The last siege and capture of Jerusalem will ever be memorable in the history of mankind.
The most ancient of all the written histories of the human race, of their deeds and condition, is undoubtedly that of the people of Israel: a people to whom God himself was both leader and lawgiver--for whom the sea was divided, and the stony rocks poured forth fountains of water---whose food descended on them from heaven--for whom angels from above fought--and whom all nature cheerfully obeyed,--in short a people, who, through a course of many centuries, though surrounded with numerous Heathen nations, bore constant testimony to the existence of one God alone. It is not wonderful that such a people should think themselves exalted far above all others.
Moses, the first of all instructors and legislators, desired to raise his people above the fate which had ruined other nations, by communicating to them firmness and perseverance in their adherence to such institutions, as should keep them a distinct nation from all others. These institutions were peculiarly appropriate to the time, to the situation, and the circumstances of the people for whom they were prescribed. It was not his design that the Children of Israel, when freed from their misery, after wandering forty years in the wilderness, should mix themselves up with the Heathens, and adopt their morals and principles. He desired that they should continue a distinct and holy people, that strangers should be extirpated, and their country be possessed by Jews alone. Their bounds were marked out by God himself, and extended from Lebanon and the Euphrates to the sea; and he commanded them to keep his commandments in the land which he had bestowed upon them, so that he alone should be their Lord. Hereupon, as I have before observed, Moses delivered such laws as were adapted to their situation. But these wanderers of the desert adhered not to the law delivered to them. We find even during the life of Moses much obstinacy, and an unbridled inclination to Heathenism was manifested, by their making objects of idolatrous worship. After the death of Moses, the seventy-two interpreters collected his doctrines; but they added to them some, withdrew others, and confused several, by which the pure Mosaic opinions must have been obscured. And we read accordingly, in the tenth chapter of Judges, "that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord." They served Baal and Ashtaroth, the deities of the Syrians and Moabites, and even the gods of the Philistines, whom God had commanded they should not serve. Their hearts became hardened in their apostacy.
The siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnazar, and the captivity in Babylon, had the most corrupting influence on the purity of the Mosaic doctrines, and on the laws. The original writings discovered by Hilkiah, were retrenched, added to, and the order of the events displaced. From the long residence amongst, and a great intercourse with strange people, all the frightful prejudices, all the fanciful dreams of our rabbins, were introduced into the sacred books. We learn from the second book of Chronicles, chap. xxxvi. verse 17, "that the king slew the young men with the sword in the house of the sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age. And all the vessels of gold, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and of the king and all the princes, these he brought all to Babylon; and they burnt the house of God, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire."
 The greater part of the kings, both of Israel and of Judah, served strange gods. Under Josiah, as he cleared out the Temple, the book of the laws of Moses was found by Hilkiah the priest, and was delivered to the king, who was much struck with the threatenings it contained.
During the seventy years that this captivity lasted, only a few old men survived who had retained any recollection of the laws of Moses. Esdras collected, as far as was possible, the doctrines of Moses; but they were mingled with too many principles which were foreign to them, and some of them may be traced to Zoroaster. The existence of the three sects of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Essenes, each of which give a different interpretation of the word of God, abundantly prove this. Hillel and Schamai, a little before the time of Vespasian, had a school. The Rabbi Jonathan Sillai, a pupil of Hillel, exalts his master by saying, "If every tree were a pen, and the whole ocean ink, I should not be able to describe the wisdom I have received from Hillel." What extravagant expressions! How well do they paint the fanaticism of sectarianism! It was not, however, long, before this blind zeal drew down on the people a punishment from Heaven, by the destruction of Jerusalem under the Roman chief, Titus. Read the work of Flavius Josephus, and you will behold the noble firmness and perseverance of the Israelites on one side, and on the other the melancholy truth, that raving enthusiasm and blind obstinacy precipitated the ruin of the most flourishing people in the world. The last siege and capture of Jerusalem will ever be memorable in the history of mankind. How violent was the exasperation between the two sects of the believers! What firmness and obstinacy in each party, who preferred death and the destruction of the whole nation to yielding up the smallest particle of their different opinions! At that time, there fell, by famine and the sword, more than a million of the Jews. One part of the people were left as food for the wild beasts of the field, whilst some were kept alive to grace the triumph of the victor; but that which above all moved the grief of the Israelites, was the destruction of that temple which had been erected by their own monarchs at so great an expense. Its glory has been described by the author already named; I find the description among my papers, and send it to you. You will weep as a true Israelite, and compare our former greatness with the degraded state to which the blindness and errors of our Elders have reduced us.
Under Hadrian, the Jews were once more excited to a contest. Bar Cochef announced himself as the Messias, but in the sequel 580,000 of our nation were destroyed, and the name of Jerusalem was changed for that of Elia. The emperor Julian, usually called the Apostate, in his ambition for future fame, ordered the Temple of Solomon to be rebuilt. But the fathers of the Christian Church, as well as the contemporary author Ammianus Marcellinus, assert that a fire, which burst forth from the ground, suspended the operation at its commencement.
 About fifty years after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the great body of the Jews held the opinion that the time for the appearance of their Messias had arrived, there arose this man, who announced himself in that character, and called himself Bar Cochef, or the "Son of a Star." He was acknowledged by numbers of his people, who became his followers, declared him their king, and made war upon the Romans, many of whom were destroyed, both in Greece and in Africa. His power continued betwixt three and four years, when the very people who had supported him proclaimed him an impostor, and gave him the name Bar Cosifa, or the "Son of a Lie."