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THE false prophets against whom our Lord had warned the people, are noticed in many passages by Josephus. In his Antiquities, (lib. 20, c. 8. 10.) the historian thus writes, "When Festus came into Judea, that country was infested by robbers, who burnt and plundered all the villages. At this time these robbers became very numerous, and were called sicarii, from the use of a small sword, not different in size from the Persian acinaces, but crooked like the Roman sica. With these weapons, they slew a great many at the festivals: from mingling with the crowd who, from all parts, resorted to Jerusalem, for the purpose of worshipping God, they easily dispatched such as they wished to become their victims. They also frequently attacked with arms the villages of their enemies, which having plundered, they consumed by fire. An impostor
in the number of the sicarii, seduced the people by a promise of delivering them from slavery and misery, if they would follow him to the wilderness. Against this seducer Festus dispatched a body of cavalry and infantry, who destroyed him and all his followers."
"The atrocities of the robbers filled the city with every species of impiety. Of these certain impostors persuaded the multitude, by falsehoods and deception, to follow them into the wilderness, where they should see unequivocal signs and wonders done according to the forewarning of God. Many yielded to their advice, and suffered the punishment of their folly for Felix drove them back, and put them to death. At this time also a man came from Egypt to Jerusalem, who professed to be a prophet, and who exhorted the common people to accompany him to the Mount of Olives, situated opposite the city, at the distance of five furlongs: for he wished, as he pretended to shew from thence, that the walls of Jerusalem would fall at his command, and thus promised to open them an entrance into the city. But Felix being informed of these things, ordered his soldiers under arms, and advancing against them with a strong detachment of infantry and cavalry, attacked the Egyptian, and the people who were with him, of whom he took two and slew four hundred, but the Egyptian himself
escaped. The robbers moreover instigated the Jews to revolt from the Romans, saying, that they ought to be no longer in obedience to them, and those who refused to comply had their habitations plundered and consumed."
The miracles of our Lord being real, and of an important nature, necessarily produced a lasting impression on those to whom they were addressed: and gave birth to events, which never would have occurred, had they not been previously known and believed. The prophecy respecting the fall of Jerusalem, in a few years was universally made known, not only in Judea, but in other countries; and from the acknowledged authority with which our Saviour spoke and acted, it could not but be believed by all, however unfriendly to his cause, before it was yet justified by the event. The above impostor, availing himself of the well-grounded belief of the people, respecting that catastrophe, attempted to turn it to his own sinister purposes; and, in order to give his promise, that they should see the walls of Jeru salem fall at his command, the greater credit, he goes to the very spot, namely the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had delivered the original prediction. Had such a prediction not been known, and received among the people, so far would any be from following him, that there was not a Jew in the country, who would not have
regarded such impious pretensions in a foreigner with indignation and abhorrence.
The rise of this and other impostors was foreseen by our Lord, who with the utmost solemnity and precision cautioned the people against them, "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you, For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall give great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Mat. xxiv. 4, 23, 24.
Josephus speaks of six thousand who perished in the outer courts of the temple, after it had been set on fire. "The soldiers," says he, "set fire to the portico, whereupon some threw themselves headlong down the precipice; others perished in the flames; and not one out of so great a multitude escaped. A false prophet was the occasion of the ruin of these people, who on that very day had made proclamation in the city, assuring them that God commanded them to go up to the temple, where they would receive sigus of deliverance. And there were then many prophets suborned by the zealots to impose on the people, who told them that they ought to expect deliverance from God.-Impostors, who spake
lies in the name of God, deceived this miserable people. They neither attended to, nor believed the manifest signs presignifying the coming desolation; but like infatuated men, who have neither eyes to see, nor minds to perceive, they neglected the divine denunciations."
Now, as the impostors who thus rose, classed with the followers of John, or however falsely with the followers of Jesus: and as, moreover, the signs which they promised, suppose the expectations of the people, derived from the miracles and predictions of Christ, it follows that the impostors themselves believed the truth of those predictions, though they were become too wicked and depraved to profit by them. And this conclusion we have seen is unequivocally asserted by Josephus.
Our blessed Lord warned the Jews that, in consequence of their vices, Jerusalem would be taken, and the temple itself destroyed. The recording of this awful prediction, though a melancholy, was yet a necessary task imposed on the historians of his life, as the fulfilment of it would prove, beyond all reasonable contradiction, the truth of his divine commission. Nor could the evangelists deem it an undertaking less dangerous than painful; since it might suggest to those, who were to be the instrument in the hands of providence of its accomplishment, the