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THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE AN ARGUMENT
ON ROMANS XI. 11.
I say then, have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. But rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Rom. xi. 11.
In this context the apostle discourseth of an affecting scene of things, the reception of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews; the former a just occasion of much joy, the latter of like grief and concern: that they, who had been long favoured and distinguished by religious privileges, should fall from them: and, when others received marks of divine favour, and indeed pressed in for a share in spiritual blessings, they should be offended at it.
St. Paul has a long argument upon these points in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of this epistle to the Romans. He enters upon it at the beginning of the ninth chapter in these words: "I say the truth in Christ, and lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow of heart. For I could wish :" I am almost ready to wish. He does not say, that he actually wisheth it. "For I could wish,". says he," that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came:" and it concludes with a pious acknowledgment, and humble adoration of the wisdom and equity of Divine Providence; though these and other events in this world appear to us, for a time, strange and surprising. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!-For of him, and through him, and to him are all things. To whom be glory for ever."
My chief design at this time is to observe some advantages, which Christians have in their argument for the truth of their religion, from the present afflictive circumstances, and low estate of the Jewish people and nation.
"I say then, have they stumbled, that they should fall?" As if the apostle had said: · But by this their present rejection, which I have been speaking of, do I intend to say, that they have so stumbled, as to fall; that is, so as never to rise again, and never to be again restored to prosperous circumstances, as a people?'
Ór, according to another interpretation: Do I by what I have said intend to intimate, that • all of them should fall, and none believe, and partake of the blessings of the Messiah's king6 dom, and the divine favour?'
"God forbid:" or, which would be better, and more proper: by no means, or far be it: for the name of God never is in the original phrase, by which this emphatical negative is expressed.
• No, by no means: that is not the case, that none of the natural posterity of Jacob should believe, and come into the privileges of the Messiah's kingdom.'
"But through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them unto jealousy." But by the Jewish people now generally rejecting the Messiah, it has so happened, that salva⚫tion has been conveyed unto the Gentiles: and herein there is not only a benefit to them, in their salvation, but also to the Jews: for by the Gentiles embracing the gospel proposed to them, and coming to partake of religious privileges, the Jewish people will be provoked to emulation:
The Circumstances of the Jews an Argument for the Truth of the Christian Religion. *more of them will now believe, and be accepted of God, than if the gospel had not been 'preached to and received by the Gentiles.
• When therefore I speak, as I have done, concerning the offence taken by the Jews against Jesus and his gospel, and concerning the divine displeasure against them upon that account 'I do not intend to insinuate, that the posterity of Jacob are totally and absolutely excluded: or to deny, that such of them, who now, or at any time hereafter, shall believe, will be received ' and approved.'
The sense I have given of this text is confirmed by what the apostle says at the beginning of this chapter, where also, in the course of his argument, he has these like words: "I say then, has God cast away his people? By no means. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin," Rom. xi. 1. I reckon myself a proof to the contrary, and that God is willing to receive any of his ancient people the Jews, who believe in Jesus, ⚫ and obey the revelation made by him.' Then instancing in the number of true Israelites, servants and worshippers of God in the time of Elijah, no less than seven thousand; though the apostasy was so general, that Elijah thought he was left alone, he adds: "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace," Rom. xi. 5.
Indeed the Jewish people by generally rejecting the gospel of Christ, preached to them with divine authority, had generally excluded themselves from the privileges of God's people. having refused to accept the blessings offered to them. What then should be done? Was the Messiah of God to have no people when the Jews rejected him? It was not fit. Since therefore they now shew great reluctance to that kind proposal, the gospel shall be preached to the Gentiles, who will hear and receive it: and when they have received it, they will be of use to the Jewish people for they will provoke them to jealousy, and all good men among them will be disposed to receive the Messiah, and from time to time will be brought into his kingdom: till at length, possibly, there shall be a general conversion of them, and that very much owing to the profession of true religion made by Gentiles. So the fall of the Jews has been the Gentiles' salvation: the Jews rejecting the Messiah hastened the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles: and the Gentiles receiving and maintaining the gospel will provoke the Jews to emulation, and excite them to receive it, that they also may partake in the divine favour and the marks of it.
So the apostle argues in this and following verses: "But through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them unto jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?" that is, their general conversion, or a more numerous conversion of them, than has yet been. "For I speak unto you, Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles; magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them: for if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" Rom. xi. 11-15. Again: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceit) that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in and so all Israel shall be saved," ver. 25, 26. "For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy: for God has concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all," Rom. xi. 30-32.
There are therefore two things spoken of in these and divers other verses of this chapter: an advantage accruing to the Gentiles through the unbelief and rejection of the Jews: an advantage accruing to the Jews through the belief and reception of the Gentiles.
It is the first point chiefly upon which I shall insist, and in the following method.
I. I shall observe the present state of things with regard to Christians, the followers of Jesus, and the Jews who reject him.
II. I shall shew what advantages Christians have in the argument for the truth of their religion from the present state of things in the world.
III. I intend to mention some remarks and observations upon this subject.
I. In the first place I would observe the present state of things in the world, both with regard to Christians; the followers of Jesus; and the Jews who reject him.
And the case is very obvious, such as every one is able to perceive, upon a little thought and consideration.
There are now great numbers of men in the world, in various kingdoms, states and governments, in countries near and afar off, professing faith in Jesus as the Christ, who are not the natural descendants of Abraham and the ancient patriarchs.
These people called Christians, of Gentile stock and original, declare themselves worshippers of the one living and true God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who delivered the law by Moses, and often spake unto the children of Israel by the prophets.
And as they are worshippers of the one true God, they are likewise free from all that kind of idolatry which once prevailed universally in the world, and into which the Jewish people themselves formerly were often seduced and perverted. They worship not, as gods, the sun, or the moon, or the stars: nor Baal, nor Saturn, nor any other of the gods of the people of the East, or of the Egyptians, or of the Greeks and Romans, or of any of the countries of the Barbarians in the northern parts of the world.
Nor are they only worshippers of the one living and true God, the God of the people of Israel, but they also receive the scriptures of the Old Testament, delivered in a succession of ages, at divers times, to the descendants of Abraham and Israel. They believe them to be the writings of men, animated and inspired by the Spirit of God, and have them in equal veneration with the Jewish people themselves.
Moreover they highly respect and honour not only the patriarchs and Moses and the prophets, but likewise all the worthies of the ancient dispensation, who walked with God, and in the main were upright in his sight, and steadfast in his covenant.
These Christian people differ indeed from the Jews in receiving a person as a great and eminent prophet, whom the Jews reject: but yet their regard for that prophet, whom they call the Christ, or the Messialı, is very much owing to their respect for those ancient scriptures in which they think he is foretold and promised.
And though they do not conform to all the ordinances of the law of Moses, they allow and believe his law and his whole institution to have been of divine appointment, wisely designed, and of great use, as the state of things in the world then was. And with cheerfulness and zeal they assert and maintain against all opposers the divine authority of that dispensation. They are likewise sometimes almost compelled to wonder, that the Jewish people of old, who had such a law, should forsake God, and depart from his worship, so often as they did.
And, which is very considerable, they do not make void the law of Moses, but establish it. For their religion strictly requires obedience to all the moral laws of righteousness and true holiness therein delivered, and upon which the greatest stress is there laid: which righteousness is so elegantly and copiously taught and recommended in the books of Job, the Psalms, and the Proverbs: in comparison of which the latter prophets openly declared ritual observances to be of little value, and without it useless and offensive. Insomuch that the substance of the Christian religion is no other, than what has been accounted true religion by Moses and the prophets, by all the righteous men, and wise and pious princes, that ever were.
This is what is inculcated in their religious assemblies, and enforced from the consideration of everlasting rewards and punishments in a future state; more forcible motives, than the hope or fear of temporal rewards and penalties in the present life.
Nor do they neglect to improve the instances of faith and piety recorded in the Old Testament: though more especially they dwell upon the shining example of perfect virtue in the life and death of Jesus, their great Lord and Master.
As hereby men are trained up in great numbers to true and eminent virtue, they cannot but look upon themselves as the true Israel, "who worship God in the spirit, and have no confidence in unnecessary, ritual appointments," Phil. iii. 3. Phil. iii. 3. And the righteousness, principally required in the law, is better fulfilled by them who have the religion of Jesus, than it was by those who had only the institution of Moses, Rom. viii. 4.
And indeed the religion of Christians is that of Abraham, according to which he was justified, without the peculiarities of the law of Moses: and it is a character which they are pleased with, and boast of, that through Jesus Christ they are become, according to the Spirit, the children of faithful Abraham; and are justified and accepted of God as he was.
Nor ought it to be forgotten, that as the disciples and followers of Jesus do not take upon them the yoke of the ritual ordinances of the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation; so neither
have they introduced any other like ordinances in their stead. At least they profess, that Jesus, whom they own for the Messiah, has no such ordinances in his religion: excepting two only, both plain and simple; one initiatory to a profession of faith in him, and of obedience to his law; the other commemorative of his love, who freely laid down his life, though spotless and innocent, as a testimony to the truth of that important doctrine, which he had taught and recommended to mankind.
These are the followers of Jesus. These are Christians, who now do, and for a long time have flourished, and been numerous and considerable.
In the next place we are to observe the state of the Jews; the natural posterity of Jacob, who reject Jesus, and do not allow him to be the Messiah, the great prophet and deliverer, foretold and promised in many parts, and in almost every book of the Old Testament..
They also are in great numbers, some in almost every province and kingdom of the known world. They are numerous, but not a people. They have a being, but they dwell not in the land of Canaan, which had been given them for an inheritance. They have no power and authority, no empire, no civil government, scarce a right and privilege to possess the smallest tract or territory of land in any part of the world.
Nor have they any temple: for their stately temple, once glorious in outward appearance, still more glorious for the especial presence of the Divine Majesty, and the frequent manifesta-tions he there made of himself: the temple, I say, where their tribes were to assemble, where alone, according to the law of Moses, sacrifices were to be offered, is in ruins, or rather is no more: without any traces of it remaining, but the remembrance of the place where it once was. Other tokens of the divine favour are also wanting. They have not the Urim and Thummim of the priesthood, nor any vision, or prophecy, nor voice or word from God to direct or comfort them. Prophecy and vision, in ancient times frequent, or even constant, are now not only rare and uncommon, but altogether unknown among them. Learned Rabbies, and traditionary teachers they may have: but what prophet can they boast of, as theirs, since the time of Jesus; who truly was a Prophet mighty in word and deed, and, as we say, the looked for and promised Messiah, but despised and crucified by them?
Such is the state of things in the world, with regard to Christians, the followers of Jesus; and the Jews, who reject him..
I say then, have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. But rather through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy, Rom. xi. 11.
II. I AM now in the second place, as formerly proposed, to shew what advantages Christians have in the argument for the truth of their religion, from this state of things; and particularly from the afflictive circumstances of the Jewish people, who reject the Lord Jesus, and believe not in him as the promised Messiah..
We know Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour that should come into the world, from the fulfilment of many ancient prophecies in his person and ministry, from the con- sideration of the perfection and excellence of his doctrine, the unspotted purity and holiness of his life, the proofs he gave of wonderful knowledge and understanding: from his many miraculous works, his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven, and from the mighty works done by his apostles, and others, preaching to the Jews and Gentiles, in his name, and under his authority.
Beside all this, we have, as I apprehend, a great advantage in the argument for the truth of our religion, from that state of things which was formerly taken notice of: and I shall now endeavour to shew it under the following particulars.
1. It was foretold by our Lord.
• If they have a right to purchase and possess lands of inheritance in some places, I suppose in but a few only, and there by some special favour and indulgence,
2. It is agreeable to many prophecies in the Old Testament.
3. The present state of the Jewish people affords reason to believe, that the Messiah is already come.
4. The time and circumstances of the present captivity and dispersion of the Jewish people, afford an argument for the truth of the Christian religion.
5. The subsistence of the Jewish people to this time affords an attestation to divers things upon which some evidences of the Christian religion depend.
1. This state of things, with regard both to Jews and Gentiles, was foretold by our Lord: and, as the event has been agreeable to what he said long ago, it shews, that he was a prophet. It also demonstrates the truth and justness of all his claims; not only, that he came from God, but that he was the Christ, as he said.
When the centurion had expressed a remarkable faith in the power of our Lord to heal his sick servant at a distance," he said to them that followed: I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east, and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven," Matt. viii. 10-12. See also Luke xiii. 29. How unlikely was this! How little prospect was there at that time, that great numbers of Gentiles in all quarters of the world, should believe in God and his Christ, whom he had sent! But yet that saying of our Lord has been abundantly fulfilled. The truth of his words appeared soon after, and they have been fulfilling to this day.
The reception of the Gentiles, with the dislike and resentment of the Jewish people, is evidently represented in the parable of the prodigal son, who upon his repentance is most kindly received by the father: but the elder son, meaning the Jewish people, the natural posterity of Jacob, is offended, and will not come in, Luke xv.
The rejection of the Jewish people, who had been long barren and unfruitful to a great degree, and were still likely to neglect the best means of improvement, is set before them by our Lord very intelligibly, though with as little offence as might be; which is agreeable to all the rules both of wisdom and goodness. "He spake also this parable," says the evangelist: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard," Luke xiii. 6, 7; that is, in some inclosed spot of ground, where it was well situated and defended. "And he came, and sought fruit and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard: Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none. Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?"
And in like manner in some other parables representing their great and imminent danger of ruin, and also setting forth the justness and fitness of the sentence to be pronounced upon them if they should not repent; if they should still continue unfruitful after enjoying the best means of improvement, and should withal oppose and abuse the messengers of God sent from time to time to warn and reclaim them. "Then began he to speak unto the people this parable: a certain man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent a servant unto the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty," Luke xx. 9-16. In like manner did they unto others who were sent unto them. At length the lord of the vineyard sent his son: but him they "cast out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He will come and destroy those husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others," compare Matt. xxi. 33-41.
Our blessed Lord, all whose other miracles were healing and beneficent, with a view to the advantage of that people, if by any means they might be alarmed and persuaded, constrained himself to speak one word of malediction, a sentence of condemnation upon a barren fig tree, and with surprising effect. He was going to Jerusalem: "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it: Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever: and presently the fig tree withered away," Matt. xxi. 19. A miracle that was emblematical and prophetical, signifying the affecting and speedy ruin and desolation of the Jewish nation, if they out-sinned the day of trial allotted them, and persisted to neglect and abuse the means of salvation afforded them.
We have in our Lord's discourses divers predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the calamities attending it: and the event has shewn the truth of his prophetical character.
It should be also observed by us, that those predictions were publicly spoken in the hearing of many people; not of the disciples only; and they were delivered with such marks of affection