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"There are now great numbers of men in the world, in various kingdoms, states and governments, in countries near and afar off
, professing faith in Jesus as the Christ, who are not the natural descendants of Abraham and the ancient patriarchs.
These people called Christians, of Gentile stock and original, declare themselves worshippers of the one living and true God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who delivered the law by Moses, and often spake unto the children of Israel by the prophets.
And as they are worshippers of the one true God, they are likewise free from all that kind of idolatry which once prevailed universally in the world, and into which the Jewish people themselves formerly were often seduced and perverted. They worship not, as gods, the sun, or the moon, or the stars: nor Baal, nor Saturn, nor any other of the gods of the people of the East, or of the Egyptians, or of the Greeks and Romans, or of any of the countries of the Barbarians in the northern parts of the world.
Nor are they only worshippers of the one living and true God, the God of the people of Israel, but they also receive the scriptures of the Old Testament, delivered in a succession of ages, at divers times, to the descendants of Abraham and Israel. They believe them to be the writings of men, animated and inspired by the Spirit of God, and have them in equal veneration with the Jewish people themselves.
Moreover they highly respect and honour not only the patriarchs and Moses and the prophets, but likewise all the worthies of the ancient dispensation, who walked with God, and in the main were upright in his sight, and steadfast in his covenant.
These Christian people differ indeed from the Jews in receiving a person as a great and eminent prophet, whom the Jews reject : but yet their regard for that prophet, whom they call the Christ, or the Messialı, is very much owing to their respect for those ancient scriptures in which they think he is foretold and promised.
And though they do not conform to all the ordinances of the law of Moses, they allow and believe his law and his whole institution to have been of divine appointment, wisely designed, and of great use, as the state of things in the world then was. And with cheerfulness and zeal they assert and maintain against all opposers the divine authority of that dispensation. They are likewise sometimes almost compelled to wonder, that the Jewish people of old, who had such a law, should forsake God, and depart from his worship, so often as they did.
And, which is very considerable, they do not make void the law of Moses, but establish it. For their religion strictly requires obedience to all the moral laws of righteousness and true holiness therein delivered, and upon which the greatest stress is there laid: which righteousness is so elegantly and copiously taught and recommended in the books of Job, the Psalms, and the Proverbs : in comparison of which the latter prophets openly declared ritual observances to be of little value, and without it useless and offensive. Insomuch that the substance of the Christian religion is no other, than what has been accounted true religion by Moses and the prophets, by · all the righteous men, and wise and pious princes, that ever were.
This is what is inculcated in their religious assemblies, and enforced from the consideration of everlasting rewards and punishments in a future state; more forcible motives, than the hope or fear of temporal rewards and penalties in the present life.
Nor do they neglect to improve the instances of faith and piety recorded in the Old Testament: though more especially they dwell upon the shining example of perfect virtue in the life and death of Jesus, their great Lord and Master.
As hereby men are trained up in great numbers to true and eminent virtue, they cannot but look upon themselves as the true Israel, “ who worship God in the spirit, and have no confidence in unnecessary, ritual appointments,” Phil. iii. 3. And the righteousness, principally required in the law, is better fulfilled by them who have the religion of Jesus, than it was by those who had only the institution of Moses, Rom. viii. 4.
And indeed the religion of Christians is that of Abraham, according to which he was justified, without the peculiarities of the law of Moses: and it is a character which they are pleased with, and boast of, that through Jesus Christ they are become, according to the Spirit, the chil. dren of faithful Abraham; and are justified and accepted of God as he was.
Nor ought it to be forgotten, that as the disciples and followers of Jesus do not take upon them the yoke of the ritual ordinances of the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation ; so neither
have they introduced any other like ordinances in their stead. At least they profess, that Jesus, whom they own for the Messiah, has no such ordinances in his religion : excepting two only, both plain and simple; one initiatory to a profession of faith in him, and of obedience to his law; the other commemorative of his love, who freely laid down his life, though spotless and innocent, as a testimony to the truth of that important doctrine, which he had taught and recommended to mankind.
These are the followers of Jesus. These are Christians, who now do, and for a long time have flourished, and been numerous and considerable.
In the next place we are to observe the state of the Jews; the natural posterity of Jacob, who reject Jesus, and do not allow him to be the Messiah, the great prophet and deliverer, foretold and promised in many parts, and in almost every book of the Old Testament..
They also are in great numbers, some in almost every province and kingdom of the known world. They are numerous, but not a people. They have a being, but they dwell not in the land of Canaan, which had been given them for an inheritance. They have no power and authority, no empire, no civil government, scarce * a right and privilege to possess the smallest. tract or territory of land in any part of the world.
Nor have they any temple: for their stately temple, once glorious in outward appearance, still more glorious for the especial presence of the Divine Majesty, and the frequent manifesta-tions he there made of himself: the temple, I say, where their tribes were to assemble, where alone, according to the law of Moses, sacrifices were to be offered, is in ruins, or rather is no more: without any traces of it remaining, but the remembrance of the place where it once was.
Other tokens of the divine favour are also wanting. They have not the Urim.and Thummim of the priesthood, nor any vision, or prophecy, nor voice or word from God to direct or comfort them. " Prophecy and vision, in ancient times frequent, or even constant, are now not only rare and uncommon, but altogether unknown among them. Learned Rabbies, and traditionary teachers they may have: but what prophet can they boast of, as theirs, since the time of Jesus ; who truly was a Prophet mighty in word and deed, and, as we say, the looked for and promised Messiah, but despised and crucified by them?
Such is the state of things in the world, with regard to Christians, the followers of Jesus; and the Jews, who reject him..
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,
II. I am now in the second place, as formerly proposed, to shew what advantages Christians have in the argument for the truth of their religion, from this state of things; and particularly from the afflictive circumstances of the Jewish people, who reject the Lord Jesus, and believe not in him as the promised Messiah..
We know Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour that should come into the world, from the fulfilment of many ancient prophecies in his person and ministry, from the con-sideration of the perfection and excellence of his doctrine, the unspotted purity and holiness of his life, the proofs he gave of wonderful knowledge and understanding : from his many miraculous works, his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven, and from the mighty works done by his apostles, and others, preaching to the Jews and Gentiles, in his naine, and under his authority:
Beside all this, we have, as I appreniend, 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 shew it under the following particulars..
1. It was foretold by our Lord.
• If they have a right to purchase and possess lands of inheritance in some places, I suppose in but a few only, and there
by some special favour and indulgence,
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 shews, 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, that 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 barren 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 xiii. 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 cunibereth 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 shewn 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, than 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 shal) 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. xxiii. 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 dawn 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. 11. 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 general, 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 mayest 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 foretels 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 foren saw, 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 stiled 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 4 are in a declining condition, until the coming of the Messiah: but when he is come, there shall • be no distinction 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 the 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 were a distinct people, and had among them civil government and authority: but at the time of our Lord's birth, and afterwards, they were in some measure subject to the Romans: and the Jewish power and authority declined, till it was quite abolished and overthrown by the emperors Vespasian and Titus, about forty years after our Lord's ascension : and so it has been to this day.
Moses assured the people of Israel : “ The Lord thy God will raise thee up a Prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: unto him shall ye hearken, Deut. xviii. 15. And God himself said to Moses : “ I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee: and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him," ver. 18, 19.
Some understand this to be an express prophecy concerning the Messiah himself, that great Prophet who would be in an especial manner like unto Meses. Others have supposed it to be a promise of a constant. succession of prophets among them.
Allow this last to be the meaning, it implies a command to hear Jesus, if he were a prophet ; and a threatening of punishment, if he were not heard and obeyed : and that Jesus was a prophet, is evident from testimonials surpassing not only those given to other prophets among them, but even to Moses, himself. Consequently disobedience to him was a thing for which God would certainly reckon with them.
I shall cite a passage or two more out of later prophets. In Daniel it is said: “ Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgressions, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks : the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. And the people of the prince that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant
* See Patrick upon the place.