« AnteriorContinuar »
down to thee; be thou lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's fons bow down to thee, Gen. xxvii. 29. Now when Jacob uses partly these very words, partly others of like import, can he be understood to beftow any other blessing on his son Judah, than that very blessing which he, in this same form of words, received from his father? Could he forget the import of his own blessing when he was preferred to Efau ? Or could he use this folemn form of words, and mean something quite different froin the sense they carried, when his ancient father pronounced them over him? The other parts of this prophecy relate, I think, to the temporal prosperity of Judah, and promise a continuance of that tribe till the blesing of Abraham should come, and be extended to all nations : but I will not enter into this large field of controversy.
The next and the last limitation of this special promise is to the family of David; a point so uncontested, that there is no room to call it in question, without rejecting the authority of all the prophets ; and so plain withal, that it needs no proving. Here the promise rested until it fell upon him, for whom it was reserved, and to whom it was ever due ; upon him, to whom the birthright appertained, who was the firstborn of every creature; and concerning whom the Almighty had declared long before, I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. Here it is fixed, and here it must rest, till all thing's are accomplished ; for he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet; till death itself is swallowed up in victory.' .
It is much to be observed, that the prophecies re
lating to the covenant of better hopes were given to the people of God, when religion itself seemed to be in distress, and to want all helps to support it in the world. When Abraham was called to forsake the country and the religion of his fathers, then had he the promise of the blessed feed. Isaac and Jacob, being surrounded on all sides with idolatry, in the midst of a very corrupt and degenerate world, were sustained by the same hopes. When the people of Israel were in Egypt, and under many temptations of following the gods of the country, then was the promise settled on Judah, and the remarkable prophecy given of Shiloh's coming. As soon as God appeared manifestly, and oftentimes miraculously, making good the promises of the temporal covenant to the children of Abraham, and the people wanted no other evidence to keep them steadfast in their obedience, or to secure them from falling away to the gods of the nations round them, we meet with few instances of this sort of prophecy. Whilft God himself was governor and king of the people, and directed all their affairs by the voice of his prophets, their adversity and their prosperity, which were always in proportion to their obedience and disobedience, were a sufficient instruction to them to cleave to God Steadfastly. This was the case from Mofes to David, who had the promise of the everlasting covenant efta. blished with him and with his feed, in reward of his constancy and faith towards God under all the difficulties, through which he made his way to the crown, appointed to him by God. But when the fucceeding kings fell into idolatry, and the people, prone to evil, followed their example, so that God
determined to remove them out of his fight, and scatter them among the idolatrous nations, whose gods they had chosen before the Lord their Saviour ; . then, for the sake of the few righteous, were the better hopes revived, that the just might live by faith, and that a remnant might be saved. The prophet Isaiah, who speaks so plainly of the kingdom of Christ, entered upon his office not long before the ten tribes were carried into captivity as a punishment for their idolatry: the prophet Jeremy saw the other tribes carried away to Babylon: and Daniel was himfelf one of the children of the captivity. This was a time in which true faith wanted the comfort of future hopes; the present scene was dark and gloomy, the loving-kindness of the Lord was hid from his people, and they saw nothing but tokens of anger and difpleasure on every side : in this time therefore God thought fit to give more and plainer intimations of his purpose to establish the kingdom of righteousnefs, than ever had been given before from the days of Adam. Now was it that the feed in whom all nations were to be blessed was manifestly described ; that the time and place of his birth were appointed ; his great works, his glories, and his sufferings, were foretold. Now was it that God taught his people plainly to expect a new covenant, a better than that made with their fathers : in a word, now was it that all eyes were opened to look for his coming, who was to be the glory of Israel; the desire of all nations ; a light to lighten the Gentiles. This great scene being opened, and placed in fo clear a view, the work of prophecy was finished, and in a few years the gift itself ceased : a plain evidence that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus ; and that all the blessings and promises, given to God's ancient people, were to have their final accomplishment in the manifestation of the blessed seed.
The ten tribes, which were carried away by the king of Assyria, never more returned to their own country ; the tribe of Judah, after seventy years captivity, came back to the land of Canaan, erected a new temple, and continued to be a tribe and a people till the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. If you think all this happened by chance, there is no room to ask you any questions about it: but if you allow the hand of God to be in these events, tell me from whence this distinction, this partial regard to the tribe of Judah ? Read their own prophets, and learn from thence the character of their tribe : you will find no merit in them to justify this regard of God towards them : they were as bad as their neighbours; but they had one advantage, they had a promise, which none of the ten tribes had, That the sceptre Tould not depart from Judah- till Shiloh came : for the fulfilling of this promise, and all the promises relating to the blessed feed, was this tribe preserved some hundreds of years after the others had ceased to be a people.
That this tribe was resettled purely for the accomplishment of God's promises of a better covenant, appears from all the circumstances of their condition after their return : they were not restored to enjoy the ancient privileges of the people of God in the land of Canaan ; those privileges were forfeited by their iniquity: their Urim and their Thummim were no more heard of; and, after they were once esta
blished in the land, (a point in which Providence was nearly concerned,) the gift of prophecy ceased, and God appeared not in the management of their temporal affairs, as formerly he had done : they were often distressed, and often brought near ruin ; they suffered in all the changes of the empire of the east ; and were, as they express themselves, servants in the land which God gave to their fathers, Neh. ix. 36. I mention this particular, to account to you the more clearly for the ceasing of prophecy some ages before the coming of Christ. Prophecy among the Jews was relative to the two covenants given to Abraham ; when the Jews had forfeited the blessings of the temporal covenant, and God had fully opened and prepared the way for the coming in of the second, he recalled his ministers and ambassadors, for whose service he had no longer any occasion.
That the prophecies relating to the second and better covenant produced a suitable effect, and were matter of comfort and consolation to the righteous among the Israelites, may be collected from some few allusions to the opinions of their own times, to be found in the books of the prophets. That the people of Israel had, in the days of the prophet Amos, a notion of some great deliverance or blessing still to come, may be gathered from the reproof given to those, who, though void of the fear of God, yet expected a share in his blessing. Wo unto you that defire the day of the Lord : to what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. Amos v. 18. As some waited in faith for the consolation of Israel, so others there were who mocked at all such hopes and expectations : to these the prophet Isaiah