Page images

Prophet Malachi is supposed to have prophesied, and about three hundred and thirty years before Christ. This was the third overturning of the world that came to pass in this périod, and was greater and more remarkable than either of the foregoing. It was very remarkable on account of the suddenness of that conquest of the world which Alexander made, and the greatness of the empire which he set up, which much exceeded all the foregoing in its extent.

This event is much spoken of in the prophecies of Daniel. This empire is represented by the third kingdom of brass, in Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as in Dan. ü; and in Daniel's vision of the four beasts, is represented by the third beast that was like a leopard, that had on his back four wings of a fowl, to represent the swiftness of its conquest, chap. vii ; and is more particularly represented by the he goat in the 8th chapter, that came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground, to represent how swiftly Alexander overran the world. The angel himself does expressly interpret this he goat to signify the king of Grecia, ver. 21. The rough goat is the king of Grecia ; and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king, i. e. Alexander himself.

After Alexander had conquered the world, he soon died; and his dominion did not descend to his posterity, but four of his principal captains divided his empire between them, as it there follows. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power; so you may see in the 11th chapter of Daniel. The angel, after foretelling of the Persian empire, then pró: ceeds to foretel of Alexander, ver. 3. « And a' mighty king shall stand up, that shall ale with great dominion, and do according to his will.” And then he foretels, in the 4th verse, of the dividing of his kingdom between his four captains : « And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven ; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled : For his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others besides those.” Two of these four captains, whose kingdoms

were next to Judea, the one had Egypt and the neighboring countries on the south of Judea, and the other had Syria and the neighboring countries north of Judea ; and these two are those that are called the kings of the north and of the south in the 11th chapter of Daniel.

Now, this setting up of the Grecian empire did greatly prepare the way for Christ's coming, and setting up his kingdom in the world. Besides those ways common to the other overturnings of the world in this period, that have been already mentioned, there is one peculiar to this revolution which I would take notice of, which did remarkably promote the work of redemption ; and that was, that it made the Greek language common in the world. To have one common language understood and used through the greater part of the world, was a thing that did greatly prepare the way for the setting up of Christ's kingdom. This gave advantage for spreading the gospel from one nation to another, and so through all nations, with vastly greater ease, than if every nation had a distinct language, and did not understand each oth

For though some of the first preachers of the gospel had the gift of languages, so that they could preach in any language; yet all had not this particular gift; and they that had, could not exercise it when they would, but only at special seasons, when the Spirit of God was pleased to inspire them in this way. And the church in different parts of the world, as the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, and others, which were in countries distant one from another, could not have had that communication one with another, which we have an account of in the book of Acts, if they had had no common language. So it was before the Grecian empire was set up. But after this, many in all these countries well understood the same language, viz. the Greek language ; which wonderfully opened the door for mutual communication between those churches, so far separated one from anoth

And again, the making the Greek language common through so great a part of the world, did wonderfully make way for the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, because it was the language in which the New Testament was to be



originally written. The apostles propagated the gospel through many scores of nations; and if they could not have understood the Bible any otherwise than as it was translated into so many languages, it would have rendered the spreading of the gospel 'vastly more difficult. But by the Greek language being made common to all, they all understood the New Testament of Jesus Christ in the language in which the apostles and evangelists originally wrote it : So that as soon as ever it was written by its original penmen, it immediately lay open to the world in a language that was commonly understood

every where, as there was no language that was so commonly understood in the world in Christ's and the apostles' times as the Greek ; the cause of which was the setting up of the Grecian empire in the world.

XV. The next thing I shall take notice of is, the translating of the scriptures of the Old Testament into a language that was commonly understood by the Gentiles. The translation · that I here speak of is that into the Greek language, that is commonly called the Septuagint, or the translation of the Seventy. This is supposed to have been made about fifty or sixty years after Alexander's conquering the world. This is the first translation that ever was made of the scriptures that we have any credible account of. The canon of the Old Testament had been completed by the prophet Malachi but about an hundred and twenty years before, in its original ; and hitherto the scriptures had remained locked up from all other nations but the Jews, in the Hebrew tongue, which was understood by no other nation. But now it was translated into the Greek language, which, as we observed before, was a language that was commonly understood by the nations of the world.

This translation of the Old Testament is still extant, and is commonly in the hands of learned men in these days, and is made great use of by them. The Jews have


fables about the occasion and manner of this translation ; but the truth of the case is supposed to be this, that multitudes of the Jews living in other parts of the world besides Judea, and being born and bred among the Greeks, the Greek became their

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

common language, and they did not understand the original Hebrew; and therefore they procured the scriptures to be translated for their use into the Greek language ; and so henceforward the Jews, in all countries, except Judea, were wont in their synagogues to make use of this translation instead of the Hebrew.

This translation of the scriptures into a language, commonly understood through the world, prepared the way for Christ's coming, and setting up his kingdom in the world, and afterwards did greatly promote it. For as the apostles went preaching through the world, they made great use of the scriptures of the Old Testament, and especially of the prophecies concerning Christ that were contained in them. And by means of this translation, and by the Jews being scattered every where, they had the scriptures at hand in a language that was understood by the Gentiles : And they did principally make use of this translation in their preaching and writings wherever they went ; as is evident by this, that in all the innumerable quotations that are made out of the Old Testament in their writings in the New Testament, they are almost every where in the very words of the Septuagint. The sense is the same as it is in the original Hebrew ; but very often the words are different, as all that are acquainted with their Bibles know. When the apostles in their epistles, and the evangel. ists in their histories, cite passages out of the Old Testament, it is very often in different words from what we have in the Old Testament, as all know. But yet these citations are almost universally in the very words of the Septuagint version ; for that may be seen by comparing them together, they being both written in the same language. This makes it evident, that the apostles, in their preaching and writings, commonly made use of this translation. . So this very translation was tháf which was principally used in Christian churches through most nations of the world for several hundred years after Christ.

XVI. The next thing is the wonderful preservation of the church when it was imminently threatened and persecuted under the Grecian empire. VOL. II.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The first time they were threatened was by Alexander himself. When he was besieging the city of Tyre, sending to the Jews for assistance and supplies for his army, and they refusing, out of a conscientious regard to their oath to the king of Persia, he being a man of a very furious spirit, agreeable to the scripture representation of the rough he goat, marched against them, with a design to cut them off. But the priests going out to meet him in their priestly garments, when he met them, God wonderfully turned his heart to spare them, and favor them, much as he did the heart of Esau when he met Jacob.

After this, one of the kings of Egypt, a successor of one of Alexander's four captains, entertained a design of destroying the nation of the Jews ; but was remarkably and wonderfully prevented by a stronger interposition of Heaven for their preservation,

But the most wonderful preservation of them all, in this period, was under the cruel persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, and successor of another of Alexander's four captains. The Jews were at that time subject to the power of Antiochus ; and he, being enraged against them, long strove to his utmost utterly to destroy them, and root them out ; at least all of them that would not forsake their religion and worship his idols : And he did indeed in a great measure waste the country, and depopulate the city of Jerusalem ; and profaned the temple, by setting up his idols in some parts of it ; and persecuted the people with insatiable cruelty ; so that we have no account of any persecution like his before. Many of the particular circumstances of this persecution would be very affecting, if I had time to insist on them. This cruel persecution began about an hundred and seventy years before Christ. It is much spoken of in the prophecy of Daniel, as you may see, Dan. viii. 9.....25 ; xi. 31.....38. These persecutions are also spoken of in the New Testament, as, Heb. xi. 36, 37, 38.

Antiochus intended not only to extirpate the Jewish relig, ion, but, as far as in him lay, the very nation ; and particularly labored to the utmost to destroy all copies of the law.

« PreviousContinue »