« PreviousContinue »
expects and commands us to be rich in good works, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort the sick, to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, unpolluted by its vices, and unsubdued by its predominant vanities and follies.
HIS course of Lectures for the present year will begin with the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew; which contains one of the clearest and most important prophecies that is to be found in the sacred writings.
The prophecy is that which our blessed Lord delivered respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, to which, I apprehend, the whole of the chapter, in its primary acceptation, relates. At the same time it must be admitted, that the forms of expression, and the images made use of, are for the most part applicable also to the day of judgment; and that an allusion to that great event, as a kind of secondary object, runs through almost every part of the prophecy. This is a very common practice in the prophetic writings, where two sub
jects are frequently carried on together, a principal and a subordinate one. In Isaiah there are no less than three subjects, the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, the call of the Gentiles to the Christian covenant, and the redemption of mankind by the Messiah, which are frequently adumbrated under the same figures and images, and are so blended and interwoven together, that it is extremely difficult to separate them from each other*. In the same manner our Saviour, in the chapter before us, seems to hold out the destruction of Jerusalem, which is his principal' subject, as a type of the dissolution of the world, which is the under-part of the representation. By thus judiciously mingling together these two important catastrophes, he gives at the same time (as he does in many other instances) a most interesting admonition to his immediate hearers the Jews, and a most awful lesson to all his future disciples; and the benefit of his predictions, instead of being confined to one occasion, or to one people, is by this admirable management extended to every subseBishop Lowth, on Isaiah liị, 13.
quent period of time, and to the whole Christian world.
After this general remark, which is a sort of key to the whole prophecy, and will afford an easy solution to several difficulties that occur in it, I shall proceed to consider distinctly the most material parts of it.
We are told in the first verse of this chapter, that "on our Saviour's departing from the temple his disciples came to him, to shew him the buildings of it;", that is, to draw his attention to the magnitude, the splendour, the apparent solidity and stability of that magnificent structure. It is observable that they advert particularly to the stones of which it was composed. In St. Mark their expression is, "See what manner of stones, and what buildings are here;" and in St. Luke they speak of the goodly stones and gifts with which it was adorned. This seems at the first view a circumstance of little importance; but it shows in a very strong light with what perfect fidelity and minute accuracy every thing is described in the sacred writings. For it appears from the historian Josephus, that there
was scarce any thing more remarkable in this celebrated temple than the stupendous size of the stones with which it was constructed. Those employed in the foundations were forty cubits, that is, above sixty feet in length; and the superstructure, as the same historian observes, was worthy of such foundations, for there were stones in it of the whitest marble, upwards of sixty-seven feet long, more than seven feet high, and nine broad*.
It was therefore not without reason that the disciples particularly noticed the uncommon magnitude of the stones of this superb temple, from which, and from the general solidity and strength of the building, they probably flattered themselves, and meant to insinuate to their divine Master, that this unrivalled edifice was built for eternity, was formed to stand the shock of ages, and to resist the utmost efforts of human power to destroy it. How astonished then and dismayed must they have been at our Saviour's answer to these triumphant observations of theirs! Jesus said unto them, "See ye not all those things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left *Josephus de Bell. Jud. 1. x. c. 5. .