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going heads; but as it is so shining a particular, and does so much honour to our religion, I shall make a distinct article of it, and only consider it with regard to the subject I am upon : I mean, the lives and manners of those holy men who believed in Christ during the first ages of Christianity. I should be thought to advance a paradox, should I affirm that there were more Christians in the world during those times of persecution, than there are at present in these which we call the flourishing times of Christianity. But this will be found an indisputable truth, if we form our calculation upon the opinions which prevailed in those days, that every one who lives in the habitual practice of any voluntary sin, actually cuts himself off from the benefits and profession of Christianity, and, whatever he may call himself, is in reality no Christian, nor ought to be esteemed as such.
II. In the times we are now surveying, the Christian religion Thewed its full force and efficacy on the minds of men, and by many examples demonstrated what great and generous souls it was capable of producing. It exalted and refined its proselytes to a very high degree of perfection, and set them far above the pleasures, and even the pains, of this life. It strengthened the infirmity, and broke the fierceness of human nature. 1ť lifted up the minds of the ignorant to the knowledge and worship of Him that made them; and inspired the vicious with a rational devotion, a strict purity of heart, and an unbounded love to their fellow-creatures. In proportion as it spread through the world, it seemed to change mankind into another species of beings. No sooner was a convert initiated into it, but by an easy figure he became a new man, and both acted and looked upon himself as one regenerated and born a second time into another state of existence.
III. It is not my business to be more particular in the accounts of primitive Christianity, which have been exhibited so well by others; but rather to observe, that the Pagan converts, of whom I am now speaking, mention this great reformation of those who had been the greatest finners, with that sudden and surprising change which it made in the lives of the most profligate, as having something in it supernatural, miraculous, and more than human, Origen represents this power in the Christian religion, as no less wonderful than that of Curing the lame and blind, or cleansing the leper. Many others represent it in the same light, and looked upon it as an argument that there was a certain divinity in that religion which thewed itself in such strange and glorious effects.
IV. This, therefore, was a great means not only of recommending Christianity to honest and learned Heathens, but of confirming them in the belief of our Saviour's history, when they saw multitudes of virtuous men daily forming themselves upon his example, animated by his precepts, and actuated by that Spirit which he had promised to send among his disciples.
V. But I find no argument made a stronger impression on the minds of these eminent Pagan converts, for strengthening their faith in the history of our Saviour, than the predictions relating to him in those old prophetic writings, which were deposited among the hands of the greatest enemies to Christianity, and owned by them to have been extant many ages before his appearance. The learned Heathen converts were astonished to see the whole history of their Saviour's life published before he was born, and to find that the Evangelists and Prophets, in their accounts of the Messiah, differed only in point of time, the one foretelling what should happen to him, and the other describing those very particulars as what had actually happened. This our Saviour himself was pleased to make use of as the strongest argument of his being the promised Messiah, and without it would hardly have reconciled his disciples to the ignominy of his death, as in that remarkable passage which mentions
his conversation with the two disciples on the day of his resurrection, St. Luke xxiv. 13. to the end.
VI. The Heathen converts, after having travelled through all human learning, and fortified their minds with the knowledge of arts and sciences, were particularly qualified to examine these prophecies with great care and impartiality, and without prejudice or prepoffeffion. If the Jews, on the one fide, put an unnatural interpretation on these prophecies, to evade the force of them in their controverfies with the Christians ; or if the Christians, on the other side, overstrained several passages in their application of them, as it often happens among men of the best understanding, when their minds are heated with any consideration that bears a more than ordinary weight with it; the learned Heathens may be looked upon as neuters in the matter, when all these prophecies were new to them, and their education had left the interpretation of them free and indifferent. Besides, these learned men among the primitive Christians knew how the Jews who had preceded our Saviour, interpreted these predictions, and the several marks by which they acknowledged the Messiah would be discovered, and how those of the Jewish Doctors who succeeded him 'had deviated from the interpretations and doctrines of their forefathers, on purpose to stifle their own conviction.
VII. This fet of arguments had therefore an invincible force with those Pagan philosophers who became Christians, as we find in most of their writings. They could not disbelieve our Saviour's history, which so exactly agreed with every thing that had been written of him many ages before his birth, nor doubt of those circumstances being fulfilled in him, which could not be true of any person that lived in the world besides himself. This wrought the greatest confusion in the unbelieving Jews, and the greatest conviction in the Gentiles, who every where speak with astonishment of these truths they meet with in this new magazine of learning which was opened to them, and carry the point so far as to think whatever excellent doctrine they had met with among Pagan writers, had been stolen from their conversation with the Jews, or from the perusal of these writings which they had in their custody.
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM. JOSEPHUS, with his testimony at large to the fulfilment of our Saviour's
predictions concerning the destruction of the temple, and the city of Jee rufalem, and the miseries coming upon the Jewiss people.
HIS TIME, WORKS, AND CHARACTER. I. SEPHUS, son of Matthias, of the race of the Jewish Priests,
and of the first course of the four and twenty, by his mother descended from the Asmonean family, which for a considerable time had the supreme government of the Jewish nation, was born in the first year of the reign of Caligula, of our Lord 37*.
He was educated together † with Matthias, who was his own brother by father and mother, and made such proficience in knowledge, that when he was about fourteen years of age, the high-priests and some of the principal men of the city came frequently to him to consult him about the right interpretation of things in the law. In the fixteenth year of his age, he retired into the wilderness, where he lived three years an abstemious course of life in the company of Banus. Having fully acquainted himself with the principles of the three fects, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essens, he determined to follow the rule of the Pharisees. And being now nineteen years of age, he began to act in public life.
Felix, when procurator of Judea, fent some priests of his acquaintance for a trifling offence to Rome, to be tried before Cæsar. Josephus, hearing that they behaved well, resolved to go to Rome, to plead their cause. But he had a bad voyage; the ship was wrecked; and out of 600 persons, not more than eighty were saved. Soon after his arrival at Rome, he became acquainted with Aliturias, a Jew by birth, but a stage-player, in favour with Nero. By him he was introduced to Poppéa, the emperor's wife, by whose interest he procured that the priests should be set at liberty. Jofephus, who never omits what may be to his own honour, adds, that g beside that favour, he also received from Poppéa many valuable presents. And then he returned home. This voyage was made, as I! he says, in the 26th year of his age, which must have been in the 620 or 63d year of ** Chrift,
Upon his return to Judea he found things in great confusion, many ++ being elevated with hopes of advantage by a revolt from the Ro
Joseph. in vita sua, cap. i.
* Cap. 2. 1"Ετι δε παίς ών, περί τεσσαρεσκαιδέκαιον έτος ... συνιόνων αει των αρχιερέων και των της πόλιας πρώων υπέρ τά παρ' εμέ περί των νομίμων ακριβέςερόν τι γνώναι. Cap. 2.
μεγάλων δε δωρεών προς τη ευεργεσία τάυτη τυχών παρά Ποππήιας. Cap. 3. Μετ' εικοςόν και έκλoν ενιαυλον εις Ρώμην μοι συνέπισεν αναθήναι. Ιb.
Felix must have been removed from his government some while before that; which may be thought to create a difficulty in this account. But it may be observed, that Josephus had heard of the good behaviour of those priests at Rome before he left Judea: consequently, they had been some while at Rome before he set out on his journey.
tt..sj Tonnes éti Ts Porpásov åmosácet péya ogevăvlas. Vit. C. 4.
mans. He says he did what lay in his power to prevent it, though in vain.
Soon after the beginning of the war, in the year of Christ 66 (when he must have been himself about thirty years of age), he was sent from Jerusalem, to command in * Galilee; where, having ordered matters as well as he could, and made the best preparations for war by fortifying the cities, in case of an attack from the Romans, he was at length shut up in the city of Jotapata ; which, after a vigorous defence, and a siege of seven and forty days, was taken by Vefpafiant, on the first day of July, in the 13th year of Nero, and the 67th of our Lord.
When that city was taken, by Vespasian's order, strict search was made for Jofephus. For, iff that general was once taken, he reckoned that the greatest part of the war would be over. However, he had hid himself in a deep cavern, the opening of which was not easily discerned above ground. Here he met with forty persons of eminence, who had concealed themselves, and had with them provisions enough for several days. On the third day the Roman soldiers seized a woman, that had been with them. She made a discovery of the place where they were. Whereupon Vespasian sent two tribunes, inviting him to come up, with assurances that his life should be preserved. Josephus, however, refused. Vespasian therefore sent a third tribune, named Nicanor, well known to Josephus, with the like afsurances. Josephus, after some hesitation, was then willing to surrender himself: but the men who were with him, exclaimed against it, and were for killing him and themselves, rather than come alive into the hands of the Romans. Hereupon he made a long speech to them, shewing, that it was not lawful for men to kill themselves, and that it was rather a proof of pufillanimity than courage ; but all without effect. He then proposed an expedient, which was, that they should cast lots, two by two, who should die first. He who had the fecond lot should kill the first; and the next, him; and so on;
and the last should kill himself. It happened that Josephus and another were preserved to the last lot. When all the relt were killed, he without much difficulty persuaded that other person to yield up
himself to the Romans. So they two escaped with their s lives.
This has been judged to be a remarkable providence, by which Josephus was preserved to write the history of which we are now able to make so good use.
When ** Josephus had surrendered, Vespasian gave strict orders that he should be kept carefully, as if he had intended to send him to Nero. Josephus then presented a request, that he might speak to Vespasian in private; which was granted. When all were dis
* Vit. cap. 7, S. De B. J. 1. 2. C. 20. † De B. J. 1. 3. cap. 7. Conf. cap. 8. $9. I μεγίστη γαρ ήν μοίρα το στολέμιθ. ληφθείς. De B. j. 1. 3. C. 8. in. Ś De 3.j. l. 3. c. 8. § 1. .
Sce Tillotson's Serm. numb. 186. vol. II. p. 567. , ** De B. J. 1. 3. C. 8.9 8.
missed, except Titus, and two friends, he spoke to Vespasian after this manner : “ You* think, Vefpafian, that you have in Jose"'phus a mere prisoner. But I am come to you as a messenger of
great tidings. Had I not been sent to you by God, 1.t know “ what the law of the Jews is, and how it becomes a general to die. « Do you intend to send me to Nero ? Are they, who are to succeed “ Nero before you, to continue? You, Vefpafian, will be Cæfar: you will be emperor. So will likewise this your fon.
Bind me " therefore still faster, and reserve me for yourself. For you are “ Lord not of me only, but of the earth, and the sea, and all man“ kind. And I for punishment deserve a closer confinement, if I “ speak falsehood to you in the name of # God.” Vespasian, as he says, at first paid little regard to all this. . But afterwards his expectations of empire were raised. “ Besides," as he goes on to say, “ he found Josephus to have spoken truth upon other occafions. For « when one of his friends, who were permitted to be present at that “ interview, faid, it appeared strange to him, that Josephus should " not have foretold to the people of Jótapata, the event of the “ liege, nor have foreseen his own captivity, if all he now said was “not invention to save his own life; Josephus answered, that he “ had foretold to the people of Jotapata, that the place would be “ taken upon the forty-seventh day of the fiege, and that himself “ fhould be taken alive by the Romans. Vespasian having privately
inquired of the prisoners concerning these predictions, found the “ truth of them.
All these things I have inserted here, for shewing the character of this writer ; though the prolixity of my narration be thereby increased.
It is very likely that he often thought of Joseph in Egypt, and of Daniel at Babylon; and" was in hopes of making a like figure at the court of Rome. But I suppose, it may be no disparagemet to Josephus, to say, that he was not equal to them in wisdom, or in virtue and integrity. And the circumstances of things were much altered. The promised Messiah was come; and 'the Jewish people were no longer entitled to such special regard as had been shewn them in times “past. Nor was it then a day of favour and mercy for them, but the day of the Lord's vengeance against them, as Jo
sephus * De B. J. l. 3. c. 8. $ 9. † That is, that a Jewith general should make away with himself, rather than be taken prisoner alive by heathen people. We know not of any such law in the books of the Old Testament. And it seems to be a manifest contradiction to what he says in the speech before
I Jofephus's address to Vespasian is very precise and formal, predicting things then future. Pollibly, this speech was improved afterwards, and at the time of writing this history made more clear and express, and more agreeable to the event, than when firit spoken.
Among other presages of Vespasian's empire, Suetonius has mentioned this of Josephus : “ Et unus ex nobilibus captivis Josephus, cum conjiceretur in vincula, constantantiflime
affeveravit, fore, ut ab eodem brevi folveretur, verum jam imperatore.” Sueton. Vefpar. | Josephus has several times spoken of his having had prophetic dreams, and of his abiIy to interpret dreams that were ambiguous. Vid. De B. j. l. 3. viii. 3. et 9. et de Vit.