תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

their importance, and degenerate into food merely for the men of literature or antiquarianism.

And what then are the duties of Christians in regard to the Jews? Have they any duties? It is generally admitted, that they have duties to render to the gentiles--that they lie under solemn obligations to labour to bring them to the knowledge and reception of the gospel, apart from which there is no salvation, Are the Jews placed beyond the benefit of these Christian obligations? Are Christians to leave them to themselves, to allow six millions of responsible and immortal human beings to live and die, generation after generation, not only strangers, but enemies to the only Saviour of men, and that without the slightest effort to enlighten or reclaim? Has the Christian received no instruction for his conduct toward the Jew, or has he received instruction to abandon him? Is the Jew the only exception to the command-Preach the gospel to every creature? It must be confessed, that the Christian Church has, for eighteen hundred years, acted very much upon the principle, that she has no duties to discharge in behalf of God's ancient people that their sin in crucifying the Prince of Life is unpardonable. Nay, as if the judgnients of God were not sufficiently heavy upon the nation, the Christian Church has often felt and acted, as if it were her duty to add to these judgments. It is an astonnding fact, which speaks volumes, that for eight hundred years of the Christian era, the study of the Hebrew language was so generally neglected, that the Christian Church did not produce one Hebrew scholar of note; and yet this is the language which, it may be said, is essential to be known, if we would make any successful efforts among the Jews. Down to the fifteenth century, no attempt was made to translate any part of the New Testament into Hebrew, the native tongue of the Jew-and it is only forty years ago that any serious attempt was made to circulate that New Testament among the Hebrew people. Can anything better describe 'the awful neutrality of the Christian Church, to use no stronger

[ocr errors]

term, in her treatment of Israel? It is true, that efforts were occasionally made by-individuals to enlighten the Jew in the knowledge of the gospel. At the beginning of last century, when Protestant missions were first set on foot for the conversion of the heathen, similar indications of interest were manifested on behalf of the Jew, both in England and on the continent. In London, án asylum was opened for converted Jews, and the government of the day appointed a minister, and paid for their instruction. And at Halle, in Germany, about the same time, (1727,) the Callenberg Institution was founded for the propagation of the gospel among Jews and Mahometans; and after rendering important services, particularly through the medium of the press, was broken up at the period of the French revolution. But these efforts were few, and limited, and insulated. They cannot be held as acquitting the Christian Church of the grossest negligence and indifferencenot to refer to days of positive Popish persecution, and Protestant prejudice.

And has the Christian Church then no duties to render to God's ancient people? She has the strongest, the most imperative of all duties. If any party can plead obligations, the Jew can plead them with tenfold force. He has all the usual arguments, and he has many besides, peculiar, tender, and affecting. Nothing can more strikingly prove the amazing blindness and insensibility of the Christian Church, than that she has hitherto been almost dead to the claims of the very persons whose claims are most sacred and impressive. And what then is her first duty? I. It is her duty to be humbled and ashamed and filled with true repentance in the presence of God, for her long neglect of, and opposition to his people. If the Christian Church has reason to be ashamed that, after eighteen hundred years, even the Christian name does not extend over a fifth part of the population of the world, and that it is only but as yesterday she has arisen to her missionary work among the heathen, how much greater reason has she to mourn that, hitherto she has attempted so little in behalf of the Jewish nation, to whom, in many respects, she is so deeply indebted. The neglect of the souls of our fellow-men is a great sin, and demands a thorough repentance. It is only through this channel that we can return to the Lord with the hope of acceptance; and it is only by beginning in this way, and so glorifying the God of Israel, that we can hope, that our efforts for the future will be steady, and welldirected, and successful. If it becomes us to sorrow for personal, and family, and social, and national sin, surely it also becomes us to sorrow for our sins as members of the Christian Church; and is not our insensibility to the wants of the perishing Jew one of these sins, and a crying, and an aggravated one? Paul was in continual heaviness and sorrow of heart, for his brethren according to the flesh. His heart's desire and prayer for Israel was, that they might be saved : and our blessed Lord wept tears of compassion over Jerusalem. Have such been our feelings, or the feelings of the Christian Church? Have we not, to say the least, been indifferent about Israel? and when urged upon the subject, have we not often pleaded various idle excuses, such as, that the time is not yet come-that all Jewish undertakings will issue in failure-that a Jew cannot be truly converted? Had the Father, or the Son, or the Spirit, treated us as we have treated God's ancient people-had the apostles and first teachers of Christianity, who were Jews, treated us as we have treated their brethren, what would have been our present character? what our future prospects? Would they not have been far indeed estranged from the gospel and its hopes? And what then is the line of duty? Is it not to confess the sin of neglecting and abandoning God's ancient people—the sin of overlooking the calls of his word, and the admonitions of his providence respecting Israel? Is it not, in sackcloth and in ashes, to pray for forgiveness, and for the future to arise-study the claims of Israel, and intelligently and zealously go forth, according to the word of God, for the conver

sion of his people? If I am not mistaken, one of the reasons of humiliation and fasting in the best days of our church, was the unbelief of Israel. Let us hope that, among the reasons of the next day of humiliation and prayer, which shall be appointed by the church, there will be included, not only the unbelief of the Jews, but the unbelief of Christians in regard to the Jews; and in the mean time, let all Christians in their closets and in their families, and let ministers in the public congregation, not forget to humble themselves for their carelessness and indifference toward the Jewish people. We are all verily guilty as regards our brethren; and it is of God's long suffering that our privileges are continued to us, when we are so insensible to the misery of those who are strangers to them, and through whom we received what we have so long enjoyed. Who can tell that it is not owing to this insensibility that we have ourselves been so unfruitful? Indeed, we have much reason, as a church and as a nation, to be humbled before God for our sins. They are most numerous, most aggravated-peculiarly provoking; nay, we have ground to confess our great unworthiness to be employed in so holy a work as that of labouring to reclaim God's ancient people. The 'honour is too high for persons who deserve only to be consumed ; and we should feel and acknowledge this in undertaking the cause of Israel.

But there are other duties besides those of humiliation and confession of sin. II. We must arise to active exertion in behalf of the conversion of Israel. And in what way is this activity to be exercised ? Not, as too often of old, in the way

of persecution, carrying off Jewish children, and compelling Jewish adults to receive Christian baptism under the penalty of massacre. No: This were the height of intolerance, and would be as vain as unwarrantable. Such conversions would not be worth having. The measures must be scriptural, extending no further than moral suasion. Strange as it may sound, this opens a disputed question. There are

not a few. who hold that the Jews are to be converted, not by ordinary but by miraculous means that God's dealings toward them all along have been peculiar---that they are to be peculiar to the end--and that, consequently, it is vain, if not presumptuous, to seek and expect their conversion through the agency of ordinary instrumentality. According to this theory—for it is nothing better the Christian Church is to be passive and still, and wait for the manifestation of the power of God. Of course this removes all ground for humiliation on account of neglect. The church, in abandoning the Jews to themselves, has been acting agreeably to the word and will of God: and there is no sin in the matter of which she has reason to be ashamed! It would require very clear evidence, indeed, from the Scriptures, to warrant such a line of conduct as is here recommended-conduct so utterly opposed to all God's other dealings with men. But there is no evidence for it whatever: the Scriptures lend it not the slightest countenance. Whatever may be God's supernatural treatment of the Jews in the future, we may be sure it will not be of such a nature as to interfere with the present responsibility of Christians. Even in the most miraculous parts of Jewish history, Divine agency was never introduced where human instrumentality was available, and we have no reason to suppose that an opposite system is now to be employed_a system which tends to lock up all the sympathies and liberalities and prayers of the Christian Church, on the most interesting field of missionary labour. Where has God said that the Jews are to be converted without means—by miraculous agency?. Where has He said that their case is entirely different from that of the gentiles, and that what He has exhorted to, respecting the one, does not apply to the other? . There is no such passage in Scripture. In speaking of the future restoration of the Jews to their own land, there may be language which savours of the miraculous; but even then, so far as we can gather, there is to be the employment of human means, at least to a certain extent, while in speaking

« הקודםהמשך »