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worship of God, remaining in great confusion, and the civil state utterly neglected. neglected. But now, in this commission, Ezra is not only directed to set the whole worship of God in order, at the charge of the king, Ezra vii, 16-23; but also that he should appoint a civil government and magistracy, with supreme power, to be exercised as occasion required, ver. 25, 26. This alone, and no other, was the building of the city, mentioned by Gabriel; for it is not walls and houses, but policy, rule, and government, that makes a city.
And it is very considerable what a conviction of the necessity of this work was then put upon the spirits of the governors of the Persian empire; for the king himself calls Ezra "The scribe of the law of the God "of Heaven," and declares that he was persuaded, that if this work was not done, "there would be wrath "from heaven upon himself, his kingdom, and his son," ver. 23. The seven counsellors also join in that law, ver. 28. So that no command that concerned that people, before or after, was accompanied with that solemnity, or gave such glory to God as this did. Besides, the whole work of reforming the church, the restitution of Divine worship, and the recognition of the sacred oracles, by Ezra, make it manifest, that this decree, and no other, was intended by the angel Gabriel.
THE EVASIONS OF THE MODERN JEWS ANSWERED.
51. That the Messiah's coming is delayed, and their dispersion continued, because of the sins of their forefathers, answered. §2. Because of their own sins, answered. §3. That the deliverance from Babylon was nothing but a trial, whereby God would make an experiment, answered. §4. That the Messiah was born the same day that the second temple was destroyed, considered. §5. That the promise of the Messiah's coming at the season we plead for, was not absolute, but conditional, answered. 1. This militates against the promise to the Gentiles. §6. 2. Against Divine fore-knowledge. §7. 3. Against its own pretensions. §8. 4. Against the nature of the promised covenant. §9. 5. Against the Messiah's ever coming.
§1. BUT the Jews endeavor to evade the force of all this evidence, by various pleas; and particularly by pleading, that it is for their sins the coming of the Messiah is prolonged, whereby they are left in their present long dispersion. We readily grant, in a sense, it is on account of their sins, that they have no Messiah. But we must inquire, what they intend thereby? I ask, therefore, whether it be for the sins of their forefathers, who lived before the last final dispersion, or for their sins, who have since lived in their several generations, that they are thus utterly forsaken? If they shall say, it is for the sins of their forefathers; then I desire to know, whether they think God to be changed from what he was of old; or, whether he be not still every way the same, as to all the promises of the covenant? Supposing they will say, that he is still the same, I desire to know, whether he did not, in former times, in the days of their judges and kings, especially in the Babylonish captivity, punish them for their sins, with
that contemperation of justice and mercy, which was agreeable to the tenor of the covenant? This, I suppose, they will not deny, the scripture speaking fully to it, and the righteousness of God requiring it. I desire, then, to know, what were the sins of their forefathers, before the destruction of the second temple, and their final dispersion, which, according to the rules of the covenant, so much exceeded the sins of them who lived before the desolation of the first temple, and the captivity that ensued? For we know that the sins of these former were punished only with a dispersion, which continued to more than seventy years; after which they returned again to their own land; whereas their present captivity and dispersion have now continued above twenty times seventy years. Now, of all the sins, which on the general account of the law of God, the sons of men can make themselves guilty of, idolatry is doubtless the greatest; the choosing of other gods is a complete renunciation of the true God, and therefore is this sin forbidden at the very front of the law, as intimating, that if the command of owning the true God, and him alone, be not adhered to, it is to no purpose to apply ourselves to those that follow. Now, it is known to all, that this sin of idolatry abounded amongst them under the first temple, and that also for a long continuance, attended with violence, adulteries, persecution, and oppression; but that those under the second temple had contracted the guilt of this sin, the present Jews do not pretend; and we know that they hated all appearance of it. Nor are they able to assign any other sins whatever, wherein they went higher in their provocations, than their progenitors under the first temple. What then is the cause of the different events and success between them? It cannot be, but that either they have contracted the guilt of
some sin, wherewith God was more displeased, than with the idolatry of their forefathers, or that the covenant made with them is expired, or that there hath been a coincidence of both these; and that indeed, is the fact. The Messiah came, in whom the carnal covenant was to expire, and they rejected and slew him; which has deserved their rejection from it, and their present disinheritance.
$2. Sometimes they will plead, that it is for their own sins, and the sins of the generations that succeeded the destruction of the second temple, that they are kept thus long in captivity. But we know, that they use this plea only as a covering for their obstinate blindness and infidelity. Take them from this dispute, and they are continually boasting of their righteousness and holiness; for they do not only assure us, that they are better than all the world besides, but also much better than their forefathers; and that on the day of expiation, that is, once a year, they are as holy as the angels in heaven! Then I would fain know: whereas it is a principle of their faith, that all Jews, excepting apostates, are so holy and righteous, that they shall all be saved, shall all have a portion in the blessed world to come; whence is it, that none of them are so righteous as to be restored to the land of Canaan? Is it not strange, that the righteousness which serves the turn to bring them all to heaven, will not serve to bring any one of them to Jerusalem? this latter being more openly and frequently promised to them, than the former.
Again, repentance from their sins is a thing wholly in their own power, or it is not; if they shall say, it is in their own power, as generally they do, I desire to know, why they defer it? The glorious imaginations they have of the levelling of mountains, the dividing
of rivers, the singing of woods, and dancing of trees, and of coaches and chariots of kings to carry them; as also the riding upon the shoulders of their rich neighbors into Jerusalem, the conquest of the world, the eating of Behemoth, and drinking the wine of Paradise; the riches, wives, and long life they shall have in the days of the Messiah: all these brave things make them, as they pretend, patiently to endure all their long exile and calamity. And will not all these fine things prevail with them for a little repentance, which they may perform when they please; and so obtain them all in a trice? If they are so evidently blind, about what they look upon as their only great concernment in this world, have they not great cause to be jealous, lest they are also equally blind in other things, and particularly in that wherein we charge them with blindness? This, it seems, is the state of things; unless they repent, the Messiah will not come; unless he come, they cannot be delivered out of their calamity, nor enjoy the promises. To repent is a thing in their own power, and yet they had rather endure all miseries, and forego all the promises of God, than take in hand, and go through with it. And what shall we say to such a perverse generation of men, who openly proclaim, that they will live in their sins, though they have never more to do with God to eternity!
§3. Some have asserted, "That the deliverance from "Babylon was nothing but a trial, whereby God would "make an experiment, whether, together with the res❝titution of their kingdom and temple, those enor"mous sins of adultery, murder, and idolatry, which "they had committed, could be cut off, and expiated; "but instead of a discharge of their former arrears, "which they were obliged to, they heaped up new "debts by their sins." But this is plainly a worthless