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ness of the roads, and the rigour of the season, will render speedy travelling very troublesome, if not impossible; neither on the Sabbath-day, when you shall think it unlawful, for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world, to this time, no, nor ever shall be. This is confirmed by what Josephus tells us : for he says, ' that no less than eleven hundred thousand perished in the siege.
Our dear Lord added, that except the days of tribulation should be shortened, none of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea, of whom he was then speaking, should escape destruction. And accordingly Josephus tells us, that the quarrels which raged during the siege, were so fierce and obstinate, both within the walls of Jerusalem, and without in the neighbouring country, that the whole land was one continued scene of horror and desolation, and had the siege continued much longer, the whole nation of the Jews had been totally destroyed, according to our Lord's prediction: But, added our blessed Saviour, for the clect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. By the elect are meant, such of the Jews as had embraced the doctrines of the gospel, and those who were brought in with the fulvess of the Gentiles particularly.
During this time of universal confusion, it was natural to think, that the expectations of the whole nation would be turned towards their Messiah : for if he was ever to appear, it must be then, to deliver them from impending destruction. Our blessed Saviour therefore cautioned his disciples not to listen to any pretences of that kind, as many false Christs would arise, and deceive great numbers of the people. A prediction that was fully accomplished during the terrible siege of Jerusalem by the Romans : for Josephus tells us, that many arose, pretending to be the Messias', boasting that they would deliver the nation from all its enemies. And the multitude, always too
prone to listen to deceivers who promise temporal advantages, gave credit to those deceivers, became more obstinate in their opposition to the Romans, and thereby rendered their destruction more severe and more inevitable. And what still increased the infatuation of the people, was their performing wonderful things during the war; and accordingly Josephus calls them magicians and sorcerers. Hence we see the propriety of the caution given by the Son of God, who foretold that, they should shew great signs and wonders ; insomuch that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things.
But as it was likely the partizans of the false Christs would pretend that the Messiah was concealed a while for fear of the Romans, and the weaker sort of Christians, without this warning, might have imagined, that Christ was actually returned to deliver the nation in its extremity, and to punish their enemies, who now so cruelly oppressed them, and that he would shew himself as soon as it is proper, our blessed Saviour thought it needful to caution them against this particular : Wherefore, if they should say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth : behold, he is in the secret chambers : believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the TVest; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Matt. xxiv. 26, 27.
As lightning is swift and destructive, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. But he will not come personally, his servants only shall come, the Roman armies, who shall destroy this nation, as eagles devour their prey, by his command.
Thus having given them a particular account of the
a various circumstances which should precede the destruction of Jerusalem, he next described that catastrophe itself, in all the pomp of language and imagery
made use of by the ancient prophets, when they foretoid the destruction of cities and kingdoms : But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexily; the sea and the waves roaring ; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.
These expressions are figurative and lofty, and sig. nify the decaying of all the glory, excellency, and prosperity of the nation, and the introduction of universal sadness, misery, and confusion. The roaring of the sea, and the waves, may justly be considered as metaphorical, as the signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars are plainly so. And by the powers of heaven are meant the whole Jewish polity, government, laws, and religion, which were the work of heaven; these our blessed Saviour tells us, should be shaken.
As the disciples, in conformity to the repeated questions of the Pharisees during his ministry had asked what would be the signs of his coming, Our blessed Saviour told them, that after the tribulation of those days, when the sun should be darkened, and all the enemies of the Messiah should mourn, they should see the accomplishment of what Daniel foretold, by the figurative expression of the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven ; for they should behold the signal punishments executed on the Jewish nation by the Roman armies, sent for that end by the Son of man, who shall thus gloriously demonstrate the greatness of his power, and the extent of his dominion: Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in hearen: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn. And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of learen, with power and great glorp.
The disciples were to consider the time of their redemption, from the oppression under which they then groaned, as near at hand when these things came to pass: and that they might be certain this prophecy would not long wait for its accomplishment, he told them that the present generation should not all be laid in the chambers of the dust, before these terrible calamities should fall upon Jerusalem. Adding, that his disciples might sooner expect the dissolution of the whole frame of nature, than that one single circumstance of this prophecy should fail of its accomplishment: “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
If we take the pains to compare the prediction of our Saviour with the history Josephus wrote of the war, we cannot fail of being struck with the wisdom of Christ, and acknowledge that his prediction was truly divine. For as the Jewish nation was at this time in the most flourishing state, the event here told was altogether improbable. Besides, the circumstances of the destruction are very numerous, and surprisingly particular; and the whole delivered without any amhiguity. It is therefore a prophecy of such a kind as could never have been uttered by any imposter, and consequently the person who delivered it, was truly divine, and acquainted with the secret counsels of heaven.
But it has been demanded with some assurance, by the enemies to revelation, why should Christ order his disciples not to flee from Jerusalem, till they saw it encompassed with the Roman army, when it would then be impossible for them to make their escape ? But persons, before they propose such questions, would do well to read attentively the history Josephus has given us of these terrible calamities: because they would there find a solution of that difficulty. That historian tells us, “ That Cestius Gallus, surrounded
" the city with his army; and at the time when he could easily have taken the city, suddenly withdrew his forces, without any apparent reason." He adds, “ that as soon as the siege was raised, many eminent Jews fled from it, as from a sinking ship.” In all probability, many of these were Christians, who being warned by this prophecy of their great Master, saved themselves by flight, as he had directed. Thus we see what frivolous objections are made by the freethinkers of our age, against the truth of the sacred writings, and how easily they are answered. And I cannot help observing, that this conduct of the Roman general, so contrary to all the rules of prudence, must have been brought to pass by the providence of God, who interposed for the deliverance of the disciples in this manner.
Having given this description of the destruction of Jerusalem, our blessed Saviour enumerated a great variety of particulars that were to precede or accompany it, assuring his disciples, that it would be very unexpected, and thence urged the necessity of a watchful vigilance, lest they should be surprised, and have a share in those terrible calamities : But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Matt. xxiv. 37. Watch ye therefore ; for ye knowo not when the master of the house cometh ; at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning, lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. Mark xjii. 35, 36.
As men were to undergo, at the destruction of Jerusalem, nearly the same miseries, and as the passions which its approach would raise in their minds, were similar to those which will happen at the destruction of the world, and the general judgment; it was natı. ral for our blessed Saviour, on this occasion, to put his disciples in mind of that judgment, and to exhort them to the faithful discharge of their duty, from the