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mount of Olives, "and wept over it, saying, If thou
11. We come now to the work of destruction, which forms the most remarkable particular in this wonderful prophecy. The ruin of the city was foretold in these words: "They shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee: and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another." The ruin of the temple was foretold as follows. As the disciples were showing to Jesus the stupendous buildings of the temple, he answered, “See ye not all (143 these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Most wonderfully was the spirit of prophecy manifested in these words. Every thing
† Luke 23: 28-30.
Matt. 24: 2.
conspired to make the events appear improbable, and to prevent their occurrence when the time predicted had arrived. Jerusalem was surrounded with three massive walls of immense strength, rendering its garrison almost unassailable except by famine, or pestilence, or internal discord.* Never were men more perfectly devoted to the defence of a city than those of Jerusalem. None cared for life at the expense of her ruin. The garrison was ten times the number of the besiegers. It was, therefore, exceedingly improbable that the city would even be entered by the Romans. Such was the testimony of Titus as he looked round upon its towers. "We have certainly," said he, "had God for our helper in this war. It is God who has ejected the Jews out of these fortifications. For what could the hands of men, or any machines, do towards throwing down such fortifications?" But it was equally improbable, even if the city were taken, that such complete destruction would be made of all therein. Think of the difficulty of completely destroying such an immense extent of triple wall, and of buildings within. Think of the temple: what a pile to be laid low! Its walls enclosed more than nineteen acres; that of the eastern front rose to a height of nearly eight hundred feet from its base in the valley beneath. In this and the other walls the stones were immense, the largest
Gibbon, speaking of the strength of Jerusalem at this time, says, "The craggy ground might supersede the necessity of fortifications, and her walls and towers would have fortified the most accessible plain." Decline and Fall, vol. 8, ch. 58, p. 144. + Wars, b. 6, ch. 9, sec. 1.
measuring sixty-five feet in length, eight in height, and ten in breadth. How great the difficulty of a thorough levelling of such a structure, even under the instigation of the strongest motive! But what motive was likely to excite the Romans to such destruction? They prided themselves upon a veneration for the arts, and upon the sacred care with which, in all their conquests, the monuments of architectural taste were protected. The temple was emphatically such a monument. The immensity of its walls, its splendid gates and beautiful marble colonnades, the glory of its golden sanctuary, the grandeur of its whole appearance, and all its associations of antiquity and of sacredness, constituted the temple of Jerusalem precisely such an object as Roman commanders had always gloried in preserving from the desolations of conquest. Even barbarians were used to spare such monuments in their march of devastation. Genseric, when, with his Moors and Vandals, he had sacked the city of Rome, spoiled her wealth, and carried away the ornaments of her temples and capitol, but spared her noble structures;* and to this day, after all the scenes of war that have raged through her streets, the pillar of Trajan, the triumphal arch of Titus, the unmutilated Pantheon, and the noble Coliseum, with numerous other monuments of art, attest the ancient glory of the mistress of the world. How often have hostile armies filled the streets of Athens, and hordes of Gothic barbarians encamped amidst her sanctuaries; and yet the beau
Gibbon, vol. 5.
tiful temple of Theseus is scarcely injured as a model of architecture, and the Parthenon, though defaced and robbed, remains a noble example still of the grandeur and purity of Athenian taste in the age of Phidias and Pericles. How improbable then must it have seemed to one beholding the temple in the days of our Lord, that Romans should lay it even with the ground. Much more improbable, had the culti vated taste, and the mild, amiable, and humane disposition of Titus, their commander, been anticipated. Still more improbable, when it is remembered how strongly he was bent upon saving the city and temple from destruction; how he employed all the means in his power to induce the Jews to surrender before such extremities were necessary." When he had reached the temple, and saw the danger it was in of being sacrificed to the obstinacy of its defenders and the rage of his own soldiers, he was "deeply affected," and appealed to the gods, to his army, and to the Jews, that he did not force them to defile the holy house. "If," said he, "you will change the place whereon you will fight, no Roman shall either come near your sanctuary, or offer any affront to it; nay, I will endeavor to preserve your holy house, whether you will or not.”+ But the Lord of that temple had said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." God would not suffer the prophetic words of his Son to return unto him void. Now, therefore, even the authority of Titus was of no avail with his troops.
Wars, etc., b. 5, ch.8, sec. 1; ch. 9, sec. 2; ch. 11, sec. 2; b. 6, ch. 2, sec. 1. Ibid., b. 6, ch. 2, sec. 4.
Now the discipline of the Roman legion was broken up, that all that was written might be fulfilled. When the fire first reached the temple, their commander dispatched a force to extinguish it. As it broke out again, he again used his authority to save the edifice. A soldier, disobeying the will of his general, threw fire into the golden window of the inner sanctuary. At this, Titus, followed by all his chief officers, rushed to the place, and by voice and gesture and force exerted himself most earnestly to prevail with his troops to spare the building. He ordered a centurion to punish the disobedient. But neither his threatenings nor persuasions could arrest their fury. At last a soldier, taking advantage of his absence, when he had gone out of the sanctuary to restrain the others, "threw fire upon the holy gate in the dark, whereby the flame burst out from within the holy house immediately." And thus was it devoured by the fire. And now orders were given to demolish to the foundation the whole city and temple. Nothing was spared of the former but three towers, and so much of the wall as was required for a shelter to the garrison to be stationed there. "As for all the rest of the whole circumference of the city, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground, by those who dug it up to the foundation, that there was nothing left to make those who came thither believe it had ever been inhabited." In quest of plunder, the soldiers literally turned up the ground on which the city and temple had stood, searching the sewers Ibid. b. 7, ch. 1, sec. 1.
Wars, b. 6, ch. 4, sec. 2–5, etc.