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verily and indeed seen the miracles which he alleges they had seen? For the miracles of Moses were not done in a corner, but in the presence of the whole congregation of Israel, about six hundred thousand that were men, besides children.
We'see, then, that the avowed publicity of the miracles, connected with the circumstance (already proved) of the books having been written during the lifetime of multitudes, who were said in the books to have seen the miracles; would render a successful imposture morally impossible. What, then, is the truth? Is it that six hundred thousand men were persuaded at once to yield to an authority, founded upon an assertion, that certain great miracles, affecting even the lives of every one of them, had taken place before their eyes; which miracles, they must all have known perfectly well, had never taken place? Or is it, that a whole nation, at some time unknown, and by some influence unknown, were persuaded to embrace, as the truth of God, a record, which declared, that they and their ancestors had religiously observed certain annual festivals; which festivals they must have known had never been observed or heard of, till the fabrication of that record? Or is it, that Almighty God himself did interfere in a miraculous manner, on behalf of the nation of Israel, to make known in the earth his power and providence? On which side does credulity range herself? and on which side, rational conviction?
We are not, therefore, proceeding without our proof, when we say, that the Jews are what they say they are—the descendants of that nation, that ancient nation, which sprang from Abraham of Ur of the Chaldees; which was divided into twelve tribes in the family of Jacob; which was brought into Egypt, and settled in Goshen, under the superintending care of Joseph; which was oppressed by Pharaoh; which was miraculously delivered under the guidance of Moses; which triumphed over the nations of Canaan, by the victorious sword of Joshua; which rebelled against God, was chastened, repented, and was delivered, and rebelled again; which disregarded the warnings of the inspired messengers of God; which was carried away captive by the king of Babylon, and oppressed seventy years; which was restored to their own land; which turned again in obstinacy against God, despising, rejecting, and crucifying the Lord of glory; which was rooted out by the conquering arms of the victorious Romans; which was scattered among all nations to the four winds of heaven; which was preserved a separate people, not mingling among any people in their dispersion; which is still a separate people in this, and other countries and cities; scattered and peeled, as described by the prophet; a nation wonderful indeed, from their beginning hitherto.
Thus, in answering the question, Who are they? we have anticipated, in one very important respect, the question:
II. What are they?
They are God's witnesses, living witnesses; bearing a testimony to the genuineness, the authenticity, and consequently the inspiration, of the Holy Scriptures; a testimony which may indeed be denied, (ignorance or obstinacy may deny anything, which may indeed be cavilled at or evaded, but which cannot be refuted. Witnesses, therefore, manifesting the moral attributes of Jehovah, in a more striking manner than do any of his other works. Does any man inquire about the character of God, we answer, look at the Jews! Behold, in his dealings with them, his sovereign prerogative of distinguishing grace; his holiness; his severity, kind even in its heaviest judgments; his kindling compassion, when he beholds the repentance of his people; his tremendous indignation, when at last poured forth; his faithfulness to his promise; his mysterious Providence,-and all this, (with the great predicted result of it all,) for the manifestation of himself, that the world may know, that HE IS THE OMNIPOTENT ONE, and none else. my witnesses, saith the Lord; I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you:
therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was, I am He: and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?"
Having thus briefly answered the questions who, and what, are the Jews, we inquire
III. What shall they be?
To supply a scriptural answer to this interesting inquiry, is the object of the following pages.
NUMB. xxiii. 9. "Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned
among the nations."
KNOWN unto God, are all his works from the beginning of the world. It is his distinguishing characteristic, that he calls things that are not, as though they were. The challenge by which the idolatry of the heathen is put to shame, is grounded upon this high prerogative of the true God. Thus saith the Holy One of Israel, “Let them bring forth and shew us what shall happen. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods. Who hath declared from the beginning that we may know? Yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth. To whom will
ye liken me and make me equal, and compare me that we may be like? Remember this, and shew yourselves men; bring it again to mind, 0 ye transgressors. Remember the things of old, for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me: declaring the end from the beginning, and, from ancient times, the things that are not yet done; saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”*
Our present object is to examine, in the faith and fear of God, the meaning of what the Holy Ghost has spoken concerning the Jewish nation, by the mouth of the holy prophets. It is not, therefore, to the fancies of a poet that your attention is solicited: it is not to the equivocal evasions of a heathen oracle: it is not to the guessings of a visionary enthusiast; nor to the cunningly-devised fables of an ingenious priesthood. No, it is to the true sayings of the living and the true God. It is to the instructive providence and revealed purposes of Him, whose will is law, whose power is absolute; of Him, the great First Cause, in whom you live, and move, and have your being; by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice; by whom nations rise and fall; by whom our own nation has been raised, and blessed, and made a blessing; by whom the Jewish nation was established, is dispersed, and (we believe) shall be restored again. The Lord God hath spoken-this is our sure warrant. To ascertain the right meaning of his words—this is our proper business.
* See Isaiah xl. to xlvi, inclusive.
The progress of events, by giving fulfilment to many of the predictions of the prophets, has borne testimony, in a way that cannot be resisted, to the true meaning of the figurative language of prophecy. History is but another name for the providence of God: and so far as it can be shewn to have been the subject of prophecy, its faithful record should be distinctly and carefully compared with the terms of the prediction. Because the best possible method of soberly anticipating events, from the language of those prophecies which are still unfulfilled, is to observe the connexion between the language and the event in those which have already found their fulfilment. It is thus that, in the school of experience, we shall make the nearest possible approaches to a right distinction between what is actually literal, what is merely figurative, and what is specifically symbolical, in the inspired language; which distinction is acknowledged by all who have attended to the subject, to be the grand desideratum of prophetic interpretation.
It is well observed by Mr. Davison, in his Discourses on the Structure, Use, and Inspiration of Prophecy, that. "the rational exposition of it requires that we attend to the seasons and circumstances under which it was given, and endeavour to take some measure of it by its adaptation to them. For it was never given to be an insulated phenomenon, nor merely to demonstrate the prescience of its all-wise Author; but by him it was engrafted upon the exigencies of times and persons, and made to serve as a light of direction to the attentive observers of it, before the event had set the seal to its truth. This is of great importance. I will add only one more preliminary reflection, taken from the same cautious and correct writer. * He says, “A certain acquaintance with the contents of Scripture must be presumed on the part of my hearers; without which I could not expect the general view proposed to be given, to be admitted as a just and faithful one; nor is it possible, by quotations made on the moment, to supply the materials for an adequate judgment in this case; which materials can be derived only from the knowledge or examination of the chief document itself—the Scripture volume. Nor is this
* See note A, in the Appendix.
the only instance wherein our satisfaction, and even our means of judging of the truth or use of revelation, are made to depend upon some personal study of it. There is cause to think that scepticism itself is often no more than a form of very unreasonable enthusiasm, demanding conviction without the pains of inquiry.”
The first revealed characteristic, then, of the Jewish people, concerning which I would invite you to search the Scriptures, is their separation from all the surrounding nations of the earth. This is directly stated concerning them in the words of our text, which form a part of the celebrated prophecy of Balaam. That false diviner was invited by the king of Moab to come and curse the Israelites, as they passed through his territories. God commanded Balaam not to go; but he, loving the wages of iniquity, tempted God to give him angry leave to take his
He was soon, however, forced to feel and acknowledge that it is God who made, and who controls man's mouth. He could not speak according to his own will, or the will of his master Balak; but a true prophecy was given to him against his will, and to the disappointment of his covetousness. “He took up his parable and said, Balak, the king of Moab, hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. How shall I curse when God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills 1 behold him: Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations."
This characteristic of separation has belonged to the Jewish people, in a remarkable degree, from the very commencement of their history; and a comparison of the prophecies that it would be so, with the fact that hitherto it has been so, is the part of the subject now more immediately to be brought before
In tracing the sacred history of the multiplication of the human species on the earth, after the deluge, we find three distinct lines of descent mentioned in the 10th chapter of Genesis; one from each of the sons of Noah:-1, the line of Japheth; 2, of Ham; 3, of Shem. Then, after the dispersion of the people from Babel, the generations of Shem are again introduced, and carried down to the family of Terah. Ham and Japheth are lost sight of in the history for a season, and Shem is taken: all the other descendants of Shem are lost sight of, and Terah is taken: all the other sons of Terah are lost sight of, and Abraham is taken: and on him and his posterity the whole attention of the reader is concentrated.
I. This man was the father of the Hebrews. Here, there