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conversion of those Gentiles, who in the apostolic age had embraced Christianity; that is to say, the Gentiles collectively are represented to be much more benefitted by the yet future conversion of the Jews, than they were by that partial conversion of certain members only of their own body, which has hitherto taken place. A great benefit, no doubt, was conferred . upon the Gentiles, even by a partial admission into the church: for St. Paul styles this benefit the riches of the Gentiles, and the reconciling of the world; but then he contends, that an infinitely greater benefit, a benefit which he celebrates as life from the dead, will be conferred upon them by the receiving of the Jews." This could not be accomplished in any sense at all answering the magnitude of the expressions, or harmonizing with the drift of the Apostle's reasoning, if the Jews were in the mean time to be mixed among the Gentiles, divested of their national peculiarities, and gradually, or even miraculously, converted to the Christian faith, in common with, or subsequent to, the Gentile world. We maintain, therefore, the uninterrupted application of the language of Balaam, "Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations."
Seeing, therefore, upon the whole, that we have such proof, direct and indirect, of our general position; and such satisfactory answers to the objections urged against it, we settle into the persuasion which has been so eloquently and justly expressed, that as the Jews have been, so till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, they shall be, "like those mountain streams, which are said to pass through lakes of another kind of water, and keep a native quality, to repel commixture; holding communication without union, and traced as rivers without banks, in the midst of the alien element which surrounds them?”+
LUKE xxi. 24. "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles; until the
times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
HITHERTO our subject has been the separation of the Jewish people from all the nations upon earth.
1. The whole twelve tribes during the early periods of their history: * Faber.
2. The kingdom of Judah subsequent to the casting out of the ten tribes: and
3. The people of Judah, considered nationally, and as distinguished from the election, which has in each succeeding age formed a part of the Christian church. And I hope it is not too much to say, that we have proved the separation hitherto of Judah as a nation, to be not by accident, nor by policy; nor, in any sense, by the will of man; but by the power, and according to the revealed purpose of Almighty God. And also, that such separation shall continue till the end of the times of the Gentiles. The next question is, What is then to be done with the Jewish nation? Has God revealed his further intentions concerning them? And if so, what are those intentions?
Now, as the further and more glorious prediction concerning the Jews, stand closely connected with the conclusion of the times of the Gentiles, or this our existing dispensation; it seems necessary, in order to avoid ambiguity of expression, and the misunderstanding inevitably consequent thereupon, to consider, in passing, what we mean by this present dispensation, and what our views are respecting its design, and the nature and period of its close.
This, therefore, is our present subject; and though it may perhaps appear, at first sight, to be a digression from the topic more immediately before us, it will be found, in the sequel, to be too intimately blended with the Jewish question, to be omitted in any thing like an orderly inquiry into the prophecies relative to the Jewish nation.
It is written, that “To every purpose there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up, &c. Eccle. iii. 1-8. And, as in the affairs of men here enumerated, so also in the great purpose of God there is a time for the accomplishment of each part. In each of these times, the Lord gives out, or dispenses a portion of his eternal design. Hence a dispensation of religion may be thus defined: -A revelation of some part or parts of the Divine will, accompanied by the performance of some corresponding part or parts of the Divine plan.
It will not be denied, that from the beginning, or ever the mountains were brought forth, Jehovah had a plan in view concerning this world: not its commencement merely, but it's continuance also, and its termination; according as it is written, “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.” A part of this plan was, that at some particular
period, known only unto himself, and kept in his own power, all the families of the earth should be blessed with the true and saving knowledge of God—the great enemy of God and man being bruised under the seed of the woman. know, by referring to the promises made to Adam and Abraham, as recorded in the book of Genesis. Our attention is then directed to the manner in which it has pleased God to proceed, towards the accomplishment of this, his gracious purpose.
He did not make Eve the mother of the promised seed of the woman, and so destroy the serpent at once, and make a short work upon the earth. No, the promise was given; but the performance of the thing promised was delayed. Meanwhile, however, some few of the families of the earth were blessed: they believed the promise; through faith they became interested in the benefit of its yet future accomplishment; and being influenced by the blessing, “they walked with God:” but the bulk of the inhabitants of the earth were still under the curse, led captives by the devil at his will, and working uncleanness with greediness. This state of things continued, till the iniquity of man abounding in the earth, so moved Almighty God to anger, that he destroyed the guilty race, saving only the small family of his servant Noah. At that time the promise to Adam, instead of being fulfilled, or in apparently progressive fulfilment, seemed to be forgotten: nay more, it seemed to be contradicted. But God's ways are not as our ways; neither is God's mode of proceeding to be judged of by what seems suitable to us.
Again, when God called Abraham, and told him, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, he did not make Sarah the mother of the promised seed. Here, as before, the promise was given-but the performance delayed. In the meantime, God separated to himself a people-a peculiar nation-and gave them in types and prophecies more and more clear instruction respecting the execution of his plan. Some believed; through faith they became interested in the benefit of the yet future accomplishment of the promise; and, influenced by the same faith, they too “walked with God:” but the bulk of even that favoured nation, and all the rest of mankind, were still under the curse.
Israel rebelled against the Lord, rejected his counsel, despised and persecuted his messengers, and in the end crucified his Son; they so moved him to anger, that he cut them off from their privileges; destroyed their temple and city; and dispersed them, in disgrace and degradation, among the heathen. At that time the promise to Abraham, instead of being fulfilled, or even in apparent fulfilment, seemed to be forgotten; for the families of the earth, instead of being blessed, were still under the wrath and curse of God. But God's ways are not as our ways.
The promised seed was now indeed come: but so unlike what had been expected-so unlike the powerful One, who could bruise the serpent's head, and bless all the families upon the earth, that few, very few, recognised him as the seed: few, therefore, derived any benefit from his coming; the nation rejected him; and thus the accomplishment of the promise made to Abraham was partly brought to pass, and partly delayed. The seed was come: all the families of the earth were not blessed in him.
Then it was, that in the wisdom of God, true religion was extended to other people and nations. Another portion of the Divine plan was dispensed. Another dispensation was introduced. The glad tidings of salvation, by the long predicted seed of the woman, were preached to the Greeks and Romans, and other heathen nations, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; and then it seemed as though the whole of the great promises made to Adam and Abraham, and repeated by all the prophets, were about to be fulfilled: the head of the serpent bruised; all the families of the earth blessed; and the whole world covered with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea!
But experience should teach us, that God's mode of proceeding is not to be judged of by what seems right or probable to us.
We see that the antediluvian dispensation held out a prospect of the glorious promise of universal blessedness being fulfilled. But the time was not yet. That dispensation fell short of the accomplishment. We see that in like manner the patriarchal and Levitical dispensations held out, with increasing clearness, a prospect of the great promise being fulfilled. But still the time was not yet fully come. Those dispensations fell short of it. Now we see this dispensation holding out a still more animating prospect of the final promise being fulfilled. But let us take instruction from what is past. Our dispensation also may fall short of the glorious consummation, and another change may take place, similar to the destruction of the world,-similar to the rejection of the Jews.
This is possible, to say no more; and whether it is the revealed purpose of God or not, deserves at least a fair inquiry. Is this dispensation, under which we are living, the final dispensation, which will issue in the full performance of the divine plan of mercy to the whole world? or is it another introductory dispensation, such as those which have preceded it?
The more common opinion is, that this is the final dispensation, and that, by a more copious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it will magnify itself, and swell into the universal blessedness predicted by the prophets, carrying with it Jews and Gentiles, even the whole world, in one glorious flock, under one shepherd, Jesus Christ the Lord. This is reiterated from pulpit, press, and platform. It is the usual climax of missionary exhortation.
On the supposition that this is the truth, it must be admitted that the accomplishment of the promise has advanced, and is still advancing, very slowly; and that even now, after eighteen centuries, comparatively little has been done; for, although Christianity established itself on the downfall of the most cultivated Paganism, with sufficient rapidity to convince every candid mind, that it was from God; yet, in reference to the great promise affecting the whole world, its progress has hitherto been slow indeed. This, however, would of itself be no argument against our dispensation being the final one; because slowness in the eye of man, is not necessarily slowness in the proceedings of God.
But, supposing this to be the final dispensation, the dawn of the day of universal blessedness, we might expect to find the advance of the light, though slow, yet progressive. Now it must, in fairness, be admitted that the history of the church of Christ does not answer to this expectation. Christianity has not been holding her ground in the world, while she advanced to further conquests. Her course resembles the emigration of a pilgrim, rather than the triumphant establishments of a conqueror. From many places, where once she presided in her beauty, she has departed without leaving even her name behind: from others, all that was valuable about her is gone, and only a name remains. For look along her wake! Where is the apostolical church of Jerusalem, over which James presided in the sober dignity of inspired wisdom? Gone! The holy city is trodden down of the Gentiles. The crescent of the false prophet of Arabia waves over its walls. Where are the
* It is curious and instructive to remark how this view of the subject niay be stated, and amplified with all the glowing enlargement of impassioned eloquence, without exciting any feeling that the speaker is at all interfering with the subject of unfulfilled prophecy. He is, indeed, prophecying, and in his own words, and from his own fancy; but the strain is in harmony with the popular impression, and is accordingly hailed as a strain of love, and greeted with instinctive approbation.
But no sooner is a different view of the future announced, though it should be in the very language of inspiration, than a jar is felt, and resented, and the intruder is blamed (if not denounced) as a troubler of the peace and unity of the religious world.
The writer is happy to observe that this evil, though much to be lamented still, is much abated.