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says, chap. ii. 12, &c. And therefore these things were suffered to rise very high, that Christ might appear so much the more glorious in being above them.
Thus wonderfully did the great and wise Governor of the world prepare the way for the erecting of the glorious kingdom of his beloved Son Jesus.
3. Another thing for which this last period or space of time before Christ was particularly remarkable, was the wonderful preservation of the church through all those overturnings. The preservation of the church was on some accounts more remarkable through this period, than through any of the foregoing. It was very wonderful that the church, which in this period was so weak, and in so low a state, and mostly subject to the dominion of Heathen monarchies, should be preserved for five or six hundred years together, while. the world was so often overturned, and the earth was rent in pieces, and made so often empty and waste, and the inhabitants of it came down so often every one by the sword of his brother. I say it was wonderful that the church, in its weak and low state, being but a little handful of men, should be preserved in all these great convulsions; especially considering that the land of Judea, the chief place of the church's residence, lay in the midst of them, as it were in the middle between the contending parties, and was very much the seat of war amongst them, and was often overrun and subdued, and sometimes in the hands of one people, and sometimes another, and very much the object of the envy and hatred of all Heathen nations, and often almost ruined by them, often great multitudes of its inhabitants being slain, and the land in a great measure depopulated; and those who had them in their power, often intended the utter destruction of the whole nation. Yet they were upheld ; they were preserved in their captivity in Babylon, and they were upheld again under all the dangers they passed through under the kings of Persia, and the much greater dangers they were liable to under the empire of the Greeks, and afterwards when the world was trodden down by the Romans.
And their preservation through this period was also distinguishingly remarkable, in that we never read of the church's suffering persecution in any former period in any measure to such a degree as they did in this, under Antiochus Epiphanes, of which more afterwards. This wonderful preservation of the church through all these overturnings of the world, gives light and confirmation to what we read in the beginning of the 46th Psalm: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar, and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."
Thus I have taken notice of some general things wherein this last period of the Old Testament times were distinguished. I come now to consider how the work of redemption was carried on in particulars.-Ani,
1. The first thing that here offers is the captivity of the Jews into Babylon. This was a great dispensation of Providence, and such as never was before. The children of Israel in the time of the judges, had often been brought under their enemies; and many particular persons were carried captive at other times. But never had there been any such thing as destroying the whole land, the sanctuary, and the city of Jerusalem, and all the cities and villages of the land, and carrying the whole body of the people out of their own land into a country many hundred miles distant, and leaving the land of Canaan empty of God's visible people. The ark had once forsaken the tabernacle of Shiloh, and was carried captive into the land of the Philistines : but never had there been any such thing as burning the sanctuary, and utterly destroying the ark, and carrying away all the sacred vessels and utensils, and breaking up all their stated worship in the land, and the land's lying waste and empty for so many years together. How lively are these things set forth in the Lamentations of Jeremiah!
The work of redemption was promoted by this remarkable dispensation in these following ways.
1. It finally cured that nation of their itch after idolatry. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, chap. ii. 18, speaks of the abolishing of idolatry as one thing that should be done to this end : “ And the idols he shall utterly abolish.” When the time was drawing near, that God would abolish Heathen idolatry, through the greater part of the known world, as he did by the preaching of the gospel after Christ came, it pleased him first to abolish Heathenism among his own people; and he did it now by their captivity into Babylon ; a presage of that abolishing of idols, that God was about to bring to pass by Christ through so great a part of the Heathen world.
This nation that was addicted to idolatry before for so many ages, and that nothing would cure them of, not all the reproofs, and warnings, and corrections, that they had, and all the judginents God inflicted on them for it; yet now were finally cured; so that however some might fall into this sin afterwards, as they did about the time of Antiochus's persecution, yet the nation, as a nation, never showed any hankering after this sin any more. This was a remarkable and wonderful change in that people, and what directly promoted the work of redemption, as it was a great advancement of the interest of religion.
2. It was one thing that prepared the way of Christ's coming, and setting up the glorious dispensation of the gospel, as it took away many of those things wherein consisted the glory of the Jewish dispensation. In order to introduce the glorious dispensation of the gospel, the external glory of the Jewish church must be diminished, as we observed before. This the Babylonish captivity did many ways; it brought the people very low.
First, It removed the temporal diadem of the house of David away from them, i. e., the supreme and independent government of themselves. It took away the crown and diadem from the nation. The time now approaching when Christ, the great and everlasting king of his church, was to reign, it was time for the typical kings to withdraw. As God said by Ezekiel, chap. xxi. 26: “He removed the crown and diadem, that it might be no more, till he should come, whose right it was." The Jews henceforward were always dependent on the governing power of other nations, until Christ came, for near six hundred years, excepting about ninety years, during which space they maintained a sort of independence, by continual wars, under the dominion of the Maccabees and their posterity.
Again, by the captivity, the glory and magnificence of the temple was taken away, and the temple that was built afterwards, was nothing in comparison with it. Thus it was meet, when the time drew nigh that the glorious antitype of the temple should appear, that the typical temple should have its glory withdrawn.
Again, another thing that they lost by the captivity, was the two tables of the testimony delivered to Moses, written with the finger of God; the two tables on which God with his own finger wrote the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. These seem to have been preserved in the ark till the captivity. These were in the ark when Solomon placed the ark in the temple, 1 Kings vüi. 9. There was nothing in the ark, save the two tables of stone, which Moses
put there at Horeb. And we have no reason to suppose any other, but that they remained there as long as that temple stood. But the Jew's speak of these as finally lost at that time; though the same commandments were preserved in the book of the law. These tables also were withdrawn on the approach of their antitype.
Again, another thing that was lost that the Jews had before, was the Urim and Thummim. This is evident by Ezra ii. 63: “And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there should stand up a priest with Urim and Thummim.” And we have no account that this was ever restored; but the ancient writings of the Jews say the contrary. What this Urim and Thummim was, I shall not now inquire ; but only observe, that it was something by which the high priest inquired of God, and received immediate answers from him, or by which God gave forth immediate oracles on particular occasions. This was now withdrawn, the time approaching when Christ, the antitype of the Urim and Thummim, the great word and oracle of God, was to come.
Another thing that the ancient Jews say was wanting in the second temple, was the Shechinah, or cloud of glory over the mercy seat. This was promised to be in the tabernacle, Levit. xvi. 2: “For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.” And we read elsewhere of the cloud of glory descending into the tabernacle, Exod. xl. 35; and so we do likewise with respect to Solomon's temple. But we have no account that this cloud of glory was in the second temple. And the ancient accounts of the Jews say, that there was no such thing in the second temple. This was needless in the second temple, considering that God had promised that he would fill this temple with glory another way, viz, by Christ's coming into it; which was afterwards fulfilled. See Haggai ji. 7: “I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts."
• Another thing, that the Jews in their ancient writings mention as being now withdrawn, was the fire from heaven on the altar. When Moses built the tabernacle and altar in the wilderness, and the first sacrifices were offered on it, fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering, as in Levit. ix. 24; and so again, when Solomon built the temple, and offered the first sacrifizes, as you may see in 2 Chron. vii. 1. And this fire was never to go out, but with the greatest care to be kept alive, as God commanded, Levit. vi. 13: “ The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar : it shall never go out.” And there is no reason to suppose the fire in Solomon's time ever went out till the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. But then it was extinguished, and never was restored. We have no account of its being given on the building of the second temple, as we have at the building of the tabernacle and first temple. But the Jews, after their return, were forced to make use of their common fire instead of it, according to the ancient tradition of the Jews. Thus the lights of the Old Testament go out, on the approach of the glorious Sun of righteousness.
3. The captivity into Babylon was the occasion of another thing which did afterwards much promote the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world, and that was the dispersion of the Jews through the greater part of the known world, before the coming of Christ. For the whole nation being carried away far out of their own land, and continued in a state of captivity for so long a time, they got them possessions, and built them houses, and settled themselves in the land of their captivity, agreeably to the direction that Jeremiah gave them, in the letter he wrote to them in the 29t} chapter of Jeremiah. And therefore,
when Cyrus gave them liberty to return to the land where they had formerly dwelt, many of them never returned; they were not willing to leave their settlements and possessions there, to go into a desolate country, many hundred miles distant, which none but the old men among them had ever seen; and therefore they were but few, but a small number that returned, as we see in the accounts we have in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Great numbers tarried behind, though they still retained the same religion with those that returned, so far as it could be practised in a foreign land. Those messengers that we read of in the 7th chapter of Zechariah, that came to inquire of the priests and prophets in Jerusalem, Sherezer and Regemmelech, are supposed to be messengers sent from the Jews that remained still in Babylon.
Those Jews that remained still in that country were soon, by the great changes that happened in the world, dispersed thence into all the adjacent countries. And hence we find, that in Esther's time, which was after the return from the captivity, the Jews were a people that were dispersed throughout all parts of the vast Persian empire, that extended from India to Ethiopia; as you may see, Esth. iji. 8: “And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom," &c. And so they continued dispersed till Christ came, and till the apostles went forth to preach the gospel. But yet these dispersed Jews retained their religion in this dispersion. Their captivity, as I said before, thoroughly cured them of their idolatry; and it was their manner, for as many of them as could from time to time, to go up to the land of Judea to Jerusalem at their great feasts. Hence we read in the 2d chapter of Acts, that at the time of the great feast of Pentecost, there were Jews abiding at Jerusalem out of every nation under heaven.—These were Jews come up from all countries where they were dispersed, to worship at that feast. And hence we find, in the history of the Acts of the Apostles, that wherever the apostles went preaching through the world, they found Jews. They came to such a city, and to such a city, and went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Antiochus the Great, about two hundred years before Christ, on a certain occasion, transplanted two thousand families of Jews from the country about Babylon into Asia the Less; and so they and their posterity, many of them, settled in Pontus, Galatia, Phrygia, Pamphilia, and in Ephesus; and froin thence settled in Athens, and Corinth, and Rome. Whence came those synagogues in those places that the Apostle Paul preached in.
Now, this dispersion of the Jews through the world before Christ came, did many ways prepare the way for his coming, and setting up his kingdom in the world.
One was, that this was a means of raising a general expectation of the Messiah through the world about the time that he actually came. For the Jews, wherever they were dispersed, carried the holy Scriptures with them, and so the prophecies of the Messiah; and being conversant with the nations among whom they lived, they, by that means, became acquainted with these prophecies, and with the expectations of the Jews of their glorious Messiah; and by this means, the birth of such a glorious person in Judea about that time began to be the general expectation of the nations of the world, as appears by the writings of the learned men of the Heathen that lived about that time, which are still extant; particularly Virgil, the famous poet that lived in Italy a little before Christ was born, has a poem about the expectation of a great prince that was to be born, and the happy times of righteousness and peace that he was to introduce; some of it very much in the language of the prophet Isaiah.
Another way that this dispersed state of the Jews prepared the way for Christ was, that it showed the necessity of abolishing the Jewish dispensation, and introducing a new dispensation of the covenant of grace. It showed the necessity of abolishing the ceremonial law, and the old Jewish worship; for, by this means, the observance of that ceremonial law became impracticable even by the Jews themselves; for the ceremonial law was adapted to the state of a people dwelling together in the same land, where was the city that God had chosen; where was the temple, the only place where they might offer sacrifices; and where it was lawful for their priests and Levites to officiate, where they were to bring their first fruits, and where were their cities of refuge and the like. But the Jews, by this dispersion, lived, many of them, in other lands, more than a thousand miles distant, when Christ came; which made the observation of their laws of sacrifices, and the like, impracticable. And though their forefathers might be to blame in not going up to the land of Judea when they were permitted by Cyrus, yet the case was now, as to many of them at least, become impracticable; which showed the necessity of introducing a new dispensation, that should be fitted, not only to one particular land, but to the general circumstances and use of all nations of the world.
Again, another way that this dispersion of the Jews through the world prepared the way for the setting up of the kingdom of Christ in the world, was, that it contributed to the making the facts concerning Jesus Christ publicly known through the world. For, as I observed before, the Jews that lived in other countries, used frequently to go up to Jerusalem at their three great feasts, which were from year to year; and so, by this means, they could not but become acquainted with the news of the wonderful things that Christ did in that land. We find that they were present at, and took great notice of that great miracle of raising Lazarus, which excited the curiosity of those foreign Jews, that came up to the feast of the Passover, to see Jesus; as you may see in John xii. 19, 20, 21. These Greeks were foreign Jews and proselytes, as is evident by their coming to worship at the feast of the Passover. The Jews that lived abroad among the Greeks, and spoke their language, were called Greeks, or Hellenists; so they are called Grecians, Acts vi. 1. These Grecians here spoken of were not Gentile Christians ; for this was before the calling of the Gentiles.
By the same means, the Jews that went up from other countries became acquainted with Christ's crucifixion. Thus the disciples, going to Emmaus, say to Christ, when they did not know him, Luke xxiv. 18: “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which have come to pass there in these days ?" plainly intimating, that the things concerning Jesus were so publicly known to all men, that it was wonderful to find any man unacquainted with them. And so afterwards they became acquainted with the news of his resurrection; and when they went home again into their own countries, they carried the news with them, and so made these facts public through the world, as they had made the prophecies of them public before.
After this, those foreign Jews that came to Jerusalem, took great notice of the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the wonderful effects of it; and many of them were converted by it, viz., Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Egypt, and the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, and ihe strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. And so they did not only carry back the news of the facts of Christianity, but Christianity itself, into their own countries with them; which contributed much to the spreading of it through the world.