« PreviousContinue »
that the design is noble ; that it is truly Christian :—and a higher commendation cannot be given, in human language, by the greatest orator on earth : and I pray God, the “ Giver of every “good gift,” to endue those who are, and those who shall hereafter be, the conductors of it, with the fervour of zeal and love, and the meekness of wisdom, and to raise up instruments for the work, whose labours may be crowned with abundant, with immense, success!
More than thirty years ago I was led, in the course of my studies, to consider very deeply the deplorable state of the heathen, the Mohammedans, and the dispersed Jews; and to reflect on the obligations under which Christians lay, to seek their spiritual and eternal good : but, being a very obscure individual, and meeting with scarcely any who, either in their writings, their preaching, their conversation, or even in their prayers, indicated the same views, I could only almost without encouragement, pray that God would stir up the
wills of his faithful people,' to attempt something further in the important concern. Little did I then expect to see Societies formed, zealously recommended, honourably patronized, and liberally supported, for the express purpose of accomplishing the object of my, at first, almost hopeless, yet persevering, prayer. Little did I indeed suppose, that I should live to preach for three of these Societies! “ Bless the Lord, O my soul, and for
get not all his benefits !” Two of these Societies I have already recommended to public attention from the pulpit and the press, as far as my feeble testimony could be heard, and obtain regard: and, with no less pleasure, cordiality, and gratitude do I hail the institution of this Society, and embrace the opportunity of bearing my testimony in its behalf.
The fulness of my heart has, however, carried me perhaps too far in this introduction, and I must proceed more directly to the text which I have selected for the occasion.-We have in this passage, I mean the text and the three preceding verses, a most wonderful prophecy. I shall
1. Briefly explain and illustrate this prophecy; shewing that it has already received a most extraordinary accomplishment: of which our assembling at this time, for our present purpose, is alone a decisive proof:
II. Shew that the fulfilment of this prophecy, thus far, hath brought us in debtors to the Jews to an amount which baffles calculation :
III. Prove that this prophecy shall have, and I trust, in some part, even by our means, a still more astonishing accomplishment, and that at no very remote period.
* 1. I shall briefly explain and illustrate this wonderful prophecy, and shew that it has already received a most extraordinary accomplishment.
It is well known that the Jews (the tribe of Judah, with some from the other tribes of Israel incorporated with them,) were just returned from captivity, when Zechariah prophesied; and that they were a feeble, obscure, and despised company, vassals to the Persians, and exposed to numerous enemies. Their peculiar religion, and their real or supposed bigotry, have rendered them objects of scorn and aversion to other nations, in all ages : but their calamities and degradations, and the oppressions under which they lay, rendered their religion itself more despised, at this time than it otherwise would have been ; or than it was in the prosperous days of David and Solomon. Sennacherib, even during the reign of Hezekiah, did not hesitate to say, “How much less, shall your “ God deliver you out of my hand?”! This contemptuous language was, no doubt, suggested by the successes of those who worshipped other gods, over the worshippers of JEHOVAH. But how much force must this argument have acquired in the mind of a proud heathen, by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the captivity of the Jews, and the desolations of Jehovah's land, by the victorious arms of idolaters! And, even when Cyrus liberated the Jews, the small company, who returned to their own land, continued vassals and tributaries to idolaters.
But it is foretold, in the verse preceding our text, that, “ many people and strong nations shall
come to seek the Lord of hosts, at Jerusalem, “ and to pray before the Lord.” The four great empires which subverted and succeeded each other, the Babylonian or Chaldean, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman, were, during the time of their several dominations, the “many people, “ and the strong nations,” here especially intended. They were all idolaters ; all exulting in arms, in conquest, and dominion ; and many of them, at least in civilization, in learning and philosophy, in arts and sciences. In these things the Jews had
2 Chron. xxxii. 16.
never excelled ; and least of all when this prophecy was delivered. They had been subjugated by the Chaldeans; they were at this time under the dominion of the Persians; they would soon (as other prophecies declared,) be oppressed by the Grecian or Macedonian power : and it was most expressly predicted, that the Romans should execute the most tremendous vengeance of God on the nation.
It has often been known that the vanquished have been induced to embrace, or conform to, the religion of their conquerors : but what probability was there, that the haughty, domineering, and triumphant worshippers of Belus, of Moloch, of the Sun; and especially those of Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Venus, and Bacchus, and of the whole company
of deities rendered famous by the exquisitely beautiful poems and other writings, by the sculpture and the architecture, of Greece and Rome, should ever renounce their idols, and become the worshippers of the God of the vanquished, subjugated, and despised Jews ? the God whom they alone, of all the nations on earth, professed to worship! Nay, that they should deign to learn religion (the most important of all subjects,) from the very people, on whom in all other respects they looked down, as from an exalted eminence! Indeed, many passages might be adduced, to prove, from the writings of the Romans especially, that the Jews were actually considered by them as a superstitious, dastardly, contemptible, and almost execrable race ; and that
· Dan. ix. 26, 27.