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younger than he was. They muft, confequently, have been far advanced in life when Jerufalem was taken; and no reason has been given why they should defer writing their hiftories fo long.
3. * If the evangelifts, at the time of writing the gospels, had known of the deftruction of Jerufalem, by which catastrophe the prophecies were plainly fulfilled, it is moft probable, that, in recording the predictions, they would have dropped fome word or other about the completion; in like manner as Luke, after relating the denunciation of a dearth by Agabus, adds, "which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæfar +" whereas the prophecies are given diftinctly in one chapter of each of the three first gospels, and referred to in feveral different paffages of each, and, in none of all these places, does there appear the smallest intimation that the things fpoken of were
* Le Clerc, Diff. III. de Quat. Ev. num. vii. p. 541. + Acts xi. 28.
come to pafs. I do adinit that it would have been the part of an impoftor, who wished his readers to believe that his book was written before the event, when in truth it was written after it, to have fuppreffed any fuch intimation carefully. But this was not the character of the authors of the gospel. Cunning was no quality of theirs. Of all writers in the world, they thought the leaft of providing against objections. Moreover, there is no clause in any one of them, that makes a profeffion of having written prior to the Jewish wars, which a fraudulent purpofe would have led them to pretend. They have done neither one thing nor the other. They have neither inferted any words, which might fignify to the reader that their accounts were written before the destruction of Jerufalem, which a fophift would have done; nor have they dropped a hint of the completion of the prophecies recorded by them, which an undefigning writer, writing after the event, could hardly, on fome or other of the many occafions that presented themselves, have missed of doing.
4. The admonitions* which Chrift is reprefented to have given to his followers to fave themfelves by flight, are not eafily accounted for upon the fuppofition of the prophecy being fabricated after the event. Either the Chriftians, when the fiege approached, did make their efcape from Jerufalem, or they did not if they did, they must have had the prophecy amongst them: if they did not know of any fuch prediction at the time of the fiege, if they did not take notice of any fuch warning, it was an improbable fiction, in a writer publishing his
*Luke xxi. 20. 21. "When ye fhall fee Jerufalem compafled with armies, then know that the defolation thereof is nigh; then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it depart out, and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto."
Mat. xiv. 18. "When ye fhall fee Jerufalem compaffed with armies, then let them which be in Judea flee unto the mountains; let him which is on the house top not come down to take any thing out of his house, neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes."
work near to that time (which, upon any even the lowest and most disadvantageous fuppofition, was the cafe with the gospels now in our hands), and addreffing his work to Jews and to Jewish converts (which Matthew certainly did), to ftate that the followers of Chrift had received admonitions, of which they made no use when the occa fion arrived, and of which, experience then recent proved, that thofe, who were moft concerned to know and regard them, were ignorant or negligent. Even if the prophe cies came to the hands of the evangelifts through no better vehicle than tradition, it must have been by a tradition which sub
And to fuppofe,
fifted prior to the event. that without any authority whatever, with
out fo much as even any tradition to guide them, they had forged these paffages, is to impute to them a degree of fraud and imposture, from every appearance of which their compofitions are as far removed as poffible.
I think that, if the prophecies had been
compofed after the event, there would have been more fpecification. The names or defcriptions of the enemy, the general, the emperor, would have been found in them. The defignation of the time would have been more determinate. And I am fortified in this opinion by obferving, that the counterfeited prophecies of the Sybilline oracles, of the twelve patriarchs, and, I am inclined to believe, most others of the kind, are mere tranfcripts of the hiftory, moulded into a prophetic form.
It is objected that the prophecy of the deftruction of Jerufalem is mixed, or connected, with expreffions which relate to the final judgement of the world; and fo connected, as to lead an ordinary reader to expect, that these two events would not be far diftant from each other. To which I answer, that the objection does not concern our prefent argument. If our Saviour actually foretold the deftruction of Jerufalem, it is fufficient; even although we should allow, that the narration of the prophecy had