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“ kind with the blessing of Asher or of Issachar, that his “ bread should be fat, or his land should be pleasant, but “ that his eyes should be red with wine, and his teeth “ should be white with milk, Gen. xliv. 12. Moses also “ maketh milk and honey (the chief dainties, and sub. “sistence of the earlier ages, as they continue to be of “ the Bedoween Arabs) to be the glory of all lands: 6 all which productions are either actually enjoyed,
or at least might be by proper care and applica6 tion. The plenty of wine alone is wanting at present;
yet from the goodness of that little, which is still made « at Jerusalem and Hebron, we find that these barren “ rocks (as they are called) might yield a much greater
quantity, if the abstemious Turk and Arab would per“ mit a further increase and improvement to be made of 6 the vine, &c."
The prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah and others, not only foretold the desolation of the country of the Jews, and their dispersion through all parts of the world, but likewise their infidelity in disbelieving the Messiah, and what would be the consequences that would result therefrom. Of this there are numerous instances; but it will be sufficient to produce one or two passages from the prophet Isaiah. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? Isaiah liii. 1. These words both St. John and St. Paul have expressly applied to the unbelieving Jews of their time. The prophet likewise assigns the reason why they would not receive the Messiah, namely, because of his low and afflicted condition; and it is certain that they rejected him on this account, having all along expected him to come as a temporal prince and deliverer in great power and glory.
Isaiah had been commissioned to declare unto the people the judgments of God for their infidelity and disobedience. And he said, Go ye and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the hearts of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; lest they sce with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Isaiah vi. 9, &c.
In the style of scripture the prophets are said to do what they declare will be done: and in like manner Jeremiah is said to be set over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant: (Jer. i. 10.) because ke was authorized to make known the purposes and decrees of God, and because these events would follow in consequence of his prophecies. Make the heart of this people fat, is therefore as much as to say, Denounce my judgments upon this people, that their heart shall be fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut ; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. This prophecy might relate in some measure to the state of the Jews before the Babylonish captivity; but it did not receive its . full completion till the days of our Saviour; and in this sense it is understood and applied by the writers of the New Testament, and by our Saviour himself.
The prophet is then informed, that this infidelity and obstinacy of his countrymen should be of long duration. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate : And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. What a remarkable gradation is here in the denouncing of these judgments! Not only Jerusalem and the cities should be wasted without inhabitants, but even the single houses should be without man, and not only the houses of the cities should be without man, but even the country should be utterly desolate; and not only the people should be removed out of the land, but the Lord should remove them far away; and they should not be removed for a short period, but there should be a great or rather a long forsaking in the midst of the land.
And hath not the world seen all these particulars exactly fulfilled? Have not the Jews labored under a spiritual blindness and infatuation in hearing but not understanding, in seeing but not perceiving, the Messiah, after the accomplishment of so many prophecies, after the performance of so many miracles? And in consequence of their refusing to convert and be healed, have
not their cities been wasted without inhabitant, and their houses without man? Hath not their land been utterly desolate? Have they not been removed far away into the most distant parts of the earth? And hath not their removal or banishment been now upwards of 1700 years duration? Do they not still continue deaf and blind, obstinate and unbelieving?
At the time of the delivery of this prophecy the Jews gloried in being the peculiar people of God, and would any Jew of himself have either thought, or said, that his nation would, in process of time, become an infidel and reprobate nation, infidel and reprobate for many ages, oppressed by man, and forsaken by God? It was more than 750 years before Christ, that Isaiah predicted these things; and how could he have so done, unless he had been illuminated by the divine vision: or how could they have succeeded accordingly, unless the spirit of prophecy had been the Spirit of God?
Of the like nature are the prophecies concerning the calling and obedience of the Gentiles. How could such an event be foreseen hundreds of years before it happened? But the prophets are full of the glorious subject, and speak with delight and rapture of the universal kingdom of the Messiah: that God would give unto him the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, Psal. ii. 8. That all the ends of the world should remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations should worship before him, Psal. xxii. 27. That in the last days the mountain of the House of the Lord should be established in the top of the mountains, and should be exalted above the hills, and all people should flow unto it, Micah iv. 1. (which passage is also to be found in Isaiah, ii. 2.) That from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts, Malachi i, 11.
But the prophet Isaiah is more copious upon this as well as other evangelical subjects; and his 49th and 60th chapters treat particularly of the glory of the church in
the abundant access of the Gentiles. It is a light thing, that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth, Isaiah xlix. 6. And again, Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. 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. Isaiah Ix. 1, 3, 5, &c.
The Jews have applied these prophecies to the prose. lytes whom they have gained in the different nations unto which they have been dispersed; but this is no less absurd than vain. 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 to be 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 narrow-minded people as the Jews, or that the Gentiles should ever receive a religion from the very people whom they most hated and despised? Was it not much more likely that the Jews would be corrupted by the idolatrous nations around them, and be induced to comply with the maxims of their powerful neighbors, than that they should be the happy instruments of reforming the world, and converting some of all nations to the worship of the true God?
It is farther intimated by the prophet, that this revolution (the greatest that ever happened in the religions world) should be effected by a few people of low rank and education. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation, Isaiah lx. 22.
The commission given by our Blessed Saviour to his apostles was, Go, teach all nations. And who were the persons to whom this commission was given? Was it to those who might have been thought best qualified to carry it into execution, such as 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 worldly repute or authority, despised as Jews by the rest of mankind, and as the meanest and worst of Jews by the Jews them: selves. These were the persons (strange and wonderful as it may appear) who were to contend with the preju. dices 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 Jews, the learning of Greece, and the power of the Roman empire.
This great revolution was not only to be brought about by a few persons of mean birth, but it was likewise to be effected in a very short space of time. I the Lord will hasten it in his time, Isaiah lx. 22.
After the ascension of our Saviour the number of the disciples together was about an hundred and twenty, Acts i. 15. but they soon increased and multiplied. The first sermon preached by St. Peter added unto them about three thousand souls, Acts ï. 41, and the second made up the number about five thousand, Acts iv. 4.
In the space of forty years, previous to the final destruction of Jerusalem, the gospel had been so spread, that it was preached in almost every region of the then known world. In the reign of Constantine the Great, 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 does prevail 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 to this 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 promise, I the Lord will hasten