« PreviousContinue »
if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation!”
3. The history of Israel reads an impressive lesson to the nations of the earth. For it is most obvious, that their covenant with God lay at the foundation of their national strength and greatness; and that their adherence to that covenant was the only means of preserving the power and prosperity to which they were raised. We can scarcely turn to a period in their history as a nation, in which we may not learn these two lessons—“happy is that people whose God is the Lord."'-And, “it is an evil thing and a bitter to depart from the Most High.” Now let us not imagine that the principles of the Divine government are different now from what they were in ancient times; or that nations can attain to true greatness by means different from those which were prescribed to the Jews; or that nations may venture upon their sins and yet escape their punishment. Men may speculate on these points as they please, their speculations will not avert the stroke of Divine judgments from a nation that has revolted from the Most High. And yet such is the nation to which we belong. We have departed from the God of our fathers. We have transgressed the everlasting covenant. We have followed the devices of men, and not the counsels of God. And think
the retribution which our sins have provoked? It cannot be. Have we not already seen the most evident proofs that we are not now what we once were; a people saved by the Lord, and having his arm of strength as our defence? We may pride ourselves on our elevated position among the nations—upon our immense wealth, our extensive commerce, and our general refinement. Though we were to make our nest among the stars, yet will the hand of retributive justice pluck us thence; and as we have dishonoured the name of the God of nations, by despising his glorious truth and giving countenance to antichristian error; so, if we turn not from our evil ways, we may rest assured that our name and our power shall be laid in the dust, and there will be none to help us: and our enemies over whom we were wont to triumph, may have occasion to take up the taunting language: “Art thou also become weak as we-art thou become like unto us?”, “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols; the worm is spread under thee and the worms cover thee.”
4. We may, finally, see the obligation that lies upon us, to extend to the house of Israel our compassionate regard, and to lend our aid to the great work of their conversion to the faith of the Gospel. “As concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.” A people whose history is, from first to last, a manifestation of the glory of God, as the Ruler of the world and the God of salvation, have not been preserved distinct from all other nations in vain. And, though it does not properly belong to this lecture to treat of their restoration, yet enough has been said to stir up every true believer to a lively interest in the glorious work. But let us remind you that it is utterly impossible you can be the subjects of such an interest, unless you are yourselves brought under the influence of that truth which shall be made effectual by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, in gathering the outcasts of Israel. And even were it possible, how glaringly inconsistent to profess a concern for the salvation of the Jews, while you have no concern for that of your own souls, and zealously to labour for their return to the favour of God, while you continue aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise. The law of the house of God is, that you must turn unto the Lord and be reconciled unto him, before you can do any service that will be at all acceptable in his sight. The door of mercy is now open-Christ is yet preached. He is freely offered to you; and offered to you in your present condition. The Holy Spirit is of power to enlighten your benighted understandings, to quicken your dead souls, and to bring you nigh to Christ and give you an interest in him by faith, of his operation. All things are ready. Enter into the kingdom of God and be saved. For “except ye repent ye shall perish." You condemn the Jews for their blind and obstinate rejection of the Saviour. But will not this very sentence rise up in evidence against you, if you do not come and walk in the light of the Lord? You wonder at the indignation that hath burned against this people for ages. But oh, escape from their sin, that you may not be involved in their punishment. For “through their fall salvation is come unto you Gentiles.” And once more it is preached unto you. Take heed that it be not your “condemnation, that light hath come into the world, and that ye loved the darkness rather than the light, because your deeds are evil.”
HISTORY OF THE JEWS, VIEWED IN CONNECTION WITH PRO
PHECY, FROM THE BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY TO THE COMING OF CHRIST AND DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
BY REV. ALEXANDER N. SOMERVILLE,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”—Matt. xxiii. 37, 38. THE portion of history prescribed for our consideration this evening is one of great extent. It comprises a period of above six hundred years, and reaches from the Babylonish captivity to the destruction of Jerusalem. It will be impossible for us to give any thing beyond an outline of this complicated period of Israel's history. We regret this the more, because the materials of our narrative are, in a great measure, imbedded in the pages of uninspired writing, and therefore cannot be familiar to you like those which lie scattered in profusion over the hallowed field of God's own word.
The events which, from their prominence in the history, we shall take as landınarks to guide us on our path this evening, are these :
I. The captivity in Babylon.
II. The return of Judah to their own land; the rebuilding of the temple and wall of Jerusalem; and the revival of religion under Ezra and Nehemiah.
III. The persecution of the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, the rise and noble achievements of the Maccabees.
IV, The birth, life, and death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
V. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state by the Romans.
I. There can be no question that it was the iniquity of Jerusalem which made her gates desolate and sent her children in bondage into a foreign land. It is the acknowledgment of this which casts such a ray of interest over the sighs and lamentation of the daughter of Zion. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men have gone into captivity. The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against his commandments.” Lam. i.
True, however, as this is, the Lord had another purpose to serve in transplanting his people from the land of their fathers, to blossom and yield their fragrance amid the wild wastes of the gentiles. The time for Emmanuel's appearance was hastening on, and the way which had been preparing for him since the days of Eden, was now further to be paved by the mission of Judah's captives among the heathen, to make known the God of Israel, and as a voice in the wilderness to proclaim the coming of Him“ in whom all nations of the earth shall be blessed."
Our information regarding the condition of the great body of the captives is somewhat scanty. Upon the whole, however, their state seems to have been happy. It is true that many of them seem to have been sold for slaves, (Nehem. v. 8,) and that sometimes their spoilers made their wounds bleed afresh by compelling the minstrels of Israel to tune their melancholy harp in the gardens of Babylon, and regale their impious ears with Zion's plaintive but sacred songs; so that with heart-broken accents we hear them exclaim, “ By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down, yea we wept when we remembered Zion; we hanged our harps on the willows in the midst thereof; for there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song, and they that wasted us required of us mirth,