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were entirely deftitute of learning and judgment, or of fuch improve. ments as were neceffary to qualify them for the difcharge of their glos rious function. Though their difcourfes are commonly expreffed in a plain and familiar manner, yet you may frequently difcover in them fuch eloquence and fublimity, as could not have proceeded from men of no education: Though they are fometimes guilty of failings, as unbelief, ambition, prefumption, and the like; yet it may be faid in their behalf, that it proceeded not fo much from their own, as the general temper of their nation. Nor let it be thought a difparagement to the Apostles, that fome of them had learned and followed handy-crafts; for it may reasonably be inferred from the inftance of Jofeph, who, though he was defcended from the royal family of David, was yet a carpenter; and from that of St. Paul, who, notwithstanding his being a Rabbi, and a citizen of Rome, had learnt tent-making (b); that mechanical employ. ments were not inconfiftent with learning, or accounted a difparagement (c). Though St. John was a fisherman, yet there are feveral paffages in his go'pel, whereby we may be convinced that he was verfed in the myftical writings of the Jews; and had even fome tincture of the Grecian philofophy. Which laft will appear the more probable, if it be confidered, that this Apoftle lived for a confiderable time in Afia. The office of a Publican, which was that of St. Matthew, was indeed looked upon as fcandalous among the Jews, who were extremely jealous and tender of their liberty; but it was in fuch high esteem and repute among the Romans, that, according to Cicero (d), The order of the Publicans confifted of the choiceft of the Roman Knights, was the ornament of the city, and the fupport of the commonwealth. Hence it is evident, that though St. Matthew, in all appearance was a few; yet he could not be of the meaneft of the people, fince he had been admitted to fo confiderable a post. These few reflections and inftances may ferve to fhew, how falfe and groundless the objections are, that were urged by the Heathens against the Apofties, as if they had been a parcel of weak and filly men. Hence, alfo, on the other hand, it is manifeft, that they had neither learning nor authority enough, as that the wonderful propagation of the gofpel throughout the world, could be afcribed merely to their own power and wisdom.
However this be, in reading the New Teftament, we must have always in our minds, That the gospel was at first preached by the Jeuss
(b) Acts xviii. 3.
(c)" It was a cuftom among the Jesus, of what rank or quality foc ver, to teach their children fome ingenious craft or art, not only as a remedy "againft idlencfs, but as a referve in time of want.We have a memo rable inftance of this custom in thofe two brothers, Chafinai and Chanilai, whofe story Jofephus relates at large:though they were perfons of pote, "they were nevertheless put with a weaver to learn the trade, which, fays "the hiftorian, was no difparagement to them, (wonOTOS EX ÖVTOS & TRETTY TOIS "imixwpios, &c.) Rabbi fefe was a currier, or a leather-dreffer; Rabbi Jock
anan was a fhoe-maker, and from thence firnamed Sandalar, &c." "Mr. "Falle's Sermon on Acts xviii. 3, p. 12, Ec.
Flos equitum Romanorum, ornamentum civitatis, firmamentum reipublicæ, Publicanorum ordine continetur. Orat. pro Plancio.
and in Judea, the Evangelifts and Apostles having been all of that nation; (excepting St. Luke, who was born at Antioch in Syria, and concerning whom it is not well known whether he was a Jew, or a Heathen, when he embraced the Chriftian Religion. It is very likely that he was a Heathen by birth, but a Jewish Profelyte, as we have obferved in our preface on his gofpel, and in St. Paul's epiftle to the Coloffians). For this reason, we meet, in the New Teftament, with frequent allufions to the Jewish customs and ceremonies. Their proverbs and moral fayings are often made ufe of; and for want of being acquainted with the ftyle of the infpired writers, we are apt to be at a loss, and look for mysteries where there are none, by understanding literally what is only an allusion to fome custom or faying of the Old Teftament.
The author of the new covenant proceeded in the fame manner as the legiflator of the old had done before. God's defign in giving the children of Ifrael a law, being to diftinguish them from the rest of the world by a particular kind of worship; he adapted, in the best manner that can be conceived, the ordinances he gave that people, to their state and circumstances. Whatever might lead them into idolatry, that he forbid upon the fevereft penalties. But left they fhould, at the fame time, have an averfion for the religion he inftituted, he was therefore pleased to appropriate to his worship, some of the harmless cuftoms and ceremonies that were received among thofe nations whom the Ifraelites had converfed with. The fame method was obferved by JESUS CHRIST in his establishment of the religion which he revealed to mankind. Though circumcifion was a feal and token of the ancient covenant, yet the mediator of the new was circumcifed, that the Jews might have no manner of pretence for rejecting him: and, for the fame reafon, all other things relating to him were performed according to the law of Mofes The baptifm of John affured men of pardon, provided they repented of their iniquities. The Son of God had undoubtedly no need of it; yet we find that he defired to be baptized, not only that he might thereby authorize the miniftry of his forerunner, but more efpecially, that he might by this means fulfill all righteousness; i. e. omit no custom that was practifed by the Jews (e). JESUS CHRIST being the accomplishment of the law, it confequently ceafed to be in force at his coming: But as it was not then a proper time to reveal this myftery, our Saviour therefore obferved the law with great exactnefs, and even conftantly went up to Jerufalem at the folemn feafts. If he is fometimes accufed of breaking the fabbath, he answers all objections of that kind, with fuch reafons and inftances as ought to have convinced at once those that made them, that they were guilty both of calumny and fuperftition. From thefe feveral particulars it appears, how neceflary it is, for the right understanding of the New Teftament, to be furnished with fuch parts of learning, as have been mentioned above.
II. The condition mankind was in, at the time The ftate of mankind, and of JESUS CHRIST's appearance in the world, may of the Jewish nation in very fitly be reprefented under the idea of a perfon particular, at the time of afflicted with a deadly diftemper; and the coming our Saviour's appearance. of our bleffed Redeemer be confidered as the critical time, which was to
(e) Matth. iii. 15.
decide either the death or cure of that difeafed perfon. What therefore John the Baptift faid of the Jewish nation, that the ax was laid unto the root of the tree (f), hath, in other words, been faid by St Paul (g), of all the inhabitants of the world. The best part of the univerfe was without God (h); idolatry, which then generally prevailed, being the most inexcufable fort of atheism (i), because not content with not acknowledging the true God, it rendered to creatures a worship that was only due to the Almighty Creator of all things. It is indeed no wonder, that fince the heathen worshipped for their gods monfters of uncleanness, and of all kinds of injustice, they fhould give themselves up to the most enormous vices, as we are told by St. Paul they did (k). But, on the other hand, the Jewish nation, that had been fo highly favoured by Almighty God, was neither more holy, nor lefs vicious than the reft of the world, as the fame Apoftle obferves in feveral parts of his epiftles (1). We do not find indeed that they were ever guilty of idolatry after their return from the Babylonish captivity. But they had fallen into feveral other heinous crimes, whereby they no lefs deferved the wrath of God, or the compaffion of the great lover and phyfician of fouls. Though God had, by a very fpecial favour, committed his holy oracles to them, yet they had been fo ungrateful as to flight and neglect fo valuable a treafure. For after the gift of prophecy ceafed among them, and their Rabbins and Scribes came to interpret and comment on the facred writings, they adulterated them to that degree, that they rendered them of none effect by their falfe gloffes, and foolish traditions (m). They made the effence of their religion to confift in ceremonies, while they trod under foot the weightier matters of the law, and their worship was refolved into a fet of formal fhews and hypocritical pageantry. Puffed up moreover with arrogancy and pride at this their specious outfide, and for having a law, which would indeed have promoted their glory and happinefs, if they had ftuck to the true sense of it; they fancied they had a right to hate and defpife the rest of mankind, with whom they agreed in no one point, but in an extreme corruption of manners. Thofe authors that are moft jealous of the glory of the Jewish nation, for instance, Jofephus, have given a most shocking defcription of it, in this refpect.
The account The neceffity of we have here given of the moral state of the Jews, affords us an occafion of admiring the exa forerunner. cellent method God was pleafed to follow when he fent his Son into the world. For hence it is evident, that it was abfolutely neceffary the Meffiah fhould have fuch a forerunner, as John the Baptift was. Before any precepts can be inftilled into men's minds, it is proper that the errors and prejudices which they labour under, fhould be removed; to the end that the obedience, which they render to God, may be the effect of deliberation and choice: but when their corruption is come to an exorbitant height, and their underftandings are clouded with a
(f) Matth. iii. 10. (g) Rom. i. 18.
(b) Eph. ii. 12. (4) Rom. i. 31, &c. Titus iii. 3.
thick darkness, we must create in them a new heart, and difperfe all the obftacles, which prevent them from admitting the light of the truth. Before our lands are fown, they must be grubbed, cleared and plowed. Above all, the doctrines of the gofpel were of that nature, that they could not be received but by perfons well difpofed, because they were contrary to all the paffions and prejudices of men, and efpecially to the pride and fenfuality of the Jews. This made JESUS CHRIST fay to them (), Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And in another place, How can ye believe, which receive hom nour one of another (o)? It was then fuitable to the dignity of the Son of God, and expedient for the intereft of the fears, that JESUS CHRIST fhould have a forerunner, that might go before him in the fpirit and power of Elias, to prepare the way of the Lord. For, if notwithftanding all this, our bleffed Saviour met with fo much obftinacy among the greatest part of the Jewish nation, is it not very probable that it would have been univerfal, had it not been for the preaching of John the Baptift? This method was, in fhort, abfolutely neceffary either to bring about the conversion of the Jews, or that they might be entirely without excufe, if they perfifted in impenitence and unbelief.
The extreme corruption of that people, and the great care God was pleafed to take, of removing all the obftacles that might any way prevent their converfion, help us moreover to discover the reafon why JESUS CHRIST made ufe fometimes of very harfh expreffions, when he addreffed himself to them, and particularly to the Pharifees. It is fomewhat fhocking to find, at the entrance of a difpenfation full of grace and mercy, the bleffed Author of it, who was certainly the meekeft perfon upon earth, ufing very hard, and feemingly injurious words; as when he calls the Jews, an evil and adulterous nation (p), and ftiles the Pharifees, hypocrites, a generation of vipers, that prefumed to fet their traditions and maxims above the law of God. But our wonder ceafes, when we confider that the last stroke was now to be given, and no more measures were to be taken with a people, that had fo fhamefully flighted and abused all the means which God had ufed for their converfion. For, 1. They had the predictions of the prophets, wherein were fet down the characters of the Meffiah; and that the greatest part of them agreed to Jefus of Nazareth, is what they did not deny. 2. John the Baptift was come with the fame fpirit and power, as had been foretold by the fame prophets; he had exhorted them to repentance, and warned them that the Meffiah was at hand. 3. JESUS CHRIST came at the very time the Jews profeffed to be in expectation of their Meffiah, and appeared with all the external and internal marks, wherewith he had been described. But they rejected him, as they had done before John the Baptift, and made them both alike the objects of their derifion and calumnies. So far certainly ought we to be from wondering at the heavy cenfures which JESUS CHRIST paffes upon a people fo wickedly inclined; that, on the contrary, we fhall, upon a due examination, find his language to them had an equal mixture of kindness and severity.
(z) John ii. 19. VOL. III.
(0) Ibid. v. 44.
() Matt. xii. 34. 39
Thefe few reflections may ferve to clear up feveral paffages in the gof pel; but we must defcend to a more particular account of the Jewish nation, and go on from their manners to the confideration of their outward ftate and polity.
III. We may confider the Jews with regard both to their civil and ecclefiaftical state. The Jewish nation in general was the posterity of Abraham, Ifaac, and Jacob. This the fcripture often takes notice of, to diftinguish the people of God from the poflerity of Ishmael, who was alfo the fon of Abraham by Hagar. The Jews were alfo named Ifraelites or the children of Ifrael, which was the firname of Jacob; that they might not be confounded with the defcendants of Efau the brother of Facob, and fon of Ifaac. They were moreover called Hebrews, either from Heber one of Abraham's ancestors, or from a Hebrew word of the fame found, that fignifies paffing or crossing over (q); because Abraham paffed over the river Euphrates, when in obedience to God's command, he came from Ur of the Chaldees into the land of Canaan. After the carrying away of the ten tribes into captivity, the two remaining tribes were most commonly known by the name of Jews, [Judæi] fo called from the tribe of Judah, which remained in poffeffion of the regal authority, and out of which the Meffiah was to be born: Perhaps this name was not given them till after their return from the Babylonifh captivity.
Never did any nation receive more extraordinary favours from the hand of God, and never did any one render itself more unworthy of them. God had no fooner brought them out of Egypt, with a frong hand, and a stretched out arm, but their ingratitude appeared by their idolatry and continual murmurings in the defert. When the defcendants of thefe rebels were put in poffeffion of the land of promife, they followed the fteps of their forefathers, turned idolaters, and proceeded to that unbridled licentioufnefs, as to prefer anarchy before the government of God's own eftablifhing. God delivered ther up frequently to the fury of their enemies, as a punishment for their crimes, and to make them fee the error of their ways. He raised up from time to time deli verers, which were fo many forerunners of the great Redeemer of mankind. Uneafy at having God for their King, and weary at being governed by his judges, they demanded a king to judge them like other nations; fulfilling thereby, though undefignedly, the purposes of the Almighty, who had ordained that the Meffab fhould be born of a Royal Family. They obtained their request, and yet made an ill use of that favour. After the death of David, who was a type of the Meffiab, and to whofe family God had annexed the regal authority, becaufe out of it was the Chrift to be born, ten tribes revolted against Rehoboam, and chofe for their king Jeroboam, of the tribe of Ephraim; a revolt permitted by God as a punishment for Solomon's idolatry.
This fchifm, which lafted above two hundred years, ended at last in the captivity of the ten tribes (r) which were carried away by Shalmanefer into Affyria and Mes dia; whereby were executed the judgments of God against that nation. It
Of the political and religious fate of the Jews.
The captivity of the ten tribes.
(9) Tranfitus, trajectus.
(r) 2 Kings xvii. 6, pa*