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“ laid the city even with the ground, and even ploughed up the foundations of the temple; and destroyed the wretched inhabitants with so great a slaughter, that three millions of men, women, and children in the town and the neighbouring country are said, by the Jews themselves, to have perished either by famine or the sword.
Now at the time that this prophecy was delivered, it is hardly too much to say that there was no more appearance or likelihood of the event occurring, than if the same dismal calamities were now foretold of London. The whole world was at peace. Jerusalem was quietly under the government of the Romans who could, therefore, have no interest in destroying it; and so little disposition did the Jews, at this time, shew to rebel against them, that they absolutely were, in all appearance, mainly led to the crucifixion of our Lord by the fear lest the Romans should take offence at His success with the people. If Christ, then, foreknew and foretold this destruction, He foreknew and foretold that which He could have derived from no human wisdom, and must, therefore, have been a prophet of God.
Nor can it be pretended that, after the last great ruin of Jerusalem had really taken place, this prophecy was falsely ascribed to our Lord by His apostles and evangelists. In the first place, let any of you consider how difficult it would have been, while many of those Galileans were still alive who had heard our Saviour's preaching, to make men believe that, at so solemn and public a time, and in the case
of a prophecy so remarkable, our Lord had used words which they who heard Him as well as the apostles, did not remember. Suppose that some great and famous preacher from a distant country were to perform in the streets of London even a tenth part of the wonders which our Lord performed in Jerusalem. Supposing the eyes of all men to have been drawn to him on some one solemn occasion, on which he entered into the city at the head of his disciples, and preached to them an affecting sermon on his own fate and on their duties; would it be safe for any person, in writing the life of such a man twenty or thirty years afterwards, , to say that he had, on that particular occasion, publicly foretold the destruction of the town, when in truth, he had said nothing like? Would not all those who had been present exclaim “we remember that discourse as well as you can, and we are sure that the prophet never used the expressions which you impute to him.” How then could St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John venture to do that which no man in his senses would, in this country, venture on ?
But, further, it may be asked, “ How, if our Lord did not really deliver this prophecy, how did His evangelists know that Jerusalem was shortly to be laid in ashes ?” That of those evangelists the first three, at least, if not all four, must have written their gospelsbeforeJerusalem was destroyed,is certain not only from abundant internal evidence which proves that these works were written while Jerusalem was yet standing; but from the fact in which all ancient writers agree, that St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. Mark were themselves dead before those calamities came to pass. Either, then, they must have taken their knowledge of that future destruction from the preaching of their Master, or they must have had the gift of prophecy themselves. But if they were, themselves, the prophets of the Most High, we cannot apprehend that they would have told a falsehood in imputing to their Master words which He never uttered. It follows then, so certainly as to leave no cause of doubt with any reflecting mind, that Jesus of Nazareth really uttered the words which are here given to him; that He must, therefore, have been inspired by God, and (since God would never inspire a man with miraculous knowledge in order to establish a lie) that we may be sure He was, as He professed Himself, the Son of God, the Saviour of Israel and of the world.
From the fact, then, of these words having been uttered by our Lord, and having received after His death their exact accomplishment, we may draw a greater certainty of faith in Him and confirm our obligation to obey Him and keep His commandments.
But, from the words themselves, as they have been read to you in my text, some very important consequences follow, which it shall be the object of my present discourse to explain to your understandings, and apply to your consciences, inasmuch as they greatly illustrate the manner of God's ordi
not have been properly said to have any day of salvation at all, and that it would have been the greatest injustice imaginable to give as a reason for the severities which were to be exercised on them that “ they knew not the time of visitation," when it was never possible for them to know it. Nor is it easy to discover why our Lord should
of the Jews that “ now," when He thus spake, “ the things which belonged to their peace were hidden from their eyes," unless the time had been wherein those things were not hidden from them. When I say it is now too late to attempt any thing, I certainly give my hearers to understand that the thing might once have been possible, since otherwise, whether now or then, the case would have been the same, and there would be no propriety in expressing any distinction. We may conclude, accordingly, that even to those Jews who, when Christ spake this, were sentenced to destruction, there had been afforded a sufficient opportunity wherein they might, except through their own fault, have entered into the Kingdom of God, and have become the heirs of life everlasting.
And since we have no reason to suppose that God's dealing with that generation of vipers was at variance or inconsistent with the general course of His spiritual work on the souls of men, I conclude that every sinner has some acceptable time, in which the mercy of God is, not in name only nor in mockery, but effectually offered to him, in which his day of visitation, the things which belong
to his peace are not hidden from his eyes; and in which he might, unless through his own single and wilful obstinacy, discern and follow the path of salvation.
Let no man mistake my meaning! I do not say that the time can be found in which the sinner, by his own natural strength and unassisted faculties, can either obtain or follow after salvation. I know that we are by nature incapable of any good thing ; that the old man is, in his very constitution, in continual enmity against God; and that either to will or to do what God requires altogether surpasses our powers, unless both the preventing and assisting grace of God's Spirit descend on the soul both to give us, in the first instance, “a good will,” and to “ work with” and support our endeavours after salvation when we have that will. But this I maintain, and I maintain it, as on many other passages of Scripture, so particularly on the grounds of the present text, first, that some such time or times of gracious visitation is accorded by God to all His creatures, wherein He gives them the power and opportunity of forsaking the bondage of sin for the glorious liberty of His children ; and further (which follows from the universality of the gift, and from the particular instance of the Jews here mentioned by our Saviour) that this gift may be resisted and rendered vain, and has been thus frustrated and resisted by the personal fault and wilful hardiness or negligence of all those who, like these Jews, are finally suffered to perish. And it follows that the