Ninth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Luc.19. v. 41. Thursday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem
GOSPEL Luke 19. 41-47.At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, seeing the city, He wept over it, saying: If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace: but now they are hidden from thy eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, and thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side; and beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee; and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone, because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation. And entering into the temple, He began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought, saying to them: It is written, “My house is the house of prayer.” but you have made it a den of thieves. And He was teaching daily in the temple.
First for the City of Jerusalem, for bigness, beauty, and numerosity of inhabitants, it was called the Queen, or Lady, of the world, and in the scripture it is made a figure or image of heaven, heaven being called Jerusalem, there being nothing in the earth to express it, so well as that.
For the Temple, it so far excelled the city, that it is called the Queen of the city, as the City was of all the Cities in the world: it was so spacious, that there was place enough in the Temple, and the courts and habitacles thereof,to plant two armies one against another, as they did a little before the destruction thereof, in a faction and sedition amongst themselves, besides that place of the temple, which was called Sancta Sanctorum, the holy of holies, which they left free.
When the Roman Emperors Vespasian, and Titus his son whom Vespasian made his partner or associate with him in the Empire,came to besiege it, which was about their solemn Feast of Pasch, or Easter, as we call it; there were an infinite company of people that flocked thither out of all parts of the Kingdom unto the feast as the fashion was, thinking at that time, that Vespasian and Titus were employed in other service and that they were secure.
The City being thus replete & stuffed with infinite store of people, in so much that they thought they were able to defend themselves against all the army which was very huge, and did indeed hold them play very strongly; Vespasian and Titus came and besieged the City round about on the sudden unexpected as Christ foretold they should.
Their provision of corn was a little before burnt in a faction among themselves, by those two armies that planted themselves in the Temple and about the same, as aforesaid; so that they were forced with famine to go forth of the City to seek food and were all taken by the army and put to the sword, and hanged up upon Crosses, and gibbets in that abundance, that as Josephus writeth, there wanted crosses for the bodies, and ground for the crosses, of whom no doubt some were they,or of their children that cried out to have Christ crucified upon a Cross; and that Titus might quickly famish the City,the army made a strong wall with turrets and bulwarks round about it, in so admirable short space as if they had been assisted from heaven, that none could peep out of the City to save themselves.
Wherein likewise was fulfilled that which Christ here foretold, that their enemies should compass them in round about with a wall, and a ditch, that none could escape them.
A rumor there was also, that those that came & yield themselves to the Romans, had swallowed down their gold into their bodies, least the enemy should take it from them; upon this rumor the soldiers slew of them 2000, in one night, and searched their bowels for it, a fact so barbarous that Titus when he heard of it, forbade it any more. The famine was so great that even dung was very dear; they fell to eating of mans flesh and some woman were found to eat their own sucking children; the day being now come that Christ meant, when he said to certain women that wept over him as he went to be crucified, Women weep not for me, but for yourselves, & your children.
At last the people refusing obstinately to yield themselves to Titus upon good conditions (which imprudent obstinacy of theirs, without any hope in the world of aid, was likewise a punishment of God) the army issuing into the City, put to the sword, besides women and children, an eleven hundred thousand men, and of young men under seventeen some they sold at most vile & base price, thirty for a penny,a just revenge of God, for selling Christ for thirty pence: some they set to slavish works, some they kept to carry in Triumph to Rome, some of the stronger to fight in the Theaters with wild beasts for the peoples recreation, as the manner of Rome was, having taken captives before in the time of the siege ninety and seven thousand; and having made a prey of the Temple and City, a soldier setting fire to the Temple, contrary to will of Titus, who commanded that for the stupendous beauty & amplitude thereof, it should be preserved; all the Army doing their best to quench it by the commandment of Titus, could not do it, as if it were fire sent from heaven,to destroy it: which being destroyed Titus commanded the City to be burnt also, &laid level with the ground, whereby that was fulfilled, which Christ said here, There should not be left one stone upon another.
The Roman Emperors having thus destroyed this goodly City and temple, and having conquered and almost all the world, it is like that the Empire being converted to Christianity, as it was since three hundred years after, the Christian Empire would have desired to re edify Jerusalem, & for honors sake to make it the Sea Apostolique of St.Peter, and his Successors: but behold the further punishment of God upon them; the Muslim the common Enemy of Christianity took it, and all the Country and dominions of the Jews, and still possesses it, by means whereof the City of Rome hath the honor to be the Sea Apostolique, and Mother Church of all the world; & the people of the Jews have not the honor to have any Country or corner of the world, be it never so base, to be their own proper habitation but to wander like vagrant persons throughout the world,and to have no habitation,but by the permission and charity of other people, being as St. Paul sayth of himself and the other Apostles and disciples of Christ in the primitive Church, esteemed as the parings of all people, whom the world esteemeth no better of, then to be pared of, and cast away, as we pare an apple, and cast away the parings thereof,saving that of St.Paul and the rest of his company, was for the Gospel of Christ,and consequently to their greater honor, this of the Jews for rejecting the Gospel, and therefore to their perpetual dishonor,and shame.
Behold the fearful visitation of God in his day of justice, because the people would not visit themselves in the day of their peace, and prosperity. How could God have punished them more, unless he had utterly extinguished the name of a Jew in the world, which yet had been far better, then to leave them as they are, people dispersed throughout the world, without a Head, without a Country of their own,as it were of purpose to publish & testify their perpetual shame & reproach: and their reproach was far greater, that so good a man as Titus who, for his good nature and morality, was called, the flower and & masterpiece of all mankind, of whom it is recorded,that if he remembered at night when he went to bed,he had done no notable princely good deed, he would bemoan himself & say, he had lost a day, and that never any man that had any business with him went from him discontent: it was I say, a far greater reproach unto them, that such a one, should so overthrow and depopulate them, then if he had been a tyrant, especially he having offered them first again and again, most fair and honest conditions of peace, & they out of their imprudent obstinacy, and obstinate imprudence, refusing the same.
Besides,it doth not a little aggravate the punishment, when we doing,as we think,all things for the best,all things turn to the worst, so did it happen to them. They thought the great concourse and confluence of people to the feast, would have strengthened them to resist the enemy, or rather secured them, that he would not adventure as that time of all others, to set upon them; the enemy set upon them the sooner, and overcoming them, took them all together,and destroyed them as it were birds,or fishes in a net.
They buried their gold in their bowels to preserve it,they lost thereby their gold and their lives: they brought their treasure from their houses & treasury, into the the Temple to secure it, the Temple was the first that was set a fire, & destroyed.
Moreover to punish a man, and to take revenge of him in the self same thing and manner he offended, is a greater punishment and confusion, then to punish him in another thing, or in another manner; for in this a man seemeth to insult over his enemy, and to scorn and laugh at him, and as if he should say, Behold thou hast had thy pleasure upon me, now I will have mine upon thee; thou hast had thy day, now I will have mine, I will now pay thee in thy own coin: Just so were the Jews served; They were so insolent and proud of their Temple,City,and Nation, that they contemned all others: They have now no Temple, no City, no Country, no Nation in the world, but are vagrant persons, and abject. They bought and sold Christ for so vile a price as thirty pence; they themselves were sold thirty for one penny, So was God revenged of the devil for damning of mankind. The devil damned it by a man and woman Adam and Eve, an evil spirit in the form of a serpent, a tree, and the fruit in the middest of paradise: God redeemed it again,and rescued it out of his power,by a man & a woman, Christ and our Blessed Lady, the Angel Gabriel a good spirit in the form of a man, the tree of the cross, with the passion of Christ thereupon,and the fruit thereof the most Blessed Sacrament of the body of Christ in Jerusalem, the middest of the world.
When Adam out of pride and ambition to have the knowledge of good and evil,and therein to be like unto God, adventured to taste of the forbidden fruit, God did not only punish him in the same kind, opening his eyes to see and know his own nakedness and misery, but also derided, & laughed at him, saying, Behold, now Adam is become like unto us having the knowledge of good & evil and after this method and order God dealeth also in Hell and Purgatory, as appeareth by the rich Glutton whose torment was chiefly in his torment or abusing his tongue with a gluttoness taste of dainties,feeding every day, & denying Lazarus the fragments or crumbs that went from his table: and generally the holy Scripture sayth, that in what a man offendeth,in that he shall be punished, and not only that,but God will laugh at the suffers thereof, and deride them, according to another place of scripture that sayth thus in the person of God; But now (that is to say, in my day which is after this life of ours) I will laugh at their destruction and mock them,as they seemed to mock me when they were in the world. Oh what a horrible thing it is, as St Paul sayth, to fall into the hands of God.It is a common saying: Tis better to fall into the hands of God, then of Man, but that is meant,in this life, it being a time of mercy;after this life, which is the time of Gods justice, it is ten thousand times better to fall into the hands of men, then of God: all the men in the world put together,cannot punish a man with all the wit and strength they have,so much has God with his little finger. Here we may see,that as Jerusalem was a figure & Image of heaven: so is the punishment, and destruction thereof a figure of the punishment of a Soul in hell, or Purgatory, which peradventure differeth from hell but in this, that this is for a time, that for ever.
And that as Christ said to the City of Jerusalem,if she had known those her punishments and desolation that then hung over her head, they would not do as they did: so may he say unto us, if we knew the punishments which hang over our heads in hell and purgatory for sin, we would not do as we do.
Thus much concerning Gods punishments upon the Jews for sin, & especially for crucifying of Christ. In the next meditation we will treat of the cause of their sin, a thing most necessary to be known.