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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : LESSON XXIII. THE FALL OF JERUSALEM.

The Chosen People by Charlotte Mary Yonge

LESSON XXIII. THE FALL OF JERUSALEM.

|The Lord hath accomplished His fury; He hath poured out His fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof| -- Lam. iv.11.

In His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, oar Lord had wept for the woes of the city which would not own Him, and had foretold that the present generation should not pass away until His mournful words had been fulfilled. One alone of His Apostles was left to tarry until this coming for vengeance; the rest had all gone through the pains of martyrdom to their thrones in Heaven. St. Andrew died in Greece, bound on a cross shaped like the letter X, and preaching to the last. His friend, St. Philip, had likewise received the glory of the Cross in Asia; and the last of the Bethsaida band, St. Bartholomew, was tied to a tree and flayed alive, in Armenia. St. Matthew and St. Matthias died in Ethiopia or Abyssinia, leaving a Church which is still in existence; and St. Thomas was slain by the Brahmins in India, where the Christians of St. Thomas ever after kept up their faith among the heathen around. St. Jude died in Mesopotamia, after writing an epistle to his flock; and his brother, St. Simon Zelotes, also went by the same path to his rest; but their deaths only strengthened the Church, and their successors carried out the same work.

The judgments of God were darkening around Jerusalem. A procurator named Florus was more cruel and insulting than usual, and a tumult broke out against him. Agrippa tried to appease it, but the Jews pelted him with stones, and drove him out of Jerusalem; they afterwards burnt down his palace, and rose in rebellion all over Judea, imagining that the prophesied time of deliverance was come, and that the warlike Messiah of their imagination was at hand. Nero was much enraged at the tidings, and sent an army, under a plain blunt general, named Vespasian, to punish the revolt. This army subdued Galilee and Samaria, and was already surrounding Jerusalem, when Vespasian heard that there had been a great rebellion at home, and that Nero had been killed. He therefore turned back from the siege, to wait and see what would happen, having thus given the token promised by our Lord, of the time when the desolation of Jerusalem should be at hand, when the faithful were to flee. Accordingly, in this pause, all the Christians, marking well the signs of coming wrath, took refuge in the hills while the way was still open. Armies were seen fighting in the clouds; a voice was heard in the Holy of Holies saying, |Let us depart hence!| the heavily-barred gate of the Temple flew open of its own accord; and a man wandered up and down the streets day and night, crying, |Woe to Jerusalem! Woe! woe!| The Jews were hardened against all warning; they had no lawful head, but there were three parties under different chiefs, who equally hated the Romans and one another. They fought in the streets, so that the city was full of blood; and fires consumed a great quantity of the food laid up against the siege; yet still the blind Jews came pressing into it in multitudes, to keep the now unmeaning Feast of the Passover, even at the time when Vespasian's son, Titus, was leading his forces to the siege.

It was the year 70, thirty-seven years since that true Passover, when the Jews had slain the true Lamb, and had cried, |His Blood be on us and our children!| What a Passover was that, when one raging multitude pursued another into the Temple, and stained the courts with the blood of numbers! Meanwhile, Titus came up to the valleys around the crowned hill, and shut the city in on every side, digging a trench, and guarding it closely, that no food might be carried in, and hunger might waste away the strength of those within. Then began the utmost fulfilment of the curses laid up in the Law for the miserable race. The chiefs and their parties tore each other to pieces whenever they were not fighting with the enemy; blood flowed everywhere, and robbers rushed through the streets, snatching away every fragment of food from the weak. The famine was so deadly, that the miserable creatures preyed on the carcases of the dead; nay, |the tender and delicate woman| was found who, in the straits of hunger, killed her own babe, roasted, and fed upon him. So many corpses were thrown over the walls, that the narrow valleys were choked, and Titus, in horror, cried out that the Jews, not himself, must be accountable for this destruction.

For the sake of the Christian fugitives in the mountains, these dreadful days were shortened, and were not in the winter; and in August Titus's soldiers were enabled to make an entrance into the Temple. For the sake of its glorious beauty, he bade that the building should be spared; but it was under the sentence of our Lord, and his command was in vain. A soldier threw a torch through a golden window, and the flames spread fast while the fight raged; the space round the Altar was heaped with corpses, and streams of blood flowed like rivers. Ere the flames reached the Sanctuary, Titus went into it, and was so much struck with its beauty, that he did his utmost to save it, but all in vain; and the whole was burnt, with 6,000 poor creatures, whom a false prophet had led to the Temple, promising that a wonder should there be worked for their deliverance. The city still held out for twenty more days of untold misery; but at last the Romans broke in amid flames quenched in blood, and slaughter raged everywhere. Yet it was a still sadder sight to find the upper rooms of the houses filled with corpses of women and children, dead of hunger; and indeed, no less than a million of persons had perished in the siege, while there were 97,000 miserable captives, 12,000 of whom died at once from hunger. As Titus looked at the walls and towers, he cried out that God Himself must have been against the Jews, since he himself could never have driven them from such fortresses. He commanded the whole, especially the Temple, to be leveled with the ground, no two stones left standing, and the foundation to be sown with salt; and he carried off the Candlestick, Shewbread Table, and other sacred ornaments, to be displayed in his triumph. An arch was set up at Rome in honour of his victory, with the likeness of these treasures sculptured on it. It is still standing, and the figures there carved are the chief means we have of knowing what these holy ornaments were really like. He gave the Jews, some to work in the Egyptian mines, some to fight with wild beasts to amuse the Romans, and many more to be sold as slaves. Other people thus dispersed had become fused into other nations; but it was not so with the Jews. |Slay them not, lest my people forget it, but scatter them abroad among the heathen,| had been the prophecy of the Psalmist; and thus it has remained even to the present day. The piteous words of Moses have been literally fulfilled, and among the nations they have found no ease, neither has the sole of their foot found any rest; but the trembling heart, and failing eye, and sorrowful mind, have always been theirs. They have ever been loathed and persecuted by the nations where their lot has been cast, ever craving for their lost home, ever hoping for the Messiah of their own fancy. Still they keep their Sabbath on the seventh day; still they follow the rules of clean and unclean; and on each Friday, such as still live at Jerusalem sit with their faces to the wall, and lift up their voice in mournful wailing for their desolation. Their goodly land lies waste, the sky above like brass, the earth beneath like iron; her fruitfulness is over, and from end to end she is a country of ruins, a sign to all nations! Some there are who read in the prophecies hopes for the Jews, that they may yet return and learn Who is the Saviour. Others doubt whether this means that they will ever be restored as a nation; and still the Jews stand as a witness that God keeps His word in wrath as well as in mercy -- a warning that the children of the free New Covenant must fear while they are thankful.

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