Chapter 2. The Prophetical Future Of The Jewish People
THE predictions noticed in the preceding chapter respecting the natural seed of Israel had respect only to the past fortunes of the people, and their existing condition. So far, there is a general agreement, both among Jews themselves, and among Christian interpreters, as to the import and fulfilment of the prophecies. But the matter assumes another aspect, when we turn from the past or present to the future. Here the greatest diversity prevails—not between Jews and Christians merely, but between one class of Christian interpreters and another. The Jews hold, and on their principles, indeed, consistently hold, that according to the prophecies of Old Testament Scripture, they shall, as a people, be gathered from their dispersions by the Messiah, and restored to their ancient territory—that there the temple shall again be built, and its worship set up anew, after the handwriting of Moses—and that, as thus established and presided over, they shall stand politically at the head of all the nations of the earth. Such, generally, is the Jewish expectation; and there are not wanting, especially in the present day, evangelical Christians, who entirely concur with the Jews in their interpretation of the prophecies, and confidently anticipate, not only a restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Palestine, but also a re-institution of the rites and services of the law, to be performed in a Christian spirit, and frequented by Christian worshippers from every region of the earth. A much larger portion, however, concur only in so far as the national restoration to Palestine is concerned, along with a certain pre-eminence in honour and Christian influence beyond what shall be possessed by any other people in Christendom. And another portion of Christian interpreters—also a very large one—deeming it impossible to divide, in the work of interpretation, between the national restoration of the Jewish people, and the re-establishment of their ancient polity and worship, reject the one as well as the other, and hold, that the proper meaning of the prophecies, in so far as they bear on the future of Israel, is to be made good simply by the conversion of the people to the Christian faith, and their participation in the privileges and hopes of the church of Christ.
Such, omitting all minor shades of difference, is the threefold view that prevails upon the subject, and which may be designated from the modes of interpretation on which they are respectively based, as the Jewish, the semi-Jewish, and the spiritualistic. In the Jewish, we, of course, include the first class of opinions maintained by Christian writers, not as intending thereby to disparage the Christianity of those who hold it, but because the view itself coincides in all its ostensible features with the distinctively Jewish one, and proceeds entirely upon the Jewish principle of prophetical interpretation. That principle is the strictly literal sense of prophecy, the principle which insists on reading prophecy simply as history written beforehand; and whatever has been urged in previous portions of this work against that style of interpretation, is applicable in its full force to this particular branch of the subject. (See particularly in Part I., Chap. v., Sec. i. and iii.) The principle of literalism is not espoused in this extreme form by those who hold what we have called the semi-Jewish opinion; they are prepared to apply to Christ and the church of the New Testament every prophecy that is so applied by the sacred writers, or may admit, on similar grounds, of such an application. They think, that in the language of prophecy, what is said of Zion and Jerusalem, or of David’s throne and kingdom, has to a large extent already received its fulfilment in Christ, or is in the course of doing so; and that every prediction couched in the terms of the Old Testament shadows, must be regarded, in accordance with the spirit of the New Testament dispensation, as capable of receiving fulfilment only in a non-literal, or spiritual sense. But, at the same time, they are of opinion that many prophecies respecting the Jewish people neither require nor admit of any such modified application—prophecies which speak in so distinct, specific, and circumstantial a manner of the gathering of that people out of all their dispersions, and settling them again in their former haunts, with even more than their former glory, that it seems difficult, if not impossible to understand them otherwise than in the most obvious and natural import of the language. There are collateral considerations which appear in their judgment to strengthen the position which they occupy; but this aspect of the prophecies forms the proper basis of the view they entertain. So far, therefore, it also rests on the principle of literalism, though restrained within comparatively narrow limits, confined chiefly to what respects the land and people of the Jews. And the main point to be determined respecting it is, whether in the prophecies themselves, or in the mode of applying them in New Testament Scripture, there is ground for maintaining such a distinction as it draws between this particular subject and the others, with which it stands, in the prophetic volume, so intimately connected.
The class of interpreters, who adopt the spiritualistic view, conceive that there is no valid ground for the distinction referred to. Taking up their position on distinctively gospel principles, and contemplating all that is written in Old Testament Scripture of gospel times primarily in a New Testament light, they apply uniformly one and the same rule of interpretation to the prophecies which bear on the future of the covenant-people. What it obliges them to hold in respect to the religion and the more distinguishing peculiarities of Israel, they feel constrained to hold also in respect to their land and polity. And in support of this view they are wont to adduce a number of particular passages, which in their plain and obvious aspect seem to abolish, along with other distinctions, those also of land and people, and to leave no room for any name or commonwealth in the kingdom of Christ, but that of the one body, formed out of all people and tribes and tongues, which is knit together by the bond of a living faith and a common participation in the blessings of Christ’s redemption. It is not enough, however, to produce a series of passages possessing this import; for they are met by a counter-set of passages on the other side, and in looking at the subject as so presented, the mind is apt to be perplexed and bewildered by what seems so many cross lights and contradictory statements. The question can never be satisfactorily determined, by being viewed and discussed in so isolated a manner. It must be seen in the light, not of this particular Scripture or that, but of great fundamental principles—principles which may enable us to distinguish between Scripture and Scripture—between those parts of Scripture which relate to the foundations of God’s kingdom, which fix and determine the form as well as the substance of things belonging to it, and those which, from being of a subsidiary nature, relate only to what may be fit or practicable within the settled landmarks. Unless some distinctions of this kind can be made good, there may be no end to the controversy on the field of argument; and it is with a view mainly to the establishment of such a result, that we propose now to conduct the investigation. Several incidental topics will be left unnoticed, in order the more fully to concentrate attention on what we deem to be the great and determining elements of the question.
I. With this end in view, we naturally turn our eye, in the first instance, to the direct teaching of our Lord and His apostles; for there, beyond all question, it is that we find the revelations, which are in the strictest sense fundamental as to all that is to distinguish the kingdom of God in New Testament times. What Moses was to the Old Testament church, Christ is to the New, though Himself as much higher than Moses, as the New is above the Old. And if the prophets under the Old Testament, from being in their position altogether inferior to Moses, and having only revelations by vision while he had them by direct and open intercourse, could introduce no alterations in the principles or even farms of things settled by him,—if the last of them wound up the whole prophetic testimony in its direct bearing upon those to whom it was delivered, by charging them to “remember the law of Moses, God’s servant, which he commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (Mal_4:4): (See Part I., Chap. i.)—if the prophets of the Old Testament stood in this subordinate relationship to Moses, how much more must they have done so to Christ? They were charged with no commission to interfere with any thing which the Mediator of the old covenant had ordained—to bring in no new rite, to establish no new relation—for even the kingly form of government was prospectively indicated and authorised by Moses; how much less, therefore, could any word have been given them, which was to have the effect of countervailing the principles, or modifying the constitution brought in by the unspeakably greater Mediator of the new covenant? Indeed, the consideration reaches farther than this; the conclusion derived from it holds, not merely as between the prophets of the Old Testament and Christ, but also between those prophets, and the apostles of Christ; for the least of the apostles was greater than John the Baptist, who again was greater than any of the prophets; and the communications by the apostles (for the most part) were also open and direct, not by vision. Here, therefore, in the teaching of Christ and His apostles, must be sought all the essential principles which go to determine the nature, the constitution, and form of Christ’s kingdom; or, to use the words of a canon formerly enunciated, “Every thing which affects the condition and destiny of the New Testament church has its clearest determination in New Testament Scripture.” (See p. 158.) So that, where there is any doubt or uncertainty, it is by this later Scripture we are to interpret the prophecies of former times, not by the prophecies that we are to explicate or resolve the later and higher revelations.
What, then, is the bearing and import of this teaching of our Lord and His apostles on the special subject before us? Is it such as to give us reason to expect a future restoration of the Jewish people, or a re-establishment of their old economy, as if something of importance for the church depended on it? Unquestionably, there is no explicit announcement to this effect in the whole range of the historical and epistolary writings of the New Testament. The infliction of divine judgment upon the mass of the Jewish people, was very distinctly proclaimed by our Lord Himself, with the destruction of their city and temple, and the scattering of the community at once from the kingdom of (rod, and from the land of their fathers. But in not so much as one passage does he unequivocally indicate for them a re-gathering to their paternal home, or a reinvestment with their former relative distinctions and privileges; far less is there any statement to imply, that the temple-worship should be again set up as the common religious centre and resort of Christendom. And in these respects the disciples are of one mind with their Master; they are equally silent upon the topics referred to.
It is true, there are a few passages which are sometimes represented as by implication teaching those things; but still at the most it is only by implication; and a very slight consideration of them is enough to show, not necessarily or certainly even that. When our Lord, for example, spake of a coming time, when the twelve apostles should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mat_19:28), there is nothing whatever to indicate (even taking it quite literally) in what region it should be—under what form of religious worship—or even whether as collected into one body, or distributed through several localities. Nothing on such points is either affirmed or denied in the statement. Nor, again, when foretelling the coming overthrow and the long-continued degradation that was to follow, in the memorable words, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled” (Luk_21:24), was any thing said of a return to the ancient home of Israel, and its ritual worship, not even of a restitution of the old nationality. Jerusalem is obviously to be understood not alone as a city, but as a city identified with, and representative of the Jewish people; and the word simply announces, that a bound was to be set to its down-treading on the part of the Gentiles—the ascendency on the one side, and the degradation on the other, were to terminate; but in what manner, or to what extent, was left entirely undecided. Manifestly, the treading down might cease by the simple abolition of the outstanding distinctions between Jew and Gentile, and the coalescing of the two on a footing of fraternal love and equality, without any collective national re-union of all the seed of Israel (which but partially existed, indeed, when Jerusalem actually was trodden down), or any restoration of the old religious ascendency and temple-worship. Nor yet, again, when in answer to the question of the disciples, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” our Lord said, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power,” was any thing determined as to the points now under consideration. For supposing it to imply, that the kingdom was somehow and at some period to be restored, the question still remains, in what sense? To Israel in their natural relation merely to Abraham, or, as a spiritual seed? separate and alone, or merged with believers generally into the Church of God? in the land of Palestine, or diffused throughout the earth? On these points nothing whatever is indicated, while yet they involve the whole questions now at issue. It is nothing to say, that the disciples must have meant by Israel the natural seed and its political resuscitation; for through the whole of his earthly ministry, Jesus was ever using language, and language often far more explicit and direct than this, which they did not at the time understand. We have no more reason to affirm, that the sense in which they understood the words of Christ here was that also in which he employed them, than it was so when He spake of destroying the temple and raising it up in three days (Joh_2:19); or, when pointing to his crucifixion, he said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me” (Joh_12:32). It was the descent of the Spirit alone, which fitted them for entering properly into the meaning of any of our Lord’s sayings; and the utter disappearance from their thoughts and language, after that event, of all reference to a national kingdom of Israel, separate from the Church of Christ, is quite sufficient to show how great a change their sentiments had undergone upon the subject.
This, however, is not all. It is not merely that in these fundamental teachings respecting the character and prospects of the Messiah’s kingdom, there is the want of any formal and explicit announcement of either the national restoration of Israel to Palestine, or the re-establishment there, as in a religious centre, of a Jewish polity and worship; but that the want exists in connection with much that bore immediately upon the subject, and was fitted to call forth, or even to demand, some definite announcement regarding it, if such could have been made. Beside the careful reserve maintained by our Lord respecting it, on the occasions already referred to, when we turn to His parables, in which he indicated more concerning the future of His church and kingdom than He could do in His direct discourses, we find Him presenting almost every possible aspect of its coming fortunes and destiny, yet without once conveying an intimation that any of them were to turn upon the separate nationality or distinctive privileges of the natural Israel. In some of the parables He spoke plainly enough of their opposition to the spirit of His kingdom, and of the certainty of their losing their place in it, notwithstanding that they might be called the children of the kingdom (Mat_21:28-46, Mat_22:1-14; Luk_13:6-9, Luk_15:11-32, etc.); and in others He pointed to the corruptions which, in the course of time, should creep into the church, the troubles and difficulties it should have to contend with, the sure progress and enlargement it should continue to make, and the final issues of reward and condemnation, blessing and cursing, in which it should close (Mat_13:24-50, Matthew 25; Luke 16, Luke 18, etc.) But in not one of them is the least hint given of the prospective return of the Jewish people to a separate place and position in the kingdom; nor is the distinction ever drawn as one destined to exist and work for good, as between people and people, land and land, . church and church. The kingdom always presents itself as a unity, alike in nature, privilege, and destiny for its real members, with the world at large for the field of its operations—divided only in so far as it was to be composed for a time of the false and the true, and to have its issues at last in evil as well as good. After Christ, the apostles touch the disputed territory on every side, but still with the same studied reserve. The Apostle Paul, who had every inducement, from his official calling and circumstances, to speak in the most conciliatory tone of his countrymen, and who does, in one of his epistles, treat at considerable length both of their general fall and of their future recovery (Romans 9-11), still utters not a word concerning their separate position, their local habitation, or their distinctive worship, as if in such respects they were to differ, when converted, from the other members of God’s kingdom. On the contrary, he represents their return simply as a reconciliation with the one spiritual body, from which they are for a time cut off—an admission into the community, which, he plainly testifies, admits of no distinction between Jew and Gentile. With him the church in the future, as well as in the present—the church, through all its coming stages on to its consummation in glory, precisely as in the parables of Christ—is an organic unity, marred only by the false admixtures and the antichristian apostacy which were for a time to corrupt its simplicity. Nay, the Apostle Peter, the apostle pre-eminently of the circumcision, in all his discourses and epistles after the day of Pentecost, seems equally unconscious of any distinction awaiting the race of Israel in God’s kingdom—none excepting that of being by privilege the first to receive, and by calling the most imperatively bound to spread abroad its blessings. This may be said to be the one theme of his first epistle, as addressed, more immediately, to believing Israelites scattered throughout the cities of Asia Minor. And in his recorded speeches on the day of Pentecost, and after it, how entirely does Christ’s present reign, and his one kingdom of converted and saved men, take the place of what previously held such firm possession of his thoughts, the kingdom of Israel? The change is most remarkable. He appears, in the last interview with Jesus, along with the other disciples, making earnest inquiry about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. But presently afterwards, when the Spirit has descended with his enlightening and elevating influences, he proclaims Christ as already “exalted to sit on the throne of David” (Act_2:30); or, as it is again expressed, anointed by God, according to the terms of the second Psalm, and now meeting the opposition of ungodly men, which was there predicted respecting the Lord’s anointed King (Act_4:24-28). And when he points (as he does in Act_3:19-21) to the brighter future of the kingdom, he represents it as a future which Israel, indeed, by their conversion and forgiveness, might do much to help forward, but which was by no means to be peculiarly connected with them—which, in its progress and consummation, was to bring not “the restoration of the kingdom to Israel,” in the sense formerly imagined, but “the restitution of all things spoken of by all God’s holy prophets since the world began,” the one grand universal restoration to order and blessedness. The sphere of the apostle’s vision has now immeasurably widened, and though in no respect to the prejudice of the natural Israel, yet to the indefinite expansion of their peculiar privileges, and the enlargement of the kingdom so as to embrace men of every nation, and the round circumference of the globe itself. (See Appendix I.)
Nor in the Apocalypse is there anything that can fairly be regarded as bearing a different import. It is true that in one passage there, in the sealing vision of Revelation 7, the Israelites are mentioned, and twelve thousand from each tribe are represented as being marked with the seal of God. There is a class of interpreters who understand this of the literal Israel (including even Bengel in former times, and now Auberlen), and who regard the 144,000 thus made up as constituting the elect church from among the Jews, and the multitude without number, from every nation, tribe, and tongue, in Rev_7:9, as the elect from among the Gentiles. This, however, is so utterly at variance with the whole style of the Apocalypse, and with the connection of this passage itself with what precedes and follows, that the opinion is rejected by many who in other respects adhere to the literal style of interpretation. If the natural Israel were really meant, then this portion of the book would form an exception to the general character of the Apocalypse, which ever represents New Testament relations and prospects under the imagery of those of Old Testament times. The temple and its courts afterwards mentioned, the city where our Lord was crucified, Sodom and Egypt, Jerusalem and Babylon, Mount Zion and Megiddo, the woman and the whore, are all used symbolically to indicate things and parties corresponding to what bore those names in earlier times; and it would be to mar the consistency of the apocalyptic style, and introduce the greatest arbitrariness into its interpretation, if the tribes of Israel were here to be taken in their natural sense. Nor would it accord with the symbolical import evidently attached to these 144,000. It is against all probability to suppose, on the hypothesis of the literal reading of the passage, that precisely 12,000 of elect ones were to be found in each of the tribes specified. And if that improbability could anyhow be got rid of, why should only twelve tribes have been specified, and not thirteen, the actual number of the tribes? Is it to be conceived that, while each one of those twelve should furnish 12,000, Dan, the tribe omitted, should furnish none? The very omission of this tribe, so as to leave the historical number, twelve, and the precise squaring of this number, so as to make the twelve times twelve, multiplied by a thousand, shows that it is not the meaning of the letter we have to deal with, but the symbolical representation of a perfect and complete totality. This appears, also, from the object of the sealing, which was to stamp, with the sure impress of Heaven, “the servants of the living God,” the Lord’s people generally, as being through the Divine protection safe from the desolations that were to sweep over “the earth and the sea.” The sealed are manifestly the representatives of all whom Divine grace saves from the world-wide judgments contemplated in the vision; and hence quite naturally appear, during the process of the sealing, as made up of so many thousands taken from the tribes that historically composed the professing church. Not less naturally at the close of the process, when the act is completed, they present the aspect of a numberless multitude gathered from all lands. These reasons, drawn from the vision itself, which treats of the sealed company of Israelites, are still farther confirmed, and rendered altogether conclusive, by the subsequent reference that is made to the subject. In Revelation 14 the Lamb is seen standing on Mount Zion with 144,000, the same sealed company “having His name, and the name of His Father (so it should be read) written on their foreheads.” These are described in terms that can only be understood of the elect generally, not of a mere fraction of the elect. It is said of them that they alone could sing the new song, and that they were virgins, faithful followers of the Lamb, redeemed from among men. They are, therefore, the saved; and appearing as representatives, forming an ideal number, and in a state of ideal perfection, they are also fitly called the first fruits unto God and the Lamb.
On every account, the conclusion seems inevitable, that the Israelites, in the sealing vision, must be understood symbolically, like all similar terms in the Apocalypse. And as this is the only occasion on which they are formally introduced into the vision of things to come, it remains certain, that the revelations given to St John, are in perfect accordance on this point with what appears generally in New Testament Scripture. As for the view of Hofmann, whom Ebrard, and some British writers, follow, that the woman in Revelation 12 is simply the Jewish Church, and her seed that was to be driven into the wilderness, the Jewish people in their unbelieving and scattered condition, it is so palpably opposed to the whole spirit of the Book, and the general object of its prophetic revelations, that it needs no special consideration.
It thus appears, that in the teaching of our Lord and his apostles, there is nothing to favour either the Jewish, or the semi-Jewish view of the prophetical future. Amid much incidentally bearing on the subject of Jewish prospects, there is still no distinct announcement of the national restoration and settlement of the Jewish people in Canaan, or of the re-institution of their temple-worship. There is nothing whatever said to indicate, that such events may be expected in the history of the Christian Church, or that any thing depends on them for the advancement and welfare of Christ’s cause in the world. Christianity as exhibited and denned for all coming time by its divine founder and his servants, acknowledges no such distinctions, and is silent as to any such prospects. And as the revelations that came by them, were for the church of the New Testament of a primal and fundamental character, it were to invert the natural order of things, and unsettle the foundations of sound scriptural exposition, if Scriptures of an older, and from the first only of a subsidiary kind, should be alleged in support of an opposite conclusion. From the nature of things, they cannot be rightfully alleged. And the feeling of this, we have no doubt—however vaguely defined and imperfectly understood as to the principles on which it rested—the feeling, that the fundamental teaching of the New Testament was of the nature now described, and ought mainly to be regarded, was what led the Fathers with one voice (not excepting such as held the personal, millennial reign of Christ in Jerusalem), and all Christian writers, down to the seventeenth century, to reject as chimerical, the Jewish expectations both of a territorial restoration and of a revived Judaism. The feeling itself was sound, though it could seldom, perhaps, have given a satisfactory explanation of the grounds out of which it sprung, or made an enlightened defence of them. (Jerome, in his note on Isa_11:10-16, brings out what was undoubtedly the prevailing view among Patristic writers. He refers, in doing so, to certain Christians, whom he calls “our Judaizers,” meaning the ancient Millenarians, who connected the things spoken of in the passage with the second coming of Christ, not as he thought should have been done with the first, and also understood them too carnally, while still they made no distinction in regard to them betwixt Jew and Gentile. And he winds up the whole with this canon of criticism, “Let the wise and Christian reader take this rule for prophetical promises, that those things, which the Jews and ours, not ours [but] Judaizers, hold to be going to take place carnally, we should teach to have already taken place spiritually, lest by occasion of fables and inexplicable questions of that sort (as the apostle calls them), we should be compelled to Judaize.”)
It is true, that Christianity itself sprung out of Judaism, and that certain things belonging to it, may be, not explicitly stated and announced, but presumed, on account of the place they had in former revelations, and it has been alleged, that the obligation to observe the weekly Sabbath is of this description, as also the right to administer baptism to infants. These both rest chiefly upon grounds and principles definitely settled in the Old Testament Scriptures; and are, it is held, substantially on a footing with the supposed distinctions in the prophetic future between Jew and Gentile, or the return to a ceremonial worship. Our answer to this is very short. If the points now under discussion were really on a footing with the things referred to, they must have been presumed as continuously subsisting; they must have been held to be integral parts of Christianity as well as of Judaism, and opportunity must have been afforded to maintain them, at least in substance. But so far from this, they were authoritatively set aside, and an insuperable bar laid by God’s providence in the way, even of their formal observance. If anything could mark them as merely superficial and temporary distinctions, it was surely this. We hold it to be otherwise with the Sabbatical Institution, and the admission of children to a covenant-standing. These are no Jewish peculiarities or temperory expedients; they rest on primeval grounds of truth and duty, and enshrine principles which are interwoven with the constitution of man, and were inwrought into the very foundations of the world’s history.
II. This latter point, however, touches closely upon another, to which we now proceed. We refer to the typical character of the Levitical dispensation. And our position respecting it is, that as the Israelitish people, with their land and their religious institutions, were, in what distinctively belonged to them under the old covenant, of a typical nature, the whole together, in that particular aspect, has passed away—it has become merged in Christ and the Gospel dispensation.
That this holds good in respect to the religious institutions, distinctively and peculiarly belonging to the old covenant, was, till quite recently, admitted by, at least, all Evangelical Christians. The only party known in history to have disputed it, were the small and obscure Ebionite section of the early heretics, whom all credible historians represent as much more Jewish than Christian in their views. That men of evangelical sentiments, in other respects, should, in these latter times, have come to the same belief, maintaining the absolute perpetuity of the temple worship, and the certainty of its being again established for the benefit of all Christendom, we can only regard as one of those strange and bewildering meteors, that occasionally appear for a little in the theological heavens, and then pass away with the occasion that has produced them. The belief, we are persuaded, has gradually forced itself upon them, as an untoward, but necessary result of the false principle of prophetical literalism, to winch the writers of this school had eagerly committed themselves, before they distinctly saw to what lengths it would conduct them. The anomalous position, which they now occupy, cannot possibly last. Consistency will oblige them, either to abandon their Judaism, or renounce their evangelism; for, as we said before, that the evidence for the historical Messiah cannot stand with their principle of prophetical literalism, so we say now, that the fair and grammatical exegesis of New Testament Scripture, can as little stand with the Judaistic hypothesis that has sprung from it. By the one result, the prophetical testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus is destroyed, and by the other the foundation is subverted of the true relation between type and antitype.
The full proof of this can only be had by the establishment of a sound typological system, based on a close and comprehensive examination of the writings of both the Old and the New Testament. And as we have endeavoured to do that elsewhere (in the “Typology of Scripture”), it is the less necessary to say much upon the subject here. Indeed, with plain and unprejudiced minds, the matter admits of a very simple and direct solution. We might put it to any one perfectly free to express his convictions, if, holding the Judaistic views now under consideration, he could have taken the part, which the Apostle Paul did, in respect to circumcision and the law? Could he have resisted the introduction of these into the church as a matter of life and death? Could he have said, as Paul did to the Galatians, when he heard, not that they abused, but simply, that they used them—heard merely, that they “observed days, and months, and times, and years”—“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain; Behold I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing?” Or, could he have declared the proper subjects of the law, to have been placed by it in a state of bondage, or under a schoolmaster, from which, now that faith has come, they were set free? It is impossible—and a glance into the writings of those, whose views we are now discussing, brings us acquainted with quite another language. Hear, for example, Mr Birks, “They (the legal sacrifices and services connected with them), were taken away, from constituting any part of the true atonement for sin, which our Lord was coming to effect by the offering of his own body on the tree. As symbols or sacraments, pointing to something beyond, and far higher than themselves, and as adapted for an earthly stage of man’s being, they were always acceptable, when offered in obedience to God’s revealed will. But when adopted by others, to whom no such command had been given, or viewed as having inherent efficacy, they were denounced by the prophets as dishonourable to God, and unavailing to man; and the refusal to impose them upon Gentile converts, when the gospel was sent to them, was only a further and plainer testimony against the Jewish perversion of them, as in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, by pride and self-righteousness.” (“Outlines of Unfulfilled Prophecy,” p. 323.) Must not this sound in the ears of a plain reader of Scripture somewhat like a travesty of its meaning? It was certainly not thus that Luther understood the matter. How differently did he write of the Judaizing spirit of the Galatians and apostles of Judaism? And Paul himself, did he simply refuse to impose the Jewish ritual of worship upon the Gentile converts? Or, when introduced, did he merely tell them, that it was only when coupled with pride and self-righteousness, the services became unavailing? but that as symbols or sacraments they were always acceptable? By no means. It is the services themselves he condemns—because, in the very observance of them, where there was no bond of custom rendering it difficult to break them off, he descried the clear sign of an antichristian spirit; and the teaching which persuaded the Galatians to enter on their observance, he affirms to be “another gospel.” The very existence of them anywhere, he considered a badge of servitude, and the things themselves are stigmatised as “beggarly elements.” During the period appointed for them, they held the place only of temporary expedients—“shadows,” but with Christ’s coming, the “body” is present, and the shadows, as a matter of course, disappear. The whole system of carnal ordinances, he tells us in Hebrews, was abolished, not because of men’s abuse of it, but because of its own weakness and unprofitableness; and he shows that they belonged to a priesthood and a covenant, which, according to Old Testament itself, were destined to be displaced, and now, he expressly declares, were displaced by the higher priesthood and the new covenant of Christ. In short, the question, as treated by the apostle, and as it should still be treated by us, is not, whether those cardinal ordinances might not be observed by certain individuals under the gospel in a Christian spirit? But whether they were in themselves altogether good? And especially, whether they were adapted to the genius of Christianity, and properly fitted to nourish the Christian spirit? To this, the whole tenor of his remarks gives a decided negative, and we may say, an unqualified rejection.
Such are the plain and broad features of the subject, as presented by the apostle to the Gentiles, which it is impossible to explain away, without subverting the very principles of a right interpretation of Scripture. But they by no means stand alone. Our Lord’s declaration to the woman of Samaria, in which he said, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father; but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipper shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him; “may be said to involve the principle of the Whole matter. For it intimates, that the distinction of places as to religion was on the eve of abolition, and that worship rendered at Jerusalem would be no more acceptable to God than that given in the most distant regions. But to say this, was to ring the knell of the ceremonial law, which necessarily fell with the exclusive honours of the one temple and the one altar at Jerusalem. It thenceforth ceased to be either binding or proper, though still it did not strictly die—but rather, like the chrysalis breaking its horny crust, and emerging into a higher form of life and beauty, was transfigured into Christ’s form of doctrine, the new law of a spiritual Christianity. The same change was involved in the instructive fact connected with our Lord’s death, when the veil of the temple was rent in twain; for this declared, as by an impressive sign from heaven, that the formal distinctions of the old economy were abolished at the very centre, and must thenceforth cease, even to the farthest extremities. From that moment, there was no longer, in the old sense, a sanctuary, and a holy of holies; the handwriting which had established such divisions till the time of reformation, was blotted out; the reformation itself had come, and the entire sacrificial system founded on it necessarily gave way. The change was still farther indicated in Christ’s declaring, at His last passover, that He had greatly desired to eat it with his disciples, because now it was to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God (Luk_22:16): that is, the typical act it commemorated, was to be substantiated by the great redemption, whose commemorative rite must henceforth take the place of the former. Hence, in still farther explanation, the apostle Paul says, in 1Co_5:7, “For even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us” (or, more exactly, For also our Passover, Christ, has been sacrificed), let us, therefore, keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The meaning obviously is, that the Christian church now possesses, through participation in the death and grace of Christ, in the real and proper sense, what was only symbolically represented in the ancient passover and its accompanying feast. In another epistle also (Colossians 2), he expressly affirms, that the other most distinctive ordinance of the Old Testament, circumcision, has passed into Christian baptism; so that those who through the Spirit have been baptised into the spiritual body of Christ, are the circumcised in heart. And if, as the apostle in the same place announces, the handwriting of ordinances was in one mass, as in Christ’s body, nailed to the cross and taken out of the way, there can be room for but one conclusion; namely, that for as many as look to that cross for salvation, the old ritual has for ever gone; and we may justly say of it with Luther, “Like Moses, it is dead and buried, and let no man know where its place is.”
But what is thus said of the religion of the old covenant, as to its external form, is also said of the people on whom, in their elect and separate condition, it was imposed; they also in that condition possessed a typical character. As a chosen people, saved from outward bondage and corruption, and placed in covenant-relationship to God, they represented those who, when the true redemption came, should be delivered from all evil, and constituted members of God’s everlasting kingdom. So long as that typical relation stood, the national distinction between Jew and Gentile necessarily continued—although, as the time for its abolition drew near, a certain approximation was made to its removal, by the dispersion of the Jews through the Roman empire, and the constant accessions made to them by proselytes from the Gentiles. The way was thus prepared, by Divine Providence, for the change from a typical to an anti-typical election—that is, from an elect seed to an elect society; which began to take full effect as soon as the Christian church assumed an outstanding existence in the world. From that time we hear only of a precedence on the part of the Jew in the order of time—he stood nearest to the kingdom of God, and fitly had the first offer of its blessings; but he had no superiority in rank, privilege, or destiny. Again and again the apostle testifies, that in these respects, there was no difference; as in Rom_10:12, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all, is rich unto all that call upon Him;” Gal_3:28, “There is. neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female (these outward distinctions do not indeed cease, but they are nothing in a religious point of view), for ye are all one in Christ Jesus;” Col_3:11, “Where (i.e., in Christ) there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all.” And in Eph_2:14, sq., where he speaks more formally of the constitution of the Christian church, “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Here, plainly, the ground of separation or enmity, the law of ordinances, is declared to have been removed by Christ, for Jew as well as Gentile; it was, henceforth, no more obligatory upon the one than upon the other; and should have ceased as soon as possible to be even observed, in order that the intended oneness of the Church might be effected, and converted Gentiles might feel that they were “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Hence, in token of this complete fusion of races, and the consequent merging of the type in the anti-type, believers in Christ, generally, are called Abraham’s seed (Gal_3:29), Israelites (Gal_6:16; Eph_2:12), comers unto Mount Zion (Heb_12:22), citizens of the free or heavenly Jerusalem (Gal_4:26), the circumcision (Php_3:3).
It is to be added, that here also our Lord himself took the lead. He began to do so at a comparatively early period in his ministry, when on the occasion of the Centurion’s remarkable faith, he exclaimed, “Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness” (Mat_8:11-12). So again, when He was told of His mother and brethren desiring to speak with Him, “He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in heaven (or, as in Luke, hear the word of God, and do it), the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Here, precisely as in the rending of the veil for the ceremonials of Judaism, the exclusive bond for the people was broken at the centre: Christ’s very mother and brothers were to have no precedence over others, nor any distinctive position in His kingdom; spiritual relations alone should prevail there, and the one bond of connection with it for all alike, was to be the believing reception of the gospel and obedience to it. Finally, the command given the apostles to teach and baptise all nations, with no further difference than that they should begin at Jerusalem and the Jews, though they were not to rest till they had reached the uttermost part of the earth, and preached the gospel to every creature—evidently implied the cessation of all outward national distinctions as having any recognised place in the kingdom of Christ. So that the apostle Paul, in the explicit declarations we have quoted from his epistles, only carried out, and in a more concrete form expressed, the principle already embodied in our Lord’s announcements.
So far, therefore, as regards Israel’s typical character, their removed and isolated position is plainly at an end: all tribes and nations are on a footing as to the kingdom of God—members and fellow-citizens if they are believers in Christ, aliens if they are not. But admitting this, may not the natural Israel in some other respect have the prospect of a separate and peculiar standing in the church! It was not simply to be a type of the future election, that they were anciently separated from the nations, but also that they might possess the reality of a present interest in God’s love and blessing, and do special service for Him in the world. Why may it not be so again? It may, certainly, and, we have no doubt it will, in some sense, and in so far as may consist with the fundamental principles and relations of God’s spiritual kingdom. But it should be well considered how far, in respect to that, the history of the past itself may warrant us to carry our expectations. Beside the typical character of Israel, the only ground of distinction that belonged to them, at least as recognised by God, was their religious position; they were the nation that held the truth, and, as such, stood apart from the idolatrous nations of heathendom.
But when that distinction virtually ceased to exist by the mass of the people abandoning the truth, and espousing the corruptions of heathenism, the Lord held the ground of separation to be abolished, and addressed and treated them as heathen (Isa_1:1-10; Amo_9:7-8; Ezekiel 16, Ezekiel 23). Or when it ceased on the other side by heathens renouncing their abominations, and entering into the bond of the covenant, the same abolition, though in a happier sense, took place as to any formal distinction. Never, indeed, was there anything properly distinctive and peculiar to Israel as a people, apart from their standing in the knowledge and faith of God; whenever this ground of separation was removed on the one side or the other, the distinction itself disappeared; the natural seed of Israel no longer dwelt alone. And justly so. For their election of God to a separate place, viewed in respect to the time then present, was no act of favouritism; it was simply the appointed means to a great moral end; and when they were either no longer capable of reaching this, or no longer needed for doing it, it fell into abeyance.
Such was the state of matters viewed in respect to the past: And would it not be an anomaly of the strangest description, if now under the new dispensation, pre-eminent, especially for the freedom it has brought from outward restraints and adventitious distinctions, a kind of division were to be introduced, which had no existence even under the old? In the church itself of the Old Testament there was no recognised division; members of the stock of Israel formed its main trunk, and those who joined it from other tribes became merged in the common body; the separation was simply between this body and the heathen world. Shall it be otherwise now? In Christian times alone shall there be a recognised and abiding distinction within the church, between one portion of it and another? Even when the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, shall the Jewish nation stand out and apart from the rest? Were it actually to do so, it would not be a continuation or a renewal of the past, but the introduction of an entirely new principle into the Church of God. When the kingdoms shall have attained to the condition mentioned, they will be relatively in the very position occupied of old by Israel itself—they will be one and all kingdoms holding the truth; and if converted Israelites were still to stand apart from and above them, it would not be the same thing that existed under the law, but something essentially different—something foreign even to Judaism; how much more, then, to Christianity?
The only just expectation respecting the position of the Jewish people in their converted state—that alone which is warranted by the .history of the past, or seems in accordance with the great principles of Christianity, is not that their singular and isolated place after they have entered the church, but that their entrance itself there shall enliven and refresh her condition. The receiving of them, says the apostle, shall be “life from the dead.” Cut off, as they have been and continue to be, for their impenitence and unbelief, they are, so to speak, in the condition of an amputated limb—lying in the bonds of death. And when animated anew by the breath of the Spirit, so as to become re-united with the living body of Christ, what else can the effect be, than that of sending a fresh impulse through every part and member of the body? How far this effect may be produced simultaneously or by successive stages, cannot be determined with certainty, and is of no moment as regards the general question. The apostle’s language, in the eleventh chapter of the Romans, has been thought to imply, that the return of the Jews shall be in a kind of national capacity. And such may be its import, although it does not materially differ from our Lord’s language respecting the calling of the Gentiles, when he says in Mat_21:43, “Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” He spoke of the general result, in the comprehensive style of prophecy, as if the transference were to be begun and completed at once; while yet, we know from the history, it took place in a quite gradual and successive manner. For anything we can tell, the reception of the Jews into the bosom of the church may also take place gradually, though it is spoken of as a single event. At the same time, from the close interconnection that subsists among them, it is likely to be accomplished in a much briefer period, after the work of conversion has somewhat generally commenced, than in the case of the Gentiles. And if the present scattered, yet separately preserved condition of the Jews shall be found, as we may well conceive, to hasten forward the blessed consummation, shall there not be discovered a sufficient reason for the providence that has so kept them apart? Their preservation certainly has been wonderful, and we can scarcely doubt is destined in the issue to work out more signally God’s great purpose of mercy for the world. Their very scattered and peeled condition, bringing them into contact with so many nations, and making them familiar with so much suffering, may but render them the more thoroughly prepared, when the time to favour Zion has come, to do the part of the great Evangelizers of the world. For through them the tongues of all nations would be hallowed to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, and, speaking from the bosoms of such converts, and the depths of such a manifold experience, they would assuredly be tongues of fire. Were Jerusalem but effectually reached by the power of the gospel, every nation under heaven would be stirred; and then indeed “the remnant of Jacob would be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.”
But now, what we have affirmed first of the religion of the old covenant, then of the people, we must also affirm of the inheritance. This, not less than the other two, as formerly stated, (See Part I., Chap. vi.) possessed a typical character in relation to gospel times: like them, it passed, when these entered, into something higher and better. And in tracing the connection between the new and the old things, Christ and his apostles make no difference between this and the two former particulars. Christ himself came into the world as the heir of an inheritance, but it was the inheritance of the earth, as given up to Him to be delivered from the bondage of evil, and ultimately glorified (Psalms 2). Accordingly, one of the first benedictions he pronounced in his sermon on the Mount, was an assurance to His people of an interest in this large inheritance, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” So, again, in the words he uttered in connection with the faith of the Centurion, the converts from every land are represented as sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God—sharing ultimately in their inheritance, as they had already entered into their faith. In like manner, the apostle Paul speaks of believers in Christ, not only as children of Abraham, but also as heirs with him according to the promise (Gal_3:29)—having a joint-heritage, as well as a common standing with Abraham. He even designates Abraham “the heir of the world” (Rom_4:13)—which can only be explained by his identifying Canaan with what it typically represented, in the same way that Christ is called Abraham’s seed (Gal_3:16), since in the immediate offspring the eye of faith contemplated the ultimate child of promise. In Hebrews 11 the patriarchs themselves are identified in their prospects of a future inheritance with believers in Christ; they are described as in their expectations overshooting the nearer possessions literally contained in the word of promise, and looking for the everlasting inheritance. And this inheritance, described by the apostle Peter as the destined portion alike of converted Jews and Gentiles (1Pe_1:4), is also by him identified with the new heavens and the new earth, which the prophet Isaiah had held out in prospect to the church of the Old Testament, as the final resting-place from all their troubles (2Pe_3:13).
It appears, therefore, that the typical character which attached to the people and the religion of the old covenant, attached also to the inheritance—the land of Canaan; and that the transition to gospel times is represented as effecting the same relative change in respect to this as to the others. It is true here, as of the people and of the religion, that the typical bearing was not the only one; immediate ends of an important kind were connected with the possession of the land, though they were never more than partially accomplished. But the typical bearing is the relation in which it stands to gospel times—a relation which it holds equally with the people whose heritage it was, and the ceremonial worship they observed. How, indeed, could it have been otherwise? The land was, in a manner, the common basis of the people and the worship—the platform on which both stood, and in connection with which the whole of their religious observances, and their national history, might be said to move. To except this, therefore, from the typical territory, and withdraw it from the temporary things which were to pass to something higher and better in Christ, were to suppose an incongruity in the circumstances of ancient Israel, which we cannot conceive to have existed, and could only have led to inextricable confusion. Viewed in the light in which we have presented it, all is of a piece; a common principle pervades the relations of Old Testament times. The seed of Israel, as an elect people, placed under covenant with God, represented the company of an elect church, redeemed from the curse of sin, that they might live for ever in the favour and blessing of Heaven: and when the redemption came, the representation passed into the reality. In like manner, the religion of symbolical feasts and ordinances, which was imposed upon the people of the covenant, shadowed forth under various aspects the realities and consolations of the gospel; and when these were introduced, the other, as a matter of course, passed away—the type became merged in the antitype. So, once again, the inheritance which was given for a possession to the typical seed, and was to be a visible pledge of God’s favour, so long as they fulfilled the obligations of the typical calling and worship, served for the time to image the final portion and destiny of the redeemed, but now it also through the gospel has been supplanted by the earnest and expectation of a world where all is pure and blessed. Here, as in other respects, the past links itself with the future, as the germ of a great and abiding reality, that was in due time to be developed. And precisely as the seed of Abraham was seen by inspired men perpetuating itself in the flock of Christ, and David in Christ Himself, so are Abraham’s inheritance and David’s kingdom to be regarded as having a prolonged and expanded existence in those of Christ and his people. There is the same principle in both. And, as a necessary result, the former relation of the Israelites to the land of Canaan affords no ground for expecting its re-occupation by them after their conversion to the faith of Christ, no more than for expecting that the handwriting of ordinances shall then be restored, or the relations of the ancient world, generally, shall return to their old channels.
However viewed, therefore, the expectations of which we have been treating seem destitute of any solid foundation. They are to some extent at variance with the fundamental principles of the divine administration in general, and especially at variance with the spirit and genius of Christianity. The fulfilment of them would constitute, not an advance to a more perfect state of things, but a retrogression to what was essentially imperfect. The local temple, which formed the centre of the old religion, with its holy persons, and places, and seasons, bespoke in its very nature imperfection; since it implied, in respect to other persons, and places, and seasons, a relative commonness or pollution; so that the prophets themselves anticipated a time when it would be supplanted by something higher and better (Jer_3:17). The same kind of imperfection was inseparably connected with the idea of an elect people and a holy land; all lying beyond the hallowed circle being necessarily regarded as either absolutely or relatively impure. Perfection can come only as this circle widens, and embraces the field of humanity in its compass. It began, in a measure, with the believing Jews of the dispersion, carrying with them into heathen lands the lamp of Divine truth, and preparing the way far and wide for the day of gospel light. More properly, however, it began with the incarnation of Christ, the one complete, living temple of Godhead; and it grows as the Holy Spirit that is in Him finds for itself a home in the bosoms of believing men. Wherever such are, there also are living temples, surpassing in real glory the magnificent but lifeless fabric that stood upon the heights of Zion. And it is the grand aim of Christianity to increase and multiply these living temples of the Spirit, so that they may be found in every part of the habitable globe. Its tendency is not to centralise, but to diffuse abroad; not externally to communicate an impression of sanctity, by the mere touch of particular localities, and the observance of stated forms, but internally to sanctify men by the Spirit of holiness, and through them, as vessels of the Spirit, to sanctify all places and all times. The true ideal of Christianity is realised only in proportion as this regenerative process is accomplished; and it were obviously a retrograde movement, if its free and expansive energies should be repressed by the local restraints of some particular region, or by having its more select agencies drawn from but a fragmentary section of the human family.
In what has hitherto been said, we have confined our attention, in the first instance, to the essential nature of Christianity, then to the typical character of Judaism, with scarcely any direct reference to the prophetical portions of Old Testament Scripture, beyond the terms of the Abrahamic covenant. It is to this, more especially, that the apostle Paul refers, when he treats of the future of the Jewish people in the epistle to the Romans. But neither in what he says regarding it, nor in the covenant itself, when rightly understood, is there anything to imply the restoration of the seed of Israel to a future and permanent possession of the land of Canaan. In reality it was never meant to secure, in any sense, the possession of Canaan to more than a select portion of Abraham’s seed; as the successive limitations made among his immediate offspring to the more peculiar blessings of the covenant clearly shewed. It settled at length upon the children of Jacob, but only on the supposition (never more than partially verified) of their being collectively children of faith—for otherwise they could not have been entitled to any blessing. (See Part I., Chap. iii.) And, as thus ultimately defined and fixed, it was in respect to the possession, no doubt, as well as other things, everlasting; not, however, as regards the form, but simply as regards the substance of its provisions. The form necessarily underwent a change with the coming of Christ, from whom everything in the future connected with God’s kingdom takes its shape and character. He was Himself pre-eminently the Seed promised in the covenant; but, at the same time, unspeakably more than the seed primarily designated; it was now a seed embracing alike the Divine and human, and including as many as partake of the life of God. In correspondence with this, the possession becomes also unspeakably more than the old land of Canaan—it embraces the whole extent of a recovered and renovated world. And wherever there is found a soul linked in vital union with Christ, there also are found the essential characteristics of Abraham’s seed, and a title to Abraham’s inheritance.
III. But we come now to glance at what are more strictly the prophetical parts of Scripture, and we here advance the proposition that they contain nothing which, taken according to the real nature and intent of prophecy, is at variance with the conclusions already arrived at. That they contain many passages which formally announce the re-establishment and perpetual existence of everything distinctively Jewish, admits of no doubt. But when read in accordance with the fundamental principles of prophetical interpretation, the true import is in perfect conformity with the views we have unfolded.
1. For, in the first place, by one of the most essential of these principles, the predictions of the future continually took the form and image of the present or the past. (See pp. 142, 154, sq.) Partly from the mode of revelation by vision, and partly from the necessary laws of the human mind, which the Spirit in His supernatural communications does not overbear, but leaves in free and unfettered exercise, there was no possibility of avoiding such a leaning upon history in the anticipations of prophecy. The new can only be conceived of under the aspect of the old; and by the aid of known relations the mind is obliged