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for this, and their other idolatry and wickedness, they were suffered to remain in the land of their captivity. The Jews were restored, not so much for their own sakes, as for the sake of the promises made unto the fathers, the promise to Judah that the Messiah should come of his tribe, the promise to David that the Messiah should be born of his family. It was therefore necessary for the tribe of Ju dah, and the families of that tribe, to be kept distinct until the coming of the Messiah. But now these ends are fully answered the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are as much confounded as any of the rest: all distinction of families and genealogies is lost among them : and the Jews* themselves acknowledge as much in saying, that when the Messiah shall come, it will be part of his office “ to sort their families, restore their genealogies, and set aside strangers."
II. The preservation of the Jews through so many ages, and the total destruction of their enemies are wonderful events; and are made still more wonderful by being signified before hand by the spirit of prophecy, as we find particularly in the prophet Jeremiah, xlvi. 28,— Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the Lord, for I am with thee, for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee, but I will not make a full end of thee.'
The preservation of the Jews is really one of the most signal and illustrious acts of divine Providence. They are dispersed among all nations, and yet they are not confounded with any. The drops of rain which fall, nay the great rivers which flow into the ocean, are soon mingled and lost in that immense body of waters : and the same in all human probability would have been the fate of the Jews, they would have been mingled and lost in the common mass of mankind; but on the contrary they flow into all parts of the world, mix with all nations, and yet keep separate from all. They still live as a distinct people, and yet they no where live according to their own laws, no where elect their own magistrates, no where enjoy the full exercise of their religion. Their solemn feasts and sacrifices are limited to one certain place, and that hath been now for many ages in the hands of strangers and aliens, who will not suffer them to come thither. No people have continued unmixed so long as they have done, not only of those who have sent forth colonies into foreign countries, but even of those who have abided in their own country. The northern nations have come in swarms into the more southern parts of Europe : but where are they now
* See Bishop Chandler's Defence of Christianity, chap. 1, sect. 2, p. 38, 3d Edit
to be discerned and distinguished? The Gauls went forth in great bodies to seek their fortune in foreign parts; but what traces or footsteps of them are now remaining any where? In France who can separate the race of the ancient Gauls from the various other people, who from time to time have settled there? In Spain who can distinguish exactly between the first possessors the Spaniards, and the Goths, and the Moors, who conquered and kept possession of the country for some ages? In England who can pretend to say with certainty which families are derived from the ancient Britons, and which from the Romans, or Saxons, or Danes, or Normans ? The most ancient and honourable pedigrees can be traced up only to a certain period, and beyond that there is nothing but conjecture and uncertainty, obscurity and ignorance; but the Jews can go up higher than any nation, they can even deduce their pedigree from the beginning of the world. They may not know from what particular tribe or family they are descended, but they know certainly that they all sprung from the stock of Abraham. And yet the contempt with which they have been treated, and the hardships which they have undergone in almost all countries should, one would think, have made them desirous to forget or renounce their original ; but they profess it, they glory in it, and after so many wars, massacres, and persecutions, they still subsist, they still are very numerous; and what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as none other nation upon earth hath been preserved ?
Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their preservation. For, from the beginning, who have been the great enemies and oppressors of the Jewish nation, removed them from their own land, and compelled them into captivity and slavery? The Egyptians afflicted them much, and detained them in bondage several years. The Assyrians carried away captive the ten tribes of Israel, and the Babylonians afterwards the two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Syro-Macedonians, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, cruelly persecuted them : and the Romans utterly dissolved the Jewish state, and dispersed the people so that they have never been able to recover their city and country again. But where are now these great and famous monarchies, which in their turns subdued and oppressed the people of God ? Are they not vanished as a dream, and not only their power, but their very names lost in the earth ? The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, were overthrown, and entirely subjugated by the Persians : and the Persians, it is re markable, were the restorers of the Jews, as well as the destroyers of their enemies. The Syro-Macedonians were swallowed up by the Romans : and the Roman empire, great and powerful as it was, was broken in pieces by the incursions of the northern nations; while the Jews are subsisting as a distinct people at this day. And what a wonder of providence is it, that the vanquished should so many ages survive the victors, and the former be spread all over the world, while the latter are no more !
Nay, not only nations have been punished for their cruelties to the Jews, but divine vengeance hath pursued even single persons, who have been their persecutors and oppressors. The first born of Pharaoh was destroyed, and he himself with his host was drowned in the sea. Most of those who oppressed Israel in the days of the Judges, Eglon, Jabin and Sisera, Oreb and Zeeb, and the rest, came to an untimely end. Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with madness, and the crown was soon transferred from his family to strangers. Antiochus Epiphanes died in great agonies,* with ulcers and vermin issuing from them, so that the filthiness of his smell was intolerable to all his attendants, and even to himself. Herod, who was a cruel tyrant to the Jews, died in the same miserable manner.4 Flaccus, governor of Egypt, who barbarously plundered and oppressed the Jews of Alexandria, was afterwards banished and slain. I Caligula, who persecuted the Jews for refusing to pay divine honours to his statues, was murdered in the flower of his age, after a short and wicked reign. But where are now, since they have absolutely rejected the gospel, and been no longer the peculiar people of God, where are now such visible manifestations of a divine interposition in their favour? The Jews would do well to consider this point ; for rightly considered, it may be an effectual means of opening their eyes, and of turning them to Christ our Saviour.
III. The desolation of Judea is another memorable instance of the truth of prophecy. It was foretold so long ago as by Moses, Levit. xxvi 33 -1 will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you ; and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.' It was foretold again by Isaiah the prophet, speaking as prophets often do, of things future as present: i. 7, 8, 9,– Your country is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. This passage may relate immediately to the times of Ahaz and Hezekiah ; but it must have a farther reference to the devastations made by the Chaldeans, and especially by the Romans. In this sense it is understood by Justin Martyr, * Tertullian, Jerome, and most ancient interpreters; and the following words imply no less than a general destruction, and almost total excision of the people, such as they suffered under the Chaldæans, but more fully under the Romans : Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.' The same thing was again foretold by Jeremiah; for speaking afterwards of the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the restoration of the Jews in the latter days, he must be understood to speak here of the times preceding, xii. 10,11,— Many pastors (princes or leaders,) have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness; they have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.'
* 2 Maccab. ix. 9. Polybii Fragin. p. 997. Edit Casaubon.
+ Joseph. Antiq. lib. 17, cap. 6, sect. 5, p. 768. De Bell. Jud. lib. 1, cap. 33, sect. 6. p. 1040. Edit. Hudson.
Philo in Flaccum. $ Philo de Legatione ad Caium. Joseph. Antiq. lib.-18, cap. 9, lib. 19. cap. I. Suetonii Calig. cap. 59. Vixit annis XXIX, imperavit triennio et X mensibus, diebusque VIII. Ho lived twezrty-nine years, and reigned three years and ten months, and eight day..]
The same thing is expressed or implied in other places; and haih not the state of Judea now for many ages been exactly answerable to this description ? That a country should be depopulated and desolated by the incursions and depredations of foreign armies is nothing wonderful; but that it should lie so many ages in this miserable condition is more than man could forseee, and could be revealed only by God, A celebrated French writer in his history of the Crusades + pretends to exhibit a true picture of Palestine, and he says, that then “it was just what it is at present, the worst of all the inhabited countries of Asia. It is almost wholly covered with parched rocks, on which there is not one line of soil. If this small territory were cultivated, it might not impro perly be compared to Swisserland.” But there is no need of citing authorities to prove that the land is forsaken of its inhabitants, is uncultivated, unfruitful, and desolate ; for the enemies of our re ligion make this very thing an objection to the truth of our religion. They say that so barren and wretched a country could never have been a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have supplied and maintained such multitudes, as it is represented to have done in scripture. But they do not see or consider, that hereby the prophecies are fulfilled : so that it is rather an evidence for the truth of our religion, than any argument against it.
* Just. Mart. Apol. prima. p. 70. Edit. Thirlbii. Dial. cum Tryphone, p. 169 et 213, Tertull. advers Marcion. lib. 8, cap. 23. p. 411. Edit. Rigaltii, Par. 1675, et alibi. Hieran. in locum, vol. 3, p. 12. Edit Benedict.
+ Voltaire's Hist, not far from the beginning
The country was formerly a good country, if we may believe the concurrent testimony of those who should best know it, the people who inhabited it. Aristeas and Josephus too speak largely in commendation of its fruitfulness :* and though something may be allowed to national prejudices, yet they would hardly have had the confidence to assert a thing, which all the world could easily contradict and disprove. Nay, there are even heathen authors who bear testimony to the fruitfulness of the land : though we presume that after the Babylonish captivity it never recovered to be again what it was before. Strabot describes indeed the country about Jerusalem as rocky and barren, but he commends other parts, particularly about Jordan and Jericho. HecatæusI quoted by Josephus giveth it the character of “one of the best and most fertile countries.” Tacitus saith, that “ it raineth seldom, the soil is fruitful, fruits abound as with us, and besides them the balsam and palm trees.”ŞAnd notwithstanding the long desolation of the land, there are still visible such marks and tokens of fruitfulness, as may convince any man that it once deserved the character which is given of it in scripture. I would only refer the reader to two learned and ingenious travellers of our own nation, Mr. Maundrell and Dr. Shaw; and he will fully be satisfied of the truth of what is here asserted.
* Aristeas, p. 13, 14, Edit Hody. Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. 3, cap. 3, p. 1120. Edit. Hudson.
+ Strabo. lib. 16, p. 761. Edit. Par. p. 1104. Edit. Amstel. p. 755. Edit. Par. p. 1095. Edit. Amstel. p. 763. Edit. Par. p. 1106, Edit. Amstel. 1707.
Joseph. contra Apion, lib. 1, sect. 22. της άρισης και συμφορωτατης χωραςoptimi et feracissimi soli.-p. 1348. Edit. Husdon. Translated in the text.]
Taciti Hist. lib. 5. rari imbres, uher solum. Exuberant fruges nostrum ad morem, præterquo eas, balsamum et palmæ. [Translated in the text]