Page images
PDF
EPUB

songs. If some king of the earth, some sceptred poten. tate, would only sanction or countenance their return, what would they not perform ? The Lord allowed them just such a man; nay, a more powerful leader. One who sat on Cesar's thronę, who nodded and the nations trembled. The emperor Julian was an accomplished warrior. He ruled over the land shown to Abraham, and ten times as much. He hated the Saviour as bitterly as those who crucified him. He had been educated under the sound of the gospel, and knew the words of Christ. He was familiar with the writings of the evangelists. He resolved that Jerusalem should be trodden under foot of the Israelites, instead of the Gentiles. The reader is invited to examine the account of this as given by one whose hatred of the gospel equalled that of Julian him. self. The author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was under the necessity of stating some facts concerning this effort to defeat the words of Christ,made by the mighty and the wise. At the invitation of the emperor, the children of Judah assembled to rebuild their temple and to claim the inheritance of their fathers. Their enthusiasm was wonderful. Even their delicate females were seen carrying off rubbish in their silver veils. Their joyful companies laboured, cheered on by the sound of instruments of music and animating voices. But the emperor did not trust this undertaking to the Israelites alone. Wealthy as they were, devoted as they were, he resolved to make this matter more certain still. He could aid by his proclamations, his royal decrees, or his treasures, but it was not a trifle he had at heart; to show the gazing earth that the Jewish worship should be restored, where the Lord had said the Gentiles should continue to tread, was no ordinary achievement. He

went himself to their aid with those cohorts and those legions that had crossed rivers, hills, and deserts, that had elevated or dethroned monarchs, and before whom it was hard indeed to stand. Here then was to be a trial of the strength of heaven and the strength of earth, in determined contest and fairly balanced opposition. Jews and Romans, Christians and heathens, gazed to see whether the emperor could or could not go contrary to the declaration uttered by the Man of sorrows, who had not where to lay his head. The earthly potentate was defeated. He abandoned the undertaking. This fact, recorded by Christians and by infidels, would be enough for our present purpose, were we to say nothing concerning the means of his defeat. To show that Jerusalem has been still trodden down of the Gentiles is mainly the point we have in view ; and it is all we shall notice when we come to the application. But for the purpose of exhibiting the way in which opposers uni. formly narrate that which they dişlike to pen, (we must notice the strange want of fairness and of truth belong. ing to unbelieving historians, leading them sometimes to conceal, and sometimes to pervert,) we look for a time at Gibbon's history of this event. He grants that it was said the workmen were driven from their work by a supernatural visitation; that they were scorched by fire again and again ; that an account of this public and marvellous defeat was published the same year by two individuals--but these individuals were Christians. That their statement was neither denied by the emperor or his friends, nor contradicted in any way, does not seem to have weighed much in his estimate of the singu. lar occurrence. It is true that Gibbon speaks well of a certain heathen writer, (Ammianus Marcellinus,) who

was the emperor's private secretary, and who became his biographer. It is true he does not omit the fact that Ammianus records this incident; he even gives the words of this author (who knew as much of the defeat and the cause of it as did the emperor himself,) but they are placed below in a note, which many may overlook, and in Latin, so that many others may not understand, if the sentence is seen. The import of the words is that horrible balls of fire, breaking out from the ground, drove the scorched and blasted workmen to a distance, and the persevering element continued to maintain its ground until they were compelled to desist. If the his. torian had translated the words of Marcellinus, or placed them on the page along with his other quotations or assertions, telling us, that although this reputable hea. then author was a spectator of these things, and was recording his own failure along with that of his master, still he (Gibbon) did not credit the recital, there would have been nothing unfair in the transaction. We should say, in all love and candour, let each one judge for him. self; but partial information afforded, or facts half hid, in these cases, certainly evince a repugnance to the unob. structed ray of light. It is not our object here to inquire how much credulity they must possess who can believe that no one was found to contradict these statements of pagans and Christians, out of all the Jewish nation, and out of all the Roman army, or from the ranks of the admirers or flatterers of royalty. A sermon which was preached within that generation is still extant, addressed to the Israelites as a persuasive, leading them to obey the gospel; they were reminded of this noted overthrow, and invited to go and look again at the materials and other tokens of their rebuke irom heaven whilst endeav.

ouring to go contrary to the purpose of the Maker of worlds. We might pause and inquire how strange that any one wishing them to embrace Christianity, should remind them of that which they had never known, and speak to them of wonders which they had never wit. nessed, as though these marvels were fresh in their re. collection ; but these are not the points before us. The certainties alone are enough for our purpose. We know that Jerusalem has been trodden down of the Gentiles seventeen hundred years. We know that the Jewish worship was not restored, and that if a wealthy and enthusiastic people, aided by an emperor and his army, were not enough to build another temple, then nothing ever could accomplish it.

Application. --Should the reader desire to ascertain whether those who scoff at Holy Writ, do not occasion. ally have their curiosity at least awakened by such incidents as those above named, so far as to lead them on toward further inquiry; he may soon bring the mat. ter to a fair trial by asking such questions as the author has often asked. Inquire the reason why the Christians left the city, and were not involved in ruin and misery, such as the world had never seen before? Had they more political sagacity than their countrymen? Or why did not some fifty or a hundred thousand of the more prudent Jews retire to Pella, and share the safety which the Christian there enjoyed? Or, if the Church had been watching for the token, and obeyed the signal of the Redeemer, did he only conjecture the sign, or was he Lord of armies ?^ How did he know that the dispersion would continue, and that Jerusalem would never recover her Mosaic forms of worship? &c.

Those who make such inquiries of such as reject the

[ocr errors]

gospel, at the present day, find with striking uniformity, that they do not remember, or they never knew accurately, what Christ had said of that people and that place. They are not informed as it regards Julian's ability, or his wish to disprove the prophecy; what un. believing historians have acknowledgd on these points; what were the suffering, of those who killed the pro. phets and stoned the apostles, or indeed of any other fact or facts of this kind. It is only some hearsay dif. ficulty, some seeming contradiction, or some objection of their own against the Book of inspiration, which seizes and retains their thoughts when the subject of inspiration is mentioned.

There is another branch of wilful ignorance, which must not be passed by without notice, but at present we are otherwise employed.

Scoffers of the present day, are unacquainted with all those facts of historic authority, which have a secondary connection with the holy page; but for the present, we must show what we mean by saying they are ignorant of Bible language.

CHAPTER XIII.

SCOFFERS OF THE LAST DAYS ARE WILFULLY IGNORANT

OF BIBLE LANGUAGE.

An old man of Kentucky became rich, and mocked at God. He became more and more bitter, just as fast and in proportion as his kind Saviour heaped the blessings, comforts, and luxuries of life around him. He took up the Bible and read the following passage, or one like it :

« PreviousContinue »