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The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee; the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee,' &c.-ix. l, 3, 5, &c.
It is as absurd as it is vain in the Jews to apply these prophecies to the proselytes whom they have gained among the nations ; for the number of their proselytes was very inconsiderable, and nothing to answer these pompous descriptions. Neither was their religion ever designed by its founder for an universal religion, their worship and sacrifices being confined to one certain place, whither all the males were obliged to repair thrice every year; so that it was plainly calculated for a particular people, and could never become the religion of the whole world. There was indeed to be a religion, which was designed for all nations, to be preached in all, and to be received in all : but what prospect or probability was there, that such a generous institution should proceed from such a narrowminded people as the Jews, or that the Gentiles, who hated and despised them, should ever receive a religion from them? Was it not much more likely, that they should be corrupted by the example of all the nations around them, and be induced to comply with the polytheism and idolatry of some of their powerful neighbours and conquerors, to which they were but too much inclined of themselves; was not this, I say, much more likely, than that they should be the happy instruments of reforming the world, and converting some of all nations to the worship of the one only God in spirit and in truth?
But the prophet farther intimates, that this great revolution, the greatest that ever was in the religious world, should be effected by a few incompetent persons, and effected too in a short compass of time. “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time,'--\x. 22. Our Saviour's commission to his apostles was, 'Go teach all nations :' and who were the persons to whom this commission was given ? those who were best qualified and able to carry it into execution ? the rich, the wise, the mighty of this world ? No, they were chiefly a few poor fishermen, of low parentage and education, of no learning or eloquence, of no policy or address, of no repute or authority, despised as Jews by the rest of niankind, and as the meanest and worst of Jews by the Jews themselves. And what improper persons were these to contend with the prejudices of all the world, the superstitions of the people, the interests of the priests, the vanity of philosophers, the pride of rulers, the malice of the Jews, the learning of Greece, and the power of Rome !
As this revolution was effected by a few incompetent persons, so was it effected too in a short compass of time. After our Saviour's ascension the number of disciples together was about a hundred and twenty,'-Acts, i. 15, but they soon increased and multiplied ; the first sermon of St. Peter added unto them about three thousand souls.'- ii. 41, and the second made up the number about five thousand,'-iv. 4. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, in the space of about forty years, the gospel was preached in almost every region of the world then known : and in the reign of Constantine, Christianity became the religion of the empire; and after having suffered a little under Julian, it entirely prevailed and triumphed over paganism and idolatry; and still prevails in the most civilized and improved parts of the earth. All this was more than man could foresee, and much more than man could execute; and we experience the good effects of these prophecies at the present day. The speedy propagation of the gospel could not have been effected by persons so unequal to the task, if the same divine Spirit who foretold it, had not likewise assisted them in it, according to the pro mise, ' I the Lord will hasten it in his time. We may be as certain as if we had seen it, that the truth really was, as the evangelist affirms, Mark, xvi. 20,- They went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following:
But neither the prophecies concerning the Gentiles, nor those concerning the Jews, have yet received their full and entire completion. Our Saviour hath not yet had the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession,'-—Psal. i. 8; all the ends of the world' have not yet ‘turned unto the Lord,'—xxii. 27; 'all people, nations, and languages,' have not yet ‘served him,'-Dan. vii. 14. These things have hitherto been only partially, but they will even literally be fulfilled. Neither are the Jews yet made an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations,'-Is. Ix. 15. The time is not yet come, when violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within their borders,' -ver. 18; God's promises to them are not yet made good in their full extent: 'Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, ani bring them into their own land. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, even they and their children, and their children's children for ever, and my servant David shall be their prince for ever,'—Ezek. xxxvii. 21, 25. •Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, who caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen; but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them, for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God,'xxxix. 28, 29. However, what hath already been accomplished is a sufficient pledge and earnest of what is yet to come: and we have all imaginable reason to believe, since so many of these prophecies are fulfilled, that the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled also; that there will be yet a greater harvest of the nations, and the yet unconverted parts of the earth will be enlightened with the knowledge of the Lord ; that the Jews will in God's good time be converted to Christianity, and upon their conversion be restored to their native city and country: and especially since the state of affairs is such, that they may return without much difficulty, having no dominion, no settled country, or fixed property to detain them much any where. We have seen the prophecy of Hosea fulfilled in part, and why should we not believe that it will be fulfilled in the whole? The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image (or altar,) and without an ephod (or priest to wear an ephod,) and without teraphim (or divine manifestations.) Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.'-iii. 4, 5.
We have now exhibited a summary view of the prophecies of the Old Testament more immediately relative to the present state and condition of the Jews: and what stronger and more convincing arguments can you require of the truth both of the Jewish and of the Christian religion? The Jews were once the peculiar people of God: and, as St. Paul saith, Rom. xi. 1,– Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.' We see that after so many ages they are still preserved by a miracle of providence a distinct people; and why is such a continual miracle exerted, but for the greater illustration of the divine truth, and the better accomplishment of the divine promises, as well those which are yet to be, as those which are already fulfilled? We see that the great empires, which in their turns subdued and oppressed the people of God, are all come to ruin ; because though they executed the purposes of God, yet that was more than they understood; all that they intended was to satiate their own pride and ambition, their own cruelty and revenge. And if such hath been the fatal end of the enemies and oppressors of the Jews, let it serve as a warning to all those, who at any time or upon any occasion are for raising a clamour and persecution against them. They are blameable no doubt for persisting in their infidelity, after so many means of conviction ; but this is no warrant or authority for us to proscribe, to abuse, injure, and oppress them, as Christians of more zeal than either knowledge or charity have in all ages been apt to do. “Charity is greater than faith :' and it is worse in us to be cruel and uncharitable, than it is in them to be obstinate and unbelieving. Persecution is the spirit of popery, and in the worst of popish countries the Jews are the most cruelly used and persecuted: the spirit of protestanism is toleration and indulgence to weaker consciences. Compassion to this unhappy people is not to defeat the prophecies; for only wicked nations were to harass and oppress them, the good were to shew mercy to them; and we should choose rather to be the dispensers of God's mercies than the executioners of his judgments. Read the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and see what the great apostle of the Gentiles, who certainly understood the prophecies better than any of us can pretend to do, saith of the infidelity of the Jews. Some of the Gentiles of his time valued themselves upon their superior advantages, and he reproves them for it, that they who were cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and were graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree,' should presume to boast against the natural branches,'—ver. 24, 18; but what would he have said, how would he have flamed and lightened, if they had inade religion an instrument of faction, and had been for stirring up a persecution against them? We should consider, that to them we owe the oracles of God, the scriptures of the New Testamentas well as the Old ; we should consider, that' the glorious company
of the apostles,' as well as the goodly fellowship of the prophets,' were Jews; we should consider, that of them as concerning the flesh Christ came,' the Saviour of the world: and surely something of kindness and gratitude is due for such infinite obligations. Though they are now broken off, yet they are not utterly cast away. Because of unbelief,' a3 St. Paul argues, ver. 20,- they were broken off, and thou standest by faith : Be not high-minded, but fear.' There will be a time when they will be graffed in again, and again become the people of God; for as the apostle proceeds, ver. 25, 26,—I would not brethren that ye should be ignorant of this mystery (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved.' And which (think ye) is the most likely method to contribute to their conversion, which are the most natural means to reconcile them to us and our religion, prayer, argument, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness; or noise and invective, injury and outrage, the malice of some, and the folly and madness of more? They cannot be worse than when they crucified the Son of God, and persecuted his apostles : but what saith our Saviour, Luke xxii. 34,-- Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do :' what saith his apostle, St. Paul ? Rom. x. 1,-· Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.' In conformity to these blessed examples, our church hath also taught us to pray for them: and how can prayer and persecution consist and agree together? They are only pretended friends to the church, but real enemies to religion, who encourage persecution of any kind. All true sons of the church, all true protestants, all true Christians will, as the apostle adviseth, Eph. iv. 31,-put away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speak ing, with all malice;' and will join heart and voice in that excellent collect— Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word : and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.'
THE PROPHECIES CONCERNING NINEVEH.
AS the Jews were the peculiar people of God, the prophets were sent to them chiefly, and the main subject of the prophecies are the various changes and revolutions in the Jewish church and state. But the spirit of prophecy is not limited there; other subjects are occasionally introduced ; and for the greater manifestation of the divine providence, the fate of other nations is also foretold : and especially of those nations, which lay in the neighbourhood of Judea, and had intercourse and connections with the Jews; and whose good or ill fortune therefore was of some concern and consequence to the Jews