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So in other countries, we find, that almost wherever the apostles came, the Jews opposed the gospel in a most malignant manner, contradicting and blaspheming. How many things did the blessed Apostle Paul suffer at their hands in one place and another! How violent and blood thirsty did they shew themselves towards him, when he came to bring alms to his nation! In this persecution and cruelty was fulfilled that of Christ, Matth. xxiii. 34. “ Behold, I send you prophets, and wise men, and scribes ; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city."
3. I proceed to take notice of those judgments which were execúted on those enemies of Christ, the persecuting Jews.
(1) The bulk of the people were given up to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. Christ denounced such a wo upon them in the days of his flesh; as Matth. xiii. 14, 15....... This curse was also denounced on them by the Apostle Paul, Acts xxviii. 25, 26, 27; and under this curse, under this judicial blindness and hardness, they remain to this very day, having been subject to it for about 1700 years, being the most awful instance of such a judgment, and monuments of God's terrible vengeance, of any people that ever were. That they should continue from generation to generation so obstinately to reject Christ, so that it is a very rare thing that any one of them is converted to the Christian faith, though their own scriptures of the Old Testament, which they acknowledge, are so full of plain testimonies against them, is a remarkable evidence of their being dreadfully left of God.
(2) They were rejected and cast off from being any longer God's visible people. They were broken off from the stock of Abraham, and since that have no more been reputed his seed, than the Ishmaelites or Edomites, who are as much his natural seed as they. The greater part of the two tribes were now cast off, as the ten tribes had been before, and another people were taken in their room, agreeable to the predictions of their own prophets ; as of Moses, Deut. xxxii. 21. “ They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities ; and I will
move them to jealousy with those which are not a people, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation;" and of Isa. Ixv. I. “ I am sought of them that asked not for me ; “ I am found of them that sought me not.”...... They were visi. bly rejected and cast off, by God's directing his apostles to turn away from them, and let them alone ; as Acts, xii. 46, 47. “ Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you : But seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles : For so hath the Lord commanded us." And so Acts xviii. 6, and xxviii. 28.
Thus far we have had the scripture history to guide us : Henceforward we shall have the guidance only of two things, viz. of scripture prophecy, and God's providence, as related in human histories...... But I proceed.
(3) The third and last judgment of God on those enemies of the success of the gospel which I shall mention, is the terrible destruction of their city and country by the Romans. They had great warnings and many means used with them before this destruction. First, John the Baptist warned them, and told them, that the axe was laid at the root of the tree ; and that every tree which should not bring forth good fruit, should be hewn down, and cast into the fire. Then Christ warned them very particularly, and told them of their approaching destruction, and at the thoughts of it wept over them. And then the apostles after Christ's ascension abundantly warned them. But they proved obstinate, and went on in their opposition to Christ and his church, and in their bitter persecuting practices. Their so malignantly persecuting the Apostle Paul, of which we have an account towards the end of the Acts of the Apostles, is supposed to have been not more than seven or eight years before their destruction.
And after this God was pleased to give them one more very remarkable warning by the Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, which is an epistle written to that nation of the Jews, as is supposed, about four years before their destruction ; wherein the plainest and clearest arguments are set
before them from their own law, and from their prophets, for whom they professed such a regard, to prove that Christ Jesus must be the Son of God, and that all their law pointed to him and typified him, and that their Jewish dispensation must needs have now ceased. For though the epistle was more immediately directed to the Christian Hebrews, yet the matter of the epistle plainly shows that the apostle intended it for the use and conviction of the unbelieving Jews. And in this epistle he mentions particularly the approaching destruction, as chap. x. 25. “ So much the more, as ye see the day approaching ;" and in verse 27, he speaks of the approaching judgment and fiery indignation which should devour the adu versaries.
But the generality of them refusing to receive conviction, God soon destroyed them with such terrible circumstances as the destruction of no country or city since the foundation of the world can parallel ; agreeably to what Christ foretold, Matth. xxiv. 21. “ For then shall be tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." The first destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was very terrible, as it is in a most affecting manner described by the Prophet Jeremiah, in his Lamentations ; but this was nothing to the dreadful misery and wrath which they suffered in this destruction : God according as Christ foretold, bringing on them all the righteous blood that had been shed from the foundation of the world. Thus the enemies of Christ are made his footstool after his ascension, agreeably to God's promise in Psal. cx. at the beginning ; and Christ rules them with a rod of iron. They had been kicking against Christ, but they did but kick against the pricks. The briars and thorns set themselves against him in battle : But he went through them; he bound them together.
This destruction of Jerusalem was in all respects agreeable to what Christ had foretold of it, Matth. xxiv. by the account which Josephus gives of it, who was then present, and was one of the Jews, who had a share in the calamity, and wrote the history of their destruction. Many circumstances of this destruction resembled the destruction of the wicked at the VOL. II.
day of judgment, by his account, being accompanied with many fearful sights in the heavens, and with a separation of the righteous from the wicked. Their city and temple were burnt, and rased to the ground, and the ground on which the city stood, was ploughed ; and so one stone was not left upon another, Matth. xxiv. 2.
The people had ceased for the most part to be an independent government after the Babylonish captivity : But the sceptre entirely departed from Judah on the death of Archelaus ; and then Judea was made a Roman province ; after this they were cast off from being the people of God; but now their very city and land are utterly destroyed, and they carried away from it; and so have continued in their dispersions through the world for now above 1600 years.
Thus there was a final end to the Old Testament world : All was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, and his enemies terribly destroyed........ Thus does he who was so lately mocked, despised, and spit upon by these Jews, and whose followers they so malignantly persecuted, appear gloriously exalted over his enemies.
Having thus shown how the success of Christ's purchase was carried on till the destruction of Jerusalem, I come now,
II. To show how it was carried on from that time till the destruction of the Heathen empire in the time of Constantine the Great, which is the second great event which is in scripture compared to Christ's coming to judgment.
Jerusalem was destroyed about the year of our Lord 68, and so before that generation passed away which was contemporary with Christ ; and it was about thirtyfive years after Christ's death. The destruction of the Heathen empire under Constantine, was about 260 years after this. In showing how the sticcess of the gospel was carried on through this time, I would, 1. Take notice of the opposition made against it by the Roman empire. 2. How the work of the gospel went on notwithstanding all that opposition. 3. The peculiar circumstances of tribulation and distress that the church was in, just before their deliverance by Constantine. 4. The great revolution in Constantine's time.
1. I would briefly show what opposition was made against the gospel, and the kingdom of Christ, by the Roman empire. The opposition that was made to the gospel by the Heathen
Roman empire, was mainly after the destruction of Jerusa*lem, though their opposition began before ; but the opposi
tion that was before the destruction of Jerusalem, was mainly by the Jews. But when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Jews were put out of a capacity of much troubling the church. Now therefore the devil turns his hand elsewhere, and uses other instruments. The opposition which was made in the Roman empire against the kingdom of Christ, was chiefly of two kinds.
(1) They employed all their learning, and philosophy, and wit, in opposing it. Christ came into the world in an age wherein learning and philosophy were at their height in the Roman empire. This was employed to the utmost against the kingdom of Christ. The gospel, which held forth a crucified Saviour, was not at all agreeable to the notions of the philosophers. The Christian scheme of trusting in such a crucified Redeemer, appeared foolish and ridiculous to them. Greece was a country the most famous for learning of any in the Roman empire ; but the apostle observes, that the doctrine of Christ crucified appeared foolishness to the Greeks, I Cor. i. 23; and therefore the wise men and philosophers opposed the gospel with all the wit they had. We have a specimen of their manner of opposing, in the story we have of their treatment of the Apostle Paul at Athens, which was a city that had been for many ages the chief seat of philosophers of any in the whole world, We read in Acts xvii. 18, that the philosophers of the Epicureans and Stoicks encountered him, saying, “ What will this babler say ? He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods.” So they were wont to deride and ridicule Christianity. And after the destruction of Jerusalem, several of these philosophers published books against it ; the chief of whom were Celsus and Porphyry. These wrote books against the Christian religion with a great