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diation, who once in great humility came down to preach His Gospel to the poor, and who once again, on His return in might and majesty to judge both quick and dead amid the flames of an expiring world, and amid the glories of an open Heaven, will not disdain, at His Father's right hand, to call the poor His “ brethren!”
RESPECT DUE TO ANTIQUITY.
[Preached at the Assizes at Shrewsbury, 1821.]
JEREMIAH xxxv. 18, 19. Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your fa
ther, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you, therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.
On the persons to whom this memorable promise was made, and on the circumstances under which they received it, a very few observations will be sufficient. It was made to a small Arab tribe, whose ancient name of Kenite had, in the days of Jeremiah, given place to that of Rechabites; who were connected by long friendship and the memory of ancient services with the nations of Judah and Israel; and who, though sojourners in a land of vineyards and corn-fields, and surrounded by a people of agricultural and commercial habits, retained, through many centuries, the simple manners of their Cushite ancestry, their abstemious diet, their pastoral life, and their aversion to settled habitations. They drank, we are told, no wine,
neither built houses, nor sowed seed, nor planted vineyards, but all their lives they dwelt in tents in the land in which they were strangers.
On account of this adherence to their ancient institutions, the Rechabites were held up by the Almighty, as may be seen in this same chapter of Jeremiah, as a contrast to the fickle caprice and restless spirit of innovation by which His own people, the Jews, were so often led astray from the ordinances which He Himself had given to them. And, as if to add more weight to the example thus offered, and as a contrast to that menace of political ruin which He had denounced against the monarchy of Judah, the assurance which I have taken in my text was given to the house of Rechab, that their family should be preserved amid the common ruin of Syria ; and that the ancestor whose precepts they had so well observed, should not want a descendant to “ stand before the Lord for ever.”
That this promise, thus solemnly and explicitly made, has received its exact fulfilment, we have very reasonable grounds to believe, not only from the respect due to the inspired authority of Jeremiah, but from every thing which is known concerning the manners and policy of those tribes which yet wander over the open country of Syria. In our present limited knowledge of those regions, we are unable, indeed, to fix with precision on any one particular clan as the descendants of the ancient Kenites. But many clans there are, and always have been, who, from policy and preference at least
as much as necessity, retain in those wild regions the habits described by the prophet. The use of tents would be no distinguishing mark among
the wandering hordes of the desert; and the imposter Mahomet, in forbidding the use of fermented liquors, did no more than comply with a prejudice already universal not only among the Rechabites, but among all the children of Nebaioth, Kedar, and Midian. And it is but reasonable to believe that, though the distinction may have been lost by the feature becoming general, and though the ancient name of the tribe and the memory of their descent may, perhaps, have perished amid the lapse of years and the political revolutions of Asia, yet the word thus spoken by God has not been suffered to , fall to the ground, and that the wanderers of the house of Rechab may still continue to prosper under the blessing of the Most High, and to cherish amid their wilderness the institutions of their ancestor Jonadab?
At the distance of 2500 years from the date of the prediction, a tribe bearing the name, and answering to the description of the Rechabites, has been discovered in Arabia. Several notices of them occur in the missionary journals of the Rev. Joseph Wolff, published some years after the date of this sermon. Writing at Mousoul, he thus speaks of them: “ March 19, 1824: all the Jews in this country believe that the Beni Khaibr, near Mecca and Medina, are the descendants of the ancient Rechabites. The mufti from Merdeen gave me a long description of the Beni Khaibr ; but as I have not yet seen them, I will not at present give you his description of them. They are, however, worthy of notice. Those Jews of Khaibr gave infinite
But obscure as their present fate may be, and little as the indefinite prolongation of an obscure
trouble to Mohammed; and he never was able to compel them to embrace his religion. See Sale's note to chap. xlviii. in the Koran, and Herbelot Bibliotheque Orientale."
Journal (Lond. 1828], vol, ii. p. 276. In another passage of the same work, (p. 331), he says, " The Jews of Sanaa are firmly convinced that the Beni Khaibr are the descendants of the ancient Rechabites." Again, at a later date, and in a different place, he
says: 27, 1824. Abraham ben Yahya confirmed the account I had before received of the Rechabites. When I asked him, Do you know the Jews Khaibr? He replied, “You mean the children of Rechab. These are mighty men, and have not felt the yoke of the captivity. And then Abraham ben Yahya joyfully lifted up his fingers, and moved them about, and said, “ They are the descendants of Jonadab the son of Rechab, who said, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever; neither shall ye
build houses, nor sow seed, &c.; and thus they do. The children of Ishmael curse them, and we bless them. The sword of Mohammed has not brought them under his yoke, &c.'” (Journal of the Rev. Jos. Wolff, in Jewish Expos. 1826, p. 315.) The fullest and most striking passage is the following: “ All the Jews, not only of Jerusalem, but likewise those of Yemen, told me, that the Rechabites mentioned in Jeremiah xxxv. were still existing around Mecca; the Mussulmans who performed their pilgrimages to Mecca, confirmed that account: the latter knew them by the name of Khaibaree. On my arrival at Jalooka in Mesopotamia, I saw Jews wandering about among the Yezidi. I asked them, Has never any one of you turned Yezidi, or Mussulman? They replied, “Oppression cannot bow us, and tyranny cannot shake, Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. I added, And Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!' And believing them to be Rechabites, on account of their wandering about in the desert, I asked them the question : they replied, No, but here is one who came from Hajaz, i. e. the deserts of Mecca!' I saw one before