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alts our conceptions of the importance of what they
say, but at the same time increases the obscurity
natural to prophecies, and made the people whom
they addressed often call their discourses dark say-
ings. This eastern imagery, which pervades the
prophetical style, is especially remarkable when the
rise or fall of kingdoms is foretold. The images are
then borrowed from the most spientiid objects ; and
as in the ancient mode of writing by hieroglyphics,
the sun, the moon, and stars, being bodies raised
above the earth, were used to represent kingdoms and
princes, so in the prophecies of their calamities, or
prosperity, changes upon the heavenly bodies, bright
light, and thick darkness came to be a common phra-
seology. Of the punishment which God was to in-
flict on Judea, he says by Jeremiah, " I will stretch
out my hand against thee and destroy thee ; she
hath given up the ghost ; her sun is gone down,
while it is yet day." * Of Egypt, by Ezekiel, " All
the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over
thee, and make darkness over thy land, saith the
Lord God." f So by Joel, " The earth shall quake
before them, the heavens shall tremble ; the sun and
the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw
their shining; and the Lord shall utter his voice be-
fore his army." | And when God promises deliver-
ance and victory to his people, it is in these beauti-

* Jer. XV. 6", 9. t Ezek. xxxii. 8.

X Joelii. 10, 11.


fill words, " Thy sun shall no more go down, nei-
ther shall thy moon withdraw itself. But the light
of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the
light of the sun shall be sevenfold." * It was most
natural for the Messiah of the Jews to introduce
this uniform language of former prophets in foretel-
ling the dissolution of their state ; and all that he
says was fulfilled, according to the appropriated use
of that language, immediately after the siege. For
the city was desolated'; the temple was burnt ; that
ecclesiastical constitution which the Romans had to-
lerated after Judea became a province of the empire
was dissolved ; the Sanhedrim no longer assembled ;
the office of the High Priest could no more be exer-
cised according to the commandment of God ; every
privilege which had distinguished the people of the
Jews ceased ; the sceptre, in appearance as well as
in reality, departed from Judah, and the very forms
of the dispensation given by Moses came to an end.
As changes upon the kingdoms of the earth are
produced by the all-ruling providence of God, so the
ancient prophets often represent him in their figura-
tive language, as coming in the clouds of heaven to
execute vengeance upon a guilty nation ; and Daniel
applies this language f to the exertion of the power
of the Son of Man, when he was to take away the
dominion of the four beasts whom Daniel had seen
in his vision, and to give the kingdom to the
saints of the Most High. You find our Lord re-
ferring to this expression, which was familiar to
every Jew. Immediately after the distress of the
siege, you shall see the sign of the Son of man in

* Isaiah Ix. 20; xxx. ^b". t Dan. vii. 13, 14, 27,


heaven. The sign which you have been taught to
look for, is not a comet, or meteor, a wonderful ap-
pearance in the air to astonish the ignorant : it is
the Son of man employing the Roman armies as his
servants, to execute vengeance upon those who cru-
cified him, and demonstrating to the world, by the
complete dissolution of the Jewish state, that all
power is committed to him.

The first part, then, of our Lord's prophecy con-
cerning the condition of the Jewish people, subse-
quent to the siege, although expressed in sublime
and figurative language, may be nnderstood, by the
analogy of the prophetical style, to mean, that the
political and ecclesiastical constitution of Judea was
to be annihilated immediately after that event.

But you may observe in Luke another prophecy
concerning their condition, reaching to a remote
period, and marking events, in their nature, most
contingent. " Jerusalem shall be trodden down of
the Gentiles, imtil the times of the Gentiles be ful-
filled." * Not only shall the city be taken, and the
constitution be dissolved, and many Jews fall by the
edge of the sword, and many be led captive into all
nations ; but Jerusalem shall belong to the Gentiles,
and be used by them in a contemptuovis manner till
the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. As this pre-
diction, when taken in connexion with other pas-
sages of Scripture, means a great deal more than is
obvious at first sight, and as the present state of
the Jews is one of the strongest visible arguments
for the truth of Christianity, I shall lay before you
the history of Jerusalem since it was taken, the con-

* Luke xxi. 24.


dition of the Jewish people during the desolation of
their city, and that prospect of a better time Mdiich
is intimated in the concise expression of our Lord.

The history of Jerusalem from the time of its
being destroyed by Titus till this day, is a literal
fulfilment of the expression, " Jerusalem shall be
trodden down of the Gentiles." The emperor Ad-
rian conceived the design of rebuilding Jerusalem
about forty-seven years after its destruction. He
planted a Roman colony there, and in place of the
templie of the God of the Jews, he erected a temple
to Jupiter. The Jews, who inhabited the other
parts of Judea, inflamed by this insulting act of sac-
rilege, engaged in open rebellion against the Romans,
and, assembling in vast multitudes, got possession
of their city, and kept it for a short time. But Ad-
rian soon expelled them, demolished their towns and
castles, desolated the land of Judea, and scattered
those who survived over the face of the earth. He
re-established the Roman colony in Jerusalem, gave
it a new name, and forbade any Jew to enter it.
Three hundred years after the death of our Saviour,
Constantine, the first Roman emperor who embraced
Christianity, built many splendid Christian churches
in this Roman colony, and dispersed the Jews who
attempted to disturb the Christians in their wor^
ship. Within thirty years after the death of Con-
stantine, the Emperor Julian, who is knov/n by the
name of the Apostate, because, although he had been
bred a Christian, he became a heathen, out of hatred
to the Christians, and with a view to defeat the
prophecy, invited the body of the Jewish people
scattered through the empire, to return to their city ;
and professing to lament the oppression which they


Jiad endured, gave orders for rebuilding their tem-
ple. His lieutenants did begin. But, says the Ro-
man historian Ammianus Marcellinus, whose re-
spectable authority there is no reason in this in-
stance to question, balls of fire bursting forth near
the foundation made it impossible for the workmen
to approach the place, and the enterprise was laid
aside. * Julian did not reign above two years ; and
as all the emperors who succeeded him were Christ-
ians, no attempt was ever made to rebuild the tem-
ple, and the Jews were prohibited from living in the
city. It was only by stealth, or by bribing the
guards, that they obtained a sight of the ruins of
their temple. In the year 637s Jerusalem was ta-
ken by the successors of the great impostor Maho-
met. A mosque was built upon the very spot
where the temple of Solomon had stood ; and this
mosque was afterwards so much enlarged and beau-
tified, that it became the resort of the Mahometans
in the adjoining countries, in the same manner as
the temple had been of the Jews. Since that time,
it has passed, in the succession of conquests made by
different nations and tribes, through the hands of
the Turks, the Egyptians, and the Mamelukes. It
was for some time in possession of Christians,
who, having marched from Europe at the era of
the Crusades, to deliver their brethren in the holy
land from oppression, and to rescue the sepulchre
of our Lord out of the hands of INIahometans, took
Jerusalem, and established a kingdom which lasted
about a century. The Christian forces were at
length expelled ; the Mamelukes, and after them

* Anim. IMarcel. lib. xxiii.


the Ottoman Turks regained the city, and till thi»
day the Mahometan worship is established there.
Christians who are drawn thither by reverence for
the place where our Lord lay, are admitted to reside ;
and their worship is tolerated upon their paying a
large tribute. But hardly any Jews are to be seen
in the city. They consider it as so much defiled by
the Mahometans and Christians, that they choose
rather to worshij) God in any other place ; they are
persecuted by the reigning power. And the poverty
of the city does not afford them much temptation in
the way of gain to counterbalance the inconvenien-
cies to which they would be obliged to submit if they
attempted to live there. Jerusalem then, is still
trodden down of the Gentiles. During the seven-
teen hundred years that have elapsed since it was
destroyed by Titus, the Jews have never been quiet-
ly settled there. It has, with hardly any interrup-
tion, belonged to Gentile nations ; and it has reciev-
ed every thing which the Jews account a pollution.

You will attend next to the condition of the Jew-
ish people during this desolation of their city.
Amongst the many striking circumstances in the
history of the ancient Jews, every intelligent observ-
er will reckon the frequent dispersions of that un-
happy people. Most other nations, when subdued
by a warlike or powerful neighbour, have continued
to inhabit some portion of their ancient teritory.
They have either adopted the laws and manners
of their conquerors, and in process of time have
been so completely incorporated with them, as not
to form a distinct body, or if tlie cruel policy of the
conquerors marked out for them a humbler station,
they have descended from their former rank of free-


men, without changing tlieir climate, and have re-
mained as servants in the land of which they were
once the masters. But the conquerors of Judea in
all ages, not content with the subjection of the in-
habitants, transplanted them into other countries,
and in distant lands marked out the cities which
they were to possess, and the fields which they were
to cultivate. Thus Esarhaddon, king of Assyria,
took away the ten tribes of Israel, and planted
them beyond the river Euphrates, in the cities of the
Medes. Nebuchadnezzar, 130 years after, carried
the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin captive to
Babylon ; and the Romans also at a later period led
the Jews captive into all nations. Whatever were
the motives which led the enemies of the Jews to
adopt this singular system of policy, in following it
out, they only fulfilled the appointment of heaven :
and the kings of Assyria and Babylon, and the em-
perors of Rome, although they meant it not so in
their hearts, yet by the peculiar sufferings which
they brought upon the captive nation, were the in-
struments of accomplishing the prophecies contained
in its sacred books. Moses, amongst other curses
which were to overtake the children of Israel in case
of disobedience, mentions this : " I will make thy
cities waste, and I will bring the land into desola-
tion ; and thine enemies wliich dwell therein shall be
astonished at it. The Lord shall bring against thee
a nation from ftir, and he shall besiege thee in all
thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come
down. And ye shall be plucked off the land \rhither
thou goest to possess it ; and the Lord shall scatter
thee among all people, from the one end of the earth
even unto the other." * The frequent captivities
* Levit. xxvi. 31, 32 ; Deut. xxviii. passim.


and dispersions of the Jews corresponded exactly to
the words of the curse ; and this singular punish-
ment has been repeated as often as the sins of the
nation called for the judgments of heaven.

It might have been expected that, by these fre-
quent dispersions, the whole race of the Jews would
be confounded amongst other nations. But it is
most remarkable, that although distinguished from
all other people by being scattered over the face of
the earth, they remain distinguished also by their
religion and customs ; and although every where
found, they are every where separated from those
around them. I speak not of the ten tribes carried
away by Esarhaddon, who were so far estranged
from the true God before they left their own land,
that they easily adopted the idolatry of the nations
to which they were led captive, and so ceased to be
a people. * But I speak of the tribes of Judali and
Benjamin, composing what was properly called the
kingdom of Judah, which adhered to the family of
David after Israel had rebelled against them, to
which the promise of the Messiah had been restrict-
ed by the patriarch Jacob, and in Vv'hich the fulfil-
ment of the prophecies concerning the fortunes of
the Jewish nation is to be looked for. Now we
know that when Judah was carried captive by Ne-
buchadnezzar to Babylon, the captives did not wor-
ship the gods of the conquerors. Daniel and other
great men were raised up by God to preserve the
spirit of piety, and the fortitude of the servants of
heaven. And by a concurrence of circumstances
wdiich the providence of God combined to fulfil his
pleasure, those who were for the God of Israel re-

* Buchanan's Cliristian Researches.


ceived an invitation to return to Jerusalem, and to
rebuild the temple. The edict of Cyrus king of Per-
sia contained these words : * " The Lord of heaven
hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusa-
lem. Who is there among you of all his people ?
His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusa-
lem, which is in Judali, and build the house of the
Lord God of Israel." It was under the cliaracter of
the servants of God, by which character they were
distinguished from their idolatrous neighbours, that
the Jews returned ; and the calamities which they
had endured during their captivity, seem to have
cured that proneness to idolatry, which the more an-
cient prophets so often reprove. All that returned
are spoken of in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as
zealous for the worship of the true God. Their de-
scendants, who settled and multiplied in the Holy
Land, never showed any inclination to worship idols.
They endured a severe persecution under Antiochus,
because they would not submit to the worship which
he prescribed ; and one of the causes which incensed
the Romans against them, was their abhorrence of
the gods of the empire. Since their dispersion by
Titus and by Adrian, they have never joined in
Heathen, Christian, or Mahometan worship. Their
rites, burdensome as they are, and contemptible as
they appear in the eyes of strangers, have been reli-
giously observed by the whole nation. A sullen,
uncomplying, covetous spirit, has conspired with the
singularity of their rites to render them odious and
ridiculous. The character of a Jew is marked in
every corner of the earth ; and one can find no words

* Ezra i. 2, 3.


which SO literally express the condition of this peo-
ple, as the words uttered more than 3000 years ago
by their own lawgiver. " These curses shall come
upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy
seed for ever ; and thou shalt become an astonish-
ment, a proverb, and a by-word among all the na-
tions whither the Lord shall lead thee." * In this
wonderful manner have the Jews, whose native land
is still trodden down of the Gentiles, been preserved
in all parts of the earth a distinct people.

But the prediction brings into our view the pros-
pect of a better time : " Jerusalem shall be trodden
down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles
be fulfilled ;" which, in plain grammatical construc-
tion, implies, that when the times of the Gentiles are
fulfilled, Jerusalem shall no longer be trodden down.
Our Lord is referring to the latter part of Daniel's
prophecy of the seventy weeks : " The people of the
prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the
sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood ;
and — he shall make it desolate, even until the con-
summation, and that determined shall be poured
upon the desolate;" or, as I am assured by the best au-
thority, it may be rendered, " upon the desolator." f
Now, this consummation, what the Septuagint calls
jj (TvriTsXua rou xamu, is to be learned from other parts of
the book of Daniel, in which there is a most circum-
stantial prophecy of the fate of the great empires of
the world, and, amongst the rest, of the empire of the
Romans, who were the desolators of Judea. t A
great part of that prophecy has been fulfilled. Learn-

* Dent, xxviii. 37, 46. t Dan. ix. 26, 27-

J Dan. ii. and vii.


ed men have traced so strikinj^ a coincidence between
the words of Daniel and the history of the world, as
is sufficient to impress every candid mind with the
divine inspiration of this prophet, highly favoured
of the Lord, and to beget a full conviction, that
every word which he has spoken v/ill in due time be
accomplished. When that will be, or how it will
be, we know not. But as the events that have al-
ready happened have reflected the clearest light upon
former parts of the prophecy, we may rest assured
that the end, when it arrives, will explain those parts
which are still dark, and that there are methods in
reserve, by which the times of the Gentiles, that
which is determined upon the desolator, all the pur-
poses of God's providence respecting the kingdoms
which have arisen out of the Roman empire, shall be
fulfilled. It is perfectly agreeable to our Lord's
words, to consider the return of the Jews to their
own land as connected with this end, the fulfilment
of the times of the Gentiles ; and when we take into
our view other parts of scripture, hardly any doubt
is left in our minds that this was his meaning. Mo-
ses, when he threatens the Jews with dispersion,
gives notice, that if, in their captivity, they returned
to the Lord, he would gather them from the nations
to which he had scattered them : " And yet for all
that, 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 ; for I am the Lord their God." * You find
this hope expressed by David, by Solomon, by Isaiaii,
and Jeremiah. Accordingly the two tribes who re-

* Levit. xxvi. 14. "


membered the God of their fathers, in fulfihiient of
this promise, as Nehemiah interprets their deliver-
ance, were gathered from their captivity. After
their return, the same threatenings of dispersion
were denounced against them if they disobeyed, and
the same promises of being brought back if they re-
pented. Zechariah, who prophesied after the re-
turn, says, " I will gather all nations against Jeru-
salem, and the city shall be taken." But he says
also, the day is coming M^hen " I will seek to de-
stroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon
the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and
of supplication." * And this is agreeable to the
words of more ancient prophets ; for God says by
Jeremiah, " Though I make a full end of all the na-
tions whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not
make a fvill end of thee ;" f and by Amos, " I will
plant them upon their land, and they shall no more
be pulled out of the land which I have given them." 1^
These prophecies, and many othei-s of the same im-
port, open to our view a time when the Jews are to
be brought back from captivity. Their return from
Babylon, which was a fulfilment of their own pro-
phecies, is a pledge that the greater promise of an
everlasting settlement in their own land shall be ful-
filled also. Their being to this day a distinct peo-
ple, separate from all others, renders the fulfilment
of the prophecy possible, and seems intended as a
standing miracle to keep alive in the world the faith
of this event. Our Lord, at the very time when he

* Zecli. xiv. 2; xii. (J, 10. t Jcr. xxx. 11.

J Amos. ix. 13.


foretells the destruction of the holy city, and the se-
cond long captivity of the Jews, intimates, by his
mode of expression, that it was not to be perpetual :
and his apostle Paul, to whom Jesus, after his ascen-
sion, revealed the whole counsel of God, delights to
dwell upon this thought — " I would not, brethren,"
he says to the Romans, " that ye should be ignorant
of this mystery, that blindness in part has happened
to Israel, till the fulness of the Gentiles be come, in ;
and so all Israel shall be saved." *

What a glorious view is here presented of the uni-
versal kingdom of the Messiah, which is at length
to comprehend even the children of those who slew
him ! What a consistency and grandeur in the
conduct of divine Providence with regard to the
Jews, that people whom God formed for himself to
show forth his praise ! Raised up at first as a light
in a [dark place — retaining the knowledge and wor-
ship of the true God amidst the idolatry of the na-
tions — keeping in their oracles the hope of the Sa-
viour of mankind — carrying by their dispersions
these oracles, this knowledge and hope, through the
whole earth, and thas rendering the Messiah the de-
sire of all nations — exhibiting in their singular mis-
fortunes the holiness and the power of their God —
a monument to the world in their present state, that
Jesus is able to take vengeance of his enemies — and
yet preserved, even in the midst of that punishment
which they endure for obstinacy and infidelity, to
receive Christ as a nation, and thus to be the future
instruments of the conversion of the whole world !
When this people, by the out-stretched arm of the

* Rom. xi. 2 J.


Almighty, shall l>e brought back in his time from
the lands where they now sojourn, to that land
which, in the beginning, he chose for them, and Je-
rusalem, which is now trodden down of the Gentiles,
shall be delivered to the Jews ; when every prophecy
in their books shall be found to conspire most exact-
ly with the words spoken by Christ and his apostles,
and all shall receive a striking accomi^lishment in
events most interesting to the whole universe — what
eye will be so sealed as to exclude this light, what
mind so hardened as not to yield to a conviction
which the infinite knowledge and power of God will
then appear to have vmited in producing ! Every
charge of partiality in the Lord of nature, which the
Superficial infidel is hasty to bring forward, shall
then be swallowed up in the full exposition of that
great scheme which is now carrying forward for the
final salvation of all the children of God, and every
tongue will join in that expression of exalted devo-
tion with which the Apostle Paul shuts up this sub-
ject — '•' O the depth of the riches both of the wis-
dom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are
his judgments, and his ways past finding out ! For
who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath
been his counsellor ?" *

8. I mentioned, as the last subject of our Lord's
prophecies, the final discrimination of the righteous
and the wicked at the day of judgment. This great
event is foretold under similitudes, in plain words,
without hesitation, with solemnity, with minuteness.
The veil is in some measure removed, and we, whose
views are generally confined to the events of the

* Rom. xi. S3: 34.


little spot which we inhabit, are enabled by the great
Prophet to look forward to the end of the world.
He has, indeed, hidden the time from our eyes, but
lie has minutely described every other circumstance.
The clearness of his predictions upon such a subject
distinguishes him from every other teacher who had
appeared before his time, and aifords a presumption
of his divine character. But this is not the place
for enlarging upon these predictions, and I mention
them at present, only to state the connection be-
tween them and the prophecy which we have been
considering. The darkening of the sun, and moon,
and stars — the Son of man coming in the clouds of

Online LibraryGeorge HillLectures in divinity (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 32)