Joseph Addison

Evidences of the Christian Religion, with Additional Discourses
Essays Of Addison | The Age Of Addison

 Portrait of Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Preterist Commentaries By Historical Preterism

(On the Fall of Jerusalem)
IV. Who is not struck with admiration, when he represents to himself our Saviour at that time foretelling, that his Gospel should be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, or, as Origen, (who rather quotes the sense than the words) to serve for a conviction to kings, and people, when, at the same time, he finds that his Gospel has accordingly been preached to Greeks and Barbarians, to the learned and to the ignorant, and that there is no quality or condition of life able to exempt men from submitting to the doctrine of Christ? As for us, says this great author, in another part of his book against Celsus, “When we see every day those events exactly accomplished which our Saviour foretold at so great a distance; that his Gospel is preached in ail the world, Mat. xxiv. 14. that his disciples go and teach all nations, Mat. xxviii. 19. and that those who have received his doctrine, are brought for his sake before governors, and before kings, Mat. x. 18. we are filled with admiration, and our faith in him is confirmed more and more. What clearer and stronger proofs can Celsus ask for the truth of what he spoke?”

V. Origen insists likewise with great. strength on that wonderful prediction of our Saviour concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, pronounced at a time, as he observes, when there was no likelihood nor appearance of it. This has been taken notice of, and inculcated by so many others, that I shall refer you to what this father has said on the subject in the first book against Celsus. And as to the accomplishment of this remarkable prophecy, I shall only observe, that whoever reads the account given us by Josephus, without knowing his character, and compares it with what our Saviour foretold, would think the historian had been a Christian, and that he had nothing else in view but to adjust the event to the prediction.

VI. I cannot quit this head without taking notice, that Origen would still have triumphed more in the foregoing arguments, had he lived an age longer, to have seen the Roman emperors, and all their governors and provinces, submitting themselves to the Christian religion, and glorying in its profession, as so many kings and sovereigns still place their relation to Christ at the head of their titles.

How much greater confirmation of his faith would he have received, had he seen our Saviour’s prophecy stand good in the destruction of the temple, and the dissolution of the Jewish œconomy, when Jews and Pagans united all their endeavours, under Julian the apostate, to baffle and falsify the prediction? The great preparations that were made for rebuilding the temple, with the hurricane, earthquake, and eruptions of fire, that destroyed the work, and terrified those employed in the attempt from proceeding in it, are related by many historians of the same age, and the substance of the story testified both by Pagan and Jewish writers, as Ammianus Marcellinus, and Zamath David. The learned Chrystome, in a sermon against the Jews, tells them, this fact was then fresh in the memories even of their young men; that it happened but twenty years ago, and that it was attested by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, where they might still see the marks of it in the rubish of that work, from which the Jews, desisted in so great a fright, and which even Julian had not the courage to carry on. This fact, which is in itself so miraculous, and so indisputable, brought over many of the Jews to Christianity, and shows us, that after our Saviour’s prophecy against it, the temple could not be preserved from the plow passing over it by all the care of Titus, who would fain have prevented its destruction, and that instead of being re-edified by Julian, all his endeavours towards it did but still more literaly accomplish our Saviour’s prediction, that not one stone should be left upon another.

The ancient Christians were so entirely persuaded of the force of our Saviour’s prophecy, and of the punishment which the Jews had drawn upon themselves and upon their children, for the treatment which the Messiah had received at their hands, that they did not doubt but they would always remain an abandoned and despised people, an hissing and an astonishment, among the nations, as they are to this day. In short that they had lost their peculiarity of being God’s people, which was now transferred to the body of Christians, and which preserved the church of Christ among all the conflicts, difficulties, and persecutions, in which it was engaged, as it had preserved the Jewish government and œconomy for so many ages, whilst it had the same truth and vital principle in it, notwithstanding it was so frequently in danger of being utterly abolished and destroyed. Origen, in his fourth book against Celsus, mentioning their being cast out of Jerusalem, the place to which their worship was annexed, deprived of their temple and sacrifice, their religious rites and solemnities, and scattered over the face of the earth, ventures to assure them, with a face of confidence, that they would never be re-established since they had committed that horrid crime against the Saviour of the world. This was a bold assertion in the good man, who knew how this people had been so wonderfully re-established in former times, when they were almost swallowed up, and in the most desperate state of desolation, as in their deliverance out of the Babylonish captivity, and the oppressions of Antiochus Epiphanes. Nay, he knew that, within less than an hundred years before his own time, the Jews had made such a powerful effort for their re-establishment under Barchocap, in the reign of Adrian, as shook the whole Roman empire.”

“XIV. St. John, who lived so many years after our Saviour, was appealed to in these emergencies as the living oracle of the church; and as his oral testimony lasted the first century, many have observed, that, by a particular providence of God, several of our Saviour’s disciples, and of the early converts of his religion, lived to a very great age, that they might personally convey the truth of the gospel to those times, which were very remote from the first publication of it. Of these, besides St. John, we have a remarkable instance in Simeon, who was one of the seventy sent forth, by our Saviour, to publish the gospel before his crucifixion, and a near kinsman of our Lord. This venerable person, who had probably heard with his own ears our Saviour’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, presided over the church established in that city, during the time of its memorable siege, and drew his congregation out of those dreadful and unparalelled calamities which befel his countrymen, by following the advice our Saviour had given, when they should see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, and the Roman standards, or abomination of desolation, set up. He lived till the year of our Lord 107, when he was martyred under the emperor Trajan.” (Works of Addison V, 13)


Joseph Addison son of the Rev. Lancelot Addison, dean of Lichfield, was born on May 1st, 1672, at Milston, Wiltshire. He was educated at Lichfield, and afterwards at Charterhouse, where Steele, whose name was in later years to be associated so closely with his, was a younger schoolfellow. Steele visited him at Lichfleld, and has commemorated the charm of his home circle in the Tatler (No. 25).

” The boys behaved themselves very early with a manly friendship ; and their sister, instead of the gross familiarities and impertinent freedoms in behaviour usual in other houses, was always treated by them with as much complaisance as any other young lady of their acquaintance. It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit or sit at a meal in that family. I have often seen the old man’s heart flow at his eyes with joy upon occasions which would appear indifferent to such as were strangers to the turn of his mind ; but a very slight accident, wherein he saw his children’s good-will to one another, created in him the godlike pleasure of loving them because they loved each other.”

In 1687 Addison went to Oxford. At first he was a commoner of Queen’s College, but he was given a demyship (i.e. scholarship) at Magdalen for his classical attainments, and in due course proceeded to a fellowship. He won a reputation which extended beyond Oxford for his Latin verses.

In his twenty-eighth year Addison went abroad to perfect his education for political life by a prolonged continental tour. He visited France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, and remained away from England for more than four years.

Soon after his return he wrote his poem of the Campaign to celebrate Marlborough’s victory at Blenheim, August 1704, and was rewarded by the Whig Prime Minister, Godolphin, with a commissionership. Shortly afterwards he received an Under-Secretaryship of State, and in 1708 the Irish Secretaryship, which he held for two years.

In 1709 Steele began the publication of a periodical, The Tatler, which was to appear three times a week. It was published in the name of “Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, Astrologer,” an imaginary character invented by Swift. Addison contributed essays, which Steele, with characteristic generosity, admitted to be superior to his own. He humorously described the way in which he was outshone. “I fared like a distressed prince who calls in a powerful neighbour to his aid; I was undone by my own auxiliary; when I had once called him in I could not subsist without dependence on him.”

With the fall of the Whigs Addison lost his secretaryship and much of his income. But he had saved a good deal, and he was now a successful literary man. Steele discontinued the Tatler early in 1711, and on March 1st of that year he and Addison brought out the first number of the Spectator, which appeared daily until Dec. 6, 1712. In 1713 Addison produced at Drury Lane Theatre his tragedy of Cato, which had a great success at the time, though it is now almost forgotten. Steele began another newspaper in that year, the Guardian, to which Addison contributed. In 1714 the Spectator was revived for a time. Addison was married in 1716 to the Countess of Warwick: the marriage has been generally supposed, but on insufficient evidence, to have been an unhappy one. His last years were clouded by a quarrel with Pope and an estrangement from his old friend Steele. He died of asthma and dropsy, June 17, 1719.

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