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Apoftles, (XXI. 38.) led out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers: but Felix marching with his forces, and coming to an engagement with him, the Egyptian himfelf with a few others fled away, and moft of thofe who had been with him were flain or taken prifoners. There was likewife another impoftor mentioned by (1) Jofeph is, who promised falvation to the people, and a ceffatio of all evils, if they would follow him into the defert; but Feftus fent horfe and foot against him, and destroyed the deceiver himself, and thofe who followed him. These things happened before the deftruction of Jerufalem, and a little after (2) Jonathan a weaver perfuaded not a few indigent fellows to adhere to him, and led them forth into the defert, promifing there to fhow figns and apparitions; but his followers moft weré flain, fome were made prifoners, and he himself was afterwards taken, and burnt alive by order of Vefpafian. As feveral of these impoftors thus conducted their followers into the defert, fo did others into the fecret chambers or places of fecurity: as particularly the pfeudoprophet mentioned by (3) Jofephus, who declared to the people in the city, that God commanded them to go up into the temple, and there they fhould receive the figns of deliverance. A multitude of men, women, and children, went up accordingly; but inftead of deliverance, the place was fet on fire by the Romans, and fix thousand perished miferably in the
(1) πεμπει δε φησος δυναμιν ἔππικην σε και πεζικην επι τες απατηθέντας τινος ανθρωπε γοητα, σωτηρίαν αυτοίς επαγγελλομενα και παυλαν και κων, οι βεληθειεν έπεσθαι μεχρι της ερημίας αυτῷ· και αυτόν τε εκείνον τον απατήσαντα, και τις ακολεθσαντας διεφθειραν οἱ πεμπθεντες. Quin et Feitus equeftres pedeftrefque copias contra eos mifit, qui decepti erant ab homine quodam præftigiatore, falutem ipfis pollicente et malorum ceffationem, fi fe ufque ad defertum fequi vellent; atque ipfum deceptorem, pariter ac eos qui illum comitati funt, interfecerunt milites ab eo miffi. Ant. Lib. 20. Cap. 7. Sect. 10. p. 895.
(2) De Bell. Jud. Lib. 7. Cap. 11. εκ ολίγες των απορων ανέπεισε προσέχειν
αυτῷ, και προηγαγεν εις τον ερημον, σημεία και φάσματα δείξειν ὑπισχνες μενος. Pauperum et indigentium non paucis, ut ipfi fe adjungerent, perfuafit, et in defertum eduxit, promittens fe figna ipfis et apparitiones oftenfurum. Sed. 1. p. 1337.
(3) τετοις αίτιος της απώλειας ψευδοπροφητης τις κατέση, κατ' εκείνην κηρυ ξας την ημεραν τοις επι της πολεως, ως ὁ Θεος επι το ίερον αναβηναι κελεύει, δεξαμενες τα σημεία της σωτηρίας. His caufa interitus erat pfeudopropheta quidam, qui illo tempore prædicaverat populo incivitate, "jubere Deum eos in templum afcendere, figna falutis accepturos." Lib. 6. Cap. 5. Se&t. 2, p. 1281,
flames, or by throwing theinfelves down to escape them.
Our Saviour therefore might well caution his difciples both against the former and the latter fort of thefe deceivers. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and fhineth even unto the weft; fo fhall alfo 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 fudden and univerfal. The appearance of the true Chrift will be as diftinguishable from that of the falfe Chrift, as lightning which fhineth all round the hemifphere is from a blaze of straw. What a learned (4) Prelate obferves from Jofephus is very memorable, that "the Roman army "entered into Judea on the eaft fide of it, and carried "on their conquefts weftward, as if not only the exten"siveness of the ruin, but the very route, which the army would take, was intended in the comparifon "of the lightning coming out of the eaft, and thining even unto the weft." For wherefoever the carcafe is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (ver. 28.) By the word carcafe, as the fame excellent (5) Prelate juftly remarks, is meant the Jewish nation, which was morally and judicially dead, and whofe deftruction was pronounced in the decrees of heaven. Our Saviour, after his ufual manner, applied a proverbial expreffion with a particular meaning. For as, according to the old proverb, wherefoever the carcafe is, there will the eagles be gathered together; fo wherefoever the Jews are, there will Chrift be taking vengeance upon them by the Romans, who are properly compared to eagles as the fierceft birds of prey, and whofe enfign was an eagle, 'to' which probably our Saviour in this paffage alluded. And as it was faid, fo 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. Jofephus faith that (6) there was no part of Judea, which did not par
(4) Bishop Pearce's Differtation on the destruction of Jerufalem inferted in Dr. Tortin's Remarks on Ecclefiaftical Hiftory, Vol. 1. p. 27. (5) Ditto, p. 22.
(6) εδεν δε μερα ην της Ιεδαίας, ὁ μη
τη προανέχεση πολει συναπολλείο. Nulla autem pars Judææ erat quæ fimul cum urbe eminentiffima non interibat. De Bell. Jud. Lib. 4. Cap. 7. Sect, 2. p. 1190. Edit, Hudfon.
of the calamities of the capital city. At Antioch, The Jews being falfely accufed of a defign to burn ty, many of them were burnt in the theatre, and were flain. The Romans purfued, and took, and them every' where, as particularly (8) at the fiege charus; at (9) the wood Jardes, where the Jews urrounded, and none of them efcaped, but being wer than three thousand were all flain; and (1) at a, where being closely befieged, and upon the of being taken, they firft murdered their wives hildren, and then themselves to the number of undred and fixty, to prevent their falling into emies hands. When (2) Judea was totally fubthe danger extended to those who dwelt at a difMany (3) were flain in Egypt, and their temple as fhut up: and (4) in Cyrene the followers of an a weaver, and author of new difturbances, oft of them flain; he himfelf was taken prifoner, his falfe accufation three thoufand of the richeft ere condemned and put to death: and with this Jofephus concludes his hiftory of the Jewith
e was fomething fo very extraordinary in the of thefe falfe Chrifts and falfe prophets, and in pearance at that time particularly, that it may not roper to beftow fome confiderations upon this especially as thefe confiderations may tend to and ftrengthen us in our most holy religion.
is obvious to obferve from hence, that in all ity there hath been a true prophet, a true Chrift, ethere would hardly have been fo many cheats nterfeits. Fictions are ufually formed upon ; and there would be nothing fpurious, but for of fomething true and genuin. There would d money, if there was none current and good. ould be no quacks and empirics, if there were cians able to perform real cures. In like man
ner there would be no pretenders to divine infpiration, were none truly and divinely inspired. There would not (we may reafonably prefume) have been fo many falfe Meffiahs, had not a true Meffiah been promised by God, and expected by men. And if a Meffiah hath come from God, whom can we fo properly pitch upon for the perfon, as the man Chrift Jefus? If there were alfo fome mock prophets in imitation of Mohammed, yet their number was nothing near fo confiderable, and his fuccefs was fufficient to excite and encourage them; whereas the fate and condition of Jefus would rather have deterred any impoftors from following his example.
2. Another natural obfervation from hence is, that the Meffiah was particularly expected about the time of our Saviour, and confequently that the prophets had beforehand marked out that very time for his coming. For we read not of any falfe Meffiahs before the age of our Saviour, nor of fo many in any age after; and why did they rife at that time particularly, if the Meffiah was not at that time particularly expected? and why did the. Jews expect their Meffiah 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 Meffiah the prince fhould come towards the end of feventy weeks of years, or 490 years, from the going forth of the decree to reftore and rebuild Jerufalem. Before thefe weeks of years were, by one account or other, near expiring, hiftory faith nothing of the falfe Meffiahs: but when the prophetic weeks drew towards a conclufion, then these impoftors arose frequent, like fo many meteors to dazzle the eyes, and mislead the wandering fteps of Jews and Samaritans, Nothing can be a more evident and convincing proof, that the Jews then understood the prophecy in the fame fenfe as the Chriftians, however they may endevor to evade the force of it now. They pretend that the coming of the Meffiah was delayed for the fins of the people, and therefore they ftill live in expectation of him, tho' they know neither the time nor the place of his appearing. Strange! that he who was to come for the fins of
the people, thould delay his coming for their fins: and more ftrange ftill! that God fhould falfify fo many of his promifes made by the mouths of his holy prophets. (Num. XXIII. 19.) God is not a man that he jhould lie, neither the fon of man that he should repent: hath he faid, and would he not do it? or hath he spoken, and would he not make it good?
3. It may be farther obferved from hence, that the Meffiah was expected to work miracles. Miracles are the credentials of a meffenger from God and it was foretold particularly of the Meffiah, that he fhould work miracles. There was no pretending therefore to the character of the Meffiah without the neceffary qualifications. Had not the power of working miracles been esteemed an effential ingredient in the character of the Meffiah, thefe impoftors would never have had the affurance to pretend to it, or been fo foolish as to hazard their reputation, and venture their whole fuccefs upon fuch an experiment: but all of them to a man drew the people after them with a pretence of working miracles, of fhowing figns, and wonders, and apparitions. Now the very miracles which the Meffiah was to perform, Jefus hath performed, and none other befides Jefus. The prophet Ifaiah foretold, that the Meffiah should cure the lame and the blind, the deaf and the dumb; and accordingly thefe very perfons were cured in great numbers by Jefus. The prophet Ifaiah foretold likewife, that these miracles fhould be wrought in the defert; and accordingly in the defert Jefus wrought them: and by the way I fuppofe this prophecy was one principal reafon why most of the falfe Chrifts and falfe prophets led their followers into folitudes and deferts, promifing there to fhow figns and wonders. The prophet Ifaiah foretold (XXXV. 1, &c.) The wilderness and the folitary place fhall be glad for them, and the defert fhall rejoice, and bloffom as the rofe. They shall fee the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.-The eyes of the blind shatt be opened, and the cars of the deaf shall be unstopped. The lame man fhall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb fing. The apoftle and evangelift St. Matthew relates (XV. 29, &c.) that Jefus departed from thence (from