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come to pass; and it required not the wisdom of a man,
but the Spirit of the God of knowledge, to foresee
that all of them would concur, before the generation
that was then alive upon the earth passed away.
Yet this prophecy Jesus uttered about forty years
before the event. The prophecy was not laid up after
it was uttered, like the pretended oracles of the hea-
then nations, in some repository, where it might be
corrected by the event. But, having been brought to
the remembrance of those who heard it spoken, by the
spirit which Jesus sent into the hearts of his apostles
after his ascension, it was inserted in books which
were published before the time of the fulfilment. We
know that John lived to see the destruction of Je-
rusalem, and it is not certain whether he wrote his
Gospel before or after that event. But John has
omitted this prophecy altogether. Our knowledge
of it is derived from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark,
and Luke, which were carried by the Christian con-
verts into all parts of the world while Jerusalem
stood, which were early translated into different
languages, which are quoted by writers in the suc-
ceeding age, and were universally held by the first
Christians as books of authority, as the standards of
faith. In these books thus authenticated to us, we
find various intimations of the destruction of Jeru-
salem, by parables and short hints interwoven in the
thread of the history ; and all the three contain the
same long particular prophecy, with a small variety
of expression, but without the least discordance, or
even alteration of the sense. The greatest part of


this long prophecy has been most strikingly fulfilled,
and there are parts, the fulfilment of which is now
going on in the world.

We learn the fulfilment of the greater part of this
prophecy, not from Christian writers only, but from
one author, whose witness is unexceptionable, be-
cause it is not the witness of a friend ; and who
seems to have been preserved by Providence, in
order to transmit to posterity a circumstantial ac-
count of the siege. Josephus, a Jew, who wrote a
history of his country, has left also a relation of that
war in which Jerusalem was destroyed. In the be-
ginning of the war, he Avas a commander in Galilee.
But being besieged by ^^espasian, he fled with forty
more, after a gallant resistance, and hid himself in a
cave. Vespasian having discovered their lurking
place, offered them their life. Josephus was willing
to accept it. But his comjjanions refused to sur-
render. With a view to prolong the time, and in
hopes of overcoming their obstinacy, he prevailed
upon them to cast lots Avlio should die first. The
lots were cast two by two : and that God, who dis -
poseth of the lot, so ordered it, that of the forty,
thirty-nine were killed by the hands of one another,
and one only was left with Josephus. This man
yielded to his entreaties ; and these two, instead of
draAi'ing lots who should kill the other, went toge-
ther, and offered themselves to ^^espasian. 7'he
miserable fate of tlieir companions procured them a
kind reception ; and from that time Josephus re-
juained in the Roman camp, an eye-witness of
every thing that happened during the siege. He
has the reputation of a diligent faithful historian in
his otiicr work. And his very particular account of
the siege was revised by A\'S])nsi<in and I'ilus, and


published by their order. The only impeachment

that has ever been brought against the veracity of

Josephus is, that, although his history of the Jews

coinj)rehends the period in which our Lord lived, he

hardly makes mention of his name ; and, although

exact and minute in every thing else, enters into no

detail of the memorable circumstances that attended

his appearance, or the influence which it had upon

the minds of the people. He takes no notice of this

prophecy. A Jewish priest, whose silence betrays

his enmity to Jesus, certainly did not wish that it

should be fulfilled : and yet his history of the siege

is a comment upon the prophecy ; every vv^ord which

our Lord utters receiving the clearest explication,

and most plainly meeting its event in the narration

of this prejudiced Jewish historian.

Archbishop Tillotson, Newton on the Prophecies,
Lardner, Jortin, Newcome, and many other writers,
have made very full extracts from Josephus, and,
by setting the narration of the historian over against
the prediction of our Lord, have shown the exact
accomplishment of the words of the great Prophet,
from the record of a man who did not acknowledge
his divine mission. These extracts "well deserve
your study. But it is not necessary, after the labour
which so many learned men have bestowed upon
this subject, that I should lead you minutely through
the parts of the prophecy. There are, however,
some circumstances upon which I think it of import-
ance to fix your attention. I mean, therefore, to
give a distinct account of the occasion which led our
Lord to utter this prophecy ; and, after collecting
briefly the chief points respecting the siege, I shall
dwell upon the striking prophecy of the progress of


Christianity before that period, which Matthew
has preserved in his twenty-fourth chapter.

Our Lord had uttered in the temple, in the hear-
ing of a mixed multitude, a pathetic lamentation over
the distress that awaited the Jewish nation. As he
goes out of the temple towards the mount of Olives,
the usual place of his retirement, the disciples, struck
with the severity of an expression he had used,
" Behold your house is left unto you desolate," as if
to move his compassion and mitigate the sentence,
point out to him, while he passed along, the build-
ings of the temple, and the goodly stones and gifts
with which it was adorned. The great temple which
Solomon had built, was destroyed at the time of the
Babylonish captivity. Cyrus permitted the two
tribes, who returned to Judea, to rebuild the house
of their God. And this second temple was repaired
and adorned by Herod the Great, who, having re-
ceived the crown of Judea from the Romans, thought
that the most effectual way of overcoming the pre-
judices, and obtaining the favour of the Jewish peo-
ple, was by beautifying and enlarging, after the plan
of Solomon's temple, the building which had been
hastily erected in the reigns of Cyrus and Darius.
It was still accounted the second temple, but was so
much improved by the reparation which Herod made,
that both Josephus and the Roman historians cele-
brate the extent, the beauty, and the splendour, of
the building. And Josephus mentions, in particular,
marble stones of a stupendous size in the foundation,
and in different parts of the building. The dis-
ciples, we may suppose, point out these stones, la-
menting the destruction of such a fabric ; or perhaps
meaning to insinuate, that it would not be easy for


the hand of man to destroy it. But Jesus answered,
*' Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left here
one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown
down." It is a proverbial saying, marking the com-
plete destruction of the temple ; and there would not,
according to the general analogy of language, have been
an)- impropriety in the use of it, if the temple had been
rendered unfit for being a place of worship, although
piles of stones had been left standing in the court. But,
by the providence of God, even this proverbial expres-
sion was fulfilled, according to the literal acceptation
of the words. Titus was most solicitous to preserve
so splendid a monument of the victories of Rome ;
and he sent a message to the Jews who had enclosed
themselves in the temple, that he was determined to
save it from ruin. But they could not bear that
the house of their God, the pride and glory of their
nation, should fall into the hands of the heathen, and
they set fire to the porticoes. A soldier, observing
the flames, threw a burning brand in at the window ;
and others, incensed at the obstinate resistance of
the Jews, without regard to the commands or threat-
enings of their General, who ran to extinguish the
flames, continued to set fire to different parts of it,
and at length even to the doors of the holy place.
** And thus," says Josephus, " the temple was burnt
to the ground, against the will of Titus." After it
was in this way rendered useless, he ordered the
foundations, probably on account of the unusual
size of the stones, to be dug up. And Rufus, who
commanded the army after his departure, executed
this order, by tearing them up with a plough-share;
so truly did Micah say of old, " Zion shall be plough-
ed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and


the mountain of the house as the high places of the

The multitude probably pressing around our
Lord as he went out of the temple, the disciples
forbear to ask any particular explication of his
M^ords, till they come to the Mount of Olives. That
mount was at no great distance from Jerusalem,
and over against the temple, so that any person sit-
ting upon it, had an excellent view of the whole
fabric. The disciples, deeply impressed with what
they had heard, and anxious to receive the fullest
information concerning the fate of the city of their
solemnities, now that they are retired from the
multitude, come around Jesus upon the mount,
and looking down to the temple, say, " Tell us,
when shall these things be ; and what shall be the
sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?"f
It is of consequence that you form a clear appre-
hension of the import of this question. The end of
the world, according to the use of that phrase to
which our ears are accustomed, means the consum-
mation of all things. And this circumstance, joined
with some expressions in the prophecy, has led se-
veral interpreters to suppose that the apostles were
asking the time of the judgment. But to a Jew,
sj cuvrf/.iia 70-j aiajvog, often conveycd nothing more than
the end of the age. Time was divided by the Jews
into two great periods, the age of the law and the
age of the IMessiah. The conclusion of the one
was the beginning of the other, the opening of that
kingdom which the Jews believed the Messiah was
to estaiilish, which was to put an end to their suf-

* Micah iii. 12. t Matt. xxiv. ^>-

rREDicTioxs i)i:livi:ued dv jksus. '20.5

ferings, and to render them the greatest people upon
the earth. The apostles, full of this hope, said to
our Lord, immediately before his ascension, " Lord,
wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to
Israel ?" Our Lord used the phrase of his coming,
to denote his taking vengeance upon the Jews by
destroying their city and temple. " There be some
standing here," he said, " that shall not taste of
death till they see the Son of Man coming in his
kingdom."* All that heard him are long since ga-
thered to their fathers, and Jesus has not yet come
to judge the world. But John, we know, survived
the destruction of Jerusalem. There are two other
places in the New Testament where a phrase almost
the same with ri avvTO^ia rou aiuvog occurs. And in nei-
ther does it signify what we call the end of the
world. The apostle to the Hebrews, ix. 26, says,
" But now once, ^'^i auvrsXs/rc rcjv aiuvuv, hatli Clirist ap-
peared." At the conclusion of that dispensation
under wiiich the blood of bulls and goats was offer-
ed upon the altar of God, " Christ ai)peared, to put
away sin by the sacrifice of himself." The apostle
to the Corinthians says, " These things are written
for our admonition, upon whom are come ra tikti tojv
aiumv" f our translation renders it " the ends of the
world." Yet the world has lasted about 1800
years since the apostolic days ; the meaning is, the
ends of the ages, the conclusion of the one age, and
the beginning of the other, are come upon us ; for
we have seen both.

It is agreeable, then, to the phraseology of Scrip-
ture, and to the expectations of the apostles, to iu-

* Mrttt. xvi. 28. + 1 Cor. x. 11.


terpret their question here, " What shall be the
sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?"
as meaning nothing more than the corresponding
question, to which an answer, in substance the
same, is given in the 13th chapter of Mark, and
the 21st of Luke. What shall be the sign when
these things, this prophecy of the destruction of
the temple, shall be fulfilled, or come to pass ? But
the language in which the question is proposed in
Matthew, suggests to us the sentiment which had
probably arisen in the minds of the apostles, after
hearing the declaration of our Lord, as they walked
from the temple to the INIount of Olives. They
conceived that the whole frame of the Jewish polity
was to be dissolved, that the glorious kingdom of
the Messiah was to commence, and that, as all the
nations of the earth were to be gathered to this
kingdom, and Jerusalem was to be the capital of the
world, the temple which now stood, extensive and
magnificent as it was, would be too small for the
reception of the worshippers, that on this account
it was to be laid in ruins, and one much more splen-
did, more suitable to the dignity of the Messiah, and
far surpassing every human work, was to be erected
in its stead. Possessed with these exalted imagina-
tions, and anticipating their own dignity in being
the ministers of this temple, they come to Jesus and
say, " Tell us when these things shall be, and what
shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of
the age ?" The question consists of two parts.
They ask the time, and they ask the signs. Our
Lord begins with giving a particular answer to the
second question. He afterwards limits the time to
the existence of the generation then alive upon the


earth. But he represses their curiosity as to the day
or the hour.

Of the signs mentioned by our Lord, I shall give
a short general view, deriving the account of the
fulfilment of his words from the history of the events
left us by Josephus, and shall then fix your attention
upon that prophecy of the general progress of Christ-
ianity before the destruction of Jerusalem, which
you will find in the 24th chapter of Matthew.

The first sign is the number of false Christs who
were to arise in the interval between the prophecy
and the event ; impostors who, finding a general
expectation of the Messiah, as the seventy weeks of
Daniel were conceived to be accomplished, and a
disposition to revolt from the Romans, assumed a
character corresponding to the wishes of the people.
There is frequent reference to these impostors in
the book of Acts ; and Josephus says, that numbers
of them were taken under the government of Felix.
They led out the deluded people in crowds, promising
to show them great signs, and to deliver them from
all their calamities, and thus exposed them to be cut
to pieces by the Roman soldiers, as disturbers of the
peace. Our Lord graciously warns the apostles not
to go after these men ; to put no faith in any mes-
sage which they pretended to bring from him, but
to rest satisfied with the directions contained in this
prophecy, or hereafter communicated to themselves
by his Spirit. While he thus preserves his followers
from the destruction which came upon many of the
Jews, he enables them, by reading in that destruc-
tion the fulfilment of his words, and a proof of his
divine character, to derive from the fate of their


unwise countrymen an early confirmation of their
own faith.

The second sign consists of great calamities which
were to happen during the interval. The madness
of Caligula, who succeeded Tiberius, butchered many
of the Jews ; and there was in his reign the rumour
of a war, which was likely to be the destruction of
the nation. He ordered his statue to be erected in
the temple of Jerusalem. Not conceiving why an
honour, which was granted to him by the ather pro-
vinces of the empire, should be refused by Judea ;
and not being wise enough to respect the religious
prejudices of those who were subject to him, he re-
jected their remonstrances, and persisted in his de-
mand. The Jews had too high a veneration for the
house of the true God, to admit of any thing like
divine honours being there paid to a mortal, and
they resolved to suffer every distress, rather than to
give their countenance to the sacrilege of the em-
peror. Such was the consternation which the ru-
mour of this war spread through Judea, that the
people neglected to till their lands, and in despair
waited the approach of the enemy. But the death-
of Caligula removed their fears, and delayed for
some time that destruction which he meditated. Al-
though, therefore, says Jesus, you will find the Jews
troubled when these wars arise, as if the end of
their state was at hand, be not ye afraid, but know
that many things must first be accomplished. What
strength was the faith of the apostles to derive
from this prophecy, but a few years after our
Lord's death, v/hen they heard of rumours of wars,
when they beheld the despair of their countrymen,
and yet saw the cloud dispelled, and the peace of


fheir country restored ! The peace, indeed, was soon'
intermitted by frequent engagements between the
Jewish and heathen inhabitants of many cities in
the province of Syria ; by disputes about the bounds
of their jurisdiction, amongst the governors of the
different tetrarchies or kingdoms into which the
land of Palesline was divided ; and by tlie wars
arising from the quick succession of emperors, and
the vioknit competitions for the imperial diadem. It
was not the sword only that filled with calamity
this disastrous interval. The human race, accord-
ing to the words of this prophecy, suffered under
those judgments which proceed immediately from
heaven. Jose2)hus has mentioned famine and pesti-
lence, earthquakes in all places of the world whei*e
Jews resided, and one in Judea attended with cir-
cumstances so dreadful and so unusual, that it was
manifest, he says, the whole power of nature was
disturbed for the destruction of men.

The third sign is the persecution of the Christ-
ians. The sufferings of which we read in the Epis-
tles and the Acts were early aggravated by the fa-
mines, and pestilence, and earthquakes with which
God at this time afflicted the earth. The Christians
were regarded as the causes of these calamities ; and
the heathen, without inquiring into the nature of
their religion, but viewing it as a new pestilential
superstition, most offensive to the gods, tried to ap-
pease the divine anger, which manifested itself in
various judgments, by bringing every indignity and
barbarity upon the Christians. The example was
set by Nero, who, having in the madness of his
wickedness set fire to Rome that he might enjoy
the sight of a great city in flames, turned the tide

VOL. I. r


of that indignation, which the report excited, from
himself against the Christians, by accusing them of
this atrocious crime. He found the people not un-
willing to believe any thing of a sect whom they
held in abhorrence ; and both in this, and in many
other instances, the Christians suffered the most ex-
quisite torments for crimes not their own, and as
the authors of calamities which they did not occa-
sion. The persecution which they endured has been
well called by one of the oldest apologists for Christ-
ianity,* a war against the name, proceeding not
from hatred to them as individuals, but from enmity
to the name which they bore. " Ye shall be hated
of all nations for my name's sake."

The fourth sign is the apostacy and treachery of
many who had borne this name. Although perse-
cution naturally tends to unite those who are per-
secuted, and although the religion of Jesus can boast
of an innumerable company of martyrs, who, in the
flames witnessed a good confession, yet there were
some in the earliest ages who made shipwreck of
faith, and endeavoured to gain the favour of the
heathen magistrates by informing against their bre-
thren. This apostacy is often severely reprehend-
ed in the epistles of Paul ; and the Roman histo-
rian speaks of a multitude of Christians who were
convicted of bearing the name, upon the evidence
of those who confessed first.t It cannot surprise
any one who considers the weakness of human na-
ture, that such examples did occur. But it must
appear very much to the honour of Jesus, that he
adventui'es to utter such a prophecy. He is not-

• Justin Martyr. t Tac. Ann. XT. 44.


afraid of sowing jealousy and distrust amongst his
followers. He knew that many were able to endure
the trial of affliction, and he leaves the chaflf to he
separated from the wheat.

The fifth sign is the multitude of false teachers,
men who, either from an attachment to the law of
Moses, or from the pride of false philosophy, cor-
rupted the simplicity of the Gospel. This perver-
sion appeared in the days of the apostles. Com-
plaints of it, and warnings against it, are scattered
through all their epistles. Neither the sword of the
persecutor, nor the wit of the scorner has done so
much injury to the cause of Christianity, as the
strifes and idle disputes of those who bear his name.
Many, in early times, were shaken by the errors of
false prophets. Improper sentiments and passions
were cherished ; the union of Christians was bro-
ken, and the religion of love and peace became an
occasion of discord. But these corruptions, how-
ever disgraceful to Christians, are a testimony both
of the candour and the divine knowledge of the au-
thor of the Gospel ; and even those who perverted
his religion fulfilled his words.

We have now gone through those signs which an-
nounced the destruction of Jerusalem, and we are
come to the circumstances, marked in the prophecy,
which happened during the siege.

The first is, Jerusalem being compassed with ar-
mies, or, as Matthew expressed it, the abomination
of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand-
ing in the holy place. There were commonly en-
graved upon the Roman standards, after the times
of the republic, the images of those emperors whom
admiration or flattery had translated into the num-


ber of gods. The soldiers were accustomed to swear
by these images, to worship them, and to account
them the gods of battle. The Jews, educated in an
abhorrence of idolatry, could not bear that images,
before which men thus bowed, should be brought
within the precincts of their city : and soon after the
death of our Lord, they requested a Roman general,
Vitellius, who was leading troops through Judea
against an enemy of the emperor, to take another
road, because, said they, it is not Tar^/o;/ riiiiv to behold
from our city any images. With strict propriety,
then, the dark expression of Daniel, which had not
till that time been understood, is interpreted by our
Lord as meaning the offensive images of a great
multitude of standards brought within that space, a
circumference of two miles round the city which
was accounted holy, in order to render the city de-
solate ; and he mentions this as the signal to his
followers to fly from the low parts of Judea to the
mountains. It may appear to you too late to think
of flying, after the Roman armies were seen from
Jerusalem. But the manner in which the siege was
conducted justified the wisdom of this advice. A
few years before Titus destroyed Jerusalem, Ces-
tius Galhis laid siege to it ; he might have taken the
city if he had persevered ; but without any reason
that was known, says Josephus, he suddenly led
away his forces. And after his departure many
fled from the city as from a sinking ship. Vespasian,
too, was slow in his approaches to the city; and by the
distractions which at that time took place in the go-
vernment of Rome, was frequently diverted from ex-
ecuting his purpose ; so that the Christians, to whom
the first appearance of Cestius's army brought au


explanation of the words of Jesus, by following his
directions, escaped entirely from the carnage of the
Jews. Our Lord warns his disciples of the imnii-
nency of the danger, and urges them, by various
expressions, to the greatest speed in their flight.

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