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descendants, considered nationally, shall assuredly be fulfilled; for the gifts and calling of God are sure, coming from Him, with whom there is no repentance, no change of mind, no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
To see this subject in its full force, we must look back before we look forward. Consider, therefore, 1. The light of Israel previous to Christ's first coming. 2. The darkness of Israel since her rejection of Christ. And 3. The predicted brilliancy and blessedness of Israel, at the second coming of her glorious Messiah.
I. Before the first coming of the Lord Jesus the Jews were the sole depositaries upon earth of the saving knowledge of the true God. They were the chosen channel for the transmission of the promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. And they were the main-spring of what may well be called the divine politics of the world. Truly, we may exclaim with the Prophet, that the nation of Israel has been wonderful from her beginning hitherto.*
They were the sole depositaries upon earth, of the saving knowledge of the true God. In Jewry, saith the Psalmist, is God known, his name is great in Israel. And by the prophet Amos, thus spake the Lord of Hosts to the Jewish nation: You only have I known of all the families of the earth. There is, indeed, a knowledge of God, from which no intelligent creature can be hid. His existence is known, being clearly seen by the things which he hath made; so that all mankind are without
But the wonders of creation tell nothing of the moral character of the Creator, and it is in this alone that saving knowledge consists. This was confined to the Jews. All the other nations upon earth, with whatever degrees of clearness they may have known the existence of God the Creator, glorified him not as God, the moral governor; Neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.t With what animation does the prophet Isaiah expose the idolatry of the nations as contrasted with the state of Israel. Isaiah xliii. 9, 10: Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this and shew us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say,
It is truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know * Isaiah xviii.
+ Rom. i. 21-23.
and believe me, and understand that I am he; before me there was no God formed; neither shall there be after me. And xliv. 9 and 19–22: They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit: and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burnt part of it in the fire; yeu, also, I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it; and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? Remember these, O Jacob and Israel! for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant; 0 Israel! thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins; return unto me, for I have redeemed thee.
St. Paul, in his sermon at Athens, informs us that God winked at that time of ignorance among the nations. Thus we see that the Jews alone were made acquainted with the true God, and bore to the world the relation of God's special witnesses.
They were also the chosen channel for the transmission of the promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. In this sense, most remarkably, salvation is, and has been, of the Jews. The fore-ordained seed of Abraham, to be transmitted from father to son, in the tribe of Judah, in the family of David; and in the fulness of time to be taken of the substance of a virgin of the house and lineage of David, and united to God in the person of the eternal Word—that seed was the shield of a fallen world. There was in the Jewish nation a citadel, rendered impregnable by the predestinating purpose of Jehovah. Satan, successful in all other lands, was forced to feel that there remained a spot upon earth, against which the gates of hell could not prevail; a standing witness of the sovereignty of Him who ruleth after the counsel of his own will, in heaven, earth, and hell; a solitary rose blooming in the midst of a wild howling wilderness, a specimen and an earnest (though a faint one) of what God could make the whole earth, of what the whole earth shall be made when the appointed time shall come; a nation which contained a tribe, which contained a family, which contained the predestinated flesh of the God-Man, the Saviour of the world.
Further, the Jewish nation formed the main spring of what may be called the divine politics of the world. For their
sakes, kings and nations were raised up and cast down by the Lord of Hosts. Hear the philosophy of ancient Jewish history
. revealed by the Holy Ghost; hear, 0 ye Gentiles? and be astonished at the loving-kindness of the God of Israel. His acts of terrific judgment upon Israel's enemies are enumerated in praise of his mercy: because Israel, to whom he was shewing mercy, was his Son, his first-born, higher than the kings of the earth. "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the LORD of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that stretcheth out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever. The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for
The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever: and brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever.
With a strong hand and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him which divideth the Red Sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever. And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever. But overthrew Pharoah and his host in the Red Sea: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: and slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: Sihon, king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever: and Og, the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever: and gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever: even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: and hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. 0 0 give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever."*
Hear, also, what the Lord saith to the king of Assyria: “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the LORD hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion, and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks."* Hear, also, what the LORD saith of Cyrus: “He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, thou shall be built; and to the temple, thy foundations shall be laid. Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the twoleaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut: I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.”+
* Psalm cxxxvi.
It is cheering, strengthening, confirming to the people of God, to know, that what the Jewish nation then was, in this respect, the Christian church is now; that our risen and ascended Lord is head over all things for his church:1 and that all the proceedings of modern statesmen are as directly under his control, and are made as constantly and infallibly subservient to the best interests of his chosen, as were the movements of Pharoah, Sennacherib, or Cyrus. This, my Brethren, we do know, on authority not to be gainsayed. And there has seldom, if ever, been a period in the history of the church, when this assurance was more needed than at present, for her stability and peace.
But to return.
II. The king of Israel came, meek and lowly, sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. All day long he stretched forth his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people, who would not come to him that they might have life. They had expected life without suffering, a crown without a cross,-to go straightforward to glory, as those who had never fallen: whereas God's pathway to glory, for a fallen creature, is through discipline and suffering. The suffering of Christ was the rock over which they fell. His humiliation--his degradation—in the eyes of man, was the stumbling-block to Israel. He grew up as a tender plant, as a root out of a dry ground. There was neither form nor comeliness in him-as the men of this world count comeliness—and when they saw him, they esteemed him not. Hence the complaint of the evangelical Prophet, Who hath believed our report? or, what is the same thing, since faith is of the operation of God, To whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?* They rejected their Messiah. They crucified their King. So blind were they to their real glory, so fascinated with the things of this world, that they cried out in suicidal madness, We have no king but Cæsar!
* Isaiah x. 5-12. + Isaiah xliv. 28. xlv. 1-4. Ephes. i. 20—23.
We now contemplate the darkness into which they have since fallen. Blindness indeed hath happened to Israel. Cut off, and cast forth among the nations, a by-word, a proverb, a taunt, according to the sure word of prophecy; thrown as the refuse of society into every country under heaven,-oppressed, -tied down and bound under penal statutes,-exposed to every species of indignity,—one nation after another hath risen in almost exterminating cruelty against them, and thousands have been put to death merely because they were Jews. They have been treated as beasts of the field, even amongst the nations of Christendom, and to make humiliation still more humiliating, they have, in some parts of the Continent of Europe, been made to pay toll on the high road; and the toll exacted from a Jew has been the same as that paid for a swine.t Thus have indignities of every imaginable description been heaped upon the heads of this devoted people. Yet, in the midst of all, though scattered and peeled among the nations, they have not mingled in any way with them, neither have their numbers diminished. Still they continue a numerous people, and still they are separated from all the tribes of the earth. They have adopted the customs of no country whither they have been carried captive; they have espoused the religion of none; they have intermarried with none. They stand aloof, at this day from all, a witness and spectacle upon earth, of the constant interference of the hand of God. History gives us no parallel to this; and it is impossible to account for it in any other way, than by the fact of Almighty interposition. Several attempts have been made to give what men call a rational solution of this difficulty: but, although conducted by able hands, they have proved signal failures; exposing the weakness of infidelity, even when supported by the most commanding talents; and so magnifying the wisdom of the God of Israel, the God of the whole earth. Our own times supply a notable instance, in the person of a philosophical writer on physiology, who sneers at the notion of the existence of immaterial beings, and labours to prove that man is mere matter, and that what enthusiasts call an immortal spirit in man, is nothing more than “organized brain."
In his chapter on the causes of the varieties of the human species, finding the Jews, amongst other classes, forced upon * Isaiah liii. 1, 2, 3. † See Dr. Henderson's Travels in Russia and Poland.