صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

cured, was valued at a talent a bushel. But since all outward communication with the city had been cut off, more disgusting expedients were resorted to than it is possible to conceive under dissimilar circumstances; such indeed, as human nature can reflect upon only with sensations of distress; but which at the same time manifested that even objects of abhorrence, by excessive hardships and misfortunes, become reconcileable to nature. The bare recital of these calamities excited pity in the Romans, but the factions having both witnessed and felt these sufferings, were not so much as sensible that their own rebellious obstinacy had caused this excess of misery; and thus "were hurried on, under the impulse of a blind fatality, to the ruin " of themselves, and the destruction of their city.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

John and his faction, finding the veneration for the Temple had lessened, and that all exercises of religion


1 The value of the Jewish silver talent, which it is to be supposed this is intended to mean, amounted to three hundred and seventy-five pounds sterling money. Josephus says in the former description of the famine, that "the wealthier Jews gave all THEY POSSESSED for a bushel of wheat."

2 When the King of Syria besieged Samaria-There was a great famine in Samaria; and behold they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver; and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung (something more than a quarter of a pint) for five pieces of silver.-2 Kings vi. 25. -When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem-The famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.-2 Kings xxv. 3. In this siege we have just seen that a bushel of wheat would readily have been bought at the price of a talent, and it will shortly appear that greater and more complicated distress prevailed, such indeed as was not felt by any other nation, "no," says our Saviour, cc or ever shall be."

3 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them; they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.-Jer. vi. 15.

4 Bell. Jud. 5, xiii. 7.

had given way to the study of defensive warfare, and the pursuit of every cruel excess, which religion alone was calculated by her influence on the mind to prevent; seized without scruple upon the sacred vessels of the Temple, and applied them to the most unholy purposes; alleging, that they who fought for the Divinity were justified in the use of every gift or utensil consecrated to his service. Under such pretence, the depositories of the wine for the sacrifices were ransacked as well as the conservatories of the holy oil; and applied to those ends for which they were the least appropriated. This circumstance of itself, is sufficient to mark the degenerate state to which the minds of the insurgents were reduced, and how the excesses of misery and despair operate upon the human disposition. The Jews held every instrument belonging to the Temple, or employed in its service, in the most exalted estimation; and many are the instances in which other and important considerations have been sacrificed to their dread of infringing upon the ceremonials of their worship, or of the misapplication of the sacred furniture of their Temple. These scruples, in our Saviour's time, were carried to so great an extent, that he made it the frequent subject of his animadversions to this people, when he beheld them giving such a decided preference to the externals, rather than to the essentials of their religion.1 The abhorrence in which even Josephus held


1 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth

the sacrilegious conduct of John and his adherents; the warmth of his indignation, excited by this occurrence, sufficiently testifies; as well as the punishment of which he thought it deserving. "And here," says he, "I "cannot but speak my mind, and give way to that


concern which it dictates; I suppose that had the "Romans delayed their coming against these profane "people, that their enormous wickedness would have "caused the city to have been buried by an earthK quake; or to have been swallowed up by the over"flowing of the waters; or by the same destructive means, by which Sodom was wiped away from the "earth; for it brought forth men less mad and less atheistical, than the people of this city."


[ocr errors]

The state of Jerusalem was every day becoming worse; parties were still more violent and fierce, and the famine pressed without distinction upon all classes of the people. Having little to contend for within the walls, they proceeded from a civil, to a foreign war; inspired less with the hope of victory than with the expectation of giving vent to rage and despair. They who had hitherto been scrupulously fearful of becoming polluted by contact with the dead or unclean, were


tifieth the gift?-Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matt. xxiii. 16, 19, 25, 26.

1 Bell. Jud. 5. xiii. 6.

Josephus plainly alludes here, to the three great memorable punishments -that inflicted upon Korah and all his company, who were swallowed up by an earthquake (Numb. xvi. 32, 33)—that upon mankind by the deluge, (Gen. vii. 17)—and that which befel the Sodomites in the destruction of their city by fire from heaven (Gen. xix. 24.)

now seen trampling without pity or remorse, upon the putrid bodies of their late relatives, friends, and fellow citizens. Wading through streams of blood, they seemed while in the act of holding out defiance to their enemies, to reproach the Almighty for delaying that punishment which too conspicuously hung over them; and for which they awaited, with sensations of indifference and contempt; in short, it was evident that they fought less for conquest, religion, or freedom, than for the annihilation of their nation, their Temple, and themselves.

The mind of the Romans was still bent upon the completion of their surprising projects, though they were for some time distressed for the want of materials to finish their works. The woods in the immediate vicinity of the city had been already cut down for the purposes of war; but as it now appeared probable that the city itself, would, from the obstinacy of the besiegers, shortly be stripped of its wealth and grandeur; Titus no longer considered the beauty of the country, but seemed determined that its appearance should wear a's gloomy an aspect as the capital: he ordered, therefore, his soldiers no longer to spare one, more than the other; and such was the zeal and labour of the army to obey the commands of their general in this destructive order; that all the woods within ninety furlongs of Jerusalem were cut down: and in the course of one and twenty days all necessary operations were finally completed. 1


So dismal a change in the prospect around was




never before seen: one of the most delightful countries under Heaven, surrounded on all sides with the most beautiful gardens, plantations, and buildings, was now converted into a barren waste; where not a tree, a shrub, or a building, were left to mark the traces of its former beauty. All was desolation and ruin, and strangers who had seen it before, could not forbear weeping at its lamentable and altered appearance."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

This description of the desolation of the country, strongly marks the application of the words of Isaiah. The subject is mournful, but the language of the prophet is beautifully descriptive; while that of the historian is pathetic, and with regard to the prediction, circumstantially apposite. "Your country is desolate!

your cities are burnt with fire! your land, strangers "devour it in your presence! and it is desolate as over"thrown by strangers! and the daughter of Zion is left, as a cottage in a vineyard; as a lodge in a garden "of cucumbers, as a besieged city!" 2


Jerusalem so lately in point of situation, "the joy of "the whole earth;" is now like a pyramid in the desert, wonderful to gaze on; while all around is waste, barrenness, and desolation, filling the mind with a mixture of mournfulness and awe. If the Saviour of the world, foreseeing this appearance, could, on approaching the city weep over it; where is the surprise that even they who

1 Bell. Jud. 6. i. 1.

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion.-Psalm xlviii. 2.


2 Ch. i. 7--9.

« السابقةمتابعة »