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DESTRUCTION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE.
adorned by Herod the Great, who, having received the crown of Judæa from the Romans, thought that the most effectual way of overcoming the prejudices and conciliating the Jewish people 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 Herod’s munificence that both Josephus and the Roman historians celebrate 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. To these, it is probable, the disciples pointed, when lamenting the destruction of such a fabric, and which occasioned Jesus to say; “ Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” And, by the providence of God, this was literally fulfilled. Josephus informs us that the Roman general Titus, who, in the absence of his father Vespasian, commanded the besieging army, was most solicitous to preserve so splendid a monument of Roman conquest; and therefore sent a message to the Jews, who had shut themselves up in the Temple, that he was determined to save it from destruction. 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, to prevent this evil, 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, regardless of the commands or threatenings of their general, who personally exerted himself 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.” When it was in this way rendered useless, he ordered the foundations to be dug up; and Rufus, who commanded the army after Titus had taken his departure, executed this order, by tearing them up with a ploughshare ; thus verifying the prophecy of Micah, “ Zion shall be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest,” Micah iii. 12.
But though I have led you at once to the grand catastrophe, the demolition of the Temple, there are a variety of other circumstances connected with it, and referred to in the prophecy, which it would be great injustice to the subject to pass over unnoticed; particularly the great and general calamities which were to overtake the nation of the Jews during the interval, to some of which we shall now briefly advert.
A few years after our Lord's ascension to heaven the imperial sceptre was swayed by Caligula, who in the year 37 had succeeded Tiberius Cæsar. He reigned little more than four years, but, during that short period, his madness led him to butcher many of the Jews. He ordered his statue to be erected in the Temple of Jerusalem; and the Jews, who 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, resolved to suffer every distress rather than give countenance to the sacrilege of the emperor. Such was the consternation which the rumour of this event, and an impending war with the Romans, spread through Judæa, that the people neglected to till their lands, and in despair waited the approach of the enemy. But the death of Caligula, which happened A. D. 41, removed their fears, and delayed for some time the destruction which he meditated. Yet, from this period to the destruction of the city and temple, the whole territory of Judæa was one continued scene of national strife, and contention, and misery to the wretched inhabitants. There were incessant wars and contests between the Jews and the heathen inhabitants of many cities in the province of Syria -disputes about the bounds of their jurisdiction amongst the rulers, amongst whom the land of Palestine was dividedand wars arising frmthe quick succession of emperors, and the violent competitions for the imperial diadem. It was not the sword only that filled with calamity this disastrous interval. The human race, according to the words of our Lord's prophecy, suffered under those judgments which proceed immediately from heaven. Josephus has mentioned famine and pestilence, earthquakes in every place where the Jews resided; and one in Judæa, attended with circumstances so dreadful and so unusual that it was manifest, he says, “ the whole course of nature was disturbed for the destruction of the human race.”
JOSEPHUS'S ACCOUNT OF THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM. 165
But, calamitous as was the general state of things abroad, it was in the devoted city during the siege that the most unparalleled distress was experienced. “There shall be great tribulation,” says the prophecy, “ such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be.” But strong as this language is the following quotation from Josephus seems to justify it :-“ In my opinion,” says he, “all the calamities which were ever endured, since the beginning of the world, were inferior to those which the Jews now suffered.Never was any city more wicked, and never did any city receive such punishment. Without was the Roman army, surrounding their walls, crucifying thousands before their eyes, and laying waste their country : within, were the most violent contentions among the besieged : frequent bloody battles between different parties ; rapine, fire, and the extremity of famine. Many of the Jews prayed for the success of the Romans, as the only method of delivering them from a more dreadful calamity, the atrocious violence of their civil dissensions.”
I shall only detain you further, on this subject, by noticing one other circumstance, and that respects the shortening of the siege. Josephus computes that there fell during the siege, by the hands of the Romans, 1,100,000 Jews: had the siege continued long, the whole nation must have perished. But the Lord shortened the days for the elect's sake; and the manner in which the days were shortened is most worthy of remark. Vespasian committed the management of the siege to his son Titus, then a young man, impatient of resistance, jealous of the honour of the Roman army, and in haste to return from the conquest of an obscure province to the capital of the empire. He prosecuted the siege with vigour-he invited the besieged to yield, by offering them peace—and he tried to intimidate them, by using, contrary to his nature, every species of cruelty against those who fell into his hands. But all his vigour, and all his artifice, would have been fruitless, had it not been for the madness of the Jews within the city. They fought with one another; they furiously burned magazines of provisions, which were sufficient for many years' supply; and they deserted, with a foolish confidence, strong holds, out of which no enemy could have dragged them. After they had thus delivered the city into
the hands of the Romans, Titus, on a survey of the place, exclaimed, “ God has been on our side: neither the hands, nor the machinery of men, could have been of any avail against these towers : but God has dragged the Jews out of them that he might give them to us.” It was impossible for Titus to restrain the soldiers, who were irritated by an obstinate resistance, from executing their fury against the besieged ; but his native clemency spared the Jews in other places. He would not allow the senate of Antioch to expel the Jews ; for “where,” said he, “ shall these people go, now that we have destroyed their city?” But Titus was the servant of God, to execute his vengeance on Jerusalem; and, when the measure of that vengeance was fulfilled, the compassion of this amiable prince was employed to restrain the wrath of man :-“ the Lord shortened the days."
And now let us pause and contemplate the relation which all these events bore to the profession of Christianity. By the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem an end was put to the old covenant-that covenant which God had entered into with the natural desendants of Abraham at Mount Sinai. That covenant had formed a wall of partition between the Jews and the Gentiles, and had then been in existence for fifteen hundred years, but it now came to an end. The legal dispensation was abolished, and the Gospel state of things took place of it. True indeed it is that the old covenant, with all its appendages, was virtually abrogated by the death of Christ--for then the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and the glory departed from between the cherubim. But we know that the Mosaic ritual continued in some way to be observed from the period of the death of Christ to the destruction of their city and temple, when the Providence of God concurred with his word to put an actual end to it. There was now no longer any temple, altar, sacrifice, or priest with his incense; no high priest with his Urim and Thummim-his breast-plate and his robes : all these things now gave place to a better dispensation. And this is intimated to us in our Lord's prophecy, Matt. xxiv. 29, in these words :-"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken -and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.”
ABROGATION OF THE HEBREW RITUAL.
This symbolical language, which is in the true spirit of eastern imagery, is very naturally introduced by the Messiah of the Jews in foretelling the dissolution of their church 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, the Sanhedrim no longer assembled, the office of high priest could no more be exercised according to the commandment of God; every privilege which distinguished the Jewish people 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. It was unquestionably the most important revolution that had then taken place in the world, and made subservient in various ways to the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom in the earth.
* Though it be very possible, and agreeable to the symbolical use of language by the prophets, to find a meaning for the various expressions here used, in the dissolution of the Jewish state, in the general publication of the gospel after that event, and the great accession of converts which it contributed to bring to Christianity ; yet we know that these are the very expressions by which our Lord and his apostles have described the period of the final consummation of all things--that day, when all the human race shall stand before the Judgment seat of Christ. Accordingly, several. commentators have been of opinion that there is here, in addition to the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, a direct prophecy of the day of judgment; but the limitation of the time of fulfilment to the existence of the generation then alive, is an unanswerable objection to this opinion; and I, therefore, consider the latter part of this prediction as a specimen of the double sense of prophecy, of which we have many instances in the Scriptures. Thus the Jewish economy in church and state was a prefiguration of Christ's church and kingdom. The sacrifices of the law were a shadow of good things to come, and so were set aside by the sacrifice of Christ. The kingdom of David was a type of the kingdom of the Messiah ; and so David and Solomon, who sat on the throne of Jehovah over Israel, were set up as types of him in his regal character. It is upon this principle that the Messiah is so frequently called David in prophecy, as in Jer. xxx, 9; Ezek. xxxiv, 22, 24 ; Hos. iii. 5. Thus, also David, in describing his own sufferings, introduces expressions which literally describe the sufferings of the Messiah, and are so applied by the evangelists: and the words in which he paints the peaceful reign of Solomon received a literal accomplishment in the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. So here, the Messiah, who frequently copies the manners and refers to the words of the ancient prophets, while he is immediately foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, looks forward to the day of judgment, and expresses himself in language which, though by the established practice of the prophets it is applicable in a figurative sense to the fall of a city and the dissolution of a state, yet, in its true, literal, precise meaning, applies to that day in which all cities and states are equally interested,