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and, with no less pleasure, cordiality, and gratitude do I hail the institution of this Society, and embrace the opportunity of bearing my testimony in its behalf.
The fulness of my heart has, however, carried me perhaps too far in this introduction, and I must proceed more directly to the text which I have selected for the occasion.—We have in this passage, I mean the text and the three preceding verses, a most wonderful prophecy. I shall
I. Briefly explain and illustrate this prophecy; shewing that it has already received a most extraordinary accomplishment": of which our assembling at this time, for our present purpose, is alone a decisive proof:
II. Shew that the fulfilment of this prophecy, thus far, hath brought us in debtors to the Jews to an amount which baffles calculation:
III. Prove that this prophecy shall have, and I trust, in some part, even by our means, a still more astonishing accomplishment, and that at no very remote period.
* I. I shall briefly explain and illustrate this wonderful prophecy, and shew that it has already received a most extraordinary accomplishment.
It is well known that the Jews (the tribe of Judah, with some from the other tribes of Israel incorporated with them,) were just returned from captivity, when Zechariah prophesied; and that they were a feeble, obscure, and despised company, vassals to the Persians, and exposed to numerous-enemies. Their peculiar religion, and their real or supposed bigotry, have rendered them objects of scorn and aversion to other nations, in all ages: but their calamities and degradations, and the oppressions under which they lay, rendered their religion itself more despised, at this time than it otherwise would have been; or than it was in the prosperous days of David and Solomon. Sennacherib, even during the reign of Hezekiah, did not hesitate to say, "How much less, shall your "God deliver you out of my hand ?" 1 This contemptuous language was, no doubt, suggested by the successes of those who worshipped other gods, over the worshippers of Jehovah. But how much force must this argument have acquired in the mind of a proud heathen, by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the captivity of the Jews, and the desolations of Jehovah's land, by the victorious arms of idolaters! And, even when Cyrus liberated the Jews, the small company, who returned to their own land, continued vassals and tributaries to idolaters.
But it is foretold, in the verse preceding our text, that, " many people and strong nations shall "come to seek the Lord of hosts, at Jerusalem, "and to pray before the Lord." The four great empires which subverted and succeeded each other, the Babylonian or Chaldean, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman, were, during the time of their several dominations, the "many people, "and the strong nations," here especially intended. They were all idolaters; all exulting in arms, in conquest, and dominion; and many of them, at least in civilization, in learning and philosophy, in arts and sciences. In these things the Jews had never excelled; and least of all when this prophecy was delivered. They had been subjugated by the Chaldeans; they were at this time under the dominion of the Persians; they would soon (as other prophecies declared,) be oppressed by the Grecian or Macedonian power: and it was most expressly predicted, that the Romans should execute the most tremendous vengeance of God on the nation.1
12 Chron. xxxii. 16.
It has often been known that the vanquished have been induced to embrace, or conform to, the religion of their conquerors: but what probability was there, that the haughty, domineering, and triumphant worshippers of Belus, of Moloch, of the Sun; and especially those of Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Venus, and Bacchus, and of the whole company of deities rendered famous by the exquisitely beautiful poems and other writings, by the sculpture and the architecture, of Greece and Rome, should ever renounce their idols, and become the worshippers of the God of the vanquished, subjugated, and despised Jews t the God whom they alone, of all the nations on earth, professed to worship! Nay, that they should deign to learn religion (the most important of all subjects,) from the very people, on whom in all other respects they looked down, as from an exalted eminence! Indeed, many passages might be adduced, to prove, from the writings of the Romans especially, that the Jews were actually considered by them as a superstitious, dastardly, contemptible, and almost execrable race ; and that long after the coming of Christ.1 Who could then have imagined that these Romans, especially, would have become disciples to the Jews in the grand concern of religion? This, however, is expressly predicted in the text.—" In those days it "shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, "out of all languages of the nations, even shall "take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, say"ing we will go with you ; for we have heard that "God is with you." This certainly implies all that I have stated, and indeed much more: yet, however improbable this must have appeared at the time when the prophecy was delivered, it has already been accomplished in a most astonishing manner. The conquerors and destroyers of the Jews have become the worshippers of the God of the Jews. Jehovah has superseded Jupiter, and all the other pagan deities, through the vast dominions of the Greeks and Romans ;—not to dwell on the utter extinction of the ancient idolatry of Chaldea, Persia, and Egypt. The Lord hath " famished all the "gods of the earth; and men worship him, every "one from his place, even all,the isles of the hea"then."1 Within three hundred years from the time when Titus (afterwards the Roman emperor,) took Jerusalem, with unprecedented, and almost exterminating, destruction of the Jews; the emperors of Rome openly renounced the ancient idolatry, and used the most decided methods of suppressing it; and the entire religion of Greece and Rome, the principal of the "many people and "powerful nations" spoken of in the context, and whose dominion extended over all the rest, would, in a short time, have sunk into as entire oblivion as the idols and idolatry of Moab, Ammon, and Babylon have done; had not the writers, called the classics, preserved a memorial of them in their fascinating poems and fables, and compositions of various kinds. But their temples, their images, their priests, their sacrifices, their ceremonies,— where are they? where have they been during the last fifteen hundred years? It is true that the ruins of Athens and Rome, and the mutilated statues and busts found in the collections of antiquaries, with some other fragments or memorials of a similar nature, aid in rescuing them from total obscurity; yet this is only among an exceedingly small proportion of mankind.
1 Dan. ix.26, 27.
1 It may not be superfluous to adduce one instance of this kind, especially as it is a passage less frequently quoted than many others. It is taken from Quinctilian's celebrated Institutio Oratoria, lib. iii. § 7., and is there introduced quite incidentally, where the author is pointing out the proper topics for laudatory or invective orations. He says: Et est conditoribus urbium infame, contraxisse aliquam perniciosam ceteris gentem, qualis est primus Judaica: superstitionis auctor. "It is a reproacli to the founders of cities, to have drawn together some tribe of men, who should prove a pest to other nations, as was the case with the originator of the Jewish superstition." Such a sentence, so introduced by a grave and philosophical writer, shews in the strongest possible light, the contempt and aversion associated with the name of Moses and the Jews in his mind, and among the people for whom he wrote.—Quinctilian flourished near the end of the first century after Christ.—J. S.