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themselves to death, enquires remarkably enough with respect to the deities who had required the devotion of such men as the Decii: Quæ fuit eorum tanta iniquitas ut placari populo Romano non possent nisi viri tales occidissent * ?
It is to be observed however, beyond what has been stated, that there is ground to presume that the Heathens looked, under vague and general convictions, to a mediator interceding by personal offices.
This persuasion is to be found among the earliest notions of the East. .
The worship of the Sabæans was directed to the heavenly bodies, as to the supposed tabernacles of intelligent beings, who acted as mediators to conciliate the gods f.
Horace also, after describing events which indicated the displeasure of the gods, enquires to whom shall Jupiter give the part of expiating guilt, and he points to Apollo as the intercessor
* De Nat. Deor. lib. iii. $ 6. Edit. Olivet. et pro M. Fonteio, s 10.
+ See Specimen, Hist. Arab. p. 138. Note ad Albuf. p. 257. Hottinger. Hist. Orient. lib. iv. c. 8. Hyde Hist. Vet. Pers.
I Lib. i. ode 2. See also Silius Ital. lib. iv. l. 767. Justin. lib. xviii. c. 6. Lucan, lib. i. 1. 443. Æneid, lib. xi. l. 114-118, and Servius Æneid, lib. iv. l. 50. Plutarch de Vir. Illust. Macrob. 1, iji. c. 5.
On the general Expectation, which prevailed
among the Jews, and the Heathens, of the coming of some great Personage with Divine Authority to reform Mankind, and to restore them to Virtue and Happiness.
The first promises imparted by God to mankind, those indeed given to Adam and the patriarchs, which were received and enlarged by the prophets in their communications to the Jews, excited the strongest persuasion of the coming of the Messiah ; a persuasion prevailing from the earliest times, and stimulated to the most impatient eagerness, when the period, foretold by Daniel, approached.
Many circumstances, which demonstrated the strength of the Jewish hopes about the time of our Saviour, are mentioned, or aluded to by the Evangelists; and Josephus ecords many others. Herod destroyed the VOL. I.
registers of the Jewish families, that the claims of the descendants of David might not be precisely ascertained. He undertook also the building of the temple, a work which it was expected the Messiah would accomplish, and betrayed the most jealous apprehensions of designs against his throne *.
The Herodians carried their admiration of Herod so far as to regard him as the Messiah, and in order to celebrate his birth-day with suitable distinctions even at Rome, they placed, probably under this conviction, burning lamps crowned with violets in their windows of.
That there was often a disposition amongst the Jews to apply the prophecies relating to the Messiah, to Jesus, appears from many passages in the Gospel. But the prejudices of that people, notwithstanding they expected a Messiah with divine attributes, were offended by such high pretensions, when brought forward by one in the lowly condition in which Christ appeared ; and by the contrast, between the power assumed of forgiving sins, which implied an equality with God, and the circumstances of a state destitute even of human distinctions; and though they put him to death for those blasphemies, as they conceived them to be, they still cherished the hopes which prophecy had excited, and directed their expectations so eagerly to other persons, as to be easily led away by successive impostors *.
* Antiq. lib. xv. c. 10. lib. xvi. c. 7. + Tertullian Hæret. and Persius Sat. v. I. 180. et Annot. * Joseph. lib. xviii. c. 1. Acts V. 36, 37. ibid. xxi. 38.
Josephus, speaking of the affairs of Judea under Felix, says, deceivers and impostors, upon pretence of divine inspiration aiming at innovation and changes, seduced the people to their destruction, and drew them into the wilderness, where they assured them God would shew them signs of liberty ; in which passage there seems to be an allusion to what the Jews often sought, some demonstration of divine power, as when they said to Christ, “ shew us a sign.” Theudas, and Judas of Galilee were among those that deceived their countrymen. The people, being frequently disappointed in their application of the prophecies, were led to believe, as they still continue to affirm, that the time of the Messiah was part off on account of their sins. After Pompey captured Jerusalem, about forty-three years before the Christian era, it was believed at Rome, that the Jews would produce, or, as Suetonius informs us on the authority of Julius Marathus, that nature was about to bring forth a king; and the historian adds, that the senate passed a decree, that no child born that year should be brought up, but that those who drew the prophecy to themselves defeated the decree *.
+ De Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 13. ¢ 4. see also Antiq. lib. xx. 4.7.96. Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 5. $ 1.
Josephus states, that what chiefly encouraged the Jews to the war, which terminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, was an ambiguous prophecy, which was found in their sacred books, that at that time some one within their country should obtain the empire of the world + ; for they had received by tradition, that this was spoken by one of their own nation, and many of the wise men, he says, were deceived by the interpretation, for that in truth Vespasian, who was created emperor in Judea, was designated by the prophecy.
Vespasian attributed his success to Providence, and in consequence liberated Josephus, who had first flattered him with an application of the prophecies, which were in. circulation, to his imperial person ; and in
* Suet. Octav. Cæsar. August. c. 94. † Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. vi. (7.) c. 5. § 4.