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war, that the fields remained uncultivated on account of the public anxiety. The country was soon filled with violence. In Alexandria, Cæsarea, Damascus, Ptolemais, Tyre, and almost every other city in which many Jews and heathens were mingled, fierce contentions arose, and dreadful slaughter ensued. In the words of the Jewish historian, "The disorders all over Syria were terrible. For every city was divided into parties armed against each other; and the safety of the one depended on the destruction of the other. The days were spent in slaughter, and the nights in terrors."* In addition to these calamities, the Jewish nation rebelled against the Romans; Italy was convulsed with contentions for the empire; and as a proof of the troublous and warlike character of the period, within the brief space of two years four emperors of Rome suffered death.†
3. Another class of signs was predicted, as follows: "There shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places." These, together with the signs previously mentioned, the Saviour said would be "the beginning of sorrows." There came a famine not long before the war, which extended all over the country of the Jews, and lasted with severity for several years. Both before and after this there were famines in Italy, which are mentioned by historians of those days." Pestilences raged in various places, as the full time for Jerusalem's cup of trembling drew nigh.¶ *Wars, b. 2, ch. 18, sec. 1,2. Ant. b. 3, ch. 15, sec. 3. + Keith on Prophecy. ¶ Lardner, vol. 3, p. 499.
+ Matt. 24:7, 8.
Acts 11:27-30; Ant. b. 20, ch. 2, sec. 6; ch. 5, sec. 2.
Josephus speaks of one at Babylon. Five years before the destruction of the holy city, there was a great mortality at Rome, while various parts of the empire were visited with similar calamities. Earthquakes were also among the signs of the times. Of these, the heathen historians, Tacitus, Suetonius, Philostratus, etc., speak of many. Crete, Italy, Asia Minor, and Judea were visited at different times, and some of them repeatedly, with earthquakes. Josephus describes one in Judea, as so extraordinary in its awfulness, that "any one might easily conjecture that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming."t
4. To the signs already mentioned, we find in Luke's account of these prophecies the addition of "fearful sights, and great signs from heaven." These sights and signs Josephus sets himself to the work of narrating with as much particularity as if he had been specially bent upon making good the words of Christ. He relates that just before the desolating war, "a star resembling a sword stood over the city, and a comet that continued a whole year." At the feast of unleavened bread, and "at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright daytime; which light lasted for half an hour." "The eastern gate of the inner court of the temple, which was of brass and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, was seen to be opened of its † Wars, etc., b. 4, c. 4, sec. 5.
Lardner, vol. 3, p. 499.
own accord about the sixth hour of the night.' This the learned of Jerusalem understood as a signal of approaching desolation. Moreover, "before sunsetting, chariots, and troops of soldiers in their armor, were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding cities." "At the feast of Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard the sound as of a multitude, saying, 'Let us remove hence."" But the sign which Josephus considered the most impressive, was that of a man named Jesus, who, four years before the war, at a time of entire peace, having come to the feast of tabernacles, began suddenly to cry aloud, "A voice from the east-a voice from the west-a voice from the four winds-a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house-a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides; and a voice against the whole people." With this cry he went through all the city day and night. No severity of punishment, no acts of kindness, could silence this voice. He spoke neither good nor ill to any, whether they gave him food or scourging. For seven years and five months his solemn cry continued, until its warning was just about to be fulfilled. A little while before the city was taken, as he was going round upon the wall, he cried with his utmost force, Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house;" and just as he added, "woe to myself also," a stone from one of the engines killed him immediately.*
*Wars, etc., b. 6, ch. 5, sec. 3.
However incredible the narrative of these signs may seem to some, it is not a little in its confirmation that the Roman historian Tacitus, speaking of the same time and place, says, "There were many prodigies presignifying their ruin, which were not to be averted by all the sacrifices and vows of that people. Armies were seen fighting in the air with brandished weapons. A fire fell upon the temple from the clouds. The doors of the temple were suddenly opened. At the same time there was a loud voice, declaring that the gods were removing, which was accompanied with a sound as of a multitude going out. All which things were supposed by some to portend great calamities." Whether all these things did really take place, or whether some or all of them were not the conceits of superstitious and excited minds, I shall not discuss, nor is the question at all material to our present object. Certain it is, that they were regarded as realities at the time, and consequently were in effect "fearful sights and great signs from heaven" to the Jews, whatever they may have been in reality. It required as much of the spirit of prophecy to predict that the Jews should believe such things to have occurred, as to predict any thing else that did certainly occur. Whatever we may conclude, therefore, concerning the singularly concurrent testimony of the Jewish and Roman historians, the prophecy of the Saviour was most impressively fulfilled.
5. From the calamities of the nation and city, our Lord continued his prophecy to those of his own Lardner, ch. 3, p. 613; Tacit. Hist. b. 5, ch. 9–13.
followers: "Before all these, they shall lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake."* "They shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist." For the proof of the accomplishment of all this, the Acts of the Apostles afford abundant evidence. Remember how Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house; punishing the Christians in every synagogue, and persecuting them even unto strange cities. Peter and John were delivered to councils. Paul was brought before kings. The former were also imprisoned. Paul and Silas were not only imprisoned, but beaten.§ There was given them indeed a wisdom which their adversaries were not able to gainsay nor resist. The very discourses of Peter that caused his persecution subdued thousands into obedience to the faith of Christ." The murderers of Stephen were not able to resist the wisdom with which he spoke. The jailer that incarcerated Paul and Silas in the evening, was their convert before the morning.** Felix trembled, and Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian, under the speech of Paul. Stephen and James were put to death. There is reason to believe that none of the original apostles or evangelists, but
† Matt. 24: 9.
* Luke 21: 12. Luke 21:15. Acts 8:3; 26:10, 11; 4:5; 18:12; ch. 24, 25; 4:3. Acts 2:41. ¶ Acts 6:10. **Acts 16:32-34.