Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

Great have been the efforts made, during the last half century, to disseminate far and wide a knowledge of the truths of the gospel of Christ, and to call the attention of mankind to the salvation set before them therein. The religious movement of this period, considered in all its circumstances, will bear comparison with any period of the world's history, not excepting the apostolical age. The missionary agency which was then raised up was, in the first instance, as concerned the Gentiles, a reluctant agency. The disciples had either forgotten their duty toward the men of other nations, or were prejudiced against it; and it was not until the Lord thrust them out by the iron hand of persecution, and scattered them abroad, that they went about generally preaching the gospel. But the work of evangelization has been in modern times, through God's mercy and grace, a spontaneous work. Men have been awakened, by various providential and gracious means, to a sense of their duty or responsibility, and we may add of their privilege, in this respect; and though the results of this movement are immensely below the necessities of the case, and great apathy and indifference, and the want of the spirit of self-denial and devotedness, have still to be lamented in the great mass of Christians, yet, as compared with the efforts of former periods, those results have been considerable. The Scriptures have been translated or printed in upwards of one hundred and fifty dialects and languages, of the nations, tongues, and peoples of the world; and about twenty millions of copies of the whole, or portions, have been by various societies scattered through the globe. Missionary societies have sent forth their heralds to the four winds. Schools for religious education have been erected in all directions; and every year beholds new societies, having some religious object, start into existence. The age is truly remarkable in this respect : there is no species of spiritual destitution, or of moral degradation, that can afflict mankind, but what seems in turn to arrest the attention of the Christian or of the legislator: the religious wants of the soldier, the sailor, the boatman, and of the laborers and servants on railways and public works; the oppression and moral privations of the negro, the chimney-sweeper, the factory children, and the youthful operatives in our mines and collieries; the peculiar evils resulting from Sabbath desecration, intemperance, improvidence, sensuality, and other particular vices,—all are considered, and give birth to new benevolent or religious institutions.

But no sign of these present times is inferior in interest, in importance, or in the remarkable circumstances by which it is developed, than that which relates to the people of Israel. After many centuries of oppression and persecution, during which the

descendants of Jacob have been despoiled, degraded, and despised by the various states of Christendom, a spirit of consideration for them, as regards their political, moral, and religious circumstances, becomes all at once generally visible. There is scarcely a government in Europe, which has not, since the era of the French Revolution, published decrees for ameliorating the condition of the Jews within their dominions; to which measures some have been prompted by a benevolent and enlightened policy, whilst others have been borne away by the “liberal” current of the times. Some princes have granted them complete emancipation, placing them on an equal footing with their own subjects; others have conceded certain rights of citizenship only, (such as the permission to purchase and possess land, and to trade without those vexatious restrictions by which the Jew has been annoyed ;) and most of their edicts have been accompanied or followed by others, the object of which is to improve the moral and religious condition of the Jews; whilst several states have commenced with this latter class of ordinances, by way of preparing the Jewish population for political concessions.

Systematic efforts have likewise been made by the more pious section of the Christian public, to lead the Jew to the consideration of the great truths of Christianity, and the spiritual and transforming power, which, through the Holy Ghost, accompanies the genuine reception of those truths. The missionaries of the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews have traversed the continent of Europe, and penetrated into the recesses of the east; the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, have been translated into Hebrew; and myriads of tracts have been circulated amongst them,—not without producing numerous instances of individual conversion, and a general excitement and attention to the doctrines of the Bible; insomuch that there are now great reasonings and disputings among those Jews who continue to adhere to Judaism, a large section of whom have renounced the bondage of rabbinism and the oral law, and, forming themselves into a distinct community, have resolved to be governed only by the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets.

Whilst these things have been progressing, providential circumstances have tended to direct the Christian mind in a still more remarkable manner toward Israel. For the Jew to be exposed in the East to the most cruel oppression, and the most griping extortion, was no new thing: there was scarcely a year passed without some such case of peculiar flagrancy occurring, in some one or other of the Mahommedan towns. These things, however, when published, were either not believed at a distance, or Oct. 1812.

5 D

failed to arrest attention. Two instances, however, which have occurred recently at Damascus and Rhodes, have, by the providence of God, been the means of awakening feelings of lively sympathy and commiseration in behalf of the Jews, both among political and religious persons. This interest in their behalf has not been diminished by the more recent appointment of a Protestant bishop to Jerusalem, in the person of a devoted servant of Christ who is himself a converted Jew; which appointment has resulted from the intervention of the King of Prussia, whose views have been seconded by the Queen of England. And whilst statesmen of eminence are, as we are assured, taking peculiar interest in all which concerns the Jews, rumours have escaped, which we know do not rest upon uncertain foundations, that certain of the potentates of Europe have had under their serious and favourable consideration, a project for more effectually securing the pacification of the East, by reinstating the Jews in Syria, and making Palestine a neutral barrier kingdom between Turkey and Egypt, under the protection of the allied powers. In the meanwhile, the Church of Scotland has come forward in behalf of the religious wants of the Jews, and has sent forth a deputation to the East to examine and report to the General Assembly on the actual condition of the Jews; and the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England have also, for the most part, manifested their sympathy in the same cause, by becoming members of the London Society already named.

These various occurrences, and more especially the religious movements in behalf of the Jews, have necessarily induced a greater attention to the Scripture testimony concerning them. The consequence is, that serious-minded Christians now begin to perceive, from the prophets, that there are events yet unfulfilled, of unspeakable importance to the world, which are intimately connected with the future destiny of Israel. The extent of this spirit of inquiry is evidenced by the numerous publications on Jewish and prophetical subjects which are continually issuing from the press; although, as commonly happens, when a reaction of sentiment and opinion takes place, many who formerly despoiled the Jew of those Scripture promises which peculiarly belong to Israel, and who, by a spurious mode of interpretation, called spiritualizing, appropriated those promises to the Gentile; now go to the opposite extreme, and would exclude the believing Gentile, under the present dispensation, from all participation in that peculiar glory, which we believe will, at the period of the resurrection and of the manifestation of Christ's kingdom, be given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and to all those Jewish worthies, who in

Old Testament times have obtained a good report through faith. Many things are likewise put forth on this subject, which are merely the offspring of conjecture, or betray a superficial acquaintance with the subject treated of.

The two publications, therefore, which head this article, we consider particularly seasonable. The first of the two has proceeded from a praiseworthy desire, on the part of several ministers of the Church of England, to meet the public desire for scriptural information concerning the Jews, by getting up a series of Lectures on that particular subject, preached by different divines, whose studies have been more especially directed to prophecy. They are not the first of the kind which have been delivered : lectures on the same subject, and got up in the same manner, have been preached in Edinburgh, at Leamington, and at Liverpool, the former and the latter of which have been published. But we must eontent ourselves with noticing this last series, which were delivered in London, by twelve different ministers, in the spring of last year; and which are not only the most recent, but, as we conceive, furnish the fullest and most satisfactory testimony: some of those ministers who aided in the series at Leamington and Liverpool having repeated their testimony on this occasion.

The syllabus of the Course has been well considered and judiciously arranged; and it is gratifying to perceive the harmony which exists among the several divines, both in regard to the principles of interpretation on which they proceed, and the general view to which it has led them of the events predicted in the inspired word. This will not indeed be considered so remarkable by the judicious student of Scripture, when he is informed that the principle of interpretation adopted by them is adherence to the literal sense ;—that principle which Luther and all sound expositors have contended ought always to stand, when it can be made to so consistently with common sense, and with the context. If this principle be strictly adhered to, it must simplify and tend to harmonize the views of interpreters; because the facts which they bring before the Church are plain and simple facts revealed in Scripture, which necessarily accord, when properly understood, one with the other. It is the spiritualizing system (as it is called) which produces discordancy, by leaving every expositor, who is not a mere copyist, to wander in the regions of imagination and surmise, and to adopt interpretations as various as the powers of conception which they severally possess. We must not, however, detain the reader longer from the volume itself.

(1.) The Introductory Lecture is by the Rev. T. S. Grimshawe, rector of Biddenham, in which he discursively notices a variety of

are.

topics, and agreeably illustrates several of them by a relation of circumstances of which he himself has been an eye-witness. As the subjects, however, which he briefly touches are, for the most part, enlarged upon afterwards by those who follow him, we must content ourselves with one brief extract, concerning the dispersion of Judah, which he instances among a variety of proofs of the Divine power having been continually manifested in regard to this extraordinary people :

The dispersion of the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, and their continued preservation, is no less a signal proof of Divine interposition. How wonderfully is the chain of prophecy maintained in all its successive links throughout the whole of the Jewish history! Fifteen hundred years before the occurrence of the event, it was predicted by Moses, And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other.' By Hosea, They shall be wanderers among the nations.' And by Zechariah, I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven.' The Jews are to be seen in every nation of the habitable globe. The Lord has placed them there, as if to furnish a constant living monument of the truth of prophecy, and of the awfulness of his judgments. There is no mistaking the fact of their identity. God has set, as it were, a mark upon them, in the peculiarity of their lineaments, which at once proclaim who and what they

Their presence never fails to awaken a train of associations in every beholder. They are the world's remembrancers, God's witnesses, a subject of contemplation to men and angels. They stand alone among the various communities of men-mixed with all, united with none. "The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.'”—(pp. 15, 16.)

(2.) The second Lecture, by the Rev. T. R. Birks, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, is more strictly introductory in its character, being“ on the Principles of Prophetic Interpretation ;”, which subject is discussed by Mr. Birks with great ability and eloquence, as the reader will probably infer from the following specimen of its impressive commencement :

“ It is a solemn and instructive emblem, by which the Apostle St. Peter describes the word of prophecy, as 'a light that shineth in a dark place. The present world, we are thus taught, and experience confirms the truth, is like à troubled and trackless ocean. It is a place which sin has filled with confusion, and buried in gloom. Its history is one perpetual round of strife, and war, and tumultuous violence. Empires may rise and perish; generations may come and pass away; but the confusion is still the same; the children of the world walk on still in darkness; the mystery and the gloom are as deep as ever; and while the Christian gazes thoughtfully on the scene, the inquiry of the prophet rises to his lips, 'O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?'

“ But the word of prophecy is a bright and cheering lamp, amid the world's darkness. There, in those sacred pages, we behold a scheme of redemption, which is from everlasting to everlasting, but which is daily unfolding itself in the history of our fallen world. There we learn, that however the counsels of man may fail, though empires may perish, and generations may pass away, there is a counsel that shall stand for ever, and a kingdom that cannot be destroyed,—the counsel of God, and the kingdom of the Most High. The mist and darkness are rolled away from the landscape of Divine Providence, and we can trace, from age to age, the unveiling of God's infinite goodness, in the recovery of our guilty race to the presence of his holiness, and the

« ÖncekiDevam »