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the comfort of future hopes: the present scene was dark and gloomy; the loving kindness of the Lord was hid from his people, and they saw nothing but tokens of anger and displeasure on every side. In this time therefore God thought fit to give more and plainer intimations of his purpose to establish the kingdom of righteousness, than ever had been given before from the days of Adam. Now was it that the seed in whom all nations were to be blessed' was manifestly described; that the time and place of his birth were appointed ; his great works, his glories, and his sufferings, were foretold. Now was it that God taught his people plainly to expect a new covenant, a better than that made with their fathers. In a word, now was it that all eyes were opened to look for his coming, who was to be the glory of Israel; the desire of all nations ; a light to lighten the Gentiles.' This great scene being opened and placed in so clear a view, the work of prophecy was finished, and in a few years the gift itself ceased : a plain evidence that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus ; and that all the blessings and promises given to God's ancient people were to have their final accomplishment in the manifestation of the blessed seed.
The ten tribes, which were carried away by the king of Assyria, never more returned to their own country; the tribe of Judah, after seventy years captivity, came back to the land of Canaan, erected a new temple, and continued to be a tribe and a people till the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Ro
If you think all this happened by chance, there is no room to ask you any questions about it; but if you allow the hand of God to be in these events, tell me from whence this distinction, this partial regard to the tribe of Judah ? Read their own prophets, and learn from thence the character of their tribe ; you will find no merit in them to justify this regard of God towards them : they were as bad as their neighbors; but they had one advantage, they had a promise which none of the ten tribes had, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah till Shiloh came.' For the fulfilling of this promise, and all the promises relating to the blessed seed, was this tribe preserved some hundreds of years after the others had ceased to be a people.
That this tribe was resettled purely for the accomplishment of God's promises of a better covenant, appears from all the circumstances of their condition after their return. They were not restored to enjoy the ancient privileges of the people of God in the land of Canaan : those privileges were forfeited by their iniquity; their Urim and their Thummim were no more heard of; and after they were once established in the land, (a point in which Providence was nearly concerned,) the gift of prophecy ceased, and God appeared not in the management of their temporal affairs, as formerly he had done. They were often distressed, and often brought near ruin; they suffered in all the changes of the empire of the east, and were, as they express themselves, • servants in the land which God gave to their fathers :' Neh. ix. 36. I mention this particular, to account to you the more clearly for the ceasing of prophecy some ages before the coming of Christ. Prophecy among the Jews was relative to the two covenants given to Abraham ; when the Jews had forfeited the blessings of the temporal covenant, and God had fully opened and prepared the way for the coming in of the second, he recalled his ministers and ambassadors, for whose service he had no longer any occasion.
That the prophecies relating to the second and better covenant produced a suitable effect, and were matter of comfort and consolation to the righteous among the Israelites, may be collected from some few allusions to the opinions of their own times, to be found in the books of the prophets. That the people of Israel had, in the days of the prophet Amos, a notion of some great deliverance or blessing still to come, may be gathered from the reproof given to those who, though void of the fear of God, yet expected a share in his blessing.
6 Wo unto you that desire the days of the Lord : to what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light:' Amos v. 18. As some waited in faith for the consolation of Israel, so others there were who mocked at all such hopes and expectations : to these the prophet Isaiah speaks; “Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cartrope: that say, let him make speed and hasten his work, that
, we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel, draw nigh and come, that we may know it :' Isa. v. 18. 19.
Under the power of these irreligious mockers the righteous (and such has ever been their lot) were wearied and oppressed, but the prophet speaks comfort to them: hear the words of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word ; your brethren that hated you, and cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed:' lxvi. 5. As wicked as the people of Israel were, yet in all times were there some who waited for the salvation of God; whose faith and hope are well expressed by the son of Sirach : 'the power of the earth is in the hand of the Lord, and in due time he will set over it one that is profitable :' Ecclus x. 4.
That the prophecy given at the time of the fall was understood in the ancient Jewish church to relate to the times of the Messias, may with great probability be inferred from many passages, but especially from one in Isaiah, where after a full description of the kingdom of Christ, and the happiness of those who were the seed of the blessed of the Lord, the state and condition of the wicked in the time of that kingdom is thus described in few words ; and dust shall be the serpent's meat :' Isa. Ixv. 25. By what figure of speech, or for what reason is the serpent here made to signify those who are distinguished from the seed of the blessed ? And how comes the punishment of these reprobates to be set forth by the serpent's eating dust? Here is nothing in the prophet to explain this figure; but he seems to use it as a saying well known, and perfectly understood by his countrymen; and from whence could they borrow it but from the history of man's fall? There you may find the seed of the blessed,' to whom victory over the serpent is promised ; and there you may see the serpent doomed to eat dust; and the allusions to this ancient prophecy, in Isaiah's description of the kingdom of the Messias, shows in what sense it was understood of old, and for many ages before the birth of Christ.
These prophecies relating to the kingdom of the Messias have still a larger and more extensive use, not confined to any particular
age, but reaching to every age of the Christian church. They were given to the Jews of old for the support of their faith, and are a standing reproof to their children of this age
for their unbelief : they taught those of old time to expect the kingdom of Christ, and are a condenination to those of this time for rejecting it: they are a support and an evidence to the gospel, and furnish every true believer with an answer to give to him who asketh the reason of the hope that is in him.
They who are educated in the belief of Christianity, and taught to receive the books of both Testaments with equal reverence, are not apt to distinguish between the evidence for their faith, arising from the one and the other. But if we look back to the earliest times of preaching the gospel, and consider how the case stood as to the Jewish converts on one side, who were convinced of the divine authority of the Old Testament, and as to the Gentile converts on the other, who had no such persuasion, the distinction will appear very manifestly. The ancient prophecies, though they are evidence both to the Jew and to the Gentile, yet are they not so to both in the same way of reasoning and deduction, nor to the same end and purpose. For consider; the Jew was possessed of the oracles of God, and firmly persuaded of the truth of them; the very first thing therefore which he had to do on the appearance of the Messiah was to examine his title by the character given of him in the prophets; he could not, consistently with his belief in God and faith in the ancient prophecies, attend to other arguments, till fully satisfied and convinced in this. All the prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the office and character of the Messiah were immoveable bars to all pretensions, till fulfilled and accomplished in the person pretending to be the promised and long-expected Redeemer. For this reason the preachers
. of the gospel, in applying to the Jews, begin with the argument from prophecy. Thus St. Paul, in his discourse with the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, begins with the call of Abraham, and after a short historical deduction of matters from thence to the times of David, he adds, of this man's seed hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour Jesus :' Acts xiii. 23. where you see plainly that the whole argument rests on the authority of prophecy; and all the parts of this apostolical sermon are answerable to this beginning, proceeding from one end to the other on the authority of the old prophets. But the very same Apostle St. Paul, preaching to
the people of Athens, Acts xvii. argues from other topics ; he says nothing of the prophets, to whose mission and authority the Athenians were perfect strangers, but begins with declaring to them, God that made the world and all things therein :' he goes on condemning all idolatrous practices, and assuring them that God is not worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing.' He accounts to them for the past times of ignorance at which God winked, and tells them that now he calls all men to repentance, having appointed Christ Jesus to be the judge of all men; for the truth of which he appeals to the evidence of Christ's resurrection, 'whereof,' says the Apostle, he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead :' ver. 31. Whence comes this difference? How comes St. Paul's argument, on one and the same subject, in Acts xiii. and xvii. to be so unlike to each other? Can this be accounted for
than by considering the different circumstances of the persons to whom he delivered himself. In Acts xiii. he argues professedly with Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God, and who, from these oracles, were well instructed in the great marks and characters of the expected Messiah. It had been highly absurd therefore to reason with them on other arguments, till he had first convinced them by their prophets; and having so convinced them, it would have been impertinent. To them therefore he urges and applies the authority of prophecy only; but to the Athenians, who knew not the prophets, or if they knew them, yet had no reverence or esteem for them, it had been quite ridiculous to offer proofs from prophecies: the appeal therefore before them is made to the sound and clear principles of natural religion, and to the miracles of the gospel, the fame of which probably had, long before, reached to Athens; and the truth of which, they being mere matters of fact, was capable of undeniable evidence and demonstration.
It is very observable that St. Paul, in his sermon at Athens, goes no farther than calling them to repentance and to faith in Christ, as the person appointed by God to judge the world; in which doctrine he had natural religion with him in every point except the appointment of Christ to be judge, for which he appeals to the evidence given by God in raising Jesus from