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This murder going unpunished, encouraged others to hide their swords under their garments, and at public times to mingle in the throng, killing such as they accounted their enemies: and this, not only in the streets and public places, but even in the temple. Many were cut to pieces by the troops of Felix for following deceivers, who, according to our Saviour's prediction, drew away multitudes into the deserts, to shew them signs and wonders.
A certain Egyptian Jew, a magician, who seems to be referred to, Acts xxi. 38, caused great mischief. He came into Judea, and gathered together a numerous banditti. These deluded people followed him as the expected Messiah. He led them from the desert to mount Olivet, promising that they should shortly see the wall of Jerusalem fall to the ground; from whence they should drive the Romans, and fix the seat of his empire there. But Felix, hearing of his design, met him at the foot of the mountain with his legions. He slew a great number, took many prisoners, and dispersed the rest. The Egyptian escaped, with some of his followers, and was never heard of after.
This insurrection being suppressed, others quickly arose, composed of robbers and magicians, who'exhorted the people to shake off the Roman yoke, threatening those with death, who would submit to so shameful a servitude. Thus they constrained many to disobedience. They dispersed themselves all over the country, robbing the houses of the rich, firing villages, and slaying the inhabitants; so that all Judea was in fear of them. There likewise happened a great contention in Cæsarea between the
Jews and Syrians, which ended to the disadvantage of the former, and the enriching of Felix, who never failed to profit by these tumults; so that every day the Jews felt the tokens of God's vengeance, and the forerunners of their final destruction.
About this time, the apostle Paul was brought before Felix, who kept him two years in prison to gratify the Jews; but he was allowed the privilege of seeing his friends. Annas the high-priest was deposed by Agrippa. He afterwards came to a miserable end, according to Paul's solemn denunciation. See Acts xxiii. 3.
As Rome suffered much from the enormities of the emperor Nero, so did Judea from its governor Felix. But the following year he was removed, after having been in that office seven years. Though he endeavoured to please the Jews by leaving Paul in prison, yet they accused him of many crimes to the emperor; and he escaped punishment only through the influence of his brother Pallas, who was in great favour at the court of Nero.
Porcius Festus succeeded him as governor of Judea, a person of much better character than his predecessor. On his arrival, the Jews brought their charges against Paul; an account of which, with the noble defence that he made, both before Festus and Agrippa, is given at large in the history of the New Testament.
Festus died in his government, and Nero sent Albinus in his room. Not long after his settlement, at the feast of the tabernacles, our Lord
the first great presage of the impending
city enjoyed peace and plenty, four years before the war commenced, and seven years and a half before the siege of the city.
A countryman, whose name was Jesus, the son of Ananus, being at the feast, began to cry out suddenly, A voice from the east! a voice from the west! a voice from the four winds! a voice against Jerusalem and the temple! a voice against all this people! Thus crying night and day about the streets, he was at length taken up and scourged; which he endured without complaining, continuing to repeat the same words. The magistrates sent him to the governor, where, being beaten till his bones appeared, he never shed one tear; but, with a weeping voice, at every stroke he cried out, Woe, woe to Jerusalem? Albinus asked him, Who he was, and why he made that outcry? To which he returned no answer, but continued to bewail Jerusalem. The governor concluded he was insane, and suffered him to depart. He continued this cry for seven years together, but mostly on the feast days, without being hoarse or weary, till the siege began; then, stopping for a few days, he once more cried, Woe, woe to the city, the temple, and people! adding, Woe also to myself! immediately after which, he was killed with a stone discharged from an engine.
Albinus proved an intolerable governor, taking away people's goods under pretence of justice; burdening the nation with extraordinary tributes: he likewise became the encourager of all kinds of villany, by accepting of bribes.
He continued but two years, and was succeeded
by Gessius Florus; who was no sooner settled, than he shewed himself so tyranni- our Lord cal, that his wicked predecessor might have been thought a benefactor in comparison with him; for the other acted secretly, with some signs of shame, but Florus gloried in his greater violence, in which he was more like a common executioner than a governor; omitting no rapines or oppressions that might afflict the people, pillaging whole provinces as well as cities: at length, he went so far as to proclaim, by a common crier, That it should be lawful for any persons whatever to rob and plunder, provided they brought him a share of the booty. This constrained numbers to fly into foreign countries.
In this year there were astonishing presages of what the hand of Heaven was about to inflict upon the Jews. At the feast of the passover, the eastern gate of the temple, being of solid brass, and so heavy that it required twenty men to open and shut it, was seen, at the first hour of the night, to open of its own accord, though fastened with strong bolts and bars. On the twenty-first of May, before sunset, there appeared warlike chariots in the air, and battalions of armed soldiers passing through the clouds, and investing the city: this amazing sight was seen, all over the country. On the twenty-eighth of the same month, the priests going into the inner temple, felt the place move and tremble, and heard a voice more than human, crying, Let us depart hence. Chrysostom says, that it was the voice of angels, who now left the place. For a year together, a
wonderful comet, in the form of a flaming sword, hung over Jerusalem.
All these and the like prodigies were foretold by our blessed Saviour, but made not the least impression on these obstinate and deluded people, who were hardened to their own destruction. The commencement of the war I shall leave till my next. In the mean time, I remain
MY DEAR GEORGE,
THE war which I am now to give you an account of, proved the most desperate of any recorded in history. It was principally occasioned by the oppressions of Florus. Agrippa used his utmost endeavours with the Jews, by argument and intreaty, to prevent its taking place, knowing the fatal consequences of a war with the Romans, but all to no effect; for it broke out in the month of May, in the twelfth year of Nero's reign, the our Lord seventeenth of Agrippa's, and the second of the government of Florus.
The seditious began at Jerusalem, by persuading the priests to omit offering any sacrifice for the emperor. The governors of the city foreseeing, if this were persisted in, that it would terminate in open rebellion, used all the means in their power to prevent it; but the tumult increasing, they sent