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'THE CASE OF THE JEWS.
JOHN, 1. 11.
His own received him not.
That the eternal Son of God should condescend, in human form, to visit his people, as their Saviour and Redeemer, is an event, which may well be allowed to excite our admiration. But how does our astonishment rise, when we are informed, that his people refused to receive so gracious a visitant !
The unbeliever, who is continually prying into every corner of ancient and modern history, for arguments to countenance him in his unbelief, seizes, we may be sure, with avidity, on this prominent and marvellous circumstance, and labours to make his advantage of it; affecting to conclude, that the incredulity of the Jew, can only be accounted for, by supposing a deficiency in the evidence laid before him. And the believer, though satisfied that the mission of Jesus stands incontestably proved, will yet often find himself perplexed, when he reflecteth, how strange an occurrence it is, that a people, selected from all others, to be the peculium of the Most High; by his mighty hand and stretched-out arm rescued from
bondage ; conducted through all kinds of difficulties and dangers; at length settled in a country destined for their habitation; and their constituted depositaries and guardians of the divine oracles and institutions ; that this people should reject and crucify the person all along foretold, as we say, by those oracles, and pointed out by those institutions.
The truth is, that in all the annals of mankind, and in the whole compass of speculation, we meet not with a subject of so very singular and extraordinary a nature, as that now before us, namely, the case of the Jews. It may be added, that there is none, on every account, more deserving the deep and attentive consideration of Christians. Let us, therefore, inquire into the cause of the phenomenon with which they present us. Let us hear their plea, and examine the grounds and reasons on which it is founded.
They did not, because they could not, deny that the Son of Mary wrought miracles; miracles though differing in kind, yet equal, in number and magnitude, to those performed by their own great lawgiver. Why, then, believing Moses, did they not believe him? What was it, that could occasion their infidelity ? That which occasions it at all times and in all places, when proper evidence is offered and rejected -The adoption of certain prejudices and prepossessions, as first principles, in opposition to which no evidence is to be admitted.' Four points were by them taken for granted, from which flowed all their reasonings and all their proceedings.
The points were these :
they had an exclusive indefeasible right to the
favours of Heaven. Secondly, That the law of Moses, on account
of its own intrinsic efficacy, and without a view to any thing farther, was ordained for
perpetual observance. Thirdly, That the possession of their city, tem
ple, and country, in peace, wealth, and pro
sperity, was the end of the promises. Fourthly, That the prophecies warranted them
in the expectation of a Messiah, who, as a temporal prince, should secure them in such possession, by subduing their civil enemies,
and reigning over them in Judea. If these things were so, they had much, indeed, to say for themselves. But let us see, whether there be not, in their own Scriptures, evidence sufficient to set these positions aside, and to condemn those men, who, upon the strength of them, rejected and crucified Jesús of Nazareth.
Their first position was, that, as the chosen seed of Abraham, they had an exclusive and indefeasible right to the favours of Heaven.
For thus, in reading the Gospel history, we find them continually priding themselves in their descent from Abraham; as if, in order to their acceptance with God, nothing were required, but a proof of their relation to that patriarch; and as if, while that relation subsisted, no misconduct of their own could occasion them, as a nation, to forfeit such acceptance. When our Lord spake to them concerning that liberty wherewith he came to make them free, they, mistak
ing spiritual for civil liberty, confidently and roundly replied, " We are Abraham's seed, and were never " in bondage to any man*;" unaccountably forgetting, as it should seem, what they had formerly suffered in Egypt and Babylon, and the state in which they lived, at that very time, under the Roman power. The mention of Heaven's mercy being extended to the Gentiles, always put them beside themselves. Christ only hinted the case of Elijah healing Naaman the Syrian, and that of Elisha being sent to a widow of Sarepta", leaving the application to themselves. They understood him, and endeavoured instantly to destroy him. St. Paul, relating the story of his conversion, was patiently heard, till he touched upon the circumstance of his mission to the Gentiles : “ They gave him audience to this word, and then “ lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a “ fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he " should live!"
Now this notion was taken up in direct opposition to their own Scriptures.
For they neglected to observe, what it was very obvious for any one to observe who read the Scriptures, that Abraham himself was not chosen and blessed, merely as Abraham the son of Terah; but -as a servant of God, tried in various ways, and, in all, found faithful and obedient. They should, therefore, have reflected, that his descendants, of course, stood on the same footing, and would not be accounted
• John, viii. 33.
Luke, iv, 26.
Acts, xxij. 22,
the children of Abraham, when they ceased to do the works of Abraham
The same lesson might have been learned from that part of the sacred history, which records the rejection of Ishmael the eldest son of Abraham; and, afterward, of Esau the first born of Isaac. These transactions evinced, that no dependence could be placed on the incident of being the seed of Abraham ; since, of that seed, for certain reasons, some have been rejected, while others were accepted. So it had been formerly; and therefore, in parallel circumstances, so it might be again.
Remarkable, to this purpose, was the case of their ancestors, who came out of Egypt. A promise was made, that they should enter into Canaan. But the promise was afterwards revoked, because it was conditional. They fell in the wilderness, and others succeeded to the inheritance. And why did they not enter into rest? For the same reason which keeps the Jews out, at this hour; because of their unbelief and hardness of heart.
The light of God's countenance was frequently withdrawn from the Israelites, when they sinned, and again restored, upon their repentance. Other qualifications were therefore requisite, without which, it little availed them to be of the house and lineage of Abraham.
It should have been recollected by the Jews, that the grand and capital promise made to Abraham was not limited to his natural posterity, but, on the con
Sce John, viii. 39.