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we cannot help attributing to all places, and to all times.
O God, by my description of the infidelity of the ancient Jews to-day, confirm us in the faith! May the portraits of the depravity of our times, which I shall be obliged to exhibit to this people, in order to verify the sacred history of the past, inspire us with as much contrition on account of our own disorders, as astonishment at the disorders of the rest of mankind! Great God! animate our meditations to this end with thy Holy Spirit. May this people, whom thou dost cultivate in the tenderest manner, be an exception to the too general corruption of the rest of the world! Amen.
Jews took this prophecy in the apostle's sense, and we have this gloss on the words of Hosea still in the Talmud: "The time shall come, wherein they, who were not my people, shall turn unto the Lord, and shall become my people,' chap. ii. 23.
St. Paul, in Rom. ix. 23, cites a prophecy from Isaiah, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone,' chap. viii. 14. The ancient Jews took this prophecy in the same sense, and we have still this gloss in the Talmud; When the Son of David shall come,' that is to say, in the time of the Messiah, the two houses of the fathers,' that is, the kingdom of Israel, and that of Judah (these two kingdoms included the whole nation of the Jews,) 'the two houses of the fathers shall be cast off, according as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone.'
I. Let us consider the unbelief of the Jews as a prodigy of hardness of heart, an eternal shame and opprobrium to the Jewish nation, and let us spend a few moments in lamenting it. We have supposed, that the text speaks of their infidelity. Christians who regard the authority of St. Paul, will not dispute it: for the apostle employs three whole chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, the ninth, the tenth, and the eleventh, to remove the objections which the casting off of the Jews might raise against Christianity, among those of that nation who had embraced the gospel.
One of the most weighty arguments which he uses to remove this stumbling-block is, the prediction of their unbelief in their prophecies; and among the other prophecies which he alleges is my text, quoted from the sixty-fifth of Isaiah.
It is worthy of observation, that all the other passages, which the apostle cites on this occasion from the prophets, were taken by the ancient Jews in the same sense that the apostle gives them. This may be proved from the Talmud. I do not know a more absurd book than the Talmud: but one is, in some sort, repaid for the fatigue of turning it over by an important discovery, so to speak, which every page of that book makes; that is, that whatever pains the Jews have been at to enervate the arguments which we have taken from the theology of their ancestors, they themselves cannot help preserving proofs of their truth, I would compare, on this article, the Talmud of the Jews with the massbook of the church of Rome. Nothing can be more opposite to the doctrine of the gospel, and to that of the reformation, than the Romish missal: yet we discover in it some traces of the doctrine of the primitive church; and although a false turn is given to much of the ancient phraseology, yet it is easy to discover the primitive divinity in this book, so that some authors have thought the missal the most eligible refutation of the worship prescribed by the missal itself. We consider the Talmud, and other writings of the modern Jews, in the same light. The ancient Jews, we see, took the prophecies which St. Paul alleges, in the three chapters that I have quoted, in the same sense in which the apos-I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the tle took them, and like him, understood them house of Israel,' Matt. xv. 24. When he of the infidelity of the Jews in the time of the sent his apostles, he expressly commanded them not to go into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans to enter not, chap. x. 5. And the apostles, after his ascension, began to exercise their ministry
We have, then, a right to say, that my text speaks of the unbelief of the Jews in the time of the Messiah. This we were to prove, and to prove this infidelity is to exhibit a prodigy of hardness of heart, the eternal opprobrium and shame of the Jewish nation. This is the first point of light in which we are to consider unbelief, and the smallest attention is sufficient to discover its turpitude.
Consider the pains that Jesus Christ took to convince and to reform the Jews. To them he consecrated the first functions of his ministry; he never went out of their towns and provinces; he seemed to have come only for them, and to have brought a gospel formed on the plan of the law, and restrained to the Jewish nation alone. The evangelists have remarked these things, and he himself said,
St. Paul, in Rom. ix. 25, quotes a prophecy from Hosea, 'I will call them my people, which were not my people.' The ancient
The apostle, in Rom x. 19, alleges a passage from Deuteronomy; I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, chap. xxxii. 21. The Jews, both ancient and modern, take this prophecy in the same sense, and one of their books, entitled, "The book by excellence,' explains the whole chapter of the time of the Messiah.
Our text is taken, by St. Paul from Isaiah's prophecy,' All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.' The ancient Jews took the words in the same sense, as we can prove by the writings of the modern Jews. Aben Ezra quotes an ancient Rabbi, who explains the prophecy more like a Christian than a Jew. These are his words: 'I have found the nations which called not on me: but, as for my people, in vain have I stretched out my hands unto them.' St. Paul proves that the hardness of heart of the Jewish nation was foretold by the prophets, and the Jews, in like manner, have preserved a tradition of the infidelity of their nation in the time of the Messiah: hence this saying of a Rabbi, God abode three years and a half on Mount Olivet in vain; in vain he cried, Seek ye the Lord! and therefore am I found of them who sought me not.'
after his example, by saying to the Jews, Unto you first, God sent his Son Jesus to bless you,' Acts iii. 26.
Consider, farther, the means which Jesus Christ employed to recover this people. Here a boundless field of meditation opens: but the limits of these exercises forbid my enlarging, and I shall only indicate the principal articles.
What proper means of conviction did Jesus omit in the course of his ministry among this people? Are miracles proper? Though ye believe not me, believe the works,' John x. 32. Were extraordinary discourses proper? 'If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin,' chap. xv. 22. Is in nocence proper? Which of you convinceth me of sin chap. viii. 46. Is the authority of the prophets necessary? Search the Scriptures, for they are they that testify of me,' chap. v. 39. Is it proper to reason with people on their own principles? Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me,' ver. 46. Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?' chap. x. 34-36
Consider again, the different forms, if I may be allowed to speak so, which Jesus Christ put on to insinuate himself into their minds. Sometimes he addressed them by condescension, submitting to the rites of the law, receiving circumcision, going up to Jerusalem, observing the sabbath, and celebrating their festivals. At other times he exhibited a noble liberty, freeing himself from the rites of the law, travelling on sabbath-days, and neglecting their feasts. Sometimes he conversed familiarly with them, eating and drinking with them, mixing himself in their entertainments, and assisting at their marriage-feasts. At other times he put on the austerity of retirement, fleeing from their societies, retreating into the deserts, devoting himself for whole nights to meditation and prayer, and for whole weeks to praying and fasting. Sometimes he addressed himself to them by a graceful gentleness: Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Learn of me, for I am meek, and lowly in heart. 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! Matt. xi, 28, 29; xxiii. 37. At other times he tried them by severity, he drove them from the temple, he denounced the judgments of God against them; he depicted a future day of vengeance, and, showing Jerusalem covered with the carcasses of the slain, the holy mountain flowing with blood, and the temple consuming in flames, he cried, Wo, wo to the Pharisees! Wo to the scribes! Wo to all the doctors of the law! ver. 13, &c.
Jesus Christ, in the whole of his advent, answered the characters by which the prophets had described the Messiah. What
characters do you Jews expect in a Messiah, which Jesus Christ doth not bear? Born of your nation,-in your country,—of a virgin, of the family of David,-of the tribe of Judah,-in Bethlehem,-after the seventy weeks, at the expiration of your grandeur, and before the departure of your sceptre. On one hand, despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities; brought as a lamb to the slaughter, cut off from the land of the living,' as your prophets had foretold, Isa. liii. 3-8. But on the other hand, glorious and magnanimous, 'prolonging his days, seeing his seed, the pleasure of the Lord prospering in his hand, justifying many by his knowledge, blessed of God, girding his sword upon his thigh, and riding prosperously on the word of his truth,' as the same prophets had taught you to hope, ver. 10, 11, and Psal. xlv. 2, 3. What Messiah, then, do you wait for? If you require another gospel, produce us another law. If you reject Jesus Christ, reject Moses. If you want other accomplishments, show us other prophecies. If you will not receive our apostles, discard your own prophets.
Such was the conduct of Jesus to the Jews. What success had he? What effects were produced by all his labour, and by all his love; by so many conclusive sermons, and so many pressing exhortations; by so much demonstrative evidence, by so many exact characters, and so many shining miracles; by so much submission, and so much elevation; by so much humility, and so much glory; and, so to speak, by so many different forms, which Jesus Christ took to insinuate himself into the minds of this people? You hear in the words of the text; All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.' The malice of this people prevailed over the mercy of God, and mercy was useless except to a few. The ancient Jews were infidels, and most of the modern Jews persist in infidelity. Is not this a prodigy of hardness? Is not this an eternal reproach and shame to the Jewish nation?
II. But we have pursued the unbelief of the Jews far enough in the first point of view; let us proceed to consider it with a view to what we proposed in the second place. We will show that men's obstinate resistance of the most pressing motives, the most important interests, and the most illustrious examples, is not an unheard-of thing: and we will prove, that all which results from the example of the unbelieving Jews, is a proof of the uniformity of the depravity of mankind; that they who lived in the times of the first planters of Christianity, resembled the greatest part of those who lived before them, and of those who have lived since. Would to God this article were less capable of evidence! But, alas! we are going to conduct you step by step to demonstration.
First, We will take a cursory view of ancient history, and we will show you, that the conduct of the unbelieving Jews presents nothing new, nothing that had not been
1. The infidelity of those who heard the sermons of the first heralds of religion, might surprise us, if truth and virtue had always been embraced by the greatest number, and if the multitude had not always taken the side of vice and falsehood. But survey the principal periods of the church from the beginning of the world to that time, and you will see a very different conduct.
When there was only one man and one woman in the world, and when these two, who came from the immediate hand of God, could not question either his existence or his perfections, they both preferred the direction of the devil before that of the Supreme Being, who had just brought them into existence, Gen. iii.
Did God give them a posterity? The children walked in the criminal steps of their parents. The fear and the worship of the true God were confined to the family of Seth, to a small number of believers, whom the Scripture calls, 'sons of God,' chap. vi. 2, while the sons of men,' acknowledged no other religion but their own fancies, no other law but their own lust.
ham, his family, and a small number of believers, nobody worshipped or knew the true
Were these sons of presumption dispersed? Their depravity and their idolatry they carried with them, and with both they infected all the places of their exile. Except Abra
Were the descendants of this patriarch multiplied into a nation, and loaded with the distinguishing blessings of God? They dis tinguished themselves also by their excesses. Under the most august legislation, and against the clearest evidence, they adopted notions the most absurd, and perpetrated crimes the most unjust. They carried the tabernacle of Moloch in the wilderness; they proposed the stoning of Moses and Aaron; they preferred the slavery of Egypt before the liberty of the sons of God.
The Jewish doctors, who were contempo rary with Jesus Christ, assumed a sovereign power over the people's minds; and the Rabbins, who have succeeded them, have done their utmost to maintain, and to extend it. Hence the superb titles, Wise man, Father, Prince, King, yea God. Hence the absolute tyranny of decisions of what is true, and what is false; what is venial, and what is unpardonable. Hence the seditious maxims of those of them, who affirm that they, who violate their canons, are worthy of death. Hence those blasphemous declara tions, which say, that they have a right of Did mankind multiply? Errors and sins giving what gloss they please to the law, multiplied with them. The Scripture says, should it be even against the law itself; on 'All flesh had corrupted its way upon the condition, however, of their affirming, that earth. The Lord repented that he had made they were assisted by, I know not what su man on the earth,' ver. 12, and by a univer-pernatural aid, which they call Bath-col, that sal deluge exterminated the whole impious is, the daughter of a voice.' race, except eight persons,' 1 Pet. iii. 20. Now, my brethren, when an ecclesiastic Were these eight persons freed from the has arrived at a desire of domination over general flood? They peopled a new world the minds of the people, and when the peo with a succession as wicked as that which in-ple are sunk so low as to suffer their ecclesi habited the old world, and which was drown-astics to exercise such a dominion, there is ed in the flood. They conspired together no opinion too fantastic, no prepossession too against God, and left to future ages a monu- absurd, no doctrine too monstrous, to become ment of their insolent pride, a tower, the an article of faith. It has been often objected top' of which, they said should reach to against us, that, to allow every individual heaven,' Gen. xi. 4. the liberty of examining religion for himself, is to open a door to heresy. But if ever recrimination were just, it is proper here. To give fallible men the power of finally determining matters of faith, is to throw open
Were these people conducted by a train of miracles to the land of promise? The blessings that God bestowed so liberally on them, they generally turned into weapons of war against their benefactor. They shook off the gentle government of that God who had chosen them for his subjects, for the sake of submitting to the iron rods of such tyrants as those who reigned over neighbouring nstions.
Did God exceed their requests; did he give them princes, who were willing to support religion? They tebelled against them; they made a scandalous schism, and rendered that supreme worship to images which was due to none but to the supreme God.
2. The people, of whom we have been speaking, lived before the time of Jesus Christ: but I am to show you, in the second place, a whole community, enlightened by the gospel, retaining the same principle which was the chief cause of the infidelity of the Jews; I mean a blind submission to ecclesiastical rulers.
flood-gates to the most palpable errors. Thou eternal Truth! thou sovereign Teacher of the church! thou High-priest of the new covenant! thou alone hast a right to claim a tacit submision of reason, an implicit obedience of faith. And thou, sacred book! thou authentic gift of heaven! when my faith and my religion are in question, thou art the only tribunal at which I stand! But as for the doctrine of blind submission, I repeat it again, it will conduct us to the most palpable errors.
With the help of implicit faith, I could prove that a priest has the power of deposing a king, and of transmitting the supreme power to a tyrant.
With this principle, I could prove that a frail man can call down the Saviour of the world at his will, place him on an altar, or confine him in a box.
With this principle, I could prove that what my smell takes for bread is not bread; that what my eyes take for bread is not bread; that what my taste takes for bread is not bread: and so on.
With this principle, I could prove that a penitent is obliged to tell me all the secrets of his heart; and that if he conceal any of its recesses from me, he is, on that very account excluded from all the privileges of penitence. With this principle, I could prove that money given to the church delivers souls from purgatory; and that, according to the Bishop of Meaux, always when the souls in that prison hear the sound of the sums which are given for their freedom, they fly towards heaven.
or whether the continual fear of the extinction of that light, which we enjoyed, contributed to render it sacred to us; or whatever were the cause, our ancient zeal for the public exterior worship of our religion may be equalled, but it can never be exceeded.
With this principle, I could prove that a body which is whole in one place, is at the same time whole in another place; whole at Suppose, amidst a large concourse of peoRome, and whole at Constantinople; yea ple, assembled to celebrate a solemn feast, a more, all entire in one host, and all entire in preacher of falsehood had ascended a pulpit another host; yea more astonishing still, all of truth, and had affirmed these propositions : entire in one host, and all entire in ten thou-External worship is not essential to salvation. sand hosts; yea more amazing still, all en- They, who diminish their revenues, or retire in ten thousand hosts, and all entire in nounce the pleasures of life, for the sake of each part of these ten thousand hosts; all en- liberty of conscience, do not rightly undertire in the first particle, all entire in the se- stand the spirit of Christianity. The Lord's cond, and so on without number or end. supper ought not to be neglected, when it can be administered without peril: but we ought not to expose ourselves to danger for the sake of a sacrament, which at most is only a seal of the covenant, but not the covenant itself.' In what light would such a preacher have been considered? The whole congregation would have unanimously cried Away with him! Away with him!' Numb. xxv. Many a Phineas, many an Eleazar, would have been instantly animated with an impetuosity of fervour and zeal, which it would have been necessary to restrain.
3. You have seen a whole community professing Christianity, and yet not believing the doctrines of Christ, through the prevalence of the same principle, which render the ancient Jews infidels. We proceed now to show you something more extraordinary still; a multitude of Christians, instructed in the truths of the gospel, freed by the light of the reformation from the darkness with which superstition had covered the gospel; and yet seducing themselves like the ancient Jews, because their unworthy passions have rendered their reduction necessary.
Recall, my dear fellow-countrymen, the happy days in which you were allowed to make an open profession of your religion in the place of your nativity. Amidst repeated provocations of the divine patience, which, at last, drew down the anger of God on our unhappy churches, there was one virtue,it must be owned, that shone with peculiar glory, I mean, zeal for public worship. Whether mankind have in general more attachment to the exterior than to the inward part of divine worship;
Ye happy inhabitants of these provinces! We are ready to yield to you the pre-eminence in all other virtues: this only we dispute with you. The singing of a psalm was enough to fire that vivacity, which is essential to our nation. Neither distance nor place, nor inclemency of weather, could dispense with our attendance on a religious exercise. Long and wearisome journeys, through frost and snows, we took to come at those churches which were allowed us for public worship. Communion days were triumphant days, which all were determined to share. Our churches were washed with penitential tears: and when, on days of fasting and prayer, a preacher desired to excite extraordinary emotions of grief, he was sure to succeed, if he cried, God will take away his candlestick from you, God will deprive you of the churches in which ye form only vain designs of conver sion.'
O God! what are become of sentiments so pious and so worthy of Christianity! This ar ticle is a source of exquisite grief. In sight of these sad objects we cry, O wall of the daughter of Zion! let tears run down like a river day and night,' Lam. ii. 18. Here the sorrowful Rachel mourneth for her children! she utters the voice of lamentation and bitter weeping, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are not,' Jer. xxxi. 15. Go, go see those degenerate sons of the reformation! Go, try to communicate a brisker motion to that reformed blood, which still creeps slowly in their veins. Arouse them by urging the necessity of that external worship of which they still retain some grand ideas. Alarm their ears with the thundering voice of the Son of God: tell them, He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven,' Matt. x. 33. 37; and what will they say? They will tax you with being an enthusiastic declaimer. The very
They are two very different questions, I 1. Let us attend to the circumstances grant, whether the Jewish church acknow- which providence had improved to the proTedged that the Messiah should be the Son ducing of St. Peter's faith. There are in the of God; and whether they knew all the im- lives of Christians, certain signal circumport of this august title. It cannot, howe- stances, in which we cannot help perceiving ver, be reasonably doubted, I think, whether a particular hand of Providence working for they discovered his dignity, although they their salvation. Mistakes on this article might not know the doctrine of Christ's di- may produce, and foment, superstitious senvinity so clearly, nor receive it with so much timents. We have, in general, a secret bias demonstration, as Christians have received to fanaticism. We often meet with people it. I should digress too far from my subject, who imagine themselves the central points were I to quote all the passages from the of all the designs of God; they think, he writings of the Jews which learned men watches only over them, and that, in all the have collected on this article. Let it suffice events in the universe, he has only their fe to remark, that if it could be proved, that licity in view. Far from us be such extrathe Jewish church affixed only confused ideas vagant notions. It is, however, strictly true, to the title Son of God,' which is given to that there are in the lives of Christians some the Messiah, it is beyond a doubt, I think, signal circumstances, in which we cannot that the apostles affixed clear ideas to the help seeing a particular Providence working terms, and that in their style, God and Son for their salvation. Of whom can this be of God are synonymous: witness, among affirmed more evidently than of the apostles? many other passages, St. Thomas's adoration They by an inestimable privilege, were not of Jesus Christ expressed in these words, only witnesses of the life of Jesus Christ, 'My Lord and my God.' hearers of his doctrine, and spectators of his miracles: but they were admitted to an intimacy with him; they had liberty at all times, and in all places, to converse with him, to propose their doubts, and to ask for his instructions; they were at the source of wisdom, truth, and life. St. Peter had these advantages not only in common with the rest of the apostles: but he, with James and John, were chosen from the rest of the apos tles to accompany the Saviour, when, on particular occasions, he laid aside the veils which concealed him from the rest, and when he displayed his divinity in its greatest glory. A faith produced in such extraordinary circumstances, was not the work of flesh and blood, it was a production of that almighty grace, that ineffable love, which wrought the salvation of St. Peter.
Let us not engage any farther in this controversy now; let us improve the precious moments which remain to the principal design that we proposed in the choice of the subject, that is, to guard you against the temptations which arise from that variety of opinions which are received, both in the world and in the church, on the most important points of religion. The comparison we are going to make of St. Peter's confession of faith, with the judgment of Jesus Christ on it, will conduct us to this end.
My brethren, although we have never enjoyed the same advantages with St. Peter: yet, it seems to me, those whom God has established in piety, may recollect the manner in which he has improved some circumstances to form the dispositions in them that constitute it. Let each turn his attention to the different conditions through which God has been pleased to conduct him. Here I was exposed to such or such a danger, and delivered from it by a kind of miracle; there, I fell into such or such a temptation, from which I was surprisingly recovered; in such a year I was connected with a baneful company, from which an unexpected event freed me at another time, I met with a faithful friend, the most valuable of all acquisitions, whose kind advice and assistance, recommended by his own example, were of infinite use to me: some of these dangerous states would have ruined me, if the projects, on which I was most passionately bent, had succeeded according to my wishes; for they were excited by worldly objects, and I was infatuated with their glory; and others would have produced the same effect, if my adverse circumstances had either increased or continued. I repeat, it again, my brethren, each of us may recollect circumstances in his life in which a kind Providence evidently interposed, and made use of them to tear him
Jesus Christ assured St Peter, that the confession of faith, which he then made, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' was not a production of frail and corrupted nature, or, as he expresses it, That 'flesh and blood' hath not revealed these things unto him. Flesh and blood mean here, as in mamy passages we have quoted at other times, frail and corrupted nature. Jesus Christ assured St. Peter, that this confession was a production of grace, which had operated in him, and which would conduct him to the supreme good. This is the meaning of these words, My Father, who is in heaven, hath revealed these things unto thee.' What were the characters of the faith of St. Peter which occasioned the judgment that Jesus Christ made of it? and how may we know whether our faith be of the same divine original? Follow us in these reflections: Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, flesh and blood hath not produced the faith that thou hast professed, but my Father who is in heaven, hath revealed it to thee.' In order to convince thee of the truth of my assertions, consider first the circumstances which Providence has improved to produce thy faith: secondly, the efforts which preceded it: thirdly, the evidence that accompanies it: fourthly, the sacrifices which seal and crown it: and, lastly the nature of the very frailties which subsist with it. Let us explain these five characters, and let us make an application of them. Let us know St. Peter; or, rather, let us learn to know ourselves. With this, the most important point, we will conclude this discourse.