Page images

mercies and judgments that they ever experienced ; for by means of it they were cured of their idolatrous propensities; and never have yielded to them any more, even to the present hour.

After seventy years God delivered them from thence also, as he had before delivered them from Egypt; and re-established them, to a certain degree, in their former prosperity.

In the fulness of time, he, according to his promise, sent them his onlybegotten Son, to establish among them that kingdom of righteousness and peace, which had been shadowed forth among them from the time that they became a nation. But on their destroying him, he determined to cast them off; and accordingly he gave them into the hands of the Romans, who executed upon them such judgments as never had been inflicted on any nation under heaven. But neither was this dispensation unmixed with mercy: for, blinded as they were by prejudice, they never would have renounced their errors, or embraced the Gospel, if they had been able still to satisfy their minds with the rites and ceremonies of their own Church. But as God drove our first parents from Paradise, and precluded them from all access to the tree of life, which was no more to be a sacramental pledge of life to them now in their fallen state ; and as he thereby prevented them from deluding their souls with false hopes, and shut them up unto that mercy, which he had revealed to them through the seed of the woman; so now has he cut off the Jews from all possibility of observing the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law, in order that they may be constrained to seek for mercy through the Messiah whom they have crucified.

At the same time that God has ordered this dispensation with an ultimate view to the good of his once-favoured people, he has consulted in it the good of the whole world ; for, when he cut them off from the stock on which they grew, he took a people from among the Gentiles, and engrafted them as scions upon the Jewish stock, and made them“ partakers of the root and fatness of the olive-tree which his own right hand had planted. What he might have done for the Gentiles, if the Jews had not provoked him to cut them off, we cannot say: but the Apostle, speaking on this subject, says, that “they became enemies for our sakes,and “ were broken off that we might be graffed in.Doubtless, the stock was sufficient to bear both them and us; for the time is coming when the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, shall grow together upon it, seeing that it is God's intention to engraff on it again the natural branches, which for the present he has broken off: but so has he ordained, that they should be cast out of his Church, and we be introduced into it, and that the one event should be preparatory to the other; that so the fall and ruin of the Jews should be the riches and salvation of the Gentile world". And it is plain, that this appointment of his is carried into effect; for they are broken off, and are no longer his Church, since there is not one amongst them that either does, or can, serve God according to their law: and we, on the contrary, are his Church; and millions of us, through the world, are rendering to him the service he requires; and, if we are not his Church, then God has not at this hour, nor has he had for above seventeen hundred years, a Church

God, however, has not cast off his people fully or finally: not fully, for he brought multitudes of them into his Church in the apostolic age: nor finally; for though, through the shameful remissness of the Christian world, he has done but little for the Jews in these latter ages, yet is he, we trust, shewing mercy to them now, and sowing seeds among them, which shall one day bring forth a glorious harvest. Moreover as, by breaking off the Jews, God made room for the Gentiles, so has he ordained, that the bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles shall contribute to the restoration of the Jews themselves; and that, at last, the whole collective body of mankind shall be “one fold under one Shepherd.” What a stupendous mystery is this! Well might St. Paul, in the contemplation of it, exclaim, “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!” Truly, this mystery is by no means sufficiently considered amongst us; though it is so great, that not even the Apostles themselves, for six years after the day of Pentecost, could see into it; and even then it was only by a miraculous interference that God prevailed upon them to receive it: it was by repeated visions to Peter and Cornelius, that he induced Peter to preach the Gospel to Cornelius; and it was by the effusion of the Holy Ghost on Cornelius and his family, that he induced the other Apostles to acquiesce in what Peter had done: and, even to the last, it was with reluctance they confessed, Then hath God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto lifex.” Let me recommend you then, my Brethren, to turn your attention to this mystery more than you have ever yet done; and never imagine that you have attained just views of it, till you are transported with wonder at the wisdom displayed in it', and filled with gratitude for the mercies it conveys.

u Rom. xi. 11, 12, 15.

upon earth.

A second improvement we should make of this subject is, to be afraid of provoking God to jealousy against us also. We have seen that it was the idolatry of the Jews that chiefly provoked God to jealousy against them. But is there not a spiritual idolatry, as well as that which consisted in the worship of graven images ? and is it not equally offensive to a jealous God? When his people of old placed idols in their secret chambers, his chief complaint was, that “they set them up in their hearts?. . And has he not told us, that “covetousness is idolatry;" and that we may “ make a god of our belly ?” What then is this but to say, that the loving and serving the creature more than the Creator,' whatever that creature be, is idolatry? We know full well, that * Acts x. and xi. 1, 18. y Ephes. iii. 6, 9, 10. z Ezek. xiv. 3, 4, 7. gods of wood and of stone were vanities;but are not pleasure, and riches, and honour,vanities,when put in competition with our God? and does not the inordinate pursuit of them provoke him to jealousy, as much as the bowing down to stocks and stones ever did ? And if the rejection of Jesus by the Jews was that crime which filled up the measure of their iniquities, and brought the wrath of God upon them to the uttermost; shall not “ the crucifying of the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame," as Christians do by their iniquities, be also considered as provoking the Most High God? Let us not think then that the Jews alone can provoke God to anger, or that they alone can ever be cast off for their wickedness; for he has expressly warned us by his Apostle, that he will cast us off, even as he did them, if we provoke him to jealousy by placing on the creature the affections that are due to him. Hear what St. Paul says; “Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he also spare not theel.” My Brethren, you cannot but see how grievously God is dishonoured by the Christian world: truly, “he is provoked by us every day;" and we, no less than the Jews, are a rebellious and stiff-necked people.” Look at all ranks and orders of men amongst us, and see whether there be not a lamentable departure from primitive Christianity ? Compare the lives of the generality with the examples of Christ and his Apostles, and see, not merely how short they come of the pattern set before them, (for that the best amongst us do,) but how opposite they are in their conduct; insomuch that, if they did not call themselves Christians, no one would ever think of calling them so, from their lives. Those who are in earnest about the salvation of their souls, are still “ as men wondered at” amongst us; so that instead of pointing at an unhappy few as exceptions to the Christian character, no one can tread in the steps of Christ and his Apostles, without becoming “ a sign and a wonder” among his neigh

a Rom. xi. 21.

[blocks in formation]

bours. This you cannot but know: what then must we expect, but that God will punish us precisely as he has done the Jews, and provoke us to jealousy, by others whom we despise? The fact is, that God is already dealing with us in this manner. The rich, the great, the noble are, for the most part, so occupied with “ vanities," as to forget the services which they owe to God; and the consequence is, that God overlooks them, and transfers the blessings of his Gospel to the poor. At this day it is true, no less than in the days of the Apostles, that “not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble are called," but “God has chosen the weak, and base, and foolish things of the world; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are; that no flesh should glory in his presence:” and this very circumstance does move the rich to anger, precisely as it did in the days of old; “ Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him ? As for these poor contemptible people that make such a noise about religion, they are cursed.” But I must go further, and say, that God is dealing in this very way even with those who do profess themselves his peculiar people. Who are the happy Christians ? Who have the richest enjoyment of the Gospel, or most adorn it in their life and conversation ? Are they the richer professors, whose hearts are set on “vanities,” or who are labouring night and day to procure them ? Are they not rather the poor and the destitute, who, having but little of this world, are more anxious to enjoy their God? We say not indeed that this is universally the case; but it is a general truth : nay more, amongst Indians and Hottentots there is often found a more lively and realizing sense of the divine presence, than amongst the worldly-minded professors of our own day. I must entreat you therefore, Brethren, to reflect, that if we do not, as a people, turn more heartily unto the Lord, we have reason to fear, lest “ the candlestick should be removed from us,” and be transferred to a people who shall walk more worthy of it.

« EelmineJätka »