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deed Josephus himself, in his preface to his history, expresses himself almost in the very same words: “Our city, says he, of all those subjected to the Romans, was raised to the highest felicity, and was thrust down again to the lowest gulf of misery; for if the misfortunes of all from the beginning of the world were compared with those of the Jews, they would appear much inferior upon the comparison *.” Is not this almost precisely what our Saviour says, “There shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” It is impossible, one would think, even for the most stubborn infidel, not to be struck with the great similarity of these two passages; and not to see that the prediction of our Lord, and the accomplishment of it, as described by the historian, are exact counterparts of each other, and seem almost as if they had been written by the very same person. Yet Josephus was not born till after our
* De Bell. Jud. Prooem. p. 955. Ed. Huds. Vol. II. P
Saviour was crucified; and he was not a Christian, but a Jew; and certainly never meant to give any testimony to the truth of our religion. The calamities above mentioned were so severe, that had they been of long continuance the whole Jewish nation must have been destroyed; “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved,” says Christ, in the 23d verse ; “but (he adds) for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened.” They were shortened for the sake of the elect, that is, of those Jews who had been converted to Christianity; and they were shortened by the besieged themselves, by their seditious and mutual slaughters, and their madness in burning their own provisions. “Then,” continues Jesus, “if any man shall say unto you, Lo; here is Christ, or there, believe it not: for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you
2 - before.
before. Wherefore, if they shall say untò you, 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 west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together.” Our Lord had already cautioned his disciples against believing the false Christs and false prophets who would appear before the siege, and he now warns them against those that would rise up during the siege. This, Josephus tells us, they did in great abundance; and flattered the Jews with the hope of seeing their Messiah coming, with great power, to rescue them from the hands of the Romans”. And they also pretended to shew signs and wonders; the very words made use of by the same historian, as well as by our Lord+. And it is remarkable, that Christ here foretels, not only
but the very places to which they would lead their deluded followers; and these were, the “desert, and the secret chamber.” And accordingly, if you look into the history of Josephus, you will find both these places distinctly specified as the theatres on which these impostors exhibited their delusions. For the historian relates a variety of instances in which these false Christs and false prophets betrayed their followers into the desert, where they were constantly destroyed; and he also mentions one of these pretenders, who declared to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that God commanded them to go up into a particular part of the temple (into the secret chamber, as our Lord expresses it) and there they should receive the signs of deliverance. A multitude of men, women, and children, went up accordingly; but, instead of deliverance, the place was set on fire by the Romans, and six thousand perished miserably in the flames, or by endeavouring to escape them *.
* Jos. Antiq.l. xx. c. 7. s. 6. and c. 7. s. 10. De Bell. Jud. l. ii. c. 13. s. 4. and l. vii. c. 11. s. 1. Ed. Huds.
But the appearance of the true Christ. was not to be in that way; it was to be as visible and as rapid as a flash of lightning; “for as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” It shall not be in a remote desert or in a secret chamber of the temple, but shall be rendered conspicuous by the sudden and entire overthrow of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants. “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” By the carcase is meant the Jewish nation, which was morally, and judicially dead; and the instruments of divine vengeance, that is, the Roman armies, whose standards were eagles, would be collected together against this wicked people, as eagles are gathered together to devour their prey. In the three following verses, the language of our divine Master becomes highly figurative and sublime. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall P 3 the