View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 1b
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To add to the horrid calamities of the times occasioned by the bloody factions, Judea was infested by bands of robbers and murderers, plundering their towns and cutting in pieces such as made any resistance, whether men, women or children. Here were exhibited the most horrid pictures of what fallen man is capable of perpetuating when restraints are taken off; that they would turn their own towns and societies into scenes of horror like kennels of mad animals.
One Simon became commander of these factions; John of another. Simon entered Jerusalem at the head of forty thousand banditti. A third faction rose: and discord blazed with terrific fury. The three factions were intoxicated with rage and desperation, and went on slaying and trampling on piles of the dead, with an indescribable fury. People coming to the temple to worship, were murdered, both natives and foreigners. Their bodies lay in piles, and a collection of blood defiled the sacred courts.
John of Gischala, head of a faction, burned a store of provisions. Simon, at the head of another faction, burned another. Thus the Jews were weakening and destroying themselves, and preparing the way for "wrath to come upon them to the uttermost."
In the midst of these most dismal events, an alarm was made that a Roman army was approaching the city! Vespasian becoming emperor, and learning the factious and horrid state of the Jews, determined to prosecute the war against them, and sent his son Titus to reduce Jerusalem and Judea. The Jews, on hearing of the approach of the Roman army, were petrified with horror. They could have no hope of peace. They had no means of flight. They had no time for counsel. They had no confidence in each other. What could be done? Several things they possessed in abundance. They had a measure of iniquity filled up; a full ripeness for destruction. All seemed wild disorder and despair. Nothing could be imagined but the confused noise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood. They knew nothing was their due from the Romans, but exemplary vengeance. The ceaseless cry of combatants, and the horrors of faction, had induced some to desire the intervention of a foreign foe to give them deliverance from their domestic horrors. Such was the state of Jerusalem when Titus appeared before it with a besieging army. But he came not to deliver it from its excruciating tortures; but to execute upon it divine vengeance; to fulfil the fatal predictions of our Lord Jesus Christ, that "when ye see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place--when ye see Jerusalem compassed
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about with armies,--then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." "Wheresoever the carcass is, there shall the eagles be gathered together." Jerusalem was now the carcass to be devoured; the Roman eagles had arrived to tear it as their prey.
The day on which Titus had encompassed Jerusalem, was the feast of the passover. Here let it be remembered, that it was the time of this feast, (on a preceeding occasion) that Christ was taken, condemned and executed. It was at the time of this feast, that the heifer, in the hands of the sacrificing priests, brought forth a lamb. And just after this feast at another time, that the miraculous besieging armies were seen over Jerusalem, just before sunset. And now at the time of the passover, the antitype of this prodigy appears in the besieging army of Titus. Multitudes of Jews had convened at Jerusalem from surrounding nations to celebrate this feast. Ah, miserable people,--going with intent to feed on the paschal lamb; but really to their own final slaughter, for rejecting "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world!" The Jews had imprecated the blood of the true Paschal Lamb, (by them wantonly shed) on themselves and on their children. God was now going in a signal manner to take them at their word. He hence providentially collected their nation, under sentence of death, as into a great prison, for the day of execution. And as their execution of Christ was signal, low, degrading,--the death of the cross; so their execution should be signal and dreadful. The falling city was now crowded with little short of two millions of that devoted people. The event came suddenly and unexpectedly to the Jews, as the coming of a thief, and almost like lightning. Josephus notes this; and thus without design, shows the fulfillment of these hints of Christ, that his coming should be like a thief in the night, and like lightning shining under the whole heavens.
The furious contending factions of the Jews, on finding themselves environed with the Roman armies, laid aside (for the moment) their party contentions, sallied out, rushed furiously on their common foe, and came near utterly destroying the tenth legion of the Roman army. This panic among the Romans occasioned a short suspension of hostilities. Some new confidence hence inspired the hopes of the Jews; and they now determined to defend their city. But being a little released from their terrors of the Romans, their factious resentments again rekindled, and broke out in great fury. The faction under Elezer was swallowed up in the other two, under John and Simon. Slaughter; conflagration and plunder ensued. A portion of the centre of the city
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was burned, and the inhabitants became as prisoners to the two furious parties. The Romans here saw their own proverb verified: "Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat." "Whom God will destroy, he gives up to madness."
The invading armies knew how to profit by the madness of the Jews. They were soon found by the Jews to have possession of the two outer walls of their city. This alarm reached the heart of the factions, and once more united them against the common enemy. But they had already proceeded too far to retreat from the effects of their madness. Famine, with its ghastly horrors, stared them in the face. It had (as might be expected) been making a silent approach; and some of the more obscure had already fallen before it. But even this did not annihilate the fury of faction, which again returned with redoubled fury, and presented new scenes of wo. As the famine increased, the sufferers would snatch bread from each other's mouths, and devour their grain unprepared. To discover handfuls of food, tortures were inflicted. Food was violently taken by husbands from wives, and wives from husbands; and even by mothers from their famishing infants. The breast itself was robbed from the famishing suckling, as our Lord denounced: "Wo to them that give suck in those days."
This terror produced a new scene of righteous retribution. Multitudes of the Jews were forced by hunger to flee to the enemy's camp. Here instead of pitying and relieving them, the Romans cut off the hands of many, and sent them back; but most of them they crucified as fast as they could lay their hands on them; till wood was wanting for crosses, and space on which to erect them! Behold here thousands of those despairing Jews suspended on crosses round the walls of Jerusalem! Verily "the Lord is known by the judgements that he executeth!" Yea, this did not suffice. Behold two thousand Jews, who had fled to the mercy of their invaders, ripped open alive (two thousand in one night!) by Arabs and Syrians in the Roman armies, in hopes of finding gold, which these Jews had (or their enemies fancied they had) swallowed to carry off with them!
Titus being a merciful general, was touched to the heart at the miseries of the Jews; and in person he tenderly entreated the besieged to surrender. But all the answer he obtained for his tenderness was base revilings. He now resolved to make thorough work with this obstinate people; and hence surrounded the city with a circumvallation of thirty nine furlongs in length, strengthened with thirteen
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towers. This, by the astonishing activity of the soldiers, was effected in three days. Then was fulfilled this prediction of our blessed Lord; " Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and keep thee in on every side."
As the city was now cut off from all possible supplies, famine became more dreadful. Whole families fell a sacrifice to it; and the dead bodies of women, children, and the aged, were seen covering roofs of houses, and various recesses. Youth and the middle aged appeared like spectres; and fell many of them dead in public places. The dead became too numerous to be interred. Many died while attempting to perform this office. So great and awful became the calamities, that lamentation ceased; and an awful silence of despair overwhelmed the city. But all this failed of restraining the more abandoned from most horrid deeds. They took this opportunity to rob the tombs; and with loud infernal laughter, to strip the dead of their habiliments of death; and would try the edge of their swords on dead bodies, and on some while yet breathing. Simon Georas now vented his rage against Matthias, the high priest, and his three sons. He caused them to be condemned, as though favouring the Romans. The father asked the favour to be first executed, and not see the death of his sons; but the malicious Simon reserved him for the last execution. And as he was expiring he put the insulting question, whether the Romans could now relieve him?
Things being thus, one Mannaeus, a Jew, escaped to Titus, and informed him of the consummate wretchedness of the Jews; that in less than three months one hundred and fifteen thousand and eight hundred dead bodies of Jews had been conveyed through one gate, under his care and register; and he assured him of the ravages of famine and death. Other deserters confirmed the account, and added, that not less than six hundred thousand dead bodies of Jews had been carried out at different gates. The humane heart of Titus was deeply affected; and he, under those accounts, and while surveying the piles of dead bodies of Jews under the walls, and in the visible parts of the city, raised his eyes and hands to heaven in solemn protestation, that he would have prevented these dire calamities; that the obstinate Jews had procured them upon their own heads.
Josephus, the Jew, now earnestly entreated the leader John and his brethren to surrender to the Romans, and thus save the residue of the Jews. But he received in return nothing but insolent reproaches and imprecations; John declaring his firm persuasion that God would
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never suffer his own city, Jerusalem, to be taken by the enemy! Alas, had he forgotten the history of his own nation, and the denunciations of the prophets? Micah had foretold that in this very calamity they would presumptuously "lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? No evil shall come upon us." So blind and presumptuous are hypocrisy and self-confidence! "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these."
The famine in the city became (as might be expected) still more deadly. For want of food the Jews ate their belts, sandals, skins of their shields, dried grass, and even ordure of cattle. Now it was that a noble Jewess, urged by the insufferable pangs of hunger, slew and prepared for food her own infant child! She had eaten half the horrible preparation, when the smell of food brought in a hoard of soldiery, who threatened her with instant death, if she did not produce to them the food she had in possession. She being thus compelled to obey, produced the remaining half of her child! The soldiers stood aghast; and the recital petrified the hearers with horror; and congratulations were poured on those whose eyes death had closed upon such horrid scenes. Humanity seems ready to sink at the recital of the woful events of that day. No words can reach the horrors of the situation of the female part of the community at that period. Such scenes force upon our recollection the tender pathetic address of our Saviour to the pious females who followed him, going to the cross: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me; but weep for yourselves and for your children; for behold the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts that never gave suck." Moses had long predicted this very scene. "The tender and delicate woman among you, (said he.) who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness; her eye shall be evil towards her young one, and toward her children, which she shall bear; for she shall eat them, for want of all things, secretly in the siege and straitness wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates." Probably the history of the world will not afford a parallel to this. God prepared peculiar judgments for peculiarly horrid crimes! "These be the days of vengeance; that all things that are written may be fulfilled." Josephus declares, that if there had not been many credible witnesses of that awful fact, he never would have recorded it; for, said
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he, "such a shocking violation of nature never has been perpetrated by any Greek or barbarian."
While famine thus spread desolation, the Romans finally succeeded in removing part of the inner wall, and in possessing themselves of the high and commanding tower of Antonio, which seemed to overlook the temple. Titus with his council of war had formed a determination to save the temple, to grace his conquest, and remain an ornament to his empire.---But God had not so determined. And "though there be many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord that shall stand." A Roman soldier, violating the general order of Titus, succeeded in hurling a brand of fire into the golden window of the temple; and soon (as righteous Heaven would have it!) the sacred edifice was in flames. The Jews perceiving this, rushed with horrid outcries to extinguish the fire. Titus too flew to the spot in his chariot, with his chief officers and legions. With loud command, and every token of anxiety, he enforced the extinguishing of the fire; but in vain. So great was the confusion, that no attention was paid to him. His soldiers, deaf to all cries, assiduously spread the flames far and wide; rushing at the same time on the Jews, sword in hand, slaying and trampling down, or crushing them to death against the walls. Many were plunged into the flames, and perished in the burning of the out buildings of the temple. The fury of the Roman soldiers slaughtered the poor, the unarmed, and the rich, as well as men in arms. Multitudes of dead bodies were piled round about the altar, to which they had fled for protection. The way leading to the inner court was deluged with blood.
Titus finding the fire had not yet reached the inner temple, entered it with his superior officers, and surveying its magnificence with silent admiration. He found it to exceed all he had heard. This view led him to renew his efforts to save this stupendous pile of building, though so many of the out-buildings were gone. He even entreated his soldiers to extinguish the flames, and appointed an officer to punish any who should disobey. But all his renewed efforts were still in vain. The feelings of his soldiery were utterly unmanageable. Plunder, revenge, and slaughter had combined to render them deaf and most furious. A soldier succeeded in firing the door posts of the inner temple, and the conflagration soon became general.
One needs a heart of steel to contemplate the scenes which followed. The triumphant Roman soldiers were in a most ungovernable rage and fury.---- They were indeed instruments prepared for
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their work, to execute the most signal vengeance of Heaven; the flame of which was now reaching its height! The Romans slew of the Jews all before them; sparing neither age, sex or rank. They seemed determined to annihilate the Jewish race on the spot. Priests and common people; those who surrendered, and those who still fought; all were alike subjects of an indiscriminate slaughter. The fire of the temple at length completely enveloped the stupendous pile of building. The fury of the flames exceeded description. It impressed on distant spectators an idea that the whole city was in flames. The ensuing disorder and tumult, Josephus pronounces to have been such as to baffle all description. The outcry of the Roman legions was as great as they could make. And the Jews finding themselves a prey to the fury of both fire and sword, exerted themselves in the wildest accents of screaming. The people in the city, and those on the hill, mutually responded to each other in groans and screeches. People who had seemed just expiring through famine derived new strength from unprecedented scenes of horror and death, to deplore their wretchedness. From mountain to mountain, and from places distant, lamentations echoed to each other.
As the temple was sinking under the fury of the raging element, the mount on which it stood seemed in that part of it, (says the historian) to "impress the idea of a lake of liquid fire!" The blood of the slain ran in rivulets. The earth around became covered with the slain; and the victorious Romans trampled over those piles of the dead, in pursuit of the thousands who were fleeing from the points of their swords. In a word, the roar and crackling of fire; the shrieks of thousands in despair; the dying groans of thousands, and the sights which met the eye whereever it was turned, were such as never before had any parallel on earth. They probably as much exceeded all antecedent scenes of horror, as the guilt which occasioned them, in their treatment of the Lord of Glory, exceeded all guilt ever before known among men.
A tragical event had transpired worthy of particular detail. Before the temple was wrapped in flames, an imposter appeared among the Jews, asserting a divine commission; and that if the people would follow him to the temple, they would see signs, wonders and deliverance. About six thousand (mostly women and children) followed him, and were in the galleries of the temple, waiting for this promised deliverance, when fire was set to that building. Not one
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escaped. All were consumed in the conflagration of the sacred edifice! What multitudes are by false prophets plunged in eternal fire!
The place of the temple now presented a vast pile of ruins. Here terminated the glory and existence of this stupendous building, this type of the body of Christ and of his church; this type of the Millennium, and of heaven. Here it reached its close, after the period of one thousand and thirty years, from the time of its dedication by Solomon; and of six hundred and thirty-nine years, from its being rebuilt in the days of Haggai, after the seventy years captivity. It is singular, that it should be reduced to ashes not only soon after the feast of the passover, which convened so many thousands of Jews to Jerusalem to meet the ruins of their city and nation; but that it should be consumed on the same month, on the same day of the month, on which the Babylonians had before destroyed it by fire.
Josephus records another striking event, which seemed a sign of the destruction of Jerusalem. He says; (addressing the Jews who survived this ruin) "The fountains flow copiously for Titus, which to you were dried up. For before he came, you know that both Siloam and all the springs without the city failed; so that water was brought by the amphora, (a vessel.)--- But now they are so abundant to your enemies, as to suffice for themselves and their cattle. This wonder you also formerly experienced, when the king of Babylon laid siege to your city."
The priests of the temple, after the destruction of their sacred edifice, betook themselves (those who had thus far escaped the general slaughter) to the top of one of its broken walls, where they sat mourning and famishing. On the fifth day necessity compelled them to descend, and humbly to ask pardon of the Roman general. But Titus at this late period rejected their petition, saying; "As the temple, for the sake of which I would have spared you, is destroyed; it is but fit the priests should perish also." All were put to death.
The obstinate leaders of the great Jewish factions, beholding now the desperateness of their cause, desired a conference with Titus. One would imagine they would at least now lay down their arms. Their desiring an interview with the triumphant Roman general, appeared as though they would be glad to do this. But righteous Heaven designed their still greater destruction. Titus, after all their mad rebellions, kindly offered to spare the residue of the Jews, if they would now submit. But strange to relate, they refused to comply. The noble general then, as must have been expected, was highly exasperated;
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and issued his general order that he would grant no further pardon to the insurgents. His legions now were ordered to "ravage and destroy." " With the light of the next morning, arose the tremendous flame of the castle of Antonio, the council chamber, register's office, and the noble palace of the queen Helena. These magnificent piles were reduced to ashes. The furious legions, (executioners of divine vengeance, Ezek. ix. 5,6) then flew through the lower city, of which they soon became masters, slaughtering and burning in every street. The Jews themselves aided the slaughter.--- In the royal palace, containing vast treasures, eight thousand four hundred Jews were murdered by their seditious brethren. Great numbers of deserters from the furious leaders of faction, flocked to the Romans; but it was too late. The general order was given, all should be slain. Such therefore fell.
The Roman soldiers however, being at length weary with butchery, and more than satisfied with blood, for a short time sheathed their swords, and betook themselves to plunder. They collected multitudes of Jews, ---husbands, wives, children, and servants; formed a market; and set them up at vendue for slaves. They sold them for any trifle; while purchasers were but few. Their law-giver, Moses, had forewarned them of this; Deut. xxviii. 68: "And ye shall be sold for bond men, and bond women; and no man shall buy you." Tremendous indeed must the lot of those be, who reject the Messiah, and are found fighting against the Son of God. Often had these Jews heard read (but little it seems did they understand the sense of the tremendous passage) relative to the Jewish rejectors of Christ, "He that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." "Thus saith the Lord, say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished: it is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter; (said God by the prophet, Ezek. xxi. alluding to this very event;) the sword is sharpened, and it is furbished to give it into the hand of the slayer. Cry and howl, son of man; smite upon thy thigh; smite thy hands together, and let the sword be doubled a third time; the sword of the slain. I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their hearts may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: Ah, it is made bright! it is wrapped up for the slaughter."--- Such,
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and much more, were the divine denunciations of this very scene, which the infidel Jews would not escape, but would incur! And even a merciful God shrunk not from the execution! Let antichristian powers, yea. let all infidels and gospel despisers, consider this and tremble!
The whole lower city now in the possession of the Roman legions, (after the respite noted,) was set on fire. But the insolence of the devoted Jews in a part of the higher city remained unabated. They even insulted and exasperated their enemies, as though afraid the work of vengeance might not be sufficiently executed.
The Romans brought their engines to operate upon the walls of this higher branch of the city, still standing; which soon gave way before them. Before their demolition, Titus reconnoitred the city, and its fortifications; and expressed his astonishment that it should ever fall before his arms. He exclaimed, "Had not God himself aided our operations, and driven the Jews from their fortresses, it would have been absolutely impossible to have taken them. For what could men and the force of engines have done against such towers as these?" Yes, unless their Rock had sold them for their iniquities, no enemy could have prevailed against Jerusalem. Josephus, who was an eye witness of all the scene, says; "All the calamities, which ever befel any nation, since the beginning of the world, were inferior to the miseries of the Jews at this awful period."
The upper city too fell before the victorious arms of the Roman conquerors. Titus would have spared all who had not been forward in resisting the Romans; and gave his orders accordingly. But his soldiers, callous to all the feelings of humanity, slaughtered the aged and sick, as well as the mass of the people. The tall and most beautiful young men, however, were spared by Titus to grace his triumph at Rome. Of the rest, many above the age of seventeen were sent in chains to Egypt to be disposed of as slaves. Some were reserved to be sacrificed on their amphitheatres, as gladiators; to be slain in sham fights, for the sport of their conquerors. Others were distributed through the empire. All who survived, under the age of seventeen, were exposed for sale.
The triumphant general commanded what remained of the city, to be razed to its foundation, except three of the most stately towers, Mariamne, Hippocos, and Phasael. These should stand as monuments of the magnificence of the place and of his victory. A small part of the wall of the city at the west also, he commanded should be spared,
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as a rampart for his garrison. The other parts of the city he wished to have so effectually erased, as never to be recognized to have been inhabited. The Talmud and Mamonides relate that the foundations of the temple were so removed, that the site of it was ploughed by Terentius Rufus. Thus our Saviour predicted, that " there should not be left one stone upon another."
One awful occurrence is noted as transpiring during these scenes; that eleven thousand Jews, under the guard of one Fronto, a Roman general, were (owing to their own obstinacy, and to the scarcity of provisions) literally starved to death!
Josephus informs that eleven hundred thousand Jews perished in this siege of Jerusalem; that two hundred and thirty-seven thousand perished in that last war in other sieges and battles; besides multitudes who perished by famine and pestilence: making a total of at least fourteen hundred thousand. Some hundreds of thousands, in sullen despair, laid violent hands on themselves. About ninety-seven thousand were captured, and dispersed. Relative to the two great leaders of the Jewish factions, Simon and John, they were led to Rome, to grace the triumph of Titus; after which Simon was scourged and executed as a malefactor; and John was committed for life to dungeon. Thus ended their violent factious contentions.
The Roman army, before they left Jerusalem, not only demolished the buildings there, but even dug up their foundations. How fatal was the divine judgment on this devoted city. Five months before it was the wonder of the world; and contained, at the commencement of the siege, more than a million and a half of Jews, natives and visiters; now it lay in total ruins, with not "one stone upon another;" as Christ had denounced. These ruins Eusebius informs us he beheld. And Eleazer is introduced by Josephus as exclaiming; "Where is our great city, which it was believed God inhabited." The prophet Micah had predicted; "Therefore shall Zion for your sakes be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the Lord's house as the high places of the forest." A captain of the army of Titus, did in fact plough where some part of the foundation of the temple had stood, as the Talmud records, and thus fulfilled this prediction.
Jesus Christ had foretold of this destruction, that "there should be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world." And of the event Josephus says; "If the misfortunes of all nations from the beginning of the world, were compared with those
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which befel the Jews, they would appear far less." Again; "No other city ever suffered such things; as no other generation from the beginning of the world, was ever more fruitful in wickedness."
Other parts of Judea were still to be subdued. Macherus was attacked. Seventeen hundred Jews surrendered and were slain; also three thousand fugitives taken in the woods of Jardes. Titus at Caesarea celebrated in great splendour the birth day of his brother Domitian. Here a horrid scene, according to the bloody customs of those times, was presented. To grace this occasion, more than two thousand five hundred Jews fell; some by burning; some by fighting with wild beasts; and some by mutual combat with the sword.
Massada was besieged. The Jewish commander, in despair, induced the garrison first to destroy their stores, and then themselves. They (nine hundred and sixty in number) consented to the horrid proposal. Men, women, and children took their seats upon the ground, and offered their necks to the sword. Ten men were selected to execute the fatal deed. The dreadful work was done. One of the ten was then chosen to execute the nine, and then himself. The nine being put to death, and fire being set to the place, the last man plunged his dagger into his own heart.
Seven persons, (women and children,) found means to conceal themselves, and escape the ruin. When the Romans approached, these seven related to them these horrid events.
Most of the remaining places now, through sullen despair, gave up all opposition, and submitted to the conquerors. Thus Judea became as a desolate wilderness; and the following passage in Isaiah had at least a primary accomplishment; "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant; and the houses without man; and the land be utterly desolate; and the Lord have removed man far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land."
A line of prophecies is found in the sacred oracles, which relate to a signal temporal destruction of the most notorious enemies of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Those were to have a two-fold accomplishment; first upon the Jews; and secondly upon the great Antichrist of the last days, typified by the infidel Jews. Accordingly those prophecies in the Old Testament are ever found in close connexion with the Millennium. The predictions of our Saviour, in Matt. xxiv. Mark xiii. and Luke xxi. are but a new edition of these sacred prophecies. This has been noted as "the destruction of the city and temple foretold." It
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is so indeed, and more.--- It is also a denunciation of the destruction of the great Antichrist of the last days. The certainty of this will appear in the following things, as New Testament writers decide. The Thessalonians, having heard what our Lord denounced, that all those things he had predicted should take place on that generation, were trembling with the apprehension, that the coming of Christ predicted, would then very soon burst upon the world. Paul writes to them, (2 Thes. ii.) and beseeches them by this coming of Christ, not to be shaken in mind, or troubled with such an apprehension. For that day , (that predicted coming of Christ, as it related to others beside the Jews.) was not to take place on that generation. It was not to come till the Antichristian apostacy come first; that man of sin was first to be revealed. This long apostacy was to be accomplished before the noted coming of Christ in its more important sense be fulfilled. After the Roman government, which hindered the rise of the man of sin, should be taken out of the way, Paul says, "Then shall that wicked one be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming." Here then is the predicted coming of Christ, in its more interesting sense, in the battle of that great day, which introduces the Millennium. Here is a full decision that these noted denunciations of Christ alluded more especially (though not primarily) to a coming which is still future.
The same is decided by Christ himself, in Rev. xvi. After the sixth vial, in the drying up of the Turkish Euphrates, three unclean spirits of devils, like frogs, go forth to the kings of the earth, and of all the world, to gather them to the great battle. The awful account is interrupted by this notice from the mouth of Christ; verse 15, "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments; lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." This is as though our Lord should say; now the time is at hand, to which my predictions of coming as a thief, principally alluded. Now is the time when my people on earth shall need to watch, as I directed, when predicting my coming to destroy first the type of Antichrist, and secondly the antitype.
The predictions in the prophets, which received an incipient fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, were to receive a more interesting fulfillment in Christ's coming to destroy his antichristian foes. Hence it is that the seventh vial is called (Rev. xvi. 14,) "the battle of that great day of God Almighty;" clearly alluding to that great day noted through the prophets. And of the same event it is said,
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Rev. x. 7; "the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants, the prophets." Here again the allusion clearly is to the many predictions in the prophets of the destruction of the enemies of Christ's kingdom, which were to receive an incipient fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem; and a far more interesting one, in the sweeping from the earth the last antichristian powers, to introduce the millennial kingdom of Christ. We accordingly find those predictions through the prophets clearly alluding to the last days, and the introduction of the Millennium.
Viewing the destruction of Jerusalem then, as but a type of an event now pending upon antichristian nations, we peruse it with new interest; and it must be viewed in the light of a most impressive warning to this age of the world.--- The factions, madness, and self-ruin of the former, give but a lively practical comment upon the various predictions of the latter. Three great and noted factions introduced the destruction of Jerusalem. And of the destruction of Antichrist we read (perhaps alluding to that very circumstance) Rev. xvi. 19; "And the great city was divided into three parts."
Then it follows; "and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath." In the desolation of Gog and his bands, faction draws the sword of extermination. "I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God; every man's sword shall be against his brother." Exek. xxxviii. 21.
The great coalition against the Jews, in the time of Jehoshaphat, was destroyed by the sword of mutiny and faction: See 2 Chron. xx. And in allusion to this very battle which God fought for his church, the vast coalitions of Antichrist, in the last days, when the Jews are restored, is said to be gathered "to the valley of Jehoshaphat:" See Joel iii. The various circumstances of the destruction of Jerusalem afforded a lively incipient comment on the many denunciations of the battle of that great day of God Almighty, which awaits the antichristian world; while it is fully evident, that the passages more especially allude to the tremendous scenes of judgment, which shall introduce the Millennium.
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