« PreviousContinue »
It could hardly be necessary at any time to offer an apology for an attempt, however humble, to illustrate the history of God's peculiar people; and still less for making such an attempt at a period, when the attention of all reflecting Christians, is so anxiously riveted upon the movements of that interesting race.
The author is well aware, however, that there are individuals, and those not a few, who either hold or affect to hold in contempt, the allusions that are so frequently made by others to the descendants of Abraham; but until such individuals can succeed in proving, that the maker of the universe did not invest this nation with peculiar privileges, and that for a great and especial purpose, all such efforts will recoil upon themselves.
In truth, it is totally impossible for any sincere professor of the Christian faith, to be indifferent to whatever relates to the
Jews; with whom, and whose history, past, present, and to come, our best interests are bound up, and our highest destinies inevitably involved.
That a few individuals, of a temperament somewhat over sanguine, should occasionally indulge in what may appear visionary anticipations respecting the descendants of Abraham, is not surprising; and so far from subjecting them to ridicule, we ought to respect and admire their piety, and their anxiety to trace and investigate the probable future purposes of Jehovah, with respect to his beloved, though at present rejected people, even if we cannot in all respects adopt their opinions. Venial indeed are such errors! and how infinitely do such characters rise above those who are exhausting their time, talents, and strength, in seeking after honours, riches, and all the vanity of this world, which perish in the using; such indeed are deservedly objects of contempt, and such we shall one day see "troubled with terrible fear, and amazed at the strangeness of the salvation of the righteous, so far beyond all that they looked for." Such we shall hear repenting, and groaning for anguish of spirit, when they say within themselves, "This was he whom we had sometimes in derision, and a proverb of reproach: we fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour. How is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints! Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the Light of Righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the Sun of Righteousness rose not upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of wicked
ness and destruction; yea, we have gone through deserts, where there lay no way; but as for the way of Jehovah, we have not known it. What hath pride profited us? or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow, and as a post that hasted by; and as a ship that passeth over the waves of the water, which when it is gone by, the trace thereof cannot be found, neither the pathway of the keel in the waves; or as when a bird hath flown through the air, there is no token of her way to be found, but the light air being beaten with the stroke of her wings, and parted with the violent noise and motion of them, is passed through, and therein afterwards no sign where she went is to be found; or like as when an arrow is shot at a mark it parteth the air, which immediately cometh together again, so that a man cannot know where it went through. Even so we in like manner, as soon as we were born, began to draw to our end, and had no sign of virtue to shew, but were consumed in our own wickedness. For the hope of the ungodly is like dust that is blown away with the wind; like a thin frost that is driven away with the storm; like as the smoke which is dispersed here and there with a tempest, and passeth away as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day. But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High."*
It may be safely asserted that there is no surer test of the
* Wisd. v. 1—15.
prevailing tone of Christianity, etiam stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ, than the degree of interest which is felt towards the houses of Judah and Israel-for it might be easily shewn that exactly in the proportion which they occupy the minds, prayers, and affections of professing Christians-in that same proportion, will the zeal and activity of the personal religion of such Christians, be found in operation.
Whenever there has been any remarkable revival of religion in any country, one of the first fruits has invariably been an anxious and lively interest in the welfare and future prosperity of the Jewish people; and on the other hand, whenever a church has fallen into a lukewarm and Laodicean state, the Jews have become neglected and despised, the subjects of opprobrium; yes, and so low have some churches fallen, that strange and incredible as it may appear, Christian bishops and priests have been known to disgrace themselves by pouring contempt upon, and in some instances exciting opposition to, well meant and scriptural plans and exertions for the amelioriation, improvement, and conversion of God's ancient people, respecting whom he has declared, "Go, ye swift messengers to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled! All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains, and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye. In that time shall the present be brought unto Jehovah of Hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from the begin