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he inflicted on the children of Israel, the betrayal and crucifixion of our Saviour, by the wickedness of the Jews and Romans, all finally resulting in good, and all tending to establish the all-important truth that evil, under the control of an omniscient God, is made subservient to beneficent ends; thus establishing the position that all which we call evil will be thus finally overruled. But space will not permit us to pursue this point further.
We cannot, however, dismiss our subject without briefly noticing one other particular. Had sin never entered into the world, and had mankind never experienced its direful consequences, it would have been impossible to know the “joy unspeakable and full of glory" flowing into the soul from that great salvation wrought out for man by our blessed Redeemer. That the bliss of salvation will be enhanced by a remembrance of the sufferings previously endured by sinners, is evident from the language of our Saviour. In the account of the woman “ who was a sinner,” and in the able of the two debtors, who “had nothing to pay,” this principle is clearly taught. Christ also declared that “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” It was the obvious purpose of God, in the admission of sin or moral evil into the universe, to increase the happiness of mankind, and thus promote his own declarative glory by the final triumph of his grace over all evil: for “the law entered that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The joy and glory of deliverance from sin will be the cause of endless rejoicing among the heavenly hosts. They will raise higher notes of praise to God than could have been chanted had sin never existed. It was on this ground that the great Apostle thanked God, in behalf of his Roman brethren, that they had been the “servants of sin.” And when the purposes of him " who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," shall be accomplished, and the creation, “ delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," shall surround his throne in light and glory; when all God's ransomed offspring shall see "eye to eye," and the universe become reconciled “through the blood of the cross,” then will all acknowledge the infinite goodness of the Great First Cause in all things, even in the existence of sin and evil of every kind; and we shall realize the small importance of the question which now engages the attention and commands the talents of those who are contending with regard to the doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and Human Agency.
The Jews and the Gentiles.
The distinctions of character between the Hebrew race and the Gentile world have many points worthy of more than a passing thought, if we would rightly understand why Jesus came from among the former, and how his truths not only spread among them, but among the latter also. We desire to set forth a few of these points of difference, and then to show by what steps both Jews and Gentiles were brought to a mutual preparation for the coming of Jesus.
The Jews were early distinguished, called, chosen, from the nations of the world as a peculiar people beloved of God.
This was so deeply impressed upon them, that even when the Gospel was established "the called," "the chosen," and " the elect,” were assumed as titles particularly applicable to Christians. The titles hitherto used to distinguish Jews from the Gentile nations were thus transferred to distinguish Christ's people from all others. But the Jews were set apart from the nations of the world by inherent differences of disposition and training which fitted them for the great work God had in store for them—a work no less than that of giving to the world the true religion. To say that our Saviour was a Jew, is therefore only to say, that he was distinguished from the Gentile by all the elements of character which from earliest time had made the Jews a marked people in the midst of mankind.
1. From a single glance at their history we find that the Jews, from the beginning, were a religiously educated people. They dwelt with God; they listened to his words; they were taught always to obey him. He was their King; their laws came direct from him; he rewarded and he punished them. Their religion and their life was one. The rules of religion penetrated into every custom, public or private. They went to it to learn the most minute directions for daily conduct. It taught them when to wash; when and what to eat; how to dress; as well as all the regulations of intercourse with their own nation and with strangers. It was all in all to them. Every school was a school of God. Prophets were the great men, and priests were the great educators ; and religion was always the theme of both prophets and priests.
The entire world outside were differently educated. Look where we will, we find them deep in the study of “philosophy.” Religion was all fable to them. Philosophy with them was grappling with the great problems of their existence. Matter, with its changes and transformations, and Mind, with its immediate relations to the world, were the themes on which they lived. Their schools were schools of philosophy; their labor was artistic development; their genius took the guise of the intellect, self-impelled and self-sustained. They were ruled and governed by men of mind, who, if not atheistic absolutely, had at best the very slightest possible respect for gods, temples and priests. Their great men never by any chance stood before them as prophets or priests; but as models of contempt for religion and her rites. This broad distinction is observable in the outset.
2. Such being the stand-point of education we can naturally trace the result in each case. The Jews reached, with little or no hindrance, the great central idea of one God, which lies at the basis of every religion destined to any permanency. This became interwoven with their nature, and they were never so shocked as when exhorted to tolerate religions which overlooked this fundamental truth. Their very existence seemed in their eyes dependent upon their faithfulness to this idea. In consequence they lived the will of God. Their record was a revelation from the one God. Thus they arrived at a direct revelation, such as we accept in the Old Testament Scriptures. To them it was the final appeal-the end of all argument, and the umpire in all disputes.
All other nations were naturally at fault in these respects. They allowed their religious ideas, uneducated, to be dissipated, and so were confused by a rank growth of gods. Every priest gave the revelation from his particular god whenever he was asked, and modeled it according to the station of him who sought the knowledge or according to the bounty bestowed by him on the temple. There were no reliable dicta whatever no permanent words which spake and it was done. Thus schools of philosophy might continue their disputations forever. No standard of appeal was to be found, and man's frail apprehensions were alone to decide the matter in each discussion. Thus, we may say, the Jews were anchored fast and sure by the throne of God and the Gentiles were afloat at the mercy of winds and waves, without an anchor and without a haven.
3. Religion was a matter of moral life to the Jews. The entire rule of morality to them was comprised in it. They saw no separation between faith and practice; they sought none.
To do what religion condemned was always wrong; to fail to do what it commanded was equally wrong. True, they often forgot the spirit in seeking to perform the letter; but that was merely an error of interpretation, and does not disprove the great fact. Their religion was indeed the whole ground of their morality. It was a soul wedded to their souls—so wound into their being that all acts were colored by it. Even at this day we find in its moral commands some of the loftiest principles of moral right.
To all other nations religion was a matter of external forms and observance. It mattered nothing to them how much or how little they performed in the moral man, provided only they occasionally countenaced the sacrifices to the gods or contributed towards the pagantry the state had set up. The moral life was wholly independent of the religion. They recognized no connection between the two. Morality was taught on a different basis. It depended on human relations and personal expediency. Religion was external worship, and the gods themselves were far from being guides in the light of morality. Some of the later schools of philosophy joined with their ideas of the highest good of man, his unknown relations to the gods ; but all under the shadow of a fog impenetrable to their utmost searchings.
4. We find throughout their entire literature the traces of a similar difference. The Jewish literature consisted of a religious mind and heart, trained with every element of devoutness, and poured out in praise and prayer to the one God, Maker of heaven and earth. Every sketch of biography, even the most common-place genealogies, had a religious idea, like a golden thread, running through them from beginning to end. Every aphorism, every allegory, every parable, every exclamation almost, had a religious reference. The whole literature of the Jews was thus permeated with their connection with God, and their obedience or disobedience to his commands.
Other nations had a literature in which every subject stood alone. There was no central chain to which they were all attached. There was no undercurrent of devoutness which linked cach thought to the great power that made and upheld the universe. Their law, their philosophy, their poetry, their religion,-each had its separate style, its technical phrases, its variable manifestations of thought. Even in their religious literature itself, (so called) there was but little of a religious nature. It consisted in the bald apotheosis of great men--heroes in battle, and generals in the art of deceit. It was a matter in which no heart was found. It consisted of words without the responsive soul looking out. There was no lifting us by great thoughts into blessed communion with a higher nature. There was a continual smell of earth on its garments; the atmosphere around it lacked the clearness and purity caught by the Jews from the mountain of the Lord's holiness.
5. So the history of the Jewish experiences is eminently a religious history. From the first record of the creation, in the Book of Genesis, up to the very coming of Jesus, no feature except this is constantly present as we read. All through the thousands of years of organized existence, under whatever form of government they lived, this shines out. Over one seventh of their time and one tenth of their material substance were devoted to religion. All was centred in the directions, the paramount government, the overruling providence of God. Everything came from, everything was attributed at once to, God. Peace, war, slavery, bondage, freedom, victory and defeat were alike, God-given,-given not in the sense of fated, but given as punishment and