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done by his apostles, and others, preaching to the Jews and Gentiles, in his name, and under his authority.
Beside all this, we have, as I apprehend, a great advantage in the argument for the truth of our religion, from that state of things which was formerly taken notice of: and I shall now endeavour to show it under the following particulars.
1. It was foretold by our Lord.
2. It is agreeable to many prophecies in the Old Testament.
3. The present state of the Jewish people affords reason to believe, that the Messiah is already come.
4. The time and circumstances of the present captivity and dispersion of the Jewish people, afford an argument for the truth of the christian religion.
5. The subsistence of the Jewish people to this time affords an attestation to divers things upon which some evidences of the christian religion depend.
1. This state of things, with regard both to Jews and Gentiles, was foretold by our Lord : and, as the event has been agreeable to what he said long ago, it shows, that he was a prophet. It also demonstrates the truth and justness of all his claims; not only, that he came from God, but that he was the Christ, as he said.
When the centurion had expressed a remarkable faith in the
power of our Lord to heal his sick servant at a distance, “ he said to them that followed : I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.
And I say unto you,
many shall come from the east, and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven," Matt. viii. 10--12. See also Luke xiii, 29. How unlikely was this! How little prospect was there at that time, that great numbers of Gentiles in all quarters of the world, should believe in God and his Christ, whom he had sent! But yet that saying of our Lord has been abundantly fulfilled. The truth of his words appeared soon after, and they have been fulfilling to this day. The
reception of the Gentiles, with the dislike and resentment of the Jewish people, is evidently represented in the parable of the prodigal son, who upon his repentance is most kindly received by the father : but the elder son, meaning the Jewish people, the natural posterity of Jacob, is offended, and will not come in, Luke xv.
The rejection of the Jewish people, who had been long harren and unfruitful to a great degree, and were still likely to neglect the best means of improvement, is set before them
by our Lord very intelligibly, though with as little offence as might be; which is agreeable to all the rules both of wisdom and goodness." He spake also this parable," says
“ ” the evangelist : “ A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard," Luke xii. 6, 7; that is, in some inclosed spot of ground, where it was well situated and defended. And he came, and sought fruit and found none.
Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard: Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none, Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground ?"
And in like manner in some other parables representing their great and imminent danger of ruin, and also setting forth the justness and fitness of the sentence to be pronounced upon them if they should not repent; if they should still continue unfruitful after enjoying the best means of improvement, and should withal oppose and abuse the messengers of God sent from time to time to warn and reclaim them. “ Then began he to speak unto the people this
. parable: a certain man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.-And at the season he sent a servant unto the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty,” Luke xx. 9–16. In like manner did they unto others who were sent unto them. At length the lord of the vineyard sent his son: but him they “ cast out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He will come and destroy those husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others,” compare Matt. xxi. 33-41.
Our blessed Lord, all whose other miracles were healing and beneficent, with a view to the advantage of that people, if by any means they might be alarmed and persuaded, constrained himself to speak one word of malediction, a sentence of condemnation upon a barren fig tree, and with surprising effect. He was going to Jerusalem: “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it: Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever: and presently the fig tree withered away,” Matt. xxi. 19. A miracle that was emblematical and prophetical, signifying the affecting and speedy ruin and desolation of the Jewish nation, if they out-sinned the day of trial allotted them, and persisted to neglect and abuse the means of salvation afforded them.
We have in our Lord's discourses divers predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the calamities attending
it: and the event has shown the truth of his prophetical character.
It should be also observed by us, that those predictions were publicly spoken in the hearing of many people; not of the disciples only: and they were delivered with such marks of affection and tenderness, and contained so distinct and so moving a description of impending calamities, that nothing could have been better suited and adapted to prevent them, by inducing men to repent: and if they did not repent, he assured them, that "then would be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to that time, no nor ever shall be,” Matt. xxiv. 21. And when he was led away to be crucified, " and there followed him a great company of people, and of women, who also bewailed him and lamented him, Jesus turning unto them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.--For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?” Luke xxiii. 26-31.
And we plainly perceive by his words, that the desolation, which he foresaw, would be of a long duration, as we also see in the event: which added to his concern for that people. It was not a single judgment, a calamity of one day, though great and terrible, but a long scene of affliction and darkness, which he foretold and bewailed. “ And when he was come nigh, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying: If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes,” Luke xix. 41, 42. And,“ how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings! and ye would not: Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,” Matt. xxiij. 37, 38. Once more, " then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it, (meaning the city of Jerusalem,] depart out, and let not them that are in the country enter therein: for these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. For there shall be great distress in the land, and much wrath upon this people: and they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,” Luke xxi. 21–24.
The great and punctual accomplishment of these and other words of our Lord, concerning the sad ruin, the wide dispersion, and long captivity of the Jewish people, afford a strong argument for the truth of the christian religion ; and assure us, that Jesus spoke with divine authority, and that the doctrine taught by him, and contained in the New Testament, the writings of his apostles, and their faithful companions, is true and of God.
2. The state of things, formerly observed, is also conformable to ancient prophecies found in the books of Moses and other parts of the Old Testament.
In those books are contained prophecies of the general conversion of the nations of the earth to the acknowledgment and service of the one living and true God, delivered when the worship of God was confined to the one nation of the Jews alone, or to a few men only, their patriarchs and ancestors, and a very small number besides. The way or means, by which this blessing should be conveyed to the world, was also intimated. To Abraham it was declared, that in him, that is, through him and his posterity, all nations, or families of the earth should be blessed : that confines the accomplishment of the promise to his family; some one or more of which must be the author, or authors and instruments of this general blessing. The same promise is solemnly renewed to Jacob. Gen. xxviii. 14. Afterwards there were prophecies delivered, containing limitations and restrictions relating to the tribe of Judah, and the family of David. The descendants of Abraham in genera', or many of them, may some way contribute to this design: but the tribe of Judah and the family of David are often spoken of with special regard. In Isaiah particularly, it is foretold : “ There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots - In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek,” Isa. xi. 1, 2, 11. Again, “ I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayst be my salvation unto the ends of the earth," ch. xlix. 6. And it is out of the tribe of Judah, and the family of David, that our Lord arose: and by him, as is manifest, the knowledge of God has been spread over the earth; and the promise made to Abraham, that “ in him all the families of the earth should be blessed,” has been fulfilled.
But beside this there are intimations given in the Old Testament, that when this event should happen, the Jewish people would be in some circumstances which are disadvantageous.
Observable are the words of our Lord when he foretells the destruction of Jerusalem. “ For these be the days of
vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled,” Luke xxi. 22. It is not improbable, that our Lord has here an especial reference to some prophecies in the book of Daniel, relating particularly to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, which he foresaw, and was then speaking of; but he might also have an eye to some other parts of scripture: and we may without much difficulty perceive divers things said in the Old Testament, which are prophetical, not only of the destruction of Jerusalem, but likewise of the long captivity and dispersion which were to ensue.
Jacob foretelling the condition of his posterity in future times, says, “ Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise. Thy hand shall be upon the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down unto thee,” Gen. xlix. 8. The tribe of Judah, as we find from the history of the people of Israel, usually had some distinction among the rest. At length David and his descendants, who were of that tribe, sat upon the throne of government among them: and from Judah the kingdom of the two tribes was called : and indeed from that tribe all Israelites in general were styled Jews.
It follows in the place just cited : “ The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be,” ver. 10. The sense of which prophecy may be briefly taken in this manner : * The royal power and authority, which shall be established in the posterity of • Judah, shall not be taken from them; or at least they shall • not be destitute of rulers and governors; no, not when • they are in a declining condition, until the coming of the • Messiah : but when he is come, there shall be no dis• tinction between the Jews and other nations who shall be
obedient to the Messiah : and after that the posterity of • Judah and people of the Jews shall have neither king nor
ruler of their own, but the commonwealth of Judah shall • lose all form of civil government and authority.'
This we know to have happened about the time of our Saviour's coming. From David to the Babylonish captivity that tribe held the sceptre for several ages. After seventy years captivity the Jews returned to Judea, or the land of Canaan, where they lived again according to their own laws: their temple was rebuilt, and they sacrificed and worshipped there, for the most part, with great freedom, according to the appointments of the law of Moses. They
• See Patrick upon the place.