THE RESTORATION OF THE JEWS A BLESSING TO THE GENTILES
Rom_11:11-12. I say then, Have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
“THE ways of God are in the great deep, and his footsteps are not known:” they are utterly inscrutable to us: “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways above our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts.” We cannot see the end of any one of his dispensations. Who could ever have conceived the designs of God in suffering Joseph to be sold into Egypt? Yet did God intend by that dispensation to keep the whole Egyptian nation from perishing by famine, yea, and the very persons who sold him thither. No less mysterious are his dealings with the Jews: they are cast off: they are led captive of all nations: yet are they suffering for the good of all the people amongst whom they dwell; and even for their own ultimate advantage also. This is strongly asserted in the passage before us, where their fall is said to be “the riches of the Gentiles,” as their recovery also will be in a far more signal manner and degree.
We presume not to think that we can ever fathom this deep mystery: yet will it be profitable for us to consider it as far as it is revealed: and therefore we shall endeavour, according to the light given us, to shew you, What an interest the Gentiles have in God’s dealings with the Jews; particularly in,
Their present dispersion—
This was designed of God for the salvation of the Gentiles—
[Doubtless the Jews richly merited this judgment: and therefore, whatever good may be designed for others, no injury is done to them. And God too, if he had pleased, might have vouchsafed mercy to the Gentiles, without rejecting the Jews: his heart was large enough to embrace both, and his power to save them both. But he, in his own infinite wisdom, ordained otherwise. It is not for us to inquire, Why he acted thus? It is sufficient for us that he has seen fit to do so: and “he giveth not account to us of any of his matters.” This advantage from it at least we see, that he has by this means exhibited, in a contrasted view, “his severity to them, and his goodness to us [Note: ver. 22.];” and consequently, has illustrated and glorified at the same time his apparently opposite perfections of justice and mercy. But, however this may be, so he has ordained, and so he has done: and it is an undoubted fact, that,]
The fall of the Jews has led to the salvation of the Gentiles—
[The very circumstance of the Gospel being rejected by the Jews, was favourable to the reception of it among the Gentiles; inasmuch as it demonstrated, that there was no confederacy among the Jews to deceive them; that the Apostles, who brought the tidings of salvation to them at the peril of their lives, were men of strict integrity; and that the Scriptures which the Jews so unwittingly fulfilled, must be true. And the conduct of the Jews in relation to the Gospel did actually produce this effect. Their enmity against it at the very first promulgation of it caused them to persecute the Church with the utmost vehemence: that persecution drove multitudes of Christians (almost all except the Apostles) from Jerusalem, and scattered them through all Jud
a and Samaria: and the people, so scattered, “went everywhere preaching the word:” so that, instead of suppressing the Gospel, as they hoped, the Jews were instrumental to the sending forth of thousands, all at once, to preach it [Note: Act_8:1; Act_8:4.]. Again, when Paul and Barnabas had preached to the Jews, as they had hitherto invariably done in the first place, at Antioch, the inveterate malignity of the Jews determined them henceforth to preach to the Gentiles, agreeably to the command which had been given them in the Scriptures: and the consequence of this was, that multitudes of the Gentiles immediately embraced the Gospel, and “glorified the word of the Lord [Note: Act_13:46-48.].” Thus, “the fall of the Jews became the riches of the Gentiles,” inasmuch as it was the occasion of the tidings of “reconciliation being published to the Gentile world,” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ” being scattered in rich profusion over the face over the whole earth.]
The present rejection of the Jews is ultimately designed also even for the good of that benighted people—
[God designed that the transfer of his blessings to the Gentiles should “provoke to jealousy” his own forsaken people: and St. Paul, in preaching to the Gentiles, had that very object in view, namely, “to provoke to emulation those who were of his own flesh, and thereby to save some of them.” Whilst possessing exclusively all the tokens of God’s favour, they were regardless of it: but when they saw that the gifts of miracles and of prophecy were transferred from them to the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles were made happy in the enjoyment of their God, they were led to inquire more candidly into the truths delivered by the Apostles, and thus were in very many instances converted to the faith. Nor can we doubt but that the same effect would yet more frequently flow from that cause, if the lives of Christians continued to be such as they were in the apostolic age.]
But still richer benefits will flow to the world from,
Their future restoration—
That the Jews will in due time be converted to Christianity, is certain—
[When St. Paul asked, Whether their fall was final and irrecoverable, he shuddered at the idea, and declared, that God had certainly no such purpose respecting them: that, on the contrary, he had entered into covenant with them to restore them in due season, and to confer on them, as well as on the Gentiles, all the blessings of redemption. The period he had fixed in his divine counsels was, “When the fulness of the Gentiles should come in;” that is, when there should be among the Gentiles such a measure of concern about the Gospel, as should shew that the time for their fuller and more general reception of it was arrived [Note: ver. 25–27. compared with Isa_59:20-21.]. (It is the commencement and not the close, of this period, that must be understood by “the fulness of the Gentiles being come
. As soon as the fall of the Jews commenced, the benefit began to arise to the Gentiles; and as soon as the time for the more general conversion of the Gentiles shall commence, the time for the conversion of the Jews will commence also.].”) Then shall “the fulness of the Jews” also be brought in. Multitudes in every place shall then begin to be converted to the faith; and with greater or less rapidity will the whole nation be turned to the Lord. “The first-fruits were holy; and so is the lump: the root was holy; and so are the branches.” Hence their restoration is assured to them; for “God’s gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: ver. 16, 29.].”]
The effect of this upon the Gentiles will be blessed in the extreme—
[The Jews being dispersed over the whole world, the change wrought on them will attract universal attention: and carry such conviction with it to the minds of the beholders, as nothing can withstand. Besides, the Jews feeling the truth and importance of the Gospel themselves, will, as in the apostolic age, become preachers of it themselves; and their Gentile neighbours, knowing what enemies to Christianity they lately were, and seeing the wonderful revolution that has taken place in their minds, will be led to inquire into the Gospel themselves, and will be constrained to yield to its influence. So rapid will their conversion be, that they will “flock to Christ even as doves to their windows,” and “a nation will be born in a day.”
We have before shewn the beneficial effects which have resulted to the Gentiles from the fall of the Jews: and if such inestimable benefits have been conferred on the world by their fall, “how much more” shall the same, and greater, benefits arise from “their fulness?” Mark the force of the argument here. The Jews, when the Gospel was preached to them, rejected, blasphemed, and opposed it with all their might: but when they themselves shall be converted by it, they will embrace it most cordially, they will cry mightily to God for the success of it, and they will labour to the uttermost to diffuse the knowledge of it throughout the world. If then their rejection of it was so productive of benefit to the Gentile world, how much more shall their acceptance of it be! if their blasphemies against it, how much more their prayers for its diffusion! if their most envenomed opposition to it, how much more their zealous co-operation in extending the knowledge of it! We have seen the former; and we may with certainty infer the latter.]
From this subject the following reflections naturally arise:
What compassion should we feel for the Jewish nation!
[Once were they the most highly-favoured people upon earth: the privileges which were exclusively conferred on them, almost exceed belief — — — But how degraded are they now! they are “a hissing, and a reproach, to the whole earth [Note: Jer_29:18.].” Yet behold, such are they become for us! Incredible as it may seem, “they were broken off, that we might be engrafted on their stem [Note: ver. 19.]:” they were disinherited, that we might possess their property [Note: ver. 28, 31.]. Can we consider this, and feel no compassion for them? Can we pass them by, as the priest and Levite did, and shew them no mercy; especially when God has told us, that the very end for which he has had mercy upon us, is, that we may be the means of extending that mercy unto them [Note: ver. 28, 31.]? Even in reference to the wants of the body, God has said, “If a man see his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” How much more then is this true respecting the wants of the soul! Beloved brethren, judge yourselves in reference to this matter; and try your love to God by the measure of your compassion to his benighted people: and never think that your own souls are right before God, till you have learned to pity, and pray for, and to seek the salvation of, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”]
How should we fear and tremble for ourselves!
[Highly favoured as the Jews once were, they are now outcasts from God, and monuments of his just vengeance: and, if we abuse our privileges, a similar fate awaits us also. “If God spared not the natural branches,” says the Apostle, “take heed lest he also spare not thee [Note: ver. 21.].” It was “for their unbelief that they were broken off: and it is by faith that we stand. O then, be not high-minded, but fear [Note: ver. 20.].” Fear “lest there be in you also an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” Do not imagine that a mere outward profession of Christianity is of any value: no, it is “a seeing of Him who is invisible:” a “walking by faith, and not by sight:” it is the exercise of that “faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;” in a word, it is “a life of faith upon the Son of God, who has loved you, and given himself for you.” This, beloved, is the life to which you are called by the Gospel: and it is by such a life that you are to “provoke the Jews to emulation:” and, if you live not in this way, or, having begun to live thus, turn away from it, it would be better for you never to have heard the Gospel; yea, it were better that you had been born Jews, or heathens, and infinitely “better that you had never been born” at all.]
How earnestly should we labour for the conversion of the Jews!
[God has decreed that they shall be converted: and we have reason to believe that the period fixed for it in the Divine counsels is not far distant. It is a fact, that multitudes in the heathen world are expecting a change in their religion: the Mahometans and Hindoos throughout our eastern empire are strongly impressed with this idea: and the exertions making in every possible way for the conversion of the heathen world, warrant us to hope, that “their fulness” will speedily commence. At all events, “we are debtors to the Jews,” and should seek to discharge our debt [Note: Rom_15:27.]. Though they are at this time “enemies for our sakes, they are still beloved for their fathers’ sakes [Note: ver. 28.]:” and if, notwithstanding their present enmity against Christ, they are beloved of God for their fathers’ sakes, should they not be beloved of us? Think how indebted we are to their fathers, to those who, at the peril of their lives, brought the glad tidings of salvation home to us: and should we not labour to recompense all this in acts of love to their descendants? It is a favourite notion with many, that to attempt the conversion of the Jews is a hopeless task. But what ground is there for such a desponding thought as this? Are they farther off from God than the Gentiles were, when the Gospel was first published to them? or is it a harder thing for God to convert them than to convert us? God expressly tells us, that it is a work of less difficulty: “If thou wert cut out of the olive-tree, which is wild by nature, and were graffed, contrary to nature, into a good olive-tree, how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive-tree [Note: ver. 24.]?” Despair not then of doing them good; but exert yourselves in every possible way for their conversion to the faith of Christ. You are told, that “if they abide not in unbelief, they shall be graffed in again: for God is able to graff them in again [Note: ver. 23.].” Seek then to convince them of the truth of Christianity, and to bring them to the knowledge and love of their Messiah. If you desire only the conversion of the Gentile world, you should begin with the Jews; because it is the fulness of the Jews that is to operate on the Gentiles, and to effect, as it were, among them, “a resurrection from the dead [Note: ver. 15.].” But it is for God’s sake, whose people they are; and for Christ’s sake, who bought them with his blood; and for your own sake, who must give an account of the talents intrusted to your care, that I call upon you to be workers together with God in this great cause: and, if you have any sense of God’s “goodness to you,” seek to avert and terminate “his severity to them [Note: ver. 22. with 2Co_2:16.].”]