« AnteriorContinuar »
government. We have explained ourselves elsewhere concerning what is meant by the Æchmalotarks ; that is, the chiefs or princes of the captivity. We ought also to pay some attention to the book of Susanna : I know that this work bears various marks of reprobation, and that St. Jerome, in particular, regarded it with so much contempt as to assure us, in some sort, that it would never have been put in the sacred canon had it not been to gratify a brutish people. Mean while, we ought not to slight what this book records concerning the general history of the Jews: now we there see, that during the captivity, they had elders, judges, and senators; and if we may credit Origen, too much prejudiced in favour of the book of Susanna, it was solely to hide the shame of the princes of their nation that the Jews had suppressed.
4. God always preserved among them the ministry, and the ministers. It is indubitable that there was always prophets during the captivity; and though some of the learned have maintained, that the sacred books were lost during the captivity; though one text of scripture seems to favour this notion; and though Tertullian and Eusebius presume to say that Esdras had retained the sacred books in memory, and wrote them in the order in which they now stand; notwithstanding all this, we think ourselves able to prove that the sacred trust never was out of their hands. It
appears that Daniel read the prophets. The end of the second book of Chronicles, which has induced some to think that Cyrus was a proselyte, leaves not a doubt of this prince having read the xlivth and xlvth
chapters of Isaiah, where he is expressly named, and to this knowledge alone we can attribute the extraordinary expressions of his first edict. The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has charged me to build him a temple in Jerusalem. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 23.
5. God wrought prodigies for the Jews, which made them venerable in the eyes of their greatest enemies. Though exiles; though captives; though slaves of the Chaldeans, they were distinguished as the favourites of the Sovereign of the universe. They made the God of Abraham to triumph in the midst of idols and aided by the prophetic Spirit, they pronounced the destiny of those very kingdoms in the midst of which they were dispersed. Like the captive Ark, they hallowed the humiliations of their captivity by symbols of terror. Witness the flames which consumed their executioners. Witness the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, and of Belshazzar interpreted by Daniel, and realized by Providence: witness the praises rendered to God by idolatrous kings : witness the preservation of Daniel from the fury of the lions; and his enemies thrown to assuage the appetites of those ferocious beasts.
6. In a word, the mercy of God appeared so distinguished in the deliverance accorded to these same Jews, as to convince the most incredulous, that the same God who had determined their captivity, was he also who had prescribed its bounds. He moved in their behalf the hearts of pagan princes ! We see Darius, and Cyrus, and Artaxerxes, become, by the sovereignty of Heaven over the heart of kings, the
restorers of Jerusalem, and of its temple ! Xenophon reports, that when Cyrus took Babylon, he commanded his soldiers to spare all who spake the Syrian tongue ; that is to say, the Hebrew nation ; and no one can be ignorant of the edicts issued in favour of this people.
Now, my brethren, nothing but an excess of blindness and ingratitude can prevent the seeing and feeling in our own dispersion those marks of mercy, which shone so bright in the dispersion of the Jews. How else could we have eluded the troops stationed on the frontiers of our country, to retain us in it by force, and to make us either martyrs, or apostates ?
What else could excite the zeal of some protestant countries, whose inhabitants you saw going to meet your fugitives, guiding them in the private roads, and disputing with one another who should entertain them; and saying, Come, come into our houses, ye blessed of the Lord? Gen. xxiv. 31.
Whence proceeds so much success in our trade; so much promotion in the army; so much progress in the sciences ; and so much prosperity in the several professions of many of us, who, according to the world, are more happy in the land of their exile, than they were in their own country?
Why has God been pleased to signalize his favours to certain individuals of the nations, that have extended to us a protecting arm ? Why, when indigence and exiles seemed to enter their houses together, have we seen affluence, benediction, and riches emanate, if we may so speak, from the bosom of charity · and beneficence ?
By what miracle have so great a number of our confessors and martyrs been liberated from their tortures and their chains ?
From what principle proceeds the extraordinary difference, God has put between those of our countrymen, who, without consulting flesh and blood, have followed Jesus Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach, and those who have wished to join the interests of mammon with those of heaven? Gal. i. 16. Heb. xii. 13.
We are masters of whatever property it pleased Providence to invest us on our departure ; but our brethren cannot dispose of theirs but with vexatious restrictions, and imposts.
We have over our children the rights which nature has given us, and which have been sanctioned by society and religion ; we can promise both to ourselves and to them the protection of the laws, while we shall continue to respect the laws, which we teach them to do. But our countrymen, on leaving their houses for a few hours, know not on their return, whether they shall find those dear parts of themselves, or whether they shall be dragged away to confinement in a convent, or thrown into a jail.
Whenever the sabbaths and festivals of the church arrive, we go with our families to render homage to the Supreme; we rise up in a throng with a song of triumph in the house of our God; we make it resound with hymns; we hear the scriptures; we offer up our prayers ; we participate of his sacraments; we anticipate the eternal felicities. But our countrymen have no part in the joy of our feasts; they are
to them days of mourning ; it is with difficulty in an obscure part of their house, and in the mortal fear of detection, that they celebrate some hasty act of piety and religion.
We, when conceiving ourselves to be extended on the bed of death, can call our ministers, and open to them our hearts, listen to their gracious words, and drink in the sources of their comfort. But our countrymen are pursued to the last moments of their life by their enemies, and having lived temporizing, they die temporizing
We find then as the captive Jews, the accomplishment of the prophecy in my text; and we enjoy, during the years of our dispersion, favours similar to those which soothed the Jews during their captivity.
But can we promise ourselves that ours shall come to a similar close? The mercy of God on our behalf has already accomplished the promise in the text, I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they are come.
But when shall we see the accomplishment of that which follows? I will gather you from among the people; and assemble you from the countries where
have been scattered. When is it that so many Christians, who, degenerate as they are, still love religion ; when is it that they shall repair the insults they have offered to it? When is it, that so many children who have been torn from their fathers, shall be restored ; or rather, when shall we see them restored to the church, from whose bosom they have been plucked? When is it that we shall see in our country what we see at this day, Christians