of Jerusalem.* But as the Saviour fore-
warned them : what they were to do, they had to do quickly.
For as soon as Jerusalem was again encompassed with
armies, it was surrounded entirely with a wall, so that, in the
words of the historian, " ail hope of escaping was now cut
c^ from the Jews.^^J

Who the enemy would be, and the power, and fury, and
universal spread of his desolations, the Saviour foretold, by
the use of this proverbial expression : " Wheresoever the
carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.^X
Prophecy often speaks a great deal in a few words. The
carcass was the Jewish nation given over, as thoroughly
corrupt and forsaken of God, to be devoured as by birds of
prey. An ai:my is distinguished by its banners. They con-
stitute its characteristic insignia. The banner^ of the Boman
army were surmounted by eagles — emblems of strength, of
swiftness, and ferocity. By these the Saviour described it as
that which would desolate Jerusalem. Literally, wherever
the carcass was, these eagles were gathered. Josephus testi-
fies that all parts of the land participated in the desolations
of Jerusalem.^ The legions of Rome, like flocks of birds of
prey, flew from city to city, spreading devastation and
slaughter wherever they planted their standards. With
eagle-swiftness, they descended upon the unprepared popula-
tion ; with eagle-strength, they triumphed over every oppo-
sition; with eagle-fierceness, they devoured and tore in
pieces, sparing neither age nor sex, sending into hopeless
slavery the few to whom the sword denied its mercy. The
melancholy record of Jotapata relates that all its population
were slain but infants and women. These were carried into
bondage. The rest, forty thousand, were slaughtered. Joppa
was demolished; the neighbouring villages were destroyed;
the whole region was laid waste. Of all the population of

♦ I^rdner, iii. 507. Newton, ii. p. 2G6. t Wars, b. 5, c. xii. § 2, 3.
t Mat xxiv. 2i^. 9 Wars, b. 4, c. viii. 5 1.

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Gamala, two women alone escaped. Here, not even in&nts
were spared the sword. Such was the extreme awfiilness of
the slaughter, that many Jews in preference threw their
children, their wives, and themselves, from the hill, on which
the citadel was built, into the deep abyss below. The num-
ber that perished thus, was computed at five thousand-
These are but a few cases out of the many which illustrate
the perfect accompUshment of the prediction before us.*

IX. But our Lord foretold not only the enemy by whom
Jerusalem would be destroyed, but the means by which it
would be taken. " The days (said he) shaU come upon
thee thai thine enemies shall cast a trench abotU thee, and
compass thee round, and keep thee in on every mfe.t A
trench and a wall or embankment always go together in
military operations. Both were certainly intended here.
But it was exceedingly improbable that such a measure
would be resorted to in the siege of Jerusalem. The nature
of>the ground, and the great extent of the city, rendered it
extremely difficult. It had never been attempted in the
previous sieges of the same place. It was not necessary,
because, had the Roman general been content to wait a Uttle,
the famine and the contending factions within the city would
soon have delivered it into his possession. After all, it was
contrary to the advice of his chief men, and was adopted
only because a more protracted siege would have been less

* How minutely were the enemy and his desolations described by Moses
as much as one thousand five hundred years before the war ! " The Lord
shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift
as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand ^ a
nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor
shew favour to the young: and he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the
fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed : which also shall not leave thee
either com, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep,
until he have destroyed thee. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until
thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustcdst, throughout all
thy land ; and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land
which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Deut xxviii. 49 — ^52.

t Luke, xix. 43.


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g^ri^us. Thq higher cause, however, was, that he was
God's instrument unwittingly, to fulfil the words of Christ.
Titus must confirm the, prophetic character of Jesus. By
building a wall a,bout Jerusalem, he was to build up the
defence of the gospel. The city was therefore Uterally com-
passed round, and its inhabitants were kept in on every side
by a wall and trench^'put up by the troops of Titus, and
measuring about five mil^ in circumference. Josephus ig
very particular in stating precisely the direction of the wall
in its whole circuit.*

X. ^\Tkese be the days of vengeance^^ said the Lord;
^^for then shall be great iribidation, such as was not from
the beginning of the world to this time, nor ever shall 6e."t
Days of vengeance, indeed, they were, when all that was
written and threatened in Moses and the prophets was fiil-
filled. As if Josephus had written with the very words of
the Saviour in view, he bears record, that in his opinion,
" no other city ever suffered su^ch miseries ; nor was there
ever a generation more fruitful in wickedness, from the
beginning of the wtyrldP " It appears to me, that the mis-
fortunes of all men from the beginning of the world, if they
be compared to these of the Jews, are not so considerable."
" For in reality it was God who condemned the whole nation,
and turned every course that was taken for their preservation
to their destruction." It is impossible to describe the truth
in this C£ise. " The multitude of those who perished (says
our historian) exceeded all the destructions that man or
God ever brought on the world."! At the commencement
of the siege, immense multitudes having come up from all
parts of the country to the feast of the passover, the nation^
literally, was crowded into Jerusalem ; so that the city was
supposed to have in it upwards of two million, seven hun-
dred thousand souls. The miseries endured by this impri-

♦ Wars, &c. b. 5, c. xii. § 2. t Luke, xxi. 22.

t Wars, «&c. b. 5, c. x. § 5. - Preface to Wai-s, § 4.— Wars, b. 6, c. xiii.
f 4.— b. C, c. ix. § 4.

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soned multitude are minutely detailed in the history of th^
siege. Famine commenced, and numbered its thousands of
unburied and loathsome victims. This destroyer raged so
widely that the people devoured their shoes and girdles, the
soldiers the leather on their shields. Wisps of old straw
were turned into food. That which before they could not
endure to see, they now consented to eat. United to these
desolations were the remorseless cruelties of contending Ac-
tions. The city was filled with robbers, who divided its
population into parties, more destructive than all the soldiery
of the besiegers. Filled with rage and instigated by hunger,
they alike refused to be at peace with each other, or to capitu-
late to the common enemy. They robbed the temple ; slew
the priests at the altar ; defiled the sanctuary with a sea of
blood. To keep each other fi-om food, they fired storehouses
containing provisions for a siege of many years. Whenever
any corn appeared, bands of robbers instantly seized it
They searched every house in which they suspected there
was food. Parents snatched it firom their children ; chil-
dren spoiled it firom the mouths of their parents. There
was a lady of high birth and much wealth, who had come
firom the country, and was kept in Jerusalem by the siege.
All her effects, and all the food she had saved for herself
and children, had been taken by the prowling baiids that
continually ranged the streets for prey. By imprecations
and reproaches, she endeavoured in vain to provoke them
to take her life as well as bread. At last she prepared^a
feast. Keen hunger found out a lamb. A mother's despera-
tion slew and served it. Having consumed a part, the rest
was concealed. The smell of food soon brought in the
wolves. They threatened instant death unless she disco-
vered it. With bitter irony she assured them that a fine
portion had been saved for theni, and then uncovered what
remained of the lamb. It was the half-eaten body of her
infant son. Struck motionless with horror, they would not
partake of it. Then she upbraided them as pretending tft


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LECTuiiB yiii, 233

more tenderness than a woman, and more compassion than
a mother. All the city, and the whole Roman camp, were
filled with astonishment at this horrid evidence of the reign-
ing ^wretchedness ; so that the dead were envied ^r having
escaped the sight of such miseries.* But the wo went on.
Th^ prisoners taken in endeavouring to desert the city were
nailed on crosses by the Roman soldiers, ^^ some one way,
some another, as it were in jest," around the outside of the
walls, " till so ^eat was the number, that room was wanting
for crosses, and crosses were wanting for bodies."t Thus
had the Jews, forty years before, crucified the Lord of glory
without the walls, with cruel jesting and bitter mockery.t
Those who continued within th^ city took refuge in caverns,
aqueducts, sewers, and other secret places, to escape from one
another. Titus, as he beheld the dead bodies that had been
thrown from the walls into the valleys, "lifted up his hands
to heaven, and called God to witness that this was not his
doing."§ The number of those who perished during these
" days of vengeance," is computed by Josephus at upwards
of one million, three hundred thousand ; and of these, one
million, one hundred and fifty thousand were of Jerusalem,
beside ninety-seven thousand carried into slavery, and an
innumerable multitude who perished uncounted in various
places, through famine, banishment, and other miseries. II
Add to this destruction of life, the complete ruin of their
holy city and magnificent temple, dearer to the Jew? than

* How exactly did Moses, at least fifteen hundred years before, depict this
very scene ! He described even the rknk, quality, and habits of the unhappy
woman. " The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not
adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and ten-
derness, her eye shall be evU toward the husband of her bosom, and toward
her son, and toward her daughter, and toward her young one thatcometh out
from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear : for she
shall cat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness where-
with thine enemy shall distress thee in thyjgates." — Deut xxviii. 56, 57.

t Wars, &c. b. 6, c. iii. § 4.— b. 5, c. xi. § 1.

t " His blood be on us and on our children."

f B. 5, c. xii. § 4. U Lurdner, iii 529.


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234 LECTURE Vlll.

life; add moreover the universal desolation and almost
depopulation of Judea ; and you will find no difficulty in
interpreting the Saviour's prediction of " a trUrulatwn svch
CLS was rudfrom the beginning of the world.^ It was when
our compassionate Redeemer had all this in full prospect
that "he beheld the city" firom the mount of Olives, "and
wept over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, in this
thy day, the things that make for thy j^eace, but now they
are hid from thine eyes."* How did the anticipation of all
this misery affect him, when, as he was going to his cross,
h^ turned to the women who wept and wailed because of
him, and said : " Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me,
but weep for yourselves and your children ; for behold the
days are coming, in the which they will say. Blessed are the
barren and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which
never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the moun-
tains, fall on us, and to the hills, cover us I^t Who can help
reflecting here upon that solemn question, " What shall tlie
end he of ihetn thai obey not the gospel of God ?"

XI. We come now to the work of destruction, which
forms tfie most remarkable particular in this wonderful
prophecy. The ruin of the city was foretold in these words :
" They shall lay thee even with the ground^ and thy children
within thee : and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon
another thai shall not be thrown down,^^l The ruin of the
temple was foretold as follows. As the disciples were show-
ing to Jesus the stupendous buildings of the temple, he
answered : " Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left
here one stone upon another that shall not be thnywn dawn.^^k
Most wonderfully was the spirit of prophecy manifested in
these words. Every thing conspired to make the events
appear improbable, and to prevent their occurrence, when
the time predicted had arrived. Jerusalem was surrounded
with three massive walls of immense strength, rendering its

♦ Luke, xix. 42. t Luke, xxiii. 28, 29, 30. t Luke, xix. 44.

S Matthew, xxiv. 2.


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garrison almost unassailable, except by famine, or pestilence,
or internal discord.* Never were men more perfectly de-
yoted to the defence of a city than those of Jerusalem. None
cared for life at the expense of her ruin. The garrison was
ten times the number of the besiegers. It was, therefore,
exceedingly improbable that the city would even be entered
by the Romans. Such was the testimony of Titus, as he
looked around upon its towers. " We have certainly," said
he, " had God for our helper in this war. It is God who has
ejected the Jews out of these fortifications. For what could
the hands of men, or any machines, do towards throwing
down such fortifications.''t But it was equally improbable,
even if the city were taken, that such complete destructioa
would be made of all therein. Think of the difficulty of
completely destroying such an immense extent of triple wall,
and of buildings witliin. Think of the temple ! What a
pile to be laid low ! Its walls enclosed more than nineteen
acres ; that of the eastern front rose to a height of nearly
eight hundred feet from its base in the valley beneath. In
this, and the other walls, the stones were immense, the largest
measuring sixty-five feet in length, eight in height, and ten
in breadth. How great the difficulty of a thorough level-
ling of such a structure, even under the instigation of the
strongest motive ! But what motive was likely to excite the
Komans to such destruction ? They prided themselves upon
a veneration for the arts, and upon the sacred care with
which, in all their conquests, the monuments of architectural
taste were protected. The temple was emphatically such a
monument. The immensity of its walls ; its splendid gates
and beautiful marble colonnades ; the glory of its golden
sanctuary ; the grandeur of its whole appearance ; and all

* Gibbon, spealung of the strength of Jerusalem at this time, says: " The
craggy ground might s^ipersede the necessity of fortifications, and her walls
and towers would have fortified the most accessible plain."

Decline and Fall, vol. viii. c Wiii. p. 144.

t Wars, b. 6, c. ix. § 1.


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its associations of antiquity and of sacredness, constituted
the teinpte of JisrUsalem precisely such an object as Roman
commanders had alwa3rs gloried in preserving from the deso-
lations of conquest Even barbarians were used to spare
&uch liionuments in their march of devastation. Genserie,
ivhen, with his Moors and Vandals, he had sacked the city
of Borne, spoiled hier wealth and carried away the ornaments
<tf her temples and cApitdl, but spared her noble structures ;*
and to this day, after all the scenes of war that have raged
thtoiigh her streets, the pillar of Trajan, the triumphal arch
(of 'ntus, the unmutilated Pantheon, and the noble Cdis-
49ieum, with numerous other monuments of art, attest the
ancient glory of the mistress of the world. How often have
hostile armies filled the streets of Athens, and hordes of
Gothic barbarians encamped amidst her sanctuaries; and
yet the beautifiil temple of Theseus is scarcely injured, as
a model of architecture, and the Parthenon, though defaced
and robbed, remains, a noble example still of the grandeur
and purity of Athenian taste in the age of Phidias and Peri-
cles. How improbable then must it have seemed to one
beholding the temple iii the days of our Lord, that Romans
should lay it evien with the ground. Much more improbable,
had the cultivated taste, and the mild, aniiable, and humane
disposition of Titus, their commander, been anticipated.
Still more improbable, when it is remembered how strongly
he was beiit upon saving the city and temple from destruc-
tion ; how he employed all the means in his power to induce
the Jews to surrender, before such extremities were neces-
sary.t Wheix he had reached the temple, and saw the danger
it was in of being sacrificed to the obstinacy of its defenders
and the rage of his own soldiers, he was " deeply afiected,"
and appealed to the gods, to his army, and to the Jews, that
he did not force them to defile the holy house. "If (said he)
you will change the place whereon you will fight, no Roman

* Gibbon, V. 5.

t Wars, &C.J b. 5, c. viii. § !.— c. li. § 2.— c. xi. § 2.— b. 6, c. ii. § 1,


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shall either come near your sanctuary, or offer any affront
to it J nay, I will endeavour to preserve your holy house
whether you will or not."* But the Lord of that temjde had
said: ^^ Behold your house is left unto you, desolated God
would not suffer the prophetic wprds of his son to return
unto him void. Now, therefore, even the authority of Titus
was of no aveiil with his troops. Now the discipUne of the
Roman legion was broken up that all that was written might
be fulfilled. When the fire first reached the temple, theii
commander despatched a force to extinguish it. As it broke
out again, he again used his authority to save the edifice.
A soldier, disobeying the will of his general, threw fire into
the golden window of the inner sanctuary. At this, Titus,
followed by all his chief officers, rushed to the place, and
by voice, and gesture, and force, exerted himself most ear-
nestly to prevail with his troops to spare the building. He
ordered a centurion to punish the disobedient. But neither
his threatenings nor persuasions could arrest their fiiry. -At
last, a soldier taking advantage of his absence, when he had
gone out of the sanctuary to restrain the others, " threw fire
upon the holy gate in the dark ; whereby the flame burst out
from within the holy house immediately ."t And thus was
it devoured by the fire. And now orders were given to
demolish to the foundation the whole city and temple.
Nothing was spared of the former but three towers, and so

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriEvidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... → online text (page 20 of 36)