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may be greatly enforced. Our Saviour there saith, 'They [the Jews in the reign of Vespasian] shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive, into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.' St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, xi. 25, 26, joining this prophecy with another of Isaiah, gives us to understand, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so shall all Israel be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.' The apostle saw the blindness of the Jews, excepting the remnant, as he calls them, ver. 5, in his own days, and knew the prophecy was soon to be fulfilled in the ruin of their country. But he also saw, by what he quotes from Isaiah, that the Jews, though carried captives, and dispersed among all nations, were to remain in their then present blindness, till the other nations of the earth had received the gospel, when his countrymen also should be converted and saved.
These passages, thus laid together, and compared with what hath happened to the Jews since, do justice to the veracity of the prophets, and afford our religion a monumental proof of its divinity. Jerusalem was totally ruined at the time prefixed. One part of the unbelieving Jews were, on that occasion, put to the sword, and the rest scattered over the face of the earth; and to this day, long after the extinction of all the other ancient nations of the world, remain a numerous people, distinguished in every country, no less by the universal contempt and hatred of all other men, than by a tenacious adherence to the law of Moses, to which they could never long be kept firm during their prosperity. Were they not thus preserved distinct from the rest of mankind, we should want the useful testimony of adversaries for the authenticity of the prophecies; and it could never appear, that the prediction, concerning their conversion and restoration, was really an oracle of God. It is indeed as evident, as any thing of the kind can be, that they are reserved by Providence for this great event; that they shall be found distinct from all the other tribes and nations of the world, when the time of their conversion shall come; and that consequently, the whole race of mankind must then see demon
strably the truth of our religion. I say these things are evident; because they tally exactly with prophecies already fulfilled in every other tittle, and because the preservation of a people, under such circumstances, for so long a tract of time, contrary to the constant course of all human affairs, gives high proof of a particular providence; a better proof surely for the use we make of it, than could have been drawn from this people, had the fulness of the Gentiles, and their universal conversion, happened two or three ages ago. We could have only had an historical report, at this day, of the extraordinary event, the truth of which the incredulous might have questioned, as they do all other reports; were the distinction between Jew and Gentile wholly lost, as it must have been in that case; whereas, the case standing as it does, we have every where before our eyes a miracle wrought, and a prophecy fulfilled, to refresh our faith. Hence it is, that St. Paul, speaking of them and us, saith, Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles,' Rom. xi. 11. The fall of them is the riches of the world,' ver. 12. The casting away of them is the reconciling of the world,' ver. 15.
We ought not to forget, on this occasion, a fact, which may serve to shew, that the hand of God was employed, not only in the ordinary course of his providence, but even miraculously, to prevent all schemes for the re-establishment of the Jews before their conversion, that the ends proposed by their long apostacy might be answered, and the prophecies fulfilled. The emperor Julian, who declared himself a Pagan, after having professed Christianity, took it into his head to convict the prophecy of our Saviour, that Jerusalem should be trodden down by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled, of falsehood. In order to this, he offered to restore the Jews to their own country; he encouraged them to rebuild their temple; raised vast contributions; and gave them all the assistance in his power. The materials were all prepared, and laid convenient, and the foundation opened. But, when they began the work, balls of fire broke from the ground, and destroyed the artificers with their apparatus. A modern libertine might have laughed at this miracle as fictitious, had it been reported only by Christians; but as it is confirmed by Am
mianus Marcellinus, a Pagan historian, and no ordinary admirer of Julian, probably on account of his paganism, its truth cannot be opposed with any thing but impudence and nonsense. Had this design taken place, it could have only gratified the Jews, who were a weak and inconsiderable people; but must have thrown an indelible blot on the Christian cause, which was then abetted by a great majority in the empire. This Julian knew, and therefore espoused the party of the Jews against that of the Christians, although the principles of both were equally opposite to his own. Here we see the power of the Roman empire was not able to baffle a single sentence uttered by our blessed Saviour, nor to reverse the fate of a people desecrated by their own bloody imprecations, and the curse of Almighty God.
I shall give but one instance more of prophecies uttered by our Saviour, whereof the completion, had it not already happened, must have seemed almost impossible; and it is of such as relate to the persecutions and successes of his apostles, and other preachers of the gospel. To be continually and severely persecuted for any practice, and yet always to prosper therein, may reasonably be looked on as a thing highly improbable, if not inconsistent. And that the first should be withstood, and the second effected, by such instruments as our Saviour chose for that purpose, that is, the lowest, the most ignorant, and dastardly kind of men, makes the event, on the whole, still more surprising.
But our Saviour, who saw with better eyes than those of men, singled out these, as the fittest agents in a cause, to which man was to contribute nothing but a tongue, God intending, for the conviction of the world, to supply every other instrument himself. These men, weak as they were in themselves, could do all things in him: could boldly face every terror, and every torment, notwithstanding their natural timidity; could speak persuasively, and reason convincingly, notwithstanding their utter ignorance of eloquence, and learning in all its branches.
However, the men were not only weak and contemptible in themselves, but the religion they were to preach was infinitely distasteful and offensive to the world. The worship of a crucified Jesus was abhorred by the Jews; the worship
of one only God was equally offensive to the Gentiles; mortification and self-denial, in order to a thorough reformation of manners, and in pain of eternal fire, were doctrines infinitely shocking to both. As the disciples of our Saviour were to preach up to the world a religion so very forbidding as this, it is not to be wondered at, that their Master should tell them, Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves,' Matt. x. 16. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues,' ver. 17. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake,' ver. 18, Ye shall be hated of all men for my name sake,' ver. 22, Ye shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kins folks, and some of you shall they cause to be put to death,' Luke xxi. 16. All this might have been expected; but it is not a little surprising, that such men, so forewarned, should resolutely encounter these difficulties and terrors, and stand it out to the last.
It is still more surprising, that they should prevail, as they did, over a world, either so atheistical and wicked, or so bigotted to their old religions. But this also their Master prophetically promised; for he said, All power is given to me in heaven, and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations. Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,' Matt. xxviii. 18-20, 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you,' John xx. 21, that is, with authority and power. Besides the Jews, other sheep I have [meaning the Gentile world] which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd,' John x. 16. That the work I commit to you may not fail through your ignorance, and want of elocution, 'I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist,' Luke xxi. 15, so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church' ye shall build, Matt. xvi. 18. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,' or crucified, ' will draw all men unto me,' John xii. 32, 'when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled,' Luke xxi. 24, that is, 'when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be come in,' Rom. xi. 25. 'Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; and your accuser shall be cast down, which accused you before God day and
night. And ye shall overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of your testimony, and shall not love your lives unto death;' Rev. xii. 10, 11. Under your ministry, the marriage of the Lamb' with his wife the church shall be celebrated; Rev. xix. 7. Blessed are they which are called unto his marriage-supper,' ver. 9. When he arises to chastise the infidel and guilty world, you shall know him by his 'vesture dipt in blood,' ver. 13. and by his names, the Word of God,' ver. 13, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords; ver. 16, Out of his mouth shall go a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations,' ver. 15.
All the persecutions, thus predicted, the apostles and preachers of the gospel have already suffered. And all these triumphs, promised, they have already made. The world combined hath tried its strength upon them. Every severity, every outrage, that an ingenious cruelty could invent, hath bent its force against them, during ten long and bloody persecutions; but all in vain. They have overcome the world by the miraculous power of God, and by his 'word, that sharp two-edged sword, which proceedeth out of his mouth.' According to the wise choice and purpose of God, the foolish things of the world have confounded the wise; the weak things of the world have confounded the things which are mighty; the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, yea, and the things which are not, have brought to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence,' 1 Cor. i. 27-29. The wisdom of God only could foresee an event so strange. His power only could bring it to pass. The instruments were small and weak; but the hand which wielded them, almighty. The contemptible weakness of the instruments, and the amazing grandeur of the work, demonstrate the omnipotence of the worker. He looked, and there was none to help; he wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore his own arm brought salvation, his fury it upheld him; he hath trodden the wine-press alone,' Isa. Ixiii. 3. 5.
What now shall we say y? Is not the execution of such a purpose, so good, and so great, by such agents, so ignorant, and so weak, sufficient of itself to point out the finger of God? But if this is not sufficient, surely when we consider, that all this, astonishing and almost impossible as it