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teachers, false apostles, as they are called by St Paul, 2 Cor. xi. 13, -deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.' Such also were Hymeneus and Philetus, of whom the apostle complains, 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18, that they affirmed the resurrection to be passed already, and overthrew the faith of some.'
The genuine fruit and effect of these evils was lukewarmness and coolness among Christians, ver. 12,- And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.' By reason of these trials and persecutions from without, and these apostacies and false prophets from within, the love of many to Christ and his doctrine, and also their love to one another, shall wax cold. Some shall openly desert the faith, as ver. 10; others shall corrupt it, as ver. 11; and others again, as here, shall grow indifferent to it. And (not to mention other instances) who can hear St. Paul complaining at Rome, 2 Tim. iv. 16, that' at his first answer no man stood with him, but all men forsook him;' who can hear the divine author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorting them, x. 25,- not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is ;' and not conclude the event to have sufficiently justified our Saviour's prediction.
'But he that shall endure unto the end;' ver. 13, but he who shall not be terrified by these trials and persecutions; he who shall neither apostatize from the faith himself, nor be seduced by others; he who shall not be ashamed to profess his faith in Christ, and his love to the brethren; the same shall be saved,' saved both here and hereafter. There shall not an hair of your head perish, as it is in St. Luke, xxi. 18: and indeed it is very remarkable, and was certainly a most signal act of providence, that none of the Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. So true and prophetic also was that assertion of St. Peter upon this same occasion, 2 Pet. ii. 9,- The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.'
But notwithstanding the persecutions and calamities of the Christians, there was to be an universal publication of the gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem, ver. 14,- And this gospel of the kingdom' (this gospel of the kingdom of God) shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come;' and then shall the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish polity come to pass; when all nations shall be or may be convinced of the crying sin of the Jews in crucifying the Lord of glory, and of the justice of God's judgments upon them for it. The Acts of the Aposties contain only a small part
of the history of a small part of the Apostles; and yet even in that history we see, the gospel was widely disseminated, and had taken root in the most considerable parts of the Roman empire. As early as in the reign of Nero, the Christians were grown so numerous at Rome, as to raise the jealousy of the government, and the first general persecution was commenced against them under pretence of their having set fire to the city, of which the emperor himself was really guilty, but willing to transfer the blame and odium upon the poor innocent Christians.* Clement, who was a contemporary and fellow labourer with St. Paul, says of him in particular, that he was a preacher both in the east and in the west, that he taught the whole world righteousness, and travelled as far as to the utmost borders of the west:" and if such were the labours of one apostle, though the chiefest of the apostles, what were the united labours of them all? It appears indeed 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 far northward as Scythia, as far southward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia, and India, as far westward as Spain and Britain. Our ancestors of this island seem to have lain as remote from the scene of our Saviour's actions as almost any nation, and were a "rough inhospitable people," as unlikely to receive so civilized an institution as any people whatever. But yet there is some probability, that the gospel was preached here by St. Simon the apostle; there is much greater probability, that it was preached here by St Paul; and there is absolute certainty, that Christianity was pianted in this country in the days of the apostles, before the destruction of Jerusalem. Agreeably to this, Eusebius informs us, that the apostles preached the gospel in all the world; and some of them "passed beyond the ocean to the Britannic isles." Theodoret likewise affirms, that the apostles had induced every nation and kind of men to embrace the gospel,
*Tacit. Annal. lib. 15.
και ότι το τέρμα της δύσεως ἐλθων. docens justitiam, et ad occidentis Epist. ad Corinth. 1, cap. 5.
† Κήρυξ γενόμενος ἐν τε τη ἀνατολη και ἐν τη δύσει,δικαιοσυνην διδάξας όλον τον κόσμον, Præco factus in oriente ac occidente,-totum mundum terminum veniens. [Translated in the text.] Clem
Britannos hospitibus feros.
[Translated in the text.] Hor. Od. III. iv. 33.
§ See Stillingfleet's Origines Britannica, chap. 1. Collier's Eccles. Hist. b. 1. Ussern Britan. Eccles. Antiquitates, cap. 1, &c.
|| Υπερ τον ὠκεανον παρελθειν ἐπὶ τὰς καλυμένας Βρεττανικας νήσος.-Trans oceanum [Translated in the text.] Demons
evasisse, ad eas insulas quæ Britannica vocantur. Evange! lib 5, cap. 5, p. 112, edit. Paris. 1628.
and among the converted nations he reckons particularly the Britons.* St. Paul himself, in his Epistle to the Colossians, i. 6, 23, speaketh of the gospel's being come into all the world, and preached to every creature under heaven:' and in his Epistle to the Romans, x. 18, very elegantly applies to the lights of the church what the Psalmist said of the lights of heaven, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." But how improbable, and in all human appearance impossible was it, that a few poor fishermen, and such inferior, illiterate persons should propagate and establish a new religion, in so short a space of time, throughout the world! Doubtless it was not man's but God's work, and from the same divine spirit proceeded both the prophecy and the completion!
We have deduced the prophecies as low as to the siege of Jeru salem; and now let us stop to make a few short reflections upon what has been said.
The first reflection that naturally occurs, is the strange and surprising manner in which these prophecies have been fulfilled, and the great argument that may thence be drawn for the truth of our Saviour's divine mission: but we shall have a fitter opportunity for enlarging upon this hereafter.
Another reflection we may make on the sincerity and ingenuity of Christ, and the courage and constancy of his disciples. Had Jesus been an impostor, he would, like all other impostors, have fed his followers with fair hopes and promises: but, on the contrary, we see, that he denounced persecution to be the lot of his disciples, he pointed out to them the difficulties they must encounter, the fiery trials they must undergo; and yet they did not therefore stagger in their faith, they did not therefore, like fainthearted soldiers, forsake their colours and desert his service. One hardly knoweth whom to admire most, him for dealing so plainly with them, or them for adhering so steadily to him. Such instances are rarely found of openness on one side, and of fidelity on the other.
A third reflection we may make on the sudden and amazing progress of the Gospel, that it should spread so far and so wide, before the destruction of Jerusalem. The greatness of the work
Theod, Serm. 9, tom. 4, p. 610, edit. Paris. 1642. Και ο μονος Ρωμαίες—-άλλα και -Βρετταννυς-- και άπαξαπλως παν έθνος και γενος άνθρωπων-κ. τ. λ. Neque solum Romanna -sed et-Britannos-atque, ut semel dicam, omne hominum genus nationesque omnes, &c. And not only the Romans-but also the Britons, and in one word, every nation and race of men,
that was wrought, the meanness of the instruments which wrought it, and the short time that it was wrought in, must force ali considering men to say, 'This is the Lord's doing, it is marvellous in our eyes,'-Psal. cxviii. 23. The Mahommedan religion, indeed, in less than a century overran a great part of the world; but then, it was propagated by the sword, and owed its success to arms and violence. But the Christian religion was diffused over the face of the earth in the space of forty years, and prevailed, not only without the sword, but against the sword; not only without the powers civil and military to support it, but against them all united to oppress it. And what but the Spirit of God could bid it thus go forth conquering and to conquer ?'-Rev. vi. 2. Had this counsel or this work been of men,' as Gamaliel argued, it would have come to nought; but being of God, nothing could overthrow it,'— Acts v. 38.
A fourth reflection we may make, (and it is the last that I shall make,) that seldom any state is ruined, but there are evident signals and presages of it. Few people have their fate particularly foretold by prophets, like the Jews; nor indeed can the fate of any people be so particularly foretold, the time, the manner, and all the circumstances preceding and succeeding, without divine inspiration. So many passages and circumstances cannot be particularly foretold unless particularly revealed; but in the general, without the spirit of prophecy, it is no difficult matter to perceive when cities and kingdoms are tending towards their final period and dissolution. There are as certain tokens and symptoms of a consumption and decay in the body politic, as in the body natural. I would not presage ill to my country; but when we consider the many heinous and presumptuous sins of this nation, the licentiousness and violation of all order and discipline, the daring insolence of robbers and smugglers, in open defiance of all law and justice, the factions and divisions, the venality and corruption, the avarice and profusion of all ranks and degrees among us, the total want of public spirit, and ardent passion for private ends and interests, the luxury and gaming and dissoluteness in high life, and the laziness and drunkenness and debauchery in low life, and, above all, that barefaced ridicule of all virtue and decency, and that scandalous neglect, and I wish I could not say contempt, of all public worship and religion; when we consider these things, these signs of the times, the stoutest and most sanguine of us all must tremble at the natural and probable consequences of them. God give us grace that we may know, at least in this our day, the things which be
long unto our peace,' before they are hid from our eyes,'-Luke xix. 42. Never may such blindness happen to us, as befel the Jews; but may we seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near; and return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon us, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,'-Is. lv. 6, 7.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
THE preceding discourse was concerning the 'signs' of the destruction of Jerusalem, that is, the circumstances and accidents which were to be the forerunners and attendants of this great event. Those are already specified which passed before the siege and now we proceed to treat of those which happened during the siege, and after it. Never was prophecy more punctually fulfilled, and it will be very well worth our time and attention to trace the particulars.
'When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whosc readeth let him understand,) Then let them which be in Judea, flee into the mountains,'-ver. 15 and 16. Whatever difficulty there is in these words, it may be cleared up by the parallel place in St. Luke, 'And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains,'-xxi. 20, 21. So that, the abomination of desolation' is the Roman army, and the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place' is the Roman army besieging Jerusalem. This, saith our Saviour, is the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,' in the ninth and eleventh chapters; and so let every one who readeth those prophecies, understand them. The Roman army is called the abomination,' for its ensigns and images, which were so to the Jews. As Chry ostom affirms, "every idol, and every image of a man, was called an abomination' among the Jews."* For this reason, as Josephus
* Απαν είδωλον, και παν τυπωμα άνθρωπο παρα τοις Ιυδαιοίς βδελυγμα ἐκάλειτο, Omne simulacrum et hominis effigies apud Judæos appellabatur abominatio.—Advers. Judæos orat. v. p 645, vol. 1, edit. Benedict, [Translated in the text.]