The Destruction Of
An Absolute and Irresistible
PROOF OF THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF
INCLUDING A NARRATIVE OF
THE CALAMITIES WHICH BEFEL THE JEWS
So far as they tend to verify
OUR LORD'S PREDICTIONS
Relative to that event.
Also see: Rapture refuted
By George Peter Holford
(Written in 1805)
"I consider the Prophecy relative to the destruction of the Jewish nation,
if there were nothing else to support Christianity, as absolutely irresistible."
(Mr. Erskine's Speech, at the Trial of Williams, for publishing Paine's Age of Reason)
History records few events more generally interesting than the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subversion of the Jewish state, by the arms of the Romans. -- Their intimate connexion with the dissolution of the Levitical economy, and the establishment of Christianity in the world ; the striking verification which they afford of so many of the prophecies, both of the Old and New Testament, and the powerful arguments of the divine authority of the Scriptures which are thence derived ; the solemn warnings and admonitions which they hold out to all nations, but especially such as are favoured with the light and blessings of REVELATION ; together with the impressive and terrific grandeur of the events themselves -- are circumstances which must always insure to the subject of the following pages more than ordinary degrees of interest and importance. Many eminent and learned men have employed their pens in the illustration of it ; but the fruits of their labours are, for the most part, contained in large and expensive works, out of the reach of numbers, to whom the discussion might prove equally interesting and improving. For the use and gratification of such, the present Treatise, in a more accessible and familiar form, is diffidently offered to the public. In order that it might be better adapted for the general reader, critical inquiries and tedious details are equally avoided ; but it has been the care of the writer not to omit any important fact or argument that, in his opinion, tended to elucidate the subject. Countenanced by the example of many respectable names, he has ventured to introduce the extraordinary prodigies, which, according to Josephus, preceded the destruction of the Holy City. He has also added a few sentences in their defense, but he does not intend thereby to express his unqualified admission of their genuineness.
Upon the execution of the tract, generally, the public will determine. Usefulness is the writer's main object ; and if a perusal of it shall contribute, under the DIVINE BLESSING, to confirm the wavering faith of only one Christian, or to shake the vain confidence of a single Unbeliever, his labour will be abundantly rewarded.
1st. month, 1805.
THE goodness of God stamps all his proceedings. It has please Him not only to communicate to mankind a revelation, which, to the pious mind, bears in its internal texture its own evidence and recommendation, but also to accompany it with such external proofs of a sacred origin, as seem calculated to strike, with irresistible conviction, even those who are least disposed to admit the truth of the Holy Scriptures. In order to evidence their divine authenticity, God has done as much as man could possibly have required.  For, supposing that it had been referred to mankind to have prescribed for their own satisfaction, and that of their prosperity, the credentials which His messengers should bring with them, in order to authenticate the divinity of their mission, could the wisest and most skeptical amongst men have proposed, for this purpose, any thing more conclusive than,
1st. Demonstrations of power, surpassing every possible effect of human skill and effort -- and
2dly. Intelligence relative to the future events and circumstances of nations and individuals, which no human sagacity would ever pretend to foresee or predict ?
If such had been the evidences demanded, what addition to them could possibly have been suggested ? Is it in the human mind to imagine any tests of divine authority better adapted, sooner or later, to expose the artifices, and frustrate the designs, of an imposter ? In vain will the profoundest policy attempt to discover means more suitable to this purpose, and, with respect to the reception of the revelation itself, more perfectly fitted to banish all reasonable doubt on the one hand, and to invalidate the charge of credulity on the other. Now these, precisely, are the credentials with which it has pleased God to sanction the testimony of his inspired messengers, as recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. THEY WROUGHT MIRACLES : THEY FORETOLD FUTURE EVENTS. Thus all that man himself could demand has been given, and objectors are left entirely without excuse.
JESUS CHRIST, the principal of those messengers, like his illustrious types and predecessors Moses and Elijah, proclaimed and attested his divine mission at once by miraculous acts, and by prophetic declarations. His miracles were numerous, diversified, and performed in various parts of his native country ; they were not frivolous tricks, calculated merely to excite wonder and gratify curiosity, but acts of substantial utility and benevolence. They were publicly, but not boastingly and ostentatiously, displayed -- in the presence not of friends only, but also of enemies -- of enemies exasperated to malignity against him, because he had censured their vices and exposed their hypocrisy, and who were actuated by every motive which a spirit of revenge could suggest to incurable prejudice, to induce them to detect the imposition of his miracles, if false, and to deny and discredit them, if true. To deny them they did not attempt, but they strove to sink them in disrepute, and thereby furnished a striking specimen of those embarrassing dilemmas, into which infidelity is continually betraying her votaries. They ascribed them to the agency of Satan ; thus representing him, "who was a liar from the beginning," as contributing to the diffusion of the truth -- "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience" as promoting the cause of holiness and as co-operating in the overthrow of his own kingdom, with HIM who "was manifested to destroy the works of the Devil!!!"
The prophecies of our Lord, as well as his miracles, were many, and of great variety. They were not delivered with pomp and parade, but rose out of occasions, and seem to have resulted, for the most part, from his affectionate solicitude for those who then were, or might afterwards become, his disciples. While the fulfillment of some of these predictions was confined to the term of his mission and the limits of his country, the accomplishment of others extended to all nations, and to every future age of the world.
Of the prophecies which have already been fulfilled, few, perhaps, are so interesting in themselves, or so striking in their accomplishment, as those which relate to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the signal calamities which every where befel the Jewish nation. The chief of our Lord's predictions, relative to these events, are contained in Matt. 24 ch. Mark, 13 ch., Luke 21 ch., Ib. 19 ch. 41-44 ; Ib. 23 ch. 27-30 : and we may with confidence appeal to the facts which verify them as conclusive and incontrovertible proofs of the divinity of his mission. Before, however, we enter upon this illustration, it may be gratifying to the reader, and add considerably to the interest of many of the subsequent pages, to give in this place a brief description of that renowned city and its temple.
Jerusalem was built on two mountains. Three celebrated walls surrounded the city on every side, except that which was deemed inaccessible, and there it was defended by one wall only. The most ancient of these walls was remarkable for its great strength, and was, moreover, erected on a hanging rock, and fortified by sixty towers. on the middle wall there were fourteen towers only ; but on the third, which was also distinguished by the extraordinary merit of its architecture, there were no less than ninety. The celebrated tower of Psephinos, before which Titus at first encamped, was erected on this latter wall, and even excelled it in the superior style of its architecture : it was seventy cubits high and had eight angles, each of which commanded most extensive and beautiful prospects. In clear weather, the spectator had from them a view of the Mediterranean sea, of Arabia, and of the whole extent of the Jewish dominions. Besides this there were three other towers of great magnitude, named Hippocos, Phasael, and Mariamne. The two former, famed for their strength and grandeur, were nearly ninety cubits high ; the latter, for its valuable curiosities, beauty and elegance, was about fifty five cubits. They were all built of white marble ; and so exquisite was the workmanship, that each of them appeared as if it had been hewn out of an immense single block of it. Notwithstanding their great elevation, they yet must have appeared, from the surrounding country, far loftier than they really were. The old wall, it has just been remarked, was built upon a high rock : but these towers were erected upon the top of a hill, the summit of which was itself thirty cubits above the top of the old wall ! Such edifices, so situated, it is easy to conceive, must have give to the city a very great degree of grandeur and magnificence. Not far distant from these towers stood the royal palace, of singular beauty and elegance. Its pillars, its porticoes, its galleries, its apartments, were all incredibly costly, splendid and superb ; while the groves, gardens, walks, fountains, and aqueducts, with which it was encompassed, formed the richest and most delightful scenery that can possibly be imagined. The situation of these structures was on the north side of Jerusalem. Its celebrated temple, and the strong fort of Antonia, were on the east side, and directly opposite to the Mount of Olives. This fort was built on a rock fifty cubits in height, and so steep as to be inaccessible on every side ; and to render it still more so, it was faced with thin slabs of marble, which, being slippery, proved at once a defense and an ornament. In the midst of the fort stood the castle of Antonia, the interior parts of which, for grandeur, state, and convenience, resembled more a palace than a fortress. Viewed from a distance it had the appearance of a tower, encompassed by four other towers, situated at the four angles of a square. Of these latter, three were fifty cubits high, and the fourth seventy cubits.
The tower last mentioned commanded an excellent view of the whole temple, the riches grandeur, and elegance of which it is not in the power of language to describe. Whether we consider its architecture, its dimensions, its magnificence, its splendor, or the sacred purposes to which it was dedicated, it must equally be regarded as the most astonishing fabric that was ever constructed. It was erected partly on a solid rock, which was originally steep on every side. The foundations of what was called the lower temple were 300 cubits in depth, and the stones of which they were composed, more than sixty feet in length, while the superstructure contained, of the whitest marble, stones nearly sixty-eight feet long, more than seven feet high, and nine broad. The circuit of the whole building was four furlongs ; its height one hundred cubits ; one hundred and sixty pillars, each twenty seven feet high, ornamented and sustained the immense and ponderous edifice. In the front, spacious and lofty galleries, wainscoted with cedar, were supported by columns of white marble, in uniform rows.In short, says Josephus, nothing could surpass even the exterior of this temple, for its elegant and curious workmanship. It was adorned with solid plates of gold that rivaled the beauty of the rising sun, and were scarcely less dazzling to the eye than the beams of that luminary. Of those parts of the building which were not gilt; when viewed from a distance, some, says he, appeared like pillars of snow, and some, like mountains of white marble. The splendour of the interior parts of the temple corresponded with its external magnificence. It was decorated and enriched by every thing, that was costly, elegant and superb. Religious donations and offerings had poured into this wonderful repository of precious stores from every part of the world, during many successive ages. In the lower temple were placed those sacred curiosities, the seven branched candlestick of pure gold, the table for the shew- bread, and the altar of incense ; the two latter of which were covered with plates of the same metal. In the sanctuary were several doors fifty-five cubits high and sixteen in breadth which were all likewise of gold. Before these doors hung a veil of the most beautiful Babylonian tapestry, composed of scarlet, blue, and purple, exquisitely interwoven, and wrought up to the highest degree of art. From the top of the ceiling depended branches and leaves of vines, and large clusters of grapes, hanging down five or six feet, all of gold and of most admirable workmanship. In addition to these proofs of the splendour and riches of the temple, may be noticed its eastern gate of pure Corinthian brass more esteemed even than the precious metals -- the golden folding doors of the chambers -- the beautiful carved- work, gilding, and painting of the galleries -- golden vessels, &c. of the sanctuary --the sacerdotal vestments Of scarlet, violet, and purple --the vast wealth of the treasury-- abundance of precious stones, and immense quantities of all kinds of costly spices and perfumes. In short, the most valuable and sumptuous of whatever nature, or art, or opulence, could supply _ was enclosed within the consecrated walls of this magnificent and venerable edifice.
So much concerning this celebrated city, and its still more celebrated temple. We shall now consider our LORD's prophecies relating to their destruction.
On the 2d. day of the week, immediately preceding his crucifixion, our blessed SAVIOUR made his public and triumphal entry into Jerusalem, amidst the acclamations of a very great multitude of his disciples, Who hailed him KING OF SION, and with palmbranches, the emblems of victory, in their hands, rejoiced and gave praises to GOD for all the mighty works they had seen, singing "Hosanna! blessed be the KING that cometh in the name of the LORD ! peace in heaven, and glory in the highest !" But While the people thus exulted, and triumphantly congratulated the MESSIAH, he struggling with the deepest emotions of pity and compassion for Jerusalem, beheld the city and wept over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace ! but now they are hid from thine eyes; for the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee around, and keep thee in on every side ; 'And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee and they shall, not leave in thee one stone upon another ; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."  On the 4th day of the week following, being only two days before his death, he went for the last time into the temple to teach the people : while He was thus employed, the High Priests and the Elders, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and Pharisees, successively came to him, and questioned him with subtly, being desirous to "entangle him in his talk ; " to whom, with his accustomed dignity and wisdom, he returned answers which carried conviction to their hearts, and at once silenced and astonished them. Then, turning to his disciples, and the whole multitude, he addressed to them a discourse of very uncommon energy, in which, with most exquisite keenness of reproof, he exposed and condemned the cruelty and pride, the hypocrisy and sensuality of' the Pharisees and Scribes. Having next foretold the barbarous treatment which his Apostles would receive at their hands be proceeded to denounce against Jerusalem the dire and heavy vengeance, that had for ages been accumulating in the vials of divine displeasure, expressly declaring that it, should be poured out upon the then existing generation, adding that inimitably tender and pathetic apostrophe to this devoted city, " 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them- which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children tog-ether, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,, and ye would not ! Behold ! your HOUSE is left unto you desolate ; for I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord !"  Having said this, he went out of the temple, and, as he departed, his disciples drew his attention to the wonderful magnitude and splendour of the edifice. -- They spake, "how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts ;" and said unto him, "Master see ! what manner of stones and buildings are here ! And Jesus said unto them , See ye not all these things ? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." When we consider the antiquity and sanctity of the temple, its stupendous fabric, its solidity, and the uncommon magnitude of the stones of which it was composed, we may, in some measure, conceive of the amazement which this declaration of our LORD must have excited in the mind of his disciples. Nevertheless, this remarkable prediction,. as. we shall see in the sequel, was literally fulfilled, and, as our LORD had foretold, even during the existence of the generation to which he addressed it.
Our Lord now retired to the Mount of Olives, to which place the disciples followed him, in order to make more particular inquiries relative to the time when the calamitous events, foretold by him, would come to pass. We have already intimated, that, the Mount of Olives commanded a full view of Jerusalem and the temple. No situation, therefore, could have been better adapted to give energy to a prediction which related chiefly to their total ruin and demolition.; and if we suppose (and the supposition is highly probable) that our LORD, While in the act of speaking, pointed to the majestic and stupendous edifices, whose destruction he foretold, every word which he then uttered must have been clothed with inexpressible sublimity, and derived from the circumstances of the surrounding scenery a force and effect, which it is not possible adequately to conceive.
"Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled ?" Such were the questions of the disciples, in answer to which our LORD condescended to give them a particular account of the several important events that would precede, as well as of the prognostics which would announce, the approaching desolations ; including suitable directions for the regulation of their conduct under the various trials to which they were to be exposed. He commences with a caution : "Take heed," says be, "that no man deceive you ; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many." The necessity for this friendly warning soon appeared ; for within one year after our Lord's ascension, rose Dositheus the Samaritan, who had the boldness to assert that he was the Messiah, of whom Moses prophesied ; while his disciple Simon Magus deluded multitudes into a belief that he, himself, was the " GREAT POWER OF GOD." About three years afterwards another Samaritan impostor appeared, and declared that he would shew the people the sacred utensils, said to have been deposited by Moses, in mount Gerizim. Induced by an idea that the Messiah, their great deliverer, was now come, an armed multitude assembled under him, but Pilate speedily defeated them, and slew their chief. While Cuspius Fadus was procurator in Judea, another deceiver arose, whose name was Theudas.  This man actually succeeded s O far as to persuade a very great multitude to take their effects and follow him to Jordan, assuring them, that the river would divide at his command. Fadus, however, pursued their with a troop of horse, and slew many of them, and among the rest the impostor himself, whose head was cut off and carried to Jerusalem. Under the government of Felix, deceivers rose up daily in Judea, and persuaded the people to follow them into the wilderness, assuring them that they should there behold conspicuous signs and wonders performed by the ALMIGHTY. Of these Felix, from time to time, apprehended many, and put them to death. About this period (A.D. 55,) arose Felix the celebrated Egyptian impostor, who collected thirty-thousand followers, and persuaded them to accompany him to the Mount of Olives, telling, them that from thence they should see the walls of Jerusalem fall down at his command, as, a prelude to the capture of the Roman garrison, and to their obtaining the sovereignty of the city. The Roman governor, however, apprehending this to be the beginning of revolt, immediately attacked them, slew four hundred of them, and dispersed the rest ; but the Egyptian effected his escape. In the time of Porcius Festus (A.D.60,) another distinguished impostor seduced the people, by promising them deliverance from the Roman yoke, if they would follow him into the wilderness ; but Festus sent out an armed force which speedily destroyed both the deceiver and his followers. In short, impostors, to a divine commission, continually and fatally deceived the people, and at once justified the caution, and fulfilled the prediction of our LORD.
If it be objected that none of these impostors, except Dositheus, assumed the name of Messiah, we reply, that the groveling expectations of the Jews was directed to a Messiah who should merely deliver them from the Roman yoke, and "restore the kingdom to Jerusalem ;" and such were the pretensions of these deceivers. This expectation, indeed, is the only true solution of these strange and reputed insurrections ; which will naturally remind the reader of the following prophetic expressions of our LORD : "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not ; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." " If they shall say unto you, 'Behold he is in the desert !" go not forth. They will shew  (or pretend to shew) great signs and wonders,"' &c. Our Saviour thus proceeded : "And ye shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars ; see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet, for nation shall rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences : all these are the beginnings of sorrows. " -- Matt. xxiv. 7,8.
Luke xxi. 11, "Wars and rumours of wars," &c. These commotions, like distant thunder, that forebodes the approaching storm,
"At first heard solemn o'er the verge of heaven,"
were so frequent from the death of our Lord until the destruction of Jerusalem,that whole interval might, with propriety, appealed to, in illustration of this prophecy. One hundred and fifty of the copious pages of Josephus, which contain the history of this period, are every where stained with blood. To particularize in a few instances : About three years after the death of Christ, a war broke out between Herod and Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, in which the army of the former was cut off. This was kingdom rising against kingdom Wars are usually preceded by rumours. It may, therefore, appear absurd to attempt a distinct elucidation of this part of the prophecy ; nevertheless, it ought not to be omitted, that about this time, the emperor Caligula, having ordered his statue to be placed in the temple of Jerusalem, and the Jews having persisted to refuse him, the whole nation were so much alarmed, by the mere apprehension of war, that they neglected even to till their lands ! The storm, however, blew over.
About this period a great number, of Jews, on account of a pestilence which raged at Babylon, removed from that city to Se leucia, where the Greeks and Syrians rose against them, and destroyed of this devoted people more than five myriads ! "The extent of this slaughter (says Josephus) had no parallel in any former period of their history." Again, about five years after; this dreadful massacre, there happened a severe contest between the Jews at Perea, and the Philadelphians, respecting the limits of a city called Mia, in which many of the former were slain. This was nation rising up against nation. Four year afterwards, under Cumanus, and indignity was offered to the Jews within the precincts of the temple, by a Roman soldier, which they violently resented ; but, upon the approach of the Romans in great force, their terror wits so excessive, and so disorderly and precipitate their flight, that not less than ten thousand Jews were trodden to death in the streets. This, again, was nation rising up against nation. Four years more had not elapsed, before the Jews made war against the Samaritans, and ravaged their country. The people of Samaria had murdered a Galilean, who was going up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover, and the Jews thus revenged it. At Caesarea, the Jews having had a sharp contention with the Syrians for the government of the city, an appeal was made to who decreed it to the Syrians. This event laid the foundation of a most cruel and sanguinary contest between the two nations. The Jews, mortified by disappointment, and inflamed by jealousy, rose against the Syrians, who successfully repelled them. In the city of Casesarea alone upwards of twenty thousand Jews were slain. The flame, however, was not now quenched ; it spread its destructive rage wherever the Jew and Syrians dwelt together in the same place : throughout every city, town, and village, mutual animosity and slaughter prevailed. At Damascus, Tyre, Ascalon, Gadara, and Scythopolis, the carnage was dreadful. At the first of these cities, ten thousand Jews were slain in one hour, and at Scythopolis thirteen, thousand treacherously in one night. At Alexandria the Jews, aggrieved by the oppressions of the Romans, rose against. them ; but the Romans, gaining the ascendancy, slew of that nation fifty thousand persons, sparing neither infants nor the aged. And after this, at the siege of Jopata, not less than forty thousand Jews perished. While these destructive contests prevailed in the East, the western parts of the Roman empire were rent by the fierce contentious of Galba, Otho, and Vertellis ; of which three emperors, it is remarkable that they all, together with Nero, their immediate predecessor, died a violent death, within the short space of eighteen months Finally, the whole nation of the Jews took up arms against the Romans, king Agrippa, &c. and provoked that dreadful war which, in a few years, deluged Judea in blood, and laid its capital in ruins.
If it be here objected, that, because wars are events of frequent occurrence, it would be improper to refer to supernatural foresight a successful prediction respecting them, it is replied, that much of this objection will be removed, by considering the incompetency of even statesmen themselves to foretel the condition, only for a few years, of the very nation whose affairs they administer. It is a well-known fact, that the present minister of Great Britain, on the very eve of the late long and destructive war with the French Republic, held out to this country a picture of fifteen successive years of peace an Indeed, the nice points on which peace and war of ten depend, baffle all calculations from present aspects ; and a rumour of war, so loud and so alarming, as even to suspend the operations of husbandry, may terminate, as we have just seen, in nothing but rumour Farther, let it be considered, that the wars to which this part of our LORD's prophecy referred, were to be of two kinds, and that the event corresponded accordingly ; that they occurred within the period to which he had assigned them ; that they fell with the most destructive severity on the Jews, to whom the prophecy at large chiefly related, and that the person who predicted them was not in the condition of a statesman, but in that of a Carpenter's son ! "On this subject more in another place.
'And great earthquakes shall be in divers places." Of these significant emblems of political commotions, there occurred several within the scene of this prophecy, and, as our SAVIOUR predicted, in divers places. in the reign of Claudius there was one at Rome, and another at Apamea in Syria, where many of the Jews resided. The earthquake at the latter place was so destructive, that the emperor, in order to relieve the distresses of the inhabitants, remitted its tribute for five years. Both these earthquakes are recorded by Tacitus. There was one also, in the same reign in Crete. This is mentioned by Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius, who says, that 'there were others at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos ; in all which places Jews had settled." In the reign of Nero there was an earthquake at Laodicea. Tacitus records this also. It is likewise mentioned by Eusebius and Orosius, who add that Hieropolis and Colose, as well as Laodicea, were overthrown by an earthquake. There was also one in Campania in this reign (of this both Tacitus and Seneca speak
and another at Rome in the reign of Galba, recorded by Suetonius ; to all which may be added those which happened on that dreadful night When the Idumeans were excluded from Jerusalem, a short time before the. siege commenced. "A heavy storm (says Josephus) burst on them during the night violent winds arose, accompanied with the most excessive rains, with constant lightnings, most tremendous thunderings, and with dreadful roarings of earthquakes. It seemed (continues he) as if the system of the world had been confounded for the destruction of mankind ; and one might well conjecture that these were signs of no common events."
Our LORD predicted "famines" also. Of these the principal was that which Agabus foretold would happen in the days of Claudius, as related in the Acts of the Apostles. It begun in the fourth year of his reign, and was of long continuance. It extended through Greece, and even into Italy, but was felt most severely in Judea, and especially at Jerusalem, where many perished for want of bread. This famine is recorded by Josephus also, who relates that "an assaron of corn was sold for five drachmae" (i.e. about 3 1/2 pints for 3s. 3d.) It is likewise noticed by Eusebius and Orosius. To alleviate this terrible calamity, Helena, queen of Adiabena, who was at that time in Jerusalem, ordered large supplies of grain to be sent from Alexandria; and Izates, her son, consigned vast sums to the governors of Jerusalem, to be applied to the relief of the more indigent sufferers. The Gentile Chris tian converts residing in foreign countries, also sent, at the instance of St. Paul, liberal contributions, to relieve the distresses of their Jewish brethren. (I Corin. xvi. 3.) Dion Cassius relates that there was likewise a famine in the first year of Claudius which prevailed at Rome, and in other parts of It aly ; and, in the eleventh year of the same emperor, there was another, mentioned by Eusebius. To these may be added those that afflicted the inhabitants of several of the cities of Galilee and Judea, which were besieged and taken, previously to the investment of Jerusalem, where the climax of national misery, arising from this and every other cause, was so awfully completed.
Our Lord adds "pestilences" likewise. Pestilence treads upon the heels of famine, it may therefore reasonably be presumed, that this terrible scourge accompanied the famines which have just been enumerated. History, however, particularly distinguishes two instances of this calamity, which occurred before the commencement of the Jewish war. The first took place at Babylon about A. D. 40, and raged so alarmingly, that great multitudes of Jews fled from that city to Seleucia for safety, as hath been hinted already. The other happened at Rome A.D. 65, and carried off prodigious multitudes. Both Tacitus and Suetonius also record, that similar calamities prevailed, during this period, in various parts of the Roman empire. After Jerusalem was surrounded by the army of Titus, pestilential diseases soon made their appearance there to aggravate the miseries, and deepen the horrors of the siege. They were partly occasioned by the immense multitudes which were crowded together in the city, partly by the putrid effluvia which arose from the unburied dead, and partly from spread of famine.
Our Lord proceeded, "And fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven."  - Josephus has collected the chief of these portents together, and introduces his account by a reflection on the strangeness of that infatuation, which could induce his countrymen to give credit to impostors, and unfounded reports, whilst they disregarded the divine admonitions, confirmed, as he asserts they Were, by the following extraordinary signs :
1. "A meteor, resembling a sword,  hung over Jerusalem during one whole year." This could not be a comet, for it was stationary, and was visible for twelve successive months. A sword too, though a fit emblem for destruction, but ill represents a comet.
2. "On the eighth of the month Zanthicus, (before the feast of unleavened bread) at the ninth hour of the night, there shone round about the altar, and the circumjacent buildings of the temple, a light equal to the brightness of the day, which continued for the space of half an hour." This could not be the effect of lightning, nor of a vivid aurora borealis, for it was confined to a particular spoil and the light shone unintermittedly thirty minutes.
3. "As the High Priest were leading a heifer to the altar to be sacrificed, she brought forth a lamb, in the midst of the temple." Such is the strange account given by the historian. Some may regard it as a "Grecian fable," while others may think that they discern in this prodigy a miraculous rebuke of Jewish infidelity and impiety, for rejecting the ANTITYPICAL Lamb, who had offered Up Himself as an atonement, "once for all," and who, by thus completely fulfilling their design, had virtually abrogated the Levitical sacrifices. However this may be, the circumstances of the prodigy are remarkable. It did not occur in an obscure part of the city, but in the temple ; not at an ordinary time, but at the passover, the season of our LORD'S crucifixion in the presence, not of the vulgar merely, but of the High Priests and their attendants, and when they were leading the sacrifice to the altar.
4. "' About the sixth hour of the night, the eastern gate of the temple was seen to open without human assistance." When the guards informed the Curator of this event, he sent men to assist them in shutting it, who with great difficulty succeeded. -- This gate, as hath been observed already, 'Was of solid brass, and required twenty men to close it every evening. It could not have been opened by a "strong gust of wind," or a slight earthquake;" for Josephus says, it was secured by iron bolts And bars, which were let down into a large threshold; consisting of one entire stone." 
5. "Soon after the feast of the Passover, in various parts of the country, before the Setting of the sun, chariots and armed men were seen in the air, passing round about Jerusalem. " Neither could this portentous spectacle be occasioned by the aurora borealis, for it occurred before the setting of the sun ; or merely the fancy of a few villagers, gazing at the heavens, for it was seen in various parts of the country.
6. "At the subsequent feast of Pentecost, while the priests were going, by night, into the inner, temple to perform their customary ministrations, they first felt, as they said, a shaking, accompanied by an indistinct murmuring, and afterwards voices as of a multitude, saying, in a distinct and earnest manner, "LET US DEPART HENCE." This gradation will remind the reader of that awful transaction, which the feast of Pentecost *as principally instituted to commemorate. First, a shaking was heard ; this would naturally induce the priests to listen : an unintelligible murmur succeeds; this would more powerfully arrest their attention, and while it was thus awakened arid fixed, they heard, says Josephus, the voices as of a multitude, distinctly pronouncing the words "LET US DEPART HENCE." -- And accordingly, before the period for celebrating this feast returned, the Jewish war had commenced, and in the space of three years afterwards, Jerusalem was surrounded by the Roman army, the temple converted into a citadel, and its sacred courts streaming with the blood of human victims.
7. As the last and most fearful omen, Josephus relates that one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a rustic of the lower class, during the Feast of Tabernacles, suddenly exclaimed in the temple, "A voice from the east a voice from the west -- a voice from the four winds- a voice against Jerusalem and the temple -- a voice against bridegrooms and brides -- a voice against the whole people !" These words he incessantly proclaimed aloud both day and night, through all the streets of Jerusalem, for seven years and five months together, commencing at a time (A. D. 62) when the city was in a state of peace, and overflowing with prosperity, and terminating amidst the horrors of the siege. This disturber, having excited the attention of the magistracy, was brought before Albinus the Roman governor, who commanded that he should be scourged. But the severest stripes drew from him neither tears nor supplications. As he never thanked those who relieved, so neither did he complain of the injustice of those who struck him. And no other answer could the governor obtain to his interrogatories, but his usual denunciation of "Woe, woe to Jerusalem !" which he still continued to proclaim through the city, but especially during the festivals, when his manner became more earnest, and the tone of his voice louder. At length, on the commencement of the siege, he ascended the walls, and, in a more powerful voice than ever, exclaimed, "Woe, woe to this city, this temple, and this people !" And then, with a presentment of his own death, added," Woe, woe to myself "' he had scarcely uttered these words when a stone from one of the Roman engines killed him on the spot.
Such are the prodigies related by Josephus, and which, excepting the first, he places in the Year immediately preceding the Jewish war. Several of them are recorded also by Tacitus. Nevertheless, it ought to be observed, -that they are received by Christian writers cautiously, and with various degrees of credit. Those, however, who are most skeptical, and who resolve them into natural causes, allow the "superintendence of GOD to awaken his people by some of these means." Whatever the fact, in this respect, may be, it is clear that they correspond to our LORD'S prediction of "fearful sights, and great signs from heaven;" and ought to be deemed a sufficient answer to the objector, who demands whether any such appearances are respectably recorded.
The next prediction of our LORD related to the persecutions of his disciples : "They shall lay their hands on you (said he), and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake :" Luke xxi. 12. "and they shall deliver you up to councils, and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten :" Mark xiii. 9. "and some of You shall they CAUSE TO BE PUT TO DEATH."- Luke xxi. 16. In the very infancy of the Christian church, these unmerited and unprovoked cruelties began to be inflicted. -- Our LORD, and his forerunner John the Baptist, had already been put to death ; the Apostles Peter and John were first imprisoned, and then, together with the other Apostles, were scourged before the Jewish council ; Stephen after confounding the Sanhedrim with his irresistible eloquence, was stoned to death ; Herod Agrippa "stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church," beheaded James the brother of John, and again imprisoned Peter, designing to put him to death also ; St. Paul pleaded before the Jewish council at Jerusalem, and before Felix the Roman governor, who trembled on the judgment-seat, while the intrepid prisoner "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come !" Two years afterwards he was brought before the tribunal of Festus (who had succeeded Felix in the government,) king Agrippa the younger being present, who, while the governor scoffed, ingenuously. acknowledged the force of the Apostle's eloquence, and, half convinced, exclaimed, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Lastly, he pleaded before the emperor Nero at Rome ; he was also brought with Silas before the rulers at Philippi, where both of them were scourged and imprisoned. Paul was likewise imprisoned two years in Judea, and afterwards twice at Rome, each time for the space of two years. He 'was scourged by the Jews five times, thrice beaten with rods, and owe stoned ; nay, he himself, before his conversion , was an instrument of fulfilling the predictions. St. Luke relates of him that "he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hating men and women, committed them to prison ; when they were put to death he gave his voice against them ; he punished them oft in every synagogue, and, persecuted them even into strange cities and to this agree his own declarations. (Vide Acts xxvi. 10, 11. Gal. i. 23.) At length, about two years before the Jewish war, the first general persecution commenced at the instigation of the emperor Nero, " who," says Tacitus, "inflicted upon the Christians punishments exquisitely painful ;" multitudes suffered a cruel martyrdom, amidst derision and insults, and among the rest the venerable Apostles St Peter and St. Paul.
Our LORD continues-"And ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."Matt. xxiv. 9. The hatred from which the above-recited persecutions sprang, was not provoked on the part of the Christians by a contumacious resistance to established authority, or by any violations of law, but was the unavoidable consequence of their sustaining the name, and imitating the character of' their MASTER. "It was a war," says Tertullian, "against the very name : to be a Christian was of itself crime enough." And to the same effect is that expression of Pliny in his letter to Trajan : "I asked them whether they were Christians ; if they confessed it, I asked them a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment, and those who persevered I commanded to be led away to death." -- It is added, "Of all nations." Whatever animosity or dissensions might subsist between the Gentiles and the Jews on other points, they were at all times ready to unite and co-operate in the persecution of the humble followers of Him, who came to be a LIGHT to the former, and the GLORY of the latter.
"And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another." Matt. xxiv. 10. Concerning this fact, the following decisive testimony of Tacitus may suffice : speaking of the persecutions of the Christians under Nero, to which we have just alluded, he adds " several were seized, who confessed, and by their discovery a great multitude of others were convicted and barbarously executed."
"And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be. preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end (i.e. of the Jewish dispensation) come." Matt. xxiv. 14. Of the fulfillment of this prediction of the Epistles of St. Paul, addressed to the Christians at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica ; and those of Peter to such as resided in Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, are monuments now standing ; for neither of these Apostles were living when the Jewish war commenced. St. Paul, too, in his Epistle to the Romans, informs them that 'their faith was spoken of throughout the world ;' and in that to the Colossians he observes that the " Gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven." Clement, who was a fellow-labourer with the Apostle, relates of him that "he taught the whole world righteousness, travelling from the East westward to the borders of the ocean." Eusebius says that "the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the world, and that some of them passed beyond the bounds of the ocean, and visited the Britannic isles :"  so says Theodoret also.
"It appears," says Bishop Newton, "from the writers of the history of the church, that before the destruction of Jerusalem the Gospel was not only preached in the Lesser Asia, and Greece, and Italy, the great theatres of action then in the world , but was likewise propagated as fax northward as Scythia, as far southward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia and India, as far westward as Spain and Britain." And Tacitus asserts that "the Christian religion, which arose in Judea, spread over many parts of the world, and extended to Rome itself, where the professors of it, as early as the time of Nero, amounted to a vast multitude," insomuch that their numbers excited the jealousy of the government.
Thus completely was fulfilled a prediction contrary to every conclusion that could have been grounded on moral probability, and to the accomplishment of which every kind of impediment was incessantly opposed. The reputed son of a mechanic instructs a few simple fishermen in a new dispensation destitute of worldly incentives, but full of self-denials, sacrifices, and sufferings, and fells them that in about forty years it should spread over all the world. It spreads accordingly ; and, in defiance of the exasperated bigotry of the Jews, and of all the authority, power, and active opposition of the Gentiles, is established, within that period, in all the countries into which it penetrates. Can any one doubt but that the prediction and its fulfillment were equally divine ?
Such, briefly, is the account that history gives of the several events and signs, which our Lord had foretold would precede the destruction of the Holy City. No sooner were his predictions accomplished, than a most unaccountable infatuation seized upon the whole Jewish nation ; so that they not only provoked, but seemed even to rush into the midst of those unparalleled calamities, which at length totally overwhelmed them. In an essay of this sort it is impossible to enter into a minute detail of the origin and progress of these evils ; but such particulars as illustrate the fulfillment of the remaining part of the prophecy, and justify the strong language in which it is couched, shall be presented to the reader.