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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."t "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 impris oned. 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
T Acts 6:10.
Acts 8:3; 26:10, 11; 4:5; 18:12; ch. 24, 25; 4:3.
John, died a natural death. Christians were counted as the filth of the world, being literally hated for the very name they bore. About six years before the destruction of Jerusalem, arose the tremendous persecution under Nero, when it was enough that any one was called by the name of Christian to lead him to torture." Tacitus bears witness not only to their exquisite sufferings, but also to the fact that they were held in universal hatred on account of their religion and name.*
6. "Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another; and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." The apostle of the Gentiles, in his epistles, complains of Demas and Phygellus and Hermogenes, and many others in Asia, who turned away from him; and that when he first appeared at the bar of Nero, "no man stood with him, but all forsook him."‡ Tacitus, speaking of the persecution by Nero, says, "At first, those who were seized confessed their sect; and then, by their indication, a great multitude were convicted."
7. Immediately after the prediction of the outward persecutions and internal defections by which the servants of Christ were to be troubled, there follows this remarkable prophecy: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end
* Lardner, vol. 3, p. 498; Tac. An. book 15, chap. 44.
come." The end referred to was that of the Jewish
+ Newton, ch. 2, p. 257, 258.