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this very topic, the long duration of the Jews' dispersion and captivity, has this thought: If Jesus had been a malefactor and a deceiver, as the Jews pretended, it might have been honourable, and accounted for righteousness to them, that they put him to death. On the contrary, since the crucifixion of Jesus, they have been chastised more severely than when they were guilty of idolatry, and sacrificed their children to Moloch.
In this long dispersion, of so many ages, it is not unlikely that divers attempts have been made by them to return into Canaan, and rebuild their temple; and it is well known that they have formed conspiracies, and made violent attempts to restore their government in the land of Canaan: but they have been always defeated and overthrown.
Designs of another kind may have been entered into. One thing is often mentioned by ancient historians. The Emperor Julian, commonly called the apostate, because after having been educated in the Christian religion, he turned heathen, about three hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem, formed a scheme of rebuilding the temple. Filled with enmity against the people whom he had forsaken, but still desirous to avoid the scandal of open persecution, he tried every method to humble the Christians, and root out their religion. Knowing the aversion of the Jewish people to Christianity, he sent for some of their chief men, and asked them why they did not sacrifice? They answered, because they could sacrifice no where but at the temple at Jerusalem, and now they had none. He bid them take good heart, and engaged to build a temple for them. And accordingly gave full powers and strict orders for that purpose to proper officers allotting likewise large sums out of the public revenue. But when materials were provided, and they were about to lay the foundations of the intended temple, the workmen were terrified, and some of them scorched by frequent and repeated eruptions of fire from the earth: as is related by divers authors, who lived at the time or near it: and particularly by a heathen historian of good credit, and a friend and admirer of Julian. Undoubtedly such a design was formed and defeated.
If they, who lived about three hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem, thought this captivity of the Jewish people long: how much more may we, when it is now, not only three hunderd, but thrice three hundred years, and almost double that number, since the com mencement of it.
If they who lived above a thousand years ago observed the long continuance of this dispersion, as exceeding every thing of the like kind that had befallen this people, certainly the continuance of it to this day must appear very extraordinary and affecting.
5. The subsistence of the Jewish people at this time affords an attestation to divers things upon which some evidences of the Christian religion depend.
For hereby all are assured of the antiquity and genuineness of the scriptures of the Old Testament. These are received by them, and read in their synagogues: and they allow, that therein are contained promises of a great and eminent deliverer. None therefore can pretend, that the scriptures, so often appealed to by Christ and his apostles, are forgeries of Christians.
Possibly we are not aware how great an advantage we have, in this respect, from the subsistence of the Jewish people, and their synagogue worship, where the scriptures of the Old Testament are often read."
It is true, the time of Christ's coming seems to have been a time of greater knowledge, and more general commerce, than that of the deliverance of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage: but a variety of evidence for important facts, such as the coming of Christ, and his teaching among the Jews, is not to be despised, but thankfully accepted. And if the Jewish people had been extinguished soon after the coming of Christ, and the planting of his religion in the world, some things might have been disputed by enemies which are now incontestable. Some might have had the assurance to deny, that ever there was such a people in the world, or that ever a nation existed which conformed to the institutions of Moses: and they might have
■ Vid. Chrysost T. 1. p. 652, 653. Ed. Bened.
b See Socrat. H. E. 1. 3. c. 20. Sozom. 1. 5. c. 20. Thedrt. 1. 3. c. 20. Chrys. T. 1. p. 580, 646, &c. T. 2. p. 574. c Ambitiosum quondam apud Hierosolymam templum, quod post multa et interneciva certamina obsidente Vespasiano posteaque Tito ægre est expugnatum, instaurare sumtibus cogitabat immodicis. Negotiumque maturandum Alypio dederat Antiochensi, qui olim Britannias curaverat pro Præ
fectis. Cum itaque rei idem fortiter instaret Alypius, juvaretque provinciæ rector, metuendi globi flammarum prope fundamenta crebris assultibus erumpentes, fecere locum exustis aliquoties operantibus inaccessum. Hocque modo elemento destinatius repellente, cessavit inceptum. Amm. Marcel. 1. 23. c. i.
d Chrysostom and others.
formed an argument, which would have affected some persons, little conversant in ancient history. And our case might have resembled that of the Jewish people of old, who were sometimes obliged to labour in the proof, that they were not expelled out of Egypt, but conducted thence under the especial care of a powerful providence and protection.
But here possibly a scruple may arise in the minds of some: and they may say, if the subsistence of the Jewish people be so much to the advantage of the Christian religion, might it not have been as well for them to have continued in the land of Canaan, maintaining the ancient form of their commonwealth, and living in power and splendour, as in some times of old?
I answer, it was not fit.
1.) For their rejecting the Messiah must require some tokens of divine resentment and displeasure. If Jesus wrought such miracles as are recorded in the gospels, and was crucified by the Jews: and if his apostles preached in his name, and were abused, as the history of the New Testament relates: it was highly proper, that after waiting to be gracious, God should send remarkable judgments upon them, if they repented not; which they did not, but went on increasing in wickedness, as we are assured by Josephus, and other historians.
2.) It was by no means fit that the ancient power of the Jews should be continued to them, considering their rejection of Jesus, and their enmity to them that believed in him. The oppo-sition they would have made to the followers of Jesus, the sufferings they would have brought upon them, would have been insupportable by human nature. By the severest persecution within their own territories, and by solemn and powerful embassies into foreign parts, disparaging the disciples of Jesus and their principles, they would have extirpated them as soon as they were risen up. We may clearly collect as much from the afflictions and sufferings they actually brought upon the apostles and other disciples of Jesus; though their authority and influence were greatly restrained by the superior power of the Roman empire.
3.) If the Jewish nation had continued to subsist in their former power and splendour,. some evidences of the truth of the Christian religion had not been so cogent as they are: for now the temple, built after the return from Babylon, where the promised Messiah was to appear, is in ruins therefore he is already come. The Jewish tribes and families are confounded, and it is impossible any Messiah should arise now, who can be known to be of the tribe of Judah and the family of David. In a word, if the Jewish commonwealth and temple still subsisted, all the preceding arguments, taken from their afflictive circumstances, would be weakened: but that is neither for their, nor our benefit. That it is not for ours is manifest; nor is it for theirs: for it is conducive to their best interest, that the evidences of Christianity should be strong and affecting; that they may be provoked to jealousy, and all Israel may be saved; that is, that the prejudices, which they are so apt to indulge may be weakened and removed; and that all who can be persuaded, may be disposed to embrace the truth as it is in Jesus, and receive him as the Messiah.
I say then, have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. But rather through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.-Rom. xi. 11.
III. BEFORE I Conclude this argument I choose to mention a few remarks and observations, which I hope may be of some use.
1. The argument afforded us for the truth of our religion from the subsistence and afflictive circumstances of the Jewish people was not absolutely necessary; but yet it was expedient, and is very useful.
It was not absolutely necessary: for though the Jewish nation had been long ago extinct; that is, though they had not now been a distinct people, but had been lost and mingled with other nations, so that no remains of them had been now observable, following any of the ordinances of the law of Moses; yet we should have had sufficient evidence of the truth of the
• See Josephus at the end of his first book against Appion, and compare Tacitus, Hist. book V. near the beginning,
Christian religion, or that Jesus is the Christ, and his doctrine from heaven. This we could have been assured of from our Lord's character, the excellence of his principles, his miracles, his resurrection, and other particulars, well known, and formerly mentioned.
But yet this argument, from the being and afflictive circumstances of the Jewish people, was expedient, and is very useful; as abundantly appears from the considerations which have been insisted on in the discourses upon this subject.
2. We may likewise observe, that some evidences of the truth of the Christian religion are not weakened, but do rather gain force by length of time.
A history of facts may be thought to lose some degree of credibility in a long tract of time: and therefore it might be feared, that the evangelical history might some time suffer upon that account but indeed it is so circumstanced, and has in it so many internal characters of truth, and is so supported by external testimonies of various kinds, that its credit must remain to the latest ages inviolable.
However it is sufficient that this kind of evidence remains as it is; but then some other evidence advances and gains strength by time.
Christ assured Peter that he would build his church upon a rock, and "that the gates of hell should not prevail against it," Matt. xvi. 18. The longer Christianity has a being in the world, the fulfilment of that promise is the more remarkable, and the foreknowledge of Christ the more conspicuous; especially considering what oppositions of various kinds, in all ages, are made against this doctrine; some by force, and some by art and sophistry: and considering likewise the weakness and inconstancy of mankind, and that some, who in name are friends, weaken the interest they profess to uphold.
When a certain woman, not long before our Lord's removal out of this world, opened a very precious vessel of ointment, and poured it upon his head, some had indignation, and seemed to think it too great and expensive a mark of respect: but he answered them: " Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also that which this woman has done be told for a memorial of her," Matt. xxvi. 6—13. And every time this portion of scripture is read, especially in late ages, it establishes the belief of our Lord's great character.
Jesus often spoke of many coming " from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," Matt. viii. 11; that is, to partake of the privileges of the gospel, and the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom. So long therefore as there are Gentiles in the world, who thankfully embrace the gospel, this declaration is fulfilled. And the longer it is since these words were spoken, the more are they verified. And every accession to the church of Christ from among ignorant and darkened Gentiles is a fresh confirmation of the truth of his doctrine.
The dispersion of the Jews, the longer it lasts, still more and more does it strengthen the evidences of the Christian religion; it is the more remarkable: it is a plainer and a more affecting token of divine displeasure against them. The greater assurance does it afford that the Messiah is already come: and the more impossible is it rendered for any man to prove himself of the tribe of Judah, and the family of David, whence the Messiah was to arise. For these reasons their present dispersion is prolonged, and may be duly attended to by all to whom the consideration of it may be of use !
3. These things ought also to be considered as warnings to us.
Paul, the apostle more especially of the Gentiles, fails not to make this use of the argument he is upon: "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches: but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then: the branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he spare not thee," Rom. xi. 17-23.
In the subject we have been treating of there is not only an argument for the truth of our religion, but likewise an admonition to us to take heed to ourselves: for from us too the glory may depart, if we improve not our privileges. The seven churches of Asia, in the Reve
See Whitby upon Matt. viii. 11, 12.
lation, were warned, and most of them threatened with the removal of their candlestick; unless they speedily repented, and did the first works. Many Christian churches, planted by apostles of Jesus, and watered by their fellow-labourers, have fallen to decay and ruin. The name and title of Christian will not save particular persons in the day of judgment. Nor will the name of Jesus, or Christian alone, secure churches and societies in this world. There should be not only the leaves of a fair profession, but also fruits of love and peace, and all the branches of righteousness and true holiness. Christians should have heavenly minds, and their lives should be adorned with acts of meekness, patience, self-denial, and zeal for each other's welfare. With such Christ will dwell. They honour him, and he will honour them with a distinguished care and protection.
4. From this argument we may be able to form some judgment concerning the general conversion of the Jews. It is not a likely thing: if ever it is to be, there does not appear good reason to think it nigh.
It is not a likely thing, considering that their prejudices are still very great and strong, and have been so all along from the beginning; notwithstanding the great care of the apostles of Jesus, and other zealous preachers of the gospel, to remove them.
If ever there is to be a general conversion of the Jews, there is no good reason to think it near at hand. The advantages afforded to believers in Jesus as the Christ, from the dispersion and afflictive circumstances of the Jewish people, in their argument for the truth of their religion, lead us to this apprehension. So long as there remain great numbers of Gentile people unconverted to the faith of Jesus, who are strangers to God, and his Christ: so long as there is, and is likely to be, a strenuous opposition made by many, several ways, against the Christian doctrine: so long, it is likely, the Jews will remain, and continue to be a distinct people, scattered abroad upon the face of the earth: forasmuch as their subsistence in that manner tends mightily to awaken men, and to confirm and strengthen divers arguments for the truth of the Christian religion.
Nor is there any injustice done them herein: as they at first generally rejected Jesus, they were justly rejected and cast off as a people: but still by the faith and reception of the Gentiles, they are called upon and excited to believe in Jesus: and whenever any of them are awakened, convinced, and converted, they shall be accepted.
St. Paul's argument in this context leads us into this way of thinking: "Have they stumbled, that they should fall? By no means. But rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
And his words at the twenty-fifth verse of the chapter may be reckoned strong to this purpose: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceit: that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in:" that is, as an admired expositor paraphraseth the verse: For to 'prevent your being conceited of yourselves, my brethren, let me make known unto you what has been yet undiscovered to the world; that the blindness, which has fallen upon a part of 'Israel, shall remain upon them but till the time come, wherein the whole Gentile world shall 'enter into the church, and make profession of Christianity.'
This may be the thing intended by our Lord, when he says: "And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," Luke xxi. 24.
As for St. Paul's words at the twenty-sixth verse, they are understood by some in this manner: "And so all Israel shall be saved:" And so all Israel shall be converted to the 'Christian faith, and the whole nation become the children of God:' that is, when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in.
But I rather think the meaning to be: In this way, according to this method of Divine 'Providence, all good and well-disposed men, both Jews and Gentiles, will be saved; that is, 'will be brought into the way of salvation, taught by the gospel; or will embrace the means of 'salvation proposed therein; the Jews being all along provoked to emulation by the Gentiles, and the Gentiles being confirmed in their faith by the circumstances of the Jewish people.'
See Lightfoot's Works, vol. I. p. 375, 376.
Locke as before.
* Πανία δε Ισραηλ καλει τις πιςευονίας, είτε εξ ιεδαίων
ειεν, την φυσικήν συγγένειαν προς τον Ισραηλ εχοντες, είτε εξ εθνων, κατα την της πίσεως ευγένειαν αυτῷ συναπτόμενος Theodoret in loc. T. 3. p. 91. D.
However this seems evident, that as in past ages the Jews had been of great service in upholding religion in the world, and from them at length it was brought to the Gentiles; so, if in the end the Jews are converted to the faith of Christ, it will be through the Gentiles: and probably, upon some more general conversion of them than has yet been. So says St. Paul: "For as ye,' Gentiles," in time past have not believed in God, yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy," Rom. xi. 30, 31.
And possibly we may now perceive, that some notions concerning the conversion of the Jews are false and groundless, or at best doubtful and uncertain. For some imagine, that upon their general conversion to the Christian faith, they will be established again in the Aand of Judea, and that Jerusalem, with its temple, will be rebuilt with great splendour and magnificence.
But that supposition is liable to many difficulties and objections. Should their ancient polity be restored, and they be a distinct people in the land of Israel, separate from all the other people of the earth? The gospel revelation does not encourage such a state of things: and therefore it is not reasonable to expect it should be brought in by extraordinary interpositions of Providence, under the dispensation of the Messiah.
Should they sacrifice again, as in times past? The law of Moses is no longer in force, and the sacrifices appointed therein are below the dignity of the gospel institution.
Moreover our Lord plainly declared, that all distinctions of places should cease under the gospel and that worship would no longer be peculiarly acceptable at Jerusalem, or any other city.
The continued subsistence of a large body of the Jewish people in several parts of the world, and the present desolation of their country, or the small number of inhabitants therein, are thought by some to amount to a strong argument that they shall themselves return thither, and take possession of it again. But from what has been now said it appears that the fore-mentioned state of things answers very valuable ends and purposes: though the Jewish people should never be reinstated in their ancient inheritance.
It is likely therefore, that whenever there is a general conversion of the Jews to the faith of Jesus, they will become Christians indeed, and their fondness for the rites of the Mosaic law will cease that they and the Gentiles may become one people, and one sheepfold under Christ, the universal Lord of the church, the Saviour, and the Bishop of souls.
Such an event we have good reason to wish and pray for, that the fulness of the Gentiles may be brought in, and that then the blindness, which in part has long happened to the Jewish people, may be entirely removed.
In the mean time we should both labour for the conversion of ignorant Gentiles, and do what lies in our power to provoke the people of the Jews to jealousy by the simplicity of our worship, the purity of our faith, and the goodness of our lives.
5. We must be hence induced to admire the exceeding riches of the wisdom and goodness of God, who has graciously afforded mankind in all ages, helps for knowing the great truths of religion.
God ever spoke to all in the voice of reason.
When that was not duly attended to, and the
a See the sentiments of Origen and Chrysostom, and others, in Grotius upon Luke xxi. 24. And see Lightfoot's Works, vol. I. p. 375-377. and p. 737, 738. What was Eusebius's sentiment upon this point, may be seen in his Commentaries upon the Psalms, not published till since the time of Grotius, Διδασκονται ευχεσθαι τυχειν της απο των εθνων συναγωγής, ιν' ηδη ποτε της διασπορας απαλλαγενίες επί το αυτο συναχθύσιν· ύπερ ιεδαίοι μεν φανταζονται μελλειν εσεσθαι αν τῷ παρόντι βίῳ, επίς απλώς αυτοίς τ8 ηλειμμενε. ημεις δε κ.λ. Euseb. in Psalm 105. al. 106. ver. 47, 48, p. 690. edit. Montf.
bNot that Jerusalem should be built again, when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, which the Jews conceit :
^ nor that then the Jews should be unblindfolded, and become
a gospel-church, as the Gentiles had been. For what a
strange world does such a supposal imagine? And how
' often does the gospel gainsay such distinctiveness and pecu
liarity?' Lightfoot, vol. I. p. 377. The same author says, That the calling of the Jews shall be in the places of their ' residence among Christians; and that their calling shall not cause them to change place, but condition.' p. 738.
I have not denied that there will be a general conversion of the Jewish people. Nor would I be understood to be positive, that they shall never return to the land of Canaan: though I have mentioned some difficulties attending the supposition. And if indeed they are some time not only to be converted, but also restored; I am persuaded that their restoration will be accomplished in a manner becoming the divine majesty, and that all people will rejoice therein. I am moreover of opinion, that if ever this be brought about, their worship thenceforward will be entirely spiritual and evangelical..