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obvious meaning. The subject is fully stated in our text, and the verses immediately connected with it. The dispersion and misery of the people, after the destruction of their city (that is, as I think, and shall endeavour to prove in its place, their present dispersion), being largely predicted up to verse 39, it is written at verse 40, If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me (here is their acknowledgment of their national guilt,) and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies (here is their recognition of God's hand in their dispersion): if, then, their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity, (here is their submission of heart, acquiescing in, instead of resisting their punishment) then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac; and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember THE LAND. (Here is the promise put conditionally, depending for its fulfilment upon this state of penitence being produced in the nation.) The desolation of the land is reiterated in the next verse (43), and then (44, 45) the promise is put absolutely; that which before was introduced, as waiting for the performance of a condition, being now enumerated among the unconditional certainties, which the Lord God of Israel will surely bring to pass. When they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them;, for I am the Lord thy God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt, in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God. I am the Lord.
The penitence of the nation, while yet dispersed, is declared in the conditional form, in Deuteronomy iv. 27-31. If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God . if thou turn to the Lord thy God ...... &c.; also chapter xxx. 1, 2, 3.
The same is predicted absolutely by Ezekiel, chap. vi. The desolation being described in the early verses, it is written at verse 8, “Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries; and they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives . ... and they shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations; and they shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them.” Also by the prophet Hosea, thus saith the Lord, “I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; i, even I, will tear and go away: I will take away, and none shall rescue him; I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me in the morning. Come, and let us return unto the Lord, for he hath torn, and he will heal us: he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
p.” (v. 14, 15; and vi. 1.) All this language is in itself very clear and simple. Had it been the intention of the Holy Spirit to inform us by the prophets, that the Jews would be brought into a state of penitence, while still dispersed among the nations; that is, that they would confess their sins, and the sins of their fathers before the Lord their God; loathe themselves for their iniquity, discern the immediate hand of Jehovah in their dispersion, and seek unto him for deliverance; and that upon their doing so, He would remember his promise to their fathers, and restore them to the possessions of their fathers:-had it been the intention of the great Inspirer of the prophets thus to write, what more express language can we conceive to be used for the purpose than that which has now been quoted? Suppose that the event should thus take place, that the Jews in every quarter of the world should (as in many places they already do) acknowledge and bewail the sins of their nation, and cry mightily unto their God for deliverance, not merely in the formal language of their Liturgy, borrowed from the writings of their fathers, but in the deep sincerity of their hearts also; and that when this cry became general among them, the miraculous interference of their God and their fathers' God were manifested in their behalf, and Palestine again put into their possession; and suppose an accurate historian subsequently to write a narrative of the events; what more unequivocal language could he use than the language of these prophecies, turned in the past tense?
But is not the language of prophecy figurative? Yes, frequently. Let us then examine what are the figures conveyed by these expressions, they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers; they shall loathe themselves; they shall remember me, and seek my face. If it be alleged, that these and similar words predict those convictions of sin which the people of God, whether Jew or Gentile, should feel in all lands previous and introductory to their conversion, then let us inquire further, what are the figures contained in the preceding expressions of the same prophecies, “I will bring the land into desolation, and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it; and I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you; and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.” (Lev. xxvi. 32, 33.) “Ye shall be plucked out of the land; the Lord shall scatter thee among all
the people.” (Deut. xxviii. 63, 64.) “I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion unto the house of Judah; I, even I, will tear.” (Hosea v. 14.) The people of God among the Gentiles, are still in the habitations of their friends, in the possessions of their fathers; their lands have never been brought to desolation; they have never been plucked from their homes, nor torn as by the fury of a lion. Surely, when it was promised to Abraham, in his old age, that he should have a son, it would not have been so violent an interpretation of the language of that promise, to have said, that the children of his confidential household steward were accounted as his children, and that, therefore, he was to look to the family of Eliezer of Damascus for his heir; as it is to make the language of the prophecies, now before us, to signify the convictions of Gentile sinners, or individual Jews, as distinguished from the nation. In the case of Abraham, we know by the event, that any interpretation which evaded, in the slightest degree, the literal meaning of the words, would have been erroneous; and in the case now before us, we ask, if these preceding expressions of the prophecy, scattered, plucked off the land, torn, be applicable exclusively to the Jewish nation, and to that nation in the literal meaning of the words; upon what principle is it that an arbitrary disruption of the context can be made, and the subsequent expressions of penitence denied a similar application? Either, therefore, first, plucked off the land must be shewn to apply to Gentiles, who have never been plucked off their lands, and individual Jews, who have never had any lands since their dispersion as a nation; or, secondly, they shall confess their iniquity, they shall loathe themselves, they shall remember me, and seek my face, must be acknowledged to apply to the Jewish nation as a nation; or, thirdly, the interpreter must separate what the Holy Ghost has joined.
II. In support of our general position, I appeal, in the second place, to the prayer of Solomon, 2 Chronicles, chap. vi.
Various calamities are supposed as befalling the people; defeat in battle, famine in their land, dispersion among their enemies; and in each case, their confession of sin, and penitent supplication before God, are introduced as the precursors of their deliverance: “If they sin against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near; yet, if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captives, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, we have dealt wickedly; if they return to thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in
the land of their captivity, whither they have cairied them captives, and pray towards their land which thou gavest unto their fathers, and the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name; then hear thou from the heavens, from thy dwelling-place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee."
In connexion with this, as the general principle of the divine dealings, and in further support of the position now before us,
III. I appeal, in the third place, to the histories of the past deliverances of the Jews, whether the first great deliverance of the whole nation, in all its tribes, from Egypt, or the subsequent and smaller deliverances of parts of the nation, out of their respective distresses. In the case of Egypt, we read in the book of Exodus, ii. 23, “It came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry
ир unto God by reason of the bondage; and God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and God looked upon the children of Israel, and had respect unto them.” And in chap. iii. 7, 8, 9, “The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows, and I am come down to deliver them. ... ... Now, therefore, behold the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me..... ” vi. 5, “I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant." To guide us in our interpretation of this transaction, we have it thus recited by Moses in the book of Numbers, xx. 14, 15, 16, when he sent to the king of Edom to solicit his permission to pass through his territory: “Thus saith thy brother Israel: thou knowest all the travel that hath befallen us; how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us and our fathers; and when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt.” The national cry precedes the national deliverance: yea, it is so stated, as if the groaning of the captives had reminded God of his covenant with their fathers, which for a season was forgotten.
After the death of Joshua, and of all the elders who overlived Joshua, and who had seen all the works of the Lord which he had done for Israel; the nation rebelled, and incurred the righteous anger of their heavenly King, for the Lord was their king. For this they were delivered into the hands of
their enemies, to be in subjection to one conqueror after another; Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia, and Eglon king of Moab, and Jabin king of Canaan, and the king of Midian, and the king of the Philistines, who oppressed the Israelites for various periods, from seven years to forty years at a time. Under each of these calamities it is recorded of the nation, that they cried unto the Lord for deliverance; and it was in answer to their cries that he raised up Othniel, and Ehud, and Deborah, and Gideon, and Jephthah, and Samson. To appreciate this reference to their history, the whole Book of Judges should be carefully perused. See particularly chap. x. 10–16. The best comment I can offer upon all this, as applying to the subject before us, is the 107th Psalm, the burden of which is, Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses: the national cry still
preceding the national deliverance.
The national calamity next in order, took place after the rebellion of the ten tribes against the royal family of David, and their establishment as a separate kingdom. They were given up for their idolatry into the hands of the Assyrians, carried away from their land, and scattered among the heathen, where they continue unto this day. Their cry for deliverance has not yet been uttered.
In the history of the kingdom of Judah, we have another instance in corroboration of our argument. The example of the ten tribes was thrown away upon her.
saw, saith the Lord, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.” Jer. iii. 8. For this the two tribes were given up into the hands of the Chaldeans, to be captives in Babylon by the space of seventy years. Here, again, the national cry of penitence preceded the national deliverance from captivity. This was predicted by Jeremiah, (xxix. 10– 14.) “Thus saith the Lord, After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For
* If our present object were to draw practical instruction from this history, much that is deeply important might be observed upon the manner in which Israel's transgressions commenced. They had received commandment from God utterly to drive out the nations of the land before them; but they disobeyed: Judges i. 21, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33. Thus the beginning of their iniquity was a culpable omission of a troublesome duty. Such omissions serve but to increase difficulties; for such duties are never so easily performed after they have been for some time evaded. Procrastination paralyzes the energies of cheerful obedience, and, in the mean time, the neglected duty becomes a snare. The people of the land, thus spared in Israel's neglect, became the fruitful sources of Israel's idolatry. Judges ii. 11, 12.