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the deceiver himself, and those who followed him."* These things happened before the destruction of Jerusalem; and, a little after, Jonathan a weaver "persuaded not a few indigent fellows to adhere to him, and led them forth into the desert,' promising there to show signs and apparitions ;"+ but of his followers most were slain, come were made prisoners, and he himself was afterwards taken, and burnt alive by order of Vespasian. As several of these impostors thus conducted their followers into the desert,' so did others into 'the secret chambers' or places of security: as particularly the pseudoprophet mentioned by Josephus, "who declared to the people in the city, that God commanded them to go up into the temple, 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 throwing themselves down to escape them.
Our Saviour therefore might well caution his disciples both against the former and the latter sort of these deceivers. 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,'-ver. 27. His coming will not be in this or that particular place, but like the lightning will be sudden and universal. The appearance of the true Christ will be as distinguishable from that of the false Christ, as lightning which shineth all around the hemisphere is from a blaze of straw. What a learned prelate observes from Josephus is very memorable, that "the Roman army entered into Judea on
Πεμπει δε Φήςος δυναμιν ίππικην τε και πεζικην ἐπι τυς ἀπατηθέντας ἀπο τινος άνθρωπε γοητος, σωτηριαν αὐτοῖς ἐπαγγελλομενε και παυλαν εἰ βυληθείεν έπεσθαι μεχρι της ἐρησιας αύτω' και αυτον τε ἐκεῖνον τον ἀπατήσαντα, και τις ἀκολυθήσαντας διέφθειραν οι WEμPOETES. Quin et Festus equestres pedestresque copias contra eos misit, qui decepti erant ab homine quodam præstigiatore, salutem ipsis pollicente et malorum cessationem, si sc usque ad desertum sequi vellent; atque ipsum deceptorem, pariter ac eas qui illum comitati sunt, interfecerunt milites ab eo missi. [Translated in the text.] Ant. lib. 20. cap. 7, sect. 10, p. 895.
De Bell. Jud. lib. 7, cap. 11 Ουκ όλιγες των άπορων ἀνέπεισε προσέχειν αυτω, Pauperum και προηγαγεν εἰς τὸν ἔρημον, σημεία και φασματα δείζειν, ὑπισχνυμενος. et indigentium non paucis, ut ipsi se adjungerent, persuasit, et in desertum eduxit romittens se signa ipsis et apparitiones ostensurum. [Translated in the text.] sect. 1, p. 1337.
† Tωτοις αίτιος της ἀπωλειας ψευδοπροφητης τις κατεζη, κατ' ἐκείνην κήρυξας την ήμεραν τος ἐπι της πολεως, ὡς ὁ Θεος ἐπι το ίερον ἀναβηναι κελευει, δεξόμενος τα σημεία της owenpas His causa interitus erat pseudopropheta quidem, qui illo tempore prædicaverat populo in civitate, “jubere Deum eos in templum ascendere, signa salutis accepturo?' [The cause of their destruction was a certain false prophet, who at that time declared, &c. as in the text.] Lib. 6, cap. 5, sect. 2, p. 1281.
the east side of it, and carried on their conquest westward, as if not only the extensiveness of the ruin, but the very route, whica the army would take, was intended in the comparison of the lightning coming out of the east, and shining even unto the west."* For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together,'-ver. 28. By the word carcase, as the same excellent prelate justly remarks, is meant the Jewish nation, which was morally and judicially dead, and whose destruction was pronounced in the decree of heaven.† Our Saviour, after his usual manner applied a proverbial expression with a particular meaning. For as, according to the old proverb, wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together;' so wheresoever the Jews are, there will Christ be taking vengeance upon them by the Romans, who are properly compared to eagles as the fiercest birds of prey, and whose ensign was an eagle, to which also probably our Saviour, in this passage alluded. And as it was said, so was it done; for the victories of the Romans were not confined to this or that place, but like a flood overran the whole land. Josephus saith that "there was no part of Judea, which did not partake of the calamities of the capital city." At Antioch, the Jews being falsely accused of a design to burn the city, many of them were burnt in the theatre, and others were slain.§ The Romans pursued, and took, and slew them every where, as particularly at the siege of Macharus ;|| at the wood Jardes, where the Jews were surrounded, and none of them escaped, but, being not fewer than three thousand, were all slain; and at Masada, where being closely besieged, and upon the point of being taken, they first murdered their wives and children, and then themselves to the number of nine hundred and sixty, to prevent their falling into the enemies' hands.* When Judea was totally subdued, the danger extended to those who dwelt at a distance. Many were slain in Egypt, and their temple there was shut up :‡‡ and in Cyrene the followers of Jonathan, a weaver, and author of new disturbances, were most of them slain; he himself was taken prisoner, and by his fale accusation three
* Bishop Pearce's Dissertation on the destruction of Jerusalem inserted in Dr. Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1, p. 27.
+ Ditto, p. 22.
† Οὐδεν δε μέρες ἦν της Ινδίας, ὁ μη τη προανίχιση πόλει συναπολλυτο. Nulla autem pars Judææ erat quæ simul cum urbe eminentissima non interibat. [Translate ` in the text. De Bell. Jud. lib. 4, cap. 7, sect. 2, p. 1190, edit. Hudson.
Lib. 7, cap. 3, sect. 3.
Jbib. sect. 5.
tt Ibid. cap. 10, sect. 1
|| Ibid. cap. 6.
** Ibid. cap 9.
thousand of the richest Jews were condemned and put to death;* and with this account Josephus concludes his history of the Jewish war.
There was something so very extraordinary in the conduct of these false Christs and false prophets, and in their appearance at that time particularly, that it may not be improper to bestow some considerations upon this subject, especially as these considerations may tend to confirm and strengthen us in our most holy religion.
I. It is obvious to observe from hence, that, in all probability, there hath been a true prophet, a true Christ, otherwise there would hardly have been so many cheats and counterfeits. Fictions are usually formed upon realities; and there would be nothing spurious, but for the sake of something true and genuine. There would be no bad money, if there was none current and good. There would be no quacks and empirics, if their were no physicians able to perform real cures. In like manner there should be no pretenders to divine inspiration, were none truly and divinely inspired. There would not (we may reasonably presume) have been so many false Messiahs, had not a true Messiah been promised by God, and expected by men. And if a Messiah hath come from God, whom can we so properly pitch upon for the person, as the man Christ Jesus? If there were also some mock prophets in imitation of Mohammed, yet their number was nothing near so considerable, and his success was sufficient to excite and encourage them; whereas the fate and condition of Jesus would rather have deterred any impostors from following his example.
2. Another natural observation from hence is, that the Messiah was particularly expected about the time of our Saviour, and consequently that the prophets had beforehand marked out that very time for his coming. For we read not of any false Messiahs before the age of our Saviour, nor of so many in any age after; and why did they rise at that time particularly, if the Messiah was not at that time particularly expected? and why did the Jews expect their Messiah at that time more than at any other, if that was not the time before appointed for his coming? The prophet Daniel in particular had foretold, ix. 25, &c. that Messiah the prince should come towards the end of seventy weeks of years, or 490 years, from the going forth of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Before these weeks of years were, by one account or other, near expiring, history saith nothing of the false Messiahs; but when
* Ibid. cap. 11.
the prophetic weeks drew towards a conclusion, then these impostors arose frequent, like so many meteors to dazzle the eyes, and mislead the wandering steps of Jews and Samaritans. Nothing can be a more evident and convincing proof, that the Jews then understood the prophecy in the same sense as the Christians, how ever they may endeavour to evade the force of it now. They pretend that the coming of the Messiah was delayed for the sins of the people, and therefore they still live in expectation of him, though they know neither the time nor the place of his appearing. Strange! that he who was to come for the sins of the people, should delay his coming for their sins and more strange still! that God should falsify so many of his promises made by the mouths of his holy prophets. Numb. xxiii. 19,- God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and would he not do it? or hath he spoken, and would he not make it good?'
3. It may be farther observed from hence, that the Messiah was expected to work miracles. Miracles are the credentials of a messenger from God and it was foretold particularly of the Messiah, that he should work miracles. There was no pretending therefore to the character of the Messiah without the necessary qualifications. Had not the power of working miracles been esteemed an essential ingredient in the character of the Messiah, these impostors would never have had the assurance to pretend to it, or been so foolish as to hazard their reputation, and venture their whole success upon such an experiment: but all of them to a man drew the people after them with a pretence of working miracles, of showing signs, and wonders, and apparitions. Now the very miracles which the Messiah was to perform, Jesus hath performed, and none other besides Jesus. The prophet Isaiah foretold, that the Messiah should cure the lame and the blind, the deaf and the dumb; and accordingly these very persons were cured in great numbers by Jesus. The prophet Isaiah foretold likewise, that these miracles should be wrought in the desert; and accordingly in the desert Jesus wrought them: and by the way I suppose this prophecy was one principal reason why most of the false Christs and false prophets led their followers into solitudes and deserts, promising there to show signs and wonders. The prophet Isaiah foretold, xxxv. 1, &c. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.-The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstop
ped. The lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.' The apostle and evangelist St. Matthew relates, xv. 29, &c. that Jesus departed from thence' (from the coast of Tyre and Sidon) and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet, and he healed them: insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel,' Since then the miracles of the Messiah were wrought by Jesus alone; Jesus alone can have any just claim to be the Messiah; and from his works we may conclude, John vi. 14,- This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.'
4. Very observable is the difference between the conduct and success of these deceivers and of Jesus Christ: for in him we have all the marks and characters of simplicity and truth, in them fraud and imposture. They were men of debauched lives and vicious principles: he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,' -1 Pet. ii. 22; even Pilate his judge declared, John xix. 6, that he could find no fault in him.' They lived by rapine and spoil, by plunder and murder: He, Luke ix. 56,-'came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them;' He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and went from place to place doing good. Their conduct breathes nothing but ambition and pride, cruelty and revenge his behaviour was all humility and meekness, charity and love of mankind. They were actuated by worldly motives, and proposed to themselves secular ends and interests: Jesus was the farthest removed from any suspicion of that kind, and when the people would have taken him, John vi. 15,- to make him a king,' he withdrew himself from them, ' and departed again into a mountain himself alone.' Their pretensions were accommodated to the carnal expectations of the Jews, and withal were backed by force and violence, and yet could not succeed and prosper: on the contrary, the religion of Jesus was spiritual, disclaimed all force, and took the way (humanly speaking) not to prevail, and yet prevailed against all the power and opposition of the world: Now of these who were the deceivers. think you, who was the true Christ? Had Jesus been an im postor, he would have lived and acted like an impostor. Had his design been any thing like theirs, it would have been discovered and brought to nought. Nothing could make his religion stand, but its coming from God. This is the reasoning of one who cannot