« PreviousContinue »
effectually alarmed to make the most violent opposition against it. And, first, the devil stirred up the Jews, who had before crucified Christ, to persecute the church; for it is observable, that the persecution which the church suffered during this period, was mostly from the Jews. Thus we read in the Acts, when the Holy Ghost was poured out at Pentecost, how the Jews mocked, and said, “ These men are full of new wine;" and how the scribes and Pharisees, and the captain of the temple, were alarmed, and bestirred themselves to oppose and persecute the apostles. They first apprehended and threatened them, and afterwards imprisoned and beat them; and breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, they stoned Stephen in a tumultuous rage; and were not content to persecute those they could find in Judea, but sent abroad to Damascus and other places, to persecute all they could find every where. Herod, who was chief among them, stretched forth his hands to vex the church, and killed James with the sword, and proceeded to take Peter also, and cast him into prison.
So, in other countries, almost wherever the apostles came, the Jews opposed the Gospel in a most malignant manner, contradicting and blaspheming. How many things did the blessed apostle Paul suffer at their hands! How violent and bloodthirsty did they show themselves towards him, when he came to bring alms to his nation! In this persecution and cruelty was fulfilled that saying of Christ, Matt. 23 : 34, “Behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye
scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.”
III. The judgments executed on those enemies of Christ, the persecuting Jews.
1. The bulk of the people were given up to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. Christ denounced such a wo upon them in the days of his flesh. Matt. 13: 14, 15. This curse was also denounced on them by the apostle Paul, Acts, 28 : 25, 26, 27; and under this curse, this judicial blindness and hardness, they remain to this very day, having been subject to it for about seventeen hundred years, being the most awful instance of such a judgment and monument of God's terrible vengeance.
That they should continue from generation to generation so obstinately to reject Christ, so that it is a very rare thing that any one of them is converted to the christian faith—though their own Scriptures of the Old Testament are so full of plain testimonies against them-is a remarkable evidence of their being dreadfully left of God.
2. They were rejected from being any longer God's visible people. They were broken off from the stock of Abraham, and since that have no more been reputed his seed, than the Ishmaelites or Edomites, who are as much his natural seed as they. The greater part of the two tribes were now cast off, as the ten tribes had been before, and another people were taken in their room, agreeable to the predictions of their own prophets. Deut. 32 : 21. “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will
provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." Isaiah, 65 : 1. “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not.” They were visibly rejected by God's directing his apostles to turn away from them, and let them alone. Acts, 13:36, 47. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and - said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles; for so hath the Lord commanded us.” Acts, 18:6, and 28: 28.
Thus far we have the scripture history to guide us: henceforward we shall have the guidance only of scripture prophecy and human history.
3. The third and last judgment of God on those enemies of the success of the Gospel which I shall mention, is the terrible destruction of their city and country by the Romans. They had great warnings and many means used with them before this destruction. First, John the Baptist warned them, and told them, that the axe was laid at the root of the tree; and that every tree which should not bring forth good fruit
, should be hewn down, and cast into the fire. Then Christ warned them very particularly, and told them of their approaching destruction, at the thoughts of which he wept over them. And then the apostles, after Christ's ascension, abundantly warned them. But they proved obstinate, and continued their opposition to Christ and his church, and their bitter persecuting practices. Their so malignantly persecuting the apostle Paul, of which we have an account towards the end of the Acts of the Apostles, is supposed to have been not more than seven or eight years before their destruction.
After this, God was pleased to give them one more very remarkable warning by the apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, written, it is supposed, about four years before their destruction; wherein the plainest and clearest arguments are set before them from their own law, and from their proplets, for whom they professed such a regard, to prove that Christ Jesus must be the Son of God, that all their law typified him, and that the Jewish dispensation must needs have ceased. For though the epistle was more immediately directed to the Christian Hebrews, yet the matter of the epistle plainly shows that the apostle intended it for the use and conviction of the unbelieving Jews. And in this epistle he mentions particularly the approaching destruction. Chap. 10 : 25. “So much the more, as ye see the day approaching; and in ver. 27, he speaks of the approaching judgment and “ fiery indignation which should devour the adversaries."
But the mass of them, refusing to receive con viction, God soon destroyed with such terrors, as the destruction of no country or city since the foundation of the world can parallel: agreeable to what Christ foretold. Matt. 24:21. “For then shall be tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was ve. ry terrible, as it is in aʼmost affecting manner descri. bed by the prophet Jeremiah, in his Lamentations; but that was as nothing to the dreadful misery and wrath which they suffered in this destruction. God,
as Christ foretold, brought on them all the righteous blood that had been shed from the foundation of the world. Thus the enemies of Christ are made his footstool after his ascension, agreeable to God's promise, Psalm 110; and he rules them with a rod of iron. The briars and thorns set themselves against him in battle; but he went through them; be burned them together.
This destruction of Jerusalem was in all respects agreeable to what Christ had foretold of it, Matt
. 24; as appears by the account which Josephus gives of it, who was then present, had a share in the calamity, and wrote the history of their destruction. Many circumstances resembled the destruction of the wick. ed at the day of judgment; by his account, it was accompanied with many fearful sights in the heavens, and with a separation of the righteous from the wicked. Their city and temple were burnt, and razed to the ground; and the ground on which the city stood was ploughed, so that one stone was not left upon another. Matt. 24 : 2.
The people had ceased for the most part to be an independent government after the Babylonish captivity; but the sceptre entirely departed from Judah on the death of Archelaus, when Judea was made a Roman province. After this, they were cast off from being the people of God: but now their very city and land are utterly destroyed, and they carried away from it; and so have continued in their dispersions through the world for now above sixteen hundred years.
Thus there was a final end put to the Old Testament world : all was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, Redemption.