« PreviousContinue »
15. The greatest tribulation that ever was known. 16. The time when these things should happen. '17. The comparative happiness of the barren women, when a mother killed and eat her own child.
18. Wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
19. The sea and the waves roaring.
20. The dispersion of the captive Jews through all nations.
21. The continuance of the desolation.
22. A shortening of the days of vengeance, for the sake of the Elect. .
All which things came to pass.
To bring about this great event, and to certify posterity of its truth, God raised up an illustrious and worthy prince to accomplish it, and an illustrious historian to record it, to record the things of which he was an eye witness, and in which he had borne a considerable share.
Vespasian was lifted up from obscurity to the empire, he was strangely spared, and promoted, and employed by Nero who hated him. If he had not put an end to the civil wars, and to the great calamities of the empire, Jerusalem would not have been destroyed at the time foretold by Christ. Lucem caliganti reddidit mundo, says Q. Curtius, speaking most probably of Vespasian, X. 9.
Josephus assured Vespasian that he and his son Titus should be emperors after Nero, and some others, who should reign only a short time, B. J. iii. 8. Unus
all the nations of the then known earth. And yet this they did with great success, so that St Paul could say to the Colossians with truth, that the gospel was come unto them, as it was in all the world, i. 6.
er nobilibus captivis Josephus, cum conjiceretur in vincula, constantissime asseveravit fore ut ab eodem brevi solceretur, verum jam imperatore. Sueton. Vesp. 5. When Josephus made this declaration there was no appearance of such an event. He says that he had received the knowledge of these things in a dream, which was accounted by the Jews to be a lower degree of prophecy, and to liave been sometimes granted to them, after the prophetic afflatus had ceased at the death of Malachi. Josephus says that Hyrcanus had been fayoured with such kind of revelations. Ant. xiii. 12. Bell. Jud. 1. 2. He records a prophetic dream of his own, in his Life, sect. 42. He mentions also strange deliverances vouchsafed to bimself from seemingly unavoidable destruction, B. J. ii. 8. He had taken shelter in a cave with forty desperate persons, who were determined to perish rather than to yield, and who proposed to pay him the compliment of killing him first, as the most honourable man in the company. When he could not divert them from their frantic resolution of dying, he had no other refuge than to engage them to draw lots who should be killed, the one after the other, and at last only he and another remained, whom he persuaded to surrender to the Romans. I would not willingly he imposed upon, or impose upon the reader ; but I leave it to be considered whether in all this there might not be something extraordinary, as both Vespasian and Josephus were designed and reserved for extraordinary purposes, to assist in fulfilling and justifying the prophecies of Daniel and of our Lord. The same providence which raised up and conducted Cyrus, and preserved the rash *
Macedonian * I call him rash, because he exposed his own person too much; for his enterprise, though very bold, was perhaps neither rash nor rashly conducted.
Macedonian conqueror from perishing, till he had overthrown the Persian empire, that the prophecies might be accomplished, might take the Roman em- · peror and the Jewish writer under a singular protection for reasons of no less importance. The historian was on all accounts a proper person to deliver these things to posterity, and one to whom the Pagans, the Jews, and the Christians could have no reasonable objection. He was of a noble family, he had enjoyed the advantage of a good education, he had acted in the war as a general, he had much learning, singular abilities, a fair character, and a great love for his own country. . The service which he has done to Christianity was on his side plainly undesigned, he never gives even the remotest hint that the Jews suffered for rejecting the Messias. His book had the approbation of Vespasian and Titus, Herod and Agrippa *, and of several persons of distinction, and lie wanted not adversaries who would have exposed him if he had advanced untruths; so that though in some other points he might have been capable of deceiving, and of being deceived, yet as to the transactions of his own times, he must pass in general for á candid, impartial, accurate writer, and has passed for such in the opinion of the most competent judges.
But though we are indebted to him for several par. ticulars, which surprisingly agree with the predictions of Christ, yet the destruction of the Jewish state rests not upon his single authority, but upon ancient history and general consent, and is a fact which never was questioned. : What Josephus says concerning the outrageous wickedness and strange infatuation of many of the Jews,
must * Contr. Apion, i. 9.
must be true; the facts related by him sufficiently shew it: but the reason for which he dwells so much on a subject so disagreeable to one who loved his nation, seems to have been this ; he knew not how to account otherwise for God's giving up his own people to such calamities, and seeming to fight against them himself, and he was afraid of consequences which Pagans and Christians would draw from it against the Jewish religion. Cicero, because it served his purpose, had inferred from the calamities which in his days befel the Jews, that they were a nation not acceptable to the Deity. Stantibus Hierosolymis, pacatisque Judæis, tamen istorum religio sacrorum a splendore hujus imperii, gravitate nominis nostri, majorum institutis, abhorrebat : nunc vero hoc magis, quod illa gens, quid ile imperio nostro sentiret, ostendit armis : quam cara diis immortalibus esset, docuit, quod est victa, quod elocata, quod servata. Pro Flacco, 28. Some would read serva. Dr Thirlby conjectured servit: and I find it so cited by Hammond, in his notes on Revel. xiii. 5. • In his Antiquities he takes too great liberties with sacred history, and accommodates it too much to the taste of the Gentiles, which yet probably he did. to recommend his oppressed and unhappy nation to the favour of the Greeks and Romans. There are few of his suppressions, or alterations, or embellishments, for which a prudential reason might not be assigned. In his History he shews an instance of his art, in compli- , menting Titus without saying an untruth; he relates that Titus engaged with the Jews, who had made a sally and fought desperately, and that Titus himself slew twelve of their bravest men, who headed the rest. He says not how he slew them ; but Suetonius tells - us, that Titus, at the siege of Jerusalem, shot twelve
of the foremost of the enemies with so many arrows. The circumstances give great reason to suppose that both relate the same story.
Kai Sh&exce pèr autos tūv epopexor avaici. et ipse quidem sternit duodecim adversi agminis propugnatores. B. J. v. vi. 6.
Novissima Hierosolymorum oppugnatione, duodecim propugnatores totidem saggitarum confecit ictibus. Sueton. Tit. 5.
The history of the Jewish war by Josephus seems to be a commentary upon the prophecies of Christ. Joscphus, amongst other particulars, gives a distinct account of the fear fil sights, and great signs from heaven, which preceded the destruction of Jerusalemn, and Tacitus has confirmed the narration of Josephus. If Christ had not expressly foretold this, many who give little heed to portents, and who know that historians have been too credulous in that point, would have suspected that Josephus exaggerated, and that Tacitus was misinformed; but as the testimonies of Josephus and Tacitus confirm the predictions of Christ, so the predictions of Christ confirm the wonders recorded by these historians.
Let us proceed to shew, that the predictions of Christ were extant before the destruction of Jerusalem, before A. D. 70. for this is the important point.
The booksand epistles of the New Testament were written by disciples of Christ, or their companions. We cannotsuppose thatany persons, of whateverabilities, could have forged them after the decease of the apostles, for,
These writings * contain various and numerous incidents of time, place, persons, names, and things ; occasional discourses, differences of style, epistles in
answer * Discourse vi. on the Christian Religion