« PreviousContinue »
wast graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches: but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then: the branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he spare not thee,” Rom. xi. 17-23.
In the subject we have been treating of there is not only an argument for the truth of our religion, but likewise an admonition to us to take heed to ourselves: for from us too the glory may depart, if we improve not our privileges. The seven churches of Asia, in the Revelation, were warned, and most of them threatened with the removal of their candlestick; unless they speedily repented, and did the first works. Many christian churches, planted by apostles of Jesus, and watered by their fellow-labourers, have fallen to decay and ruin. The name and title of christian will not save particular persons in the day of judgment. Nor will the name of Jesus, or christian alone, secure churches and societies in this world. There should be not only the leaves of a fair profession, but also fruits of love and peace, and all the branches of righteousness and true holiness. Christians should have heavenly minds, and their lives should be adorned with acts of meekness, patience, selfdenial, and zeal for each other's welfare. With such, Christ will dwell. They honour him, and he will honour them with a distinguished care and protection.
4. From this argument we may be able to form some judgment concerning the general conversion of the Jews. It is not a likely thing : if ever it is to be, there does not appear good reason to think it nigh.
It is not a likely thing, considering that their prejudices are still very great and strong, and have been so all along from the beginning; notwithstanding the great care of the apostles of Jesus, and other zealous preachers of the gospel, to remove them.
If ever there is to be a general conversion of the Jews, there is no good reason to think it near at hand. The advantages afforded to believers in Jesus as the Christ, from the dispersion and afflictive circumstances of the Jewish people, in their argument for the truth of their religion, lead us to this apprehension. So long as there remain great numbers of Gentile people unconverted to the faith of Jesus,
See Lightfoot's Works, vol. I, p. 375, 376.
who are strangers to God, and his Christ : so long as there is, and is likely to be, a strenuous opposition made by many, several ways, against the christian doctrine: so long, it is likely, the Jews will remain, and continue to be a distinct people, scattered abroad upon the face of the earth : forasmuch as their subsistence in that manner tends mightily to awaken men, and to confirm and strengthen divers arguments for the truth of the christian religion.
Nor is there any injustice done them herein: as they at first generally rejected Jesus, they were justly rejected and cast off as a people: but still by the faith and reception of the Gentiles, they are called upon and excited to believe in Jesus: and whenever any of them are awakened, convinced, and converted, they shall be accepted.
St. Paul's argument in this context leads us into this way of thinking': “ Have they stumbled, that they should fall? By no means. But rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy."
And his words at the twenty-fifth verse of the chapter may be reckoned strong to this purpose: “ For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest
ye be wise in your own conceit: that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in :” that is, as an admired expositor paraphraseth the verse: Foro to prevent your being conceited of yourselves, my brethren, let me make known unto you what has been
yet undiscovered to the world ; that the blindness, which • has fallen upon a part of Israel, shall remain upon them • but till the time come, wherein the whole Gentile world • shall enter into the church, and make profession of chris• tianity.'
This may be the thing intended by our Lord, when he says:
“ And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," Luke xxi. 24.
As for St. Paul's words at the twenty-sixth verse, they are understood by some in this manner : “ And so all Israel shall be saved :", Andd so all Israel shall be converted to • the christian faith, and the whole nation become the peo
ple of God:' that is, when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in.
But I rather think the meaning to be: ' In this way, according to this method of Divine Providence, all good Locke upon the place.
d Locke as before. • IIαντα δε Ισραηλ καλει τ8ς πιςευοντας, ειτε εξ Ιεδαιων ειεν, την φυσικης συγγενειαν προς τον Ισραηλ εχοντες, ειτε εξ εθνων, κατα την της πισεως EVYE VELAV avtu ouvantourvou. Theodoret, in loc. T. 3. p. 91. D.
• and well-disposed men, both Jews and Gentiles, will be saved; that is, will be brought into the way of salvation, taught by the gospel; or will embrace the means of sal• vation proposed therein; the Jews being all along pro
voked to emulation by the Gentiles, and the Gentiles being • confirmed in their faith by the circumstances of the Jewish ' people.'
However this seems evident, that as in past ages the Jews had been of great service in upholding religion in the world, and from them at length it was brought to the Gentiles; so, if in the end the Jews are converted to the faith of Christ, it will be through the Gentiles : and probably, upon some more general conversion of them than has yet been. So says St. Paul : “ For as ye,” Gentiles, “ in time past have not believed in 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,” Rom. xi, 30, 31.
And possibly we may now perceive, that some notions concerning the conversion of the Jews are false and groundless, or at
best doubtful and uncertain. For some imagine, that upon their general conversion to the christian faith, they will be established again in the land of Judea, and that Jerusalem, with its temple, will be rebuilt with great splendour and magnificence.
But that supposition is liable to many difficulties and objections. Should their ancient polity be restored, and they be a distinct people in the land of Israel, separate from all the other people of the earth ? Thes gospel revelation does not encourage such a state of things: and therefore it is not reasonable to expect it should be brought in by extraordinary interpositions of Providence, under the dispensation of the Messiah.
See the sentiments of Origen and Chrysostom, and others, in Grotius upon Luke xxi. 24. And see Lightfoot's Works, vol. I. p. 375–377. and p. 737, 738. What was Eusebius's sentiment upon this point, may be seen in his Commentaries upon the Psalms, not published till since the time of Grotius. Διδασκονται ευχεσθαι τυχειν της απο των εθνων συναγωγης, ιν' ηδη ποτε της διασπορας απαλλαγεντες επι το αυτο συναχθωσιν" οπερ Ιεδαιοι μεν φανταζονται μελλειν εσεσθαι εν τω παρoντι βιω, επισαντος αυτοις το ηλειμμενο ημεις de, K. 1. Euseb. in Psalm 105. al. 106. ver. 47, 48. p. 690. edit. Montf.
8. Not that Jerusalem should be built again, when the fulness of the Gen• tiles is come in, which the Jews conceit: nor that then the Jews should be . unblindfolded, and become a gospel-church, as the Gentiles had been. For • what a strange world does such a supposal imagine ? And how often does *the gospel gainsay such distinctiveness and peculiarity ?' Lightfoot, vol. I. p. 377. The same author says, • That the calling of the Jews shall be in the • places of their residence among christians; and that their calling shall not
cause them to change place, but condition.' p. 738.
Should they sacrifice again, as in times past? The law of Moses is no longer in force, and the sacrifices appointed therein are below the dignity of the gospel institution.
Moreover our Lord plainly declared, that all distinctions of places should cease under the gospel : and that worship would no longer be peculiarly acceptable at Jerusalem, or any other city.
The continued subsistence of a large body of the Jewish people in several parts of the world, and the present desolation of their country, or the small number of inhabitants therein, are thought by some to amount to a strong argument that they shall themselves return thither, and take possession of it again. But from what has been now said it appears that the fore-mentioned state of things answers very valuable ends and purposes : though the Jewish people should never be reinstated in their ancient inheritance.
It is likely therefore, that whenever there is a general conversion of the Jews to the faith of Jesus, they will become christians indeed, and their fondness for the rites of the Mosaic law will cease: that they and the Gentiles may become one people, and one sheepfold under Christ, the universal Lord of the church, the Saviour, and the Bishop of souls.
Such an event we have good reason to wish and pray that the fulness of the Gentiles may be brought in, and that then the blindness, which in part has long happened to the Jewish people, may be entirely removed.
In the mean time we should both labour for the conversion of ignorant Gentiles, and do what lies in our power to provoke the people of the Jews to jealousy by the simplicity of our worship, the purity of our faith, and the goodness of our lives, h
5. We must be hence induced to admire the exceeding riches of the wisdom and goodness of God, who has gra
h I have not denied that there will be a general conversion of the Jewish people. Nor would I be understood to be positive, that they shall never return to the land of Canaan : though I have mentioned some difficulties attending the supposition. And if indeed they are some time not only to be converted, but also restored ; I am persuaded that their restoration will be accomplished in a manner becoming the divine majesty, and that all people will rejoice therein. I am moreover of opinion, that if ever this be brought about, their worship thenceforward will be entirely spiritual and evangelical.
ciously afforded mankind in all ages, helps for knowing the great truths of religion.
God ever spoke to all in the voice of reason. When that was not duly attended to, and the danger of universal ignorance became great, he separated a family, that of Abraham, from the rest of the world : and of a part of it he made a great nation, to whom he gave a law: who thereby were set up as a lamp upon a hill, to lighten the world around them; and among them, by frequent interpositions of his wise and powerful providence, religion was maintained, and they were kept a distinct nation, enjoying many privileges, until the Messiah came, and religion was spread far and wide in the nations of the earth, according to promises made long before. And then, the Jews generally rejecting that blessing, God cast them off from being his people, as they had been, and poured down upon them tokens of his displeasure: yet not destroying them utterly, and making use of them, even under afflictions, to support the truth of his Son's mission and authority, whom they had crucified.
Nor is there herein any injustice or unkindness, as has been often observed in these discourses: for still they are provoked to jealousy by those who are taken in their room: and in this respect they now enjoy an advantage, with regard to religion, beyond what the Gentiles had formerly, For then it was the nation of the Jews only to whom God was known, and many of the nations of the earth were remote from them. But the unbelieving Jews for the most part live among, or near the followers of Jesus, and have better opportunities to inform themselves of the principles of their religion, than the Gentiles had of old to know that of the Israelites.
And the wisdom of Divine Providence in the former and the latter dispensation is admirable, though above our full comprehension : as the apostle observes at the end of this chapter, addressing himself to Gentile christians : " 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 may obtain mercy : for God has concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. 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 who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor? or who has given unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and through